Louisiana kills religious right to discriminate bill


This bigot is governor of Louisiana

A religious freedom to discriminate bill that had been working its way through the Louisiana legislature died today (Tuesday, May 19), according to the Baton Rouge Advocate.

The bill’s sponsor, state Rep. Mike Johnson (R-Bossier City) said the proposed law was misunderstood and that it’s purpose was to come out before the Supreme Court ruling on same-sex marriage.

Um, no, the bill was understood quite clearly. The Bossier City representative was trying to do just what Texas Republicans, like Rep. Linda Koop, were trying to do — pass a law that said the state didn’t have to follow a U.S. Supreme Court ruling and legalize discrimination as long as you use religion as your reason to discriminate.

The head of the New Orleans Visitors and Convention Bureau told the Advocate that it would be impossible to bid against other states for large events if the bill passed.

The bill died in committee when the chair of the House Civil Law Committee called the bill a distraction and problematic.

The Baton Rouge newspaper said the bill had “full throated support” from the state’s governor, Bobby Jindal.

—  David Taffet

Abbott supports listening to the will of the voters except when he doesn’t


Gov. Greg Abbott wearing his tinfoil hat until Operation Jade Helm concludes

The leadership style of Texas’ new governor is beginning to emerge: He’s all for local control except when he isn’t. He’s all for listening to the will of the voters except when he isn’t.

In 2005, Texas voters approved a constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage and Abbott believes the federal government, especially the Supreme Court, needs to listen to the will of the voters.

Except when they shouldn’t.

Yesterday (May 18), Gov. Greg Abbott signed a ban on fracking bans into law. That law was prompted by a local election in Denton that banned fracking inside city limits.

The law Abbott signed overturns that as well as the decision of Dallas City Council to ban fracking in most areas of the city.

The will of the voters, it seems, should only be taken into account when the issue is something Abbott agrees with and should be overridden when it’s something he disagrees with. The governor is showing exactly how hypocritical he’s being by selectively pointing to one election as something to be upheld and then legislating away the voters’ decision in another.

—  David Taffet

Legacy’s Master Leasing needs sheets

Melissa Grove

Legacy Counseling Center’s glamorous Melissa Grove … because I didn’t have a picture of Larry to post

Legacy Counseling Center needs new and gently used full-sized sheets and bedding for its clients in its Master Leasing Program.

The program began about a year-and-a-half ago. About 24 apartments in Oak Cliff’s Oak Park Estates neighborhood were renovated and decorated with donations from the community to house people with HIV/AIDS who were homeless.

Residents who participate develop a one-year plan to get back on their feet, but having a place to live gives them the stability to do that. A number of residents who have participated in the plan have graduated out of the program.

Contact Larry by email or at 214-244-2240 to donate sheets or find out what else the program needs.

—  David Taffet

Abbott triggers earthquake as he signs legislation

Abbott.GregIn response to a Denton city election in November 2014 to ban fracking within the city limits, the Texas Legislature passed a bill last week preventing local control over fracking.

Gov. Greg Abbott signed the bill into law on Monday, May 18.

A magnitude 3.3 earthquake centered in Farmers Branch on May 18 at about 1:15 p.m. was felt as far as downtown Dallas.

The two events, of course, are unrelated.


—  David Taffet

Rep. Linda Koop alienates some LGBT supporters and constituents

KoopMembers of the LGBT community in Dallas were outraged this weekend when they discovered freshman Rep. Linda Koop signed a letter supporting HB 4105. She is one of 93 out of 98 House Republicans who signed the letter.

“This is a woman who has been to our house numerous times, has attended Richard’s birthday parties, and has a GAY BROTHER,” wrote Jeff Henderson on his Facebook page. His partner is Richard Shampain. “So disappointed in her and her lack of leadership.”

Henderson’s post on her campaign Facebook page was immediately removed. He got a screen shot of his post before it was deleted.

Koop is a former Dallas City Councilwoman who regularly supported the LGBT community during her time on the council. Her brother is former City Councilman Paul Fielding, who is gay.

DGLA President Patti Fink said her message to Koop was promptly deleted as well.

Koop represents a North Dallas district. In the November election that added sexual orientation and gender identity to the Dallas City Charter’s nondiscrimination policy, every precinct in Koop’s district voted for the measure. That measure passed with 77 percent of the vote, getting more votes of support than any of the 11 measures on the November 2014 ballot.

Rep. Jason Villalba, a Republican who represents Northeast Dallas, was one of five House Republicans who did not sign the letter. Every precinct in his district voted for the measure also.

—  David Taffet

Luxembourg’s prime minister marries

Luxembourg’s Prime Minister Xavier Bettel married Gauthier Destenay today (Friday, May 15).

Bettel announced earlier this week that Destanay proposed and he accepted.He said they would have a low-key ceremony.

The ceremony was held at City Hall in Luxembourg City and was attended by the Belgian and Estonian prime ministers, who are straight.

Luxembourg became a marriage-equality country in January.

Bettel has been Prime Minister for 18 months.

Here’s a report from Wochit News:

—  David Taffet

Rep. Israel releases statement on HB 4105


Rep. Celia Israel

Rep. Celia Israel, who worked tirelessly to kill HB 4105, the only anti-LGBT bill to make it to the Texas House floor, released a statement moments after midnight:

“I am relieved that the Texas House was not forced to entertain a mean-spirited, divisive bill that could keep us from doing the work our constituents sent us here to do: make the lives better for the people of Texas. This bill dying means that many of my Republican colleagues will not be forced to choose between party loyalty and standing on the right side of history. This bill dying means that same-sex couples across the state will not be forced to witness their elected representatives debate if their love is as worthy as their neighbor’s.

“When a member opposes one of your major pieces of legislation or speaks against you during committee, we all try to not take it personally.  This body will not always agree on how to best serve this state. But when a colleague attacks your family just for being who you are, it is impossible to not take it personally. My family, and the millions like it, took this bill very personally. I am hopeful that this bill is the final vain attempt to push back against the wave of change across our country. Texans are ready for marriage equality, and I look forward to hearing the wedding bells.”

—  David Taffet

TREPAC troubles



DAVID TAFFET  |  Senior Staff Writer

Texas Real Estate PAC is only concerned with property rights issues — issues like appraisal reform, eminent domain, homeowner associations. Money raised by TREPAC is supposed to be used to lobby lawmakers on those kinds of issues.

But for the most part, the 84th Texas Legislature, now in session, hasn’t addressed those kinds of issues. Lawmakers have, instead, given higher priority to efforts to stop progress toward LGBT equality, including bills like the one introduced by Rep. Cecil Bell aimed at circumventing a possible U.S. Supreme Court ruling later this summer legalizing same-sex marriage nationwide.

Even though property rights issues have not been on the front burner, TREPAC funds have still been going to Texas lawmakers this session. And Carrollton real estate broker Bob McCranie says that money is overwhelmingly supporting legislators opposed to marriage equality.

Supporting anti-marriage-equality lawmakers goes against TREPAC’s mission, McCranie continued, because “Marriage is a property rights issue.”

That’s true in a community property state like Texas even more than in states that are not, McCranie continued. He explained that couples can protest taxes together. They buy and sell property together, apply for loans together and pay taxes together. Marriage affects inheritance.

But TREPAC doesn’t see it that way.

McCranie and other agents who have spoken to TREPAC said the political action committee sees marriage equality as a social issue.

“Why aren’t they defending the property rights of all Texans?” McCranie asked.

McCranie, whose Texas Pride Realty agency is located in Carrollton, said he gets calls regularly from gay couples moving to the Dallas area, who tell him, “We’re moving to Texas and we’re scared. Where can we live where I can drop off our child at school in the morning and he can pick our child up in the afternoon and we won’t get shot?”

McCrainie.BobThat, McCranie said, is how bad Texas’ reputation is elsewhere.

The current situation does nothing to allay that bad rep, McCranie said, noting that when a same-sex couple buys property from an LGBT real estate agent and that agent supports TREPAC, that couple’s money is going to support legislation that discriminates against them.

MetroTex Realtors, the local affiliate of the Texas Association of Realtors, stages The White Party each year to benefit TREPAC. This year’s event raised more than $100,000 — money that has supported those legislators opposing equality.

TREPAC donated $355,000 to legislators who sponsored HB 4105, a measure that would bar  county employees from issuing marriage licenses. Its author, Rep. Cecil Bell, R-Magnolia, was among those receiving funds.

Real estate agent Paul LaPierre said he stopped supporting TREPAC almost 10 years ago, explaining, “I noticed a bunch of assholes getting the money.”

He said his concern wasn’t just money going to legislators specifically doing harm to the LGBT community, but to legislators taking the state in the wrong direction.

“Their outlook on society was different than mine,” LaPierre said.

Bob McCranie says TREPAC money overwhelmingly supports legislators opposed to marriage equality (David Taffet/Dallas Voice)

He also called TREPAC’s claim that marriage is a social issue to be nonsense. He also said the mantra of “property rights issues” to be a new invention for TREPAC.

In the early 2000s, when the Texas legislature was still under Democratic control, LaPierre said that TREPAC collected money under the guise of “protecting agent commissions.” He said the PAC warned that the state was going to add a special tax on commissions — but no such legislation was ever actually discussed, he added.

Once Republicans came into office, LaPierre said, it was less believable that lawmakers were going to establish new taxes, so TREPAC came up with the “property rights issues” story.

“The organization has a good aim — to protect homeowners,” McCranie said. “I’m just asking them to protect gay and lesbian homeowners as well. It bothers me LGBT agents are giving hundreds of thousands of dollars to this organization.”

Membership in Texas Association of Realtors gives agents current, accurate MLS listing information as well as access to MLS properties without needing the cooperation of the listing agent. That organization is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit. TREPAC is the organization’s political action committee and, because it is a 501(c)(4), there is a firewall between the two organizations. Realtors are asked to voluntarily contribute to the PAC.

More than Texas
The problem isn’t just in Texas.

Geoff Rosenberger is a member of the Atlantic City and County Board of Realtors and New Jersey Association Of Realtors.

“Gay Realtor members, my self included, have been addressing the issue of RPAC dollars we give to anti-gay legislators for a while with the national association and state associations of Realtors, to absolutely no avail,” Rosenberger said.

He said his years of membership dues fund these legislators, and he has no alternative organization to join that would give him access to MLS listings.

Rosenberger been asking the current New Jersey organization to open a discussion regarding who their PAC is funding. After two months, he’s received no response.

Yet funding these anti-equality legislators seems to violate the National Association of Realtors’ strict code of ethics, which says a Realtor “shall not deny equal professional services to any person for reasons of race, color, religion, sex, handicap, familial status, national origin, sexual orientation  or gender identity.”

“Across the country, RPAC contributes to legislators who are anti-gay on many issues which affect our property rights,” Rosenberger said.

After passage of the so-called Religious Freedom Restoration Act in Indiana, Bruce Bright, the president of the Indiana Association of  Realtors, issued a statement. His state’s PAC, supported by many LGBT real estate agents, had been contributing to politicians who voted for the anti-LGBT discrimination law.

“The economic harm that has beset our state is real, it is obvious, and it must be stopped,” Bright said in his statement. “We add our voice to the chorus: Fix this issue now.”

Attempts to contact TREPAC for comments on this story have been unsuccessful so far.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition May 15, 2015.

—  David Taffet

Articles written by out of state pundits mostly show they have no idea how Texas politics works

CapitolOn my Facebook page, I asked friends to stop sending me articles written by out-of-state pundits about what’s going on in the Texas Legislature. They don’t understand how the our legislature works.

Here’s an example of a New York writer who has no clue what’s going on behind the scenes this week in the Texas Capitol:

“Any of the more than 20 anti-LGBT bills that get out of committee in either legislative chamber — and a few have — will easily pass in the Republican-dominated conservative legislature and be signed into law by GOP Gov. Greg Abbott,” Michangelo Signorile wrote in Huffington Post yesterday (Wednesday, May 13). That story was the bold banner headline in the Gay Voices section.

Actually, one bill got out of committee and onto the House agenda. Several got committee hearings. A few passed out of committee. One made it to the House floor. ONE.

The other 20 are dead. D-E-A-D.

That one bill that made it to the House floor must pass by tonight or it, too, is D-E-A-D dead. After that, we need to watch out for insidious amendments.

Rep. Celia Israel, backed by the entire Democratic caucus, is trying to kill HB 4105. Equality Texas and former Rep. Glenn Maxey are working closely with her today. They’ll use a number of maneuvers and tactics. No need to tip anyone’s hand. But the idea that any bill that gets out of committee will “easily pass in the Republican-dominated conservative legislature” is nonsense.

If that bill passes, it will only be after as much effort on the part of LGBT opponents as the work being done by LGBT advocates.

And if the law passes, it’s so unconstitutional, it will never go into effect.

The law attempts to protect Texas from having to obey a ruling of the U.S. Supreme Court. Well, if you have to throw out some red meat to the tea party, you might as well toss them this one — the most outrageous bill they could come up with, even if it’s completely illegal.

If it comes to this, the question that the Supreme Court will hear will be whether a state can opt out of a Supreme Court ruling by simply passing a law. The LGBT-rights issue behind it won’t even be a factor.

Signorile concludes his story by saying, “What we have in Texas is a five-alarm fire ready to engulf its LGBT citizens and threaten their rights for years to come.”

In Texas, we’re even more anxious about the Supreme Court ruling on same-sex marriage than people in 37 marriage equality states — but wow. I’m about to be engulfed in flames, huh? Maybe Obama should invade the state and put us under U.S. law.

—  David Taffet

H4PJ and DCYD plan trip to Islamic Center

Islamic Center IrvingTwo groups had the same idea so they’re visiting together. After the attack in Garland, Hope for Peace and Justice and Dallas County Young Democrats wanted to show solidarity with the local Muslim community so they decided to visit the Islamic Center in Irving.

Hope for Peace and Justice also planned the visit as part of its exploration of other faith traditions.

Dallas County Young Democrats wanted to show solidarity after Irving passed an anti-Islamic ordinance that prohibits Sharia Law from being implemented in the city.

After the 11 a.m. service at Cathedral of Hope, people will go out to lunch before heading over to Irving. Anyone interested in visiting the Islamic Center can meet at the church and join the group for lunch or meet in Irving at 2:15 p.m.

Islamic Center of Irving, 2555 Esters Road, Irving at 2:15 p.m. on Sunday, May 17.

—  David Taffet