Hearing set on anti-LGBT HB 3859, a ‘religious refusal’ bill

Posted on 28 Mar 2017 at 4:09pm

The Texas House State Affairs Committee is holding a hearing tomorrow (Wednesday, March 29), at 10:30 a.m. in Room 140 of the John H. Reagan Building, on HB 3859, which would allow child welfare providers that contract with the state to discriminate against LGBT families in foster care and adoptive placements.

So if you care about the well-being of children in the Texas foster care system and those up for adoption, and if you care about the rights LGBT Texans, you might want to think about heading to Austin tomorrow for that hearing.

The bill was introduced by Wichita Republican Rep. James Frank.

Ali Lozano, outreach and field coordinator for Texas Freedom Network, said that HB 3859 is one of “at least 17 bills” filed in this session of the Texas Legislature that would allow people to use their personal “religious beliefs” to discriminate against LGBT people.

“This is our first chance to reject this perversion of religious freedom,” Lozano said in an email message. “If we are going to stop this and other ‘religious refusal’ bills, we’ve got to turn out and resist in the same numbers and with the same fervor as we did for SB 6 (aka, the ‘bathroom bill’).”

Equality Texas CEO Chuck Smith reiterated that urgency.

“Using religion to refuse service to LGBTQ people is discrimination,” Smith said in a separate email. “The primary consideration for a child welfare agency or organization and its employees should always be the best interests of the child — not advancing the interests or beliefs of a state contractor. HB 3859 would allow the religious beliefs of child-placing agencies to be placed above the needs of our most vulnerable children. That could jeopardize the health and well-being of children in our system.”

Smith also pointed out that HB 3859 would allow state contractors to discriminate against single or divorced people, interfaith couples people of different religious faiths or denominations.

“This is morally wrong and legally problematic,” Smith said, ending with a plea to those that oppose the bill to “come to the Capitol complex … and register in opposition to HB 3859.”

Go here to watch a short video on how to register in opposition to the bill.

Equality Texas offers these talking points for anyone interested in testifying against the bill.

This page allows you to rush a message to members of the State Affairs committee urging them to oppose HB 3859, and this one lets you send a message urging your representative to oppose all of the anti-LGBT religious refusal bills.


E! gets into gay realiTV with ‘What Happens at The Abbey’

Posted on 28 Mar 2017 at 9:50am

Two weeks ago, I wrote about how Logo was about to debut a new series called Fire Island, following a clutch of hedonist gayboys as they navigate the shallow waters of East Coast life on a gay resort island. Last week, I wrote how VH-1 is now the official home of RuPaul’s Drag Race. Now comes word that the E! channel is getting into queer realiTV with a new series, What Happens at The Abbey. Stealing a paraphrase of the Las Vegas slogan, the show follows behind-the-scenes activities at the famed West Hollywood gay bar. The series will debut on “Sunday Funday,” i.e., May 14 at 9 p.m. Central. Here’s a teaser for the series:


Coming out in sports … as gay, and as a soccer player

Posted on 27 Mar 2017 at 8:46am


When you grow up in Minnesota, you play hockey. If your family is “masculine and sports-oriented,” you play lots of other sports too.

Ryan Adams was a hockey player, a soccer goalkeeper and a varsity tennis star.

But, like so many gay men, he knew as young as 4 that he was different. He left the macho environment of hockey after Bantams (a level of youth hockey) and stopped playing soccer in high school. Looking back into the haze of adolescence, Adams can’t even remember what year he quit. The mix of sexuality, sports and “a bit” of bullying was too much.

It did not help that for as long as he could remember, his father made anti-gay jokes. The effect was so strong that for a couple of years after coming out Adams could not even go to a Pride parade.

“I’ve evolved so much since then,” he says in wonderment. His family has, too … including his dad.

Coming out was complicated. Adams had a full military ride to a ROTC program at a Catholic college, ranking third among 46 cadets. “Don’t ask, don’t tell” was still in effect. The Air Force was overstaffed though, so he was allowed to leave without paying back his tuition.

Exploring the gay world online, Adams found a new life in Nashville. It was a big, important change. But at 21 he moved back to Minneapolis, and began living his life openly and proudly.

He found a Facebook group of LGBT people involved in social and athletic activities like bowling and raising money for AIDS causes. When he learned of a coed LGBT soccer team — and heard about the Gay Games and World Outgames — he realized what he’d been missing. The young man who had been turned off by the sports world wanted back in.

The Twin Cities Jacks became a major part of Adams’ life. Founded in 2007, they’re the only LGBT soccer club in Minnesota. They field teams in local, national and international tournaments; host social outings for LGBT fans; promote the game, and educate other soccer organization about homophobia in sports. Players of all skill levels are welcome. Allies are encouraged as well.

Adams, who had earned a master’s degree in sports management and now works full time for a college marketing organization, rose quickly through the volunteer ranks. “I wanted everyone to have a chance to live healthy lives, and make friends,” he says.

He notes that despite increasing openness, “we’re still in an era when a gay adult may be playing sports for the first time in their life, or be out as an athlete for the first time. Lifting that emotional burden is so important. It’s amazing to play a sport as exactly the person you are.” What was once a “hindrance” for many, he says, “now draws us together.”

That sense of fulfillment and camaraderie has opened many eyes. TC Jacks’ outreach to allies has helped straight soccer players experience the world in a new way. A lawyer and his wife who moved to Minnesota from rural Iowa had known only one gay person ever. But they found the Jacks, and became passionate, devoted friends of the LGBT community.

The Jacks use their popularity to influence the broader soccer world. Minnesota United FC begins play in Major League Soccer this year. The Jacks are helping team officials become “socially responsible” — beyond simply sponsoring one Pride Night a year — and have engaged supporters groups, too. “They’re incredibly LGBT friendly,” Adams says.

Beyond the Twin Cities, Adams has taken on leadership roles too. He served the International Lesbian & Gay Football Association in an interim role, and has begun a soft launch for an organization called US LGBT Soccer.

The goal for that group is to offer a home for LGBT players, coaches, administrators and fans around the country. A unified organization can provide a national association for clubs; offer resources and best practices, so that new teams and leagues do not have to reinvent the soccer wheel; tie together LGBT supporter groups of professional clubs; recruit, train and aid LGBT referees; partner with pro leagues to combat homophobia — and create an LGBT national team to represent the United States in foreign tournaments.

There are not many sports with such outreach to all members of their community. There are not many team sports with such global appeal as soccer, either. There are not many people with the energy and vision of Ryan Adams.

But there are plenty of Ryan Adamses in the LGBT sports world — men and women who understand the power of athletics to provide community, competition and fun to everyone, in a healthy, open and affirming environment. As a new year dawns, their work endures.

— Dan Woog


BREAKING NEWS: ‘Fun Home’ to open ATTPAC’s 2017 season

Posted on 26 Mar 2017 at 8:01am

The Dallas Summer Musicals snared what is certainly the most-anticipated theatrical tour of the next few years — the already-announced Hamilton. But what is probably the second biggest musical tour will be coming to Dallas thanks to the AT&T Performing Arts Center … and you won’t have to wait until 2018 to see it. Fun Home, the multiple-Tony-Award-winner, including best musical, will open ATTPAC’s 2017-18 season, the organization just announced.

Set in a funeral home, Fun Home it tells the story of a girl who comes to understand her own sexuality… and that of her father. It will kick off the five-show season, running Sept. 13–24 at the Winspear Opera House.

Fun Home will be followed by two familiar musicals — Dr. Seuss’ How the Grinch Stole Christmas: The Musical, Dec. 5–17 and immediately after Rodgers & Hammerstein’s The King and I, Dec. 19–31. There’ll be a bit of a break until The Humans, a comedy that won a best play Tony nomination last year, May 9–20, 2018. Finally, Bright Star — a bluegrass musical co-written by Dallas native Edie Brickell and comedian Steve Martin — will end the subscription series June 12–24.

In addition, two additional shows will be presented outside the season subscription: the 20th anniversary of Riverdance, March 20–25, and the ever-popular Jersey Boys, May 22–27.

Season tickets can be purchased here.


It’s here! Here’s the first episode of DVtv in Spayse! (Live)

Posted on 24 Mar 2017 at 9:43pm

DVtv in Spayse (LIve) episode one: Brad Pritchett, Brandi Amara Skyy, Israel Luna and Tammye Nash

Today (Friday, March 24), we aired the very first episode of DVtv in Spayse! (Live), streaming it live from the Spayse Station, the internet TV studio at Israel Luna’s Spayse Studios.

I was thrilled to have Israel himself, DVtv video host Brad Pritchett and new Dallas Voice contributor Brandi Amara Skyy there to carry the show. They are OUTstanding!

Watch our first episode below. And click here to watch our show and others on the Spayse Station YouTube channel.

AND put it on your calendar to tune in next Friday at 4 p.m. to see DVtv in Spayse! (Live).


Sara Ramirez speaking at the All In for Equality Advocacy Day rally

Posted on 24 Mar 2017 at 12:43pm

Sara Ramirez

Gray’s Anatomy star Sara Ramirez— who played a bisexual character on the show and recently came out as bisexual herself — was one of the speakers on Monday, May 20, in Austin as part of All In for Equality rally on Advocacy Day.

Read the story here.

See photos here.

Here is a brief video clip of part of her remarks:


Topsy Turvy: A bright star in dark times

Posted on 24 Mar 2017 at 10:59am

Brandi Amara Skyy reviews the Turtle Creek Chorale’s “Topsy Turvy” concert, continuing tonight and Saturday night, March 24-25, at City Performance Hall. (Photos courtesy Turtle Creek Chorale)


I wasn’t quite sure what to expect.

Call me a bad gay, but I had never been to a Turtle Creek Chorale concert before last night.

Not knowing what I was getting myself into, I texted a few of my closest friends who are devoted fans (and season ticket holders) to get a feel for what to expect. My good friend Dana said, “You’re in for a nice surprise. They always combine serious with comedic moments.”

He was right.

The evening was filled with … surprises — something that in this day and age of the internet is not necessarily what we expect. It’s far too easy to Google the happenings of the latest episode of our favorite shows prior to even the show airing the first time, let alone us watching it. Or to attend a show and be moved by the visuals, but not by the message.

So when I received the email with the set list being performed last evening (the names are not supposed to be known to the audience until after the show has ended), I made the decision not to open it. Because if Sean Baugh, the artistic director, wanted me to ride the wave and be surprised, I wasn’t about to deny him — or myself — the pleasure of this rarity.

And in this arena — the element of surprise — Topsy Turvy is a massive win. From song inclusion to talent to flow, Topsy Turvy does what it sets out to do — not just tell a story, but create and share an experience.

The Chorale promises “one of the most energetic and full-force arrays of musical selections our audience has ever experienced,” and I can feel, based on the audience’s energy and attention (minus the blonde wine-gulping girl sitting two seats to my left who completely ignores Rule No. 2 (Don’t Sing Along) when the finale hits) that this particular show and evening is in fact, different from all the rest.

I feel it too, even though I have no prior knowledge to compare it to.

But I’m not going to lie, this is probably the hardest review I’ve ever had to write because I refuse to spoil the experience by referring to the songs in the show by their name. So I will only reference them by the number in which they appear in the show.

The Topsy Turvy experience is billed as songs you thought you knew, and they drove that artistic theme home by reshaping pop, musical and LGBTQ classics into arrangements and styles we’ve never heard before (I’m thinking about songs 14 and 18 in particular). The visuals, the big top and all the dancers are stunning. And B.J. Cleveland is not only excellent and captivating as our ringleader, he is right there to help usher us through the two-hour experience (although I did miss him in the beginning of the second half).

The Thursday audience, teased for being the least vocal of the three-day bunch, rose to their feet for a song (hint: No. 5) and I rose for one as well (you’ll know it when you experience it). My personal favorites? Numbers 4, 5, 9,14, 17, 19, 21 (and a certain “whistler” in No. 3). These seven pieces were elegantly thought out, choreographed, and fully realized — and executed.

And while the soloists were spectacular, every single chorale member stole my heart that evening because they were so full of love for what they do. You could see it. But more importantly you could feel it.

Were some pieces in Topsy Turvy more successful than others? Yes. Were some pieces more polished? Yes. Is there room for improvement? Always.

But did the TCC deliver on their promises? Hell, yea — and then some.

What I love most about attending events, shows, and art in our community is just that. WE are a community. And both Bruce Jaster and Sean Baugh made sure to drive that point home to the audience every chance they got. And with all the talk about arts funding being cut and walls waiting to be built, we — I — needed to hear that as a community we are more inclusive now than ever.

Whether you are a devoted fan who has season tickets or you’re like me and new to the whole TCC experience, this show is a bright light in dark uncertain times, with just the right amount of camp, adult humor, laugher, nostalgia, and seriousness to keep me thoroughly invested — and entertained.

Topsy Turvy runs tonight and Saturday night at 7:30 p.m. at Dallas City Performance Hall.


Brandi Amara Skyy is a drag artist who writes and plays in magic. You can find out more about her and many projects at brandiamaraskyy.com.


SB 6 and the art of funding through Panic

Posted on 24 Mar 2017 at 7:50am

Texas Speaker of the House Joe Strauss

David TaffetI’m getting a little annoyed with every national advocacy organization you can imagine sending out the same message:

“SB6, the Texas bathroom bill, is advancing. Call your state representatives and tell them the bill is terrible and opposed by law enforcement and business groups. Oh, and send us money, because that’s really the only way to stop this bill.”

Hey national organizations, we know you hate this bill. We hate this bill.

But you know who else really hates this bill? Speaker of the House Joe Straus.

And you know who the only person is who can put a bill on the agenda of the Texas House of Representatives? Speaker of the House Joe Straus.

Oh, and you know who told some whining Dallas Republican representatives who also don’t like the bill but are afraid to be the only Republicans voting against the bill to shut up and vote against the bill together? Speaker of the House Joe Straus.

Here’s a tidbit from an email I received from Freedom for All Americans (an organization I never heard of until I got this solicitation letter):

“Last week, the Texas Senate voted to pass SB6, an anti-transgender, anti-business bill that would ban transgender people from using restrooms in government buildings, public schools and universities.

“That’s right. Texas is closer than ever to passing a bill that’s nearly identical to HB 2, legislation that has cost North Carolina billions of dollars in investment and ruined its national reputation.”

Well, yes, we’re closer to passing SB6 than we ever have been because it passed the Senate. Here’s the thing about passing a bill in Texas that they’re leaving out: It still has to go to the House, where Speaker of the House Joe Straus, who hates this bill, has to assign it to a committee, before it could ever become law.

Here’s a funny thing about the Texas Legislature: To elect a speaker, every member of the House votes. And every Democrat voted for Joe Straus, even though he’s a Republican.

So to say thank you, Straus appointed some Democrats to chair committees. He might just bury the bathroom bill in a committee chaired by a Democrat.

That’s what he did with the anti-LGBT bills that popped up last session, and most of those bills died. The rest of them never made it to the floor. Why? Because Speaker of the House Joe Straus hates all of these bigoted bills.

So while SB6 sailed through the Senate, which is headed by an extremist bigot called Dan Patrick, it’s not going to sail through the House.

On the opening day of this legislative session, Straus promised his chamber would deal with issues that affect Texans — things like funding education, transportation problems, mental health issues.

And so far, what has the House spent its time doing? It’s been dealing with things like funding education, transportation problems, mental health issues.

Why? Because Speaker of the House Joe Straus simply doesn’t care where people pee and he does care about funding education and solving traffic problems.

So national organizations, please remind your constituents to continue to oppose SB6 as well as other terrible anti-LGBT measures. But stop spreading panic. And stop trying to fund your national operations by spreading panic in Texas.             

David Taffet is senior staff writer for Dallas Voice and co-host of Lambda Weekly, the LGBT radio program that airs each Sunday at 1 p.m. on 89.3 KNON-FM. Contact him at taffet@dallasvoice.com.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition March 24, 2017.


DSM gives at-risk teens a behind-the-scenes look at ‘Kinky Boots’

Posted on 23 Mar 2017 at 11:58am

Next week, the Tony Award-winning, highly empowering musical Kinky Boots — about a drag queen who helps save a struggling shoe manufacturer, and opens some eyes in the process — returns to Fair Park Music Hall, courtesy of Dallas Summer Musicals. Among those who will be attending one of the first performances will be about two dozen folks who probably have never even seen a play, not to mention one of this caliber … and with this message.

Next Thursday, 25 at-risk LGBTQ youth (ages 12–18) will be treated to a behind-the-scenes tour of Kinky Boots. DSM has teamed with the Resource Center‘s Youth First program to expose these teens to the power of theater and the inner-workings of a major national tour. It’s an insight few sophisticated theatergoers get a chance to experience. Among the activities will be a backstage tour, a meet-and-greet with DSM staff, a boxed dinner, free tickets to the performance and a past-show Q&A with members of the cast. And they will also get an idea of career opportunities in show business, and how to be fabulous while doing so.


Coming Friday: DVtv in SPAYSE!

Posted on 22 Mar 2017 at 3:34pm

Last Friday, March 17, I participated in an episode of Don’t Panic!, Israel Luna’s internet radio/TV program that streams live every Friday on the Spayse Station YouTube Channel from 3-4 p.m. — live from Israel’s Spayse Studio. Joel S. Hoselton (aka entertainer Jenna Skyy) and poor college student Michael Anthony Garza were the other guests, along with Israel as the host. (You can also watch here, on the Spayse Studio Facebook page.)

You can watch it here.

I had a lot of fun, and now, I get to do it again!

On Friday, immediately after Don’t Panic! We are going to livestream the first episode of what I’m calling DVtv in Spayse!

Israel and I will be there, along with DVtv host Brad Pritchett and Dallas Voice’s newest freelance contributor, Brandi Amara Skyy. We’ll be talking about news, entertainment and more.

Put it on your schedule and check it out!