Texas Republicans slam business association for opposing ‘bathroom’ bill, ‘religious freedom’ bill

Posted on 09 Dec 2016 at 4:12pm

Texas lawmakers, from left, Sen. Kelly Hancock and Reps. Matt Shaheen and Jonathan Stickland are intent on ignoring warnings from the Texas Association of Business that so-called “bathroom bills” and “religious freedom bills” could cost the state millions in lost revenue.

By James Russell, Contributing Writer

You’d think when a major business association traditionally allied with Republicans releases a study suggesting certain proposed laws could negatively impact a state, Republican lawmakers in that state would listen. Especially given lawmakers are working with a tight budget next session.


That happened earlier this week when a study commissioned by the Texas Association of Business revealed the potential economic impact “bathroom” and “religious freedom” bills could have on the state. The report, conducted by researchers at St. Edward’s University in Austin, said that religious freedom bills and “bathroom” bills proposed by right-wing lawmakers in the Texas Legislature could cost the state between $964 million to $8.5 billion and lead to significant job losses — as high as 185,000 jobs.

The report culls data from the impact of similar bills passed in other states, including Arkansas, Indiana and North Carolina.

Indiana Gov. and Vice President-elect Mike Pence signed into law that state’s RFRA last year. The bill would have allowed business owners to deny services based on religious convictions, much to the dismay of activists who said it unfairly discriminated against LGBTQ people. Pence hesitantly amended the bill to include LGBTQ protections after threats from businesses and LGBTQ advocates.

North Carolina’s “bathroom bill” most notably barred transgender people from using the bathroom according to their gender identity. Republican Gov. Pat McCrory lost his re-election bid last month due in part to the fallout from the legislation, and the state has lost millions of dollars in revenue as businesses and events have pulled out of North Carolina.

But to some conservative Texas legislators, the report is just a bunch of bullshit.

“TAB supports a new radical agenda that places the safety and privacy of women and young girls at risk by forcing them to share locker rooms and restrooms with men through government regulation,” wrote Rep. Matt Shaheen, R-Plano, in the Texas Tribune.

Rep. Jonathan Stickland, a Bedford Republican, tweeted that the study is “trash and misinfo.”

Sen. Kelly Hancock, who represents parts of northeast Tarrant County, tweeted that the business organization “got the study they paid for and bullied conservative and female members into submission.”

Hancock’s position as chair of the senate’s business and commerce committee, tasked with overseeing business regulations in the state, also puts him in direct conflict with the TAB, the state’s most powerful business lobby.

But Hancock has plenty of allies, including his boss, Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick, the state’s leading cultural warrior who put the bathroom bill among his top 10 legislative priorities, ahead of reforming the state’s child welfare system. The Women’s Privacy Act, as it is called, is not anti-transgender; it’d simply protect women from men who want to assault them in bathrooms and locker rooms, Patrick claims. But critics argue the bill is all about barring transpeople from using the bathroom in accordance with their gender identity.

Shaheen has already filed a House version of the bill. His boss, Speaker Joe Straus, recently said the legislation is not a priority however.

(I’d check if Sen. Konni Burton of Colleyville tweeted about it, but alas, she blocked me.) Just today, two business-backed groups closely aligned with Hancock, Shaheen and Stickland went on the record saying they have no stance on the legislation. (Full disclosure: I write for Quorum Report.)

But it is clear scapegoating transgender and gender nonconforming people is a priority in 2017. After all, bashing them protects the children.


Passion Star to be released from Texas prison

Posted on 09 Dec 2016 at 11:58am

Self portrait by Passion Star

Lambda Legal announced Passion Star, a client of theirs who is a transgender woman and has been serving a sentence in a Texas men’s prison, will be released on parole.

From Lambda Legal:

Lambda Legal client Passion Star has been granted parole from Telford State Prison in Texas, 14 years after entering the Texas Department of Criminal Justice (TDCJ) system and suffering horrific abuse as a transgender woman incarcerated in male prisons.

Her exact release date is still pending.

Passion’s experience in custody has been punctuated by acts of interpersonal and institutional violence.

Throughout her sentence, she has remained resilient. She will leave Telford as a powerful advocate against sexual violence and assault in prisons.

Her story is not one of a victim bent and broken by a faulty system, but of a fighter who braved incredible odds to see justice done.

In October 2014, Lambda Legal filed a federal lawsuit on behalf of Star. Since entering TDCJ custody in 2002, Star has been raped and beaten, including a razor attack when her face was slashed multiple times by a man who told her that he “owned” her.

After years of abuse, TDCJ officials finally agreed to place Star in safekeeping in March 2015, only after Lambda Legal filed an emergency motion for her protection.


Promise House wish list for residents

Posted on 09 Dec 2016 at 11:29am

Holiday Wish List

Above is a wish list of items needed for Promise House residents and clients.

Promise House is a residence in Oak Cliff for homeless young adults, including LGBT youth who have been thrown out for coming out. Here’s a story we did earlier in the year about Promise House, and next week, we’ll have a story about a new program specifically for LGBT young adults. If you’d like to hear more about it, CEO Ashley Lind was on Lambda Weekly last week talking about what’s coming up.

According to Zach Bartush, gift cards are great, because that way when a special need arises, they can shop specifically to fill that need. Shoes in a variety of sizes or maternity clothes are good examples of things they need that are hard to stock. For information or to donate, you can contact Zach at Promise House at 214-941-8578.


The Dennis Vercher Collection is now available online

Posted on 08 Dec 2016 at 4:15pm

vercher-dennisFormer Dallas Voice editor Dennis Vercher’s collection of papers is now online on the University of North Texas Portal to Texas History, which includes the LGBT collections.

Vercher was the first writer hired by Dallas Voice founders Robert Moore and Don Ritz. He remained on staff and edited the paper until shortly before his death in the fall of 2006.

“Dennis Vercher was a prominent journalist and community activist in Dallas, Texas. Vercher served as the senior editor of The Dallas Voice from 1986 – 2006, during which time he reported on a multitude of issues impacting the LGBT community during the AIDS crisis,” UNT wrote in a press release about the collection.

Dennis was meticulous about filing and sorting everything from his notes to documents he kept.

“The collection contains correspondence, newspaper clippings, financial documentation, press releases, and other materials related to LGBT activism, HIV/AIDS, and anti-discrimination legislation,” UNT’s introduction to the collection explains. “The Vercher Collection is part of The Dallas Way GLBT Collection of the UNT Libraries, an interrelated series of personal collections created by the Dallas Way community.”

Among the interesting papers Dennis kept were notes about the Dallas Morning News rejecting a National Coming Out Day ad in 1988, a letter from Gov. Ann Richards in 1990 and a letter to the editor from Dale Wesley Biddy apologizing for burning down the AIDS Resource Center, the Round-Up Saloon and Union Jack on Cedar Springs Road.

Personal note to UNT: If you expect papers from me, please understand that even I can’t read my notes more than a day or so after I’ve taken them. What I have is a pile of old notes with not a clue about what they’re in reference to. And if you’d like some papers from editor Tammye Nash, well her sorting and filing is worse than mine. And care to document the arts? Well, I dare you to even wade through Arnold’s office.

(Note from Tammye Nash: Hey! We publish a paper every Friday and UNT archives that!)



Traffic should be a mess in Dallas all weekend for Dallas Marathon

Posted on 08 Dec 2016 at 12:06pm

On Saturday, the Mayor’s Race 5K and Fun Run take place from 8:15-10:30 a.m. and affects downtown and Oak Cliff.


The City of Dallas has approved the following road closures:

• PRE EVENT SET UP: The following streets will be closed from 8:15am-10:30am Reunion Blvd E. from Hotel St. to Market St. and both Houston St. and Jefferson St. Viaducts from Young St. to Colorado Blvd. E

• 1-mile Fun Run (Starts at 9 a.m.): East on the Reunion Blvd. E, south on Houston St. and participants will U-Turn on the Houston St. Viaduct, west on Young St. (one lane) to Reunion Blvd. E. and finish east of Sports St.

• 5K (Starts at 9:30 a.m.): East on the Reunion Blvd. E, south on Houston St., left on Marsalis Ave., U-turn on Marsalis Ave. at Addison St., over the Jefferson Blvd. Viaduct through to Market St., west on Young St. (one lane) to Reunion Blvd. E and finish east of Sports St.

On Sunday, the Dallas Marathon should tie up traffic around Oak Lawn, East Dallas and downtown all day.


The City of Dallas has approved the following road closures for the marathon and half marathon race.

Saturday, Dec. 10 at 4:30 a.m.–Sunday, Dec. 11 at 6 p.m.

• Griffin St. from Ceremonial to Wood St., Young from Griffin to Lamar, Lamar (curb lanes) from Jackson to Ceremonial, Young (curb lanes) from Lamar to Omni entrance, Wood from Lamar to Market; Jackson (south curb lane) from Lamar to Market, Austin from Wood to Jackson; Marilla from Akard to Young

Sunday, Dec. 11 at 4 a.m.-6 p.m.

• Lamar from Wood to Memorial and Young from Lamar to the entrance of the Omni

Sunday, Dec. 11 from 7 a.m.-3 p.m. (Limited cross traffic allowed prior to start)

• Young St. from Market St. to Lamar St.; Young St. from Field St. to Cesar Chaves Blvd.; Field St. from Wood St. to Young St.; Marilla St. from Young to Akard St.; Akard St. from Wood St. to Canton St.; Ervay St. Wood St. to Marilla St.; St. Paul St. from Wood St. to Marilla St.; Park Ave. from Marilla St. to dead end; Evergreen St. from Young St. to Marilla St.; Harwood St. from Wood St. to Cadiz St.; Pearl St. from Wood St. to Cadiz St.

That’s downtown. See map for marathon route. Roads will be blocked or crossings delayed all along the route throughout the day.


Turtle Creek Chorale hires Dennis Coleman

Posted on 07 Dec 2016 at 1:22pm

Dennis Coleman

Former Equality Texas Executive Director Dennis Coleman joins the staff of the Turtle Creek Chorale as its development director on Dec. 16.

Coleman is a graduate of the Harvard Kennedy School of Government Program for Senior Executives in State and Local Government. He has been a development and fundraising professional for more than 25 years, specializing in cultivation of new revenue sources.

For the last nearly four years, Coleman has been building a development office at Paul Quinn College in Dallas. He has also worked as Senior Consultant with The Non-Profit Group providing fundraising, grant writing and research to non-profit organizations.

Previously, Coleman was executive director of Equality Texas and the Equality Texas Foundation, state’s LGBT lobbying and advocacy group.

From 2003-2010, he worked as regional director in charge of fundraising for the Dallas regional office of Lambda Legal Defense and Education expanding the fundraising, donor cultivation and planned giving efforts for that organization in Texas, Oklahoma, Louisiana, New Mexico and Colorado.

Before entering the non-profit world, Coleman worked in account management and sales for Sprint PCS, The Wall Street Journal and The Dallas Morning News. He has also served as National Chair of the Board of Governors for the Human Rights Campaign.

Chorale Executive Director Bruce Jaster said, “Dennis is a significant addition to the chorale staff and our first full-time director of development in quite a few years. We are honored that he is joining us to help build upon the Chorale’s very positive and exciting growth pattern of the last two years.”

“I am delighted to join the Chorale staff team,” adds Coleman, “and my mind is swirling with ideas for new development activities.”

Coleman studied Organizational Communication at the University of Texas at Austin and received his Bachelor of Science in Business Administration from Northwood University before completing the program at the Harvard Kennedy School of Government. He has been with his partner Gregory Pynes for 15 years.

The Turtle Creek Chorale’s Christmas show, A Not So Silent Night, runs Dec. 8-11 at City Performance Hall. Tickets are available here.


Texas family law explained in new publication

Posted on 07 Dec 2016 at 9:35am

texas-family-lawEquality Texas and the Family Equality Council have published a new legal guide for LGBT families Texas, Texas LGBTQ Family Law and is available online.

The book’s authors credit Austin attorney Suzanne Bryant, one of the state’s experts on LGBT adoption and family law, with reviewing and editing the guide, which covers everything from birth to disposition of remains.

Significantly, the guide explains what rights are covered by the Obergefell marriage equality decision and what paperwork is still needed.

While couple gain many rights through marriage equality, couples who marry may lose the Federal Adoption Tax Credit that is available only to the unmarried partner adopting a spouse’s child.

The guide details when a child is born to one spouse, if a second parent adoption is necessary or if the child is assumed to be the spouse’s child as well under Texas law. While every attempt has been made for laws to equally cover same-sex and opposite-sex couples, an attorney who understands the new laws and court rulings may still be necessary to make sure the child’s best interests are ensured.


Former judge Faith Simmons Johnson named new Dallas County D.A.

Posted on 06 Dec 2016 at 2:46pm

Faith Simmons Johnson (via her website)

Gov. Greg Abbott has named former State District Judge Faith Simmons Johnson as Dallas County district attorney, replacing Susan Hawk, who resigned on Sept. 6 due to continuing issues with depression.

Johnson, 65, has been in private practice as an attorney for the past 10 years. Faith Johnson & Associates, based in Irving, specializes in church and non-profit law.

Before running for judge, Johnson worked as a criminal prosecutor in the Dallas County D.A.’s office and was the first African-American woman to become chief felony prosecutor before she left, according to her law firm’s website.

WFAA reported she was one of 11 applicants for the job.

In appointing Johnson, Abbott made a strategic rather than ideological choice. While he could have appointed someone extremely right wing to fit with his ideology, he instead chose a moderate Republican who has a chance of re-election in 2018 in Democratic Dallas County.


Cassie and her ‘Freaks’ make Christmas merrier for Sam Houston students

Posted on 06 Dec 2016 at 2:29pm


Let’s hear it for Cassie Nova and her cast of fellow freaks who raised more than $7,000 for the students of Sam Houston Elementary School with the second annual “Cassie’s Freakmas Christmas Show” on Monday night, Dec. 5, at JR.’s Bar and Grill.

The record-setting total happened thanks to donations from Caven customers and local businesses — including a $5,000 check from Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban to cap off the evening.

Caven Enterprises, JR.’s parent company, adopted Sam Houston Elementary School, the poorest school in the Dallas Independent School District, more than 20 years ago. During those 20-plus years, Caven and its employees have been able, thanks to the generosity of the LGBT community and businesses who donate, to provide money to help with the school’s fall and spring carnivals, the Reading is Fundamental program, field trips and the annual Secret Santa program.

Thanks to the Caven Secret Santas, each child at Sam Houston Elementary receives a gift of their choosing, a goody bag full of fresh fruit and other snacks and some special surprises. The program also brings Santa in to visit each class, and it provides every teacher and faculty member with a gift card, too.

“I have to say that last night’s Freakmas Show was a huge success,” Cassie wrote this morning (Tuesday, Dec. 6) on her Facebook page. “We raised $2,265, and then at the end of the show Chad Mantooth handed me a check from the very generous Mark Cuban for $5,000 [for a] grand total of $7,265.

“I am so proud of last night and want to thank all of my girls that performed. It was an amazing show,” Cassie added. “Thank you to anyone that bought a raffle ticket. Thank you to anyone that donated any of our fabulous prizes.”

She also thanked audience members who showed up in their “cutest onesies,” and the “JR.’s crew.”

Among the local businesses and organizations donating prizes to be raffled off were Street’s Fine Chicken, Ojeda’s, Cedar Grove, Hard Rock Cafe, Hash House A-Go-Go, Hollywood Feed, Italia Express, Original Market Diner, Spunk Lube, Hair Today Gone Tomorrow, Toni & Guy, 18th and Vine Barbecue, Vertigo 12, ATT Performing Arts Center, Dallas Summer Musicals, Uptown Players and North Haven Gardens. More than 15 entertainers also donated their time and tips to effort.

“I want every child that goes to that school to wake up on Christmas morning with at least one present under the tree,” Cassie said.


Best Places to Work for Diversity has extremely odd winner

Posted on 06 Dec 2016 at 11:17am

best-places-to-work-for-diversityAT&T sent me a press release proudly announcing their No. 39 place on a list of 2016 Best Workplaces for Diversity.

Nice honor to be listed, but then I looked at the list. AT&T should be a little pissed off. It belongs much higher on the list.

The diversity list was compiled from answers to 58 questions answered by employees of companies with at least 50 employees. “Rankings take into account how favorably women, minorities and LGBTQ employees experience their workplace relative to their male, Caucasian and heterosexual colleagues’ experiences,” the survey website explains.

Here’s the surprise: Texas Health Resources ranked No. 1. That company’s flagship hospital is Presbyterian.

Texas Health Resources did not participate in HRC’s Corporate Equality Index, but three of its hospitals, including Presbyterian, participated in HRC’s Health Equality Index. The other two were Harris Methodist in Fort Worth and Presbyterian in Plano.

All three hospitals are rated “No” for “patient non-discrimination policy.”

Did LGBT employees in a hospital system that doesn’t have a nondiscrimination for patients call their employer a great place to work? Did not one of their employees notice that was missing? And the survey company that compiled this rated a hospital that would discriminate against its LGBT patients as the best company in the country for diversity?

Maybe they were only talking about opportunities for employees. After all, when it came time to treat patients stricken with Ebola, Presbyterian did put an Asian nurse and a black nurse on the front lines without the necessary proper protection, but did send them to other medical facilities around the country for their treatment.

And number two on the list is Delta Airlines. Delta did score 100 on the HRC Corporate Equality Index this year for the first time. Other airlines — American, Alaska, Southwest, United — have been there at least the last two years. That indicates Delta added benefits and policies just to stay competitive, not because they were ever a leader. The airlines that have been there all along didn’t make the diversity list.

So congratulations AT&T for your place on the list. AT&T not only has an employee resource group, it’s ERG, LEAGUE@AT&T was the FIRST ERG, created more than 25 years ago. The company kind of created equality in the workplace. It’s ALWAYS scored 100 on the HRC CEI and has been a leader in creating policies that promoted a diverse and equal workforce. That ranking is kind of a slap in the face, but at least you’re acknowledged.