Paxton sends Target a snotty letter

Posted on 04 May 2016 at 4:55pm

Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton sent Target CEO Brian Cornell the following letter warning that allowing men in women’s restroom could lead to criminal charges, and requesting the text of Target’s safety policies.

Here’s that info: Guards work in all stores. They call the police if there’s a problem.

To be clear, Target’s policy is not to allow men in women’s restrooms.

Paxton letter

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Thoughts on Rockwall’s defeated ‘bathroom bill’

Posted on 04 May 2016 at 10:20am
Rockwall Mayor Jim Pruitt

Rockwall Mayor Jim Pruitt

Equal rights advocates around North Texas this week are praising the Rockwall City Council for rejecting a proposed ordinance that would have prohibited transgender people from using the appropriate public restrooms.  But a closer look at the language council members used in debating the ordinance on Monday night, May 2, suggests we haven’t seen the last of some form of a bathroom bill in that city.

The ordinance, proposed by Mayor Jim Pruitt, would have forced transgender men or women using a public, multi-stall restroom in Rockwall to use the one specific to gender they were assigned at birth, rather than the one corresponding to their actual gender identity.

I spent most of Tuesday, May 3, listening to audio recordings of the Monday night council meeting (posted here on the city’s website). I was indeed impressed by the passion of the many Rockwall residents who attended the meeting to speak out against the proposal, and encouraged to see that only seven of the about 30 Rockwall residents who spoke were in favor of the audience. And one of those seven was Rockwall County Criminal District Attorney Kenda Culpepper, who was there as a “resource witness” at the request of Mayor Pruitt.

Most of those who spoke against the ordinance made it clear that they felt it was discriminatory and unnecessary and not representative of the kind of city they want to live in. But when it came to the council members themselves, most insisted that it wasn’t about transgender people and that they were against is simply because it was “unenforceable” and represented an unnecessary government intrusion into the affairs of private businesses.

But it was Mayor Pruitt’s question toward the end of the meeting — when he asked council members if they would support an ordinance that addressed only public, multi-stall restrooms on city-owned property — that seemed to suggest the potty police debate is not over in Rockwall.

Transgender activist Nell Gaither of Trans Pride Initiative, who along with Trans-Cendence helped organize a protest outside Rockwall City Hall just before the council meeting, agreed. “My feeling is this might be back again, in a form that will be more acceptable to those who didn’t support it this time,” Gaither said Tuesday.

Pick up the Friday, May 6 issue of Dallas Voice to see our more in-depth report on the Monday night meeting.

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College Choice lists top 50 LGBT-friendly schools

Posted on 03 May 2016 at 12:18pm

Screen shot 2016-05-03 at 12.12.23 PMCollege Choice just published its list of the 50 most LGBT-friendly colleges in the U.S. None are in Texas. However, three are in North Carolina, despite the recent passage of anti-LGBT legislation in the state. While the schools may be LGBT-friendly, the local environment isn’t.

The colleges were “evaluated and ranked schools based on publicly available information on accreditation, Campus Pride rating, academic reputation, student satisfaction, affordability, average financial aid awarded, and return on investment.”

The University of Pennsylvania came in first and Williams College and Amherst College came in second and third respectively. The others in alphabetical order are:

American University, Washington, DC

Augsburg College, Minneapolis, MN

Bowdoin College, Brunswick, ME

Carleton College, Northfield, MN

Case Western Reserve University, Cleveland, OH

Columbia University, New York, NY

Cornell University, Ithaca, NY

Davidson College, Davidson, NC

Duke University, Durham, NC

Elon University, Elon, NC

Grand Valley State University, Allendale, MI

Harvey Mudd College, Claremont, CA

Illinois Wesleyan University, Bloomington, IL

Indiana University Bloomington, Bloomington, IN

Ithaca College, Ithaca, NY

Lawrence University, Appleton, WI

Macalester College, Saint Paul, MN

Montclair State University, Montclair, NJ

New York University, New York, NY

Ohio State University, Columbus, OH

Pennsylvania State University, University Park, PA

Princeton University, Princeton, NJ

Purdue University, West Lafayette, IN

Rutgers University, New Brunswick, NJ

San Diego State University, San Diego, CA

Stony Brook University, Stony Brook, NY

Tufts University, Medford, MA

University of California Los Angeles, Los Angeles, CA

University of California, Davis, Davis, CA

University of California, Riverside, Riverside, CA

University of Colorado Boulder, Boulder, CO

University of Iowa, Iowa City, IA

University of Maryland, College Park, MD

University of Massachusetts, Amherst, Amherst, MA

University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, MI

University of Minnesota Twin Cities, Minneapolis, MN

University of Minnesota, Morris, Morris, MN

University of North Florida, Jacksonville, FL

University of Oregon, Eugene, OR

University of Southern California, Los Angeles, CA

University of Vermont, Burlington, VT

University of Washington, Seattle, WA

University of Wisconsin — Eau Claire, Eau Claire, WI

University of Wisconsin — Green Bay, Green Bay, WI

University of Wisconsin — Madison, Madison, WI

Washington State University, Pullman, WA

Washington University in St. Louis, Saint Louis, MO

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Rockwall City Council to consider “bathroom ordinance” tonight; Trans Pride Initiative plans protest

Posted on 02 May 2016 at 4:28pm
Gaither.Pruitt

Trans Pride Initiative spokeswoman Nell Gaither and Rockwall Mayor Jim Pruitt

The agenda for the Rockwall City Council’s regular meeting tonight (Monday, May 2) includes an item to “Discuss and consider approval of an ordinance amending the Code of Ordinances in Chapter 22. Miscellaneous Offenses; Article I. In General by adding Section 22-5 to regulate public restroom/bathroom and changing facilities, and take any action necessary.”

The council is slated to hold a “first reading” of the proposed ordinance tonight. The second reading and final vote is scheduled for the May 16 meeting.

In other words, the city of Rockwall is considering enacting its own local version of the ridiculous “bathroom bills” that have become so popular with right-wing lawmakers at the state level.  The Rockwall version was drafted by Mayor Jim Pruitt and would, like all the others, ban transgender individuals from using appropriate public restroom facilities. It would make it a misdemeanor offense for a person to use multi-stall public restroom facility or locker room designated for a gender other than the one on their birth certificates.

Pruitt told WFAA Channel 8 news that he drew up the proposed ordinance in response to constituents’ concerns over policies at Planet Fitness and Target that all people to use appropriate restrooms — policies that, by the way, have been in place for a long time but that have been recently reiterated.

Pruitt said, “I just think that it’s insanity not to have those protections in place. These folks aren’t transgender that this is targeting. This is targeting folks of the opposite sex that are going into those restrooms under the guise of being transgender and having access.”

Pruitt, like all the other right-wingers promoting such legislation, failed to explain how he knows the difference between a transgender person and someone just dressing like someone of the opposite gender. Nor did he explain whether people who might have to use a public restroom will be required to present their birth certificate first, or who will be in charge of checking to make sure their gender matches their birth certificate.

Dallas Voice columnist Leslie McMurray, a transgender woman, will be on WFAA Channel 8 at 4:45 today to discuss the ordinance from the perspective of sanity and common sense. Someone said that Pam Curry spoke on the station’s noon newscast, but I haven’t found video of that yet.

Trans Pride Initiative spokeswoman Nell Gaither said in a written statement TPI has contacted the mayor and all the Rockwall City Council members “asking that they meet with us and reconsider this policy. Only one city council member responded, stating that he will not support the policy.”

Just an interesting side note: According to the city of Rockwall’s website, counting Mayor Pruitt, all seven members of the Rockwall City Council are white men.

A separate press release announced TPI’s plans to gather at the Rockwall City Hall, 385 S. Goliad, tonight before the meeting begins at 6 p.m.

Gaither noted that despite Pruitt’s insistence that the proposed ordinance isn’t directed at transgender people and “regardless of misdirection from the strategy books of the likes of Alliance Defending Freedom,” the intent of the ordinance is, without a doubt, “to discriminate against transgender and gender nonconforming person.

“More broadly, however, the intent is to increase administrative enforcement of stereotypical gender norms, particularly norms of femininity. Anyone — transgender or not — whose gender expression or presentation doesn’t align closely enough with various stereotypes of what a man or woman should look like will be subjected to the scrutiny of public gender defenders rushing to save innocent women and children from the hoards of men such legislation implies are just waiting for opportunities to parade in public as women and invade women’s spaces.”

Gaither points out that more than 200 domestic violence and sexual assault organizations recently signed a consensus statement opposing such laws and saying that, “we speak from experience and expertise when we state that these claims [that sexual predators dress as women to attack women in public restrooms] are false.”

What the EEOC has to say

In other — but related — news, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission today released its “Fact Sheet: Bathroom Access Rights for Transgender Employees under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.”

The fact sheet defines transgender, and then notes that in addition to other federal laws, the EEOC enforces Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, “which prohibits employment discrimination based on race, color, national origin, religion, and sex (including pregnancy, gender identity and sexual orientation.” Title VII “applies to all federal, state and local government agencies in their capacity as employers, and to all private employers with 15 or more employees.”

The statement notes that Macy v. Department of Justice has already set precedent with the EEOC ruling that discrimination based on transgender status is sex discrimination in violation of Title VII, and that G. ex rel. Grimm v. Gloucester City School Board has set precedent that contrary state law is not a defense for such discrimination.

“Gender-based stereotypes, perceptions or comfort level must not interfere with the ability of any employee to work free from discrimination, including harassment,” the statement noted, and “Title VII prohibits discrimination based on sex whether motivated by hostility, by a desire to protect people of a certain gender, by gender stereotypes or by the desire to accommodate other people’s prejudices or discomfort.”

The EEOC statement has says quite plainly that religious beliefs also cannot be used as a basis for such discrimination because “Like all non-discrimination provisions, these protections address conduct in the workplace, not personal beliefs. Thus, these protections do not required any employee to change beliefs.”

So in other words, if the city of Rockwall passes this asinine ordinance and tries to enforce it in the bathrooms at City Hall, they’ll be violating Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.

Anyone who feels they have been discriminated against can file a complaint under Title VII at the EEOC website or by calling 1-800-669-4000.

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New food pantry open

Posted on 02 May 2016 at 2:59pm

Food pantryThe new Resource Center Food Pantry is open at 2701 Reagan St. Volunteers stocked shelves on Sunday (May 1) to get the pantry ready to open today.

“Perishable goods should be available next week once refrigeration system is complete,” Resource Center posted on its Facebook page. So perishable items that need to be refrigerated such as eggs, meat or milk are not available yet.

The former food pantry location closed a month ago because the retail center on Denton Drive Cutoff that also included Elliott’s Hardware will be torn down to make way for a so-called “West Village-type” mixed-use development. Resource Center had hoped to keep the former location open until renovations at its new location were complete.

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Weddington files lawsuit against XTC Cabaret

Posted on 02 May 2016 at 2:49pm
Cory-5

Cory Weddington after attack in XTC Cabaret

Attorney Kasey Krummel filed a lawsuit on behalf of Cory Weddington against XTC Cabaret on Sunday, May 1 for damages stemming from an incident that occurred at the club on April 2 in which Weddington alleges he was assaulted by XTC employees.

Weddington is asking for at least $200,000 in compensation for  damages of any kind, penalties, costs, expenses, pre-judgment interest and attorney fees.

The suit alleges that an employee of the club shoved Weddington twice, the second time pushing him to the ground, after which four employees “delivered repeated blows to plaintiff’s head, neck, back, face, shoulder and hips, causing Cory severe and irreparable injuries including a fractured jaw, broken nose, abrasions, and a seizure disorder caused by trauma to the back of the head.”

The lawsuit also charges that employees then refused to call for emergency help, and that “Defendant’s employees and agents made public statements on social media that Cory is a criminal and deserved to be attacked.”

Weddington alleges in suit that the attack was bias-motivated because employees called him a “queer” and told two women who were with him at the club to “get that faggot out of here.”

In addition to discrimination and assault, Weddington is suing for defamation and intentional infliction of emotional distress.

Weddington has no criminal convictions but does have a case, which is not settled, pending from an incident four years ago.

The suit is filed against the club because, “XTC had actual knowledge of the hostile condition on the premises that was riddled with complaints of violence and aggravated assaults.” It alleges negligent hiring and supervision that included “actual knowledge of convictions, pending investigations, charges, warrants, and even simply histories of violence among its employees, and intentionally failed to address the matter.” The suit also claims that emergency assistance is routinely called to the location and incident reports are filed.

The defendants have been given 50 days to respond to questions of discovery and the suit asks for a jury trial. Criminal assault charges have not been filed against any XTC employees yet.

The case has been assigned to Judge Tonya Parker.

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Police report fatality Sunday night at Lemmon and Central

Posted on 02 May 2016 at 1:03pm

Screen shot 2016-05-02 at 1.00.12 PMPolice and Dallas Fire Rescue personnel responding to reports of a major accident at North Central Expressway and Lemmon Avenue about 9 p.m. Sunday found a woman dead in the southbound lanes of Central. She appeared to have been struck by several vehicles, according to reports. Several motorists called 9-11 and police spoke to several witnesses, reports indicate.

Homicide detectives were called to the scene, and the investigation is ongoing, police said.

The victim is described as a Latin female, and the Dallas County Medical Examiner will determine her identity, according to reports, which also indicate that the incident is documented as an “unexplained death.”

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Man attacked near ilume over the weekend classified as hate crime

Posted on 02 May 2016 at 12:48pm

map

Craig Knapp, a resident of ilume on Cedar Springs Road, was attacked between 4:10 and 4:15 a.m. on Saturday morning (April 30) as he was walking his neighbor’s dog.

Knapp told WFAA Channel 8 that the two men who attacked him on Douglas Avenue near his building used anti-gay slurs. One of the attackers hit him in the face, and he said even though he offered him his wallet and his phone to keep them from hurting him, they took nothing.

Knapp also told WFAA this is the second time he was attacked. We have not spoken to the victim yet and haven’t found another recent police report on an earlier attack.

Detectives canvassed the area after the attack was reported, and have asked businesses in the area if their cameras caught footage of the attack or attackers.

From the Dallas Police blog, here is a fuller description of the attack and of the suspects:

On April 30, 2016, at about 4:30 a.m., a male victim was walking his dog in the area around the 3000 block of Douglas Avenue. The victim was approached by two suspects, a Black male 6’1” with a gold tooth wearing “skinny jeans” and a Latin male of unknown description. The Black male suspect asked the victim what the dog’s name was and when the victim answered, the Black male suspect made a derogatory comment about the victim’s perceived sexual orientation and shoved the victim to the ground causing scrapes to the victim’s face.

Both suspects then fled the location in an unknown direction. The comments made by the suspect indicate this was a crime of bias and will be classified as such. The assault itself is a Class A Misdemeanor and this is the third bias crime reported in the Oak Lawn area since September 2015.

Detectives from the Assaults Unit followed up with the victim over the weekend and canvassed the immediate area looking for video and witnesses to the offense.

Anyone with information regarding this offense or these suspects is asked to contact the Dallas Police Department’s Assaults Unit at 214-671-3584. Callers who wish to remain anonymous may call Crime Stoppers at 214-373-TIPS (8477).

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Wendy Davis has become a grandmother

Posted on 02 May 2016 at 12:12pm
Ellis

Ellis Tate Davis-Erdel

Former Texas gubernatorial candidate and Fort Worth state Sen. Wendy Davis announced on her Facebook page that she became a grandmother this weekend:

“Ellis Tate Davis-Erdel (my first grandchild!) arrived on Friday the 29th of April. She has stolen my heart completely!!! (Notably, she shares a birthday with Willie Nelson.)”

Congratulations, Wendy.

Davis served in the Texas Senate from 2009-2015. She gained national attention when she singlehandedly filibustered an anti-abortion bill that later passed in a special session. She became the Democratic nominee for governor in 2015, but lost to Greg Abbott.

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Denton County sheriff candidate cancels meeting with Equality Texas

Posted on 29 Apr 2016 at 2:48pm
Tracy Murphree

Tracy Murphree

Tracy Murphree, the Republican candidate for Denton County sheriff who grabbed headlines late last week with a Facebook post implying he would use violence against transgender women in public restrooms, has cancelled a planned meeting with representatives of Equality Texas and Denton County couple who have a transgender child.

The meeting had been set for Thursday morning. But, according to a statement released today (Friday, April 29), Murphree sent a message Wednesday evening saying, “I won’t be at the meeting tomorrow. I feel I have made my position clear that I am not targeting transgenders but concerned about predators taking advantage of the policies. I really have nothing else to add.”

In a post to his Facebook page on Friday, April 22, referring to laws like the one recently passed in North Carolina that prevent transgender individuals from using appropriate public restroom facilities, Murphree wrote: “This whole bathroom thing is craziness I have never seen. All I can say is this. If my little girl is in a public women’s restroom and a man, regardless of how he may identify, goes into that bathroom, he will then identify as John Doe until he wakes up in whatever hospital he may be taken to. Your identity does not trump my little girl’s safety.”

Many people saw Murphree’s post, which has since been removed from public view, as a threat of violence against transgender women in public restrooms. Denton County residents Adam and Amber Briggle, parents of an 8-year old transgender child, publicly expressed their concern with Murphree’s statements. Murphree later issued an apology of sorts — saying he understood people’s anger over his statements and that he had been referring to pedophiles and other sexual predators, not trans women — and agreed to meet with the Briggles and Equality Texas representatives.

After Murphree cancelled the meeting, Equality Texas board Chair Steve Rudner issued a statement, telling the candidate, “What you’ve not done is allow yourself the chance to listen.”

In the written statement, the statewide LGBT advocacy organization said: “At Equality Texas we believe it is inappropriate and unacceptable for any law enforcement official to make inflammatory statements that condone violence against any member their community. No Texan should ever have to live in fear of violence because of their gender identity or gender expression, especially from someone that has taken an oath to serve and protect them from harm.

“Equality Texas will continue to work with the Briggle family, local organizations, and Denton County area residents to end falsehoods about the LGBT community that do nothing to serve and protect victims and potential victims of violence. We believe ending sexual violence begins by treating all people, including those who are transgender, with fairness and respect.”

Murphree, who defeated Republican incumbent Sheriff William Travis in the March primary, is widely expected to win his general election race against Libertarian Randy Butler. Following Murphree’s post on April 22, Butler posted a statement on his Facebook page pointing out that in most cases in which a child is molested, the culprit is a family member,r family friend or clergy member, not a stranger.

Butler went on to say: This issue isn’t about protecting the children though. It’s about the same problem us humans have always struggled with — bigotry and hatred towards those we don’t understand. … We are ultimately responsible for the safety and well-being of our children, but we are also responsible for the well-being and safety of our fellow humans.”

 

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