Queens post office named for PFLAG founders

Posted on 22 May 2017 at 2:24pm

Jeanne Manford with her son Morty

A post office in Jackson Heights, Queens has been named in honor of the couple that founded P-FLAG — Parents, Friends and Family of Lesbians and Gays.

Jeanne and Jules Manford had a son named Morty who was gay and a member of New York’s Gay Activists Alliance. When Morty protested coverage of the gay community at a dinner attended by reporters and politicians, he was beaten up by Michael J. Maye, the president of the Uniformed Firefighters Association. Maye was acquitted of the assault that occurred as police stood by and watched.

At another protest, Morty was arrested. Police called Jeanne to tell her he was in jail and that he was homosexual.

“Yes, I know,” she said to the officer. “Why are you bothering him?”

After the attack, she wrote a letter to the New York Post (pre-Fox ownership when it was a liberal newspaper). In it she said, “I have a homosexual son and I love him.”

The letter continued, “It might be that these ‘men’ have themselves some deep rooted sexual problems or they would not have become so enraged as to commit violence in beatings.”

The Manfords opened their home to young gays and lesbians who had been rejected by their parents. As they met a few other parents with gay and lesbian children, they began meeting monthly in a church in Greenwich Village. They called their group POG — Parents of Gays.

I met the Manfords at a POG meeting in 1975 that I attended with my boyfriend, Jon, and his parents. Before the meeting, we had lunch in a restaurant in Chinatown. Jon’s mother got a fortune in a fortune cookie that read, “You will meet someone as gay as you are,” that she carried in her wallet the rest of her life. At the meeting, a writer named Charles Silverstein was observing for a book he wrote that came out about a year later. He described our attending the meeting as a family, but we were very disappointed that he had changed our names to “protect” our identity.

I remember meeting both the Manfords and another original POG parent named Sarah Montgomery. Montgomery had a son who committed suicide and left her a note revealing he was gay. Although his death had occurred years earlier, she was still grappling with why he felt he couldn’t tell her. Her message was a warning to parents to love their children unconditionally or they could lose them.

The Manfords were just warm and welcoming. They told us they were sorry Morty couldn’t be there that day, but knew he’d love to meet us. We never did meet, because Jon and I weren’t living in or near New York City at the time.

Although their names aren’t widely known, the Manfords’ contribution to the LGBT community has been recognized. Jeanne served as grand marshal in the New York Pride March in 1991. The block in Flushing, Queens where the Manfords raised Morty has been renamed Jeanne, Jules, Morty Manford PFLAG Way.

President Barack Obama mentioned the Manfords in a speech to the HRC National Dinner and, in 2013, he awarded Jeanne the Presidential Citizens Medal.

This weekend, the Queens post office was renamed in their honor. Morty’s sister was there for the ceremony.

Morty died of AIDS at the age of 41 in 1992. His father had passed away 10 years earlier. Jeanne died in 2013 at age 92.


House passes ‘bathroom bill’ as an amendment

Posted on 21 May 2017 at 10:50pm
UPDATE: HB 3859, which would allow privately-owned foster care and adoption agencies to discriminate based on personal religious beliefs and still receive state and federal funds, has been sent to the desk of Gov. Greg Abbott. Call Abbott’s office at 512-463-2000 NOW, or email his office here to tell Abbott not to sign this discriminatory legislation and SB 2078 into law.
James M. Russell  |  Contributing Writer

State Rep. Celia Israel

(Watch video below of Rep. Chris Paddie explaining his amendment and Rep. Rafael Anchia speaking against it.)

The Texas House late Sunday night passed a bill concerning hazard and emergency planning for charter and public schools that included an amendment restricting transgender students’ access to bathrooms.

The amendment, by Rep. Chris Paddie, R-Marshall, to Senate Bill 2078 requires that students use bathrooms, locker rooms and other intimate spaces according to their “biological sex” and not their gender identity. It requires school districts also accommodate students by providing access to a single stall bathroom.

During debate on the amendment, Paddie faced criticism from Democratic colleagues, who said the amendment discriminated against transgender students.

“I want to talk to you a little bit about history because I’ve lived through the separate but equal period,” Rep. Senfronia Thompson, D-Houston, told the floor in a passionate speech against the amendment. “I can tell you separate restrooms for transgender kids are also based on fear, not fact.”

But Paddie, who had briefed colleagues on the amendment before filing it, said the amendment was meant to provide guidance on the issue.

“It is an effort to provide definitive guidance…for all kids,” Paddie said.

He also refuted that it discriminated against transgender students, saying accommodations extend to all students. “It could be because you are transgender or you are shy. It could be because of bullying. This says they will accommodate the child. This is not about a class of children or transgender children,” Paddie said, adding that the language prevents a school from disclosing intimate details about a student.

“For those who care about unfunded mandates, if a school district or open enrollment [faces a lawsuit], it requires the state attorney general to defend them,” Paddie said.

But the arguments were not enough for Democrats.

“The bill is about emergencies and disasters. Where is the disaster?” asked Rep. Joe Moody, D-El Paso.

Other Democrats attempted to amend it unsuccessfully.

Yet after heated debate, and despite early opposition from some Republicans like Dallas’ Jason Villalba, the amendment ultimately passed 91-50, with only one Republican, Rep. Sarah Davis, R-West University Place, voting against it.

Rep. Celia Israel, D-Austin, who is also an out lesbian, condemned the amendment.

“This amendment was more about using trans kids as a negotiating tool at a contentious point in the session than about making kids safer. It paints a target on the backs of already vulnerable children. We are getting rolled by the Senate, and transgender children are a part of that bargain. Texas is better than what the House did tonight,” Israel said in a statement.

That stood in contrast to a statement released by Republican Speaker of the House Joe Straus’s office, which sought to strike a deal with Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick on the so-called bathroom bill that died in the House State Affairs committee. Passing this amendment would avoid a special session to pass a more dangerous version of the bill.

“Representative Paddie’s amendment will allow schools to continue to handle sensitive issues as they have been handling them. I believe this amendment will allow us to avoid the severely negative impact of Senate Bill 6,” Straus said in a statement, referring to the contentious so-called “bathroom bill.”

“Members of the House wanted to act on this issue and my philosophy as Speaker has never been to force my will on the body. Gov. Abbott has said he would demand action on this in a special session, and the House decided to dispose of the issue in this way,” Strauss said.


Bahati makes her first appearance at Dallas Zoo

Posted on 19 May 2017 at 12:14pm

Bahati, the first lion cub born at the Dallas Zoo in 43 years, made her first public appearance today (Friday, 19).

Born on March 17, she now weighs 13 pounds. Mom Lina’s previous pregnancy resulted in the birth of two stillborn cubs. This time, according to zookeeper Keith Zdrijewski, Lina had a C-section. He explained the lions are trained for injections. So when she went into labor, she allowed the veterinarians to inject sedatives so they could perform the C-section. Zookeepers knew the cub was healthy because Lina was also ultrasound-trained.

Bahati is the first cub Lina has ever seen. But her instincts took over when she woke up and began nursing her cub.

Bahati has already learned some stalking behavior. When she first saw a crowd of people standing outside her enclosure, her eyes opened wide and she crouched, ready to pounce. In addition to her mom, Bahati plays with her aunt.

She’s yet to meet Kamau, her father, but Zdrijewski said they plan to introduce them soon. Kamau’s been a father twice before in other zoos where, Zdrijewski said, he’s been a great dad.



Stonewall Democrats of Dallas reacts to Gov. Abbott signing SB4 into law

Posted on 18 May 2017 at 2:15pm

Stonewall President Lee Daugherty

On Sunday, May 7, Texas Gov. Greg Abbott signed into law Senate Bill 4 (SB4), better known as the “show me your papers law,” and that is similar has been ruled unconstitutional in Arizona because it permits racial profiling in law enforcement.

The language encourages discrimination and allows law enforcement to question a person’s immigration status simply upon detainment, not while under arrest. Supporters claim this bill only targets criminals, but opponents insist the bill will target children, victims of crimes and even veterans. Opponents also say the law incites fear and distrust in minority communities, specifically communities of color.

If SB4 goes into effect in September, Stonewall Democrats wrote in a press release, it will have a profound impact on the safety of all Texans by driving undocumented immigrants back into the shadows in fear of law enforcement retaliation. Immigrants will fear any interaction with law enforcement, whether they are victims or witnesses to crime. This will increase the amount of unreported crime and criminals will prey on these communities. “This unconstitutional, discriminatory terrorism sanctioned by our state government attempts to assist in Trump’s plan for mass deportations which will lead to a massive economic impact to Texas and a blow to the workforce we all depend on to maintain our states growth,” Stonewall Democrats said.

Stonewall President Lee Daugherty noted, “The safety and security of the LGBTQ community is paramount in the ongoing struggle for equal rights and protections under the law. The continued struggle for racial, economic, social, and environmental justice for all encompasses many issues that are inter-sectional and will not be ignored in our fight for equality. A conversation rarely had among advocacy groups is our own immigrant and undocumented LGBTQ community. It’s a community that lives among us, they are our friends, our partners, and our neighbors. The community already feels the hateful oppressive speech from Republicans in Austin and DC and continues to fight forward, even as we see elected officials making it a priority to strip away rights and push to legalize discrimination. Regardless of what Austin deems as important, we will fight back against SB4 and any other law that threatens the safety of our diverse community. Immigrants help make this country great, and at no time will we allow Governor Abbott or his radical colleagues place out ‘republicaning’ each other to secure future primaries become more important than the safety of our community. We will hold them accountable when they attempt to terrorize any part of our community.”


Impeachment talk swirls after bombshell reports on Trump wrongdoing

Posted on 18 May 2017 at 12:36pm

Impeachment talk has begun to swirl around President Donald Trump. (Washington Blade file photo by Michael Key)

by Chris Johnson/Washington Blade
Courtesy National LGBT Media Association

Impeachment talked swirled Wednesday amid a week of bombshell news reports that President Trump revealed classified information during a meeting with Russian officials and potentially committed obstruction of justice by firing former FBI Director James Comey after he refused to drop his investigation of Michael Flynn’s Russia ties.

Although Trump’s opponents, including those in LGBT community, continued to use phrases like “special prosecutor” and “bipartisan commission,” the sense was palpable that Trump’s end was near if further information emerges confirming the media accounts and that corroboration may come very soon.

Rea Carey, executive director of the National LGBTQ Task Force Action Fund, said appropriate action against Trump “would include impeachment” if the investigation reveals malfeasance.

“That said, Donald Trump should have been disqualified as a candidate when he bragged about groping women’s crotches, mocked a disabled journalist, called for a racist, unconstitutional and xenophobic Muslim ban, and characterized black people as living only in crime-ridden, drug infested areas of the country,” Carey added. “His racism and misogyny make him unfit for the office of the president. The past few days of sharing classified information with Russian diplomats and firing the FBI director in what may be an act of retaliation for refusing to drop an investigation has only put a finer point on this reality.”

On Tuesday, the Washington Post broke the first bombshell story, reporting Trump in a meeting last week with Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov disclosed code-word level classified information on the Islamic State and intelligence agencies had to work to contain the damage. The White House denied the accuracy of the report, but the next day Trump said on Twitter he has the right to disclose classified information, seemingly corroborating the Post report.

Mike Sexton, a gay D.C.-based national security analyst for a prominent security and risk management firm, said Trump’s disclosure could disrupt U.S. relations with Israel — which was later reported as the initial source of the information — and could indicate Trump — wittingly or not — is a Russian pawn.

“This damages our trust with our closest ally in the Middle East and will make it harder to succeed in our counterterrorism efforts,” Sexton said. “I think this underscores a point Michael Hayden made during the election that Trump may be a useful idiot — polezni durak — of the Russian Federation. It is fallacious to assume that, for Trump to serve as an intelligence asset for the Russian government, he must be acting under the threat of blackmail or even witting of his status as an asset for the Russians.”

The next day, the New York Times broke the major story on a memo written by Comey prior to his termination in which he recorded Trump telling him to drop the investigation of Flynn’s ties to Russia. That account was corroborated by FBI officials aware of the conversation between Comey and Trump.

A White House official in the aftermath of the Washington Post report insisted Trump at no time asked Comey to discontinue his investigation of Flynn before terminating the FBI director.

“While the president has repeatedly expressed his view that General Flynn is a decent man who served and protected our country, the president has never asked Mr. Comey or anyone else to end any investigation, including any investigation involving General Flynn,” the official said. “The president has the utmost respect for our law enforcement agencies, and all investigations. This is not a truthful or accurate portrayal of the conversation between the president and Mr. Comey.”

The White House official also cited congressional testimony from acting FBI Director Andrew McCabe in which he said the White House hasn’t interfered with any FBI investigation to date.

Speaking to graduating cadets Wednesday morning at the U.S. Coast Guard Academy, Trump lamented his treatment as president when urging them to pursue their goals, suggesting the media were unfairly targeting him.

“Look at the way I’ve been treated lately, especially by the media,” Trump said. “No politician in history, and I say this with great surety, has been treated worse or more unfairly. You can’t let them get you down, you can’t let the critics and the naysayers get in the way of your dreams.”

Vocal in calling to impeach Trump after the reports was Rep. Al Green (D-Texas), who called for Trump’s removal from office on the House floor on the basis the president engaged in obstruction of justice.

“I do not do this for political purposes, Mr. Speaker,” Green said. “I do this because I believe in the great ideals that this country stands for — liberty and justice for all, the nation that we should have government of the people, by the people, for the people. I do it because, Mr. Speaker, there is a belief in this country that no one is above the law, and that includes the president of the United States of America.”

The more mainstream reaction from congressional Democrats was a discharge petition on Swalwell-Cummings’ Protecting Our Democracy Act, which would establish an independent, bipartisan commission to investigate Trump-Russia ties and interference in the 2016 presidential election.

Rep. Adam Schiff (D-Calif.), among the leaders of that effort and top Democrat of the House Intelligence Committee, urged Democrats in an interview Wednesday on CNN not to rush to impeachment, saying that would be a “wrenching experience” for the country.

“We need to get to the bottom of what took place,” Schiff said. “What was the president’s intent of doing this? Was he trying to shut down a legitimate prosecution? Was he doing it because ultimately he was worried the trail might lead back to him?”

A Human Rights Campaign spokesperson pointed to a video the organization created a calling for a special prosecutor and said “that’s all we have at this point” when asked about the question of impeachment.

Shannon Minter, legal director for the National Center for Lesbian Rights, said an independent investigation is the right course of action at this time, but impeachment may be the appropriate action after that’s concluded.

“We strongly support an independent investigation of reported allegations that President Trump tried to interfere with FBI investigations of Flynn and possibly of the president himself,” Minter said. “If those allegations are substantiated, he should be impeached. This administration’s corruption, abuse of power, and disrespect for the rule of law have already created serious grounds for concern. The new allegations, if accurate, cross a dangerous line and threaten the integrity of our system of checks and balances to a degree that would warrant impeachment.”

Trump’s impeachment could have serious consequences for LGBT people. It would elevate to the Oval Office Vice President Mike Pence, who has had a strong relationship with social conservatives and may seek to enable anti-LGBT discrimination, such as by signing a “religious freedom” executive order, in ways thus far that Trump has declined to do.

Republicans in Congress had mixed reactions in the aftermath of the report on the Comey memo. Sen. Richard Burr (R-N.C.), who’s leading the Russia investigation in Congress as chair of the Senate Intelligence Committee, expressed skepticism to reporters and said the onus is on the New York Times to produce the document despite his own power of subpoena.

House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.), who’d be responsible for moving forward with impeachment in the House, urged against jumping to conclusions following the Comey memo and said “we need the facts” before proceeding.

Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R-Utah), chair of the House Committee on Oversight & Government Relations, issued a letter to the FBI calling on the FBI to produce no later than May 24 notes on communications between Comey and Trump, saying on Twitter he’s ready to subpoena the information.

Also reluctant to jump to conclusions was Gregory Angelo, president of Log Cabin Republicans, who compared media reports on the Trump wrongdoing to press accounts predicting he’d sign an executive order enabling anti-LGBT discrimination in the name of “religious freedom.”

“I’d caution on any rushes to judgment — especially by the LGBT press, which had egg all over its face twice this year after unfounded stories similarly supplied by ‘unnamed sources’ regarding a supposedly ‘confirmed’ anti-LGBT religious freedom executive order were proven to be totally false,” Angelo said. “I’m waiting to see the facts. You should, too.”

Although Trump never issued a “religious freedom” order enabling anti-LGBT discrimination, those reports arguably created public attention that dissuaded him from that action.

Jon Davidson, legal director for Lambda Legal, also cautioned against making the call for impeachment at this point and said the correct path is fact-gathering to make a stronger case.

“We would like the entire Trump administration swept out of office, but let’s not get ahead of ourselves,” Davidson said. “The focus right now needs to be on getting Congress to do its job, conduct a proper investigation of the many troubling indications of wrongdoing, follow the evidence rather than spin or ‘alternative facts, and protect the Constitution and the nation.”


San Francisco may get its first gay mayor

Posted on 18 May 2017 at 11:21am

California state Sen. Mark Leno

In more progressive cities like Houston, having a lesbian mayor is old hat. The issue hardly arose in Annise Parker’s nine elections — three for city council, three for city comptroller and three for mayor — except among the city’s extremists.

Other progressive cities in Texas have had gay mayors as well, like Kemp, just south of Kaufman along Cedar Creek Lake. And liberal Collin County has two recently out trans officials.

But in conservative San Francisco, electing a gay mayor would be a big step. LGBT candidates have run for the office before, but now state Sen. Mark Leno has thrown his hat in the ring. Leno was also the first openly gay man in the California Assembly and California Senate.

Although San Francisco has had gay supervisors — that city’s equivalent of council members — more progressive cities like Dallas have had more.

San Francisco, however, can take credit for electing Harvey Milk to its Board of Supervisors, becoming one of the first out elected officials in the U.S. Milk, however, only moved to San Francisco after living in Dallas’ Oak Lawn neighborhood.

Leno is the first candidate to announce he’d run for mayor of San Francisco. The election takes place in 2019.



Equality Texas offering legislative update at Cedar Grove; Patrick threatens special session over bathroom bill

Posted on 17 May 2017 at 2:39pm

Steve Rudner

About 10 days before the scheduled end of the 85th Texas Legislature, Equality Texas, the statewide LGBT lobbying organization based in Austin, will give a legislative update on Thursday, May 18, from 6-8 p.m. at Cedar Grove, 4123 Cedar Springs Road, #110.

The event begins at 6 p.m., with remarks starting at 6:45 p.m. Equality Texas Board President Steve Rudner will talk about the status of LGBT-related bills and issues in the legislature, and then take questions from the audience.

The event is free, sponsored by Alan H. Levi, CPA, Jones Day Law Firm and Littler Mendelson, PC. and each attendee’s first drink is complimentary. (A cash bar will be available.)

Texas Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick — titty baby supreme of Texas (Trump holds the national title) — has threatened to force the Legislature into a special session unless Speaker of the House Joe Strauss falls into goose-step line and gets both an anti-transgender bathroom bill (Patrick’s special interest issue) and a specific tax bill passed out of the house.

Texas Tribune reports: “Patrick deemed Senate Bill 2, a property tax bill from state Sen. Paul Bettencourt, and either Senate Bill 6, the “bathroom bill” from state Sen. Lois Kolkhorst, or similar language amended to another bill, as must-pass measures to avoid a special session. Both bills have passed the Senate and are currently in the House.


Nevada outlaws so-called conversion therapy

Posted on 17 May 2017 at 2:03pm

Nevada Gov. Brian Sandoval

Nevada Gov. Brian Sandoval has signed SB201 into law today (May 17), putting an end to the fraudulent, harmful and unscientific practice of so-called “conversion therapy” in the state for LGBTQ youth. National Center for Lesbian Rights has been standing up on behalf of survivors of conversion therapy for the past 20 years, and in 2014, launched its Born Perfect campaign — marking a commitment to a state-by-state advocacy campaign to end this practice in each state across the country.

Since New Jersey first outlawed conversion therapy in 2013, California, Oregon, Illinois, New York, Vermont, New Mexico and Connecticut have also banned the practice.

National Center for Lesbian Rights Youth Policy Counsel and Born Perfect Campaign Director Carolyn Reyes issued the following statement in response:

“Today, Nevada Governor Brian Sandoval and elected officials have prioritized the safety, health, and well-being of LGBTQ Nevadans by putting an end to the discredited practice of so-called ‘conversion therapy.’ The American Psychological Association has linked conversion therapy to depression, substance abuse and even suicide—risks that are particularly acute for youth. Nevada knows that all of our children are born perfect.”


DGLA-PAC makes runoff endorsements

Posted on 17 May 2017 at 9:18am

The Dallas Gay and Lesbian Political Action Committee announced its candidates for Dallas City Council run-off elections in three races where no candidate reached 50 percent of the total voters in their districts during the May 6 general election.

No candidate received 50 percent of the vote in Dallas City Council Districts 6, 7 and 8.

District 6: DGLA-PAC endorsed Omar Narvaez over three-term incumbent and Mayor pro tem Monica Alonzo.

District 7: DGLA-PAC endorsed Kevin Felder over first-term incumbent Tiffinni Young.

District 8: No endorsement.

“In District 8, neither of the candidates in the run-off completed our process,” DGLA-PAC said in a press release. “Therefore, the DGLA PAC makes no endorsement for District 8.”

In that race, incumbent Erik Wilson faces former Dallas City Councilman Tennell Atkins.

Early voting runs May 30 through June 6. Election Day is June 10.


On the Gray Pride Prom red carpet

Posted on 16 May 2017 at 2:28pm

The Gray Pride Prom took place at Resource Center on Saturday, May 13.

People 50 and older celebrated — some, like organizer Portia Cantrell, by going to a prom for the first time. Others, who were not allowed to bring a same-sex date in high school, did on this night. Trans people attended as their correct gender, something they couldn’t have done when they were in high school.

Cantrell’s wife said she wasn’t going to attend unless she got a proper promposal. So Cantrell tricked her wife into coming down to Resource Center the week before the prom with a story that Dallas Voice was doing a follow up to the original story and needed her there. When she entered Resource Center, a line of 11 men were waiting for her with roses, each asking her to the prom. When she got to end of the line, Cantrell asked her to the prom and gave her a dozen roses.

Her wife said yes.