County Judge Veronica Escobar brought up the issue of domestic partner benefits during a budget meeting on Tuesday.
After a discussion, Commissioners Dan Haggerty, Willie Gandara Jr. and Sergio Lewis voted against the measure, choosing not to look at providing health insurance benefits to unmarried couples of any gender. Escobar and commissioner Anna Perez supported the idea.
Escobar said it is in the best interest of the taxpayers to have as many people as possible covered with health insurance in the county. “The more people in our community who are uninsured, the more that it cost taxpayers to fund them,” she said.
Escobar said people with health insurance are more prone to receive preventive health care services than are uninsured people, who can’t afford to see a doctor and tend to use the emergency room at the University Medical Center. Taxpayers pay for services provided at the UMC emergency room, she said.
Analysts estimate it would cost the county almost $23,000 more a year to provide health insurance benefits to the partners of unmarried county workers.
Dallas’ LGBT Pride parade, the Alan Ross Freedom Parade, is Sept. 18. The parade’s “special VIP Guest” is English rugby star Ben Cohen, whose StandUp Foundation works to raise awareness of the long-term damaging effects of bullying. Cohen, who is straight, was inspired to create the foundation after hearing from LGBT friends about the difficulties they experienced. “I am passionate about standing up against bullying and homophobia in sports,” says Cohen, “and feel compelled to take action. It is time we stand up for what is right and support people who are being harmed.”
In honor of Cohen the week leading up to the parade, Sept. 12-16, has been declared “Stand Up Against Bullying Week” in Dallas. According to this Facebook event the week will culminate in a fundraiser for the StandUp Foundation on Friday night at the Highland Park home of Jim Pitts.
Rep. Jim Pitts, R-Waxahachie, is chair of the powerful Appropriations Committee and a 20-year Republican member of the House … which begs the question of whether the Jim Pitts who is hosting Cohen’s event is the same Jim Pitts who supported efforts this last session by Rep. Wayne Christian, R-Center, to ban LGBT resource centers from Texas college campuses.
A search of the Dallas County Central Appraisal District’s website indicates that the address given for the fundraiser is owned by Pitts 2007 Properties LTD, which is a subsidiary of Pitts Property Management LLC, which is owned by none other than Jim R. Pitts, the honorable representative from House District 10.
So it seems that Rep. Pitts is, indeed, hosting the event: for which I give him kudos. The StandUp Foundation does good work and Ben Cohen is, by all accounts, a fierce advocate for the LGBT community. Hosting the event is in keeping with Pitts’ voting record this last session, when he voted for both HB 1942 (the “super” anti-bullying bill) and HB 1386 (the teen suicide prevention bill).
I would ask, however, that Rep. Pitts consider his votes on other issues and how they affect bullying in Texas schools. It’s not enough to say that LGBT kids shouldn’t be bullied or harassed if your actions tell their tormentors that LGBT kids aren’t as deserving of respect or resources as other people. There is a direct line running through Christian’s statements on the House floor calling LGBT people disgusting and the middle school student who punches an effeminate child for being a “fag.” When Pitts fails to stand up to the former he enables the later. This inconsistency, this willful refusal to see the systemic discrimination faced by LGBT adults as the license that allows the torture of LGBT children, is, in ways both figurative and literal, killing our children — and it has to end.
Instant Tea has left a message with Pitts’ legislative office seeking to confirm that he plans to host a fundraiser for Cohen’s foundation. We’ll let you know what we find out.
Rawlings’ proclamation (click to enlarge) notes that “nine out of 10 LGBT teens have reported being bullied at school within the past year because of their sexual orientation or gender identity.”
Stand Up Against Bullying Week coincides with a visit from international rugby star Ben Cohen, who’ll be in town for gay Pride and whose StandUp Foundation is dedicated to raising awareness about anti-LGBT bullying.
“It is an important issue to our youth,” Rawlings’ chief of staff, Paula Blackmon, said Wednesday. “Bullying is a real thing, and it’s important to bring awareness to it and to say it won’t be tolerated, and if it is happening, then others shouldn’t tolerate it. They should do something about it.”
The Stand Up Against Bullying Week proclamation was issued in response to a request from Jeff Hickey, a local gay activist who led the campaign to bring Cohen to Dallas.
Hickey has formed a group called Dallas Stands Up to host Cohen and spread the word about his visit Sept. 15-18. In addition to being a special VIP guest at the Alan Ross Texas Freedom Parade, Cohen will headline an anti-bullying forum at SMU, speak at high schools in Dallas and Fort Worth, and attend a fundraiser for the Stand Up Foundation at the home of a GOP state lawmaker.
“It’s been a pure grassroots effort,” Hickey said. “It’s actually proving to be a much more profound experience than I expected to be.”
Below is a press release from Dallas Stands Up with more details about Cohen’s visit.
In an apparent reference to longstanding rumors that he’s gay, Texas Gov. Rick Perry assured a group of influential social conservatives over the weekend that “there is nothing in my life that will embarrass you if you decide to support me for president,” according to this report from the Texas Tribune.
Perry spoke during a private gathering in Texas’ Hill Country attended by hundreds of social conservatives including several prominent anti-gay bigots, such as Focus on the Family founder James Dobson and Family Research Council President Tony Perkins. The gathering was organized by David Barton, the WallBuilders founder and so-called “Christian historian” who recently suggested that four Republican lawmakers who voted in favor of same-sex marriage in New York should be scalped.
According to the Tribune, those in attendance asked Perry about a range of hot-button social issues, including abortion, immigration, gay marriage and hate crimes. Perry’s wife, Anita, was even asked whether she shares her husband’s views on abortion and same-sex marriage, to which she replied that she does. From The Tribune:
While job creation is the chief campaign message, winning evangelical voters is a major part of Perry’s nomination strategy. Polls show they make up some 40 percent of the electorate in some states, and social conservatives are expected to play a huge role in the outcome of the race in first-test Iowa, where Perry is giving native daughter Michele Bachmann a run for her money. Former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee, an ordained minister, won the Iowa caucuses in 2008.
Research published last weekend by the Palm Beach Post shows that “white, born again evangelicals” also make up more than a third of the vote in the GOP electorate in Florida, a key state that is expected to draw a lot of attention from Perry.
Perkins, the Family Research Council president, said religious conservatives will increasingly become comfortable with the Texas governor once they get to know him and examine his record in detail.
“I think he has the answers that are satisfactory when those issues are brought up,” Perkins said. “I think he is addressing them with the leaders in that community and as that information disseminates, I think he will be fine.”
Earlier this month we reported on transgender candidate Jenifer Pool’s bid for the Position 2 At Large seat on the Houston City Council, which is being vacated by term-limited Councilwoman Sue Lovell, an out lesbian. Well, since our story ran about Pool, the plot has thickened considerably.
As we noted, Pool appears to have the backing of the city’s LGBT political establishment — having been endorsed by the Houston GLBT Political Caucus (which she once led), the Houston Stonewall Democrats and the Houston Stonewall Young Democrats.
Which is why it was surprising to many when Lovell, also a one-time president of the Caucus, endorsed Bolivar Fraga, one of Pool’s opponents in the November race. Fraga, the son of a former Houston councilman, just recently came out as gay.
We’ve heard all sorts of possible explanations as to why Lovell didn’t endorse Pool, from the fact that the two were on opposite sides of the Hillary Clinton-Barack Obama primary to allegations that Lovell is transphobic.
Meanwhile, the Lovell-endorsed Fraga has been linked to an email attacking Councilwoman Jolanda Jones, an LGBT ally who represents Houston’s Montrose gayborhood but has butted heads with Lovell in the past. And now, the Houston’s Office of Inspector General is conducting an “initial inquiry” into a complaint that Lovell illegally used her city computer to send an email in support of Fraga to none other than the Houston GLBT Political Caucus.
In the words of Monica Roberts at TransGriot, “Stay tuned, because the Houston political battles and intrigue really start heating up after Labor Day.”
When Fairness Fort Worth President Tom Anable headed to Austin this week, he thought he was just going to speak as part of a panel discussion during a session of the International Association of Human Rights Agency‘s annual conference. But conference organizers talked him into attending the conference’s Tuesday night dinner, and when he found out why they asked him to stay, it was a welcome surprise: They wanted him there to accept the annual IAOHRA President’s Award on behalf of Fairness Fort Worth.
The award, the organization’s highest honor, was presented jointly to FFW and to the Fort Worth Human Rights Commission in recognition of their work, in the wake of the June 2009 raid on the Rainbow Lounge, in creating positive change in the city on human rights issues. Human Rights Commission Chair Estrus Tucker was there to accept the award on behalf of the city.
“This is a big coup for the city,” Anable said Wednesday. “They [city officials] have done a great job. … I couldn’t be more pleased that they gave it to us jointly, because that shows they recognize how well we [FFW and the city] work together to solve our problems.”
Watch the Friday, Sept. 2 print edition [and online, of course] for more on the award, including — hopefully — photos from the award presentation Tuesday night.
The city of Dallas is in “the final stages” of reviewing an allegation of anti-gay discrimination against the Baylor Tom Landry Fitness Center, a city official told Instant Tea this week.
Gay Dallas resident Alan Rodriguez filed a complaint in January against the Fitness Center, after the popular East Dallas gym refused to offer a family membership to Rodriguez and his longtime partner.
Rodriguez’s complaint was filed under a Dallas ordinance that prohibits discrimination based on sexual orientation in public accommodations. Rodriguez said he has declined an offer from the city’s Fair Housing Office, which handles discrimination complaints, to enter arbitration.
“I don’t know that there’s any room to compromise,” Rodriguez said. “There’s not middle ground to reach to.”
In a letter he penned to a Baylor executive before filing the complaint, Rodriguez accused the Fitness Center of “draconian and bigoted practices” that are “unthinkable in 2011.”
In response to Rodriguez’s email, the Baylor executive confirmed that the Fitness Center offers family memberships only “to a husband and wife pursuant to the Texas law definition of marriage.” Baylor’s attorneys reportedly are arguing that the Fitness Center is a private health club and not a public accommodation.
Jennifer Coleman, senior vice president of consumer affairs for the Baylor Health Care System, declined further comment this week.
Beverly Davis, director of the Fair Housing Office, said she is unsure when officials will decide whether to prosecute Rodriguez’s complaint.
“All I can tell you is that it’s in the final stages of review,” Davis said. “I wish I could give you a definite date, but right now I don’t have a definite date.”
Rodriguez’s complaint is one of more than 50 that have been filed under the nondiscrimination ordinance since it took effect in 2002. However, none of the complaints has ever been prosecuted by the city. Each violation of the ordinance punishable by a fine of up to $500.
A donation of $1,000 was received to help kick off PROJECT: Dallas GLBT History, and about 20 people attended the first meeting last week.
The idea of documenting the history of the LGBT community in Dallas came from Jack Evans and George Harris earlier this year around the time they celebrated their 50th anniversary.
The focus will be on organizations and events as viewed through the experiences of individuals who were involved. The group hasn’t decided how the project will be distributed.
“It was an enthusiastic group,” said Evans. “The focus will be on the history of the community as told through the eyes of those who experienced it.”
At the next meeting the group will decide the form of the project, which will probably be some combination of video and written format. To start, they will choose about three organizations and three individuals to begin remembering and documenting.
Evans said he hopes the project will be housed at the Phil Johnson Library at the Gay and Lesbian Community Center. But the video portions may also be available online.
He said that the people who attended were an incredible source of information about a variety of pieces of the Dallas LGBT community. He said Paul Williams will be invaluable in documenting the history of the Turtle Creek Chorale and several people who have been part of the Black Tie Dinner committee for years, including Mary Mallory and Robert Emery, are participating.
The next meeting will be Sept. 15 at ilume. Anyone interested in participating can contact Jack Evans and George Harris.
The Boston Globe reports today on what is said to be the “bitter personal feud” between Texas Gov. Rick Perry and former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, the frontrunners for the Republican presidential nomination. The Globe claims the spate between Perry and Romney dates back to 2002, when Romney refused to allow members of Perry’s beloved Boy Scouts to serve as official volunteers at the Salt Lake City Winter Olympics.
In his 2008 book On My Honor, Perry suggested that Romney’s decision to bar the Scouts from serving as official volunteers was based on the fact that the organization doesn’t allow gay troop masters. But Romney has insisted that he barred the Scouts from serving as volunteers simply because they didn’t meet the minimum age requirement of 18. From The Globe:
Perry used the incident to cast Romney as a New England moderate, someone willing to cave under pressure, and as a political opportunist.
“Whether pressure from gay rights groups caused Olympic organizers to resist volunteer assistance from the scouts, we know that Romney, as a political candidate in the politically liberals [sic] state of Massachusetts, has parted ways with the scouts on its policies over the involvement of gay individuals in scout activities,’’ Perry wrote in his book. “He once said during a debate with Senator Ted Kennedy in 1994, ‘I feel that all people should be allowed to participate in the Boy Scouts regardless of their sexual orientation.’ ’’
Romney, though, cast the decision as a pragmatic one. He told reporters in 2000 that the Boy Scouts were not being excluded for any reason other than that they didn’t meet the age restrictions. He also said the scouts were given a list of possible volunteer opportunities, most of which involved activities before the Olympics began or were behind the scenes.
“We’re very pleased to have Scouts help out,’’ Romney told the Deseret News of Salt Lake City in 2000.