Two high school softball coaches in East Texas are accused of maliciously outing a sophomore player as a lesbian to her mother, then kicking her off the team.
And Kilgore Independent School District officials are accused of defending the coaches’ actions by arguing that they were “legally obligated” to disclose the girl’s sexual orientation to her parents.
The student, identified as S.W., and her mother have filed a federal lawsuit against the coaches, the school district, and an assistant athletic director, accusing them of violating her privacy. The student and her mother are represented by the Austin-based Texas Civil Rights Project in the lawsuit filed Dec. 20 in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Texas.
The lawsuit alleges that the two coaches at Kilgore High School, Rhonda Fletcher and Cassandra Newell, locked S.W. in a locker room in March 2009 and threatened and interrogated her. The coaches allegedly were angry because S.W. was dating a girl whom Newell may have previously dated.
“Fletcher asked S.W. if she was gay, and accused her of having a sexual relationship with another girl. She also claimed that S.W. was spreading gossip about this other girl being ‘Coach Newell’s girlfriend,’” the lawsuit states. “The girl to whom Fletcher was referring had interacted with Newell at a number of school events. At the time of Fletcher and Newell’s confrontation, S.W. was dating that girl.”
In this week’s print edition (which, by the way, is now on the streets) we told you how our LGBT Person of the Year, Joel Burns, was inspired to deliver his “It Gets Better” speech after reading about the death of Zach Harrington, a gay teen who committed suicide after attending a City Council meeting in Norman, Okla. Well, our post about Harrington’s suicide also happens to be the single most read post on this website since we launched it in June, with nearly 15,000 page views. Here are the top 10 most viewed posts:
The Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission has issued the first two liquor licenses to restaurants in the formerly dry areas of Dallas, according to a press release we received today.
A mixed beverage permit ihas been issued to Bee at 202 West Davis St. near the Bishop Arts District. This will be the first restaurant in Oak Cliff to serve alcohol without a private club permit since the area went dry in a 1958 election.
The first convenience store south of the river will be able to sell beer and wine as well. That store is on South Loop 12 Ledbetter.
On Nov. 2, a local option was held, legalizing wine and beer off-premises, as well as mixed beverage permits in restaurants that hold food and beverage certificates. Those votes were canvassed, with the results certified and reported to TABC and the Secretary of State in mid-November. TABC accepts applications only after they’ve been certified by the city and county.
A lawsuit has been filed to contest the election, but an injunction has not been ordered, so TABC has begun issuing licenses.
At issue is whether the election is valid. The election in the 1950s that turned parts of Dallas dry were Justice of the Peace district elections. The repeal was citywide. Under Texas law, only a JP district election can repeal a previous JP district election.
About 10 restaurants have liquor licenses pending. Bishop Arts District could be one of the biggest winners if the election is upheld.
Dave Guy-Gainer, second from left, of Forrest Hill celebrates with Army Major Margaret Witt, Servicemembers Legal Defense Network Executive Director Aubrey Sarvis and Air Force Lt. Col. Victor Fehrenbach after this morning’s DADT repeal signing ceremony. (Meghan Stabler)
We just got a call from Dave Guy-Gainer, aka “Chief,” who’s really become the face of the push to repeal “don’t ask, don’t tell” in North Texas over the last few years.
Guy-Gainer, a gay retired Air Force chief master sergeant who serves on the board of Servicemembers Legal Defense Network, was one of about 500 people who attended this morning’s signing ceremony for the bill to repeal DADT.
Guy-Gainer said he would have driven to D.C. for the ceremony if he had to, and he was the 12th person in line this morning outside the Department of the Interior.
“Chiefs don’t cry, but the allergens were very high in that room,” Guy-Gainer said. “You couldn’t help but shed a tear in there. It was just such an overwhelming feeling of weight being lifted and equality finally happening.”
Guy-Gainer said it was great to see “40 years of gay activists” assembled together, many of whom he’s met over the last decade at functions around the country — alongside lawmakers who’ve worked so hard to end the policy.
“For the first time in a long time I really said the Pledge of Allegiance with feeling,” Guy-Gainer said. “I gave a thumbs up to Sen. Lieberman and he gave me a victory sign back. … Looking at the kids around me. Dan Choi and I were talking for a while. …
“Another one was the standing ovation that [Rep.] Patrick Murphy got,” Guy-Gainer said, recounting some of his memorable moments from the ceremony. “I think he got more applause than the president. He was the real hero in this. … He fell on his political sword for us.”
A year ago when we interviewed Gainer, he said if repeal didn’t happen in 2010, he’d “implode.” So what will he do now that it has finally happened?
“We still have transition to do. We still have to get the certification. We’ll still probably have some legal battles in the courts,” Guy-Gainer said. “There’s still more work to be done.”
“Today gay and lesbian patriots serving their country in silence, and thousands more who wish to serve the country they love, can breathe a sigh of relief that “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” is on its way out. Soon, all service members will be able to serve with the full honesty and integrity the uniform demands. No more careers will come to an end because of an unjust law. ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’ has weakened our military readiness and is now on its way to the dustbin of history.
“After 17 years of this failed and discriminatory law, a stain has been removed from our nation. This historic day would not be possible without the leadership of President Obama, Defense Secretary Gates and Joint Chiefs Chairman Admiral Mike Mullen. In the U.S. House of Representatives, we are grateful to Speaker Nancy Pelosi, House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer, and Rep. Patrick Murphy for their dogged determination. And in the U.S. Senate, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, and Sens. Joe Lieberman, Susan Collins, Kirsten Gillibrand and Mark Udall will go down in history as champions of this national security measure. Through their leadership, they have made our nation more secure and restored honesty and integrity as core values of our military.
“It’s now incumbent on the president and the Pentagon to act expeditiously so that the final nail can be put in the coffin of this unjust and discriminatory law.”
National Gay and Lesbian Task Force Executive Director Rea Carey:
“We celebrate this historic day, when our country has honored the principles of fairness and justice it holds so dearly. This is a tremendous victory. We thank all those who fought for and supported an end to the ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’ policy — they truly are on the right side of history. Seventeen years of witch hunts under this policy have cost thousands of exemplary service members their careers, once again proving there are very personal and costly consequences of discrimination. This cannot end fast enough. Our entire country benefits when fairness prevails, when qualified and patriotic service members no longer have to fear being targeted by their own government, when courageous men and women are able to serve openly and honestly. We thank President Obama for signing this critical legislation and now call upon him as commander in chief, and his top military leaders, to swiftly lead us through to full implementation.”
Servicemembers Legal Defense Network Executive Director Aubrey Sarvis:
“In signing this bill today, President Obama delivered on a defining civil rights measure for our country and for gay, lesbian, and bisexual service members who have been silenced for far too long. Clearly, this is President Obama’s Lyndon Johnson moment in history. A measure of dignity has been restored to thousands of service members on active duty, and to over a million gay veterans who served in silence. This historic moment is about those service members and their service.
“President Obama was decisive and forceful in steering the course as he brought along critical stakeholders, including the Defense Department. Now, it’s on to finishing the job at the Pentagon. Troops remain at risk under the law. We respectfully renew our call for Secretary Gates to use his authority to suspend all ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’ investigations and discharges during this limbo period. Until there is certification and until the 60-day implementation period must be wrapped up no later than the first quarter of 2011.
“This victory would not have been possible without several tenacious Congressional leaders, including House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer, and U.S. Rep. Patrick Murphy. In the Senate we saw remarkable determination by Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, Chairman Carl Levin and Senators Lieberman, Mark Udall, Gillibrand, Collins and so many others.”
On the eve of Wednesday morning’s signing ceremony for the repeal of “don’t ask, don’t tell,” Republicans in the Senate reportedly made a last-ditch effort to undercut the measure. Once again, though, it was Connecticut Independent Joe Lieberman to the rescue, as he objected to — and blocked — a “poison pill” amendment proposed by Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky. Politico reports:
A last-ditch effort by Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) to complicate the repeal of the “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy was blocked Tuesday night after Sen. Joe Lieberman (I-Conn.) objected, Senate aides said.
McConnell attempted to add an amendment to the so-called stripped-down defense authorization bill that would have required the consent of the military service chiefs to proceed with “don’t ask” repeal. Under legislation passed by the Senate last week, certifications are required from the president, the secretary of defense and the chairman of the joint chiefs of staff. All the incumbents in those positions support repeal.
“It was a McConnell proposal,” a GOP aide confirmed. “There was an attempted to get unanimous consent for it to be included in the defense bill and someone objected.”
Transgender woman Chris Tina Foxx Bruce holds a sign conveying the message of today’s rally outside Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison’s Dallas office.
About 10 people gathered outside Republican Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison’s Dallas office this afternoon to protest her vote on Saturday against the repeal of “don’t ask, don’t tell.”
The protest was organized by GetEQUAL Texas, the state chapter of the national LGBT direct action group, and similar rallies were scheduled today outside Hutchison’s offices in Austin, Houston and San Antonio.
Wielding signs, bullhorns and a Rainbow-colored American flag, the Dallas protesters chanted “Shame on Kay!” and “Retire, Kay Bailey!” as they stood on a grassy median along the service road outside her 11th floor office in the Hotels.com building at 10440 N. Central Expressway.
Despite Hutchison’s vote against DADT repeal, the bill passed and is expected to be signed by President Barack Obama on Wednesday. However, the protesters didn’t appear to be in a celebratory mood.
“This is just the beginning,” said protester Marlin Bynum, a 47-year-old former preacher who came out as gay five years ago. “We still need ENDA. We’ve still got to repeal DOMA. This is just the beginning. In fact, I don’t know if the fight will ever end.”
Another protester, Chris Tina Foxx Bruce, said she attended the rally because she wanted to make sure the transgender community was represented.
“We have to put on a united front,” she said.
Foxx Bruce added that she’s toying with the idea running for Hutchison’s Senate seat in 2012. Foxx Bruce said Hutchison voted against DADT repeal even though everyone knew it had enough votes to pass.
“She was making a statement, and her statement was, she doesn’t believe in equality,” Foxx Bruce said.
Jade Rea, who traveled to the rally from Fort Worth and said she was representing the bisexual community, acknowledged that Hutchison is unlikely to ever support the LGBT community.
“Probably not, but it’s better for her to see something going on in support than nothing at all,” Rea said. “If you’re not vocal, you’re not heard, you’re not seen, it’s like you’re invisible.”
At the end of the rally, a representative from Hutchison’s office, Byron Campbell, came down to meet the protesters, who handed him two signs on which they’d written personal messages.
“Eighty percent of this country supported the bill,” GetEQUAL board member Mark Reed-Walkup told Campbell as he handed him the signs. “We e-mailed, we called her, she asked for a study, the study came back positive, and then she still voted no. We’re extremely disappointed, and we’ll be back.”
“I appreciate this. Thank you very much, and thank you for your time,” Campbell said before quickly going back inside.
Reed said GetEQUAL, which formed this year, is just beginning to organize chapters in all 50 states and likely will become more active in Texas in 2011.
“We’ll continue to hold our elected leaders accountable,” Reed said.