Dallas kicks off Pride Month at City Hall

Posted on 05 Jun 2013 at 2:59pm
Mayor Pro Tem Pauline Medrano, left, holds the Pride proclamation with LGBT Task Force members Pam Gerber and Omar Narvaez. (David Taffet/DallasVoice)

Mayor Pro Tem Pauline Medrano, left, holds the Pride proclamation with LGBT Task Force members Pam Gerber and Omar Narvaez. (David Taffet/DallasVoice)

Dallas officials and LGBT leaders gathered in the Flag Room at City Hall on Wednesday to declare June LGBT Pride Month in the city and celebrate the first of many related events this month.

Pam Gerber, member of Councilwoman Delia Jasso’s LGBT Task Force, spoke briefly about the history of Dallas city Pride events. Two years ago was the first time the city held a reception marking Pride Month, followed by last year’s series of events. More events are planned this month to continue to educate and celebrate the city’s LGBT community.

“Thanks to the leadership of the Task Force and Delia Jasso, we now have a very high profile June Pride month,” Gerber said. “It certainly has become a big thing that we’re very, very proud of.”

Jasso was not among the roughly 40 people who attended, but several council members did, including Mayor ProTem Pauline Medrano, Angela Hunt, Ann Margolin, Scott Griggs, Monica Alonzo, Sheffie Kadane, Linda Koop and Councilman-elect Adam Medrano. Gay former Councilman John Loza and District 14 candidate Philip Kingston were also in attendance. Mayor Mike Rawlings was out of town and did not record a video message like last year.

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TX Comptroller Susan Combs removes mention of gays from her website

Posted on 05 Jun 2013 at 11:25am
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Tweets from Texas Comptroller Susan Combs and Equality Texas.

Texas Comptroller Susan Combs posted a BBC story this week that highlighted the 10 reasons people are moving to Texas.

Reason No. 7 lists the state as family-friendly and mentions that “San Antonio is home to the largest community of gay parents.”

Combs tweeted Reason No. 7 on Wednesday, and Equality Texas retweeted it, thanking her for celebrating all families. Combs then removed the full story from her website, including the 10 reasons and the gay parent mention, leaving only the intro and the story link.

Combs spokeswoman Lauren Willis said several articles shared on the website are eventually shortened and the removal of the whole story was “absolutely not” because it mentioned gay parents.

She said the people who monitor Combs’ website post full articles for three days before shortening them and adding a link.

“That article was treated no differently than any other article that’s ever been on our site,” Willis said.

Daniel Williams, Equality Texas field organizer, said he was “disappointed that the comptroller choose to erase LGBT families.”

“It’s important to thank and celebrate elected officials when they do the right thing. It is saddening to think that could have caused the redaction,” he added. “The more disturbing thought is that the comptroller’s office is distributing information without reviewing it first, and Comptroller Combs was only made aware of the content of the article by our tweet.”

We’ve posted screen grabs below of the story before and after it was shortened.

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Federal appeals court says TX schools can out students to their parents

Posted on 05 Jun 2013 at 10:21am
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Skye Wyatt

In December 2011 we told you about the case of Skye Wyatt, who was 16 when her softball coaches at Kilgore High School in East Texas outed her as a lesbian to her mother in 2009.

It seems the coaches, Rhonda Fletcher and Cassandra Newell, had discovered that Wyatt was dating an 18-year-old named Hillary Nutt. The coaches believed Wyatt had started a rumor that Nutt was Newell’s ex-girlfriend and that the coach herself was gay. So they proceeded to lock Wyatt in a locker room, where they allegedly threatened and interrogated her, before kicking her off the team and outing her to her mom.

Wyatt and her mother, Barbara, filed a federal lawsuit against Kilgore ISD and the coaches accusing them of violating Skye’s privacy. A federal district judge in Tyler ruled in favor of the Wyatts in November 2011, but last Friday, a three-judge panel of the 5th Circuit reversed that decision, according to Courthouse News.

“There is no clearly established law holding that a student in a public secondary school has a privacy right under the Fourteenth Amendment that precludes school officials from discussing with a parent the student’s private matters, including matters relating to sexual activity of the student,” Judge Grady Jolly wrote for the majority.

The Wyatts’ attorney, Wayne Krause of the Austin-based Texas Civil Rights Project, told us the district judge’s ruling marked the first time a court in the 5th Circuit  — which covers Louisiana, Mississippi and Texas — has identified a constitutional right to privacy for sexual orientation information.

“It’s one thing to say that conduct by LGBT people can’t be criminalized under the Constitution,” Krause said in 2011, referring to the U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling in Lawrence v. Texas, which overturned the state’s sodomy ban. “It’s another to say there’s an explicit constitutional right to have information about sexual orientation be kept confidential.”

It’s unclear whether Krause intends to appeal the 5th Circuit’s decision to the U.S. Supreme Court. But for now, the 5th Circuit’s decision appears to give schools a license to out students as gay to their parents — which, frankly, seems like a horrible idea. As the Wyatts’ original complaint stated: “Discrimination, bullying and the infliction of emotional trauma against students who are gay or believed to be gay is a nationally recognized problem. Defendants’ actions and policies exacerbate this problem and set a very harmful example to students, teachers, and parents in Kilgore ISD.”

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CHART: Primary voting histories of Dallas City Council candidates

Posted on 04 Jun 2013 at 1:52pm

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We mentioned on Monday that District 14 Dallas City Council candidate Philip Kingston now says he’s a Democrat, even though he has voted in five of the last six Republican primaries. We also posted an Oath of Affiliation Kingston signed to become eligible for Stonewall Democrats’ endorsement, which he did not receive anyway. A copy of the oath was distributed to Stonewall members who attended the group’s endorsement screenings. On the opposite side of the sheet of paper containing Kingston’s oath was a chart showing the primary voting histories of all Dallas City Council candidates. Although candidates’ voting histories regularly come up at Stonewall endorsement screenings, this marked the first time they had been put on paper for all to see, and some Kingston supporters said they felt the move was designed to target him. In any case, we thought we’d go ahead and share the chart, above.

It’s interesting to note that, based on the chart, party affiliation doesn’t seem to necessarily correlate with support or lack thereof for the LGBT community. For example, the most anti-gay member of the council, Vonciel Hill, has voted in every Democratic primary since 1992. And so has Councilwoman Delia Jasso, who will go down in infamy for her betrayal of the LGBT community last week. On the flip side, Councilman Jerry Allen has an exclusively Republican voting history, including the last four primaries, yet he was among the eight council members who said they would support an LGBT equality resolution. Sandy Greyson, who also said she would support the resolution, has voted in two Democratic primaries and two Republican primaries. Others who supported the resolution are solid Democrats — such as Pauline Medrano, Angela Hunt, Monica Alonzo and Dwaine Caraway. But other solid Democrats did not support the resolution, including Hill, Carolyn Davis and Tennell Atkins.

Is it possible that party affiliation only matters on LGBT issues when candidates are running for partisan offices and Republicans are forced to pander to right-wing voters who dominate Republican primaries? Also, and this is a little off the subject, but is there any chance Mayor Mike Rawlings is gearing up to run as a Republican in Texas House District 108 if Greg Abbott runs for governor and state Rep. Dan Branch runs for attorney general? It would certainly help explain his lack of support for LGBT issues as mayor.

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Dallas United Way chapter gives Boy Scouts Circle Ten Council $350K

Posted on 04 Jun 2013 at 1:48pm

United-Way-logo1The United Way of Metropolitan Dallas has once again allotted grant money to the Dallas-based Circle Ten Council of the Boy Scouts of America.

Circle Ten received $200,000 for its life skills Learning for Life program and another $150,00 for its Trevor-Rees Jones ScoutReach program, which helps underprivileged youth be able to participate in Scouting. The council received $315,846 from United Way last year.

LGBT advocates have tried to discourage United Way chapters from donating to BSA councils that don’t have LGBT-inclusive nondiscrimination polices, including a Change.org petition targeting United Way Worldwide to cut funding to the BSA.

While Circle Ten doesn’t have a nondiscrimination policy, United Way officials have said the organization requires its grantees to follow all federal laws but it doesn’t require them to adopt its own internal polices.

But the council’s leadership wouldn’t take a stance on the resolution that passed May 23 to allow gay youth into the BSA, saying only that the council would follow the policy if it changed.

The Human Rights Campaign is continuing to discourage companies and organizations from donating to the BSA because it still bans gay adult leaders.

In the meantime, hopefully some of that grant money will help gay Scouts in the future.

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Gay District Clerk Gary Fitzsimmons champions new county courthouse

Posted on 04 Jun 2013 at 10:36am
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Gary Fitzsimmons

Dallas County’s openly gay District Clerk Gary Fitzsimmons is hoping the Commissioners Court starts looking into a plan to replace the Frank Crowley Courts Building.

Fitzsimmons points to several flaws in design and layout of the building, as well as faulty hardware and cracking floors in a Dallas Morning News story.

But the estimated cost for a new building is $665 million, a price tag commissioners aren’t sure how they want to pay to replace the 24-year-old structure. Especially since more than $9 million is expected to be spent on repairs and renovations through 2016.

Fitzsimmons doesn’t expect the court to come up with a plan immediately, but he wants them to start thinking about how to solve the problems the building has had, including access points after a woman snuck into a jury room to address juror earlier this year and caused a mistrial.

“Travis County spent five to seven years studying a new Justice Center to meet the needs of the courts and voters approved $340 million in bonds to fund it,” Fitzsimmons wrote on Facebook above a link to The DMN story. “Travis enjoys a AAA S&P rating so this is not pie-in-sky. This is Dallas — we think big here and live large and I believe we should settle for nothing less than the finest court facilities and system in the state.”

Fitzsimmons, who was first elected in the Democratic sweep of 2006, is up for re-election in 2014.

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PHOTOS: 3rd annual North Texas Pride event in Plano raises over $15K

Posted on 03 Jun 2013 at 2:12pm

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Organizers of the third annual North Texas Pride held their event at the American Legion in Plano on Saturday, June 1. The event was split between a free, family-friendly vendor fair and a nighttime party held less than a block away at Rooftop Spot.

Tim Phillips, partner of event co-chair Morris Garcia, said:  “We just want people around here to know that there are LGBT people that live out here too. We all have goals, aspirations, and want to go to work, and raise our kids.”

Garcia added that, “We have our own community out here. Not everyone likes doing out to the bars [on Cedar Springs]. We wanted a separate event from the Pride parade in Dallas. That way, people don’t have to choose between the two.”

J.J. McCormick, the other co-chair, and his partner Will have been together for eight years, and have three children from previous marriages ranging from ages 9-12. McCormick said, “The event isn’t like gay Pride in Dallas. We never take our kids to that, because it can be overly erotic.”

Phillips said he and his partner paid for the first year’s event out of their own pocket. The original idea for North Texas Pride was mostly Garcia’s. “I said to Tim that it doesn’t have to be the biggest, just the first,” Garcia said.

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Dallas City Council candidate Philip Kingston comes out as a Democrat

Posted on 03 Jun 2013 at 1:28pm
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The Texas Democratic Party Oath of Affiliation signed by Philip Kingston in March.

District 14 Dallas City Council candidate Philip Kingston came out as a Democrat on Saturday during a District 14 forum at the Oak Lawn Library.

Although council races are nonpartisan, District 14 leans strongly Democratic. And Kingston’s party affiliation has come under scrutiny since he signed an oath declaring his allegiance to the Democratic Party to become eligible for an endorsement from Stonewall Democrats of Dallas in March. Despite Kingston signing the oath, Stonewall’s endorsement went to Bobby Abtahi, his opponent in the District 14 runoff June 15.

Kingston has voted in five Republican primaries and one Democratic primary since 2002. Last month, he reportedly told The Dallas Morning News he’s an independent. But on Saturday, Kingston suggested the newspaper had misquoted him — and that he merely said he thinks independent-LY.

“I’m a Democrat and actually a fully paid-up member of the Stonewall Democrats,” Kingston said. “I’ll comply with that oath. I’m a fully paid-up member of the Stonewall Democrats and a straight ally.”

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AFA asks supporters to thank Exxon for voting ‘against special rights’

Posted on 03 Jun 2013 at 10:59am

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The American Family Association, identified as a hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center, sent an Action Alert to supporters over the weekend asking them to thank ExxonMobil for voting “against special rights for gays.

For the 14th year, ExxonMobil shareholders voted against adding LGBT protections to the company’s nondiscrimination policy at their meeting in Dallas on May 29.

The AFA’s email warned supporters, “Had the resolution passed, the company would have been forced to begin promoting and providing ‘acceptance’ training of homosexuality to all employees, even if they had religious objections.”

What the resolution would have done is prompted the board to add sexual orientation and gender identity to the company’s EEO policy. No training would have necessarily been involved unless supervisors needed training on how to not fire people because of who they are rather than how they perform their jobs. And there’s no indication the board would have added those protections even if shareholders had passed the measure.

“The Board of Directors strongly recommended shareholders vote ‘Against’ the proposal,” the email said.

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WATCH: DV editor compares Scouts policy to DADT on ‘Inside Texas Politics’

Posted on 03 Jun 2013 at 10:16am

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The Boy Scouts’ new policy allowing gay youth but banning gay adult leaders is the new “don’t ask, don’t tell.” At least that’s what I told Inside Texas Politics during a “My Voice, My Opinion” segment on the Sunday morning news show this week. My 60-second commentary begins shortly after the 8:40 mark in the video below.

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