What’s Brewing: Texas Senate panel votes to restore funding for HIV/AIDS drug program

Posted on 01 Apr 2011 at 6:39am
Petty Officer 2nd Class Derek Morado

Your weekday morning blend from Instant Tea:

1. The Texas Senate Finance Committee agreed Thursday to provide an additional $19.2 million that’s needed to deliver life-sustaining medication to low-income people with HIV/AIDS over the next two years. HIV/AIDS advocacy groups issued an action alert Wednesday asking people to call members of the Finance Committee and urge them to restore the funding, which had been recommended for cuts by a subcommittee. The Texas HIV Medication Program currently serves 14,000 people but the number is expected to increase by 3,000 over the next two years. Without the additional funds, the program could be forced to turn people away.

2. A Colorado House committee killed a civil unions bill on a 6-5 party line vote Thursday, after hours of emotional testimony from both sides. Those who testified in favor of the bill included both the partner and the twin sister of gay Rep. Mark Ferrandino, the bill’s House sponsor. But it wasn’t enough to convince any of the six Republicans on the committee to vote in favor of the measure, which had already cleared the Senate. “What makes me saddest,” Ferrandino said, “is there were people on that committee who were, I think, supportive in their hearts but weren’t willing to stand up against the leadership and the far-right fringe of their party.” He added: “It’s not a matter of if; it’s a matter of when.”

3. A gay sailor won’t be discharged from the Navy under “don’t ask don’t tell” after an administrative separation board voted 3-0 Thursday to retain him. Petty Officer 2nd Class Derek Morado came under investigation in 2009 after someone in his unit reported a photo on his MySpace page of him kissing another man. DADT, of course, was repealed by Congress in December of last year, but Morado’s case still went forward because the policy remains in effect pending certification of repeal by the president, the secretary of defense and the joint chiefs chairman — followed by a 60-day waiting period. “It really begins to make you question why we’re wasting the money on a hearing like this and also why we’re allowing the military to bully him,” said Director Robin McGehee of GetEQUAL, which assisted Morado.

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Study indicates poorer health for aging LGBs

Posted on 31 Mar 2011 at 5:27pm

According to a new study by the UCLA Center for Health Policy Research, aging lesbian, gay and bisexual adults have a higher rate of chronic disease and mental stress than heterosexuals. Three surveys from 2003, 2005 and 2007 included more than 1,000 LGBs each.

The study found that even more affluent and educated LGBs may be uninsured.

The survey group indicated that the older LGB population is more educated than the general population. Only 16.6 percent of heterosexual adults had an advanced degree, while 35 percent of LGBs did. The elderly LGB population tends to be more white than the general population.

A researcher said that the elderly LGB population should be “fairly privileged, but it actually wasn’t.”

Half of the gay and bisexual male population in California between the ages of 50 and 70 lives alone. Only 13 percent of straight men in that age group live alone.

Among women, 25 percent of lesbian or bisexual women live alone compared to 20 percent of straight women.

Lesbians tend to delay care at a higher rate than straight women. Because fewer men or women had children, they have less of a family support network as they age. Gay men have high blood pressure and diabetes at higher rates than straight men their age.

The study estimates California’s aging LGB population at 170,000, a number expected to double in the next 20 years.

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Old Oak Cliff Conservation League to host neighborhood symposium Saturday

Posted on 31 Mar 2011 at 11:41am
Michael Amonett

On Saturday, the Old Oak Cliff Conservation League is hosting a symposium at Turner House and will distribute grants to neighborhood groups for area improvements.

Last year, OOCCL distributed more than $20,000 in money raised from the Tour of Homes and other events. This year the group plans to hand out more.

Michael Amonett, the gay president of OOCCL, emphasized this is not a gay event, even though most of the 30 neighborhood organizations are headed by members of the LGBT community. He insisted the event is for everyone in Oak Cliff.

“Really,” he said. “We just all work together so well over here. … Really.”

He said representatives from the city, local arts organizations and community activist organizations will be on hand. Neighborhood projects that the organization will consider for funding include signage, security, web design and landscaping in parks and medians or other public areas.

Amonett said they will address topics including graffiti, animal control, researching the history of your home, organizing a neighborhood, achieving 501(c)(3) status. There will be information on area parks, community gardening, the better block initiative and local arts programs. The graffiti task force was started by City Councilwoman Delia Jasso.

The cost is $5 for OOCCL members and $20 for non-members. Lunch will be served.

He said that others from around the city may attend, but the money OOCCL distributes will stay in Oak Cliff. People from around the city may be interested in attending to learn how the city’s oldest and most successful collection of neighborhood groups works together. (Here’s one clue — the gay is a really important part of it, but the straight has been a huge contributor, too).

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Rep. Eddie Bernice Johnson on deceased gay staffer Chris Crowe: ‘He never met a stranger’

Posted on 31 Mar 2011 at 10:45am
Chris Crowe (Courtesy of Eddie Bernice Johnson’s office)

Earlier we mentioned that Chris Crowe, a gay staffer for Democratic Dallas Congresswoman Eddie Bernice Johnson who also served as president of the LGBT Congressional Staff Association, died Wednesday at 29.

Johnson, a longtime LGBT ally, issued a statement on Crowe’s death Wednesday night.

“He was respected by his colleagues for his professionalism; he was beloved by many for his generous spirit and good humor,” Johnson said of Crowe. “He was a person who enjoyed life and always had a smile to share. He never met a stranger.”

Crowe was a Kentucky native who worked as an intern for the Gay and Lesbian Victory Fund in 2005. According to Roll Call, he studied government and global securities at Johns Hopkins University before becoming a staff assistant for Rep. Barbara Lee, D-Calif. Crowe became a staff assistant in Johnson’s office in 2006, and last year he was promoted to legislative assistant. From Roll Call:

Crowe, 29, had open-heart surgery last summer after being stricken with meningitis, an inflammation of the membranes that cover the brain and spinal cord. Friends say he looked to be on the road to recovery, but Crowe took ill last week with a staph infection that caused severe heart damage.

He was on bypass, but when doctors removed him from the machine, his aorta blew and they were unable to stop the bleeding in time.

Originally from Kentucky, Crowe was full of Southern charm and friendly warmth, said Kat Skiles, Crowe’s friend and communications director for the LGBT Congressional Staff Association.

According to Johnson’s office, funeral arrangements are pending. A memorial book in which people can sign condolences was set up today in the Rayburn House Office Building.

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Controversy over GSA at Flour Bluff High School in Corpus Christi scares away faculty sponsor

Posted on 31 Mar 2011 at 9:39am
Nikki Peet

Undoubtedly you’ll recall that earlier this month, Corpus Christi’s Flour Bluff Independent School District reluctantly agreed to allow a chapter of the Gay Straight Alliance.

When the district initially refused student Nikki Peet’s application for the GSA, the ACLU threatened legal action and hundreds of people protested outside Flour Bluff High School.

Almost a month later, KZTV Channel 10 reports that although the district ultimately voted to allow it, the GSA chapter still has not met because the faculty sponsor has backed out:

Peet says the student Gay Straight Alliance did have a sponsor, but the sponsor backed out after the controversy started getting attention. Peet also says Flour Bluff’s Superintendent Julie Carbajal is organizing a committee on Friday to review the policy created in 2005 that does not allow limited open forums at the school.

We’ve got a message in to Peet to get more information. You can sue to force a school or district to allow a GSA, but what do you do when faculty members are scared to sponsor it because they’re afraid of backlash? The irony of this whole saga, of course, is that it demonstrates precisely why the GSA is so badly needed.

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What’s Brewing: Bronx Cafe to close Sunday after 35 years; gay staffer for Rep. Johnson dies

Posted on 31 Mar 2011 at 7:40am

Your weekday morning blend from Instant Tea:

1. The Bronx Cafe, a staple on the Cedar Springs strip since 1976, will close its doors for good after brunch on Sunday, The Dallas Morning News reports (paid subscription required). The Bronx property — four parcels totaling 30,000 square feet — reportedly has been purchased by a sister company of the adjacent Warwick Melrose Hotel. In a statement, representatives from the hotel declined to comment on the company’s development plans because the sale of the property is not yet final. For more, see Friday’s Dallas Voice (no subscription required).

Chris Crowe, shown at a rally in Washington in March, died Wednesday at 29.

2. Chris Crowe, a gay staffer for Democratic Dallas Congresswoman Eddie Bernice Johnson, died Wednesday at age 29 as a result of complications from a staph infection that damaged his heart, according to The Washington Blade. Crowe was president of the LGBT Congressional Staff Association. Kat Skiles, spokesperson for the LGBT Congressional Staff Association, said: “It’s devastating to fathom an individual as kind, strong and spirited as Chris leaving us due to troubles with of all things — his heart. We send our deepest condolences to his loved ones and family.”

3. A civil unions bill cleared a Senate committee in Delaware on Wednesday. Meanwhile, the Lesislature in Washington state approved a bill to recognize same-sex marriages, civil unions and domestic partnerships from out of state.

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Suggested reading for county commissioners: Trans woman’s testimony on Texas ENDA

Posted on 30 Mar 2011 at 8:45pm
Meghan Stabler

On the same day that Congressman Barney Frank announced plans to re-introduce the Employment Non-Discrimination Act, a state version of ENDA was heard by a Texas House committee today. Testifying in favor of the bill, HB 665 by Rep. Mike Villarreal, D-San Antonio, were transgender woman Meghan Stabler of Round Rock, who’s a member of the Human Rights Campaign’s Board of Directors;  and Dennis Coleman, executive director of Equality Texas. No one testified against the bill, which was left pending in the House Economic & Small Business Development Committee.

Stabler sent over the full text of her prepared remarks, which we’ve posted after the jump. We should note that this is recommended reading for all members of the Dallas County Commissioners Court.

“I had previously submitted my testimony, but felt that it was important to deviate from reading it in order to capture the committee,” Stabler writes. “It worked, to the point of me seeing a few tears in their eyes once they understood that their fellow Texans are discriminated against. I had several questions from the members, and even when the session closed five of them remained behind to congratulate me for my testimony and to address further questions. Texas, this is the beginning of change.”

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Action Alert: Texas Senate panel to consider funding for HIV/AIDS drug program

Posted on 30 Mar 2011 at 2:45pm

Resource Center Dallas is calling on people to contact members of the Texas Senate Finance Committee and ask them to fully fund the state’s HIV Medication Program. The Finance Committee is scheduled to consider the funding on Thursday, according to RCD.

As we noted last week, a Senate finance subcommittee did not list the HIV Medication Program as one of its top priorities when making its recommendations last week. Unless the state Legislature provides an additional $19.2 million for the program over the next two years, the state will have to cut off enrollment or restrict access. The program currently provides life-sustaining medication to 14,000 low-income people with HIV/AIDS.

From the Resource Center moments ago:

ACTION ALERT! Tomorrow the Senate Finance Committee will consider funding the Texas HIV Medication Program.

We must let the committee members know that if they fail to fund the Texas HIV Medication Program people will not have access to the drugs that keep them alive.

We are asking you to make three phone calls to key Senators on the Senate Finance Committee. The message is simple-

“I am asking you to fully fund the Texas HIV Medication Program.  The lives of thousands of Texans depend on it.”

Senator Steve Ogden  512.463.0105

Senator Juan Hinojosa 512.463.0120

Senator Jane Nelson    512.463.0112

We are asking you to make these calls now!  The vote is scheduled to take place on Thursday morning. In addition to your own action, please reach out to your networks: email lists, Facebook, Twitter, co-workers and friends.

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If you can’t read this post at school, your district may be illegally filtering LGBT content

Posted on 30 Mar 2011 at 2:30pm

If your school district is illegally filtering LGBT content, you probably can’t read this post — at least not from a district computer. So, you’ll just have to read it at home and take notes so you can check tomorrow when you’re at school or work. Ready?

Earlier today we posted a story from the Associated Press about how the American Civil Liberties Union is demanding that school districts stop filtering LGBT web content in violation of federal law. As the story notes, Texas is one of a handful of states where the ACLU sent letters to school districts requesting information about web filtering. We inquired of the ACLU as to which districts in Texas received requests, but we haven’t heard back. A few years ago, according to Lambda Legal, the Dallas Independent School District agreed to allow access to web sites that were blocked at the time, including those belonging to Youth First Texas and the Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network (GLSEN). DallasVoice.com was also among the sites DISD had blocked.

On Tuesday we contacted Jon Dahlander, a spokesman for DISD, and sent him a copy of the press release from the ACLU. Dahlander responded by saying that he had not seen any request from the ACLU, although he added that it may have gone to the district’s technology department. He also pointed us to the district’s policy on web filtering:

Each District computer with Internet access shall have a filtering device or software that blocks access to visual depictions that are obscene, pornographic, inappropriate for students, or harmful to minors, as defined by the federal Children’s Internet Protection Act and as determined by the Superintendent of Schools or designee. Every computer shall have a filter device or software that protects against viruses.

Because the DISD policy seems open to interpretation, we asked Dahlander to check whether the following sites are accessible from DISD computers. He said he did so and confirmed that all of them are accessible:

www.dayofsilence.org
www.itgetsbetter.org
www.thetrevorproject.org
www.gsanetwork.org
www.glsen.org
www.dallasvoice.com

Note that these are the same sites, with the exception of DallasVoice.com, that the ACLU recommends checking to determine whether your district is illegally filtering LGBT content. For more, watch the video above. If any of the LGBT sites are blocked,the ACLU recommends that you check the following anti-LGBT sites to see whether they’re also blocked:

www.NARTH.com
www.peoplecanchange.com
www.pfox.org

Dahlander said the three anti-LGBT sites are also accessible from DISD computers, which is a little scary, but hey, free speech is free speech.

Still, DISD is just one of hundreds of school districts in Texas. So if you think your district may be illegally filtering LGBT content on its computers, you can fill out the ACLU’s form by going here.

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Contact all five Dallas County commissioners and ask them to add transgender protections

Posted on 30 Mar 2011 at 11:44am
County Judge Clay Jenkins says he was not aware that sexual orientation didn’t include transgender people.

Dallas County Judge Clay Jenkins confirmed today that he’s requested an opinion from the District Attorney’s Office about adding transgender protections to the county’s employment nondiscrimination policy.

Jenkins’ request for information from county attorneys follows the Commissioners Court’s vote last week to add sexual orientation, but not gender identity, to the policy covering the county’s 7,000 employees.

Jenkins and Commissioner Dr. Elba Garcia, two newly elected Democrats who spearheaded the proposal to add sexual orientation to the policy, said they thought sexual orientation covered transgender employees, which experts say it does not.

Since then, Jenkins said he’s received about a dozen e-mails from people in the LGBT community — which he called a lot — asking him to revisit the issue.

“The reason that it’s not in there is not because we don’t support it,” Jenkins said of transgender protections. “I don’t want people to misinterpret that I wasn’t for one type of discrimination but somehow was for another type of discrimination. Nothing could be further from the truth than that.”

Jenkins said he’s asked the civil division of the DA’s office to assess the impact on county code of adding gender identity to the policy.

“It’s going to depend on getting three votes … and the first step is to look at what impact it would have,” Jenkins told Instant Tea. “I care about making sure that we have a welcome and open workplace for all, and discrimination against no one. I’m against any type of discrimination in the workplace. I’m for treating all people equally.”

Rafael McDonnell, of Resource Center Dallas, spoke during public comments of the Commissioners Court’s regular meeting Tuesday. McDonnell said he thanked commissioners for adding sexual orientation to the policy — which they did on a 4-0 vote with Commissioner Maurine Dickey absent — and asked them to go back and add gender identity.

McDonnell said Commissioners Court rules prohibit him from speaking again during public comments for a month, so he encouraged others in the community to sign up to speak in coming weeks. To sign up, call the clerk’s office at 214-653-7886. The Commissioners Court meets at 9 a.m. on Tuesdays in the County Administration Building, 411 Elm St. in Dallas.

McDonnell and others also encouraged people in the LGBT community to contact all five commissioners to thank them for adding sexual orientation and ask them to add gender identity. Here is their contact info, with confirmed email addresses:

County Judge Clay Jenkins – 214-653-7949
Email: Clay.Jenkins@DallasCounty.org

Dist. 1 Maurine Dickey – 214-653-7552
Email: Maurine.Dickey@DallasCounty.org

Dist. 2 Mike Cantrell – 214-653-6100
Email: MCantrell@DallasCounty.org

Dist. 3 John Wiley Price – 214-653-6671
Email: John.Price@DallasCounty.org

Dist. 4 Dr. Elba Garcia – 214-653-6670
Email: Elba.GarciaDDS@DallasCounty.org

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