Memorial service for Benny Longoria will be held Saturday

Posted on 08 Aug 2014 at 4:24pm

memorial-flyer-Benny_Longoria

Family members confirmed Friday, Aug. 8, that they will go ahead with a planned memorial service for Benny Longoria, a gay man found dead in his apartment on June 20. Longoria’s family members are pushing for Tulsa police to investigate his death, but police have said he died of natural causes and no investigation is necessary.

Benny Longoria’s sister, Elvia Longoria of Dallas, said the memorial will be held at 5 p.m., Saturday, Aug. 9, at Compadres Mexican Grill, 7104 Sheridan Rd., Tulsa, Okla., 74133.

Elvia Longoria also said that her family on Friday filed a complaint with the state medical board against Deputy Chief Medical Examiner John Latner, M.D., and Benny’s physician, Dr. Frances Haas, over statements concerning a certificate of death for Benny Longoria. The family said the death certificate was never signed, and that Dr. Haas had told Elvia Longoria and C.d. Kirven, a Dallas activist helping the family in their search for answers, that she had not and would not sign the death certificate because she did not see Benny’s body after he died.

The family has also filed a complaint with the Department of Justice alleging discrimination against Benny Longoria in regards to the investigation into his death because he had HIV. The Americans with Disabilities Act prohibits HIV-related discrimination. And the family has filed an internal affairs complaint regarding with Capt. Richard Alexander and Police Chief Chuck Jordan with the Tulsa Police Department. Elvia Longoria also said that any further inquiries from the press should be directed to Kirven, who will be acting as a spokesperson for the family.

Elvia Longoria told Dallas Voice Friday in a written statement: “My family, my brother Benny and C.d. Kirven have been mistreated by Tulsa police. My brother should have been treated with respect and his memory honored, but instead we have needed the help of Adam Merdrano and C.d. Kirven to get simple answers about the circumstances around my brother’s death.

“We are devastated by his loss and by the way he was treated. This is about honoring my little brother and his family making sure the world knows Benny was not alone. He was beloved and we will fight to find out what happen to him on June 20, 2014, because there is no official or signed records — only unsigned draft copies. Thank you and we hope the LGBT community comes out to support us at his memorial,” she said.

Tulsa police have denied that the case was mishandled and have accused Kirven of lying in her statements to Dallas Voice and other media outlets. Police have also disputed the family’s claim there is no signed death certificate.

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Police investigating break in at Youth First

Posted on 08 Aug 2014 at 1:58pm
Youth First

Youth First after an overnight break in. (Photo courtesy of Resource Center)

A break in occurred at Youth First on Harry Hines Boulevard overnight, which Resource Center personnel discovered this morning.

Resource Center spokesman Rafael McDonnell said they discovered the burglary on Friday morning. He said it took place after hours Thursday night, after all youth had left the building.

The door to Youth First program director Mike Cruz’s door was kicked open. A karaoke machine, stereo system and several gaming systems were taken.

“It looks like when the Grinch stole Christmas,” McDonnell said.

He said when he was over at the facility earlier today, police were still dusting for fingerprints, and they’re still totaling up what was taken. They’re also looking into what will be covered by insurance and how large the deductible is.

“The computers appear intact,” he said.

Anyone with information should contact Det. Laura Martin, LGBT liaison with the Dallas Police Department. Her number is 214-490-0541.

As a side note from Dallas Voice, anyone with Microsoft, a retailer or any or any other company or donor who would like to help Youth First replace what was taken may contact Cameron Hernholm at Resource Center at 214-528-0144.

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HERO opponents granted temporary restraining order

Posted on 08 Aug 2014 at 9:41am

Houston-Mayor-Annise-ParkerOpponents of the Houston Equal Rights Ordinance won a small victory in a district court yesterday evening when a district judge granted them a temporary restraining order delaying implementation of the ordinance.

“[U.S. District Judge Gray Miller's] ruling was evidence of the abject lack of any credible legal basis for City Attorney David Feldman’s motion, leaving it clear that it was indeed just a delay tactic that did not work,” said the opposition group No UNEqual Rights Houston in a statement.

Mayor Annise Parker  previously announced that the city would delay the ordinance’s implementation.

Woodfill v. Parker was filed in the 152nd District Court shortly after the city rejected the opponents petitions calling for a November ballot referendum. Attorneys with the city of Houston must appear before the court on August 15 and make their case for why the order should be vacated.

The Equal Rights Houston campaign in a statement denounced the ruling. “It is unfortunate that the opponents of equal rights have taken this issue to the courts after first losing at City Council … [we are] confident the court will uphold the city of Houston’s decision that the repeal signatures were not collected in the clearly defined process.  The bottom line is that this state court decision is still just a TRO, and not a final ruling on the merits.”

 

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UPDATE: Questions continue in death of Benny Longoria

Posted on 07 Aug 2014 at 9:43pm
Benny Longoria

Benny Longoria

Dallas activist C.d. Kirven and Elvia Longoria, the sister of Benny Longoria who was found dead in his Tulsa apartment on June 20, said today that they still want Tulsa police to investigate Benny Longoria’s death, even though police say the man died of natural causes and no investigation is necessary.

Elvia Longoria said that she and her family didn’t find out until a month later that her brother had died. She said she and one of her sisters went to Tulsa in July after learning in a phone call that Benny had died the previous month. She said that she and her sister “got different stories” from the manager of the apartment complex where Benny lived and from police, and that police officers they talked to at the time were rude and disrespectful and refused to consider any further investigation.

Elvia Longoria said that her brother’s possessions were apparently destroyed by a cleaning crew brought in to clean the apartment, and that cellphone and wallet remain unaccounted for. She also said his body was cremated without the family’s permission, and that cremation goes against the family’s religious beliefs.

Elivia Longoria said she had contacted Dallas City Councilman Adam Medrano, a longtime family friend, for help in getting answers, and that Medrano had connected her with Kirven who agreed to help. Kirven gave Dallas Voice an account of the family’s efforts, which was posted on this blog on Tuesday, Aug. 5. That blog has been removed, at least temporarily, after Elvia Longoria said Thursday morning that information included in it indicating that a crew from the police department had cleaned out the apartment and destroyed her brother’s belongings was incorrect.

She said that the apartment manager said that a “crime scene cleaning crew” had cleaned the apartment and removed and destroyed the furnishings and other belongings, but that the apartment had been cleaned by a company, hired by the apartment complex, that specializes in cleaning up crime scenes, not by police personnel.

Kirven and Elvia Longoria have also said that the death certificate — of which Dallas Voice has a copy — was never signed by a doctor and that Benny Longoria’s attending physician, Dr. Frances Haas, told them on Wednesday that she had never signed a death certificate and “never would sign it.” The “draft” copy of the death certificate given to Elvia Longoria lists her brother’s cause of death as “complications from chronic ethanol abuse” with hypertension and HIV/AIDS as contributing factors.

Tulsa police have said that Kirven has lied about events that have happened, and have said they have a death certificate signed by Benny Longoria’s attending physician.

Medrano issued a written statement late Wednesday, Aug. 6, saying: “My thoughts and prayers are with the Longoria family as they say good-bye to Benny Longoria. … My heart is filled with sadness as the family struggles to find answers and grapple with the loss of their beloved brother … .”

Medrano’s statement also includes information on a memorial service that had been planned for Saturday, Aug. 9, at a Tulsa restaurant where Benny Longoria once worked. Elvia Longoria said Thursday morning, however, that the family will likely cancel the planned service.

Dallas Voice will continue to follow this story, and will update this post as more information becomes available.

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Sad message from the Rev. Bill McElvaney to Northaven

Posted on 07 Aug 2014 at 1:30pm
McElvaney

The Rev. Bill McElvaney, seated between George Harris and Jack Evans at their wedding ceremony in February. (David Taffet/Dallas Voice)

The Rev. Bill McElvaney is the retired pastor of Northaven United Methodist Church who did quite a bit to welcome the LGBT community to the church when some of the other Methodist churches in the area weren’t as welcoming.

Earlier this year, he announced he would perform same-sex weddings despite the Methodist Church’s ban. In March, he married Jack Evans and George Harris, who have been together 53 years. McElvaney was suspended later that month pending an investigation, although the case was always unlikely to go to trial.

At the time of the wedding, McElvaney was being treated for liver cancer. Although he sat while performing the ceremony, he walked down the aisle with the couple and his voice was strong throughout the ceremony.

I had the privilege of speaking to this sweet man at the wedding reception, and I wished our staunch ally the very best in the weeks and months ahead.

Here’s a message I received today that he sent to the congregation:

Bill McElvaney’s Message to Northaven

During the past three years of my chemo and radiation treatments, your prayers and various forms of encouragement have meant more than I can express in words and continue to do so.

Dr. Yull Arriaga, our oncologist, has been consistently honest and compassionate, informing us at our very first meeting in 2011 that my type of cancer was treatable but not curable.

The latest scan, one of many over the three years, reversed the mostly positive previous results and revealed additional tumors in the liver, as well as the cancer having spread into the right lung. Dr. Arriaga indicated we were beyond additional treatment except for experimental drugs that would provide less than a 10 percent chance for brief benefit and would probably cause harsh side effects.

With Fran’s support, I have chosen no further treatment. Dr. Arriaga will continue as our doctor; in fact, he said he would be with us all the way. We intend to proceed with engaging palliative care through hospice.

I believe I am in God’s hands as experienced throughout 86 years of amazing grace surrounding my life in countless ways, not the least through Fran’s superb loving care. We know we will both need your continued love and support, and we look forward to notes, phone calls and visits. Please call after 10 in the morning or after 4 in the afternoon.

I encourage us all to extend loving care to all Northaven members who are in special need.

Life is good; Grace abounds.

God’s Peace,

Bill

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Back to school: Tax-free weekend is upon us

Posted on 07 Aug 2014 at 1:25pm

taxholidayhres1_11571106Every year, the state of Texas does at least one thing right: it gives Texas shoppers a break from local and state sales taxes in preparation for the upcoming school year. Granted this means malls are packed, your two-year-old gives new meaning the “terrible twos” and single, childless folks like me quiver at thought of even stepping out into the world. But hey, were I not that guy I sure would take advantage of it.

So here’s the skinny:

According to State Comptroller Susan Combs’ webpage, there are two categories of items exempt from sales and use taxes: most school supplies and then other items like clothing. For the ladder category, think, “Could my kid wear this to school?” If in doubt, check out the list provided by Combs’ office here. If an Internet business is engaged in business in Texas, purchases meeting the state’s standards apply.

For every $100 purchase, shoppers save between $8-$10. Keep in mind that there’s some fine print you can’t ignore though. Items need to be below $100, but there is no limit on overall purchases. Read the fine print here.

Happy shopping, y’all.

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Long time volunteer and activist Chet Flake dies

Posted on 07 Aug 2014 at 12:10pm
Flake.Chet

Chet Flake

Longtime Dallas activist and volunteer Chet Flake has died.

Flake is predeceased by his partner Bud Knight. Together, they won Black Tie Dinner’s Kuchling Award in 2011. The award was posthumous for Knight, who died in November 2010.

The couple was together for 45 years. They married in Vancouver in 2005.

Flake volunteered at Resource Center since 2003.

“We miss him already,” Resource Center CEO Cece Cox said. “Chet volunteered here at the front desk at the community center and at Nelson Tebedo. He was on the front lines. So many people who came to the community center and clinic interacted with him. He made them feel comforted and welcome and encouraged the staff and other volunteers.”

In addition, the couple participated in Oak Lawn Community Center’s Buddy Project and was an early Turtle Creek Chorale volunteer. He’s a member of St. Thomas the Apostle Episcopal Church where he volunteered. Flake and Knight raised thousands of dollars for LifeWalk, where they billed themselves as the “oldest walkers.”

Flake was a teacher and later a school administrator in Southern California. He became a consultant in math and science for Xerox Corp. and Ginn Publishing Company.

Memorial service will be held at St. Thomas Episcopal Church on Aug. 16 at 10 a.m.

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Utah becomes first state to file for cert

Posted on 07 Aug 2014 at 9:28am
Supreme-Court(5)

U.S. Supreme Court

On Tuesday, Utah became the first state to file a writ of certiorari, commonly referred to as cert, with the U.S. Supreme Court to uphold its marriage ban.

In June, the Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals ruled Utah’s marriage ban unconstitutional, the first such ruling by a federal appeals court.

The state had three choices. It could have accepted the ruling and begun issuing marriage licenses. It could have could have asked for a hearing en banc, meaning a new hearing would have been held at the appeals court level, but this time heard by the entire court, rather than a three-judge panel. Or, as it did, it could have appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court.

Two other states that have received appeals court rulings— Oklahoma and Virginia — also may file writs of cert. Four additional states’ cases — Michigan, Ohio, Kentucky and Tennessee — were heard by an appeals court this week and may appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court once a ruling is handed down.

The U.S. Supreme Court is in recess and reconvenes the first Monday in October. That’s when they’ll begin to decide which cases to hear during the upcoming session. If a marriage case is heard, a decision isn’t expected until June 2015. Traditionally, the most controversial decisions are left until the last day of the session. The court may also decide not to take a case during the 2014-15 session to allow more lower courts deal with the issue before hearing a case the following session.

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Kirven: Benny Longoria death certificate never signed

Posted on 06 Aug 2014 at 2:28pm
Benny Longoria

Benny Longoria

Dallas activist C.d. Kirven told Dallas Voice today, via email, that efforts to get Tulsa police to investigate the death of gay man Benny Longoria are moving forward.

A friend found Longoria, 40, dead in his apartment on June 20. But the man’s family said police did not contact them until a month later, that police had Longoria’s body cremated without notifying them and that police have refused to return his possessions, including his cell phone.

A representative of the company that manages the apartment complex where Longoria lived said that the apartment and most of his possessions were covered in blood when his naked body was found. Police have refused to investigate the case as a suspicious death.

Kirven learned of the situation earlier this week when Dallas City Councilman Adam Medrano contacted her and asked if she could help the Longorio family find answers.

Today, Kirven said the case is being investigated as possible HIV/AIDS-related discrimination, and that she has helped the Longoria family filed a complaint with the U.S. Justice Department alleging a violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act. Kirven also said she is helping the family file a complaint with the Internal Affairs division of the Tulsa Police Department.

Tulsa Police Sgt. Dave Walker reportedly told the family that Benny Longoria’s doctor verified that he died of a combination of ethanol abuse and HIV/AIDS. But Kirven said that when she contacted the office of Longoria’s physician, Dr. Frances Haas, she was told that Dr. Haas had not confirmed any cause of death and had not signed a death certificate.

Kirvin said today that she has obtained a copy of Longoria’s death certificate, which has not been signed by any doctor. She said Dr. Haas is mailing Benny Longoria’s medical records to his family and “wants nothing to do with Benny’s death.”

She also said that Capt. Alexander has said that because the doctor has not signed the death certificate, by law Longoria’s death has to be investigated as a suspicious death.

A memorial in celebration of Benny Longoria will be held Saturday at 5 p.m. at Compadres Mexican Grill, 7104 S. Sheriden Rd., in Tulsa. For information contact C.d. Kirven at 972-533-1593.

Kirven said that several TV stations have said they will be covering the memorial service and vigil, and that she was faxing a copy of the death certificate to KRMG radio in Oklahoma City, which is planning coverage of the case. She has also talked to a reporter with Vice.com.

Tulsa-based reporter Richard Fricker called Dallas Voice today in an effort to contact Kirven, and said that he knows of similar cases that have happened in Tulsa.

Dallas Voice will, of course, continue to follow this story as it unfolds, and will have a representative at the memorial service in Tulsa on Saturday.

memorial-flyer-Benny_Longoria

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Tarrant County Pride Week grand marshals announced

Posted on 06 Aug 2014 at 1:36pm

Screen shot 2014-08-06 at 1.34.42 PM

Tarrant County Gay Pride Week Association officials have announced that Sharon Herrera, Allan Gould and Tori Van Fleet-Kujala have been chosen as grand marshals of the 2014 Tarrant County Pride Parade.

They also announced that Todd Cooper (aka Scarlett Rayne), DeeJay Johannasen, David Mack Henderson and the Rev. Ken Ehrke have been nominated for the 2014 Raina Lea Award.

Honorary Grand Marshals are Chris McNoksy and Sven Stricker.

Tarrant County Gay Pride Week 2014 will be Oct. 2-12, beginning with a Pride Kick-Off Show on Oct. 2. The website doesn’t have details on the show posted yet, but keep watching. I am sure the info will be there soon.

The Pride Parade and Street Festival will be Saturday, Oct. 4, from noon-6 p.m., and is once again being held in downtown Fort Worth. The parade begins on Weatherford Street on the north side of downtown, and ends further south on Houston Street. The Pride Street Festival — with live entertainment, vendors and food and beverage booths — will be set up at the intersection of Houston and 9th Streets.

TCGPWA’s popular Pride Picnic at Trinity Park will be held from noon-6 p.m. Sunday, Oct. 5, and will feature a DJ, live entertainment, group activities, friendly competitions and a free Pride Kids Zone. Community organizations and vendors will have booths set up, and there will be beer, other beverages and food available, too.

Pride Week continues with the 15th annual Q-Cinema Film Festival at Rose Marine Theatre. See details here.

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