PHOTOS: James is reminded why animals are way cooler than people

Posted on 17 Jul 2015 at 2:20pm

On Wednesday, July 15, I visited Ranch Hand Rescue Counseling Center and Animal Sanctuary, located in Argyle, for a profile of the organization in this week’s edition. I was moved by its staff’s tireless work and their amazing work. But y’all, I left reminded why I totally prefer animals to people any day.

Below are some photos from the happiest place on earth.


EEOC rules federal law prohibits discrimination based on a sexual orientation

Posted on 17 Jul 2015 at 9:51am

US-EEOC-Seal_380w_crop380wThe Equal Employment Opportunity Commission ruled this week existing civil rights laws protect discrimination based on sexual orientation.

In the 3-2 decision, commissioners ruled the sex discrimination provisions of Title VII of the 1964 Civil Rights Act protect employees from discrimination because of their sexual orientation.

The independent federal commission is one of the nation’s enforcers and interpreters of federal nondiscrimination laws.

“This landmark opinion from the EEOC confirms what we have long argued in our cases: discriminating against gay, lesbian and bisexual employees violates federal law. This ruling is likely to have enormous positive effects because EEOC interpretations of Title VII are highly persuasive to the courts — they tend to be predictive,” said Greg Nevins, Counsel and Employment Fairness Strategist for Lambda Legal in a statement.

The decision should serve as precedent for future court decisions, he said.

“Given the clarity and logic of this opinion, most courts are likely to stop simply referring to old, illogical rulings about Title VII coverage. A few may disagree, but most probably will be guided by the Commission’s straightforward approach.”

In 2012, the EEOC ruled discrimination against a transgender individual is also protected under Title VII in the case Macy v. Department of Justice.

“Freedom to Work applauds this historic decision by the EEOC, and we encourage gay men, lesbians, and bisexuals who face harassment or discrimination on the job to consult an attorney and file Title VII claims with the EEOC and eventually the federal courts,” Tico Almeida, the group’s president said in a statement.

He urged LGBT activists to take further claims of nondiscrimination to the federal courts “to win workplace protections in all fifty states.”

Currently 31 states, including Texas, lack employment and housing protections based on sexual orientation and gender identity, according to a new report from the Human Rights Campaign.

Rea Carey, National LGBTQ Task Force Executive Director agreed with Almeida.

“This is another historic victory for LGBTQ people and their families. We need to further attack the scourge of discrimination in a comprehensive manner — and while LGBTQ people may file employment discrimination cases with the EEOC, we still need more. We must push for legislation that provides clear and strong protections for all LGBTQ people in every area of life — from housing to health care,” she said in a statement.


Social Security and Veterans Affairs extending benefits under AG orders

Posted on 16 Jul 2015 at 12:43pm

Attorney General Loretta Lynch

On July 9, Attorney General Loretta Lynch issued the following statement:

Following the Supreme Court’s historic decision in Obergefell that every couple has the same right to participate in the institution of marriage, whether the partners are of the same-sex or opposite sexes, I directed Justice Department staff to work with the agencies to ensure that the ruling be given full effect across the federal government.

And with that, a number of rights that had not been available to married same-sex couples were extended to them.

Most notably social security benefits were not offered in states that didn’t recognize same-sex marriage and some veterans benefits were also denied.

What’s not clear is whether couples who were married but denied benefits because of where they lived will be able to reapply.

Couples will now qualify for survivor benefits, but it’s unclear if a surviving spouse who was denied can now reopen that claim.

Veterans will qualify for educational, medical, pension and home loan benefits.


Tammye’s doing well

Posted on 16 Jul 2015 at 9:58am

TammyeNashDallas Voice editor Tammye Nash just came out of surgery this morning, July 16, and is doing well. Here’s what her partner wrote on Facebook:

Surgeon just came out. She did great. Minimally invasive tumor. She’s doing well. I won’t see her for about an hour. No lymph nodes had to be removed.

Tammye discussed her early-stage cancer and how it was caught early in a story in this week’s paper in Lesbians and Cancer. Please get regular check ups for the best chance of catching anything like this early.


Equality ordinance drew Facebook to Fort Worth

Posted on 16 Jul 2015 at 9:38am

facebookBefore committing to opening a data center in Fort Worth, Facebook checked the city’s LGBT nondiscrimination ordinance. Passed in 2000, it was the first of its kind in the state.

According to an editorial in the Star Telegram:

City officials told the Star-Telegram Facebook executives studied the city’s ordinances before announcing a new $1 billion data center investment here last week.

Awareness of LGBT rights has jumped dramatically. Fort Worth can be proud that it helped lead the way.

The data center will be built on a 110-acre site near I-35W in North Fort Worth. It will open with 250,000 square feet of space and is expected to triple in size. Although Facebook is expected to be worth $21 million in new taxes to Fort Worth over 10 years, the facility will open with only 40 employees. Facebook said more may be added later.


Operation Jade Helm begins and the crazies … I mean our governor … is on alert

Posted on 15 Jul 2015 at 9:43am

WalMart-250x169Happy first day of Operation Jade Helm, the military operation in which Texas will be taken over by the United States. According to sources, maps in the White House already show Texas as part of the United States.

The crazies are out all over the country this week. But who can blame them? I mean, gay marriage.

In South Carolina, April Lee Yates, 51, started a disturbance in a restaurant and was asked to pay her bill and leave. She said Jesus would pay the bill for her. Jesus never showed up. The woman went to jail.

A Tennessee woman was arrested at a gas station for printing her own money, because she read on the Internet Obama made it legal. Pamela Downs, 45, printed the $5 bill on her home printer and glued the top and bottom together. Police found a $100 bill in her purse and another $30,000 in her apartment.

Donald Trump had to remove a tweet from his Twitter feed because it showed him with soldiers. Upon closer inspection, those soldiers were in Nazi SS uniforms.

In Bastrop, “citizen volunteers” are on patrol, wary of Operation Jade Helm 15. Bastrop County is the county east of Travis County. Obviously, Bastrop is a good staging area to take over Texas, because from Bastrop, U.S. troops can easily overtake Austin.

Oh, wait, no they can’t. None of Austin’s highways are complete and the city is in a constant state of gridlock.

So far, no reports yet of Texans being placed in Walmarts that have been converted to FEMA camps, but Texas Gov. Greg Abbott promised daily briefings on Jade Helm through the summer.


Here are a couple of things to consider about Burleson’s Mayor Ken Shetter

Posted on 14 Jul 2015 at 9:33pm
Ken Shetter

Burleson Mayor Ken Shetter. A good man

Over the last couple of days, Burleson Mayor Ken Shetter has been getting a lot of attention on the Internet for a lengthy “note” he posted on Facebook on Monday, July 13, explaining why he supports marriage equality — both as a public official and as a Christian individual.

Shetter first took to Facebook immediately after the Supreme Court ruling in favor of marriage equality was announced, expressing his support for equality and his happiness for his LGBT friends and LGBT residents of Burleson. Then when a Burleson resident went to Facebook to challenge Shetter “or anyone else that is OK with gay marriage, to quote me a bible verse, that states gay marriage is acceptable to God, the Almighty!!!”

Shetter responded with his note, titled, “But the greatest of these is Love.” I am not going to quote Shetter’s entire note in this post. It’s quite long, and besides, you can go here to read the whole thing for yourself. You’ll probably want to read it more than once. Several times maybe.

I do, however, want to highlight a couple of his points. Starting with this: “As the mayor, I congratulate LGBT citizens of Burleson on their right to marry. Further, I am pleased the Supreme Court’s ruling is just one of many ways we are telling members of the LGBT community (particularly LGBT youth) they are fully accepted and valued participants in our society–no matter where they live.”

And then there’s this: “For anyone who feels the statement above infringes upon their rights as a Christian, I would hasten to say I am bound by the free exercise clause of the First Amendment just as much as the separation clause. My views as public servant do not in any way inhibit your ability to exercise your religious beliefs, no matter how they relate to the issue of gay marriage.

“On a personal level, I celebrate the right of my gay friends to be married, as well as the fact they are accepted and embraced more fully in today’s society. I do so not in spite of my Christian beliefs, but at least partially because of my Christian beliefs.”

And in response to the challenge to quote chapter and verse where God says marriage equality is OK, Shetter opts for a portion of 1 Corinthian Chapter 13, commonly known as The Love Chapter, ending with this: “And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.” Then he adds verses from John Chapter 13: “A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. 35 By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.”

As you can imagine, Shetter is getting a lot of praise from LGBT people and others who support equality. I don’t have to tell you how great it is to see the mayor of a relatively small town in a conservative area speak up and offer a beacon of love and acceptance and hope to LGBT people.

As you can probably also imagine, not everybody is a fan. Especially not everybody in Burleson. You are probably thinking Ken Shetter is a pretty courageous guy. And you;d be right. How do I know? Well, because I worked for a newspaper in Johnson County. My “beat” was Burleson, which means I covered the Burleson school district and Burleson City Council among other things. I met Ken Shetter, and I have been impressed with him since the beginning, before I had any idea he was so supportive of equality.

Ken Shetter was in his second term as a city council member in 2004 when he was first elected mayor. He has been mayor ever since. He is a progressive with a vision for his city, and he is willing to put in the work necessary to make that vision come true. If you want to know what his vision is, check out the city website here.

He is also an attorney and executive director of One Safe Place, a nonprofit organization that provides shelter and services to victims of domestic abuse. Not too long ago, he posted a note on Facebook stressing that domestic abuse does occur in same-sex couples, and that LGBT victims of domestic abuse are welcome at One Safe Place.These are just some of the reasons I think Ken Shetter is the kind of person Texas needs in the State Legislature. He’s the kind of person we need in Congress. The trick, first of all, is to get him to consider leaving his beloved Burleson long enough to run for and serve in higher office. The second would be to get this good man elected.Why, you may wonder, would it be so hard to get a man who has a proven track record as an honest and effective civil servant elected to higher office? Precisely because he is a good man, a Christian man who isn’t afraid to stand up and say that equality for everyone – regardless of what some churches might preach.You may think that those would all be reasons Shetter would be the perfect candidate. I mean, yeah, Burleson itself is a “small town,” but it’s right here in the DFW Metroplex. It’s a small town, but it is very big city-adjacent.But then you have to stop and realize that most of Burleson is in Johnson County, and Johnson County is VERY conservative. Don’t get me wrong; there are some wonderful people in Johnson County, but a lot of them are on the far right end of religious conservatism. And Burleson and Johnson County are home to the Texas Patriot TEA Party, one of the largest and most active TEA Party groups around. I’ve been to some of their meetings; they brought in Tom DeLay as a speaker, and Cathie Adams, who is such a right-wing fanatic that she is truly scary.So yeah, Ken Shetter has a lot of supporters and a lot of history in Burleson. That doesn’t mean he wasn’t, at least in some ways, putting his political career on the line when he came out so publicly and so vocally and so forcefully in favor of marriage equality and LGBT equality in general.He did what he did because it is, in his opinion, the right thing to do. That’s a rare thing, especially in politics. So if you live in Burleson, show your support for the mayor. Show your support even if you don’t live there. Ken Shetter deserves it.


Books will remain in Hood County library

Posted on 14 Jul 2015 at 1:18pm

My-princess-boyHood County’s library will not ban two gay-themed books from its library.

Citing a court decision written by the late Judge Jerry Buchmeyer that prevents a small group of people from dictating what books are available in a public library, Hood County commissioners did not vote but listened to residents. In the end, the books in question — My Princess Boy and This Day in June — will remain on the shelves.

Dallas Public Library District Manager Peter Coyl attended the meeting and said the most touching story came from a mother who talked about her own “princess boy” and said she wished she had the book available for him when he was a child.

Another mother, though, said her four-year-old son asked questions she was not prepared to answer.

One commissioner noted the book had been in the library four years and the complaints just started last week. Buchmeyer’s decision addresses exactly that sort of protest that is organized against a particular book and not really complaints after reading the book.

Hood County is also where a county clerk was particularly belligerent about having to obey the Supreme Court’s marriage equality decision.


A few thoughts from last night’s Tarrant County Stonewall Democrats meeting

Posted on 14 Jul 2015 at 10:51am

Texas-CountiesThe Tarrant County Stonewall Democrats hosted their monthly meeting at Tommy’s Hamburgers in Fort Worth last night (Monday, July 13) celebrating the Supreme Court’s marriage equality decision.

Couples who got a license but hadn’t wed were invited to get hitched. Had a couple already gotten married, they were invited to share their stories.

Three couples stood up and shared their stories. After their humorous and touching speeches, the invaluable — and, as he noted, single —  David Mack Henderson, president of Fairness Fort Worth, shared his experiences helping local couples get hitched.

While my intent was to share photos from the meeting, my camera card unfortunately thought otherwise. But I do have a few takeaways worth noting.

First, it turned out for the best I couldn’t get photos. One man approached me after the meeting adjourned requesting their photos not appear on the site. His husband is “insecure in the workplace,” he said. Whether because he fears losing his job or for some other reason, I don’t know. But I know LGBT Texans can still be fired from their jobs simply because of their sexual orientation, gender identity or expression. Texas is, in fact, one of 28 states that doesn’t protect LGBT employees from workplace discrimination aside from a few federal protections.

Texas is also among the 29 states without laws protecting LGBT individuals in public accommodations. Cities like Dallas and Fort Worth have made strides to protect their citizens from being denied service, or face harassment, from the grocery store to the doctor’s office. But I’d avoid going to any bakery owned by Rep. Molly White, R-Belton.


David Mack Henderson, president of Fairness Fort Worth

As the saying goes, you can get married at night but still be fired from your job the next morning.

This past legislative session, legislators filed or sponsored nearly 40 anti-LGBT bills. Rep. Debbie Riddle, R-Tomball, filed two bills  criminalizing transgender individuals for using a bathroom. Rep. Gilbert Pena, R-Pasadena, filed similar bills. Rep. White, as we learned, won a gold star for filing legislation legalizing discrimination against any groups not straight, white, Protestant and Republican — so, like, everyone.

After the Supreme Court legalized same-sex marriage, the statements started pouring in. Rep. Cecil Bell, R-Magnolia,  author of numerous bills barring state recognition of same-sex marriages, lead the crusade. He announced the “Pact for Constitutional Restoration of State Sovereignty” on Monday, July 6 in response to the ruling.

David Simpson, a Longview Republican running for an open state senate seat, denounced the ruling and called for a special session abolishing government issuance of marriage licenses altogether. I don’t oppose the latter idea, though I prefer that decision not come following the Supreme Court ruling. Unfortunately, yesterday (Monday, July 13), he went even further, calling on the state’s Republican leadership to address the consequences of the ruling. He was furious state employee benefits were now extended to same-sex spouses.

For the record, Simpson has yet to be endorsed by a single socially conservative group. His primary opponent in the senate race, Rep. Bryan Hughes, R-Mineola, has received those honors.

Not all Republicans denounced the decision of course. But if it helps with fundraising, why not throw shade at two individuals of the same gender in love?

During the meeting, Henderson told a harrowing and touching story about a local couple just wanting to get married. The situation wasn’t easy though. As far as I remember it, a HIV-positive, 60 percent deaf undocumented man was jailed. His partner wanted to avoid deportation. David helped them find an avenue to get married. (Knowing Henderson, he’ll chime in the comments below, which I would prefer he do. The story is at once tragic and beautiful.)

Before I left, a straight ally approached two friends and I. He was thrilled by the decision, he said, but the fight isn’t over yet.

I’ve harped on this before but he’s right. Until we’re all equal, the rainbow is frankly just one color.


Oak Lawn Shell station murderer receives life

Posted on 14 Jul 2015 at 10:22am

Deric Madison, right, admitted killing Josh Tubbleville, left, in 2014. Madison has been sentenced to life in prison.

Deric Madison, 25, was sentenced to life in prison for the 2014 murder of Josh Tubbleville, 33.

Tubbleville and Madison had left a nearby restaurant and were in Tubbleville’s car when Madison shot him. They crashed into the Shell station on the corner of Oak Lawn and Lemmon avenues. Security footage from the gas station captured Madison fleeing the car.

Madison admitted killing Tubbleville but said he was defending himself. Family members testified he came from a broken home but was a good father to his three-year-old son.

Dallas County detention officers painted a picture of Madison as a violent inmate who had to be separated from other inmates and was involved in a number of fights.