Abbott supports listening to the will of the voters except when he doesn’t

Posted on 19 May 2015 at 1:56pm

Gov. Greg Abbott wearing his tinfoil hat until Operation Jade Helm concludes

The leadership style of Texas’ new governor is beginning to emerge: He’s all for local control except when he isn’t. He’s all for listening to the will of the voters except when he isn’t.

In 2005, Texas voters approved a constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage and Abbott believes the federal government, especially the Supreme Court, needs to listen to the will of the voters.

Except when they shouldn’t.

Yesterday (May 18), Gov. Greg Abbott signed a ban on fracking bans into law. That law was prompted by a local election in Denton that banned fracking inside city limits.

The law Abbott signed overturns that as well as the decision of Dallas City Council to ban fracking in most areas of the city.

The will of the voters, it seems, should only be taken into account when the issue is something Abbott agrees with and should be overridden when it’s something he disagrees with. The governor is showing exactly how hypocritical he’s being by selectively pointing to one election as something to be upheld and then legislating away the voters’ decision in another.


Legacy’s Master Leasing needs sheets

Posted on 19 May 2015 at 1:09pm
Melissa Grove

Legacy Counseling Center’s glamorous Melissa Grove … because I didn’t have a picture of Larry to post

Legacy Counseling Center needs new and gently used full-sized sheets and bedding for its clients in its Master Leasing Program.

The program began about a year-and-a-half ago. About 24 apartments in Oak Cliff’s Oak Park Estates neighborhood were renovated and decorated with donations from the community to house people with HIV/AIDS who were homeless.

Residents who participate develop a one-year plan to get back on their feet, but having a place to live gives them the stability to do that. A number of residents who have participated in the plan have graduated out of the program.

Contact Larry by email or at 214-244-2240 to donate sheets or find out what else the program needs.


Abbott triggers earthquake as he signs legislation

Posted on 19 May 2015 at 10:48am

Abbott.GregIn response to a Denton city election in November 2014 to ban fracking within the city limits, the Texas Legislature passed a bill last week preventing local control over fracking.

Gov. Greg Abbott signed the bill into law on Monday, May 18.

A magnitude 3.3 earthquake centered in Farmers Branch on May 18 at about 1:15 p.m. was felt as far as downtown Dallas.

The two events, of course, are unrelated.



BREAKING: Child welfare religious discrimination amendment killed

Posted on 18 May 2015 at 5:31pm

Rep. Scott Sanford, R-McKinney.

An amendment considered harmful by various LGBT advocacy groups was killed by one of its opponents today (Monday, May 18).

Rep. Scott Sanford, R-McKinney, attached the amendment to SB 206, a sunset review bill of the state’s Department of Family and Protective Services. The amendment was killed after Rep. Joe Moody, D-El Paso, raised a point of order.

Similar to his HB 3864, it would have allowed child welfare providers to discriminate against LGBT people as well as those of other faiths, interfaith couples and anyone else to whom a provider objects for religious reasons.

Though Sanford’s bill died last Thursday, May 14, he said he planned to attach it as an amendment to the sunset bill. An amendments may attach to a bills if it is ruled germane to the bill, per House rules.

Legislators had been looking to derail the amendment since Sanford first pulled it from consideration last week. Attempts to kill the amendment consistently failed.


Celebrating the legacy of Harvey Milk

Posted on 18 May 2015 at 11:01am
March, ‘birthday party’ set in Dallas to honor pioneering activist
Contributed by Todd Whitley, Hope For Peace and Justice

Harvey Milk

People across the globe will celebrate the life and legacy of slain civil rights leader Harvey Milk on Friday, May 22, what would have been the pioneering LGBT activist’s 85th birthday. In North Texas, a broad coalition of area organizations will join together to celebrate Harvey Milk Day with a candlelight march down Cedar Springs Road.

The event begins at the Legacy of Love Monument, at the intersection of Oak Lawn Avenue and Cedar Springs Road, at 8 p.m. Friday. Following the march, everyone will gather at TMC:The Mining Company, 3903 Cedar Springs Road, for a “cake, ice cream and libations after-party.”

The Rev. Carmarion Anderson, a minister at Living Faith Covenant Church and the south regional minister for the national group TransSaints of The Fellowship of Affirming Ministries, will deliver the keynote address.

Others speakers include Carter and Espy Brown, founders of Black Transmen, Inc.; Mike Grossman, founding board member of The Dallas Way; Hardy Haberman, long-time LGBT activist and current chair of the Woodhull Sexual Freedom Alliance in Washington, D.C.; Yadi Martinez, minister of young people and missions at Cathedral of Hope; Leslie McMurray, freelance writer and transgender activist; Deneen Robinson and her mother Sheila Johnson; Cody Sanders, Resource Center FUSE coordinator; Rafiq Salleh-Flowers, immigration activist and community volunteer; the Rev. Steven Sprinkle, theologian in residence at Cathedral of Hope and professor of practical theology at Brite Divinity School; and Sister Holly von Acocker, mistress of house for The DFW Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence, who will offer the invocation.

Local singer and “raptivist” Mokah Soulfly will entertain the crowd with her original song “We Are Everything,” which she says was inspired by the ideal that “at the end of the day, we are one love; we are all everything!”

A variety of local queer artists, including Candace Thompson, Calvin Roberts, Rafiq Salleh-Flowers, the Rev. Jeff Hood, and Todd Whitley, will also speak, reading from Harvey Milk’s various letters, speeches and other writings.

Also speaking will be Miles Dean, founder of the GSA at L.D. Bell High School and founding member of the Queer Youth Coalition of the Dallas Fort Worth Area, which aims to connect GSAs together and effect change on a greater scale than at the school level, and international baccalaureate diploma candidate.

“What better way to celebrate this important LGBT figure than by using his own words to educate and inspire Dallas to pick up the bullhorn where he left off,” said event organizers D.R. Hanson. “As they watch these performers clad in colored handkerchiefs and Harvey Milk Day t-shirts, we hope the audience will feel as if Harvey himself were at his own 85th birthday party.”

Following the march, everyone is invited to a birthday celebration, complete with cake and ice cream, on the patio at TMC: The Mining Company.

In conjunction with the celebration, Dallas Public Library’s Oak Lawn Branch, 4100 Cedar Springs Road, has created a Harvey Milk exhibit complete with a section of books from the library’s collection on Milk and others written by LGBT authors.

This will be the fourth annual event held here in Dallas, and organizers approached the 2015 celebration with the goal of offering expanded access and representation to marginalized voices while highlighting ongoing struggles for justice, peace and equality.

Event organizer Daniel Scott Cates said, “Many people know Harvey was an advocate for gay rights. But Harvey also championed the rights of women, ethnic minorities, senior citizens, renters, workers and the poor. The Dallas Harvey Milk Day Celebration is our commemoration of Harvey’s life story, message and legacy, inspiring not only LGBTQIA lives but all disenfranchised communities.

“Above all, this event is about hope,” Cates said.

Event organizer Todd Whitley added, “The emphasis of the celebration is to show a united LGBT community and indicate how Milk’s message of hope can empower us all and build coalition among and generate advocacy for others.”

The coalition of groups sponsoring the event includes ACLU of Texas, Cathedral of Hope Dallas/La Catedral de la Esperanza, Cathedral of Hope Mid-Cities,

Congregation Beth El Binah, Dallas Gay and Lesbian Alliance, Dallas Stonewall Democrats, DFW Human Rights Campaign, The DFW Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence, Equality Texas, GALA Gay and Lesbian Alliance of North Texas, Hope for Peace and Justice, Lambda Legal Dallas, Log Cabin Republicans — Dallas, LULAC 4821 Dallas Rainbow Council, Metropolitan Community Church of Greater Dallas, Real Live Connection and Resource Center.

The event is free and open to people of all ages. Signs, candles (or other preferred light source), friends, family, and voices are welcome.

For more information about the event, including sponsorship and volunteer opportunities, contact Todd Whitley at 214-351-1901 or

What they have to say

 Rafiq Salleh-Flowers: “I believe that doing the right thing is always the hardest thing, and Harvey Milk’s perseverance for the fight for equality has proven that. And we also know that at times we never get the support we need to end inequality. Above all, we are always making progress.”

Mike Grossman: “Harvey Milk’s legacy and his hope message is a constant reminder that it is up to us, everyone of us, the entire GLTB community, our families and our allies to keep up our quest, the impossible dream, if you will. Our daily mantra should be ‘if it’s to be, it’s up to me.’”

Cody Sanders: “Harvey spent his life making the LGBT community a visible minority that could fight oppression and win. His work gives us hope that current injustices faced by sexual minorities, like the lack of access to HIV education and prevention, can be changed with persistence and courage.”

Leslie Michelle: “The issues facing transgender people today are eerily similar to those facing the Gay/Lesbian community nearly 40 years ago. There are similar lies, myths and distortions targeting the transgender community. It’s when hope is lost, that lives are in the balance. We can’t let that happen.”

Carter Brown: “Historically and to date, hope has been a necessity for communities of color, same-gender-loving and transgender people as a means of emotional and social survival in anticipation of our human equality be acknowledged. Hope is what fuels our actions, which ultimately create change.”

Steve Sprinkle: “Harvey Milk’s message of hope and resistance was backed up by the fullest measure of devotion anyone can give for our community — his life. His strong message, speaking through us today, gives us courage and strategy for overcoming the opposition to justice we face in Texas.”

Hardy Haberman: “For me, Harvey’s message of hope reinforces our need to defend that hope against those who would steal it and drive us back into a darker past. As we get closer and closer to equality, the forces against us are reasserting their oppression.”

Yadi Martinez: “So I am here — Latino, Latina, of Mexican descent and part of the LGBTQ Community. I am an artist, a minister, a parent and believer that people — young and old, of all nationalities, genders and races — are changing the world. That was the hope that Harvey Milk spoke of when he said that the time was now for us to longer be judged by our crimes and the myths behind our race and culture. It is important to us as a community to continue to give others hope for ‘without hope, not only gays, but the blacks, the seniors, the handicapped, the us’es, the us’es, will give up.’ Let us, as Harvey Milk said, give them hope.”

Mokah Soulfly (Keisha Hunter): “Giving your life is the greatest sacrifice a person can make. How amazing a man who would have the gall to be himself in a climate of hate and injustice — how grand the hope and fire his life has inspired for generation after generation to stand proud and strong for equality for all.”

Miles Dean: “In continuing our message of hope for the future so passionately conveyed by Harvey Milk, we need to remember that in order to ensure our future, the young who are expected to carry on the memory of one of our most remembered martyrs must be supported and included more than they have been in the past.”


Rep. Linda Koop alienates some LGBT supporters and constituents

Posted on 18 May 2015 at 10:31am

KoopMembers of the LGBT community in Dallas were outraged this weekend when they discovered freshman Rep. Linda Koop signed a letter supporting HB 4105. She is one of 93 out of 98 House Republicans who signed the letter.

“This is a woman who has been to our house numerous times, has attended Richard’s birthday parties, and has a GAY BROTHER,” wrote Jeff Henderson on his Facebook page. His partner is Richard Shampain. “So disappointed in her and her lack of leadership.”

Henderson’s post on her campaign Facebook page was immediately removed. He got a screen shot of his post before it was deleted.

Koop is a former Dallas City Councilwoman who regularly supported the LGBT community during her time on the council. Her brother is former City Councilman Paul Fielding, who is gay.

DGLA President Patti Fink said her message to Koop was promptly deleted as well.

Koop represents a North Dallas district. In the November election that added sexual orientation and gender identity to the Dallas City Charter’s nondiscrimination policy, every precinct in Koop’s district voted for the measure. That measure passed with 77 percent of the vote, getting more votes of support than any of the 11 measures on the November 2014 ballot.

Rep. Jason Villalba, a Republican who represents Northeast Dallas, was one of five House Republicans who did not sign the letter. Every precinct in his district voted for the measure also.


Luxembourg’s prime minister marries

Posted on 15 May 2015 at 3:47pm

Luxembourg’s Prime Minister Xavier Bettel married Gauthier Destenay today (Friday, May 15).

Bettel announced earlier this week that Destanay proposed and he accepted.He said they would have a low-key ceremony.

The ceremony was held at City Hall in Luxembourg City and was attended by the Belgian and Estonian prime ministers, who are straight.

Luxembourg became a marriage-equality country in January.

Bettel has been Prime Minister for 18 months.

Here’s a report from Wochit News:


Majority of Texas House GOP signs letter defending HB 4105, state’s same-sex marriage ban

Posted on 15 May 2015 at 2:38pm

CapitolThe majority of Texas House members signed a letter released this morning defending the state’s same-sex marriage ban.

The letter follows the early morning defeat of a bill that would have barred officials from issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples.

The letter, which you can read here, boasts the signatures of 93 of the 98 members of House Republicans. Among the missing signatures are Reps. Sarah Davis of West University Place, Larry Gonzales of Round Rock, Matt Schaefer of Tyler and Jason Villalba of Dallas.

Speaker Joe Straus did not sign the letter but because of his leadership position does not take positions on issues and rarely votes.

Villalba is now the only member of the Dallas County Republican House delegation, and among the three Republicans statewide, to neither sign the letter nor co-author the bill

Earlier in the session Villalba took heat for introducing a religious freedom resolution that opponents, including in the business community, called discriminatory.


25 stories honoring 25 years of LifeWalk

Posted on 15 May 2015 at 1:39pm

On Oct. 4, LifeWalk — the annual 5K fundraising walk benefitting AIDS Arms and other local AIDS service agencies — will celebrate its 25th year. In the 25 weeks leading up to this milestone event, the folks over at AIDS Arms are, each Friday, posting a new LifeWalk story from someone who has participated, in some way, through the years.

In this week’s entry, AIDS Arms volunteer and client Joey Avila talks about how AIDS Arms has changed his life and why he participates in LifeWalk. Read his story here on Instant Tea, and then go to the LifeWalk blog to read other stories, see the photos and watch the videos.

joey avila

Joey Avila

Hello, my name is Joey.

It is a terrible thing to outlive your life partner. When mine died of AIDS, I felt as if my life was over too. For many agonizing years, I had to care for Steve — fed and bathed him, drove him to the hospital over and over, and cried for him as he died a long, painful death. After, I was nearly paralyzed with grief.

Then I came to volunteer at AIDS Arms. At first, I was too sad to do much, but in this supportive, healing environment, I began to work through my pain and see that I could help others and myself too. Now, years later, I am still proud to be a part of this welcoming place where people struggling with HIV/AIDS, such as me, find compassionate professionals and lifeline services we all desperately need to live.

This is very hard work. Thank goodness for AIDS Arms case managers to help us all navigate through the healthcare system’s complications, and for Peabody Health Center and Trinity Health & Wellness Center where quality caring healthcare is still a priority.

Still, when someone tells me they have been diagnosed with HIV, my heart aches again with the pain I felt when Steve told me he was HIV positive. Yes, today there are new life-prolonging medications, but the effects of the treatment are horrible with many long-term consequences and the expense of treatment drives most of us into poverty. AIDS Arms helps me live my life more fully, even in the bad times, and offers me courage to keep fighting.

Without AIDS Arms and its committed staff driven to help people deal with endless doctor appointments, lab tests, overwhelming expenses, and medication side effects, I don’t know what would happen to me. They find resources to help people who have no idea how they can keep a roof over their heads and food on the table, let alone provide top quality medical care.

Won’t you join me in supporting LifeWalk and AIDS Arms this year? As a volunteer and client, I can tell you that your donation makes such a difference to me and many others. As a long-term survivor of this disease, I thank you for showing how much you care about people living with HIV and AIDS.

Sincerely, Joey


Cecil Bell’s ‘witch’ is dead — but it and other anti-LGBT bills could be resurrected

Posted on 15 May 2015 at 12:41pm

Don’t hoist your rainbow flag just yet.

Ding dong, the witch — aka Rep. Cecil Bell’s HB 4105 — is dead.

Despite having the support of nearly all House Republicans, the bill that would have barred county officials from issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples failed to secure a vote on the House floor before midnight.

Legislators had been working nonstop since Tuesday to kill the bill by “chubbing” it, a common tactic used by both parties to slow down the calendar. Chubbing means anything from proposing amendments to calling parliamentary points of order on a bill.

Technically speaking, HB 4105 died at 11 p.m. Per House rules, a calendar item may not move absent a unanimous vote. Absent the Rapture taking away the bill’s opponents, that wasn’t going to happen.

HB 4105 also faced another obstacle in the Legislature: it had no Senate companion and it would be difficult, though not impossible, to add it as an amendment to another bill. (To successfully tack an amendment to another bill, it must directly relate to the bill’s intent.) Bell, a Magnolia Republican and the bill’s author, told reporters the bill may be dead but he is mulling reviving it in some form as an amendment.

“No bill is dead. You just have to find something that’s germane…We will continue to look for places that it fits [and] work to get this effort…done,” he said.

While HB 4105′s defeat was seen as a victory, it also came at a price.

HB 71 by Rep. Mary Gonzalez, D-El Paso, was a bill supported by the LGBT community that earned bipartisan support since its first committee hearing. The “Romeo and Juliet” bill amends the penal code to protect same-gender couples within three years of each other in age from being punished for their relationships.

But overall, the news was good. Despite the record number of bills explicitly targeting the LGBT community filed this session, most died in committee, or were even dead on arrival. Among them were four bills targeting the trans community that would have allowed businesses and child welfare organizations to discriminate on religious grounds and bills stripping local entities’ nondiscrimination ordinances and pro-LGBT policies.

Also dead are a handful of bills that would in essence criminalize HIV.

Bills, as Bell noted, can change into amendments without much effort. That’s what other lawmakers, including Rep. Scott Sanford, R-McKinney, are considering. But with the clock ticking to a June 1 conclusion, one would hope that lawmakers do what they’re really in Austin for: pass a budget.

While advocates like Equality Texas’ Daniel Williams told the Voice organizations like his would be on the defense and their work is still not over, LGBT rights advocates and supporters still achieved victory this morning when these bills died.