Largest male escort and companion website’s headquarters raided

Posted on 25 Aug 2015 at 3:38pm

RBLogoFederal agents this morning (Tuesday, Aug. 25) raided the Manhattan headquarters of and arrested seven employees, including CEO Jeffrey Hurant, alleging the world’s largest male escort site promotes prostitution and engages in money laundering.

The site, founded in 1997, bills itself as “the world’s destination to meet the perfect male escort or masseur.” Escorts and masseurs pay to advertise on the site, sometimes shelling out several hundreds of dollars to find clients. For a minimum monthly fee, users can search for escorts, masseurs and rent boys based on location, as well as rates, age, talent and physical features.

While the site posts numerous disclaimers that ads are for companionship and not sexual services, prosecutors believe the site violates federal law against sex work.

“As alleged, attempted to present a veneer of legality, when in fact this internet brothel made millions of dollars from the promotion of illegal prostitution,” Acting United States Attorney for the Eastern District of New York Kelly Curie said in a statement.

“The facilitation and promotion of prostitution offenses across state lines and international borders is a federal crime made even more egregious when it’s blatantly advertised by a global criminal enterprise,” said Acting Special Agent in Charge Sorge of Homeland Security Investigations of New York. “HSI will use its unique authorities to disrupt and dismantle such organizations and seize the millions of dollars in illegal proceeds they generate.”

Along with seizing nearly $1.4 million from six bank accounts, the government was also taking steps to shut down the site.

Hurant is currently awaiting a court appearance in New York.


HERO opponents air first ad, citing trans bathroom panic

Posted on 25 Aug 2015 at 2:33pm
Anti-HERO groups anti trans ad

A campaign image released by opponents of Houston’s Equal Rights Ordinance reveals the group’s strategy for successful repeal.

Opponents of Houston’s Equal Rights Ordinance aired their first radio ad yesterday, the first of what they promise to be a barrage of ads ahead of the Nov. 3 ballot referendum that will decide the ordinance’s fate.

According to the Houston Chronicle, the Campaign for Houston‘s one-minute ad features a young woman concerned for her safety. She wants to get pregnant, she says, but is afraid because the ordinance “will allow men to freely go into women’s bathrooms, locker rooms and showers.

“That is filthy, that is disgusting and that is unsafe,” she states.

The nondiscrimination ordinance, which passed city council last year and has been mired in legal battles initiated by opponents since, includes protections for LGBT people, as well as other federally protected classes including sex, race, color, ethnicity, national origin, age, religion, disability, pregnancy, genetic information, family, marital or military status. Violators could be fined up to $5,000.

Opponents, including conservative Christian leaders, immediately gathered signatures for a ballot referendum. The city ultimately threw the petitions out, but opponents scored a victory earlier this month when the Texas Supreme Court forced the council to either repeal the ordinance or put it before voters on the Nov. 3 ballot.

City council members voted to put it before the voters on 12-5 vote.

Richard Carlbom, campaign manager for Houston Unites, which supports the ordinance, blasted the ad in a statement.

“The ad is grossly inaccurate. Nothing in the equal rights ordinance changes the fact that it is — and always will be — illegal to enter a restroom to harm or harass other people. The ad leaves out the fact that the law protects tens of thousands of Houstonians from job discrimination based upon their race, age, religion, sexual orientation, gender identity and disability,” he said.

Houston Unites also plans to also broadcast media in support of the ordinance. But the campaign has not made any media buys yet, he told the Chronicle.


Pink Magnolia sets open date

Posted on 25 Aug 2015 at 12:16pm

Oak Cliff Cristo 1Our current edition of Dallas Voice is what we call The Food Issue, and the cover story is of the gay-owned new restaurant Pink Magnolia. In the story, we note that the opening date would take place “by Labor Day,” and that’s exactly right — Casie Caldwell has announced that chef Blythe Beck’s food will be ready on Thursday, Sept. 3 … just before Labor Day weekend. It’ll be open for dinner Tuesdays through Sundays, as well as for Sunday brunch (with items like the Oak Cliff Cristo, pictured); lunch will come later. Can’t wait!


Cazares-Thomas installed as pastor of Cathedral of Hope

Posted on 25 Aug 2015 at 9:59am

On Aug. 22, the Rev. Neil Cazares-Thomas was installed as the new pastor of Cathedral of Hope, the largest church in the world with a primary outreach to the LGBT community and allies. After a two-year search that began with the resignation of the previous pastor, the Rev. Jo Hudson, Cazares-Thomas was elected on April 12.

Photos of the event were taken by Barb Nunn.


NPR’s ‘ATC’ gets gay co-host

Posted on 25 Aug 2015 at 8:16am

arishapiroHe wasn’t supposed to start until September, so I was surprised yesterday when Ari Shapiro began as one of the three co-hosts of All Things Considered, the most-listened-to radio news program in the country, which airs on Dallas’ NPR affiliate, KERA 90.1 FM, from 4–7:30 p.m. daily. Shapiro replaced Melissa Block, who stepped down after 12 years alongside Robert Siegel and Audie Cornish.

The reason we care, other than being addicted to National Public Radio, is that Shapiro is openly gay — the first out host of the flagship program that we know of. It’s not like gays are rare on NPR, either nationally or locally, but this seems significant to us. Why? Well, if we didn’t believe that being a “gay journalist” was different than be a “journalist,” we wouldn’t work for a gay media company. And being out is important — it brings a perspective and challenges politicos and pundits to think about their words … or get caught up in what they say afterwards. We might bristle if someone says “the homosexual lifestyle” where even a progressive wouldn’t … and we might then hold their feet to the fire. (Compare, for instance, Diane Rehm, who routinely fails to invite openly gay journalists to her Friday News Roundup shows, even as she discusses gay issues … imagine if she had only men talking about women’s rights or only whites discussing race issues week after week.)

So I say “yea!” for Shapiro, who’s been a great London correspondent for years. He might put the “all” into All Things Considered.


Coalition for Aging LGBT names board and committees

Posted on 24 Aug 2015 at 3:08pm

Cannon Flowers at Aging LGBT Summit

Coalition for Aging LGBT has named board members and set up committees. The group was formed this year to deal with issues specifically relating to the aging in the LGBT community.

The organization has begun to forge relationships with experts on LGBT aging at University of North Texas and Texas Christian University and with those at University of New Mexico with expertise on inter-generational benefits.

The organization is looking for a permanent home and, during its incubator stage, is deciding whether to file for its own nonprofit status or move under the umbrella of an existing nonprofit.

Results of a survey to measure needs and direction will be published before the end of this year.

Current plans are to establish a hotline for service referrals and to host a second summit on LGBT aging before the end of the year. The first summit, held in June, drew 120 participants.

Coalition organizer Cannon Flowers said the challenge is daunting. In Dallas County, there are more than 60,000 members of the LGBT community who are 45 or older. According to the U.S. Census, 27 percent of people older than 65 live alone. People in the LGBT community are less likely to have someone, like a child, to be there when they need care.

Board members and committee assignments:

Cannon Flowers, chair
Robert Emery, vice-chair
Gregory S. Gunter, secretary
Kathy Bowser
Rabbi Steve Fisch, chair: Faith-based outreach and activities
Mike McKay
Leslie McMurray, chair: Marketing and public relations
Bart Poché
Shelly L. Skeen, chair: Policy and legislative advocacy
Linus “Buster” Spiller-Craft
Lee Taft
Candace M. Thompson
Samuel G. Tornabene


Celebration Community Church in Fort Worth breaks ground on expansion

Posted on 24 Aug 2015 at 2:05pm
CCC groundbreaking 8-23-15

Members of the Celebration Community Church Board of Directors join Rev. Carol A. West to turn the first shovelful of dirt to commence construction on a new community center in Fort Worth. (Photo courtesy of Celebration Community Church.)

The largest nondenominational church catering to the LGBT community in Tarrant County broke ground on a new facility for the LGBT community yesterday (Sunday, Aug. 23).

Once completed, leaders with Celebration Community Church say the Rev. Carol A. West Community Center will create a safe and inclusive space for the LGBT community.

New features will include more meeting space, enhanced recreational facilities and community gardens and a columbarium where church members can be laid to rest.

The church’s board voted to name the new building in honor West, who celebrates her 17th anniversary at the church this month.

“Quite often Rev. West speaks to us about stepping out on groundless ground,” said Ron Hill, chair of the board of directors. “It’s appropriate for us to remember that message as we step out in faith to build a church facility that will accommodate not only our growing congregation, but also the increasing number of GLBT community groups that rely on Celebration for meeting space.”

The new addition will include a formal entry lobby on the northwest corner of the property that will lead visitors to two large meeting rooms that, when combined, will accommodate 400 people.

The new structure will be tied to the existing sanctuary via a covered walkway.

Fundraising for the facility has been underway for the past few years.

Construction is expected to be completed in spring 2016.


Miller, Garcia named honorary co-chairs of LifeWalk

Posted on 24 Aug 2015 at 1:38pm

LifewalkFormer Dallas Mayor Laura Miller and Dallas County Commissioner Elba Garcia have been named honorary co-chairs of the 25th annual LifeWalk.

LifeWalk benefits AIDS Arms and other area LGBT and AIDS agencies. The walk takes place on Sunday, Oct. 4 and begins and ends in Brenda and Peggy Lee Park (aka just Lee Park).

Last year, LifeWalk raised more than $592,000. This year, Team Clover has already raised more than $53,000 and the top individual fundraiser is Terrence Bax with more than $25,000. To donate to a team or individual, go here. To register to participate as an individual walker, go here.


Zachary Quinto: The gay interview

Posted on 24 Aug 2015 at 9:16am

ZacharyQuinto1“Oh, Jesus.”

Zachary Quinto is aptly responding to the fact that, yes, despite establishing himself as an Emmy-nominated actor with versatility, out-of-this-world talent and some of the best eyebrows in the biz, he once starred on an episode of Touched by An Angel.

He isn’t reacting to being on the show, per se – he just can’t believe it’s been nearly 15 years.

Since then, Quinto has made major shifts beyond his transformation to leading man. After matter-of-factly coming out to the masses in 2011, he became an outspoken advocate for the LGBT community and has notably taken on subjects such as PReP and gay teen suicide.

The 38-year-old’s sexuality is a non-issue when it comes to his meandering career on TV, in film and on Broadway, as his varied typecast-defying roles demonstrate: Sylar on NBC’s Heroes, Quinto’s breakout role; the infamous American Horror Story killer Bloody Face; James Franco’s lover in I Am Michael; and, of course, Spock, the Star Trek icon he brought back to the big screen, ears and all. (He’s currently shooting Star Trek Beyond, the reboot franchise’s third installment.)

Quinto’s latest big-screen endeavor, released this past weekend, is the video game-inspired Hitman: Agent 47, wherein he dials up the badassery as a CIA agent you definitely do not want to cross. A major studio-produced action movie featuring… an out gay actor? You better believe it.

As he swings open the door on a traditionally gay-less genre by breaking down Hollywood stereotypes, Quinto spoke to us about recognizing his unique place as the go-to gay when it comes to action flicks and how he “definitely” thinks the world is ready for a gay James Bond. Plus, why he believes, despite the recent Supreme Court ruling on marriage, our fight for equality is far from over.

Dallas Voice: Hitman centers on an assassin who’s genetically engineered as the perfect killing machine. If you could be engineered to do anything you wanted, what would that be?  Quinto: If I could just travel anywhere at any time and somehow my genetic modification allowed me to transport somewhere, I imagine that would be a pretty useful genetic modification that I would get a lot of pleasure out of. No jet lag!


Horseshoes and politics

Posted on 23 Aug 2015 at 7:58am

Jones, Arnold WayneWe’re no better than our enemies when we misrepresent the facts

A few weeks ago, a friend of mine posted one of those attempts at a photo meme on his Facebook page. It was of a bulbously double-chinned Chris Christie, purporting to quote him from an appearance on CNN in which he said: “If I am elected president I will go after marijuana smokers and the states that allow them to smoke. I’ll shut them down big time. I’m sick of these addicts, sick of these liberals with no self-control.”

Only Christie never said those words — and certainly not on CNN.

In a call-in right-wing radio show hosted by Hugh Hewitt, Christie said, “We have an enormous addiction problem,” and that “the states should not be permitted to sell it.” Nothing about liberals. Nothing about self-control. Those were lies.

IMG_3900I pointed out to my friend that this was not an actual quote by Chris Christie. His response: “He says stuff like that all the time.”

A few weeks later, I saw another photo meme on a different friend’s Facebook page. This was of Louis Gohmert, perhaps the least qualified person ever to sit in Congress and decide laws since he’s far too stupid to even read them and understand what they mean. The man really should be sent to remedial kindergarten and not the Congress. Anyhoo. This meme quoted Gohmert as saying he “thinks a lot about gay sex.” He then went on to make a typically dumb statement about how, if left on a desert island for 100 years, gays would die out since they don’t reproduce. Did Gohmert make bigoted, ill-informed statements about gay sex? Absolutely. Did he say any of the words quoted in that meme? Not a chance. But it didn’t matter to that friend, either. It was, in his view, “close enough.”

And here in lies my major quibble with the quality of political discourse as we now practice it in America: It is not, in fact, a discourse. It is instead position-taking based upon faulty, misleading and outright untruthful information.

This is not news to followers of politics. Not at all. Sarah Palin invented — through her own social media platforms — the entire concept and phrase about “Obamacare death panels,” which never existed in any form, but became a part of the political discussion. Fair-minded progressives would point out that this was made up, though unfair and imbalanced FOXNews wouldn’t hear of it, and repeated the myth as if it where’s Obama’s main doctrine, a plan by the Kenyan-born Muslim communist at eugenics. It’s been five years, and “death panels” still lingers in the public consciousness. And Liberal Democrats still pull out their remaining hair to rage against the political machine about misinformation, disinformation and lies that pervert the process.

And then they turn around and do the same thing.

There is an old, trusty adage that one must “fight fire with fire.” I bet sure most firefighters would tell you that water and sand usually do a better job, but let’s forget about that for a second. Democrats have never been at a loss for having their own ways of phrasing and crafting a message to highlight their opponents’ weaknesses, to minimize their own, and to steel the positives in their message. Excoriating the enemy with clever linguistic tricks and rhetoric is time-honored. Frankly, it’s what we writers frequently do.

But I’m not talking here about characterizing one’s position as extreme and another’s as moderate, or shining the best light on one’s own ideas. I’m talking about lying about quotes and acting like the lie is justified. I am talking about propagating known falsehoods about another candidate, another party, an opposition group, and twisting it beyond recognition while pretending it is fact. Pardon my naïveté, but I thought progressives were better than that.

I foolishly thought that when I pointed out the errors of these memes to my friends, they would quickly disavow them if not take them down right away. But no: They embraced the now common, Trumpian practice of doubling down. They cleaved to the errors and defending them as, I suppose, speaking to a “higher truth.” Of course, the higher truth that they refer to is likewise based upon these mistaken premises. When your entire dialogue is merely a catalog of falsehoods about your opponents, at what point does the reality settle in and mean something to you? When we put up a photo of Chris Christie and quotation marks around words that we attribute to him, on specific dates and in specific media, knowing that’s wrong, we haven’t won any battles, we’ve merely contributed to the dumbing down, the name-calling, the schoolyard taunting quality of American politics.

It would not be difficult to find reams of direct quotes from Chris Christie that would hoist him with his own petard. Likewise Louis Gohmert, who is a hardworking factory of lies. You want grist for your political hate mail? The facts are out there. Let’s take them to task on the facts. But when we just pander to our own feelings and desires and what we want to believe, we can’t then attack the other side for doing the same.

When we present opinions under quotation marks; when we rewrite history to suit our own needs; when we compromise our own values in order to score fleeting and hollow victories against perceived enemies, we are no better than the opponents. And then, when our opponents accuse us of lying and misrepresentation, we have to concede, “Yep. We did it. So what?”

And that’s when we lose. It’s when the American people lose. It’s when the political system gets beyond the control of intelligent people wanting to be informed voters and falls to the hands of who has the loudest megaphone, the largest checkbook, the meanest barbs. Without a claim to moral or at least ethical superiority, we lose an important arrow in our quiver and distort the democratic process. It’s difficult to criticize a system that doesn’t represent the people’s interest when the people aren’t representing their own.

Note: The person who posted the Chris Christie meme  informs me that he later removed the post from his page.