BREAKING: Trans Chorus of LA flying in to join TCC for sing-along on Saturday

Posted on 11 Aug 2017 at 3:10pm

We’ve just received word that the Trans Chorus of LA will be flying into Dallas this weekend to sing with the Turtle Creek Chorale in the chorale’s 24-hour sing-along marathon intended to raise awareness of transgender issues.

The chorale’s artistic director, Sean Baugh, told Dallas Voice recently that the event, expected to begin tonight (Friday, Aug. 11) around 6 p.m., was the chorale’s way of standing up to the anti-transgender bigotry and discrimination that is running rampant in our society today, especially in the Texas Legislature,, and in the White House, where Donald Trump recently posted a tweet saying trans people would not be allowed to serve in the military in any capacity.

“We don’t march,” Baugh said. “we sing.”

 

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No kicking of zombie ass allowed in Graham

Posted on 11 Aug 2017 at 1:05pm

From left, Nurse Connie Lingus (Chaselyn Wade), preacher’s wife Janice Jeffress (Krystal Summers) and not-a-preacher’s wife Tipper Sommore (Jenna Skyy) take a terrifying ride.

Dallas filmmaker Israel Luna is working feverishly to put the finishing touches on his latest film, Kicking Zombie Ass For Jesus, which will premier Monday, Aug. 28, at The Texas Theatre, 231 W. Jefferson Blvd.

Show time is at 7:30 p.m., and fans of Israel’s films — old fans, new fans and fans yet-to-be — can expect to see many of their favorite LaLuna actors — Richard D. Curtin, Krystal Summers, Cassie Nova, Jenna Skyy, Willam Belli, Chaselyn Wade, Brad Pritchett and others —  in what Israel proudly describes as “incorporating the jittery, sloppy editing and outrageously violent and sometimes bizarre subject matter that places it in the category of a modern-day grindhouse film.”

Pastor Samuel Jeffress (Richard D, Curtin)

The premise of the movie is that a “miracle pill” intended to cure all the viral infectious diseases (like HIV) has instead turned everyone who took it into a zombie. And in one small Texas town, the only non-zombies left are a right-wing preacher, his crazy congregation and a group of LGBT folks, who now have to band together and try to overcome their own differences as they struggle to survive the zombie onslaught.

Who wouldn’t want to see THIS film? I mean, seriously, grindhouse zombies, Bible-thumpers and the gays (and lesbians and trans folk)?! Personally, I cannot wait. I am rounding up all my friends to be there on the 28th!

But apparently, some folks aren’t as excited as I am.

Israel and his cast and crew headed out to Graham, Texas to film a large portion of the movie. Graham, in case you didn’t know, is about two-and-a-half hours northwest of the DFW Metroplex. Graham is the county seat of Young County. It covers about 5.6 square miles and, as of last year, had a population of about 8,800 people.

According to Wikipedia, is the hometown of Rebecca Beale, who won the second season of the Kids Baking Championship, former Pantera bass player Rex Brown, NFL Hall of Famer Bob Lilly, PGA champ Bob Estes, former congressman Willliam D. McFarlane, Ronald Reagan’s national security advisor Robert McFarlane, 1952 track and field Olympic gold medalist Dean Smith, AND “Owen J. Baggett, the WWII B-24 Liberator crew member who on March 31, 1943 killed a Japanese pilot in his Zero aircraft while dangling from a parachute — the best shot by a .45-caliber M1911 pistol of ALL TIME.”

Zombie Adam

But what Graham is NOT, is interested in seeing the movie that Israel Luna shot there.

Now, Israel already knew that not everybody in Graham was happy to have his cast and crew there making this movie. While some of his own younger relatives had spread the word that Israel was looking for younger folks to serve as zombie extras, some of the teachers at the school were warning their students to steer clear of the movie folks. And, Israel said, one man who had talked to Richard Curtin about his kid (the town resident’s kid, not Richard’s) being a zombie extra, later went on Facebook to warn his fellow Graham residents that the cast and crew was full of homos and other perverts who were looking for children (apparently to recruit them to homosexuality or something).

But Israel had gotten help from Pam and Dave Scott, proprietors of the local Graham Drive-In Theater. And so he was looking forward to taking his finished film back to Graham, for a screening at the drive-in. But the Scotts turned him down:

“Hello Israel. Glad you are still producing film and working in the area. Unfortunately I do not think the movie you have produced will work in our area. We are a strong Baptist community and I think even the title of your  film would be offensive to many. In a small community I have to be careful about the product I put on screen. I wish you the best of luck with the new film and your future productions.
The Scott’s.”

Thankfully, the folks at the Texas Theatre aren’t so prudish. Or Baptist. Or whatever.

 

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Any rest for the White House’s weary?

Posted on 11 Aug 2017 at 8:05am

Trump’s ‘working vacation’ doesn’t give all his staff any respite from the drama

Trump.Donald

 

David WebbEveryone in an organization benefits when the boss takes a vacation. That is especially true in the case of the U.S. government, when President Donald J. Trump checked into his Bedminister, N.J., golf club for 17 days.

One can only imagine the collective sigh of relief expressed by the embattled White House staff when Trump climbed into Marine One Friday afternoon, Aug. 4, for the helicopter ride to Andrews Air Force Base where Air Force One was waiting for him.

Presumably, First Lady Melania Trump would be joining him at some point. She probably needed more time to pack the dozen or so suitcases she would need for an almost three-week trip.

Of course, not everyone on the staff could rejoice, because Trump branded his lengthy golf outing as a “working vacation.” Quite a few subordinates, obviously, would be needed to assist him in performing that “work,” whatever that might entail.

The American public also needs a break from the daily drama unfolding in the White House during the first six months of Trump’s presidency. Two-thirds of the nation gets a headache every time Trump’s blond bouffant flashes across the television screen. A full 100 percent can’t believe their eyes or ears every day.

But one-third remains loyal. They blame Democrats and the media for the mixed messages and mass confusion that led to multiple firings, forced resignations and failed legislation.

Congress wisely ensured, before the Trump entourage departed, that the vacation work could not include the firing of Special Counsel Robert Mueller by proposing legislation to limit the president. Mueller, who is investigating the possibility that the Trump campaign colluded with the Russian government to defeat Democrat Hillary Clinton in the 2016 election, enraged the president by delving into Trump family finances and empanelling a grand jury.

Nor will Trump be able to make any appointments requiring congressional approval during the summer recess.

To be fair, Trump is riding a wave of enthusiasm among his supporters because unemployment is down, the stock market is booming and illegal border crossings are down. It’s unclear how much of that is a direct result of Trump winning the presidency, but we can give him at least some credit in that regard.

Just imagine what the national sentiment would be if those factors were going in opposite directions.

“So what if Trump (who constantly belittled President Barrack Obama for taking vacations and playing golf) frequently travels to his golf clubs in New Jersey and Florida?” his supporters ask.

Media reports claim he spent 30 percent of his first six months in office at his properties. Another report suggests that at his current rate of travel, Trump will spend more money traveling in his first year in office than Obama did in the eight years of his two terms.

At 71, Trump must be exhausted.

There are four official investigations underway — one by the FBI, two in the Senate and one in the House — as to whether Russia attempted to interfere in the 2016 election, as reported in an analysis by UPI’s Danielle Haynes, who lives and works in the Dallas-Fort Worth area. Those investigations spawned another one into allegations Trump attempted to obstruct justice by firing FBI Director James Comey in May, she noted.

Then there is that messy business about Donald Trump Jr. taking a meeting with Russians representing Kremlin interests in 2016 in an alleged attempt to get dirt on Clinton and including campaign officials Paul Manafort and Jared Kushner in the gathering of eight people in Trump Tower in Manhattan.

From day one of the Trump presidency, trouble ensued as the Russian connection kept rising to the surface. His national security advisor, Michael Flynn, resigned because he allegedly misled Vice President Mike Pence about his interaction with a Russian ambassador. Later, to Trump’s chagrin, Attorney General Jeff Sessions recused himself from any investigation regarding Russian election tampering because of his prominent 2016 campaign role.

By the time Trump brought in friend and Wall Street financier Anthony Scaramucci as communications director for a fiery, entertaining 11-day tenure, the White House was in freefall. Press Secretary Sean Spicer promptly resigned, and Chief of Staff Reince Priebus quickly followed suit.

Then Scaramucci, obviously feeling bullet-proof one night, called a writer for The New Yorker and launched into the raunchiest tirade imaginable in a failed attempt to learn the identities of White House leakers. Flash forward and Scaramucci exits the stage as the new Chief of Staff John Kelly gives him the boot.

And that’s what the Trump Administration is doing — staging a maniacal farce that will likely be studied by future generations of political historians as an example of what not to do.

From his failed travel ban targeting Muslims to his announcement he would order transgender people be banned from military service, our draft-dodger-in-chief has fornicated himself. Most of his woes appear to be either a direct result of his own words and actions or sparked in part by his bragging about his influence, such as those comments concerning his business dealings with Russians. Leaked transcripts of his telephone conferences with foreign leaders revealed his willingness to deceive Americans and his ineptness at diplomacy.

By the time Trump returns to the White House in late August, it will have been outfitted with a new air conditioning system. That could be a plus for a president who is prone to heated explosions.

If he can manage to quit tweeting for a little over two weeks, he might be able to get off to a fresh start. Of course, that’s all assuming that Trump’s warning this week to Kim Jong-un that “fire and fury” would be inflicted on North Korea if it continues to threaten the U.S. doesn’t get everyone incinerated in a nuclear war first.

Of course, the First Lady is the only one who might be able to hide his phone every night, and that would require her sleeping with him. Come on, do it for your adopted country, Melania.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition August 11, 2017.

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Busch league

Posted on 11 Aug 2017 at 6:30am

Coy Covington didn’t mean to become the foremost interpreter of Charles Busch drag roles in Texas. But someone has to do it

Coy-Covington

ARNOLD WAYNE JONES | Executive Editor
jones@dallasvoice.com

Applause-BUG

 

 

 

Perhaps the most surprising thing about Uptown Players’ recent production of La Cage aux Folles was that Coy Covington had nothing to do with it — not as an actor or even as the resident wig and makeup designer. It was a rare instance when Covington — probably North Texas’ most prominent master of female illusion and the long-standing artistic associate for Uptown Players — didn’t exert his patented skill set on a show involving drag. But he has some good reasons.

6-Divine-Sister-1

Covington in ‘The Divine Sister.’

For one, he’s “been there, done that” with La Cage; Covington played Phaedra the Enigma, one of Les Cagelles dancing girls, in Birmingham, Ala., around 1990… the show that christened his gender-bending performances “on the legitimate stage,” as he elegantly puts it. And for another, Covington was busy working on another show, which opens later this month: The Tribute Artist, in which — no surprise — Covington dons a frock for his onstage characterization. But, he insists, don’t mistake him for a pageant girl.

“There’s a line in the play — which you’ve heard me say a million times and Charles has, too — where my character, Jimmy, says, ‘I am not a drag queen — I am an actor,” Covington says over a cocktail and queso.

It’s a distinction that has been hard won. A number of years ago, Covington even considered turning down the leading role in a camp comedy because it required him to play the heroine, not the hero. He worried about being pigeon-holed as “the drag actor” instead of just “the good actor.”

4-Red-Scare

‘Red Scale on Sunset.’

He ended up doing the play — Charles Busch’s Red Scare on Sunset — and hasn’t looked back. Indeed, something magical has happened since then: Covington has embraced his identity as “North Texas’ answer to Charles Busch,” and made a career out of putting his own take on the playwright and actor’s signature comedies. And neither he nor Busch himself could be more pleased.

“Coy brings to my work a genuine star presence,” Busch says of his Doppelganger. “I’m thrilled that Coy has played so many of my roles. I’ve never had the opportunity to tour in one of my plays, so this is a great way for Dallas to see my work.”

In all, Covington has appeared in about a dozen Busch plays (sometimes in multiple productions), starting with Theodora, She-Bitch of Byzantium and continuing through such deliciously outrageous shows as Pardon My Inquisition or Kiss the Blood Off My Castanets, Vampire Lesbians of Sodom, Sleeping Beauty or Coma, Die, Mommie, Die!, Psycho Beach Party, The Divine Sister and now, finally, The Tribute Artist, which opens Aug. 25 at the Kalita Humphreys Theater.

The names alone of most of these plays are certain to bring a grin to your face, always made more delightful by the gimmick inherent in all of them: The a man in a dress plays the protagonist — not as a drag queen, or even a cross-dresser or trans person, but as an actual woman. All of Busch’s plays maintain that fantasy… except, it turns out, the latest one. And that was one of the things that drew Covington to the role.

7-Psycho-Beach-Party-1

Psycho Beach Party.’

“One of the things that interested me about it, that drew me in, is that Jimmy is a female impersonator, not a woman — the first one of these roles that Charles has written” like that, he says. “Hopefully that will give me a chance to play [it a different way].”

The premise is that Jimmy, a struggling drag queen, impersonates his landlady after she dies so that he doesn’t lose her Greenwich Village apartment. Things go, of course, horribly and hilariously wrong. But even though Jimmy is a man, Covington remains in drag the entire time.

“Jimmy keeps up the charade of the plot, but while I change wigs once, the real reason there is no reveal is that a rapid transition in and out of drag is very hard,” Covington says. “That makeup is like warpaint, and doesn’t go on easily or quickly. You can take it off quickly, but you end up looking like a peeled onion, and I don’t want to look like a peeled onion; neither does Charles.”

There is an element of Mutual Admiration Society in the relationship between Covington and Busch. “Everyone is so respectful of Charles, because he’s so good,” Covington says. “I think Charles is at his best when he throws in nasty shit for no reason. But everything that comes out of my mouth is word-for-word what he writes, which is a heightened syntax — a lot of it is difficult to memorize. The trick is, you have to do it completely straight. He has written the comedy in there — you don’t have to impose yours on it.”

5-Coy-Charles---Die-Mommie

Covington and Busch at the opening night of ‘Die, Mommie, Die!’ at Uptown Players. (Photo by Arnold Wayne Jones)

Busch, for his part, says Covington’s understanding of that is what makes his performances so good.

“As a comic playwright, I hope that a production is able to mine all of the laughs that I’ve provided in the dialogue but not at the expense of genuine emotion and human behavior,” Busch says. “The Tribute Artist is a zany, outrageous comedy, but the root of the story is about the desperation of getting older, of being young and searching for your future. There’s a lot going on. Coy is immensely likeable and has an established relationship to an audience, so a big part of the heavy lifting is accomplished before the play begins.”

Of course, it’s not just in Busch plays where Covington has plied his acting skills. He’s also been in Mommie Queerest as Joan Crawford, as a special guest in UP’s annual Broadway Our Way fundraising revue, and other performances. But, I tell him, he’ll always be associated with Busch because “you do it better than anyone.”

Covington glances down and picks up his wine. A moment later, he demurely says, “True.”  

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition August 11, 2017.

       

 

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Don’t undervalue our bars

Posted on 10 Aug 2017 at 4:15pm

The closing of BJ’s NXS! highlights the reasons we need our LGBT bars

chad-mantoothLast week we learned that BJ’S NXS! on Fitzhugh is closing its doors because they have lost the lease on their space. I’ve only lived in Dallas for six years but have been told this property was a gay bar for more than 40 years. I know I have spent many a weekend night there and have undoubtedly funded a few dancer college educations.

So, it hurts to see this place go.

Some friends and I were talking about the bar closing recently, and while most of them felt the way I do, others didn’t feel the same at all. One said he never went to the club because it was “gross,” and another opined, “Why go out at all when I can find guys online?”

Now, I can respect differing opinions. But I still feel the closure of ANY gay bar as a bad thing for the community overall.

When we lose any LGBT-owned establishment, the whole LGBT community loses. We should look to the bar owners as leaders in the LGBT community and see their bars/nightclubs as building blocks in the community.

In the early years of the AIDS crisis in the 1980s, bars became the home base for fundraising events, community building and awareness. And LGBT Americans have always turned to bars and nightlife to provide an escape from persistent prejudice and to carve out safe spaces of their own.

I remember the first time I walked into my first gay bar; the feeling was overwhelming! Just to be in the presence of other people like me gave me such a feeling of power and inclusion — a feeling I’ve never gotten from any of the dating apps I use.

And regarding apps — Let’s be real! Online dating apps have changed the nightclub business. I feel Grindr is effective, for the most part, for hooking up and mindless chatter (We’ve all done it). But looking at 100 online profiles, I can count on one hand how many are looking for actual relationships.

It’s not uncommon for gay men to see romantic storylines in the media or online and think they should be living that “perfect” life. Trust me it is easy to get sucked into that narrative. I know I’ve stared at more than one person online, thinking, “Why can’t that be me?!”

But the bars have a distinct advantage over these apps: Every guy you meet at a bar COULD be “The One”’ or “Mr. Right.” Sure, that may be unlikely, but you can keep going.

Real connections only sound nice and fairytale-like when people leave out the bad drunk hook-ups and all the compromises they go through before they decide they’ve really met the right one. But when you go out to bars, you are getting that “real connection” with another person that you just can’t get online.

Something else to consider in thinking about the bar business is the redevelopment of cities. In the past, I’ve noticed that gay bars were often hidden away in low-rent, seedy and disadvantaged areas of cities where industry and residences were in decline. The bars located in those areas, and then LGBT people would move in to be closer to activities and opportunities that were more open, welcoming or hospitable to them.

Then these new LGBT residents improve the neighborhoods, making them the trendy place to be. That attracts other open-minded people that want to be on the cutting edge of rising values and appeal. Young, upwardly-mobile heterosexual couples start flocking in and, when the families start popping up all over, suddenly there’s a clear change in the wind. And the very building blocks that caused such a revitalization — the LGBT bars and nightclubs and the LGBT residents — are pushed out.

It starts with steeply rising rents then comes a shift in attitude by those that want to eliminate what they see as unsavory or inappropriate or unsuitable to a child-friendly environment, and suddenly the gayborhood isn’t all that gay anymore.

Hell, most every night I go out I can count on seeing at least two bachelorette parties and TONS of straight people at the bars. And once the condos with families start taking over, that’s pretty much the end of the cycle.

I expect to see condos or an office building in the BJ’S location within a year.

As with any safe haven in a tough world, nightclubs had to develop strong exteriors to protect the valuable community inside; they’ve always bravely battled harassment, bounced back and rebuilt or relocated — despite overwhelming odds.

I hope that we as a community realize how much bars are the glue that holds our community together. We need to embrace them and support them as much as we can.

So get off that phone and go out and actually meet someone in real life; Mr. Right could be at the end of the next bar you belly up to!

Chad Mantooth is advertising director for Dallas Voice and Out North Texas.

 

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Dallas Stars condemn bathroom bill

Posted on 10 Aug 2017 at 2:48pm

The Dallas Stars on Wednesday, Aug. 9, put out a statement opposing the bathroom bill and became the first professional sports team to do so.

“We’ve been working closely with the Dallas Sports Commission and with Visit Dallas,” said Dallas Stars spokesman Ben Fromstein, explaining why the team issued the statement against the bills.

The NHL isn’t in favor of the bill that would discriminate against some of its fans, either. When the league announced Dallas would host the NHL draft next year, they also warned, “We strongly oppose the bill in its original form,” and said if the bill passed, “We would have to reassess if that happens.”

The Dallas Stars President and CEO James R. Lites issued the statement on behalf of the team.

“Jim speaks for all of us,” Fromstein said.

He said the reaction has been “overwhelmingly positive” with minor pushback on Facebook and Twitter.

Here’s the team’s statement:

When the Stars moved to Dallas in 1993 we were fortunate to encounter success early on, and we’ve cultivated what we consider to be the best fan base in the National Hockey League. Dallas was warm and welcoming when we came to this great city 25 years ago, and it remains so today. The Dallas Stars stands strongly opposed to any legislation perceived as discriminatory, including proposed bathroom legislation. We welcome fans from all over the globe, and our roster boasts players from half a dozen countries. Dallas welcomes all, and we welcome all.

We’re thrilled that Dallas will host the NHL Draft next year, and we’re grateful that the NHL sees the true Dallas that we know and love, a Dallas that is friendly and vibrant. Dallas will be a wonderful host city and we’re grateful for the NHL’s business. We are proud of our home and want every visitor to feel at home here, too, and that’ s why we oppose this discriminatory bathroom legislation.

For tickets to Dallas Stars games, call 214-467-8277 or buy them online. Pre-season begins Sept. 19. 

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SCREEN REVIEW: ‘The Only Living Boy in New York’

Posted on 10 Aug 2017 at 12:55pm

Callum Tucker and Kate Beckinsale

Thomas Webb (Callum Turner) is the nerd-handsome, post-college scion of a wealthy Upper West Side couple who wears his scruffy mop of hair, bee-stung lips and mopey, bespectacled eyes like a uniform of overprivileged angst. He’s in love with a girl — he’s even slept with her, once (he remembers the exact date, too) — but she’s little more than an unattainable statue of hetero-hormonal lust; she likes him “as a friend,” and doesn’t see why he wants to muddle things up. Oh, and she has a boyfriend, how can he expect her to be available?

Young love. So stupid. So real.

Thomas eventually seeks counsel from a mysterious downstairs neighbor played by Jeff Bridges, whose elliptical advice recalls The Dude without the halo of pot smoke and with a nicer wardrobe. When Thomas catches his father (Pierce Brosnan) cheating on his mom (Cynthia Nixon) with Johanna (Kate Beckinsale), he refocusses his obsession on her — putatively to protect his prickly, bipolar mother, but ultimately because she’s a woman who gives him the attention he craves. And Johanna’s fucking daddy, so he gets the bonus of Oedipal revenge.

The Only Living Boy in New York is directed Marc Webb, who helmed both of the Andrew Garfield Spider-Man movies (Amazing 1 and 2). But before he sold out to Hollywood’s voracious comic-book-adaptation leviathan, Webb directed the delightful (500) Days of Summer, another wistful romance about a sad-sack doomed because he “feels too much.” It’s a much tighter fit for his skill-set — an NYC populated by laconic hipsters instead of mutant lizards and superconducting humanoids. (Although, to be fair, UWS denizens are their own form of mutant.)

Cynthia Nixon and Pierce Brosnan

Screenwriter Allen Loeb (Collateral Beauty, The Space Between Us) has mastered the kind of arch but lovely dialogue that Whit Stillman has a patent-pending on — smart and erudite, but not overtly comedic. (The Coens and Woody Allen do the same thing, but there’s usually a punchline lurking in the back somewhere.) Its detached modernism evokes the city-lit of the 1980s and ’90s; the presence of Wallace Shawn even completes the circle of its My Dinner with Andre intellectualism. None of these are criticism. Indeed, it’s refreshing to experience such smart, omniscient narration from a newfound source.

The poignant voice-overs that slyly comment on a montage of assorted characters bearing out the ideas (another Woody speciality) are wonderful, as are the performances that undergird them. Turner recalls Eddie Redmayne with sex appeal, and Bridges inquisitive squints betray an earned wisdom. (“Congratulations Thomas — your world is becoming contextual,” he imparts.) Even in the smallish role of the fragile mom, Nixon bristles with lived-in pain.

Loeb does too-happily imbue Thomas with a faux moral rectitude, and the plot complications are less complications the tropes of the genre (including a closeted gay billionaire who uses Johanna as a beard and a tearful lovers’ confrontation in a rainy alley at night). But who really cares? Romantic comedies — or dramadies, which Only Living Boy is — rely on expectations and how we deal with them. The wandering hopelessness of hearts coming together and eventually breaking is universal.

The template for this kind of savvy storytelling dates back to at least The Graduate; there’s even a Paul Simon song on the soundtrack. This doesn’t detract from the film’s originality, but ties it to a greater community of sophisticated, urbane relationship movies. The Only Living Boy in New York deserves its spot inside that pantheon.

Four stars. Opens Friday at the Angelika Mockingbird Station and Cinemark Plano.

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BREAKING: Lambda Legal sues Houston over spousal benefits

Posted on 10 Aug 2017 at 12:21pm
Upton.Ken

Lambda Legal Senior Counsel Kenneth Upton

Lambda Legal and co-counsel Morgan, Lewis & Bockius LLP filed a federal lawsuit today (Thursday, Aug. 10) against Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner and the city of Houston, on behalf of three married couples, to preserve health coverage and other benefits for the same-sex spouses of city employees.

Despite the U.S. Supreme Court’s 2015 Obergefell ruling declaring marriage equality to be law nationwide, these benefits were put at risk after two taxpayers convinced the Texas Supreme Court that Texas cities could deny married same-sex couples the rights of marriage, according to a press release issued this morning by Lambda Legal.

The Texas Supreme Court issued its ruling in the other case, Pidgeon v. Parker, in late June.

Kenneth Upton, senior counsel in Lambda Legal’s Dallas-based South Central Regional Office, said, “Our clients are angered by the notion that in 2017 their marriages would be deemed inferior to other marriages. Today we are standing up for lesbian, gay, and bisexual Houston city workers and their same-sex spouses against those who seek to demean and diminish them.”

In Freeman v. Turner and City of Houston, Lambda Legal and Morgan Lewis are representing Noel Freeman, Yadira Estrada and Ron Reeser.

Freeman is division manager with the city of Houston Public Works & Engineering Office and a 13-year employee of the city. He married his husband, Brad Pritchett, in Washington, D.C. in 2010.

Estrada has been a city of Houston police officer for 10 years. She married her partner, Jennifer Flores, in Maine in June 2013, after they had been together for seven years.

Reeser is a systems administrator for the city and 12-year city employee. He married his husband, Vince Olivier, after they had been together for three years.

The lawsuit also asks the federal district court to prevent the city of Houston from compelling repayment of employee benefits already provided.

Upton said that Freeman v. Turner is similar to a lawsuit Lambda Legal filed four years ago against Houston and then-Mayor Annise Parker in response to Pidgeon, which blocked Mayor Parker from extending benefits to the same-sex spouses of city employees. At that time, city officials had determined that an earlier U.S. Supreme Court ruling, U.S. v. Windsor, striking down part of the so-called Defense of Marriage Act, required that benefits be equally available to the legal different-sex or same-sex spouses of city employees.

A Texas state district judge ruled in favor of the taxpayers, but the Texas Court of Appeals overturned that decision in the wake of the Obergefell ruling. Also after Obergefell, Lambda Legal settled and dismissed its original Freeman lawsuit.

The plaintiffs in Pidgeon, however, petitioned the Texas Supreme Court for review. Although the Texas Supreme Court initially declined to hear the case, in the fall of 2016, the court reversed itself following a concerted lobbying effort that included amicus briefs from Gov. Greg Abbott and Attorney General Ken Paxton, and reinstated the taxpayers’ lawsuit.

 

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STAGE REVIEW: ‘Hit the Wall’

Posted on 09 Aug 2017 at 3:11pm

Walter Lee and Garret Storms. Photo by Jason Anderson.

June 27, 1969, was a swelteringly hot day in New York City, but in many ways, it was just like any other day. Word had just hit that Judy Garland had died in London, and there was a pall cast over the “Friends of Dorothy” making their ways through life in Greenwich Village — a tough life already, at that. It was less than 50 years before same-sex marriage was recognized as a federal constitution right, and yet New York City law forbade men from wearing more than three articles of “women’s clothing” (and vice versa) or risk arrest. People were upfront with their homophobia, and in the clear majority. Gay culture was trying to assert itself in the only ways it knew how — bitchy shade-throwing catcalls from flouncy, defiant Latinos; dignified trans women cowed into subservience so as not to draw the attention of the cops, but still going out in public in pumps and a smart A-line; tense dykes hoping their “tom-boy” demeanor might make them palatable to dashiki-wearing activists. There was a code, and there were codes (penal, social). And it just so happened this night was not the night to be enforcing any of them.

The smack heard round the world. Photo by Jason Anderson.

Of course, we mostly all know what happened after midnight that night, as a raid on the Stonewall Inn triggered four nights of rioting … and sparked the modern gay rights movement. The history of the movement, and even the factual details of that night, are not really the subject of Hit the Wall, receiving its regional debut now at WaterTower Theatre. Playwright Ike Holter leaves the facts to the historians (he even makes a refrain of the claim “I was there,” which, if all such assertions were accurate, would make the Stonewall Inn roughly the side of Yankee Stadium). Holter is aiming for something more important than reality — he’s aiming for truth.

Because the truth is, all of us were there, in spirit if not body. We owe a lot to those outsiders (whoever they really were) who took a stand. The scenes that play out in Hit the Wall register because they are so familiar, or at least feel so possible, as much in 2017 as in 1969. So far away, and yet so close.

The play itself has some structural issues; I’m not a huge fan of the “multiple narrator” technique of having virtually every cast member break the fourth wall and address the audience in the serious tone of an sex-ed film strip, or the use of repetition to lend an air of poetic motif. But most of those concerns drift away once the production — a dazzling, uninterrupted 85 minutes — gets rolling.

The cast is small but efficiently used; you get a sense for the tumult and anger from just a handful of actors (only one, Gregory Lush, plays a cop — a vastly disproportionate ratio, to be sure). But Joanie Schultz — WaterTower’s new artistic director, making her North Texas debut — has assembled a crackerjack ensemble of some of the best theater artists around: Walter Lee as the cross-dressing Carson; Garret Storms as the good-natured vagabond; Kelsey Leigh Ervi as the lesbian as buttoned-up emotional as her flannel shirt; and Lush, whose utility at moving from playing gay to gay-bashing makes him one of our most protean actors.

Hit the Wall is a big-shouldered play to make your local premiere with, and Schultz proves herself accomplished at both challenging audiences and delivering the goods.

Through Aug. 20.

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Marriage equality around the world

Posted on 09 Aug 2017 at 1:26pm
Haiti

Charlot Jeudy

Charlot Jeudy with Kouraj, an LGBT rights group in Haiti, said on Monday, Aug. 7, that his organization is fighting to head off a proposed law that would ban same-sex marriage in that island nation, along with an pro-LGBT demonstrations.

A bill passed by the Haitian Senate last week provides for up to three years in prison and a fine of about $8,000 for either party to a marriage not between a man and a woman. The bill also would prohibit any public support or advocacy for LGBTQ rights.

Haitian law already specifically defines marriage as between a man and a woman.

Jeudy said the legislation would violate Haiti’s constitution and his group will try to persuade members of the Chamber of Deputies to reject it. “We have the right to protest and we have the right to be who we are and we have the right to be free” he said.

Last September, a cultural festival celebrating the LGBT community in Port-au-Prince was canceled the after organizers received threats and a local government official said he would prohibit the event he said violates the country’s moral values.

 

Ireland

Irish Prime Minister Leo Varadkar, speaking Saturday, Aug. 5, at a gay Pride event in Belfast, said it is “only a matter of time” before same-sex marriage is legalized in Northern Ireland, the only part of the United Kingdom where it still is banned.

A 2015 voter referendum legalized marriage equality in the republic of Ireland.

The issue has been one of the sticking points preventing the restoration of the Catholic-Protestant power-sharing government in Northern Ireland. The Democratic Unionists, Northern Ireland’s biggest British Protestant party and a key partner to British Prime Minister Theresa May’s government, has opposed same-sex marriage. The Catholic nationalist Sinn Fein supports it.

 

Australia

Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull said Tuesday, Aug. 8 that the Parliament in his country could legalize gay marriage this year if the nation’s voters endorse it in a rare nonbinding poll in November.

Turnbull said he expected the public would support marriage equality in the so-called plebiscite, and that he would personally campaign for a “yes” vote. It would be only the fourth time in Australian history, and first time in 43 years, that the government puts a legally nonbinding question to the electorate.

The conservative Liberal Party-led coalition was narrowly re-elected in July 2016 with a promise to let voters decide whether Australia should recognize same-sex marriage through a popular vote. But the Senate in November blocked the plebiscite, which would cost $135 million (in U.S. dollars) and promote a divisive public debate.

The Liberal Party held a crisis meeting late Monday to resolve infighting and rejected a push to allow lawmakers to decide the issue now. The government on Tuesday endorsed the party decision to ask the Senate this week to reconsider allowing the plebiscite, which would be held Nov. 25. Voting would be compulsory and failure to vote would be punishable by a fine, though a voluntary vote would be held if the Senate again rejects the measure.

If most Australians want gay marriage, the Parliament would vote on legislation before the last two-week session of Parliament of the year ends on Dec. 7.

Gay-rights advocates say enough lawmakers already back marriage equality to make same-sex marriage legal in Australia now. For the first time in Australian history, both the prime minister and opposition leader back the reform.

 

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