BREAKING: Judge won’t lift stay in Texas gay marriage case

Posted on 12 Dec 2014 at 11:02am

GayTexasFlagA federal judge has declined to allow Texas same-sex couples to marry before the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals can rule on the case.

U.S. District Judge Orlando Garcia in San Antonio declared Texas’ same-sex marriage ban unconstitutional in February. But he stayed the ruling anticipating an appeal by Texas officials. Then–Attorney General and now Governor-elect Greg Abbott, a Republican, filed an appeal.

The Fifth Circuit has scheduled a hearing for Jan. 9 for the Texas case as well as for Mississippi and Louisiana.




Black Tie Dinner distribution party

Posted on 12 Dec 2014 at 9:41am

Black Tie Dinner distributed $1 million on Dec. 11 at the Renaissance Hotel.


The ‘Golden Rule’ is not enough

Posted on 12 Dec 2014 at 7:35am


Plano serves as the perfect example of why nondiscrimination laws are necessary, despite progress made

Despite where I stand on some political issues, I do understand the desire of many people to want to limit the role of government in their lives. And I understand firsthand the importance of faith and why people want to protect their ability to exercise their religion in their churches as they see fit.

I may not agree with their beliefs, but the Constitution of the United States says others’ religious freedom doesn’t require my consent.
But some religious people — many of them the same ones squawking about the government interfering too much in their personal lives — use the first amendment’s protection of religion as a license to discriminate against people who might not fit into their narrow views.

So, after sitting through three very long, unnerving hours at the Plano City Council meeting Monday night, Dec. 8, where they were holding a public forum on expanding the city’s nondiscrimination policy to include veteran status, sexual orientation and gender identity, I can assure you that our country still, absolutely, needs laws that protect some of its most vulnerable citizens.
Todd Whitley
At the outset, I started typing a transcript of the speakers. The very first speaker, before finishing with a threat to sue the city, decried, “We will see people of faith subject to criminalization.” The crowd, despite being asked to remain quiet, went wild, as if Dirk Nowitzki had just drained a massive three pointer in a defender’s face.

The hate continued:

“Government should not influence religion or limit people from acting on their religious beliefs,” the second speaker asserted.

“The pendulum of progress should not swing too far,” said the next.

A pastor of a church relocating from Dallas to Plano got up and said that the ordinance was a threat to public safety and freedom of religion and criticized the council for equating “race and veteran status with sexual conduct.” His final reminder to the council was against changing the fabric of Plano.

The next speaker proclaimed he knew of no instances where peoples’ rights were currently being denied and was worried that the people protected by the amended policy would become some type of special beneficiaries.

(This doe-eyed theme of “no discrimination in Plano” would be repeated several times throughout the night.)

After a couple more speakers, I gave up; I couldn’t type anymore of the bile.

With a precious few exceptions, the rest of the speakers came out against the ordinance with a mix of borrowed talking points, various untruths, the plea for more time, the “financial burden to small business” argument, and of course the choruses of “You’re persecuting us by taking away our rights to discriminate.” (That’s my paraphrase, of course.)

Not all the voices were hate-filled, nor were all the Christian viewpoints contradictory to the axiom to treat others as we want to be treated.

A straight man in his early 20s said in his remarks that he was standing with his lesbian sister and urged the city to do the same. A straight faith leader in the community professed her support as an expression of her faith — while being heckled for going over her time limit. During her remarks in support of the amended policy, a lifelong Plano resident and lesbian would ask those of us in support to stand with her.

I had forgotten the practice of some pro-equality folks to wear red to meetings like this; I stood up anyway, thankful I had at least worn burgundy-colored pants. I think this is the first time I really felt my face flush when I stood up for what I believed.

The majority of our allies were on the opposite side of the chamber; only about six to eight of us were where I was sitting. Many members of the audience craned their necks to look at us and sneer, or they looked away, shaking their heads as if in disgust.

Followers of Jesus? Really?

By the time the 30-plus speakers finished, I was emotionally exhausted and concerned not only about the vote count but also about my safety walking to my car when it was over.

I sat there, the hateful words echoing painfully in my head, realizing that despite how far we’ve come, how much equality has been won, there are people hell-bent on using religion, of all things, to keep us from realizing our Constitution-given rights.

But the mayor was next.

Diligent and prepared for the vote that was about to occur, but also visibly frustrated by the opposition’s lack of respect for the governing body and the process, the mayor was clear and resolute. The unnerving fervor of the riled-up religious folks — who lacked only torches and pitchforks to complete the picture — did not deter the mayor, who left no doubt: The city was going to pass this because it was the right thing to do. (You know, “love your neighbor as yourself” kinda stuff.)

And expectedly, they were furious.

“Religious liberty! Fewer laws!” was the theme of the opposition.

But if we trusted the “good judgment” of people — as a couple folks asked — women might still not be voting and we might still have slavery. The same kinds of laws that were necessary to force people to let women vote or own property, to allow people of different races to marry, to require citizens to serve all people regardless of race are still very much needed today for gay and transgender people.

The same people who scream about their lack of rights to discriminate against gay and transgender people are the direct descendants of the people who once needed the laws to force them to treat women and blacks and disabled people equally.

Personally, I am disgusted by those who sling around terms like “homosexual conduct” (they are using that word purposefully) and the sheer gall of those who reduce the experience of transgender people to “a man who would put on a dress in order to prey on a woman or a child in a bathroom.”

Plain and simple, these people are not truth-tellers. The Jesus of their Bible neither addressed loving, same-gender relationships nor explained his views of those who choose to express their gender based on what the individual — not society — believes it to be. (Hint: love your freakin neighbor as yourself).

But Jesus did talk a lot about telling the truth and about loving people.

The notion that anyone’s bathroom safety is at risk because of allowing a person to self-determine which bathroom to use is an outright fabrication. Like choosing to walk on the other side of the sidewalk when a black man is approaching, a person may feel uncomfortable around a transgender person. But bias is not protected by law.

Transgender people simply want to use the bathroom safely just like everyone else.

Further, the belief that someone’s religion allows them to discriminate is wholly against the scripture these people claim to adhere to so vigorously. Faith gives no one license to refuse to serve someone of a different color, or to own them and make them harvest their cotton, or make them stay in the home and keep silent with no say in society, or . …

Wait. What century are we in? Seriously.

I am grateful that yet another municipality saw fit to stand for those among them who need the protection of government. I admire the bravery of their stand and how many did so outwardly, because their faith compelled them to.

How I wish we didn’t need laws to compel citizens to do the right thing, that we could rely on the good judgment of people, that we could trust the words of those claiming to practice a guideline suggested by many different religions: “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.”

But we are not there yet.

Not even close.
Todd Whitley is a local activist and communications manager for Equality Texas. He can usually be found tweeting (@toddwhitley), holding a picket sign, thrift store shopping or eating Tex-Mex. Read his blog at

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition December 12, 2014


Dallas Voice investigation lands National Family Coalition in hot water

Posted on 11 Dec 2014 at 5:24pm

AFC Side 1The group behind an anti-LGBT mailer in the Senate District 10 race is now subject to a campaign finance complaint in Colorado.

The complaint against the National Family Coalition and other groups was filed Dec. 9 by Mario Nicolais and Lang Sias, two former Republican candidates for the Colorado Senate.

I first broke the story about an anti-LGBT mailer sent by the Virginia-based National Family Coalition to residents of the state’s only competitive senate seat, Senate District 10, a week before the Nov. 4 elections. A follow-up investigative piece published Nov. 3 revealed the murky origins of the group, which is connected to many hard-right operatives in Colorado and Virginia.

Check out the complaints against the National Family Coalition, Christian Coalition of Colorado, Colorado for Family Values and Colorado Citizens for Right to Work here. Check out the separate complaint against Colorado Campaign for life here.



A few people we think of when we think 2014

Posted on 11 Dec 2014 at 2:27pm
BWDP_Bruce profile-1

Bruce Wood

Tomorrow’s edition of Dallas Voice reveals our annual choice for LGBT Texan of the Year. I won’t spoil who we chose, but in going over the year in my mind, some names stuck out — they were on my mind during 2014 a lot, for a variety of reasons. For instance, Bruce Wood — a friend and also one of the most frighteningly talented artists Texas has ever seen (I swear that’s not an exaggeration) — passed away, far too soon, at age 53 this past May. We did a cover story about Bruce the following week, cause he touched so many lives.

The community also reacted strongly to the passing of Chris Miklos, a muscleman popular in the bear community, but also a medical researcher who did a lot of good for people. Just a few weeks ago, I was stunned and saddened by the death, at age 31, of Brandon James Singleton, an actor, dancer and funny, skilled writer (he contributed a terrific series to Dallas Voice in 2012 about turning 30). Just as recently, two community leaders — Paul Lewis, a former executive with Caven and Steve Bratka, a huge fundraiser for the Tarrant County Stonewall Democrats — passed away.

Wed Steve Dan

Noviello and Bedner

Not everyone who resonated died, of course. Mark Pharris and Victor Holmes of Plano won a marriage equality against the state of Texas — bully for them! And bully, too, for Jack Evans and George Harris, who finally tied the knot last March after more than decades as a couple (though not legally binding, their retired pastor wanted to make a statement to the Methodist Church). TV personality Steve Noviello did enter wedded bliss — legally — to his partner Doug Bedner in New York. Matt Miller brought the Gay World Series of Softball back to Dallas, and we were all glad to see thousands of athletes out at the clubs. And Stephan Pyles got more recognition for his cuisine for his new restaurant, San Salvaje. We were also pleased as punch when our favorite radio commentator, Rawlins Gilliland, did his first live spoken word show … and it was such a hit, he did several more.

There were some important allies who we cheered on, as well, from failed gubernatorial candidate Wendy Davis and lieutenant governor hopeful Leticia Van de Putte. Local chef John Tesar caused such a stir in the foodie community, we were happy he was on our side as a gay-friendly restaurateur. And Dale Hansen raised the bar high early on with his full-throated advocacy for gays in sports.

Think we left off someone important? Possibly — feel free to weigh in with comments. Then again, maybe they are in tomorrow’s paper — or even on the cover! Check it out Friday!


Fort Worth ‘pastor’ threatens ‘faggots’ with death

Posted on 11 Dec 2014 at 12:17pm
Screen shot 2014-12-11 at 12.10.08 PM

“Pastor” Donnie Romero

As marriage equality spreads and cities like Plano pass nondiscrimination ordinances, LGBT bigots are becoming more venomous.

Pastor Donnie Romero of Stedfast Baptist Church in Fort Worth is preaching that gays should be put to death.

The website for the church does not list an address, so it’s unknown whether this is a real congregation. In a video the church released, Romero is posed at a podium against a blank wall.

“I’m not going to let these dirty faggots in my church,” he says on a video he released. “They’re all pedophiles.”

The only voices in the background is a baby’s cry and the voice of one man. Those sounds may have been added to this manufactured piece.

However, the “pastor” does seem to be threatening the lives of people and Fort Worth police have been contacted.


Same-sex couples half as likely to divorce as straights

Posted on 11 Dec 2014 at 11:20am

Williams-Institute-Logo copyA new study by the Williams Institute found that gay and lesbian couples who marry are half as likely to divorce as straight couples.

The study found that 1.1 percent of same-sex couples dissolve their relationships each year while 2 percent of opposite-sex couples divorce.

While same-sex marriage is new in most states, the statistics include 13 years of data from domestic partnerships in California and almost 10 years of data from civil unions in New Jersey.

The study also found female couples are more likely than male couples to formalize their relationships. Also, even in states that already had marriage equality, same-sex couples were more likely to marry after the Windsor decision that struck down part of the Defense of Marriage Act.


Olgin murder trial update

Posted on 10 Dec 2014 at 2:06pm
David Strickland

David Strickland

David Strickland appeared for a status hearing in November in a case in which he pleaded not guilty to multiple charges, including murder, in connection with a 2012 attack on lesbian couple Mollie Olgin and Kristene Chapa in Portland, Texas.

Demonstrators outside the courtroom demanded the defendant be charged with a hate crime as well as for sexually assaulting both women, shooting both and killing one. Although detectives never ruled out hate as a motive, prosecutors said there was no evidence the attack was a hate crime.

The attack took place in a park about midnight on a Saturday night in June 2012. Both Chapa and Olgin were shot. Chapa survived.

Vigils were held in both Dallas and Fort Worth at the time of the murder and more than $2,000 was raised in the area to help Crime Stoppers find the murderer.

The trial will take place in the San Patricio County Courthouse in Sinton, north of Corpus Christi.

Strickland’s wife was also arrested in June. She was suspected of tampering with evidence, but that charge has been dropped.

Strickland appeared in court wearing a bullet-proof vest and defense attorneys may ask for a change of venue. The next hearing is set for Feb. 6.


Fayetteville repeals nondiscrimination ordinance

Posted on 10 Dec 2014 at 11:48am

map_of_fayetteville_arVoters in Fayetteville, Ark., repealed a nondiscrimination ordinance passed by the city council in August. The special election was held on Tuesday, Dec. 9.

According to the Fayetteville Flyer, the vote was 7,523 votes for repeal and 7,040 against.

The ordinance prohibited landlords from evicting someone or businesses from firing someone because of sexual orientation, gender identity, socioeconomic background, marital status or veteran status.

Voters in Fayetteville repealed a similar law in 1998, according to the city’s newspaper.

So it’s now legal once again to fire someone because he’s a veteran or deny housing to a couple who was legally married in Arkansas earlier this year.


Plano passes nondiscrimination ordinance, but with limits

Posted on 09 Dec 2014 at 10:18am

PlanoWith Toyota moving U.S. headquarters to Plano, the Plano City Council this week addressed concerns expressed by the company earlier this year about the city and state’s lack of protections for its LGBT residents.

Last night (Monday, Dec. 8), the council expanded its nondiscrimination ordinance to include sexual orientation and gender identity — but the ordinance comes with quite a few restrictions. Religious, political, governmental, educational and non-profit organizations are exempt, except those doing business with the city.

There’s a bathroom clause that allows businesses to segregate restrooms based on gender. That condition may be taken by some as a green light to discriminate against transgender employees and patrons of businesses, despite protection based on gender identity.

The governmental exemption doesn’t exempt Plano from discriminating, but it doesn’t require Collin County to provide the same protections in order to continue working with the city.

Liberty Institute was at the Plano City Council meeting to call the ordinance unconstitutional and threatening to sue the city if it passed.

Plano had a population of 270,000 in the last census, making it the ninth largest city in Texas and 70th largest city in the U.S.