Democrats call on attorney general to resign

Posted on 02 Mar 2017 at 1:55pm

Rep. Marc Veasey

During his confirmation hearings, U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions said he had no contact with Russian officials. But The Washington Post has now reported that Sessions met with the Russian ambassador twice over the last year while Sessions was involved in the Trump campaign.

Republicans have called on Sessions to recuse himself from an investigation into Russian interference in the presidential election. But Democrats are calling on Sessions to resign after perjuring himself during the confirmation hearings.

Rep. Marc Veasey, D-Fort Worth, is among those calling on Sessions to resign. Veasey released the following statement today (Thursday, March 2):

“Despite swearing under oath that he had no contact with Russian officials during the 2016 Presidential campaign, it is now clear that Attorney General Sessions was not honest and forthright in his responses. While I opposed Session’s original nomination based on his deplorable civil rights record, this latest revelation makes it even clearer that he is not fit to hold our country’s highest law enforcement position.

“I repeat House Democrats’ call to create an independent, bi-partisan investigation into Russian influence on the presidential campaign and within the Trump administration. Republicans have repeatedly ignored our requests and instead continued to shield the Trump administration from a fair, transparent investigation. The American people deserve answers and it is time for Attorney General Sessions to recuse him from any Russian related investigation and resign from his position permanently.”

Rep. Eddie Bernice Johnson called on Trump to appoint an independent prosecutor:

“It is not enough for Attorney General Sessions to recuse himself for an independent investigation into President Trump’s Russian ties. If it is proven that he was not truthful under oath then he cannot represent the American people because he has lost our confidence in his ability to review any question brought before him. In a written questionnaire by the Senator Leahy, a Judiciary Committee Democrat, asked ‘had [Sessions] been in contact with anyone connected to any part of the Russian government about the 2016 election, either before or after election day.’ Sessions replied, ‘no.’ Of all the people in the Cabinet you expect to be above any question of honesty is the Attorney General. If the allegations are proven to be truthful, it does not matter if the president stands by Attorney General Sessions, the American people should not.  As a symbol of law enforcement above reproach, we need an Attorney General that exemplifies as such.

“This is all the more reason why we need to commission an independent, non-partisan entity to investigate the seriousness of these allegations with president’s political, personal and financial connections with Russia.”

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Trans Pride Initiative holding vigil for slain community members

Posted on 02 Mar 2017 at 11:13am

Trans Pride Initiative is inviting everyone to participate in a Community Candlelight Memorial and Rally for Trans Inclusiveness on Friday, March 3, from 7-8 p.m. at Reverchon Park Recreation Center, 3400 Maple Ave.

“We invite you to celebrate the love and lives of our transgender sisters and brother we’ve lost this year,” organizer Shannon Walker wrote on the Facebook page announcing the event. “We are getting off to a horrible start in 2017, so community awareness and support is desperately needed at this urgent time.”

Walker said the vigil will be live-streamed on Facebook so that those unable to attend can participate through the Trans Pride Initiative Facebook page, and “say their names:”

• Mesha Caldwell: 41-year-old hairstylist and makeup artist in Canton, Miss., found shot to death on Jan. 4, near a road just outside the Canton city limits. Police are investigating her death as a homicide. Initial media reports misgendered Caldwell.

• Jamie Lee Wounded Arrow: 28-year-old customer service agent for Lawrence & Schiller Teleservices, found dead in her apartment in Sioux Falls, S.D., on Jan. 6. She was a member of the Oglala Lakota tribe and was a member of the Sioux Falls Two-Spirit and Allies group. A member of that group suggested she may have been killed as early as Jan. 1. Police are investigating her death as a homicide. Initial media reports misgendered Wounded Arrow.

• JoJo Striker: 23-year-old Toledo, Ohio woman found in an empty garage on Feb. 8. She died of a single gunshot wound to her torso, and police are investigating her death as a homicide. Initial media reports and statements from her family misgendered Striker.

• KeKe Collier: 24-year-old Chicago resident was killed Tuesday, Feb. 21, while sitting in a car with a man in the Englewood neighborhood where she lived. She died of multiple gunshot wounds. Initial reports in the Chicago Tribune identified Collier — also known as Tiara Richmond — by the first name “Donnell.” She was the second trans woman murdered in Chicago within six months; T.T. Safore, 28, was found dead, her throat cut, Sept. 11 near railroad tracks in the West Garfield Park area.

• Chyna Gibson: 31-year-old, also known as Chyna Doll Dupree, currently living in California, was shot to death Feb. 25 in New Orleans, where she had gone to visit family for Mardi Gras. Witnesses reported hearing as many as 10 gunshots. Gibson was a popular entertainer on the House/Ball and pageant circuits, and memorials for her were held in Dallas and in Houston.

• Ciara McElveen: 21-year-old New Orleans resident murdered Feb. 27, just two days after Chyna Gibson was shot to death. A witness said that a man stabbed McElveen in his car, then pulled her from the car, slammed her head on the pavement and ran over her before leaving the scene. Initial media reports misgendered McElveen.

• Jaquarrius Holland: 18-year-old Monroe, La., resident was shot to death during a verbal altercation on Feb. 19, but was initially misgendered by media reports. Monroe police have issued an arrest warrant for Malcom Derricktavious Harvey in connection with Holland’s death.

• Sean Ryan Hake: 23-year-old trans man, shot to death on Jan. 6 by a Sharon, Penn. police officers who were responding to a 9-11 domestic violence call at the home Hake shared with his mother. The Mercer County D.A.’s office opted not to file charges against the officers who shot Hake, saying that he was armed with a utility knife, had threatened his mother with the knife, was bleeding from his wrist, and then advanced on the officers with the knife, despite their warnings. Hake’s family has said they do not believe deadly force was warranted.

 

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Cathedral of Hope brings ashes to the Crossroads

Posted on 02 Mar 2017 at 9:52am

The Rev. Neil Cazares-Thomas and Pastor Erin were out on the Crossroads to celebrate Lent and offered ashes to anyone who wanted them.

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‘Moonlight’ is already a success; now it can become a hit

Posted on 02 Mar 2017 at 8:42am

MoonlightOf the nine films that were nominated for the best picture Oscars this year — Arrival, La La Land, Hacksaw Ridge, Fences, Lion, Hell or High Water, Manchester by the Sea, Hidden Figures and Moonlight — the one that has made the least amount of money at the domestic box office is the winner: Moonlight. Before the awards, it had logged in about $22 million — nowhere near the frontrunner Hidden Figures (with $152 million), or La La Land ($130 mil) or even Arrival ($100 mil). It shared the same range as Hell or High Water ($27 mil), Manchester ($46 mil) and Lion ($42 mil).

But those facts don’t tell the full story. Hacksaw Ridge, which took in nearly three times as much as Moonlight ($66 million), also cost about $40 million to make — when you figure in marketing and distribution expenses, it probably hasn’t broken even yet. And while Hidden Figures was a bargain at only $25 mil to make, earning six times its production cost, even it doesn’t compare to Moonlight. That film cost only $1.5 million to make, so its gross is already 15 times its cost.

Profitability isn’t the only story, though. You want eyeballs on the screen as well. And so, the Ar-House-Queer-Black-Indie-Film That Could is expanding tomorrow to 1,500 screens. That’s an amazing roll-out, and shows a lot of hope that audiences will turn out for a movie because of the acclaim and the accessibility… even if the subject matter is on the edge.

Here’s to more people seeing the best film of the year.

 

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‘When We Rise’ star Rachel Griffiths: The gay interview

Posted on 01 Mar 2017 at 1:28pm

 

Early in her career, she stole our queer hearts as Toni Collette’s freewheeling yang in 1994’s buddy comedy Muriel’s Wedding, but before long, Rachel Griffiths became one of our most passionate allies both on- and off-screen.

In 2001, the Aussie actress starred as Brenda Chenowith, the enigmatic, gender-subverting girlfriend-turned-wife of prodigal son Nate Fisher (Peter Krause) in HBO’s Emmy-winning landmark series Six Feet Under, out creator Alan Ball’s gay-inclusive, darkly comic rumination on life and death. A year after Six Feet Under concluded in 2006, Griffiths made the leap from the Fishers to the Walkers, the family at the center of ABC’s Brothers and Sisters, also celebrated for its LGBT representation.

Now, Griffiths is taking her longtime queer advocacy to the next level with When We Rise, which began airing Monday night and pick up for three more installments tonight. (Read our interview with the show’s writer/director here.) The miniseries seeks to connect with the heart (not the politics) of Americans through real family stories, something Griffiths’ gay-affirming résumé certainly reflects.

Our Chris Azzopardi spoke with the Emmy- and Oscar-nominated actress about her involvement, and her identification with the queer community.

Dallas Voice: In When We Rise, you play Diane, who’s raising a daughter with women’s rights activist Roma Guy, portrayed by Mary-Louise Parker. What are your thoughts on bringing the lesbian-led blended family dynamic to audiences on a mainstream network like ABC?  Rachel Griffiths: Brothers and Sisters was on ABC at the same time as Modern Family, and we had Will & Grace [on NBC], so I didn’t have any kind of surprise it was on a network, because ultimately it is about family — it’s about the “we” of gay, lesbian, transgender lives, not the “they” or the “others.” So, for me, to move these people’s lives away from the premium cable niche — I love that by not being on a niche network, there wasn’t a pressure to be noisy in a more sexual way. We’ve kind of moved past having to explore that.

That’s there in other shows if you want it, particularly with women’s lives. We’ve had The L Word, where the women are identified first off in the show by being lesbians. But Roma and Diane’s trouble was, first, [being] women — 51 percent of the population — then the gay/lesbian, then it was understanding the power of how those two movements can come together.

Your roles on both TV and in film suggest that you appreciate portrayals of social and political issues that are reflected through a personal lens.  I absolutely love that. I think if people aren’t living in a wider sociological space, they’re in a bubble. Growing up, my favorite movies actually were World War II movies — get motor bikes and outdo the Nazis. I was just really primed by seeing political moments intersecting with personal and moral choices, and the drama of that.

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The cost of winning Texas elections

Posted on 01 Mar 2017 at 10:50am

Texas House incumbent Kenneth Sheets spent $548,844.71 and received 27,009 votes in the 2016 election — a cost of $20.32 for every voten he received.

That’s double what his challenger, Victoria Neave, spent to win the election. Neave spent $288,794.67 and won with 27,837 votes, which translates to $10.37 per vote.

The figures have just been released by the Texas Tribune.

North Dallas incumbent state Rep. Linda Koop spent $258,827.11 to get 31,506 votes, or $8.22 per vote. State Rep. Jason Villalba spent $256,653.15 or $6.85 per vote in his re-election bid. South Dallas state Rep. Yvonne Davis spent $2.27 per vote.

Of the two lesbians serving in the Texas House, Austin’s Celia Israel spent $122,270.80 or $2.82 for each vote she received. El Paso’s Mary Gonzalez was unopposed and no expenditures are reported in the Texas Tribune report.

Locally in the U.S. House, Rep. Jeb Hensarling spent the most money on his re-election campaign: $1,188,686.86 to garner 155,149 or $7.66 per vote.

Rep. Pete Sessions spent the most on a race that was uncontested by a Democrat. Sessions did have Green Party and Libertarian Party opponents. He spent $541,375.13 to receive 162,212 or $3.34 per vote in a district that also voted for Clinton.

In other local races, Rep. Marc Veasey spent $3.43 per vote in his re-election effort. Rep. Sam Johnson spent $1.20 per vote received. Rep. Eddie Bernice Johnson spent $.59 per vote.

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HEADS UP: TFN warns that CPS reform bills could include anti-LGBT discrimination

Posted on 01 Mar 2017 at 10:25am

 

The Texas Freedom Network today warned that conservatives in the Texas House of Representatives are likely to try to amend bills aimed at reforming the states Child Protective Services agency to allow discrimination against LGBT foster and adoptive parents.

Ali Gorczynski, outreach and field coordinator for TFN, said that there is “a concerted effort behind the scenes to amend legislation reforming CPS with language that would permit discrimination against LGBT individuals in the state’s child welfare system,” and that HB 4 and HB 5, both scheduled for debate today, are being targeted.

According to a warning posted on the TFN website, “We understand there may be an effort to amend the bills to allow child welfare providers contracting with the state to use their religious beliefs to discriminate against LGBT families wishing to adopt or offer a foster home to a child in need.”

HB 4, authored by Mesquite Republican Rep. Cindy Burkett, would allow the Department of Family and Protective Services, “subject to the availability of funds, [to] enter into a caregiver assistance agreement with each relative or other designated caregiver to provide monetary assistance and additional support services to the caregiver,” based on the family’s need.

HB 5, authored by Wichita Falls Republican Rep. James Frank, would, in part, amend the Texas Family Code so that rules governing adoption decisions would fall under the purview of the Family and Protective Services commissioner, rather than the executive commissioner of the Health and Human Services Commission.

TFN urged Texans to “call your state representative and tell them to oppose any amendments permitting discrimination” as soon as possible.

“This effort is being masked as ‘religious freedom.’ But no matter what they call it, allowing faith-based child welfare providers that receive taxpayer funds to refuse to serve same-sex couples is discrimination. Let’s stop this before it goes any further,” Gorczynski wrote.

If you aren’t sure exactly who represents you in Austin, check here for names and contact information.

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Texas is out as host for Gay Games

Posted on 01 Mar 2017 at 9:40am

baseballThe Federation of Gay Games has released its short list of three cities still in the running to host its 11th event in 2022, and Dallas — and Austin — are out the running.

As of this morning, the finalists have been whittled down to Guadalajara, Mexico; Hong Kong; and Washington, D.C. Other semifinalists whose cities didn’t make the cut are Denver, Salt Lake City and San Francisco. San Antonio also put in a bid, but was eliminated in the first round.

The 2018 games will take place next summer in Paris. The 2022 location will be finalized this May. (Personally, I’m pulling for Guadalajara because it’s closest!)

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Rep. Eddie Bernice Johnson responds to Trump’s speech

Posted on 01 Mar 2017 at 9:26am

Rep. Eddie Bernice Johnson

Congresswoman Eddie Bernice Johnson released the following response to President Trump’s first address to Congress:

On Immigration:

“A border wall will not achieve the goal that President Trump seeks to accomplish, and I disagree with its premise to keep all immigrants out of our country. Furthermore, building a 2,000-mile-long wall along our southern border is not only a knee-jerk reaction to our issues with immigration, it is fiscally irresponsible. Refusing entry to people who seek safety from danger and violence is anti-American and unconscionable. Comprehensive immigration reform, not constructing yet another barrier, is the best solution to resolve this issue.”

On the Affordable Care Act:

“Tonight President Trump once again called on Republicans in Congress to repeal the Affordable Care Act, while providing no real plans for a replacement. Thus far, the Trump administration has only released an executive order that was without substance regarding healthcare, and a proposed rule that is nothing more than a delay tactic for their repeal and replace process.

“Over the past six years, nearly 30 million Americans have gained reliable coverage and seen an end to many of the unfair practices of the pre-Affordable Care Act insurance industry, including the end of lifetime limits, no discrimination for pre-existing conditions and free preventive care.  The Affordable Care Act did not just provide health insurance for millions of Americans, it reformed payment systems, introduced innovative care delivery reforms, and much more. To suggest that the system is ‘collapsing’ is off base.

“My hope is that we will find a way to work with Republicans in a bipartisan manner to come up with real policy solutions to repair the Affordable Care Act and continue to provide healthcare for all Americans. However, we will not idly stand by and allow Republicans to dismantle the health and economic security of hard-working Americans.”

On Transportation:

“During his campaign, President Trump touted his intentions to introduce a $1 trillion plan that would invest in our nation’s infrastructure. Five weeks into his presidency, we have yet to see a concrete plan to that end. This suggests that any tax plan to emerge from this administration would most likely rely heavily on tax credits for private entities, versus the federal direct spending that is so desperately needed. This approach is entirely off-mark.

“Nearly one in four bridges in the United States is structurally deficient or functionally obsolete, 65 percent of our nation’s roads are in less than good condition, our rail and bus transit systems are facing a $90 billion backlog, and dozens of our busiest ports are congested beyond reason. This is simply unacceptable. Our nation needs a real, comprehensive transportation infrastructure plan that combines direct federal spending with public private partnerships; not tax breaks for private investors for projects that would already be constructed anyways.”

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BREAKING: DTC’s 2017-18 season sets the model for future years

Posted on 01 Mar 2017 at 2:01am

Brandon Potter, who stepped in as a last-minute replacement as LBJ last year for the joint Alley-DTC production of ‘All the Way,’ returns to the role next season for ‘The Great Society.’ Photo by Karen Almond.

In a free-wheeling discussion about the arts scene and his plans for the future, Kevin Moriarty announced the lineup of shows for the 2017-18 season at the Dallas Theater Center — his tenth since taking over as artistic director of the company.

Four shows — Hair, Frankenstein, The Great Society and The Trials of Sam Houstonhad already been announced, though their run date were not known. We now know the schedule: Hair, at the Wyly Sept. 22–Oct. 22; Frankenstein, at the Kalita Feb. 2–March 4, 2018; The Great Society, the follow-up to last season’s All the Way, back at the Wyly March 9–April 1 (with much of the same cast from All the Way, including star Brandon Potter, returning); and the world premiere of Aaron Loeb’s The Trials of Sam Houston, about two important but largely unknown facts about one of the founders of Texas, at the Kalita April 20–May 1. In addition, as usual A Christmas Carol will return as an extra no including in season tickets. That will return to the Wyly Nov. 22–Dec. 28, with Lee Trull directing.

The three un-announced mainstage shows will alternate between the Kalita and the Wyly, including the Wyly’s smaller Studio Theatre which will be expanded to accommodate up to 150 patrons. (Its current capacity is 99 seats.)

The season kicks off this summer with Miller, Mississippi, a world premiere from playwright Boo Killebrew, spanning the Civil rights Movement as seen from a white family and their African-American servant. It will be in the Studio Theatre Aug. 30–Oct. 1. Following Hair, and concurrent with Carol, they will return to the studio with Fade, about a Latina writer hired on for a TV show, who finds herself more drawn to the studio’s Hispanic janitor than that bullpen of white male writers. It plays Dec. 6–Jan. 7.

Next up will be Frankenstein, Great Society and Sam Houston, and the season will end with White Rabbit Red Rabbit, one of the most controversial and mysterious plays in the world today. Why? Because no one is allowed to talk about. The author, Nassim Soleimanpour, is Iranian and now living in exile. He wrote the allegorical play, which does involve, at some level, a rabbit or two, to comment on Iranian oppression. The secret is, no performance is exactly the same. Each show has a different act cast in the one-man show, and that actor has not seen the script or know anything about it before it is handed to him when he walks onstage. He (or she!) is then required to perform everything in the play until the end 80 minutes later. The audience is also deeply involved. (Think of The Crying Game meets Groundhog Day set in a puzzle room.) That will be in the studio May 30–July 1.

In addition, DTC will continue with its Public Works Project, which seeks to perform Shakespeare with a mix of professional and community actors in a series of free performances. The first such show in the project, The Tempest, will take place this Friday through Sunday; next season it will be The Winter’s Tale, Aug. 31–Sept. at the Wyly.

13-Norton-Headshot-copy

Jonathan Norton

Moriarty maintains that this line up should set the standard for the next few seasons: Seven mainstage productions in the studio and Rose Hall of the Wyly, alternating with the Kalita; and as many as three bonus/add-on shows outside of the subscription for a total of 10 productions a year. Moriarty also wants to include a family-friendly musical to be staged each summer at the Wyly. (The world premiere Hood will probably fit that bill this summer; nothing is yet scheduled for 2018.)

In addition, queer playwright Jonathan Norton (Mississippi Goddam) will have his specially-commissioned piece, Penny Candy — about his childhood in Pleasant Grove — as part of the 2018–19 season, probably arriving around October 2018. Two other local playwrights, Matt Lyle and Steven Walters, are also working on commissions.

For more information, visit DallasTheaterCenter.org.

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