Attorneys fees awarded to plaintiff in Kim Davis case

Posted on 21 Jul 2017 at 2:14pm

Rowan County Clerk Kim Davis

U.S. District Judge David Bunning ordered Kentucky to pay attorney fees for same-sex couples who were denied marriage licenses by Kim Davis.

Davis is the Rowan County Clerk who refused to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples after the Obergefell marriage equality ruling. Bunning jailed her several days for refusing to do her job until a compromise was worked out that allowed other people in her office to issue the documents. Davis claimed a religious objection to the ruling.

Bunning could have held Davis personally liable or he could have charged Rowan County with the $222,000 award. Instead, he ruled the state regulates marriage and charged the amount to Kentucky, according to the Louisville Courier-Journal.

Since Davis’ refusal to issue marriage licenses, Kentucky has removed the names of county clerks from its licenses, which Davis said was a victory because that all she was asking.

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Juvenile sentenced in attack on Derek Whitener

Posted on 21 Jul 2017 at 2:08pm

Video surveillance footage from outside the CityPlace Target helped police identify suspects in the assault of Derek Whitener. One of the two has been sentenced to 7 years probation.

One of the two teenagers arrested in connection with the January attack on Derek Whitener has been sentenced to 7 years probation, according to CBS 11. The second suspect,, 17-year-old Zantrall Sauls, is still awaiting trial.

The two allegedly attacked Whitener, artistic director for the Firehouse Theatre in Farmer’s Branch, on Jan. 14 as he left the Target at CityPlace on Haskell Ave. The suspects hit him in the head with a pipe, fracturing his skull. Whitener had to undergo brain surgery because of the attack, and was hospitalized until Jan. 28.

His attorney, Chris Hamilton, told CBS that Whitener will likely never be the same because of the attack.

Video surveillance footage helped police identify the two attackers, and the juvenile, whose name is not being released because of his age, was the first to be arrested, on Jan. 27. Sauls was arrested on Jan. 30.

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LGBT groups and allies hold press conference in rotunda while Senate committee hears anti-trans bills

Posted on 21 Jul 2017 at 10:04am

Equality Texas, Human Rights Campaign, the ACLU of Texas, the Texas Freedom Network and the Transgender Education Network of Texas holds a press conference this morning, Friday, July 21, in the Texas Capitol rotunda as the Senate State Affairs Committee holds a hearing on anti-transgender bills SB3 and SB91.

Those bills, commonly known as the bathroom bills, would block cities and school districts from protecting trans Texans in schools and other public facilities.

Among those speaking are two parents of trans children, a pastor, and two transgender women. Also scheduled are Lou Weaver, transgender program coordinator, Equality Texas; Kali Cohn, staff attorney, ACLU of Texas; and Cathryn Oakley, senior legislative counsel, HRC.

The bills are expected to pass the Senate committee and be approved by the full Senate quickly. Various legislative maneuvers are planned in the House of Representatives to kill the bills.

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Pro business? Not any more

Posted on 21 Jul 2017 at 7:50am

Community-Voices-art

 

Leslie McMurrayWith the Texas State Fair coming along soon, I started wondering, what if Big Tex were to suddenly change his welcome speech: “Howdy Folks! Now take your business Elsewhere!”

After listening to the condescending tone of Texas State Rep. Scott Sanford, R-McKinney, during a recent Facebook Live roundtable hosted by CBS 11, I couldn’t help but ask, when did Texas Republicans lose their “pro business” stance?

I was part of a six-person panel moderated by Jack Fink, CBS 11 political reporter. Maintaining my composure during the onslaught of hate wasn’t easy.

Considering the bathroom bills filed and awaiting debate in the Legislature’s special session, SB4 (the “show me your papers” bill) and bills seeking to undo protections in non-discrimination ordinances, like the one Dallas has in force, it seems that while Republicans for ages have trumpeted “local control,” saying cities across Texas could govern themselves better than state lawmakers, they have now had a change of direction. Now it is Texas Democrats that are fighting against anti-business legislation.

Pro discrimination? Not a Texas value, according to the 1,300 businesses that Texas Competes says have signed a letter opposing discrimination in the Lone Star State. Yet Rep. Sanford claimed that these business leaders didn’t know what they were signing.

I don’t even know where to start with that ignorant and insulting statement.

IBM took out a full-page ad in the Dallas Morning News, San Antonio Express-News and Austin American Statesman opposing any legislation that discriminates against transgender Texans. They also dispatched key executives to Austin to try to put a stop to this bill. That sounds to me like they knew exactly what they were signing.

Sanford’s arrogance in taking business for granted could come back to bite him. Hard.

And IBM isn’t alone; companies ranging from Dow Chemical to Nordstrom to United Airlines, from LaQuinta Hotels to Sea World, Dell, Allstate and Hewlett Packard — along with more than a thousand others — have signed on to stand against discrimination.

If Texas isn’t careful, other states will be only too happy to take a bite out of our No. 4 ranking among top states for business.

Actually, that No. 4 ranking doesn’t tell the whole story. Ok, so Texas ranks No. 1 in workforce. But if the members of that workforce don’t feel accepted and protected, they will go elsewhere.

And when you look a little further, Texas ranks middle of the pack in economy (No. 25) and lower in terms of quality of life (No. 37). We are No. 34 in education and, perhaps most telling, No. 24 in business friendliness.

So legislators take note: If you are going to vote in more legislation that discriminates against a quality workforce, brace for impact. It won’t be fun.

Rep. Sanford was correct in pointing out that North Carolina is No. 5 on the list, implying HB2 — North Carolina’s infamous bathroom bill — didn’t have the economic impact critics predicted it would. Then Sanford claimed Texas would be unaffected as well. But Phillip Jones, CEO of Visit Dallas, disagreed, saying that the full impact of HB2 has yet to be felt as conventions and conferences are booked well in advance.

If, as Sanford says, there was no economic backlash against HB2, that makes me wonder why it was repealed (if only halfway and haphazardly).

Maybe because the NFL, NBA, NCAA and more than 100 performing artists threatened to leave North Carolina off of their list as possible site for high-profile events. Losing the NBA All-Star game was one thing, but losing NCAA tournament games in a hoops-crazy state like North Carolina was unacceptable.

The simple fact is, discrimination is just plain bad for business. It’s also not a “Texas Value.”

Obviously, Rep. Sanford holds the truth in the same “high regard” as does Donald Trump. In addition to lying about businesses not knowing what they signed, Sanford claimed that affirming care by parents of transgender kids is “child abuse.”

This has been proven false. His assertion that parents push gender identity on kids is just plain ignorant. The best parenting permits children to be who they are. Denying their identity leads to tragic outcomes.

During the discussion, I pointed out that there are thousands of homeless children in Texas, many of them on the street because of parental rejection. I suggested Sanford worry less about where children pee and maybe concern himself with where they sleep.

But my suggestion fell on deaf ears.

Sanford, who is a Baptist executive pastor in addition to being a state representative, did express the need to protect college co-eds from sexual assault on college campuses. I suggested he start with Baylor. (Was that wrong?) He was being a good Republican, mouthing the same tired (and discredited) tropes about trans people that could have come from Dan Patrick’s hand up his back or the playbook from hate group Family Research Council.

Texas Republicans seem nostalgic for the days of Jim Crow laws. Have we learned nothing? Diversity and equality are good for business, good for building strong communities and a recipe for strong growth.

All of this noise about bathroom bills, repealing non-discrimination ordinances and replacing them with “religious freedom” license to discriminate bills are the death throes of a dying breed of dinosaurs known as the Republican Party.

The rifts we are seeing now will only grow wider as those on the extreme ends draw their final lines in the sand.

Texas Republicans used to be thoroughly pro business. But now, other than discrimination and separation, I can’t figure out what else Republicans are for.

Seriously, 2018 can’t come soon enough. Texas deserves better.

Leslie McMurray, a transgender woman, is a former radio DJ who lives and works in Dallas. Read more of her blogs at lesliemichelle44.wordpress.com.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition July 21, 2017.

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Building a ‘Wall’

Posted on 21 Jul 2017 at 6:00am

WaterTower’s new artistic director chooses as her first production a rollicking history of Stonewall

HIT-THE-WALL

Joanie Schultz, WaterTower Theatre’s new artistic director, aimed for a diverse and authentic cast for her first show as a director here, the hot-button play-with-music ‘Hit the Wall.’ (Photo courtesy Karen Almond)

ARNOLD WAYNE JONES | Executive Editor
jones@dallasvoice.com

Whenever an arts organization brings in a newcomer to lead it, there’s an expectation that fresh blood equates with fresh ideas … and sometimes radical rethinking. The decision by Addison’s WaterTower Theatre to tap Chicagoan Joanie Schultz to take over for longtime artistic director Terry Martin was a leap of faith for both: Schultz had never led a theater company as AD before, and WTT was looking to expand its footprint in North Texas theater. Sometimes, the new guy — or new woman — dips a toe into the waters gingerly, but Schultz has decided to dive in.

Her first production as a director — a bowshot to signal her lively approach to making theater — was to replace the planned summer musical, Sondheim’s Sunday in the Park with George, with something far more radical: Hit the Wall, a play about the Stonewall Riots that triggered the modern gay rights movement.

Replacing a musical by a beloved icon of American theater with a rarely-performed, politically charged retelling of liberation? It’s not as crazy as it sounds… or at least, Schultz didn’t imagine it would be so.Water tower bug

“When we knew we were going to reprogram the summer show, we went to the [usual suspects]. I was looking for something uplifting and inspiring [to replace Sondheim], something that would attract a young, excited crowd,” she says. She then remembered Hit the Wall, which she first encountered about five years ago in Chicago.

“I knew it would be a good summer show. What struck me when I saw it was the unique storytelling — a hybrid between being a rock concert and a play. It has characters, but it’s the feel for the passion, the spirit underneath it [that captured me],” Schultz says.

She also realized at the time she first saw it how little she actually knew, as a straight woman, about its subject matter.

“I remember not knowing a darned thing about Stonewall,” she admits. “I had heard the words but didn’t really know what happened. I was shocked that a major historical moment in America” was not more widely known. “Stonewall is not being taught in our history classes, though for sure it should be.” It would, she thought, be a good way to start her tenure at WTT.

But the journey has been more uphill than she expected.

“When I picked it, I hadn’t moved to Texas yet,” she says. “It was a huge hit [in Chicago],” so she anticipated an easy sell. “It’s been more challenging for my audience than I anticipated. Some people have said, ‘Haven’t we heard so much about Stonewall?’ But we have a cast full of some younger people who didn’t know much about Stonewall before embarking on this. It has caused a lot of conversation around our theater” — which, Schultz says, is ultimately the role of theater in the life of a society.

It has also plunged her headfirst into the North Texas theater community, which has turned out to be a positive experience for her.

“I had to do the casting very quickly, because I was still not [living full-time in Dallas]. We had 100 actors come out on the first day — 100 truly good actors. And it’s a complicated play in terms of casting, trying for as much authenticity as possible — not just racially, but eight out of the ten roles are queer characters,” and she wanted to reflect that diversity as well.

Joanie-Schultz

Joanie Schultz

“This is a really different kind of play to ask people to come in for — I wonder how much some of the actors code-switch to present themselves professionally and not be bitchy, and then I’m asking them for just that,” she laughs.

Assembling the design team presented its own issues. The lighting designer has been a mainstay at WTT, and working with him has shortened her learning curve in dealing with the theater’s unique space. But she took a chance in hiring as her scenic designer a third-year candidate for master of fine arts at SMU to design her first solo show.

“I wanted to give someone new a chance to bring an exciting, younger voice to the stage,” Schultz says. She also hired a trans man to write and perform the music for the show (it’s not a musical but has a rock element that is essential, she explains). Combining new voices with established artists is part of the collaborative process that Schultz enjoys in the craft of theater. And the controversies and hiccups embolden her more than they intimidate. That is, she feels, the very point of the endeavor.

“This is an exciting moment for us to do this play,” she says. “I’ve been really working with the folks here to push our version of Hit the Wall so that we really push it over the wall.”  

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition July 21, 2017.

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Mayor announces city council committee appointments

Posted on 20 Jul 2017 at 3:57pm

The Five Amigos (who need a new name)

Dallas Mayor Mike Rawlings announced his committee assignments for city council members for the new term. The council has recessed for July and reconvenes in August.

Councilman Adam Medrano continues as chair of the LGBT Task Force, which he’s headed for the past four years. The Oak Lawn councilman will also serve on Public Safety and Criminal Justice Committee and Mobility Solutions, Infrastructure and Sustainability Committee. (So blame Adam for your potholes).

Omar Narvaez, the first openly gay council member elected in a decade, was assigned to the Economic Development and Housing Committee, The Quality of Life, Arts and Culture Committee and the AD-Hoc Legislative Committee.

In his campaign, housing in West Dallas was his primary issue. And the gay guy is always assigned to the arts committee. That tradition dates back to council members Craig McDaniel and Veletta Lill, who both chaired the committee. (Oh, come on, don’t tell me Veletta isn’t a gay guy).

Narvaez will also chair the Senior Citizen’s Task Force, which is appropriate since many of us think of him as a little old lady.

None of the Three Amigos — Scott Griggs, Philip Kingston and Medrano — now looking for a new name for because they’ve added two members — Mark Clayton and Narvaez — is a committee chair. The Three Amigos often vote as a block and have opposed the mayor on issues like paving the river to turn it into a highway.

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Jeffrey Payne reveals campaign logo

Posted on 20 Jul 2017 at 12:31pm

Jeffrey Payne, the former International Mr. Leather champ and local leather legend, is serious as a heart attack about seeking the Democratic nomination for Texas governor, as we reported earlier this week. And if actions speak louder than words, then look at the action Payne has taken: He’s launched a new logo, brand and hashtag to get his campaign off the ground. He’s also set up a Facebook page. Every journey begins with a first step.

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Episcopal Church denounces bathroom bill

Posted on 20 Jul 2017 at 12:30pm

Presiding Bishop Michael Curry

The national Episcopal Church denounced the bathroom bills that the Texas Senate is considering. Presiding Bishop Michael Curry and the Rev. Gay Clark Jennings, president of the House of Deputies, urged Speaker of the House Joe Straus to continue opposing the discriminatory proposals.

They wrote: “As the presiding officers of the Episcopal Church, we are firmly opposed to ‘bathroom bills’ and particularly reject the idea that women and children are protected by them. As clergy who remember racist Jim Crow bathroom laws that purported to protect white people, we know the kind of hatred and fear that discriminatory laws can perpetuate.”

Straus said he didn’t want anyone’s suicide on his conscience as a result of a law he allowed through the Texas House of Representatives. Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick has made passage of a bathroom bill a top priority.

The Episcopal Church is schedule to hold its nine-day General Convention in Austin in 2018 and is threatening to move it if a bathroom bill passes.

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STAGE REVIEW: ‘The Bodyguard’

Posted on 20 Jul 2017 at 10:50am

I have to admit it upfront: I hated the movie version of The Bodyguard, and when I heard the original cast recording earlier this year felt underwhelmed. So I went into the stage version —  a jukebox musical now at Fair Park and then moving to Fort Worth’s Bass Hall — with jaundiced eyes. The plot is cheesy. The thriller aspect not-so-thrilling. The songs have not been assembled to actually advance the story in any meaningful way.

But I still loved it.

The Bodyguard is the stage iteration of the beach-read novel, or the summer movie blockbuster. Its aim is pure entertainment, and it hits a bullseye.

You probably know the plot: Recording star Rachel Marron (Deborah Cox) is campaigning for an Oscar for him film debut, but it being stalked by a dangerous fan. Her management team hires Frank (Judson Mills) to spearhead her security detail. She resists; he insists; both are kisses (by each other). Can Frank still protect Rachel while (gulp!) in love with her?!?!

C’mon!

The film was a monster hit, owing in large part to its soundtrack of hits sung by Whitney Houston. All of those songs — as well as more from Whitney’s canon (plus Chaka Khan, Deniece Williams and a few more) — get shoehorned into this show, but because Rachel is a singer (as well as her sister), there’s usually cause to plant Cox centerstage, hand her a microphone and zip up a mermaid dress, and let her belt out a number.

And belt she does. Cox is practically the raison d’etre of The Bodyguard, tasked with the most numbers, and she’s in fine voice. She’s a terrific stage presence. But Jasmine Richardson as her wallflower sister more than holds her own musically, Mills is a dashing and humorous Frank and even the backup dancers make for likable eye-candy. I don’t believe in the phrase “guilty pleasure,” but The Bodyguard definitely defies you not to be delighted. You’ll leave the theater happier than when you went in.

Fair Park through July 30. DallasSummerMusicals.org. Bass Hall, Aug. 1–6. BassHall.com.

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UPDATED: Texas Senate holding hearing on bathroom bill Friday, phone bank Thursday

Posted on 19 Jul 2017 at 3:06pm

Sen. Joan Huffman

UPDATE: HRC field organizer Criss Ruiz needs volunteers to staff a phone bank Thursday, July 20, from 4-8 p.m., to call constituents and remind them to contact their state senators and state representatives and urge those elected officials to vote against anti-transgender bathroom bills during the special session of the Texas Legislature.

Ruiz stressed that phone bank is not necessary because training will be offered on site. She also said that while those participating will have access to a laptop, it would help if volunteers who are able to bring a laptop and mouse would do so.

The phone bank will be set up at the Dallas County Democratic Party office, 4209 Parry Ave. Email Ruiz at Criss.Ruiz@hrc.org for information and to volunteer.

Sen. Joan Huffman, R-Houston, has announced there will be a hearing on Sen. Lois Kolkhorst’s anti-transgender bathroom bill at 9 a.m. Friday, July 21, at the Texas State Capitol.

The actual language of this version of the bill has not been released. Opponents of the discriminatory bill have established a Facebook page to post updates about the hearing.

Opponents are also organizing ride-sharing/carpool efforts to get people to Austin for the Friday morning hearing. Check here to sign up to participate.

In HRC field organizer Criss Ruiz is working to set up a Dallas-area phone bank for Thursday, July 20, to get volunteers to call constituents and remind them to call their state senators and representatives to express their opposition to this and other bathroom bills. Check back here for updates.

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