WATCH: A history of Dallas Pride by Prosper H.S. students

Posted on 17 Feb 2015 at 8:56am

A few months ago, some students from Prosper High School contacted me: They were making a video about the history of Gay Pride in Dallas, and wanted to know if they could interview me on film to discuss it? I agreed.

The student arrived well-dressed and prepared. They were very professional (especially for juniors in high school) and easy to work with. It took just a few minutes of my time.

Last week, the director, Alex Watkins — who made the film for his AV class — informed me that it had been submitted to the University Interscholastic League of Texas festival of films. The short, Pride, made it past the first stage, but not on to the next stage.

It’s an impressive student film, I thought, and since very few people got to see it anyway, I figured I’d share a link to the film so others could enjoy it. And you get to see me, though I think it sounds like I have a cold, although maybe that’s how I always sound. Enjoy.


Small change made to policy to discharge trans military personnel

Posted on 16 Feb 2015 at 4:37pm

ArmyWhile the repeal of don’t ask, don’t tell stopped discharges of gays, lesbians and bisexuals from the military, the policy on trans military personnel hasn’t changed.

According to a story in USA Today, a new Army policy makes removing trans troops more difficult. The decision to remove trans people must now be made by a top civilian official — the assistant secretary of the Army for personnel.

When trans people in the military are identified, they are usually given an automatic medical discharge.

According to the Palm Center, which has done research on sexual minorities in the military, Air Force Secretary Deborah Lee James came out in favor of a change in policy in December.

“From my point of view, anyone who is capable of accomplishing the job should be able to serve,” James said.

In another small change of policy, the Army agreed to allow Chelsea Manning to begin hormone therapy. Manning is serving a 35-year prison sentence for divulging national security secrets to WikiLeaks.

The current change in discharge policy is similar to a change that happened under “don’t ask, don’t tell” that was supposed to slow the discharge of gays and lesbians and require more proof. Discharges by top-level personnel, however, continued at a rapid pace until the law was finally repealed.


Openly lesbian ’60s singer/songwriter Lesley Gore has died

Posted on 16 Feb 2015 at 4:10pm

Lesley Gore

Lesley Gore now (top) and then

Singer-songwriter Lesley Gore — who topped the charts in 1963 with her epic song of teenage angst, “It’s My Party,” and followed it up with the hits “Judy’s Turn to Cry” and “You Don’t Own Me” — died Monday, Feb. 16, at the age of 68.

Gore died of cancer at New York-Presbyterian Hospital in Manhattan, according to her partner of 33 years, jewelry designer Lois Sasson.

Gore was still in high school when she was discovered by Quincy Jones and hit it big with “It’s My Party.” And although she was perhaps best known for her hit songs in the ’60s, her career spanned decades. She and her brother were nominated for an Academy Award for “Out Here On My Own,” a song they wrote for the 1980 movie Fame. In 2005, she released Ever Since, her first album of new material since 1976. The album received widespread critical acclaim and songs from it were used in several TV shows and movies.

Beginning in 2004, Gore began hosting the show In The Life, a PBS series on LGBT issues. In 2005, she came out publicly as a lesbian. She and Sasson had already been a couple for 23 years at the time. In 2010, Gore sang with The Women’s Chorus of Dallas. She told Dallas Voice at the time, “”My life has always been backwards from everyone else’s. If you told me at 16 that I’d be saying this at 63, I’d have said you’re crazy. There’s always a flurry of what people find titillating.”

Gore played Catwoman’s sidekick in the 1960s TV show Batman, and in the 1990s, she appeared on Broadway in Smokey Joe’s Cafe. She was working on a stage version of her life when she died.


Bought and sold: mastering the electoral run-off

Posted on 16 Feb 2015 at 1:00pm

Sen. Bob Hall, R-Empower Texans.

Meet Texas Sen. Bob Hall.

Hall is a first term Republican senator who defeated incumbent Bob Deuell of Greenville in a 2014 run-off election by around 300 votes. It was one of the biggest upsets of the campaign cycle.

Before the run-off, Hall was a relative unknown. Just eight days before the March primary according to campaign finance records, the Canton Area Tea Party leader’s campaign spent $1,514.94 and received $16,005.10 in contributions. Expenditures included graphics and push cards.

After forcing Deuell into a run-off, which occurs if no one candidate receives at least 50 percent of votes in the primary, Hall’s campaign was curiously replete with cash, staffers and all the mechanisms necessary to guarantee his victory.

Between Feb. 23 and May 17, 2014, Hall’s campaign reported $298,029.78 in contributions and $160,710.42 in expenditures. The political novice suddenly got a political consultant and campaign staff. Key contributors include the Tim Dunn-funded Empower Texans PAC ($49,990.50), Accountability First PAC ($3,000 in-kind), North Texas Conservative Coalition ($190,000) and Midland oil and gas mogul Kyle Stallings ($10,000).

Hall’s victory shows how a fringe candidate can become a victor with a little help from new friends.

Target on his back

In the 2013 legislative session Deuell, a physician, authored SB 303, which would allow doctors and families to make personal, critical decisions about end-of-life care. It was endorsed by a wide variety of groups and bipartisan coalition of legislators. The Texas Catholic Conference conference endorsed it. So did Texas Alliance for Life.

But Texas Right to Life, a staunchly conservative affiliate of National Right to Life and common ally of Empower Texans and others, went on the attack. They yelled and screamed and got coverage in the New York Times. The Deuell v. Hall run-off was a perfect place to exact revenge. Deuell already had a target on his back from Empower Texans; since 2007, the group has released its Fiscal Responsibility Index, which grades legislators like high school students on an A to F scale. Deuell failed every session despite being seen as one of the most conservative legislators in recent memory.

The incumbent who was first elected in 1989 ultimately lost for being a perceived “moderate.”

In right-wing Texas-speak that means Tim Dunn couldn’t control the arch-conservative, anti-LGBT Deuell.

Thankfully Dunn and his ilk can control Hall. The freshman senator recently filed SB 445, which would make sure Texas doesn’t implement Agenda 21. That’s the non-binding agreement passed by the 1992 United Nations Conference on Environment and Development calling for sustainability and responsible usage of resources. Its detractors believe policies linked to the Document of the Illuminati will cripple American freedom and liberty by taking away our golf courses.

Thusly Agenda 21, like the United Nations, FEMA camps, gay marriage, Muslims and President Obama, is another right-wing boogeyman used to fuel rampant conspiracy theories promoting paranoia and racism that ensures conservative political consultants will rake in cash, meaning it’s another piece of great fodder in a Republican Primary.

Hall isn’t the only one who fears foreign control. Perhaps unsurprisingly, another conservative firebrand beat him to filing an equally paranoid bill.

Sen. Donna Campbell, R-New Braunfels, filed the Protect the Alamo Act to ensure that the Alamo, which is in her district, could not be taken over by the United Nations. According to the Texas Tribune, she filed the legislation after learning the Alamo was nominated as a United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) World Heritage site.

Campbell is no friend to the LGBT community. For a second time, she filed SJR 10, a proposed constitutional amendment that would allow Texans to discriminate based on their religious convictions. Rep. Jason Villalba, R-Dallas, filed the companion HJR 55 in the House.

But like Hall, Campbell’s an expert in besting incumbents with backing from conservative big money groups. In 2012, she ran to the right of and defeated longtime Sen. Jeff Wentworth, R-San Antonio, in a contentious and expensive run-off. Wentworth, like Deuell, had a target on his back for being too moderate. Also like Deuell, Empower Texans’ Index failed Wentworth all three sessions.

I can’t say if Empower Texans and others are actually concerned with the threat of a United Nations takeover of golf courses or the Alamo. I highly doubt it. I also doubt that Hall’s and Campbell’s donors are frankly at all concerned with a foreign takeover of Texas.

However, as I’ve previously pointed out, one thing is clear: who cares about the issues or mental state of your sock puppet? When you’re rich, wealthy and white and looking to oust an insufficiently conservative incumbent, just unwrap the tin foil on the red meat and feed it to the grassroots Republican voter.  Then make a nice new tin foil hat for the new hand-picked legislator. They’ll need it to avoid reality as much as they’ll need it to make sure they only hear voices from folks like Dunn in their head.


HERO trial ends with mixed outcome

Posted on 16 Feb 2015 at 10:38am

CITY_OF_HOUSTON_LOGO-325x294A jury trial to determine whether opponents of the Houston Equal Rights Ordinance collected enough valid signatures to force a repeal or election on the issue ended with a mixed verdict last week. Findings were sent to the judge who will deliberate on the outcome, according to the Houston Chronicle.

To repeal HERO or call for an election, opponents needed 17,000 signatures. They turned in petitions with more than 50,000 signatures, but the city determined less than 4,000 were valid.

Pages of petitions were invalidated by the city because they were not notarized. Others were not signed by Houston voters. Some pages had the same handwriting on every line. Some pages were the result of signature table parties — one person signed the first line on each page, another the next line. Other pages were unsigned by the petition circulator.

When all of those fraudulent signatures were thrown out, opponents decided to sue.

The jury findings go to the judge who has broad discretion. However he finally rules — that there are enough valid signatures to proceed with a recall election or there aren’t — the losing side is expected to appeal. The opposition is claiming victory, however, because the jury didn’t find fraud was involved.The Houston recall organizers are working with Prestonwood Baptist Church and others to recall the Plano Equal Rights Ordinance that does not have the number of protections provided in Houston’s law and allows anyone to claim a religious exemption in order to discriminate.


Come to the Magnolia tonight and see me predict the Oscars

Posted on 16 Feb 2015 at 7:34am

OscarsNow, I am the first to admit that I do not always accurately predict all 24 Oscar categories every year. Take last year — I only got 23 right. You heard me. I have seen virtually every nominated film, and I will be weighing in on the likely winners as part of a panel discussion at the Magnolia Theatre tonight (Monday), starting at 7 p.m. It’s free, and you’re all invited to see me gues…. I mean, predict the outcome of the gay Super Bowl this Sunday. There will even be some trivia and maybe some giveaways…. And come ready to stump me with your trivia questions!


Cocktail Friday: Vodka Punch

Posted on 13 Feb 2015 at 4:50pm

IMG_9713I decided to enjoy a well-deserved adult beverage at JR.’s with a friend after work this week, and the weather was so refreshingly springy, we wanted something light and fruity to go along with it. So we left it up to our bartender: Come up with something. He created for us what he called Vodka Punch, and it hit the spot. Here, then, is his recipe for this delightful cocktail.

Making it:

Equal parts Stoli Bluberi, cranberry juice, orange juice, and pineapple juice (or really, any juices you feel like). Add a splash of 7Up and grenadine and shake. Serve in a tall glass over ice. Garnish with a Maraschino cherry.


Online registration open for Texas’ first LGBTQ gaming convention

Posted on 13 Feb 2015 at 4:35pm

Screen-shot-2014-12-02-at-3.31.23-PMOnline registration for Haven Con, the first LGBT geek and gaming convention of Texas, has opened and runs  through March 1. Tickets will be 25 percent off for anyone purchasing an autograph package for special guests Janet Varney and Dante Brasco.

“We’re beyond thrilled to have Janet and Dante join us for the event,” said Shane Brown, founder of HavenCon. “Dante is known for several roles, but his performance as Zuko in Avatar: The Last Airbender was amazing. And Janet starred as the powerful Korra in The Legend of Korra, which is the beloved sequel to The Last Airbender. Their appearance alone is worth the price of admission!”

Included among the numerous panels and discussions are developers with Plano-based Gearbox Software. Other panels include LGBTA authors, LGBTA artists, “Gaming through the ages,” “Coming out cosplay” and a conversation with Doc “Pop Culture Professor” Housel, and more.

Attendees will have the opportunities to participate in a “Call of Duty Modern Warfare” gaming tournament, a 1K Super IQ “Magic: The Gathering” tournament, a “Super Smash Bros.,” and the Big Gay Cosplay Wedding event.

“With HavenCon, we’re creating a safe, entertaining and diversity-welcoming environment for people that enjoy comic books, video games, science fiction and more,” Brown added. “We want people to come in their favorite geek costumes, join us for games and tournaments, shop for a sci-fi or fantasy accessory, learn from industry and local talents, and meet people who share a common bond—all of it while celebrating what makes us both different and special.”

Haven Con will be held at the Holiday Inn Midtown in Austin, Texas on Saturday, April 4 and Sunday, April 5, 2015. HavenCon is an all-ages event. Children under 18 must be accompanied by an adult. Children 10 and under can attend for free. To purchase tickets for the event, click here.

For information on becoming a sponsor, panelist or vendor, visit or emailShane@HavenConTx.Com.

Proceeds of Haven Con will go to OutYouth, which is a non-profit organization providing services to gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender youth ages 12 to 19 in Austin and central Texas.

Voice contributing writer Chaka Cumberbatch has written about LGBT geeks and gamers extensively, most recently for our Sept. 19 issue.


Ask Lambda Legal: Discrimination As Religion

Posted on 13 Feb 2015 at 3:07pm

By Jennifer Pizer, national director

Lambda Legal’s Law and Policy Project


Q: I was reading about a bakery that didn’t want to make a wedding cake for a gay couple because it goes against the baker’s religion. Can’t the couple just go somewhere else?


Jennifer Pizer

A: Private businesses, such as bakeries and grocery stores that offer goods to the public, are usually bound by public accommodation laws. These laws say that a business that is open to the public must be open to everyone, regardless of whether the business owner or employees approve of who each customer is.

This is an important protection against discrimination because the law treats bakeries, groceries and other stores — businesses operating to make profits — differently from churches and other organizations that exist for religious purposes. If a bakery, store or restaurant were allowed to turn away gay people, it would open the floodgates to all kinds of discrimination against many different groups in all kinds of business settings, not just gay people.

For example, medical clinics often are private businesses. What if a for-profit clinic decided for religious reasons not to care for a pregnant woman because she isn’t married? Or, if a landlord believes that men should be the head of the household and refuses to rent to single mothers?

Freedom of religion is already firmly protected by the state and federal constitutions. But that freedom does not give any of us the right to discriminate against others when operating a business.

And yet, that is exactly what many lawmakers across the country are attempting to allow. Last year saw numerous bills in state legislatures aiming to expand religious rights to ignore laws. Fortunately, in Arizona, Idaho, Kansas, South Dakota and Tennessee those efforts were dropped or stopped. However, the movement pushing these bills continues.

Indiana is currently considering this type of legislation, and it illustrates why we’re worried. The intention to facilitate discrimination against gay and transgender people is all too clear. But the bill also threatens to encourage a broad range of other harms because, in other states with this kind of law, individuals have argued that non-discrimination laws, child abuse laws and domestic violence laws don’t apply to them if they have a religious objection.

As Arizona lawmakers realized after hastily approving their similar bill last year, vastly expanding religious rights in business settings would interfere with employers’ ability to manage employees who misbehave in the name of religion while badly tarnishing the state’s reputation. Thankfully, then-Gov. Jan Brewer vetoed that bill.

But now, in Indiana and other states, “discrimination as religion” bills again are trying to provide a “freedom to discriminate,” using freedom of religion as a misleading excuse. And we must remain vigilant to ensure that these harmful bills do not become law.


If you have questions or feel that you have been discriminated against based on your sexual orientation, gender identity or HIV status, please contact our Legal Help Desk.


Oregon’s new governor is first out bisexual governor in history

Posted on 13 Feb 2015 at 2:50pm

Oregon’s secretary of State and incoming governor Kate Brown.

Oregon’s next governor will be the first openly bisexual governor in the nation when she takes office next Wednesday, Feb. 18.

Secretary of State Kate Brown succeeds embattled Oregon Gov. John Kitzhaber, a Democrat who announced his resignation this morning, Friday, Feb. 13.

Kitzhaber has been under fire for his fiance’s potential conflicts of interest. He was re-elected last November to a historic fourth term despite the ongoing controversy.

Because Oregon does not have a lieutenant governor, the secretary of state is next in line to become governor.

Denis Dison, interim executive director of the Victory Fund, which endorses openly LGBT candidates for office, praised the milestone in a statement.

“Kate Brown will make history as the first openly bisexual American to become governor, and that makes us and the entire LGBT community extremely proud,” he said. “More importantly for Oregonians, she’s a dedicated, passionate and impressive public servant who’s ready for this challenge. We believe in Kate Brown and her ability to lead Oregon through this difficult moment.”

The Victory Fund endorsed Brown in her 2008 campaign for secretary of state and in her 2012 re-election bid. Upon assuming the office of secretary of state in 2009 she became the first openly bisexual statewide elected official in American history.

Brown lives in Portland, Ore. with her husband of 15 years Dan Little. They have two adult children from Little’s earlier marriage.