Soundout • May 29, 2009

By John Wright

5 questions with Rafael McDonnell


McDonnell

Rafael McDonnell, 43, is strategic communications and programs manager for Resource Center Dallas. A graduate of TCU and UNT, McDonnell spent 15 years as a radio news producer/reporter, and he joined RCD last May. McDonnell lives in Fort Worth.

What do you do at RCD?
I’m responsible for all of the agency’s communications messaging. That’s everything from the text on our Web site and brochures to news releases and responding to calls from the media. I’m also the semi-official staff photographer. I’m a member of our diversity education team that takes part in training at colleges, universities and businesses. Also, I help to coordinate the GLBT Job Expo the Center holds every spring.

What’s the biggest misconception that the media and the general public have about RCD?
Even though the Center has been around for 26 years, one of the things that surprises me is that there are some folks in the media and general public who think we solely provide services to people with HIV/AIDS. We’ve had a dual mission to help that community and the GLBT community practically since our inception.

Has your experience covering LGBT issues, including RCD, as a news reporter/producer helped you make the transition into your job?
My involvement in the community goes back to the early 1990s when I joined Dignity Dallas, but I often worked on stories of interest to both communities served by the Center. I interviewed the late John Thomas, the Center’s founding executive director, on issues ranging from Dallas County’s former condom distribution ban to a comment Dick Armey once made about Barney Frank. I did a five-part series on HIV/AIDS in North Texas. I also used to interview my current boss, Cece Cox, when she was president of the Dallas Gay and Lesbian Alliance. These stories gave me a rich and deep background that helps me on a daily basis.

Is it true that you were once let go by a radio station in Dallas because of your sexual orientation?
Yes. Over a three-week period, I went from award-winning assistant news director to unemployed. The same thing happened to another employee a few months later. But it made me a stronger person and showed in an intensely personal way the need for GLBT job protections. I landed a new job with a station in Houston four days after I had been let go.

You’re also a member of Dallas Bears. If you were a PR person for the bear community, what would be your first campaign?

There’s been a lot of effort among some members of the community to define who is a bear. From my perspective, that misses the point. Identity isn’t something assigned to you, it’s something you embrace. That would be the core of my PR campaign, and it’s one of the reasons why I feel comfortable as a member of the Dallas Bears — the club shares that philosophy.

Soundout is a weekly column featuring people whose jobs and interests have an impact on the daily lives of members of the LGBT community. It features those who often go unnoticed by the press and community. If you’d like to recommend someone to cover in this column, editor@dallasvoice.com­.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition May 29, 2009.

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Pet of the week • May 29, 2009


Earl

Earl is a 3-month-old American Staffordshire terrier mix. He is brown with a grizzle coat. He and his happy, playful eight siblings came to our shelter with their mother to find forever homes. He has been neutered, micorchipped, vaccinated and is on heartworm preventative. His Operation Kindness ID is 59715.

Earl and many other great dogs and cats are available for adoption from Operation Kindness, located at 3201 Earhart Drive, 1 street south of Keller Springs and 2 blocks west of Midway Road, in Carrollton. The no-kill shelter is open 7 days a week: Monday-Saturday from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m., Sunday from noon to 5 p.m. and Thursdays until 8 p.m. The cost to adopt is $110 for cats, $135 for kittens, $150 dogs over 1 year, and $175 for puppies. The adoption cost includes the spay/neuter surgery, microchipping, vaccinations, heartworm test for dogs, leukemia and FIV test for cats, and more. Seniors 65 and over and those who adopt two pets at the same time receive a $20 discount. For more information, call 972-418-PAWS, or visit www.operationkindness.org.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition May 29, 2009

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Challenge filed in federal court, but gay leaders wary

By Lisa Keen Keen News Service


Shannon Minter, legal director for National Center for Lesbian Rights

One of the nation’s best known conservative attorneys, and a U.S. Solicitor General under President George W. Bush, has filed a lawsuit in federal court aimed at defeating Proposition 8.

Theodore Olson has teamed up with well-known Democratic attorney David Boies to file a lawsuit in U.S. District Court in San Francisco on behalf of two same-sex couples.

The lawsuit — which Olson says will almost certainly wind up in the U.S. Supreme Court — argues that California’s Proposition 8, banning same-sex marriage, violates the U.S. Constitution’s guarantees of equal protection and due process of the law.

Olson told Associated Press that he and Boies "wanted to be a symbol of the fact that this not a conservative or a liberal issue."

"We want to send a signal that this is an important constitutional issue," said Olson, "involving equal rights for all Americans."

Gay liberal blogger John Aravosis, at americablog.com, quipped "Now I’ve seen everything."

"It doesn’t get any more conservative and nasty than Ted Olson," posted Aravosis in a May 26 blog. "And now he’s supporting gay marriage. And not just supporting it, but putting his legal muscle behind it."

But it’s not necessarily the strategy gay legal activists had in mind.

Gay legal activists have largely focused their efforts on the states, primarily because marriage laws are, with one glaring exception, matters controlled by each state. The one exception is the Defense of Marriage Act, a federal law passed in 1996 to ban the federal government from giving any recognition to a same-sex marriage and to underscore each state’s right to ignore another state’s same-sex marriage.

Gay & Lesbian Advocates & Defenders recently filed a lawsuit in federal court to challenge the federal recognition aspect of that law. But gay legal groups have not sought any other federal challenges on the marriage issue.

"The best way to maximize the chances of winning a lawsuit is by creating the climate that enables judges to do their job," says Evan Wolfson, head of the national Freedom to Marry group.

Wolfson said marriage rights are more easily won by "building more public support, and doing the same kind of work needed to restore the freedom to marry at the ballot-box in California" and other states.

"These are the most critical tasks now," says Wolfson. "There is no federal end-run around the nitty-gritty work of social change in a democratic society."

Shannon Minter, legal director for the National Center for Lesbian Rights, agreed that the lawsuit could be damaging.

"In our view, the best way to win marriage equality nationally is to continue working state by state, not to bring premature federal challenges that pose a very high risk of setting a negative U.S. Supreme Court precedent," Minter told AP.

The lawsuit filed by Olson and Boies involves two same-sex couples: a gay male couple from Burbank who have been together for eight years and a lesbian couple from Berkeley who have been together for nine years. The lesbian couple has four children.

The lawsuit was filed on Friday, May 22, just days before the California Supreme Court issued its opinion upholding the legitimacy of Proposition 8. The attorneys also asked the court for a preliminary injunction against Proposition 8′s enforcement.

The lawsuit is reportedly being funded by the American Foundation for Equal Rights, a Los Angeles-based organization which has a Facebook page and Twitter account but no Web site.

The Facebook page indicates the organization was founded just this year and is "dedicated to protecting and advancing equal rights for every American through legal, policy, and political advocacy."

A Twitter posting indicates the lawsuit is the group’s "first project."

One of the many ironies in the news is that Olson and Boies were on opposing legal teams in the U.S. Supreme Court clash over the 2000 presidential election results, Bush v. Gore. But Olson’s involvement is the larger surprise.

Olson was solicitor general from 2001-04 under President George W. Bush; and he was private counsel to both Bush and President Ronald Reagan.

Meanwhile, Equality California announced Tuesday, May 26 that it will begin work immediately to put an initiative on the ballot in 2010 to undo Proposition 8.

None of the Proposition 8 news this week prompted a comment from President Obama, even though he spoke at an event Tuesday in Nevada, where Gov. Jim Gibbons on Monday, May 25 vetoed a bill to give gay couples domestic partnership rights.

When asked for comment about Proposition 8, White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs on Tuesday afternoon told reporters, "I have not talked to the president about it."

The Associated Press contributed to this report.
© 2009 Keen News Service

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition May 29, 2009.

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New Hampshire lawmakers trying to hammer out gay marriage deal

By Norma Love Associated Press

Opponents lobbying to convince governor to veto bill outright

CONCORD, N.H. — A plan to legalize gay marriage in New Hampshire just won’t go away.

The state Senate agreed Wednesday, May 27 to negotiate a compromise with the House on protections for religious institutions and their workers that Gov. John Lynch says he must have to sign a gay marriage bill.

The issue could come back before the Legislature as early as June 3.

Last week, the House rejected supporters’ first attempt to pass the protections by two votes. Opponents are lobbying Lynch to acknowledge the initial defeat and veto gay marriage.

The Democrat-controlled Legislature has already passed two bills on gay marriage. One bill legalizes the unions and a second fixes errors in the main bill. Those bills are being held by Senate President Sylvia Larsen to keep from triggering the five-day clock Lynch would have to act on them.

Lynch, a Democrat, personally opposes gay marriage but decided to view the issue "through a broader lens."

Lynch said he would sign a gay marriage bill only if the legislation better protected churches and their employees against lawsuits if their beliefs preclude them from marrying gays. After last week’s House vote, Lynch spokesman Colin Manning said the governor will continue to talk with lawmakers, but the principles he articulated must be in the final version for him to sign it.

The Legislature had to put Lynch’s language in the third bill because the other bills no longer can be amended. Opponents hope that by killing the third bill, Lynch will be forced to veto the already passed gay marriage legislation.

Meanwhile, Senate Democrats defeated Republican efforts on Wednesday to put the question to voters in a nonbinding referendum. Democrats argued New Hampshire isn’t a referendum state and pointed to court rulings rejecting past attempts to hold them. Republicans countered that the court rulings were on binding referendums.

Senate Republican Leader Peter Bragdon of Milford said gay marriage has divided the state and argued voters deserve a voice.

But Sen. Deborah Reynolds, D-Plymouth, pointed out New Hampshire citizens are well-represented by 24 senators and 400 representatives.

"We stand in the shoes of the electorate under the constitution," she said.

Raymond Republican Jack Barnes warned that voters would have their say either way in November 2010 by voting for lawmakers who represented their point of view on the issue.

"It will be interesting to see if this is a big issue out there," he said.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition May 29, 2009.

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National briefs • May 29, 2009

By The Associated Press

Religious freedom organization asks IRS to investigate Falwell’s Liberty University
RICHMOND, Va. — A religious freedom organization wants the Internal Revenue Service to investigate whether Liberty University violated federal tax law when it withdrew recognition of a student-run Democratic club.

Americans United for Separation of Church and State on Wednesday, May 27 urged the IRS to review the tax-exempt status of the private university in Lynchburg, Va., founded by the late Rev. Jerry Falwell.

Liberty officials earlier this month informed the fledgling College Democrats club that it can no longer use the university’s name or apply for school funding, saying the party’s support of abortion and gay rights is inconsistent with the conservative Christian school’s moral principles.

Barry W. Lynn, executive director of Americans United, said in a letter to the IRS that Liberty has supported a Republican club for years. Such political clubs often work on behalf of candidates, he wrote, and Liberty’s action offers GOP candidates "a type of in-kind contribution" not available to Democrats.

"By banning a Democratic club while permitting a Republican club to exist and offering funding to the latter but not the former, university officials appear to be operating in violation of federal tax law," Lynn wrote.

Mathew Staver, dean of the Liberty University law school, called the complaint "frivolous" and said the school has not banned the club, which can continue to meet on campus.

"American United simply doesn’t know the facts of the case," he said. "They are filing this to promote their own fundraising agenda and goals, which is frankly disconcerting."

Lynn responded: "I’ve heard this before. It’s a typical diversion tactic to attack the messenger rather than confront the truth, which is that Liberty University has done the wrong thing."

Poll indicates majority of Rhode Island voters favor gay marriage
PROVIDENCE, Rhode Island — A survey has found that more than half of Rhode Island voters favor a law allowing gay marriage.

Four of the other five New England states have legalized gay marriage: Massachusetts, Connecticut, Vermont and Maine. New Hampshire lawmakers are working to pass a gay marriage bill the governor will sign.

A Brown University poll released Wednesday shows 60 percent of registered voters in Rhode Island said they would support a law allowing gay couples to marry. Thirty-one percent said they were opposed.

Bills to legalize gay marriage in the state are before legislative committees in both the state House of Representatives and Senate.

The poll was conducted May 18-20 with a random sample of 593 registered voters statewide. The margin of error was plus or minus about 4 percentage points.


Massachusetts man admits attack on gay men in Boston
BOSTON — A Framingham man has pleaded guilty to attacking three gay men and their female friend as they walked in Boston’s South End, but he has avoided prison.

Fabio Brandao on Wednesday, May 27 admitted kicking and hitting the men while using homophobic slurs during the beating last August. Three other attackers have never been identified.

The 29-year-old Brandao received a two-year suspended sentence and won’t spend time in prison if he follows terms set by a Boston Municipal Court judge, including alcohol counseling and paying the victims’ medical bills.

Brandao’s attorney, Francis Doran, declined comment.

Before sentencing, one victim told the court he still had scars from the attack and left the city. The female victim said she no longer believes there’s good in everyone.

Domestic partnership foes challenge ballot wording in Washington
OLYMPIA, Wash. — Conservative activists want to change the wording of a proposed ballot measure that would overturn the Legislature’s latest expansion of domestic partnerships for gay and lesbian couples.

A petition to amend the referendum language was filed Tuesday, May 26 in Thurston County Superior Court by Larry Stickney, president of the Washington Values Alliance.

Opponents of the domestic partnership expansion take issue with the way state attorneys wrote the title and summary that would appear on the November ballot.

Currently, the proposed ballot summary notes that while the bill expands the rights granted or imposed by state law for married couples and their families, "registered domestic partnerships are not marriages, and marriage is prohibited except between one man and one woman." Under the proposed changes, that language would be removed.

The referendum will only make the ballot if proponents collect more than 120,500 valid voter signatures by July 25. But by filing a challenge, referendum supporters have delayed that process, because they can’t start circulating petitions until the challenge is resolved.

Stickney did not immediately return a phone call seeking comment. But Gary Randall, president of the allied Faith and Freedom Network, said the coalition seeking to overturn the law wanted clarity in the ballot language.

He said that while there is concern that they are delaying their ability to collect enough signatures, they were still certain they could do it.

"But we’re not naive to the fact that it’s going to be a challenge," he said.

Groups that support the domestic partnership law will likely intervene in the lawsuit to make sure the language of the ballot title and concise summary are accurate.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition May 29, 2009.

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Do they still play clips from 'Designing Women' at the Round-Up?

Dave White of The Advocate reminisces about his Dallas days in this review of the season 1 DVD of “Designing Women.” Here’s a snippet:

Back when I lived in Texas, in the early 1990s, I dated a guy named Les who was really into country music. He used to take me to this bar in Dallas called The Round Up where gays in cowboy hats and boots would two-step. I couldn’t dance — even though Les tried to teach me — so in order not to cramp his style, I’d watch from the sidelines as he spun other men around on the dance floor.

And then the music would stop and a clip from an old episode of Designing Women would play on the video monitors. It was the one where Julia Sugarbaker (Dixie Carter) is telling off a beauty pageant winner who has just insulted former Miss Georgia Suzanne Sugarbaker (Delta Burke). The clip showcases a hilarious, blistering monologue in which Carter recounts the story of a flaming baton thrown by Burke so high into the air that it hits a transformer, darkens the stadium, and creates a 16-1/2-minute ovation. It’s a brutal scolding that ends with Carter barking the line “And THAT … is the night the lights went out in Georgia!”

In that gay bar there were more than a few men who knew every single word of that speech, and they’d chant along and cheer when it was over as the DJ cued up a Reba McEntire song. The other thing about that clip? It got played every single time I entered the place. I haven’t lived in Texas for 10 years now, and for all I know that clip is still being chanted along to like a miniature sweet-tea-flavored Rocky Horror Picture Show.

—  John Wright

Letters • May 29, 2009

We all need to be ‘future pioneers’
I am deeply honored to be considered one of the "future pioneers" listed in Dallas Voice’s 25th anniversary issue. I am inspired and humbled by the stories of those who have changed and continue to change the very community in which we live. For every "notable" and "future pioneer" mentioned, there are at least 20 others who deserve to be on that list. I am constantly amazed that such prophetic voices could be found in "conservative" Texas.

As I said during the Day of Decision Rally on Tuesday, May 26, we need you to be a part of this movement. I challenge each of us to stand up and be counted as a voice for our community. We need you to take to the streets during a rally. We need you to volunteer at the numerous organizations that keep our community moving ahead. We need you to offer support to the organizations and leaders that are helping to make the lives of LGBTQA people better.

We need you to be the face of our community at school, at work and at home. We need you to realize that our lives, our responsibilities and our freedoms do not stop once we leave Oak Lawn. Working and volunteering in our community is not always an easy task. I am often asked by friends, family members and past partners why I do the work that I do. My answer is always that I do the work that needs to be done so that the next generation can live a better life. It is not too late for you to make a difference.

We may not always agree, but now is the time for you to get involved. Join the organizations and leaders of our community as we come together as one united voice. Stand up and be counted.

Not sure where you fit? Drop me an e-mail and I would be more than happy to help you find an organization that you can get involved in. It takes all of our voices to make the change we want to see in the world. Speak up.

Beau Heyen
Dallas

Both gays, right-wingers guilty of intolerance
I was watching a movie about Sgt. Alvin C. York, who won the Congressional Award of Honor during World War I for saving many lives — not just his fellow servicemen’s lives, but also his enemies, by taking them as prisoners while only killing a few. He was a conscientious objector and a very devout Christian. What made him decide to go to war was the words he read in the Bible: "Give unto Caesar what is Caesar’s and what is God’s give to God." It made me think twice myself as a Christian whose interpretation of Scripture leads me to believe that "gay is not OK."

I still have several friends that I love who are gay. I am a strong believer in separation of church and state. Also, I believe in tolerance, and feel all professed Christians should, too.

I also believe Christians should be for nondiscrimination, something that our Declaration of Independence guarantees, including freedom and justice for all. Give Caesar what is Caesar’s.

It’s funny how some far-right, so-called Christians attack gays in the same way that Miss California was attacked by the gay community. Then gays attacked Carrie Prejean but not Obama for believing and saying the same thing.

What pertains to gays pertains to my own Christian community as well. Both communities can be quick to judge, both within and outside their own communities. And all the while, maturity and unity in any community would better serve them in putting forth their effort and reaching their goals.

Instead, some people are intolerant, discriminating, mocking and judgmental. A whole group should not be judged by actions of a few.

I’m not OK, and you’re not OK, because both sides of the fence regarding this issue who truly believe in tolerance and non-discrimination must "endure or sustain pain and hardship." It is the meaning of tolerance according to the Oxford English Dictionary.

Put simply, tolerance expresses the principle of freedom and nondiscrimination expresses the principle of equality.

Gail Blessing
Dallas

TO SEND A LETTER
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This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition May 29, 2009.

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No separation between church and 8

By Hardy Haberman Flagging Left

Calif. amendment banning same-sex marriage not only deprives gays and lesbians of fundamental rights; it’s also blatantly religious

For most of my life I was told that America was a classless society. That was the big lie.

You know, the one that Hitler defined in "Mein Kampf": A lie so "colossal" that few would believe anyone "could have the impudence to distort the truth so infamously".

I saw the truth of this during the Civil Rights struggle in the 1950s and ’60s, and today it becomes evident again with the California Supreme Court ruling upholding Proposition 8 while affirming the marriages that took place during the brief period same-sex marriage was legal in California.

California, and indeed the rest of the country, has three classes of people:

First, the privileged class called heterosexuals who can marry whomever they wish as long as they are of opposite gender.

Then there is the underclass, lesbians and gays who are forbidden to marry their partners of the same sex in all but five states.

Finally there is the strange "other" class. These are Californians who married their chosen partners of the same sex prior to the passage of Prop 8. Only 18,000 or so strong, they make up a very strange class indeed.

One problem is California law, which allows wacko citizen ballot initiatives. This means that all you have to do to discriminate against a particular group is get together enough support and pass a proposition during an election. If it meets a few very loose legal qualifications it be comes law.

More than once this has caused havoc in California.

The infamous Proposition 13 limited property taxes in the state to 1 percent of the cash value of the property. Is it any wonder California is facing a massive budget shortfall?

The second problem is the whole premise of Proposition 8 itself. No matter how you look at it, the underpinnings of this discriminatory law are religious.

All the arguments for passing it were wrapped in not-so-subtle religious arguments and were backed by the considerable monetary power of churches, specifically the Mormons.

The courts in Iowa realized that prohibition of same-sex marriage is little more than a blurring of church-state separation and they threw it out. Unfortunately, the California court based their decision on the lawsuit that was brought against the initiative.

That suit stated that the initiative process was improperly used in an attempt to undo the constitution’s core commitment to equality for everyone by eliminating a fundamental right from just one group — lesbian and gay Californians.

I have to wonder if arguing that it was a blatantly religious law would have been a better tact?

All that is water under the bridge now.

I feel sure that another initiative will be crafted to repeal Prop 8 in the near future, but the battle will continue until the courts pull away the veil and expose the whole thing for what it is.

If you are unclear, just ask a Prop 8 supporter why they don’t want gays and lesbians to have the right to marry.

You will get a variety of responses, but most will toss in the word "God," or an allusion to the "fabric of society," which is code for "it’s in the Bible."

It’s time we brought our founding fathers into this mess, and ask them if they would allow a church-inspired mandate to be the law of the land? Somehow I doubt they would — and neither should we.

Hardy Haberman is a longtime local LGBT activist. His blog is at http://dungeondiary.blogspot.com.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition May 29, 2009.

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Openly gay student named Prom Queen

Sergio Garcia (shown above) promised his classmates at Fairfax High School in Los Angeles that if elected prom queen he wouldn’t wear a dress.

“I will be wearing a suit,” Garcia said, “but don’t be fooled, deep down inside, I am a queen!”

Garcia’s campaign started as a a bit of a stunt, but on Saturday he was named prom queen and became one of the first male students to ever hold the title in Southern California.

Read more from The Los Angeles Times by going here.

—  John Wright

'How would you feel if your marriage was put to a vote? Probably the same way we do'

—  John Wright