With TABC raiding gay bars in DFW and taco restaurants kicking out gay customers in El Paso, Texas is a hotbed of LGBT news
If nothing else, the events of the last few weeks have certainly snapped everyone out of their summer humdrums.
Usually this time of year, we’re all just trying to suffer through the blazing heat and not move too quickly to conserve a little energy. About the most exciting thing going on is usually the Voice of Pride contest sponsored by the Dallas Tavern Guild in all of the Oak Lawn gay bars.
Imagine Nat King Cole’s "Lazy Hazy Crazy Days of Summer" playing on the jukebox at your local bar, and you’ve got it.
"I think I’ll have one more before I leave," someone might be saying in this scene.
But this summer, it’s way different.
We here in Texas find ourselves immersed in controversy from one end of the state to the other. People are up in arms from Dallas-Fort Worth to El Paso because of law enforcement operations at gay bars and alleged anti-gay discrimination at an oversized taco stand.
A combined Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission and Fort Worth Police Department task at the Rainbow Lounge left a gay man in critical condition; a refusal of service at a Chico’s Tacos in El Paso revealed police officers who thought being gay was a prosecutable crime; and another more recent TABC and Dallas Police Department operation at the Dallas Eagle riled the Dallas-Fort Worth LGBT community near to the point of wanting to riot.
Is the situation really that bad, you may well ask?
Well, this is as good of a time as any to address the issue of whether what happened at the Rainbow Lounge and the Dallas Eagle were law enforcement raids or something less intrusive, like say mere, inspections.
I know there are people who are trying to downplay the significance of the presence of law enforcement agencies at these establishments.
It is my opinion that they were raids because the law enforcement officers went into the nightclubs armed and with the purpose in mind of arresting anyone they found intoxicated and shutting down operations if anything was found to be out of order.
Webster’s New World Dictionary says it better than I can, and I quote: "Any sudden invasion of some place by police for discovery and dealing with violations of the law."
I’m almost positive the operators of the bars were not expecting visits by law enforcement agencies — at least not the kind that happened — when they opened the doors for business those nights.
So I would say that any efforts by government public relations people to convince us these were not raids are actually a desperate attempt to put a lid on what has become a mighty embarrassing dilemma for politicians and local and state law enforcement agencies.
That’s because this is getting widespread national attention. I realize that Gov. Rick Perry no doubt loves it, because in his mind it will likely discourage more LGBT people from wanting to move to Texas and possibly convince some others to move out.
But other politicians who have had less debilitating exposure to the toxic fumes of hairspray are not so sure about all of this negative publicity.
It just ain’t good for business of any kind, Rick.
To that point, I rather imagine that at least some of the people attending and competing in the Voice of Pride contests in recent days have been wondering if they were going to be suddenly interrupted by a TABC visit.
Add to it all the drama the tragic, deadly crash of a plane in the Gulf of Mexico in a storm off the coast of Florida with two Dallas gay couples on board, and we’ve had nothing short of explosive news coverage in the last few weeks.
When you put all of this against the backdrop of the Michael Jackson and Farrah Fawcett sagas, it’s enough to make you want to stay in bed in the morning. The mind can only stand so much trauma.
The good news is that the heat — in every sense of the word — cannot continue forever. Things will eventually cool down again, and maybe a lot of progress in terms of educating and regulating law enforcement officers will have been made in the process.
And we will have had time to recover from the overpowering sense of loss that the deaths of people near and far way have caused.
David Webb is a former reporter for Dallas Voice. He now operates his own blog at http://therarereporter.blogspot.com.
This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition July 17, 2009.