Fort Hood holds Pride celebration

By Irene Andrews

 

History was made in Killeen, Texas, when Fort Hood, the largest Army base in the free world, held its first Pride month celebration on June 25.

My wife and I carpooled with several LGBTQ and straight allies to Fort Hood, for the event, which took place in the Club Hood Grande Ballroom. We were some of the first to arrive and were given seats in the center row. I quickly set up my video camera in the aisle to get a perfect shot of the podium.

As soldiers in camouflage fatigues began to trickle in, I walked around and spoke with them. I met John, who introduced himself as the husband of Captain Robert W. Caruso, the chaplain who would be giving the invocation. John and I were viewing large posters on display: a photo of the Oval Office with President Obama signing the repeal of Don’t Ask Don’t Tell, black-and-white snapshots of the first LGBT protest in front of the White House, circa 1965, led by Frank Kameny, and other photos with captions of interest.

The Black Jacks Brass Quintet of the 1st Cavalry Division began to warm up and in the midst of the music and buzz of conversations, you could feel the excitement and growing anticipation of what was to come.

I felt compelled to capture these moments as they unfolded before me. I grabbed my phone and began using it to do impromptu 30 second interviews: “Please state your name and tell me why it is important for you to be here today.”

Everyone I approached was eager to share their thoughts and leaned close to speak loudly into the microphone. They wanted to be heard as much as I wanted to record their voices. The din of musicians tuning instruments was not going to deter them. We all sensed the significance and gravity of this moment. We were never going back. “Silent No More” was a reality.

This was the beginning of a new Army tradition, and because Fort Hood was leading the way, I knew the surrounding civilian communities — and indeed the whole state of Texas — would follow — even if kicking and screaming. They would have to acknowledge us and respect us and see us for who we are.

Diversity and inclusion were winning the day. Same-sex couples were proudly sitting together, one in uniform, the other in street clothes, both smiling broadly.

Sgt. Major Michael Horton and her wife were among the mixed — military/civilian — couples there. Sgt. Major Horton said, “I am here to help support our Pride month. We have seen a big change in the Army and it has made it a better unit, a better force.”

Her wife, Consuela Jackson Horton, added, “I’m here to show support and I’m actually very excited to see the military community coming together as one.”

I was able to catch up with Capt. Caruso, who said, “I’m here because this is a momentous event. It’s historical, and I’m excited about it. I’m a gay man, out of the closet, and I’ve been a chaplain for two years, after seven years serving in ordained ministry as a civilian, and I am now married to my partner John.

“Our community is now able to express themselves and be open with who they are,” Caruso said. “My ministry is to all soldiers, but I have now had many gay and lesbian soldiers come to me with their issues. It is a different Army now. Its a good thing, but also very new.”

Caruso agreed that this new openness is making the Army stronger and healthier. “’Strength in Diversity’ is a core Army value,” he said. “Diversity is the anchor that holds the Army together, in my opinion. It’s what makes us who we are. We are a microcosm of society.”

Patricia Amazon Muldrow Roberts came with a group from the Bell County and Stonewall Democrats. She said she made the trip because “it is an opportunity and a privilege to be at Fort Hood to honor our soldiers. Our commander-in-chief has set a tone that now gay people, heterosexual people and transgender people — it doesn’t matter — can walk proudly with their partners and not be afraid. I’m proud to be here. I’m so glad to be here. As a black woman I can say the first time we were recognized and we were able to go into a restaurant and we were able to not use the back door — what that felt like. … I just wanted to stand beside my brothers and sisters and let them know we’re all one!”

Brigadier Gen. Tammy Smith was the guest speaker. She was the first LGBT Army member to have her wife, Tracey Hepner, promote her, as is the tradition for a service member’s spouse to do. This action was their “coming out” moment.

Smith shared her deeply personal struggle to live “two separate lives” for more than 24 years while serving in the military, until she met and fell in love with Tracey. Smith said she nearly walked away from a distinguished military career because she could no longer deal with the stress of lying about who she was. She refused to disrespect her wife and their relationship by denying their love and commitment.

Shortly before she was set to retire, Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell was repealed and Smith decided not to leave the army. She and Tracey proudly live on base in a family housing unit.

Smith’s story stirred many in the audience. Straight allies I invited to attend with me were moved to tears. On a gut level, they began to understand the sacrifice Smith and so many LGBT service members were forced to make.

Protecting the rights and freedoms of fellow U.S. citizens would not afford them any safety. They would be denied those very same rights and witness the court martial and disgraceful dismissal their LGBTQ comrades and battle buddies.

I will never forget the moment my wife and I introduced ourselves to Gen. Smith and thanked her and Hepner. We were humbled by their courage and grace.

Coming out changed their lives as it my and my wife, Joan’s, lives. We left the event knowing that when we all have the courage to be our beautiful, loving, joyfully authentic selves, we release a power within us that reverberates like ripples from a stone breaking the surface of water.

The choice to be authentic transforms each one of us and rocks the world around us. We become part of a positive “chain reaction.” We begin to witness that which we have always hoped for: Equality. I believe Gen. Smith would agree that our families and our future depend on all of us coming out.

Happy Pride. Be out, be loud and be proud.

 

 

—  David Taffet

Beaumont holds first Pride parade

Maxey BeaumontFormer Texas state Rep. Glen Maxey was grand marshal of Beaumont’s first Pride parade.

Here’s what Maxey posted on his Facebook page about the event:

I spent an amazing day in Beaumont for their inaugural Pride Parade. See me splendidly perched on the back of a convertible (I was honored to the the Grand Marshall and cut the ribbon at the festival entrance! Thanks Jennifer Daniel and the Pride committee for the invite and honor! All successful Pride events have: a person with a large snake, very cute young men who organized this thing, and well appointed drag queens (from Sulphur Louisiana). Thanks southeast Texas!!! btw, they had a huge group in this parade (and not a single protestor, Klan siting, or Bible thumper (take that Houston, Austin and Dallas)!

Maxey Beau

—  David Taffet

Catholic League to march in NYC Pride after gays excluded from St. Pat’s marches

Bill Donohue

Catholic League President Bill Donohue would be a happy addition to any Pride parade

When St. Patrick’s Day parade organizers in New York and Boston refused to allow gay groups to march, beer companies dropped their sponsorships and the mayors of those two cities refused to participate.

So Catholic League president Bill Donohue figured what’s good for the goose is good for the gander. He began a boycott of Guinness, the New York St. Patrick’s Day sponsor that pulled out, and he applied to march in the New York gay Pride parade. And New York’s Pride committee said yes.

The LGBT groups who wanted to march would have stuck to the theme and held banners that said, “Gay, Irish and Proud.”

Donohue wants to march under a banner that says “Straight is Great,” which goes off topic.

“Straight is great — as long as there’s no hate,” said David Studinski, march director of NYC Pride, according to GLAAD, which broke the story.

Several weeks ago, in an interview, Donohue said, “If I wanted to get into their gay pride parade with my own float with big banners saying ‘straight is great,’ they would have a right to feel put-upon and I wouldn’t do that to them.”

Apparently, now that he was successful at blocking gays and lesbians from openly participating in the St. Patrick’s Day Parade, he’s changed his mind and decided to see just how put upon he can make the LGBT community feel.

—  David Taffet

Attendance swells at Pride across U.S., including Houston, San Antonio

Pride1

Organizers said the San Antonio Pride Parade was the biggest in its 10-year history. More than 400,000 turned out for Houston Pride.

The Pride Bigger than Texas festival in San Antonio attracted about 5,000 people. That was followed by the parade on Main Avenue with more than 15,000 lining the street.

The large crowds for Pride parades around the country celebrated the Prop 8 and Defense of Marriage Act victories in the Supreme Court last week.

In New York, home of the first Pride parade 44 years ago, 2 million people typically turn out for the event. This year, the city estimated 3 million celebrated in the wake of the victories. Edie Windsor, plaintiff in the case that struck down DOMA, was grand marshal.

“I love it obviously,” she said. “If someone had told me 50 years ago that I would be the marshal of New York City gay Pride parade in 2013 at the age of 84, I never would have believed it.”

In California, same-sex marriage resumed on Friday. Later, Justice Anthony Kennedy, who wrote the DOMA opinion, turned down a request by the plaintiffs in the Prop 8 case to delay the beginning of marriage equality while they file a petition for rehearing by the high court.

San Francisco’s Pride parade, which usually draws 1 million, attracted a few hundred thousand more participants this year.

Among those participating in the parade were House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi, Milk screenwriter Dustin Lance Black and Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg.

Marriage equality passed in Delaware earlier this year and the state began issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples today.

—  David Taffet

Bartender suffers fractured eye socket in attack outside Rainbow Lounge

Adam Granados

A bartender at the Rainbow Lounge said he was attacked in the parking lot of the Fort Worth gay bar early Monday.

Adam Granados said he’d just gotten off work and was in the parking lot at about 1:15 a.m. when he was attacked from behind.

“Someone hit me in the back of the head and knocked me down,” Granados said. “When I got up, he hit me in the face.”

Granados, who suffered severe cuts and a hairline fracture to his eye socket, said he doesn’t know if the incident was a hate crime, a simple assault or an attempted robbery. He doesn’t remember the assailant saying anything. Since the attack occurred at the end of Fort Worth’s gay Pride weekend, and he was wearing a Pride T-shirt outside a gay bar, he said he may have been targeted for his sexual orientation.

Fort Worth police spokeswoman Sharon Neal said the incident isn’t being investigated as a hate crime because no epithets were spoken and no evidence such as spray-painted slurs was left, although she said hate may have been the motive. No suspects or witnesses have come forward.

On Saturday, two protesters were arrested at the Pride parade in downtown Fort Worth. No other incidents related to Pride were reported.

Granados said the attacker tried to grab his phone but didn’t get it. He doesn’t know whether the suspect was trying to steal the phone or prevent him from calling for help. The attacker fled by car as Granados made it back inside the bar.

Someone in the Rainbow Lounge called 911. Granados filed a police report and was taken to John Peter Smith Hospital.

A CT scan revealed a hairline fracture under his eye socket. He needed two stitches on the corner of his eye and three under his eye. He also suffered scrapes and bruises. Today, he said, he has been able to open his eye slightly.

Anyone with information about the incident should contact the Fort Worth Police Department at 817-335-4222.

—  David Taffet

UPDATE: 2 anti-gay protesters arrested at Fort Worth Pride parade

Anti-gay protesters, above and below, at Saturday’s gay Pride parade in Fort Worth.

Fort Worth police arrested two anti-gay protesters at Saturday’s gay Pride parade downtown. (Read our full story about the parade here.)

The arrested protesters are members of Kingdom Baptist Church in Johnson County, which has regularly staged anti-gay demonstrations in North Texas over the last few years.

Joey Faust, 46, and Ramon Marroquin, 33, were charged with interfering with public duties, a class-B misdemeanor punishable by up to 180 days in jail and a maximum $2,000 fine. Faust is the pastor for Kingdom Baptist Church.

Joey Faust

According to a statement from Fort Worth police, officers encountered a group from Kingdom Baptist Church at about 12:50 p.m. The officers “maintained separation of the protesters from the parade participants to ensure public safety and to prevent a breach of the peace.”

Last year, several members of Kingdom Baptist Church were arrested and charged with disorderly conduct for harassing parade attendees, and this year police announced they would increase their presence at the event.

A right-wing blog called The Trumpet Online was the first to report the arrests Saturday, under the headline, “Pastor Joey Faust Arrested at Sodomite Parade”:

These Christians stood at the entrance of the parade route rebuking floats and banners from corporations such as Lockheed Martin, and Chase Morgan, from bars such as Fort Worth’s infamous Rainbow Lounge, and it grieves me to say, from “Churches” blaspheming the name of God by walking in this mess. Once all the floats passed by, these Christians walked the parade route with banners of the Lord held high and preaching the gospel of salvation through Jesus Christ alone. Approximately 2/3 along the route these Christians were met by approximately 12-15 police officers who allowed people to pass that were not with the preachers but stood in the way of the preachers. As preachers would attempt to walk around these officers, the officers would move to block the way. For causes not yet known to us, they chose to arrest Pastor Joey as well as brother Ramon. We have not ascertained what they have been charged with nor do we know when they will be released.

On a positive note, those who attended Fort Worth’s Pride parade included European LGBT rights activists who were visiting Texas on an international trip. The activists marched in the parade with the local group Students, Administrators, Volunteers, Educators Support, or S.A.V.E.S, to demonstrate solidarity with gays in Belgrade, Serbia, where gay Pride is banned. Check out a photo of the activists and read their full press release after the jump.

—  John Wright

SLIDESHOW: Fort Worth Pride parade is city’s largest

CLICK HERE TO VIEW MORE PHOTOS FROM TARRANT PRIDE

 

Participants say parade, in 2nd year on Main Street, presents positive image of LGBT community

LOGAN CARVER  |  Contributing Writer

FORT WORTH — Perry Anable wiped tears from his eyes Saturday as he watched throngs of gays, lesbians, allies and passersby mingle on Main Street in Fort Worth after the largest gay Pride parade in the city’s history.

Anable, brother of the late activist Thomas Anable — who was named grand marshal before his August death and who was honored during the parade with a riderless car — said the large turnout showed that gay people finally have a voice in the city of Fort Worth and are no longer afraid to live their lives openly.

Thomas Anable helped formed Fairness Fort Worth after the Rainbow Lounge raid and was instrumental in the parade’s move from Jennings Street to Downtown.

“That’s what I believe I fought for is this right here,” said Perry Anable, a Vietnam veteran. “Whether you agree with the choice isn’t important; it’s that you have the freedom to choose, and that’s what this is about.”

The first bite of autumn couldn’t chill the spirits of parade-goers as floats made their way from the Tarrant County Courthouse to the Fort Worth Convention Center.

And while there was no shortage of shirtless dancers gyrating to thumping bass, the Fort Worth parade was markedly different than its Dallas cousin.

If Dallas Pride is your flashiest pair of pumps, Fort Worth Pride is your favorite pair of Tom’s. It doesn’t have the glitz and the glamour, but it exudes a feeling of community that doesn’t go unnoticed.

The Fort Worth parade was started 31 years ago by a drag queen who wanted a place for gays to congregate that wasn’t between the four walls of a bar, said parade director Tina Harvey.

For nearly three decades, the parade took place on Jennings Street — celebrating gay Pride in front of nothing but bars, dilapidated storefronts and homeless people. Last year, with the help of Thomas Anable, the parade moved to downtown and marked a new era in the Fort Worth LGBT community.

Harvey said it gives credibility to people who have been treated as second-class citizens their entire lives; and the Main Street presence helps break down stereotypes.

“Other people can see our event going on and see ‘hey, they’re just a loving, tight-knit community and having a great time and this is a great thing,’” Harvey said. “If we’re down on Jennings, nobody comes except the gay community.”

Dana Curtis has participated in both the Dallas and Fort Worth parades and said the Fort Worth celebration is more personal.

“Everybody is on the same team in Fort Worth,” she said.

And for her, being able to ride a float down Main Street is liberating after years of oppression.

“(It’s an) absolute victory for those of us who have been marginalized for so long,” Curtis said. “We haven’t had a voice. Now we do.”

Craig McNeil, who marched with QCinema, said the parade’s downtown location — away from the bar district — makes families feel more comfortable.

“It’s good for them to see there aren’t naked people running around,” McNeil said. “It really is a great community event, and I think that’s great.”

On Saturday, the streets along the parade route were lined with elderly couples — gay and straight, families with children and allies who simply wanted to support equality in their community.

Sheldon Berry twirled a baton with the Fort Worth Pride Steppers and said it was important for non-gays in the city to see gay people who weren’t running around getting drunk.

“It’s not all like you see in the movies,” Berry said. “I just try to represent something really good and positive.”

Apparently Berry’s message was well received.

Kim Mixson was in town for a wedding, staying at a downtown hotel, and heard about the parade. She wore beads around her neck as she watched the floats roll down Main Street.

“I love it. I think it’s great. I see absolutely nothing wrong with it,” Mixson said. “People are people and to each their own.”

Rachel Tillay is a seminary student at Southern Methodist University and went to the Fort Worth parade to show support for the LGBT community and to serve as a counter balance to any anti-gay protestors.

To Tillay, anyone who claims to be Christian and uses scripture to support his or her hate speech doesn’t understand the Bible. She said the verses they take out of context and use to condemn homosexuality actually condemn a lack of hospitality, and when placed in the correct context have nothing to do with same-sex love.

“I’ve learned from my studies that we really need to be pro-gay if we want to be Christians,” Tillay said.

As expected, there were some purportedly Christian protestors quoting cherry-picked Bible verses in their vitriolic diatribe, but the Fort Worth Police Department kept them from interfering with parade viewers and participants and even straight people saw them as misguided afterthoughts.

“I think they should spend their time doing other positive things in the community instead of being out here worrying about how other people live,” said LeAnne Koonsman, who came to support the LGBT people she works with.

Fort Worth police said Monday that two anti-gay protesters were arrested. The arrested protesters are members of Kingdom Baptist Church in Johnson County, which has regularly staged anti-gay demonstrations in North Texas over the last few years. Joey Faust, 46, and Ramon Marroquin, 33, were charged with interfering with public duties, a class-B misdemeanor punishable by up to 180 days in jail and a maximum $2,000 fine. Faust is the pastor for Kingdom Baptist Church.

After the parade and the ensuing street festival, Harvey said this year’s event was a huge success.

“It was a beautiful day of celebration on Main Street,” she said.

—  John Wright

Possible hate crime casts shadow over Austin’s Pride weekend

Two gay men were attacked Friday night as Austin’s Pride celebrations were under way, leading them to believe they were targeted for being gay.

Nick Soret and a friend were on 4th Street getting pizza at a food truck when a man to them started asking them what they were looking at.

Soret told Austin’s KVUE when he picked up his pizza, the man beat him with it, burning him.

The man then punched his friend in the face when he tried to intervene, and attacked Soret, cutting his lip and bruising his arm before leaving the area.

His friend has a fractured jaw and will likely need surgery.

Soret said he thinks they were attacked because he and his friend are gay.

“He thought I was checking him out or he thought I was looking at him and so for that, he knocked all my friend’s teeth out, he punched me in the face,” Soret told KVUE.

Austin police are investigating the attack. The pizza trailer had a surveillance camera on it, so police expect to find the man soon.

“It was done just out of meaness and I think prejudice. It was unprovoked. We did not provoke him, we did not engage him. We didn’t do anything,” Soret said.

News of the attack spread through Austin over the weekend and cast a shadow on the Pride festivities. Soret, who has lived in Austin for 20 years, said his sense of security is now gone.

Watch KVUE’s report below.

—  Anna Waugh

Cooper Smith, Todd Koch head to N.Y. with local J.C. Penney LGBT employees for Pride parade

Dallas couple Todd Koch and Cooper Smith are seen here with their two children in the June edition of J.C. Penney’s catalog.

Gay Dallas dads Cooper Smith and Todd Koch will leave their kids in Big D this weekend as they travel to march in New York’s Pride parade on J.C. Penney’s float.

Smith told Instant Tea that he and Koch will join about 100 other friends and supporters from the DFW area.

J.C. Penney spokeswoman Kate Coultas said the Plano-based LGBT employee group PRIDE organized the trip and will have about 250 employees march on Sunday.

“As we focus on becoming America’s favorite store, we’re committed to being a store for all Americans,” Coultas wrote in an email.

She added that those attending will wear J.C. Penney’s Pride shirts, which are only available online.

Cooper said he was honored to be asked to join in the Big Apple’s Pride festivities to celebrate the company’s diversity.

“Todd and I are so proud of J.C. Penney for how they’ve made an effort to represent all families and how they’ve stood squarely by their message of inclusiveness,” Smith said. “The whole experience has been heart-warming. Being asked to walk alongside hundreds of their employees, families and friends is the ultimate cherry on top!”

Photos from the parade are below.

—  Anna Waugh

The AFA isn’t happy with corporate America

The hate group American Family Association isn’t very happy with corporate America.

Not only did J.C. Penney feature a gay Dallas couple in a recent catalog, but the Plano-based company doesn’t seem to really care what the AFA has to say about it.

On its website, the AFA says JCP is now blocking emails from its alert system and advises members to send messages from their personal accounts instead.

And now the AFA is annoyed at Target, too. For Pride month, Target is selling several Pride items and is donating 100 percent of the proceeds to the Family Equality Council up to $120,000. The AFA doesn’t want you shopping there either.

And AFA announced that they sent petitions to Home Depot for “extensive support for homosexual activism and direct the company toward neutrality in the culture war.”

AFA doesn’t specify what the beef is, but apparently some lesbians work there. And they get equal benefits.

The group is asking people to boycott Home Depot and pray for Chairman Frank Blake, then print a copy of the petition and “distribute it at Sunday school and church,” because nothing says love your neighbor like distributing petitions at church calling for hardworking people to get fired.

And look out for that radical group AARP. They’re apparently using member resources to “advocate for immoral behavior.” The AFA claims that the AARP’s LGBT resources pages links to “articles on personal finance, travel and other issues of interest.” Shocking.

Of course, AFA would like us to get back to traditional marriage as it’s existed since biblical times … as depicted in this photo released by the Israeli Defense Forces this week in honor of Pride month:

—  David Taffet