Lesbian DA calls DeLay’s sentence fair

Travis County District Attorney Rosemary Lehmberg

In case you haven’t heard, anti-gay former House Majority Leader Tom DeLay was sentenced to three years in prison today for money laundering.

DeLay was convicted in November of illegally funneling corporate money to state legislative races.

Openly gay Travis County District Attorney Rosemary Lehmberg, whose office prosecuted DeLay, says she feels the sentence is fair, according to The New York Times.

Lehmberg’s office had asked for a sentence of 10 years in prison, while the defense requested probation.

Lehmberg also again denied DeLay’s claim that his prosecution was politically motivated, and she noted that he’s likely to remain free pending his appeal since the sentence is less than 10 years. DeLay was taken to jail but was expected to be released after posting $10,000 bail.

—  John Wright

Officials in Washington, D.C. declare e-marriage invalid

Reed-Walkup says he and his husband are exploring legal options, will withdraw complaint against DMN over announcement for now

John Wright  |  wright@dallasvoice.com

Mark Reed-Walkup and Dante Walkup

A gay Dallas couple’s highly publicized Skype wedding has been declared invalid by a court in Washington, D.C.

Mark Reed-Walkup said he and his partner of 10 years, Dante Walkup, were “extremely disappointed” to receive a letter Friday, Nov. 26 from the Superior Court for the District of Columbia. The letter stated that thecouple’s marriage couldn’t be certified or registered because all parties weren’t physically present for the ceremony.

Reed-Walkup said the letter came as a surprise because a supervisor in the clerk’s office told the couple prior to the wedding that nothing in D.C. law would prohibit what is known as an e-marriage.

The couple held the ceremony at the W-Dallas Victory hotel, and it was officiated via Skype from the nation’s capital, where same-sex marriage is legal.

“It was extremely disappointing. We were very depressed on Friday,” Reed-Walkup said Monday. “We felt like we had covered our bases, and all of the media out there was agreeing. No one was saying what we did wasn’t legal, so we felt very confident that we had succeeded, and so it really was a kick in the stomach and it hurt. Having that piece of paper that says you’re legally married really means a lot to a couple, at least it did to us. It made a stronger emotional bond that we didn’t expect. That same emotional bond that we felt strengthened our relationship was taken away on Friday.”

Reed-Walkup said he believes someone must have complained about the marriage to D.C. officials after reading media reports about the Skype wedding, which has made international news in recent weeks. But Reed-Walkup said he thinks it’s unfair that the couple wasn’t notified the court was reviewing the matter until they received a copy of the letter.

“I can only speculate that there was somebody out there motivated by homophobia or politics or both that wanted to see this marriage annulled and prevent other couples from pursuing it,” Reed-Walkup said.

“We’re going to be talking to legal counsel to see what our options are,” he added. “If we feel like we have a strong case based on the information that we received when we applied for our license, we’ll pursue it legally. But if it’s not a strong case, we’re not going to waste time and resources. We’ll just take a quick trip to D.C., have her [the officiant] marry us in the airport, and go back to Dallas. We will get eventually married one way or the other through Washington, D.C.”

Reed-Walkup said the couple has also withdrawn a discrimination complaint it filed last week against The Dallas Morning News for refusing to publish its wedding announcement.

“Right now legally we don’t have a legal marriage, so we felt we could no longer pursue the case with The Dallas Morning News until we get this resolved,” he said. “Once we do, we will be back at trying to change the policy with regard to the publication of same-sex weddings.”

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition December 3, 2010.

—  Kevin Thomas

Pyles announces line-up for celeb chef dinner

For 10 years, Stephan Pyles has hosted an autumn harvest dinner and auction to raise money for his culinary scholarship fund, attracting top talent to join him in the kitchen for an Iron Chef-like cook-off. This year’s star cooks are: Blaine Staniford of Grace in Fort Worth (formerly with Scene and Fuse); Matt Raso of Nobu; Jeffrey Harris of Craft; Tim Byres of Smoke (and formerly Pyles’ exec at his eponymous eatery); Katherine Clapner of Dude, Sweet Chocolate; and of course Pyles and current exec Matt McCallister. Also cooking will be Pyles’ 2010 scholarship winner Keith Hildebrandt. The event kicks off on Nov. 7 at 6 p.m. with a reception. The cost is $150, inclusive of tax and tip. Visit WineFoodFoundation.org to make a reservation.

—  Arnold Wayne Jones

Joel Burns begs teens contemplating suicide: Give yourself a chance to see life get better

Fort Worth City Councilmember Joel Burns, right, and his husband, J.D. Angle

I have known Joel Burns for almost 10 years — several years longer than he has been on the Fort Worth City Council.

My wife and I met Joel and his husband, J.D. Angle, through mutual friends back when Joel and J.D. still lived in their beautifully restored home in the same East Fort Worth neighborhood where my wife and I and our children lived. I saw them then as the perfect couple: happy, handsome, healthy men with a beautiful home and great jobs. I knew they had great things ahead of them.

Then they moved to another beautifully restored older home in an historic neighborhood just south of downtown Fort Worth, and Joel ran for City Council. I was so happy when he was elected, because I believed that not only would Joel be a good representative for his constituents in District 9, but that he would also be a good representative for the LGBT community.

I think the fact that no one even stepped up to oppose Joel when he ran for re-election in 2009 shows that his constituents, overall, believe he is doing a good job on the City Council. But last night — Tuesday, Oct. 12 — during the weekly Fort Worth City Council meeting, Joel proved without a doubt that he also represents his LGBT community, and he proved why it is so important to have openly LGBT elected officials at all levels of government.

At each council meeting, council members are given a few minutes each at the start of the meeting to make announcements and to recognize people from their districts who have done something outstanding. Last night, Joel took his time to talk about the recent suicides of several LGBT youth — and to tell his own very personal and very powerful story.

After recounting the stories of several young men who have taken their own lives in recent weeks after being subjected to anti-gay bullying and harassment, Joel told his fellow councilmembers and those in the council chambers that he was about to tell them something he had never told anyone before — not even his parents or his husband. And then, struggling through his own tears, he told them of the day when he was a 9th grader at Crowley High School and a group of older teens accosted him and “roughed him up.”

“They said that I was a faggot, and that I should die and go to hell where I belonged. That erupted the fear that I had kept pushed down, that what I was beginning to feel on the inside must somehow be showing on the outside. Ashamed, humiliated and confused, I went home. There must be something very wrong with me, I thought, something I could never let my family or anyone else know,” he recalled.

Joel broke down then, and acknowledged that he couldn’t actually bring himself to read aloud the next couple of sentences he had written that described his own near suicide attempt. “I, don’t want my mother and father to have to bear the pain of having to hear … hear me say the …” He couldn’t finish the sentence.

When he regained his composure enough to continue, Joel said: “So I will just say, and I will skip ahead, I have never told this story to anyone before tonight. Not my family, not my husband, not anyone. But the number of suicides in recent days have upset me so much, they have just torn at my heart. And even though there may be some political repercussions for telling my story, the story is not just for the adults who might choose or not choose to support me. The story is for the young people who might be holding that gun tonight. Or the rope. Or the pill bottle. You need to know that the story doesn’t end where I didn’t tell it on that unfortunate day. There is so, so, so much more.

“Yes, high school was difficult. Coming out was painful. But life got so much better for me. And I want to tell any teen that might see this: Give yourself a chance to see just how much better life will get. And it will get better. You will get out of the household that doesn’t accept you. You will get out of that high school, and you never have to deal with those jerks again if you don’t want to. You will find and you will make new friends who will understand you. And life will get so, so, so much better.”

Joel then talked about all the happy memories that fill his life now, from the first time he ever saw his future husband, to the day he asked J.D. to spend his life with him, to winning his first election to just a few days ago when he sat with his father after his father came out of surgery, and his father told him how happy he was to have Joel there with him.

He said: To those who are feeling very alone tonight, please know that I understand how you feel, that things will get easier. Please stick around to make those happy memories for yourself. It may not seem like it tonight, but they will. And the attitudes of society will change. Please, live long enough to be there to see it.”

Joel ended by encouraging anyone who needs help or resources to deal with the issue of LGBT teen suicide to contact TheTrevorProject.org or to call him directly at 817-392-8809. “And you can call me, and I will get you whatever resources you need,” he promised.

As Joel finished, his fellow councilmember and friend Kathleen Hicks led the rest of the council and those in the council chambers in a standing ovation for Joel and his courage. I think he deserves a standing ovation from all of us, as well. Because last night, Joel Burns did us all proud, and maybe — just maybe — he helped save someone’s life.

Watch video of Joel’s speech to the council below:

—  admin

Will Phillips speaks at Pride parade

Will Phillips may be only 10 years old, but he is a young man with a lot of courage and a unique voice — and a lot of fans and supporters in his hometown of Fayetteville, Ark.

When it was first announced last week that Will had been named grand marshal of the Northwest Arkansas Gay Pride Parade, right-winger Tim Wildmon, president of the American Family Association, claimed that it was “a form of child abuse” and suggested that Will had been “brainwashed” into supporting LGBT equality, and that he was doing nothing more than “parroting the nonsense he has been told by manipulative adults.”

Well, watch this video of Will speaking at the parade in Fayetteville, and it’s pretty obvious that he definitely has a mind of his own, and that he is perfectly capable of forming his own well-reasoned opinions.

—  admin