Malaysia Airlines crash claims 100-plus AIDS researchers, activists

Joep Lange

Joep Lange

The Sydney Morning Herald is among the news agencies reporting that more than 100 AIDS researchers, activists and medical workers on their way to the International AIDS Conference in Melbourne, Australia were among the 298 people killed in the crash of Malaysia Airlines Flight MH17 in Ukraine early Thursday morning.

Officials have said the plane, a Boeing 777, was shot down by Russian-led separatists using an anti-aircraft missile.

Former International AIDS Society president Joep Lange is said to be among those killed in the crash. New York Daily News is reporting that friends have confirmed that World Health Organization spokesman Glenn Raymond Thomas is also among the victims.

NY Daily News reports that the Boeing 777 departed from Amsterdam and was en route to Kuala Luampur when it was shot down in Ukraine about 25 miles from the Russian border. Among the 298 people killed were 154 from the Netherlands; 43 people, including 15 crew and two infants, from Malaysia; 27 from Australia; 12 people, including one infant, from Indonesia; 9 from the United Kingdom; 4 from Germany; 4 from Belgium; 3 from the Philippines; 1 from Canada; and 41 people “unverified.” Some Americans are believed to have been aboard.

 

—  Tammye Nash

5 GetEQUAL TX activists arrested for blocking traffic in Austin ENDA protest

photo2

Five GetEQUAL TX activists were arrested this evening for blocking traffic near the state Capitol while protesting for LGBT nondiscrimination in the workforce.

Holding a sign that read, “We Work Together,” the group blocked the intersection at 11th and Congress in Austin, calling for the Texas Senate to stop blocking the progress of SB 237, which was left pending in committee. This is the second set of arrests in as many weeks for activists protesting SB 237.

The Austin action was part of a new national GetEQUAL campaign that launched today to urge Congress to pass the federal Employment Non-Discrimination Act, which was recently reintroduced. In Washington, D.C., activists held light panels on the grounds of Congress, reading “PASS ENDA NOW.”

The campaign, “Workplace INclusion: Winning LGBT Workplace Protections (WIN),” kicks off a week of action across the country to draw attention to need for workplace protections for LGBT employees. The actions will end May 14, the anniversary of Bella Abzug’s Equality Act of 1974, which was the first piece of pro-LGBT legislation in the U.S.

“For LGBT Americans from California to Connecticut and from Alabama to Alaska, the need for federal workplace protections is clear,” said Heather Cronk, co-director of GetEQUAL. “We hear story after story after story of folks who are simply trying to earn a living and provide for themselves and their families — but who encounter harassment on the job, who are refused jobs because of who they are, or who face insurmountable options for promotion because of who they love. In America, anyone qualified for a job should be able to get and hold that job without fear of violence, harassment, or termination. We need Congress to act now!”

A Dallas rally is planned for Saturday from11:30 a.m.-1:30 p.m. at Dallas County Courthouse, 600 Commerce St., to educate voters on the importance of passing SB 237 before the Texas Legislature ends its session in three weeks.

—  Anna Waugh

Rawlings to meet with LGBT leaders

Protest planned outside City Hall over mayor’s refusal to sign marriage pledge

STRAINED RELATIONS | Dallas Mayor Mike Rawlings, shown during an interview with Dallas Voice last year, is under fire from the LGBT community for not only failing to sign a pledge in support of same-sex marriage — but also for his handling of the controversy. (Brent Paxton/Dallas Voice)

JOHN WRIGHT  |  Senior Editor
wright@dallasvoice.com

Activists from GetEQUAL plan a rally outside Dallas City Hall on Friday night, Jan. 27 to call on Mayor Mike Rawlings to change his mind and sign a pledge in support of same-sex marriage.

Meanwhile, Rawlings is set to meet privately Saturday, Jan. 28 with a group of 20-25 LGBT leaders to discuss his decision not to sign the pledge.

However, LGBT activists said this week that their beef with Rawlings, who took office last summer, now extends beyond the pledge itself.

They said they’ve been very alarmed by the language and tone Rawlings has used in defending his decision not to sign the pledge in the media.

Most recently, on Wednesday, Rawlings told WFAA-TV that the marriage pledge — signed by more than 100 mayors across the country, including from all eight cities larger than Dallas — was an example of “getting off track” and that the issue of marriage equality is not “relevant to the lion’s share of the citizens of Dallas.”

“Sadly, I think the more he talks about this in the press, the more he digs in as completely out of touch,” said Patti Fink, president of the Dallas Gay and Lesbian Alliance. “He’s really pissing off our community. We really have a much deeper, more profound problem than this pledge. … This mayor is naïve. We’re not irrelevant, and we are a part of the lion’s share.”

Fink noted that DGLA issued a rare warning against voting for Rawlings in 2011.

“We certainly hoped that he would prove us wrong when we put a warning on him last year, but I fear that perhaps that warning was well justified, because it certainly appears from this encounter that he puts business before civil rights, which was the essence of our warning,” Fink said.

Paula Blackmon, Rawlings’ chief of staff, said he wasn’t available for comment Thursday. Rawlings told Dallas Voice last week that although he personally supports marriage equality, he didn’t sign the pledge because he wants to avoid social issues that don’t impact the city.

Daniel Cates of GetEQUAL, which is organizing Friday night’s protest, also questioned Rawlings’ handling of the controversy. On Monday, Blackmon told Dallas Voice that Rawlings was skipping a “Meet the Mayor” community meeting in Kiest Park because it would be unfair to subject other residents to an LGBT protest. “He just does not want to put them through that,” Blackmon said.

Cates called such language “damaging and destructive” and said it smacks of “thinly veiled homophobia.”

Rawlings’ decision to skip the Kiest Park meeting appeared to backfire when residents who showed up called him “cowardly” for dodging the protest.

“I think he’s got the worst PR team on earth,” Cates said.

Cates said Friday’s “Sign the Pledge” rally, set for 7 p.m. outside City Hall, will include speakers and a chance for people to address personal notes, including family photos, to the mayor. Cates said he planned to hand-deliver the correspondence to Rawlings at Saturday’s meeting.

“The goal is really for our mayor to finally have his policy match what he says his personal views are,” Cates said. “We are going to continue to apply pressure, and that can stop whenever he wants.”

Cece Cox, executive director and CEO of the Resource Center, organized Saturday’s invitation-only meeting between Rawlings and LGBT leaders.

Cox said she reached out to the mayor’s office last week after his explanation for not signing the pledge “sent up about 100 red flags.”

Saturday’s meeting, which is closed to the media, is scheduled for an hour and a half. In addition to the marriage pledge, Cox said she hopes to address other LGBT-related city issues including transgender health benefits, pension benefits for the domestic partners of employees, nondiscrimination requirements for contractors and mandatory diversity training.

Pam Gerber, one of Rawlings’ prominent LGBT supporters during last year’s campaign, said she’s willing to give him the benefit of the doubt and she hopes something positive will come out of the meeting.

Gerber noted that even though neither DGLA nor Stonewall Democrats endorsed Rawlings, he appeared at a gay Pride month reception his first day in office and later rode in the Alan Ross Texas Freedom Parade.

“If he absolutely will not sign it, then how do we leverage this opportunity to bring something good about for our community?” Gerber said. “I’m not 100 percent confident that he won’t change his mind, because he is a good man who is incredibly well-intentioned. But if that’s the case, then we need to be pragmatic about it and figure out how to move forward and make gains for the LGBT community, instead of looking at the whole thing as all or nothing.”

Fink seemed less optimistic, and she said no matter what, it’s unlikely the conversation will end this weekend.

“This is an education hill we must climb together as a community and engage him as much as possible,” Fink said. “He is not leaving us behind because we are going to be pulling on the cuffs of his trousers every step of the way, and he will not marginalize the LGBT community of Dallas.”

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition January 27, 2012.

—  Kevin Thomas

Former GLBT Political Caucus President to lead Harris County Democratic Party

Former HCDP Chair Gerry Birnberg gives new chair Lane Lewis the keys to the party office

Former Houston GLBT Political Caucus president and longtime Democratic party activist Lane Lewis was elected to serve as the Harris County Democratic Party interim chair by the County Executive Committee on Tuesday, December 20. Lewis will serve the remainder of outgoing chairman Gerry Birnburg term, which expires in April. Birnburg announced earlier this year that he would step down after the November general elections.Lewis has also completed his filing as a candidate for HCDP chair on the April 2012 primary ballot.

Lewis previously served as president of the Houston GLBT Political Caucus in 1997. He has a long history of advocacy on LGBT issues.

“Words cannot express the profound sense of responsibility I feel right now,” said Lewis moments after his election as HCDP Chair.  “I am grateful so many fellow Democrats have entrusted me to lead during such a pivotal time. We have much work to do over the next several months to get our county and our candidates ready for the November 2012 election.  This enormous task will take the work of current elected officials, precinct chairs and activists working in unison.  My job will be to foster a new vision for our party and work to keep us all focused on our common goal.”

During Lewis’ acceptance speech, he spoke briefly about the direction and his vision for the party.

“A unified effort from every Democrat is the key to winning elections,” Lewis said.  “It’s plain and simple.  The middle class is under attack; the work we do in 2012 will be key to protecting the future and the promise that the American Dream provides.”

Lane Lewis was elected by an overwhelming majority.  He will begin operating the HCDP immediately.

—  admin

Barney Frank’s lasting legacy

Congressman made history when he came out in 1987, opening the door for other LGBT politicians

BarneyFrank_PL4

U.S. Congressman Barney Frank

Openly gay U.S. Congressman Barney Frank’s monumental contribution to the LGBT rights movement will one day be honored in the collection of unique individuals and events that makes up every American history book.

Frank, 71 now, may not be alive to see that day arrive, but as sure as God made little apples, it’s coming.

That’s because the LGBT rights movement has become an unstoppable force under the guidance of the testy congressman from Massachusetts and that of the scores of other openly gay and lesbian politicians who have joined him over the years in public office at every level of local, state and national government.

Now that Frank, a Democrat, has announced he will retire in 2012 and not seek re-election to the congressional office he has held since 1981, it is time to start putting his contributions to the American human rights movement in perspective.

Most LGBT rights activists agree the single most important measure in achieving success requires securing a place at the table where law is being made, and Frank accomplished that at the highest level a quarter-century ago when he publicly came out.

At the time Frank came out he had already served in Congress for six years, and it surely was no surprise to his colleagues, friends and families to learn about his sexual orientation. But the same could not be said for the majority of the American public, which still viewed homosexuality as quirky at best.

Even many LGBT people were unsure in 1987 about what to make of a congressman coming out as gay and thought it would likely be the end of his political career, which he began in the Massachusetts House of Representatives in 1973.

Probably to the shock of some, Frank continued to gain respect in Congress, and he now is viewed as one of the smartest, wittiest and most eloquent politicians in Washington, D.C.

Frank achieved success and gained admiration from his peers, the media, his constituents and others — even after being enveloped in a scandal in 1989 that nearly wrecked his career. The public learned that year that Frank had an affair with a male prostitute, whom the congressman had allowed to move into his home.

David-Webb

David Webb The Rare Reporter

Frank was investigated by the House Ethics Commission at his own request, and it ruled after a 10-month inquiry that the congressman had not been aware the live-in prostitute had continued to practice his trade from the household. The commission did recommend Frank be reprimanded for using his position as a congressman to get favors for his prostitute boyfriend.

In the height of irony, Frank survived an attempt by former Republican Idaho Congressman Larry Craig to remove him from office. Craig, who was elected in 1991 to the Senate for Idaho, made news in 2007 for attempting to solicit sex from an undercover male vice squad officer in a Minneapolis-St.Paul International Airport restroom.

Craig, who pleaded guilty to the charge but made laughable excuses about his predicament in an attempt to claim his innocence, did not run for re-election the following year. On the other hand, Frank went on after his scandal to win every following election by a wide margin.

At the time Frank came out as gay there was not much more than a handful of openly gay politicians in the nation, if that many. As Frank’s fortunes rose, so did those of other politicians in the LGBT community, and today there are openly gay and lesbian people serving in a wide variety of major elective offices.

In the last election in November, the Victory Fund saw 53 of the 75 openly gay and lesbian candidates it had endorsed elected to office, including Mayor Annise Parker of Houston, State Sen. Adam Ebbin of Virginia and State Assemblyman Tim Eustace of New Jersey.

As Frank retires from public office, he leaves behind in Congress his openly gay and lesbian colleagues Rep. Tammy Baldwin of Wisconsin, Rep. Jared Polis of Colorado and Rep. David Cicilline of Rhode Island, who also are Democrats.

No openly gay or lesbian member of Congress has ever been elected on the Republican Party ticket, although there have been a number of gay Republicans who have served from the closet. And more than one has been exposed for their hypocrisy as a result of a scandal, something Frank wisely avoided.

Frank’s legacy will be that he broke ground in American politics, inspiring other openly gay and lesbian people to seek and win elected office at every level.

That has resulted in the type of political gains that many people who have been around since the start of the gay rights movement in 1969 never thought they would see, regardless of how Frank might be viewed on some other issues.

Considering what has happened in the past four decades, it is conceivable that one day an openly gay or lesbian politician could be elected to any office, including the U.S. Senate — or even higher.  That’s a thought that probably never even occurred to Frank back in 1987.

David Webb is a veteran journalist who has covered LGBT issues for the mainstream and alternative media for three decades. E-mail him at davidwaynewebb@yahoo.com.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition December 2, 2011.

—  Kevin Thomas

Local LGBT activists to confront Rodriquez for anti-gay flier

Manuel Rondriquez

Manuel Rodriquez

A group of Houston LGBT activists, including representatives from the Houston GLBT Political Caucus, is urging people to attend tonight’s Houston Independent School Board Meeting to confront HISD Trustee Manuel Rodriquez for an anti-gay flier he distributed during his recent reelection campaign. As previously reported by Houstini, the flier encouraged Houstonians to vote against Rodriquez’s opponent, Ramiro Fonseca. Under the header “Vote NO for my opponent” the flier reads in part:

Program manager of Minority male Initiative at HCC
His records [sic] show he spent years advocating for Gay, Lesbian, Bi-sexual, transgender rights……….. not Kids.

Endorsed by the Houston GLBT Political Caucus (HGLBTPC) is the South’s oldest civil rights organization dedicated solely to the advancement of gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender rights.
54 years [sic] old man with no children
Male partner

The GLBT Political Caucus issued a statement on Saturday, Nov 5, condemning the flier. On Sunday, Nov 6, the Houston Chronicle retracted its endorsement of Rodriquez over the flier. Rodriquez defended the flier throughout the weekend and Tuesday’s election. “[Fonseca] will be responsible for making policy for HISD, and I as a parent, as a grandfather, as a person who has probably more understanding of what a child’s needs are,” Rodriquez told the Chronicle. “[I] just want to give the voters information so that they can make their own choice.” Rodriquez campaign volunteers distributed the flier at polling locations throughout the day of the election on Tuesday.

Yesterday Rodriquez issued an open letter apologizing for the flier.

… I am aware that some people have said they were offended by one of my ads, and I apologize to all those people.

Earlier this year, I proudly joined my colleagues on the HISD Board of Education in unanimously adopting more stringent anti-bullying and anti-discrimination specifically protect the rights and safety of all students and employees regardless of their race, ethnicity, religion, or sexual orintation. I voted for this policy because it was the right thing to do and I remain committed to creating a culture in our schools where all people feel welcome and safe…

Rodriquez’s critics feel his apology is insufficient, and that it stops short of addressing their concerns. Mike Pomeroy of the GLBT Political Caucus has created a Facebook event encouraging people to attend tonight’s HISD board meeting. “I don’t think he gets it,” Pomeroy told the Chronicle. “He was throughout the weekend saying, ‘I don’t know what’s wrong with this. It’s the truth.’ And he was still handing out the flier at the polls. This is all coming a little bit too late.” ” We have several signed up to speak,” added Pomeroy, “but also want as many as possible there to stand with us in solidarity against bigotry on the HISD School Board!”

The School Board meets tonight at the Hattie Mae White – Houston ISD Administration Bldg, 4400 West 18th Street from 5-8 pm.

—  admin

More gay stuff at the Asian Film Festival

The Asian Film Festival continues throughout the week, and there’s even more gay content now that I’ve had a chance to review more of the films.

Each of the shorts blocks — 1, which plays Monday at 4:05 p.m.; 2, which plays Tuesday at 6:10 p.m.; and 3, which runs Wednesday at 4:30 p.m. — have films with gay storylines. In 1, it’s between one of the couples in the short Tu & Eu, about how couples relate to one another. In 2, a young woman flirts with a female yoga instructor in Savasana, though not all is what it seems. But the big gay short is A Woman Called Canyon Sam, a documentary about one of the first lesbian Asian activists in America. (I’m glad about the last one, because the director, Quentin Lee, was still looking for funding a few months ago, which we wrote about.)

The centerpiece of the gay content — aside from the experiemental film The Image Threads, which I wrote about last week — is I Am, a documentary about being gay in Indian culture. “Gay marriages are completely legal in India,” remarks the narrator, who interviews several families and how they deal with having gay and lesbian sons and daughters. It’s an unusual insight into how different cultures deal with issues of homosexuality.

I Am plays tonight at 7:30 at the Magnolia Theatre, where all films in fest screen.

—  Arnold Wayne Jones

March against LGBT-phobia set in Dallas

Daniel Cates

Event is part of International Day Against Homophobia, Transphobia and Biphobia and will include candlelight vigil and speakers

DAVID TAFFET | Staff Writer
taffet@dallasvoice.com

Activists will gather at the JFK Memorial in downtown Dallas as part of the worldwide recognition of International Day Against Homophobia, Transphobia and Biphobia, known as IDAHO, on May 17.

The event began in 2004 but this is the first time Dallas will participate.

“It’s celebrated around the world and we’ve never had one here in Dallas,” said organizer Daniel Cates.

The May 17 date was chosen by the Paris-based IDAHO committee: Although U.S. groups like the American Psychological Association had already removed homosexuality from its list of mental disorders, the World Health Organization did so on May 17, 1990.

That was a major step for the LGBT community in many countries in gaining equality based on sexual orientation.

Cates said that the day is celebrated differently in different parts of the world.

“Some places it’s as simple as showing a film or having an art exhibit,” he said.

In countries where a Pride Day celebration is banned, a demonstration against homophobia might be permitted.

In Dallas, Cates said, “We’re doing a candlelight vigil, not a loud, screaming march. Chicago is doing a boisterous protest.”

Cates said the march through downtown would be on sidewalks with police escorts but would not close streets. The route is be short, about a half mile, Cates estimated.

He said the second Stonewall March set for June 25 will also be held downtown and will again close streets, as it did last year.

“The two events seem to be attracting two different groups,” Cates said.

He called the IDAHO event a more mature crowd.

“The march appeals to a younger crowd who wants to know, ‘Why the hell don’t I have my rights?’” he said.

Cates said the Dallas IDAHO vigil will concentrate on homophobia, biphobia and transphobia. Other cities have expanded their focus to include other groups also experiencing discrimination.

He cited Islamophobia as an issue that will be addressed in some places.

The march returns to the JFK Memoril where speakers will address the crowd, including Maeve O’Connor, a transgender member of the Resource Center Dallas board of directors. Her three-minute speech at Dallas County Commissioners Court is reportedly the story that convinced John Wiley Price to vote for the county nondiscrimination policy to gender identity and expression.

Elizabeth Jayne Webb, who is an event organizer as well as speaker, is an organizer of Walk for Choice.

She recently planned the Slut Walk to call for an end to blaming the victims in cases of in rape and violence.

Rainbow LULAC President Jesse Garcia will speak about building bridges between the Hispanic and LGBT communities. He hosts a morning talk show on KNON.

Other speakers will include Davlin Kerekes, an activist with the International Socialist Organization Dallas Branch, and Dr. Stephen Sprinkle, associate professor of religion at Brite Divinity School and theologian-in-residence at Cathedral of Hope. Sprinkle is also the author of Unfinished Lives, a book about LGBT hate crime victims.

Cates said the evening will also include songs and speakers will be followed by an open mic.

—  John Wright

Tax Day Demonstration at Main Post Office

Keeping the peace

Pro-Equality activists get together tonight at the Main Post Office for a peaceful demonstration to remind the city at large that  LGBTs pay the same taxes as everyone else but they just don’t get all of the rights. Sounds wortwhile and if you haven’t filed, well, finish that up and head down to the post office tonight to drop off and then demonstrate. You’re even encouraged to take sings and banners. Not only will you be performing a civic duty, you can also be creative.

DEETS: Main Post Office, 401 DFW Turnpike (I-30 at Sylvan). 6 p.m. Click here for more information.

—  Rich Lopez

FBI now involved in Tye murder investigation

The FBI is now involved in investigating the murder of Marcal Camero Tye, a 25-year-old trans woman found dead near a rural highway outside Forrest Hill, Ark., early Tuesday, March 8, according to reports posted today on AOL News.

Marcal Camero Tye

Special Agent Steve Frazier with the FBI Office in Little Rock told AOL News that the FBI is trying to determine if Tye’s civil rights were violated and would be working to determine if the murder was a hate crime.

Frazier said, “”Part of the civil rights statutes does include hate crimes, and we will be looking at that as a possibility, but right now it is open as a federal civil rights investigation.”

Investigators have said that Tye was shot in the head and her body then dragged down the road either behind or underneath a vehicle. Evidence that the body had been dragged caused activists with the Little Rock LGBT rights group Center for Artistic Revolution to believe the murder was an anti-trans hate crime.

However, Bobby May, sheriff of St. Francis County where Tye was killed, said the dragging appears not to have been intentional.

“Apparently after shooting the individual — we feel like the victim was shot in front of the vehicle — the suspect, whoever it may be, thought they might straddle the body, and in the process of taking off, the body got hung up under the vehicle,” May said. He also said there was evidence the driver had stopped and backed up in an attempt to disloge Tye’s body.

However, Frazier said, if the murder is determined to have been a hate crime, the fact that Arkansas has no state hate crimes law will not be a deterrent.

“Federal law is totally independent of any state law. The state has jurisdiction for homicide investigations, which are a state offense, but we have jurisdiction henever a killing may involve a person’s civil rights. We have federal jurisdiction totally unrelated to the state charge,” Frazier said.

May said investigators do not yet have a suspect in the case. However they did make plaster casts of tire tracks at the site and have found two .32-caliber shell casings at the scene. Tye was shot by a 32.caliber weapon.

Forrest City is located in the northeast portion of Arkansas, about halfway between Little Rock and Memphis, Tenn., on Interstate 40. Memphis Flyer, an alternative newspaper in Memphis, reported Wednesday that Tye’s death is the latest in a series of murders of transgender women in the Memphis area in recent years. Other victims include Duanna Johnson, a trans woman who was shot to death in Memphis in November 2008, just months after she accused two Memphis Police officers of making derogatory remarks about her sexuality and then beating her after arresting her on a prostitution charge in June that same year. The beating was captured on videotape.

Other trans women who have been murdered are Tiffany Berry and Ebony Whitaker.

—  admin