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

Council member Jones to be first cisgender reader at Houston Day of Remembrance

Jolanda Jones

Jolanda Jones

Houston City Council member Jolanda Jones is scheduled to be the first cisgender reader in the history of Houston’s Transgender Day of Remembrance. Lou Weaver, president of the Transgender Foundation of America, one the events sponsors, says that Jones was originally approached to be a speaker at the event because of her advocacy for trans children, but that she requested to read instead.

“I begged to read, I begged them,” corrects Jones, “they asked me if I wanted to speak and I begged them to read instead because it’s profound and it touches you. I think it’s better to read because it’s important.”
Jones said she was particularly moved at last year’s Day of Remembrance by the story of 17 month old Roy A. Jones who was beaten to death by his babysitter for “acting like a girl.” “I was so touched when they read about the baby that was killed,” said Jones, “the readers tell the story.”

Jones led efforts this year to encourage local homeless youth provider Covenant House to adopt a nondiscrimination policy that covers both sexual orientation and gender identity and expression. She used her position on City Council to threaten to cut Covenant House’s funding unless they addressed accusations of discrimination. That threat persuaded the organization to overhaul their policies and begin regular meetings with community leaders to discuss their progress in serving LGBT youth.
The Houston Transgender Day of Remembrance is Saturday, November 19, from 7-9:30 pm at Farish Hall on the University of Houston Campus.

—  admin

HISD trustee distributes anti-gay flier

Rodriquez Flier (excerpt)

Excerpt from the Rodriquez flier attacking Fonseco for his advocacy for LGBT people and his endorsement by the Houston GLBT Political Caucus (click to view full flier)

Houston Independent School District Trustee Manuel Rodriquez Jr. is under fire for an anti-gay flyer attacking his opponent, Ramiro Fonseca. Both seek the HISD District III seat held by Rodriquez. Rodriquez’s flyer attacks Fonseca for his history of advocating for LGBT people, and his endorsement by the Houston GLBT Political Caucus. The flyer also suggests that Fonseca being 52 and unmarried is a reason that Houstonians should not trust him to make decisions affecting children, and points out that he has a “male partner.”

The GLBT Political Caucus was quick to denounce the flyer, issuing a statement on Saturday. “Manuel Rodriguez is assuming the voters of District III share the same bigoted, hateful views he holds,” said Caucus president Noel Freeman. “Houstonians have proven time and time again that such views are not welcome in our City, and have consistently rejected candidates who espouse such hateful views. We urge the voters of District III to reject Manuel Rodriguez on election day.”

Other HISD Trustees have joined in the chorus of people speaking out against the mailer. “I denounce the reprehensible, mean-spirited, bigoted mailer that was sent out in the HISD, District III race,” Trustee Juliet Katherine Stipeche said via her Facebook wall. “I ask my colleagues to maintain and uphold HISD’s total non-discrimination policy and treat every person, including other candidates, with dignity and respect. Let us embrace diversity and equality and treat every person as we would like ourselves to be treated ” Stipeche is seeking re-election to her district VIII seat.

HISD District I member Anna Eastman echoed Stipeche’s comments. “My fifteen year old son could not comprehend why someone would think that distinction would change a vote for school board and would be used as such by a candidate.”

The GLBT caucus is urging people to contact the editorial board of the Houston Chronicle to encourage them to rescind their endorsement of Rodriquez in light of his campaign tactics.

HISD elections are part of the general elections taking place this Tuesday, Nov 8. Visit HarrisVotes.org to find your voting location and view a sample ballot.

—  admin

Southwest issues follow-up statement on Leisha Hailey incident

The Internet is out at the house (screw you, AT&T), so I’m attempting to post this from my phone (wish me luck). Below is a follow-up statement from Southwest Airlines regarding Monday’s incident involving Leisha Hailey. Note that the statement says the incident occurred in El Paso, as opposed to St. Louis, as previously reported. I can’t post the link here, but what is it about El Paso and same-sex kissing? Anyhow below is the statement. I’ll try to get more when I’m back on the grid in the a.m.

Updated Information Regarding Customers Removed from Flight 2274

Additional reports from our Employees and Customers onboard flight 2274 during a stop in El Paso on Sunday now confirm profane language was being used loudly by two passengers. At least one family who was offended by the loud profanity moved to another area of the cabin. Although we have reports of what Customers characterize as an excessive public display of affection, ultimately their aggressive reaction led to their removal from the aircraft. We do not tolerate discrimination against anyone for any reason. In this situation, their removal was directly and solely related to the escalated conversation that developed onboard the aircraft.

Our tenets of inclusion and celebration of diversity among our Customers and Employees—including those in the LGBT communities—anchor our Culture of mutual respect and following the Golden Rule. The more than 100 million people who fly Southwest each year reflect the great diversity of our country and our Company — and ALL are valued and welcome. In fact, we’ve been recognized as a leader in diversity throughout our 40 years of service.

Our Customer Advocacy Team reached out to extend goodwill and a full refund for an experience that fell short of the passengers’ expectation.

—  John Wright

WATCH: Marathon of LGBT speakers call on Commissioners Court to add trans protections

Here’s video of the first six LGBT advocates who spoke at Dallas County Commissioners Court on Tuesday, with video of the remaining six to come later. As we noted earlier, the unprecedented marathon of speakers exceeded the maximum 30 minutes for public comment on the issue — a proposal to add transgender protections to the county’s nondiscrimination policy. It was the fourth straight week in which LGBT advocates addressed the Commissioners Court, and the community’s advocacy led to the court ultimately approving trans protections in a 3-2 party-line vote. The speakers in Part I (above) are Rebecca Solomon, Jesse Garcia and Louise Young; and the speakers in Part II (below) are Cd Kirven, Jeffrey Barnett and Mark Reed. As the old saying goes,  “This is what Democracy looks like!”

—  John Wright

Hunt considering run for mayor

Angela Hunt

LGBT political leaders praise her advocacy for the community, say they want to see who else enters race

RELATED STORY: Openly gay candidate considers run for Hunt’s District 14 seat

TAMMYE NASH  |  Senior Editor
nash@dallasvoice.com

Dallas City Councilwoman Angela Hunt, who represents one of the gayest districts in the city, announced Wednesday, Jan. 12 that she is considering a run for mayor in municipal elections set for mid-May.

“It’s still something I am considering,” Hunt told Dallas Voice on Thursday. “I have been really honored that some folks I respect have encouraged me to consider running. So now I am talking with folks whose opinions I respect and value, discussing what I can bring to the table and how I might be able to lead our city into the future.”

Hunt said she will make her decision on whether to run for mayor based on where she believes she can do the most good for Dallas.

“To me, it’s not about my title, but about what I can accomplish,” she said. “If I can accomplish the most as a council member, then that’s terrific. But there are things I would like to see us do as a city, things the citizens are asking for, and if I can best accomplish those things as mayor, I will run.”

Hunt said she would like to see the city’s elected officials change their priorities, because she believes that is what the city’s residents want.

“When I talk with folks, they are frustrated with the idea that we are focusing on creating a city for tourists rather than residents,” she said.

She said that high-dollar projects like the Trinity River Park toll road, the new bridge over the Trinity River and the Convention Center hotel “take focus off the acute, more immediate needs of residents, while the residents want to see their parks taken care of and their streets taken care of and the city’s infrastructure taken care of.”

“The citizens want us to focus on making our city a great place to live rather than a great place to visit,” Hunt said.

Hunt added that she expects LGBT issues and HIV/AIDS issues to continue to come before the council from time to time, and that she will continue to be an advocate for the community when that happens.

“I think when we are looking at funding issues that may affect the LGBT community — things like funding for HIV/AIDS programs — that’s when having voices on the council that are strong advocates becomes absolutely critical,” she said. “I don’t think anyone on the council now is anti-LGBT. But there is a difference between folks who are not opposed to certain issues affecting the LGBT community, and those who are staunch advocates who will pick up on those issues and move forward with them.”

Hunt said she has appointed several openly LGBT people to city boards and commissions, and that she hopes “I have shown my door has always been open.” And she said she has many supporters in the LGBT community who have encouraged her to run for mayor.

“I have been very honored by the response I have received, very appreciative of that,” Hunt said.

LGBT political leaders praised Hunt’s advocacy for the community, but said there are still too many variables up in the air to start making endorsements yet.

“It’s not a surprise” that Hunt is considering running for mayor, said Erin Moore, former president of Stonewall Democrats of Dallas and current vice president of Texas Stonewall Democrats. “There have been rumors since the Pride parade [in September] that she was going to run.

“She has been fairly progressive on our [LGBT] issues anytime something has come up. There have been some mixed reviews on her; she has her supporters and her detractors in our community,” Moore said. “But I would say her heart is definitely in the right place, which is a good thing, for sure.”

Still, Moore added: “Right now we’re not sure who is actually running. It’s a very competitive game.”

Current Stonewall Democrats of Dallas President Omar Narvaez also praised Hunt’s record on LGBT issues.

“She has a pretty positive record, especially from two years ago when the council was deciding whether to cut the HIV/AIDS funding out of the city budget,” Narvaez said. “She stepped up and worked with us to try and keep that from happening, and when it became obvious the cuts would happen anyway, she worked with us to try and save as much of the funding as she could.”

Patti Fink, president of the Dallas Gay and Lesbian Alliance and Moore’s spouse, said she believes Hunt would be “a very viable candidate in a citywide race,” having raised her visibility with strong stances on high-profile issues, including plans to build a toll road through part of the Trinity River Park and building a city-owned hotel near the Convention Center downtown.

Hunt opposed both proposals, although both eventually passed.

“She has certainly been a strong advocate for our community in the time she has been on the council,” Fink continued. “There haven’t been that many LGBT issues that have hit the horseshoe since she was elected. She wasn’t there when the city passed the non-discrimination ordinance [protecting LGBTs]. But she has been a leader in stepping up on issues when we have asked her to.

“I think she is an advocate for the community, rather than just a supporter who follows others,” Fink said.

Both Fink and Narvaez stopped short of saying they would endorse Hunt for mayor, noting that their respective organizations would be screening candidates and making endorsements in municipal elections soon.

“We will be starting our PAC meetings in a week or two, then we will start sending out endorsement packets and setting up screenings with candidates,” Fink said. “We anticipate a wide range of candidates coming our way, asking for endorsements.”

Fink also noted that DGLA’s PAC has in the past endorsed a number of past and current City Council members that might run for mayor this year. That means the DGLA endorsement will not be automatic for any one candidate.

Narvaez said Stonewall Democrats will also be making endorsements in city elections this year for only the second time.

Originally, because Stonewall is a partisan organization that will endorse only Democrats and city races are non-partisan, the organization did not endorse city candidates.

Screenings for city candidates seeking Stonewall’s endorsement will be held March 19.

“I personally hope that she [Hunt] will decide to run and that she will ask for our endorsement,” Narvaez said. “We will have to wait and see what happens. Also, it will be interesting to see who might try to win her [District 14] seat if she runs for mayor. There very well might be some LGBT people running for that seat.”

Fink agreed. “I think we have some incredibly qualified people in our community, and I would love to see some of those people step up and run for that seat,” she said.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition Jan. 14, 2011.

—  John Wright

(Take Action) Tell President Obama: We need fierce advocacy on DADT now

This morning, President Obama is meeting with Secretary of Defense Robert Gates. Hopefully, they’ll be discussing a strategy to secure passage of the Defense bill, which includes the DADT language.

If you had a chance to watch the video of the panel on DADT in the post below, you know that one of our biggest obstacles to success is the calendar. Time is running out. The President needs to step up if we’re going to pass the DADT language this year, as promised. Today, we’ve launched a sign on letter urging President Obama to fully engage in this process — we’ll be delivering the letter to the White House on your behalf. We’ve sent this email to our AMERICAblog list, and hope you’ll join us in signing it:

White House spokesman Robert Gibbs recently told reporters that President Obama hasn’t made any calls to wavering senators in support of repealing Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell — which will soon be voted on in the Senate. What’s he waiting for?

At a recent meeting between President Obama and progressive bloggers, Joe Sudbay personally told the president about our widespread disappointment over his failure to fulfill his campaign promises, including repeal of DADT.

Today, we’re asking you to help us show that this sentiment is real by joining our open letter that we’ll personally deliver to the White House.

Click here to join us in telling President Obama to put some skin in the game and call senators in support of repealing Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell — now.

In September, when John McCain was leading the filibuster against the Defense Authorization bill, which includes the DADT language, President Obama didn’t make one phone call to Capitol Hill. But he did find time that day to call the WNBA champs.

With the Defense bill being brought up again in the next few weeks, we need President Obama’s leadership once again — this is not the time for him to be MIA. He promised to be our fierce advocate. Let’s tell him: We need his fierce advocacy now on this issue.

If we don’t repeal Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell now, we all lose. It would be a “political disaster” for President Obama, according to The Hill newspaper. LGBT voters know that it could be years before we get another chance at passing anything pro-gay at the federal level. And Democrats learned this past November what happens when they leave their base disillusioned. None of us can afford to miss this window of opportunity.

So please join us in telling President Obama to start calling senators now in support of repealing Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell. Click here — then, share with friends.

The stakes are high. Thanks for joining us in this fight.

We want to help prevent this political disaster, which will be a loss for our servicemembers, our national security, the President and our country.

Add your voice to the letter. Sign here.




AMERICAblog Gay

—  admin

Why the fierce advocacy on START but not the DOD bill or DADT?

An informed friend writes:

If passage of the annual defense bill — and DADT — is a such a big priority for the White House, then why isn’t the White House mounting a strategy to make the Senate pass it? As we know, DADT repeal MUST occur this year, or we will lose the opportunity for years to come. Instead, the White House has mounted a full-scale offensive to get the Senate to pass the New START nuclear weapons treaty. The White House has even gotten foreign governments speaking up to pressure the Senate to act this year on the treaty. But WHY? There is really no imperative reason that the Senate must pass the new START treaty this year. It would be nice to pass it this year — sure — but not essential, unlike the defense bill. We have passed a defense bill 48 years in a row, for the safety and welfare of our troops. This defense bill even includes a pay raise for those troops. But now, a manufactured tight Senate schedule and misplaced presidential priorities threaten to derail the defense bill and DADT repeal.

Once again, note the difference between saying you’re for something and actually doing something to make it happen. The White House wants to pass the START treaty because they think it’s cool. Because they think it would make the President look successful. Mind you, it won’t change YOUR lives one bit in the near-term, but that’s apparently not what presidenting is all about – it’s not about actually helping millions of Americans during an economic crisis.  (And spare me the “START is saving us from nuclear war” talk – I seriously doubt we’re at risk of having a nuclear war some time in the  next two weeks.)  So the White House pulls out all the stops to get START passed now, even though it can wait until next year.

On the DOD bill, and DADT, not much more than words so far.

Let me explain this clearly: Getting a pay raise for 1.5m active duty personnel and another 1.5m reservists, both of which are in the DOD bill along with DADT, just isn’t on the presidential radar during one of the worst economic crises in American history.  The political tone-deafness of this White House is actually more astounding by the day.  I wonder how many of those 3m votes, who now won’t see a pay raise, are going to vote for Obama because he traded their raises away for the START treaty.  I say none.

But political smarts isn’t what we voted for – correction, it’s what we voted for, it’s not what we got.




AMERICAblog Gay

—  admin

Mormon church says HRC statement about its stance on homosexuality ‘can’t be taken seriously’

Earlier today the Human Rights Campaign issued a press release suggesting that the Mormon church no longer considers same-sex attraction sinful.

But the Mormon church swiftly responded by saying HRC’s statement “mischaracterizes the church’s position” and “can’t be taken seriously.”

The HRC press release came in response to recent changes to the Church Handbook of Instructions. The handbook contains guidelines used by leaders in dealing with members, and the new version softened language related to gays.

The headline of HRC’s press release said, “Mormon Church: Same-Sex Attraction is Normal,” followed by a sub-headline saying, “New Church policy removes same-sex attraction from ‘list of sins.’” The HRC press release went on to suggest that recent advocacy by HRC and other LGBT groups was partly responsible for the changes.

The Mormon church responded by saying, “The HRC press release mischaracterizes the Church’s position and can’t be taken seriously,” according to Steve Rothhaus at The Miami Herald.

The statement about HRC’s press release followed an earlier blog post in which the church slammed a Salt Lake City TV station for its report about the changes to the handbook. The church suggested that the TV station’s report was an example of the type of irresponsible journalism that’s becoming more common because of changes brought on by the Internet.

So here now is Instant Tea’s official, on-the-record response:

“The Mormon church says HRC can’t be taken seriously, and while we’re not here to defend HRC, we’d like to warn LGBT youth that the Mormon church should never, ever be taken seriously. It’s like a really bad joke. And while the church laments changes in journalism, we’re busy lamenting the church’s total disregard for the constitutional principle of separation between church and state.”

Let’s see if they respond.

—  John Wright