Kirven: Benny Longoria death certificate never signed

Benny Longoria

Benny Longoria

Dallas activist C.d. Kirven told Dallas Voice today, via email, that efforts to get Tulsa police to investigate the death of gay man Benny Longoria are moving forward.

A friend found Longoria, 40, dead in his apartment on June 20. But the man’s family said police did not contact them until a month later, that police had Longoria’s body cremated without notifying them and that police have refused to return his possessions, including his cell phone.

A representative of the company that manages the apartment complex where Longoria lived said that the apartment and most of his possessions were covered in blood when his naked body was found. Police have refused to investigate the case as a suspicious death.

Kirven learned of the situation earlier this week when Dallas City Councilman Adam Medrano contacted her and asked if she could help the Longorio family find answers.

Today, Kirven said the case is being investigated as possible HIV/AIDS-related discrimination, and that she has helped the Longoria family filed a complaint with the U.S. Justice Department alleging a violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act. Kirven also said she is helping the family file a complaint with the Internal Affairs division of the Tulsa Police Department.

Tulsa Police Sgt. Dave Walker reportedly told the family that Benny Longoria’s doctor verified that he died of a combination of ethanol abuse and HIV/AIDS. But Kirven said that when she contacted the office of Longoria’s physician, Dr. Frances Haas, she was told that Dr. Haas had not confirmed any cause of death and had not signed a death certificate.

Kirvin said today that she has obtained a copy of Longoria’s death certificate, which has not been signed by any doctor. She said Dr. Haas is mailing Benny Longoria’s medical records to his family and “wants nothing to do with Benny’s death.”

She also said that Capt. Alexander has said that because the doctor has not signed the death certificate, by law Longoria’s death has to be investigated as a suspicious death.

A memorial in celebration of Benny Longoria will be held Saturday at 5 p.m. at Compadres Mexican Grill, 7104 S. Sheriden Rd., in Tulsa. For information contact C.d. Kirven at 972-533-1593.

Kirven said that several TV stations have said they will be covering the memorial service and vigil, and that she was faxing a copy of the death certificate to KRMG radio in Oklahoma City, which is planning coverage of the case. She has also talked to a reporter with Vice.com.

Tulsa-based reporter Richard Fricker called Dallas Voice today in an effort to contact Kirven, and said that he knows of similar cases that have happened in Tulsa.

Dallas Voice will, of course, continue to follow this story as it unfolds, and will have a representative at the memorial service in Tulsa on Saturday.

memorial-flyer-Benny_Longoria

—  Tammye Nash

Legal Hospice of Texas receives ‘cy pres’ award

LEGAL AID | Legal Hospice of Texas received a “cy pres” award that will help them deliver services to low-income persons are HIV-positive or have other life-threatening illnesses in 16 North Texas counties. (David Taffet/Dallas Voice)

Legal Hospice of Texas has received an award of $94,969 as part of the largest “cy pres” award to legal aid in Texas.

“Cy pres” awards are residual funds from a class action suit or other legal proceedings that cannot be distributed to class members or the intended beneficiaries for a variety of reasons. The class action suit, Meyers et. al v. State of Texas, et. al, involved allegations that the state violated Title II of the Americans with Disabilities Act by charging Texans with disabilities for the standardized blue placards used for parking.

Executive Director Roger Wedell said attorneys involved in class action suits, along with mediators and judges, can influence how these excess funds are disbursed. Funds that are not distributed would be paid to the state.

Since the state was the defendant, Wedell said there was an interest in not returning this money to the state. The “cy pres” funds received from this suit will help provide legal aid to Texans with disabilities.

More than $2.6 million from the Meyers lawsuit was awarded to six legal aid organizations that provide civil legal services to low income Texans with disabilities. An additional $6.4 million from the suit will flow to other non-profit organizations that serve the needs of Texans with disabilities.

The funds come at a critical time for the agency, Wedell said, which has been particularly hard-hit by the recession.

Legal Hospice of Texas began as a volunteer organization that assisted with end-of-life paperwork at evening and weekend clinics at the Dallas Gay Alliance office on Cedar Springs Road. The organizations received its first grants in 1989 from the Dallas and Texas Bar foundations, adding its first staff when Ryan White CARE Act funding began in 1990.

In addition to Wedell, the organization now has two paid staff attorneys and works with about 40 volunteers from individual to large law firms.

Legal Hospice of Texas provides services to low-income persons are HIV-positive or have other life-threatening illnesses in 16 North Texas counties. Those with HIV must already be registered through one of the other agencies that can refer persons for service.

Wedell said most of Legal Hospice’s work is in three areas: estate planning, wills and preparation of other end-of-life documents. Attorneys also assist clients with legal issues relating to Social Security, unemployment insurance and other public benefits. Employment consultations with people newly diagnosed is a third area of expertise for Legal Hospice.

—  David Taffet

AG candidates polar opposites on gay issues

Radnofsky pledges to stand for equality; incumbent Abbott has record of fighting LGBT rights

DAVID TAFFET  |  Staff Writer taffet@dallasvoice.com

OPPOSITE NUMBER  |  Democratic candidate for Texas attorney general Barbara Radnofsky supports marriage equality for same-sex couples, while Republican incumbent Greg Abbott has spoken against same-sex marriage. He also recently intervened to appeal a trial court ruling granting a same-sex couple a divorce.
OPPOSITE NUMBER | Democratic candidate for Texas attorney general Barbara Radnofsky supports marriage equality for same-sex couples, while Republican incumbent Greg Abbott has spoken against same-sex marriage. He also recently intervened to appeal a trial court ruling granting a same-sex couple a divorce.

Possibly no race in Texas this election cycle is as clear-cut about where the candidates stand on LGBT issues as is the attorney general’s race.

Neither Attorney General Greg Abbott nor anyone from his campaign returned calls seeking comment for this story. But Dallas County Republican Party Chairman Jonathan Neerman agrees that the choice in this race is clear for those who vote primarily on LGBT issues. Still, he suggested looking at Attorney General Greg Abbott’s entire record.

Democratic challenger Barbara Ann Radnofsky stands by her positions on equality.

“I try to follow the Golden Rule,” Radnofsky said.

In other races, candidates run from the issue. Radnofsky was happy to talk about where she stands.

Radnofsky said she supports employment nondiscrimination legislation and she uses language on her website that is transgender-inclusive.
She said she would like to add gender identity and expression to the James Byrd, Jr. Hate Crimes Act, the Texas penalty enhancement law that

applies to hate crimes committed in Texas.

Radnofsky said she would also like to see the legislature pass a law prohibiting discrimination against or harassment of LGBT students and teachers in Texas public schools.

Radnofsky campaign spokeswoman Katie Floyd said the candidate taught mediation for 15 years.

Radnofsky addressed another threat to gay and lesbian families that makes its way into legislative committees each session. She said that taking the best interests of the child into account, she supports guaranteeing foster and adoptive parenting rights to LGBT parents.

She would also like to provide domestic partner benefits to state employees and opposes any legislation that would prohibit private employers from offering those benefits.

On her website, Radnofsky also mentions supporting the Americans With Disabilities Act. While that doesn’t seem controversial, the Texas Republican Party platform calls for gays and lesbians to be excluded from protections guaranteed under the ADA.

Greg Abbott recently won an appeal of the Dallas same-sex divorce case. In enforcing the anti-marriage amendment passed in Texas in 2005, he appealed a lower court ruling that would have granted a divorce to a gay couple married in Massachusetts.

Abbott is equally clear on his website about his stand on marriage equality for gays and lesbians.

“Texas law defines marriage as an institution between one man and one woman,” his website claims. “Attorney General Abbott has fought efforts to undermine Texas’ law and the basic family structure in our state. He understands that traditional marriage is the cornerstone for a strong and stable family.”

But Abbott goes further defending opposite-sex marriage by claiming studies support his stand without citing any of those studies.

“A wealth of empirical data demonstrates the unmatched potency of the family to combat social ills, foster strong communities, and promote happier, healthier lives,” he claims in his official position statement.

Radnofsky, on the other hand, agrees with the ruling from the lower court in the same-sex divorce case.

“The Attorney General shouldn’t intervene in the non-violent, orderly wind-down of a relationship,” she said. “He should leave divorce orders to the proper court decision-making, and get back to work on the problems facing our state.

“Orderly divorce and family law allows the peaceful separation of the two disputants, property disposition, payment of taxes and debt, alimony, child support and custody,” Radnofsky said. “That’s the way civilized society is supposed to function. Ignoring or voiding an out-of-state marriage, suggested by the AG, is not a solution to these many issues and the need for courts to supervise peaceful, orderly solutions.”

Abbott lists his success in collecting more than $13 billion in child support payments as his top issue.

“He’s very strong on going after deadbeat fathers for child support,” Neerman said. “He fights for the interests of children.”

Neerman also mentioned Abbott’s record on prosecution of white-collar fraud and online data protection.

“He’s also been strong on fighting Internet predators,” Neerman said.

He mentioned a number of areas where Abbott has protected rights of Texans. On behalf of 31 states, Abbott fought the District of Columbia’s handgun law before the Supreme Court and won.

But on LGBT issues, he has worked against equality.

Stonewall Democrats of Dallas President Erin Moore said, “Abbott’s been a henchman for Republicans for years.”

Moore called this one of the most important statewide races as far as LGBT rights are concerned.

“It’s one of the ones we’re keeping the keenest eye on,” she said. “He’s been malicious in his prosecution of LGBT rights. He’s got to go.”

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition September 10, 2010

—  Kevin Thomas