GetEQUAL TX activists released on bail, promise more actions

Sit-in2

Cd Kirven as she was escorted out of the Capitol

Cd Kirven and four other GetEQUAL TX activists were released on $1,500 bail each on Wednesday. They were charged with class-B misdemeanors.

The five held sit-ins in state Senate offices to protest Senate bill SB 237 not being moved to the Senate floor for a vote. The legislation is a statewide LGBT employment nondiscrimination law.

“We have three weeks to push hard,” Kirven said.

GetEQUAL TX had threatened action if the bill was not moved to the Senate floor by May 1. Kirven said additional actions are planned.

While they were being arrested, Kirven said she was talking to officers about the lack of workplace protection for LGBT people.

“No wonder you’re doing this,” she said her arresting officer told her.

Kirven said a vote from just one of four Republican Senators targeted is needed to move the bill to the floor.

A preliminary hearing for the arrested activists is set for May 15, but defense attorney Dax Garvin left the country this morning for several weeks. His associate Makenna Hatter said the first hearing is always reset in Travis County so the case will probably be rescheduled for the end of the month.

Garvin also represents Dallas marriage-equality demonstrators Major and Beau Jiminez.

Kirven said GetEQUAL plans polling place demonstrations on May 11 when municipal elections are held throughout the state to let the public know about the lack of workplace protections. She said other actions are planned in and around the Capitol through the session until the bill moves to the floor of both houses for a vote.

Class-B misdemeanors are punishable by a fine of up to $2,000 and/or a jail sentence of up to 180 days. The court may also impose a maximum of two years of probation or three years of community supervision with an extension.

Kirven said she’s not sure if the charges against the group will stick. The Texas Capitol is considered public park land.

“You can’t criminally trespass on public land,” she said.

In 2010, Kirven was arrested in former House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s office in Washington, D.C., demonstrating for the federal ENDA bill. After serving six months probation, charges were dismissed.

After posting bail in Austin on Wednesday night, Kirven returned to Dallas and got home about 3 a.m.

“They haven’t seen the last of us,” Kirven said.

—  David Taffet

5 GetEQUAL TX activists arrested in ENDA protest at Texas Capitol

Kirven

Cd Kirven

Cd Kirven of Dallas was among five GetEQUAL members arrested at the Texas Capitol this morning, according to KEYE, the CBS affiliate in Austin.

The five held a sit-in at the offices Sen. Bob Deuell, R-Greenville and Sen. Brian Birdwell, R-Granbury and refused to leave. The protest was in support of SB 237, statewide employment nondiscrimination legislation that would add sexual orientation and gender identity or expression to categories protected under the law.

According to GetEQUAL state organizer Michael Diviesti, after the bill was heard in the Economic Development Committee in April, the group threatened action if it was not moved to the Senate floor by May 1.

“This is a follow-up to that promise,” he said.

According to Diviesti, the other four arrested were Coby Ozias from Corpus Christi, Tiffani Bishop from Austin and two women from San Antonio whose names he could not confirm. He said Ozias, who is trans, would have a different name on the court docket.

They are awaiting a bail hearing.

“If all five got the maximum, we’re about $450 short,” he said.

Kirven was arrested for a similar protest in Washington D.C. when she participated in a similar demonstration in House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s office.

Watch video from the protest below.

—  David Taffet

Texas GOP lawmaker pledges support for gay rights, says party is changing

State Rep. Sarah Davis

State Rep. Sarah Davis

AUSTIN — Log Cabin Republicans from across Texas met in Austin this weekend to share ideas on the Republican Party’s growing support for gay rights and how they could influence lawmakers in the state to back equality.

Members from Dallas, Houston and Austin chapters attended the first-ever statewide conference, as well as a few people from San Antonio, who decided they would try to start a chapter later this year.

State Rep. Sarah Davis, R-Houston, addressed a group of about 35 people Friday as the keynote in the speaker series.

Davis began her speech by acknowledging the audience’s “courage and the bravery that I think many of you have shown probably spending a great period of your life struggling with your identity and then finally having the courage and the strength of character to come out to your friends and family as a Republican.”

While Davis is not a member of the LGBT community, she said she understands what it is like, recalling when members of the Republican Party looked at her suspiciously when she was the only member of the party to vote against the sonogram bill last session because she believed it was about personal freedom and keeping the government out of the doctor’s office.

Davis said her philosophy is to vote on the basis of personal freedom, individual responsibility and limited government, adding that Republicans allow social issues to cloud their judgment when it comes to those ideals, including placing “what I believe to be inappropriate restrictions on your personal relationships involving two consenting adults.”

—  Anna Waugh

PHOTOS: Advocates march on Austin before Lobby Day

LGBT advocates march in Downtown Austin to the state capitol during GetEQUAL TX's Texas March for LGBT Justice on March 10, 2013. (Anna Waugh/ Dallas Voise)

LGBT advocates march in Downtown Austin to the state Capitol during GetEQUAL TX’s Texas March for LGBT Justice on March 10, 2013. (Anna Waugh/ Dallas Voise)

AUSTIN — More than 300 LGBT advocates stormed the state capitol Sunday evening in preparation for today’s Equality Texas Lobby Day.

Participants at GetEQUAL TX’s pre-lobby day event, Texas March for LGBT Justice, walked hand-in-hand, holding signs and chanting, “What do we want? Equality! When do we want it? Now!”

Several onlookers joined the mob as marchers made their way from Austin City Hall to the state Capitol a few blocks away.

GetEQUAL Dallas activate Cd Kirven encouraged the crowd to remain active in the fight for civil rights as she shouted from the Capitol’s steps.

“Don’t let this be the only time that you participate. Don’t let this be the only time lawmakers hear your voice,” she said. “Nothing is free. Justice has a price.”

Austin activist Sami-di Williams told the crowd that when she and her partner Amy began looking for other same-sex parents, she discovered that her daughter was friends with a girl who also had lesbian moms.

She then realized that her daughter hadn’t thought to tell her that her friend also had gay parents because it didn’t matter to her and she hopes one day it won’t matter in Texas either.

But until that day, being a gay parent in Texas still matters, she said.

“When Amy can’t sign documents for school, it matters. When she can’t take the kids to a doctor appointment without me, it matters,” she said. “When I’m not protected from discrimination whenever I volunteer at my kid’s school, it definitely matters. …When our family is looked at with disdain in public places, it matters.”

Daniel Williams, Equality Texas field organizer, spoke about the many monuments on the grounds of the Capitol that remind lawmakers what makes Texas great and what makes the state not so great.

But he stressed that there is no reminder of LGBT Texans. Not of the more than 19,000 same-sex couples raising children in the state or the 989 hate crime victims who suffered last year.

“You must be that monument. You must be the reminder, the daily sentinel to those Texas lives,” he said.

More photos from the march below.

—  Anna Waugh

Queer rappers God-Des & She drop new CD at Sue Ellen’s Friday

Frank Ocean is a pioneer, Frank Ocean is great, but he’s not the only — or first — hip-hop star to come out. Ever since Austin-based rappers God-Des & She burst onto the music scene following a featured track on The L Word, the lesbian duo has had a following, both in the lesbian and hip-hop communities.

It’s no wonder why: With their sexually explicit lyrics (c’mon — when lesbians sing a song called “Lick It,” you don’t have to wonder what they are referring to) and in-your-face boldness, these Texas tornadoes give an urban, edgy profile. Add to that some gender-bending (for the record: The hardcore butch rapper is God-Des; the zaftig lipstick-and-dress-wearer is She), good airplay on MTV and Logo, and a campaign to get them on Ellen DeGeneres’ talk show, and you understand why they have a fan-base.

Their fourth album, United States of God-Des & She, is set to drop Feb. 5, but you can get a preview of it when the duo take to the stage at the Vixin Lounge inside Sue Ellen’s for a CD release party Friday. Doors open at 9 p.m., and God-Des & She will mount the stage at 11. And when we say mount … well, let’s just say you never know what to expect from those two.

Tickets available at SueEllensDallas.com and God-DesandShe.com.

—  Arnold Wayne Jones

Tell the Austin school district to allow play about 2 male penguin parents

On Monday we mentioned that the Rev. Jayme Mathias, a former Roman Catholic priest, had become the first openly gay person elected to the Austin school board last week. Well, here’s a pretty good reminder as to why it still matters — even in a relatively progressive city like our state capital.

The Austin American-Statesman reports that the Austin Independent School District has canceled a play about two male penguins raising a baby penguin together, over concerns about age appropriateness. The play, And Then Came Tango, was written by UT graduate student Emily Freeman, and is based on the real-life story of two penguins at New York’s Central Park Zoo who were given a hatchling named Tango to raise.

AISD regularly allows UT grad students to stage their works in the district’s schools to satisfy degree requirements, and Freeman’s piece was scheduled to be performed in 10 elementary schools. Greg Goodman, the district’s fine arts director, explained the decision to cancel Freeman’s play in a letter to Coleman Jennings, the head of UT’s theater program.

“The subject matter communicated in the play is a topic that Austin ISD believes should be examined by parents/guardians who will discuss with their elementary school age children at a time deemed appropriate by the parents/guardians,” Goodman wrote.

Freeman disagrees.

“The play is about different families,” and under state teaching standards, that’s appropriate for kindergarten, she told the Statesman, referring to state curriculum standards. “I can’t see the argument that it’s not age appropriate for kids in second and third grade.”

“Throughout the play, the definition of family is extended beyond normative representations,” Freeman added in a press release. “Family is an entire colony of penguins, a young girl and her single mom, a zookeeper and the animals he tends, and two male penguins and their adopted egg. As these family structures are threatened in the play, we learn the power of voicing your opinions and standing up for your beliefs, no matter how old you are.”

Freeman says she’s still working to try to get the play approved by the district, but it’s also now scheduled for free performances at a campus theater from Nov. 30 through Dec. 2.

In the meantime, perhaps the LGBT community should make sure district officials are aware how we feel about this decision.

The main number for AISD offices is 512-414-1700. The superintendent is Meria Carstarphen, and you can reach her by email at superintendent@austinisd.org.

The main number for the Board of Trustees office is 512-414-1704, and the email is trustees@austinisd.org. A complete list of current board members (Mathias doesn’t take office until the new year) can be found here.

—  John Wright

Ex-Roman Catholic priest becomes Austin’s 1st out school board member

When the Rev. Jayme Mathias defeated incumbent Sam Guzman for the District 2 seat last week, he became the first openly gay person elected to the Austin school board.

But apparently some didn’t realize Mathias — a former Roman Catholic priest — was gay until he mentioned it to a TV reporter in an interview after the election.

From the Austin American-Statesman:

What was a surprise was Mathias’ post-election comment to a reporter that he will be the first openly-gay school trustee, something he hadn’t mentioned during his campaign.

However, people involved in the election — including his opponent — said they knew Mathias is gay, and it wasn’t an issue.

“We figured if we were going to win, it was going to be for the right reasons,” said Guzman. “My team was mature, experienced, reasonable people and we didn’t think that (making it an issue) was good for anybody.”

Said Ken Zarifis, president of Education Austin, which represents 3,000 district employees and backed Mathias: “I want to think that this is not an issue in Austin and that no one will be punished because they are gay. We should be proud of it.”

When asked why he hadn’t discussed it before, Mathias said, “My sexuality has never defined who I am or what I do. I have nothing to hide in the respect.”

Austin’s KVUE-TV reports that some voters are accusing Mathias of being dishonest for not mentioning his sexual orientation during the campaign, with one man they interviewed calling for a “recount”:

—  John Wright

Rally for victim of anti-gay hate crime in Austin rescheduled for this weekend

A forecast of heavy rain and flooding in Austin this past weekend forced GetEQUAL TX to postpone a March Against Hate event for a victim of an anti-gay hate crime.

The event has been moved to Saturday, Oct. 6. Those who attend will still meet at Austin City Hall at 11:45 a.m. and march to the Capitol at noon, followed by remarks by several speakers.

Among those speakers will be Andrew Oppleman, a gay man who attended Austin Pride with a friend and was beaten when he tried to protect his friend from the attacker.

Speakers may be added to the schedule because of the changed date. Check here for updates.

—  Anna Waugh

Austin rally for anti-gay hate crime victim planned for Saturday

GetEQUAL TX is holding a March Against Hate event in Austin on Saturday for one of the victims of an anti-gay hate crime last Friday.

Andrew Oppleman was ordering pizza at a food truck during Austin Pride with friend Nick Soret when a man began asking Soret if he was looking at him. The man became enraged and attacked Soret, so Oppleman stepped in.

Oppleman was hit so hard six of his teeth were knocked out and it was believed he would need oral surgery for his fractured jaw. Austin police are investigating it as a possible hate crime.

Oppleman will talk about his experience at the event, which begins at 11:45 a.m. Saturday at Republic State Park. Attendees will then march to the Capitol at noon and listen to speeches at 12:30 p.m.

Other speakers include Michael Diviesti of GetEQUAL TX, Chuck Smith of Equality Texas, Paul Huddleston of Austin Pride, Sami-Di Williams of Grrlz Will Be Boiz, as well as victims and community members.

Oppleman’s story, as told in the press release announcing the event, is below:

My name is Andrew Oppleman and this is my story…

Little did I know, last Friday night Sept 22th 2012, I’d be changed forever.

I was in town for Austin Pride. It was one of my many trips to enjoy all that Austin has to offer; great entertainment, outdoor recreation and most of all the people; laid back and easy going. My welcome started like this…My buddy Nick Soret was ordering pizza at 4th and Colorado at about midnight as I just arrived from a 3 hour drive from Houston. As I waited for Nick to grab his pizza and leave, another patron started screaming at Nick “What are you looking at?” over and over again. As he grabbed Nick’s hot pizza and threw it on Nick’s face, arm and body the man proceeded to start punching him. I immediately tried to quell the suspects rage and told the man to “STOP HITTING MY FRIEND!” With that he turned around and pushed me down into the construction on the street. I got up and as I turned back to the Pizza Truck I was immediately met with the amazing force of his fist hitting me square in the mouth. I then saw the man wildly punching Nick’s skull, and body as Nick fell to the ground in a fetal position trying to protect his face and head. As quickly as it started the suspect ran away, while his friend who is an Austin local just stood there and laughed as blood gushed from my mouth. I then spent 8 hours at Brackenridge Hospital. In the end Nick sustained a black eye, a busted and bruised lip and additional bruises on his body. I left Austin with a busted lip and 6 missing teeth.

I invite you to join us and the rest of the Austin community this Saturday at 11:45am at Republic Square Park to raise awareness and March Against Hate to the Capitol. Spread the word to take Austin back!

 

—  Anna Waugh

Ad campaigns we love: Roger & Chris Hazard’s Austin-based Decades

Most people will know Roger Hazard from his work on A&E’s Sell This House, but he and his partner Chris Stout-Hazard are full-on Texans. The partners in life and business are based in Austin and they’ve just launched their newest business venture, Decades. Self-described as “a purveyor of timeless, high-quality furniture, accessories and artwork” on their site, the couple bring their strengths between design and web savvy to offer some fabulous pieces.

You may recall that Roger H. has some Dallas ties — I spoke with him back in 2010. He and his partner got married last year, and settled into a nice Austin home which will only add to your interior design insecurities thanks to their Pinterest boards and are getting the word out on their new family biz.

Mostly their “ad campaign” seems to be web driven via social media, but where Hazard brings his cred from national TV, Stout-Hazard brings the quirk. He’s the one behind the clever, humorous musings on the company’s website (some of which can be found here). But it’s this video he posted on Decades’ site that is 4:05 minutes of brilliant and informative hilarity. A meandering monologue beginning with the company’s mission veers into tangents on caffeine jitters, a noisy fridge with a guest appearance by the family cat. It’s better than most company videos with paid actors hocking the goods because its actually quite endearing. I’d totally buy the stuff but in the meantime, I’ll just repin it on my own Pinterest board.

Watch the video after the jump.

—  Rich Lopez