Measure would ban anti-LGBT discrimination in Houston

Charter amendment could also allow DP benefits for city workers

DANIEL WILLIAMS  |  Contributing Writer

HOUSTON — Long-brewing plans to place a city-wide non-discrimination policy before Houston voters became public this week.

Since December a coalition of organizations and leaders have been working to draft a city charter amendment that would make it illegal to discriminate in housing, employment or public accommodations on the basis of  “age, race, color, creed, religion, national origin, ancestry, disability, marital status, gender, gender identity or expression, sexual orientation, or physical characteristic.”

The amendment would also remove anti-LGBT language added to the Houston city charter in 1985 and 2001 — which could allow the City Council to vote to offer health benefits to the domestic partners of municipal employees.

Houston Mayor Annise Parker, who famously became the only out LGBT person elected mayor of a major American city in 2009, has declined to comment on the proposed charter amendment until the language is finalized. She told the Houston Chronicle: “I believe it’s important for the city of Houston to send a signal to the world that we welcome everybody and that we treat everybody equally, and depending on the elements of what was actually in it, I might or might not support it,”

According to Equality Texas Executive Director Dennis Coleman, the prospect of Houston voters approving the non-discrimination amendment has ramifications for efforts to pass similar measures in the state Legislature.

“Nondiscrimination in Houston builds a better case for us when we go for nondiscrimination in Austin,” said Coleman. “To be able to tell representatives that they represent areas that already support these efforts is very helpful.”

The cities of Austin, Dallas and Fort Worth all already have similar nondiscrimination ordinances and offer DP benefits to employees.

But Houston’s form of governance makes this effort unique. While the City Council is empowered to pass city ordinances covering issues of discrimination, they can be overturned by popular vote if those opposing the ordinance collect 20,000 signatures to place the issue on the ballot.

That was the case in 1985 after Houston Mayor Kathy Whitmire pushed through the council the city’s first protections for gay and lesbian Houstonians (no protections were provided for the bisexual or transgender communities).

A coalition of right-wing voters led by Louie Welch, then president of the Houston Chamber of Commerce, was able to place the issue on a city-wide ballot, claiming the policy “promoted the homosexual lifestyle.” The group also recruited a “straight slate” of candidates to run against City Council members who had favored the protections, with Welch running against Whitmire.

The public vote on nondiscrimination was held in June 1985 and Welch’s forces prevailed, but the city’s temperament had changed by the time of the City Council and mayoral races in November. A comment of Welch’s that the solution to the AIDS crisis was to “shoot the queers” was aired on local TV and few in Houston wished to be associated with him after that. The “straight slate” failed to capture a single City Council seat and Whitmire remained mayor, but the defeat of the city’s nondiscrimination policy remained.

By 1998 Houston had changed: Annise Parker was serving as the city’s first out lesbian city council member and Houston boasted the state’s first out gay judge, John Paul Barnich. Mayor Lee Brown, sensing the change, issued an executive order protecting LGBT city employees from employment discrimination. But the city had not changed that much. Councilman Rob Todd led efforts to fight the order in court, arguing that since voters rejected city-wide protections from discrimination in 1985, it was inappropriate for the mayor to institute them without voter approval. The city spent the next three years defending the policy in court, finally emerging victorious.

The joy of that 2001 victory would be shortlived, however. That year Houston’s voters approved another amendment to the city charter, this time prohibiting the city from providing domestic partner benefits for city employees. In a narrow defeat, just over 51 percent of voters decided that the city should not offer competitive benefits.

The current proposed non-discrimination amendment would remove the language added in 1985 and 2001. While it would provide non-discrimination protections it would not require the city to offer benefits of any kind to the spouses of LGBT city employees, leaving that question back in the hands of the City Council.

The organizers of the current effort are confident that this year is the year for victory.

Noel Freeman, the president of the Houston GLBT Political Caucus, which is spearheading the effort, explains that the previous votes occurred in “non-presidential years,”when voter turnout in general is low, and conservative voters make up a larger percentage of the electorate.

Additionally, polling by Equality Texas in 2010 showed that 80 percent of Houstonians support employment protections for gay and lesbian people.

In order to place the non-discrimination amendment on the November ballot the coalition supporting it will need to collect 20,000 signatures of registered Houston voters and submit them to the city clerk. Freeman says that the final charter amendment language is still under consideration and that once it is finalized the group will begin collecting signatures.

Even former Councilman Todd, who once fought the city’s policy of non-discrimination for LGBT employees, supports the current effort.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition February 17, 2012.

—  Michael Stephens

Early voting in runoff election off to slow start

For those who missed it, there is an election happening in Houston right now. Four City Council races wound up in run-offs after the November 8 municipal elections and Houstonians have until December 10 to decide the fate of these crucial races.  So far fewer than 2,000 people have voted. Without a “big ticket” item like the mayor’s race at the top of the ballot turnout in the runoff is expected to be very low. The upshot of which is that every ballot cast carries more weight than ever.

Two of the races are at-large seats, so every citizen of Houston gets to vote on this races:

  • In At-large position 2 former State Representative Kristi Thibaut faces Andrew C. Burks Jr. Pastor of Bailey Chapel Christian Methodist Episcopal Church.
  • In At-large position 5 incumbent council member Jolanda Jones faces Jack Christie, former State Board of Education member .

Two of the races are for district seats, so only people who live in those districts get to vote on these races:

  • In District A incumbent council member Brenda Stardig faces republican activist Helena Brown.
  • In District B local restauranteur and education advocate Jerry Davis faces Alvin Byrd, current staffer for council member Jarvis Johnson.

Early voting continues through December 6th, election day is November 8. Voters may cast their ballot at any early voting location. Visit harrisvotes.org to find your election day polling location (it may be different than your November polling place) and to view a sample ballot.

—  admin

What’s Shakin’ – People Empowering People happy hour, Chaz Bono takes on the National Enquirer

1. People Empowering People is a collaboration between The Men’s Group, a social group for African-American gay, bisexual, and same gender loving men, and TMG One Voice, The Men’s Group’s co-ed counterpart.  PEP’s monthly happy hour tonight at F Bar (202 Tuam) provides a casual social setting open to all regardless of ethnic background, sexual orientation or gender identity and expression and an opportunity to mix and mingle with the fabulous men and women of both organizations.  The festivities kick off at 6 pm.

2. Joe My God has a copy of the Cease and Desist letter sent by lawyers for Chaz Bono to the National Enquirer. Seems the tabloid ran a story in this week’s issue claiming that Bono’s gender transition has shortened his life expectancy to 4 years.  The Enquirer article quotes the opinion of Dr. Patrick Wanis, identified as a medical doctor specializing in transgender health issues.  The problem?  According to Bono’s lawyers not only is Wanis not an expert on trans health issues, he’s not a medical doctor.

3. Today is the last day to early vote in the Houston Municipal election, but if you miss this opportunity you can still cast your ballot at your precinct voting location on Nov 8. A list of all early voting locations and sample ballots  are available at harrisvotes.org.

—  admin

FEEDBACK: Why I’m supporting Kunkle

Why I’m supporting Kunkle

Thank you for the in-depth expose on the three major mayoral candidates (“Decision in Dallas,” Dallas Voice, April 8).

While there are different opinions regarding the candidates, David Kunkle is my personal choice. I have watched him closely over the last several years and was so impressed with his style of leadership and soft-spoken manner when he was police chief. He went all over this city, listening and getting feedback from not only the GLBT community, but everywhere.

Additionally, he is effective. He may not be the flashiest or most dynamic of the candidates, but he’s a keen thinker and avid reader focused on real world solutions on what works and what doesn’t.

He also appreciates the eclectic aspects of Dallas. That’s an important place to be in my mind, so that we can attract not only Fortune 500 companies but also the small businessman/woman and the budding creative entrepreneurs who want to live in our city.

I don’t know that I necessarily want another CEO as mayor. We hear all the time that government should be run like a business. I think it should not be. Contrary to popular belief today, government is not a business.

Municipal government needs an experienced and competent administrator. In addition to serving as Dallas police chief, David Kunkle also has experience serving as the assistant city manager of Arlington, which will provide him with a skill set from day one that will no doubt serve him well as mayor.

Ron Natinsky and Mike Rawlings both are pleasant gentlemen and they each bring their own “skill set” to the table and there are good people supporting them. But I’m going to be casting my ballot for David Kunkle.

Jay Narey
Dallas

—  John Wright

Emanuel on Ballot for Now

Rahm Emanuel CAMPAIGN 20101223 X390 (GETTY) | ADVOCATE.COMControversial Chicago mayoral hopeful Rahm Emanuel has won round 1 in a challenge to his candidacy.
Advocate.com: Daily News

—  admin

Attorney General Rob McKenna promotes ballot rehab effort for anti-gay candidates

Washington State’s Republican Attorney General Rob McKenna likes to portray himself as a moderate, as noted recently.  That false image was shattered when he endorsed numerous virulently anti-gay candidates in the 2010 elections.  

As if to reinforce the point that he is ardently anti-gay, on Friday Mr. McKenna posted an email (pictured right) asking supporters to do ballot rehab for two outspokenly anti-gay candidates Vincent Buys and Hans Zeiger.  Full email text is below the fold.

According to the radical-right 2010 Washington Voter Guide survey, Vincent Buys opposes domestic partnerships, opposes marriage equality and opposes a woman’s right to choose.

Hans Zeiger is even more extreme than Buys.  Besides opposing domestic partnerships, marriage equality and a woman’s right to choose, Zeiger called the National Education Association and the Gay Lesbian Straight Education Network “terrorist organizations” and claimed that a Girl Scouts USA national convention “will be a gathering of radical feminists, lesbians, and cookie peddlers” and is “allied with the abortion industry and Planned Parenthood”.  In addition, Zeiger reportedly works for a radical right Christian organization dedicated in part to preventing lesbian and gay couples from marrying.

As of Friday, Vince Buys was only 150 votes ahead of pro-equality incumbent Rep. Kelli Linville, and Hans Zeiger was only 40 votes ahead of pro-equality incumbent Rep. Dawn Morrell.  With a recount imminent, campaigns are doing “ballot rehab” described as taking “the list of ballots that have been rejected by…County Elections due to signature issues and identify friendly voters and then collect signed affidavits to ensure that each of those votes count”.

Pulling out all the stops to get anti-gay candidates like Buys and Zeiger elected is not something a moderate would do.  Once again Mr. McKenna’s actions speak volumes.

Related:

* Attorney General Rob McKenna’s moderate facade hides an anti-gay plotter

URGENT: Help get our candidates across the finish line THIS WEEKEND

Friends,

Election Day may be over, but we as Republicans are still fighting for every vote.

Please join myself and my team as we work with these campaigns on their ballot rehab efforts. Phone bankers, doorbellers, and drivers are needed THIS WEEKEND!

To assist the Steve Litzow campaign in the 41st, please call the KCGOP at 425.990.0404.

To assist Hans Zeiger in the 25th, Katrina Asay in the 30th, or Vincent Buys in the 42nd, contact Peter Graves at the WSRP: 425.460.0570.

Thanks very much for volunteering your time.

All the best,

Rob

Cross-posted at Washblog.
Pam’s House Blend – Front Page

—  admin

GOP Birthers: Keep Obama Off 2012 Ballot

GOP state legislators swept into office in the midterm elections are using their new majorities to push bills that would require proof of American citizenship in order to be placed on state presidential ballots. Bills are now being readied in Pennsylvania, Texas, Arizona, and Georgia. The internet birther headquarters, Christianist site World Net Daily, is cheering them on.

Texas state Rep. Leo Berman told WND he’s seen neither evidence nor indication that Obama qualifies under the Constitution’s requirement that a president be a “natural-born citizen,” a requirement not imposed on most other federal officers. “If the federal government is not going to vet these people, like they vetted John McCain, we’ll do it in our state,” he said. He noted the Senate’s investigation into McCain because of the Republican senator’s birth in Panama to military parents. Berman also said there will be pressure on any lawmaker who opposes the bill, since voters would wonder why they wouldn’t want such basic data about a president revealed.

And he said even if one state adopts the requirement, there will be national implications, because other states would be alerted to a possible problem. “If Obama is going to run for re-election in 2012, he’ll have to show our secretary of state his birth certificate and prove he’s a natural-born citizen,” he said. “This is going to be significant.” Berman said he’s convinced there are problems with Obama’s eligibility, or else his handlers would not be so persistent in keeping the information concealed. A year ago, polls indicated that roughly half of American voters were aware of a dispute over Obama’s eligibility. Recent polls, however, by organizations including CNN, show that roughly six in 10 American voters hold serious doubts that Obama is eligible under the Constitution’s demands.

The president’s birth certificate as well as Hawaiian newspaper birth announcements have been widely circulated, of course. But that doesn’t matter to the birther loons, who clearly believe somebody planted those newspaper reports 49 years ago, just in case he ever became president.

Joe. My. God.

—  admin

Someday, putting gays’ basic rights to ballot will be an editorial dealbreaker. Today’s not the day

It’s just a week and change away From D.C.’s 9/14 primaries, so more Washington Post endorsements have rolled in. Including this one:

In Ward 5, first-term council member Harry Thomas Jr. is facing challenges from Kenyan McDuffie, Delano Hunter and Tracey D. Turner. With the notable exception of the courage he showed in voting for marriage equality, Mr. Thomas has been a major disappointment. He pretty much defined his role as trying to stop anything — no matter how sensible — sought by the mayor. He led the effort to prevent school facilities chief Allen Y. Lew from overseeing park projects and has been the union’s main champion in trying to thwart needed reforms in the schools and government workforce. Particularly distasteful was how he allowed racial demagoguery to derail the nomination of Ximena Hartsock as parks director.

Both Mr. Hunter, a community organizer with Brookland Manor, and Mr. McDuffie, a lawyer who worked in the Justice Department civil rights division, are better alternatives. We give the edge to Mr. Hunter, an engaging newcomer who is running a grass-roots campaign. He has an intimate knowledge of the needs of the ward and has smart ideas on how to tackle issues such as truancy and joblessness. Mr. Hunter is not a supporter of marriage equality, but he is not the homophobe his critics make him out to be, but rather someone who thinks there is a way to provide equality for gays while respecting the beliefs of religious groups. He said he would not seek to change the law.

D.C. Council endorsements [WaPo]

You remember Delano Hunter, right? Ya know, he’s the guy who the National Organization for Marriage is proudly featuring in these crude mailers:

Delano Hunter

[SEE FULL SIZE: Joe.My.God]

Oh, and Hunter was also at NOM’s recent Summer Marriage Tour stop in D.C., as a show of support for an event where “let the people vote” was the rally cry of the day. Because “our values” in NOM speak means a D.C. where every citizen gets a chance to utilize that whole “speak now or forever hold your peace” line against any gay person’s marital union (although we don’t see peace-holding in the cards, even if they should lose a vote).

So no, sorry WaPo. Failing to support marriage equality and acting as “the people” are owed a right to vote on civil rights may not be deal breakers for your editorial board’s prevailing voices. And earning NOM’s backing might strike you as just another political point. However, these are matters that go well beyond matrimony, stretching firmly into the realms of constitutional fairness, respect for minority populations, principles in the face of politics, and just plain human respect! Whether or not Mr. Hunter fits into a contrived “homophobe” box is not the issue here. But as for whether or not he understands that we all share this country and its set of civil laws, and that those same laws should not be rolled back by (typically faith-based) majority whims? That’s kind of a big deal.

**More from a trio of D.C. locals:

Chris Geidner: Post Endorses NOM’s Nom in Ward 5 Council Race [Poliglot]

First, the Post ed board has steadily supported marriage equality in the past. That’s why it makes no sense to laud Councilmember Harry Thomas, Jr. for courage in voting for the marriage bill, then go on to laud Hunter for being “someone who thinks there is a way to provide equality for gays while respecting the beliefs of religious groups.

Adam Bink: Muddying the waters on equality [Open Left]

Now, it may not matter to the Washington Post who Hunter chooses to pal around with, but it does to the LGBT community. NOM has chosen Hunter to be its shining example of how to defeat pro-marriage incumbents.

Joe Sudbay: Wash. Post endorsed NOM-backed candidate for City Council [AmericaBlog]




Good As You

—  John Wright

Ex-Spitzer Madam Lands on Ballot

KRISTIN DAVIS X390 (HER SITE) | ADVOCATE.COMRunning on a marriage equality platform, Kristin Davis — the ex-madam whose clients allegedly included Eliot Spitzer — has collected enough signatures to face off against Andrew Cuomo in the NY governor’s race.
Advocate.com: Daily News

—  John Wright

Propositions that appear on the Nov. 3 ballot throughout Texas

The following propositions are on the ballot statewide on Tuesday, Nov. 3. Polling places are open 7:00 a.m. to 7:00 p.m.

Proposition 1
“The constitutional amendment authorizing the financing, including through tax increment financing, of the acquisition by municipalities and counties of buffer areas or open spaces adjacent to a military installation for the prevention of encroachment or for the construction of roadways, utilities, or other infrastructure to protect or promote the mission of the military installation.”

Proposition 2
“The constitutional amendment authorizing the legislature to provide for the ad valorem taxation of a residence homestead solely on the basis of the property’s value as a residence homestead.”

Proposition 3
“The constitutional amendment providing for uniform standards and procedures for the appraisal of property for ad valorem tax purposes.”

Proposition 4
“The constitutional amendment establishing the national research university fund to enable emerging research universities in this state to achieve national prominence as major research universities and transferring the balance of the higher education fund to the national research university fund.”

Proposition 5
“The constitutional amendment authorizing the legislature to authorize a single board of equalization for two or more adjoining appraisal entities that elect to provide for consolidated equalizations.”

Proposition 6
“The constitutional amendment authorizing the Veterans’ Land Board to issue general obligation bonds in amounts equal to or less than amounts previously authorized.”

Proposition 7
“The constitutional amendment to allow an officer or enlisted member of the Texas State Guard or other state militia or military force to hold other civil offices.”

Proposition 8
“The constitutional amendment authorizing the state to contribute money, property, and other resources for the establishment, maintenance, and operation of veterans hospitals in this state.”

Proposition 9
“The constitutional amendment to protect the right of the public, individually and collectively, to access and use the public beaches bordering the seaward shore of the Gulf of Mexico.”

Proposition 10
“The constitutional amendment to provide that elected members of the governing boards of emergency services districts may serve terms not to exceed four years.”

Proposition 11
“The constitutional amendment to prohibit the taking, damaging, or destroying of private property for public use unless the action is for the ownership, use, and enjoyment of the property by the State, a political subdivision of the State, the public at large, or entities granted the power of eminent domain under law or for the elimination of urban blight on a particular parcel of property, but not for certain economic development or enhancement of tax revenue purposes, and to limit the legislature’s authority to grant the power of eminent domain to an entity.”

— David Taffet

—  Dallasvoice