Rainbow Lounge panel to feature FW police chief, TABC captain, Queer LiberAction founder

An “unprecedented” panel discussion focused on the Rainbow Lounge raid and its aftermath will follow a third-anniversary screening of Robert Camina’s documentary film about the raid on Thursday in Dallas.

The panel discussion will feature Fort Worth police Chief Jeffrey Halstead, Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission Maj. Charlie Cloud, TABC agent and LGBT liaison Leigh Ann Wiggins, Queer LiberAction founder Blake Wilkinson, Fairness Fort Worth spokesman Jon Nelson and Camina himself. The 30-minute panel discussion will be moderated by yours truly.

“I really do think that the panel discussion is unprecedented, where all these people are getting together in one room to talk about it,” Camina said.

Tickets are still available for Thursday’s screening of Camina’s Raid of the Rainbow Lounge at the Magnolia Theater, which will precede the panel discussion. The screening is the third and last scheduled for the award-winning film in Dallas.

Doors open at 7 p.m., and the screening begins at 7:30. Those who’ve seen the film but want to attend the panel discussion should arrive by 9 p.m.

Tickets are $12 and can be purchased here. Use Coupon Code ETT87D to get a $3 discount. For more on the film, go here.

—  John Wright

Talkin’ Prop 8 with Rick Vanderslice

Rick Vanderslice, left, speaks during last night’s Prop 8 rally at the Legacy of Love Monument.

Rick Vanderslice, whom I ran into Wednesday evening at the Prop 8 rally, sends along word that his radio show Thursday afternoon will feature a roundtable discussion about the ruling, what it means and what’s next for the LGBT equality movement. “The Rick Vanderslice Show” streams live from 1 p.m. to 3 p.m. at RationalBroadcasting.com. Panelists will include Blake Wilkinson, Rafael McDonnell, Michael Robinson, Israel Luna, Jack E. Jett and John Nelson. Vanderslice was kind enough to invite me to join them, but alas, it’s production day here at DV, so I’ll have to make my debut on the show another time. The call-in number is 214-631-1360.

—  John Wright

Freedom to Marry Day — Part II

Blake Wilkinson of Queer LiberAction and Dallas County Clerk John Warren square off inside the marriage license office last year.
Blake Wilkinson of Queer LiberAction, left, and Dallas County Clerk John Warren square off inside the marriage license office last year.

Last week same-sex couple Kay Mathews and Wendy Churitch renewed their vows in front of the Dallas County Records Building in a demonstration to mark Freedom To Marry Day. But the Records Building was closed because of the weather, so they were unable to go inside and request a marriage license from the County Clerk’s Office. Which brings us to tomorrow, when Mathews and Churitch, along with activists from Queer LiberAction and Equality March Texas, will take care of unfinished business. The group will gather in front of the Records Building at 9 a.m. before marching inside. This portion of the demonstration resulted in a heated exchange last year between QL founder Blake Wilkinson and County Clerk John Warren (shown above). And especially given some of the other Freedom to Marry demonstrations around the country last week (like this one and this one, for example), it’ll be interesting to see how Part II plays out.

—  John Wright

Fort Worth Weekly gives Queer Liberaction some major face time

FWWeeklyClick on over to this week’s issue of Fort Worth Weekly and read their in-depth article, Putting the Spurs to Cowtown, about Queer Liberaction’s impact on the community during the Rainbow Lounge debacle. The article touches on their appearance at Fort Worth City Hall,  FW LGBT leaders response to the group and background on the outspoken Blake Wilkinson. Here’s how it starts:

Most Fort Worth citizens were introduced to Queer LiberAction, a lesbian-gay-bisexual-transgender activist group, on the evening news last summer. Footage of the packed July 14 city council meeting was broadcast on TV stations all over North Texas. It featured Mayor Mike Moncrief, gavel in hand, facing off against a wiry young man with long thin sideburns who wouldn’t sit down or shut up. (In the age of viral video, the entire episode was uploaded for the world to see on YouTube). Amid the mayor’s stern warnings of “Take a seat,” and “Don’t interrupt,” and “Do you want to be removed?” the young man waved a piece of paper and claimed to speak for the crowd:

“Sir, we respectfully ask to be put at the top of the agenda. We’re tired of being put at the bottom of the list. Hundreds of people are here tonight to talk about what happened at the Rainbow Lounge two weeks ago.”

The article is a decent balance of both QL and the FW community. And of course, don’t forget the comments section. They make for an added bonus.

—  Rich Lopez

Christian counterprotesters crash QL Milk Box

Blake Wilkinson, founder of Queer LiberAction, said the group’s Milk Box community forum in Fort Worth on Sunday was crashed by surprisingly aggressive anti-gay counterprotesters. Wilkinson said when about six or seven QL members arrived for the Milk Box, the counterprotesters had already seized the planned site, at the corner of Houston and Third streets. To avoid a confrontation, the QL’ers moved down the block, but then the group of about 15 counterprotesters started coming toward them in a threatening manner. “It got to a point where we just had to leave,” said Wilkinson, noting that there were no Fort Worth police officers present. “I think people were getting concerned for their safety. We definitely felt outnumbered.”

Wilkinson said the counterprotesters were from Kingdom Baptist Church of Mansfield. This appears to be the same church that’s led by Pastor Joey Faust, who sent out a press release earlier today encouraging anti-gay protesters to attend tomorrow night’s City Council meeting, where an LGBT protest is planned. In fact, it appears as though Faust may be one of the men in the above video from yesterday. After the jump, read QL’s full press release about the incident.

—  John Wright

QL's Wilkinson, Vanderslice get in Mark Reed's face during last night's rally on Cedar Springs

I’ll have more on last night’s rally on Cedar Springs in tomorrow’s Voice, but for now I wanted to share this video of Queer LiberAction’s Blake Wilkinson and Rick Vanderslice confronting National Equality March organizer Mark Reed and his partner, Dante Walkup, during the rally. Wilkinson is apparently still smarting about Reed’s decision to cancel a plane ticket he’d given Wilkinson to attend the march over comments criticizing the event that were posted on QL’s Web site. During the confrontation, Wilkinson and Vanderslice get in Reed’s face and call him  a “piece of shit”  and a “slimy motherfucker.” Reed responds by calling Wilkinson “a fuckin’ liar.” I was paying attention to the rally and missed the whole thing, but Laura McFerrin captured it all on video and passed it along this morning. It’s definitely worth three minutes of your time.

—  John Wright

Do we need a new game plan for full equality?

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In response to comments on the post below about Mark Reed canceling Blake Wilkinson’s plane ticket, “Andrew” is proposing a summit of local LGBT activists — “a conversation for possibility” — to explore ideas for achieving full equality. In an e-mail sent to myself and Senior Editor Tammye Nash, Andrew argues that the LGBT communiity lacks any comprehensive, finite plan for achieving our ultimate goal. In the same comments thread, Queer LiberAction’s Rick Vanderslice previously proposed a rendezvous on Tuesday night at his pad, but Andrew has made a counterproposal: Thursday from 7-9 p.m. at La Madeleine on Lemmon Avenue, where he says he’s booked a private room. Alas, I’ll be on a flight to D.C. for the National Equality March at that time, so please fill me in on the game plan later. Personally, I think we should consider the wildcat formation. But seriously, you can read Andrew’s full e-mail after the jump.

—  John Wright

NEM organizer Mark Reed cancels plane ticket he'd given to QL founder Blake Wilkinson

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National Equality March executive committee member Mark Reed (shown above), a successful Dallas business owner, says he’s given away about 12 airline vouchers so that others from the local LGBT community can attend the event Oct. 10 and 11 in Washington, D.C. One of those airline vouchers had gone to Blake Wilkinson, founder of Queer LiberAction. But according to e-mails I received today from both Reed and Wilkinson, Reed has canceled Wilkinson’s voucher over comments critical of the march that were posted on QL’s Web site. QL, along with the Gay Liberation Network in Chicago, has been trying to organize a protest outside the White House during the first day of the march. According to a “Call for a pro-LGBT picket of the White House” on the front page of the QL site:

“The organizers of the Sunday, October 11th March on Washington have placed almost their entire focus on Congress (which will be out of town) and almost none on the President. Indeed, rather than making demands of the President, the official march Web site goes out of its way to praise ‘Obama’s Mobile Messaging Team (for) Donating Services To The National Equality March!’

“By targeting congressional districts and lobbying Congress in an effort to win legal equality, the organizers’ strategy looks suspiciously like a drive to elect and re-elect Democrats in the 2010 bi-elections, rather than make uncompromising demands on this President and his Congress.”

Here are portions of an e-mail Reed sent to Wilkinson yesterday in response to the above comments:

“I am canceling your free ticket to Washington and informing you in time so you can still make affordable plans.

“Although I was tempted to wait [until] one day before the march, that is not my style … and [would be] fostered out of anger that unlike you, I have learned how to control.”

In response to the first paragraph from the QL Web site above, Reed wrote, “LIE. We didn’t praise Obama with this message. We were pointing the credibility of the group that has volunteered for this effort.” In response to the second paragraph, Reed wrote, “LIE. You obviously haven’t read anything about our strategy and I do not have time to explain it to you.” Reed then goes on to say:

“As someone that has been working extremely hard to help promote the march, I am very disappointed that you have not done jack shit to help. Instead, you are posting lies on your Web site and Facebook page about the organizers of this event.

“Dante & I have tried to be a support to you and your efforts. No more. We are now starting to believe what many of your enemies have written about you. So sad.”

And here’s Wilkinson’s response to Reed:

“I find it interesting that you’re canceling my ticket because of a difference of political opinion. What it boils down to is it my way or the highway, literally. I’m so disappointed with you and Dante. I would have thought that you would have tried to understand where we are coming from with QL. I have tried over the months, but I guess I have failed.

“As I said on the phone, and have said a million times over, if there is misinformation or differences of opinion I’m always happy to meet. I offered to meet your co-organizer to go over this stuff but she preferred to send me an email with corrected information. Yours is the only e-mail I have received.

“If you don’t like dialog or criticism then get out of politics. Just because you have gotten inspired to do something, which is great, it’s disappointing that because we disagree you’re using the only thing you have to try to squelch the fire, money. I, we, can’t be bought.

“So, as always, the phone is always on and I’m happy to meet. I’ll be eagerly waiting for your call and you and Dante’s generous support once again.”

—  John Wright

Welcome to the big leagues!

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What has to be one of the most common complaints editors hear from readers is, “It’s not newsworthy.” For example, when someone’s brother gets arrested for performing sex acts on the family cat and it shows up in the paper, they get mad and call the editor. “It’s not newsworthy,” they say.

This same type of criticism is rearing its ugly head over in the comments thread to this story about Queer Liberaction. But my question is, how much of this criticism is based on the fact that the commenters really don’t think it’s newsworthy, and how much of it is based on the fact that they just don’t want it in the newspaper?

One of the first things QL founder Blake Wilkinson said when I called him this week was, “Why is it that you guys will never cover Queer Liberaction’s events, but then when there is internal squabbling, you want to write about it?”

I told Wilkinson to go back through our issues and review our coverage since the group formed last November. How many times have QL events been featured in a photo on our front page? I just now counted, and the answer is seven. That’s right, seven times out of about 40 issues QL demonstrations have been the main photo on the front page of Dallas Voice. Wilkinson also alleged we haven’t covered anything they’ve done in the last month. My response was that DVtv’s Israel Luna produced an excellent video segment for us about QL’s Kiss-In just a few weeks ago, and that this had been my idea. Wilkinson didn’t have any response to that, and he finally agreed to discuss with me what’s going on with QL.

So while some would undoubtedly prefer that we didn’t cover QL at all, others want coverage, but only when it’s in a positive light and only when they feel it’s “newsworthy.” The problem with this is, we would never grant such treatment to any LGBT group or individual, and for obvious reasons.

Consider this hypothetical: If Stonewall Democrats President Erin Moore were to kick Jay Narey and Mike Lo Vuolo off the group’s board because they wanted to start another group with a competing mission, we would absolutely report on it. I’m not saying the same coverage would be given to every internal squabble at any LGBT organization, but Daniel Cates and Latisha McDaniel were high-profile board members for Queer Liberaction, which as I noted above has been a high-profile group.

Cates and McDaniel were the co-chairs of this year’s Million Gay March, which was organized by a coalition of local LGBT leaders and which drew more than 1,000 people. And they say they were kicked off the QL board because they insisted on starting another group that they hope will get along better with the rest of the community.

Now if that’s not newsworthy, I don’t know what is.

P.S. — After reading the story comments thread and this post, Publisher Robert Moore suggested that I also address the criticism that we don’t cover Fort Worth. There’s probably no better way to address this than by pointing to the centerpiece story on today’s front page about the AIDS Outreach Center, and the lead story in our Life+Style section about the aftermath of the Rainbow Lounge raid.

—  John Wright

Reactions to Freedom of Speech Night debate?

There was a huge crowd at Buzzbrews Kitchen on Lemmon Avenue tonight for a debate between Blake Wilkinson and Rick Vanderslice of Queer Liberaction, and Jay Narey and Mike Lo Vuolo, who are board members for Stonewall Democrats but weren’t representing the organization in an official capacity. Because I served as one of the moderators and was to some extent a participant, I’d be interested to hear audience members’ thoughts about how it went. As always, if you choose to comment, please keep it civil.

—  John Wright