Marrying for love, marching for equality

Dallas lesbian couple 1 of at least 5 couples participating in a marriage equality march and mass wedding Saturday in downtown Dallas

OLD FASHIONED WEDDING | Ashlyn Jones, left, and Amanda Evans will participate in a mass wedding in Founders Plaza in Downtown Dallas on Saturday, Oct. 15, as part of a demonstration for marriage equality.

DAVID TAFFET  |  Staff Writer
taffet@dallasvoice.com

Ashlyn Jones and Amanda Evans are getting married in downtown Dallas this weekend. They invited 50 of their friends, but would like everyone to attend.

“I want people I don’t even know to come and say, ‘Congratulations,’” Jones said. “That would be awesome.”

Jones and Evans are one of at least five couples that will participate in a mass wedding on Saturday evening at Founder’s Plaza in front of the Dallas County Records Building, as part of a protest in support of marriage equality.

Event organizer Daniel Cates said the couples are encouraged to apply for a marriage license inside the Records Building earlier in the week, even though those applications will be denied.

Similar events sponsored by GetEQUAL and P-FLAG are being held in about 10 cities across the state. In addition to the major cities, Harlingen, Brownsville, Huntsville and Odessa also have marriage equality events planned.

Cates said that while Texas is not close to granting marriage equality, LGBT Texans must demand the right.

“Since the New York marriage victory, people in other states are fighting back,” Cates said. “Once we lost the marriage battle here, we stopped fighting.”

Jones said that the Saturday wedding ceremony will also be a celebration of their five-year anniversary as a couple.

“In front of all of our friends, we’ll tell each other that we love each other,” Jones said.

The couple met in high school, and “When we met, it was electricity,” Jones said.

But the two kept their relationship a secret for three years. Their school had no gay-straight alliance, although they attended Teen Project in downtown Fort Worth until that group shut its doors.

When the couple told their parents they were lesbians, Jones said she and Evans were shunned by their families. Although relations have gotten better, none of their family members will be attending the wedding.
Jones said she expects marriage equality to come to Texas

eventually, “But I think it’s an uphill battle.”

Jones said she works for a very conservative company with very conservative customers, and “I had a customer walk out when she heard me talk about my wedding.”

After the downtown event, Jones said she and Evans and their friends will go to Chili’s to celebrate and then the couple will leave on their honeymoon. They’re going to Granbury to relax and get away from work, she said.

“We talked about following this up with a New York wedding,” Jones said. And then she’d like to come home and just be accepted.

“I would love to be able to hold my wife’s hand in a mall without a mother coming up to me and telling me it’s wrong to do that in front of her children,” she said.

Cates said that couples who would like to participate in the wedding ceremony should arrive at 4 p.m. for a short rehearsal. At 4:30 p.m. there will be an open mike for 30 minutes before a sidewalk march.

Cates said that a street permit was denied because the police are stretched thin with the State Fair of Texas and the Occupy Dallas protests. Sidewalk marches require fewer officers.

After the march, two people will speak before the mass wedding takes place. Richard Curtin, better known as Edna Jean Robinson, will officiate. He will conduct a “white knot” ceremony rather than have the couples exchange rings.  The white knot, a symbol of marriage equality, represents tying the knot.

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

—  Michael Stephens

Former Dallasite helps form Brownsville PFLAG chapter

DAVID TAFFET  |  Staff Writer taffet@dallasvoice.com

Brownsville became the 17th city in Texas with a Parents, Friends and Family of Lesbians and Gays chapter on Monday, Jan. 3 when about 35 people attended the new group’s first meeting.

Brownsville City Commissioner Melissa Zamora was among those attending. She said she was there as an ally, invited by the group’s president, Yolanda Speece.

“The communication was amazing. There was lots of talk about our culture and the stigma gays and lesbians face,” Zamora said. “There was a high school girl who was there to support her two lesbian mothers. A mom was there to support her transgender child.”

She said the meeting was well organized, providing good reciprocal support, and was attended by people from around the county — and even from South Padre Island.

Zamora said she recently became more aware of LGBT issues when she read a story by a high school student describing his struggle.

“This is a very Hispanic community,” Zamora said, “and it’s something you don’t talk about in the Hispanic community.”

Zamora said she hopes to find a co-sponsor to put an item on the city agenda introducing the group to the community.

Speece said she decided to found the group because she always had gay friends. She found that along the border and the coast, the closest groups were in El Paso and Corpus Christi and she knew there was a need locally.

“I would hear people say things,” Speece said. “I’d take it in and I didn’t know how to respond. But there’s something wrong with using God to justify their hate.”

Speece said that over the past two years there have been four murders of gay men in Cameron County. One, Barry Horn, was executive director of the Brownsville Museum of Fine Art.

The trial of the 19-year-old accused of Horn’s murder is set to begin in February. And Speece said she is sure defense attorneys are planning a “blame the victim” strategy.

“This needs to stop, Speece said. “We need to start educating the community, so I decided it’s time.”

Bobby Wightman-Cervantes, who helped the Dallas and Fort Worth chapters incorporate in the early 1990s, is involved in the new group’s formation. He said he was concerned that clashing personalities could kill the effort to organize and remembered similar concerns when P-FLAG formed in Dallas.

Wightman-Cervantes credited Dan and Pat Stone, two of the organizers of the Dallas group, with focusing on communication between parents with gay and lesbian children and a variety of allies when the group started.

Speece was also concerned about that, she said, and was very nervous as she began the meeting. But as people began talking to each other, she knew the new group was already working well. They were all there for one reason.

“Parents are supposed to protect their children,” she said.

P-FLAG Brownsville meets the first Monday of the month at 6:30 p.m. All Souls UU Church, 124 Paredes Line Road, Brownsville. 956-433-3524.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition January 7, 2011.

—  Michael Stephens

20-year-old suspect held without bail in gay Brownsville museum director's murder

Ernest Ivan Martinez, 20, was ordered held without bail Wednesday in the murder of 59-year-old Brownsville museum director Barry Horn, who was openly gay. Some media outlets have been reporting that Martinez and Horn were lovers until a falling out prior to Horn’s murder, but one of Horn’s associates denies that. Will Everett, who reportedly was Horn’s “right hand man” at the Brownsville Museum of Art, tells The San Antonio Express-News that Martinez had a troubled background and that Horn saw the young man as someone he could mentor:

Everett said he was angry that the killing has been characterized as the result of a love spat.

“The kid was one of many young men that Horn had taken a paternal interest in,” Everett said. “He made it very clear that he did not have any sexual expectations from Ivan. … He was trying to expose him to a better life, help him out a little bit.”

Everett said he was questioned for hours by police who refused to believe the relationship wasn’t sexual. Police spokesman Jimmy Manrrique said he could not comment.

“This is South Texas,” Everett said. “As soon as you say, ‘gay older man, younger man,’ and the younger man is a little on the cute side, the cops just, that’s just it. They don’t see anything else.”

—  John Wright

Police arrest 19-year-old 'person of interest' in Brownsville museum director's murder

Ernesto Ivan Martinez
Ernesto Ivan Martinez (ValleyCentral.com)

Barry Horn

Barry Horn (ValleyCentral.com)

Police have arrested a 19-year-old man who’s been identified as a “person of interest” in the murder of Brownsville museum director Barry Horn, The Brownsville Herald reports. Ernesto Ivan Martinez previously lived with the 59-year-old Horn and they are believed to have been lovers until a recent falling out, according to Action 4 News (Valley Central.com). Horn was found stabbed to death at his Brownsville home over the weekend, and police say there were signs of a struggle. Horn’s vehicle and other personal items were missing from the home. Martinez was taken into custody on Monday by border patrol officers at the B&M International Bridge. He is currently charged with felony auto theft. Horn was the executive director of the Brownsville Museum of Fine Art, and a scholarship has been established in his name at the University of Texas at Brownsville and Texas Southmost College, where he worked for many years.

—  John Wright