What’s Brewing: House taps former Bush SG to defend DOMA; gay blog Queerty shuts down

Paul Clement

Your weekday morning blend from Instant Tea:

1. House Republicans tapped former U.S. Solicitor General Paul Clement, who served for three years during the Bush administration, to defend the Defense of Marriage Act in court. And Speaker John Boehner wants to divert money from the Justice Department to pay Clement, a partner at Atlanta-based King & Spalding whose services won’t come cheap (he reportedly earns more than $5 million a year). Clement, representing the House’s Bipartisan Legal Advisory Group, has already filed a motion to intervene in one of the cases challenging the constitutionality of DOMA.

2. The gay blog Queerty has shut down. We’ll miss Queerty’s snarky headlines and irreverent prose as much as anyone, but we won’t miss the blog stealing our original content without crediting us.

3. A bill that would bar transgender people from marrying people of the opposite sex is again on the Texas Senate’s intent calendar for today. That means if you haven’t already contacted Senate Democrats and asked them to vote against SB 723, you should do so now (contact info  is here). Meanwhile, LGBT advocates will again be speaking during today’s meeting of the Dallas County Commissioners Court to call on the court to add gender identity to the county’s nondiscrimination policy. We’re headed downtown and will have a report later.

—  John Wright

Gays join protest of Bush library groundbreaking

Rick Vanderslice

About 100 people gathered to protest the groundbreaking of the George Bush Library on the Southern Methodist University campus this morning.

Members of the LGBT community were among the organizers. Other protesters came to Dallas from around the country.

Among the protesters was Cindy Sheehan, who became the face of the anti-war movement after the death of her son Casey in Iraq in 2004.

A march began at about 9:30 a.m. at Mockingbird Station and ended on the SMU campus outside Ford Stadium near Mockingbird Lane and Airline Drive. Many were dressed in black with white masks representing soldiers killed in Iraq and Afghanistan during the Bush administration.

Five different police forces kept protesters and counter-protesters apart. The march began in Dallas, crossed into Highland Park and ended on campus in University Park. SMU campus police also were on hand.

The groundbreaking was held several blocks away and protesters were not allowed anywhere near the dignitaries, who included  the Bushes and Cheneys. Sheriff’s department officers guarded that ceremony in riot gear with shields and batons. Only pre-approved guests and media were allowed near the library site.

However, pro-Bush counter-protesters were allowed to mingle on the outskirts of the anti-Bush crowd.

Local speakers were mostly from the LGBT community.

Aaron Rathbun dressed in a graduation cap and gown and held a sign on stage that read, “Bush failed us.”

Radio host and Queer LiberAction activist Rick Vanderslice led some of the chanting and was one of the speakers. He echoed the event’s “Arrest Bush” theme.

Vanderslice said the policy institute is being built to justify the policies of the Bush administration. He said this can’t be allowed to happen and called them war criminals who should be arrested and brought to justice.

“We can get them,” he said.

“Millions of lives have been ruined because of irresponsible foreign policy,” said Charles Grand, a speaker from the Socialist Workers Party.

Grand said he was happy with the number of people attending since the protest took place during a workday.

Sheehan explained why she had traveled to Dallas from her home in California for the event.

“You can’t put a bloom on that lily,” she said. “He wasn’t a good person. He wasn’t a good president. We can’t let him rewrite history.”

Other speakers included Time magazine 2002 person of the year Colleen Rowley, Code Pink founder Medea Benjamin and Col. Ann Wright, who spent 29 years in the military followed by 16 years as a diplomat and resigned her post to protest Bush administration policy.

State Rep. Lon Burnham from Tarrant County was scheduled to speak but was held up by an airline delay.

The museum and library will open in 2013. The policy center is already operating in offices in Preston Center.

Dressed as death, a number of protesters, including Time person of the year Colleen Rowley, marched to the groundbreaking but were turned back

—  David Taffet

ASOs pleased with Obama’s AIDS strategy

Service providers are optimistic about holistic approach, but want to see the money to back up plan

DAVID TAFFET | Staff Writer taffet@dallasvoice.com

Raeline Nobles

The White House’s new National AIDS Strategy, released July 13, is getting good reviews from AIDS service organizations in North Texas.

The policy includes plans on how to reduce new infections, how to increase access to health care and how to improve the outcome for people living with HIV. It takes a holistic approach to AIDS, bringing resources from around the community together and recognizing the need for transportation, food and housing as well as medical treatment.

Its goals also include eliminating the stigma still attached to HIV/AIDS.

“This White House is more systemic,” said Raeline Nobles, executive director of AIDS Arms. “[They know that] when one part of the system is weak, the entire system breaks down. You have to reach out into the greater community.”

Nobles noted the focus on reducing the infection rate by 25 percent.

“I think the strategy is very aggressive,” she said. “A 25 percent drop is a huge drop.”

Still, she wondered how the plan would be funded.

“Healthcare reform will provide some answers, but not until 2014 and that’s a long time in the middle of an epidemic,” she said.

Steven Pace, executive director of AIDS Interfaith Network, said “What I hope emerges is renewed outreach and prevention because those were so destroyed under the Bush administration.”

And Don Maison, president and CEO of AIDS services of Dallas commended the plan’s “recognition of the importance of housing for overall health. … Housing has the attention of policymakers and is included for the first time.”

Maison attended a White House meeting in December with Jeffrey S. Crowley, director of the Office of National AIDS Policy. Four assistants to the president, officials from HUD and the Health Resources and Services Administration also attended.

When Maison read how their concerns were addressed in the strategy, he said he was delighted they were listening.

Nobles also was impressed with the process by which the administration put the strategy together.

She said that at least once every other week she received an e-mail asking her opinion.

Steve Dutton, executive director of Samaritan House in Fort Worth, pointed out three things he especially liked about the strategy.

“It’s important that housing is integrated into the plan,” he said. “I like the call to educating all Americans about the disease. And prevention is more than just condoms.”

He said this was the first administration that gathered information from experts and used that to formulate a strategy. He said he was impressed by the call for federal agencies to work closely with local agencies.

Like other agency directors, Dutton worried about funding.

He said the president made it clear in his executive summary of the document that this is not a budget document.

“But it clearly establishes national priorities,” Dutton said. “That’s very impressive. It’s been a long time since leadership asked people on the street, ‘What do you think?’”

Bret Camp from Nelson Tebedo Clinic was cautiously optimistic.

“It’s good that we finally have a plan,” he said. “I would like to see money behind it.”

Camp liked the idea of collaboration among faith-based groups, government agencies, the medical community and service organizations.

“That makes the continuum of prevention services seamless,” he said.

Camp pointed to the Stomp Out Syphilis program at Resource Center Dallas that works well with faith-based organizations throughout the community.
“The state holds that program up as a model,” he said.

Allan Gould, executive director of AIDS Outreach Center in Fort Worth, said the plan had the right goals for halting the spread of HIV. He said that over the last five to 10 years, most people acted as though the AIDS epidemic was over, but, “AIDS is still a huge problem.”

Gould said that the two things to watch are how the plan is implemented and where the money is coming from. The federal government funds Tarrant County and other areas with fewer than 2,000 cases of AIDS differently than cities like Dallas with more people infected with HIV.

“Small agencies will close,” Gould said.

But his reading of the strategy is that it is a fresh approach.

“It’s a health issue, not a moral issue,” he said. “The plan takes a holistic approach.”

He said the president sounded pragmatic when he announced the strategy, admitting he didn’t have all the answers.

Gould said that for the first time, ASOs wouldn’t have to wait for a change in administration to get rid of a policy or an approach that isn’t working.
But Gould laughed at one of the main goals — to reduce the stigma of AIDS.

He said you can’t tell people how to think, but he thought it was better to have that as policy than not.

Getting the prevention message out there once again, Gould said, was among the most important pieces of the new plan.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition July 23, 2010.

—  Michael Stephens