GetEQUAL members were arrested for trespassing in two state Senate offices earlier this week when they attempted to speak to the senators on a committee that heard SB 237, a state employment nondiscrimination bill.
Those arrested were Cd Kirven of Dallas, Erin Jennings and Jennifer Falcon of San Antonio, Tiffani Bishop of Austin and Koby Ozias of Corpus Christi.
Michael Diviesti notes that Jennings, who is a trans woman, was properly placed in a female cell. Ozias, who is a trans male, was also placed in a female cell and booked under his female name Stephanie Dees.
Austin CBS affiliate KEYE posted the below video of the arrests:
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.
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.
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.
Kirven said that after an HRC staffer told transgender activists to remove a transgender pride flag from behind the podium, she picked it up and tried to make sure it was in every camera shot.
On March 26, about 8,000 people rallied for marriage equality outside the Supreme Court while justices heard oral arguments in a case challenging the Defense of Marriage Act. The rally was organized by United for Marriage, a coalition of 180 groups, but Kirven, who was a scheduled speaker, said HRC was in control of the stage and the event. Kirven is a national board member for GetEQUAL.
Kirven said she had to submit her speech and got it back about 15 minutes before she was about to speak with sentences blacked out and words changed. She said she stumbled through parts of it because it wasn’t her words.
“They said I was too aggressive and dark,” Kirven said.
Michael Muhammad, DART’s vice president of diversity and innovative services, presents three DP benefits plans for DART employees at an administrative committee meeting on Tuesday. (Anna Waugh/Dallas Voice)
Members of DART’s administrative committee approved a plan today to offer domestic partner benefits to the regional transit agency’s gay and lesbian employees.
The committee discussed three plans but approved one in a 5-2 vote that would offer healthcare to an employee’s same- or opposite-sex partner and their children. According to previously released documents, the plan could cost anywhere from $76,860 $929,758, depending on how many people enroll.
The plan is now set to go before the entire DART Board of Directors on Feb. 26.
Resource Center Dallas’ Rafael McDonnell and lesbian activist Cd Kirven attended the meeting and were glad the committee approved the plan.
“I’m happy that we’re seeing forward movement,” McDonnell said.
They stressed the importance of the LGBT community reaching out to DART board members so they understand the need to vote in favor of the change.
“We need their help,” Kirven said. “I’m excited.”
Michael Muhammad, DART’s vice president of diversity and innovative services, explained the three proposed plans to committee members, including one that would allow both a partner and another dependent to be covered. Muhammad said that would guard against any legal challenges and would require an employee to have a guardianship for the relative to be eligible for DP benefits. But that plan was the most expensive at $355,236 $1,625,697.
After 20 minutes in executive session, committee vice chair Claude Williams made a motion to vote on the most expensive plan, which would cover partners and another dependent. But the motion failed to get a second.
It seemed that the committee would hold off on a vote until next month, but then committee member Pamela Dunlop Gates made a motion to vote on the plan that would cover either a same- or opposite-sex partner, which received a motion and ultimately passed by two votes.
Gates, Williams, Jerry Christian, William Tsao and Richard Carrizale voted in favor of the plan. Randall Chrisman and Gary Slagel voted against it.
To be eligible, employees would have to have lived together for at least one year and sign a domestic partnership affidavit. They would also have to provide two other documents proving their shared residency.
If approved by the full board, the plan would take effect in January 2014.
About 150 people marched through Downtown Dallas on Saturday evening in the third annual North Texas March for Equality. Some local media outlets reported the event as a last-minute celebration of the New York marriage equality vote, which happened late Friday. But in fact it had been planned for months.
The march left from the JFK Memorial. Marchers walked seven blocks down Commerce Street to Neiman Marcus and returned on Main Street for a rally in front of Old Red. Police kept one lane of traffic open while marchers passed. Motorists waved and gave thumbs-up signs to the marchers. No counterprotesters appeared along the route or at the rally.
Daniel Cates, the local GetEQUAL organizer, put together the event. Cd Kirven was the emcee and introduced about a dozen speakers at the rally. Many of the speakers celebrated the marriage equality vote in New York, and all demanded equal rights.
The march began in 2009 as a way for Dallas, which celebrates Pride in September, to commemorate the June anniversary of the Stonewall Rebellion.
Cross Points continues Thursday, July 22 with a discussion of racism in the LGBT community. This week’s panel will focus on discrimination, class and privilege, and how these things are affecting the equality movement.
Panelists will include GetEQUAL NOW’s Cd Kirven, Mohammed Rahman of DFW BiNet and DJ Anderson of Equality March Texas. Lovely Murrell, a local co-chair of Creating Change, will moderate.
The series concludes next week with a panel on religion.
“We’ve gotten a lot of positive feedback,” said organizer Latisha McDaniel. “And we’re looking forward to continuing later with a new series.”
She said 20 to 30 people have attended each discussion.
Two Dallas activists affiliated with GetEQUAL have launched a spinoff group aimed at bringing more diversity to the LGBT equality movement. Queerty has the scoop on the new group, called GetEQUAL NOW, formed by CD Kirven and Michael Robinson. I don’t know who wrote the Queerty article (there’s no byline), but it specifically calls out the Cedar Springs strip:
One needn’t look much further than their local gayborhood to see what Kirven’s talking about. On Cedar Springs, the gay strip in Dallas where Kirven lives, there’s only one lesbian bar and eight gay bars frequented mostly by white men. The gay bars have a black and Latino night once a month, but otherwise a gay person of color has to find a black or Latino bar far off the main strip. Cedar Springs has about five shops for gay men, but none for lesbians. In the magazine racks of the local video store, it’s rare to see a person of color on the cover of The Advocate, Out, Curve, Instinct, or any other gay mainstream publication that’s still around.
“There’s this idea that if you want a lesbian clothes store you should build it yourself, that if you want to be a member of this community you better have thousands of dollars for the price of admission, just to have access,” Kirven says. “But that doesn’t address the fact that queers of color often lack the education, the training, and the means to raise that money. We don’t usually get a seat at the table until it comes to needing our vote or needing tokens for a photo-op afterthought.”