AIDS housing funding survives challenge in Houston city council

Helena Brown

The city funding for four Houston nonprofits providing housing to at-risk populations living with HIV/AIDS survived a challenge from city council member Helena Brown last Wednesday. Under consideration by the council were ordinances to dispense almost $2.5 million in federal funds managed by the city to the SRO Housing Corporation, Bering Omega Community Services, Catholic Charities and SEARCH Homeless services.

Brown initially used a parliamentary procedure known as a “tag” to delay the funding for the Houston SRO Housing Corporation and Bering Omega. Any council member may tag an item under consideration, delaying the vote on the item for one week. Brown explained that she objected to government funding of charitable entities:

“I spoke last week on this very issue on grant funds and the idea that we are, you know, fighting with other entities and other governments for grant funds that really isn’t there. The federal government is in a worse condition than the city of Houston and to continue to try to milk the system where there’s no milk, is just, I mean, we’re fighting with our brothers, as I said last week, to get credit for who is going to push a friend over the cliff… We need to continue to look at the private sector and the business sector. Because even, I attended this event where this wonderful speaker was talking about the generosity of Americans and 80% of donations to nonprofits come from private individuals, not even corporations, and we need to continue to rely on that right now because the government right now, we’re broke – we need to face that reality.”

Other council members spoke passionately of the need for continued funding, arguing that by assisting people living with HIV/AIDS in achieving independence, particularly those who are homeless or at risk of homelessness,  the programs added to the tax based and help insure long-term stability.

“We don’t live in a perfect a world,” said freshman council member Mike Laster (the first out gay man to serve on the Houston City Council). “These organizations do their very best to raise money to care for the people among us, but they still need to reach out to entities that have that kind of capital, and by the grace of God this city and this government as an entity has some of that capitol, and I’m very proud that we’re able to provide those kind of services to some of my community members.”

Council member Wanda Adams, who serves as chair of the council’s Housing and Community Development Committee, also spoke in favor of continuing funding. Council member Ellen Cohen, whose district contains both SRO Housing and Bering Omega, spoke of how her life had personally been touched by AIDS:

“One of the first young men to pass away in New York City was a cousin of mine of something [then] called a very rare form on pneumonia… which we now realize was not. So I understand the need for these kinds of services. On a personal note I worked with Bering and I know all the fine work that they do, I’m addressing all the items but I’m particularly addressing [the Bering Omega funding] and feel it’s absolutely critical that we provide the kind of funding items, and that we are, in fact, our brother’s and our sister’s keepers.

After Laster asked Mayor Annise Parker the procedure for overriding a tag Brown removed her tag, but raised a new concern about HIV/AIDS housing, saying that her office had requested a list of the owners of apartment units where those receiving rental assistance lived. City Attorney David Feldman explained to Brown that federal law prohibits making public information that could be used to identify people receiving assistance through the housing program. Feldman said that, in his legal opinion, revealing the names of the owners of the apartments would violate federal law. Brown said that she was concerned that their might be a “conflict of interest” with apartment owners that needed to be investigated, claiming that as the reason for her tag.

Brown eventually removed her tag, rather than have it overturned. All four ordinances providing funding passed with only Brown voting “nay.”

—  admin

Former GLBT Political Caucus President to lead Harris County Democratic Party

Former HCDP Chair Gerry Birnberg gives new chair Lane Lewis the keys to the party office

Former Houston GLBT Political Caucus president and longtime Democratic party activist Lane Lewis was elected to serve as the Harris County Democratic Party interim chair by the County Executive Committee on Tuesday, December 20. Lewis will serve the remainder of outgoing chairman Gerry Birnburg term, which expires in April. Birnburg announced earlier this year that he would step down after the November general elections.Lewis has also completed his filing as a candidate for HCDP chair on the April 2012 primary ballot.

Lewis previously served as president of the Houston GLBT Political Caucus in 1997. He has a long history of advocacy on LGBT issues.

“Words cannot express the profound sense of responsibility I feel right now,” said Lewis moments after his election as HCDP Chair.  “I am grateful so many fellow Democrats have entrusted me to lead during such a pivotal time. We have much work to do over the next several months to get our county and our candidates ready for the November 2012 election.  This enormous task will take the work of current elected officials, precinct chairs and activists working in unison.  My job will be to foster a new vision for our party and work to keep us all focused on our common goal.”

During Lewis’ acceptance speech, he spoke briefly about the direction and his vision for the party.

“A unified effort from every Democrat is the key to winning elections,” Lewis said.  “It’s plain and simple.  The middle class is under attack; the work we do in 2012 will be key to protecting the future and the promise that the American Dream provides.”

Lane Lewis was elected by an overwhelming majority.  He will begin operating the HCDP immediately.

—  admin

Laster becomes first out gay man on Houston City Council

Mike Laster

Mike Laster

With 57% of precincts reporting Mike Laster is the presumptive victor in the Houston District J City Council race. Laster, an out gay candidate endorsed by the Victory Fund and the Houston GLBT Political Caucus, has a commanding lead with 67% of the vote. His nearest opponent Criselda Romero trails with 22%.

Laster is the first out gay man to be elected to the Houston City Council.

From the Victory Fund website:

A graduate of the University of Texas at Austin’s Plan II Honors Program, Mike earned his Juris Doctorate from the University of Houston Law Center. While at the Law Center, Mike distinguished himself as the National Vice Chair of the American Bar Association Law Student Division.

Today Mike is an attorney specializing in real estate with the firm of Williams, Birnberg & Andersen, L.L.P. in Houston, where he has practiced for the past thirteen years. From 1989 to 1995, Mike served as a Senior Assistant City Attorney in the Real Estate Division of the City Attorney’s Office, where he handled many aspects of a general real estate and development practice for the city.

—  admin

Teacher accuses TC College of discrimination

Gill says English Department chair at Northeast Campus told her the state and the school ‘do not like homosexuals’

Jacqueline “Jackie” Gill
Jacqueline “Jackie” Gill

TAMMYE NASH  |  Senior Editor
nash@dallasvoice.com

HURST — Jacqueline “Jackie” Gill filed suit Wednesday, Sept. 7, against a professor and a dean at Northeast Campus of Tarrant County College in Hurst, claiming that she was denied the opportunity to apply for a permanent, full- time teaching position there because of the English Department chair’s bias against what he perceived her sexual orientation to be.

Tarrant County College adopted a nondiscrimination policy prohibiting discrimination based on sexual orientation on March 9 of this year.

Frank Griffis, director of public relations and marketing for Tarrant County College, said it “would not be appropriate” for school officials to comment on pending litigation. He also said school officials had not yet been served with papers and therefore had not read the complaint.

Gill said she had worked as a full-time temporary English professor for about a year at the Northeast Campus. But when the position was to be made permanent, English Department Chair Eric Devlin refused to allow her to apply for the permanent position.

Gill said when she complained about Devlin to Northeast Campus Humanities Division Dean Antonio R. Howell, he initially seemed to side with her, but after speaking to Devlin, Howell refused to communicate further with her. Gill said although she is a lesbian and has never tried to hide that fact, she had never talked about her orientation with Devlin or anyone else at the school.

Both Devlin and Howell are named as co-defendants in the lawsuit.

Gill is represented in the lawsuit by Lambda Legal South Central Region staff attorney Ken Upton, joined by pro bono counsel Benjamin D. Williams from the law firm of Gibson, Dunn and Crutcher.

Gill and Upton held a press conference Wednesday to announce that the lawsuit had been filed earlier that morning in U.S. district court in Fort Worth. The press conference was held at a Hurst hotel located just a few blocks from the Tarrant County College campus where Gill had taught.

According to the complaint filed Wednesday, and statements Gill made during the press conference, Gill was first hired on a full time, temporary basis as an English professor on Aug. 21, 2009. A little more than a month later, at the end of October, a female “dual-enrollment” student — a high school student who was also taking college classes — in Gill’s distance learning class cheated by stealing an exam and skipped some classes.

The student’s high school counselor told Gill that the student has a history of disruptive behavior, and when the student dropped the class, Gill was told the situation was closed.

On Nov. 9, however, Devlin called Gill into his office and told her the student had accused Gill of “flirting” with female students. Gill denied the accusations, noting that there was always another teacher in the class at the same time.

That’s when Devlin responded with “a lengthy diatribe about homosexuals and how the Texas public views them,” according to the complaint. Gill said Devlin went on to say that Texas is a conservative state and TCC is a conservative school, and that “Texas and Tarrant County College do not like homosexuals.”

Gill continued to teach at TCC, receiving high praise and compliments from students and staff alike, including from Devlin. Then in May 2010, she and other full-time temporary professors were told by Howell that all seven temporary full- time positions were being made permanent, and that they were being re-designated as adjunct faculty until the permanent positions were filled.

Gill said Howell also encouraged her and the other temporary professors to apply for the permanent jobs. Gill applied for all seven but was the only one of the seven temporary professors not hired for the permanent positions. Gill said that she was, in fact, not even allowed to interview for any of the positions, even though her experience and credentials were as good as or better than those who were hired.

Gill said she met with Howell and told him about Devlin’s anti-gay comments and refusal to allow her to interview for the permanent positions. She said Howell promised her to discuss the situation with Devlin immediately, but that he never got back in touch with her.

She said she also got no response when she tried to discuss the situation with the vice president and president of Tarrant County College.

Gill continued to teach as an adjunct professor at the campus through December 2010, although, she said, Devlin’s attitude toward her became “even more hostile.”

And she said that although she was originally assigned classes for the 2011 spring term, as she was preparing for those classes she discovered she had been removed as the professor. When she inquired about the status of the class, Gill said, she was told that Devlin had specifically instructed that those classes be taken away from her.

Upton said that Devlin and Howell violated the equal protection clause of the U.S. Constitution by refusing to allow Gill to apply for the permanent teaching position. He said Gill’s suit is asking that she be allowed to complete the application process and that she be compensated for the time she has been unemployed.

Gill, who is a Ph.D. candidate at the University of Texas at Arlington, said she would love to get a teaching job with TCC, and while she would prefer to work at another campus, she is willing to go back to the Northeast Campus and work again in Devlin’s department.

“I worked hard. I earned it,” Gill said of the permanent position. “I have nothing to be ashamed of. If it [her working in Devlin’s department again] would be awkward for anyone, I think it would be awkward for him [Devlin] because he is the one who was in the wrong.”

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition September 9, 2011.

—  Michael Stephens

7PM ET: PHB liveblog with candidate for North Carolina Democratic Party chair David Parker

The URL for the liveblog is: http://tinyurl.com/parkerPHB.



The election of state party chairs is quite relevant because of the circumstances we find many states in — they have lost control of their legislatures to teabaggers and GOP fringers because of the wealth of dissatisfaction over the economy last fall. Incumbents took the hit from the voters at all levels and the NC GOPers in the Gen Assembly are already flexing their bigoted muscles: Republicans file bill to prohibit anyone not in U.S. legally from attending NC community colleges or universities. And yesterday the Republicans elected proud bigot eruption-prone Sen. Jim Forrester as deputy president pro tempore. This is the man who refused to meet with P-FLAG and files a marriage amendment year after year as his first act as a legislator. We’ll see how soon he puts this on the agenda. He (in)famously said last year: “I’m not against homosexuals.” He said he has gay patients who see him in his medical practice “and I treat them like everyone else.”

In the case of North Carolina, a regrouping and fresh ideas are necessary, but in an emerging socially moderate state, the selection of a party chair for Democrats is particularly crucial. And if you’re LGBT, you want to see the party not willing to run away from equality issues.

Attorney David Parker is running for NC Democratic Party Chair (the election is on Jan 31). He wanted to hold a short live blog on the Blend to share his vision of leadership in the North Carolina Democratic Party, which is now facing a challenging landscape as the General Assembly here is now Republican controlled, the first time since Reconstruction. The LGBT community in NC faces the prospect of a marriage amendment that will be heard on the floor of the state House and Senate. Parker seeks LGBT support as an ally. Right out of the box, he’s in favor or transparency and participation for the community and is frank about it:

I am committed to creating an LGBT Caucus in NC and have an endorser who wants to lead the effort at the breakout sessions that I will convene within 30 Minutes of being elected Chair – I have attached my “First 30 Minutes Plan” and Breakout group agenda to show you my vision for that day. There is a “First 30 Days” Plan that dovetails with those efforts as well.

I would very much like your readers’ input and suggestions on how to make this work and not be a flash in the pan. For instance, I would like to see Caucuses and Roundtables in those counties where they can be formed. All three components of Members (organization), Message and Money come into play and need to be worked. We need to be aggressive on our messaging.

In reading through your site, I am committed to the Dallas Principles – they are sensible and should be a part of our Platform with “personal individual dignity” as “core value” to be at the top of our Platform in a Preamble. Part of what has sparked my email to you is seeing where the GOP will be going with the repeal of DADT as indicated by Bill James remarks in Charlotte about gays being “sexual predators”.

My most important action in the gay rights area has been as a part of the Covenant Network of Presbyterians. I have worked closely with Chris and Lou East from Greensboro (she is the minister for Epiphany – you can read about her at http://www.covenantnetwork.org/news/east.html ; Chris is also an ordained Presbyterian Minister and works as a Counselor at Replacements, Ltd.). I have not just given money and attended meetings, I wrote and performed the solo anthem for the national Covenant Network gathering in Davidson several years ago.

I next was a member of the PUP task force that worked through the changes arising out of the General Assembly’s passing of scrupling protocols as a way to permit the ordaining of gays in our Church. Stewart Ellis of Winston-Salem can tell you about my involvement there. We were able to get a protocol adopted in our Presbytery without objection – a signal accomplishment done with a lot of good dialogue.

As a PC(USA) General Assembly Commissioner this past summer, I argued in front of the roughly 2,000 folks there assembled for expanding pension and beneficiary benefits to gay partners. We passed the new enabling policy. You can read about the pension changes at https://www.pc-biz.org/IOBView.aspx?m=ro&id=3271 We have come a ways, but still have a long way to go….We are faced with the prospect of the Bill James of the world being in control – scary, scary stuff – no telling what will come out of this General Assembly. We can expect a Marriage Amendment and other acts to be presented to Gov. Perdue with a challenge to veto them – and a challenge to the State House to sustain her veto. With a 4 vote “cushion”, we may have issues.

This work is based on my belief that sexual orientation is a gift from God.

One of other candidates running for the post, Bill Faison, has had to contend with an interview he gave a few years ago in the Independent Weekly where he stated that he was not a supporter of marriage equality.

Gordon Smith, an ally on the Asheville City Council, did Q&As with Parker (and Bill Faison as well as the third candidate in the race, Dannie Montgomery). You can see all of their answers at Gordon’s blog, Scrutiny Hooligans.

It’s an interesting opportunity for Blenders to think about how the political parties in their state are considering LGBT issues in 2011, particularly if you’re in a state with few or no protections and have to contend with reluctant party leadership.

I hope you’ll join me as David and I discuss the future work a party can do to move equality forward. Video is below the fold.

Pam’s House Blend – Front Page

—  admin

7PM ET: PHB liveblog with candidate for North Carolina Democratic Party chair David Parker

The URL for the liveblog is: http://tinyurl.com/parkerPHB.



The election of state party chairs is quite relevant because of the circumstances we find many states in — they have lost control of their legislatures to teabaggers and GOP fringers because of the wealth of dissatisfaction over the economy last fall. Incumbents took the hit from the voters at all levels and the NC GOPers in the Gen Assembly are already flexing their bigoted muscles: Republicans file bill to prohibit anyone not in U.S. legally from attending NC community colleges or universities. And yesterday the Republicans elected proud bigot eruption-prone Sen. Jim Forrester as deputy president pro tempore. This is the man who refused to meet with P-FLAG and files a marriage amendment year after year as his first act as a legislator. We’ll see how soon he puts this on the agenda. He (in)famously said last year: “I’m not against homosexuals.” He said he has gay patients who see him in his medical practice “and I treat them like everyone else.”

In the case of North Carolina, a regrouping and fresh ideas are necessary, but in an emerging socially moderate state, the selection of a party chair for Democrats is particularly crucial. And if you’re LGBT, you want to see the party not willing to run away from equality issues.

Attorney David Parker is running for NC Democratic Party Chair (the election is on Jan 31). He wanted to hold a short live blog on the Blend to share his vision of leadership in the North Carolina Democratic Party, which is now facing a challenging landscape as the General Assembly here is now Republican controlled, the first time since Reconstruction. The LGBT community in NC faces the prospect of a marriage amendment that will be heard on the floor of the state House and Senate. Parker seeks LGBT support as an ally. Right out of the box, he’s in favor or transparency and participation for the community and is frank about it:

I am committed to creating an LGBT Caucus in NC and have an endorser who wants to lead the effort at the breakout sessions that I will convene within 30 Minutes of being elected Chair – I have attached my “First 30 Minutes Plan” and Breakout group agenda to show you my vision for that day. There is a “First 30 Days” Plan that dovetails with those efforts as well.

I would very much like your readers’ input and suggestions on how to make this work and not be a flash in the pan. For instance, I would like to see Caucuses and Roundtables in those counties where they can be formed. All three components of Members (organization), Message and Money come into play and need to be worked. We need to be aggressive on our messaging.

In reading through your site, I am committed to the Dallas Principles – they are sensible and should be a part of our Platform with “personal individual dignity” as “core value” to be at the top of our Platform in a Preamble. Part of what has sparked my email to you is seeing where the GOP will be going with the repeal of DADT as indicated by Bill James remarks in Charlotte about gays being “sexual predators”.

My most important action in the gay rights area has been as a part of the Covenant Network of Presbyterians. I have worked closely with Chris and Lou East from Greensboro (she is the minister for Epiphany – you can read about her at http://www.covenantnetwork.org/news/east.html ; Chris is also an ordained Presbyterian Minister and works as a Counselor at Replacements, Ltd.). I have not just given money and attended meetings, I wrote and performed the solo anthem for the national Covenant Network gathering in Davidson several years ago.

I next was a member of the PUP task force that worked through the changes arising out of the General Assembly’s passing of scrupling protocols as a way to permit the ordaining of gays in our Church. Stewart Ellis of Winston-Salem can tell you about my involvement there. We were able to get a protocol adopted in our Presbytery without objection – a signal accomplishment done with a lot of good dialogue.

As a PC(USA) General Assembly Commissioner this past summer, I argued in front of the roughly 2,000 folks there assembled for expanding pension and beneficiary benefits to gay partners. We passed the new enabling policy. You can read about the pension changes at https://www.pc-biz.org/IOBView.aspx?m=ro&id=3271 We have come a ways, but still have a long way to go….We are faced with the prospect of the Bill James of the world being in control – scary, scary stuff – no telling what will come out of this General Assembly. We can expect a Marriage Amendment and other acts to be presented to Gov. Perdue with a challenge to veto them – and a challenge to the State House to sustain her veto. With a 4 vote “cushion”, we may have issues.

This work is based on my belief that sexual orientation is a gift from God.

One of other candidates running for the post, Bill Faison, has had to contend with an interview he gave a few years ago in the Independent Weekly where he stated that he was not a supporter of marriage equality.

Gordon Smith, an ally on the Asheville City Council, did Q&As with Parker (and Bill Faison as well as the third candidate in the race, Dannie Montgomery). You can see all of their answers at Gordon’s blog, Scrutiny Hooligans.

It’s an interesting opportunity for Blenders to think about how the political parties in their state are considering LGBT issues in 2011, particularly if you’re in a state with few or no protections and have to contend with reluctant party leadership.

I hope you’ll join me as David and I discuss the future work a party can do to move equality forward. Video is below the fold.

Pam’s House Blend – Front Page

—  admin

New RNC Chair Will Keep The Gays Out Of Marriage

Towleroad posted this video of newly elected Republican National Committee chairman Reince Priebus having a nauseating little chat with National Organization for Marriage front woman Maggie Gallagher about the dangers of marriage equality (aka gay marriage).

[Spoiler: He's against it. Shocking!]
He says he stopped it in Wisconsin, and he’ll work to do the same as RNC chair.

Which actually should be a damn easy job or him. On the Federal level, the idea of marriage under attack from Congress is mostly a red herring. Not even the most feverishly optimistic assessment could imagine we’ll see any real heat to legislatively repeal the Defense of Marriage Act under Priebus’ first term as chair.

In the 111th there was a House bill, H.R. 3567 Respect for Marriage Act, introduced by Jerry Nadler (D-NY) that had 120 co-sponsors. There has never been a Senate bill.

The Courts will likely beat Congress in delivering Federal marriage equality when it comes. Foes are working hard to undermine any credibility such a decision might have.

And Priebus does them proud. He delivers a talking point soup of all the usual RW concerns: the Full Faith and Credit Clause (likely DOMA’s Achilles Heel) isn’t really part of the Constitution. The Founding Fathers weren’t really serious about that separation of powers and that whole checks and balances stuff either. There are only “activists judges” overriding the will of the people. Mob rule is their only hope of staving off defeat. It will be interesting to see what they tack to when they lose that, as that house of cards is falling fast.

Of course, Priebus can’t cite the part of the Constitution that says “but none of this equality stuff is applicable to gays.” Fortunately, he has his Bible for that. He seems desperate trump to the words of the Founding Fathers with the edicts of his God. He repeatedly tracks back to theological justifications for keeping marriage between one man and one woman. Constitutional reasons? Not so much.

Priebus’ “no marriage for gays” litmus test for potential candidate is really only relevant as it relates to other slightly more possible legislative victories we may be able to shoot for in the 112th or 113th Congress.

We know these people say they only care about marriage. But that’s a damn lie. National Organization for Marriage threw their resources behind defeating Referendum 71 in Washington State, the “Everything but Marriage” civil unions alternative, and did the same in Hawaii.

It’s not really about the word. It’s about keeping gay people down any way they can. So, expect candidates that pass Priebus’ “no gay marriage” litmus test to oppose anything that might offer employment discrimination protection (ENDA), immigration rights (UAFA), tax disequities solutions, inclusion in health care reform, measures to address school-bullying (SNDA & SSIA). Anything nice.

Of course, it remains to be seen if Priebus’ influence on the party will be more Mehlman or more Steele.

I’d hoped we’d see a softening on LGBT issues coming out of the GOP, after the pleasant surprise of 8 GOP Senators voting for DADT repeal. I’d hoped the party had seen the writing on the wall on these issues.

But they never really do, do they? If they couldn’t see reason and save themselves from losing the Latino vote forever, by supporting the Dream Act, I guess there’s no reason for surprise here.

Hate the gays? Love the baby Jesus? Love only carefully selected parts of the Constitution and the Bible? You’re a star in the GOP!

Step to the front of the line, Mr. Priebus.
Pam’s House Blend – Front Page

—  admin

Watch: New RNC Chair Reince Priebus Promises NOM’s Maggie Gallagher That He’ll Keep Marriage from Gays

Reince_priebus

Reince Priebus tells Maggie Gallagher that marriage is a "gift from God" and the sanctity of marriage should be protected from gays. He also tells her believes the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) is important and that activist judges should not redefine marriage.

Priebus clucks about how he has kept opposite marriage in place in Wisconsin and says he'd be committed to that as RNC chair.

Watch, AFTER THE JUMP



Towleroad News #gay

—  admin

California LGBT Caucus Selects Chair

Christine Kehoe x390 (her site) | ADVOCATE.COMState senator Christine Kehoe has been elected to chair California’s largest-ever LGBT legislative caucus.
Advocate.com: Daily News

—  admin

Watch What Happens When The RNC Chair Candidates Are Asked to Name Their Favorite Books

Rnc

So, the candidates for Chairman of the Republican National Committee were asked, during their debate, about their favorite books, which include The Reagan Diaries, George W. Bush's recent masterpiece, and, well, a stiff gin martini after work (I'll let her explain).

But the kicker is when current Chairman Michael Steele clucks out War and Peace and then quotes from it, only to quote the first two lines of A Tale of Two Cities.

Watch, AFTER THE JUMP

(via truth wins out)



Towleroad News #gay

—  admin