U Dallas grad condemns commencement address, calls on school president to apologize for speaker

Brent bozell

Brent Bozell

A cum laude graduate at the University of Dallas‘ 2015 spring graduation ceremonies is calling of UD President Thomas W. Keefe to apologize for a bigoted rant of a commencement address delivered at the school’s recent spring 2015 graduation ceremony, or let LGBT students know they aren’t welcome at the school in the first place.

University of Dallas, a private Catholic liberal arts university in Irving, was included on The Princeton Review’s 2013 list of the “most gay-unfriendly” schools in the country. But Maxwell Frazier, who just received a degree in science, said he heard a speech by Keefe four years ago that convinced him to attend the school, despite it’s reputation as homophobic and conservative. Frazier said that Keefe had pledged, “Everyone, regardless of background or creed, was to be made welcome and at liberty to share their thoughts.”

But after the school invited right-wing activist/writer Brent Bozell to deliver the spring commencement address, Frazier said called on Keefe to apologize and establish a gay-straight alliance at the school, or “make a clear statement that we are not wanted and will not be accommodated for at UD. To be anywhere in between is to fail your entire student body. You cannot deceive and mislead people into thinking an environment is healthy for them if you are not dedicated to fulfilling that promise.”

Bozell, who has founded a number of right-wing “media” organizations, has had articles published in a number of newspapers and magazines and is a regular on Fox News’ Hannity. But last year, former employees of his Media Research Center claimed that Bozwell pays a ghostwriter to write his columns and books, at least one newspaper dropped his regular column.

Bozwell is no stranger to controversy. In 2011, during a Fox News broadcast, he said President Obama looks like “a skinny ghetto crackhead.”

Frazier said Bozell turned “what should have been a celebratory speech into an aggressive and politically charged tirade. … He obliged our student body to willingly break anti-discrimination laws and be proud to face criminal charges for discriminating against homosexuals. He very clearly made me out to be the enemy of my entire graduating class. He lamented a mediocre reality show being canned by its network for its patriarch’s homophobic commentary, and a moment later called for us to stand against South Park for portraying the pope the way it portrays everyone, satirically ridiculous. The hypocrisy and textbook homophobia were prevalent.”

Frazier’s “open letter” to Keefe is available online at Change.org as a petition. View it here. In a comment on the Change.org website, one U Dallas graduate said he was ashamed by the school’s intolerance and noted when he attended, former U.S. senator and current Republican presidential candidate Rick Santorum was invited to speak at a commencement ceremony.

—  Tammye Nash

Texas native Michelle Shocked sees shows canceled after anti-gay rant


Michelle Shocked during a 2008 performance at the House of Blues in Dallas.

Michelle Shocked has a rollercoaster musical career, but even more up and down is her view of homosexuality.

Shocked went on an anti-gay rant Sunday during a show in San Francisco, telling the audience 90 minutes into the show that “God hates fags and you can tweet that I said so.” Management reportedly responded by cutting off her microphone and ending the performance after most of her fans left.

Her outrage during the show has led to a Change.org petition for venues to cancel her scheduled appearances, and many venues have canceled her upcoming shows while others are listened as tentative.

Shocked was once labeled as lesbian and bisexual after a 1990 Outlines article where she spoke about being a gay role model and not knowing how to identify.

—  Dallasvoice

WATCH: Gay Scouts, leaders deliver petitions to BSA headquarters


Jennifer Tyrrell speaks about having to leave her position with the Boy Scouts like other parents who are gay. (Anna Waugh/Dallas Voice)

Below is a video from today’s delivery of four Change.org petitions started by gay Scouts to the BSA’s Irving headquarters.

Former den mother Jennifer Tyrrell and assistant Scoutmaster Greg Bourke spoke about their leadership experiences in the Boy Scouts and the hardship of having to step down from their positions because of their sexual orientation.

Perhaps the most powerful speech was given by Eric Andresen, the father of a gay Scout who was denied his Eagle Scout Award after coming out. Andresen spoke about how painful it is to be a parent and watch your son be denied an award he had worked for over several years only to see him not receive it because of the Scouts’ gay ban.

Watch it below.

—  Dallasvoice

BREAKING: Gay Scouts, leaders deliver petitions

Gay Scouts and leaders deliver boxes with 1.4 million signatures from combined Change.org petitions requesting the Boy Scouts end its national no-gays ban on Feb. 4. BSA’s Board of Directors is scheduled to vote on a policy change Feb. 6. (Anna Waugh/Dallas Voice)

Gay Scouts and leaders deliver boxes with 1.4 million signatures from combined Change.org petitions requesting the Boy Scouts end its national no-gays ban on Monday. BSA’s Board of Directors is scheduled to vote on a policy change Feb. 6. (Anna Waugh/Dallas Voice)


DAVID TAFFET  |  Staff Writer

While the Boy Scouts Board of Directors met in Irving on Monday morning, four Scout leaders from across the country converged on BSA headquarters to deliver 1.4 million petition signatures urging the group to lift its ban on gay Scouts and leaders.

A representative from BSA was scheduled to meet with the group sometime Monday morning. When no representative appeared by 12:30 p.m., the Scouts placed the boxes of signatures at the base of the Scouting statute near the front door of BSA headquarters. A representative later came out and picked up the signatures after most members of the media had left.

Mark Anthony Dingbaum, organizing manager from Change.org, called the campaigns that resulted in 1.4 million signatures among his organization’s most successful.

“Behind all successful campaigns are powerful personal stories,” he said before introducing the Scouting leaders.

Jennifer Tyrrell, the Cub Scout mom who delivered 300,000 signatures to the Boy Scouts in July asking to be reinstated as a den mother, said she was back under much better circumstances. She recounted the day she was dismissed from the Scouts.

“We were working on a conservation project for a state park the day I was removed,” she said. “The letter said I did not meet the high standards of the Boy Scouts of America.”

Greg Bourke was an assistant Scoutmaster who was removed after serving for 10 years. He has been partnered for 30 years and has two children involved in Scouting. His partner and children were in Dallas with him.

He said last year after telling his council he is gay, he was asked to resign immediately. He has received overwhelming support from his troop, other Scout parents and even the Catholic church that sponsors his troop.

“In the name of fairness, in the name of equality, in the name of God, I ask the Executive Board to please end this harmful discrimination now,” he said.

Will Oliver, 20, is a gay Eagle Scout who began a petition on Change.org asking National Geographic channel to to condemn the Boy Scouts discrimination policy. Are You Tougher Than a Boy Scout? is scheduled to air on the National Geographic channel in March.

Oliver, who is from Massachusetts and remains in good standing with the Scouts, said one of the values Scouting taught him is not to stand by passively in the face of injustice.

“Discrimination doesn’t happen in my troop,” he said. “My council has a nondiscrimination policy.”

He said sexual orientation really doesn’t have a place in scouting and called the Scouts his refuge from the pressure of dating that he felt in school and elsewhere.

Oliver is in school at Northwestern University and met his mother and two of his brothers in Dallas. He said he was missing a test today at school but his professor, who had also been a Scout, encouraged him to make the trip and told him he could make up the exam “anytime.”

Eric Andresen represented his son at BSA headquarters. His son was refused his Eagle award after completing the requirements and then coming out.

Andresen said his son did an anti-bullying project in school for his Eagle merit project and called it ironic that the Boy Scouts turned out to be the biggest bullies his son would have to face.

“It hurts to watch what Ryan has had to go through,” he said. “Two years ago he made a big mistake. He was honest.”

The Boy Scouts board is expected to vote on whether to soften their ban on gays on Wednesday.

Brad Hankins, Campaign Director for Scouts for Equality, represented the group in Dallas today. The group was founded by Zach Wahls, an Eagle Scout raised by two moms.

Scouts for Equality group is responsible for campaigns last fall that caused several major corporate donors to stop funding the Boy Scouts.

“In seven months, we’ve built an organization comprised of thousands of alumni Eagle Scouts, as well as current Scouts and Scoutmasters, who are all very concerned about the future health of an organization we cherish — the Boy Scouts of America.” said Hankins. “We believe that this policy change must be enacted as a mitigated solution toward the final goal of ending discrimination throughout all of Scouting, lest the program be isolated on the fringe of our society. As America embraces universal equality, so should the Boy Scouts of America.”

Several community members were at Boy Scout headquarters to greet the Scouts who had come to Dallas for the delivery of petitions.

Mark “Major” Jiminez, who was arrested twice at Dallas County Records Building when he tried to obtain a marriage license with his husband, was surprised the Boy Scouts were considering a change in policy so soon after announcing the results of a two-year study last summer. Without releasing any details of the study, the Scouts said they’d concluded they needed to maintain the current ban on gays.

“I never expected to see this in my life,” Jiminez said. “I thought they’d close their doors first.”

More photos below.

—  David Taffet

Texas State: Chick-fil-A can stay on campus as long as it’s raking in money

Classes at Texas State University started Monday against a backdrop of protests and support for the on-campus Chick-fil-A restaurant.

The school newspaper, The University Star, ran an article about the protests of students who started a Change.org petition tilted “Stop the Hate at Texas State: Remove the Chick-fil-A from the LBJ Student Union at Texas State University.” So far, 507 people have signed it.

The petition states that the company’s presence on campus is not in line with a university policy that prohibits discrimination based on sexual orientation.

“This is not just about their organization opposing marriage for all, but also the view of homosexuality as inferior to heterosexuality, and therefore supporting hatred, social inequality, and family strife among those of us with LGBT family members and friends,” the petition reads in part.

—  Dallasvoice

Students protest new Chick-fil-A on campus of UT-Pan American

Students protest the new on-campus Chick-fil-A at the University of Texas-Pan American on Monday, Aug. 27. (Action 4 News)

Students starting classes Monday at the University of Texas-Pan American protested the new on-campus Chick-fil-A.

The campus in Edinburg had several students holding signs explaining that the chicken chain controversy is about civil rights, not free speech.

UTPA’s Atheist Student Organization and the LGBT Alliance also had students sign their petition to ask the university to remove the restaurant, Action 4 News reports.

UTPA released a statement before school started that the university  “was surprised and disappointed by the comments made by Chick-fil-A’s president,” and that it opposes “discrimination in any form.”

Chick-fil-A is on five college campuses in North Texas. Both the University of North Texas and the University of Texas at Arlington have started online petitions. A UNT student petition on Change.org  had garnered 469 signatures and the one started by an alumnus has 44 signatures. The UTA petition has 155 signatures.

UTA spokeswoman Kristin Sullivan told Instant Tea that no one had submitted a petition or a formal request yet o replace the on-campus Chick-fil-A.

Alohi Valdez, president of UTA’s Gay Straight Alliance, said the group is working on a resolution to present to university officials alongside the petition. She said she wanted to present the petition to the administration soon.

—  Dallasvoice

Petition calls for removal of Chick-fil-A from UTA campus

Students at the University of Texas at Arlington have started an online petition to remove the Chick-fil-A in the Hereford University Center.

Alohi Valdez, president of UTA’s Gay Straight Alliance, initially said she was conflicted about creating a petition due to concerns student workers would lose their jobs if Chick-fil-A closed. But after speaking to friends and GSA members over the weekend, she said she decided to start the petition. As of Monday afternoon, 65 people had signed it.

Valdez said she was also inspired to take a stand after hearing about the death of Fairness Fort Worth president and UTA alumnus Tom Anable.

“I had never met the man, even though Fairness Fort Worth had done so much for us, so I had really looked forward to shaking his hand one day,” she said. “When that hope was taken away from me, I really just felt this flame inside me: I had to do something. Even though I just had a long day and it was 3 a.m. on a Saturday night/early Sunday, I had to write something.”

Anable was chair of the local steering committee for the White House LGBT Conference on Safe Schools and Communities that took place at UTA in March.

Valdez said Anable and FFW Treasurer David Mack Henderson, also a UTA alumnus, had done so much for the students at UTA and she wanted to continue their work.

“I have to complete what they started, do my part, and continue to make the University of Texas at Arlington the best school it can be, welcoming and open for everyone,” she said.

UTA spokeswoman Kristin Sullivan said she was waiting on the university’s response to the petition before commenting.

Two anti-Chick-fil-A petitions are ongoing at the University of North Texas, one by a student and another by an alumnus. A UNT spokeswoman told Dallas Voice students had the choice not to dine at the on-campus location but would not comment on whether the university would consider removing it.

A spokesman with Southern Methodist University told Dallas Voice last week that the university would not remove the restaurant from campus. SPECTRUM, SMU’s LGBT student group, spoke out against Chick-fil-A but has not announced plans to try to have the on-campus location removed.

—  Dallasvoice

DART committee to discuss DP benefits

Mark “Major” Jiminez addresses the DART Board of Directors about the importance of offering domestic partner benefits Tuesday, Aug. 14. (John Wright/Dallas Voice)

A Dallas Area Rapid Transit committee is scheduled to discuss offering domestic partner benefits at its September meeting.

DART Executive Director Gary Thomas told Instant Tea on Tuesday that board member Claude Williams has requested a presentation by staff on DP benefits at the administrative committee’s next meeting. Williams, who couldn’t immediately be reached, serves as vice chair of the administrative committee.

Several members of the LGBT community addressed the DART board Tuesday night to explain the importance of offering DP benefits.

Omar Narvaez, who works for Lambda Legal, told the DART board he lost his job a few years ago after working for a company for 14 years. He said he was lucky that his partner’s company offered DP benefits.

When he went to work for Lambda Legal a year later, Narvaez said his partner then lost his job, so Narvaez was able to put his partner on his insurance plan.

“We need to add these benefits because happy employees and employees that feel safe are employees that love working here,” Narvaez said.

Mark “Major” Jiminez spoke about how he admired DART as an agency but doesn’t support the agency’s discriminatory policies. Jiminez and his partner Beau Chandler will marry in September and have been arrested trying to obtain a marriage license in Dallas County.

Resource Center Dallas’ Rafael McDonnell then spoke and referenced DART’s equal employment opportunity policy, which he also distributed to board members. McDonnell said the policy is contradictory because it says the transit agency doesn’t discriminate based on sexual orientation, including in the area of benefits.

McDonnell said the efforts of former DART employee Andrew Moss, who could not attend Tuesday’s meeting, have been heard loud and clear with the issue now being addressed by the administrative committee. Moss’ Change.org petition calling for DART to add DP benefits has garnered 1,159 signatures.

“I think it certainly shows that our petitions, our calls and letters were heard,” McDonnell said, adding that he is optimistic about the DP benefits issue moving forward. “I feel pretty good about it getting through the administrative committee. I still think we have some work to do with educating board members, though.”

Dallas attorney Scott Carlson was appointed DART’s new general counsel by the board on Tuesday. Carlson is a former board member who voted against adding transgender nondiscrimination protections in 2010.

—  Dallasvoice

RCD discusses DP benefits with DART

Andrew Moss

After Dallas Area Rapid Transit officials refused to meet with a former police officer about offering domestic partner benefits, Resource Center Dallas met with DART officials this week.

RCD’s Rafael McDonnell, CEO Cece Cox and board member Gary Fraundorfer, who is vice president of human resources at AT&T, met with DART Deputy Executive Director Jesse Oliver this week to discuss LGBT issues after RCD sent a letter requesting a meeting.

McDonnell said the meeting went well and Oliver encouraged them to speak to board members and offered his personal support.

“He outlined and stated his support for LGBT issues,” he said.

McDonnell said it will take some “serious educating” of DART board members before they’ll vote to add DP benefits.

He said the discussion also touched on trans health services and other LGBT issues, but those would also require the board’s approval.

Former employee Andrew Moss created a Change.org petition a few weeks ago to get DART to add DP benefits after health issues prevented him from working. His husband still works for DART.

Although DART refused to meet with Moss, he said he helped RCD meet with Oliver because the organization had tried to schedule meetings with no success.

McDonnell said the “petition has certainly put DP benefits on their radar.” He told Moss about how the meeting went, and Moss said he thinks board members won’t need too much education if the problem and inequality was explained to them.

“I really, honestly believe if you have the support of executive management, I don’t see why it wouldn’t happen,” he said.

Overall, he said he’s glad DART agreed to meet with someone about the issue and believes DART will soon offer the benefits.

“I feel very optimistic,” Moss said. “I think it’s going to turn out like it should.”

—  Dallasvoice

Former employee petitions DART to offer domestic partner benefits

Andrew Moss

A former Dallas Area Rapid Transit employee is petitioning the company to add domestic partner benefits after health issues have forced him to stop working.

Andrew Moss worked as a DART police officer for five years until 2008. He then worked for the city of Fort Worth until his health prevented him from working. He’s now on COBRA but that will expire in December, he said.

Moss legally married his husband in California in 2008, but Texas doesn’t recognize the marriage. He said his husband still works as a police officer for DART and could add Moss to his health insurance plan as early as January if DART offered DP benefits.

“My husband goes to work and risks his life for DART and should get the same benefits that his counterparts of a different sexual orientation get,” Moss said.

Moss has started a Change.org petition called “Urge Dallas Area Rapid Transit DART to Offer Domestic Partner Benefits” to persuade DART President Gary Thomas and Deputy Executive Director Jesse Oliver to add the benefits.

As of Thursday afternoon, 36 people had signed it.

“In my discussion with Dallas Area Rapid Transit, I was advised by their Human Resources Managers that DART ‘Prefers not to get into the choices of their employees,’” Moss mentions in the petition letter. “I wasn’t aware my husband and I and countless others woke up one day and decided to be LGBT. DART appears to be less than willing to even attempt to assist their LGBT population in obtaining benefits or other effective workplace protections.”

—  Dallasvoice