Vote for competence and integrity, not just party

Natinsky, Hawk, Lee, DeWitt deserve your vote.

 

Rob SchleinFor too many elections, Dallas Voice readers voted based on the question “Are they ‘with me’ or ‘against me’ as it pertains to gay rights. The main criteria have always been the questions of same-sex marriage and non-discrimination in employment. And therefore, readers aligned with the Democrat Party.

Now that the courts are nearly unanimous in deciding the marriage question, and since major cities and corporations have addressed non-discrimination policies protecting gay people, perhaps it is time to move beyond this traditional paradigm.

I believe it’s time to ask: “How qualified, competent and honest is the candidate?”

The answer to this question does not fall neatly within political party lines.

There are a number of candidates on the Republican side that clearly excel, and I will ask you to avoid your tendency to pull the “D” lever at the polls and to vote for them.

They are Ron Natinsky for Dallas County judge, Susan Hawk for Dallas County district attorney, Mike Lee for judge and Lisa DeWitt for judge.

Ron Natinsky won the endorsement of the Dallas Gay and Lesbian Alliance when he ran for mayor, and he has a proven record of public and private accomplishments.

I have had far too many Democrats contact me to ask about Ron because they are unimpressed with Clay Jenkins’ Ebola preparedness, the quality of his communication skills during broadcast interviews and his desire to bring thousands of illegal immigrant children to Dallas.

But aside from Ebola, Clay just isn’t working well for Dallas County. The New Parkland Hospital is already a budget mess, and the hiring of a $1 million-a-year salaried director is questionable. If you are concerned with income inequality, that should “rankle your feathers.”

More importantly, Dallas area growth hasn’t come to Dallas County because Clay Jenkins doesn’t know how to attract businesses to our county, and how to avoid the northern county migration.

Susan Hawk has an impeccable reputation and the experience of a prosecuting attorney.  She can restore morale and proficiency in the office of the district attorney.

Craig Watkins, on the other hand, has lost all integrity. Are you really okay with the idea that he uses forfeiture funds for personal purposes?

Forget whether he is “pro-gay” or not,, he has a reputation for being a bully. He fired one well-regarded attorney in his office just for attending a GOP political function. This is the kind of bullying gays should abhor.

Mike Lee is running against Sally Montgomery. It’s one thing to have different views on politics. But it’s quite another to make rulings from the bench that have no basis in law.

The Dallas Observer rated Sally “The Worst Judge in Texas,” and wrote that the 5th Court of Appeals is very busy undoing her decisions. The Dallas Morning News editorial board, once referred to her as “arrogant and capricious.”

And, let’s not forget Lisa DeWitt, who is on the leadership team of the local Log Cabin Republicans chapter.

Are there Democrats worthy of Republican consideration?

Yes. I’m likely voting Democrat in these races:

• Mike Collier for comptroller. As a former employee of a Big 8 accounting firm from my early professional years, I appreciate the competence of a CPA in that position. The Republican candidate has no such background. It takes more skills than espousing one’s religious faith to run a comptroller’s office effectively.

• Leticia Van de Putte for lieutenant governor. I’m not convinced that Republican Dan Patrick is a good choice for lieutenant governor. GOP friends in the Senate have had less than kind words for him during his primary campaign. Dan is not well liked or trusted among his Austin peers, and I worry that he would become the Republican Harry Reid of our state Senate, creating the gridlock most of us hate in Washington.

• Sam Houston for attorney general. Republican Ken Paxton has some legal troubles ahead as was pointed out by his GOP Primary opponent, Dan Branch, that are very serious. Enough said.

So, I ask all the readers this election season: Don’t just vote for a Party. Vote for competence. Vote for integrity. I am,

Rob Schlein is president of Metroplex Republicans, an LGBT Republican organization.

—  Tammye Nash

Dallas Ebola patient has died

Thomas-Eric-Duncan-e1412305550914

Thomas Eric Duncan

Dallas Ebola patient Thomas Eric Duncan died at 7:51 a.m. Wednesday, Oct. 8, according to a statement by Texas Health Resources’ Public Relations Director Wendell Watson.

“Mr. Duncan succumbed to an insidious disease, Ebola,” Watson said in the statement posted on the THR website. “He fought courageously in this battle. Our professionals, the doctors and nurses in the unit, as well as the entire Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital Dallas community, are also grieving his passing. We have offered the family our support and condolences at this difficult time.”

Both Dallas County Judge Clay Jenkins and Dallas Mayor Mike Rawlings issued statements regarding Duncan’s death.

Jenkins said his thoughts are with Duncan’s family, praising the hospital staff that treated and cared for Duncan, and offering “prayers of comfort and peace to everyone impacted by his passing.”

Rawlins offered “deepest sympathies” to Duncan’s family and friends but also reiterated his pledge to avoid more cases of the deadly virus in Dallas: “We will stop the Ebola virus in its tracks from spreading into our community.”

—  Tammye Nash

LULAC looking for volunteers to escort children

Dallas’ LULAC Council #102 is looking for volunteers to escort refugee children being brought to DFW from the Texas/Mexico border.County Judge Clay Jenkins

“We need Guardian Angels for these children in case they are confronted by the hatemongers and bigots we saw this weekend,” noted a LULAC email sent out this afternoon that issued the “call to action”. Anyone interested in volunteering should email their contact info to mgarza@dgley.com to get signed up for training and to be provided with legal and community logistics info.

“Religious community leaders of all faiths are strongly encouraged to volunteer,” according to the email, which quoted Matthew 25:40: “Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the lest of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.”

Dallas County Judge Clay Jenkins told Stonewall Democrats last week that the flood of unaccompanied children from violence-torn Central American countries is a humanitarian crisis, and urged the LGBT community to get involved to help. Jenkins made national headlines when he stepped forward to offer a place for the children to go until their situations can be resolved.

Meanwhile in Washington, D.C., activists with the youth-led immigration reform group United We Dream staged a mock funeral for the Republican Party today in the halls of the Dirksen and Hart senate buildings. The protesters, carrying a mock coffin, said the GOP is dead to them because of the party’s stance on immigration reform.

Many of the protesters carried rainbow flags to symbolize their belief that immigration reform is inextricably tied to LGBT rights issues.

—  Tammye Nash

BREAKING: Dallas County approves domestic partner insurance benefits


Derrick Spillman with DFW Pride Movement addresses the Dallas County Commissioners Court on Oct. 30, 2012. (Anna Waugh/Dallas Voice)

The gay and straight domestic partners of Dallas County employees will soon be eligible for a $300 monthly subsidy from the county to help pay for health insurance.

The County Commissioners Court voted 3-2 along party lines Tuesday morning to offer the subsidy to employees who have same- or opposite-sex domestic partners who do not have insurance through other means. The subsidy will be equal to the amount the county contributes to an employee’s health insurance.

County Judge Clay Jenkins, and Commissioners Dr. Elba Garcia and John Wiley Price, who comprise the court’s Democratic majority, voted in favor of offering the domestic partner subsidy. Republican Commissioners Mike Cantrell and Maurine Dickey voted against it.

Commissioners made comments before several speakers addressed the court on the issue.

Dickey said the court shouldn’t fund a special group outside of the Public Employee Benefits Cooperative because its members didn’t approve it.

Jenkins and Garcia, who spearheaded the initiative, had initially hoped to offer domestic partner benefits through the PEBC, a multi-county partner agency, but other members — including Denton and Tarrant counties — would not allow it.

Dickey said approving benefits for domestic partners would lead to funding other special groups, such as obese people, smokers or people that have blue Pontiacs.

“We must stay within the realm of our group, of our PEBC, in order to offer our employees the best possible and lowest possible health insurance,” she said.

—  Dallasvoice

Republican commissioners speak out against domestic partner benefits

LGBT activist C.d. Kirven addresses the Dallas County Commissioners Court about the importance of offering domestic partner benefits Tuesday morning. (Anna Waugh/Dallas Voice)

The two Republican members of the Dallas County Commissioners Court said they oppose a plan to offer domestic partner benefits to county employees on Tuesday, citing the state’s ban on same-sex marriage.

After the Commissioners Court was briefed on the plan, several speakers highlighted the issue of equality and the county’s need to be competitive to recruit and retain quality employees. The speakers were Cece Cox with Resource Center Dallas, Omar Narvaez with Lambda Legal, Travis Gasper with Equality Texas and C.d. Kirven with GetEQUAL TX.

Republican Commissioner Mike Cantrell then read a statement into the record, calling the plan part of a political agenda. He said the county should not offer the benefits because the federal and state government don’t recognize domestic partners.

“The county is an arm of the state government and as an elected official, my duties are bound to conform with legislation that dictates and defines what determines a legal union,” he said.

—  Dallasvoice

Dallas County weighs health-insurance vouchers for unmarried partners

Garcia.Elba

Commissioner Elba Garcia

A long-discussed proposal for Dallas County to offer health benefits to the partners of gay employees is finally taking shape.

The Dallas County Commissioners Court will be briefed on the domestic partner benefits plan Tuesday, according to an agenda posted online today.

The plan, detailed below, will provide benefits to both opposite- and same-sex domestic partners who do not have insurance provided to them through other means.

Commissioner Elba Garcia told Instant Tea that heterosexual domestic partners were added to prevent any perceived discrimination.

Garcia said the plan would offer subsidies to employees whose partners buy private insurance, and they would be refunded by the county the same amount the county pays for an employee’s insurance.

She said this was the only way to provide benefits outside of the county’s healthcare provider because the Public Employee Benefits Cooperative would not allow Dallas County to offer the benefits through the co-op.

Those who enroll will have to sign a domestic partner affidavit for Human Resources, as well as provide two forms of proof that they have lived together for six months, such as a lease agreement or joint bank accounts, Garcia said. She said partners must be at least 18 and not be married.

The projected cost is under $100,000, Garcia said.

Garcia said members of the court could suggest changes on Tuesday or it could be approved for a vote at the next meeting. Garcia, along with Commissioner John Wiley Price and County Judge Clay Jenkins, who make up the court’s Democratic majority, have said they support offering domestic partner benefits.

Gay Dallas County District Clerk Gary Fitzsimmons wrote a letter to the commissioners that will also appear on the briefing agenda for Tuesday’s meeting. The letter, below, states that “the provision of these benefits is a simple and clear issue of fairness that will make the county’s commitment to non-discrimination a reality for many of our employees.”

Fitzsimmons told Instant Tea that the plan isn’t ideal but what the best option to offer the benefits outside of the PEBC.

“Until such time that as the situation changes with the PEBC, this is an appropriate accommodation,” he said.

See the detailed plans below.

—  Dallasvoice

EQTX pushes for Dallas County commissioners to approve DP benefits

Equality Texas is calling on Dallas County citizens and employees to tell members of the Commissioners Court to approve offering domestic partner benefits to county employees.

The statewide LGBT advocacy group created an action letter that people can sign online and send to commissioners.

Equality Texas Interim Executive Director Chuck Smith said offering DP benefits has become a standard practice.

“It’s what people in the real world, real businesses in the real world, do in order to attract and retain good employees to where it’s not a big step,” he said. “It’s not going out on a limb for municipalities and counties to start doing this.”

Dallas County would become the third county to approve the benefits after Travis and El Paso counties.

County Judge Clay Jenkins and Commissioner Elba Garcia are working on a plan to offer the benefits despite the lack of support from a regional government partner agency. A Commissioners Court vote is expected in the next few months.

—  Dallasvoice

Top 10: County, DISD, FWISD added trans protections

TransProtections

STRIKING A POSE | LGBT activists celebrate outside the Dallas County Administration Building in April, after the Commissioners Court voted to add transgender protections to the county’s employment nondiscrimination policy. (John Wright/Dallas Voice)

No. 6

Although transgender rights continue to be the last frontier in the ongoing battle for LGBT equality, the trans community made significant progress in North Texas in 2011.

The all-too-familiar scenario of transgender being left out of laws protecting lesbians and gays played out in March when the Dallas County Commissioners Court voted in favor of adding sexual orientation — but not gender identity and  expression — to the nondiscrimination policy covering the county’s roughly 7,000 employees.

County Judge Clay Jenkins and Commissioner Dr. Elba Garcia, two Democrats who spearheaded the addition of sexual orientation to the policy, said they had not been aware of the distinction between sexual orientation and gender identity and expression.

But after Dallas Voice reported on the oversight, LGBT advocates went back to the court to insist that commissioners correct the omission.

Republican Commissioner Maureen Dickey added insult to injury during an April Commissioners Court meeting when she not only announced she would vote against trans protections, but also compared being transgender to being overweight.

But on April 26 — after activists spoke at several consecutive meetings in an effort coordinated by Resource Center Dallas — the court voted 3-2 along party lines to add trans protections. Jenkins, Garcia and Commissioner John Wiley Price voted in favor of trans protections, while Dickey and fellow Republican Mike Cantrell voted against them.

Dallas County is the only county in the state with a trans-inclusive employment nondiscrimination policy — and momentum from the decision appeared to spread as the year went forward.

In late June, the Fort Worth school board added gender identity and expression to the district’s anti-bullying policy. And in early August, shortly before the start of a new school year, came news that the Dallas school board would consider a series of policy changes intended to protect transgender students, faculty and other employees from discrimination and harassment. The vote to add the protections came on Aug. 25.

The wave of transgender victories hit a small snag in November, when the Dallas County Community College District initially refused to add trans protections, insisting that the district’s protections based on sexual orientation covered trans people. But after another effort coordinated by the Resource Center, DCCCD President Wright Lassiter announced in November that an amendment to the district’s nondiscrimination policy to specifically protect transgender people is on the agenda for the board’s January meeting.

— Tammye Nash

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition December 30, 2011.

 

—  Kevin Thomas

Jenkins takes home Stonewall’s Pink Pump

County judge among officials, members honored at Democratic group’s annual Holiday Party

AND THE WINNER IS  |  Dallas County Judge Clay Jenkins accepts the Pink Pump Award — which consists of a bedazzled pink high-heel shoe — during Stonewall Democrats’ Holiday Party on Monday, Dec. 5 at Sue Ellen’s. (John Wright/Dallas Voice)

AND THE WINNER IS | Dallas County Judge Clay Jenkins accepts the Pink Pump Award — which consists of a bedazzled pink high-heel shoe — during Stonewall Democrats’ Holiday Party on Monday, Dec. 5 at Sue Ellen’s. (John Wright/Dallas Voice)

CLICK HERE TO VIEW MORE PHOTOS FROM THE PARTY

JOHN WRIGHT  |  Senior Political Writer
wright@dallasvoice.com

Nearly two years ago, in a controversial move, Stonewall Democrats of Dallas endorsed Larry Duncan for county judge over establishment-backed candidate Clay Jenkins and openly gay incumbent Jim Foster.

On Monday, Dec. 5, Stonewall Democrats presented Jenkins — who defeated Duncan and Foster in the 2010 primary before winning the general election — with the group’s coveted Pink Pump Award, which honors a straight ally who’s gone above and beyond on behalf of the LGBT community.

Stonewall President Omar Narvaez said regardless of the decision to endorse Duncan, Jenkins has been very open to working with the group. Stonewall’s board tapped Jenkins, who chairs the Commissioners Court, for the Pink Pump primarily due to his role in adding sexual orientation — and later gender identity and expression — to the county’s employment nondiscrimination policy this year.

“That’s a huge deal,” Narvaez said. “We’re the only county in the entire state of Texas that has a fully inclusive nondiscrimination policy for its employees. … So much has happened — a lot of stuff that never would have happened under our last county judge, who was a member of the [LGBT] community.”

Also this year, Parkland hospital’s Board of Managers — appointed by the Commissioners Court — added domestic partner benefits for the facility’s 9,400 employees. And, although the county didn’t add DP benefits for its own workers due to budget constraints, Jenkins has said he’ll push to do so next year.

“The good part is, at least it’s come up,” Narvaez said. “It’s something that we can work toward now.”

Jenkins beat out Dallas City Councilwoman Monica Alonzo and Stonewall member Gillian Parillo to take home the Pink Pump, which comes in the form of a bedazzled pink high-heeled shoe.

The county judge was on hand at Stonewall’s Holiday Party to accept the shoe, despite undergoing surgery earlier in the day to have screws removed from his leg.

Jenkins was walking with a cane and, unlike at least one past recipient, unable to try on the Pink Pump. As he took the stage in the Vixin Lounge at Sue Ellen’s, he held up a plastic biohazard bag containing the screws — the remnants of a nasty fall he took on the ice in February.

“There is a strength in our diversity and a common bond in our shared values here in Dallas County,” Jenkins said later. “Stonewall exemplifies that strength through promoting human rights, protecting public health, registering voters and fostering leaders. I’m honored to accept this year ‘Pink Pump’ and committed to building a stronger, more progressive Dallas County.”

Jenkins was one of several elected officials and Stonewall members honored during the party, which was moved from the Round-Up Saloon this year. Narvaez said the party saw its second-highest attendance ever — behind 2008 — and raised almost four times as much as in any previous year.

The increased fundraising was due to the sale of individual sponsorships, as well as proceeds from the auctioning of lunches with elected officials. Lunch with Jenkins’ counterpart on the Commissioners Court, longtime LGBT ally Dr. Elba Garcia, went for $400. Lunch with Judge Tena Callahan, who handed down a landmark ruling in a gay divorce case in 2008, went for $300. And lunch with lesbian Sheriff Lupe Valdez, up for re-election in 2012, brought two matching bids of $400 each.

Alonzo, who was elected to represent District 6 on the council this year, read a proclamation from the city recognizing Stonewall Democrats, which celebrated its 15th anniversary in October. Attendees at the Holiday Party also heard from Gilberto Hinojosa, a candidate to replace Boyd Richie, who’s retiring as chairman of the Texas Democratic Party.

Hinojosa, already endorsed by the statewide chapter of Stonewall Democrats, predicted that in 2012, Texas will “move much closer to turning blue.” Thanks to new redistricting maps, Democrats could pick up anywhere from three to six congressional districts in Texas, and up to 15 seats in the state House, he said.

Demographically, Democratic groups account for 70 percent of voters in Texas, Hinojosa said.

“There are more of us than there are of them,” he told the group. “We’re not winning because we’re not getting our base out.”

Hinojosa also touched on the State Democratic Executive Committee’s recent decision not to put a nonbinding resolution in support of same-sex marriage on the 2012 primary ballot. Although he isn’t a voting member of the SDEC, Hinojosa said he spoke in support of placing the resolution on the ballot before the vote during last month’s meeting.

“It’s an issue the party needed to take a stand on,” he said. “We lost on that issue, but there will be time to bring it back again.”

……………………….

Stonewall Democrats 2011 Award Winners

Pink Pump: Clay Jenkins
Harryette Ehrhardt Distinguished Democrat: Lorraine Raggio
Buck Massey Member of the Year: Clinton Swingle
Ally of the Year: Cathedral of Hope
Christy Kinsler Board Member of the Year: Travis Gasper

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

—  Michael Stephens

Dallas Cowboys tight end Martellus Bennett to participate in World AIDS Day event

Dallas Cowboys' tight end Martellus Bennett

Dallas Cowboys’ tight end Martellus Bennett will speak Thursday, Dec. 1 at the World AIDS Day event at Main Street Garden in Downtown Dallas at 7:30 p.m.

Bennett may be best known in the LGBT community for cheating on a girlfriend who had nude pics of him last year — and for making a rap video that included a gay slur the year before.

The theme of World AIDS Day this year is “Getting to Zero.” Organizers said that meant zero new infections, zero discrimination, and zero AIDS-related deaths.

Among the other speakers at the hour-long event are restaurant-owner Monica Greene, Anthony Chisom AIDS Foundation founder Anthony Chisom, Dallas County Judge Clay Jenkins and Dallas City Councilwoman Angela Hunt. Openly gay Cantor Don Croll will begin the event with an invocation. Pastor Doris G. Deckard, founder of the Church of the Solid Rock, will close the ceremony. The Women’s Chorus of Dallas and the African drum ensemble from Booker T. Washington High School will perform.

Six panels from the AIDS Memorial Quilt will be on display.

The Greater Than AIDS movement will set up a video and photo booth where individuals can share their “Deciding Moment” — a personal decision to take a stand against HIV and to be greater than the disease.

Local HIV/AIDS organizations and community groups will be on hand with information on HIV prevention, care, and treatment.

The event is free and open to the public. Main Street Garden, 1900 Main Street. Dec. 1, 7:30-8:30 p.m.

—  David Taffet