Our inaction is killing us!

Eddie Bernice JohnsonOur inaction is killing us! Our inaction has allowed mass shootings to become unacceptably commonplace in our country. We have a responsibility to do more to keep guns out of the wrong hands.

Our inaction in our communities, our in action in Congress, and our inaction as consumers has contributed to a gun culture that has claimed too many American lives. The unwillingness of the Republican majority to pass sensible gun legislation to protect the American people is literally killing us.

One of the largest mass shootings in American history recently took place in Orlando. This horrific incident brought an even bigger spotlight to the various shortfalls in our gun laws.  It is only prudent for Congress to pass the bipartisan “No Fly, No Buy” legislation.

The FBI and the Attorney General are not currently allowed to prevent suspected terrorists from buying lethal firearms and explosives. The “No Fly, No Buy” bill ends this loophole, giving the Department of Justice the ability to keep deadly weapons out of the hands of would-be terrorists.

This is a common sense first legislative step to plugging the different loopholes in our gun laws.

The legislation is based on proposals also supported by the Bush administration.  It gives the FBI the ability to prevent those suspected of having connections to terrorism from purchasing weapons. It has been proposed numerous times over the last few years, and each time Republicans, allied with such groups as the National Rifle Association, have fiercely fought against it.

We cannot let such loopholes remain in place as we turn a blind eye to the mass shootings of children, Bible study participants, moviegoers or college students.

Like President Obama, and most sensible Americans, I believe that “No Fly, No Buy” laws must pass, and background check loopholes must be closed. Yet these are only the first steps, the low-hanging fruit that we, here in Congress, can quickly fix.

These steps will go a long way, but these measures alone will not eliminate all possibilities of mass shootings. We must continue to implement common sense rules and checks to make sure that those people that purchase firearms are qualified to do so.

This means that people with histories of certain mental illness should be receiving treatment, not guns. Bans on assault weapons and military-style firearms should be re-instated. Laws governing ammunition purchases, extended magazines and gun show purchasing should all be explored.

Too many innocent American citizens are dying for us to not explore every option that would lead to a more peaceful future.

U.S. Rep. Eddie Bernice Johnson, a Democrat, was first elected to represent Texas’ 30th Congressional District in 1992, and has held that office ever since. Prior to serving in Congress, she served four years in the Texas House of Representatives and six years in the Texas Senate. She is a long-time ally of the LGBT community.

—  Tammye Nash

Gay Fort Worth native running for Congress to visit Dallas tomorrow

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Christian Cano

An out gay Latino Fort Worth native and Congressional candidate will be in Dallas tomorrow for a meet-and-greet.

Christian Cano is the Democratic nominee running against Rep. Robert Pittenger, a first term Republican in North Carolina.

In an announcement, the TCU alum said he felt compelled to run because he is tired of self-serving, ideological politicians.

“I have become fed up with politicians who are only interested in pushing through their own agendas, when they were elected to represent us–THE PEOPLE! I’m running for Congress to be able to speak for my neighbors in the 9th District,” he wrote on his campaign website.

He’s not only visiting the area because he’s a native Texan and has family here. He wants to promote better relations with North Carolina’s neighbors.

The full release is below:

Neighbor Christian Cano will be promoting the benefits of better relations and of more exporting with Texas and Mexico from our Congressional District 09. 

Promoting and increasing exports with our #BuyNC09 campaign is vital for our region’s continued growth and our need to increase Good Paying Jobs in #NC09. 

Neighbor Christian Cano will also be listening to how our Lone Star State has been able to deal with our current political cycle of immigration rhetoric.

Responsible Immigration long term policy is needed so that we can ensure security for our neighbors and so that we can move our efforts onto other vital issues like our declining infrastructure with I-77 and are aging bridges.

The event takes place from 5-7 p.m. tomorrow, Feb. 13 at Renfields Corner, 2603 Routh St. Ste. A. To RSVP or for more information contact Neighbors@CanoForCongress.com.

—  James Russell

U.S. Rep. Eddie Bernice Johnson issues statement on Syrian refugees

Rep. Eddie Bernice Johnson

U.S. Rep. Eddie Bernice Johnson

Today, Congresswoman Eddie Bernice Johnson the following statement in response to the Syrian refugee crisis:

“As a result of horrific terrorist attacks in Paris, France and Beirut, Lebanon last week, many elected officials in the United States are demanding that we stop admitting refugees fleeing Syria. While this rhetoric is disheartening and disappointing, we are facing a global refugee crisis that requires a global response. With 60 million people displaced, the United States must do its part to help protect and resettle vulnerable families and children who are fleeing violence and persecution.

“In Dallas, we have always shown our compassion to those who seek safety. I refuse to slam the door on a small fraction of the world’s Syrian refugees. In fact, 184 Syrian refugees have already been placed in Texas and we will certainly welcome more. While we must continue to ensure that screening procedures are able to properly vet those seeking political asylum in this country. I refuse to turn my back on the children and families who are fleeing the atrocities in their homeland and that is not the answer to defeating terrorism. Instead, we must show compassion by promoting peace and diplomacy.”

—  Tammye Nash

Congress forms new Transgender Equality Task Force

Honda.Rodriguez-Roldan

The Congressional LGBT Equality Caucus announced the creation of the Transgender Equality Task Force, which will be chaired by Rep. Mike Honda, D-Silicon Valley, today (Tuesday, Nov. 17), just three days before the 2015 Transgender Day of Remembrance.

The new task force will focus on developing legislation and other initiatives to ensure that trans people have equal access and equal treatment under the law, according to a statement from The National LGBTQ Task Force. Members include Rep. Mike Quigley of Illinois, Rep. Raul Grijalva of Arizona, Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton from the District of Columbia, Rep. Chris Van Hollen of Maryland, Rep. Joe Kennedy of Massachusetts and Rep. Bonnie Watson Coleman of New Jersey.

Task Force Chair Mike Honda said, “This week, as we seek to raise awareness of the issues facing the trans community, it is important to renew our commitment to help trans individuals be free of the fear of violence or bullying just for being who they are. It is my hope that by launching this workforce and holding a first-ever forum, we will reach some of my colleagues and encourage them to stand with the trans community.

“It is only through social change that we can truly elevate the conversation in this country and reach a place of true understanding and embrace all people for who they are,” Honda said.

Victoria Rodriguez-Roldan, National LGBTQ Task Force’s newly-appointed director of the Trans/Gender Non-Conforming Justice Project, said, “To this day, transgender people face formidable barriers in employment, housing, health, education and other areas. And to end the ongoing violence and discrimination that transgender people experience, we need everyone’s help and support.”

She added, “We’re elated to see the formation [of the congressional task force]. We thank the LGBTQ Equality conference for their ongoing efforts to advance legislation that extends critical protections to LGBTQ people.”

Rodriguez-Roldan, who’s appointment was announced Monday,  Nov. 16, is a native of San Juan, Puerto Rico, who started her advocacy work as a staffer for the Commonweath’s Senate campaign. While she was a student at the University of Puerto Rico, she became the first openly transgender member of student government there and pushed the school’s administration for transgender accessible student ID policies.

Rodriguez-Roldan was named a Truman Scholar in 2011 in recognition of her passion for public service, and in 2013, she was named a Holley Law Fellow by the National LGBTQ Task Force. She led a successful campaign lobbying for trans-inclusive driver’s licenses and state ID documents in Puerto Rico. Most recently she worked as an equal opportunity specialist for the U.S. Labor Department’s Civil Rights Center.

Rodriguez-Roldan holds a Bachelor of Arts degree in psychology with honors from the University of Puerto Rico, and a law degree from the University of Maine School of Law.

 

—  Tammye Nash

Ted Cruz introduces measure to nullify marriage equality advances

Ted Cruz

Sen. Ted Cruz

Following the right-wing model of “If you lose then game, then change the rules or refuse to play,” U.S. Rep. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, has introduced legislation in Congress — the State Marriage Defense Act — that would rescind federal recognition of legal same-sex marriages and, as a result, strip those couples of federal rights and benefits of marriage. The legislation would also “encourage states that do not wish to recognize those marriages to potentially nullify them” if the U.S. Supreme Court does not find a constitutional right to marriage for same-sex couples, according to TheNewCivilRightsMovement.com.

Cruz’s bill  changes the federal definition of marriage, by stating “the term ‘marriage’ shall not include any relationship which that state, territory, or possession does not recognize as a marriage, and the term ‘spouse’ shall not include an individual who is a party to a relationship that is not recognized as a marriage by that state, territory or possession.’’

Initial sponsors of the bill are senators John Boozman, R-AR, Mike Crapo, R-ID, Steve Daines, R-MT, James Inhofe, R-OK, James Lankford, R-OK, Mike Lee, R-UT, Pat Roberts, R-KS, Tim Scott, R-SC, Jeff Sessions, R-AL, Richard Shelby, R-AL, and David Vitter, R-LA.

Texas Republican Randy Weber is sponsoring the bill in the House, and has 23 original co-sponsors, all Republican.

—  Tammye Nash

Only seven Texans receive perfect score in HRC Congressional scorecard

TexasThe Human Rights Campaign today, Oct. 9 released its Congressional Scorecard measuring support for LGBT equality in the 113th Congress. Only seven of Texas’ 38-member delegation received perfect scores, even as results show record gains in support for LGBT equality.

Members of Congress were scored based on their votes and co-sponsorships of pieces of legislation that are key indicators of support for LGBT equality, and for the first time ever, their public support for marriage equality, according to a statement provided by HRC.

“We stand at a critical juncture in our fight for full LGBT equality,” said Chad Griffin, president of HRC. “While we’ve made tremendous progress in gaining support from our elected officials in Congress, we certainly still have much to accomplish.”

His statement could not be more true, especially within the Texas delegation.

Of Texas’ 36 House representatives and two senators, only seven House Democrats received a 100 percent score. They are Reps. Al Green, Beto O’Rourke, Sheila Jackson Lee, Joaquin Castro and Lloyd Doggett, along with Eddie Bernice Johnson of Dallas and Marc Veasey of Fort Worth.

Other Texas Democrats had mixed scores: Rubén Hinojosa, 89 percent; Pete Gallego, Henry Cuellar and Gene Green, 68 percent; Filemon Vela, 84 percent. Gallego represents the only congressional swing district in Texas.

In the Republican camp, five Republicans received 30 percent: Louie Gohmert (no, really), Ted Poe, John Culberson, Pete Olson and Steve Stockman, who lost a primary challenge to Sen. John Cornyn earlier this year. Cornyn, by the way, scored zero while his colleague in the Senate, Sen. Ted Cruz, scored 20 percent.

To the North Texans looking at this list, unless you live in Johnson or Veasey’s district, your congressperson scored zero. A difference of 100 percent — 100 percent.

No other member of the local delegation even got brownie points for saying “gay.” That includes: Reps. Joe Barton, Michael Burgess, Kay Granger, Ralph Hall, Jeb Hensarling, Sam Johnson, Kenny Marchant, Pete Sessions and Roger Williams.

(Don’t know who represents you? Click here and type in your info.)

Want to change that? Early voting begins Monday, Oct. 20 and runs through Friday, Oct. 31. Election Day is Tuesday, Nov. 4.

—  James Russell

Cruz, Gohmert among Texas officials inducted into HRC’s Hall of Shame

Louie GohmertIf you didn’t know already, Republican Sen. Ted Cruz and Rep. Louie Gohmert aren’t LGBT allies. Today HRC enshrined their anti-LGBT legacies in its inaugural Hall of Shame, recognizing a bipartisan group of legislators who rank poorly on their annual congressional scorecard.

The latest scorecard will be released Thurs., Oct. 9, on the HRC website here.

Joined by Cruz and Gohmert are 16 other members of the 113th Congress, including two additional Texans, Reps. Randy Neugebauer and Randy Weber. While there are a lot of anti-LGBT members in the Texas delegation and in Congress, HRC notes this list is not solely based on votes but clear vitriol and rhetoric lobbed at the LGBT community.

“HRC identified these elected officials … by looking at their voting records in this and previous Congresses, their introduction and co-sponsorships of anti-LGBT legislation and their public statements. These elected officials’ legislative actions, votes and anti-LGBT vitriol unfortunately marks them with a modern day scarlet letter,” said David Stacy, HRC’s Government Affairs Director in a statement. “Although Congress is beginning to catch up with the American people in supporting LGBT equality, Representative Gohmert [and Sen. Ted Cruz] record stands in stark contrast to the views of the majority of Americans,” Stacy added.

Gohmert is a vitriolic, right-wing lightning rod with a law degree representing a chunk of East Texas. HRC cited his colorful allusions of the LGBT community in explaining its choice. “Gohmert always has negative things to say about LGBT people.  Not content to falsely blame gay men for pedophilia, or state with certainty that same-sex marriage will lead to bestiality, his outrageous comparison this Congress was to compare LGBT advocates to Nazis.”

Gohmert recently passed on the opportunity to run in the GOP primary against incumbent Sen. John Cornyn. He didn’t, and instead Texas got to see his fellow Republican Rep. Steve Stockman crushed.

Cruz is a vitriolic, right-wing lightning rod with a law degree (hah, see that?) who was elected to the Senate in 2012 who is considering a presidential run. Stacy did not hesitate to ding the feisty Cruz. “[He] likes to stand out in a crowd.  As the author of the federal ‘State Marriage Defense Act’ introduced in February, he collaborated with his Texas colleague Rep. Randy Weber to make sure his same-sex married constituents would have no federal protections.  He is actively working to prevent marriage equality from becoming a reality for all Americans. Following the Supreme Court’s action on Monday to reject the appeals requests of five states with same-sex marriage bans ruled unconstitutional by lower courts, Senator Cruz announced he will introduce a constitutional amendment barring the federal government and the courts from overturning state marriage laws.”

Joining Gohmert, Neugebauer and Weber in the House are: 2012 GOP presidential candidate Michele Bachman (R-MN), Andy Harris (R-MD), Tim Huelskamp (R-KS), Jim Jordan (R-OH), Walter Jones (R-NC), Mike Kelly (R- PA), Steve King (R-IA), Doug LaMalfa (R-CA), Mike McIntyre (D-NC), Steve Pearce (R-NM) and Tim Walberg (R-MI). Bachmann and McIntyre are not running for re-election.

Cruz is joined by Michael Enzi (R-WY), James Inhofe (R-OK), Mike Lee (R-UT) and Jeff Sessions (R-AL). Enzi, Inhofe and Sessions are all up for re-election this fall but are expected to cruise to re-election.

—  James Russell

Polis using parliamentary procedure to try and get a House vote on ENDA

Lisa Keen  |  Keen News Service

lisakeen@mac.com

 

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U.S. Rep. Jared Polis

House Democrats announced Wednesday, Sept. 17, that they will try to use a parliamentary procedure — a discharge petition — to force the Republican-dominated chamber to vote on the Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA).

Scott Overland, a spokesman for U.S. Rep. Jared Polis, D-Colo., who initiated the petition, said it had 76 signatures within the first couple of hours. It needs 218 and the bill has 202 co-sponsors who are eligible to sign the petition.

The discharge petition has become the only hope in the Republican-dominated House for ENDA to reach the floor. House Speaker John Boehner has made clear repeatedly that he will not schedule ENDA for a vote.

The “discharge petition” can force the bill out of committee and onto the floor, but it is a complicated and difficult maneuver.

According to House rules, the petition is first filed with the House clerk. If a majority of House members (218, not including delegates) sign the petition, the clerk will put ENDA on the “discharge calendar.”

After seven days on that calendar, supporters can, on the second or fourth Monday of the month, bring a motion to discharge the bill from committee to the floor. If the House passes that discharge motion, supporters can then ask the House to approve a motion to send ENDA to the floor immediately.

If the motion for immediate consideration passes, the House will debate and vote on ENDA. If any of the votes fail, ENDA returns to committee. If the discharge motion fails, ENDA cannot come up again this session.

ENDA currently shows 205 co-sponsors, but that includes three delegates, from D.C., Puerto Rico and the Mariana Islands. So the discharge petition needs the signatures of all 202 co-sponsors plus another 16 members.

The U.S. Senate passed ENDA last November by a vote of 64 to 32. But since then, many national LGBT groups have begun to withdraw support for the Senate version of the bill because it exempts some employers based on the degree to which they are involved in religious activities.

The discharge petition seeks to force consideration of the Senate version of ENDA (S. 815) (as amended by Polis in July), includes an exemption for religious organizations but only to the same extent such organizations are exempt from Title VII of the Civil Rights Act with respect to discrimination based on race, color, sex and national origin.

Although Polis’ discharge petition has the support of House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., Democratic Whip Steny Hoyer, D-Md., and Assistant Democratic  Leader James Clyburn, D-S.C., discharge petitions are “rarely successful,” according to The Hill, a Capitol Hill newspaper.

In a statement released Wednesday, Polis said he introduced the measure because “Republicans have been dragging their feet on this bill for too long, allowing workplace discrimination against hardworking LGBT Americans to continue.”

“In our nation that was founded on the notion that with hard work and dedication anyone can get ahead, it is unthinkable that employees can still be fired for who they love or what gender they are,” said Polis. “I hope members from both sides of the aisle will sign this petition and protect all Americans from discrimination in the work place.”

ENDA seeks to prohibit discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity in private and public employment. In private employment, it applies only to employers who have 15 or more employees.

© 2014 Keen News Service. All rights reserved.

 

 

—  Tammye Nash

Bipartisan bill would protect global LGBT rights

Rep. John Tierney introduced a bipartisan bill to protect LGBT people worldwide.

Rep. John Tierney introduced a bipartisan bill to protect LGBT people worldwide.

A bill recently introduced by a bipartisan group of representatives in Congress would protect and advance the global rights of LGBT people if passed.

Reps. John F. Tierney, D-M.A., Chris Gibson, R-N.Y., and Richard, R-N.Y., introduced the International Human Rights Defense Act Wednesday, July 16. Sen. Edward Markey, D-M.A., introduced the bill in the Senate on June 3.

If passed, the bill would direct the Department of State to prioritize protecting LGBT people worldwide. The bill would require the department to develop a strategy to promote and protect LGBT rights worldwide and also appoint a “Special Envoy on the Human Rights of LGBT People” to oversee the strategy.

According to American Jewish World Service, a chief proponent of the bill, 77 countries jail people for having same-sex relations. Five of those countries allow LGBT people to be put to death.

“Defending the rights of LGBT people worldwide is crucial, as many governments are passing punitive laws and sanctioning acts of hate against LGBT people,” said Ruth Messinger, president of AJWS. “As American Jews, we are members of a minority whose rights have been trampled in the past, and we understand fully that neither nor our government can stand by as the rights of vulnerable minorities are trampled in other parts of the world.”

—  James Russell

Out candidate Donald Brown leads in Southeast Texas congressional bid

Donald Brown

Donald Brown

Texas is on its way to having two out candidates for Congress after openly gay Donald Brown received enough votes to avoid a runoff after early voting results Tuesday.

Brown received 61 percent of the vote in his Democratic bid for Congressional District 14 and he could avoid a runoff if he maintains the strong lead.

Buck Willis, who received the local Stonewall Democrats endorsement, brought in 28 percent of the vote, with Gagan Panjhazari receiving 11 percent.

CD 14 spans Southeast Texas form Freeport to Beaumont. The winner will take on Republican incumbent Randy Weber, who’s unopposed in the primary.

Brown is one of two openly gay Texas candidates running for Congress. Louie Minor is unopposed in the Democratic primary for CD 31 in central Texas. He’ll face Republican incumbent John Carter in November.

—  Dallasvoice