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

5 GetEQUAL TX activists arrested for blocking traffic in Austin ENDA protest

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Five GetEQUAL TX activists were arrested this evening for blocking traffic near the state Capitol while protesting for LGBT nondiscrimination in the workforce.

Holding a sign that read, “We Work Together,” the group blocked the intersection at 11th and Congress in Austin, calling for the Texas Senate to stop blocking the progress of SB 237, which was left pending in committee. This is the second set of arrests in as many weeks for activists protesting SB 237.

The Austin action was part of a new national GetEQUAL campaign that launched today to urge Congress to pass the federal Employment Non-Discrimination Act, which was recently reintroduced. In Washington, D.C., activists held light panels on the grounds of Congress, reading “PASS ENDA NOW.”

The campaign, “Workplace INclusion: Winning LGBT Workplace Protections (WIN),” kicks off a week of action across the country to draw attention to need for workplace protections for LGBT employees. The actions will end May 14, the anniversary of Bella Abzug’s Equality Act of 1974, which was the first piece of pro-LGBT legislation in the U.S.

“For LGBT Americans from California to Connecticut and from Alabama to Alaska, the need for federal workplace protections is clear,” said Heather Cronk, co-director of GetEQUAL. “We hear story after story after story of folks who are simply trying to earn a living and provide for themselves and their families — but who encounter harassment on the job, who are refused jobs because of who they are, or who face insurmountable options for promotion because of who they love. In America, anyone qualified for a job should be able to get and hold that job without fear of violence, harassment, or termination. We need Congress to act now!”

A Dallas rally is planned for Saturday from11:30 a.m.-1:30 p.m. at Dallas County Courthouse, 600 Commerce St., to educate voters on the importance of passing SB 237 before the Texas Legislature ends its session in three weeks.

—  Dallasvoice

LGBT advocates say federal ENDA to be introduced in Congress on Thursday

ENDA Houston 4The Employment Non-Discrimination Act is expected to be reintroduced in both chambers of Congress on Thursday.

The bill would prohibit workplace discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity. LGBT advocates have been reviewing the legislation the past few months to revise language for small companies and religious entities that would be exempt. However, the changes are not expected to be in the introduced bill, the Washington Blade reports.

In the last session, 40 senators and 171 representatives signed as co-sponsors to the bill. More are expected this session, especially since an increasing number of senators have come out for marriage equality. Dallas Democrat Eddie Bernice Johnson was a co-sponsor last session, and freshman Reps. Marc Veasey and Beto O’Rourke are expected to support the legislation.

Tico Almeida, president of Freedom to Work, told the Blade the organization wanted the legislation advanced quickly and hoped to time a vote in the Senate with the U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling in two marriage equality cases.

“After the Supreme Court rules in the Windsor marriage case, many right-wingers are going to denounce marriage equality for same-sex couples, but claim that they don’t believe in discrimination against LGBT Americans,” Almeida said. “That’s the time when we should call some of those bluffs by putting ENDA on the Senate floor and letting all 100 senators go on the record about whether hardworking Americans should get fired just because of who they are or who they love.”

In Texas, a bill to prohibit statewide job discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender expression had a hearing in the Senate, but was left pending in committee.

The House versions of the bill, HB 238 by San Antonio Rep. Mike Villarreal and HB 1146 Dallas Democrat Eric Johnson, have hearings scheduled Wednesday in the Economic and Small Business Development Committee.

—  Dallasvoice

Texas GOP congressman smears opponent with false, anti-gay ad

 

Francisco “Quico” Canseco

The Washington Post’s Jonathan Capehart has a post up today in which he argues that the absence of LGBT issues from the presidential debates — which conclude tonight — is actually a good thing because it signals that gays no longer make an effective political wedge.

Unfortunately, that’s still not always the case in places like Texas — as evidenced by a recent attack mailer in a hard-fought congressional race.

The mailer from tea party freshman Rep. Francisco “Quico” Canseco, accuses his opponent, Democratic state Rep. Pete Gallego, of saying “no to God,” supporting “abortions for underage girls” and wanting “marriage to be between man & man.” Canseco and Gallego face off Nov. 6 in District 23, Texas’ only swing congressional district, which stretches along the Mexican border from San Antonio to El Paso.

The charges brought by Canseco in the mailer are mostly false, according to reports in the Texas Tribune and the Huffington Post.

—  John Wright

Bi U.S. House candidate talks about being a role model for LGBT youth at campaign stop in Dallas

Former Arizona Sen. Kyrsten Sinema, a bisexual candidate for U.S. House, talks about her challenging youth that helped inspire her to run for Congress at a fundraiser at Sue Ellen's April 29. (Anna Waugh/Dallas Voice)

Former Arizona Sen. Kyrsten Sinema charmed a small crowd at Sue Ellen’s Vixen Lounge on Sunday night on her first campaign trip to Texas to raise money for her campaign to become the first bisexual elected to Congress.

Sinema, a seven-year veteran of the Arizona Legislature, resigned in January to focus on her campaign for Arizona’s new 9th Congressional District, which covers Phoenix and areas to the north and east.

In her speech to the audience about her run for Congress, Sinema talked about her time growing up with divorced parents and the time she lived in an abandoned gas station when she was 8. While Dallas Voice did an interview with her before the event where she discussed views on immigration and how former Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords, D-Arizona, was a role model for her, Sinema spoke about how she now inspires youth.

“I want LGBT youth to see me and think, ‘I can do that,’” she told Instant Tea about running for Congress. “In particular I want young women and young gay people to feel like they can do anything, because they can.”

While working with youth as a social worker after putting herself through college with scholarships and grants, Sinema said she started lobbying at the Arizona Capitol to try to create change for the struggling youth and families she worked with daily. But the result was unsatisfactory as lawmakers refused to listen, she said.

“So I went to law school,” she said, adding that then she was not yet 25 and could not run for state office.

But in 2004, at 27, she won her first election as a state representative — the youngest women to win in the state’s history — and began to build relationships with Democrats and Republicans to change anti-gay views.

—  Dallasvoice

Gonzalez issues statement on marriage equality plank, as San Antonio continues to lead the way

Charles Gonzalez

U.S. Rep. Charles Gonzalez, D-San Antonio, a national co-chair for President Barack Obama’s re-election campaign, is also the only member of Texas’ congressional delegation who’s signed Freedom To Marry’s petition in support of a marriage equality plank in the 2012 Democratic Party platform.

Gonzalez is one of several Obama campaign co-chairs who’ve endorsed the marriage equality plank. In response to a request from Instant Tea, spokesman Drew Stout sent over a statement from Gonzalez explaining his position. Here’s the full statement:

“The Democratic Party has been and always will be the Party committed to fighting for equality for all Americans,” Gonzalez said. “As an individual Member of Congress, marriage equality is an issue which I support. During the platform writing process, ideas and opinions will be considered from our diverse Democratic Party family, and I understand that the President and the Party are committed to crafting a platform that reflects our values and a belief that America is a nation in which everyone deserves a fair shot and hard work is rewarded. I fully expect that my opinion, and the opinions of others, will be an important consideration in reaching a consensus in drafting our party’s platform. The time will come to consider the content of the platform, but at this time, not a single platform committee member has been chosen and the process has yet to begin. As the election season moves forward, my chief objective will be for President Obama and our candidates in every part of the country to prevail in November so that we continue to make this country a better place for everyone.”

Interestingly, Gonzalez’s public support for the marriage equality plank continues a recent trend of politicians from the San Antonio area leading the way on this issue in the Lone Star State. Of the six Texas mayors who’ve joined Mayors for the Freedom to Marry campaign, three are from Bexar County.

—  John Wright