Openly bi Arizona legislator Kyrsten Sinema announces bid for Congress

One night just about four years ago, I was in the Rose Room at Station 4, waiting to participate in what was then an unprecedented event in Dallas — a debate of sorts between official representatives from the campaigns of then-senators and Democratic presidential candidates Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton.

Arizona state Sen. Kyrsten Sinema

While I was standing around waiting for organizers to tell me it was time to start, a vivacious young woman with short blond hair walked up and introduced herself to me as Kyrsten. It was kind of loud in the Rose Room then and so I couldn’t clearly hear what she was telling me. I did hear her say that she was from Arizona, and that she was backing Barack Obama for the Democratic nomination. I thought she was an Obama campaign staffer.

Before long, though, I found out that Kyrsten was actually Arizona State Rep. Kyrsten Sinema, that state’s first legislator who was an out and proud member of the LGBT community.

I was impressed with the young woman’s personality and her passion. So since then, I have kind of kept up with Sinema through news stories about her on the Internet. I read with interest the news reports two years ago with Sinema was elected to the Arizona State Senate. I was actually quite pleased today when I read that Sinema has announced she is resigning from the state Senate to run from Congress representing Arizona’s newly drafted 9th District.

Don’t take that as an endorsement of Sinema’s campaign for Congress. I just mean that I believe our community has a better chance of making progress toward full equality when there are members of our community holding elected office, and we can’t have LGBT elected if we don’t have LGBT candidates. And from what I hear, Sinema is a strong candidate.

According to the Phoenix New Times, Sinema is the only Democrat to have officially declared a candidacy in District 9, although another state senator, David Schapira has formed an exploratory committee for a possible congressional run, and Arizona Democratic Party Chair Andrei Cherny is also rumored to be considering joining the race.

As the New Times also pointed out, in Arizona, members of Congress aren’t required to live in the district they represent. And Sinema actually lives in District 6. She chose to run for District 9, however, because it is more progressive than her home district, which leans toward the Republican side.

And speaking of Republicans, the New Times said Congressman Ben Quayle (yes, the son of former Vice President Dan Quayle), who lives in District 9, is likely to run instead in District 6 where he would face Congressman David Schweikert in the Republican Primary.

Turning back to the Democrats, Sinema, in announcing her candidacy on her Facebook page, said: “I’ve decided to run for Congress because we need to wake up Washington! I will fight for the forgotten middle class and stand up to a system that is rigged against them.”

You can watch her video announcing her candidacy below.

—  admin

A beer by any other name…

On the long list of ridiculous Texas laws the alcoholic beverage code would have to take up about half the space (although that whole “no marriage equality” thing is pretty far up there), but it seems like at least a part of our antiquated system of booze laws is getting an update. Under current state law “beer” can contain no more than 4% alcohol by volume, anything greater and it must be labeled as “ale” or “malt liquor.” If a recent ruling by US District Court Judge Sam Sparks holds that’s about to change.

A group of brewers sued the state arguing that the current restrictions violated their free speech. The judge agreed, and in a hilarious ruling poked fun at the Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission for thinking they can redefine words by legislative fiat, and gave a shout-out to Austin’s annual bat festival.  From Austin360.com:

“TABC’s argument, combined with artful legislative drafting, could be used to justify any restrictions on commercial speech. For instance, Texas would likely face no (legal) obstacle if it wished to pass a law defining the word ‘milk’ to mean ‘a nocturnal flying mammal that eats insects and employs echolocation.’ Under TABC’s logic, Texas would then be authorized to prohibit use of the word ‘milk’ by producers of a certain liquid dairy product, but also to require Austin promoters to advertise the famous annual ‘Milk Festival’ on the Congress Avenue Bridge.”

 

—  admin

President Obama issues memorandum on protecting LGBTs abroad

President Barack Obama and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton

Four days in advance of  Human Rights Day on Saturday, Dec. 10,  President Barack Obama today issued a presidential memorandum “to ensure that U.S. diplomacy and foreign assistance promote and protect the human rights of LGBT persons,” according to a statement just released by the White House press office.

The statement sent out by the White House includes these comments by the president:

“The struggle to end discrimination against lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) persons is a global challenge, and one that is central to the United States commitment to promoting human rights.  I am deeply concerned by the violence and discrimination targeting LGBT persons around the world — whether it is passing laws that criminalize LGBT status, beating citizens simply for joining peaceful LGBT pride celebrations, or killing men, women, and children for their perceived sexual orientation.  That is why I declared before heads of state gathered at the United Nations, “no country should deny people their rights because of who they love, which is why we must stand up for the rights of gays and lesbians everywhere.”  Under my Administration, agencies engaged abroad have already begun taking action to promote the fundamental human rights of LGBT persons everywhere.  Our deep commitment to advancing the human rights of all people is strengthened when we as the United States bring our tools to bear to vigorously advance this goal.”

The memorandum from Obama directs agencies to combat the criminalization of LGBT status or conduct abroad; protect vulnerable LGBT refugees and asylum seekers; leverage foreign assistance to protect human rights and advance nondiscrimination; ensure swift and meaningful U.S. responses to human rights abuses of LGBT persons abroad; engage international organizations in the fight against LGBT discrimination, and report on progress.

I give the president credit for issuing the memorandum at the same time he’s gearing up for what will likely be a tough re-election campaign during which opponents will no doubt use his stance and actions on LGBT issues against him. But I still have to point out that we as LGBT people still face discrimination and inequality right here in the good old U.S.-of-A:

• Our marriages are legally recognized at the federal level and they aren’t recognized in the VAST majority of state and local jurisdictions. We want the Defense of Marriage Act repealed and local and state ordinances and constitutional amendments prohibiting recognition of our relationships need to be overturned.

• There is still no federal protection against workplace discrimination based on sexual orientation and/gender expression and gender identity. Congress needs to pass — the president needs to sign — the Employment Non-Discrimination Act.

• Even though there is now a federal hate crimes law that includes LGBT people, as well as similar laws at many state and local levels, those laws are not well enforced.

Anti-LGBT bullying remains a deadly problem in our schools and our workplaces and on the Internet. We’ve made progress in combating such bullying, but not nearly enough. Dedicate the resources necessary to address the issue effectively.

So let’s applaud our president for the steps he has — and is — taking. There’s no doubt Obama has been more open than any other president about addressing LGBT issues and we have seen great strides forward toward equality during his administration. But there’s a long way to go yet, and we need to make sure that the president — and all our elected officials — know they can’t just rest on their laurels.

—  admin

LGBT allies Kathleen Hicks, Marc Veasey to seek new congressional seat; Joel Burns not running

A federal court in San Antonio today released a map of proposed new congressional districts for Texas.

The proposed map from the court (the North Texas section is shown above) includes four new congressional seats resulting from reapportionment. One of the seats is a minority-majority district in eastern Tarrant County that is likely to be won by a Democrat. The district is 66 percent black or Hispanic.

Shortly after the court released its map, Fort Worth City Councilwoman Kathleen Hicks announced that she plans to run as a Democrat for the new District 33 congressional seat. Hicks, whose district includes the Rainbow Lounge, was an outspoken supporter of the LGBT community in the wake of the police raid of the gay bar in 2009.

“The Federal Court in San Antonio has released new proposed maps for the 2012 Texas Congressional Elections,” Hicks said on Facebook moments ago. “District 33 has been drawn within Tarrant County and includes much of the City of Fort Worth. Today, I am announcing my intent to seek a place on the ballot with the Texas Democratic Party for this Congressional District, pending a final map from the court.”

Read more on the proposed map from the Texas Tribune.

UPDATE: Gay Fort Worth City Councilman Joel Burns, who lives in District 33, confirmed he is not running for the seat. Burns said he’ll instead endorse State Rep. Marc Veasey, D-Fort Worth, who apparently plans to run against Hicks in the primary:

“To all who’ve called in the last hour, I am NOT running for new 33rd Congressional District announced this morning,” Burns wrote. “[Husband] J.D. [Angle] and I both are proud to announce our endorsements of Rep Marc Veasey in his 1st run for Congress. I believe in Marc & know he will be a great Congressman & the best choice for Fort Worth & Arlington.”

Veasey is also a strong LGBT ally. He has repeatedly sponsored a bill backed by Equality Texas calling for a study on implementation of the James Byrd Jr. Hate Crimes Act. Veasey also had an openly gay chief of staff, and he gave an impassioned speech on the House floor earlier this year against an anti-gay bill.

—  John Wright

‘Perform or provide’

DADT repeal gives progressive chaplains a chance to counter evangelical clergy in the military

IMG_5132

CATCH-ALL CHAPLAIN | Chaplain Chris Antal (Lt.) attended the meeting of the Forum on Military Chaplaincy at Cathedral of Hope in October. (David Taffet/Dallas Voice)

DAVID TAFFET  |  Staff Writer
taffet@dallasvoice.com
When a soldier recently came to Chaplain Chris Antal, a lieutenant in the Army National Guard in New York and a Unitarian Universalist minister, and asked if he’d pray with her even though she was a pagan, he said he replied, “Of course I will, but you’ll have to show me how.”

Several weeks later, when he saw her again, she told him that the day she had come to visit him, she had hit rock bottom. He had, she told him, saved her life that day.

But Antal said he was only doing his job — helping any soldier who comes to him.

“I’ve earned the nickname, the Catch-all Chaplain,” he said, explaining that it means he takes everyone the other chaplains don’t want to deal with.

Carpenter.Dodd

Capt. Tom Carpenter (ret.) and Col. Paul Dodd (ret.)

Being there to help a soldier in need is what it’s all about for a military chaplain, said Col. Paul Dodd, a retired chaplain who now lives in Austin.

“The duty of a military chaplain is to perform or provide,” said Dodd, adding that he once sponsored an Islamic conference.

Dodd said that no chaplain can perform every service needed by every member of the military. But if a chaplain can’t perform the service requested, he or she must provide that soldier with a referral to someone else who can.

Antal said that chaplains who enlisted knew what they were getting into — to some extent. But none of them really expected the repeal of the military’s anti-gay “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy. And for many, that repeal was a game changer.

In October, a group of active and retired chaplains and military personnel and other people of faith, such as the Rev. Steve Sprinkle from Brite Divinity

School in Fort Worth, met at the Interfaith Peace Chapel at Cathedral of Hope to begin looking at ways of addressing the issues that arose for military chaplains around DADT repeal.

Dave Guy Gainer said The Forum on Military Chaplaincy is not exactly new. It formed in 2005 as a project of Servicemembers Legal Defense Network and worked under the radar until DADT was repealed.

Sprinkle said people in the Pentagon, up through Secretary of Defense Robert Gates, knew about their work and considered their statements throughout the DADT repeal process.

And now, with repeal complete, the group met to “come out.” At their meeting in Dallas, forum members considered ways to become an independent organization helping to ensure newly out service members receive the pastoral care they need while serving in the military.

Susan Gore, principle of The Mentor Group and editor of the book Coming Out In Faith, moderated the Dallas conference. She said the group started with several retired military officers “who wanted to push back against the far-right skew.”

Sprinkle has been part of the forum for four years and said he was recruited to participate because of his work on hate crimes.
Since the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, Sprinkle said, more and more members of the Chaplain Corps have come from just one school — Liberty

University, founded by far-right evangelical Jerry Falwell. Today, Sprinkle estimated, one-third of military chaplains come from Liberty University.

“They instituted a program that barely meets minimum requirements,” he said of the evangelical school. “It’s an online course.”

And, Sprinkle said, Liberty University’s goal is to take control of the Chaplain Corps and use the military as a pool for religious recruits.

“This is fertile ground to bring people to Jesus at taxpayer expense,” said Tom Carpenter, a retired Marine captain and one of the forum’s founders.

“I’ve heard stories of them holding the hand of someone who’s dying and trying to bring them to Jesus.”

And although such actions contradict military policy, no one in the corps has been disciplined or dismissed for it.

“They give chaplains a lot of leeway,” Carpenter said.

Gainer said the military is looking for well-rounded ministers who bring experience with them to the military.

According to the U.S. Army Chaplain Center and School in Fort Jackson, S.C., candidates must be endorsed by their denomination or faith group and be “sensitive to religious pluralism and able to provide for the free exercise of religion by all military personnel, their family members and civilians who work for the Army.”

But Sprinkle said that Liberty University is transparent about its goals, and those goals do not line up.

“They’re not committed to pluralism or serving all the troops,” he said.

Gainer said that the greatest opposition to repealing DADT came from the Chaplain Corps because military chaplains answer to two groups — the military and their denomination. Those chaplains that didn’t adhere to a strict stance of maintaining the ban on gays and lesbians were threatened with losing their accreditation from their endorsing religious body — and with it their livelihood and their pensions.

But that contradicts the stated goals of the Chaplain Corps.

“Someone has to say, ‘Either you comply and serve all the troops all the time or get out,’” Sprinkle said.

Gore said that one of the goals of the newly public forum is to “rebalance the Chaplain Corps by bringing in more mainstream faiths.” She said that for many who come from more liberal traditions, questions of what’s a just war make it hard to serve in the military. Antal, for example, is one of just four Unitarian Universalists in the Chaplain Corps.

During its push for repeal of DADT, members
said, the forum had several successes working behind the scenes.

Despite the assumption of confidentiality between parishioner and clergy, that wasn’t always the case between gay soldier and chaplain. Dodd said that a number of discharges under DADT occurred after a soldier talked to a chaplain and the chaplain turned them in.

In fact, he wrote a white paper on the practice. After he submitted it, the military tightened up on chaplain confidentiality, Dodd said.

Carpenter, an attorney, wrote an amicus brief for the Log Cabin Republicans’ lawsuit against DADT. The court found in favor of declaring DADT unconstitutional, but Congress repealed the law before the decision could be enforced.

Carpenter said that the repeal allows gays and lesbians to serve with no protection. The legal decision, had it not been vacated upon repeal, would have allowed gays and lesbians to serve equally.

Now that DADT is gone, the forum is examining how to ensure LGB personnel receive the same services as other troops from chaplains.

Dodd said that right-wing chaplains charge that allowing gays and lesbians to serve in the military will force them to act in ways that go against their beliefs. Some have said they would be required to perform same-sex weddings.

Dodd called that ridiculous. Chaplains are never asked to perform duties that go against their religious beliefs, he said.

“I turned down weddings,” he said. “An officer came to me who wasn’t divorced.”

He said the officer tried to pull strings and force the issue, but Dodd wasn’t going to discuss marrying someone who was still married to someone else.

“But we’re insisting chaplains have the authority, if it’s in keeping with their faith, to marry same-sex couples,” he said.

Because of the Defense of Marriage Act, the repeal provides no family benefits. For some issues, Dodd and Carpenter suggested work-arounds.

Issuing ID cards would be extremely helpful, especially to same-sex couples with children, Carpenter said, noting that “That way either parent could get on base to get a child to the hospital.”

In another example, joint assignments can be offered at the discretion of a commanding officer, and married couples are often assigned together when they both qualify for positions that are available at the same base. Same-sex couples could be given the same priority.

As the forum looks ahead, rebalancing the Chaplain Corps with members from a more diverse background to reflect the membership of the military is a priority.

“And we need to take care of our trans brothers and sisters,” Carpenter said.

The repeal of DADT did not address any transgender issues and does not allow transgender men or women to serve in the military.

Gainer believes representatives of the forum need to sit down with far-right members of the Chaplain Corps and agree to disagree. He said that before the repeal of DADT, they talked to people at Veterans of Foreign Wars and the American Legion. While both groups testified against the repeal, they met with some success.

“The president of the VFW in Pflugerville said it was the right thing to do,” Gainer said.

That dialogue, he believed, would help chaplains perform or at least provide a useful referral, rather than doing more damage to a soldier seeking help.

Gore thought that the focus of discussion should be with the majority of chaplains “who want to do a good job and are part of the moveable middle.”

“We have to convince administrators and educators in divinity schools to encourage some of their best and brightest to serve,” Sprinkle said. “So many schools dropped what they were doing during the Vietnam era.”

Antal thinks that gays and lesbians will gain more acceptance as they tell their stories in non-confrontational settings and others see “their identity as professional service members is primary.”

While the work of the forum will concentrate on helping LGB military personnel, creating a more diverse Chaplain Corps may help a majority of service members. Recent polls show that a majority of troops find the chaplaincy irrelevant.

Sprinkle called the work of the forum a gift from the LGBT community to the nation.

“You wouldn’t think we’d be the ones opening the doors so that all troops will be served with dignity, integrity and respect,” he said.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition November 4, 2011.

 

—  Kevin Thomas

Banks Appointed to Citizen Police Oversight Board

Kris Banks

Kris Banks

On Wednesday the Houston City Council confirmed Mayor Annise Parker’s appointment of Former Houston GLBT Political Caucus President Kris Banks to the Independent Police Oversight Board.  The Oversight Board provides a way for Houstonians to have input into allegations against police officers involving use of excessive force, discharge of firearms, serious bodily injury or death or mistreatment of citizens.  The Board also makes recommendations on recruitment, training and evaluation of police officers; and considers community concerns regarding the Department.  Houstini talked with Banks about his new role:

[Houstini] Why have you agreed to serve on the Oversight Board?

[Banks] I believe the Oversight Board performs an important and vital function that benefits all involved. Police officers are granted extraordinary powers over their fellow Houstonians. They can, under legally sufficient circumstances, detain people against their will, walk into other people’s homes without their permission, and even use physical force to make people comply. We grant police officers these powers because they are necessary for the officers to do their jobs. However, with these great powers come great responsibility, and the Oversight Board exists as a check on those powers, thereby protecting the public against the very rare officer who uses her or his powers irresponsibility or excessively. It also benefits the police department. With the assurance that the Board is providing oversight, members of the public can be more confident of the police department, and form a better working relationship with officers.

[Houstini] What do LGBT Houstonians who have concerns about police behavior need to know about the mission of the Oversight Board?

[Banks] Historically, the LGBT community has had concerns about very broad and obvious police harassment, like bar raids. Incidents like these still occur (see Rainbow Lounge in Fort Worth), but they tend to not be the focus of issues that exists between the LGBT community and the police department. Concerns between the community and the police department now tend to be over specific incidents that sometimes come to light and sometimes do not. That being said, the IPOB will review internal police investigations for complaints of excessive force, any discharge of a firearm, any time there is a death or serious injury, or any matter the police chief refers to us. We make recommendations, and the chief has ultimate discretion. What I want to highlight here is that a complaint has to be made for the IPOB to have any role. Complaints have to be sworn, either by the complainant, or, if the complaint is anonymous, by the person taking the complaint.

LGBT Houstonians should also know that I take my role as a community representative very seriously. I will not only take my perspective as an LGBT Houstonian to the police department, I will also take the knowledge I gain back of police procedure back to the community. For instance, I mentioned anonymous complaints above. In the training I have received so far, I learned that organizations can be deputized to take anonymous complaints (LULAC and the NAACP are both deputized). Anonymous complaints are, unfortunately, a big concern for our community. Whether because our congress has failed to pass job protections, family concerns, or any other personal reason, there are still many, many people in the closet. But being in the closet does not mean that a person is not protected. I will learn more about the deputizing community groups and take that back to organizations in our community like the Caucus, Community Center and Transgender Foundation so they can begin that process (as a caveat, I do not have a full list of deputized organizations and any of these organizations may already be deputized).

—  admin

Statement puts lesbian Congresswoman Tammy Baldwin a step closer to historic Senate bid

Congresswoman Tammy Baldwin

Press release from Wisconsin Democrat’s campaign identifies her as ‘likely candidate’ for seat being vacated by Herbert Kohl

LISA KEEN | Keen News Service
lisakeen@me.com

Her campaign stationery says “Tammy Baldwin 2012.” But the text of the July 13 press release walks the U.S. House’s only openly lesbian member one step closer to an historic bid for a U.S. Senate seat:

“She is a likely candidate for the U.S. Senate seat being vacated by Sen. Herb Kohl (D-WI).”

That statement echoed a comment she made to the Capital Times newspaper in Madison July 2 when she said, “I think I am likely to run.”

If she does enter the race, Baldwin will become the first openly gay person to make a run for the U.S. Senate. And clearly, her supporters are urging a bid.

According to the press release, Baldwin raised more than $435,000 in the month of June, the month after the Gay & Lesbian Victory Fund reported sources close to Baldwin as saying she was eyeing the seat.

Kohl announced May 13 that he would retire, rather than run for re-election in 2012. Newspapers in Wisconsin immediately began identifying a list of potential candidates that included Baldwin.

Others mentioned, on the Democratic side, include former U.S. Sen. Russ Feingold, who lost his re-election bid only last year to newcomer Republican Ron Johnson.

Feingold would be considered the Democrats’ strongest candidate because of his name recognition and long-time service in the Senate.

A Public Policy Polling survey in May of 784 likely Democratic primary voters in Wisconsin found 70 percent supported Feingold for the seat; Baldwin came in second with 12 percent. Six other Democrats earned between one and five percent each.

“Remove Feingold from consideration,” said a Public Policy Polling press release May 27, “and the race becomes considerably more wide open, but Baldwin would start out with 30 percent….”

Her closest competitors, according to the survey, would be former U.S. Rep. Steve Kagen with 17 percent and current Rep. Ron Kind with 16 percent.

Capital Times Executive Editor Paul Fanlund said, in a July 5 article, that Baldwin is “steaming toward a 2012 candidacy” for the Senate seat and “it almost seems the only person who could alter her course is former senator Russ Feingold … .”

Feingold has said he would make an announcement of his intentions in September. But he urged other Democrats considering a bid to go ahead with their plans and not wait for his decision.

Baldwin told the Capital Times she thinks she would have to raise between $15 million and $20 million for a Senate race.

Her July 13 press release indicates that her July 15 quarterly report to the Federal Election Commission shows she has raised $502,485 “for the second quarter” of the 2011-2012 election cycle. For the same second quarter in the previous election cycle (2009-2010), she reported raising $107,533.

At her July 15 quarterly in 2009, she had $561,563 cash-on-hand in her campaign coffers. Her press release this month says she has $1.1 million.

© 2011 by Keen News Service. All rights reserved.

—  John Wright

Anthony, your weiner isn’t that big a deal

The original Weiner photo (above) has been followed by an X-rated one that can be viewed here (NSFW).

After days of hearing about U.S. Rep. Anthony Weiner, D-New York, tweeting a picture of his underwear-clad erect penis to a female Seattle college student, I was delighted to finally see what had stirred up all the commotion.

I’m disappointed to report that my reaction to the picture was decidedly anti-climatic as it frankly requires a lot of imagination to visualize anything remotely stimulating about the picture. No offense intended, Anthony, but I’m surprised you would send anything that unimpressive out into the electronic stratosphere. Frankly, I was more interested in looking for a label to determine what brand of underwear you buy.

It would of course been better if Weiner had initially owned up to the picture being one of him rather than suggesting he had somehow been framed, but maybe he was embarrassed to acknowledge that he makes a rather less-than-spectacular impact. I’ve seen more exciting pictures in the International Male clothing catalog.

The truth is that I’ve also seen far sexier images posted on Facebook by some muscular straight men I know. And as far as I what I’ve seen of gay men’s photos on the electronic media, I won’t even go there. I don’t pay quite as close attention to what my straight female and lesbian friends are posting so I won’t comment on that either.

In the end, the ultimate deal is that it’s just not that big of an event. There are a lot of people out there who think it’s just a harmless diversion. I don’t engage in it because at my age I suffer from no illusions about whether anyone wants to see provocative pictures of me.

Weiner, a married man, has confessed now to engaging in inappropriate electronic relationships with six women over three years. This has sparked a debate about whether these type of relationships that involve no physical contact amount to cheating. I’d say that’s between Weiner and his wife, and not really the business of anyone else.

Now a photo is circulating on the Internet that purportedly is one of Weiner’s manhood fully exposed and standing at attention, providing a little more for critics to sink their teeth in, so to speak. Again, I’ve seen more scintillating images in my time, and I don’t know how anyone is going to prove it is him. That is unless of course he goes to confession again. The truth is that literally no one tells the whole truth about their sex lives.

If Weiner was a Bible-thumping conservative preaching against such activities and condemning any type of relations outside of heterosexual marriage, then he would need to be exposed for being a fraud. As it is, I think he’s just doing what millions of other people are doing who are not suffering any repercussions from their activities.

Sometimes people can become obsessed with electronic relationships, including texting, phone sex and viewing porn. I think it only becomes a problem when those activities began to interfere with people enjoying personal relationships with other people. But again, that’s a personal decision that each person must make for themselves.

The bottom line is that I don’t think Weiner should resign. Believe me, Anthony, the image of your you-know-what is going to fade from the scene in a pretty big hurry. It’s just not that memorable.

—  admin

Texans of faith storm Capitol for human rights

From Staff Reports

The largest delegation of fair-minded Texas faith leaders since the conception of the LGBT equality movement is on its way to the nation’s capital to participate in the third Human Rights Campaign’s Clergy Call for Justice and Equality, today through Tuesday.

Twenty-two clergy, theologians, and seminarians from across the Lone Star State are registered for this year’s lobbying effort on Capitol Hill.

Every two years, the Human Rights Campaign Religion and Faith Program mobilizes people of faith to advocate for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people. Among the important items on the agenda will be the full implementation of the repeal of “don’t ask don’t tell,” the repeal of the Defense of Marriage Act, anti-bullying efforts across the nation and passage of the Dream Act.

Texans have a particularly tall order as grassroots citizen lobbyists — since both Republican Texas Sens. Kay Bailey Hutchison and John Cornyn have consistently voted against human rights initiatives during their legislative careers in Washington. At the core of the Texas delegation are 15 students, faculty, and alumni of Brite Divinity School in Fort Worth, the largest from any seminary or divinity school in the state.

Brite, founded in 1914 by an endowment from Marfa rancher Luke Brite, is on the campus of Texas Christian University. Brite once was conservative on the issue of LGBTQ-inclusion, but now is the only accredited institution of theological higher education in Texas to extend welcome status to lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender persons by action of its Board of Trustees.

Among the faculty are two openly gay and lesbian professors, and the number of LGBTQ students in the Fort Worth school is growing.

“Students are learning how to take a stand for justice by becoming clergy for whom all people matter, and are eager to work for equality in public forums like Clergy Call. Our students are taking their roles as public theologians seriously,” said Stephen V. Sprinkle, associate professor of practical theology at the Divinity School, and theologian in residence at the Cathedral of Hope in Dallas. “Each of the students who have traveled to Washington chose voluntarily to participate in Clergy Call because they believe faith calls them to be here.”

Billed as the largest interfaith gathering of LGBTQ and allied clergy and faith leaders in the United States, Clergy Call will bring representatives of faith communities from all 50 states to the Capitol for training in faith messaging, skill-building for advocacy with legislators, interfaith worship, and person-to-person lobbying of senators and congresspeople.

This year’s headline speakers include Rabbi Denise Egger, the Rev. Harry Knox, Bishop Gene Robinson, Bishop Yvette Flunder, Rabbi David Saperstein, the Rev. Nancy Wilson, and Bishop Carlton Pearson.

For more info on Clergy Call, go here.

—  John Wright