Councilmember Adams to challenge Rep. Alma Allen for Texas House

Rep. Dr. Alma Allen

Houston City Councilmember Wanda Adams plans to challenge State Representative Dr. Alma Allen, D-Houston, for the Democratic Party nomination in house district 131, according to a recent post on Adams’ blog. The race will pit two candidates with very different records on LGBT issues.

Rep. Dr. Alma Allen

Allen has served in the House since 2005. She is a former school principle who, during the last legislative session, co-authored HB 224, legislation that would have required public schools to report incidences of bullying to the state using an enumerated list of that included sexual orientation (but not gender identity or expression). HB 224 did not pass. During the special session last summer Allen voted for a budget amendment that included a similar reporting requirement (which also did not pass). She was one of 44 house members who opposed attempts by Rep. Wayne Christian, R-Center, to ban LGBT resource centers from college campuses. Although Allen is not the most outspoken ally of the LGBT community in the Texas House, she has a strong voting record on LGBT issues.

Councilmember Wanda Adams

Adams was recently sworn in for her third city council term. Until redistricting this year Adams’ District C included much of Montrose. She regularly attends LGBT events (she actually cut the ribbon at the dedication ceremony for the Transgender Center) and has a reputation for being open-minded and willing to speak to people. However two events in the last year have some in the LGBT community questioning the depth of her commitment to the community.

In June the Houston City Council considered cutting funding for Marjoe House, a residential HIV/AIDS treatment facility. Adams spoke in the council meeting of the importance of continuing funding, which was opposed by Council Member Jarvis Johnson. When the time came for the vote, however, Adams left the council chambers and was recorded as “absent” (the council voted to continue funding, 10 to 2). Community leaders who had lobbied Adams for her support were disappointed that she missed the vote. “We had been given every indication that she would be in support of renewing funding,” says Robert Shipman, president of the Houston Stonewall Young Democrats. “It was extremely disappointing that she left the room when it was time to put that support into effect.”

Councilmember Wanda Adams

Adams support for a Catholic youth homeless services provider has also led to questions about her dedication to her LGBT constituents. The provider, Covenant House (located in the heart of Montrose) had been accused by leaders in the transgender community of denying services to transgender and intersex youth unless they were willing to live in the gender they were assigned at birth. As a private religious organization, argued the agency’s director, Rhonda Robinson, Covenant House was under no obligation to provide services without discrimination. Things changed when Council Member Jolanda Jones threatened to cut the funding Covenant House received through the city unless they enacted a non-discrimination policy that was inclusive of gender identity and expression. While the threat worked and Covenant House is now working with local organizations like the Transgender Foundation of America to change their policies and practices, Adams continued to defend the organization. “Covenant House has long history of doing great work and making sure that our homeless youth are protected without any… type of prejudices,” she told the council, refuting allegations that the agency discriminated in it’s services.

“I was extremely disappointed at Council Member Adams’ defense of Covenant House,” said Cristan Williams, executive director of the Transgender Foundation of America. “TFA and others worked for over a decade to bring them to the table to discuss their very well documented discrimination. For the person who cut the ribbon at the opening of Houston’s Transgender Center to turn around and defend discrimination against trans-identified children made me feel ill. It was like being stabbed in the back.”

—  admin

Hunt ends speculation over mayoral candidacy

Angela Hunt, left, and James Nowlin

District 14 councilwoman won’t for mayor, but gay candidate James Nowlin pledges to stay in race and challenge three-term incumbent

From Staff Reports
editor@dallasvoice.com

Dallas City Councilwoman Angela Hunt, a staunch LGBT ally who represents the heavily gay District 14, announced this week that she has decided not to run for Dallas mayor in the May municipal elections.

Hunt will, instead, run for re-election to her fourth term representing District 14. Mandated term limits mean that if she is re-elected, it will be her last two-year term on the council.

Although candidates cannot officially file to run in the elections until Monday, Feb. 14, four District 14 candidates have already filed paperwork with the city secretary designating campaign treasurers.

One of the four — Jim Rogers — told Dallas Voice last month that if Hunt decided to run for re-election to the council instead of for mayor, he would bow out of the race. But another, openly gay candidate James Nowlin, said this week he does not plan to withdraw.

The two other declared candidates for District 14 are Erin C. Lasseter and Vernon Franko.

“Angela made every indication that she was running for mayor, and our campaign team moved forward, and as we were moving forward we received tremendous support from voters across the district,” Nowlin said Wednesday. “Her waiting put the district and the potential candidates in a very awkward position. I’m in it to win it and I’m moving forward to the May 14 election.”

Nowlin told Dallas Voice last month he was confident that Hunt would run for mayor and that he had been discussing the possibility of running for the District 14 seat with her for more than a year.

“I’m not running against anybody,” Nowlin said. “I’m running for the district, and this is about putting the district first.”

Hunt said Wednesday that she had decided to not to run for mayor because she believes she can be more effective as a councilmember.

“For me, it’s never been about what office I hold. It’s about where I feel I can be the most effective and do the most good for my district and the city,” Hunt said. “And the issues I feel most strongly about are issues I can address most effectively as a councilmember instead of as mayor.”

Hunt said those issues are ones that focus “providing top quality basic city services” and projects that enhance the quality of life for the city’s residents, including efforts to “re-energize” the Trinity River Corridor Project and making sure the river levees are repaired and the proposed park built.

Hunt said she is also concerned with the issues of redistricting and the upcoming 2012 bond elections.

“With all due respect to the other [District 14] candidates — I know them, and they are all good people — these are issues that need someone with experience to deal with them,” Hunt said.

The three candidates that have so far declared themselves candidates for mayor are current District 12 Councilman Ron Natinsky, former Dallas Police Chief David Kunkle and criminal defense lawyer Jim Moore.

Hunt said this week she has not decided who — if anyone — she would endorse for mayor. But she did say she believes the city needs someone not currently serving on the council as its next leader.

“I think it will take someone new, someone coming in from outside the current council but who also has experience as a leader” to be the best mayor for Dallas, Hunt said, adding that she is looking for a mayor who will “focus on the issues that are really important to our neighborhoods, instead of on high-dollar, high-profile projects” like the Convention Center hotel, the Trinity River toll road and the Margaret Hunt Hill Bridge — all projects that current Mayor Tom Leppert championed.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition Feb. 11, 2011.

—  John Wright

Nowlin would be Dallas’ 1st gay council member since Oakley stepped down in 2007

In Friday’s Voice we reported that gay business owner and attorney James Nowlin is planning to run for the District 14 seat on the Dallas City Council, assuming that incumbent Angela Hunt steps down to run for mayor.

If he wins the seat, Nowlin would become the city’s first openly gay council member since Ed Oakley, who vacated his District 3 seat in 2007 to run for mayor – a race he lost to Tom Leppert in a runoff.

Oakley’s departure meant that for the first time since 1993, the council didn’t have an openly gay member. But thanks to some strong allies on the council, as well as Leppert’s openly gay chief of staff, the sky hasn’t fallen.

Still, with 14 representatives plus the mayor on the council in the nation’s ninth-largest city, it makes sense for Dallas to have at least one openly gay councilperson. And Nowlin certainly seems like a qualified and viable candidate.

Among other things, we’re impressed with Nowlin’s candidness about his sexual orientation. He hasn’t at all shied away from interviews with the Voice, and he states plainly on his campaign website that, “James and his partner, John, live in Lakewood Heights and attend Cathedral of Hope as well as Unity Church of Christianity.”

Anyhow, following our story, Nowlin sent out an e-mail on Saturday formally announcing his candidacy and requesting donations. We’ve posted the full text of the e-mail after the jump.

—  John Wright

City orders removal of Oak Lawn cross

The wooden cross at Atmosphere of Praise on Hall Street can be seen at left.

The city of Dallas wants a cross in the backyard of a property on Hall Street to come down. But apparently God doesn’t.

A cross standing for years in the backyard of the property at 3917 Hall is a city code violation and must be removed. The house is used by Atmosphere of Praise, a group founded by Pastor Linda Harris, who passed away on Jan. 5.

Local gay artist Robb Conover described Atmospere of Praise as “a meeting place for people in the community no one else will have anything to do with.”

He said that Byron Zealey lives at the property.

“Byron prepares lunch and invites people on the street to eat,” he said. “We don’t call it a church. We don’t have a parking problem. People walk there.”

Conover said it’s never a large group of people and not a daily occurrence. He said the house is not a shelter but has been used for meetings since 1999.

Councilwoman Angela Hunt’s office received a complaint from a local businesses. Hunt’s office didn’t say which businesses complained.

Hunt’s staff referred the complaint to city code enforcement. Code enforcement ordered the cross to be removed.

Conover thinks the timing is interesting coming just a week after Harris’ death — and after a notice in Dallas Voice included the address of Atmosphere of Praise.

To comply with the city order, the property owner hired someone to cut down the cross on Tuesday night. But as the workman began to cut it down, the chain on the chainsaw broke.

Zealey said he was consulting with an attorney. On Thursday morning, the cross was still standing.

—  David Taffet

Just in time for Texas-OU weekend, Norman passes resolution marking LGBT history month

The other day we mentioned that Equality Texas and The Equality Network of Oklahoma are hosting a joint fundraiser/watch party at the Brick in Dallas during Saturday’s Texas-Oklahoma football game. But regardless of whether the Sooners prevail on the gridiron, it looks like the Equality Network will be celebrating a victory (and no, we’re not referring to Thursday night’s dramatic comeback win by Oklahoma State over Texas A&M). On Tuesday, the city council in Norman, which is home to OU, voted 7-1 to declare October as GLBT history month in the city. It may not sound like a very big deal, but in a state that’s home to politicians like Sally Kern, it’s progress. According to The Oklahoman, one councilmember said he received messages on his answering machine that “threatened [his] livelihood” if he supported the proposal. And about 100 people attended Tuesday’s meeting, with about half supporting the proposal and half opposing it. Here’s a report from The Equality Network:

Norman City Council Makes Historic Vote

September 30, 2010 – Norman, Oklahoma – On Tuesday evening, after four hours of impassioned debate, the Norman City Council voted 7 to 1 to declare October LGBT history month.  The vote makes Norman the first municipality in the state to issue an offical proclamation honoring the historic contributions of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) people.

The vigorous discussion included citizens with wildly divergent opinions on LGBT equality.  When faced with the final vote, many councilors attested to the galvanizing effect that being bombarded by sometimes vitriolic anti-gay sentiment had upon them.  Doug Cubberley, the councilor representing Ward 7, expressed concern that while his district was evenly split on whether or not to support the declaration, he felt morally compelled to support it.  His colleague from Ward 6, James Griffith, asserted that while he had been intitially inclined to oppose the resolution, constituent feedback changed his mind.  Griffith admitted that he had not known that an Oklahoma citizen can still be legally fired from his or her job or evicted from a rented property solely on the basis of sexual orientation.  Mayor Cindy Rosenthal added her strong support for the LGBT History Month proclamation.  Councilor Dan Quinn, representing Ward 8, cast the lone dissenting vote.

“We are very inspired by tonight’s overwhelming recognition of the invaluable and vibrant role of LGBT people in our nation’s history.  With this vote, the Norman City Council honors that rich legacy and makes a powerful statement about inclusivity and fairness in our state.”  asserted Kathy L. Williams, Ph.D., president of The Equality Network.

A full text of the LGBT History Month proclamation can be found here.

—  John Wright

NOM’s desperation mounts as it tries to unseat pro-equality councilmember in DC

Brian and Maggie are really hard up these days after that flop-o-rama of a Summer of Marriage road show. So now they are thinking smaller and inevitably think they are going to be more effective by trying to unseat elected officials that are standing in their way of the master plan to take marriage away from “teh homosexuals” in DC. As expected, in a majority minority area, NOM plays the race card. Again. Peter Montgomery at Right Wing Watch:

As we’ve been reporting, the National Organization for Marriage has been pumping money into Washington D.C.’s Democratic Party primaries in order to make good on its threat to punish elected officials who supported the District’s marriage equality law.

NOM is pouring its resources into attacks on Ward 5 Councilmember Harry ‘Tommy’ Thomas. We recently noted the chutzpah it took for NOM, which has bragged about efforts to get “white suburban Christian Republicans” to fund anti-equality candidates in DC, to send voters a flyer complaining about a fictional flood of “outside” money from San Francisco and New York supposedly attacking Hunter.

NOM’s latest flyer is even worse. It seems calculated for maximum divisiveness, featuring a rich, snooty, white guy looking down his nose at voters with claims that “DC Elites” are disrespecting voters in majority-Black Ward 5 by preventing a referendum on marriage equality. The flyer’s theme fits with comments by Bishop Harry Jackson, who has worked tirelessly to inflame racial divisions over the issue.
I wonder if the man whose image is in this flier knows his visage is pimping bigotry?

Pam’s House Blend – Front Page

—  John Wright