Rick Perry fails to win support of anti-gay leaders; TV ad backfiring among some Iowa Republicans

Gov. Rick Perry

Texas Gov. Rick Perry’s presidential campaign suffered yet another setback Tuesday when Bob Vander Plaats, a leading social conservative in Iowa who serves as president of the anti-gay Family Leader organization, endorsed Rick Santorum in the state’s Jan. 3 Republican Caucus.

Perry’s campaign had actively courted the Family Leader’s endorsement, and he signed the group’s controversial “marriage pledge” last month. Politico notes that Perry is in a three-way battle for Iowa’s coveted evangelical vote against Santorum and Michele Bachmann. Vander Plaats’ endorsement could help determine who moves on to New Hampshire and who does not.

Adding salt to Perry’s wounds, Don Wildmon, founder of the American Family Association, endorsed Newt Gingrich on Tuesday. If you’ll remember, the AFA, which is considered an anti-gay hate group, teamed with Perry for The Response, the August prayer rally in Houston that served as a kickoff for his presidential campaign — and at which Wildmon embraced Perry on stage. Right Wing Watch reports on Wildmon’s endorsement of Gingrich:

Wildmon today appeared on Focal Point with Bryan Fischer where he explained that while he was initially “ecstatic” about Rick Perry’s candidacy, he decided that because of the Texas governor’s disastrous debate appearances his candidacy “cannot recover.” Wildmon said that electability matters because “we are facing the most critical election this nation has ever seen, the stake in this election is Western civilization.”

Despite Tuesday’s setbacks, The Dallas Morning News’ Wayne Slater reports that Perry, who’s still polling in the lower tier of candidates, plans to remain in the race beyond Iowa regardless of where he finishes. But Slater also notes the Perry’s infamous anti-gay TV ad, “Strong,” appears to be backfiring among some Republican voters:

At a historic hotel in Maquoketa, 61-year-old Len Ditch sat in the front row, wearing a Perry for President sticker. He said he liked Perry’s commercials in Iowa — especially one recommending that Congress be made part-time. He liked another one advocating prayer in schools but questioned why Perry had included a reference to gays serving openly in the military.

“I don’t believe in the gay world. But I believe live and let live,” he said.

Meanwhile, KWQC Channel 6 in Davenport, Iowa, has posted a transcript from an interview with Perry in which the station asked Perry about “Strong” and whether he thinks being gay is a choice. Read the excerpt below:

—  John Wright

DMN’s Eats Blog reports old Jack’s Backyard spot to become restaurant complex

Over on DMN’s Eats Blog, Kim Pierce reported that the guys behind Bolsa, Smoke and Bar Belmont in Oak Cliff have their sights set on the old Jack’s Backyard spot. The nightspot, which was owned by Kathy Jack, abruptly closed earlier this year amid controversy to the dismay of may gay patrons who partook in drink and live music. Now, according to Pierce, Christopher Jeffers and Smoke exec chef Tim Byres look to turn the venue’s spot — heck, the whole block — into a bar/restaurant complex. From DMN’s Eats Blog.

Christopher Jeffers‘ baby is the Chicken Scratch-Foundry complex that’s going to be another amazing addition to North Oak Cliff. It’s not just a bar (factory-themed Foundry) tied into a restaurant (family-friendly Chicken Scratch), it’s a whole city block, whose shambling structures date to the 1920s. He took me on a tour to show me the vision.

One of the main buildings, where Jack’s Backyard was cloistered on Pittman at Commerce, will house The Foundry, which will be the first of the complex to open January-ish.

Like Pierce said in her piece, ambitious plans. Indeed.

—  Rich Lopez

Dallas VA hospital to decide within ‘a few weeks’ on discipline for nurse accused of anti-gay tirade

Esther Garatie

Five weeks after our initial story on Esther Garatie, The Dallas Morning News (subscription only) published a piece on the front page of its Metro section Sunday about the lesbian Marine veteran who alleges she was subject to a hateful anti-gay tirade by a nurse practitioner at the Dallas VA Medical Center in October.

Better late than never, we suppose. And while we could argue that the DMN should have given us credit as the media outlet that broke the story — as the Dallas Observer so graciously did a few weeks back — it’s also true that the Change.org petition calling for the nurse to be fired predated even our report.

Anyhow, there isn’t a whole hell of a lot of new info in the DMN story, but there are a few interesting tidbits. One is that supporters of the nurse, Lincy Pandithurai of Cedar Hill, have launched a Facebook page called, “Support Lincy T Pandithurai (nurse).” When we checked this afternoon, the page had a whopping total of 36 members —  compared to the more than 16,000 who’ve signed the Change.org petition (and the 196 who’ve joined another FB page called, “Fire Nurse Lincy Pandithurai and Revoke Her License“).

But back to the “Support Lincy T Pandithurai (nurse)” FB page mentioned by the DMN, which says the following under Info:

“This dear sweet nurse dared to witness Jesus Christ to a lost lesbian. So now the the gay community would rather see a good nurse fired rather than someone possibly have an opportunity to choose another path. How sad is that? Fellow Americans I ask you to wake up,speak out before it is too late. Let’s show this loving nurse our support. Pray for the lost soul she witnessed to. I bet she never said an unkind word.”

—  John Wright

Gay ex-Navy pastry chef was so obsessed with roommate that he murdered girlfriend

Daniel Willyam, right, faces up to life in prison for the 2009 murder of Samantha Nance.

A Dallas County jury today found a gay former Navy pastry chef guilty of murder in the 2009 stabbing death of his roommate’s girlfriend.

Daniel Willyam, 28, faces up to life in prison for the murder of Samantha “Shelley” Nance, 20.

Nance, a student at the Dallas Art Institute, was found stabbed 42 times at her Lake Highlands apartment.

Willyam, who also attended the Art Institute, was the roommate of Nance’s boyfriend, Nathan Shuck. Prosecutors say Willyam murdered Nance out of jealousy because he had become increasingly obsessed with Shuck.

The Dallas Morning News reports that the jury, which found Willyam guilty earlier today, is now weighing his sentence.

—  John Wright

Talkin’ gay Pride on The DMN site

The Dallas Morning News, which typically ignores gay Pride, went to the trouble of posting an item earlier today about Sunday’s parade and festival. And not suprisingly, the commenters are already quoting the Bible:

—  John Wright

Theater Critics Forum bestows honors

The DFW Theater Critics Forum met last week over friend chicken and sweet tea to bestow its annual awards for local theater excellence, as as usual, the gay community was well-represented.

Of the eight best director winners, five locals were gay: Regan Adair for Red Light Winter, Rene Moreno for three shows (The Trip to Bountiful, No Child… and Creditors), Michael Serrecchia for two shows (Uptown Players’ Next to Normal and ICT MainStage’s How to Succeed…), Joel Ferrell for two shows at DTC (Cabaret and Dividing the Estate), and Len Pfluger for My Fair Lady at Lyric Stage. Pfluger’s partner, Jay Dias, was also singled out for his season of music direction with Lyric.

Larry Randolph, as a tragic drag queen in One-Thirdy Productions’ FIT entry, The Madness of Lady Bright, was a popular choose for acting, as were two New York actors who sizzled at the Wyly (and whom we interviewed): Wade McCollum as the M.C. in Cabaret, pictured, and Sydney James Harcourt as the Tin Man in The Wiz. Whitney Hennen, the ditzy blonde in Uptown’s Victor/Victoria, was also singled out.

Justin Locklear received the second Emerging Artist Award for his acting and costume work this season with Balanced Almond, which actually won him two other individual awards.

In addition to yours truly, participating critics in Martha Heimberg (Turtle Creek News); Elaine Liner (Dallas Observer); Mark Lowry (TheaterJones and Fort Worth Star-Telegram); M. Lance Lusk (D Magazine); David Novinski (TheaterJones); Punch Shaw (Fort Worth Star-Telegram); Perry Stewart (TheaterJones); Lawson Taitte (Dallas Morning News); and Lindsey Wilson (D Magazine).

Full list below.

—  Arnold Wayne Jones

Gay reporter who served as NLGJA chapter president among those laid off by The DMN

We’re sad to learn that gay reporter Ian McCann was among those laid off today by The Dallas Morning News.

McCann, a former president of the Dallas chapter of the National Lesbian & Gay Journalists Association, co-authored an LGBT column for the now-defunct Quick and has covered Richardson for The DMN for the last few years.

“I appreciate the thoughts everybody,” McCann wrote on Twitter this afternoon. “Now time to plan the next adventure, almost 12 years after the first one began.”

The blog DMN CUTS is following the latest round of layoffs.

—  John Wright

Dallas County unlikely to add DP benefits

County Judge Clay Jenkins

Faced with a $35 million budget shortfall, Dallas County is unlikely to begin offering benefits to the domestic partners of gay and lesbian employees as part of its 2012 budget, a county spokeswoman said last week.

County Judge Clay Jenkins, who chairs the Commissioners Court, has said he supports offering domestic partner benefits. The Commissioners Court, which has a Democratic majority for the first time in decades, voted earlier this year to add LGBT employees to the county’s nondiscrimination policy.

But Dallas County spokeswoman Maria Arita said last week it costs the county an additional $3,552 for every spouse added to an employee’s health insurance. And according to the Dallas Morning News, the county is already proposing to cut $5.6 million in employee health care costs in 2012.

“It really does come down to dollars and cents,” Arita told Instant Tea. “He [Jenkins] likes equality in the workplace in every way for every employee. There’s just no equivocating about that, plain and simple, and if it were possible to offer all benefits to all employees … then he would do that.”

Jenkins is scheduled to discuss the issue further in an interview with Instant Tea on Wednesday.

The city of Dallas has offered DP benefits since 2004, and Fort Worth added them last year.

—  John Wright

A week after publishing 1st same-sex wedding ads, DMN profiles anti-gay bigot Robert Jeffress

Pastor Robert Jeffress of First Baptist Church of Dallas

Perhaps this represents the real price the LGBT community must pay in exchange for same-sex wedding announcements in our daily newspaper. One week after publishing its first gay wedding ads, The Dallas Morning News (subscription only) on Sunday came out with a glowing front-page profile of anti-gay bigot Robert Jeffress, senior pastor of First Baptist Church of Dallas.

The story, under the headline “Pastor hopes to restore glory to First Baptist Church,” reveals that Jeffress has increased resident membership by a whopping 5 percent during his first four years at First Baptist. But overall membership is still down by about 35 percent since the church was led by W.A. Criswell.

The story claims that when Jeffress was a 15-year-old member at First Baptist, Criswell told him, “Robert, I want you to learn every square inch of this place [First Baptist] because one day it’s all gonna be yours.”

OK, that’s just plain creepy. Did they go over every square inch of anything else?

And speaking of creepy, the story concludes with a passage about how Jeffress once dressed up as a bright-yellow, six-foot banana to go on Let’s Make A Deal. Gee, sexually repressed much?

Overall, the DMN story is way too positive given the extent of Jeffress’ incessant hate-mongering — and it really doesn’t belong on the front page to begin with (perhaps an inside religion page?). But there is some token balance, most notably this passage:

—  John Wright

What’s Brewing: Gov. Rick Perry tries to distance himself from wingnut day of prayer partners

Your weekday morning blend from Instant Tea:

1. Texas Gov. Rick Perry — perhaps fearing they could hurt him in the presidential election — appears to be trying to distance himself from the extreme views of groups and individuals with whom he’s partnering with for The Response, his day of prayer and fasting on Aug. 6 in Houston. “I’m sure that through my elections in the past that there have been some groups that have endorsed me publicly, that I appreciate their endorsements, but their endorsements of me doesn’t mean I endorse what they believe in or what they say,” Perry said Monday, according to The Dallas Morning News. “I appreciate anyone that’s going to endorse me, whether it’s on The Response or whether it’s on a potential run for the presidency of the United States. Just because you endorse me doesn’t mean I endorse everything that you say or do.” Sorry, governor, but nice try. Being endorsed by someone in a political race is a little different from partnering with them and selecting them to foot the bill for an event like this.

2. The U.S. Senate for the first time ever on Monday confirmed an openly gay man to serve as a federal district judge, The Washington Blade reports. J. Paul Oetken, nominated by President Barack Obama in January, was confirmed to serve on the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York by a vote of 80-13 (Texas Republican Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison was among those who voted against Oetken’s confirmation). Oetken is not the first openly LGBT person to be confirmed as a federal district judge, as this distinction belongs to U.S. District Judge Deborah Batts, an out lesbian appointed by President Bill Clinton. And of course he’s not the first non-openly gay man, as we’ve had Judge Vaughn Walker and undoubtedly others. But Oetken’s confirmation is still a pretty big deal: “It wasn’t even two decades ago that openly LGBT people had a hard time even being considered for a presidential appointment, and some who got nominated faced fierce opposition in the Senate,” said Denis Dison, a spokesman for the Gay & Lesbian Victory Fund. “Today, more than 200 LGBT Americans have been appointed by President Obama, and more than 25 of those were nominated for Senate-confirmable positions.”

3. Towleroad has posted bios of those scheduled to testify during the Senate Judiciary Committee’s hearing Wednesay on repeal of the Defense of Marriage Act. The lack of diversity among witnesses has drawn criticism from the likes of Lt. Dan Choi and prompted an online petition calling for the Human Rights Campaign to “Wake up from white privilege and diversify!” But The Washington Blade reports that witnesses were actually selected by Sen. Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., in consultation with outside groups, and Immigration Equality, a group focused on DOMA-related immigration issues, isn’t concerned about the absence of binational same-sex couples from the witness list.

—  John Wright