Austin, Dallas, Fort Worth top Texas cities in HRC Municipal Equality Index

MEI-2014-map-650x375The Human Rights Campaign released its third annual Municipal Equality Index today (Wednesday, Nov. 12) assessing LGBT equality in 353 cities across the nation, including 22 in Texas, according to a press release from HRC.

The MEI, the only nationwide rating system of LGBT inclusion in municipal law and policy, assesses cities on a one to 100 scale.

The average score for the 22 Texas cities is 28 out of 100 points, far below the national average of 59. Only Austin achieved a perfect 100 score. Dallas came in second with 91 points and Fort Worth third with 83 points.

San Antonio, El Paso and Houston earned scores of 72, 52 and 54 respectively, the only other cities to score more than 50 points.

Other surveyed Texas cities included Amarillo: 14,  Brownsville: 20, Corpus Christi: 16, Killeen: 10, Laredo: 2, Lubbock: 0, McAllen: 0, Pasadena: 10, Waco: 24.

The MEI rates cities based on 47 criteria falling under six broad categories: Non-discrimination laws, relationship recognition, employment policies, including transgender-inclusive insurance coverage, contracting non-discrimination requirements, and other policies relating to equal treatment of LGBT city employees, inclusiveness of city services, fair law enforcement practices and leadership on matters of equality.

Check out the full list here and this week’s edition of the Voice for comments from local leaders.

—  James Russell

Welcome aboard, Erin Moore

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We are thrilled to welcome aboard the newest addition to the Dallas Voice family, graphic artist Erin Moore.

That name may sound — probably does sound — familiar. That’s because Erin has been an active member of DFW’s LGBT community for years. She has been president of Dallas Gay and Lesbian Alliance, president of Stonewall Democrats of Dallas and vice president of Stonewall Democrats of Texas.
Erin’s also served on the Human Rights Campaign’s national Board of Governors and co-chaired National Coming Out Day.She grew up in Slidell, La., and moved to Dallas in 1992 to be staff adviser to Southern Methodist University’s student newspaper the Daily Campus. From there she began doing layout and design for Texas Lawyer and most recently worked at Brown & Partners designing jewelry advertising for national clients. Erin’s partner, Patti Fink, is currently president of DGLA and hosts the show that Dallas Observer named best talk show in Dallas, Lambda Weekly.

—  Tammye Nash

Get your collectible Dallas Voice Pride Edition — 3 covers to choose from!

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Here at Dallas Voice, we’ve done something for Pride Weekend we’ve never done before: We are offering readers three versions of the Voice to read in one week.

Now, the content inside is the same. There’s coverage of the upcoming Gay Softball World Series, a calendar of Pride events to take you through the fall, some thought-provoking opinion pieces, telling interviews with musicians Andy Butler and Jennifer Hudson as well as a piece on how Stoli is making a push into the gay market again following its Olympics disaster.

But on the outside? Three different full-color glossy covers reflecting three sides of Pride. Check them all out! Thanks for your support, and Happy Pride!

 

—  Arnold Wayne Jones

The Move is on!

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Today (Friday, Aug. 29) is the big day here at Dallas Voice. We are packing our bags and moving across town to our new offices in the Design District — 1825 Market Center Blvd., Ste. 240, in the Chase Bank building at the corner of Market Center and Turtle Creek boulevards, to be exact.

So, as we are in the midst of the move, we may be (we will be) out of touch for a little bit. We just wanted to let you all know that if we don’t return an email or answer your call, it’s not because we are ignoring you. It’s just because our computers and/or our phones are enroute to our new offices and haven’t been set up yet.

So keep trying and be a little patient with us. We will be back up and running soon! And watch for our announcement of the open house to show off our new offices, which we will hold as soon as the dust settles!

Thanks, and see ya on the other side (of town).

—  Tammye Nash

Welcome back, Tammye

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Tammye Nash

Tammye Nash is the new senior editor of Dallas Voice. If the name sounds familiar, that’s because she’s also our old editor.

Tammye began writing for Dallas Voice in 1988. Then she left and came back, then she left, and this week she came back … to stay.

On her first day back in the office, she remembered some of the stories she worked on early in her career. She said she wrote a story called “The L Word” long before the Showtime TV series. Her story centered on Deb Elder and Kay Vinson’s fight to get the L into Dallas Gay Alliance.

Another first-year story centered on the old Crazy Crab on Oak Lawn Avenue. The building now houses Cyclone Anaya’s and Green Papaya. At the time, the building had been empty for more than a decade. A developer was working on renovating the building, but ran into some trouble — the building was haunted. Tammye said she participated in a séance the building owners performed. She said the evening was a lot of fun, but the club never opened and it was several more years before the building was occupied.

Over the years, Tammye covered a number of stories that were important to Dallas’ LGBT community. She covered Micah England’s quest to become a Dallas police officer at a time gays and lesbians were banned from the department. She covered the demonstrations against Judge Jack Hampton, who said he gave a murderer a lesser sentence because the victim was gay.

“And every week was about AIDS,” Tammye said.

She remembered two of her “starstruck” interviews — author Anne Rice and entertainer Eartha Kitt, whom she spoke to before an appearance at the Kalita Humphreys Theater.

In 2001, Tammye left Dallas Voice to work for  The Cleburne Times-Review daily newspaper and then moved on to become editor of the Red Oak Chronicle. When original Dallas Voice editor Dennis Vercher’s health began to suffer from his long battle with AIDS, she returned in 2004 and became editor after Dennis’ death.

She left again in 2012 to do some freelance work and again write for the Cleburne newspaper. But now she’s back and everything at Dallas Voice seems just right.

Tammye lives in Fort Worth with her wife, Sandra, and their two teenage sons. They also share their home with a Chihuahua named Tinkerbell, an 8-month-old German shepherd named Akasha and a weird weird cat called Wilford Brimley.

—  David Taffet

Turn on your AC and check out our swimsuit video

Our first swimsuit issue will be on the stands Friday. You’ll want to pick up two copies. One to look at and the other to fan yourself off with. It’s that hot. Check out our behind-the-scenes video we shot during the photo shoot.

—  Steve Ramos

Springtown man indicted on federal hate crime charges for gay man’s assault

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Brice Johnson

A Springtown man who allegedly lured a gay man to his home through a social media app has been indicted on federal hate crime charges for the man’s assault.

Brice Johnson, 19, was indicted Wednesday on charges of kidnapping and “willfully causing bodily injury to a person because of the actual or perceived sexual orientation of that person,” according to a news release from U.S. Attorney’s Office of the Northern District of Texas.

Johnson started chatting with Arron Keahey on the MeetMe app over Labor Day weekend. The two discussed sex and Johnson invited him over. When he arrived, Keahey was brutally beaten.

A criminal complaint back in February when Johnson was brought up on federal charges explains that Johnson put him in the back of a car and drove him to a friend’s house. Johnson’s friends later convinced him to take Keahey to the hospital, where he spent 10 days recovering from brain trauma and broken bones.

Johnson initially told Springtown police he found Keahey outside his house and took him to the hospital. He later told police he assaulted him after blacking out.

Johnson was originally charged with a state felony for aggravated assault.

In a recorded jail conversation to family, Johnson, who had Keahey listed in his cell phone as “fagg bagg,” said he invited Keahey over and it was “basically a joke that went too far and too wrong. I invited him over because he was a fag or whatever.”

The trial is set to begin June 20. If convicted, he faces a maximum of 10 years in prison and a $250,000 fine.

—  Dallasvoice

Texas native and NFL hopeful Michael Sam talks nerves ahead of NFL draft

Screen shot 2014-05-07 at 1.04.39 PMMichael Sam hopes to make history Thursday as the first openly gay player in the NFL.

Sam, who came out earlier this year, spoke to Robin Roberts on Good Morning America Wednesday about the NFL draft and how anxious he is about the experience.

“I’ve been thinking about this moment since junior year in college,” Sam said. “It’s a very nervous time, an exciting time. So I’m ready for it.”

The former Missouri defensive end grew up in Hitchcock, Texas, said he doesn’t care which team selects him Thursday, as long as he can play in the NFL.

“Where I’ll go, it doesn’t matter, as long as I get to play and put a jersey on my back,” he said. “It’s just awesome. I’m going to be proud wherever I go.”

Sam is also being honored by ESPN with the Arthur Ashe Courage Award for “his courage and honesty that resonates beyond sports.”

Watch the interview below.

—  Dallasvoice

We want to hear from you

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We’re working hard at Dallas Voice to deliver a product that will inform and entertain you. So, we want to hear from you. Tell us what you’d like to see in Dallas Voice and even what you don’t want to see. Our hides are pretty tough here, so you can be honest with us. A frank discussion with our readers about Dallas Voice’s editorial content will help us give you a paper you look forward to reading each week. Chime in on the comments section below and tell us what we can do to give you the paper you want to read. Do you want more pictures, more international news? How about our Calendar section? What do you want to see in it? Is it serving your needs? Do you like Scene?

We can’t wait to hear from you.

—  Steve Ramos

Hundreds of DA staffers go through diversity training

DA Craig Watkins’ policies could ensure violence against LGBT people won’t go unpunished

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NOH8 | The Dallas County District Attorney’s office welcomed Roberta Clark of the Anti-Defamation League to the office for a training on “Why Diversity Matters.” Nearly 300 prosecutors and investigators attended the training. (Tracy Nanthavongsa/Dallas District Attorney’s Office of Communications)

 

STEVE RAMOS  |  Senior Editor

They were the words no mother wants to hear. Maria Ramos, tough ranch woman that she was, must have weakened when the Arkansas official told her that her son was injured and probably wouldn’t live through the day. It was 1985. People weren’t awakened by genial cell phone tones in those days. Instead, a 10-pound phone ringing in the early morning hours roused people like a cattle prod to the brain. The news that your son is near death would only rev that shock to a mind-splintering level.

Minutes after she hung up the phone, Maria’s bags were packed, and she was herding other family members into action. Bad news travels through Mexican neighborhoods faster than the speed of light in a vacuum, and the community circled the wagons around her. Within the hour, family friends were dropping off money to help with the trip. A couple of dollars from one, five bucks from another. Tears from all of them.

Maria and her six other children pointed their cars toward the barely rising sun. Normally, sunrises are glorious in the Texas Panhandle, but the streaks of magentas and oranges would have been lost to the family on that morning. Instead, the sun’s movement westward was only a reminder that time was running out. Doubtlessly, Maria would have prayed 10 rosaries during that tortuous drive — one for each of the hours that separated her from her dying son.

I don’t know who told Grandma what happened to my uncle, or if she knew the details before she left home or was told at the hospital. It doesn’t matter. He was brain dead, the result of a brutal gay bashing. Eyewitnesses reported that a man attacked my uncle from behind, knocked him to the ground and then kicked him in the head repeatedly.

Because. He. Was. Gay.

After the attack, my uncle was able to get up, the witnesses said, but he later collapsed. It was the last time he would walk. We soon learned the assailant had prior convictions of assault in Arkansas and Louisiana and was on probation for assault at the time of the attack. One would think it was an open-and-shut case. But not in Arkansas. And certainly not in 1985.

The district attorney should have just stayed home on the day of the trial. A first-year law student could have swatted away his feeble prosecution like a child slapping a geriatric gnat. He just didn’t care. He allowed the defense to mock the gay eyewitnesses, turning the trial into a finger-pointing at them, that they and my uncle were somehow responsible for the attack — just for being gay. They were ridiculed and humiliated, forced to divulge to their neighbors the personal details of their gay lives. They were on trial. The gay community was on trial. The only one not on trial was the defendant.

It turns out the jury didn’t care, either. Despite the eyewitness testimony that detailed the attack on my uncle, and despite the assailant’s criminal record, a dozen jurors found him not guilty. Imagine a mother being told by 12 people that her son’s life has no value to them. Indeed, as one of my aunts was later walking down the courthouse steps, she overheard someone say, “It’s just one less faggot walking the streets as far as I’m concerned.” My grandmother never recovered.

Sadly, my uncle’s story isn’t a unique one in the LGBT community. Laramie, Tyler, Paris, Dallas, Houston — this list goes on. Dallas Voice reporter David Taffet is working on a story about the Texas Obituary Project that has documented, so far, about 140 violent deaths in the community over the last several decades. How many law enforcement agencies and district attorneys buried LGBT hate crimes during those years or just determined not to prosecute them? How many mothers were told their sons’ and daughters’ lives were of no value to the legal system because they were LGBT? Too many.

Dallas County District Attorney Craig Watkins agrees. Watkins announced in February the creation of the Dallas County District Attorney’s LGBT Task Force, and in March nearly 300 of his prosecutors and investigators took part in sensitivity training, titled “Why Diversity Matters,” that will help them better understand the county’s diverse communities.

“The diversity training will benefit our office and the residents of Dallas County as a whole,” Watkins said. “We are better prosecutors, better investigators, when we understand the communities that we serve. Not only will it provide us a better understanding of the people we must prosecute, but equally with the victims and witnesses of crimes.”

Watkins said he’s aware that many LGBT people are reluctant to report crimes committed against them. Their experiences with law enforcement officials haven’t always been good, and as one trans woman recently reported, police officers in Paris told her “Being the way you are, you should expect that” treatment, after she reported to them she was receiving death threats in the East Texas city.

Watkins certainly sees a lot of hate. It’s even been directed at him, Dallas County’s first African-American DA, and as he steers his office toward an understanding of diversity, he’s liable to see more.

“My role is very controversial,” he said, “but I’m going to live up to the principles I believe in. I’ve seen people use their power to hold people back from living the American dream. It’s impossible to change this office overnight, but I am going to set the standard of behavior of what the justice system should be.”

Watkins’ creation of the LGBT Task Force and putting his staff through diversity training could stop the rise in anti-LGBT hate crimes. The FBI and the National Coalition of Anti-Violence Programs report an increase in those crimes, and the breakdown is horrifying.  Transgender people and gender non-conforming people continue to experience higher rates of homicide. LGBTQH (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer and HIV-affected) people of color represented 53 percent of total reported survivors and victims of all hate crimes, but 73.1 percent of homicide victims.

Watkins said he’s an advocate for change and the Task Force and training will have a ripple effect in his office and in the county. He also believes it will reach the community.

“We’re already seeing it,” he said. “Many LGBT people don’t believe in law enforcement because it hasn’t worked for them. They’ve been marginalized.”

My grandmother, gone for 19 years now, would have loved to hear those words from a district attorney. The Task Force — comprised of four attorneys, an investigator, a case worker, a victim advocate and a spokesperson — will now help ensure no one in the community is excluded from the judicial process. And when LGBT people are on the defendant’s side, they are being told they can expect to face a more understanding prosecutor.

No members of the LGBT community are on the Task Force, but James Tate, LGBT spokesman, said, “We are exploring a future date and time to conduct a town hall meeting. In essence, this would allow us to introduce ourselves to the community and let them know we are here to help.”

Three of the Task Force members identify with the LGBT community, but no members of the community are on it because there will be cases that potentially come before the Task Force that can be viwed only by the district attorney’s office.

As Watkins finishes the last year of his second term, he reflects on how the job has changed him. He earned five times the amount of money in private law practice than he does as the district attorney.

“But I was unhappy,” he said. “I’m happy now. I’m very religious, and I read the Bible. We are all children of God, whether you’re LGBT or a member of any other community. In my office, we need to protect everyone.”

That sentiment did trickle down to the prosecutors in Watkins’ office.

“In some way, almost all of us are minorities,” said Brian Higginbotham, an assistant district attorney in the appellate division. “It may be gender, race, ethnicity, sexual orientation, religion, disability or many other things. As prosecutors, we see all kinds of people at their worst and at their best.”

In our fight for marriage equality, Watkins said, “the Constitution says you have the right to marry.” And he encourages LGBT people to marry “even if it means you’re hauled off in handcuffs.”

“Live your life the way you want to,” he advised.

Twenty-nine years ago, my grandmother saw prosecutors at their worst, but I’m hopeful that I’m now seeing one at his best. The community will hold Watkins’ to the message drawn on his cheek for the NOH8 picture. It’s a powerful symbol for a powerful office, and it’s high time for the changes promised to us.

If members of the community have a concern they want to discuss with the Task Force, they can send an email to lgbt@dallasda.com.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition April 18, 2014.

—  Steve Ramos