Top 10: FW changes continued in wake of Rainbow Lounge

Rainbow.Lounge
FROM PROTEST TO PARTY | The Rev. Carole West, left, and David Mack Henderson, right, both of Fairness Fort Worth, are shown with Chief Jeffrey Halstead during a barbecue at the Rainbow Lounge on June 28 to mark the one-year anniversary of the raid. (Tammye Nash/Dallas Voice)

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When the Fort Worth Police Department  and the Texas Alcoholic Beverage raided the Rainbow Lounge on June 28, 2009 — the 40th anniversary of the Stonewall Rebellion — it sparked outrage around the world and enough headlines to fill newspapers for the rest of the year.

But the story didn’t end with 2009, as repercussions from the raid continued this year.

Publicity from the raid undoubtedly helped punch up business for the Rainbow Lounge, enough so that by January, the bar’s owner, J.R. Schrock, announced that he had a second bar — Percussions — in the works, as well as a third club and possibly a fourth.

In February — despite acknowledgments from both TABC and FWPD that the raid should never have happened — officials with the Fort Worth city attorney’s office said they were going ahead with efforts to prosecute those arrested in the raid, including Chad Gibson, the young man who suffered a lasting brain injury while in TABC custody.

One of Fort Worth police Chief Jeff Halstead’s first acts after the raid was to appoint openly gay officer Sara Straten as his department’s first full-time liaison to the LGBT community.

On June 28, as a way of highlighting the progress the city had made in the year since the raid and improved relations between the police department and the LGBT community, Rainbow Lounge held a party attended by Halstead, Straten and many of the officers who patrol the area in which the bar is located.

Despite the progress though, in July anti-gay forces packed the City Council chambers to once again protest the council’s vote the previous November to amend Fort Worth’s nondiscrimination ordinance to offer protections to transgenders and other initiatives proposed by the City Manager’s Diversity Task Force.

At the end of the public comments section of the meeting, Mayor Mike Moncrief told the crowd that while “there is room for all of us” in Fort Worth, “What’s in the Bible or what isn’t in the Bible, that’s not our job. Our job is to maintain the quality of life in our city, and that’s what this [diversity] training is all about.”

As the year continued, more examples of the changes in the city emerged: The police department reached out to the LGBT community in looking for new recruits. Halstead announced plans to start a hate crimes unit. The annual Tarrant County gay Pride celebration expanded, adding a block party and holding a parade and picnic far larger than in years past.

In September, the council quietly approved adding domestic partner benefits for lesbian and gay city employees, and in mid-November, the city attorney’s office announced that all charges against those arrested in the raid were being dropped.

Perhaps one of the most welcome results of the Rainbow Lounge raid, however, was the emergence and continued growth of Fairness Fort Worth.

Formed quickly in the wake of the raid to offer assistance to witnesses who wanted to testify during investigations into the raid, the group has morphed into an active LGBT advocacy organization complete with officers and a strategy for the future — filling a void that has long existed in Tarrant County’s LGBT community.

— Tammye Nash

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition December 31, 2010.

—  Kevin Thomas

Fairness Fort Worth, Joel Burns urge people NOT to attend tonight’s City Council meeting

On Monday we told you that some folks reportedly plan to speak at tonight’s Fort Worth City Council meeting, to air their disapproval of Councilman Joel Burns “It Gets Better” speech to LGBT youth on Oct. 12. But Fairness Fort Worth says that both Burns and the group are urging people not to attend tonight’s meeting. FFW’s David Mack Henderson said on Facebook that the threat is “not all that credible” and “does NOT warrant giveing them the public dog-fight they desire.” Here’s his full message:

On Monday many of you noted a brief, rather vague and titillating article in the Fort Worth Star Telegram suggesting that “at least one — and possibly more” persons plan to protest Councilman Joel Burns’ recent “It Gets Better” speech tonight in a city council meeting.

Given the international attention Joel brought to LGBT bullying and teen suicide rates you can understand how the blog comments went wild rather quickly. Joel’s amazing outreach produced loyal advocates ready to come to his defense in a heartbeat.

HOWEVER, both JOEL and FAIRNESS FORT WORTH are convinced that this protest threat is not all that credible. Sure, a handful of folks from a city straddling another county may show up and make a bit of noise. In any case, we’ve collectively determined that this does NOT warrant giving them the public dog-fight they desire. COUNCILMAN BURNS and FAIRNESS FORT WORTH urge you NOT to attend this city council meeting specifically to engage these folks. (If you’re there on other city business, by all means, be part of the process as any citizen should.)

Our LGBT Community now plays a strategic and productive role in the future of our city. We’ve earned our seat at the table. As such, WE get to determine the time and place for these discussions, not our detractors.

So, if you’re committed to devoting your Tuesday night toward making a difference in our LGBT Community, FAIRNESS FORT WORTH urges you to attend our general meeting instead. YOU’RE NEEDED THERE! Join us at 7:30PM. We’ll be at Celebration Community Church, 908 Pennsylvania, creating initiatives and programs to advance equal access for all of us!

And yes — we DO have a gay agenda:

*** Anti-Bulling, Safe Schools project with FWISD
*** Hospital & Healthcare Providers Equal Access project
*** FW City Manager’s Diversity Task Force initiatives
…and more as we continue to grow and improve LGBT lives in Tarrant County. We’re on a roll!

Please join us. What a great time to live in Fort Worth, Texas — Where the West Begins — Again!”

—  John Wright

UT Arlington GSA honors David Mack Henderson

Joshua Little, David Mack Henderson and Zachary Murphy

On Thursday, Oct. 28 the Gay Straight Alliance at the University of Texas at Arlington celebrated the 30-year anniversary of the founding of the campus’s first gay organization.

As part of the celebration, they honored David Mack Henderson of Fairness Fort Worth. That organization was created in the wake of the Rainbow Lounge raid and has worked with the city to become more inclusive.

Henderson was one of the founders of the UTA Gay/Lesbian Association when he was a student at the school. He is a tax accountant and Realtor and is a facilitator for the diversity training that all Fort Worth city employees must take. In the 1980s, he was a member of the Dallas Gay Alliance board and a founder of Resource Center Dallas.

The Certificate of Appreciation was presented by GSA President Joshua Little and Vice President Zachary Murphy.

The GSA meets every Wednesday at noon in the Upper University Center, usually in the Guadalupe Room. The group is open to all students. UTA policy prohibits discrimination based on sexual orientation. Homage is another LGBTQ organization at UTA. Homage meets Thursday evenings in the University Center.

—  David Taffet

FWPD, Chief Halstead to host Diversity Forum

FWPD Chief Jeff Halstead, center, with LGBT community leaders the Rev. Carol West and David Mack Henderson

The Public Relations Office of the Fort Worth Police Department is hosting a Diversity Forum on Tuesday, Aug. 31, from 7 p.m. to 8:30 p.m., at the Hazel Harvey Peace Center for Neighborhoods, 818 Missouri Ave., in Fort Worth. It will feature FWPD Chief Jeff Halstead.

Topics up for discussion include recruiting for employment, strengthening communication and partnerships and patrol bureau realignments. There will be a question-and-answer period at the end.

According to an e-mail I got about the forum, the purpose of the meeting is “to make a difference.” The e-mail said:

“The concept of diversity encompasses acceptance and respect, which is the police department’s motto: ‘Service with Respect, Dedicated to Protect.’”

—  admin

Fairness Fort Worth forges ahead

David Mack Henderson

Fairness Fort Worth began as a reaction to the Rainbow Lounge raid but has evolved into an ongoing organization working for local equality.

David Mack Henderson, one the the group’s organizers, sent word that at their Aug. 26 meeting, they will reveal their new logo.

In addition, they’re rolling out a membership campaign with incentives for charter membership. The group should gain visibility in the upcoming weeks, participating in the Dallas and Fort Worth parades and with a booth at the Fort Worth picnic.

At the meeting, they’ll provide an update on some of the things they’ve been working on:

** Update on city of Fort Worth policy directives and domestic partner benefits

** New outreach to FWISD on Anti-Bullying Project

** Local hospital LGBT policies

The general meeting is Thursday at 7:30 p.m. in the Fellowship Hall at Celebration Community Church, 908 Pennsylvania Ave., Fort Worth, 76104. Everyone is welcome.

—  David Taffet

Fort Worth police looking for LGBT recruits

Fort Worth Police Chief Jeff Halstead, center, with the Rev. Carol West and David Mack Henderson of Fairness Fort Worth

One of the ways that Fort Worth Police Chief Jeff Halstead has been trying to reach out to the LGBT community in his city, following the raid on the Rainbow Lounge last summer, is to actively recruit police trainees from the LGBT community. In keeping with that effort, FWPD liaison to the LGBT community Officer Sara Straten sent me an e-mail this morning about the department’s current recruitment efforts.

I posted something about this here on Instant Tea not too long ago, but this time, I have a little more info. So here you go.

FWPD will be accepting applications online for police officer trainees from July 22 to Aug. 6. To apply, go here, and look for the Police Officer Trainee link.

The FW Police Academy course is 31 weeks long, and trainees receive a salary of $37,377 per year ( or $3,114/month) plus benefits during training. Those who graduate and join the force get a raise to $52,187 per year (or $4,348/month). And those who have military experience and G.I. Bill benefits can access those benefits during training.

The FWPD recruiter is Officer David Garcia. You can reach him via e-mail at david.garcia@fortworthgov.org.

—  admin