TX Dems won’t vote on marriage in 2012

Party leaders opt against placing nonbinding resolution on primary ballot

Graney.Don

Don Graney

JOHN WRIGHT  |  Senior Political Writer
wright@dallasvoice.com

AUSTIN — Democrats in Texas won’t get to vote next year on whether they support same-sex marriage, after the party’s Executive Committee shot down a proposal to place a non-binding resolution on the March 2012 primary ballot.

Meeting in the capital on Saturday, Nov. 19, the State Democratic Executive Committee voted 33-22 against placing the resolution in support of same-sex marriage on the ballot, according to Dan Graney, president of the party’s LGBT caucus.

The resolution, backed by the Texas Stonewall Democratic Caucus, called for same-sex couples to receive “equal access to civil marriage and all its benefits,” and stated that “all state and federal laws denying such access should be repealed.”

In addition to gauging support for marriage equality among Democrats in Texas, the resolution was designed to boost interest and turnout in the primary, especially among young voters, given that President Barack Obama is running unopposed, Graney said.

However, some SDEC members feared backlash from the marriage resolution and said it could be used against Democratic candidates by their Republican opponents, Graney said.

“Unfortunately, many SDEC members are afraid to let Democratic voters have their say on issues they regard as too controversial,” Graney said after the SDEC’s vote. “Polling data shows that legal recognition of same-sex relationships is now supported by 63 percent of all Texans, so I don’t understand the fear about allowing voters to weigh in on this.”

Some openly LGBT members of the SDEC argued passionately in favor of the marriage resolution, Graney said. However, two openly gay SDEC members — both from Tarrant County — opposed it.

SDEC member DeeJay Johannessen, former president of Stonewall Democrats of Tarrant County, said he voted against placing the resolution on the ballot because he didn’t think it would accomplish the stated purpose of increasing voter turnout. Johannessen said valuable resources would have been spent trying to get the resolution passed, even though it would have no practical impact.

Erin-Moore3668

Erin Moore

Johannessen was joined in voting against the resolution by openly gay Tarrant County SDEC member Mary Edwards.

“My thoughts are that we should be dealing with issues about jobs and education and the economy,” Johannessen said. “We need to be focused on issues where we can affect change.

“It wasn’t about marriage equality,” he said of his vote. “It was about whether or not putting this on the ballot would bring more people out to vote, and I didn’t think that would happen.”

Graney said he feels the majority of SDEC members support same-sex marriage. But he said a majority, like Johannessen, opposed the measure for strategic reasons.

The state Republican Party has placed resolutions on primary ballots in at least the last two election cycles, but Democrats have not, Graney said.

Other resolutions voted on by the SDEC last weekend called for abolishing the death penalty, legalizing marijuana, passing the DREAM Act, mandating affordable college tuition and legalizing casino gambling.

The SDEC approved the resolutions related to the DREAM Act, college tuition and casino gambling, and they will appear on the March 6 primary ballot.

Graney noted that the marriage resolution received more support than those calling for abolishing the death penalty and legalizing marijuana, which got only 14 and 12 votes, respectively.

He also commended Texas Democratic Party Chairman Boyd Richie and Resolutions Committee Chairman Dennis Teal for allowing the full SDEC to consider the marriage resolution even though the committee voted against it.

“We had a 45-minute discussion and debate on the issue,” Graney said. “They could have squashed it, but they didn’t.”

Although their votes drew attention because they’re openly gay, Johannessen and Edwards weren’t the only SDEC members from North Texas who opposed the resolution.

In fact, only one of six SDEC members from Dallas County — Theresa Daniel — voted in favor of placing the marriage resolution on the ballot, according to Omar Narvaez, president of Stonewall Democrats of Dallas.
Daniel, a straight LGBT ally and Stonewall member, is running for the Precinct 1 seat on the Dallas County Commissioners Court in 2012.

Erin Moore of Dallas, vice president of the Texas Stonewall Democratic Caucus, is a non-voting SDEC member and spoke in support of the marriage resolution during Saturday’s meeting.

“We just thought this was the perfect opportunity to get the pulse of the electorate again,” Moore said of the resolution.

Regardless of whether the resolution appears on the ballot, Moore said, Republicans will try to attack Democrats over gay rights, and voters will ask candidates about their views on same-sex marriage.

Moore said she thinks the SDEC’s vote against placing the resolution on the ballot amounted to Democrats “running scared instead of running strong.”

“They’re scared of losing what we’ve got, which is very little,” she said.

The tally was based on a headcount of SDEC members who stood up, and there is no written record of how each person voted. But both Moore and Graney recalled a clear demographic split over the marriage equality resolution.

They said most members who opposed the resolution were older white males, and they called for the party to respond by electing more progressives and minorities to the SDEC next year.

“The SDEC needs to look like Texas is now, not like Texas was,” Moore said.

Chuck Smith, deputy director of Equality Texas, said he also would have liked to see the resolution on the ballot.
Smith said opponents of LGBT equality frequently point to results from 2005, when three-fourths of Texas voters supported a constitutional amendment banning both same-sex marriage and civil unions.

“We would like to see every candidate for every office asked where they stand on marriage equality,” Smith said. “It’s a subject we need to talk about, and the more we talk about it, the more we’re going to find how significantly the numbers have changed since six years ago.”

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition November 25, 2011.

—  Kevin Thomas

AUDIO: Bexar County Democratic Party Chairman Dan Ramos on gay Democrats

Dan Ramos on Stonewall Democrats, homosexuality by gharman

Daniel Graney, president of the Texas Stonewall Democratic Caucus, has been doing a great job keeping us posted on the Dan Ramos situation. If you’ll remember, Ramos is the chairman of the Bexar County Democratic Party who recently compared gay Democrats to “termites” and the “fuckin’ Nazi Party.” Just today, the San Antonio Current posted some audio from the interview in which Ramos’ originally made his anti-gay comments — in response to Ramos’ allegations that the newspaper misrepresented what he said. Also, after the jump are several statements condemning Ramos forwarded by Graney over the last few days, including from state representatives, a Congressman, the San Antonio mayor and the Tarrant County Stonewall Democrats.

—  John Wright

Bexar County Democratic Party Chairman Dan Ramos refuses to resign, hurls new epithets

Dan Ramos

Daniel Graney, president of the Texas Stonewall Democratic Caucus, reports that Bexar County Democratic Party Chairman Dan Ramos refused to apologize or resign during a press conference earlier today.

Instead, Ramos hurled new epithets and against referred to gay Democrats as “termites,” said Graney, who lives in San Antonio.

Graney said Ramos is holding a fundraiser tonight for the Democratic Party in downtown San Antonio, and members of Stonewall Democrats of San Antonio plan to protest outside.

From the Bexar County Democrats website, directly above a photo of Ramos:

Who We Are

Before all other things, we are a family of many different kinds of people. We come from all walks of life. We are home-makers, business people, factory workers, public servants, educators, soldiers, preachers, you name it – we’ve got it. We come from all skin colors, religions, cultures, genders, sexual orientations and gender identities. We don’t exclude. That is who we are!

UPDATE: Sam Sanchez of QSanAntonio.com was at the press conference and reports that rather than resigning, Ramos said gays are like “white termites who have infiltrated the party much like termites infiltrate your house.”

Ramos called Choco Meza, the woman who opposed him in last year’s election, a lesbian, and he said gays have infiltrated the party. Sanchez reports that Ramos called Texas Democratic Party Chairman Boyd Richie a racist bastard and an idiot who is advised by gay people.

CORRECTION: As indicated in the comment below, Ramos did not hold the fundraiser. The event was sponsored by Proud Democrats of San Antonio, a group that has not yet condemned Ramos’ statements. The top of their website indicates that they promote equality, diversity and tolerance. I guess that would include Nazi termites.

—  David Taffet

LGBT Democrats meet to strategize for the future

Texas Stonewall Democrats assess 2010 ‘ass-whipping’ at the polls during weekend meeting}

See related slideshow here

 

From Staff Reports

editor@dallasvoice.com

Members of the Texas Stonewall Democratic Caucus from all across the state met in Austin on March 5-6 to assess the “ass-whipping” Democrats took at the polls last November and to develop messaging and other strategies for winning in 2012, according to caucus president Dan Graney.

Keynote speakers were openly bisexual Arizona state Sen. Kyrsten Sinema and national transgender activist Mara Keisling.

Sinema warned Texas Democrats that “Arizona is coming to a state near you,” calling her home state the breeding ground for the anti-immigrant, anti-choice, anti-worker’s rights and anti-children’s health care measures currently being proposed in many state legislatures, including Texas.

Sinema called the spreading efforts an attempt by the Tea Party to “mainstream hatred in this country,” adding that “Tea Party” is just another name for Republicans.

Sinema said Democrats must build coalitions to stop such legislation, and encouraged LGBT Democrats to reach out to even unlikely allies to get — and give — support.

“After all, LGBT people make up only 4 percent of the electorate and you need 50 percent plus one to win,” Sinema said, who stayed after her speech to autograph copies of her book, “Unite And Conquer: Building Coalitions That Win — And Last.”

Keisling, mixing healthy dose of humor in with her experience and expertise, urged LGBT Democrats to move outside their “issue silos” and talk about racism, immigration and other progressive issues. She jokingly referred to former President George W. Bush and Texas Gov. Rick Perry as her “prior husbands” and referred to the Tea Party as a reincarnation of the John Birch Society.

Keisling expressed little hope for the advancement of the federal Employment Non-Discrimination Act over the next two years, saying that the measure is dead for now thanks to the Republican majority in the U.S. House.

Other guest speakers at the conference included Austin Mayor Lee Leffingwell, Texas Democratic Party Chairman Boyd Richie, Equality Texas Executive Director Dennis Coleman and state Rep. Mike Villarreal, D-San Antonio.

Villarreal led a plenary session that included an analysis of the November 2010 election and small group sessions to develop messaging for the 2012 election. A second plenary session, led by TSDC Vice President Erin Moore and Rio Grande Valley Chapter President Eli Olivarez, focused on winning strategies for the 2012 election.

Awards were presented to Houston LGBT activist Brad Pritchett,  Stonewall Democrats of the Rio Grande Valley and state Sen. Wendy Davis, D-Fort Worth. The conference also included a TSDC executive board meeting and workshops on a variety of topics, such as building a bigger club and youth involvement and use of social media.

Many who attended the conference stayed to participate in Equality Texas Lobby Day on Monday, March 7.

A total of 70 LGBT Democrats and straight allies from across the state registered for the conference. There was representation at the conference from all nine active chapters statewide, including many young people, as well as from Galveston and Tyler.

For more information about the conference, go online to  TexasStonewalldemocrats.org

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—  Kevin Thomas

Texas Stonewall announces 2011 awards

DANIEL GRANEY  |  TEXAS STONEWALL DEMOCRATIC CAUCUS

The Texas Stonewall Democratic Caucus (TSDC) announced that it will present three awards at its Second Biennial Statewide Conference in Austin on March 6. The awards will recognize a TSDC member for outstanding leadership, a local Stonewall Democrats chapter for its political achievements and a politician for her advocacy of LGBT equality in the Texas Legislature.

The awards will be presented during a Sunday brunch featuring keynote speaker Mara Keisling, a nationally known transgender activist and executive director of the National Center for Transgender Equality.

And the honorees are …

—  John Wright

Giffords’ friend, out State Sen. Kyrsten Sinema, keynotes Texas Stonewall conference in March

Two years ago I attended the first Biennial Statewide Conference of the Texas Stonewall Democratic Caucus in Austin, which among other things yielded this rather memorable gaffe by then-freshly elected out Congressman Jared Polis of Colorado. That same year, the conference also included a visit from Matt Foreman, a venerable gay-rights activist and former executive director of the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force.

The point is, it was a pretty solid lineup of speakers, and it looks like Texas Stonewall has come pretty close to duplicating it for this year’s second biennial event, set for March 5 and 6 in the capital. (On top of that, it looks like they’ve stepped it up from the DoubleTree on 15th to the Hilton Garden Inn downtown.)

Daniel Graney

Topping the list of speakers this year will be Arizona State Sen. Kyrsten Sinema, D-Phoenix, who happens to be good friends with recovering Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords of Tuscon (Sinema’s interview with a local TV station the night of the shooting is above).

Sinema, who’s bisexual, has led two statewide campaigns to defeat anti-gay propositions in Arizona, and some may remember her from visits to Dallas in support of President Barack Obama in 2008.

This year’s conference will also feature Mara Keisling, executive director of the National Center for Transgender Equality, State Rep. Mike Villarreal, D-San Antonio; Austin Mayor Lee Leffingwell; Texas Democratic Party Chairman Boyd Richie; Equality Texas Executive Director Dennis Coleman; and National Stonewall Democrats Executive Director Michael Mitchell.

The theme is “The New Political Landscape In Texas: Where Do We Go From Here?,” and the conference will focus on what went wrong in November 2010 and how Democrats in Texas can reverse the huge losses they suffered. And once again, people are encouraged to stay over for Equality Texas’ Lobby Day on Monday, March 7.

For conference information and to register online, go here (the discounted hotel rate expires Feb. 14). A full press release from TSDC President Daniel Graney is after the jump.

—  John Wright

Gilbert, Staples square off for ag commissioner

Democratic challenger supports gay civil unions; Republican incumbent sponsored Texas’ gay marriage ban

Tammye Nash  |  Senior Editor nash@dallasvoice.com

Todd Staples, left, and Hank Gilbert
Todd Staples, left, and Hank Gilbert

Many LGBT people in Texas may not see the race for agriculture commissioner as a top priority. It’s not an office usually associated with having much impact on LGBT issues.

But there are clear differences this year between the two candidates when it comes to LGBT issues.

Todd Staples, the Republican incumbent, is a former state senator who co-sponsored the state’s ban on same-sex marriages when he was in the Legislature.And earlier this year, the agriculture commissioner joined with State Rep. Warren Chisum, R-Pampa, to file a brief in the court case in which two gay men married in Massachusetts and had filed for divorce in Texas.

On the other hand, Hank Gilbert, the Democrat challenging Staples, has issued supportive statements on a wide range of LGBT issues, including full support for same-sex civil unions with all the rights and benefits marriage.

“Hank Gilbert has been a friend of our community for years,” said Dan Graney, president of the Texas Stonewall Democratic Caucus. “For somebody from Tyler, Texas, I am absolutely amazed at how open and supportive of our community he is.”

In a recent telephone interview, Gilbert himself said that he has never supported same-sex marriage, “but I would support it if it were put on the ballot as a constitutional amendment. I think it should be on the ballot.”

Gilbert also criticized Staples for “taking time away from the job he was hired by the people of this state to do [as agriculture commissioner] to file a brief on a case about two men who want to get divorced. That has nothing to do with his agency. He is just trying to get support from the right-wingers.”

Graney said that while the office of agriculture commissioner is “not particularly relevant to LGBT people … Hank could make a real difference in that office with his ability and willingness to hire people in his office who would be pro-equality. He is gone clearly on the record as being pro-equality himself.”

Gilbert confirmed that as ag commissioner, he would enact a nondiscrimination policy in hiring that would include LGBT people.

“Would I discriminate in hiring based on sexual orientation? Hell no! Two of my current staffers are openly gay,” Gilbert said. “I am going to hire people who are qualified and who I feel can do the job that I and the state require of them. I could care less what color or religion or political persuasion or sexual orientation you are.”

Gilbert did disagree with Graney, however, on the question of whether the agriculture commissioner’s office is important to LGBT people.

“This job is important to everyone in Texas. We are charged with making sure the food you put on your table is safe. [Staples] has been terrible at that. We have these constant outbreaks of e coli, and there was the incident in Plainview where that salmonella-tainted peanut butter got out and killed three people,” he said.

“This agency is also charged with making sure that all instruments in the state measure accurately — gas pumps, scales at the produce counter, scales at the pawn shop. This isn’t being done, either,” Gilbert added. “These are all important to consumers in Texas, no matter what your sexual orietation is, or your religion or your ethnic background.”

Neither Staples nor any spokesperson for his campaign returned calls seeking comment for this story.

Dallas County Republican Party Chair Jonathan Neerman and Log Cabin Republicans of Dallas President Rob Schlein also did not return calls seeking comment.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition October 01, 2010.

—  Michael Stephens

San Antonio activist Roberto Flores dies at 75

Roberto Flores, left, and his husband Dan Graney were together for 36 years.

Roberto J. Flores, a longtime San Antonio activist who was the first openly gay chair of the Bexar County Democratic Party, died Thursday, Sept. 2 at 75. Flores was co-chair of Stonewall Democrats of San Antonio, and his widower, Dan Graney, is president of the Texas Stonewall Democratic Caucus. QSanAntonio reports:

Flores was a Democratic Party precinct chair in Bexar County from 1999 to December of 2009, when he was elected the first openly gay County Chair of the Bexar County Democratic Party on an interim basis and served in that capacity until May of this year. He has been a delegate to every Texas Democratic Convention since 2000. He also has many years experience as an election judge.

Flores was a member of the Board of Directors of Equality Texas, a singing member of the Alamo City Men’s Chorale and member of the Alamo Business Council and the Rainbow Garden Club. For the past three years, he has been a faculty member of the GLBT sensitivity training for cadets in the San Antonio Police Academy. On October 15, 2009, Flores and Graney celebrated their 35th anniversary by getting married in a civil ceremony in Vermont.

Funeral arrangements have not yet been announced.

—  John Wright

The Plank-Wanker: Your daily Texas political platform update

Dallas gay Repulican leader Rob Schlein is getting some major love in the national queerosphere for the statement he issued Tuesday slamming the anti-gay Texas GOP platform. We’ve seen write-ups in places including The Advocate and GayPolitics.com, so no doubt there are others. Still, though, our favorite Log Cabin story of the day is this item from Minnesota’s CityPages, which picked up the condom shown here at an LCR table during Twin Cities Pride. As you can see, the wrapper says, “Drill, baby, drill!! … just don’t spill.” What?

Anyhow, in other platform news, turns out the Texas Democrats actually approved six pro-LGBT resolutions — not four, as we reported yesterday — during their convention last weekend in Corpus Christi.

Dan Graney, president of the Texas Stonewall Democratic Caucus, explains in an e-mail:

In addition to the four Equality Texas resolutions on nondiscrimination, safe schools, accurate birth certificates and competitive insurance benefits, there are two additional resolutions that passed on the floor. One supports LGBT foster and adoptive parents and the other calls for the repeal of the federal Defense of Marriage Act. The resolution calling for the repeal of the discriminatory Texas Constitutional Marriage Amendment is not among those that passed — don’t know if it did not pass enough senate district conventions or what.

Anyway, this is the first time ANY of our LGBT-related resolutions passed the floor of any State Convention and to have six of them pass in this convention is truly awesome! We have come a long ways, baby! Our Texas Stonewall members are to be credited for their hard work in turning this dream into a reality.

—  John Wright

Texas Democrats add four pro-LGBT resolutions to platform

While we’re on the subject of political party platforms in Texas, looks like the Democrats approved four pro-LGBT resolutions over the weekend during their state convention in Corpus Christi.

It’s safe to say the Lone Star State has gotten yet another black eye, albeit deserved, in national LGBT circles over anti-gay language in the state GOP platform. So let’s hope some of those same bloggers will pick up this positive story, but don’t count on it. After all, the idea that everyone in Texas wants to lock up “homosexuals” makes for better headlines.

Anyhow, according to the Texas Stonewall Democratic Caucus, the four pro-LGBT resolutions that were adopted at the convention call for (1) a state employment nondiscrimination policy that includes LGBT protections, (2) competitive insurance benefits for LGBT employees at Texas universities, (3) accurate birth certificates for same-sex parents of adopted children and (4) policies that would prohibit bullying and harassment in Texas public schools.

TSDC also reports that the new Texas Democratic platform, for the first time ever, now uses the words “gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender” in calling for the repeal of discriminatory laws and policies.

“The 2010 State Democratic Convention proved beyond a reasonable doubt that LGBT Texans have a place at the table of the Democratic Party,” said TSDC President Dan Graney. “As for the Republican Party of Texas, it might as well call itself the Republican Party of Uganda because of all the hate and bigotry that is dripping from its platform.”

Here’s the full press release from TSDC:


TEXAS DEMOCRATS ADOPT PRO-LGBT PLATFORM/
RESOLUTIONS AT STATE CONVENTION

Delegates meeting at the Texas Democratic Convention this past weekend in Corpus Christi adopted a platform and resolutions that champion gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) equality and nondiscrimination on a variety of levels. This is in stark contrast to the State Republican Party Convention two weeks ago, which adopted a platform that denounces homosexuality as “tearing at the fabric of society” and calls for the felony prosecution of anyone who performs a marriage ceremony for a same-sex couple in Texas.

For the first time ever, the 2010 State Democratic Party platform uses the words “gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender” in calling for the repeal of discriminatory laws and policies against the LGBT community.  The platform also advocates for anti-bullying policies in public schools, diversity in institutions for higher learning,
passage of the Employment Non Discrimination Act, increased education initiatives and services to address HIV/AIDS and Hepatitis C, an end to discrimination in the state foster care system, strong enforcement of both federal and state hate crimes laws and repeal of the “Don’t Ask Don’t Tell” policy.

All four pro-equality resolutions that were proposed by Equality Texas and that passed numerous senate district and county conventions also were adopted on the floor of the convention without opposition.  These resolutions included (1) a state employment nondiscrimination policy that includes LGBT protections, (2) competitive insurance benefits for LGBT employees at Texas universities, (3) accurate birth certificates for same-sex parents of adopted children and (4) policies that would prohibit bullying and harassment in Texas public schools.   Similar resolutions had been approved by previous convention resolutions committees but never made it to the floor of the convention for a vote.

Hundreds of LGBT Texans were among the 5,000 delegates and alternates who attended the convention.  The Texas Stonewall Democratic Caucus (TSDC), which is the official LGBT Caucus of the Texas Democratic Party, hosted a reception on June 24 to commemorate the 10th anniversary of its founding.  The TSDC also held an Executive Board meeting and Caucus membership meeting at the convention, both of which were well attended.  Dan Graney of San Antonio was re-elected President, Erin Moore of Dallas was re-elected Vice President and Carol Cappa of Fort Worth and Shaun Nelson of Houston were respectively elected the new Secretary and Treasurer of the Caucus.  Graney and Moore will represent the TSDC on the State Democratic Executive Committee or SDEC, which is the governing body of the State Democratic Party between conventions

Also elected to the SDEC were four members of Stonewall Democrats chapters in Texas: Eli Olivarez of McAllen, Garry Brown of Austin and DeeJay Johannessen and Mary Edwards of Tarrant County.  Stonewall Democrats members were also elected to all five of the permanent committees of the convention, which includes credentials, rules, platform, resolutions and nominations.

“The 2010 State Democratic Convention proved beyond a reasonable doubt that LGBT Texans have a place at the table of the Democratic Party”, exclaimed TSDC President Dan Graney.  “As for the Republican Party of Texas, it might as well call itself the Republican Party of Uganda because of all the hate and bigotry that is dripping from its platform”, he said.

Texas Democrats are gearing up for the midterm elections this November and are hoping to elect Bill White the first Democratic governor of this state in 16 years.  The 2012 Texas Democratic Convention will take place in Houston.

—  John Wright