Battleground Texas holds LGBT organizing meeting at Sue Ellen’s

Wendy-DavisBattleground Texas, the Democratic organizing group working to turn Texas blue in upcoming elections, meets at Sue Ellen’s on Thursday, Sept. 4 for LGBT for Wendy Davis. The strategy is to first turn Texas into a battleground state and hopefully win some statewide offices this year. The plan includes organizing support among key groups, including the LGBT community.

“Let’s make sure that the LGBT community in Texas has their voice heard in November and contributes to turning Texas blue!” Battleground Texas says on its event page on Facebook.

The meeting is 7–9 p.m. upstairs at Sue Ellens, 3014 Throckmorton St.

—  David Taffet

“Youth of the Union” conference brings young progressives to U of H

Rep. Jessica Farrar, keynote speaker at the Youth of the Union Conference

While much attention has been paid to the contribution of the youth vote in President Obama’s 2008 victory, there’s been less recognition of the effect it had in other elections. “In 2008 young voters came out in record numbers for progressive candidates,” says Brad Pritchett, one of the organizers behind this Saturday’s “Youth of the Union” conference at the University of Houston. “When young people are engaged on the issues and empowered to vote, they will.”

In Harris County that 2008 youth surge contributed to the election of Texas’ first out elected LGBT judge, Steven Kirkland, and helped turn 14 of the county’s 26 Texas House districts Democratic. Pritchett says that, while it’s easy to focus on the presidential races, judicial and legislative seats on the ballot in 2012 are crucial to progressive issues like LGBT equality and will be largely determined by whether or not the young people who came out in 2008 return to the polls this year.

The Youth of the Union Conference is sponsored by a number of Democratic Party organizations, including the National Stonewall Democrats, an LGBT Democratic club, but is designed for young progressives across the across the spectrum of sexual orientations and gender identities. The conference kicks off at 11 am Saturday, February 4, at the University of Houston’s University Center with a “young and involved” panel and includes workshops on becoming a Democratic delegate, influencing the party platform, the effect of recent photo ID legislation and more.

State Representative Jessica Farrar, who last year introduced legislation to repeal Texas’ unconstitutional law criminalizing “Homosexual Conduct” is the keynote speaker. Farrar was just 27 years old when she was first elected to the Texas House in 1994.

Pritchett says that registration is closed but that a limited number of “at-the-door” registrations are available on a first come first served basis.

For more information visit youthoftheunion.com.

—  admin

Former GLBT Political Caucus President to lead Harris County Democratic Party

Former HCDP Chair Gerry Birnberg gives new chair Lane Lewis the keys to the party office

Former Houston GLBT Political Caucus president and longtime Democratic party activist Lane Lewis was elected to serve as the Harris County Democratic Party interim chair by the County Executive Committee on Tuesday, December 20. Lewis will serve the remainder of outgoing chairman Gerry Birnburg term, which expires in April. Birnburg announced earlier this year that he would step down after the November general elections.Lewis has also completed his filing as a candidate for HCDP chair on the April 2012 primary ballot.

Lewis previously served as president of the Houston GLBT Political Caucus in 1997. He has a long history of advocacy on LGBT issues.

“Words cannot express the profound sense of responsibility I feel right now,” said Lewis moments after his election as HCDP Chair.  “I am grateful so many fellow Democrats have entrusted me to lead during such a pivotal time. We have much work to do over the next several months to get our county and our candidates ready for the November 2012 election.  This enormous task will take the work of current elected officials, precinct chairs and activists working in unison.  My job will be to foster a new vision for our party and work to keep us all focused on our common goal.”

During Lewis’ acceptance speech, he spoke briefly about the direction and his vision for the party.

“A unified effort from every Democrat is the key to winning elections,” Lewis said.  “It’s plain and simple.  The middle class is under attack; the work we do in 2012 will be key to protecting the future and the promise that the American Dream provides.”

Lane Lewis was elected by an overwhelming majority.  He will begin operating the HCDP immediately.

—  admin

‘Traditional values’ take a hit in the polls

HIGH AND LOW | Former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani, right, had the highest favorability ratings of possible Republican presidential candidates in a recent CNN poll. Former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin, left, had the highest ‘unfavorability’ rating.

Percentage of people saying government should ‘promote traditional values’ drops below 50 percent for the 1st time

LISA KEEN | Keen News Service
lisakeen@mac.com

“Traditional values” didn’t do too well in the latest CNN poll of American adults.

For the first time in the 18 years since the question was first asked, the percentage of adults thinking that the government should “promote traditional values” has dropped below 50 percent.

Of the 1,015 adults surveyed between June 3 and 7, 46 percent said the government should promote traditional values, but 50 percent said government should “not favor any set of values.” Four percent had no opinion.

The survey results, which were released Sunday, June 12, had a margin of error of plus or minus three points.

Just last year, 53 percent of respondents said government should promote “traditional values” and, according to CNN, past polls have shown support as high as 59 percent (in October 2001 and January 1996).

But since the question was first asked, in 1993, responses have fluctuated dramatically.

In 2001, for instance, the question was asked in September and again in October. In September 2001, 53 percent said government should promote “traditional values”; in October, 59 percent said so.

The previous low point for traditional values came in September 2005, when only 50 percent of adults said government should promote them.

CNN did not explain what it meant by “traditional values,” but in political discourse, the phrase has emerged as code for “anti-gay.”

The right-wing Traditional Values Coalition defines traditional values as including the view that homosexuality is an abomination, but also includes views that are anti-abortion, pro-death penalty and pro-religion.

Some polls have asked questions concerning “traditional marriages,” usually seeking respondents’ views on allowing same-sex couples to marry.

Two years ago, Fox News asked, “Do you think straight people in your community who have traditional religious values are tolerant of gays and lesbians and their beliefs?”

Sixty-seven percent said they think straight people in their communities are “very tolerant” or “somewhat tolerant.”

CNN’s question was asked this year along with questions concerning Republican candidates for president, in a preview of CNN’s debate Monday night with seven GOP contenders.

CNN asked survey participants to express their opinions on 10 potential candidates. Former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani, who has suggested he might run, had the highest favorability ranking.

Fifty-five percent of adults surveyed said they had a favorable opinion of Giuliani. He was followed by former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney with 39 percent, and U.S. Rep. Ron Paul of Texas with 34 percent.

Former vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin earned the highest “unfavorability” rating: 52 percent of respondents said they had an unfavorable opinion of the former Alaska governor.

Palin was followed by former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich, of whom 44 percent of respondents said they had an unfavorable opinion.

Interestingly, the respondents also identified Palin as the Republican who represents values of Republicans.

The Democratic Party fared better than the Republican Party in the poll. While 55 percent of those surveyed said they had a favorable view of the Democratic Party; only 49 percent had a favorable view of the GOP.

© 2011 Keen News Service. All rights reserved.

—  John Wright

More on Ron Natinsky and Stonewall Democrats

Ron Natinsky

Mayoral candidate Ron Natinsky may have been eligible after all for an endorsement from Stonewall Democrats of Dallas, according to the group’s president.

As we reported over the weekend, Natinsky abruptly pulled out of Stonewall’s candidate screening on Saturday over questions about whether he was eligible for the group’s endorsement since he’s a Republican.

According to Stonewall’s bylaws, “Endorsements may be made in Dallas County non-partisan elections if the candidate has a Democratic Party primary election voting history and/or affirms allegiance to the Dallas Democratic Party.”

Stonewall President Omar Narvaez said Monday that it’s possible Natinsky would have been eligible for the endorsement despite the candidate’s Republican primary voting record. The group instead endorsed former police chief David Kunkle.

“Bylaws cannot be waived, but there’s a lot of gray in that bylaw, just depending on how it’s interpreted and how it’s read,” Narvaez said. “I can’t tell you how it would have gone had he [Natinsky] been there. All I can say is that Kunkle had a lot of supporters in the room already.

“It was sad that he [Natinsky] ended up dropping out at the last minute, because it was another opportunity to actually speak to us,” Narvaez added. “When a candidate’s there it really means a lot more to the members. When somebody just decides that they’re not going to come speak at all, it makes the membership feel almost slighted — ‘why wouldn’t you show up?’”

—  John Wright

Graying gays face a growing problem

The sad story of one longtime activist left homeless and alone highlights the many issues facing our aging LGBT population

DAVID WEBB  |  The Rare Reporter

Imagine being old, sick, confused and alone without a roof over your head when winter weather arrives. That’s exactly what happened late last year to a well-known gay political activist who had lived in Oak Lawn for many years.

It’s unclear how much he actually understood about his circumstances because he was suffering from either the early onset of Alzheimer’s Disease or some other form of dementia — a condition that left him unable to survive alone or to seek help.

After he came to the attention of a Dallas Police Department social worker, who tried to locate help for him, the activist eventually was admitted to a residential facility where he is now receiving the care he needs.

A plea for information about the identity of his family members, published last year by the Dallas Voice at the request of the social worker, went unanswered. The activist had mentioned in the past he was the father of a grown son, but he has never been located, according to the social worker.

The only response to the newspaper’s blog post was from an individual who had found photographs and others of the activist’s belongings on a curb and wanted to return them to him. Someone apparently had dumped the items there after the activist was evicted from his apartment sometime last year.

The activist had been on the streets for months when law enforcement officers picked him up because he allegedly had tried to break into a car.

The activist may have been confused and only seeking shelter in the car, the social worker said.

He was arrested and taken to jail, where a nurse who realized he was suffering from dementia sought help from the Police Department’s crisis intervention department.

It’s shocking that someone who had run for political office on the Democratic Party ticket, worked with police and other local officials to benefit the community and participated in so many other LGBT endeavors could wind up helpless and on the streets.

Neighbors of the activist contacted the social worker when the Dallas Voice blog post was published and informed her about his eviction. She suspects that he may have gotten evicted because his dementia left him too disorganized to pay rent and take care of his personal business.

The activist’s story reveals that there doesn’t appear to be many resources dedicated specifically to LGBT seniors in Dallas. That’s a cause for great concern because gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender people are more likely to become estranged from their families than are their straight counterparts.

In years past a few concerned people tried to raise interest in a local LGBT retirement community of townhouses, apartments and a full-care facility that would serve people of all financial situations. But they failed to make any headway after repeated tries.

Resource Center Dallas sponsors a program for LGBT seniors, but its focus is learning, entertainment and social activities, according to the organization’s website.

If there are any local organizations sponsoring outreach to LGBT seniors who need help surviving, they failed to make contact with the homeless activist before police officers put him in jail.

Some of his neighbors — one of whom had let him stay in her apartment several nights — apparently were concerned about his welfare but had no idea where to turn to find him help.

In comparison, the Los Angeles Gay and Lesbian Center’s Senior Services program employs four workers to assist gay people 50 and older with social, educational and support issues. About 70 events are held monthly at the center, which is a much larger and older operation than the one in Dallas.

The case management services and referrals sponsored by the Los Angeles group’s program addresses affordable housing, benefits, home health assistance, bereavement, isolation, mental health and legal issues, according to the organization’s website.

The Los Angeles center’s operation is a good model for Dallas’ center to consider implementing — especially in the area of senior services — as its leaders look to the future. The number of aging LGBT people is only going to grow in the coming years as baby boomers continue to mature. It only makes sense to support the idea of providing services to our community’s older population because everyone who lives long enough is going to grow old eventually.

And anyone who hasn’t started planning for their future ought to take a lesson from what happened to the activist and start thinking along those lines.

David Webb is a former staff writer for the Dallas Voice. E-mail him at davidwaynewebb@yahoo.com.

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

—  John Wright

Texas hops on the Crazy Train again

Leo Berman

Hardy Haberman |  Dungeon Diary

Just when you think sanity might have been restored, the delightful Texas State Rep. Leo Berman, R-Tyler, has introduced a “birther” bill in the Texas Legislature. Berman is the same representative who was famously quoted as saying, “Barack Obama is God’s punishment on us.”

Now easy as it would be to just paint this guy with the broad brush and call him “frigging nuts,” he represents a real problem in this state and pretty much most of the U.S. For a long time the Democratic Party has believed that reason and facts would win the day. If there were ever an argument against that, the last election cycle would be it. That little debacle for the Dems was won not by reason but by emotion. Mostly it was fear and bigotry. Fear stoked by the economic situation many American’s find themselves in and bigotry disguised as the “Tea Party.” The whole “take America back” thing is about having a black man in the White House. Every other argument is predicated on that unspoken premise and a closer examination of their rhetoric will reveal it.

So, meanwhile the Dems keep relying on reason. How has that worked so far? Not at all.

The whole birther thing is a racially charged non-issue anyway, but don’t let reason get in the way of some good old fashioned fear. Even though the Obama birth certificate has been widely circulated and there is more than ample proof of his citizenship, the birthers persist. Why, because it is a good excuse to scare people and to tap into that old bigorty thing again.

So while I could just call Rep. Berman wacko, I will instead call him what he is, a politician who knows how to whip up his constituents with the most powerful tools in the GOP arsenal.

—  admin

This is what I hate about the political right

Nobody is innocent. The Democrats have their talking points just like the GOP. Both use sleazy tactics and push-polling and have corrupt members of their caucuses. But I am not talking about every instance, just one from this morning.

I often receive press releases from Hamilton Strategies, a right-wing publicity organization that spews hateful e-mails attacking President Barack Obama and others in the Democratic Party on a regular basis. Today’s, though, was especially offensive. Here it is (bold mine):

President Obama’s visits to the countries of India and Indonesia have amplified the already existing controversy regarding the president’s Muslim loyalty. As America undergoes vital political changes, devastating unemployment, moral corruption, and economic decline, citizens show concern over the president’s prevailing desire to travel to express Muslim sympathy before attending to the blatant needs of his own country’s citizens.   In light of confusing policies and messages that seem to undermine our country’s Christian heritage, the intellectual exploration of apologetics is necessary to bring into focus the infallible truths of God’s Word, and for Christians in this society to know how to respond to and live out their faith in culturally shifting times.

OK, for a second let’s overlook the confounding grammar and poor sentence construction. (“[P]revailing desire to travel to express Muslim sympathy”? What does that even mean?) What this press release says is, “We still think Obama is a Muslim, and his going to Indonesia is a betrayal of good Americans, i.e., Christians.”

It’s well-established that Obama is not a Muslim, and the craven mention of “already existing controversy” over his “Muslim loyalty” merely intentionally stirs up falsehood as a means of race- or religion-baiting. Pretending that a settled fact remains an unknown factor in someone’s honesty is base, evil and a lie. (Don’t Christians believe in not telling lies?) Going further to act as if our country’s “Christian heritage” warrants attacks on anyone who is not Christian is not only anti-American, it’s untrue.

But what really bothers me is this: Where are the principled people on the right condemning these lies, this divisiveness, this cultivated animosity against other races, ethnicities and religions? Does Hamilton Strategies really speak to your beliefs, Newt? Or yours, Sarah? Do you, as leaders of your party, honestly agree that there is a “controversy” over Obama’s religion, or that visiting a country of another religion is a betrayal of our citizens? Do you, Mitt, think that only mainstream Christian thought can find a place in our nation’s governance and dealings with other countries — because your religion is hardly mainstream.

If you are not decrying such hate speech, such lies, such misinformation, which you know to be all these things, how can you claim to be leaders? How can you wonder why some Dems and moderates refuse to listen to any of your ideas because you cannot be trusted to stand up on principle? I’m no fan of Obama, but I don’t appreciate anyone who lies and uses religion as a cudgel to do it. Shame on Hamilton Strategies. Shame on Newt and Sarah and Mitt. And shame on anyone who would prefer to be on the right than in the right.

—  Arnold Wayne Jones

Regardless of Tuesday’s outcome, this poster featuring local gay Dems will be a collector’s item

Dallas County District Clerk Gary Fitzsimmons, who happens to be gay, sent over this poster that will reportedly be going up around town in the next few days. It’ll also be part of an ad in this week’s Voice, we think. We can’t seem to get in touch with Fitzsimmons to ask him how it all came about — and how they managed to get all these folks in one room at the same time — but in some ways the poster speaks for itself. Fitzsimmons also mentioned that he can make extra copies, so you’d like one, call his campaign headquarters at 214-948-8700.

UPDATE: We finally spoke with Fitzsimmons, and he said the photo shoot for the poster was put together hastily on Monday afternoon in response to rumors that some in the LGBT community may stay home from the polls this year over disappointment with President Barack Obama and Congress, for failing to fulfill their promises on things like “don’t ask don’t tell.”

“The major thing here is that the Democratic Party in Dallas County has done very well by the gay community,” Fitzsimmons said. “A lot of folks may be disappointed in the pace of progress in Washington, but when you look at the Democratic Party in Dallas County, we’ve kept our promise to the LGBT community.”

Fitzsimmons pointed to people like District Judge Tena Callahan, a straight ally who’s up for re-election after last year declaring Texas’ bans on same-sex marriage unconstitutional.

“If we’ve got Democratic elected officials putting their asses, their careers, on the line for the gay and lesbian community, then the least we can do is stand up for them on Election Day,” he said.

Fitzsimmons said he’s “bullish” about Democrats’ chances in Dallas County on Tuesday and feels they will win most countywide races, including his own. But he said he’s concerned about races like the one for the District 4 seat on the Commissioners Court, which pits Republican incumbent Ken Mayfield against Democratic challenger Dr. Elba Garcia. Fitzsimmons called Mayfield “the most homophobic elected official in Dallas County” and “a sworn enemy of the gay community,” whereas Garcia is a proven friend.

“That race may be decided by less than 50 votes,” he said, noting the District 4 includes heavily gay neighborhoods in North Oak Cliff. “You can be dissatisfied with Washington, but this election is about what’s going on in Dallas County.”

—  John Wright

4 good reasons to vote for Democrats

Dire warnings won’t mobilize LGBT voters, but signs of progress made, and progress yet to be made, should provide good reasons to bring the community out to the polls

Since the 1980 election, Democrats’ favorite voter mobilization tool when faced with a bad election year is to issue dire warnings of what might happen if “they” take over. Instead of repeating apocalyptic prophecies, I thought I would point out a few reasons why the

LGBT community here in Dallas should be enthusiastic about our Democratic ticket and go to polls this year with gusto!

It is certainly no secret that many in the gay community are disappointed by the frustratingly slow progress repealing “don’t ask, don’t tell” (DADT) or the Defense of Marriage Act. It is not unreasonable to believe that substantial Democratic majorities in both houses of congress should have resulted in immediate progress.

However, considering the year-long titanic struggle to pass a modest health care reform bill, passing legislation has proven to be enormously difficult.

Shortly after President Obama put repeal of DADT at the top of the nation’s agenda in his State of the Union Address last January, the House passed the Murphy amendment in May. The good news is that the Senate will be passing its own version in the next few months.

Our Democratic Congress is poised to finally eliminate the most insulting anti-gay policy on the books 58 years after it was first instituted. And for that, we can put aside any lingering cynicism and impatience and go to the polls knowing that the LGBT community’s support for the Democratic Party has been well worth the investment.

This year we can have our greatest impact on the future direction of Texas and Dallas County. I’ve identified just a few things the LGBT community has at stake and why it is more important than ever that we get out and vote.

1. We have the opportunity this year to elect and re-elect two capable, openly gay candidates. Electing supporters is great, but nothing beats electing your own.

As your Dallas County district clerk, my exemplary stewardship of the office is well known and a matter of public record. I have saved taxpayers millions in cost-saving initiatives, come under-budget every year since I took office, and initiated innovative new projects to bring Dallas County into the 21st century.

Of the 67 elected judges in Dallas County, not one is openly gay, in spite of the many LGBT members of the bar. This year we have the opportunity to change that by electing Tonya Parker to the 116th Civil District Court. Parker is a young, successful and energetic attorney who is already a rising star.

Parker has the kind of talent that leads to the federal bench, but she cannot get there without the enthusiastic support of this community both financially and on Election Day.

2. By electing Elba Garcia, we have the best chance in 16 years to unseat a county commissioner who has proven time and again that he is no friend to our community.

For those of us who live in North Oak Cliff, Dr. Garcia is a household name. We are proud of her outstanding leadership on the Dallas City Council, and I can think of no other candidate better suited for the Commissioners Court.

Of all the races on our ballot, this is the one where LGBT voters can have the greatest impact.

3. It is critically important for this community to stand up for its allies and friends. Judge Tena Callahan’s courageous ruling in a gay divorce case last October proves that judicial philosophy matters. Her integrity and courage is just the kind of thing we need to keep on the bench. Supporting Judge Callahan not only shows our gratitude, but also gives us the chance to stand with the litigants and their attorneys who rejected the prophets of pusilanimity and asserted their rights under the law regardless of the outcome.

4. The experience of the LGBT community since the beginning of the HIV epidemic in the 1980s has proven to us that government plays a vital role in ensuring the health and safety of citizens. Reps. Allen Vaught, Carol Kent and Robert Miklos are legislators the LGBT community can be proud of.

In District 105 in Irving, we have the opportunity to elect Loretta Haldenwang and replace an incumbent whose ethics are ill-suited for public office.

The Stonewall Democrats of Dallas, under the outstanding leadership of Erin Moore, have an aggressive plan to get-out-the-vote and communicate this message to voters. They need your financial support and your time now.

We Democrats have much to be proud of over the last two years. We have passed legislation that offers a real alternative to Republican politics of anger and ignorance. We have only just begun to set a new course for our future.

We here in Dallas live big and dream even bigger. Dallas never apologizes for success; we never hide it. LGBT voters are an important part of the Democratic Party’s success and we have good reason to be enthusiastic about our ticket.

Gary Fitzsimmons is openly gay and the district clerk for Dallas County. He is also a co-founder of Stonewall Democrats of Dallas.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition September 10, 2010.

—  Kevin Thomas