Denton County sheriff candidate cancels meeting with Equality Texas

Tracy Murphree

Tracy Murphree

Tracy Murphree, the Republican candidate for Denton County sheriff who grabbed headlines late last week with a Facebook post implying he would use violence against transgender women in public restrooms, has cancelled a planned meeting with representatives of Equality Texas and Denton County couple who have a transgender child.

The meeting had been set for Thursday morning. But, according to a statement released today (Friday, April 29), Murphree sent a message Wednesday evening saying, “I won’t be at the meeting tomorrow. I feel I have made my position clear that I am not targeting transgenders but concerned about predators taking advantage of the policies. I really have nothing else to add.”

In a post to his Facebook page on Friday, April 22, referring to laws like the one recently passed in North Carolina that prevent transgender individuals from using appropriate public restroom facilities, Murphree wrote: “This whole bathroom thing is craziness I have never seen. All I can say is this. If my little girl is in a public women’s restroom and a man, regardless of how he may identify, goes into that bathroom, he will then identify as John Doe until he wakes up in whatever hospital he may be taken to. Your identity does not trump my little girl’s safety.”

Many people saw Murphree’s post, which has since been removed from public view, as a threat of violence against transgender women in public restrooms. Denton County residents Adam and Amber Briggle, parents of an 8-year old transgender child, publicly expressed their concern with Murphree’s statements. Murphree later issued an apology of sorts — saying he understood people’s anger over his statements and that he had been referring to pedophiles and other sexual predators, not trans women — and agreed to meet with the Briggles and Equality Texas representatives.

After Murphree cancelled the meeting, Equality Texas board Chair Steve Rudner issued a statement, telling the candidate, “What you’ve not done is allow yourself the chance to listen.”

In the written statement, the statewide LGBT advocacy organization said: “At Equality Texas we believe it is inappropriate and unacceptable for any law enforcement official to make inflammatory statements that condone violence against any member their community. No Texan should ever have to live in fear of violence because of their gender identity or gender expression, especially from someone that has taken an oath to serve and protect them from harm.

“Equality Texas will continue to work with the Briggle family, local organizations, and Denton County area residents to end falsehoods about the LGBT community that do nothing to serve and protect victims and potential victims of violence. We believe ending sexual violence begins by treating all people, including those who are transgender, with fairness and respect.”

Murphree, who defeated Republican incumbent Sheriff William Travis in the March primary, is widely expected to win his general election race against Libertarian Randy Butler. Following Murphree’s post on April 22, Butler posted a statement on his Facebook page pointing out that in most cases in which a child is molested, the culprit is a family member,r family friend or clergy member, not a stranger.

Butler went on to say: This issue isn’t about protecting the children though. It’s about the same problem us humans have always struggled with — bigotry and hatred towards those we don’t understand. … We are ultimately responsible for the safety and well-being of our children, but we are also responsible for the well-being and safety of our fellow humans.”

 

—  Tammye Nash

Denton County Sheriff candidate Randy Butler: ‘Creating more victims isn’t the answer’

Randy Butler

Randy Butler, Libertarian candidate for sheriff of Denton County

On Friday, Tracy Murphree, Republican candidate for sheriff of Denton County, put a post on his Facebook page threatening to beat any trans woman who happened to try to go pee in a restroom where Murphree’s daughter was also peeing. Dallas Observer broke the story (and I blogged about their report here), and noted that Murphree is expected to win the race for sheriff in the November elections.

No Democrat is running in the race, but Murphree is opposed by a Libertarian candidate, Randy Butler. I am gonna suggest that any registered voter in Denton County who supports equality and individual freedom take a good long look at the two candidates and keep in mind Murphree’s hateful comments and Butler’s intelligent, measured response to Murphree’s “toxic spill” post.

“Creating new victims isn’t the answer,” Butler says, noting that the vast majority of children are not molested or harmed by strangers but by family members, family friends and, yes, clergy members. He goes on to say, “This issue isn’t about protecting the children though. It’s about the same problem us humans have always struggled with — bigotry and hatred towards those we don’t understand. … We are ultimately responsible for the safety and well-being of our children, but we are also responsible for the well-being and safety of our fellow humans.”

If you ask me, Randy Butler gets it, while Tracy Murphree misses the mark.

Here’s the full text of what Butler posted on his Facebook campaign page:

“Being a Libertarian, I could care less what gender you are genetically or otherwise. I also don’t care what takes place in your bedroom or life in general. I especially don’t think it’s the government’s business to even ponder on those issues.

“I have 2 grown daughters and 5 of my 6 grandkids are girls. Yes, people can be victims and yes many of those victims are kids and happen to be female. However, it’s not the transgendered that molest these kids and cause them harm. It’s family friends, relatives and even leaders of the church.

“Creating more victims isn’t the answer to this issue. The only issue we should address, is if anyone harms, molests, inappropriately touches or films a child or any other victim, they should be dealt with and dealt with severely.

“Creating a feeding frenzy of fear and hatred to a group of people who already deal with more hate and evil towards them on a daily basis, isn’t the answer.

“I have a step daughter that is a molestation surviver by the hands of her biological father. She doesn’t fear transgender, gay, lesbian or any other label when it comes to her kids. If anyone wishes to do harm towards her children, they will pay the price as they should.

“This issue isn’t about protecting the children though. It’s about the same problem us humans have always struggled with, bigotry and hate towards those we don’t understand.

“I’m not here to pander to any of your emotions or biases.

“I’m here saying, we do not harm but we don’t take crap either.

“We are ultimately responsible for the safety and well being of our children, but we are also responsible for the well being and safety of our fellow humans.”

—  Tammye Nash

Couples must sign forms about JP’s religious beliefs before he’ll marry them

DePiazza.JamesIf you’re getting married in Denton County, getting the license isn’t the problem. Finding the right person to officiate over the ceremony is.

Justice of the Peace James R. DePiazza will marry couples, even though he’s not happy about marrying same-sex couples. But that damn state law doesn’t allow him to discriminate.

So he only has two choices: He can marry any couple with a marriage license issued by Denton County or he can marry none. He’s opted to marry couples.

But that little glitch in the law won’t stop DePiazza from helping to make it the most miserable day in your life.

DePiazza is having couples — all couples, same-sex or straight — sign a form of his own design that says same-sex marriage is against his religious beliefs. Because, after all, his religious beliefs are part of his job as justice of the peace.

And whether a same-sex couple can marry or not is just what an opposite-sex couple has on their minds on their wedding day.

And his religious beliefs are important to any couple who has decided to be married by a justice of the peace rather than clergy.

And creating his own forms is what he was elected to do.

What may be unconstitutional is a government official having members of the public sign a form regarding his religious beliefs.

DePiazza’s office is at The Colony Government Center, 6301 Main Street, The Colony.

—  David Taffet

Local actress, partner are first to get license in Denton County

W and SDenton County finally began issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples, and the first pair to get theirs were Whitney Hennen and Sara Bollinger. If Hennen looks familiar to you, there’s a reason. She’s a talented actress in North Texas, who won a Dallas-Fort Worth Theater Critics Forum Award in 2011 for her intoxicating ditzy blonde role in Uptown Players’ Victor/Victoria. And she’ll next be seen trodding the boards next month in WaterTower Theatre’s production of Sweet Charity. She and her partner of six years, Sara Bollinger, were previously married outside of Texas.

We already had a story in the works about Bollinger and Hennen, so there’s more to come!

—  Arnold Wayne Jones

Denton County Clerk dithering, but insists she’s not scuttling SCOTUS decision

As I reported earlier, a Denton County same-sex couple who were denied a marriage license this morning.

Tod King and Casey Cavalier told the Denton Record Chronicle they were denied a marriage license by the county clerk’s office this morning. Visitors were later greeted by this sign:

DENTON TEXAS

(Photo credit: Sean Sala)

Throughout the morning County Clerk Juli Luke’s office cited those very sacred marriage license forms distributed by the state. By 2:51 p.m., she had deferred to the following: the state Attorney General Ken Paxton, the county attorney, the Bureau of Vital Statistics…Really she just could’ve said “no, I don’t want to.” But she’d likely be held liable.

In the second to last press release, Luke defiantly stood her ground:

DENTON TEXASCLERK

(Photo credit: Sean Sala)

 

Now Clerk Luke has taken a kinder and gentler tone, per the UNT’s North Texas Daily.

To no surprise, Denton County’s Cavalier and King instead opted to get a license in Dallas County.

—  James Russell

After 2 months, no suspects but some details in Denton trans murder

Madden1

Artegus Madden

Some details of the Artegus Madden murder have been revealed to The Dallas Morning News while the Denton County’s Sheriff’s Department continues to refuse to speak to Dallas Voice or the LGBT community about the case.

The Morning News ran a salacious story about the Madden murder over the weekend. While Denton County investigators have refused to return calls from Dallas Voice, Dallas Morning News apparently saw our story because two months after the murder, they’re suddenly interested. To their credit, the newspaper was able to get certain facts and even an appeal for information.

Madden met someone on the Internet the night of her death. There was no sign of breaking and entering and unnamed items were missing from her home.

So the main suspect is likely the person she met online. But investigators apparently don’t know who that person is.

“The problem with this case is that there are so many unknowns,” Denton County Sheriff’s Sgt. Larry Kish told the Morning News. “We’re just going back and redoing everything to make sure we didn’t miss anything.”

One of the unknowns is why the sheriff’s department refused to talk to the LGBT community to ask for help in solving the case.

“It’s a very complicated case, and the transgender part is a very important part of this case because it is what it is,” the Morning News quotes Kish awkwardly saying.

Or maybe not so awkward. It’s a murder. If she picked up someone online, there’s history in her computer or phone. Trace it.

Two months after the murder, we have a new contact for anyone with information. People can contact investigator Donn Britt in the Denton County Sheriff’s Office at 940-349-1667.

—  David Taffet

Denton County authorities investigating murder of transgender woman

MaddenThe Denton County Sheriff’s Department is investigating the death of transgender woman Artegus Konyale Madden.

Madden, 34, who went by Konyale Madden on Facebook, was found dead in her home on Hayden Lane in Savannah Estates by friends on Sunday, Sept. 1, Sgt. Larry Kish told the Denton Record-Chronicle. Savannah is a small town east of Denton.

Officials thought Madden had been dead since Friday night or  Saturday morning and are investigating her death as a homicide.

Investigators said they initially believed the body to be a female, but did not elaborate on Madden’s identity.

Calls to Kish were not immediately returned.

Jermone Antonio Jones, a longtime friend of Madden’s, told the Denton Record-Chronicle that Madden identified as female growing up.

“As a child, he [Artegus] considered himself as a female and all through school,” Jones said. “He was the life of the party. If you had a party, you would want Artegus there.”

The two grew up together in Longview, where Madden attended high school.

The preliminary cause of death hasn’t been revealed by the Tarrant County Medical Examiner’s Office, which covers Denton County.

The investigation is still ongoing and no arrests have been made. People with information leading to the death should contact Sgt. Kish at 940-349-1665.

Madden’s funeral was Sept. 7 in Longview, according to her obituary. Her family requested donations be made in her name to MD Anderson Cancer Center in Houston in lieu of flowers.

—  Dallasvoice

Openly gay candidate runs for chair of Denton County Democratic Party

John McClelland serves on water board, founded chapters of Drinking Liberally and Stonewall Democrats

mcclelland.john

IF AT FIRST YOU DON’T SUCCEED | John McClelland lost races for Dallas City Council and Texas House before winning a seat on the local water board. Now he’s running for Denton County Democratic Party chair.

DANIEL VILLARREAL  |  Contributing Writer
editor@dallasvoice.com

DENTON — When he got elected to the district board of the Denton County Fresh Water Supply in March 2010, John McClelland says he became the first openly gay elected official in the county’s history.

This year he’s running for chair of the county’s Democratic Party with the hopes of finally turning Denton — and possibly the whole Lone Star State — blue.

And it all started with a drink.

When President George W. Bush got re-elected in 2004, McClelland consoled himself with the thought that things in the U.S. couldn’t really get much worse. Then in 2005, they did.

The state’s voters passed Proposition 2, an amendment banning both same-sex marriage and civil unions in the Texas Constitution.

McClelland had identified as a Republican during his college days, but gradually came to feel like he couldn’t be gay in the GOP.

He spent time making phone calls, marching on the Capitol and organizing voters against Prop 2. But in the end it still passed with 76 percent of the vote. And by the time it was all over, all McClelland wanted was a drink.

He’d read about Drinking Liberally, a group of New York progressives dedicated to discussing politics over drinks, so he decided to start his own

Addison chapter. He placed an ad on Craigslist and seven people showed up, mostly wondering why he’d even bothered organizing a progressive meeting in such a conservative state.

“Most of the people just wanted a place to sit down, talk and air their grievances, kinda like

Festivus [the made-up holiday celebrated on TV’s Seinfeld], just without the pole and the wrestling match,” he said.

But as the meet-ups continued, McClelland felt he couldn’t just sit around without doing something to make the world a better place. So in 2007, he decided to run against Ron Natinsky for the Dallas City Council District 12 seat.

Natinsky got 4,452 votes. McClelland got 979.

Undeterred, he decided to run against Republican incumbent Myra Crownover in the 2008 race for Texas House District 64.

Crownover received 40,758 votes and McClelland only received 28,195. But considering that Crownover had raised $216,471 for her campaign and McClelland had only raised $28,134, McClelland considered it a worthwhile achievement.

“Being an openly gay, Democrat in a red district in Denton County, that’s pretty good.”

Though he admits that having Barack Obama at the top of the ticket certainly helped, McClelland feels that voters didn’t care that he was a Democrat or gay; they just wanted new leadership and knew that McClelland was qualified.

Though he kept hanging out with the Drinking Liberally crowd, after Obama got elected in 2008, their national outlook became more optimistic.

Instead of complaining about Bush all the time, they complained about the Republicans controlling the state Legislature.

Likewise, McClelland himself had changed. Not only had he run two local races, he had also founded the Stonewall Democrats of Denton County, the national gay political organization’s fifth chapter in North Texas.

“It’s important for LGBT people to have that sort of thing, to be around one another and educate the people that you’re dealing with in the grand scheme of the big tent,” McClelland says. “There are a lot of people who don’t even know what Stonewall means. A lot of people think it refers to Stonewall Jackson, the war general, instead of Stonewall bar.”

He continued acting as his Stonewall chapter’s president after he got elected to the district board of the Denton County Fresh Water Supply in March 2010. But after three years in the office, he has stepped down and refocused his efforts on becoming Denton County Democratic Party chair.

Typically, a county Democratic Party chair supports Democratic campaigns by working closely with candidates, conducting primary elections and helping precinct chairs get out the vote.

But McClelland thinks that the Denton County Democratic Party can do a lot more to help make this happen. As chair, he would train precinct chairs on how to use voter databases to contact voters and host events, fundraise through local donors who normally give to the Democratic

National Committee but not to their local party (“the money doesn’t trickle down,” he says) and prepare future candidates and party organizers through a county program called “Project Farm Team.”

Right now he has 2,000 hangers sitting on his floor just waiting to grace the doors of potential voters.

“I want to get Democrats elected, that’s the main reason I’m doing this, that’s the goal,” McClelland said. “Without Denton or Collin county, it’s gonna be a pretty tough spot getting a Democrat elected, like a governor or a U.S. Senator. Getting Denton County to turn blue is one of the keys to getting the entire state to turn blue.”

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition February 10, 2012.

—  Kevin Thomas

Trial set in gay man’s 2008 murder

After three years of delays, Seth Winder will be tried next week for  Richard Hernandez’s murder

hernandez.Richard

Richard Hernandez

JOHN WRIGHT  |  Senior Political Writer
wright@dallasvoice.com

DENTON — More than three years after gay Dallas resident Richard Hernandez disappeared, his accused killer is set to stand trial next week.

Authorities believe the 38-year-old Hernandez was murdered and dismembered inside his Far North Dallas apartment in early September 2008, but they never found his remains.

Seth Lawton Winder, 32, is charged with first-degree murder and faces up to life in prison.

Winder’s trial has been delayed numerous times, but Jamie Beck, first assistant district attorney for Denton County, said this week she’s confident it will go forward next week, with jury selection set for Monday, Nov. 14.

“Everybody wants a swifter and quicker justice, but you’ve got to do it right,” Beck said, referring to the delays. “Bottom line, we want justice, so if that means it takes a while, then so be it.”

Rudy Araiza, who was a close friend of Hernandez’s and is also gay, said he’s looking forward to Winder’s trial.

“I hope that we get justice finally after three years of waiting,” Araiza said. “For me it’ll be, I hope, closure.”

Araiza said he hopes Winder receives the maximum sentence of life in prison.

“Just as long as he’s away and out of the public view, and away where he won’t be able to hurt anyone else,” Araiza said.

Winder’s father, Rodney Winder, agreed, saying he wants “justice served and Seth away where he cannot hurt anyone.”

Rodney Winder and his wife, Karen Dilbeck, have said they repeatedly tried to get help for Seth, who suffers from schizophrenia, in the months prior to Hernandez’s murder. Dilbeck would later publish a book about the case, which was also the subject of an episode of A&E’s The First 48.

A judge initially found Seth Winder incompetent to stand trial, but he’s since been restored to competency.

It’s unclear what type of relationship existed between Hernandez and Winder. But police recovered a digital camera containing pornographic images of Winder that were taken inside Hernandez’s apartment.

When Hernandez failed to show up at his job at Wal-Mart, authorities went to the apartment on Rosemeade Parkway and discovered large amounts of blood on the floor, walls and couch — in addition to tissue from internal organs in the bathtub.

Police concluded that Winder placed the rest of Hernandez’s remains in a Dumpster, which had already been emptied and its contents buried in a landfill.

Purchases made on Hernandez’s debit card led police to Winder. They found blood-covered evidence including a sword at two campsites where Winder had been staying.

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

—  Kevin Thomas

Davis challenging redistricting plan

As we told you in David Taffet’s May 6 story on redistricting efforts under way in the Texas Legislature, the redistricting plan under consideration now would split Senate District 10, currently represented by Democratic Sen. Wendy Davis, into as many as five pieces, splitting up her mostly minority constituents and putting them instead into other districts dominated by Anglo Republicans.

Sen. Wendy Davis

Today, Terrance Stutz with the Dallas Morning News reports that Davis “has fired the first shot” at the redistricting plan, claiming that the plan violates the federal Voting Rights Act.

After pointing out that Democrats weren’t allowed to have any input into redrawing the districts, Davis said that black voters in southeast Fort Worth would be pushed into a mostly rural district to the south while Hispanic voters in the northern part of District 10 would shuffled into a district with what Stutz called “hundreds of thousands of Anglo Republicans in Denton County.”

Davis told Stutz: “It is my duty as the elected representative of Senate District 10 to fight the [Senate redistricting] committee proposal with every resource I can muster. I cannot allow the voting rights of hundreds of thousands of constituents in Tarrant County to be trampled to satisfy the partisan greed of the Senate leadership.”

Davis, who narrowly beat out Republican incumbent Sen. Kim Brimer in 2008 to take the District 10 Senate seat, easily winning re-election in 2010, is considered one of the LGBT community’s strongest allies in the Texas Senate and was the author of an anti-bullying bill that Equality Texas called the best of the bunch introduced at the beginning of the 2011 legislative session.

—  admin