What’s the best way to get young people involved in the struggle for LGBT equality? Free alcohol

Judge Tonya Parker
Judge Tonya Parker

Everyone knows it’s difficult to get young LGBT people to give more than a shit about gay rights, but if you offer them free alcohol, they just might show up. This appears to be the strategy of Dallas Stonewall Young Democrats, which is offering a free drink to anyone who attends its monthly meeting tonight at Dish Restaurant & Lounge. Actually, you could be eligible for up to four free drinks if you bring a friend, according to a message we received from DSYD:

“That’s right! Everyone attending Tuesday’s DSYD meeting will receive a free drink ticket. As an added incentive, people who bring a friend (a.k.a. a potential new member) will receive two drink tickets for themselves and two for their friend.”

We’re currently seeking clarification as to whether this means you have to be a member bringing a non-member to be eligible for the four free drinks, or whether it can just be two random people. And in case you’re wondering why her photo is alongside this post, the meeting will also feature Dallas County District Judge Tonya Parker, the first openly LGBT person elected judge in Dallas County, and the first out African-American elected official in Texas.

The meeting begins at 7 p.m. For more info, see the Facebook event page.

UPDATE: DSYD Vice President Jared A. Pearce stopped by the Instant Tea brewery in response to this post. As Pearce pointed out in the comments below, you have to be 21 to drink, and these types of promotions are not uncommon. Pearce also mentioned that DSYD held a very successful fundraiser over the weekend, featuring House Democratic Leader Jessica Farrar. The event raised $5,500 and drew 100 people, Pearce said. The DSYD chapter is approaching its second anniversary after being launched in March 2009. The chapter has 250 members on its roster and has raised more than $13,000 for the Legacy Counseling Center. Read a story about the chapter’s launch here.

—  John Wright

Anti-violence group plans ‘Phelps-a-thon’ during Westboro Baptist Church’s visit to Tucson

Phelps clan in Dallas

The Phelps clan is headed to Tucson.

In response, the Arizona Legislature passed and the governor signed legislation banning protests within 300 feet of a funeral. In some show of compassion (maybe in fear for their lives), the clan decided not to protest the funeral of Christina Green, the 9-year-old who was murdered. However, they still plan to picket the funeral of U.S. District Judge John McCarthy Roll.

When the clan visited Dallas to picket downtown at the Holocaust Museum and Congregation Beth El Binah at the Gay and Lesbian Community Center, a fundraiser was held called “When Hell Freezes Over.” The goal was to replace the $3,000 ice maker at the community center. They raised move than $11,000.

The Wingspan Anti-Violence Project will be doing the same thing this week. They are holding a Phelps-a-thon.

Although we wish them luck, the circumstances are completely different. The group came to Dallas for no reason whatsoever and everyone who participated made a joke of the appearance. There was plenty of time to prepare stupid signs and costumes to welcome their afternoon of hate.

In Arizona, people are mourning. They are dealing with loss and healing. No one is in the mood for a jolly old time to mock the haters. The focus is on funerals and people in hospitals. Reaction to Phelps is a mere afterthought. But the gesture is appropriate. Let their visit to promote hatred after a violent incident raise money to decrease violence.

—  David Taffet

BREAKING: Texas appeals court upholds gay divorce, rules against AG’s office in Austin case

Angelique Naylor

A state appeals court has upheld a divorce that was granted to a lesbian couple in Austin last year, saying Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott lacks standing to appeal the divorce because he intervened in the case too late.

“Because the State lacks standing to appeal, we dismiss this appeal for want of jurisdiction,” a three-judge panel of Texas’ 3rd District Court of Appeals wrote in its decision posted earlier today.

Travis County District Judge Scott Jenkins granted a divorce to lesbian couple Angelique Naylor and Sabina Daly last February. Naylor and Daly married in Massachusetts in 2004 before returning to Texas and adopting a child. Abbott’s office appealed Jenkins’ decision, arguing that judges in Texas cannot grant same-sex divorces because the state doesn’t recognize same-sex marriage.

Abbott’s office won an appeal last year of a same-sex divorce in Dallas, where the 5th District Court of Appeals ruled in his favor.

Jennifer Cochran, an attorney who represented Naylor, explains on her blog that the Austin appeals court’s decision doesn’t address the constitutional issues related to gay divorce:

The Appellate Court dismissed the appeal for “want of jurisdiction” finding that the State was not a party of record and thus lacked standing to appeal.

So what’s this mean? Well this particular divorce was granted and upheld by the appellate court because the AG intervened after the divorce was granted orally by Judge Jenkins and because neither party raised constitutional challenges to the Family Code or the Texas Constitution.  If either party had, the appellate court would have most likely found that the AG did have standing and would have addressed the constitutional arguments in addition to the procedural ones.  So, we will leave the constitutional challenge for another day (or case).

Abbott’s office could now drop its appeal, request that the entire 3rd District Court of Appeals hear the case, or appeal the three-judge panel’s ruling to the Texas Supreme Court.

According to the Texas Tribune, Lauren Bean, a spokeswoman for Abbott’s office, said the decision “undermines unambiguous Texas law.”

“The Texas Constitution and statutes are clear: only the union of a man and a woman can be treated as a marriage in Texas,” she said, adding, “The Office of the Attorney General will weigh all options to ensure that the will of Texas voters and their elected representatives is upheld.”

More to come …

—  John Wright

BREAKING: Court allows military to continue enforcing ‘don’t ask don’t tell’ pending appeal

The U.S. military can continue enforcing “don’t ask don’t tell” pending the government’s appeal of a district judge’s decision declaring the policy unconstitutional.

With one justice dissenting, a three-judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit on Monday issued a stay of the district judge’s injunction barring the military from enforcing the policy.

The appeals court had already granted a temporary stay of the injunction, but Monday’s decision extends the stay for the duration of the appeal, which will take at least several months.

Chris Geidner at Metro Weekly reports:

“In addition to the fact that this case raises ‘serious legal questions,’” the court wrote, “there are three reasons that persuade us to grant a stay pending appeal.”

The reasons included that “Acts of Congress are presumptively constitutional,” that “‘judicial deference . . . is at its apogee’ when Congress legislates under its authority to raise and support armies” and that “the district court’s analysis and conclusions are arguably at odds with the decisions of at least four other Circuit Courts of Appeal.”

Dan Woods, an attorney for the plaintiffs in Log Cabin Republicans v. United States, issued the following statement:

“The court’s ruling is a disappointment not only to us, but also to all homosexual servicemembers who bravely put themselves in harm’s way so that we can all enjoy the constitutional rights and freedoms that they themselves are being denied. The decision only slows the day when military service will be available to all Americans, regardless of sexual orientation, who want nothing more than to serve their country honorably and patriotically. We will continue to fight on for the constitutional rights of these Americans and look forward to a favorable decision on the merits of the appeal. Meanwhile, we will discuss the court’s order with our client to determine whether we will ask for a review of the order by the U.S. Supreme Court.”

R. Clarke Cooper, executive director of Log Cabin, said in a statement, “Log Cabin Republicans is disappointed that ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’ will continue to burden our armed forces, undermine national security and limit the freedom of our men and women in uniform. Despite this temporary setback, Log Cabin remains confident that we will ultimately prevail on behalf of servicemembers’ constitutional rights. In the meantime, we urge President Obama to use his statutory stop-loss power to halt discharges under this discriminatory and wasteful policy. The president claims to want to see ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’ ended. It is time that he stop talking and start working to make a real difference for gay and lesbian Americans by pushing for repeal when Congress returns.”

—  John Wright

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

Gay man seeking to re-enlist in Navy says local recruiting office was told to suspend application

John James Coolidge III

The Pentagon has yet to announce that it has directed recruiting commanders to resume enforcement of “don’t ask don’t tell.”

However, a gay man from Plano who attempted to re-enlist in the Navy on Thursday morning said a local recruiting office was notified during his visit to suspend his application.

John James Coolidge III, who was discharged from the Navy under “don’t ask don’t tell” in 2007, said he spent three hours completing the necessary paperwork to re-enlist in the Reserves. However, about 15 minutes before he left the recruiting office, a call came in from a supervisor.

“Everything right now is on hold for my re-enlistment,” Coolidge told Instant Tea early Thursday afternoon. “Everything all depends on the court right now. … I’ll probably call him the first I hear of anything on Monday and figure out where to go from there.”

On Wednesday, a federal appeals court granted a temporary stay of a district judge’s order halting enforcement of DADT. That means the policy is legally enforceable again. But the Defense Department, which on Tuesday said it had notified recruiting commanders not to enforce the policy, hasn’t publicly announced any follow-up guidance.

The stay will remain in effect until sometime after Oct. 25, when the appeals court decides whether to leave it in place pending an appeal of the district judge’s decision declaring the policy unconstitutional. The appeal is expected to take at least several months.

Coolidge said he called the recruiting office before going there Thursday morning to find out whether Wednesday’s stay had changed anything.

“He said: ‘It’s up to you. As of this moment, we haven’t heard anything different, and we’re still going to process you,’” Coolidge said. “I’m glad that I started the process, and I’m hoping that the courts will side with the lawsuit and uphold the injunction and overturn the policy.”

—  John Wright

BREAKING: Government seeks emergency stay of ‘don’t ask don’t tell’ ruling from appeals court

The U.S. Department of Justice earlier today asked a federal appeals court for an emergency stay of a district judge’s order halting enforcement of “don’t ask don’t tell,” Politico reports.

DOJ attorneys have asked the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit to rule on the request by tonight.

In other words, if you’re gay and you want to enlist in the military, we’d suggest you hurry up and do it.

Here’s the full text of the emergency stay request:

PPM143_101020_dadt_stay

—  John Wright

BREAKING: Pentagon tells recruiters DADT is suspended, they must accept gay applicants

The Associated Press is reporting that Pentagon spokeswoman Cynthia Smith has announced that “top-level” guidance has been issued to recruiting commands telling them that the “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy prohibiting openly gay and lesbian people from serving in the military has been suspended, at least for now.

But recruiters have also been told to tell possible LGBT recruits that the moratorium could be re-instated at any time.

The move comes in the wake of U.S. District Judge Virginia Phillips’ ruling, in a case brought by the Log Cabin Republicans, that DADT is unconstitutional, and the injunction she issued last week ordering the military to halt enforcement of the ban.

The Department of Justice, which is defending the ban in court, has asked Phillips to delay enforcement of her injunction pending appeal, but Phillips said Monday, Oct. 18, that it is unlikely she’ll suspend the injunction. If she doesn’t, the DOJ is expected to ask an appellate court to do so.

—  admin

Gay active-duty Marine from North Texas: ‘I think it’s still a little too risky’ to come out

A gay active-duty Marine from North Texas said this week’s injunction ordering the military to stop enforcing “don’t ask don’t tell” was “a good start.”

But the Marine, whose name is being withheld to protect him from being outed under the policy, says he won’t be satisfied until the 17-year-old ban on open service is fully and finally repealed.

In a message to Instant Tea on Saturday, the Marine said although his commanders have reportedly been notified of the injunction, there hasn’t been any announcement at his level.

“I haven’t came out to anyone new yet,” said the Marine, who is stationed overseas. “I think it’s still a little too risky.”

U.S. District Judge Virginia Phillips issued the injunction on Tuesday, Oct. 12. Two days later, the Obama administration asked Phillips to stay the injunction pending its appeal of her September ruling declaring the policy unconstitutional. But the judge has yet to rule on the administration’s request.

“I’m really disappointed in the president,” the gay Marine said. “I think he needs to make good on his campaign promises and repeal this law.”

To read our previous story on the Marine, go here.

—  John Wright

What does Ken Mehlman have to say about his former boss, anti-gay Texas Rep. Lamar Smith?

Congressman Lamar Smith, R-Texas

If we could ask Ken Mehlman only one question, it might just be something about his one-time boss Lamar Smith.

Mehlman, the formerly anti-gay former RNC chair who recently came out as gay, served as Smith’s legislative director in the 1990s. Smith, meanwhile, seems to be vying for the title of No. 1 homophobe in Congress.

• In August, Smith sponsored a resolution to condemn U.S. District Judge Vaughn Walker’s decision declaring Proposition 8 unconstitutional.

• Also in August, Smith announced plans to introduce federal legislation that would define marriage as between one man and one woman.

• And now, Smith is asking a federal court to allow him to intervene in a case to help defend the Defense of Marriage Act, according to Keen News Service. The Alliance Defense Fund announced Tuesday it had filed motions on behalf of Smith asking to intervene in two cases in which a U.S. district judge in Massachusetts declared DOMA unconstitutional. The ADF argues on behalf of Smith that the Obama administration isn’t doing enough to defend the 1996 law, which some gay-rights activists don’t think the administration should be defending at all.

Interestingly, Smith’s Democratic opponent in November, Lainey Melnick, touts her opposition to DOMA prominently in the issues section of her website:

“It will be up to the [Supreme Court] to decide if the Defense of Marriage Act violates the Constitution by forcing the states to discriminate against same-sex couples,” Melnick writes. “This decision could uphold that federal encroachment over the areas where states have sovereign jurisdiction, such as with marriage, is unconstitutional and leaves marriage in the hands of the states. This question is to be answered by the courts, not the Congress. But I do believe that the US Constitution provides equal rights for all people, including same sex couples who want to get married, who want to own property, who want to make medical decisions, who want to share insurance expenses, who want to immigrate, who want to work, who want to serve in our military, and who deserve to live their lives free of discrimination.”

Unfortunately, Smith represents a pretty safe Republican district in Central Texas, and Melnick is facing some long odds. But who knows, maybe Smith’s one-time legislative director, Ken Mehlman, has something to tell us about him.

—  John Wright