What’s Brewing: FW officials briefed on LGBT progress; GLAAD rips Houston’s Fox affiliate

Jon Nelson

Your weekday morning blend from Instant Tea:

1. Fort Worth officials received a briefing Tuesday on progress the city has made in addressing the concerns of the LGBT community in the nearly two years since the Rainbow Lounge raid. According to the Star-Telegram, the city has implemented 19 of 20 recommendations made by an LGBT task force formed after the raid. The only recommendation left outstanding is that the city provide health insurance to cover the cost of sex reassignment surgery for transgender employees. Other ongoing concerns include some apparent resistance to diversity training among police and firefighters, as well as the question of whether the city should subsidize domestic partner benefits. But overall, everyone seems pleased with the progress. “I think there is no city, because I’ve looked, in the United States which has done more in less time on these issues than the city of Fort Worth,” said Jon Nelson, a member of the task force and a leader of Fairness Fort Worth.

2. A Texas House committee is expected to take up a bill this morning that would allow same-sex parents to put both their names on the birth certificate of an adopted child. HB 415, by Rep. Rafael Anchia, D-Dallas, would resolve an issue in Texas that’s been the subject of a high-profile lawsuit in Louisiana, where a federal appeals court recently ruled against a same-sex couple in a case that could go to the U.S. Supreme Court. Meanwhile, the full House could give final approval today to an anti-bullying bill that’s become Equality Texas’ top priority in this year’s legislative session. HB 1942, by Rep. Diane Patrick, R-Arlington, would then go to the Senate for consideration.

3. GLAAD is calling on Houston’s Fox affiliate (KRIV-26) to apologize for a segment that aired last week called, “Is TV too gay?” which criticized Glee‘s portrayal of gay teens. The segment aired the same night as a Glee‘s “Born This Way” episode and featured Bryan Fischer of the American Family Association, which has been certified as a hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center. Watch the full segment below. To sign GLAAD’s petition, go here.

 

—  John Wright

TABC renews contract with RCD

Carolyn Beck

Beck says center will provide diversity training for about 50 new TABC employees

JOHN WRIGHT  |  Online Editor
wright@dallasvoice.com

AUSTIN — A spokeswoman for the Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission confirmed this week that the agency plans to continue LGBT diversity training for its employees, which she called “one of the positive things that came out of the Rainbow Lounge.”

TABC spokeswoman Carolyn Beck said Thursday, March 17 that the agency has signed a new contract for LGBT diversity training with Resource Center Dallas.

A few months after the raid of the Fort Worth gay bar in 2009, TABC paid Resource Center $14,212 to train all of the agency’s roughly 700 employees — in a series of 24 two-hour sessions in 11 locations across the state.

This time, Resource Center will train the roughly 50 TABC employees who’ve been hired since the initial round of training was completed last year. The second round of training, at a cost of $2,700, will take place during sessions in Dallas, Houston and Austin between March and July.

“We thought it was important at the time for our employees to receive diversity training like this, and it’s still important for the same reasons that it was before,” Beck said. “It really only makes sense if you continue the training. … The training is one of the positive things that came out of the Rainbow Lounge.”

TABC, whose agents raided the bar along with officers from the Fort Worth Police Department in June 2009, later fired three employees for policy violations related to the incident.

TABC Commissioner Alan Steen has publicly apologized for the raid on at least two occasions.

TABC reportedly is the first state agency in Texas to conduct comprehensive LGBT diversity training for all of its employees.

Beck, who also serves as TABC’s liaison to the LGBT community, said she doesn’t believe diversity training would have prevented the Rainbow Lounge raid.

However, she said the training has been beneficial to the agency.

“The one thing about it, across the board, it creates a lot of discussion, which I think is in itself a positive thing,” Beck said. “The training pushes some people’s boundaries, which I believe is the intent.”

Rafael McDonnell, strategic communications and programs manager for Resource Center Dallas, said the new training contract is the culmination of efforts that began last spring, when TABC solicited input on its strategic plan.

“I think this shows that TABC is committed to treating the gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender community with respect and dignity by having all of its employees learn about who we are,” said McDonnell, who helps conduct the LGBT diversity training.

“We did surveys and proved that there was a demonstrated increase in knowledge about the LGBT community among the employees who took part in the training,” McDonnell added. “It shows that what we did is making a difference throughout the state, and that’s extremely gratifying.”

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition March 18, 2011.

—  John Wright

Fairness Fort Worth meeting tonight

Fairness Fort Worth meets tonight at 7:30 p.m. in the Fellowship Hall at Celebration Community Church, 908 Pennsylvannia Ave., and everyone interested is helping set the organization’s agenda for the coming year is welcome to attend.

Initiatives already on the agenda include:

• working with Fort Worth Independent School District and other area school districts on anti-bullying projects and LGBT inclusive policies for students and staff.

• reaching out to other local governmental bodies and major employers on LGBT issues and providing  LGBT diversity training.

• coordinating and training with all Tarrant County hospitals to ensure equal access to healthcare for LGBT people.

For more information, check out the Fairness Fort Worth Facebook page.

—  admin

Is it OK to eat at Cracker Barrel?

Cracker Barrel, which has long ranked right up there with ExxonMobil Corp. on the list of well-known businesses that are considered anti-gay, improved its score on this year’s Corporate Equality Index by 40 points, from a 15 to a 55. Tennessee-based Cracker Barrel is cited in the 2011 CEI report, released Monday by the Human Rights Campaign, as one of 12 companies that increased their score by more than 30 points:

“Cracker Barrel Old Country Store Inc., once in the news for delivering pink slips justified by ‘The employee is gay,’ has implemented a non-discrimination policy and diversity training that includes sexual orientation and has even gone as far as to provide a cash grant to the Tennessee Equality Project,” according to HRC.

If you’ll remember, Cracker Barrel’s anti-gay history goes back at least as far as 1991, when the company instituted a policy requiring employees to display “normal heterosexual values which have been the foundation of families in our society.” From Wikipedia:

The company refused to change their policy in the face of protest demonstrations by gay rights groups. After ten years of proposals by the New York City Employees Retirement System, a major shareholder, the company’s shareholders voted 58 percent in 2002 in favor of rescinding the policy. The board of directors added sexual orientation to the company’s nondiscrimination policy.[3]

The Tennessee Equality Project, the recipient of Cracker Barrel’s donation, is applauding the company’s improved score on its website, going so far as to print “Equality — Now Being Served” under a Cracker Barrel logo.

Well, not quite.

Unlike 76 percent of companies rated in the CEI, Cracker Barrel still doesn’t prohibit discrimination based on gender identity; unlike 79 percent of companies in the CEI, Cracker Barrel still doesn’t have written gender transition guidelines and/or cover gender identity as a topic in diversity training; and unlike a whopping 95 percent of companies in the CEI, Cracker Barrel still doesn’t offer domestic partner health coverage.

In short, as tasty as it may sound, we’re not quite ready to order up an Apple Steusel French Toast Breakfast at one of Cracker Barrel’s eight locations within 50 miles of Dallas Voice’s zip code.

—  John Wright

Out & Equal convention coming to Dallas in 2011

Largest LGBT national convention should have an $8 million economic impact on city, officials estimate


DAVID TAFFET  |  Staff Writer taffet@dallasvoice.com

George Carrancho
George Carrancho

The 2011 Out & Equal convention will be held in Dallas at the Hilton Anatole Hotel, officials with the Dallas Convention and Visitors Bureau.

“We’re excited to host the 2011 Out & Equal Conference in Dallas,” said Phillip Jones, president and CEO of the CVB. “With its more than $8 million economic impact to the city, it will be the largest LGBT convention held in Dallas to date.”

Jones said that convention and leisure travel to Dallas has increased in the past five years.

“We were selected to host this convention in part because of our strong, cohesive LGBT community,” he said. “This community support is essential as we continue to promote Dallas as a top LGBT destination.”

Out & Equal Workplace Advocates is a national organization based in San Francisco advocating from within companies for workplace equality for LGBT employees. They provide a variety of services to companies and employee resource groups and offer diversity training specific to LGBT workplace issues.

There are 18 regional affiliates, including ones in Dallas and Houston.

Tony Vedda, executive director of the North Texas GLBT Chamber of Commerce, said his group partnered with the Dallas CVB to bring the convention to the city.

“They were looking at several cities,” he said. “We’re thrilled they chose us.”

Earlier this year, the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force held its annual Creating Change conference in Dallas for the second time.Officials estimated the impact of that conference at about $4 million for the city.

Vedda said that successfully hosting one LGBT event helps bring the next one.

“It shows the rest of the world that Dallas is a welcoming city,” he said.

Vedda said that the GLBT Chamber works well with the city. When the area was bidding on this season’s Super Bowl, the GLBT Chamber was asked to send a letter supporting the bid.

Vedda said that these events are very important to the city’s economy and has a positive effect on LGBT-owned businesses, especially in Oak Lawn.

“When we bring in conferences, those people leave lots of tax money for us,” he said. “That’s money that local residents don’t have to spend for services themselves.”

Veronica L. Torres, director of diversity and community relations with the CVB called the convention a big win for Dallas. She said this was the largest LGBT convention the city has booked.

Each year different groups partner with the CVB to stage events, like the Dallas Bears who host the annual Texas Bear Round Up and Dallas Southern Pride which holds its annual black gay Pride each fall, Torres said.

In addition to Out & Equal, the CVB helped book Reaching Out MBA for Oct. 2011 at the Fairmont Hotel. Torres said that 500 to 1,000 people are expected for that convention. In Sept. 2012, the Gay and Lesbian Band Association will meet at the Melrose Hotel.

Torres said she is hoping a small meeting of GALA choruses managers in Dallas next month translates into the convention of LGBT choral association booking the city. They would take over the all of the performing arts venues in the Arts District.

“Dallas is our hometown,” said George Carrancho of American Airlines Rainbow Team. “We’ve been a partner of Out & Equal for at least eight years.”

Carrancho worked with the CVB and GLBT Chamber to bring Out & Equal to Dallas.

He said Out & Equal recognizes the work of the airline. American’s chief commercial officer, Virasb Vahidi, will be the opening speaker of this year’s convention in Los Angeles, and Denise Lynn, vice president of diversity and leadership strategies, is up for the Out & Equal’s Champion Award, given annually to an ally.

To help Dallas win the convention, Carancho said he offered the convention an aggressive discount program.

“This is a big win for American and a big win for Dallas,” he said.

Vedda said that a number of things work in favor of the city of Dallas including the annual press tour for travel writers.

“We get beaucoups of great coverage,” he said. “We’ve done a good job of showcasing Dallas and Fort Worth as welcoming cities.”

Vedda said groups are impressed by the corporate support the local LGBT community gets.

“And not every city can call the mayor, ask him to come to help us sell the city and he does,” Vedda said.

Vedda said the GLBT Chamber continues to work with the Dallas CVB and they have their sites set on several additional conferences, conventions and LGBT sports groups.

“We’re always working on bringing new stuff to Dallas,” he said.

Officials with Out & Equal declined to discuss the 2011 convention, saying they do not announce the coming year’s convention until the end of the convention for the current year.

The 2010 Out & Equal Workplace Summit is scheduled for Oct. 5-8 in Los Angeles.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition August 20, 2010.

—  Michael Stephens

Anti-gay protesters pack Fort Worth City Council chamber

Opponents of city’s diversity initiatives speaking during council meeting, even though issue wasn’t on the agenda

Tammye Nash  |  Senior Editor nash@dallasvoice.com

FORT WORTH — A crowd of about 200 people opposing recent diversity initiatives implemented by the city of Fort Worth packed Cowtown’s City Council chambers on Tuesday, July 13, even though nothing related to the initiatives was on the council’s agenda.

Five individuals representing the opponents spoke during the portion of the meeting allotted for citizen comments, while four representatives from Fairness Fort Worth spoke in support of the city’s efforts to improve relations with its LGBT community.

The diversity initiatives grew out of recommendations forwarded to the council by the City Manager’s Diversity Task Force and approved by City Manager Dale Fisler late last year. The task force — comprising 16 city employees and 16 LGBT community representatives, all appointed by Fisler — was formed last summer in the wake of the June 28 raid on the Rainbow Lounge by officers with the Fort Worth Police Department and agents of the Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission.

The recommendations suggested by the task force included improved diversity training for all city employees, domestic partner benefits for gay and lesbian city employees, coverage of gender reassignment surgery for transgender employees in transition, promoting the city as a destination for LGBT tourism, and lobbying for passage of state and federal laws banning anti-LGBT discrimination in employment.

The task force also recommended that the council amend the city’s nondiscrimination ordinance to specifically prohibit discrimination based on gender identity.

Most of the recommendations involved procedural changes that could be implemented by the city manager without a vote by the council.

The council did vote, 6-3, on Nov. 11 last year to add specific gender identity protections to the nondiscrimination ordinance.

The vote came after a marathon hearing during which numerous people spoke in favor of and against the amendment.

However city staff are still studying the feasibility of offering domestic partner benefits and adding coverage for gender reassignment surgery.

A spokesman in the office of Fort Worth Mayor Mike Moncrief said this week that the resurgence of opposition may have been tied to the one-year anniversary of the Rainbow Lounge raid. This week’s meeting was the council’s first since the June 28 anniversary date.

But Thomas Anable, president of Fairness Fort Worth, said his organization believes Diversity Task Force opponents had intended to speak during time set aside for public comments on the proposed budget for the city’s Crime Control and Prevention District budget. That budget includes funds to pay for diversity training for police officers and for officer recruitment efforts within the LGBT community, he said.

However, the council voted to delay the public hearing on that budget for two weeks.

“They were there because they felt like they got shut out of the process [of the Diversity Task Force] last year,” Anable, who was a member of the task force, said on Wednesday, after the council meeting. “Every meeting that the task force had was open to the public, and nobody showed up.”

Anable said he believes the move to bring the opponents to the Tuesday night council meeting this week was led by Richard Clough, a failed candidate for Tarrant County judge who is an associate minister with Kenneth Copeland Ministries.

“They said last November when the task force’s report was presented to the council, and when the council voted on the transgender ordinance, they said then that they had been left out and that they would be back,” Anable said. “I think, with the CCPD budget on the agenda this week, they saw an opportunity to try and make a sneak attack.”

Anable said Fairness Fort Worth learned on Monday of e-mails that had been circulated over the weekend among conservative and evangelical Christian churches, calling on evangelical Christians to pack the council chambers at Tuesday’s meeting.

But instead of sending out a calling for the LGBT community and its allies to attend also, Anable said his organization chose to organize a small, but visible, contingent to attend as a show of support for the city’s initiatives, with specific community leaders signing up to speak.

“We didn’t want a big catfight,” Anable said.

“We just wanted to have people there to show support, with just a few speaking. We wanted to give a calm and dignified response.”

Anable said after the meeting he feels confident that the city council will not reverse the progress it has made so far on diversity issues — a confidence that was reinforced by Mayor Mike Moncrief’s statements both before and after the citizen comment session.

Moncrief opened the comment session with an admonition to both sides to “be respectful” and with a pledge that the city would not go backward.

“I am very pleased with the progress we have had to date,” the mayor said. It has certainly reflected the diversity of our city. And it reflects this city’s belief that no one should be discriminated against, no matter who they are. And that is not going to change.

That is important for all of us, whether its an ordinance or not, that should be an ordinance in life. No one should be discriminated against.”

The five men who spoke against the Diversity Task Force and the city’s diversity initiatives all criticized city officials for “promoting a homosexual agenda” against the wishes of what they said is a majority of the city’s residents.

Clough, who stood at the podium flanked by supporters wearing paper badges printed with the word “Truth,” began by accusing Mayor Mike Moncrief and the council of “intentionally hiding the implementation of a homosexual agenda.”

The accusation prompted an angry rebuttal for the mayor, who threatened to have Clough removed from the council chambers if he continued with “personal attacks.”

The two men argued briefly, with Clough continuing to speak over the mayor’s admonishments and with Moncrief at one point turning off the microphone at the podium where Clough stood.

“We have a way of doing business here, and that is not to come in here and personally attack anybody. We don’t attack you, nor does anyone on our staff. We don’t expect you to come in here and attack us,” Moncrief said. “If you want to talk about the diversity task force, that is all well and good. But don’t expect to come in here and get away with personal attacks.”

When Moncrief allowed Clough to continue, the minister accused the mayor of refusing to meet with him, although some council members had met with him. Clough said that “every voice was not heard” on the Diversity Task Force’s recommendations, adding that the council was going against the wishes of the majority of the city’s citizens who had, he said, voted against same-sex marriage in 2004 by a 77 percent majority.

He criticized the city for spending money to send lobbyists to Washington, D.C., to promote passage of the Employment Non-Discrimination Act, and for promoting the city as a destination for LGBT tourism.

“Who are you promoting it to? Queer liberation [possibly a reference to the now-defunct direct action group Queer LiberAction]? To NAMBLA — the North American Man-Boy Love Association? Or are you just promoting it to the gay chambers?” Clough said.

Clough also criticized the addition of gender identity to the city’s nondiscrimination ordinance, suggesting that council members “ask the ladies do they want a man who suffers from gender identity disorder coming in on them in the bathroom. … If they gays want to promote something, let them spend their own money to promote it.”

Clough said the city “has no business promoting the homosexual lifestyle, just like it has no business promoting the heterosexual lifestyle.”

He said that while the city should “stand against hatred or discrimination or abuse of any kind,” the media and the LGBT community have “distorted the facts” surrounding the Rainbow Lounge raid and are using that to “promote the homosexual agenda.”

“Homosexuality can be divisive. That’s not my intent,” Clough said. “My intent is to have all voices heard and find a solution that is best for all.”

Robert Hayes said the city’s leadership “should serve the people of the city, serve the masses, and not cater to the wishes of the few.” He said that the raid at the Rainbow Lounge was a situation that should have been investigated by police department officials, and “not a situation to make sweeping changes in the city.”

“Do we set up a task force if we find the city has an unusually large number of employees coming down with the flu? Do we set one up to discuss who can live in what area of town? Then my question is, why did we set up a task force for diversity when it appears we only had a question of the use of force and the appropriate degree of force that was used?” Hayes said.

The Rev. Perfeto Esquibel, pastor of Christian Worship Center of Fort Worth, complained that the task force “seems to be made up of only one certain interest group rather than a combination of people with different opinions about gay civil rights.”

Esquibel also said it is “a slap in the face” to racial and ethnic minorities to call LGBT people a minority. He said the task force and the city’s diversity initiatives are part of a “gay rights agenda” being pushed by a “minute” number of people, and that most Fort Worth residents are Christians who believe that “the Bible is the word of God, and it’s what the Constitution and the Bill of Rights are based on.”

John Carlson, a Fort Worth businessman and husband of Texas Eagle Forum President Pat Carlson, told the council he believed it was irresponsible to spend city dollars on diversity initiatives when the city is facing a budget shortfall.

“This diversity will expand benefits and increase spending. Taxpayers do not want increased spending or taxes,” Carlson said.

He said that as a businessman who provides insurance to his employees, he knows that health insurance costs increase every year. Providing coverage to the domestic partners of gay and lesbian city employees would increase the city’s costs, he said, because gays and lesbians engage in ‘undeniably risky behavior. … If that lifestyle were a pack of cigarettes, it would require a surgeon general’s warning.”

Carlson said, “If you insure domestic partners, what if they have more than one partner? … Why not insure boyfriends or girlfriends? … Where does this coverage end? It just goes on.”

Scott Graham, who described himself as a businessman and former police officer, said he had conducted his own investigation into the Rainbow Lounge raid.

He repeated allegations that patrons in the bar that night sexually harassed and groped officers (those allegations were found to be either false or grossly exaggerated during official investigations), and accused witnesses and LGBT community leaders of “gross misrepresentations” of the raid and of “mak[ing] things up as they went along.”

Graham said, “Government was created by God to protect His definition of family,” and then asked for — and received — permission to “pray and speak a blessing over our city.”

The Rev. Carol West, pastor of Celebration Community Church, was the first of four speakers to speak in support of the Diversity Task Force and its recommendations. Noting that she is a member of Fairness Fort Worth and one of the people who leads the city’s new diversity training, West said that the training makes clear that it’s purpose is not to address religious issues or question anyone’s religious beliefs.

The training, she said, is designed to give “a perspective of the GLBT community. … Is there a homosexual agenda? I have heard a lot of talk about it, and you [task force opponents] talk a lot more about it than we [LGBT people] ever do.

“We teach that everyone is your customer. We say treat everyone with respect. Treat people with dignity. We teach about not demeaning people, not making people unwanted,” West said. “If that is a homosexual agenda, then it needs to be spread around.”

Steve Dutton, a task force member, and Lisa Thomas, a member of the task force, the city’s Human Rights Commission and Fairness Fort Worth, also spoke during the council meeting. But said the diveristy initiatives are a question of equal treatment, not religious beliefs.

To close the public comment session, Moncrief said he believes there is “respect in this city. There is room for all of us.

“We are trying to work through something very difficult. We weren’t pleased to be in the national spotlight for what happened or didn’t happen. But it was and is up to us to find out what happened. Obviously, somebody did something. TABC certainly felt somebody did something they shouldn’t have, because they fired the two agents that were involved.”

He added, “Don’t feel like we were not listening, because we were. We are. I hope you all feel like you have been heard tonight. … What’s in the Bible or what isn’t in the Bible, that’s not our job. Our job is to maintain the quality of life in our city, and that’s what this [diversity] training is all about.”

……..

To watch complete video of the Fort Worth City Council meeting, go online to FortWorthGov.org.

—  Kevin Thomas

Houston mayor issues sweeping non-discrimination order

Parker’s directives include protection for transgender community

Mayor Annise Parker
Mayor Annise Parker

HOUSTON — Lesbian Mayor Annise Parker has issued an executive order protecting LGBT city employees that is possibly the most comprehensive in the nation.

Parker’s order replaces one signed by her predecessor, Bill White, the Democratic nominee for Texas governor. White’s order covered sexual orientation and was similar to protections for gay, lesbian and bisexual employees in Dallas.

“I felt it important that our written policy reflect what has long been the practice of the city, which is we do not discriminate,” Parker told Dallas Voice.

Parker’s order, which includes gender identity/expression, was signed on March 25 and took effect immediately.

“The purpose of this Executive Order is to prohibit discrimination and/or retaliation on the basis of sexual orientation and/or gender identity at every level of municipal government, including hiring, contracting and/or access to City facilities and programs/activities,” the order states.

The goal is to provide a work environment free of discrimination and harassment based on either sexual orientation or gender identity, according to the order. It covers anyone doing business with the city including Houston’s contractors and vendors as well as employees.

Both gender identity and gender expression are addressed.

“Gender identity,” the order explains, “May not correspond to the individual’s body or gender assigned at birth.”

—  David Taffet