Member put on DART board by LGBT allies won’t take stance on DP benefits

July DART meeting

LGBT advocates at the DART board meeting.

Four LGBT advocates spoke at a DART board meeting on Tuesday evening to encourage the agency to offer domestic partner benefits, but discussion of the topic was delayed until August. And a new DART board member refused to say whether she supported DP benefits.

Amanda Moreno Cross was nominated for the DART board by Councilwomen Monica Alonzo, Pauline Medrano and Delia Jasso. After the meeting, Cross said it was her first meeting and declined to comment on whether she supports equal benefits for the transit authority’s employees.

Transgender activist Pam Curry addressed the board wearing a sign that read: “I was born gay. Were you born hateful?”

“Once again, you have put off DP benefits,” she told the board. “Even our federal employees and military get benefits.”

—  David Taffet

DART tables DP benefits until October

The Dallas Area Rapid Transit administrative committee was slated to hear an employee presentation on offering domestic partner benefits on Sept. 11, but will now discuss the issue in October.

After members of the LGBT community addressed the DART Board of Directors Aug. 14, it was revealed that the committee had requested a presentation on offering the benefits.

Spokesman Morgan Lyons told Dallas Voice this week that the committee requested more information about the benefits, such as projected cost, and will not discuss the issue until its next meeting on Oct. 9.

DART’s Board of Directors will approve the budget on Sept. 25, but Lyons said not including DP benefits in the budget, which would need to be voted on by the administrative committee and the board, does not mean that the cost could not be added later if a vote approves adding the benefits.

The issue of the benefits came up earlier this summer when former DART police officer Andrew Moss started a Change.org petition to persuade DART to provide the benefits. He is unable to work because of health reasons and his COBRA will expire in December, but his partner still works at DART and could add Moss to his plan. The petition has garnered more than 1,170 signatures.

Equality Texas is also advocating for the change. Go here to submit your opinion through their online form.

—  Anna Waugh

Business Briefs: AssociaTitle names Mark Sadlek director of business development

AssociaTitle names Mark Sadlek director of business development

Mark Sadlek

AssociaTitle announced it appointed Mark J. Sadlek director of business development at its corporate headquarters in the heart of Uptown Dallas at Crescent Court.

“We are thrilled to be adding Mark Sadlek to the AssociaTitle team,” said AssociaTitle President Paul Reyes. “He is a seasoned real estate professional in the Dallas area with a track record of proven success and will serve both our clients and our company well.”

Sadlek joins AssociaTitle from Republic Title of Texas, where he served as vice president of business development and director of coaching services. He worked to build and promote the company externally with Realtors, developers and lenders. His focus also included business coaching and training.

He has also served as vice president of business development for American Title and as home mortgage consultant for Shelter Mortgage & Wells Fargo Home Mortgage. Previous to his work in the North Dallas real estate industry, Sadlek worked in marketing and sales for almost 20 years and was intimately involved in the start-up of two companies, VerCeram and Velux-America.

For the past nine years, Sadlek has worked in the North Dallas real estate industry, building positive relationships with local Realtors and lenders. He was awarded the 2010 Affiliate of the Year Award from MetroTex Association of Realtors, served on the MetroTex Board as an affiliate appointee board member, and chaired the Affiliate Forum Committee of MetroTex.

He was a co-founder and co-chair of Leadership Lambda Inc., an LGBT leadership development organization. He was also a board member of Design Industries Foundation Fighting AIDS (DIFFA) and has chaired the Heart Strings Fundraiser at the Majestic Theatre. Additionally, Sadlek served on the Board of Governors for the Human Rights Campaign, as well as a co-chair of the Dallas-Fort Worth Federal Club.

Ernst & Young Announces Gross Up for Jan. 1

On Jan. 1, Ernst & Young joined more than 30 major U.S. employers that are equalizing the pay for gay and lesbian employees by covering the cost of state and federal taxes for domestic partners.

Employees enrolled in domestic partner benefits incur additional taxes as the value of those benefits is treated as taxable income under federal law, while the value of opposite-sex spousal benefits is not.

Federal law treats domestic partner benefits differently from federally-recognized spousal benefits.

—  David Taffet

Measure would ban anti-LGBT discrimination in Houston

Charter amendment could also allow DP benefits for city workers

DANIEL WILLIAMS  |  Contributing Writer

HOUSTON — Long-brewing plans to place a city-wide non-discrimination policy before Houston voters became public this week.

Since December a coalition of organizations and leaders have been working to draft a city charter amendment that would make it illegal to discriminate in housing, employment or public accommodations on the basis of  “age, race, color, creed, religion, national origin, ancestry, disability, marital status, gender, gender identity or expression, sexual orientation, or physical characteristic.”

The amendment would also remove anti-LGBT language added to the Houston city charter in 1985 and 2001 — which could allow the City Council to vote to offer health benefits to the domestic partners of municipal employees.

Houston Mayor Annise Parker, who famously became the only out LGBT person elected mayor of a major American city in 2009, has declined to comment on the proposed charter amendment until the language is finalized. She told the Houston Chronicle: “I believe it’s important for the city of Houston to send a signal to the world that we welcome everybody and that we treat everybody equally, and depending on the elements of what was actually in it, I might or might not support it,”

According to Equality Texas Executive Director Dennis Coleman, the prospect of Houston voters approving the non-discrimination amendment has ramifications for efforts to pass similar measures in the state Legislature.

“Nondiscrimination in Houston builds a better case for us when we go for nondiscrimination in Austin,” said Coleman. “To be able to tell representatives that they represent areas that already support these efforts is very helpful.”

The cities of Austin, Dallas and Fort Worth all already have similar nondiscrimination ordinances and offer DP benefits to employees.

But Houston’s form of governance makes this effort unique. While the City Council is empowered to pass city ordinances covering issues of discrimination, they can be overturned by popular vote if those opposing the ordinance collect 20,000 signatures to place the issue on the ballot.

That was the case in 1985 after Houston Mayor Kathy Whitmire pushed through the council the city’s first protections for gay and lesbian Houstonians (no protections were provided for the bisexual or transgender communities).

A coalition of right-wing voters led by Louie Welch, then president of the Houston Chamber of Commerce, was able to place the issue on a city-wide ballot, claiming the policy “promoted the homosexual lifestyle.” The group also recruited a “straight slate” of candidates to run against City Council members who had favored the protections, with Welch running against Whitmire.

The public vote on nondiscrimination was held in June 1985 and Welch’s forces prevailed, but the city’s temperament had changed by the time of the City Council and mayoral races in November. A comment of Welch’s that the solution to the AIDS crisis was to “shoot the queers” was aired on local TV and few in Houston wished to be associated with him after that. The “straight slate” failed to capture a single City Council seat and Whitmire remained mayor, but the defeat of the city’s nondiscrimination policy remained.

By 1998 Houston had changed: Annise Parker was serving as the city’s first out lesbian city council member and Houston boasted the state’s first out gay judge, John Paul Barnich. Mayor Lee Brown, sensing the change, issued an executive order protecting LGBT city employees from employment discrimination. But the city had not changed that much. Councilman Rob Todd led efforts to fight the order in court, arguing that since voters rejected city-wide protections from discrimination in 1985, it was inappropriate for the mayor to institute them without voter approval. The city spent the next three years defending the policy in court, finally emerging victorious.

The joy of that 2001 victory would be shortlived, however. That year Houston’s voters approved another amendment to the city charter, this time prohibiting the city from providing domestic partner benefits for city employees. In a narrow defeat, just over 51 percent of voters decided that the city should not offer competitive benefits.

The current proposed non-discrimination amendment would remove the language added in 1985 and 2001. While it would provide non-discrimination protections it would not require the city to offer benefits of any kind to the spouses of LGBT city employees, leaving that question back in the hands of the City Council.

The organizers of the current effort are confident that this year is the year for victory.

Noel Freeman, the president of the Houston GLBT Political Caucus, which is spearheading the effort, explains that the previous votes occurred in “non-presidential years,”when voter turnout in general is low, and conservative voters make up a larger percentage of the electorate.

Additionally, polling by Equality Texas in 2010 showed that 80 percent of Houstonians support employment protections for gay and lesbian people.

In order to place the non-discrimination amendment on the November ballot the coalition supporting it will need to collect 20,000 signatures of registered Houston voters and submit them to the city clerk. Freeman says that the final charter amendment language is still under consideration and that once it is finalized the group will begin collecting signatures.

Even former Councilman Todd, who once fought the city’s policy of non-discrimination for LGBT employees, supports the current effort.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition February 17, 2012.

—  Michael Stephens

Kiss-in seeks domestic partner benefits for U of H

Pucker up!

Valentine’s Day is next Tuesday, while some battle the supermarket crowds for chocolate and champagne and others battle  that soul-sucking feeling that they will be alone forever, students at the University of Houston will be battling for equal benefits for LGBT employees.

“Our LGBT faculty and staff at the University of Houston are not given the same benefits as their heterosexual counterparts,” says James Lee, one of the student organizers. “This rally is an issue campaign to let administration know we care about our professors, directors and advisers and we think they all deserve to be treated equally.”

Lee explains that the event is not just for same-sex couples, the organizers want opposite-sex couples to participate to help demonstrate that straight and LGBT relationships are the same.  Got no one to kiss? No problem, says Lee, “We will have rally signs and other goodies you can show support with.”

The smooch-fest kicks off at 12:30 pm in Butler Plaza (in front of the MD Anderson Library).

—  admin

Wisc. governor wants to stop defending gay rights

Gov. Scott Walker

Republican Scott Walker says he believes state’s partner registry is unconstitutional, seeks to withdraw from case

TODD RICHMOND | Associated Press

MADISON, Wis. — Gov. Scott Walker has told a judge he wants to stop defending Wisconsin’s domestic partner registry in court because he doesn’t believe it’s constitutional.

Members of the conservative group Wisconsin Family Action filed a lawsuit last summer arguing the registry violates the state’s constitutional ban on gay marriage. Former Gov. Jim Doyle, a Democrat who proposed the registry as a means of granting same-sex couples more legal rights, chose to defend the measure and had filed a motion asking Dane County Circuit Judge Daniel Moeser for summary judgment upholding it. Walker, a Republican, inherited the case from Doyle when he took office in January.

The governor filed a motion with Moeser late Friday asking to withdraw the defense because he believes the registry is unconstitutional. The governor pointed to a legal opinion Republican Attorney General J.B. Van Hollen issued two years ago that concluded the registry was indeed unconstitutional because it mimics marriage.

“If the governor determines that defending a law would be contrary to the state’s constitution, he cannot order the defense of the law because of his oath to support the Wisconsin Constitution,” Walker’s attorney, Brian Hagedorn, wrote in the motion. “To allow the previous administration’s analysis to bind a subsequent administration would be contrary to what justice requires.”

It was unclear when Moeser might rule on the motion. Even if he dismisses the state, the case will continue. The gay rights group Fair Wisconsin has joined the case as an intervener and will continue defending the registry, said Katie Belanger, the group’s executive director.

“It wasn’t unanticipated that Gov. Walker would be changing his position,” Belanger said. “It’s certainly disappointing that our governor is not working to continue to allow same-sex couples to have basic protections. We’re still very confident the registry is legal.”

Wisconsin Family Action pushed the constitutional ban, which voters added to the document in 2006. The Legislature, then controlled by Democrats, put the registry into effect in August 2009.

The listing grants same-sex couples legal rights such as the right to visit each other in hospitals, make end-of-life decisions and inherit each other’s property, although supporters insist the registry doesn’t come close to bestowing all the rights that come with marriage.

Reached after hours Monday evening, state Department of Health Services spokesman Seth Boffeli said he didn’t immediately have up-to-date figures on how many couples were on the registry. However, about 1,330 couples had signed up as of the end of 2009.

Wisconsin Family Action asked the state Supreme Court that same year to strike the registry down directly, bypassing the lower courts. Van Hollen refused to defend the registry, relying on his legal conclusion the list was clearly unconstitutional.

The Supreme Court refused to take the case, forcing Wisconsin Family Action to refile the action in circuit court.

Doyle hired attorney Lester Pines to defend the listing, but Walker fired him earlier this year. Pines said Walker’s withdrawal shows he cares more about pleasing his conservative base than defending state statutes.

“He represents gay and lesbian people, too. He may not like gay and lesbian people … but he’s still obligated to defend those rights,” Pines said.

Walker spokesman Chris Schrimpf didn’t immediately return an email message.

A message left at Wisconsin Family Action’s offices after hours Monday evening wasn’t immediately returned. The group’s executive director, Julaine Appling, declined to comment

—  John Wright

Facebook adds civil unions, domestic partnerships to relationship status options

Props to Facebook peeps. The word is spreading about their updates to the relationship status field. The HuffPo posted earlier that “civil union” and “domestic partner” are now listed under the field as options and are being rolled out as we speak.

The changes were made in consultation with Facebook’s Network of Support, a group that includes LGBT [lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender] organizations such as the Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation, the Gay, Lesbian, and Straight Education Network, and the Human Rights Campaign.

“As LGBT people face a pathwork of relationship recognition laws, this gives people more tools to adequately describe their relationship,” said Michael Cole, spokesperson for the Human Rights Campaign. “Facebook has been a company that has tried to be inclusive of the LGBT community and this just one sign of it.”

Richard Socarides, president of Equality Matters and former gay rights advisor to president Bill Clinton, echoed Coles’ praise.

from Huffington Post

—  Rich Lopez

WATCH: Gay couples request marriage licenses in Austin, clash with counterprotesters outside

KVUE reports that protesters on both sides of the issue showed up Monday at the Travis County Courthouse, where a handful of same-sex couples requested marriage licenses. While the licenses were denied due to Texas’ bans on same-sex marriage, Travis County remains the only jurisdiction in Texas with a domestic partner registry.

—  John Wright

Financial planner offers special advice for special circumstances

Wells Fargo financial planner helps same-sex couples navigate complicated situations that come with not being federally recognized

DAVID TAFFET  |  Staff Writer
taffet@dallasvoice.com

After recognizing the need for certified financial planners specializing in same-sex couples, officials with Wells Fargo approached the College for Financial Planning. In 2010, the designation was established and for now Wells Fargo Advisors has an exclusive on planners who are accredited domestic partner advisors.

Terry Thompkins is one of just six accredited domestic partner advisors in the Dallas area.

“It’s no coincidence the bank’s based in San Francisco,” Thompkins said.

Thompkins first recognized the need when he was working with two widows who chose not to remarry, primarily for pension reasons.

“I quickly realized that here’s a community that’s horribly underserved,” he said.

On Feb. 1, Thompkins is offering a financial planning seminar for same-sex couples. He said he had nothing to sell but is looking for couples that would benefit from working with him.

“I’m looking to establish long-term relationships,” Thompkins said, adding that he is as interested in younger couples beginning to build their wealth as in established couples with multi-million dollar portfolios.

“Anyone who is not recognized by the federal government creates challenges, and nightmare scenarios can develop,” Thompkins said.

That creates tax issues but can also present tax opportunities, he said. Having accounts structured properly as well as having legal paperwork in place can prevent families from challenging wills and estates after a partner dies.

“That’s so important when someone is also dealing with their grief,” Thompkins said.

He said a common problem he faces with couples is when one is an aggressive investor and the other is conservative. In that case, Thompkins must form an investment strategy that allows that two portfolios to work together.

Thompkins said clients do not come to him because they need a stockbroker. He said he has a wide range of investment vehicles from traditional banking products to commodities and futures. “I have a huge pallet available to me,” he said.

He said that for a couple with a small business, he can talk to the bank’s commercial lending group and the small business group.

When those don’t work, he can access tools like collateralizing existing assets.

But he said that shouldn’t scare off couples with fewer assets. He not only wants to help couples make a strong plan stronger. Young couples should get on the right track and build huge wealth down the road.

Financial Planning Seminar at Chocolate Secrets, 3926 Oak Lawn Ave. Feb. 1 at 6:30 p.m. 972-728-3110. Reservations required.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition Jan. 28, 2011.

—  John Wright

Anti-gay group files lawsuit challenging Wisconsin’s domestic partner registry

Associated Press

MADISON, Wis. — A social conservative group has filed a lawsuit challenging Wisconsin’s domestic partner registry.

Members of Wisconsin Family Action filed a lawsuit Wednesday, Aug. 18 in Dane County circuit court arguing that the year-old registry violates the state’s constitutional ban on same-sex marriage approved by voters in 2006.

The group tried to bring their lawsuit directly to the state Supreme Court in November but were rebuffed.

In June the state Supreme Court did uphold the state’s constitutional ban on gay marriage and civil unions but the ruling did not affect the registry.

Under the registry, same-sex couples who sign up receive a limited number of the same legal rights as spouses, including hospital visitation, inheritance, and medical leave rights.

—  John Wright