Starbucks art auction to benefit homeless youth charity

There are times in life when the strangest ingredients can come together to make something wonderful: wasabi and chocolate, curry and cranberries, peanut butter and pickles… That’s the case with Montrose Grace Place, a charity serving homeless youth in the Montrose area. Take one part 90 year old Lutheran Church willing to help without preaching, add a desire to serve homeless youth regardless of sexual orientation or gender identity/expression, mix with a passel of volunteers of all religious backgrounds (Christian, Jewish, Buddhist and more than a few Atheists), let steep in a community desperate to help queer homeless youth and voilà, a vibrant charity that has provided food, clothing and, most importantly, interaction with adults who give a damn to dozens of kids over the last two years.

Of course all that doesn’t happen without expense. Despite Grace Lutheran Church donating space and volunteers donating hundreds of hours of labor Grace Place still has some expenses. The employees of the River Oaks Starbucks (the one at 2050 West Gray, not the one at 2029 West Gray or the one at 2030 West Gray) wanted a way to pitch in so they organized an art auction tomorrow evening, January 1 starting at 6 pm. The auction features donated works by local artists as well as works by the Grace Place kids themselves. Stop by for a latte and some art to go.

—  admin

Son of a beach

A family vacation proves unexpectedly gay as Myrtle Beach, S.C., gets Pride

RAINBOW TOUR | Nearly 200 beachcombers — including the author (dark green, just right of center) — stepped away from the surf and gathered in a field to form a human rainbow flag.

ARNOLD WAYNE JONES  | Life+Style Editor
jones@dallasvoice.com

The trip to Myrtle Beach, S.C., had more to do with a family reunion than finding a good destination for gay travelers. After all, Myrtle Beach is a pretty lazy, conservative town in the perennial Red State, one where teenaged spring breakers and families gather to enjoy the warm surf and the resort-town appeal of seafood and beachcombing and overpriced cocktails. Queer travelers can hit one of the three gay bars, all within blocks of each other — Club Traxx, Time Out! and the Rainbow House (a lesbian club).

But the weekend I arrived , just by coincidence, it turned out to be Gay Pride.

Keep in mind, the gay community in Myrtle Beach is small, so “Gay Days,” plural, felt more like Gay Day, singular: One major event and then life as usual in Coastal Carolina.

The major event, though, was an ambitious one: Gathering members of the LGBT community and their allies to form a “human rainbow flag:” People signed up to wear a pastel-colored T-shirt and arrange themselves in the traditional configuration. A few others wore black, forming the flagpole.

The entire event was threatened by showers late Friday and early Saturday, but despite a slightly muddy field, nearly 200 people turned out, huddled closely on a muggy afternoon, while a photographer flew above in a helicopter.

Numbers weren’t uniform; there were too many reds and too few purples; but the effect was one of a flag waving in the breeze.

In order to do the shoot, members faced each other before bending forward to allow the broad field of their shirts to form the colors. Directly across from me stood Elke Kennedy, a resident of Greenville in the Upstate. Elke and her husband established SeansLastWish.org, raising awareness of anti-gay violence, after their gay son was beaten to death and his killer spent less than a year in jail.

Elke spoke at a rally following the photoshoot, and dozens in attendance listened to her recount her  son’s harrowing attack and death before two drag queens performed and a DJ spun dance hits. People started to file out after a while, off to the beach, or the clubs, or even the boardwalk, where the Texas Star-like Skywheel gives great views of the beach … and sits next door to the campily named souvenir shop the Gay Dolphin.

The latter was always may favorite place when I was growing up; you’d think my parents would have caught on sooner.

Click here for additional photos.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition August 26, 2011.

—  Michael Stephens

WATCH: DADT rally on Cedar Springs


Dozens gathered on the Cedar Springs strip Thursday night for a hastily organized rally in response to a vote in the U.S. Senate blocking the repeal of “don’t ask don’t tell.” More images after the jump. Read our full story on the Senate vote here.

—  John Wright

WATCH: Gay teen defends suspended teacher

Perhaps you’ve heard about the case of Jay McDowell, the high school teacher in Michigan who was suspended without pay after he kicked two students out of class for making anti-gay comments. Dozens of people packed a school board meeting in Howell, Mich., on Monday to express their support for McDowell, and they included 14-year-old Graeme Taylor. Watch Graeme’s remarkable speech to the school board above.

—  John Wright

Some radical ideas about the DADT ruling

This week, a federal court judge issued an extreme ruling regarding “don’t ask don’t tell”: An injunction, forbidding the U.S. military from enforcing the policy worldwide. As part of the ruling, she gave the government up to 60 days to appeal. Attorneys for the Log Cabin Republicans, which brought the lawsuit, have counseled caution, discouraging servicemembers from coming out.

Now, it’s been a long while since I practiced law actively, but I have some ideas radical ideas about how those in the military should approach this ruling.

COME OUT NOW. I know the LCR doesn’t think it’s a good idea, but here’s the thing: It is, for now, the law. Just like years ago, when San Francisco and New Paltz, N.Y., declared they would recognize same-sex marriages and performed dozens of them, the act itself has repercussions. The courts had to decide the legality, but in the interim, who could say they were not legal?

Relatedly, everyone who got married in California after same-sex marriage was allowed but before Prop 8 was passed were deemed to be legally and forever married. Those unions were not negatively affected from legal recognition by Prop 8. I would argue that anyone who does come out in reliance on a federal ruling cannot later be discharged, anymore than someone who drives 30 mph can be given a ticket a year retroactively later when they change the speed to 25.

It also provides the Obama administration with political cover. Obama claims to want to discontinue DADT, but is relying, disgustingly, on some bullshit “study” before acting. (The details of that study offend me to the core, as it will evaluate such things as whether gay troops should be given “separate living facilities” or whether the other servicemembers will be “OK with it.” Since when did the military care what grunts think, or act like a democracy? What if a soldier is gay but doesn’t want to come out — should he be forced to so he can be segregated in the pink barracks? It’s really very easy: The ruling should be “gay troops are no different than any others; effectively immediately, they are treated identically.” So if they wouldn’t do something for single gays or gay couples they do for straight singles or couples, don’t do it.) But Obama does not have to appeal the ruling; he shouldn’t. Let the courts decide it for him. Continue on with the legislative agenda just in case, but don’t appeal the ruling.

HOLD OBAMA TO HIS PROMISES. I mean this in the most threatening way possible. If the Obama administration does appeal the ruling, I personally will do everything in my power to throw my support to someone else. If a black man who is president cannot stand up for minorities and keep the promises he made the gay community as a candidate, he does not deserve my financial support. Or my vote. This is a test, Brarack: If you fail it, do not expect to get extra credit from me.

I know there are many out there who’ll say, “you’d prefer a Republican over a Democrat in the White House?” No. But I know this: If my rights are trod by someone who doesn’t have the political will to respect me, I don’t care what political party he or she is a member of. Keep in mind: DADT and DOMA were signed by Clinton; the first sitting president to express any support for civil unions for gays was W. (Granted, W did it in the context of opposing marriage, but Clinton never came out in favor of it, and even counseled John Kerry in 2004 to come out against civil unions! “The gays will forgive you and it might help you win,” he supposedly said. Shameful.)

We are at the brink of huge changes in the law and recognition for gay rights at a level I could not have conceived when I was a college student. This is no time to back down. This is the time to fight. Bloody some noses. Shame people into acknowledging their own bigotry. Because I assure you, in 50 years, public high school students will look back on how the current culture treated gays with the same puzzled disgust that we look on Jim Crow laws. Orville Faubus and George Wallace were probably more popular in public opinion polls in their day than Rosa Parks and Martin Luther King Jr. And how many streets have you seen named after Faubus and Wallace?

This is the time to create our heroes, our Rosa Parkses. Don’t shy away, guys. Don’t go to the back of the bus. Come out and say “In accordance with a federal order, I am saying I am gay. What are you gonna do about it?” Because right now, they can’t. And even if they can down the road, they will appear vindictive to discharge those with the courage to come out later.

Obama pledged change we can believe in. We’re ready for the change, Mr. President. Keep your word.

—  Arnold Wayne Jones

Dozens of vehicles vandalized at ilume

Dallas police estimate that 20-25 vehicles were vandalized Sunday afternoon while parked in the garage at ilume, the posh new development on the Cedar Springs strip.

Sr. Cpl. Kevin Janse, a spokesman for DPD, said the vehicles appeared to have been “keyed,” although the suspect could have used a screwdriver or anything sharp.

Janse said only four victims have called in reports to police thus far, but it’s estimated that 20-25 vehicles were damaged. He added that there’s no reason to believe the incident was an anti-gay hate crime.

Janse said police have no suspect description, and there were no security cameras in the area of the garage where the incidents occurred.

Total monetary damages are unknown, but one victim who reported the incident estimated $3,000 in damage to his Hummer.

—  John Wright

Texas Transgender Summit attendees on Nikki Araguz case: Littleton v. Prange is bunk

Dozens of individuals and organizations meeting at the Second Annual Texas Transgender Nondiscrimination Summit in Houston issued a joint statement Thursday on the Nikki Araguz case. In case you missed it, Araguz is the transgender widow of firefighter Thomas Araguz III, who died in the line of duty earlier this month. Thomas Araguz’s is family is suing Nikki Araguz in an effort to prevent her from receiving death benefits, alleging that the marriage was invalid. Below is the full text of the statement. For a list of signatories, go here.

HOUSTON, Texas (July 22, 2010) — We, the attendees of the Second Annual Texas Transgender Nondiscrimination Summit, issue this statement to demonstrate our support for Mrs. Nikki Araguz and to call attention to her plight and that of all transgender people in the state of Texas.

Mrs. Nikki Araguz legally married a man, and her marriage has been recognized under the laws of the state of Texas. Nikki’s husband, a fireman in Wharton County, tragically was killed in the line of duty, and now other parties are attempting to use the courts to have her marriage legally overturned in an effort to deny her inheritance and insurance.

These parties are claiming that Nikki is not legally a woman under Texas law. Nikki’s opponents are attempting to use an obscure Texas case, Littleton v. Prange (1999), to declare that her marriage should be invalid. The Littleton case says that a person’s gender is determined by chromosomes, not physical attributes. The Littleton case was decided to deny a transgender woman her right to bring a wrongful death suit on behalf of her husband — even though Littleton had legally changed her gender and had been legally married in Texas.

The Littleton case was wrongfully decided at the time, and if taken literally stands for the proposition that a transgender person cannot marry anyone, of either gender, under Texas law. Clearly, this is wrong. Denying anyone the right to marry whom they love is a violation of the most basic freedoms under our laws. To deny the validity of an existing, legal marriage, after one of the spouses has died, as justification for the redistribution of inheritance and insurance, is abhorrent to the values of common decency, fair play, and justice that most Texans hold dear.

We, the attendees of this Summit, extend our heartfelt condolences to Mrs. Araguz, and call for the swift dismissal of this lawsuit so that Mrs. Araguz may be left to mourn her loss in private without distraction or worry for her financial stability.

If necessary, we also call for the courts to consider the Littleton case superseded by the recent changes to the Texas Family Code that recognize a court ordered gender change as definitive proof of identity.

Sadly, discrimination against people because of either their gender identity or expression is common. There are few laws in the state of Texas to address this need. The purpose of our Summit is to find ways to help people confront and overcome the issues now facing all transgender people in Texas and, tragically, Mrs. Nikki Araguz.

—  John Wright