Barney Frank visits Cathedral of Hope, addresses group from Youth First Texas

Rep. Eddie Bernice Johnson, from left, the Rev. Jo Hudson and Rep. Barney Frank are shown at the Cathedral of Hope’s Interfaith Peace Chapel on Monday.

Retiring Rep. Barney Frank toured Cathedral of Hope and met with members of Youth First Texas for an hour-long discussion at the Interfaith Peace Chapel on Monday.

Frank was in town for a fundraiser for Rep. Eddie Bernice Johnson.

“I’m not campaigning myself this year,” Frank said. “And Eddie Bernice Johnson is enormously respected in Congress.”

Frank predicted that within 20 years, there will be full LGBT equality. He said several things have changed recently paving the way. States that have passed marriage equality have seen no impact on anyone else’s marriage. The head of the Marine Corps who opposed the repeal of “don’t ask, don’t tell” said he was wrong and that repeal had no negative impact the military. And younger people are less likely to oppose equality and their support should continue as they age.

He said that the anti-LGBT faction has tried to divide the African-American caucus to stop their support of LGBT equality.

But Rep. Johnson said, “We know what it’s like to be treated unfairly.”

Frank said the black caucus is better on LGBT issues than the gay members.

“Not the openly gay members,” he said, politely declining to name any of his colleagues as closeted.

—  David Taffet

Eddie Bernice Johnson receives perfect score on LGBT equality from HRC

Rep. Eddie Bernice Johnson

Five members of Texas’ congressional delegation support marriage equality, according to the Human Rights Campaign, but only two earned perfect scores of 100 percent on the group’s Congressional Scorecard for the 112th Congress released Thursday.

Reps. Eddie Bernice Johnson, D-Dallas, and Silvestre Reyes, D-El Paso, were among 115 members of the House nationally who receive scores of 100 percent from HRC. While Johnson is expected to win re-election easily on Nov. 6, Reyes was defeated by Beto O’Rourke in the Democratic Primary. Johnson received a perfect score for the sixth consecutive time, dating back 10 years to 2002. She has failed to receive a 100 only twice during two decades in Congress.

Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee, D-Houston, who has regularly received a 100 on the scorecard, fell to 85 this year for failing to co-sponsor legislation that would “equalize the tax treatment of employer-provided health coverage for domestic partners and other non-spouse, non-dependent beneficiaries.”

Overall, the average score in the House fell from 50.8 percent in the 111th Congress to 40 percent in the current Congress, according to the Washington Blade. In the Senate, the average score went from 57.3 percent in the 111th Congress to 35 percent in the current 112th Congress.

“While we continue to make advancements towards equality in Washington, the 112th Congress has more anti-equality members set on halting our progress,” HRC President Chad Griffin told the Blade.

This year, for the first time, HRC asked members of Congress whether they support marriage equality. Their responses are listed on the scorecard but were not factored into their scores.

The Texas representatives who said they support marriage equality were all Democrats: Johnson, Reyes, Jackson Lee, Charlie Gonzalez of San Antonio and Lloyd Doggett of Houston.

Among Texas’ 23 Republicans, the only two who didn’t receive zeroes on the scorecard were Ron Paul and Ted Poe, who both received a 15.

In the Senate, Texas Republican John Cornyn received a score of 15, while fellow Republican Kay Bailey Hutchison received a zero.

Click here to view the full scorecard.

—  John Wright

Barney Frank to bid farewell to Dallas at fundraiser for Eddie Bernice Johnson

frank.barney

Barney Frank

Fresh off his controversial comments comparing Log Cabin Republicans to “Uncle Toms,” gay Congressman Barney Frank, D-Mass., will be in Dallas next month for a farewell hosted by the Human Rights Campaign’s DFW Federal Club.

Frank, who’s been in Congress since 1981, is retiring at the end of this year.

The farewell will be Monday, Oct. 22 at the Turtle Creek residence of Eric Johnson and Dr. Mark Parker. The event will serve as a fundraiser for the re-election campaign of Dallas Democratic Congresswoman Eddie Bernice Johnson, who faces faces Republican Travis Washington Jr. and Libertarian Ed Rankin in the November election.

Other hosts for Frank’s farewell are Vanessa Benavides, Deiadra Burns, Anne Faye, Jennifer Guyot-Wallace, Tracey Guyot-Wallace, Craig McCartney, Sonja McGill, Erin Moore, Jay Narey, Omar Narveaz, James Nowlin, Samuel Sanchez, Cathy Scalise, Jeff Strater and Dan Waldmann.

The event runs from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m., and the cost is $250 per person. There will also be a private reception from 5:30 to 6 p.m. for $1,000.

RSVP by email to political@hrcdfw.org

—  John Wright

William Waybourn joins push to name Oak Lawn post office for Bill Nelson

William Waybourn

One-time Dallas activist William Waybourn, who now lives in Virginia, added his name to the drive to name the Oak Lawn Post Office after Bill Nelson.

In his letter to Rep. Eddie Bernice Johnson, Waybourn reminds the congressswoman that she was one of the original advisory board members of the AIDS Resource Center in the mid-80s, lending her expertise as a nurse as well as her political clout. She said she showed “courage and rejected fear” by putting her name out for such an unpopular cause as AIDS.

Waybourn and his partner, Craig Spaulding, started Crossroads Market with Nelson and his partner, Terry Tebedo, in the early 1980s. Waybourn also later served as president of the Dallas Gay Alliance.

Bruce Monroe and The Dallas Way: The GLBT History Project have been spearheading the petitioning project. They collected signatures at an event at Sue Ellen’s on Sept. 13, at Lee Park after the parade and at a Stonewall Democrats event at the Round-Up Saloon.

As Lone Star Ride co-chair Dan Babb signed the petition at the event at the Round-Up, he said Nelson was a teacher of his.

Read Waybourn’s full letter to Johnson below.

—  David Taffet

Majority of House Democrats from Texas decline to sign brief opposing Defense of Marriage Act

Dallas Congresswoman Eddie Bernice Johnson was among four Democrats from Texas who signed the brief opposing DOMA. Five House Democrats from Texas declined to sign the brief.

With friends like these, who need enemies?

The Texas Democratic Party may have recently added marriage equality to its platform, but obviously that doesn’t mean all or even most Democratic elected officials in the Lone Star State support the plank — or have the guts to stand up for it.

In fact, a majority of U.S. House Democrats from Texas have declined to sign a court brief opposing the anti-gay Defense of Marriage Act.

Five of the nine House Democrats from Texas — the most from any state — are among 60 from across the country who declined to sign the friend-of-the-court brief filed Tuesday before the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals. (BuzzFeed has a list of all 60 representatives who declined to sign the brief.)

The Washington Blade reports that 132 House Democrats signed the brief, which urges the federal appeals court to strike down as unconstitutional the the 1996 law prohibiting federal recognition of same-sex marriage. The brief was filed in Golinski v. Office of Personnel Management, in which federal employee Karen Golinski is seeking benefits for her partner.

Shelbi Day, a staff attorney for Lambda Legal, which represents Golinski, told the Blade that the brief filed by House Democrats “sends a powerful message” and “underscores just how problematic and unconstitutional DOMA is.”

“As the brief points out, DOMA is not the rational result of impartial lawmaking but rather was enacted in haste with no legitimate government purpose,” Day said. “We welcome this brief and applaud the members of Congress who have signed it.”

The four Democrats from Texas who signed the brief opposing DOMA are Reps. Lloyd Doggett, Charlie Gonzalez, Sheila Jackson Lee and Eddie Bernice Johnson.

The five U.S. House members from Texas who declined to sign the brief are Reps. Henry Cuellar, Al Green, Gene Green, Rubén Hinojosa and  Silvestre Reyes. (To his credit Al Green is a co-sponsor of the Respect for Marriage Act, which would repeal DOMA.)

In case you’re wondering, contact info for these five — and the rest of Texas’ congressional delegation — can be found here.

Read the full brief here.

—  John Wright

WATCH: Dallas Congresswoman Eddie Bernice Johnson records LGBT Pride Month message

U.S. Rep. Eddie Bernice Johnson, D-Dallas, pledged her continued support for equality in an LGBT Pride Month video.

The video was posted on the congresswoman’s YouTube page Friday.

A longtime supporter of LGBT rights, Johnson voted in favor of the anti-gay Defense of Marriage Act in 1996 but now is now a sponsor of the bill to repeal DOMA.

In the video, she mentions that this year is the 43rd  anniversary of the Stonewall Rebellion, reflecting on the “enormous advancements in gay rights” since then that include the repeal of “don’t ask, don’t tell” and the Matthew Shepard and James Byrd Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act.

“These laws strengthen our commitment to value every American’s life equally, both publicly and privately,” she said. “The law of the land must protest every American’s civil rights.”

Johnson pledges in the video to continue to support gay rights as a member of LGBT Equality Caucus and to help pass legislation that “ensures a more united fight against discrimination and intolerance.”

“While great progress has been made, more work needs to be done,” she said.

Watch the video below.

—  Dallasvoice

Eddie Bernice Johnson’s chief of staff back at work after suspension for email about gay staffer

Eddie Bernice Johnson

Congresswoman Eddie Bernice Johnson’ chief of staff, who was placed on administrative leave last month over an email he wrote criticizing a gay staff member, is back on the job, The Dallas Morning News reports today.

Rep. Johnson, D-Dallas, placed her chief of staff, Murat Gokcigdem, on leave after the Washington Blade, an LGBT newspaper in the capital, obtained a copy of an email Gokcigdem wrote about Christopher Crowe in 2010. Crowe died last year from a staph infection, but at the time he was one of four finalists to become special assistant to the undersecretary of budget and tax in the Treasury Department.

Crowe, who worked in Johnson’s office and headed the LGBT Congressional Staff Association, sought a letter of recommendation from Gokcigdem for the Treasury Department post. In response to Crowe’s request, Gokcigdem drafted an email to Johnson that he mistakenly sent to Crowe, according to the Blade. Gokcigdem’s email said Crowe was underqualified for the Treasury Department and suggested he was only being considered by the White House post because he was gay.

“It is my personal belief that he has contacts there,” Gokcigdem wrote. “And they, as a group watching and supporting each other if you know what I mean.”

The Morning News reports that Johnson’s office won’t say for how long Gokcigdem was suspended, whether he was paid during that time, or what the findings of the investigation were. The newspaper suggests that the leak of Gokcigdem’s email to the Blade was designed to stir opposition to Johnson prior to the Democratic Primary, and Gokcigdem’s suspension was her effort to tamp down the issue until after the election. Johnson won a landslide victory over two challengers, Taj Clayton and Barbara Mallory Caraway.

The story quotes the deputy executive director of Log Cabin Republicans of Dallas, who suggests that Johnson’s office is sweeping the matter under the rug.

“Investigations tend to provide cover for a lot of facts that one doesn’t want to talk to,” Christian Berle told The Morning News. “It is unfortunately emblematic of a situation many staffers on the Hill are dealing with. … They’re not able to show up at work as themselves.”

Gokcigdem’s suspension led indirectly to the revelation that Rep. Johnson was running misleading advertisements in Dallas Voice, saying she had a perfect record on LGBT issues for 20 years when in fact she voted in favor of the anti-gay Defense of Marriage Act in 1996.

Johnson’s office declined repeated requests for an interview with the Voice, the only LGBT newspaper in her district, to discuss the ads and explain why she voted for DOMA but is now a sponsor of the bill to repeal it.

—  John Wright

BREAKING: Eddie Bernice Johnson places chief of staff on leave over email about gay staffer

Eddie Bernice Johnson

The Washington Blade is reporting that Congresswoman Eddie Bernice Johnson, D-Dallas, a staunch LGBT ally, has placed her chief of staff on administrative leave in response to an email he wrote about a gay staff member two years ago.

Murat Gokcigdem was placed on indefinite leave effective Monday, the Blade reports, after the LGBT newspaper obtained a copy of an email Gokcigdem wrote about staff member Christopher Crowe in 2010. Crowe died last year from a staph infection, but at the time he was one of four finalists to become special assistant to the undersecretary of budget and tax in the Treasury Department.

Crowe, who worked in Johnson’s office and headed the LGBT Congressional Staff Association, sought a letter of recommendation from Gokcigdem for the Treasury Department post. In response to Crowe’s request, Gokcigdem drafted an email to Johnson that he mistakenly sent to Crowe, according to the Blade.

Gokcigdem’s email said Crowe was underqualified for the Treasury Department and suggested he was only being considered by the White House post because he was gay.

“It is my personal belief that he has contacts there,” Gokcigdem wrote. “And they, as a group watching and supporting each other if you know what I mean.”

A spokeswoman for Johnson’s office didn’t immediately respond Monday evening to a request for comment from Dallas Voice.

You can read Gokcigdem’s full email about Crowe here.

Our initial reaction to this news is that we suspect there must be more to this story. It’s hard to believe that Rep. Johnson would suspend her chief of staff based on this email alone.

It’s also worth noting that today is the first day of early voting in the primary, and Johnson has two Democratic challengers. So the timing of this email being leaked to the Blade strongly suggests that it’s politically motivated.

Stay tuned to Instant Tea for updates.

—  John Wright

Nowlin throws hat in ring to replace Hunt in District 14

James Nowlin

DAVID TAFFET  |  Staff Writer
taffet@dallasvoice.com

If Angela Hunt decides to run for mayor, the gayest council district in Dallas will be open, and at least one gay man has already announced he is throwing his hat into the District 14 ring.

James Nowlin, 30, has lived in Dallas since 2006. He is a graduate of University of Virginia and Duke University School of Law.

In 2007, he and a business partner he started Excel Global Partners, a corporate financial consulting and professional services staffing company. He said he maintains his law license.

If elected, Nowlin would become the youngest person ever elected to Dallas City Council. Hunt now holds that title; she was first elected at age 33.

Hunt appointed Nowlin to the Dallas Citizens Police Review Board, from which he recently resigned after deciding to run for office.

He has also serves on the board of AIDS Services Dallas and attends of Cathedral of Hope and Unity Church of Christianity.

Nowlin has already put up a campaign website and named Bill Prather as his treasurer.

While this is the first time he’s running for office, it is not Nowlin’s first campaign. In 2010, he served on the steering committee for Rep. Eddie Bernice Johnson’s campaign.

“I’ve been talking to Angela for more than a year about succeeding her,” Nowlin said Thursday, Jan. 13.

If she decides to run for re-election rather than for mayor, he said, “We’ll cross that bridge when I get to it.”

Among the issues Nowlin said his campaign would address are the budget, public safety, economic development, infrastructure and other issues of importance to the LGBT community and the community at large.

District 14 includes parts of East Dallas and Oak Lawn. If elected, Nowlin would be the first gay representative from the district since Craig McDaniel was elected to that seat in 1993 as the city’s first openly gay council member.

For more information, visit JamesNowlin.com.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition Jan. 14, 2011.

—  John Wright

Rep. Johnson expects tough time for LGBT rights

Democrat wins 10th term, but says with Republicans in control, many LGBT-positive bills won’t get heard

DAVID TAFFET  |  Staff Writer taffet@dallasvoice.com

Congresswoman Eddie Bernice Johnson, right, and Dallas Mayor Tom Leppert
HONORING VETERANS | Congresswoman Eddie Bernice Johnson, right, and Dallas Mayor Tom Leppert were among those participating in Dallas’ Veterans Day parade on Thursday. Johnson said repeal of ‘don’t ask, don’t tell’ is possible during the lame duck session, but questionable. (David Taffet/Dallas Voice)

U.S. Rep. Eddie Bernice Johnson has been considered a friend to the LGBT community since she served in the Texas House of Representatives.

“I grew up black in Waco, Texas. It’s just hard for me to fight against anybody’s rights,” said the woman who just won re-election to Congress.
But Johnson dates her firm commitment to LGBT equality to a much more recent event.

She said that throughout her life she fought for civil rights, but “When they [the LGBT community] really got my attention was when they [anti-gay conservatives] were talking about putting something in the Constitution,” she said. “You know, I have never seen them amend the Constitution to take rights away from people. So that’s just the beginning and the end of my philosophy.”

Johnson told a story about the subtle discrimination that she encountered in her first job as the first black nurse at the Dallas VA Hospital.
She worked a shift until midnight. When she got off on time, she’d catch the last bus to her home downtown.

But her supervisors purposely liked to delay her so that she’d miss the bus and have to walk up Lancaster Road and across the Corinth StreetBridge to get downtown.

“It brings tears to my eyes even now,” she said.

But Johnson said she had on her comfortable white nursing shoes, all those nights, and she made it home. And she made it to Congress, where she hopes she’s helped make other people’s lives easier.

On Monday, Nov. 15, the lame duck session of Congress opens. But Johnson said she doesn’t “anticipate a lot” of movement on the several bills of interest to the LGBT community that have been languishing this session.

She said that the repeal of “don’t ask, don’t tell” has already passed the House, where she serves, and that the Senate has the votes. But still, she isn’t hopeful it will go through.

She said she believes that if DADT had to come back to the House because of amendments, it would pass there again. But, “It depends on what the Senate does,” she said.

Since Johnson expects that a number of House members who were defeated will not return for the lame duck session, she isn’t hopeful that other legislation of interest to the LGBT community will even be brought to the floor.

She said the House had the votes to pass Employment Nondiscrimination. But if the legislation does come up during the lame duck session, whether it passes will depend on who has shown up for work.

Two immigration bills that might be considered could help the LGBT community: the Dream Act and the Uniting American Families Act. The Dream Act would give people who were brought to this country as children a way to become citizens. UAFA would give an American citizen the right to sponsor a partner for a visa and eventual citizenship, the same way a married spouse currently can.

Johnson noted that Republican Sen. John McCain had been a sponsor of the Dream Act but has since dropped his sponsorship. The bill would have an easier path to passage with his name on it, she said.

Johnson would like to see the omnibus immigration reform bill — which includes the Dream Act and UAFA and has been debated this session — pass while the Democrats are still in control.

“I wish we could because it would be much more acceptable,” she said. “People have to have a path to becoming citizens.”

Whether the two bills that would benefit the LGBT community would be considered in the next session, she couldn’t say.

“They determine what comes to the floor,” she said, referring to the majority party, which will be the Republicans.

Under Republican control, Johnson expects a piecemeal approach to immigration reform.

“If they mean to be productive, that’s one thing,” she said.

But she doesn’t expect that in the new session.

And what would she like in the new Congress?

“To get along,” Johnson said, with a sidelong glance that indicated that she didn’t expect it to happen.

“There’s going to be two parties up there, but it’s going to be the Tea Party and the Republican Party,” she said.

As we spoke in the conference room of her Dallas congressional office earlier this week, she revealed one of her darkest secrets: Some of her best friends in Congress are Republicans.

She also divulged one of her little tricks: Pralines from Neiman Marcus.

“This will make you a little sweeter,” she’ll tell a committee colleague when debating proposed legislation or funding for a project.

When Congress reconvenes in January, Johnson will once again be in the minority. She noted that she has spent fewer terms in office in the majority, so this won’t be anything new for her.

She said Republicans have indicated that 60 percent of each committee will be named from their own party.

“And the rumor is they’re going to cut them in half,” she said regarding committee size.

That will leave Democrats scrambling for committee assignments. She believes her own positions on the Science and Technology Committee and the Transportation Committee are safe because of her seniority, but worries that Democrats will lose the opportunity to develop younger talent.

She recalled the last time Republicans took control of the House in the 1994 sweep. They were in control for the first time in decades and she called their initial leadership “mean-spirited.”

First they fired all House staff, assuming them to be Democrats. Then they closed down a number of offices to outsource the work, including the printing and furniture building offices.

“Most of the furniture we use is made in house,” she said. “They got rid of all that staff and then they found out that to make a desk was $150 — maybe — and to buy one was a thousand.”

Johnson said printing is also done cheaper in-house.

She said doesn’t expect the in-coming Republican leadership to make the same mistakes, and that she hopes her committees continue to act in a bipartisan fashion.

“There’s no Democratic highway and there’s no Republican sewer system,” she said. “We tend to get along.”

While delighted by her own huge landslide in the recent election and thankful to people who voted for her, Johnson said she is saddened by how many of her friends won’t be returning to Congress with her in January.

Although the election coverage was all about the Tea Party candidates, only about a third were actually elected. Though many of the others lost by a small margin, Johnson defeated Stephen Broden, her Tea Party opponent, by more than 50 points. Her landslide was possibly the largest against a Tea Party candidate in the country.

Johnson laughs at coverage of her election that minimized the enormity of her win. She said that by looking at her opponent’s campaign filings, she knew rank-and-file and local Republicans weren’t supporting him. That indicated last-minute money might flow into his coffers from around the country.

But Johnson said she was prepared and ran her usual campaign, taking nothing for granted.

“People in my district know me,” she said.

And in large numbers voted for her for a 10th term in office.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition November 12, 2010.

—  Michael Stephens