Mary Gonzalez leads in re-election bid after early voting

Gonzalez.Mary

Mary Gonzalez

Out state Rep. Mary Gonzalez will likely keep her House District 75 seat after early voting results gave her a strong lead Tuesday.

Gonzalez, D-El Paso, brought in 69 percent of the vote, compared to her only Democratic  challenger Rey Sepulveda, who received 31 percent of the early vote.

No Republican is seeking the office, so Gonzalez is sure to return to the state Legislature after final results come in.

She’s one of five openly gay state House candidates, but the only one with a contested primary.

Other out candidates are Celia Israel, who won the runoff in the special election to replace state Rep. Mark Strama in Austin and will face one Republican in the fall, and Denton’s Emy Lyons and Daniel Moran, who will both take on Republican incumbents.

Former state board of education member George Clayton is unopposed in his Democratic bid for HD 102, which covers parts of North Dallas, Richardson and Addison.

On the crowded Republican side, incumbent Stefani Carter came in second to former Dallas Councilwoman Linda Koop with 33 percent and 35 percent after early voting, so a runoff is likely.

Sam Brown received 28 percent of the vote with Adyana Boyne coming in last with 4 percent.

—  Anna Waugh

El Paso rejects demand for $10,000 by anti-gay hate group

TomBrown

Tom Brown

Tom Brown Ministries demanded $10,000 from the city of El Paso to settle a lawsuit it initiated over city domestic partner benefits. The city council rejected the demands from the organization labeled an anti-gay hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center.

In 2011, Brown began a recall petition against Mayor John Cook and two city council members who voted to reinstate domestic partner benefits. The benefits were approved in 2009 and repealed in an election in 2010 before being reinstated in 2011. The recall election cost five times what the benefits cost the city.

A lower court threw out the recall and the Texas Supreme Court refused to hear the case.

Complaints against Brown’s ministry were filed with the IRS in 2011 for illegally using his church’s nonprofit status for political purposes.

—  David Taffet

El Paso drag performer dies in police custody after being Tasered

Mercedes Demarco

Mercedes Demarco

An El Paso drag performer died in police custody after police used a Taser on her during a domestic disturbance call on Sunday.

Fernando Gomez, 36, was known on stage as Mercedes Demarco and was known as a role model. A number of younger performers in El Paso have taken Demarco as their last name in her honor. She competed in the Miss Texas at Large pageant.

Another performer described her as trans.

Demarco performed Saturday night at Club Prism in Downtown El Paso. At 4 a.m., police were called about someone screaming outside a motel in the sunset Heights neighborhood.

A witness saw Demarco trying to get into the motel office, which was locked, and screaming for help.

An officer arrived and tried to subdue and cuff Demarco. After a struggle, four more officers arrived. Demarco, who was described by a witness as hysterical, was Tasered, cuffed and put in the squad car. While being transported, Demarco became unresponsive and did not respond to first aid. Paramedics were called but she was pronounced dead at the hospital.

Police said they are waiting on an autopsy and toxicology test to determine the cause of death.

—  David Taffet

Fort Worth, El Paso have fewest same-sex couples among largest cities

Stockyards

Fort Worth ranks 49th out of the 50 largest cities in percent of same-sex couples

New data released by the Census Bureau indicates two Texas cities — El Paso and Fort Worth — have the lowest percentage of same-sex couples among the 50 largest cities in the U.S.

Fort Worth came in No. 49 with just 0.26 percent of couples who are gay or lesbian, and El Paso is No. 50 with 0.25 percent of couples.

Colorado Springs, home of anti-gay hate groups such as Focus on the Family, is No. 48.

In the top spot is Seattle with 2.6 percent of couples gay or lesbian. Seattle edged out San Francisco with 2.5 percent. Minneapolis is third with 2.4 percent. All three of those cities are in marriage-equality states.

Despite having a lower concentration of gay and lesbian couples, El Paso has a pansexual state representative and Fort Worth has a gay city councilman.

In the latest census, Arlington ranked 50th largest city in the U.S. and has a higher percentage of same-sex couples than Fort Worth.

To be counted as gay couples, two people of the same sex had to report that they were married or an unmarried partner.

—  David Taffet

Only 1 El Paso mayoral candidate supports pro-LGBT Proposition 7

Steve Ortega

Steve Ortega

Only one of six candidates for El Paso mayor is strongly backing an initiative to include LGBT protections in the city’s nondiscrimination policy and maintain domestic partner benefits.

Councilman Steve Ortega said he strongly supports Proposition 7, which will be voted on May 11.

“To me, this is the civil rights issue of our time,” Ortega told the El Paso Times. “It’s non-negotiable for me. A community that doesn’t fight against discrimination tolerates it, and I never want El Paso to be in that category.”

The council approved DP benefits in 2009 but voters later voted to end them. Ortega was a proponent when the council added them again in 2011.

Proposition 7 would add sexual orientation, gender identity and marital status to the city’s nondiscrimination policy. Its passage would allow the city to continue to offer health benefits to employees’ opposite- and same-sex partners. Reversing the benefits would require another voter-approved charter amendment.

Conservative businessman Robert Cormell told the Times that he would repeal domestic partner benefits if he is elected mayor.

“It’s a financial decision,” he said. “It’s not a gay issue. It’s an unmarried issue.”

The other candidates —Leo Gus Haddad, Oscar Leeser, Hector H. Lopez and Jaime O. Perez — wouldn’t commit to a stance on the nondiscrimination policy or DP benefits but said they support equality.

—  Anna Waugh

State Rep. Mary Gonzalez on getting hate mail after coming out as pansexual

Gonzalez.Mary

Texas state Rep. Mary Gonzalez, D-El Paso, who is believed to be the nation’s first pansexual elected official, recently did an interview with El Paso Inc. in which she talked about, among other things, the reaction of other legislators and the public to sexual orientation and her  historic election. Here’s a snippet:

Q: The Texas Legislature is a profoundly conservative workplace. Without delving into your personal life, how have members reacted to your coming out so publicly and to your unusual sexual orientation?

I think in the beginning they were confused by me for a lot of different reasons. You look at me and you don’t expect me to have an agriculture background. You read about me and my ambiguous sexuality. I think in the beginning there was confusion.

But, I hit the ground running. I filed 29 bills, opened my office before any other freshman. I’ve been at the mike asking pointed questions. I think I’m serious and that as progressive as I am, I’m not polarized when it comes to politics. I can work with Republicans and get along with Republicans, and I can get things done.

I think the best way to combat any oppression is for people to meet someone who is that identity. So, they’ve met me; they understand me a little better and see me as a person. They don’t care anymore.

Q: What about the public reaction?

Right after all the media stuff happened, it did feel like bullying. I was getting hate emails and ugly, ugly messages sent to me. At that point, I thought, “This is why no one comes out in politics. This is why kids don’t come out in schools.” While I’m proud of all the barriers we’ve broken, it has not come without a lot of ugliness attached to it.

Read the full interview here.

—  John Wright

El Paso’s Beto O’Rourke among strongest new LGBT allies in Congress

Rep. Beto O’Rourke

The new 113th Congress was sworn into office Thursday. Six openly LGBT representatives will serve in the new House of Representatives, and Tammy Baldwin became the first openly LGBT person to serve in the Senate.

In addition, Texas has five new Democrats in its delegation including strong LGBT allies. Locally, that includes Marc Veasey of Fort Worth.

Elsewhere in Texas, Beto O’Rourke, whose district includes El Paso and far west Texas, worked hard for the LGBT community when he served on the El Paso City Council.

O’Rourke recently sat down with Dallas Voice to talk about a wide range of issues, including his long-running support for LGBT equality.

In his primary campaign, O’Rourke said he called marriage equality a core civil rights issue. He said position on the issue was a reason he unseated incumbent Rep. Silvestre Reyes.

—  David Taffet

Mary Gonzalez officially becomes Texas’ 1st openly LGBT female state legislator

Gonzalez.MaryEl Paso’s Mary Gonzalez unofficially captured the Texas House District 75 seat back in May when she won a contested Democratic primary.

And without a Republican opponent in the general election, she sailed to an official victory Tuesday, becoming the first openly LGBT woman elected to the Texas Legislature. Gonzalez identifies as pansexual, so she’s also the first-known openly pansexual elected official in the U.S.

Gonzalez marked the news by thanking her family and supports this afternoon on her “Mary González for State Representative” Facebook page.

“Well it is OFFICIAL that I will be representing Texas House District 75 at the Texas Capitol. Thank you to all my family, friends and loved ones for all your support,” the post reads. “I recognize that I wouldn’t be here without the people who worked to make this happen. Let’s get to work- changing the world one day at a time.”

Congrats, Mary. We look forward to you making a mark in Austin come January.

—  Anna Waugh

State Rep.-elect Mary Gonzalez visits Stonewall Dems in Dallas, Fort Worth

Mary Gonzalez speaks at the Round-Up on Monday night.

State Rep.-elect Mary Gonzalez was the keynote speaker at a Stonewall Democrats of Dallas fundraiser Monday night at the Round-Up Saloon. She will appear at a fundraiser for Tarrant County Stonewall Democrats tonight at a private residence in Fort Worth.

Gonzalez won her El Paso primary election and faces no opposition in November. She will be the youngest member of the Legislature and the first LGBT woman to serve. Gonzalez made national news a second time when she came out as pansexual in an interview with Dallas Voice.

On Monday night, she said she hopes to develop a warm working relationship with Stonewall Democrats.

Although she hasn’t yet entered the House, it seems Gonzalez may already have her sites set on the Senate. She pointed out that only six women serve in the 31-member state Senate.

While she hopes to break down stereotypes among her colleagues once she enters the House, Gonzalez said she ran to help people in her district. Large areas of her far West Texas district are without electricity, running water and plumbing. She said she hopes to represent the area better than her predecessors, one of whom was indicted on drug trafficking charges.

The evening was a fundraiser for County Commission District 1 candidate Theresa Daniel and Sheriff Lupe Valdez. Commissioner Elba Garcia attended, although she is not up for reelection. Several other candidates including Judge Don Adams also attended. Former state Rep. Harryette Ehrhardt was there to greet the newest queer member of the Legislature.

Gonzalez is scheduled to appear tonight at Tarrant County Stonewall Democrats with Hon. Tonya Parker and former Rep. Glen Maxey.

More photos from Monday’s event below.

—  David Taffet

El Paso County becomes 2nd in Texas to offer domestic partner benefits

Tom Brown

El Paso County became only the second county in Texas to offer domestic partner benefits after the Commissioners Court approved offering the benefits to gay and unmarried couples Monday.

Commissioners approved DP benefits 3-1 during a vote in the morning meeting, ABC-7 reports.

Estimated annual cost for the benefits is $23,905. Domestic partners can be of the same or opposite sex but must be at least 18 years old and have lived together for at least one year.

The El Paso City Council passed DP benefits in 2009 and again in 2011 after a repeal effort by pastor Tom Brown overturned the decision.

Domestic partner benefits for El Paso County employees were first proposed in 2009 but the vote was postponed and later deleted as an agenda item. In 2011, the motion failed to pass.

Travis County currently offers DP benefits. Cities in Texas that offer DP benefits are Dallas, Fort Worth, Austin, San Antonio and El Paso. Dallas County Judge  Dallas County Judge Clay Jenkins recently told Dallas Voice he hopes to add DP benefits this year.

Those who wish to enroll for the benefits in El Paso County must also submit three of the following documents: common ownership of a motor vehicle, driver’s licenses listing a common address, proof of joint bank accounts or credit accounts, designation as property power of attorney or health care power of attorney, designation as the primary beneficiary for life insurance, retirement benefits or primary beneficiary designation under a partner’s will.

—  Anna Waugh