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.

—  Dallasvoice

Don’t miss this El Paso Times profile on pioneering gay luchador Cassandro

Today, Texas Monthly’s Jason Cohen pointed us to this piece from the El Paso Times about the out, cross-dressing wrestler Cassandro. The profile, by Paul Imison, came out earlier this week.

Imison takes a look into Cassandro’s legacy as the first openly gay luchador as well as gives fascinating insight to the world of lucha libre.

This got me curious to see if Cassandro had ever wrestled here in Dallas. There is a slight lucha libre scene here that takes place in area bazaars and malls. While researching local appearances (any help would be most welcome), I did come across one wrestler with flair in a video taken from a match at the Irving Bazaar. Watch him in action with his opponent and the men in the crowd after the jump, as well as video of Cassandro in action.

—  Rich Lopez

El Paso bishop reassigns anti-gay Priest Michael Rodriguez for illegally intervening in politics

The Catholic bishop in El Paso has reassigned a priest who recently took out a series of anti-gay ads (right) in the city’s daily newspaper. Father Michael Rodriguez of  San Juan Bautista Parish has been transferred to another church in West Texas. In addition to taking out the ads in The El Paso Times — which were paid for by an unidentified Plano couple — Rodriguez recently challenged three city officials to a public debate over their decision to vote in favor of domestic partner benefits for employees. The three officials are currently the target of recall election petitions sponsored by an anti-gay group.

ABC Channel 7 reports that El Paso Bishop Armando X. Ochoa reassigned Rodriguez because his involvement in the DP benefits issue “raised serious issues regarding whether his participation could be attributed to the Diocese of El Paso.”

“(Father) Rodriguez has recently challenged certain city officials to participate with him in a partisan debate on issues related to an upcoming election,” said Ochoa. “This type of intervention in the political process by religious organizations such as the Diocese of El Paso and San Juan Bautista Church is not permitted under Section 501 of the Internal Revenue Code.”

On a related note, we mentioned last week that GLAAD has been working with The EL Paso Times to improve the newspaper’s handling of LGBT issues. Despite GLAAD’s efforts, it’s kind of sad that the newspaper can’t seem to bring itself to use the word “gay.” Check out the lede on today’s story: “The Rev. Michael Rodriguez, of San Juan Bautista Catholic Church, who has been in the spotlight for his anti-homosexuality beliefs, has been reassigned to another church, he said Wednesday.” Anti-homosexuality? Sounds like “love the sinner, hate the sin” — and a sad excuse for journalism.

—  John Wright

El Paso Times now giving anti-gay priest Michael Rodriguez editorial space in addition to ads

The other day the Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation issued a press release praising The El Paso Times for publishing several pro-LGBT opinion pieces. GLAAD said it had reached out to the publisher of The EPT after the newspaper allowed those four recent anti-gay advertisements written by the Rev. Michael Rodriguez and paid for by an unidentified Plano couple.

The EPT publisher responded by inviting letters to the editor and opinion pieces, according to GLAAD, several of which the newspaper actually printed!!! Which is great and all, but if the EPT has truly had some sort of awakening on LGBT issues, we’re a little confused as to why the newspaper chose to run this story today about Rodriguez, saying he’s challenged three city leaders to a public forum.

Oh yeah? Really? Who gives a fuck? Can someone — perhaps someone at  GLAAD — explain why The EPT is now giving Rodriguez editorial space in addition to advertising?

—  John Wright

Why is a Plano couple paying to run hateful anti-gay ads in The El Paso Times?

Earlier this week we told you about a hateful anti-gay advertisement that appeared recently in the El Paso Times. Turns out the disgusting ad in question was only one of four that ran on consecutive days, with each featuring another homophobic screed from the Rev. Michael Rodriguez of San Juan Bautista Catholic Church. In an article about the ads published Thursday, the El Paso Times reported that they don’t reflect the views of the local Catholic diocese — at least not officially. The EPT also notes that even though he wrote the copy, Rodriguez didn’t pay for the ads. Rather, they were paid for by “a couple from Plano, Texas.” We contacted Rodriguez’s church, where a woman who answered the phone denied that a Plano couple had paid for the ad. She said she would have Rodriguez get back to us, but so far he hasn’t. We also contacted the reporter, Aaron Bracamontes, who said he found out that a Plano couple had paid for the ad from the newspaper’s sales department. Bracamontes declined to give us the name of the couple, saying the newspaper will only identify them if they agree to talk.

—  John Wright

What’s Brewing: Full-page ad in El Paso newspaper calls gays ‘putrid,’ ‘depraved’

Your weekday morning blend from Instant Tea:

1. An anti-gay Catholic priest took out a full-page ad (right) in the El Paso Times over the weekend calling gays “immoral,” “putrid” and “depraved.” The ad, taken out by Friar Michael Rodriguez of El Paso’s San Juan Bautista Catholic Church, has since been removed from the newspaper’s website, according to The Advocate, which contacted the newspaper about its advertising policy but didn’t hear back. It’s hardly surprising that the EPT ran this ad. In fact, it may represent an improvement since the newspaper used to give Rodriguez free space to spout his hatred. Just last year, the EPT published an op-ed piece in which Rodriguez compared homosexuality to rape and said those who don’t actively oppose gay rights are damned to hell.

2. Army Lt. Dan Choi’s federal trial continues today in Washington, D.C. Choi, who’s charged with disobeying police orders, was arrested for handcuffing himself to the White House fence last November during a protest of “don’t ask, don’t tell.” He faces up to six months in jail. People arrested for protesting at the White House normally face local misdemeanor charges. But Choi’s attorneys claim he’s being treated differently because he’s a prominent gay-rights activist.

3. A 21-year-old cannibal in Russia is accused of using the Internet to lure a gay man to his home for sex, then stabbing the victim to death before cutting up his body and eating it, according to Ria Novosti, an English-language Russian news site: Investigators believe the killer became acquainted with his victim via the internet, and lured him in sexually. “According to preliminary information, one of them was seeking a sexual partner. The accused explained later that such people are not open, and they prefer to hide their contacts”, Murmansk Investigation Committee chief Fyodor Bludenov said. “The accused stabbed the man a few times, and after having assured himself that the man was dead, he cut up his body and ate him,” the Investigation committee said in a statement.

—  John Wright

Anti-gay El Paso pastor faces IRS complaint for using tax-exempt church to fight DP benefits

Pastor Tom Brown of Word of Life Church was the driving force behind a ballot measure to repeal DP benefits in El Paso.

An anti-gay El Paso pastor is accused of illegally using his tax-emempt church to advocate political causes. The Rev. Tom Brown of Word of Life Church, who spearheaded last year’s ballot initiative rescinding domestic partner benefits for city employees, has now launched a petition to  recall council members who voted to restore DP benefits this June. The El Paso Times reports that Brown announced the recall petitions to his congregation last month and has written in support of them on his Tom Brown Ministries website, prompting a complaint to the IRS from Americans United for Separateion of Chruch and State:

The Rev. Barry W. Lynn, executive director of Americans United, said his group files such complaints against about “eight or 10″ tax-exempt groups nationwide each election cycle.

His group has received several complaints about Brown’s activities from El Paso residents.

“This seems so over-the-top, so brazen an attempt to involve himself in a partisan political campaign,” Lynn said, explaining his group’s reason for filing the complaint.

When Brown’s wife ran unsuccessfully for a City Council seat in May on an anti-DP benefits platform, she announced her campaign from the pulpit of the church and asked people to meet her in the vestibule if they wanted to volunteer. But it’s unclear if anyone filed a complaint about that incident. Brown denies all of the allegations and says the IRS complaint amounts to “harassment and persecution of anti-religious people against people of faith.”

In related news, the El Paso City Council voted Tuesday to hold a charter election in November 2012. One council member has proposed an anti-discrimination charter amendment that would prohibit the city from denying DP benefits to gay and lesbian employees.

The council, which initially approved DP benefits in 2009, voted to reinstate them last month after a federal judge upheld the ballot initiative rescinding them.

—  John Wright

UTEP basketball player from Lancaster sorry for tweeting, ‘It is NOT cool to be gay!’

John Bohannon

The El Paso Times reports that basketball player John Bohannon, a Lancaster native who just completed his freshman season at UTEP, has apologized for tweeting, “It is NOT cool to be gay!” Ironically, Bohannon’s homophobic tweet reportedly was in response to the “Think Before You Speak” PSA that aired during the NBA playoffs, which featured two players speaking out against anti-gay language. From the EPT last Friday:

Thursday afternoon, Bohannon followed with “to those who were offended by my tweet a few days ago. Didn’t mean any disrespect by it as I do not judge anybody by their sexual preference.”

And he added, “And would hope you would not judge me by one tweet. Thank you.”

According to Bohannon’s Twitter feed, he later suggested that his original comment was “taken out of context.” And Jim Buzinski at OutSports isn’t satisfied with Bohannon’s apology:

I will judge him by that one tweet and his lame non-apology: John Bohannon is a moron and has obvious issues with gay people. And being gay is not a “preference,” it’s an orientation. Perhaps he’s simply not too bright: He was suspended one game this season, his first, for what his coach said was a  “lack of academic performance.”

—  John Wright

What’s Brewing: El Paso teen arrested in brutal beating outside gay nightclub

The Old Plantation in downtown El Paso.

Your weekday morning blend from Instant Tea:

1. A 16-year-old has been arrested on suspicion of aggravated assault in connection with a brutal beating last weekend outside the Old Plantation gay nightclub in downtown El Paso, the El Paso Times reports today. Police say they believe the attack was gang related and aren’t treating the incident as a hate crime, even though family members and LGBT activists insist the victim, 22-year-old Lionel Martinez, was targeted only because he was outside a gay venue. Martinez, who’s straight but had been to the Old Plantation with friends, remains in critical condition and has not regained consciousness since the attack last Friday night or Saturday morning. The FBI reportedly is investigating the incident as a possible civil rights violation, and more arrests are expected. A total of six people were involved in the attack, and a security guard says there’s been an upswing of gang activity around the nightclub. But just because something is gang related doesn’t mean it’s not a hate crime. In fact, it’s quite common for gang initiations to include bashing a queer, and here’s a story about another hate crime that occurred just a week before.

2. The Ugandan Parliament has adjourned without taking up an Anti-Homosexuality Bill that includes a death penalty provision, the Associated Press reports. The bill was slated to be considered today, but the speaker of the parliament says there isn’t enough time to debate the bill before the session ends next week.

3. A new poll shows that a majority of Minnesotans oppose a state constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage. The Minnesota Senate voted to place such an amendment on the 2012 ballot this week, and the House is expected to follow suit. But the poll shows that 55 percent oppose the amendment, while only 39 percent support it. Just seven years ago, a poll found that 58 percent of Minnesotans supported a ban on same-sex marriage.

—  John Wright

FBI investigates El Paso attack as hate crime

The FBI is now investigating last weekend’s brutal attack outside a popular gay nightclub in El Paso as a hate crime, the El Paso Times reports today:

As of Monday afternoon, the case is being investigated by FBI agents as a “civil rights violation,” said Special Agent Michael Martinez, a spokesman for the FBI in El Paso.

The attack took place either late Friday night or early Saturday morning, Martinez said. On Saturday, El Paso police said the man had been waiting for a ride outside the Old Plantation Night Club, 301 S. Ochoa, when a verbal confrontation began between the victim and six men.

Police said that the verbal confrontation became physical and that the six men allegedly began punching and kicking the victim. The group allegedly also used a bat to strike the victim.

The victim’s sister told a local TV station Monday that she believes the attack was a hate crime because the suspects were yelling gay slurs, even though she said her brother is not gay. However, El Paso police said they didn’t have enough information to classify the incident as a hate crime — in part because they’d been unable to interview the victim because he was still unconscious.

The federal Matthew Shepard and James Byrd, Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act, which passed Congress in 2009, grants the FBI authority to intervene in local hate crimes cases, including those motivated by actual or perceived sexual orientation and gender identity. Today’s El Paso Times story follows criticism from LGBT advocates, who say the local media has been largely ignoring the case.

—  John Wright