Feedback • 12.16.11

An Open Letter to Rick Perry

Dear Gov. Perry,

Your antics since you announced your bid for the Republican presidential nomination have already almost pushed me over the edge. You have long-since made me regret having voted for you the first go-round (before seeing the light). There have been multiple times that I have been embarrassed by you in much the same way that residents of Alaska must have been embarrassed by their then-governor Sarah Palin.

But the video commercial you released last week crossed the line. I am not only embarrassed that you are our state’s top elected official, I am ashamed of — and for — you.

It’s so apparent that you are making a completely unveiled attempt to pander to religious conservatives with this babble about “Obama’s religious war.”

Gov. Rick Perry

Gov. Rick Perry

Yes, there are people across the nation — and unfortunately, many of them here in the South — who will identify with your narrow-minded and hateful ideologies. But you, Mr. Governor, do not represent all Texans and certainly could in no way ever assume a position where you lead on behalf of an entire nation.

Your comments are hateful and full of fear. They are misinformed with respect to the ideals our country were shaped by and founded upon. And they place you absolutely on the wrong side of history — the same whitewashed tomb of people who opposed women’s rights, civil rights for people of all races and rights for the handicapped.

So here is what I say to you, oh woefully out-of-touch public servant to the people of Texas:

I’ve been a Christian my entire life and I believe in essentially the same creator, center of the Universe, life-giver, omniscient, all-loving being you claim to believe in — the very same Essence that millions of human beings believe in across the world. And although I no longer occupy a pew within a specific religious body, I respect your right to do so.

So go ahead on into your house of worship and occupy your pew. Worship the way you want to worship, say what you want to say, follow whatever rules they ascribe, judge those within your body, and exclude whomever you want to exclude. I will not judge you.

I would appreciate it, however, if you would behave in kind and refrain from bringing your hateful judgment to me or to any of my fellow human beings and their families.

Keep it there, inside your religion; it is not welcome in my house, my state, my nation.

Remember, the lines drawn between church and state are there for a reason. Our country was founded on the pursuit of liberty and the desire for religious freedom — not on narrow-minded ideologies that discriminate against a minority. These people did not want to come to the New World to impose their religion on others but rather to worship the God they wanted to worship. Period, end of story.

Though it’s true that many of our founding fathers were chauvinists and slave owners, I believe many of them had a seed of foresight to believe that the statement “all men are created equally” applied (or would apply) to both genders, all races and eventually all sexual orientations.

Our respectable President Barack Obama — who leads in a way you apparently will never be able — did not start a religious war. Prayer in school has been an issue of contention since I was a child. And gays serving in the military have nothing to do with an attack on your religion.

What a foolish comparison; high school students come up with more reasonable — and creative — theses than that.

“Gays in the military” no more impedes your right to worship than women being allowed to vote or allowing a black man to drink from the same water fountain as someone of your race did. Yet religious people somehow once supported such absurd and un-Godly beliefs as those, too.

People who dare breathe such views today are frowned upon, eschewed and pitied. At least generally, they have the sense to keep those thoughts to themselves.

You, sir, are not the only one who wears the name “Christian.” I know many such people who are heterosexual and accept their gay and lesbian brothers and sisters. And I know many homosexual Christians who sit in pews and worship Jehovah and obey the two greatest commandments: loving God with all their hearts, minds, souls and strength and loving their neighbors as they love themselves.

(You would be a wise student to note that it does not say “love only your heterosexual neighbors.” Are you, Mr. Perry, doing that?)

It seems to me that every time you open your mouth and say something hateful, you diminish the very witness of the Christ you claim to follow. Your unkind words belie any love that your namesake should evoke.
We don’t need you to save us, nor do we need your judgments or your pronouncement of some ridiculous war made up to get yourself attention within a small group of narrow-minded, religious people like yourself. We are not trying to destroy your religion or asking for admission into your religious sects; further, we are not asking your leaders to perform our marriages.

We demand, however, that you respect us and our families. The United States of America is not just the home of Republican, Christian heterosexuals; it is our home too and at home, we are created equally — every last one of us.

Please, sir, do not attempt to force your religious beliefs on my humanity. As a homosexual, I am no less deserving of rights than any heterosexual. You are my governor, not my judge.

Fear-mongering public servants like you will become relics that students of government and politics will study as examples of narrow-mindedness and shameful behavior. When they study the great women and men of politics, you will be absent from among them; I rather think you will be in the category of those rued and pitied — George Wallace will keep you company there.

Rick Perry, you should be ashamed of your ridiculous video. You should immediately apologize and reconsider whether running for the office of president of the United States is something you’re cut out for.
By your words and your actions — embarrassing gaffes and soundbites nothwithstanding — you continue to prove you are not the man for the job.

Respectfully,
Todd Whitley, Granbury

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This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition December 16, 2011.

—  Michael Stephens

Election 2010 • Fitzsimmons looks forward to completing digital courts project

Gay district clerk wins 2nd term; Parker is 1st openly LGBT person elected judge, county’s first gay African-American elected official

DAVID TAFFET  |  Staff Writer taffet@dallasvoice.com

Judge Tonya Parker
Judge Tonya Parker

Two of three openly gay candidates in Dallas County won their races. Among them was District Clerk Gary Fitzsimmons who was reelected to a second term in office.

He said sexual orientation did not figure into the races in Dallas County.

But now that the election is behind him, Fitzsimmons said his priority is completing his digital courts project. Filing paperwork electronically has already saved his office $1.3 million, he said, while opening new job opportunities in IT work at the county.

During the upcoming term, he expects his office with its electronic filing to become a model for the state.

“In four years we’ll be the envy of Texas,” he said.

In his first term in office, Fitzsimmons updated his employment policies to reflect non-discrimination. He was the first at the county level to do that and he said he has no tolerance for any sort of discrimination in his department.

He said that voters knew what they were getting when they elected him and expected him to carry out that policy. “Employees who can’t accept the diversity of Dallas County have no business in government,” he said.

But while sexual orientation was not a factor in the general election and hasn’t been a issue in his department, one candidate tried to make it the focus of the Republican primary. A candidate recruited by County Commissioner Ken Mayfield said that there were “moral issues in the race,” Fitzsimmons said.

That candidate was defeated in the primary and Mayfield was turned out of office in the general election after 16 years in the Commissioners Court.

While he heard from several sources that his eventual opponent had planned to use the issue, she never ran much of a campaign, Fitzsimmons said.

“Basically, she just got on the ballot,” he said.

Fitzsimmons said that mostly he works with attorneys and litigants but a quirk in Texas law allows counties to open passport offices. Those offices come under his jurisdiction. There are already three in the county and he’d like to add one in North Oak Cliff. He said that a vast number of passport applications in Dallas are from Hispanic residents but the office would also serve Oak Cliff’s large LGBT population.

“The outgoing commissioner wasn’t interested,” he said. “I’m excited to work with the new commissioner.”

Elba Garcia, who was elected on Tuesday, will represent the area.

Fitzsimmons was impressed by the lack of focus on the sexual orientation of the candidates through the election.

“Voters elected me and Tonya Parker to do a job,” he said.

On election night, Fitzsimmons watched returns from Magnolia Lounge in Fair Park with several other elected officials. Among them were County Tax Assessor John Ames who was not up for re-election and County Clerk John Warren who was. Warren also won re-election, but Fitzsimmons garnered more votes.

Parker, who was elected to serve in the 116th Judicial District Court, watched returns from the W Hotel.

Sexual orientation was not an issue in her race either. While never denying her sexual orientation, Parker preferred not to be interviewed by Dallas Voice during the campaign and stuck to issues throughout.

The Dallas Association of Young Lawyers named her an Outstanding Young Lawyer. Texas Monthly Magazine listed her as a Texas Rising Star four times over the past few years. She served on the board of directors of both the Dallas Bar Association and the J. L. Turner Legal Association.

Pete Schulte
Pete Schulte

Stonewall Democrats President Erin Moore called her one of the most eminently qualified new candidates running in this election cycle.

Parker won by a 5-point margin.

After the election, Parker left for vacation and was unavailable to comment.

Peter Schulte challenged Dan Branch for his seat in the Texas House of Representatives. Schulte blamed his defeat on the national mood. No Democrats won in challenged state House races in Dallas County and only one out of three prevailed in Tarrant County.

While his sexual orientation was not a campaign issue, Schulte had been in the news as the attorney for one of the men in the same-sex divorce case.

In that case, Judge Tena Callahan ruled that she had jurisdiction to grant a divorce to the Dallas couple who had married while living in Massachusetts.Attorney General Greg Abbott challenged the ruling and an appeals court overturned Callahan’s ruling.

Although additional counsel was retained for the appeal, Schulte continued to appear with his client. While avoiding local media, he made an appearance on Good Morning America and The Daily Show.

Schulte doesn’t believe his connection to the case affected the outcome, nor did it negatively affect Callahan. She won her re-election with about 52 percent of the vote.

Abbott, however, lost in both Dallas County and by a larger margin in Travis where a similar case involving a lesbian couple was heard.

Fitzsimmons said that he doesn’t believe sexual orientation matters to a majority of Dallas voters — competence does. He hopes he and Parker will encourage others in the LGBT community to run for office in the future.

He said that opportunities are especially good for women thinking of running. In Dallas County, six of the top 10 vote getters in contested races were women, including Parker.

Of the remaining four, Fitzsimmons made the list as did Stonewall Democrats member Carl Ginsberg.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition November 5, 2010.

—  Michael Stephens

Dallas could elect 1st gay judge

Judicial candidates John Loza, Tonya Parker among 4 LGBTs running in local races in 2010

By John Wright | News Editor wright@dallasvoice.com
IN THE RUNNING | Dallas County District Clerk Gary Fitzsimmons, clockwise from top left, County Judge Jim Foster, attorney Tonya Parker and former Councilman John Loza are LGBT candidates who plan to run in Dallas County elections in 2010. The filing period ends Jan. 4.

Dallas County has had its share of openly gay elected officials, from Sheriff Lupe Valdez to District Clerk Gary Fitzsimmons to County Judge Jim Foster.
But while Foster, who chairs the Commissioners Court, is called a “judge,” he’s not a member of the judiciary, to which the county’s voters have never elected an out LGBT person.

Two Democrats running in 2010 — John Loza and Tonya Parker — are hoping to change that.

“This is the first election cycle that I can remember where we’ve had openly gay candidates for the judiciary,” said Loza, a former Dallas City Councilman who’s been involved in local LGBT politics for decades. “It’s probably long overdue, to be honest with you.”

Dallas County’s Jerry Birdwell became the first openly gay judge in Texas when he was appointed by Gov. Ann Richards in 1992. But after coming under attack for his sexual orientation by the local Republican Party, Birdwell, a Democrat, lost his bid for re-election later that year.

Also in the November 1992 election, Democrat Barbara Rosenberg defeated anti-gay Republican Judge Jack Hampton.

But Rosenberg, who’s a lesbian, wasn’t out at the time and didn’t run as an openly LGBT candidate.

Loza, who’s been practicing criminal law in Dallas for the last 20 years, is running for the County Criminal Court No. 5 seat. Incumbent Tom Fuller is retiring. Loza said he expects to face three other Democrats in the March primary, meaning a runoff is likely. In addition to groups like Stonewall Democrats of Dallas, he said he’ll seek an endorsement from the Washington, D.C.-based Gay and Lesbian Victory Fund, which provides financial backing to LGBT candidates nationwide.

Parker, who’s running for the 116th Civil District Court seat, declined to be interviewed for this story. Incumbent Bruce Priddy isn’t expected to seek re-election, and Parker appears to be the favorite for the Democratic nomination.

If she wins in November, Parker would become the first LGBT African-American elected official in Dallas County.

Loza and Parker are among four known local LGBT candidates in 2010.
They join fellow Democrats Fitzsimmons and Foster, who are each seeking a second four-year term.

While Foster is vulnerable and faces two strong challengers in the primary, Fitzsimmons is extremely popular and said he’s confident he’ll be re-elected.

“I think pretty much everybody knows that the District Clerk’s Office is probably the best-run office in Dallas County government,” Fitzsimmons said. “I think this county is a Democratic County, and I think I’ve proved myself to be an outstanding county administrator, and I think the people will see that.”

Randall Terrell, political director for Equality Texas, said this week he wasn’t aware of any openly LGBT candidates who’ve filed to run in state races in 2010.

Although Texas made headlines recently for electing the nation’s first gay big-city mayor, the state remains one of 20 that lack an out legislator.

Denis Dison, a spokesman for the Victory Fund, said he’s hoping Annise Parker’s victory in Houston last week will inspire more qualified LGBT people to run for office.

“It gives other people permission really to think of themselves as leaders,” Dison said.

The filing period for March primaries ends Jan. 4.


This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition December 18, 2009.

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