UPDATE: Liebbe placed on leave for investigating boss

Jeremy+Liebbe

Jeremy Liebbe

Jeremy Liebbe, the gay D.I.S.D. administrator placed on leave last week, had been investigating his boss in the human resources department for lying about her criminal background on her job application, according to the Dallas Morning News.

Liebbe’s investigation began after learning Tonya Sadler Grayson, an executive director in the human resources department, served 12 months’ probation for misdemeanor charges when she was 19.

Grayson said it was a misunderstanding on her part. “When I read the questions on the application, I believed that my situation did not apply,” Grayson said in an email sent to DMN. “Upon notification, I fully disclosed the misdemeanor from when I was 19 years old to the district prior to my employment.”

The district’s human resources chief Carmen Darville defended Grayson in a email to the human resources staff on late Thursday, saying the issue was resolved. “Employees may disclose background information verbally or on their job application. When Tonya was made aware of the misdemeanor…she shared with me details of the incident.”

Peter Schulte, Liebbe’s lawyer, said his client had not been told why he was on leave. “I have asked repeatedly to be told what the allegations are,” Schulte said. “This causes me great concern with the integrity of the investigation.”

A source familiar with the investigation said a superior who often butted heads with Liebbe conducted the investigation without prior notice. The DMN added that private investigations are common in the district.

—  James Russell

Measure would ban anti-LGBT discrimination in Houston

Charter amendment could also allow DP benefits for city workers

DANIEL WILLIAMS  |  Contributing Writer

HOUSTON — Long-brewing plans to place a city-wide non-discrimination policy before Houston voters became public this week.

Since December a coalition of organizations and leaders have been working to draft a city charter amendment that would make it illegal to discriminate in housing, employment or public accommodations on the basis of  “age, race, color, creed, religion, national origin, ancestry, disability, marital status, gender, gender identity or expression, sexual orientation, or physical characteristic.”

The amendment would also remove anti-LGBT language added to the Houston city charter in 1985 and 2001 — which could allow the City Council to vote to offer health benefits to the domestic partners of municipal employees.

Houston Mayor Annise Parker, who famously became the only out LGBT person elected mayor of a major American city in 2009, has declined to comment on the proposed charter amendment until the language is finalized. She told the Houston Chronicle: “I believe it’s important for the city of Houston to send a signal to the world that we welcome everybody and that we treat everybody equally, and depending on the elements of what was actually in it, I might or might not support it,”

According to Equality Texas Executive Director Dennis Coleman, the prospect of Houston voters approving the non-discrimination amendment has ramifications for efforts to pass similar measures in the state Legislature.

“Nondiscrimination in Houston builds a better case for us when we go for nondiscrimination in Austin,” said Coleman. “To be able to tell representatives that they represent areas that already support these efforts is very helpful.”

The cities of Austin, Dallas and Fort Worth all already have similar nondiscrimination ordinances and offer DP benefits to employees.

But Houston’s form of governance makes this effort unique. While the City Council is empowered to pass city ordinances covering issues of discrimination, they can be overturned by popular vote if those opposing the ordinance collect 20,000 signatures to place the issue on the ballot.

That was the case in 1985 after Houston Mayor Kathy Whitmire pushed through the council the city’s first protections for gay and lesbian Houstonians (no protections were provided for the bisexual or transgender communities).

A coalition of right-wing voters led by Louie Welch, then president of the Houston Chamber of Commerce, was able to place the issue on a city-wide ballot, claiming the policy “promoted the homosexual lifestyle.” The group also recruited a “straight slate” of candidates to run against City Council members who had favored the protections, with Welch running against Whitmire.

The public vote on nondiscrimination was held in June 1985 and Welch’s forces prevailed, but the city’s temperament had changed by the time of the City Council and mayoral races in November. A comment of Welch’s that the solution to the AIDS crisis was to “shoot the queers” was aired on local TV and few in Houston wished to be associated with him after that. The “straight slate” failed to capture a single City Council seat and Whitmire remained mayor, but the defeat of the city’s nondiscrimination policy remained.

By 1998 Houston had changed: Annise Parker was serving as the city’s first out lesbian city council member and Houston boasted the state’s first out gay judge, John Paul Barnich. Mayor Lee Brown, sensing the change, issued an executive order protecting LGBT city employees from employment discrimination. But the city had not changed that much. Councilman Rob Todd led efforts to fight the order in court, arguing that since voters rejected city-wide protections from discrimination in 1985, it was inappropriate for the mayor to institute them without voter approval. The city spent the next three years defending the policy in court, finally emerging victorious.

The joy of that 2001 victory would be shortlived, however. That year Houston’s voters approved another amendment to the city charter, this time prohibiting the city from providing domestic partner benefits for city employees. In a narrow defeat, just over 51 percent of voters decided that the city should not offer competitive benefits.

The current proposed non-discrimination amendment would remove the language added in 1985 and 2001. While it would provide non-discrimination protections it would not require the city to offer benefits of any kind to the spouses of LGBT city employees, leaving that question back in the hands of the City Council.

The organizers of the current effort are confident that this year is the year for victory.

Noel Freeman, the president of the Houston GLBT Political Caucus, which is spearheading the effort, explains that the previous votes occurred in “non-presidential years,”when voter turnout in general is low, and conservative voters make up a larger percentage of the electorate.

Additionally, polling by Equality Texas in 2010 showed that 80 percent of Houstonians support employment protections for gay and lesbian people.

In order to place the non-discrimination amendment on the November ballot the coalition supporting it will need to collect 20,000 signatures of registered Houston voters and submit them to the city clerk. Freeman says that the final charter amendment language is still under consideration and that once it is finalized the group will begin collecting signatures.

Even former Councilman Todd, who once fought the city’s policy of non-discrimination for LGBT employees, supports the current effort.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition February 17, 2012.

—  Michael Stephens

Community rallies to support GLBT Community Center President

Tim Brookover

Last fall Tim Brookover, a long-time Houston LGBT activist and current president of the Houston GLBT Community Center, made public that he was undergoing treatment for cancer. Throughout his treatment Brookover has remained the vibrant advocate for LGBT people that Houston has always known him to be (he even started a cancer support group at the center). Brookover recently ended his employment in the office of Houston City Council member Sue Lovell and applied for disability.

While his application is pending the people of his long-time church home have decided to help. Bethel United Church of Christ (1107 Shepherd) will host a spaghetti dinner to raise funds for Brookover’s expenses this Sunday, Feb. 12, at noon. Ticket’s are $10 and include beverages and speghetti. RSVP via facebook.

—  admin

President Obama issues memorandum on protecting LGBTs abroad

President Barack Obama and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton

Four days in advance of  Human Rights Day on Saturday, Dec. 10,  President Barack Obama today issued a presidential memorandum “to ensure that U.S. diplomacy and foreign assistance promote and protect the human rights of LGBT persons,” according to a statement just released by the White House press office.

The statement sent out by the White House includes these comments by the president:

“The struggle to end discrimination against lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) persons is a global challenge, and one that is central to the United States commitment to promoting human rights.  I am deeply concerned by the violence and discrimination targeting LGBT persons around the world — whether it is passing laws that criminalize LGBT status, beating citizens simply for joining peaceful LGBT pride celebrations, or killing men, women, and children for their perceived sexual orientation.  That is why I declared before heads of state gathered at the United Nations, “no country should deny people their rights because of who they love, which is why we must stand up for the rights of gays and lesbians everywhere.”  Under my Administration, agencies engaged abroad have already begun taking action to promote the fundamental human rights of LGBT persons everywhere.  Our deep commitment to advancing the human rights of all people is strengthened when we as the United States bring our tools to bear to vigorously advance this goal.”

The memorandum from Obama directs agencies to combat the criminalization of LGBT status or conduct abroad; protect vulnerable LGBT refugees and asylum seekers; leverage foreign assistance to protect human rights and advance nondiscrimination; ensure swift and meaningful U.S. responses to human rights abuses of LGBT persons abroad; engage international organizations in the fight against LGBT discrimination, and report on progress.

I give the president credit for issuing the memorandum at the same time he’s gearing up for what will likely be a tough re-election campaign during which opponents will no doubt use his stance and actions on LGBT issues against him. But I still have to point out that we as LGBT people still face discrimination and inequality right here in the good old U.S.-of-A:

• Our marriages are legally recognized at the federal level and they aren’t recognized in the VAST majority of state and local jurisdictions. We want the Defense of Marriage Act repealed and local and state ordinances and constitutional amendments prohibiting recognition of our relationships need to be overturned.

• There is still no federal protection against workplace discrimination based on sexual orientation and/gender expression and gender identity. Congress needs to pass — the president needs to sign — the Employment Non-Discrimination Act.

• Even though there is now a federal hate crimes law that includes LGBT people, as well as similar laws at many state and local levels, those laws are not well enforced.

Anti-LGBT bullying remains a deadly problem in our schools and our workplaces and on the Internet. We’ve made progress in combating such bullying, but not nearly enough. Dedicate the resources necessary to address the issue effectively.

So let’s applaud our president for the steps he has — and is — taking. There’s no doubt Obama has been more open than any other president about addressing LGBT issues and we have seen great strides forward toward equality during his administration. But there’s a long way to go yet, and we need to make sure that the president — and all our elected officials — know they can’t just rest on their laurels.

—  admin

What’s Brewing: Maryland Senate kills gender identity bill; anti-gay hate crime at UNC

Quinn Matney was attacked and severely burned in an anti-gay hate crime at the University of North Carolina.

Your weekday morning blend from Instant Tea:

1. For a third straight week, LGBT advocates plan to speak during the Dallas County Commissioners Court’s meeting today and call on commissioners to add transgender employees to the county’s nondiscrimination policy. Last month, commissioners voted to add sexual orientation but not gender identity to the policy. The Commissioners Court meets at 9 a.m. in the County Administration Building, 411 Elm St.

2. The Maryland Senate on Monday voted to kill a measure that would have protected transgender people from discrimination in housing, employment and credit — but not public accommodations. The vote marks the second major disappointment this year for LGBT advocates in Maryland, where the House thwarted a marriage equality bill last month.

3. A University of North Carolina freshman says he was attacked and severely burned in an anti-gay hate crime on the school’s campus last week. The UNC administration, which failed to notify students until a week after the attack occurred, now says it plans to report the incident as an anti-gay hate crime to the federal government.

—  John Wright

This is why heterosexuals must demand passage of the Employment Non-Discrimination Act

The Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA) would prohibit discrimination in employment based on an individual’s actual or perceived sexual orientation or gender identity.  Federal law already prohibits employers from discriminating based on race, color, religion, sex, physical disabilities, national origin or genetic information about an applicant, employee, or former employee.  Yet it is still legal in 38 states to fire or refuse to hire someone based on their gender identity.  Likewise it is still legal in 30 states to fire or refuse to hire someone based on their sexual orientation.

Because it is lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) people who suffer from the employment discrimination that ENDA addresses, the legislation is generally portrayed as only benefiting LGBTs and its passage as a sort of “gift” from the mostly heterosexual Congress to LGBT people.  This is an unfortunate distortion.

While it is true that LGBT people are in dire need of the protections ENDA would provide, ENDA is in the best interest of heterosexuals too.  And I’m not just talking about heterosexuals facing employment discrimination because they are perceived to be gay.  The truth of the matter is that everyone benefits when the best person is hired for the job.

This was brought home to me earlier this week when I heard that Judge Anne Levinson was confirmed as the new civilian auditor for the Seattle Police Department’s Office of Professional Accountability by Seattle City Council’s Public Safety and Education Committee.  Her qualifications and commitment to excellence in public service are clear in her distinguished civil service resume.  The Stranger‘s Riya Bhattacharjee summarized:

A Seattle Municipal Court judge from 1999 to 2001 where she dealt with criminal cases, Levinson developed and presided over one of the country’s first mental health courts. She served as chief of staff and then deputy mayor for Mayor Rice and was legal counsel in both the Rice and Royer administrations. Levinson also chaired the Washington Utilities & Transportation Commission-a quasi-judicial body that regulated private telecommunications and energy companies. She is one of the four owners of the Seattle Storm. Levinson was also part of the Seattle Police Chief Search Committee. “It’s important that the chief fosters an environment that actively investigates misconducts and implements reforms when necessary so that the public has respect and confidence in the police,” she says. ‘We have a mutual goal here of treating all citizens equally.” Levinson underscores the importance of encouraging community policing in Seattle. “It’s also important to have early warning systems to identify potential problems,” she says.”

Not insignificantly, Shaun Knittel at Seattle Gay News reminds us that Levinson was one of the state’s first openly LGBT public officials.  Folks around the Blend will recall that as Chair of Washington Families Standing Together, Levinson lead the Approve Referendum 71 campaign to victory in 2009, making Washington the first state in the nation whose electorate ratified an LGBT family recognition (domestic partnership) law at the polls.

So yes, Judge Levinson is a highly-qualified and respected public servant.  She is also a lesbian.  We here in Seattle are protected by several layers of anti-discrimination law at the city, county and state levels, so sexual orientation wasn’t a factor in the City’s decision to hire her.  But I can’t help but wonder if Judge Levinson had applied for the same job in Tampa, say, or Salt Lake City, whether her appointment wouldn’t have been summarily rejected due to a characteristic that has no bearing on her ability to bring excellence to the job.  Such an outcome would not only have been a loss to her as an individual, but to the predominantly heterosexual population she sought to so ably serve.  When heterosexuals discriminate against an LGBT person in employment when the LGBT applicant is the best person for the job, they’re shooting themselves in the foot.

A video of Judge Levinson’s confirmation hearing is below the fold.
If you watch the video directly on Seattle Channel’s website, you can jump to the pertinent part of the video by clicking on “Appointment of Judge Anne Levinson”.  Otherwise, click ahead to about the 24:45 mark.

Cross-posted at Washblog.
Pam’s House Blend – Front Page

—  John Wright

DART accused of transphobia

Judge reversed order after transit agency fought longtime employee’s gender-marker change last year

John Wright | News Editor
wright@dallasvoice.com

TRANS FRIENDLY? | Judge Lynn Cherry, right, is shown alongside drag performer Chanel during Stonewall Democrats’ 2008 holiday party at the Round-Up Saloon. A few months later, Cherry ruled against a transgender DART employee and overturned a gender-marker change. (John Wright/Dallas Voice)

DART stands accused of bigotry and transphobia after attorneys for the local transit agency intervened in family court last year to challenge a gender-marker change granted to an employee.

According to court records, a transgender DART employee obtained a court order in February 2009 directing all state agencies to correct their records by changing her gender-marker from male to female, including on her birth certificate.

As Dallas Voice reported last week, many Dallas County judges have been routinely granting gender-marker changes to transgender people who meet set criteria — including documentation from licensed medical personnel — since the Democratic sweep of 2006.

The DART employee, who’s name is being withheld to protect her anonymity, later presented the court order to the transit agency’s human resources department and requested that her personnel records be changed to reflect her new gender.

But DART’s attorneys objected to the gender-marker change and responded by filing a motion seeking a rehearing in court. DART’s objections prompted 301st Family District Court Judge Lynn Cherry to reverse her order granting the gender-marker change.

“Where does this stop when an employer can start interfering with your personal life and family law decisions?” said longtime local transgender activist Pamela Curry, a friend of the DART employee who brought the case to the attention of Dallas Voice. “She was devastated. This should be a serious concern to a lot of people — everybody — and I just think this story needs to be told.”

Judge Cherry, who received Stonewall Democrats of Dallas’ Pink Pump Award for her support of the group last year, didn’t respond to messages seeking comment this week.

Morgan Lyons, a spokesman for DART, noted that Cherry reversed her order before the agency actually filed its motion for a rehearing. However, Curry alleges that DART’s attorneys met with Cherry privately and pressured her into reversing the order.

As is common with gender-marker changes, the case file has been sealed, but Dallas Voice obtained copies of some of the court documents from Curry.

In their motion for a rehearing, DART attorneys Harold R. McKeever and Hyattye Simmons argued that Texas law grants registrars, not judges, the authority to amend birth certificates. They also argued that birth certificates could be amended only if they were inaccurate at the time of birth.

“It’s not a DART issue, it’s a point of law,” Lyons told Dallas Voice this week, in response to the allegations of bigotry. “The lawyers concluded that the birth certificate could not be altered by law, unless there was a mistake made when the birth certificate was completed, and again, the judge changed the order before we even wound up going into court with it.”

Asked about DART’s LGBT-related employment policies, Lyons said the agency’s nondiscrimination policy includes sexual orientation but not gender identity/expression. The agency, which is governed by representatives from Dallas and numerous suburbs, also doesn’t offer benefits to the domestic partners of employees.

Lyons didn’t respond to other allegations made by Curry, including that the agency has fought the employee’s transition from male to female at every step of the way.

Curry, who helped the employee file her pro se petition for a gender-marker change, said the employee has worked for DART for more than 20 years and has an outstanding performance record.

The employee began to come out as transgender in 2003 and had gender reassignment surgery more than three years ago, Curry said. Curry said DART supervisors have at various times told the employee that she couldn’t have long hair, couldn’t wear skirts to work and couldn’t use women’s restrooms at work.

The employee has responded by showing up at work in her uniform so she doesn’t have to change and using public restrooms on her bus route, Curry said.

Supervisors have also told the employee she can’t talk to the media and can’t join political groups, such as Stonewall Democrats, Curry said.

“She’s intimidated and she’s scared,” Curry said. “One supervisor even suggested to her that if she doesn’t lay off it, they will mess up her retirement.”

Elaine Mosher, a Dallas attorney who’s familiar with the case, also questioned why DART intervened. Mosher didn’t represent the employee in the case but has handled gender-marker changes for other clients.

Mosher said the employee’s gender doesn’t have any bearing on her ability to do her job at DART.

“My argument in any gender marker matter is, the birth certificate was wrong, that’s why they had to go through the transition surgery, in essence to put them in the correct gender,” Mosher said. “All I can tell you is that it seems strange to me that DART would care one way or another what the gender marker of anybody that works for them is.”

Moster added that she believes someone at DART may have been “freaked out” by the employee’s transition from male to female and developed a “vendetta” against her.

“I wish I had a good explanation for why [DART got involved] other than the fact that I know there are people out there who are utterly blind and prejudiced for no other reason than they are,” Mosher said. “I compare it to some of the nonsense African-Americans had to live through in the ’60s.”

Mosher also said she’s “very surprised” that Cherry reversed the order granting the gender marker change.

Erin Moore, president of Stonewall Democrats, said she’s heard “bits and pieces” of the story but isn’t sure of all the facts.

Moore said in response to her questions about the case, Cherry told her she couldn’t talk about it because it’s still within the timeframe for a possible appeal.

“Lynn is a longtime supporter of Stonewall and I would think she would be fair in the case,” Moore said. “I’m confident she’s an ally to this community.”

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition February 19, 2010.

—  admin

Eatzi's job fair tomorrow morning for new location

Just saw this on the Eatzi’s Facebook page for those perhaps looking to land a snazzy foodie job. Here’s the post.

DON’T FORGET TO STOP BY TOMORROW FOR OUR JOB FAIR! SATURDAY, FEBRUARY 6 from 10 am – 2 pm at our NEW location (5600 Lovers Lane, #136). We’re hiring both hourly and management positions, so stop by and let us know why you want to be a part of our team!

—  Rich Lopez

Shreveport mayor issues executive order protecting LGBT employees

Shreveport Mayor Cedric Glover
Shreveport Mayor Cedric Glover

Shreveport Mayor Cedric Glover on Thursday, Dec. 17, issued an executive order protecting LGBT city employees there from discrimination in employment.

It was his first executive order as mayor.

The move puts Shreveport on the very short list of Louisiana cities offering such protections to their LGBT workers. Baton Rouge and New Orleans are the only other cities in that state to do so. And New Orleans is the only city that offers such protections to employees in the private sector.

ShreveportTimes.com
has more information.

—  admin

The Brick might need you

Last Friday, we covered the Brick’s resurgence from an oh-so short hiatus. Owner Howard Okon brought back the Brick and Joe’s in less than three months.During our interview, he mentioned that even though they were opening, they were still in need of staff. I checked on their site and found the notice was still up.

So, if you’re looking for employment or maybe just needing extra income through the holiday season, head on over to the Brick’s site. They are still accepting applications online.

The Brick is now located at 2525 Wycliff Ave. next to Sal’s Pizza.

—  Rich Lopez