Incumbants fair poorly in runoff election

We now have results from all precincts:

District A
Helena Brown: 55%
Brenda Stardig: 45%

District B
Alvin Byrd: 49%
Jerry Davis: 51%

Place 2:
Kristi Thibaut 49.9%
Andrew Burks 50.2%

Place 5
Jack Christie  54%
Jo Jones  46%

Both incumbents, Jones and Stardig, seem to have lost their bid for re-election, Thibaut misses a council seat by only 212 votes and Davis becomes the only candidate endorsed by the Houston GLBT Political Caucus to win in the runoff.

—  admin

Laster becomes first out gay man on Houston City Council

Mike Laster

Mike Laster

With 57% of precincts reporting Mike Laster is the presumptive victor in the Houston District J City Council race. Laster, an out gay candidate endorsed by the Victory Fund and the Houston GLBT Political Caucus, has a commanding lead with 67% of the vote. His nearest opponent Criselda Romero trails with 22%.

Laster is the first out gay man to be elected to the Houston City Council.

From the Victory Fund website:

A graduate of the University of Texas at Austin’s Plan II Honors Program, Mike earned his Juris Doctorate from the University of Houston Law Center. While at the Law Center, Mike distinguished himself as the National Vice Chair of the American Bar Association Law Student Division.

Today Mike is an attorney specializing in real estate with the firm of Williams, Birnberg & Andersen, L.L.P. in Houston, where he has practiced for the past thirteen years. From 1989 to 1995, Mike served as a Senior Assistant City Attorney in the Real Estate Division of the City Attorney’s Office, where he handled many aspects of a general real estate and development practice for the city.

—  admin

‘Perform or provide’

DADT repeal gives progressive chaplains a chance to counter evangelical clergy in the military


CATCH-ALL CHAPLAIN | Chaplain Chris Antal (Lt.) attended the meeting of the Forum on Military Chaplaincy at Cathedral of Hope in October. (David Taffet/Dallas Voice)

DAVID TAFFET  |  Staff Writer
When a soldier recently came to Chaplain Chris Antal, a lieutenant in the Army National Guard in New York and a Unitarian Universalist minister, and asked if he’d pray with her even though she was a pagan, he said he replied, “Of course I will, but you’ll have to show me how.”

Several weeks later, when he saw her again, she told him that the day she had come to visit him, she had hit rock bottom. He had, she told him, saved her life that day.

But Antal said he was only doing his job — helping any soldier who comes to him.

“I’ve earned the nickname, the Catch-all Chaplain,” he said, explaining that it means he takes everyone the other chaplains don’t want to deal with.


Capt. Tom Carpenter (ret.) and Col. Paul Dodd (ret.)

Being there to help a soldier in need is what it’s all about for a military chaplain, said Col. Paul Dodd, a retired chaplain who now lives in Austin.

“The duty of a military chaplain is to perform or provide,” said Dodd, adding that he once sponsored an Islamic conference.

Dodd said that no chaplain can perform every service needed by every member of the military. But if a chaplain can’t perform the service requested, he or she must provide that soldier with a referral to someone else who can.

Antal said that chaplains who enlisted knew what they were getting into — to some extent. But none of them really expected the repeal of the military’s anti-gay “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy. And for many, that repeal was a game changer.

In October, a group of active and retired chaplains and military personnel and other people of faith, such as the Rev. Steve Sprinkle from Brite Divinity

School in Fort Worth, met at the Interfaith Peace Chapel at Cathedral of Hope to begin looking at ways of addressing the issues that arose for military chaplains around DADT repeal.

Dave Guy Gainer said The Forum on Military Chaplaincy is not exactly new. It formed in 2005 as a project of Servicemembers Legal Defense Network and worked under the radar until DADT was repealed.

Sprinkle said people in the Pentagon, up through Secretary of Defense Robert Gates, knew about their work and considered their statements throughout the DADT repeal process.

And now, with repeal complete, the group met to “come out.” At their meeting in Dallas, forum members considered ways to become an independent organization helping to ensure newly out service members receive the pastoral care they need while serving in the military.

Susan Gore, principle of The Mentor Group and editor of the book Coming Out In Faith, moderated the Dallas conference. She said the group started with several retired military officers “who wanted to push back against the far-right skew.”

Sprinkle has been part of the forum for four years and said he was recruited to participate because of his work on hate crimes.
Since the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, Sprinkle said, more and more members of the Chaplain Corps have come from just one school — Liberty

University, founded by far-right evangelical Jerry Falwell. Today, Sprinkle estimated, one-third of military chaplains come from Liberty University.

“They instituted a program that barely meets minimum requirements,” he said of the evangelical school. “It’s an online course.”

And, Sprinkle said, Liberty University’s goal is to take control of the Chaplain Corps and use the military as a pool for religious recruits.

“This is fertile ground to bring people to Jesus at taxpayer expense,” said Tom Carpenter, a retired Marine captain and one of the forum’s founders.

“I’ve heard stories of them holding the hand of someone who’s dying and trying to bring them to Jesus.”

And although such actions contradict military policy, no one in the corps has been disciplined or dismissed for it.

“They give chaplains a lot of leeway,” Carpenter said.

Gainer said the military is looking for well-rounded ministers who bring experience with them to the military.

According to the U.S. Army Chaplain Center and School in Fort Jackson, S.C., candidates must be endorsed by their denomination or faith group and be “sensitive to religious pluralism and able to provide for the free exercise of religion by all military personnel, their family members and civilians who work for the Army.”

But Sprinkle said that Liberty University is transparent about its goals, and those goals do not line up.

“They’re not committed to pluralism or serving all the troops,” he said.

Gainer said that the greatest opposition to repealing DADT came from the Chaplain Corps because military chaplains answer to two groups — the military and their denomination. Those chaplains that didn’t adhere to a strict stance of maintaining the ban on gays and lesbians were threatened with losing their accreditation from their endorsing religious body — and with it their livelihood and their pensions.

But that contradicts the stated goals of the Chaplain Corps.

“Someone has to say, ‘Either you comply and serve all the troops all the time or get out,’” Sprinkle said.

Gore said that one of the goals of the newly public forum is to “rebalance the Chaplain Corps by bringing in more mainstream faiths.” She said that for many who come from more liberal traditions, questions of what’s a just war make it hard to serve in the military. Antal, for example, is one of just four Unitarian Universalists in the Chaplain Corps.

During its push for repeal of DADT, members
said, the forum had several successes working behind the scenes.

Despite the assumption of confidentiality between parishioner and clergy, that wasn’t always the case between gay soldier and chaplain. Dodd said that a number of discharges under DADT occurred after a soldier talked to a chaplain and the chaplain turned them in.

In fact, he wrote a white paper on the practice. After he submitted it, the military tightened up on chaplain confidentiality, Dodd said.

Carpenter, an attorney, wrote an amicus brief for the Log Cabin Republicans’ lawsuit against DADT. The court found in favor of declaring DADT unconstitutional, but Congress repealed the law before the decision could be enforced.

Carpenter said that the repeal allows gays and lesbians to serve with no protection. The legal decision, had it not been vacated upon repeal, would have allowed gays and lesbians to serve equally.

Now that DADT is gone, the forum is examining how to ensure LGB personnel receive the same services as other troops from chaplains.

Dodd said that right-wing chaplains charge that allowing gays and lesbians to serve in the military will force them to act in ways that go against their beliefs. Some have said they would be required to perform same-sex weddings.

Dodd called that ridiculous. Chaplains are never asked to perform duties that go against their religious beliefs, he said.

“I turned down weddings,” he said. “An officer came to me who wasn’t divorced.”

He said the officer tried to pull strings and force the issue, but Dodd wasn’t going to discuss marrying someone who was still married to someone else.

“But we’re insisting chaplains have the authority, if it’s in keeping with their faith, to marry same-sex couples,” he said.

Because of the Defense of Marriage Act, the repeal provides no family benefits. For some issues, Dodd and Carpenter suggested work-arounds.

Issuing ID cards would be extremely helpful, especially to same-sex couples with children, Carpenter said, noting that “That way either parent could get on base to get a child to the hospital.”

In another example, joint assignments can be offered at the discretion of a commanding officer, and married couples are often assigned together when they both qualify for positions that are available at the same base. Same-sex couples could be given the same priority.

As the forum looks ahead, rebalancing the Chaplain Corps with members from a more diverse background to reflect the membership of the military is a priority.

“And we need to take care of our trans brothers and sisters,” Carpenter said.

The repeal of DADT did not address any transgender issues and does not allow transgender men or women to serve in the military.

Gainer believes representatives of the forum need to sit down with far-right members of the Chaplain Corps and agree to disagree. He said that before the repeal of DADT, they talked to people at Veterans of Foreign Wars and the American Legion. While both groups testified against the repeal, they met with some success.

“The president of the VFW in Pflugerville said it was the right thing to do,” Gainer said.

That dialogue, he believed, would help chaplains perform or at least provide a useful referral, rather than doing more damage to a soldier seeking help.

Gore thought that the focus of discussion should be with the majority of chaplains “who want to do a good job and are part of the moveable middle.”

“We have to convince administrators and educators in divinity schools to encourage some of their best and brightest to serve,” Sprinkle said. “So many schools dropped what they were doing during the Vietnam era.”

Antal thinks that gays and lesbians will gain more acceptance as they tell their stories in non-confrontational settings and others see “their identity as professional service members is primary.”

While the work of the forum will concentrate on helping LGB military personnel, creating a more diverse Chaplain Corps may help a majority of service members. Recent polls show that a majority of troops find the chaplaincy irrelevant.

Sprinkle called the work of the forum a gift from the LGBT community to the nation.

“You wouldn’t think we’d be the ones opening the doors so that all troops will be served with dignity, integrity and respect,” he said.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition November 4, 2011.


—  Kevin Thomas

Griggs knocks off Neumann in District 3

With 52 of 56 precincts reporting, challenger Scott Griggs leads incumbent Dave Neumann in the District 3 Dallas City Council race.

Griggs, endorsed by both Stonewall Democrats and the Dallas Gay and Lesbian Alliance, appears well on his way to pulling off a rare upset of an incumbent.

With only four precincts left to be counted, Griggs has 57 percent of the vote to Neumann’s 43 percent. This one’s over.

—  John Wright

UPDATE: Rawlings continues to lead Dallas mayor’s race; Kunkle pulling away from Natinsky

With 202 of 555 precincts reporting, former Pizza Hut CEO Mike Rawlings continues to lead in the race for Dallas mayor. And it’s looking more and more like Rawlings will face former Police Chief David Kunkle in a runoff.

Rawlings has 43 percent of the vote, Kunkle has 30 percent, and City Councilman Ron Natinsky has 25 percent. Edward Okpa has 2 percent. Kunkle now leads Natinsky for second place by almost 2,000 votes, but there’s still a ways to go. Remember, the top two vote-getters will advance to a June runoff assuming Rawlings doesn’t eclipse 50 percent.

In other Dallas races, with 20 of 56 precincts reporting, challenger Scott Griggs has expanded his lead over incumbent Dave Neumann in District 3. Griggs now has 59 percent to Neumann’s 41 percent, and appears well on his way to a rare upset of an incumbent. Griggs is endorsed by both Stonewall Democrats and the Dallas Gay and Lesbian Alliance.

In District 14, with 11 of 59 precincts reporting, incumbent Angela Hunt maintains a hefty lead over gay candidate James Nowlin. Hunt has 63 percent to Nowlin’s 20 percent.

—  John Wright

Wash. Post endorsed NOM-backed candidate for City Council

DC is holding its primaries on Tuesday, September 14th. In this city, winning the Democratic primary is tantamount to winning. So, it was disconcerting to read a Washington Post editorial supporting NOM’s candidate in Ward 5, Delano Hunter over incumbent Harry Thomas:

We give the edge to Mr. Hunter, an engaging newcomer who is running a grass-roots campaign. He has an intimate knowledge of the needs of the ward and has smart ideas on how to tackle issues such as truancy and joblessness. Mr. Hunter is not a supporter of marriage equality, but he is not the homophobe his critics make him out to be, but rather someone who thinks there is a way to provide equality for gays while respecting the beliefs of religious groups. He said he would not seek to change the law.

That’s an outrage.

Since DC passed marriage equality, NOM and its allies have been doing everything they can to thwart the law. The latest tactic has been to demand a public vote on marriage. That was one of the themes of NOM’s pathetic tour stop at the Capitol last month.

And, guess who was there to support NOM? Delano Hunter. I was at the NOM event:

After the NOM event, I really felt like I needed a shower. These people are filled with hatred towards the LGBT community. They can claim otherwise, but it’s clear. They’re driven by hatred.

Now, it may not matter to the Washington Post who Hunter chooses to pal around with, but it does to the LGBT community. NOM has chosen Hunter to be its shining example of how to defeat pro-marriage incumbents. According to Bob Summersgill at GLAA Forum, “Delano Hunter is now NOM’s only hope of unseating a Democratic councilmember.”

Jeffrey Richardson, President of DC’s Gertrude Stein Club, lays it out:

In my mind this endorsement was not only an endorsement of Mr. Hunter, but it was a slap in the face to the DC LGBT community and an endorsement of those who oppose marriage equality and who are actively working to divide our city over the issue.

Mr. Hunter cannot take money from the National Organization for Marriage and participate in their campaign organizing efforts; taking the stance that he is fighting the “Gay Agenda and trying to keep San Francisco and New York values out of DC” and not be considered a homophobe.

How dare Joann Armao and the other members of the Washington Post editorial board tell members of the LGBT community; that since Mr. Hunter isn’t a major homophobe by their standards we should get over it and let it go.

The Washington Post has the right to endorse whomever they desire based on whatever criteria they establish, however you don’t get the right to tell the LGBT community what is and what isn’t homophobic.

Exactly. And, we know what NOM’s doing. They’ve been backing Hunter for months. The group has really pushing his campaign. Last week, NOM sent a misleading mailer to residents in Ward 5, as reported in the Washington Post:

Some Ward 5 residents today found a message in their mailbox from council candidate Delano Hunter: “Thousands of dollars from homosexual activists outside Ward 5 are attacking Delano Hunter because he supports our right to vote on whether the District legalizes ‘gay marriage,'” reads the mailer, which illustrates a river of cash flowing from “New York City” and “San Francisco” into the ward.

Hmm. If there’s “thousands of dollars” from New York City and San Francisco, it’s not flowing into the bank account of incumbent Harry Thomas Jr., who last year voted to legalize gay marriage.

Campaign finance records show that there have been no contributions from San Francisco deposited into the Thomas coffers. He has accepted ,150 from individuals and groups from New York City, but there’s no evidence of the gay agenda — 0 came from pharma giant Pfizer, another 0 came from the Service Employees International Union, and 0 from midwifery advocate Ruth Lubic.

By the way, this message was brought to you by the National Organization for Marriage — a national lobby group that takes money from lots of folks from, well, outside Ward 5.

Hmm. Sounds like NOM is spewing its usual homophobia to influence this election. Haven’t heard Hunter condemn NOM’s lies. Seems like someone who wasn’t really a homophobe would be outraged by NOM’s homophobia.

It’s stunning that the Washington Post had the audacity to tell us Hunter “is not the homophobe his critics make him out to be.”

I’m judging Hunter by the company he keeps.


—  John Wright

Congressional candidate Suzan DelBene endorsed by leading LGBT advocacy organizations

Washington voters in the 8th Congressional District have a golden opportunity this fall to replace the anti-LGBT incumbent U.S. Representative Dave Reichert (R) with the highly-qualified, pro-equality challenger Suzan DelBene.  Suzan DelBene, a champion of civil rights for all Washingtonians, has pledged “In Congress, I will work to ensure equal rights for all Americans at work, home and in their communities”.

The incumbent Reichert has voted for the federal marriage amendment and against the repeal of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.  Reichert is out of step with the people of CD-8; last year 53.8% of the CD-8 electorate demonstrated their respect for their LGBT neighbors by ratifying Washington’s comprehensive domestic partnership expansion law via Referendum 71.

Suzan DelBene, like the fair-minded majority in her district, has taken strong pro-choice and pro-equality positions.  On her campaign website she clearly states:

Protecting choice for women:

I firmly believe that medical decisions should be made between a woman and her doctor, and not by politicians.

Ensuring civil rights:

Every one of us has equal rights under the law.  It’s that simple.  Therefore, we need to end “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” and repeal the Defense of Marriage Act.  I support government-sanctioned civil marriage and believe that churches can decide for themselves whether to recognize same sex couples.

Suzan DelBene has been endorsed by Equal Rights Washington, Stonewall Democrats of Washington and Human Rights Campaign.

“I’m honored to have the support of these organizations,” said DelBene. “I don’t believe the government should be in the business of discrimination, and I will work to ensure equal rights for all Americans at work, home and in their communities.”  

The DelBene campaign’s press release announcing these endorsements is below the fold.  Here’s what ERW’s Executive Director Josh Friedes had to say:

Equal Rights Washington, the state’s largest LGBT civil rights organization, is delighted that our first ever endorsement in a United States Congressional race is Suzan DelBene. Suzan exemplifies the commitment to civil rights that we know typifies the voters of Washington’s 8th Congressional District. Congressman Reichert’s vote against the repeal of Don’t Ask Don’t Tell is unacceptable and out of step with the people he represents. The people of the 8th Congressional District have long treated their LGBT family members, neighbors and co-workers with dignity and respect. The 8th Congressional District deserves a representative who will work to ensure that the civil rights of all Washingtonians are respected. DelBene, not Reichert, represents the values of the 8th Congressional District.

Suzan DelBene has also been endorsed by Governor Chris Gregoir, the Seattle Times, The News Tribune, a solid list of other press, labor, health and democratic and organizations and legislators.

Please join Suzan DelBene on Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and Flickr.  And of course if you live in CD-8, please cast your ballot for Suzan DelBene for U.S. Representative.
Press release from the Suzan DelBene campaign announcing endorsements by LGBT advocacy organizations.

For Immediate Release

August 12, 2010

Scott Whiteaker, 206-303-9716

Suzan DelBene endorsed by leading LGBT advocacy organizations

(Renton, Wash.) – Today Suzan DelBene’s campaign for Congress is announcing three major endorsements from leading LGBT advocacy organizations – the Human Rights Campaign, Washington Stonewall Democrats and Equal Rights Washington.

The contrast between DelBene and her opponent, incumbent Congressman Dave Reichert, could not be clearer when it comes to fighting for the rights of LGBT individuals and families. Reichert voted against the amendment to repeal Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell, and for a constitutional amendment to ban gay marriage.

The Human Rights Campaign (HRC) is the nation’s largest LGBT civil rights organization with more than 750,000 members and supporters.

“Suzan DelBene understands the importance of equality for all Americans, including those in the LGBT community” said Joe Solmonese, President of the Human Rights Campaign. “The fight to give all Americans equal rights is far from over, and representatives like Suzan will help lead that fight in Congress.”

Equal Rights Washington Executive Director Josh Friedes had this to say:

“Equal Rights Washington, the state’s largest LGBT civil rights organization, is delighted that our first ever endorsement in a United States Congressional race is Suzan DelBene. Suzan exemplifies the commitment to civil rights that we know typifies the voters of Washington’s 8th Congressional District. Congressman Reichert’s vote against the repeal of Don’t Ask Don’t Tell is unacceptable and out of step with the people he represents. The people of the 8th Congressional District have long treated their LGBT family members, neighbors and co-workers with dignity and respect. The 8th Congressional District deserves a representative who will work to ensure that the civil rights of all Washingtonians are respected. DelBene, not Reichert, represents the values of the 8th Congressional District.”

“As the voice of the LGBT community within the Washington Democrats, we’re going to do all we can to help Suzan win the 8th Congressional District,” said George Pieper of the Washington Stonewall Democrats. “Suzan strongly supports the rights of LGBT individuals and families and our members are going to work tirelessly so she can represent us in the other Washington.”

“I’m honored to have the support of these organizations,” said DelBene. “I don’t believe the government should be in the business of discrimination, and I will work to ensure equal rights for all Americans at work, home and in their communities.”

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

—  John Wright