First Mississippi city to offer partner benefits

Wiseman

Mayor Parker Wiseman

Coming out matters. Knowing someone gay makes a difference.

Starkville, Miss. Mayor Parker Wiseman announced his city will offer partner benefits to its LGBT employees. This is the first city in Mississippi to do so, according to the Jackson Clarion Ledger. Starkville, south of Tupelo and northeast of Jackson, has a population of about 24,000.

Wiseman is Paul Scott’s cousin. Scott is executive director of AIDS Services of Austin and former director of Equality Texas and Resource Center.

In May, Bay St. Louis, Miss. passed a nondiscrimination ordinance, the sixth one passed in the state. Starkville was one of the first make nondiscrimination its law.

—  David Taffet

HERO opponents granted temporary restraining order

Houston-Mayor-Annise-ParkerOpponents of the Houston Equal Rights Ordinance won a small victory in a district court yesterday evening when a district judge granted them a temporary restraining order delaying implementation of the ordinance.

“[U.S. District Judge Gray Miller's] ruling was evidence of the abject lack of any credible legal basis for City Attorney David Feldman’s motion, leaving it clear that it was indeed just a delay tactic that did not work,” said the opposition group No UNEqual Rights Houston in a statement.

Mayor Annise Parker  previously announced that the city would delay the ordinance’s implementation.

Woodfill v. Parker was filed in the 152nd District Court shortly after the city rejected the opponents petitions calling for a November ballot referendum. Attorneys with the city of Houston must appear before the court on August 15 and make their case for why the order should be vacated.

The Equal Rights Houston campaign in a statement denounced the ruling. “It is unfortunate that the opponents of equal rights have taken this issue to the courts after first losing at City Council … [we are] confident the court will uphold the city of Houston’s decision that the repeal signatures were not collected in the clearly defined process.  The bottom line is that this state court decision is still just a TRO, and not a final ruling on the merits.”

 

—  James Russell

Nixon tapes reveal he thought gays were born that way

NixonIn April 1971, Richard Nixon had a discussion in the White House with National Security Advisor Henry Kissinger and Chief of Staff H.R. Haldeman. Kissinger had not yet become secretary of state.

“I am the most tolerant person on that of anybody in this shop,” Nixon said in newly released tapes that were secretly recorded during his administration.

Kissinger agreed but thought those kind of people should keep it a secret — especially the gays in his administration. Nixon may have actually been ahead of his time, though.

“They’re born that way. You know that. That’s all. I think they are,” Nixon said.

He said there were a number of intelligent people who were gay. The transcript was released by Vanity Fair.

The discussion must have been in relation to civil rights laws. In December 1971, Nixon issued an executive order requiring contractors to develop “an acceptable affirmative action program.” In 1972, Nixon endorsed congressional passage of the Equal Rights Amendment that would have put equal rights for woman into the constitution had it passed enough states. The Texas legislature was the first state to approve the ERA.

So the conversation seems to be in the context of what rights should be protected by national policy.

“It’s one thing for people to, you know, like some people we know, who would do it discreetly, but to make that a national policy,” Nixon said.

But Nixon was no champion of gay rights in public. In May, Nixon made this statement:

“I do not think that you glorify homosexuality on public television. You don’t glorify it anymore than you glorify whores.”

The Vanity Fair article, however, also quoted from a conversation in July 1971 where they discussed whether Kissinger should resign because of a Newsweek article discussing Kissinger’s religion. He is Jewish.

—  David Taffet

Anti-gay factions challenge Houston equal rights ordinance

Parker

Mayor Annise Parker during the HERO debate

Opponents of the Houston Equal Rights Ordinance turned in 50,000 signatures to get the issue on the November ballot. Only 17, 269 are needed. The city secretary’s office has 30 days to validate the signatures.

The ordinance passed on May 28. The Houston city charter allows a recall election on an issue if 10 percent of voters in the last election sign a petition. A recall against a mayor or council member requires 25 percent of voters in that election to sign a petition.

Until HERO was passed, Houston was the only major city in the United States without an equal rights ordinance of any sort. In addition to protecting the LGBT community, the ordinance puts into place protections based on sex, race, color, ethnicity, national origin, age, familial status, marital status, military status, religion, disability, genetic information or pregnancy. None of these categories were protected by the city before the ordinance was enacted.

The anti-HERO forces have claimed the law allows men to dress as women so they may enter women’s restroom and attack little girls. There is no mention of bathrooms in the ordinance.

The city plans to defend the ordinance.

“The Houston I know does not discriminate, treats everyone equally and allows full participation by everyone in civic and business life,” said Mayor Annise Parker. “We don’t care where you come from, the color of your skin, your age, gender, what physical limitations you may have or whom you choose to love. I am confident voters will soundly defeat any challenge to the ordinance.”

—  David Taffet

SMU vote inspires Harvey Milk Day celebration on Cedar Springs

Harvey Milk DayDallas Mayor Mike Rawlings issued a proclamation to Hope 4 Peace and Justice, naming Thursday, May 22, 2014, as Harvey Milk Day.

Harvey Milk Day Dallas organizer Todd Whitley said H4PJ was inspired to create a celebration by LGBT students at Southern Methodist University who were recently denied representation in the Student Senate.

“We’re still having this fight today? Seriously?” Whitley said. “Harvey’s message is needed now more than ever.”

He said organizers thought of the SMU students and elderly LGBT folks who have fought homophobia their entire lives.

Sammi Partida was one of the SMU students who campaigned for LGBT representation in the Student Senate. He said Harvey Milk is a voice for those who have been suppressed.

“His approach was comprehensive,” he said, covering issues from child care to affordable housing to senior citizen.

He said Milk had a passion that’s hard to match.

“When coming in as city supervisor, he knew he was putting down his life for countless people,” Partida said. “He’s so inspiring.”

Whitley said coming out saved his life.

“I was dying, unable to be the authentic me,” he said, “and doing so completely changed my life.”

Whitley agreed and said Milk’s legacy spoke to him personally.

“Gone far too soon, Harvey Milk inspired a generation to ‘bust down those closet doors’ and ‘come out,’ a vital, life-saving action it would take me 38 years to finally do myself. … That’s what his legacy is to me,” Whitley said.

Milk’s call to come out is as relevant today as it was when he was killed in 1978.

Whitley challenged straight people to honor Harvey Milk Day by coming out for equality as well.

“If you’re straight — particularly a straight Christian — and believe that LGBTQ folks are equal to you, come out so people know where you stand and can use your example to eliminate their own bigotry,” he said.

Milk has a special connection to Dallas. In 1957, he briefly lived in Dallas, according to the San Francisco library, before returning to New York. He was transferred here in 1969 by Bache & Co. where he was a securities analyst and lived at 2525 Turtle Creek Blvd. before moving to San Francisco.

In honor of Milk, the U.S. Postal Service will issue a Harvey Milk stamp Thursday.

A community celebration of Harvey Milk Day takes place at the Legacy of Love Monument on Cedar Springs Road at Oak Lawn Avenue on May 22 at 8 p.m. The celebration features speakers which include SMU student Sammi Partida and Cathedral of Hope Interim Pastor Jim Mitulski, a musical performance by Chris Chism, an excerpt of the H4PJ production Dear Harvey and a spoken word performance by local activist Meg Hargis followed by a candlelight march down Cedar Springs Road and cake and ice cream at Sue Ellen’s.

—  David Taffet

A week of the worst reasons to deny marriage equality ever

Steve Brashear

Gov. Steve Brashear

Last week proved to be a week of stupidity for those arguing for discrimination against same-sex couples. The excuses are becoming both more inane and ridiculous and more hateful than ever.

In Kentucky, Gov. Steve Brashear will defend the marriage ban because equality threatens “long-term economic stability through stable birth rates.”

He didn’t explain what that means. Only straight couples who are married have children? If Kentucky continues to ban same-sex marriage, gay people will marry people of the opposite sex and procreate? If gay people marry, straight people will no longer be able to have sex?

The governor’s office said it had no comment. In the original ruling overturning the state’s marriage ban, the judge ruled that using procreation as an argument for discrimination against same-sex couples “makes just as little sense as excluding post-menopausal (heterosexual) couples or infertile couples.”

In Oregon, Attorney General Ellen Rosenblum has ordered new marriage license documents to reflect the expected change in the state’s marriage laws, should that occur. The 9th Circuit Court of Appeals that covers Oregon has already expressed how it feels about marriage discrimination in its Proposition 8 ruling, which upheld a lower court ruling that overturned California’s marriage ban. In that circuit, Hawaii, California and Washington are marriage equality states.

So what Rosenblum did was prepare the state for a smooth transition to equality, if that occurs.

The National Organization for Marriage chimed in last week asking to defend the law. They charge Rosenblum with “dereliction of duty” for not finding arguments to support discrimination.

The Supreme Court’s Prop 8 decision that plaintiffs must have standing and be directly affected should preclude NOM from replacing Rosenblum as the defendant.

Oral arguments in the Oregon marriage case will be heard in U.S. district court on Wednesday. Rosenblum is not defending the state’s marriage ban, and the state is not expected to appeal should it be ordered to issue marriage licenses this week.

While Kentucky and Oregon defenders of discrimination displayed how stupid the arguments can get, Indiana showed just how contemptible a state can be.

Amy Sandler and Niki Quasney, an Indiana couple, sued to have their Massachusetts marriage recognized by their home state. Quasney has terminal stage 4 ovarian cancer. They have young children, and they want to make sure their kids get the death benefits they’d be entitled to if the parents were straight.

“The current rule of law does not allow for a hardship exception from the statute for one person or two people, as that would create inconsistency for all other citizens of Indiana,” the state attorney general wrote in a statement.

Wait, it gets worse.

The state argued gay people can get married as long as they marry someone of the opposite sex. In other words, you can marry whomever the state tells you to marry.

But the most disgusting statement was this one. In court documents, the attorney general said recognizing this marriage could raise false hopes for others because courts might eventually uphold the state’s gay marriage ban.

Since the Windsor decision last June that overturned parts of the Defense of Marriage Act, no court has upheld a state’s marriage ban. That’s the naive part. But that statement is truly one of the most hateful things said in this debate about the LGBT community.

The basis for refusing to recognize the marriage of one couple with a dying partner who want to protect their children is that gays and lesbians are narcissistic, greedy, selfish pigs. We only care about ourselves, and if we can’t have something personally for ourselves, no one else should, either.

Personally, I can’t imagine going through multiple surgeries followed by chemotherapy and having to deal with courts and attorneys and an attorney general spewing hate at me. But that’s exactly what Quasney did. Not because she’s selfish, but because she wants to make sure her two children are taken care of after she dies. She’s guilty of being a mom who loves her kids and wants to make sure they get what every other kid is entitled to.

I can’t imagine anyone in the LGBT community not sending her our love and prayers or good thoughts. I can’t imagine any gay or lesbian being as hateful and hurtful as Indiana’s attorney general paints us.

How did he come up with such a scenario? The only thing I can imagine is that he’s describing himself. He wouldn’t allow anyone to have something he can’t have.

On Thursday, a federal judge ruled that Indiana will comply with his order to list Sandler as Quasney’s spouse on her death certificate when the time comes.

On Friday, the state announced it will appeal.

—  David Taffet

SMU Senate votes to add LGBT seat after years of battle

SMUThe SMU Senate voted 34-3 to add an LGBT seat to the student governing body, according to SMU’s The Daily Campus. The issue must now go for a vote before the entire student body and requires a two-thirds vote.

This has been a contentious issue that has been debated and defeated every year since first introduced by student Tom Elliott in 2009. Several other Senate seats are reserved for groups of minority students. Others are designated for off-campus residents, specific dorms and frats and sororities.

One issue that previous Senates dealt with is identifying LGBT students — whether they needed to belong to one of the on-campus LGBT groups, if anyone who self-identified as LGBT could participate or if any student, including allies or even opponents trying to throw the race, could simply register to vote in that race.

During this period, SMU was voted a “most homophobic” school by Princeton Review each year, and the high-profile battle over this seat probably added to the perception of anti-gay discrimination on campus.

Elliott graduated in 2010 and now works in Chicago. He remembered how he felt after the defeat.

“It was disappointing since there was such a strong show of support by faculty, staff and students,” Elliott said. “Even with people coming in to talk to the Senate, it failed by a large margin.”

He said after he graduated, freshman Harvey Luna picked up the fight.

Elliott warned that the work’s not over since the student body must vote.

“It’s very important for people working on this to mobilize support on campus,” Elliott said.

—  David Taffet

PHOTOS: Gay couples marry in downtown Dallas

Couples line up in Founders Plaza before their mass wedding on Saturday.

Ten same-sex couples married in Founders Plaza outside the County Records Building in downtown Dallas on Saturday.

The event began with speakers, and a sidewalk march followed. Marchers then returned to Founders Plaza for the mass wedding attended by about 150 people. The marriages are not considered legal.

One person who addressed the rally before the march said he was visiting from New York. He was legally married in that state a month ago and was there to protest that his marriage is considered invalid when he travels.

Richard Curtin, who officiated at the weddings, said when his partner of 22 years died last year, he sent off the form marking relationship as “partner.” It was returned as “friend.” He called that a slap in the face by the state of Texas during his mourning period.

After several people spoke, the crowd marched several blocks along the sidewalk. The couples getting married led the march carrying Texas Marriage Equality flags.

Unlike at some rallies, there was absolutely no police presence and there were no protesters. Police were stretched thin because of the State Fair and the Occupy Dallas protests. But soon after the rally began, a contingent of Occupy Dallas protesters joined the marriage rally. However, police from their encampment a few blocks away near City Hall did not follow.

After the marchers returned to Founders Plaza, the wedding began.

Couples lined up and Curtin announced the names of each pair. They proceeded down the plaza holding hands and walking between a line of onlookers. Tina Sokol and Suzan Cooke said they’ve been together 11 years. Henry Ramirez and his partner Tony have been together 10 years and already had a ceremony last year. Ashlyn Jones and Amanda Evans, who were profiled in Friday’s Dallas Voice, have been together five years.

The event was sponsored by GetEQUAL. Daniel Cates, leader of the local GetEQUAL group, organized the rally and protest. For more photos, go here.

—  David Taffet

Lambda Legal reopens NJ same-sex marriage case

Although New Jersey lost the marriage battle after a 14-20 Senate vote earlier this year, same-sex couples aren’t giving up or waiting for a Democrat to return to the governor’s mansion.

Eh, what exit are ya?
Eh, what exit are ya?

In its original 2006 ruling, along with civil unions, the New Jersey Supreme Court ordered the state to study whether that solution was truly equal. Of the first 1,000 people who were civilly united, half filed complaints of unequal treatment. The intent was for civil unions for same-sex couples to be equal to marriage for opposite-sex couples.

The Newark Star Ledger reported:

Civil union couples still have trouble being recognized as next-of-kin by employers when they seek benefits and by hospital officials when one partner is ill. Not surprisingly, this separate institution turns out to be unequal.

So the couples who filed the original complaint are going back to court. They are demanding an upgrade from second class civil unions to marriage equality.

In her dissent in the original case, Chief Justice Deborah Poritz wrote, “What we name things matters, language matters.”

On March 18, Lambda Legal filed a motion to reactivate Lewis v. Harris, the original New Jersey same-sex marriage case. They submitted evidence to the court to show that with marriage, separate isn’t equal.

And befaw I hear from anyone from Joisey about my cherse a pikchas, my fatha’s from Nutley.

—  David Taffet

Reserve Officers Association changes position on gays in the military

The following was sent to us by the Reserve Officers Association. They have withdrawn a previous call to exclude all gays and lesbians from the military. They also rejected by a two-thirds vote support of Don’t ask, don’t tell. However, they have not voted for repeal of DADT and may issue a new position this summer.

WASHINGTON – Members of the Reserve Officers Association of the United States voted Wednesday to rescind its previous call for complete exclusion of gays and lesbians serving in the U.S. military.

The association also rejected by a two-thirds vote a proposal to endorse the current Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell (DADT) law, which allows gays and lesbians to serve, provided they keep silent about their sexual orientation.

“While our membership voted down a position supporting the current law, our actions fell short of endorsing the administration’s current position that would allow gays and lesbians to serve openly in the military,” said retired Rear Admiral Paul T. Kayye, ROA president. “No inference should be made as to the association’s position as we do not currently have one on this issue.”

“The sense of the membership was that this issue should be resolved by currently serving military leaders,” he said.

Previously, ROA had urged Congress “to exclude homosexuals from induction, enlistment, commissioning and continued service in the Armed Forces of the United States.” This was U.S. government policy before DADT went into law in 1993.

A revised proposal “to make no changes to the current law” (DADT) was also voted down. As a result, ROA currently has no proposals to either repeal or retain DADT.

The members of ROA may or may not elect to establish a position regarding this issue at its next meeting this summer.

The association held its national convention here this week, setting its legislative and national security policy positions. The conversation regarding DADT was only one of 48 issues discussed.

The Reserve Officers Association is the 63,000-member professional association for all uniformed services of the United States. Chartered by Congress and in existence since 1922, ROA advises and educates the Congress, the President, and the American people on national security, with unique expertise on issues that affect the 1.5 million men and women now serving in America’s Reserve Components.


—  David Taffet