Amarillo nuclear plant now offers health benefits to married gay couples

logo copyIf you’re lesbian and build nuclear weapons in the Texas Panhandle, you are now eligible to put your wife on your company insurance plan. If you’re gay and married, your husband is welcome, too.

Pantex, the only nuclear assembly and disassembly plant in the U.S., located near Amarillo, removed the words “opposite sex” from its HR policy. Any couple legally married may now participate in the company’s benefit plans, according to Equality Texas.

Pantex employs 3,200 people. An employee who wants to enroll a spouse in the company plan must present a valid marriage license from any of the 13 states or other jurisdictions that offer marriage equality.

Amarillo is a four-hour drive on I-40 to Albuquerque, which issues marriage licenses to same-sex couples.

—  David Taffet

ACTION ALERT: San Antonio to vote on nondiscrimination ordinance this week


Equality Texas is calling on LGBT advocates to help encourage the San Antonio City Council to pass a proposed nondiscrimination ordinance this week.

The ordinance would prohibit discrimination based on sexual orientation, gender identity and veteran status in employment, housing and public accommodations. After delaying a vote in June, the council will vote on Thursday.

Opponents of the ordinance have been vocal, with more people opposing the measure than supporting it speaking last week at a meeting.

People can email council members here. Equality Texas is continuing to urge local supporters and those from other cities to come and voice their support at several events this week while wearing red.

Those events are:

Faith Leaders Rally for Equality, Justice & Healing. Tuesday at 2 p.m. at San Antonio City Hall, 100 Militiary Plaza.

“Citizens to be Heard.” Wednesday at 6 p.m. at Municipal Plaza Building, 114 West Commerce.

• City Council Votes on the NDO. Thursday at 9 a.m. at Municipal Plaza Building, 114 West Commerce.

—  Dallasvoice

Equality Texas says it isn’t partnering with Stoli Guy at S4 on Saturday

Picture 32

UPDATE: GayCities spokesman Oscar Raymundo said a press release inaccurately mentioned the organizations, including Equality Texas, that would be the beneficiaries at Stoli competitions this week.

“An inaccurate release was sent out yesterday mentioning Equality CA, Equality Texas and HRC as beneficiaries of The Most Original Stoli Guy event series,” he said. “In fact, GayCities is still in the process of finalizing the beneficiaries to be a part of the Stoli Guy campaign, which will be made public once they are officially confirmed. We apologize for the miscommunication and any confusion it might have caused.”

ORIGINAL POST: Stolichnaya Vodka is still being boycotted in gay bars across the nation for ties to Russia, which has implemented extreme anti-gay laws recently.

While many bars in Dallas are still serving the vodka, Station 4 is hosting The Most Original Stoli Guy competition Aug. 17. The event is a partnership between Stoli’s parent company, SPI, and GayCities. The event drew protesters in New York and may draw more protesters in California, where the contest will be held in San Diego and San Francisco this week.

However, GayCities announced Tuesday in an emailed press release that “in lieu of the national Stoli boycott by some in the LGBT community,” Gay Cities has convinced SPI to donate $5 for each person who RSVP’s and attends the contest in San Francisco, San Diego, Dallas and D.C. The money would go to statewide advocacy agencies Equality California and Equality Texas, as well as the Human Rights Campaign and have organization representatives present, the email stated.

But that doesn’t seem to be the case.

Chuck Smith, executive director of Equality Texas, said he had no knowledge of the organization being a beneficiary of the event. He even checked with board members in Dallas, who also had no knowledge of participating.

“We have no relationship with Stoli,” Smith said. “We would not accept money from Stoli.”

Equality California and HRC have also denied knowledge of the partnership.

We’ve emailed GayCities for a comment and will update if we hear back.

The Stoli Guy contest has competitions in 14 cities across the country. Finalists will then compete in New York for the chance to Stoli’s national LGBT ambassador, according to the website.

—  Dallasvoice

Equality Texas says man should remain in prison for 1991 gay-bashing murder

Paul Broussard

Paul Broussard

Jon Buice is again up for parole in the 1991 murder of gay Houston banker Paul Broussard, who was brutally beaten and stabbed in the Montrose area when Buice and his friends decided to “beat up some queers.”

Buice, who was sentenced to 45 years in prison in 1992, is the only one of the 10 teens from The Woodlands who remains behind bars. But Andy Kahan with the Houston Crime Victim’s Office said Buice’s case is under review for parole. His hearing is set for Sept. 24.

Statewide LGBT advocacy group Equality Texas is again calling for Buice to be denied parole and urging people to contact the Board of Pardons and Paroles. Broussard’s mother, Nancy Rodriguez, has said she wants Buice to remain in jail for at least 27 years, the age of her son when he was killed.

“When is it OK to allow a violent criminal out of jail early? A criminal, who blatantly snubbed his nose at the laws of humanity and, with hate in his soul, struck down another simply because the victim was gay,” Equality Texas wrote on its blog. “A criminal who found enjoyment at going out and ‘beating up some queers.’ A criminal who used his fist, steel toed boots, and a nail studded 2X4 to slowly murder another human being. A criminal who incited nine others to join him in this crime.  That is the question that, once again, is before the Texas Board of Pardon and Paroles and the question that Equality Texas answers: NOT YET!”

—  Dallasvoice

Out TX officials praise Supreme Court rulings, look ahead


Annise Parker

Local and state officials and agencies applauded the U.S. Supreme Court’s rulings Wednesday in striking down the Defense of Marriage Act and allowing a pathway for marriage equality to return to California.

In two 5-4 decisions, Section 3 of DOMA was ruled unconstitutional and the federal government will have to recognize legally married same-sex couples. But Section 2 that addresses states recognizing same-sex marriages, was not up for consideration and the high court dismissed the Proposition 8 case on standing. So while many officials in Texas were pleased with the DOMA ruling, their attention turned to how to create marriage equality in Texas.

“The desire to legally affirm and protect loving relationships and families is fundamental and one that the American people increasingly understand and support,” lesbian Houston Mayor Annise Parker said in a statement. “The Court’s decision strikes down an inequality that has prevented legally married same-sex couples from enjoying the same rights as other married couples. Today we take a huge step forward, but this fight is not over. It is my hope that the decision leads to greater acceptance and tolerance — and ultimately to full equality.”

Dallas County District Clerk Gary Fitzsimmons, who’s openly gay, said he was glad the ruling found that gay couples deserve the same federal protections.

“It is the concept of equal protection that ensures all Americans regardless of background may enjoy the freedom and dignity afforded to them by the constitution and not just a privileged few who happen to be members of a particular racial or ethnic group, religious denomination, gender or sexual orientation,” Fitzsimmons said.

—  Dallasvoice

Villalba on marriage equality: ‘That’s a dangerous question for me to answer’

State Rep. Jason Villalba speaks at a Log Cabin Republicans of Dallas meeting Tuesday. (Anna Waugh/Dallas Voice)

State Rep. Jason Villalba speaks at a Log Cabin Republicans of Dallas meeting Tuesday. (Anna Waugh/Dallas Voice)

Dallas Republican Jason Villalba just completed his freshman year in the state House, managing to finish the session with a D-minus on Equality Texas’ Legislative Scorecard.

Villalba was one of only three freshmen Republicans to score above an F on the scorecard. Gatesville’s J.D. Sheffield also got a D-minus, and Austin’s Tony Dale got a D.

Villalba discussed the session Tuesday at the Log Cabin Republicans of Dallas’ June meeting, focusing on education, transportation and water conservation. But he talked LGBT issues with Dallas Voice before the meeting.

His Equality Texas score resulted from his voting to table two amendments affecting the LGBT community and voting against Republican Matt Krause’s discriminatory amendment.

He said he also opposed the anti-gay bill by Drew Springer, R-Muenster, that would have defunded school districts that offered domestic partner benefits.

“I believe strongly that in Texas we need to keep the government out of our private lives and I want to make sure that we do that,” he said. “With respect to an issue like that, it’s a very sensitive topic. I think with respect to state money, we need to give that some very deep consideration.”

Asked if he supports offering DP benefits, he said it should remain a local control issue.

“I believe for private corporations, that if they want to provide benefits for same-sex partners, that that should be within their ability. I believe with respect state government agencies — agencies that receive federal resources or state resources — that should be up to the city or that should be under local control,” Villalba said. “I don’t believe the state of Texas should be making those kinds of decisions. I think that should be left to the local groups. If [Springer’s] local school district or local community wants to provide it, they should be able to do that. But if they want to prohibit that, they should be able to do that.”

—  Dallasvoice

Villalba, who got D-minus from Equality Texas, to speak at Log Cabin meeting

State Rep. Jason Villalba

State Rep. Jason Villalba

State Rep. Jason Villalba, R-Dallas, is the guest at the Dallas Log Cabin Republicans’ June meeting on Tuesday.

Villalba, who just finished his first session in office, received a D-minus on Equality Texas’ Legislative scorecard. He received a total of 40 points for votes in the House.

Villalba received point for opposing Fort Worth Republican Matt Krause’s discriminatory amendment to SB 215 that would have allowed university clubs to ignore “all-comers” policies regarding membership. But he lost points for voting against HB 2240, which was endorsed by Equality Texas and would have studied the reasons surrounding homeless youth in the state.

Villalba made headlines during the session with HB 1009, a bill he authored, that passed, allowing schools to employ an armed school marshal to protect campuses.

The meeting is 6:30 p.m. Tuesday at Texas Land & Cattle Steakhouse, 3130 Lemmon Ave.

—  Dallasvoice

Blumer, Gutierrez address DART board


Oliver Blumer

Two LGBT speakers addressed the DART board Tuesday as part of an ongoing effort to get the transit agency to offer offer domestic partner benefits for employees.

LGBT community members have been speaking at every DART meeting since the board voted to delay discussion of DP benefits until after a Supreme Court ruling on the Defense of Marriage Act later this month.

Felipe Gutierrez, representing Equality Texas Foundation, addressed the board and used a study done by Equality Texas on the attitude of Texans toward the LGBT community to try to convince DART to add partner benefits.

Oliver Blumer, representing the Transgender Equality Network of Texas, said he began by telling board members, “I hope you have some place in you heart,” but ended by saying, “Your inaction illuminates your privilege, prejudice and discrimination.”

Blumer said he couldn’t tell if any of the board members heard a word he said, referring to them as a bunch of male, pale, stale old men. He said their reaction was mostly blank stares.

“What are you going to wait for next?” Blumer told the board. He suggested they might wait for the Employment Non-Discrimination Act to pass Congress, which would provide them with plenty more time.

Resource Center Dallas spokesman Rafael McDonnell also attended the DART meeting and has been coordinating speakers for DART board meetings. Anyone who would like to speak should contact McDonnell.


—  David Taffet

Rep. Matt Krause says he’s not anti-gay despite Equality Texas ranking

State Rep. Matt Krause

State Rep. Matt Krause

Fort Worth Republican Matt Krause was recently named the worst legislator in the state House on LGBT issues by Equality Texas.

Krause called last Thursday night after the deadline for the story, but we were able to connect Friday and discuss the ranking, as well as his views on some LGBT issues. Until now Krause, who’s worked for the anti-gay Liberty Counsel, was perhaps best known in the community for his representation of Dakota Ary, a Fort Worth student accused of harassing a gay teacher.

Krause attributes the ranking to his amendment to SB 215 that started out as HB 360 and would have allowed student groups to determine who to allow into clubs based on sexual orientation, race and gender.

“Their rankings are up to them. They use the criteria of the votes of the issue they want to , so I can’t really disagree with them. I think if you talk to anybody, you wouldn’t find that I’m hateful toward the LGBT community, that I have any type of disregard for them,” Krause said. “It’s nothing that I do out of animosity. It’s just what I feel is constitutionally sound, but I think there’s a lot of people, maybe with Equality Texas, that think I don’t like them or appreciate them for who they are. That’s not true. But if they want to give me the worst legislator ranking, that’s their prerogative and completely up to them.”

HB 360 was rewritten and a substitute made it out of committee, but the bill didn’t make it onto the floor. The amendment was then created to allow universities to not follow “all-comers” policies. Krause said he should have monitored the bill’s original language more closely because the intent was not to discriminate but to not force groups from admitting people who would undermine the club’s purposes.

“When the draft came back and it said, you know, race, gender and sexual orientation, we should have known right then that’s not the language we wanted to use,” Krause said. “It was never my intent for a political group to be able to discriminate against someone because of their sexual orientation or an athletic group being able to discriminate on the basis of race, something that had nothing to do with the actual club.”

—  Dallasvoice

Today marks the 15th anniversary of the murder of James Byrd Jr.


James Byrd Jr.

Today is the 15th anniversary of the murder of James Byrd Jr. in Jasper. Three men picked Byrd up in a bar and after they left, beat him, hooked him by a chain to the back of their pickup and dragged him to his death. Because of the horrific nature of the crime, the story received international attention.

After Byrd’s death, Lesbian/Gay Rights Lobby Executive Director Dianne Hardy Garcia met with the Byrd family. She had been working almost a decade tracking hate crimes, attending the trials of those indicted on murder charges in bias cases and lobbying the Legislature to enact a hate-crime penalty-enhancement law.

Hardy Garcia explained to the Byrds that a hate crime bill would pass if it didn’t include sexual orientation. Byrd’s mother asked if gays and lesbians were targets of hate crimes. Hardy Garcia showed her the statistics.

“No family should have to go through what my family went through,” Mrs. Byrd told Hardy Garcia.

The Byrds became staunch allies of the LGBT community and insisted sexual orientation remain in the bill.

Despite the national attention the Byrd case brought to Texas, the Legislature blocked any attempt to pass a hate crime bill in 1999 as Gov. George W. Bush campaigned for president.

However, the 2001 Texas Legislature passed the James Byrd Jr. Hate Crime Law and Gov. Rick Perry signed it into law. In 2009, President Barack Obama signed an LGBT-inclusive federal hate crimes law, called the Matthew Shepard and James Byrd, Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act.

The three men involved in the murder were arrested. Lawrence Brewer was executed. John William King is on death row. Shawn Berry is serving a life sentence.

Fox 26 Houston talked to members of the Byrd family and discussed the background of the murderers on the 10th anniversary of Byrd’s death:

—  David Taffet