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

JamesByrdJr.

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

TX Comptroller Susan Combs removes mention of gays from her website

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Tweets from Texas Comptroller Susan Combs and Equality Texas.

Texas Comptroller Susan Combs posted a BBC story this week that highlighted the 10 reasons people are moving to Texas.

Reason No. 7 lists the state as family-friendly and mentions that “San Antonio is home to the largest community of gay parents.”

Combs tweeted Reason No. 7 on Wednesday, and Equality Texas retweeted it, thanking her for celebrating all families. Combs then removed the full story from her website, including the 10 reasons and the gay parent mention, leaving only the intro and the story link.

Combs spokeswoman Lauren Willis said several articles shared on the website are eventually shortened and the removal of the whole story was “absolutely not” because it mentioned gay parents.

She said the people who monitor Combs’ website post full articles for three days before shortening them and adding a link.

“That article was treated no differently than any other article that’s ever been on our site,” Willis said.

Daniel Williams, Equality Texas field organizer, said he was “disappointed that the comptroller choose to erase LGBT families.”

“It’s important to thank and celebrate elected officials when they do the right thing. It is saddening to think that could have caused the redaction,” he added. “The more disturbing thought is that the comptroller’s office is distributing information without reviewing it first, and Comptroller Combs was only made aware of the content of the article by our tweet.”

We’ve posted screen grabs below of the story before and after it was shortened.

—  Dallasvoice

Razzle Dazzle Dallas artifacts help piece together event’s history

In last Friday’s paper, I wrote about the history of Razzle Dazzle Dallas and how this year’s party returns to its roots. While I was researching some of the history, longtime Dallas activist Jack Evans brought some old RDD ads and programs to the office. Below is a 1992 ad for Razzle. Nothing extraordinary about it until I noticed buried in the middle of the text who the entertainment was that year.

RDD 1

The Dixie Chicks were a local band that performed at Sue Ellen’s every once in awhile. I wonder what ever happened to them. Nice group of women from what I remember. They appeared on my radio show, Lambda Weekly, once, too. Hope they’re doing OK.

—  David Taffet

Last anti-gay measure dies in TX Lege

State Rep. Matt Krause

State Rep. Matt Krause

As the session winded down last week, an anti-gay amendment by Fort Worth’s Matt Krause was still pending in SB 215 but was ultimately killed.

The amendment, which was originally filed as HB 360, passed the House in mid-May and would have allowed student organization at state-funded colleges to discriminate for membership. But Equality Texas reports that the Senate refused to agree with the amendments and formed a conference committee over the weekend.

The amendment was later removed on Friday before the session ended Monday.

Overall, LGBT advocates have called this session a success with several anti-gay measure defeated and the advancement of a few pro-equality bills.

However, there’s still a special session, which has been limited to redistricting so far. Equality Texas Executive Director Chuck Smith said it’s unlikely anti-LGBT measures would come up unless the special session is expanded to include education or other social issues.

“We’ll just have to wait and see if the call gets expanded beyond redistricting, and if it does, it could be problematic,” Smith said.

Read Equality Texas’ timeline of the Krause amendment below.

—  Dallasvoice

TX House passes anti-gay amendment allowing student clubs at universities to discriminate

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State Rep. Matt Krause

The Texas House passed an amendment Wednesday afternoon that would allow student clubs at universities to discriminate against people for membership.

The motion passed 78-67 after a motion to table it failed.

Fort Worth Republican Rep. Matt Krause’s amendment mandates that the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board work with institutions to “ensure that each institution does not implement a policy or otherwise engage in a practice that requires a student organization” to accept members who “demonstrate opposition to the organization’s stated beliefs and purposes.”

Krause tacked it onto SB 215 and argued the amendment was about “protecting free speech” in deciding who can join a club. Others said it wasn’t appropriate to decide for universities how organizations on campuses should be handled and called it discriminatory.

Krause originally filed the amendment as HB 360, which didn’t make it before the House floor for a vote. That bill originally stated clubs could discriminate based on race, gender and sexual orientation. A compromise bill later passed out of committee preventing clubs form having to abide by universities’ nondiscrimination polices.

According to Equality Texas, if enacted, Krause’s amendment “would allow officially-recognized student organizations who receive taxpayer funded support from a university to discriminate against a potential member based on race, religion, veteran status, HIV/AIDS status, gender, disability, sexual orientation and gender identity or expression if any attribute of the student ‘demonstrates opposition to the organization’s stated beliefs and purposes.’”

State Rep. Harold Dutton Jr., D-Houston, said during today’s debate that the amendment is discriminatory and takes away freedom from students to join whatever club they wanted to.

“You don’t lose your freedom a mile at a time. You lose it an inch at a time,” Dutton said. “This is another attempt to take away some of the freedoms we have.”

Daniel Williams, field organizer for Equality Texas, said the amendment “barely squeezed through” and had bipartisan opposition. He said the amendment can still be dropped from the legislation as a committee creates a compromise bill that combines the Senate and House version. That bill then goes to another vote.

“There are still many steps left in the process and we will continue to work with our allies in the House and Senate,” he said. “I am very hopeful that this amendment will not become law.”

To see how House members voted on Krause’s amendment, go here.

—  Dallasvoice

ACTION ALERT: Anti-LGBT legislation surfaces as session winds down

State Sen. Donna Campbell

State Sen. Donna Campbell

The Texas Senate on Tuesday passed SB 1218, which would prohibit anyone from obtaining a marriage license with a document that lacks a photo, including an affidavit of sex change.

Daniel Williams, field organizer with Equality Texas, said the bill’s author, state Sen. Donna Campbell, R-New Braunfels, stated that her intent with the bill was to require a photo be shown to get a marriage license.

However, removing an affidavit of sex change from the list of documents that can be used to obtain marriage licenses could bar transgender people from marrying people of the opposite sex.

“Donna Campbell’s bill is targeting communities that aren’t likely to have forms of ID,” Williams said.

Williams said Equality Texas is working to slow down the bill’s process. It still has to pass a House committee and make it onto the House calendar for it to be voted on by midnight on Tuesday, May 21, which is the last day for the House to consider Senate bills.

Meanwhile, anti-gay Fort Worth Republican Rep. Matt Krause has filed an amendment to SB 215 that would allow student organizations at universities to ignore the school’s nondiscrimination policy. Krause originally filed a bill with the same intention, but it died last week when it failed to make it onto the House calendar.

Williams said the amendment “has a really decent chance of passing” because Krause is gaining support for it based on students having free speech.

“It’s not about protecting free speech. It’s about tax-funded hate speech, ” Williams said.

Williams said constituents should contact their state representative and ask them to vote against the amendment when it’s considered today or tomorrow. You can find your representative here.

—  Dallasvoice

2 anti-gay bills die in TX Legislature

Springer.DrewHB 1568 by Rep. Drew Springer, R-Muenster, which aimed to defund school districts that offer health benefits to partners of employees, is officially dead.

HB 360 by Fort Worth Republican Matt Krause also died. Krause’s substitute bill would have allowed school organizations to disregard the college’s nondiscrimination policy.

Equality Texas Executive Director Chuck Smith said the bills didn’t make in onto the last House calendar for May 9, and therefore will not go to the floor for a vote.

“It’s dead,” Smith said. “This is a victory.”

Springer’s bill was considered in committee, and a substitute passed out of committee in late April. The substitute changed cutting school funding to allowing the attorney general to defund and close school districts that offer DP benefits without an appeals process. Only Pflugerville and Austin ISD have elected to offer the benefits.

Equality Texas worked with the House Calendars Committee to ensure both bills would miss the deadline. They could come up again this session if they are attached to another bill, but Smith said Equality Texas would watch changes to bills to ensure that doesn’t happen.

—  Dallasvoice

LEGE UPDATE: State ENDA pending; another pro-LGBT bill advances

State Rep. Mike Villarreal

State Rep. Mike Villarreal

Two state House bills that would end anti-LGBT job discrimination were left pending in committee Wednesday, but Equality Texas is hopeful the measures will make it out of committee by next week.

Testimonies were given in favor HB 238 by Rep. Mike Villarreal, D-San Antonio, and HB 1146 by Dallas Democrat Eric Johnson before the House Economic and Small Business Development Committee.

Daniel Williams, Equality Texas field organizer, said he was confident the bills would make it out of the committee by next week, as it is common for committees vote on a bill a week after its hearing. The Senate version is still pending in committee.

Williams urged advocates to contact members of the House committee and ask them to advance the bill. Members are: Chairman John Davis, R-Houston, Vice Chairman Hubert Vo, D-Houston, Cecil Bell, R-Magnolia, Yvonne Davis, D-Dallas, Jason Isaac, R-Drippings Springs, Jim Murphy, R-Houston, Mary Ann Perez, D-Houston, Eddie Rodriguez, D-Austin, and Paul Workman, R-Austin.

Earlier this week, LGBT state Rep. Mary Gonzalez’s HB 2403, which would protect same-sex minors in intimate relationships under the “Romeo and Juliet” defense, was voted out of the House Criminal Jurisprudence Committee. The Senate version was voted out of committee earlier this month.

Anti-gay HB 1568 also passed out of committee earlier this week. The bill by Republican Drew Springer of Muenster originally aimed to cut state funding for school districts that offered domestic partner benefits and was withdrawn from consideration by the committee last week.

But Williams said a committee substitute bill was passed. The substitute would allow the Texas attorney general to defund and decertify school districts that offer domestic partner benefits without an appeals process. Williams said the substitute bill is “much worse than the first one.”

“As the bill progresses through the system we’ll have a better understanding of how to kill it,” he said, adding that people should contact their lawmakers now to tell them they oppose the bill.

Two pro-equality bills have hearings scheduled for Monday, April 29. HB 201, which would allow same-sex parents to sign an adopted child’s supplementary birth certificate, will be heard by the House Judiciary and Civil Jurisprudence Committee.

And HB 1701, which would remove the state’s “homosexual conduct” law found unconstitutional by the U.S. Supreme Court in 2003 from the Texas Penal Code, will have a hearing by the House Criminal Jurisprudence Committee. The Senate version has already passed out of committee.

Equality Texas is trying to get HB 1696 a hearing before the deadline on May 6.

“We’re very much on a deadline,” Williams said.

The bill authored by Democrat Jessica Farrar of Houston would remove language form public school curriculum that condemns homosexuality.

He’s urging advocates to contact House Public Education Committee Chairman Rep. Jimmie Don Aycock, R-Killeen, at 512-463-0684 and tell him to give HB 1696 a hearing.

—  Dallasvoice

UPDATE: House committee removes anti-gay education bill for consideration

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UPDATE, 5:15 p.m.: Equality Texas reports that HB 1538 has been removed for consideration from the House Public Education Committee. However, the bill could come back up for discussion or a vote at a later date.

ORIGINAL POST: Equality Texas is asking people to contact lawmakers and urge them to vote against advancing an anti-gay education bill the House Public Education Committee is expected to vote on later today.

HB 1568 by Republican Rep. Drew Springer of Muenster would cut state funding for school districts that offer domestic partner benefits to employees. Pflugerville and Austin ISD are the only school districts in Texas that have decided to offer DP benefits.

Six Republicans and five Democrats sit on the committee, which left the bill pending after a hearing last week.

Jonathan Saenz, president of anti-gay group Texas Values, told Dallas Voice he expects the bill to pass through committee and be signed into law.

Contact info for House Public Education Committee members is below.

Chairman Jimmie Don Aycock, R-Killeen, 512-463-0684

Marsha Farney, R-Georgetown, 512-463-0309

John Davis, R-Houston, 512-463-0734

Bennett Ratliff, R-Coppell, 512-463-0468

Dan Huberty, R-Houston, 512-463-0520

Ken King, R-Canadian, 512-463-0736

Joe Deshotel, D-Beaumont, 512-463-0662

Harold Dutton, D-Houston, 512-463-0510

Justin Rodriguez, D-San Antonio, 512-463-0669

Rep. Alma Allen, D-Houston, 512-463-0744

Mike Villarreal, D-San Antonio, 512-463-0532

—  Dallasvoice

UPDATED: Sen. John Carona backs 2nd pro-LGBT bill, repeal of sodomy law

John Carona

Sen. John Carona, R-Dallas

UPDATE, 2:35 p.m.: Jamie McCormick, a spokeswoman for Carona, said in an email, “Senator Carona is supportive of SB 538.”

ORIGINAL POST:

State Sen. John Carona, R-Dallas, who made history last week when he stood up to anti-gay bigots and bucked the GOP line by voting in favor of a pro-LGBT bill, may get a chance to do it again this Wednesday.

Equality Texas issued an Action Alert moments ago urging constituents to call Carona’s office and express their support for SB 538, which would repeal Texas’ unconstitutional homosexual conduct law and which is scheduled to be heard Wednesday by the Senate Criminal Justice Committee, on which Carona serves as part of a 4-3 Republican majority.

Last week, the committee voted 4-1 to advance SB 1316, which would extend legal protections to sexually active gay and lesbian teens. SB 1316 was the first pro-LGBT bill to clear a committee in the Texas Legislature in 12 years. Carona joined three Democrats in voting to advance the bill. One Republican voted against it, while the other two were absent.

—  John Wright