Dan Patrick coming to Fort Worth to protest ISD’s trans guidelines


Dan Patrick is coming to save FWISD from the transgenders

Fairness Fort Worth was already asking for LGBT people and their allies turn for the Fort Worth ISD board meeting tonight (Tuesday, May 10) to show support for guidelines on how the district’s personnel and students are expected to interact with transgender students, faculty and staff, including guidelines on public bathroom use.

Now Texas Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick — who issued a statement yesterday calling for FWISD Superintendent Kent Scribner to resign for putting his personal political agenda ahead of the well-being of the district’s students — has announced he is coming to Fort Worth tonight to hold a press conference outside the school district’s administration building to, well, to say why his personal political agenda should be put ahead of the well-being of FWISD students. You know, this school district that Patrick has no children in, in a city where Patrick does not live.

There have been rumors that Glenn Beck, the right-wing radio host who also does not live in Fort Worth and does not have children in the district, will attend tonight’s meeting as well.

The guidelines, which have been under construction for about a year, are not new policy, but simply a more detailed explanation of existing policy. As such, they needed only Superintendent Kent Scribner’s signature to go into effect, rather than approval by the FWISD’s board.

Despite the uproar and Patrick’s call for Scribner to resign, FWISD School Board President Jacinto “Cinto” Ramos Jr. issued a statement Monday declaring the board’s support for Scribner:

“Mi querida gente. Rest assured, the safety of ALL children is our highest priority on the Board. We are completely capable of handling this in Fort Worth. We are applying the existing policy to make sure ALL children feel safe at school. We are here to look out for ALL children; not some, not most, but ALL children. ‪#‎AsiDerechito‬ con puro amor…no odio. ‪#‎WeGotThis‬.”

(Not sure about the translation, but I believe it says, basically, “We’re gonna do this right, with pure love, no hate.” The #WeGotThis is pretty obvious.)

Fairness Fort Worth President David Mack Henderson today re-issued the call for supporters to flood the board meeting tonight, and to wear red. But he also stressed the importance of supporters of Scribner and of the guidelines, behaving respectfully:

“If you are coming to the FWISD board meeting today we (LGBTQA community leaders) are asking people to please wear red, and we urge people to avoid letting agitators press our buttons. Some would like nothing more than to distract us. No thanks. Our kids come first. That includes those present tonight for athletic honors and also their teachers of the year who we rely upon. We want our message to be positive, clear and unequivocally grateful to Supt. Scribner and our trustees for true leadership. Our focus is to make sure ALL our students have equal and safe access to education with dignity. Please, help us keep our message clear and constructive and concise. Thank you all for making Cowtown proud!”



—  Tammye Nash

FWISD superintendent signs new guidelines protecting trans students

FWISD Guidelines art

From left: FWISD Superintendent Kent Scribner, LGBTQ S.A.V.E.S. President Sharon Herrera and Fairness Fort Worth President David Mack Henderson

Tammye Nash  |  Managing Editor


Fort Worth Independent School District Superintendent Kent Scribner this week announced that he has signed a set of detailed guidelines designed to protect transgender students by clarifying the district’s existing anti-bullying and anti-discrimination policies.

Clint Bond, FWISD’s external and emergency communications director, said Scribner made the announcement at the Tuesday night, April 26 meeting of the district’s Board of Trustees. “He just wanted the board to know that he had signed these comprehensive guidelines,” Bond said.

In 2011, the district, then under the leadership of interim Superintendent Walter Dansby, the FWISD school board expanded the district’s anti-harassment and anti-bullying policies to include protections based on gender identity and gender expression. Protections based on sexual orientation were already included.

Bond said the new guidelines were designed to give “more specificity” to existing policy.

Sharon Herrera, founder and president of LGBTQ S.A.V.E.S, on Wednesday, April 27, praised Scribner for issuing the guidelines, saying the superintendent “is indeed walking his talk. He genuinely means all students, preparing them for college, career and community leadership.”

She added, “I applaud FWISD and anticipate that along with these guidelines, there will be training.”

LGBTQ S.A.V.E.S is an organization created to “foster the well-being of LGBTQ students and staff in the public schools of Fort Worth and surrounding communities by promoting safe, egalitarian and supportive environments and policies, Herrera explained. She said the organization works to provide LGBTQ students and their families with resources related to LGBTQ issues and safe spaces for social and personal development.

Herrera noted that her organization continues to hear reports from local districts of bullying, not only from students but also adults, including teachers and administrators. “Until our LGBTQ youth can feel safe on their school campuses, our work is not done,” she said.

Fairness Fort Worth President David Mack Henderson said Wednesday that he and his organization “applaud Dr. Scribner and his staff for working to insure our most vulnerable students have both equal protection and opportunity.”

Henderson continued, “My read is that FWISD is making their proactive, inclusive position clear. They not only intend to comply with federal Title IX guidelines, they’ve elucidated best practices to accomplish just that. The beauty of these guidelines is that one group of students isn’t being compromised to help another. They’ve actually found a means to assure privacy for every student, regardless of their views, while still providing equal access.

“These guidelines serve as an excellent template for other schools seeking a reasonable solution to this issue,” Henderson continued. “My hope is that other school districts quickly implement similar guidelines so we can all get on with the business of educating our kids.”

FWISD’s expanded policy notes that the district “prohibits discrimination, including harassment, against any student on the basis of race, color, religion, gender, sexual orientation, gender identity and expression, national origin, disability, or any other basis prohibited by law. The district prohibits dating violence, as defined by this policy. Retaliation against anyone involved in the complaint process is a violation of district policy and is prohibited.

The guidelines — which, Henderson pointed out, can be put into force with just the superintendent’s signature whereas a policy change requires a vote by the board of trustees — reiterates a number of points related to the nondiscrimination policy while elaborating on protections for transgender students.

The guidelines “seek to ensure that no student experiences an unsafe or unwelcome learning environment,” while acknowledging “Transgender youth may experience additional challenges at school” and that “support from classmates and school personnel may help transgender students who otherwise feel ostracized or disengaged.”

The eight-page guideline package presented to the board pointed to “growing support for research indicating that enforcing fixed notions of what it means to be a boy or a girl may have negative effects on children,” especially in a learning environment. The school district is implementing the guidelines, the statement noted, “to provide direction for personnel to address issues that may arise concerning the needs of and challenges facing transgender students, and to foster an inclusive and productive learning environment for all students.”

The guidelines include an extensive list of terms and definitions regarding transgender people and issues, but also points out that “not all people will fit a particular definition or pattern. Instead of focusing on what definition applies to a particular person, school personnel are required to show respect for the student’s desires and wishes to the extent practical so as to foster a productive educational process for all.”

The guidelines also lay out specific reporting procedures in the event of complaints, and names a specific person — Employee Relations Director Rufino Mendoza — as the Title IX coordinator for the district and the person to whom complaints should be reported.

The guidelines require faculty and staff to “acknowledge the gender identity that each student consistently and uniformly asserts,” without need of a medical or mental health diagnosis or treatment. Campus counselors are designated as the allies for students who need or want to discuss gender identity issues.

The guidelines also require district personnel to use a student’s preferred name and pronouns unless otherwise required by law for record keeping purposes. “Continued intentional misuse of a student’s new name and pronouns coupled with reference to the student’s former gender,” the guidelines state, “undermines the student’s desires and is contrary to the district’s goal of treating students with dignity and respect.”

The guidelines stress that a student’s name and gender on official records can be changed only with a legal court order. But no such order is necessary for personnel to use the student’s preferred name and pronouns and gender identity.

If you don’t know how the student prefers to be identified, ask them in private, the guidelines direct. And students have the right to keep their actual or perceived gender identity and expression private, including from their parents or guardians. Only share such information if the student gives his or her permission, and that goes for sharing the information with parents or guardians, too, the guidelines say.

“Transitioning is a very private matter,” the guidelines warn. “Students may choose whether or not to have their parents participate in this process. In fact, notifying a parent or guardian carries risks for the students in some cases,” so school personnel need to talk to the student about what to tell the parents.

Regarding restroom facilities, the guidelines say, “If other students feel uncomfortable sharing a restroom with a transgender student or if a student has a need or desire for increased privacy, the school must allow the student(s) access to a single stall restroom, gender neutral restroom or the opportunity to visit the facility when other students are not present. A single user restroom, however, must not be given as the only option for transgender students who need or desire increased privacy.”

The schools are required to make similar accommodations for locker rooms, and the guidelines prohibit school personnel from using dress codes to prevent a transgender student from living full time “in the role consistent with his or her gender identity.”

The new guidelines also require schools to give all students, including transgender students “equitable access to [all] activities and programs,” including cheerleading, homecoming, prom and sports. But the guidelines acknowledge that “UIL may have ultimate authority to determine the team on which a student can participate in league play.”

That, Henderson said, remains a problem because of rules recently adopted by the University Interscholastic League, which governs intermural sports in Texas public schools, which requires students’ gender be determined for the purpose of such sports teams based on their physical gender at birth.

“The new UIL rules still leaves districts in the untenable position of either complying with Title IX for federal funding or with the sports authority to qualify for team play,” Henderson said. “The UIL rule is clearly in violation of federal law. The question remaining is will UIL and UT, their host organization, force Texas schools and trans students to pay the price for UIL’s illegal rule?”

He concluded, “When we permit loud voices to err on the side of fear, the result is hysteria. I say we don’t let them play that game with us anymore. We’re done reacting to every nonsensical cry of social Armageddon.

“These are our lives, our families and our children, too,” Henderson declared, “and we get to set the tone and the narrative from now on, period.”

For the complete text of the new guidelines, go here.

—  Tammye Nash

3 Texas groups sign letter demanding NCAA divest from campuses seeking Title IX exemptions


Criswell College in Dallas is among the institutions to apply for a Title IX exemption.

Fairness Fort Worth, Resource Center and Houston’s  Legacy Center have joined a coalition of more than 80 LGBT sports, religious and youth advocacy groups signed on to a letter issued publicly yesterday (Wednesday, March 9) calling on the National Collegiate Athletic Association to divest from all religious-based institutions that have made Title IX waiver requests targeting transgender youth.

In their letter to the organization, which oversees and regulates athletics in higher education, they say the Title IX exemptions contradict the NCAA’s mission.

“Our partners on this open letter agree with the NCAA when it says that, ‘Diversity and inclusion improves the learning environment for all student-athletes, and enhances excellence within the Association.’ It is because we believe diversity and inclusion leads to the best learning environments that we ask NCAA to divest from all religious based campuses who have requested these discriminatory waivers,” the letter reads.

An educational institution run by a religious organization may apply for a Title IX exemption from the Department of Education if it “would not be consistent with the religious tenets of such organization.”

The requests grew in response to the Department of Education decision in 2014 to include transgender students under Title IX protections.

The Title IX waiver allows campus administrators to deny transgender students admission, usage of public accommodations, and protections against anti-LGBT actions from students and faculty.

“Religion-based bigotry is the basis for the vast majority of prejudice and discrimination LGBT people face, especially young people,” said Shane Windmeyer, executive director of Campus Pride and one of the signatories, said in a statement. “The NCAA cannot stand for this outright discrimination among its member institutions and we urge them to take action to ensure an inclusive sports culture that is safe and fair for all athletes, regardless of sexual orientation or gender identity.”

There are currently fifty-nine religious-based colleges and universities on the list, according to Campus Pride’s “Shame List.”

East Texas Baptist University in Marshall, University of Mary Hardin-Baylor in Belton and Howard Payne University in Brownwood are among the 37 campuses who received exemptions. University of Dallas in Irving, Criswell College in Dallas and Hardin-Simmons University in Abilene have applied for waivers.

“As people of faith or spirit, we call upon the NCAA to act on its stated values as an LGBTQ inclusive organization and divest from these schools who are willfully and intentionally creating unsafe environments for LGBTQ students,” said Jordyn Sun, national campus organizer at Soulforce. “No athlete should play sports under the specter of fear and discrimination. Instead, these schools should simply follow the law.”

—  James Russell

UPDATE: Tarrant County Clerk says her office will accept common-law marriage affidavit


Tarrant County Clerk Mary Louise Garcia

Tarrant County Clerk Mary Louise Garcia on Friday, Sept. 25, released a statement saying that her office will accept common-law marriage affidavits from same-sex couples seeking to file such affidavits dated prior to the June 26, 2015 U.S. Supreme Court ruling affirming marriage equality.

“As it should be,” declared Fairness Fort Worth President David Mack Henderson, after receiving a copy of the statement from Garcia. “Love wins!”

Garcia issued the statement in response to reports that an employee in the County Clerk’s satellite in Arlington refused to accept such an affidavit from a Fort Worth couple who have been together about 23 years. The employee told the men they would have to change the effective date to June 26, 2015, the date of the SCOTUS ruling.

The men declined on the advice of their attorney, Jon Nelson, who said that changing the date would be falsifying an official document, which is a criminal offense. Read David Taffet’s report on the situation here.

Garcia’s statement said:


FFW President David Mack Henderson

“Today, my office reached out to DSHS to reconfirm their position on the above. However, they indicated there had been a miscommunication regarding the issue; and that applicants, regardless of gender, may apply for an informal marriage license using any date applicable to their relationship.

“Additionally, we sought an opinion from the Tarrant County Criminal District Attorney on this same issue. They agree with the position of the Department of State Health Services.”

“It’s about making contacts with people and working with them to solve problems,” Henderson said of efforts to work with Garcia’s office on the issue.

“FFW thanks Jon Nelson for bringing this discrepancy in equal service to light,” Henderson continued. “We also thank Tarrant County Clerk Mary Louise Garcia and District Attorney Sharen Wilson and their teams for expediting the correct resolution in this matter. As indicated in the second paragraph, this clarification should apply throughout Texas.”

—  Tammye Nash

Star-Telegram to begin publishing same-sex marriage, other announcements

Screen Shot 2015-03-07 at 7.43.16 PM

David Mack Henderson

Screen Shot 2015-03-07 at 7.42.43 PMEffective Sunday, March 8, the Fort Worth Star-Telegram will be accepting same-sex marriage, engagement, anniversary and civil union announcements, Fairness Fort Worth President David Mack Henderson announced today (Saturday, March 7).

The first print issue of the Star-Telegram to include such announcements will be Sunday, March 15. The deadline to get such announcements in that issue is Monday, March 9. The announcements are considered paid advertising.

Henderson said the Star-Telegram has few restrictions on timelines for such announcements, and that the newspaper currently has “engagement announcements posted for more than a year out, or no timeline at all, and also a marriage announcement published seven months after the fact. We suggest that you include you were ‘legally married’ or that your engagement is to ‘wed legally’ in your narrative to expedite inclusion,” he said.

Henderson sad that Fairness Fort Worth representatives have held discussions over the last several weeks senior management at the Star-Telegram, “encouraging the paper to present a more realistic picture of our community throughout their coverage area.” He said those discussion have led to “increased coverage of timely legislative and court actions, the announcement by our Tarrant County Clerk’s office regarding issuing marriage licenses when courts clear the way and a superb article featuring two local same-sex families with children who represent the essence of what it means to be part of the integral fabric of our community.”

Henderson said that Star-Telegram Publisher Gary Wortel confirmed for him that the paper will carry announcements from LGBT couples. Henderson also noted that the newspaper’s criteria for marriage announcement specifically are based on the couple being legally married in a jurisdiction that legally recognizes same-sex marriage. Those who hold commitment ceremonies or holy unions that are not legally recognized can place their announcement in the Star-Telegram’s “celebrations” section.

Henderson also said that couples wanting to place an announcement in the Star-Telegram need to remember such announcements have to be paid for. Costs for marriage announcements are at three levels, starting at $75 and going up to $504.

The announces are “now available to all citizens, as they should be under the city of Fort Worth’s non-discrimination ordinance regarding public accommodations,” Henderson said. “Mr. Wortel shared that in the case of a large number of ads [being placed] immediately due to pent-up demand, they can always print more pages. The online announcements remain for months, while each ad is run on one specific Sunday in print.

“FFW will continue working with Star-Telegram management to iron out any issues that arise,” Henderson said. “For instance, if the web site still says bride/groom, overlook that for now, and still register.

“We encourage our community to actively promote their authentic, loving relationships, giving testimony to our lives truly lived and fostering an embracing environment for our youth in search of proactive role models and seeking their rightful place as they grow and develop into healthy adulthood,” Henderson said. “The time for our families is now.”

Here is the announcement that ran in the Sunday, March 8 issue of Fort Worth Star-Telegram, Section D, Page 5, announcing the policy change:

“To Our Readers: The Star-Telegram accepts announcements for Weddings, Engagements, Anniversaries, and Civil Unions regardless of gender. To qualify for publication in our Sunday Life section, under the Wedding heading, same-sex wedding ceremonies must be performed in states where same-sex marriages are legally recognized. Ceremonies taking place in states where same-sex marriages are not legally recognized will be listed under Celebrations. The Star-Telegram reserves the right to reject, edit or revise any copy and photos for any reason deemed material by the publisher. In the event the advertiser has prepaid for advertising which is later rejected or canceled by the Star-Telegram, the sole liability for such action by the Star-Telegram shall be a refund of the unused portion of the prepayment for such canceled advertising. The advertiser will be contacted by the Star-Telegram Announcement Coordinator after the announcement has been edited. The announcement will not be published until final approval has been given by the advertiser. Please do not use any abbreviations in your announcement information. To place an announcement go to: www. star-telegram.com/celebrations or call 817-390-7178. Deadline: Monday noon prior to the Sunday publication.”

—  Tammye Nash

BREAKING: When ruling comes, Tarrant County Clerk will issue marriage licenses

gay_marriage_81102178_620x350Fairness Fort Worth President David Henderson reports the Tarrant County Clerk’s office will issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples if the 5th Circuit rules the state’s ban on same-sex marriage unconstitutional.

“If the U.S. 5th Circuit Court of Appeals  were to  find the Texas bans on same-sex marriages unconstitutional and no stay is imposed on that decision, then Tarrant County will begin issuing marriage licenses in compliance with court rulings. We may need a day, maybe two, to configure changes to our systems and forms in cooperation with our outside vendor; however, we intend to comply with rulings that may be issued,” said Tarrant County Clerk’s Office Chief Deputy Jeff Nicholson to Henderson.

Garcia’s office had previously said Tarrant County would not give marriage licenses to same sex couples because the county does not fall into the federal court district in which the state’s same-sex marriage ban was ruled unconstitutional.

Henderson added that while he “is unaware of any state district judges in Tarrant County that will waive the 72-hour waiting period…getting equal access to a license is the more crucial step.”

—  James Russell

UPDATE: Defined benefit retirement plans must also recognize same-sex marriages


David Mack Henderson

In the Dec. 5 issue of Dallas Voice, we reported on the discovery by Resource Center Communications and Advocacy Manager Rafael McDonnell and Fairness Fort Worth President David Mack Henderson that the Internal Revenue Service requires that defined contribution retirement plans — such as 401(a), 401(k) and 125 cafeteria plans —  recognize same-sex spouses of plan members if the couple were married in a jurisdiction that legally recognizes such marriages — even if the couple lives in a state that bans marriage equality.

Henderson has since discovered that defined benefit plans must also recognize same-sex spouses:

“From Answers to Frequently Asked Questions for Individuals of the Same Sex Who Are Married Under State Law:
Q17. What are some examples of the consequences of these rules for qualified retirement plans?
A17. The following are some examples of the consequences of these rules:
Plan A, a qualified defined benefit plan, is maintained by Employer X, which operates only in a state that does not recognize same-sex marriages. Nonetheless, Plan A must treat a participant who is married to a spouse of the same sex under the laws of a different jurisdiction as married for purposes of applying the qualification requirements that relate to spouses.”

A defined benefit pension plan is a type of pension plan in which an employer/sponsor promises a specified monthly benefit on retirement that is predetermined by a formula based on the employee’s earnings history, tenure of service and age, rather than depending directly on individual investment returns. A defined contribution plan, on the other hand, does not promise a specific amount of benefits at retirement. In these plans, the employee or the employer (or both) contribute to the employee’s individual account under the plan, sometimes at a set rate.

You can also find information on the Equality Texas website.

—  Tammye Nash

Fairness Fort Worth Legacy Project honors community leaders

Fairness Fort Worth honored five community leaders for their activism for the acceptance and rights of LGBT people in the community last night, Friday, Oct. 25 at a private home in Fort Worth.

Todd Camp, a founder of both Fairness Fort Worth and QCinema, was emcee.

The five honorees were: Kelly Smith, immediate past president of and long-time volunteer with the AIDS Outreach Center; Xavier Khan, a OD Wyatt High School sophomore who founded the school’s gay-straight alliance; DeeJay Johnannessen, executive director of HELP in Fort Worth; Jean Wallace, vice president for human relations at Lockheed Martin Aeronautics; and Fort Worth Police Chief Jeff Halstead. Wallace and Halstead were unable to attend.

Rev. Carol West received the inaugural Tom Anable Recognition of Excellence Award.






—  James Russell

Uplift Education introduces new inclusive anti-bullying policy

60144_470172559670970_1080250106_nUplift Education, a network of 14 charter schools across North Texas, began the new school year with a new robust anti-bullying policy drafted in collaboration with Fairness Fort Worth and the Resource Center Dallas. David Mack Henderson, president of Fairness Fort Worth, wrote on Facebook:

When school started at the 14 campuses of Uplift Education’s charter schools across North Texas last week, the over 12,000 students were greeted with a new, fully inclusive anti-bullying policy that includes protections against acts “motivated either by any actual or perceived characteristic such as…sexual orientation, gender identity and expression.” That policy was developed with the input of Fairness Fort Worth and Resource Center. Officials from both groups met with senior leadership of Uplift in the spring of 2012, proactively suggesting that the schools adopt a policy that would specifically protect LGBTQ and other students. Uplift developed a draft policy last fall, and turned to Fairness Fort Worth and the Center for additional input and review. The new policy was adopted by the Uplift board this spring and went into effect at the beginning of the school year.

Check out this coming week’s edition of the Voice for more information on the policy.

—  James Russell

Resource Center and Fairness Fort Worth ask reps to protect LGBT elderly


Cece Cox

Resource Center and Fairness Fort Worth reached out to Rep. Marc Veasey and Rep. Eddie Bernice Johnson to add LGBT-specific protections to Medicaid’s Home and Community-Based Services programs for seniors. Veasey represents U.S. District House 33, and Johnson represents U.S. District House 30.

The National Senior Citizens Law Center issued a report in 2011 that found LGBT seniors often went back into the closet to protect themselves in healthcare facilities. Many endured verbal and phyical abuse by other residents and staff.

RC’s CEO Cece Cox and FFW’s President David Mack Henderson asked Veasey and Johnson to encourage HHS to amend its rules to protect LGBT seniors.

Their letter is below:



—  David Taffet