Army vet and FFW President Jon Nelson asks USAA to add LGBT protections

Fairness Fort Worth President Jon Nelson used this Veterans Day to impact change at United Services Automobile Association.

USAA is a Texas-based company that provides banking, investing and insurance serves to people and families of those who have served in the U.S. military.

Nelson is an Army veteran who served as a combat infantry officer in Vietnam. He is a policyholder with USAA, which doesn’t offer its employees or policyholders LGBT protections.

He wrote to CEO Gen. Josue Robles this week to encourage him as a gay veteran and policyholder to consider adding policies that covered everyone USAA employs and insures.

“When I was in the Army, I was taught to lead by example,” Nelson writes. “It’s time USAA did so by changing its policies and procedures to acknowledge, provide for and protect those LGBT policyholders and employees.  These changes that USAA, just like American Airlines and others, make will send a clear message.”

In related news, USAA received the worst possible score of zero on the Human Rights Campaign’s annual Corporate Equality Index, which was released today.

Read Nelson’s full letter below.

—  Dallasvoice

After Anable’s death, Fairness Fort Worth names Jon Nelson president

Jon Nelson

In Anna Waugh’s story in Friday’s Dallas Voice about the death of Thomas Anable, she mentioned that the board of Fairness Fort Worth planned to select a new president “in the near future.” Turns out that future was indeed very near, as the group announced in a press release Friday afternoon that Jon Nelson has been named Anable’s successor. Nelson was one of the founding members of Fairness Fort Worth and has served as the group’s spokesman since it formed in response to the Rainbow Lounge raid.

“Tom’s tireless efforts for the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community created a firm foundation upon which we are eager to build,” Nelson said in the release. “The next chapter in obtaining full equality for all of our citizens begins today. We’re encouraged by the growing empowerment within our community and by the eagerness of allies in government, business and civic engagement who walk with us.”

A memorial service for Anable will be held at 10:30 a.m. Saturday, Aug. 25, at Celebration Community Church, at 908 Pennsylvania Ave. in Fort Worth.

Read Fairness Fort Worth’s full press release below.

—  John Wright

Tom Anable’s family, Fort Worth police chief release statements on his death

The family of Fairness Fort Worth President Thomas Anable reacted to his loss in a statement Monday through family spokesman Paul Valdez.

The statement mentions the shock of Anable’s sudden death after he took his own life this weekend, but focuses on the advocacy work that he’d held so dear since becoming an “accidental activist” after the Rainbow Lounge led him to pursue LGBT equality in Tarrant County and beyond.

“As we mourn his tragic death, we must always remember and celebrate what he accomplished, not only for Fort Worth and Dallas, but on a national stage for both advocacy and empowerment. He taught us about moving forward and making a difference,” the statement reads.

“Tom was a beautiful soul, with a heart of gold, and we are devastated by his loss. Though we may never fully understand his death, our family has chosen to celebrate his life and the amazing legacy he leaves to us all.”

Anable’s death has been ruled suicide by the Tarrant County Medical Examiner’s Office. He died from a gunshot wound to the head. He was 58.

Fort Worth Police Chief Jeff Halstead also released a statement Monday, saying he was “very saddened to hear the news about Tom.”

“Tom was a personal friend, a trusted colleague, and an inspiration. His advocacy for the LGBTQ community opened many eyes, including my own,” Halstead said. “Tom worked passionately to improve police department’s ‘hate crime’ policies and investigative protocols.”

Fairness Fort Worth, which Anable helped launch and has led since June 2010, played an integral role in mending the relationship between the police department and the LGBT community after the Rainbow Lounge raid.

“The Fort Worth Police Department is forever indebted to Tom for bridging the gap and strengthening our enduring commitment to work together for fairness and equality,” Halstead said in the statement.

A candlelight vigil honoring Anable will be held at the Rainbow Lounge at 7 p.m. Wednesday. A memorial service will then follow at 10:30 a.m. Saturday at Celebration Community Church in Fort Worth.

Read the full statements below.

—  Dallasvoice

Memorial services, candlelight vigil set for Fairness Fort Worth’s Tom Anable

Memorial services for Fairness Fort Worth President Thomas Anable, who was found dead Saturday morning in Benbrook, are set for 10:30 a.m. Saturday, Aug. 25, at Celebration Community Church, according to Anable’s longtime friend Paul Valdez.

The Rainbow Lounge, the bar where Anable’s activism began when it was raided by police in June 2009, will host a candlelight vigil in his honor at 7 p.m. Wednesday, Aug. 22.

Valdez said he planned to release a statement from Anable’s family on his death sometime Monday. Fort Worth Police Chief Jeffrey Halstead, who’s worked closely with Anable over the last three years, also reportedly planned to release a statement today.

Anable, president of Fort Worth’s LGBT advocacy group since June 2010, is believed to have died from a self-inflicted gunshot wound. He was 58.

Read our previous story here.

—  John Wright

BREAKING: Fairness Fort Worth President Thomas Anable has died


Thomas Anable, the president of Fairness Fort Worth who became an LGBT activist after witnessing the Rainbow Lounge raid, died unexpectedly late Friday or early Saturday. He was 58.

According to a press release from the Benbrook Police Department, officers discovered Anable’s body after responding to a call in the 400 block of Lakeview Drive in Benbrook at 8:26 a.m. Saturday. Anable’s body was found in Dutch Branch Park on Benbrook Lake, and he appeared to have died from a self-inflicted gunshot wound, the press release states.

The Rev. Carol West, pastor of Celebration Community Church and vice president of Fairness Fort Worth, called Anable’s death “a horrible tragedy.”

“Thomas did so much for this community, and he leaves a wonderful legacy,” West said. “Thomas was Fairness Fort Worth, and he did so much, and he’s going to be horribly missed.”

Anable was the accountant for the Rainbow Lounge and was in the bar checking receipts in the early morning hours of June 28, 2009, when the establishment was raided by police.

In the wake of the raid, Anable helped form Fairness Fort Worth, the city’s LGBT advocacy group. He became president of Fairness Fort Worth in June 2010. Later that year Anable decided to sell his accounting practice so he could devote himself to activism full time.

“He lived it, he drank it, he slept it,” West said. “It was everything to him. Advocacy was what he breathed. He was a big believer in making a difference.”

Jon Nelson, another founding member of Fairness Fort Worth, said he’s amazed by what Anable accomplished in just a few years.

“Once he started to take action, and once he saw that what he was doing was actually making a difference, I think he was just totally energized,” Nelson said. “I’ve never seen anybody work as hard, as effectively, in such short periods of time as he did.”

Nelson said Fairness Fort Worth has a decision to make about whether to continue Anable’s legacy.

“We will move forward,” Nelson said, “and I think that one of the reasons we’ll do it is out of a sense that that’s what Tom would want. It’s very sobering, and I think that out of a respect and admiration for him, and an acknowledgment of how much he cared, I think this will further solidify our desire to continue what he started.”

Stay tuned to Instant Tea for more on Anable’s death.

—  John Wright

Local LGBT groups, ousted lesbian den leader respond to Boy Scouts statement

Norman Rockwell painting in the Boy Scouts of America Museum collection in Irving

Local groups responded Tuesday to the Boy Scouts of America announcement that the group won’t change its discrimination policy of exclusion of gay Scouts and leaders from the organization. Although last week the Scouts said they were not studying the issue, this morning they announced that the new decision was the result of a two-year study.

Jennifer Tyrrell, who is in Dallas to deliver a petition to the Boy Scouts on Wednesday, issued a statement through GLAAD.

“A secret committee of 11 people can’t ignore the hundreds of thousands of people around the country — including thousands of Eagle Scouts, Scout families, and former Scouts — that want the ban on gay Scouts and scout leaders removed,” Tyrrell said. “This campaign doesn’t stop, and we will continue to show the Boy Scouts that discrimination and intolerance have no place in scouting. On Wednesday, I look forward to sharing with the BSA thousands of comments from families like mine that say the time is now to end this anti-gay policy.”

Resource Center Dallas said, “With this announcement, the Boy Scouts are choosing to remain mired in the past instead of embracing a more inclusive future.”

Fairness Fort Worth issued the following statement:

The Boy Scouts of America has chosen to continue to ban gay boys from participating in Scouting and gay parents from volunteering as leaders. BSA has a constitutional right to do so but what a horrible message it sends to those excluded from and those included in Scouting.

BSA describes itself as “the nation’s foremost youth program of character development and values-based leadership training …” Those in the LGBT community have been vilified, marginalized and stereotyped for such a long time and the BSA’a stance just continues the practice. So what kind of “character development” and what “values” is it talking about? This country was founded on principles of inclusiveness, diversity, respect and acceptance of that diversity. Apparently not the Boy Scouts.

As the trial in the Proposition 8 case clearly demonstrated, there is no factual or legal basis for treating those in the LGBT community as second-class citizens, so what exact reasons do the Boy Scouts have for doing so?

A straight boy asks his Scout leader why his gay best friend can’t join. What’s the answer? What answer will be given that doesn’t depict his gay friend in some negative light? What answer will be given that doesn’t call that friendship into question? Character development, value-based leadership training?

The Boy Scouts of America has given up a tremendous opportunity to be in the forefront of respect and equality for all and it’s just a shame.

GetEQUAL Texas state lead Michael Diviesti said, “Children are unnecessarily being taught that LGBT children are different. We see it in many arenas. We have a law in Texas that homosexuality must be taught as an unacceptable lifestyle. It’s part of an extremist mentality that tries to raise a next generation of bigots through indoctrination.”

—  David Taffet

Arlington police arrest 1st suspect in anti-gay hate crime; 4 others expected to turn themselves in

Daniel Sibley

Arlington police have arrested one teenager and expect four more to turn themselves in after video footage identified them as suspects in a vandalism spree June 10 that included anti-gay slurs spray-painted on a lesbian couple’s SUV.

Sgt. Christopher Cook said Wednesday during a press conference that Fort Worth teen Daniel Sibley, 18, was arrested Tuesday. He is in custody on a $2,500 bond.

Cook explained that two surveillance cameras on residences captured several teens spray-painting derogatory images and words on homes and cars in a total of 13 incidents. The second video captured the vehicle information and led to the identification of five teens ages 16-18.

Cook said the two other adults have attorneys and will be booked into jail Wednesday afternoon. A female juvenile is also expected to turn herself in. Police are still trying to contact a female adult.

All suspects will be charged with the state jail felony of criminal mischief for damage ranging from $1,500-$20,000.

The punishment for a state jail felony is 180 days to two years in jail and up to a $10,000 fine. If the classification is enhanced by the hate crime statute to a third-degree felony, the teens could face two to 10 years behind bars in addition to the fine.

A racial slur was spray-painted on a vehicle, but Cook said it not being reported as a hate crime because the man who owned the car was Caucasian. He said based on the statement from Sibley that the teens saw a sticker on the lesbian couple’s SUV – which featured two female caricatures with a child and pet – and made an assumption that they were gay before vandalizing the vehicle.

Arlington police Chief Will Johnson

Acting police chief Will Johnson said it was clear that the incident involving the lesbian couple was hate crime from early on because the words “queers” and “faggot” were spray-painted on their SUV.

“A crime of hatred is not only a crime against an individual but it is a crime against the community,” he said. “Early in this investigation it was clear that hateful and biased language was used to damage property at multiple locations. It was equally clear that at least one of our 13 victims was targeted specifically because of their sexual orientation.”

He said the incident would be reported to the FBI as a hate crime and that authorities would continue to investigate and prosecute hate crimes in Arlington in the future.

“We are committed in Arlington to prevent all crime especially crime that was committed for no other reason than possibly toward hatred,” Johnson said. “This type of behavior will not be tolerated, it will be fully investigated — and to the fullest extent of the law prosecuted.”

Kim Lovering said she and her partner were woken up by police early Sunday morning, June 10. Neighbors had already called police but she said her family was unaware of the vandalism to their SUV. She said she was grateful her son, not yet 2, was too young to understand what happened.

From the police presence to Johnson calling her later that day to check on her family, Lovering said she was impressed by the support from the community and police.

“They stood behind us,” she said. “It was really a huge relief that something like this was handled the right way. And I’m glad it’s our city.”

As for the arrest and suspected capture of the remaining suspects, she said it will help her sleep at night and hopes the teens’ arrests will change their attitudes.

“I’m so thankful for the way this turned out just for our safety and peace of mind,” she said.

Fairness Fort Worth President Tom Anable praised the police response, calling it a “textbook” example of how police should respond and engage with the community.

Anable said anti-gay slurs are “so offensive and dehumanizing” and “will never go away,” adding that the quick identification and arrest of suspects send the message that hate crimes won’t be tolerated anymore.

“It’s nothing new for us. What is new is having a dialogue with law enforcement and the FBI,” he said. “I can’t say enough about how well the Arlington Police Department handled this. … It is absolutely textbook perfect.”

Anable said his organization has reached out to the Human Rights Campaign to try to bring national attention to “how things can go right.”

“The citizens of Arlington should take great pride in their police department and the quality of their city,” he said.

HRC released a statement Wednesday applauding Arlington PD for “responding swiftly and thoroughly.”

The full HRC statement is below, along with video from the press conference.

—  Dallasvoice

Arlington police now calling vandalism of lesbian couple’s SUV an anti-gay hate crime

Our Anna Waugh is headed to Arlington this morning, where police reportedly will hold a press conference to announce they’ve identified five suspects in a string of 10 incidents of vandalism that occurred Sunday, June 10. As we’ve reported, the incidents included one in which the words “FAGGOT” and “QUEERS” were spray-painted on the SUV of a lesbian couple, which led Instant Tea to ask whether it was being treated as an anti-gay hate crime. Ten days later, the answer is yes, as police say they believe “that some victims were targeted based upon their sexual orientation and, as such, this incident will be reported on the Uniform Crime Report as a hate crime based upon prejudice and bias that we believe existed when the offenses were committed.” Tom Anable, president of the LGBT advocacy group Fairness Fort Worth, is also slated to speak at the presser. We’ll have a full report later, but for now here’s what APD is saying:

The Arlington Police Department was alerted to several graffiti offenses on Sunday, June 10, 2012, that targeted a West Arlington neighborhood. These offenses generated media attention and concerned law enforcement officials.

A press conference will be held Wednesday, June 20, 2012, at 10 a.m. at Arlington Police Headquarters at 620 W. Division Street in the Police Office of Communication. The conference will address the criminal episode that occurred along with investigative process which led to the identification of five suspects.

Acting Police Chief Will Johnson will speak about the police response to the hostile messages left in an Arlington neighborhood and describe how the investigation progressed so quickly, including the community outreach efforts that helped bring this investigation to its proper conclusion. The Arlington Police Department believes that some victims were targeted based upon their sexual orientation and, as such, this incident will be reported on the Uniform Crime Report as a hate crime based upon prejudice and bias that we believe existed when the offenses were committed.

The President of Fairness Fort Worth, Thomas R. Anable, will also be in attendance at the press conference to speak briefly about the dialogue that occurred between the Arlington Police Department and the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community.

—  John Wright

UPDATE: Arlington police not yet calling anti-gay graffiti on lesbian couple’s vehicle a hate crime

Arlington police say they aren’t yet calling incident in which a lesbian couple’s SUV was spray-painted with anti-gay slurs a hate crime.

The couple was among the victims in a string of 10 incidents of vandalism in the 1100 block of Crowley Road over the weekend. Tiara Richard, a spokeswoman for Arlington Police Department, said the targeted residences had spray-painted images and words on the houses and cars. Homeowners reported the vandalism to police early Sunday morning.

One of the homes belonged to a lesbian couple, whose SUV, pictured above, had the words “faggot” and “queers” spray-painted on it.

Richard said police are not yet calling the incident a hate crime because it is one of 10 incidents.

“We’re investigating it as a crime,” she said. “If there’s a hate element to it, we’ll share that with the district attorney’s office, and they’ll make that call.”

—  Dallasvoice

PHOTO: Vandals spray-paint anti-gay epithets on lesbian couple’s SUV in Arlington

Vandals spray-painted anti-gay epithets on a lesbian couple’s vehicle and on other vehicles in the same block in Arlington on Saturday in an apparent hate crime, according to David Mack Henderson of Fairness Fort Worth:

Many of you may have seen the enclosed photo circulating online today. Fairness Fort Worth would like to update our community on what actually occurred and also what steps have been taken since. Yesterday, a lesbian couple in Arlington, TX, discovered their car had been vandalized with large spray-painted anti-gay epithets. Sadly, they weren’t alone. Other cars of non-LGBT residents on the same block were also vandalized with sexually derogatory language.

The same-sex couple is grateful for community support and wants you to know that the Arlington Police Department responded in a timely and professional manner. Further, Acting Police Chief Will Johnson has indicated he is willing to engage in dialogue with FFW to assure continued cooperation. The APD also has at its disposal other law enforcement resources that may prove helpful regarding this particular crime.

If there is a silver lining for the same-sex couple – it’s that they are very encouraged by the support of their neighbors on the block who abhor what all of the victims are going through as much as the LGBT Community does. FFW will update you further as circumstances warrant.

Fairness Fort Worth President Thomas Anable added this in an email:

FFW is in contact with Arlington police and victims through local representatives. The victims were contacted by Arlington police at the initiation of the police department and were not the only victims on the street who received sexually oriented vandalism. The other victims were not members of the LGBT community.  The LGBT victims are currently satisfied with the timely and professional response of the police. The neighborhood has been extremely supportive of the victims.  FFW will reach out to Arlington police and put them in touch with the DOJ to assist in reviewing their hate crimes policies and procedures, but all is progressing in a very acceptable manner.

A spokeswoman for Arlington police couldn’t immediately be reached Monday morning. Stay tuned to Instant Tea for more.

—  John Wright