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

WATCH: Fairness Fort Worth’s submission to the White House Pride Month Video Challenge

Thomas Anable, president of Fairness Fort Worth, reports that the below video focusing on the city’s response to the Rainbow Lounge raid has been submitted to the White House Pride Month Champions of Change Video Challenge.

The video, which features narration by Councilman Joel Burns and clips from the recently released film Raid of the Rainbow Lounge, was put together by Fairness Fort Worth in conjunction with the city and the Police Department, Anable said.

The deadline for submissions to the White House contest is today, and a panel will now select semi-finalists before the public helps select finalists in June to attend a Champions of Change event at the White House.

Watch the video below.

—  John Wright

Tollway authority adds LGBT protections

North Texas Tollway Authority board members Jane Willard and David Denison listen as a Resource Center Dallas board member asks the NTTA board to approve an amendment that adds sexual orientation, gender identity and gender expression to the EEO policy April 18. Denison, who opposed sending the amendment to the board at an April 5 committee meeting, abstained from the vote. (Anna Waugh/Dallas Voice)

The North Texas Tollway Authority Board of Directors approved an amendment Wednesday morning to add sexual orientation, gender identity and gender expression to the company’s Equal Employment Opportunity policy.

One of the nine board members was absent, but the amendment was approved with seven members in favor and one abstention.

The administration committee approved sending the amendment to the full board with a 2-1 vote April 5. While two committee members were absent for the briefing and vote, committee member George “Tex” Quesada strongly supported the amendment and recommended the Board of Directors vote in favor of it. Committee Chairwoman Jane Willard also voted yes. Committee member David Denison called the amendment “ridiculous” before voting no. He abstained from the vote Wednesday after Willard and Quesada moved to adopt the amendment without further comments from board members.

Before the vote, Maeve O’Connor, a Resource Center Dallas board member, spoke about her experience a “woman born with a transsexual medical condition.” She encouraged the board to add the protections and explained the difference of sexual orientation and gender rolls, calling gender expression the “in between space of gender identity and gender role.”

“From personal experience, I can tell you that my path of transition has not always been an easy one,” she said. “A person must be able to express their gender identity in order to fit the ascribed gender role … and it makes it difficult for an employee that’s working in your workforce to move onto that next step and realize the identity that they’ve always know of themselves.”

O’Connor concluded by encouraging the NTTA to consider working with RCD to help employees understand gender identity and expression.

Rafael McDonnell, RCD’s communications and advocacy manager, said he was surprised but “exceptionally pleased” that seven of the board members voted in favor of the amendment. He said he was counting on five votes for approval with the two members from Dallas and Tarrant counties and support from Willard, a member from Collin County. NTTA’s board consists of nine members, two from Dallas, Tarrant, Collin and Denton counties, as well as one member appointed by the governor.

After RCD and Fairness Fort Worth approached NTTA in December, McDonnell said he was impressed with the board’s proactive approach to quickly adopting LGBT protections without an incident of discrimination to spark the additions later. He said he would follow up with NTTA in the next few weeks to offer additional support and help in possible diversity training.

“We’ll be glad to work with them in any way,” he said.

NTTA is now the sixth agency in Dallas County to add or expand LGBT protections in recent years. The other agencies that have updated their policies are Dallas County, Dallas Independent School District, Dallas County Community College District, DFW International Airport and Dallas Area Rapid Transit.

Tarrant County College District, Fort Worth Independent School District and the city of Fort Worth have also added protections.

NTTA spokesman Michael Rey said the authority has 690 employees. While the LGBT protections will take effect immediately, he said the EEO policy and employee handbook would be officially changed in the upcoming weeks to reflect the changes.

—  Dallasvoice

Officer assaulted in fight near Rainbow Lounge

Five people were arrested early Sunday — one for assault on a police officer — after a fight broke out on South Jennings Street, near the Rainbow Lounge. The officer was not injured, according to this report by the Fort Worth Star-Telegram.

Liaison officer Kellie Whitehead

Tom Anable, president of Fairness Fort Worth, noted that the Star-Telegram story incorrectly implies the incident occurred inside the bar, which became famous after a June 29, 2009 raid by police and the Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission.

“This was a fight between two groups of people that happened outside the bar, after the bar was closed,” Anable said.

Fort Worth LGBT Liaison Officer Kellie Whitehead said today she’s still trying to confirm all the details, but reported that officers were called to the scene at 2:27 a.m. in response to a fight between two groups of people. She said the first officers to arrive on the scene approached a man who appeared to be about to fight with someone else. She said the man “turned on the officer and took an aggressive stance,” and so the officer put the man in handcuffs.

Rainbow Lounge owner J.R. Schrock, who made the call to 911, told Anable that he could not hear nor clearly see what transpired between the officer and the man, but that the officer “took him down and handcuffed him.”

At that point, Whitehead said, others in the crowd “started getting aggravated,” and someone threw a high-heeled shoe at the officer. Other officers arrived, and one of them approached a man “who appeared to be intoxicated,” and that person punched the officer.

—  admin

Tarrant County Pride starts Thursday

Suzanne Westenhoefer performs Friday night at the Sheraton Fort Worth as part of a full weekend of Tarrant County Pride events

You can catch our Friday issue for a complete story on Tarrant County Pride events coming up this weekend, but the fun actually starts on Thursday, before the Friday issue hits the newsstands. So here’s a list of events on tap to let you start getting your Pride on early.

The Sheraton Hotel in downtown Fort Worth is the host hotel for Tarrant County Gay Pride Week Association’s Weekend Pride Stay package, and there are lots of events planned there on Thursday, beginning at noon. There’s the Fort Worth Trading Post in the Piney Woods Room on the second floor, from noon to 10 p.m., plus an art exhibit and the “Big As Texas Auction,” both in the second floor foyer from noon to 10 p.m.

A number of different community nonprofits are participating in the Community School House educational sessions on Thursday at the Sheraton: From noon to 1 p.m., AIDS Outreach Center presents “Stress Reduction;” from 1:30 to 2:30 p.m., Healing Wings presents “Safer Sex is Sexy: Take Responsibility for your Sexual Health;” Outreach Addiction Services presents “Sex: Safety the Gay Way” from 4:30 p.m. to 5:30 p.m.; Stonewall Democrats present “Make Your Voice Heard” from 6 p.m. to 7 p.m.; Fairness Fort Worth presents “Grassroots Organizing: The Creation of Fairness Fort Worth” from 7:30 p.m. to 8:30 p.m.; and Trinity Metropolitan Community Church presents “Overcoming Spiritual Abuse and the Ex-Gay Ministries” from 9 p.m. to 10 p.m.

—  admin

Fairness Fort Worth, city’s Human Rights Commission receive IAOHRA President’s Award

Tom Anable

When Fairness Fort Worth President Tom Anable headed to Austin this week, he thought he was just going to speak as part of a panel discussion during a session of the International Association of Human Rights Agency‘s annual conference. But conference organizers talked him into attending the conference’s Tuesday night dinner, and when he found out why they asked him to stay, it was a welcome surprise: They wanted him there to accept the annual IAOHRA President’s Award on behalf of Fairness Fort Worth.

The award, the organization’s highest honor, was presented jointly to FFW and to the Fort Worth Human Rights Commission in recognition of their work, in the wake of the June 2009 raid on the Rainbow Lounge, in creating positive change in the city on human rights issues. Human Rights Commission Chair Estrus Tucker was there to accept the award on behalf of the city.

“This is a big coup for the city,” Anable said Wednesday. “They [city officials] have done a great job. … I couldn’t be more pleased that they gave it to us jointly, because that shows they recognize how well we [FFW and the city] work together to solve our problems.”

Watch the Friday, Sept. 2 print edition [and online, of course] for more on the award, including — hopefully — photos from the award presentation Tuesday night.

—  admin

TABC settlements bring ‘closure’

Tom Anable

Fairness Fort Worth president says payments to Gibson, Armstrong fair; TABC spokeswoman says agency is happy with mediated settlements

JOHN WRIGHT | Online Editor
wright@dallasvoice.com

Two years and one month after the Rainbow Lounge raid, Fort Worth’s LGBT community finally has some closure, according to the president of an advocacy group formed in response to the incident.

Last week it was reported that the Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission had reached monetary settlements with two patrons injured in the June 2009 raid of the gay bar, which occurred on the 40th anniversary of the Stonewall Rebellion.

Chad Gibson, who suffered a serious head injury in the raid, will receive $210,000 from TABC. George Armstrong, who suffered a torn rotator cuff, will receive $15,000.

The city of Fort Worth, whose police officers conducted the raid along with TABC agents, previously settled with Gibson for $400,000 and with Armstrong for $40,000.

“It closes all the legal issues, and the damage issues,” Fairness Fort Worth President Tom Anable said this week of the TABC settlement. “It’s closure in regards to the Rainbow Lounge incident.

“It’s all done and closed,” Anable added. “We have closure and we’re moving forward with other issues.”

TABC fired two agents and a supervisor after the raid, and FWPD suspended three officers.

“Fort Worth ran the operation. Fort Worth was in charge of the operation,” Anable said. “TABC fired employees, and Fort Worth gave some wrist slaps, so I think it was appropriate they [Fort Worth] paid more money.”

Carolyn Beck

TABC spokeswoman Carolyn Beck said her agency’s settlements with Gibson and Armstrong were agreed to during mediation in March, but had to be signed off on by the offices of the attorney general and the governor.

“Those approvals came through in June, and so here we are now,” said Beck, who was named the agency’s liaison to the LGBT community following the raid. “We are happy that we were able to come to an agreement with mediation, and I personally feel like our relationship with the LGBT community is a lot different than it was two years ago. And I hope that it continues to stay positive.”

After the raid, TABC became the first state agency in Texas to conduct comprehensive LGBT diversity training for its employees.

Don Tittle, the Dallas attorney who represented both Armstrong and Gibson, didn’t respond to a phone message from Dallas Voice this week.

But Tittle told the Fort Worth Star-Telegram: “It is done. They are very relieved. I think they feel that they received a level of justice, although it was slow. The monetary compensation was fair, but I think it was important to both of them that there be change within both organizations. As a result of the incident, both Fort Worth and TABC have taken affirmative steps to improve relations and to be more sensitive to diversity.”

—  John Wright

Fort Worth school board adds gender identity and expression to anti-harassment policy

Carlos Vasquez

The Fort Worth school board passed a new student conduct policy Tuesday that includes gender identity/expression in anti-retaliation, nondiscrimination and anti-harassment language. Sexual orientation was already protected.

Gender identity/expression had previously been included in FWISD policies for faculty and staff. Tuesday’s change makes Fort Worth the first district in Texas to protect students, staff and faculty based on both sexual orientation and gender identity/expression in conduct policy handbooks. Some districts, including Dallas, have added both sexual orientation and gender identity/expression to their anti-bullying policies.

The new FWISD policy was on the consent agenda, which means it passed without discussion along with other non-controversial changes.

Openly gay FWISD board member Carlos Vasquez said he was delighted the new policy passed on June 28, the second anniversary of the Rainbow Lounge Raid and the 42nd anniversary of the Stonewall Rebellion.

He said the policy passed without public discussion but with some private discussions among board members.

“One didn’t know the terminology,” he said.

Vasquez said that before the policy passed for faculty and staff earlier this year, “We didn’t have a gay and lesbian teachers organization. Now we do.” While the policy doesn’t address bullying, he said it would affect bullying policy.

“If they violate the policy, they can be sanctioned and placed in an alternative school,” Vasquez said.

He said the district has a number of gay and lesbian principals and administrators. The only teacher he knew that would be covered by the new policy was a substitute who had some problems at one school where she worked.

“This settles that as far as policy is concerned,” he said. “This is a preventive policy to make sure people know we’re here to protect them.”

Fairness Fort Worth was instrumental in getting the policy passed, he said. He gave special credit to Tom Anable and David Mack Henderson for working with board members to get the policy passed.

—  David Taffet