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

What’s ahead for LGBTs in Dallas, Fort Worth under cities’ new mayors

Dallas-mayor elect Mike Rawlings and his family were led in a prayer by the Rev. Steven C. Nash of Mount Tabor Baptist Church following his victory speech on Saturday. (John Wright/Dallas Voice)

TAMMYE NASH | Senior Editor
nash@dallasvoice.com

With municipal election runoffs finally complete in North Texas, LGBT advocates in Dallas and Fort Worth said they are looking forward to working with new mayors and councilmembers in both cities.

Mayoral runoff candidates in both cities openly and diligently courted LGBT voters, and all four candidates participated in forums specifically addressing LGBT issues. Advocates said those efforts indicate that Dallas Mayor-elect Mike Rawlings and Fort Worth Mayor-elect Betsy Price will likely be willing to work with the LGBT community in the years to come.

Fort Worth

“I was very pleased that both candidates, Betsy Price and Jim Lane, had an open dialog with our community during the runoff campaign,” Fairness Fort Worth President Thomas Anable said. “And I believe we can continue making the kind of progress we have made over the last two years as we go forward with Betsy Price as our mayor.”

Price, former Tarrant County tax assessor/collector, defeated lawyer and former City Council member Jim Lane, 56 percent to 44 percent.

Anable noted that Price and her husband, in another outreach to the LGBT community, attended Celebration Community Church on the Sunday before the June 18 runoff vote. Celebration, pastured by the Rev. Carol West, has a primarily LGBT congregation.

Anable said the city’s Employee Health Benefits Committee is expected to present estimates to the council during negotiations on the FY 2011 budget on costs associated with expanding health care benefits for the city’s transgender employees. Including insurance coverage for gender reassignment surgery is the only one of 20 recommendations made by the City Manager’s Diversity Task Force — convened in 2009 following the Rainbow Lounge raid — that has not already been implemented.

Although the city now offers domestic partner benefits, Anable said, the employee is required to pay the full cost of those benefits. The Employee Health Benefits Committee is also investigating the cost to the city to pay the same percentage on DP benefits that it already pays on benefits for employees’ opposite-gender spouses and children.

“We have already completed diversity training for 20 percent of the city’s employees, and with Mayor-elect Price having said she is on board with continuing that training, and with set-asides for GLBT-owned businesses, we are looking forward to working with her on these and other issues,” Anable said. “I have to say I am very pleased with the way the [electoral] process worked in Fort Worth.”

Dallas

In Dallas, Stonewall Democrats of Dallas President Omar Narvaez and Dallas Gay and Lesbian Alliance President Patti Fink said they are looking forward to a productive relationship with Mayor-elect Mike Rawlings, even though both organizations endorsed his opponent, David Kunkle, in the runoff.

Rawlings defeated Kunkle, 56 percent to 44 percent.

“We had some differences in policy approaches during the election cycle itself, but I fully expect that Mayor-elect Rawlings and DGLA will have a good working relationship going forward,” Fink said. “I know that DGLA will work to have a good relationship, and I don’t expect that Mayor-elect Rawlings would want any less.

“Elections are a time when we have some heated discussions about who we want to lead our city, but when it’s done, we all come together and work for what’s best for the city,” Fink added.

DGLA endorsed another candidate, Ron Natinsky, in the general election, at the same time issuing a rare warning against Rawlings, saying that Rawlings seemed likely to put business considerations ahead of human rights considerations.

However, when Natinsky failed to make the runoff, DGLA gave its endorsement to Kunkle without re-issuing the warning against Rawlings.
Narvaez said that while members of his organization that their endorsed candidate did not win, “we are looking forward to working with Mike Rawlings…. I think we will see some really good things coming out of the City Council in the next few years.”

Narvaez said that although Stonewall Democrats endorsed Kunkle as an organization, “we had several members who supported Rawlings and worked on his campaign and with him. Mike Rawlings is a great idea man who will work well with all the communities in our city. I don’t think he is the kind of person to hold a grudge. He is too mature for something like that. He is a bigger man than that.”

Narvaez said the fact that Kunkle came out ahead in voting precincts identified as being heavily LGBT means that Rawlings “knows he has some work to do in the LGBT community.” But, he added, he believes the mayor-elect is willing to do that work.

“I think he will be there to support our community, and we will support him as well, because our main mission is to move Dallas forward and make it a better, more inclusive city for everyone.”

Both Narvaez and Fink said they are excited about the LGBT Pride month reception planned for Monday at Dallas City Hall, during which Councilwoman Delia Jasso will present an LGBT Pride Month proclamation from the council.

“We can start working on it now, and maybe next year we can have a whole month of Pride events [involving city officials],” Fink said. “We heard a lot of support for that across the board from council candidates and council members who screened with us during the election.”

Narvaez added, “Hopefully next year, the Pride Month celebration will include a rainbow flag flying over City Hall.”

Narvaez said he hopes to see the City Council move forward in the coming months with plans to form and city human rights commission or board, and that Stonewall Democrats will continue to work with city officials to find ways to reinstate city funding for HIV/AIDS services and programs.

Fink said that while the city already has numerous policies and protections in place for its LGBT employees and citizens, “we want to work to ensure that those policies and protections are optimized.”

—  John Wright

Moncrief endorses Price in FW

Betsy Price

Current Fort Worth Mayor Mike Moncrief chose not to run for re-election this year after four terms, and he has kept very quiet throughout the 2011 campaign about who he believes should replace him as mayor of Cowtown — until today.

According to this report on the Fort Worth Star-Telegram’s PoliTex blog, Moncrief broke his silence to publicly endorse former Tarrant County Tax Assessor-Collector Betsy Price for mayor.

Moncrief, who said his wife Rosie is also backing Price, released a short statement that said, “Her [Price's] love of Fort Worth and her ideas about our community’s quality of life are both appealing and visionary. We wish her the best in this election.”

Price was the frontrunner in the May 14 general election, pulling in 43 percent of the vote out of five candidates. Runner-up Jim Lane, who spent 12 years on the Fort Worth City Council, won 26 percent to make it to the runoff against Price.

Both candidates have reached out to Fort Worth’s LGBT community, including participating in a June 1 forum on LGBT issues that was presented by the LGBT advocacy group Fairness Fort Worth and the North Texas GLBT Chamber of Commerce. For complete coverage of that forum, go here.

And on an interesting side note, if you do click through to the Star-telegram’s post on Moncrief’s endorsement, take a minute to look at the small photos of each of the candidates included in the post. Yep, that’s the GLBT Chamber’s logo you see on the screen behind them! The photos were taken during the LGBT forum.

—  admin

FW assault now classified as hate crime

AFTERMATH | Jason Sanches, who suffered facial injuries in a May 24 attack, says the Fort Worth officer who initially responded to the attack did not treat the incident seriously.

Fairness Fort Worth criticizes FWPD’s initial handling of attack; asks for FBI to investigate as well. FWPD denies charges of delay in reclassifying attack

TAMMYE NASH  |  Senior Editor
nash@dallasvoice.com

FORT WORTH — Fort Worth police officials this week confirmed that a May 24 attack on two gay men is being investigated as a possible hate crime, but denied charges that classification of the attack as a hate crime was improperly delayed.

The LGBT advocacy group Fairness Fort Worth this week released a statement on Wednesday, June 7, saying that the attack should have been classified as a hate crime in the initial report by responding officers and calling for “additional training of officers about hate crimes.”

In addition, Fairness Fort Worth President Thomas Anable said that on Monday, June 6, he contacted the local office of the FBI to request an investigation of the incident under the federal hate crimes law. Anable said that within hours, the agency had assigned an agent who had contacted him and the Fort Worth PD.

“The FBI will conduct a separate investigation of the incident and is willing to assist the Fort Worth Police Department in its investigation,” according to the Fairness Fort Worth statement.

FBI Special Agent Mark White, media spokesman for the agency’s Dallas office, said Thursday, June 9, he could neither confirm nor deny that the FBI is conducting an investigation, as per office policy.

According to police reports, Jason Sanches, his partner Ray Easley and his sister Joni Mariscal were attacked by a group of six men and one woman outside a convenience store on South Hulen, just south of I-20, in the early morning hours of May 24. The trio had walked over from their nearby apartment, and left the store after buying a pack of gum.

Sanches said that the suspects accused them of “talking shit to my girl” inside the store, and attacked him with a stun gun before shoving and punching him until he fell to the ground.

Easley was also attacked with the stun gun three or four times.

Sanches, who refused ambulance service and later drove himself to the hospital, was hit in the face and had several teeth knocked out. He said Thursday that he is recovering, but still has pain around his eye socket, which was fractured in the attack.

Sanches said he believes that the “girl” to whom the attackers referred was a young Asian woman who is a member of the family that owns the store. He said he did not see the woman in the store before the attack, but that when Easley drove back to the store later to look for the suspects, the woman pulled a gun on him and told him to leave.

Sanches also told Dallas Voice shortly after the attack that he was upset at the way officers and paramedics with MedStar ambulance company that responded to the initial call treated him and his partner and sister. He said the officers and the paramedics did not seem to take the attack seriously and that the officers ignored his statements that the attack was a hate crime.

Sanches said he did tell responding officers that the attackers used anti-gay language, but the initial report, supplied by Fort Worth PD,
includes no mention of the slurs being used.

Sanches said Thursday he has not filed a complaint against the officers, but is considering doing so. He also said he has spoken with a detective to whom the case was assigned, but had not heard anything from officials “since last Wednesday.”

When Sanches first contacted Dallas Voice, Voice staffers suggested he contact Fort Worth police’s LGBT Liaison Officer Sara Straten. According to a spokesman in the department’s media relations office, Straten then filed a supplemental report that included information on the anti-gay language used by the suspects and indicating the attack could be a hate crime.

According to the Fairness Fort Worth statement, Police Chief Jeff Halstead contacted a FFW representative on Monday to notify them the case had been assigned to the major case unit and would be investigated as a hate crime. The statement also said Halstead had “expressed disappointment in the department’s initial steps which failed to properly investigate the incidence as a hate crime.”

But in a statement released late Wednesday, Lt. Paul Henderson, Halstead’s chief of staff, defended the way the department had handled the case.

Henderson’s statement noted that initial reports did not include reference to the anti-gay language suspects used in the attack. But, he added, patrol officers are trained to respond to emergency situations and calls for service, and their “primary mission is to respond and conduct a basic investigation” and file an initial report.

While some patrol officers do conduct “in-depth investigations,” Henderson said, most are “not necessarily trained investigators” and they are not trained to investigate hate crimes.

Henderson said those initial reports are then funneled to detectives in the proper divisions who conduct thorough investigations. Evidence from those investigations is then used to “make determinations if a crime actually occurred, what charge would be filed and whether there are any special circumstances that need to be considered for the district attorney’s office,” he said.

In terms of the Sanches case, Henderson said, “we respectfully disagree that there was a delay in making a determination that this was a potential hate crime. Those types of determinations are made by assigned detectives who are trained investigators.”

Henderson said that based on the initial report by the responding officer, the attack was not considered a potential hate crime and was assigned to a detective in the division where the attack occurred.

However, after Sanches provided a written statement, on May 28, regarding the anti-gay slurs used during the assault, the case was sent to the Major Case Section for further review, and then assigned to a Major Case detective for investigation as a possible hate crime.

“It is important to note that had the responding officer listed the specific details in the original summary narrative regarding anti-gay slurs, the same process of investigation would have taken place, leading us to the same conclusion that this is a potentially hate-motivated crime,” Henderson said.

He also pointed out that “hate crimes are presented as such during the trial for the underlying offense, in this case, aggravated assault. Once a crime is determined to be potentially motivated by hate, it is the responsibility of the prosecuting attorney to determine beyond a reasonable doubt that the defendant intentionally selected the victim or victims based on bias or prejudice.”

LGBT advocates have often criticized the way Texas’ hate crimes law is implemented by prosecutors.

The law allows for enhanced penalties in convictions where crimes were motivated by bias, but prosecutors often choose not to ask for a hate crime conviction and penalty enhancement because of the increased burden of proving such bias existed.

—  John Wright

What’s Brewing: Fairness Fort Worth criticizes police handling of apparent anti-gay hate crime

Tom Anable

Your weekday morning blend from Instant Tea:

1. LGBT advocates in Fort Worth say they’re troubled by the Police Department’s handling of an apparent anti-gay hate crime on May 23 in south Fort Worth, which we first told you about last Friday. As we reported this Monday, Fort Worth police are now investigating the attack as a hate crime, but advocates say authorities initially tried to downplay the incident, leaving anti-gay slurs out of their report and failing to classify the incident as a an aggravated assault. From today’s Star-Telegram: Tom Anable, president of Fairness Fort Worth, said Tuesday that he is troubled by the department’s handling of the case and has requested an investigation into the assault by the FBI. Among Anable’s concerns is that officers did not include the derogatory terms in their initial report and that the case was not assigned earlier for investigation as a potential hate crime. “It’s clear to me, based on what I know, the officers on the scene downplayed the report,” he said. “It’s unfortunate that after all the progress we’ve made, an incident like this has to come back to Fairness Fort Worth and we have to call the FBI,” said Anable, referring to the changes that have been made since a controversial inspection of the Rainbow Lounge, a gay bar, two years ago.

2. Gay California corrections officer Andrew Johnson will be allowed to march in uniform in Sunday’s West Hollywood Pride parade, after the state corrections department reversed its initial decision denying his request. The department’s decision to allow Johnson to march in uniform comes after he filed a sexual orientation discrimination complaint through his attorney, Gloria Allred.

3. CNN’s AC360 on Tuesday night aired part one of “The Sissy Boy Experiment,” a three-part series examining the consequences of an experimental “ex-gay” therapy program led by discredited psychologist George “Rent Boy” Rekers. Kirk Murphy, who was enrolled in the program at the age of 5, later took his own life at 38. Part two of the series airs tonight. Watch part one below.

—  John Wright

FW police will investigate attack as hate crime

After a story appeared in Friday’s Dallas Voice about an attack on a gay couple, Fort Worth police have decided to look into the assault as a possible hate crime.

Several members of Fairness Fort Worth contacted the office of Chief Jeffrey Halstead.

Fairness Fort Worth’s David Mack Henderson wrote, “Marvin Vann, a local GLBT teacher and parent in FW reached out on his own to make inquiries with the FWPD. Tom Anable has been doing the same in more direct channels, of course, discussing criteria for hate crimes investigations, officer and paramedic conduct, etc. Marvin just got these email responses today from Halstead’s chief of staff, Paul Henderson (no relation to David).”

Here’s what Paul Henderson wrote to Vann:

Thank you for your email. Our Major Case investigators (this unit investigates Hate Crime) reviewed the details of the case to determine if the assault meets the criteria to be classified as a “Hate Crime.” There are two distinct forms of hate-type incidents.

One is a Hate Crime which falls under the definition provided by the Department of Justice and basically states that in order for a crime to be classified as a “Hate Crime” it has to be “motivated” by prejudice against a particular person or group because of their culture, beliefs, or other factors.

The other form is considered a Hate/Biased Incident. This stems from a crime that is committed (such as a robbery, assault, homicide, destruction of property) for other motivations that are not necessarily connected to culture, beliefs, etc… If a suspect commits a crime, let’s say assault, due to an altercation as a result from a traffic accident or because the suspect felt an individual was looking at his girlfriend (which was the circumstance in the case you have referenced) and the suspect yells a slur during the process, this is considered a Hate/Biased Incident because it does not meet the criteria for a Hate Crime under the DOJ definition.

Hate crimes are filed and prosecuted federally therefore agencies must adhere to the definition provided by the DOJ. I would encourage you to go to the FBI’s website and click on information regarding Hate Crimes. The assault you reference is being investigated as a Hate/Biased Incident. Once the investigation is complete and evidence is revealed that would classify this as a Hate Crime, the FBI will then review and make a determination whether or not to file the federal charge.

I hope this helps! Thank you for your interest and your support in fighting all types of hate crime and hate/biased incidents.

In another email to Vann, Henderson wrote, “As a follow-up, I just learned that Major Case is accepting the investigation and will investigate as a Hate Crime. Thanks again for your email.”

—  David Taffet