Students launch gay group at Baylor University

More than 50 students reportedly met last week to discuss forming an LGBT student group at Baylor University. (Baylor Lariat)

Patti Fink, a Baylor University alum who serves as president of the Dallas Gay and Lesbian Alliance, alerted us to this story from the Baylor Lariat newspaper about a new group for LGBT students at the Baptist school in Waco:

The group, named the Sexual Identity Forum, is in the process of applying to be an officially chartered student organization at Baylor, and its founding members expect a final decision on the chartering to be made before the end of the month.

Alvarado senior Samantha Jones, the organization’s president who affirmed during the meeting that she is openly gay, said she was motivated to start a discussion group because she believes the administration has not always been accepting of students with alternative sexual identities.

“I feel as though the student body in and of itself is very welcoming,” Jones said. “Everyone I’ve come out to or approached has been very welcoming and very compassionate and tolerant. I feel as though the high administration … refuses to recognize that there are gay students on campus, and they refuse to allow a group like this to exist.”

The story goes on to say that Baylor prohibits students from participating “in advocacy groups which promote understandings of sexuality that are contrary to biblical teaching.” However, the university’s director of students services wouldn’t comment on whether the Sexual Identity Forum is likely to receive a charter.

This is a remarkable development at a school where Kenneth Starr is president and where, in the past, students have been expelled for being gay.

UPDATE: The group’s charter has been denied. Read more here.

—  John Wright

Thankfully someone took it upon themselves to declare Gay Day at the State Fair — Oct. 9

Big Tex loves his gays.

Last year, people were asking us about gay day at the State Fair, but we were as much in the dark. When Big Tex started rolling around this year, we were bracing ourselves for the inquiries. And then Facebook saved the day — or rather, Mike Weaver did.

Weaver, who hails from Watauga, started the Gay Day at the State Fair Facebook event to begin getting a consensus on when it should be. Of course, one date wasn’t going to make everyone happy, but he made the final decision to say that Saturday, Oct. 9 is the day. I say it’s not such a bad day to pick. It doesn’t compete with LifeWalk on Sunday and is two days shy of National Coming Out Day on Monday. He proposes that LGBT peeps wear colors of the rainbow and meet at noon at Big Tex.

Although he didn’t make it out last year, Weaver wanted to be part of the community coming together. “We can show people who are GLBT that it is OK to step out of the box and be with your fellow GLBTs and supporters. Maybe this could be a day for people who stay in because there scared to get them to come have fun.”

I’m there. That is if I can break away from the just close-enough Belgian waffle stand.

—  Rich Lopez

Lambda Legal’s Ken Upton says today’s Prop 8 ruling will have little immediate practical impact

Ken Upton

We spoke Wednesday morning with Ken Upton, a senior staff attorney with Lambda Legal who’s based in Dallas, about the potential legal implications of this afternoon’s expected ruling in the Prop 8 case. Specifically, we asked Upton what the ruling could mean to folks in Texas, and why we should care.

Upton noted that even if U.S. District Judge Vaughn Walker strikes down Prop 8, it’s likely that the decision will be put on hold pending appeal, meaning no same-sex marriages will be performed in California.

“In the short run, it’s not going to do anything as a practical matter because it will be stayed,” Upton said of today’s decision. “Nobody’s going to get married in California, and the decision won’t be the final decision, because it’s going to get appealed at least once. As a practical matter, it won’t really do anything, but it will start the ball rolling on a path that could eventually do something.”

Upton said he is optimistic Walker will strike down Prop 8.

“I read the transcripts, and I heard the arguments, and I read the briefs,” Upton said. “The law is strong in our favor and the evidence was I thought very persuasive in our favor, so it won’t surprise me if he rules for us.”

But Upton added that the key to today’s ruling is not whether Judge Walker upholds or strikes down Prop 8, but the manner in which he does so.

“The result won’t be the final one anyway,” he said. “At this point, he’s just firing the first salvo if you will. What will really be interesting is how far he goes. What will he say about the constitution and how it protects gay people? What level of scrutiny will he give it? Will he talk about marriage itself or will he talk about discrimination against gay people? The immediate effect of it will be more one for lawyers to dissect than it will have any practical effect. It’s going to be years before we know the ultimate result.”

Despite minimal practical impacts, Upton acknowledged that a victory today will give the LGBT community a psychological boost.

“It feels good to see courts do what they’re constitutionally required to do, and that is be a check on government and the political arms of government,” he said. “One colleague suggested that everybody have a bottle of tequila in their office, and once we win, every time the other side calls him [Walker] an activist judge, take a shot, and see how long it takes to get drunk.”

—  John Wright

DADT update: Local SLDN board member blasts survey of troops; trial begins in Log Cabin lawsuit challenging policy

Dave Guy-Gainer

As it prepares for the end of “don’t ask, don’t tell,” the military is doing something unprecedented: asking the troops what they think.

“With my affiliation with SLDN, the advice is not to participate,” said Dave Guy-Gainer, a local board member for the Servicemembers Legal Defense Network.

“Even though the survey goes to a secure public site,” Guy-Gainer said, “you’re still vulnerable if you complete the survey on a government computer.”

When the military first announced it needed six months to study the end of DADT, Guy-Gainer was against the delay. But when he heard they were studying things like benefits and housing for partners, he changed his mind. The survey, however, has raised new issues about the intent of the delay.

Questions on the survey include: “Do you currently serve with a male or female service member you believe to be homosexual?” and “Have you been assigned to share bath facilities with an open bay shower that is also used by a service member you believed to be homosexual?”

“It implies that you’re allowing people to vote,” Guy-Gainer said.

He gave several examples of the military implementing changes without surveying the opinion of troops.

“A few months ago, the Navy put women on submarines, and no one asked about the women,” he said.

Members of the Armed Forces weren’t polled when President Harry S. Truman integrated the troops, when President Gerald Ford made military institutes co-ed or when President Jimmy Carter placed women on battleships.

And questions on the survey appear to be homophobic.

Guy-Gainer has said troops aren’t in Gomer Pyle-style barracks, sleeping in bunk beds and using group showers. Yet, those are the level of questions apparently being asked in the survey.

Carl Levin, chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, acknowledged that the troops have never been surveyed like this before and that the military is not a democracy. But Levin added that he doesn’t think there’s anything wrong with gauging the attitude of the troops. He said the final decision rests with Congress, and the military will be expected to follow it.

Guy-Gainer said the survey is optional, not mandatory. He said he’s afraid those who are homophobic have more incentive to respond while those who are sympathetic to gays and lesbians in the military are afraid of how their answers will be used.

He called the survey unnecessary.

“The working group can identify all the rules and regulations that need to be changed,” he said. “What happens to good order and discipline?”

This week a trial opened in California with Log Cabin Republicans challenging the “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy. Attorneys for Log Cabin used President Barack Obama’s words in their opening statements, according to the Associated Press. Log Cabin argued that maintaining the policy doesn’t advance the government’s interest.

UPDATE: In related news, the Associated Press reported Wednesday morning that prosecutors have dropped all charges against Lt. Dan Choi, the gay veteran who has twice chained himself to the White House fence this year to protest DADT.

—  David Taffet