Measure would ban anti-LGBT discrimination in Houston

Charter amendment could also allow DP benefits for city workers

DANIEL WILLIAMS  |  Contributing Writer

HOUSTON — Long-brewing plans to place a city-wide non-discrimination policy before Houston voters became public this week.

Since December a coalition of organizations and leaders have been working to draft a city charter amendment that would make it illegal to discriminate in housing, employment or public accommodations on the basis of  “age, race, color, creed, religion, national origin, ancestry, disability, marital status, gender, gender identity or expression, sexual orientation, or physical characteristic.”

The amendment would also remove anti-LGBT language added to the Houston city charter in 1985 and 2001 — which could allow the City Council to vote to offer health benefits to the domestic partners of municipal employees.

Houston Mayor Annise Parker, who famously became the only out LGBT person elected mayor of a major American city in 2009, has declined to comment on the proposed charter amendment until the language is finalized. She told the Houston Chronicle: “I believe it’s important for the city of Houston to send a signal to the world that we welcome everybody and that we treat everybody equally, and depending on the elements of what was actually in it, I might or might not support it,”

According to Equality Texas Executive Director Dennis Coleman, the prospect of Houston voters approving the non-discrimination amendment has ramifications for efforts to pass similar measures in the state Legislature.

“Nondiscrimination in Houston builds a better case for us when we go for nondiscrimination in Austin,” said Coleman. “To be able to tell representatives that they represent areas that already support these efforts is very helpful.”

The cities of Austin, Dallas and Fort Worth all already have similar nondiscrimination ordinances and offer DP benefits to employees.

But Houston’s form of governance makes this effort unique. While the City Council is empowered to pass city ordinances covering issues of discrimination, they can be overturned by popular vote if those opposing the ordinance collect 20,000 signatures to place the issue on the ballot.

That was the case in 1985 after Houston Mayor Kathy Whitmire pushed through the council the city’s first protections for gay and lesbian Houstonians (no protections were provided for the bisexual or transgender communities).

A coalition of right-wing voters led by Louie Welch, then president of the Houston Chamber of Commerce, was able to place the issue on a city-wide ballot, claiming the policy “promoted the homosexual lifestyle.” The group also recruited a “straight slate” of candidates to run against City Council members who had favored the protections, with Welch running against Whitmire.

The public vote on nondiscrimination was held in June 1985 and Welch’s forces prevailed, but the city’s temperament had changed by the time of the City Council and mayoral races in November. A comment of Welch’s that the solution to the AIDS crisis was to “shoot the queers” was aired on local TV and few in Houston wished to be associated with him after that. The “straight slate” failed to capture a single City Council seat and Whitmire remained mayor, but the defeat of the city’s nondiscrimination policy remained.

By 1998 Houston had changed: Annise Parker was serving as the city’s first out lesbian city council member and Houston boasted the state’s first out gay judge, John Paul Barnich. Mayor Lee Brown, sensing the change, issued an executive order protecting LGBT city employees from employment discrimination. But the city had not changed that much. Councilman Rob Todd led efforts to fight the order in court, arguing that since voters rejected city-wide protections from discrimination in 1985, it was inappropriate for the mayor to institute them without voter approval. The city spent the next three years defending the policy in court, finally emerging victorious.

The joy of that 2001 victory would be shortlived, however. That year Houston’s voters approved another amendment to the city charter, this time prohibiting the city from providing domestic partner benefits for city employees. In a narrow defeat, just over 51 percent of voters decided that the city should not offer competitive benefits.

The current proposed non-discrimination amendment would remove the language added in 1985 and 2001. While it would provide non-discrimination protections it would not require the city to offer benefits of any kind to the spouses of LGBT city employees, leaving that question back in the hands of the City Council.

The organizers of the current effort are confident that this year is the year for victory.

Noel Freeman, the president of the Houston GLBT Political Caucus, which is spearheading the effort, explains that the previous votes occurred in “non-presidential years,”when voter turnout in general is low, and conservative voters make up a larger percentage of the electorate.

Additionally, polling by Equality Texas in 2010 showed that 80 percent of Houstonians support employment protections for gay and lesbian people.

In order to place the non-discrimination amendment on the November ballot the coalition supporting it will need to collect 20,000 signatures of registered Houston voters and submit them to the city clerk. Freeman says that the final charter amendment language is still under consideration and that once it is finalized the group will begin collecting signatures.

Even former Councilman Todd, who once fought the city’s policy of non-discrimination for LGBT employees, supports the current effort.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition February 17, 2012.

—  Michael Stephens

Five queer alternatives to the Super Bowl

Yes, Yes… I know… plenty of gay men enjoy football, are fans even, and there are lots of LBT fans as well, but if you’re like me you greet all the hoopla over the Super Bowl with a resounding “meh.”

So if you’re looking for a way to avoid a (morning) afternoon (and evening (seriously, how long are football games supposed to be?)) of indecipherable sports jargon, over-hyped commercials and disproportionate passion for the accomplishment of moving dead pig parts 300 feet here are some alternatives with a decidedly queer bent you might enjoy (don’t worry, you can Tivo Madonna’s half time show):

1. ¡Women Art Revolution at The Museum of Fine Arts

Starting from its roots in 1960s in antiwar and civil rights protests, the film ¡Women Art Revolution details major developments in women’s art through the 1970s. The Contemporary Arts Museum of Houston presents this documentary at 5 pm on Sunday at the The Museum of Fine Arts’ Brown Auditorium Theater (1001 Bissonnet). Artist Lynn Randolph and U of H art history professor Jenni Sorkin will be on hand to provide insight into the film

!W.A.R. features Miranda July, The Guerilla Girls, Yvonne Rainer, Judy Chicago, Yoko Ono, Cindy Sherman, and countless other groundbreaking figures. Tickets are $7 and are available at mfah.org.

2. The Rape of Lucrecia at Houston Grand Opera

Written by gay composer Benjamin Britten and scored by Ronald Duncan, The Rape of Lucrecia is set during the decline of the Roman Empire. When a group of soldiers unexpectedly returns home to Rome they find that their wives have all been unfaithful, with the excpection of Collatinus’ wife Lucretia. Later that night the king’s son, Prince Tarquinius, accepts a drunken dare to seduce Lucretia. After she rebuffs his advances Tarquinius forces himself on her spurring Collatinus to rebellion against the king.

The dialogue of the Opera (which is in English by the way) is punctuated by two choruses, one male and one female, who engage the audience in the emotional responses of the male and female characters respectively.

The Rape of Lucretia plays at the Houston Grand Opera (510 Preston) at 2 pm on Sunday. Tickets start at $38 and may be purchased at HoustonGrandOpera.org.

4. The Drunken City at the Rice University, Department of Visual and Dramatic Arts

“The city’s like a monster, like a sleeping dragon or some dark creature in the night that cracks open an eye, and whispers dark dangerous dark ideas into your ear.”

The Drunken City is populated by thoroughly unpleasant people, the kind of loud sequin-wearing party girls who can immediately turn a hip bar passe and the men who hunt them. Marnie, the alpha-female and soon-to-be bride, has taken her co-worker bridesmaids out on the town for a ladies night. Seriously inebriated, they soon run into Frank and Eddie. Frank quickly takes a shine to Marnie, despite her girlfriends objections. Eddie, on the other hand, isn’t interested in any of the girls but seems to know their shared boss quite well (if you catch my drift). The play is sprinkled through with warnings about human desire and the dangers of consumption.

The Drunken City is presented by the Rice University College of Visual and Dramatic Arts at Hamman Hall on the Rice Campus (6100 Main) at 3 pm. Tickets are $10 and are available at the door or by calling 713-348-PLAY .

Steve Bullitt as Hay and Mitchell Greco as Gernreich

4. The Temperamentals at Barnvelder Movement/Arts Complex

The off-Broadway hit The Temperamentals, by Jon Marans, explores the events surrounding the founding of the Mattachine Society, one of the first “gay rights” groups in America (although the Society for Human Rights has it beat by a quarter of a century). The story centers on Harry Hay (Steve Bullitt), a communist and Progressive Party activist and his lover Rudi Gerneich (Mitchell Greco), a Viennese refuge and costume designer. Set in the early 1950′s in Los Angeles, the play is an intimate portrayal of two men who created history and the epic struggle they overcame.

Sunday’s curtain for the Celebration Theater produced play is at 3 pm at the Barnvelder Movement/Arts Complex. Tickets are $30 and may be purchased at buy.ticketstothecity.com.

5. Closing Night of Bring It On: The Musical at Theater Under the Stars

Bring It On: The Musical finishes up its run at the Hobby Center for the Performing Arts (800 Bagby Suite 300) on Sunday. Theater Under the Stars (TUTS) presents this musical re-imagining of the 2000 film with a matinee at 2 pm and an evening showing at 7 pm.

Two rival cheer-leading squads are out for the national championship, and neither is going to give up without a fight. The ensemble for the show features some of the nation’s most skilled competitive cheerleaders led by Taylor Louderman and Adrienne Warren as the leaders of the rival squads.

Tickets start at $24 and are available on-line at TUTS.com, by phone at (713) 558-TUTS (8887), or in person at the Theatre Under The Stars Box Office (800 Bagby).

—  admin

Celebration of Love Gala raises funds for Lesbian Health Initiative

The scooter's way cuter in pink, sorry Liz

The Lesbian Health Initiative of Houston is celebrating Valentine’s Day a little early with their Celebration of Love Gala Saturday, Feb. 11. at the Double Tree Hotel downtown (400 Dallas Street). The 10th annual gala is the 20-year-old organization’s major fundraiser of the year.

This year the gala features comedienne Susanne Westenhoefer, who claims to be the “first openly-gay comedian to appear on television” (yep, she was out before Ellen).  Dorothy Weston, co-founder and CEO of The Rose (a breast cancer prevention and treatment organization) will be honored  for her years of service. In addition the evening includes dinner, dancing, a silent auction and the raffling of a pink Vitacci 50cc Retro Scooter. LHI executive director Liz James is particularly excited about the raffle even if she didn’t quite get her way on the prize. “I wanted it to be a black scooter, as I’m a bit on the butch side,” said James, adding that more “femme” forces in the organization prevailed and a pink scooter was selected instead.

Regardless of the color of the scooter, the Celebration of Love Gala promises to be a fun filled night, not just for sapphic romantics, but for anyone looking for a valentine’s date night that supports a good cause. Tickets for the black tie affair start at $100 and can be purchased at lhihouston.org. Doors open at 6 pm.

—  admin

Canada Forces Daniel Garcia To Follow Lesbian Sister Brenda To Their Violent Fates In Mexico

Daniel Garcia, the Mexican teen who arrived in Canada three years ago with his lesbian sister to escape anti-gay torment, was today deported back to Mexico, following his sister Brenda's removal on Monday. The Garcias arrived in 2007 and filed for refugee status, saying Brenda, now 30, had been attacked for being a lesbian and her partner shot to death; having filed an emergency request for a stay of his deportation, Daniel says his mother has already received threats that he too would be targeted, even killed, if he returned home. Daniel, now 18, has been held in a detention center since last week after he was arrested for supposedly not filing a change of address notice with immigration officials, and failing to appear at a hearing. With immigration officials believing neither Daniel or Brenda faced real danger, today she put him on a plane back to Mexico City.


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Queerty

—  admin

Weekend warriors: Senate forces us to watch C-Span on a Saturday

All reports indicate that the Senate version of the real deal DADT repeal vote (already passed in the House) will come this Saturday:

Reid files for cloture on DADT tonight (wonky but important) [AmericaBlog Gay]



Reid Files Cloture On Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell And DREAM, Schedules Cloture Votes For Saturday [Wonk Room]

Hey, kid who only wants two front teeth for Christmas: Maybe also keep some place on your list for sixty principled eyes ayes!




Good As You

—  admin

Petraeus Aide Sgt. Maj. Marvin Hill: If You Can’t Serve With Gays, Get The Hell Out Of the U.S. Armed Forces

If there are people who cannot deal with the change, then they're going to have to do what's best for their troops and best for the organization and best for the military service and exit the military service, so that we can move forward — if that's the way that we have to go. … We know that if there is a change, that that change will have to be led, and it's going to have to be led by senior leaders such as myself and — and others across the battlefield. Senior leaders are the ones [that are] going to set the tone in the unit and enable the unit to move forward.

—Command Sergeant Major Marvin Hill, a senior aide to NATO's Afghanistan commander David Petraeus (pictured R-L), in an interview that airs tomorrow on Washington Watch. If Don't Ask Don't Tell was a way to rid the military of openly gay soldiers, its repeal is a way to rid the military of openly bigoted soldiers. [via]


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Christianist Groups Join Forces: Don’t Believe Lies Of The Environmentalists

“Environmentalism is deadly to the gospel of Jesus Christ.”

(Via – Right Wing Watch)

Joe. My. God.

—  admin

Bryan Fischer: Pentagon doesn’t realize God will nuke an inclusive armed forces

And now another charming minute with the “pro-family” liability that is the American Family Association’s Bryan Fischer:

Bryan-FischerA military that is weakened spiritually is a military that is a weakened fighting force. The ancient Scriptures still have it right: “Unless the Lord watches over a city, the watchmen stand guard in vain” (Psalm 127:1). The Founders understood this; our current crop of Pentagon leaders do not, and seem intent on making what will prove to be a fatal mistake. There is no quicker way to assign the United States to the scrap heap of history than to normalize homosexual behavior in our military.” [SOURCE]

Oh please, Bryan. Everyone knows that it’s our gay marriages that will take America to the scrap heap. Our open service will merely take the country to the intermediary garbage truck. Duh.

Though if it’s all the same to you, Mr. Fischer, we’ll keep subscribing to the recycling bin theory. You know, the one that says that all new forms of civil discrimination are merely repurposed versions of old biases, a circle of condemnation that will only end when the self-appointed salvagers of “sanctity” agree to bury their inorganic outlooks for good.

**

**FOR THOSE NOT FAMILIAR WITH FISCHER: He’s the guy who’s said that “homosexuals in the military gave us…six million dead Jews,” who’s said “homosexuals should be disqualified from public office,” who has called on Christian conservatives to breed gays and progressives out of existence, has called gay sex a “form of domestic terrorism,” who’s said only gays were savage enough for Hitler, has compared gays to heroin abusers, has directly compared laws against gay soldiers to those that apply to bank robbers, who once invoked a Biblical story about stabbing “sexually immoral” people with spears, saying we need this kind of action in modern day, and who has spoken out against gays serving as public school teachers, has questioned why Medals of Honor are given to people who save lives (rather than take lives), and who has blamed gay activists for dead gay kids, saying that: “If we want to see fewer students commit suicide, we want fewer homosexual students.” His words pretty much single-handedly landed the American Family Association on the Southern Poverty Law Center’s hate groups list.




Good As You

—  admin

GLAAD forces Barney the dinosaur into advocacy, whether he likes it or not

A new GLAAD effort:

WEAR PURPLE ON OCTOBER 20 FOR SPIRIT DAY

Screen Shot 2010-10-18 At 5.22.43 PmHow can you help show your support for the teens who took their lives because of anti-LGBT bullying?



-Wear purple on October 20!

-Click here to turn your Twitter profile pic purple now through October 20

-Click here to turn your Facebook profile pic purple now through October 20 – then click on the new photo and click “Make Profile Pic”

-On Wednesday, post this tweet: I’m wearing purple to end anti-LGBT bullying – make your profile pic purple today #SpiritDay http://glaad.org/spiritday

-On Wednesday, post this Facebook status: I’m wearing purple today to support LGBT youth – make your profile pic purple today for Spirit Day at http://glaad.org/spiritday

-Help promote by downloading this graphic for your blog or website

On Twitter? Use the hashtag #SpiritDay in your tweets – let’s make #SpiritDay a trending topic!

WHAT IS SPIRIT DAY?

The idea behind Spirit Day, first created by teenager Brittany McMillan earlier this month, is a simple one, not dissimilar to the idea of “Spirit Week” held in many high schools, and can be summed up in three words: Everyone Rally Together.

Spirit Day honors the teenagers who had taken their own lives in recent weeks. But just as importantly, it’s also a way to show the hundreds of thousands of LGBT youth who face the same pressures and bullying, that there is a vast community of people who support them.

Purple symbolizes ‘spirit’ on the rainbow flag, a symbol for LGBT Pride that was created by Gilbert Baker in 1978.

As one of the event’s Facebook pages says: “This event is not a seminar nor is it a rally. There is NO meeting place. All you have to do is wear purple.”

Wearing purple on October 20 is a simple way to show the world that you stand by these courageous young people and a simple way to stand UP to the bullies. Remember those lives we’ve tragically lost, and show your solidarity with those who are still fighting. ‘Go Purple’ today!

WEAR PURPLE ON OCTOBER 20 FOR SPIRIT DAY [GLAAD]

Or, alternately, you can sleep with someone from an opposite-colored state than yourself (Red+Blue = Purple). Whatever tickles your pickle eggplant.




Good As You

—  John Wright