Rodeo coming back to Cowtown

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Polish up your cowboy boots and get those Wranglers starched: The International Gay Rodeo Association is once again bringing its Finals Rodeo to Fort Worth, Oct. 16-19 in the John Justin Arena, 3401 W. Lancaster Ave. in Fort Worth’s Cultural District. Bud Light is once again the signature sponsor for the rodeo.

The rodeo will include competition in calf roping, team roping, bull riding and other traditional rodeo events, along with other events unique to gay rodeo, like goat dressing and the wild drag race. Both men and women compete in each category, and cowboys and cowgirls have  been competing in rodeos around the U.S. and Canada all year to pile up enough points to earn a spot in the finals. Only the top 20 point-winners in each of the 13 events win a spot at the Finals Rodeo to compete for the titles of WGRF Champion and All-Around Champion.

The four-day Finals Rodeo also includes the culmination of the Mr., Ms. MsTer and Miss IGRA 2015 competition, beginning Thursday, Oct. 16 at 7 p.m. in the Rose Room at S4, 3911 Cedar Springs Road in Dallas, and continuing Friday and Saturday, Oct. 17-18, at the Hilton Arlington, 2401 E. Lamar Blvd. in Arlington. The new titleholders will be crowned Saturday night, with the ceremony folled by a “Hoe Down Party” with live music and dancing. Royalty contests and the hoe-down are free and open to the public.

The four-day event will also include food and merchandise booths and entertainment. Competition in the 13 events will take place Saturday and Sunday, Oct. 18-19. Doors open each day at 9 a.m. Admission is $15 a day or $20 for a weekend pass. Proceeds will benefit IGRA’s two charities for 2014: the National LGBT Cancer Network and the Gay and Lesbian Rodeo Heritage Foundation

 

—  Tammye Nash

New Fort Worth Councilwoman Ann Zadeh sworn in

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Courtesy of Kathryn Omarkhail

Ann Zadeh was sworn in as Fort Worth’s new councilwoman for District 9 at Tuesday night’s council meeting. After winning a special election in June to replace former councilman Joel Burns, Zadeh told the Star-Telegram she’s ready to “go back through this thick notebook I have been compiling from neighborhoods to make sure nothing falls through the cracks.”

In her first speech, she didn’t go without acknowledging her supporters, thanking the “dynamic citizens who were never lacking in enthusiasm.”

Nor did she hesitate to be ambitious.

“I want to lay out my vision for the district,” but that would take two hours, she said with a laugh.

She also didn’t forget a shout out to her influential predecessor, either.

“I have big shoes to fill,” she said with a pause.

“Literally, Joel’s feet are big,” she told the crowd to a laugh.

Burns, who announced his resignation in February, must’ve heard her. After the former chairwoman of the Fort Worth Zoning Commission thanked her supporters and took her seat, Burns joined the meeting via Skype to say hello … from Cambridge, Massachusetts.

Some things never change.

—  James Russell

BREAKING: Fort Worth City Councilman Joel Burns announces he will resign, effective immediately

Screen shot 2014-02-11 at 7.15.27 PM FORT WORTH — Openly gay City Councilman Joel Burns announced Tuesday night he is resigning his seat.

Burns stepped down in order to attend a yearlong, mid-career program with the Harvard Kennedy School, where he once attended a summer program and went back in the last few years as a guest lecturer in the summer.

“It is an amazing honor and an incredible opportunity that I never would have thought possible,” Burns said. “I was excited to accept Harvard’s invitation last week. But it’s a bittersweet moment because participating in this program means choosing to step out of this seat here on the City Council and say goodbye to what has truly been a life-changing experience I could have never imagined then and particularly not even when I got elected in 2007. So tonight, with a mix of pride, excitement and a little bit of sadness, I am announcing my resignation.”

Burns said the announcement was not “an easy one” and he’d remember the work he’d acompished on the council and focus on the work to do before his time on the council expires this summer. He also didn’t rule out another political run after the yearlong program, saying that his political future is up to the voters.

Burns got his start in Fort Worth when state Sen. Wendy Davis appointed him to the city Zoning Commission, and he later went on to run and win her seat when she left the council to run for the Senate in 2007. He was re-elected last year to a third full two-year term.

Burns was a favorite to replace her in the Senate as well when she announced her bid for governor. He considered running but decided against it to remain on the City Council.

In his announcement, Burns said the resignation would be effective this summer, but Mayor Betsy Price advised him that because of technicalities, his resignation would be effective immediately. Burns will remain in his position until he is replaced in a May election.

Read more of this story in a follow-up.

—  Anna Waugh

Fort Worth, El Paso have fewest same-sex couples among largest cities

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Fort Worth ranks 49th out of the 50 largest cities in percent of same-sex couples

New data released by the Census Bureau indicates two Texas cities — El Paso and Fort Worth — have the lowest percentage of same-sex couples among the 50 largest cities in the U.S.

Fort Worth came in No. 49 with just 0.26 percent of couples who are gay or lesbian, and El Paso is No. 50 with 0.25 percent of couples.

Colorado Springs, home of anti-gay hate groups such as Focus on the Family, is No. 48.

In the top spot is Seattle with 2.6 percent of couples gay or lesbian. Seattle edged out San Francisco with 2.5 percent. Minneapolis is third with 2.4 percent. All three of those cities are in marriage-equality states.

Despite having a lower concentration of gay and lesbian couples, El Paso has a pansexual state representative and Fort Worth has a gay city councilman.

In the latest census, Arlington ranked 50th largest city in the U.S. and has a higher percentage of same-sex couples than Fort Worth.

To be counted as gay couples, two people of the same sex had to report that they were married or an unmarried partner.

—  David Taffet

2 club-goers attacked near Rainbow Lounge over weekend

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Two club-goers were attacked over the weekend near Fort Worth’s gay clubs on South Jennings Avenue.

Cpl. Tracey Knight, LGBT liaison for the Fort Worth police, said two men reported being attacked near the Rainbow Lounge at 651 S. Jennings Ave. and Club Reflections, 604 S. Jennings Ave. on Friday.

Knight said the men were approached by four to five black men between the ages of 20 and 25 while walking to or leaving the clubs at 2:30 a.m. on Friday morning and the other at 10:45 p.m. that night.

During one assault, the men tried to take the man’s cell phone. Both suffered cuts and bruises with one requiring stitches.

Knight said there isn’t evidence of the attacks being hate crimes, but police have added extra patrol around the area and are still investigating them.

“The fact that there were similar instances by the same suspects two nights in a row is concerning,” Knight said. “The Fort Worth Police Department is taking precautions to keep citizens safe, as well as making bar staff and patrons aware of these incidents.”

Knight said she has already spoken to Fort Worth police Chief Jeffrey Halstead about the attacks, as well as openly gay Fort Worth Councilman Joel Burns, whose district includes the area. She said people should remain aware of their surroundings when going out.

“As always, people should be aware of their surroundings, park in well lit areas and walk in groups or pairs. Personal safety should always be taken seriously but especially so when you are in a known LGBT area, unfortunately this is the world we live in.

Anyone with information regarding these incidents should call the Fort Worth Police Department or contact Knight at tracey.knight@fortworthtexas.gov.

—  Anna Waugh

Fort Worth Council declares today ‘Jon Nelson Day’ in honor of FFW president

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Jon Nelson, center left, shakes Councilman Joel Burns’ hand during the Jon Nelson Day proclamation presentation at Fort Worth City Council. (Via Facebook)

The Fort Worth City Council issued a proclamation Tuesday declaring it “Jon Nelson Day” in the city to honor the local LGBT leader.

Nelson, who worked on the city’s Diversity Task Force after the Rainbow Lounge raid and later helped start the city’s LGBT advocacy group Fairness Fort Worth, moved to Dallas’ Oak Cliff neighborhood earlier this month.

Nelson has lived in Fort Worth for 38 years and has been involved in numerous city organizations and commissions for at least 30 of those years. He said city leaders wanted to recognize his contributions to the city over that period.

“I’m honored,” Nelson said about the proclamation. “It was a surprise to me that I got that but I was honored to get it.”

—  Anna Waugh

Are you smarter than a gay guy?

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Nguyen Pham

Chances are, if you’re not an idiot, you’ve heard of Mensa, the international group whose members are all high-scorers on standardized IQ tests — that is, they are geniuses. Well this weekend, American Mensa is holding its annual gathering in Fort Worth. (Question: What kind of genius plans a convention over a mid-week national holiday?) Mostly the events accessible only to members, but some events are open to the public.

But what’s interesting to us is that the largest special-interest group (SIG) within the organization is Gay SIG which, of course, is made up of an LGBT membership. Frankly, we’re not surprised. It takes a lot of intelligence to learn early on which guys are hitting on you and which want to bash you. Anyway, the group will be screening the Fort Worth-based gay documentary Raid of the Rainbow Lounge on Thursday. Then on Friday, the (non-gay) Mr. Mensa Contest takes place (again, members-only) with the master of ceremonies Nguyen Pham (pictured in his NOH8 Campaign photo), a gay guy who, you can expect, will be hosting in stilettos.

What does this all mean to non-members? Well, first, you can go to the convention on Wednesday and Saturday morning to take a test to see if you’re eligible to become a member. And even if you don’t qualify, merely taking the test comes with a one-day admission pass.

Even if you don’t do that, keep in mind: There will be a lot of smart gay guys cruising around the bars in Cowtown and Dallas this weekend. That gives you a chance to show some hot gay nerds that everything’s bigger in Texas … and not just IQs.

—  Arnold Wayne Jones

Gay FWISD Trustee Carlos Vasquez responds to DV story, attacks Burns

PIONEERING PAIR  |  Carlos Vasquez became only the second openly gay elected official in Tarrant County history when he joined the Fort Worth school board in 2008. Fort Worth City Councilman Joel Burns was the first.  (Andrea Grimes/Dallas Voice)

Carlos Vasquez

In today’s print edition we reported that openly gay Fort Worth school board member Carlos Vasquez faces opposition within the LGBT community in his bid for re-election to the District 1 seat. It’s not the first time Vasquez, who challenged staunch LGBT ally and Stonewall Democrats founder Lon Burnam for his state House seat last year, has butted heads with the gay establishment in Cowtown.

Openly gay Fort Worth City Councilman Joel Burns has not formally endorsed Vasquez’s opponent, political newcomer Jacinto Ramos Jr. However, in our story, Burns called Ramos an “up and coming star and Hispanic leader in our community.” Ramos, meanwhile, said of Vasquez: “I just don’t feel we have the quality of leadership in my district that advocates for all backgrounds.”

We’ve tried repeatedly to contact Vasquez — whom we profiled in a cover story in July 2011 — for comment over the last two weeks, but he didn’t return our calls. Now, though, he has posted a comment below the story suggesting that we didn’t really try to contact him — and attacking Burns. Vasquez says Burns’ husband (a word he strangely puts in quotes), J.D. Angle, is running Ramos’ campaign and accuses the couple of recruiting Ramos to run against him. He concludes by saying, “So Joel don’t worry I am not trying to take your ‘FW Queen’ status! I am just a ‘Bear!’”

You can read Vasquez’s full comment by going here, but we’ve also reposted it below.

—  John Wright

Marriage equality rallies planned across TX before high court takes up issue

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Several marriage equality rallies will take place in Texas next week before the U.S. Supreme Court hears oral arguments in the Proposition 8 and Defense of Marriage Act.

The court will hear arguments March 26 and 27, and events across the country have been planned for the beginning of the week in what’s being called the “United For Marriage: Light the way to Justice” campaign.

Cowtowns’s LGBT community will gather bright and early at the Rainbow Lounge — on March 25 beginning at 6 a.m. — for a rally to celebrate the arguments and Fort Worth state Rep. Lon Burnam’s HB 1300, which calls for marriage equality after the state’s marriage amendment is repealed. The rally is scheduled to last until noon.

Dallas’ GetEQUAL TX rally is at the Legacy of Love monument that night, starting at 7 p.m. And in Denton, a 6 p.m. rally will be at the Denton Courthouse Square, 110 W. Hickory St. in Denton, on Monday.

In Waco on Monday night, a marriage equality forum will take place instead of a rally. Planned by the social action team at the Unitarian Universalist Fellowship of Waco, it begins at 6:30 p.m. and will feature speakers and same-sex couples sharing disparities they face because they are same-sex couples.

Rallies have been planned for Tuesday in Houston at City Hall at 7 p.m. and in Austin at the state Capitol at 7 p.m. And San Antonio LGBT advocates will meet at Milam Park at 7:30 p.m. that night to demonstrate a need for marriage equality.

To view events nationwide, go here.

—  Anna Waugh

FW Councilman Joel Burns, hubby J.D. Angle celebrate 20th anniversary

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Gay Fort Worth City Councilman Joel Burns sends along word that he and his husband, J.D. Angle, are celebrating their 20th anniversary today. Burns, who is running unopposed for a fourth term in May, posted the above photo from the couple’s wedding day on March 20, 1993.

“Twenty years ago, on the first day of Spring 1993, on a West Texas hilltop, under a gorgeous pink and purple and orange sunset, and among a dozen head of black Angus cattle who thought we were feed, I asked J.D. Angle to spend the rest of his life with me,” Burns wrote. “Fortunately for me, he said ‘yes.’ It’s been an amazing 20 years, J.D. I look forward to the next 20 with you, and then some …”

Congratulations, Joel and J.D, and thank you both for being living proof that it just keeps getting better.

—  John Wright