Austin, Dallas, Fort Worth top Texas cities in HRC Municipal Equality Index

MEI-2014-map-650x375The Human Rights Campaign released its third annual Municipal Equality Index today (Wednesday, Nov. 12) assessing LGBT equality in 353 cities across the nation, including 22 in Texas, according to a press release from HRC.

The MEI, the only nationwide rating system of LGBT inclusion in municipal law and policy, assesses cities on a one to 100 scale.

The average score for the 22 Texas cities is 28 out of 100 points, far below the national average of 59. Only Austin achieved a perfect 100 score. Dallas came in second with 91 points and Fort Worth third with 83 points.

San Antonio, El Paso and Houston earned scores of 72, 52 and 54 respectively, the only other cities to score more than 50 points.

Other surveyed Texas cities included Amarillo: 14,  Brownsville: 20, Corpus Christi: 16, Killeen: 10, Laredo: 2, Lubbock: 0, McAllen: 0, Pasadena: 10, Waco: 24.

The MEI rates cities based on 47 criteria falling under six broad categories: Non-discrimination laws, relationship recognition, employment policies, including transgender-inclusive insurance coverage, contracting non-discrimination requirements, and other policies relating to equal treatment of LGBT city employees, inclusiveness of city services, fair law enforcement practices and leadership on matters of equality.

Check out the full list here and this week’s edition of the Voice for comments from local leaders.

—  James Russell

BREAKING: Fort Worth Police Chief Jeff Halstead to resign

Halstead.JeffFort Worth Police Chief Jeffrey Halstead is expected to step down tomorrow, Tuesday, Nov. 11, after eight years heading the department, according to NBC 5.

His resignation is not effective immediately. He has not yet named an interim replacement.

Check back here with more information.

—  James Russell

Voting early with and nearly falling on Wendy Davis

I nearly fell on Sen. Wendy Davis at a press event this morning (see: second photo, sixth row). I was taking photos for the gallery below of the Democratic gubernatorial candidate, who was in Fort Worth to cast her vote on the first day of early voting. Of all the reporters, photojournalists and broadcast journalists there, clearly the staff writer at the LGBT publication would be the one to cause a scene.

I’d also like to apologize the Fox 4 News cameraman for bumping him multiple times.

Here are some photos of the rally in front of the Griffin Sub-Courthouse in southeast Fort Worth and from the press conference after she voted. Reporters were not allowed into the polling site.

If you see me at your voting location in the next few weeks, beware. I may fall on you.

Photos and text by James Russell.

—  James Russell

Cowtown Pride: Annual TCGPWA Parade held Saturday in downtown Fort Worth

Tarrant County Gay Pride Week Association staged its annual Pride Parade Saturday in downtown Fort Worth, featuring entries ranging from LGBT bars to LGBT churches, LGBT employee affinity groups from major corporations to gay-straight alliances to Metroplex Atheists. The festival followed on Main Street in front of the FW Convention Center.Here are just a few photos from the parade and festival.

Watch for a second slide show of photos from the TCGPWA Picnic, held Sunday at Trinity Park.

Parade photos by Tammye Nash

—  Tammye Nash

Openly partnered priest is new rector at FW Episcopal Church

Karen-CalafatThe Rev. Karen Calafat is the new rector of St. Luke’s in the Meadow Episcopal Church in Fort Worth. She begins Oct. 5.

Patti Callahan, a senior warden for the church, wrote in a statement that the church has been without a rector for the past nine months. “We are eager for Mother Karen to begin her part-time parish ministry here.”

Calafat has served in a variety of ministerial roles, including as a hospice chaplain, for two parishes in Southern California and a supply priest in the Diocese of Fort Worth for the past six years. She will continue her role as a chaplain with the Visiting Nurses Association.

She lives in Grand Prairie with her daughter. Her partner, Karen, also resides in Grand Prairie.

The Episcopal Diocese of Fort Worth is “a welcoming and affirming group of local Christian communities in and around the Fort Worth area who are united with The Episcopal Church, a province of the worldwide Anglican Communion, and a part of the one, holy, catholic, and apostolic Church.”

—  James Russell

FWPD Chief Halstead gains council support despite friction

Halstead.JeffThe Fort Worth City Council expressed confidence in Police Chief Jeff Halstead following the council’s executive session on Tuesday, Sept. 9, reaffirming that the LGBT ally isn’t going anywhere.

The Black Law Enforcement Officers’ Association recently called for Halstead’s resignation after an independent review detailed incidents of harassment and hostility within the police department. The report suggested some instances of racial bias and race-related harassment. A copy of the report is here.

After the session, Mayor Betsy Price, City Manager David Cooke and Halstead issued the 3-E Action Plan, guaranteeing “equity and equality for everyone.” The plan includes ongoing outreach efforts to minority communities and six annual meetings with both the African-American and Hispanic associations.

Cooke said his office will “be directly involved in monitoring [its] progress.”

Cooke also signaled the council’s support in a statement: “This department will see in our actions that diversity is valued; that any disparate treatment not related to merit will not be tolerated; and that any incidents of a hostile work environment will be handled quickly and appropriately.”

Check out this week’s Dallas Voice for the full story.

 

 

—  James Russell

Tarrant County Pride Week grand marshals announced

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Tarrant County Gay Pride Week Association officials have announced that Sharon Herrera, Allan Gould and Tori Van Fleet-Kujala have been chosen as grand marshals of the 2014 Tarrant County Pride Parade.

They also announced that Todd Cooper (aka Scarlett Rayne), DeeJay Johannasen, David Mack Henderson and the Rev. Ken Ehrke have been nominated for the 2014 Raina Lea Award.

Honorary Grand Marshals are Chris McNoksy and Sven Stricker.

Tarrant County Gay Pride Week 2014 will be Oct. 2-12, beginning with a Pride Kick-Off Show on Oct. 2. The website doesn’t have details on the show posted yet, but keep watching. I am sure the info will be there soon.

The Pride Parade and Street Festival will be Saturday, Oct. 4, from noon-6 p.m., and is once again being held in downtown Fort Worth. The parade begins on Weatherford Street on the north side of downtown, and ends further south on Houston Street. The Pride Street Festival — with live entertainment, vendors and food and beverage booths — will be set up at the intersection of Houston and 9th Streets.

TCGPWA’s popular Pride Picnic at Trinity Park will be held from noon-6 p.m. Sunday, Oct. 5, and will feature a DJ, live entertainment, group activities, friendly competitions and a free Pride Kids Zone. Community organizations and vendors will have booths set up, and there will be beer, other beverages and food available, too.

Pride Week continues with the 15th annual Q-Cinema Film Festival at Rose Marine Theatre. See details here.

—  Tammye Nash

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.

—  Dallasvoice