Owner of Cherries acquires 3 Fort Worth clubs

Former Rainbow Lounge manager and owner of Randy’s Club Cherries, Randy Norman has made his big move in Fort Worth. He is reportedly the new owner of the Rainbow Lounge, Best Friends Club and Percussions Lounge all in Cowtown. This comes from the Dallas Gay Bars website. We spoke with Norman this afternoon and his sights are set on getting Fort Worth clubs to a high standard. Sensing some decline in the clubs’ upkeep, Norman took action.

—  Rich Lopez

Black Tie kicks off season with FW reception

FORT WORTH — Black Tie Dinner kicked off the season with a reception at the T&P railroad building in Fort Worth on Thursday night.

BTD Co-Chairs Mitzi Lemons and Chris Kouvelis announced the theme for this year’s dinner — “An Affair of the Heart.”

“‘An Affair of the Heart’ is exactly what Black Tie Dinner is,” Kouvelis said. “Thousands of people coming together solely to make a difference in the lives of so many.”

Holding the event in Fort Worth was a first for the dinner committee. The location was the lobby of the restored train station that has been renovated into lofts and is the western terminus for the Trinity Railway Express that originates at Union Station in Dallas.

About 250 people attended.

The 31st Black Tie Dinner will be held on Nov. 3 at the Sheraton Dallas.

—  David Taffet

‘Rainbow Lounge’ doc premieres in Fort Worth

CLICK HERE TO VIEW MORE PHOTOS FROM THE PREMIERE

For the first half hour of Thursday night’s premiere in Fort Worth of Robert Camina’s documentary Raid of the Rainbow Lounge, the audience sat completely still and silent. Many were in tears as they relived the horror of the raid. Among those in the audience was Chad Gibson, who was injured in the raid and later settled with the Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission and the city of Fort Worth for more than $600,000.

Not until attorney Jon Nelson rebutted Police Chief Jeffrey Halstead’s assertion that it wasn’t a raid with the comment, “If it walks like a raid and quacks like a raid, it’s a raid,” did the audience break out into applause.

While Nelson was applauded the most through the film, raid witness Todd Camp got the most laughs. His first was when he described the police officers who claimed in their report that the officers were groped during the raid as having a “Village People fixation.”

Halstead is the “character” in the film that evolves most. The week of the raid, he’s seen reading from his officers’ report and defending his department. He said the comments of one woman at the first city council meeting after the raid affected him the most. She had driven from San Francisco to speak. He said he wondered what could have affected someone so much that she decided to drive halfway across the country to speak for three minutes and then turn around and drive back home. At that moment, he began to understand the frustration and anger of the community.

Mayor Mike Moncrief is the person who comes across the worst on film. He appears to have been cornered into making an apology that anyone in the city was hurt. Unlike Halstead, he did not appear in an on-camera interview in the film.

After the film, Halstead, who attended the premiere, again apologized for offending the community with his initial reaction and said that his department has changed. He said that within weeks of the raid, three male officers came out to him.

Halstead told the audience that when a similar raid happened in Atlanta 10 weeks later, he got a call from the acting chief in that city.

“Jeff, help me,” Atlanta’s chief said.

Halstead said that the atmosphere in the Fort Worth Police Department is completely different now than it was less than three years ago. When a rookie class is training, he said he enjoys introducing Sara Straten, the city’s first LGBT community liaison, by saying, “This is Sara. She’s a lesbian.” He said the reaction is always, “Did he really just say that?”

But he said that the raid has made a difference in training on a variety of issues including how officers respond to domestic violence calls.

Meredith Baxter, who narrated the film, spoke briefly at the premiere about how she became involved: A lot of nagging from Fairness Fort Worth President Tom Anable.

The film will be shown in Dallas at the Magnolia Theater on April 25. Tickets are available at RaidoftheRainbowLounge.com.

 

 

—  David Taffet

Keller teen to ask mayor to sign marriage pledge

Isaiah Smith, left, collecting signatures in Keller. (Screen grab from KDAF Channel 33)

KELLER — Sixteen-year-old Isaiah Smith wants Keller Mayor Pat McGrail to join the mayors of Houston, Austin, San Antonio and several smaller cities in Texas by signing Freedom to Marry’s pledge in support of same-sex marriage.

Dallas Mayor Mike Rawlings and Fort Worth Mayor Betsy Price have declined to sign the pledge, which now contains the signatures of more than 150 mayors nationwide.

Smith said he’ll be at Keller City Hall this afternoon to address city officials at the the regularly scheduled council meeting. Smith is a junior at Keller High School, but he said he’s not acting on behalf of his school’s Gay Straight Alliance. He said he’s going to City Hall with just one other friend and thinks his mayor should do the right thing.

“I’ll be giving a speech on why he should sign,” Smith told Instant Tea.

McGrail would become the first North Texas mayor to sign, if he listens to his young constituent.

Smith has also been collecting signatures on a petition calling for the council to pass an ordinance outlawing discrimination in restaurants in the city. He will present the petition to the City Council later this month.

Last week in a statewide day of action, callers contacted Rawlings to keep up the pressure to sign the pledge.

—  David Taffet

Club Reflection and Dallas Eagle host rodeo kick off parties

Before the ropin’ starts

 

 

—  Rich Lopez

GIVEAWAY: Tix to opening night of “Rent”

Time to plan that date night as we have tickets to giveaway for the opening of Rent in Fort Worth. The Casa Manana team is offering Dallas Voice readers a chance to win tickets to the March 3 performance. We just need to know how much you like the show. Email us with Pay my Rent! in the subject line and include name, phone number (only to notify winners), and your absolute fave song from the musical.

This one’s my favorite because I kill it in the car every time. Just sayin’.

Rent plays at Casa Mañana Theatre, 3101 West Lancaster Ave. in Fort Worth and runs through March 11.

—  Rich Lopez

WATCH: Robert Camina’s long-awaited “Raid of the Rainbow Lounge” to premiere March 15

Meredith Baxter and Robert Camina

Robert Camina announced that the premiere of his documentary film Raid of the Rainbow Lounge will be held on March 15 at the AMC Palace 9 in Sundance Square in Downtown Fort Worth.

Meredith Baxter, who narrates the film, and Camina will be in attendance.

The film documents the events that happened at the newly opened Rainbow Lounge when Fort Worth police and the Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission raided the bar on the 40th anniversary of the Stonewall Rebellion.

Camina uploaded a new trailer for the film. Watch it below.

—  David Taffet

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

WATCH: Activists across Texas stage marriage equality demonstrations on Valentine’s Day

In his post about Tuesday’s Valentine’s Day marriage equality demonstration in Dallas, David Taffet mentioned that three activists were arrested Tuesday during a similar action in Austin. Daniel Cates, a GetEQUAL organizer from Dallas, sent over the below video of the Austin activists singing a rousing rendition of “I’m gonna stand at the marriage counter …” while seated on the floor of the clerk’s office prior to their arrests. Raw Story has a full report.

In Fort Worth, WFAA reports that a lesbian couple was denied a marriage license on Tuesday afternoon.

In San Antonio, same -sex couples participated in a midnight mass wedding conducted annually by Baptist minister Joe Sullivan at the Bexar County Courthouse, despite Sullivan’s warning that they would face “acts of vengeance.” QSanAntonio quotes activist Julie Pousson, who attended the event: “Minister Joe Sullivan said that our couples were there ‘solely to be repulsive,’ and he threatened them with acts of vengeance on the part of God if they did not leave the courthouse steps. Our beautiful couples stood their ground for more than five minutes of hate speech and contradictory logic from the good minister before he finally relented and performed the wedding.”

And in Houston, after being denied marriage licenses at the clerk’s office, a group of roughly 30 activists marched to City Hall, where openly gay Mayor Annise Parker delivered a proclamation honoring Freedom to Marry Day. KPRC has video, and the Houston Chronicle reports:

—  John Wright

LGBT allies Kathleen Hicks, Marc Veasey to seek new congressional seat; Joel Burns not running

A federal court in San Antonio today released a map of proposed new congressional districts for Texas.

The proposed map from the court (the North Texas section is shown above) includes four new congressional seats resulting from reapportionment. One of the seats is a minority-majority district in eastern Tarrant County that is likely to be won by a Democrat. The district is 66 percent black or Hispanic.

Shortly after the court released its map, Fort Worth City Councilwoman Kathleen Hicks announced that she plans to run as a Democrat for the new District 33 congressional seat. Hicks, whose district includes the Rainbow Lounge, was an outspoken supporter of the LGBT community in the wake of the police raid of the gay bar in 2009.

“The Federal Court in San Antonio has released new proposed maps for the 2012 Texas Congressional Elections,” Hicks said on Facebook moments ago. “District 33 has been drawn within Tarrant County and includes much of the City of Fort Worth. Today, I am announcing my intent to seek a place on the ballot with the Texas Democratic Party for this Congressional District, pending a final map from the court.”

Read more on the proposed map from the Texas Tribune.

UPDATE: Gay Fort Worth City Councilman Joel Burns, who lives in District 33, confirmed he is not running for the seat. Burns said he’ll instead endorse State Rep. Marc Veasey, D-Fort Worth, who apparently plans to run against Hicks in the primary:

“To all who’ve called in the last hour, I am NOT running for new 33rd Congressional District announced this morning,” Burns wrote. “[Husband] J.D. [Angle] and I both are proud to announce our endorsements of Rep Marc Veasey in his 1st run for Congress. I believe in Marc & know he will be a great Congressman & the best choice for Fort Worth & Arlington.”

Veasey is also a strong LGBT ally. He has repeatedly sponsored a bill backed by Equality Texas calling for a study on implementation of the James Byrd Jr. Hate Crimes Act. Veasey also had an openly gay chief of staff, and he gave an impassioned speech on the House floor earlier this year against an anti-gay bill.

—  John Wright