Former GLBT Political Caucus President to lead Harris County Democratic Party

Former HCDP Chair Gerry Birnberg gives new chair Lane Lewis the keys to the party office

Former Houston GLBT Political Caucus president and longtime Democratic party activist Lane Lewis was elected to serve as the Harris County Democratic Party interim chair by the County Executive Committee on Tuesday, December 20. Lewis will serve the remainder of outgoing chairman Gerry Birnburg term, which expires in April. Birnburg announced earlier this year that he would step down after the November general elections.Lewis has also completed his filing as a candidate for HCDP chair on the April 2012 primary ballot.

Lewis previously served as president of the Houston GLBT Political Caucus in 1997. He has a long history of advocacy on LGBT issues.

“Words cannot express the profound sense of responsibility I feel right now,” said Lewis moments after his election as HCDP Chair.  “I am grateful so many fellow Democrats have entrusted me to lead during such a pivotal time. We have much work to do over the next several months to get our county and our candidates ready for the November 2012 election.  This enormous task will take the work of current elected officials, precinct chairs and activists working in unison.  My job will be to foster a new vision for our party and work to keep us all focused on our common goal.”

During Lewis’ acceptance speech, he spoke briefly about the direction and his vision for the party.

“A unified effort from every Democrat is the key to winning elections,” Lewis said.  “It’s plain and simple.  The middle class is under attack; the work we do in 2012 will be key to protecting the future and the promise that the American Dream provides.”

Lane Lewis was elected by an overwhelming majority.  He will begin operating the HCDP immediately.

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What’s Shakin’ – Wolfman at Wortham, Vampires on Pacific St.

The Wolfman1. If you got your hard-core Halloween partying out of the way this weekend, why not curl up under the stars (and a blanket) for the 1941 horror classic “The Wolfman,” at the Miller Outdoor Theater in Herman Park. Show starts at 7:30 pm. In this version the Wolfman (Lon Chaney Jr.) has an estranged father, frequents antique stores, caries an ornate walking stick for no particular reason and (of course) engages in nocturnal behavior of a hairy and bestial sort. Sounds like some of my friends. Admission is free, but prime spots on the lawn fill up quickly so arrive early.

2. If you didn’t get your hard-core partying out of the way then you’ll be glad to know that the clubs of Pacific street are still going strong. JR’s Bar‘s “Anytheme Goes” party (808 Pacific) and Meteor‘s “True Blood” festivities (2306 Genesee) continue tonight with a costume contests at 11 pm, while South Beach‘s “Twilight” fete (810 Pacific) waits till midnight for its contest . Cash prizes are up for grabs at all three for best costume, best couple or group and most outrageous costume.

3. Broadway World reports that Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, D – NY, plans to introduce the Senate companion to the “Every Child Deserves a Family Act” introduced by Rep. Pete Stark, D – CA, last May. The bill would remove barriers to otherwise qualified LGBT parents servings as foster parents or adopting. “By removing all barriers for LGBT families to serve as foster parents, New York City has increased its foster parent pool by nearly 26,000 prospective parents,” said Gillibrand. This legislation would open thousands of new foster and adoptive homes to children ensuring they are raised in loving families.” So far only three of Texas’ thirty-two congressional representatives, including Houston’s own Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee, have signed on as cosponsors.

 

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Texas: A not-so-great state

As Perry eyes the presidency and Dewhurst makes a bid for the Senate, let’s look at the story the numbers really tell

Phyllis Guest | Taking NoteGuest.Phyllis.2

It seems that while David Dewhurst is running for the U.S. Senate, Rick Perry — otherwise known as Gov. Goodhair — is planning to run for president. I wonder what numbers they will use to show how well they have run Texas.

Could they cite $16 million? That’s the sum Perry distributed from our state’s Emerging Technology Fund to his campaign contributors.

Or maybe it is $4.1 billion. That’s the best estimate of the fees and taxes our state collects for dedicated purposes — but diverts to other uses.

Then again, it could be $28 billion. That’s the last published number for the state’s budget deficit, although Perry denied any deficit during his last campaign.

But let’s not get bogged down with dollar amounts. Let’s consider some of the state’s other numbers.

There’s the fact that Texas ranks worst in at least three key measures:

We are the most illiterate, with more than 10 percent of our state’s population unable to read a word. LIFT — Literacy Instruction for Texas — recently reported that half of Dallas residents cannot read a newspaper.

We also have the lowest percentage of persons covered by health insurance and the highest number of teenage repeat pregnancies.

Not to mention that 12,000 children have spent at least three years in the state welfare system, waiting for a foster parent. That’s the number reported in the Texas-loving Dallas Morning News.

Meanwhile, the Legislature has agreed to put several amendments to the Texas Constitution before the voters. HJR 63, HJR 109 plus SJR 4, SJR 16, and SJR 50 all appear to either authorize the shifting of discretionary funds or the issuance of bonds to cover expenses.

Duh. As if we did not know that bonds represent debt, and that we will be paying interest on those bonds long after Dewhurst and Perry leave office.

Further, this spring, the Lege decided that all voters — except, I believe, the elderly — must show proof of citizenship to obtain a state ID or to get or renew a driver’s license. As they did not provide any funds for the issuance of those ID cards or for updating computer systems to accommodate the new requirement, it seems those IDs will be far from free.

Also far from free is Perry’s travel. The Lege decided that the governor does not have to report what he and his entourage spend on travel, which is convenient for him because we taxpayers foot the bill for his security — even when he is making obviously political trips. Or taking along his wife and his golf clubs.

And surely neither Rick Perry nor David Dewhurst will mention the fact that a big portion of our state’s money comes from the federal government. One report I saw stated that our state received $17 billion in stimulus money, although the gov and his lieutenant berated the Democratic president for providing the stimulus.

And the gov turned down $6 billion in education funds, then accepted the funds but did not use them to educate Texans.

The whole thing — Dewhurst’s campaign and Perry’s possible campaign, the 2012-2013 budget, the recent biannual session of the Texas Legislature — seems like something Mark Twain might have written at his tongue-in-cheek best.

We have huge problems in public school education, higher education, health care, air pollution and water resources, to mention just a few of our more notable failures.

Yet our elected officials are defunding public education and thus punishing children, parents, and teachers. They are limiting women’s health care so drastically that our own Parkland Hospital will be unable to provide appropriate care to 30,000 women.

They are seeking a Medicaid “pilot program” that will pave the way for privatized medical services, which will erode health care for all but the wealthiest among us. They are fighting tooth and nail to keep the EPA from dealing with our polluted environment. They are doing absolutely nothing to ensure that Texas continues to have plenty of safe drinking water.

They are most certainly not creating good jobs.

So David Dewhurst and his wife Tricia prayed together and apparently learned that he should run for Kay Bailey Hutchison’s Senate seat. Now Rick Perry is planning a huge prayer rally Saturday, Aug. 6, at Houston’s Reliant Stadium.

God help us.

Phyllis Guest is a longtime activist on political and LGBT issues and a member of Stonewall Democrats of Dallas.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition August 9, 2011.

—  Kevin Thomas

Australian church wins right to bar gays as foster parents

This doesn’t surprise me. Nowadays, far too many churches are more interested in raping children than taking care of them.

In a decision that will open the way for other religious charities to refuse gay couples access to their services, the NSW Administrative Decisions Tribunal ruled that Wesley Mission’s foster care arm, Wesley Dalmar Services, had proved an exemption under the NSW Anti-Discrimination Act allowing it to discriminate against homosexual couples, reported The Australian.

Wesley Mission, part of the Uniting Church assembly, argued that providing foster care services to gay couples would put at risk its financial and volunteer assistance from members of the mission who adhered to the doctrine that a monogamous heterosexual partnership was “the norm and ideal of the family”.




AMERICAblog Gay

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Churches Win Right to Bar Gays as Foster Parents in Australia

Priest

Neither Australia's NSW government nor its opposition will oppose a court ruling allowing religious organizations to bar gays as foster parents, The Australian reports:

Uca In a decision that will open the way for other religious charities to refuse gay couples access to their services, the NSW Administrative Decisions Tribunal ruled that Wesley Mission's foster care arm, Wesley Dalmar Services, had proved an exemption under the NSW Anti-Discrimination Act allowing it to discriminate against homosexual couples, reported The Australian.

Wesley Mission, part of the Uniting Church assembly, argued that providing foster care services to gay couples would put at risk its financial and volunteer assistance from members of the mission who adhered to the doctrine that a monogamous heterosexual partnership was "the norm and ideal of the family".

Though the court said the ruling could deserve the government's attention, it isn't budging:

The Administrative Decisions Tribunal described the ability of a religious group to prove an exemption to the act as "singularly undemanding" and noted that "this may be a matter which calls for the attention of parliament".

However, a spokesman for NSW Attorney-General John Hatzistergos said yesterday that the legislation struck the right balance between protection from discrimination and the right to religious freedom.

"It is not envisaged that there will be changes to the current exemptions in relation to religious institutions," the spokesman said.

NSW Opposition Leader Barry O'Farrell also ruled out yesterday any move to push for legislative change on the issue if the Liberals win government next March.

Churches are celebrating: "The ruling, made in the NSW Administrative Decisions Tribunal, has been hailed by the Catholic Church but has outraged civil libertarians, who are demanding religions no longer be exempt from anti-discrimination laws if they receive public money."


Towleroad News #gay

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Los Angeles LGBT Center Wins $13M Federal Grant To Help Gay Foster Kids

We needed this kind of great news today, we really did. Via press release:

Today the L.A. Gay & Lesbian Center was awarded a landmark .3 million, five-year grant from the Federal Department of Health & Human Services (HHS) Administration on Children, Youth and Families to create a model program that will provide life-saving support for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and questioning (LGBTQ) youth in the foster care system. Following a highly competitive review process, six grants were awarded—the Center’s grant is the only one specifically to support LGBTQ youth and the only grant that did not go to a government agency or academic institution. It’s also the largest federal grant ever awarded to an LGBT organization.

The need for services for LGBT youth in foster care is dire. According to a 2001 (Feinstein) study, 78% of LGBTQ foster youth were forced to leave their foster placements due to hostility related to their sexual orientation or gender identity. In a 2001 study from the National Center for Lesbian Rights, 70% reported physical violence and 100% reported harassment in their group home. Gay and Lesbian Adolescent Social Services (GLASS), the only group home for LGBTQ foster youth in Los Angeles, closed its doors in 2008 (with its displaced residents turning to the Center for much-needed support).

Stand by for the wingnut screaming. Which will be delicious.

Joe. My. God.

—  John Wright

Florida gubernatorial candidate McCollum opposes gay foster parents

Because kids these days have it too easy. Especially kids in foster care in Florida.

George Rekers supporter, Florida Attorney General and gubernatorial candidate Bill McCollum think so. Rather than provide these kids with stable homes with couples that just want to help kids, McCollum has used his platform and candidacy to come out against gay couples serving as foster parents. This is in addition to opposing gay couples being able to adopt children.

When asked by the Florida Baptist Witness about gay couples serving as foster parents, McCollum said (emphasis added),

Q: Should the law [allowing gay couples to serve as foster parents] be changed?

McCollum: I think that it would be advisable. I really do not think that we should have homosexuals guiding our children. I think that it’s a lifestyle that I don’t agree with. I realize a lot of people do. It’s my personal faith, religious faith, that I don’t believe that the people who do this should be raising our children. It’s not a natural thing. You need a mother and a father. You need a man and a woman. That’s what God intended.

Once again, not just an attack on gay families and parents, but an insult to single parents.




AMERICAblog Gay

—  John Wright

Florida AG Bill McCollum Wants Gay Foster Parents Outlawed: ‘I do not think we should have homosexuals guiding our children’

Mccollum  

Florida gubernatorial candidate Attorney General Bill McCollum not only supports the state's ban on gay adoption (and brought "ex-gay" fraud George Rekers in to testify), he wants to expand the law to ban gays from being foster parents.

Excerpted from the Florida Baptist Witness:

Florida permits homosexuals to serve as foster parents. That has been used as an argument to undermine the ban on adoptions. Should homosexuals be permitted to serve as foster parents in Florida?

Well, I personally don’t think so, but that is the law.


Should the law be changed?

I think that it would be advisable. I really do not think that we should have homosexuals guiding our children. I think that it’s a lifestyle that I don’t agree with. I realize a lot of people do. It’s my personal faith, religious faith, that I don’t believe that the people who do this should be raising our children. It’s not a natural thing. You need a mother and a father. You need a man and a woman. That’s what God intended.

Bill McCollum apparently puts his god before the welfare of children.


Towleroad News #gay

—  John Wright

Dallas could elect 1st gay judge

Judicial candidates John Loza, Tonya Parker among 4 LGBTs running in local races in 2010

By John Wright | News Editor wright@dallasvoice.com
IN THE RUNNING | Dallas County District Clerk Gary Fitzsimmons, clockwise from top left, County Judge Jim Foster, attorney Tonya Parker and former Councilman John Loza are LGBT candidates who plan to run in Dallas County elections in 2010. The filing period ends Jan. 4.

Dallas County has had its share of openly gay elected officials, from Sheriff Lupe Valdez to District Clerk Gary Fitzsimmons to County Judge Jim Foster.
But while Foster, who chairs the Commissioners Court, is called a “judge,” he’s not a member of the judiciary, to which the county’s voters have never elected an out LGBT person.

Two Democrats running in 2010 — John Loza and Tonya Parker — are hoping to change that.

“This is the first election cycle that I can remember where we’ve had openly gay candidates for the judiciary,” said Loza, a former Dallas City Councilman who’s been involved in local LGBT politics for decades. “It’s probably long overdue, to be honest with you.”

Dallas County’s Jerry Birdwell became the first openly gay judge in Texas when he was appointed by Gov. Ann Richards in 1992. But after coming under attack for his sexual orientation by the local Republican Party, Birdwell, a Democrat, lost his bid for re-election later that year.

Also in the November 1992 election, Democrat Barbara Rosenberg defeated anti-gay Republican Judge Jack Hampton.

But Rosenberg, who’s a lesbian, wasn’t out at the time and didn’t run as an openly LGBT candidate.

Loza, who’s been practicing criminal law in Dallas for the last 20 years, is running for the County Criminal Court No. 5 seat. Incumbent Tom Fuller is retiring. Loza said he expects to face three other Democrats in the March primary, meaning a runoff is likely. In addition to groups like Stonewall Democrats of Dallas, he said he’ll seek an endorsement from the Washington, D.C.-based Gay and Lesbian Victory Fund, which provides financial backing to LGBT candidates nationwide.

Parker, who’s running for the 116th Civil District Court seat, declined to be interviewed for this story. Incumbent Bruce Priddy isn’t expected to seek re-election, and Parker appears to be the favorite for the Democratic nomination.

If she wins in November, Parker would become the first LGBT African-American elected official in Dallas County.

Loza and Parker are among four known local LGBT candidates in 2010.
They join fellow Democrats Fitzsimmons and Foster, who are each seeking a second four-year term.

While Foster is vulnerable and faces two strong challengers in the primary, Fitzsimmons is extremely popular and said he’s confident he’ll be re-elected.

“I think pretty much everybody knows that the District Clerk’s Office is probably the best-run office in Dallas County government,” Fitzsimmons said. “I think this county is a Democratic County, and I think I’ve proved myself to be an outstanding county administrator, and I think the people will see that.”

Randall Terrell, political director for Equality Texas, said this week he wasn’t aware of any openly LGBT candidates who’ve filed to run in state races in 2010.

Although Texas made headlines recently for electing the nation’s first gay big-city mayor, the state remains one of 20 that lack an out legislator.

Denis Dison, a spokesman for the Victory Fund, said he’s hoping Annise Parker’s victory in Houston last week will inspire more qualified LGBT people to run for office.

“It gives other people permission really to think of themselves as leaders,” Dison said.

The filing period for March primaries ends Jan. 4.


This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition December 18, 2009.

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