Bi U.S. House candidate talks about being a role model for LGBT youth at campaign stop in Dallas

Former Arizona Sen. Kyrsten Sinema, a bisexual candidate for U.S. House, talks about her challenging youth that helped inspire her to run for Congress at a fundraiser at Sue Ellen's April 29. (Anna Waugh/Dallas Voice)

Former Arizona Sen. Kyrsten Sinema charmed a small crowd at Sue Ellen’s Vixen Lounge on Sunday night on her first campaign trip to Texas to raise money for her campaign to become the first bisexual elected to Congress.

Sinema, a seven-year veteran of the Arizona Legislature, resigned in January to focus on her campaign for Arizona’s new 9th Congressional District, which covers Phoenix and areas to the north and east.

In her speech to the audience about her run for Congress, Sinema talked about her time growing up with divorced parents and the time she lived in an abandoned gas station when she was 8. While Dallas Voice did an interview with her before the event where she discussed views on immigration and how former Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords, D-Arizona, was a role model for her, Sinema spoke about how she now inspires youth.

“I want LGBT youth to see me and think, ‘I can do that,’” she told Instant Tea about running for Congress. “In particular I want young women and young gay people to feel like they can do anything, because they can.”

While working with youth as a social worker after putting herself through college with scholarships and grants, Sinema said she started lobbying at the Arizona Capitol to try to create change for the struggling youth and families she worked with daily. But the result was unsatisfactory as lawmakers refused to listen, she said.

“So I went to law school,” she said, adding that then she was not yet 25 and could not run for state office.

But in 2004, at 27, she won her first election as a state representative — the youngest women to win in the state’s history — and began to build relationships with Democrats and Republicans to change anti-gay views.

—  Anna Waugh

WATCH: Gay intern credited with saving Giffords’ life speaks at Stonewall fundraiser in Dallas

Daniel Hernandez Jr. at the Brick on Tuesday night.

Arizona Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords is doing “remarkably well” for someone who was shot in the head only six months ago, according to Daniel Hernandez Jr., the openly gay intern credited with saving her life on Jan. 8.

Hernandez appeared Tuesday night — on the 42nd anniversary of the Stonewall Rebellion — during a fundraiser for Stonewall Democrats of Dallas and Dallas Stonewall Young Democrats, first at a private residence in Oak Lawn and later at gay bar the Brick.

In his prepared remarks, Hernandez didn’t talk much about Giffords, instead focusing on the importance of 2012 elections for Democrats. But in response to a question from an audience member, Hernandez noted that Giffords is still in Houston but has been released from the hospital and is undergoing outpatient rehabilitation.

“I don’t know if any of you saw the pictures, but she’s looking great,” Hernandez said. “The only real difference is she has a little bit shorter hair and she’s wearing glasses. So it’s great to see the same smile, and she’s doing remarkably well, considering the fact that she was shot six months ago, and I think the progress that she’s made has been truly inspiring not just for those of us in Tucson and in Arizona but really around the country.”

—  John Wright

Giffords intern Daniel Hernandez Jr. to speak at Stonewall Democrats fundraiser in Dallas

Daniel Hernandez Jr. and Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords prior to the shooting. (via Facebook)

We’re working to get in touch with Daniel Hernandez Jr., the gay Latino intern credited with saving the life of Arizona Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords, but for now we thought we’d go ahead and mention that Hernandez will be in town next Tuesday for a Stonewall Democrats fundraiser marking the 42nd anniversary of the Stonewall Rebellion.

Hernandez is a University of Arizona student who’d been an intern for Giffords for only five days at the time of the January shooting in Tuscon. Hernandez applied pressure to Giffords’ head wound and held her upright so she wouldn’t choke on her blood while waiting for paramedics to arrive. Then he rode with her in the back of an ambulance, squeezing her hand as she squeezed back.

The following day, Instant Tea was the first to identify Hernandez as gay. And a few days after that, he would be honored at the Tucson memorial attended by President Barack Obama, where he insisted he wasn’t a hero.

Hernandez will attend a private fundraiser at the home of Stonewall Democrats members on Tuesday, before making a public appearance at the Brick. Sponsorships for the private fundraiser range from $50 to $1,000 and can be purchased here. The fundraiser runs from 6 to 8 p.m. at 2916 Throckmorton St.

The public event runs from 8:30 to 9:30 p.m. at the Brick, and Hernandez will speak at 9. A $10 donation is suggested.

Watch Hernandez’s interview with CNN after the shooting, as well as his speech at the memorial service, after the jump.

—  John Wright

After big-name Victory Fund brunch Sunday, Annise Parker to kick off re-election campaign

Mayor Annise Parker

The Gay & Lesbian Victory Fund will celebrate its 20th anniversary with a champagne brunch on Sunday in Houston.

Houston Mayor Annise Parker, who kicks off her re-election campaign next week, will attend the brunch along with Congressman David Cicilline of Rhode Island, New York City Council Speaker Christine Quinn, Fort Worth Councilman Joel Burns and Gabrielle Giffords intern Daniel Hernandez Jr.

Quinn, NYC’s first out council speaker, is often mentioned as a possible candidate for mayor of the Big Apple. Cicilline became the fourth openly gay member of Congress last year. Hernandez, first identified as gay by Instant Tea, is credited with saving the life of Congresswoman Giffords, who’s currently in a rehabilitation facility in Houston.

The Victory Fund brunch is sold out. It will be at The Corinthian, 202 Fannin St. in Houston.

While election season heats up in Dallas and Fort Worth for the May 14 mayoral and council races, Houston’s election cycle is just getting under way.

Houston’s term cycles are different than those in Dallas. In Dallas, the mayor may run for two four-year terms. Council members may run for four two-year terms. Municipal elections in Dallas, Fort Worth, Arlington and most of the area suburbs are held in May.

In Houston, the mayor, controller and council may run for three two-year terms and elections are held in November.

In November 2009, Parker became the first openly LGBT person elected mayor of a top 10 U.S. city. Houston is the fourth-largest city in the nation.

On Saturday, April 23, Parker kicks off her re-election campaign at Discovery Park in Downtown Houston. The event begins at 4 p.m. She writes there will be food, refreshments and an Easter Egg hunt. She said she is looking for volunteers for the campaign. No opponents have officially announced they will enter the race against her yet, but she plans to be prepared.

—  David Taffet

Giffords’ friend, out State Sen. Kyrsten Sinema, keynotes Texas Stonewall conference in March

Two years ago I attended the first Biennial Statewide Conference of the Texas Stonewall Democratic Caucus in Austin, which among other things yielded this rather memorable gaffe by then-freshly elected out Congressman Jared Polis of Colorado. That same year, the conference also included a visit from Matt Foreman, a venerable gay-rights activist and former executive director of the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force.

The point is, it was a pretty solid lineup of speakers, and it looks like Texas Stonewall has come pretty close to duplicating it for this year’s second biennial event, set for March 5 and 6 in the capital. (On top of that, it looks like they’ve stepped it up from the DoubleTree on 15th to the Hilton Garden Inn downtown.)

Daniel Graney

Topping the list of speakers this year will be Arizona State Sen. Kyrsten Sinema, D-Phoenix, who happens to be good friends with recovering Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords of Tuscon (Sinema’s interview with a local TV station the night of the shooting is above).

Sinema, who’s bisexual, has led two statewide campaigns to defeat anti-gay propositions in Arizona, and some may remember her from visits to Dallas in support of President Barack Obama in 2008.

This year’s conference will also feature Mara Keisling, executive director of the National Center for Transgender Equality, State Rep. Mike Villarreal, D-San Antonio; Austin Mayor Lee Leffingwell; Texas Democratic Party Chairman Boyd Richie; Equality Texas Executive Director Dennis Coleman; and National Stonewall Democrats Executive Director Michael Mitchell.

The theme is “The New Political Landscape In Texas: Where Do We Go From Here?,” and the conference will focus on what went wrong in November 2010 and how Democrats in Texas can reverse the huge losses they suffered. And once again, people are encouraged to stay over for Equality Texas’ Lobby Day on Monday, March 7.

For conference information and to register online, go here (the discounted hotel rate expires Feb. 14). A full press release from TSDC President Daniel Graney is after the jump.

—  John Wright

What’s Brewing: Daniel Hernandez, Fort Worth Episcopal diocese; marriage battles intensify

1. In a victory for LGBT-affirming Episcopalians, a conservative Fort Worth group that left the church over its acceptance of gays has been ordered to surrender the property it tried to steal from the six-county diocese. A state district judge on Friday ordered the group to turn over the property — which includes 55 parishes and missions as well as several schools — within 60 days. The group says it plans to appeal the decision, but hopefully this ruling will mean schools like St. Vincent’s can no longer discriminate against 4-year-olds like Olivia Harrison (above) who happen to have lesbian parents.

2. Daniel Hernandez Jr., the gay intern credited with saving the life of Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords, will sit next to first lady Michelle Obama during Tuesday’s State of the Union address. Tuesday also happens to be Hernandez’s 21st birthday.

3. Battles over same-sex marriage are intensifying in Maryland, Wyoming and Iowa.

—  John Wright

What’s Brewing: Daniel Hernandez, bigoted N.C. lawmaker, Palm Springs gay sex sting fallout

Your weekday morning blend from Instant Tea:

1. President Barack Obama and Daniel Hernandez Jr. — the gay intern credited with saving the life of Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords — disagree about whether Hernandez should be called a hero. Thus far, however, discourse between the two has remained civil. Hernandez, who sat next to Obama during Wednesday night’s memorial service in Tucson, also spoke to MSNBC’s Keith Olbermann after the event. In case you missed the service, Obama also announced that Giffords had opened her eyes for the first time in the hospital. And as Bill Maher put it, now it’s time for the rest of the nation to open its eyes. Watch Obama’s full speech here.

2. The government shouldn’t spend money to treat people with HIV/AIDS who “caused it by the way they live,” according to Instant Tea’s official Bigot of the Day, North Carolina State Rep. Larry Brown. “I’m not opposed to helping a child born with HIV or something, but I don’t condone spending taxpayers’ money to help people living in perverted lifestyles.” (Winston-Salem Journal)

3. When the Dallas Police Department conducts one of its gay sex stings, it’s business as usual. But when it happens in Palm Springs, Calif., all hell breaks loose.

—  John Wright

Palin says rhetoric not to blame for Arizona shootings, but recent history suggests otherwise

U.S. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, left, and former vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin

Within hours of the Saturday, Jan. 8, shooting spree in Tucson, Ariz., that left six dead and 14 — including the gunman’s apparent primary target, U.S. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords — wounded, a nationwide discussion — perhaps “argument” is a better word — had begun over the role that extreme political rhetoric had played in the massacre. And one of the first names to pop up in that discussion was that of Sarah Palin, the former Alaskan governor and former vice presidential candidate turned rightwing political pundit and reality TV star.

Giffords was one of the Democratic members of Congress who, in a campaign flyer posted on Palin’s website, had been “targeted” for defeat by Republicans in last November’s elections. The flyer included a graphic of a map with the “targeted’ districts marked by gunsights. That flyer along with Palin’s “don’t retreat, reload” comment, along with Nevada rightwinger Sharon Angle’s “Second Amendment remedies” comment, have gotten a lot of play in the days since the shootings.

Palin’s people took the flyer off the website within hours of the shooting, but it wasn’t until today that Palin herself spoke up, releasing a video in which she declares that political rhetoric had nothing to do with the shootings in Arizona  and decrying the “irresponsible statements from people attempting to apportion blame” for the massacre to her and other rightwing pundits. The responsibility, Palin declared, lies solely with the alleged shooter, Jared Lee Loughner.

Since we don’t know yet — and really may never know — what prompted this young man to open fire at Giffords and the others on Saturday, I find myself agreeing with Palin, at least a little. Let’s get our facts straight, so to speak, before we start laying blame.

—  admin

What’s Brewing: Sarah Palin, Westboro Baptist Church, The Advocate’s gayest cities

1. Sarah Palin released a video statement (above) this morning in response to the Tucson shooting, saying her decision to put rifle crosshairs on a map over Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords’ district had absolutely nothing whatsoever to do with the incident at all. How could it have, right? But why so defensive then? And what better way for Palin to address a shooting that targeted Giffords, who’s Jewish, than by using an anti-semitic metaphor? Palin says those who link the tragedy to her violent rhetoric are committing “blood libel” — which refers to an accusation from the Middle Ages that Jews killed Christian children to use their blood to make matzoh for Passover. Palin is right, this incident was more about mental illness than rhetoric — until you consider the fact that the ones spewing the rhetoric are mentally ill. (Politico)

2. The governor of Arizona signed emergency legislation to prohibit Westboro Baptist Church from picketing within 300 feet of the funeral for a 9-year-old girl who was killed in the Tucson shooting. The legislation was initiated by openly gay State Sen. Kyrsten Sinema, D-Tucson, who said this: “I’m a strong advocate of the First Amendment and the bottom line is this, Fred Phelps and his group of people can still spew their hate if they want. They just don’t get to do it close to the families that are grieving. They have to be farther away.” (ABC 15)

3. The Advocate lists Minneapolis as the gayest city in America, and Texas is shut out of the top 15. Have we mentioned that The Advocate sucks?

—  John Wright

Debbie Friedman, lesbian who composed prayer of healing used in service for Giffords, dies

Monday evening, as I drove home from work, I was listening to All Things Considered on KERA 90.1 radio. They were, as you would expect, talking about the shootings Saturday in Tucson. The announcer segued from one segment to another by noting that Congregation Chaverim, the reform synagogue of which Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords is a member, had held a service in which they prayed for healing for the congresswoman injured in the assassination attempt.

Debbie Friedman

One of the prayers the congregation sang, the announcer said, was the Mi Shebeirach, a prayer for healing by Debbie Friedman, who translated the words and wrote the music. There was a particular line that really caught my attention: “May the source of strength, who blessed the ones before us, help us find the courage to make our lives a blessing. And let us say Amen.”

That was, to me, such a beautiful piece of poetry that I posted it as my status on Facebook.

What made it even more poignant was the fact that Friedman died Sunday, Jan. 9, of complications from pneumonia. She was, according to The New York Times (free subscription), “credited with helping give ancient liturgy broad appeal to late-20th-century worshippers.”

That’s when my co-worker, David Taffet, stepped in to explain to me that Friedman was a lesbian, and that her music is very popular not only in Reform Judaism congregations, but also in some Conservative and Modern Orthodox congregations — and even, according to The New York Times, in some Christian congregations.

David also told me that Mi Shebeirach (though not necessarily Friedman’s version) started to become popular as a prayer of healing in Reform congregations with large LGBT memberships in the 1980s in response to the AIDS epidemic. (He also acknowledged that mainstream congregations might argue with that, but insisted he is right — as usual.) Not being Jewish nor ever having attended a Jewish service, I had never heard the prayer. And so it’s simple beauty really touched me when I heard Friedman singing it on the radio last night, especially since it was sung for Congresswoman Giffords and that Friedman had died the day after the congresswoman was shot.

So now, I have learned something new about my LGBT community. It’s just too bad, I think, that I learned it so late.

—  admin