WATCH: Equality Texas launches ‘Reel Texas/Real Lives’ project

Last week, Equality Texas released the first video in its Reel Texas/Real Lives project, featuring three families affected by Texas’ policy on supplemental birth certificates, which currently allows only opposite-sex parents to be listed. As we’ve reported, state Rep. Rafael Anchia, D-Dallas, has again filed a bill that would allow accurate birth certificates for same-sex adoptive couples. Watch the video below.

—  David Taffet

REVIEW: ‘Any Day Now’

To read an interview with star Alan Cumming, click here.

Rudy (Alan Cumming) is a defiant drag queen, and a survivor — the kind who tells a policeman to fuck off because he’s tired of being rolled by homophobic cops even when he hasn’t done anything wrong. Rudy struggles to make rent in the cheap apartment building also occupied by an uncaring neighbor — a junkie who leaves her Down Syndrome son alone while she scores.

When Rudy enlists one of his tricks, Paul (Garret Dillahunt), a lawyer in the D.A.’s office, to help him obtain custody of the boy, Marco (Isaac Levya), we set off on the road of gay family drama — think Queermer v. Queermer.

The emotional arcs of Any Day Now will be familiar to anyone who has seen a chick-flick tearjerker, but this film is a step above. Of course, there’s the timely nature of it (gay adoption), even though set in the 1970s when we know things never went well for gay folks or the disabled. (The pervasive suspicions about gay people will anger you. Even the gay people at the time weren’t too keen on their own striving for suburban domesticity.) There’s the indie energy and commitment to authentic portrayals of gays by Cumming, who dives head-first into his role as a Mama Grizzly. And there’s the heartbreaking performance by Leyva, a non-professional actor in a stand-out debut. (There are numerous cameos by a host of good actors: Frances Fisher, Gregg Henry, Kelli Williams, Michael Nouri.)

Sure, cliches abound, from the closeted Paul’s continual denials of a relationship with Rudy even when the opposite is obvious to Rudy’s aspirations as a singer and repeated disappointments to the stiff, anti-gay reactions of authority figures (echoes of Philadelphia are apparent) to the retro-’70s look has become its own genre in recent years. But Cumming, Dillahunt and Levya make such a stellar ensemble, so in touch with the truth of gay relationships (which are portrayed as difficult but real), that Any Day Now becomes easily a welcome addition to the too-small canon of gay films that speak to issues of heart, not just of the loins. What’s wrong with a few tears being jerked in a gay film instead of some other parts?

Three stars. Now playing at Landmark’s Magnolia Theatre.

—  Arnold Wayne Jones

LEGE UPDATE: PolitiFact finds attack on birth certificate bill ‘mostly false’

A conservative group’s claims that a bill to allow same-sex adoptive parents to have both names on birth certificates would affect everyone’s records were mainly unfounded, according to research by PolitiFact Texas.

The nonpartisan politics fact-checking project analyzed claims Texas Values President Jonathan Saenz made on Austin’s KTBC-TV Nov. 19 about HB 201 filed by state Rep. Rafael Anchia, D-Dallas.

Saenz said the bill would mandate a change in all birth certificates in the state, suggesting that the bill aims to grant gay couples special rights and would lead to two or three fathers listed on certificates in cases of polygamy.

But the bill would only apply to adopted children of same-sex couples, allowing both parents to have their names on the supplemental birth certificate. Texas law currently only allows one man and one woman to be listed on birth certificates, but the bill would remove that requirement from the Texas Health and Safety Code.

PolitiFact found Saenz’s claims “mostly false” saying the potential wording of forms remained unclear after they consulted with a State Health Services representative, who said it’s unknown whether “Mother” and “Father” would be replaced with “Parent 1″ and “Parent 2″ on forms for adopted children if the bill passes. Gender-neutral parent designation on birth certificates would raise the risk of distinguishing records for adopted children, which is prohibited under state law.

—  Anna Waugh

WATCH: Texas Values president attacks Rep. Anchia’s gay adoption bill

A bill that would provide accurate supplemental birth certificates to same-sex couples came under fire last night by Texas Values President Jonathan Saenz.

Saenz appeared on Austin’s Fox 7, speaking out against HB 201 filed by state Rep. Rafael Anchia, D-Dallas.

Under the impression that the bill would mandate a change in all birth certificates in the states, Saenz suggested that his three children would have to have theirs changed. But the bill would only apply to adopted children of same-sex couples, allowing both parents to have their names on the certificate. Texas law currently only allows one man and one woman to be listed on birth certificates.

“In the state of Texas, homosexual adoption is allowed, so that’s not the issue here. The issue is that you have a small group of people that want to change a birth certificate for everybody else,” Saenz said. “This is an issue about what is natural and what is common sense. You have a mother and a father.”

—  Anna Waugh

WATCH: Gov. Rick Perry tries to mislead Iowa voters about gay adoption in Texas

Texas Gov. Rick Perry

Texas Gov. Rick Perry on Saturday told the audience at a right-wing presidential forum in Iowa that same-sex couples are barred from adopting children in Texas, according to On Top Magazine.

But Perry’s statement was at best misleading and, at worst, an outright lie designed to pander to socially conservative voters.

At the Thanksgiving Family Forum in Des Moines, Perry and other presidential candidates were asked what they would do to help faith-based adoption agencies “which are being run out of business because they will only place children in homes headed by mothers and fathers and they will not place those children in homes headed by same-sex couples.”

Perry responded: “Obviously I think it is an issue you can address at the federal level, and passing a federal marriage amendment is one of the ways to do that, but until that does pass, as in the state of Texas, a gay couple cannot adopt a child in the state of Texas, so the states have the ability again, until there is a federal marriage amendment that clearly states that marriage is between one man and one woman and in that as well you cannot adopt a child unless it is one man and one woman.”

Chuck Smith, deputy director of Equality Texas, said in most jurisdictions in Texas, it’s true that gay couples can’t adopt “as a couple” due to the state’s defense of marriage act. However, in most jurisdictions, gay couples can adopt the a child separately, which is effectively the same thing, Smith said.

Unlike in states such as Utah and, until recently, Florida, Texas has no ban on gay adoption, Smith said. And, a non-biological mother who is the lesbian partner of a biological mother can typically obtain a second-parent adoption in Texas, Smith said.

“It’s not black and white,” he said. “It’s factually inaccurate to say there’s a ban on gay people adopting. It is a function of which family law judge people go to, but in virtually all jurisdictions, gay couples can adopt. Unfortunately they’re required to do it in two separate transactions, where each individual person has an adoption transaction. It’s also true that under the current statute, the supplemental birth certificate of an adopted child only has one parent’s name on it if the parents are of the same gender. That’s something we’ve been trying to change and will continue to try and change.”

Smith said while Texas legislators unsuccessfully attempted to ban gay foster-parenting in 2005, there has never been a bill to ban gay adoption.

“I think it was an attempt at a bravado comment — ‘In Texas, we don’t let the gays do anything’ — that was kind of the point,” Smith said, adding he thinks the entire forum was “an exercise in pandering” for all the candidates.

“What they’re attempting to do is to make something controversial that’s only controversial in their little mind-sphere,” Smith said. “There’s over 30 years of longitudinal studies that show sexual orientation is not a determining factor in whether a person is or is not a good parent. They’re trying to say that gay people can’t be good parents. There simply is not evidence to speak to that.”

Watch video of Perry’s response below.

—  John Wright

FAMILY LIFE: The adoption options

Sonyia Hartwell

For same-sex couples who want a family, CPS may be a more affordable route than private agency placements

DAVID TAFFET | Staff Writer
taffet@dallasvoice.com

Adoption has become a common option for gay and lesbian couples that want to have a family. But there’s a lot to know before becoming an adoptive parent.

“In Texas, unmarried couples cannot adopt as a couple,” said Leslie Clay, chief development officer at Hope Cottage, the oldest non-sectarian adoption center in Dallas. But that applies equally to straight and gay couples.

Many couples have opted to go outside of Texas, especially when they are using a surrogate and they want the second parent to adopt and be added to the birth certificate.

But Texas does have laws that are favorable to the adoptive parents.

Texas law is silent on the issue of second-parent adoptions by same-sex couples, according to Jenny L. Womack, an adoption attorney in private practice.

“The only place Texas gets into it is on the birth certificate,” she said.

Texas only allows one man and one woman to appear on the birth certificate. An adopted child’s name, however, may reflect both parents’, and will normally be granted during the original single-parent adoption.

Traditionally, Dallas couples have traveled to San Antonio to get their second-parent adoption completed. Bexar County will allow an attorney to direct a case into a particular court and attorneys know exactly which judges will approve a second-parent adoption by same-sex parents.

But Womack said she has had luck recently in Dallas.

“When we had the Democratic sweep, it brought judges in who will do a second-parent adoption,” she said.

While she files adoptions by opposite-sex parents in juvenile court, Womack files same-sex-parent adoptions at the George Allen Courts Building and has been successful there.

Her advice to couples who want to adopt is to visit an adoption attorney first.

Hope Cottage Executive Director Sonyia Hartwell explained that there are two types of adoptions — private and through Child Protective Services.

Hope Cottage is located on McKinney Avenue in Uptown and welcomes same-sex couples. The minimum age for adoptive parents at that agency is 26 and same-sex couples must be in a stable relationship of at least two years.

Hartwell said that the mother placing her child in an adoptive home often participates in choosing the parents. She said CPS works well with same-sex couples.

Most adoptions are done through an agency. Private adoptions are legal in Texas but may not be arranged by individuals. Attorneys and doctors cannot act as adoption agents. Only licensed agencies may.

However, if a private adoption is arranged through a contact, the adopting parents are legally allowed to pay only medical, legal and counseling expenses. Rent, maternity clothes or grocery assistance may only be paid for through a licensed agency. Paying those expenses directly is classified as paying a fee for a child, and is a felony in Texas under laws that prevent baby selling.

Agencies may pay those expenses but are also prevented from helping a birth mother in some ways. The agency can pay rent or utilities but not a rent or utility deposit.

A home study is required by all agencies. CPS assigns its own caseworkers but a couple may choose anyone approved to do home studies. That includes a number of people in the LGBT community.

“I tell my clients to be open and honest and don’t freak out,” Womack said.

Hartwell said same-sex couples who successfully adopt are completely out about their relationship and who they are.

“You have to hold yourself out as a couple,” she said.

That means being out to family members and co-workers.

She said that couples that aren’t out won’t have the support of family, friends and co-workers necessary for successful adoptions.

Hartwell said that CPS adoptions are a good, lower-cost alternative to private adoptions.

She suggested couples should be as open-minded as possible.

Older couples aren’t likely to get infants. Younger couples who want infants and are adopting through CPS are more likely to get a placement if they’ll take an older sibling as well.

Hartwell said that the state doesn’t like to break up families.

Hartwell encouraged couples thinking of adopting to schedule an appointment to discuss the possibility. She said most will interview several agencies before settling on one.

An attorney is necessary to file the adoption by the first parent and later by the second.

CPS needs homes to place the thousands of children without parents in Texas.

Clay summed up what they’re looking for.

“We’re looking for good parents,” she said.

For referrals to adoption attorney across the country, visit AdoptionAttorneys.org.

—  John Wright

Louisiana House committee rejects gay adoption bill

Advocates say state’s ban on adoption by same-sex couples will fall in the courts eventually

Associated Press

BATON ROUGE, La. — A House committee has rejected a New Orleans lawmaker’s bill that would allow two unmarried, same-sex adults to adopt a child together.

Democrat Helena Moreno said that public opinion has warmed to the idea of gay adoption since the bill failed last year, but the House Civil Law and Procedure Committee disagreed and shelved the proposal Monday, May 23.

Louisiana law allows for adoption by a legal relative, but the House bill would add “second parents” to the list of people who can petition for such adoptions. The bill doesn’t specify whether the second parent would be male or female, so it would allow both members of a same-sex couple to adopt a child for the first time.

Currently, if a same-sex couple in Louisiana adopts a child, only one parent can be recognized as the legal guardian. Lesbian mothers at the hearing testified that their children face the risk of not having both parents recognized in the event of a divorce, the death of the primary guardian or a medical emergency involving the child.

“This really is something that’s in the best interest of a child, to have two parents and two names on the adoption papers,” said Moreno.

New Orleans City Councilman Arnie Fielkow testified in support of the bill, arguing that children need a loving home, regardless of the parents’ sexual orientation.

“We have so many kids out there that are in foster care, that are in orphanages here in the United States and around the world, that simply do not have parents, do not have people around them that can love them, support them and sustain them,” said Fielkow.

He said that current adoption law doesn’t recognize that concepts of a “traditional family” are outdated, and that expanding the ability of parents to adopt would be compassionate.

But Rob Tasman, assistant director of the Louisiana Conference of Catholic Bishops, says the church doesn’t sanction adoption to unmarried couples, homosexual or heterosexual.

“The best interest of the child extends beyond purely the physical and the material, and what it also pulls in is the spiritual and the moral,” said Tasman.

And Gene Mills, who leads the conservative Louisiana Family Forum, said the bill would go against a 2004 amendment to the state constitution that defines marriage as between one woman and one man.

“We think it’s fraught with the possibility of instability in the life of the child, and would respectfully request that you vote no,” said Mills.

Rep. John Schroder, a Republican, proposed to defer the bill. No committee members objected.

Marjorie Esman, who leads the Louisiana chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union, said the courts will likely overturn the state’s prohibition against gay parents adopting if the legislature doesn’t take action.

“What is happening nationwide is that as these discriminatory laws are challenged, they are falling,” said Esman. She said that courts are striking bans down in order to protect children, but she said there isn’t currently any active litigation that could overturn Louisiana’s law.

The 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled on a related issue in April.

A gay couple who wanted both their names to appear on the birth certificate of the Louisiana child they adopted in New York has lost their latest round in federal court.

In Louisiana, adopted children get new birth certificates with their new parents’ names on them, but the state contends that putting both men’s names on the birth certificate would violate the state ban against adoption by unmarried couples.

The court said that a Louisiana registrar’s insistence that only one father’s name can go on the certificate does not violate the child’s right to equal protection under the law; nor does it deny legal recognition of the New York adoption by both men.

Lambda Legal, which represented the petitioners, was not immediately available for comment on whether the case will be appealed.

—  John Wright

‘Democrat’ doesn’t always equal ‘gay-friendly’

Justin Nichols

Comments by Bexar County Democratic Party chair — and the response to them — shows LGBTs have to work across lines of race, party to make progress

JUSTIN NICHOLS | Special Contributor

Much has been said about the chairman of the Bexar County Democratic Party, Dan Ramos, who last month made headlines with a rant in which he called LGBT people“Nazis” and “termites.”

But as things develop, we shouldn’t just write Ramos off as one county chairman gone crazy. Lessons can be learned here about politics, race and the fight for equality.

On April 5, the Bexar County Democratic Party precinct chairs held two meetings, both claiming to be official. The San Antonio Express-News reported that the larger meeting, from which Ramos was absent, had about 75 precinct chairs that voted to put Ramos on trial for rule violations.

The smaller meeting, which Ramos attended, was comprised almost exclusively of Hispanic precinct chairs who gave him, reportedly, a “hero’s welcome.”

In March, a local news survey showed that only 54 percent of viewers believed that Ramos should resign his post — a far cry from unanimous agreement.

This got me thinking: Is there a quiet but significant group of people who aren’t that upset with Ramos?

Ramos’ comments have become increasingly racially charged. Further, Ramos has maintained his position opposing same-sex marriage and gay adoption represents the true sentiments of Bexar County residents.

What if Ramos is right, and what if race is a bigger player than initially thought?

The Pew Hispanic Center, the leader in Latino research, reported that 56 percent of Hispanics oppose gay marriage, compared to only 42 percent of non-Hispanics; 43 percent of Hispanics believe that abortion should be legal compared to 60 percent of non-Hispanics.

These numbers are in stark contrast to a 2010 Gallup poll showing 56 percent and 87 percent of Democrats support, respectively, gay marriage and some form of legal abortion.

According to Pew, Hispanics tend to identify with the Democratic Party 66 percent of the time, double the rate by which they identify with the Republican Party. And, the Latino population is the fastest-growing minority in the country — seeing a 56 percent increase from 2000 to 2010 in Southern states.

What this means is that the fastest-growing population, which overwhelmingly supports the Democratic Party, significantly breaks with the Democratic platform on issues like gay rights and women’s right to choose.

So maybe, the conflict in Bexar County is just a sample of more intra-party disputes to come as the Latino populations grows and realizes more leadership positions in the Democratic Party.

To the people ready to accuse me of lumping all Latinos into one big bag: Cool down, I’m not.

I’m suggesting that, as the Hispanic community becomes larger and more politically active — flexing its muscle on issues like immigration and education — we shouldn’t assume that a “D” or “R” next to someone’s name automatically reveals their position on gay rights.

As a community, we need to be reaching out to all communities, and we should never assume that one group is automatically in our corner.

The leaders of Stonewall Democrats of San Antonio are right: Dan Ramos is a dinosaur who will soon be extinct.

But I caution against assuming that when dinosaurs die there will automatically be political oil to drill. The numbers show that is not guaranteed.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition April 8, 2011.


—  John Wright

What’s Brewing: More anti-gay hatred from Dan Ramos; Kurt and Blaine finally kiss on ‘Glee’

Your weekday morning blend from Instant Tea:

1. Dan Ramos, the Bexar County Democratic Party chairman who last week compared gays to “termites” and the Stonewall Democrats to the “Nazi Party,” followed up those statements Tuesday with another hate-filled rant in the San Antonio Current. This time, Ramos said homosexuality is “not natural” and compared it to being born with a polio leg. Ramos also said he’s glad gay couples in Texas can’t adopt children, which further shows what an idiot he is since the state has no ban on gay adoption. Here’s an excerpt:

Ramos frequently suggests that anti-Hispanic racism is to blame for the division that has been on display at past party meetings. When asked if race or sexual orientation were more a cause of concern for him, Ramos responded: “I go back to an old very well-used slogan: blacks wanted to get their way because they were black. What it is, is we have a very, very sinister movement in which you don’t know, at the end of the day, you didn’t even know that your next door buddy, your bosom fishing buddy was gay. That, I guess, goes to my belief in the religious thing. Look: this is not natural. This is like a kid who was born with a polio leg, you can’t kill him and you can’t sweep him under the rug. … I’m glad that Texas has not yet come to where gays can adopt children … because the poor kids have already come from a troubled family and then to be ‘hey, how come my momma is my daddy type of deal.’ It’s not natural.”

2. Kurt and Blaine finally kissed on Glee last night, and it was well worth the wait because we’re not talking about just a peck. Watch the scene below, at least until the video gets yanked from YouTube.

3. The City Council in Ogden, Utah, where I lived for about a year and covered City Hall for the daily newspaper, on Tuesday night unanimously approved ordinances prohibiting anti-LGBT discrimination in employment and housing. Ogden Mayor Matthew Godfrey, who happens to be a complete jerk, had threatened to veto the ordinances until they were revised so they could pass with veto-proof majorities. Hey, Mayor Matt, kiss my white gay ass. No wait don’t, you’d probably like that too much. Also, a quick shout out to those who’ll be celebrating at the city’s only gay bar, the Brass Rail.

UPDATE: Some sad news to report: I’ve learned that the Brass Rail in Ogden has closed. I wouldn’t be surprised if Godfrey somehow conspired to put the bar out of business.

—  John Wright

Anti-gay Walmart to add 12 stores in Dallas

Walmart plans to open 12 new stores in Dallas, according to a celebratory press release sent out by Mayor Tom Leppert’s office earlier today.

Unfortunately, the LGBT community doesn’t have much reason to celebrate.

Walmart scores a dismal 40 out of 100 on the Human Rights Campaign’s Corporate Equality Index, based on the company’s treatment of LGBT workers.

The world’s largest retailer was docked 15 points on the CEI for resisting shareholder efforts to add gender identity to it employment nondiscrimination policy. According to HRC, Walmart and ExxonMobil Corp. are the only two top 10 companies that have yet to add gender identity to their nondiscrimination policies.

Also, unlike the majority of Fortune 500 companies, Wal-Mart doesn’t offer domestic partner benefits to its employees except where required by law.

Walmart withdrew its support for LGBT organizations in 2007 after conservative Christian groups threatened a boycott. And in 2008, CEO Mike Duke signed a petition in support of banning gay adoption in Arkansas.

In other words, we’d rather shop at Target.

The city’s full press release is after the jump.

—  John Wright