What’s Brewing: Gay couple burned out of home; trans discrimination study; marriage updates

Your weekday morning blend from Instant Tea:

1. A gay couple in Clayton, N.C., was burned out of their home (above) in a possible hate crime on Friday after suffering anti-gay harassment repeatedly over the last year. A neighbor says the couple had their tires slashed, had a gay slur written on their home in marker and received a note with a gay slur in their mailbox telling them to move. Police, however, still aren’t convinced it was a hate crime. Watch a video report here.

2. The largest study ever on discrimination against transgender people showed that 41 percent have attempted suicide, compared to 1.6 percent of the general population. The study, by the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force and the National Center for Transgender Equality, also showed that trans people are four times more likely to live in extreme poverty, and that 26 percent said they’d lost a job because of their gender identity/expression. Read more here, or download the full study here.

3. Same-sex marriage updates from Maryland, Rhode Island and Indiana.

—  John Wright

Gay couple accuses Baylor-owned gym of ‘draconian and bigoted practices’

For the second time in less than a year, a popular East Dallas gym owned by Baylor Health Care System is under fire for blatantly discriminating against gay couples.

Last May, a gay couple filed a discrimination complaint against the Tom Landry Fitness Center, which has a stated policy of refusing to offer family memberships to same-sex couples. The couple’s complaint was filed under a city of Dallas ordinance that prohibits discrimination based on sexual orientation in public accommodations.

However, the couple later withdrew the complaint after they said city officials told them the Tom Landry Fitness Center may be exempt from the ordinance because it’s a private club.

Now, another gay couple plans to file its own discrimination complaint against the Fitness Center if the policy isn’t reversed. Alan Rodriguez, who recently moved to Dallas with his partner of 10 years, says he was told by the director of the Fitness Center that Baylor defines family as “one man and one woman.”

Rodriguez, who’s renovating a home on Gaston Avenue with his partner, said he chooses to live and work in Dallas largely because of the ordinance prohibiting anti-gay discrimination. He also said he goes to the Fitness Center for allergy shots and considers the gym a “neighborhood friend,” but was shocked to learn about the family membership policy.

“It is clear Baylor has taken the position to discriminate against gay people with respect to family gym membership. It is also clear Baylor has a regimented policy excluding domestic partners from the definition of ‘family,’” Rodriguez wrote Tuesday in a letter to a Baylor executive that was also sent to Instant Tea. “Therefore, I must conclude your organization also believes it lawful to discriminate against gay people regarding other medical services. Clearly, your organization considers this policy a legal form of discrimination. It remains unclear the extent to which this policy permeates all Baylor operations. Such draconian and bigoted practices are unthinkable in 2011.”

—  John Wright

What’s Brewing: Dad says gay teen’s death not suicide; ex-cop gets jail in rape of transsexual

Lance Lundsten

1. Gay Minnesota teen Lance Lundsten was laid to rest Tuesday night, but questions remain about what caused his death. Some news reports have suggested that Lundsten, 18, took his own life in response to anti-gay bullying at school. However, Lundsten’s father maintains that he died from coronary edema, a condition caused by an enlarged heart. Autopsy results will take several weeks.

2. A former San Antonio police officer accused of raping a transsexual prostitute was sentenced to one year in jail on Tuesday. The former officer, Craig Nash, pleaded guilty to official oppression after prosecutors agreed in exchange not to charge him with sexual assault by a police officer, which carries a life sentence. Prosecutors also agreed not to pursue an allegation by a man who said Nash raped him a few years earlier.

3. A federal appeals court in Louisiana today will hear a case involving two gay dads who simply want both of their names listed on their adopted child’s birth certificate. A federal district judge and a three-judge panel of the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals have already ruled in the gay couple’s favor, but the bigoted state attorney general is appealing the decision. The couple is represented by Lambda Legal’s Ken Upton of Dallas, who warns of a “gaping loophole” in the doctrine of full faith and credit if the decision is overturned: “An exception that permits states arbitrarily to ignore legal parent-child relationships as families travel throughout the United States would create unprecedented chaos and harm.”

—  John Wright

Court says Texas AG can’t block gay divorce

Angelique Naylor

Associated Press

AUSTIN — The Texas attorney general can’t block a divorce granted to two women who were legally married elsewhere, an appeals court ruled Friday, Jan. 7.

A judge in Austin granted a divorce last February to Angelique Naylor and Sabina Daly, who were married in Massachusetts in 2004 and then returned home to Texas.

A day after the divorce was granted, Texas Attorney General Gregg Abbott filed a motion to intervene in the case, arguing the judge didn’t have the jurisdiction to grant the divorce because Texas has a constitutional ban on same-sex marriage. The judge ruled that the attorney general’s motion wasn’t timely, a decision Abbott then appealed.

In Friday’s ruling, a three-judge panel of 3rd Texas Court of Appeals in Austin said the state was not a party of record in the divorce case and Abbott therefore did not have standing to appeal.

The ruling, however, does not settle the debate over whether same-sex couples should be allowed to divorce in Texas, where a different appeals court has ruled against a gay couple seeking a divorce in the state.

The 5th Texas Court of Appeals in Dallas ruled in August that gay couples legally married in other states can’t get a divorce in Texas. In that case, Abbott had appealed after a Dallas judge said she did have jurisdiction to grant a divorce — though had not yet granted one — and dismissed the state’s attempt to intervene.

The ruling by the Dallas appeals court’s three-judge panel also affirmed the state’s same-sex marriage ban was constitutional. Texas voters in 2005 passed, by a 3-to-1 margin, a constitutional amendment to ban same-sex marriage even though state law already prohibited it.

Austin attorney Jody Scheske, who handled the appeals in both divorce cases, acknowledged the divergent rulings far from settle the issue of gay couples seeking a divorce in Texas.

“It’s complicated and to some extent remains unsettled and that’s unfortunate,” he said. “If you have a legal marriage you should have the same equal right to divorce as all other married people have.”

But for his client in the Austin case, the Friday ruling means she will remain divorced, Scheske said.

“For the larger issue, what it means is the state of Texas can’t intervene in private lawsuits just because it doesn’t like one of the trial court’s rulings,” he said. “The state was not a party, so they couldn’t intervene after the fact.”

The attorney general can choose to ask the entire Austin appeals court to hear the case there or can appeal the Friday ruling to the Texas Supreme Court.

Abbott spokeswoman Lauren Bean said their office “will weigh all options to ensure that the will of Texas voters and their elected representatives is upheld.”

“The Texas Constitution and statutes are clear: only the union of a man and a woman can be treated as a marriage in Texas. The court’s decision undermines unambiguous Texas law,” Bean said.

Unlike the Dallas case, the Austin case did not examine whether the judge had jurisdiction to grant the divorce. Ken Upton, a staff attorney for Lambda Legal, a national legal organization that promotes equal rights for gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender people, noted the Austin appeals court decision was in fact quite narrow.

“Basically, the only rule that comes out of it is that (Abbott) waited too long,” he said.

He said the predicament of gay couples seeking divorce in Texas highlights what happens when states adopt “such different views about marriage and relationships.”

“The more we have this patchwork of marriage laws, the more difficult it is for people who don’t have access to the same orderly dissolution,” he said.

—  John Wright

Gay couple married via Skype files complaint against DMN for not publishing announcement

Mark Reed-Walkup, left, and Dante Walkup

A gay couple has filed a discrimination complaint against The Dallas Morning News for refusing to publish their same-sex wedding announcement.

Mark Reed-Walkup and Dante Walkup, who were legally married in Washington, D.C., in October, filed the complaint on Friday. The couple’s wedding has made international news in recent weeks because it was held in Dallas but officiated from D.C. via Skype.

Reed- Walkup said he’s been trying for several weeks to get The Morning News to publish their paid announcement in its “Weddings” section. But the newspaper has refused due to a policy that says same-sex wedding announcements can only be published in a separate section called “Commitments.” The policy reportedly is based on the fact that same-sex marriage isn’t legal in Texas.

The couple filed the complaint under a city ordinance that prohibits discrimination based on sexual orientation in employment, housing and public accommodations. Reed-Walkup says he believes wedding announcements, which are paid advertisements, constitute a public accommodation.

“Our ultimate goal is for the newspaper to realize that this is discrimination and change their policy,” Reed-Walkup said. “They [the city] may agree with the newspaper that because of the ban on same-sex marriage in Texas, they have every justification to not publish it in the ‘Weddings’ section. At least we can say that we tried, and take it from there.”

Beverly Davis, director of the city’s Fair Housing Office, said she didn’t receive the complaint until Monday.

“We just got it,” Davis said Monday afternoon. “I haven’t had time to make an assessment yet.”

The Fair Housing Office investigates complaints under the ordinance before turning them over to the City Attorney’s Office for possible prosecution. Each violation of the ordinance is punishable by a $500 fine.

Jim Moroney, publisher and CEO of The Morning News, couldn’t immediately be reached for comment.

—  John Wright

Top Republican TV shows are also gay favorites

‘Modern Family’ was No. 3 on the Republicans’ list.

A new study of TV viewing habits of Republicans vs. Democrats reveals something not surprising — that the two groups like completely different shows. What is surprising is that on the Republican list are more shows that are popular among the LGBT community than on the Democratic list.

Most glaring is the No. 3 Republican show — Modern Family. That program features one of the best portrayals of a gay family ever seen on television. And Ed O’Neill, the patriarch of the family, is married to a woman from Columbia who has moved to the United States with her son. Immigration is not usually a popular Republican theme.

At No. 12 is another very gay show, Desperate Housewives. Bree’s son is gay. There’s a gay couple living on Wisteria Lane. Marc Cherry, the show’s creator who earned his TV cred as a writer for Golden Girls, is gay. Gay, gay, gay. But it’s on the Republican favorites list, not the Democrats’.

Coming in at No. 2 on the Republican side is yet another gay favorite, Dancing With the Stars. I guess that explains Bristol Palin’s continued appearance. Next season there’s talk of a gay couple. The Israeli version of DWTS tried that this year and it’s become the most popular show in that country this season.

And No. 1 is Amazing Race, which usually features gay contestants. The winner of the fourth season was Reichen Lehmkuhl and his partner at the time Chip Arndt. Mel White has appeared. Are Republicans watching to root against these players?

On the Democratic side, the No. 1 show is something called Flashpoint. Really? It’s a CBS show apparently. No. 2 in popularity is a PBS show called Hometime. OK, did Democrats answer this poll seriously?

About the only two shows on the Democratic list that would also be up there on the LGBT list are Brothers and Sisters (No. 10), which features a gay couple living in a family of Democrats with the exception of one progressive Republican sister, and Palin-impersonator Tina Fey’s 30 Rock (No. 15).

Law and Order? Good show but sounds perfectly Republican, right? Nope. Democrats prefer that show. America’s Most Wanted on FOX? Democrats. Really?

Republicans prefer The Mentalist. Democrats prefer Medium. There’s a difference?

Glee? Not on either list.

Only one show made both lists — Friday Night Lights. Great choice by both sides. Republicans rate the show one notch higher than Democrats. The writing is smart, although I’ve never seen anyone actually stick to the script. It’s something other than a police or hospital procedural show. Great character development. Interesting plot. And I’m on the show. (I play a Dillon, Texas reporter on the sidelines of the football games and at press conferences on the show. It’ll be back for its final season in the spring.)

—  David Taffet

Stay of Prop 8 ruling prompts protests on a day when gay marriages would have resumed

Nine protesters were arrested Thursday morning following a sit-in at the San Diego County Clerk’s Office, where a gay couple requested a marriage license. The couple had scheduled their appointment prior to a federal appeals court’s decision earlier this week to put same-sex marriages on hold until at least December. Sheriff’s deputies eventually showed up in full riot gear (shown above) to arrest the nine protesters, who are members of the San Diego Alliance for Marriage Equality. More pics from the protest can be found here. According to the San Diego Gay & Lesbian News, supporters have called an emergency rally for 5 p.m. outside the jail to protest the arrests and demand the activists’ immediate release.

Meanwhile, up the road in West Hollywood, a rally is planned for 6 p.m. Thursday night at Santa Monica Blvd. and San Vicente Blvd. From the Facebook event page:

Although Judge Walker’s decision was a victory for Prop 8 opponents, the fight is NOT over. Do not let that victorious feeling make you complacent! Let it be known that we will remain vigilant and active until marriage equality is restored in California!

UPDATE: Here’s some video of the San Diego protest:

—  John Wright

1st foreign gay couple marries in Nepal — a new destination

BINAJ GURUBACHARYA  |  Associated Press

KATMANDU, Nepal — A Hindu priest performed the first wedding ceremony in Nepal for a foreign gay couple, a rights group said Wednesday, Aug. 18, as activists and tourist agencies increasingly promote the Himalayan nation as a gay-friendly destination.

The ceremony was held Tuesday night in Katmandu for Sanjay Shah, 42, a Briton from Leicester, and an Indian man who did not want to be identified, said Sunil Pant, a member of Nepal’s parliament and the nation’s most prominent gay activist.

Pant’s gay rights group, Blue Diamond Society, organized the ceremony and issued the pair a certificate for a $200 fee.

The two men were not legally married because Nepal has no laws legalizing same-sex marriage and does not marry foreigners. However, marriages performed by priests are generally accepted by society and most people who live in rural areas do not register their marriages with authorities.

Gay rights have improved dramatically in a country where just five years ago police were beating gays and transsexuals in the streets.

Now, in addition to having an openly gay parliamentarian, Nepal is issuing “third gender” identity cards and appears set to enshrine gay rights — and possibly even same-sex marriage — in a new constitution.

The charter, however, has been delayed because of bickering among political parties that have been unable to choose a new leader since Prime Minister Madhav Kumar Nepal resigned in June.

Tuesday’s private ceremony was attended by a small number of gay rights activists and members of Pant’s group. Pant said there have been a few same-sex wedding ceremonies among Nepalese people, but it was the first for a foreign gay couple.

The improvements in gay rights have become a major marketing opportunity in a country where tourism is a main driver of the economy. Government officials hope gay tourists will spend more money than the backpackers who now stay in cheap hotels and travel on shoestring budgets.

Pant’s group has established Pink Mountain tour company, which caters to gay tourists and promotes Nepal as a safe destination for them. It offers gay honeymooners trekking trips in the Himalayas and has proposed same-sex wedding ceremonies at the Mount Everest base camp.

—  John Wright

Letters • 08.13.10

Justice postponed

I’m writing because I heard that Seth Winder’s trial for the murder of Richard Hernandez has been postponed again. I really don’t understand why.

Now consider this: Had it been me, a gay man, who had committed a terrible crime like this against a straight man, I bet you my life that I’d be on trial next week without any disruption or thought of postponement.

This is the justice system in the United States; just postpone their trial and let them walk away free, and forget about how this one person changed so many people’s lives.

It’s a sad and very hurtful chain of events to know that after almost two years of this circus, the people in Richard’s life can’t rest in peace either. At a certain point, you begin to feel that maybe we  should be judge and jury, and then this whole thing would be put to rest — including Seth Winder.

Rudy Araiza
Arlington

Italy becoming unsafe

Dear friends: We would like to raise your attention on the recent increase of homophobia in Italy.

Every day, we are seeing a growing number of hate crimes being committed against people because of their sexual orientation and their gender identity. In the last two months, Arcigay recorded an exponential number of cases all over the country of lesbian and gay people and couples being threatened, assaulted or exposed to public ridicule just because they were walking hand in hand, kissing or standing outside LGBT bars.

Recently, in Ostia, a seaside town near Rome, a gay couple was forced out of a beach resort after other people complained that they were kissing. In Milan, in the last month alone, our local branch recorded five assaults on gay people who were attacked and beaten only because they were standing outside LGBT bars or public spaces where they meet.

In two other circumstances, a homosexual couple in Torre del Lago in Tuscany and another one in Cagliari in Sardinia were just kissing on the beach and were targeted. Passers-by threatened to call the police if they didn’t stop. In another incident, two young gay people were assaulted and beaten outside a gay bar in Pesaro in an attack that required medical treatment.

Together with the increasing homophobia, LGBT bars and pubs throughout the country are also systematically harassed with unreasonable controls and exposed to constant and obsessive audits by different authorities.

Outdoor venues where gay people usually meet are sifted by the local police or fenced or even closed down by local authorities, who use as a pretext that homosexual people meeting there are “immoral.”

For example, this has happened at the Piave Spresiano riverside in Padova, where the town’s mayor has agreed to create “groups of volunteers” to patrol the venue, and has said that homosexuals are sick; and on the Oglio a Soncino riverside in Cremona, where the police have been asked to raid the place; and again at two other beaches, in Gaeta in Latina and Ancona, where local authorities have installed fences and CCTV cameras to prevent gay encounters.

LGBT people in Italy are beginning to live in an intolerable climate of fear, reminiscent of a witch hunt. This is a country where not only the rights of LGBT couples are not recognized — despite a recent Constitutional Court ruling — but, more alarming, a country where the Parliament rejected a bill that contained measures to fight homophobia stating in writing that the very expression “sexual orientation” is in itself “ambiguous,” as it could include things like pedophilia, zoophilia, necrophilia and incest.

We ask for your help to raise these concerns with the Italian government and other institutions. Italy has never been a country where LGBT people have been treated equally, but now it is beginning to be even more unsafe for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transsexual people.

Maurizio Cecconi
Arcigay, International Affairs

Arcigay is Italy’s largest LGBT rights organization. Founded in 1985, the organization had more than 160,000 members as of 2007.

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This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition August 13, 2010.

—  Kevin Thomas

Four days to send in your census

Want to avoid a visit from your local, friendly enumerator and save the government money? Send in your damn census form.

Census BureauIt’s fast. (10 simple questions like … your name)

It’s easy. (10 simple questions like … your name)

It’s mandated by the constitution (for all you conspiracy theorists who are sure there are ulterior motives. If there are, Jefferson and Madison are the enemies of homeland security in this case)

It’s going to happen, whether you decide to participate or not. If you decide not to, an enumerator will come knocking at your door. And when you don’t answer, he or she will come again and again and again and again and again and again. Seven times. And then start knocking on your neighbors’ doors and ask questions about your household. Now THAT’S annoying and invasive and intrusive and a waste of time and money.

So send it in by this weekend and comply with the U.S. constitution. No information about individuals can be shared with other agencies. Not immigration. Not the IRS. No one. Just raw data will be released.

Oh, and if you want to be counted as a gay or lesbian couple, mark “married” or “unmarried partners.” You’ll be counted when both of you answer one of those difficult questions (Sex: __M or __F) as both the same.

—  David Taffet