Dynamic duo

Dallas’ fittest gay couples share their secrets for staying healthy and happy

ATHLETIC PAIR | World-class swimmer Dave Swenson, right, and his biking-running mate of 21 years James Maddox, left, will be headed to Hawaii next month for Swenson to compete in a major gay swimming meet. (Arnold Wayne Jones/Dallas Voice)

It’s been said that couples who bench-press together, stay together. OK, maybe that’s never been said, but it should have been — especially about gay couples. There’s something special about a relationship built on shared values, especially if those values include the inspiration and motivation to stay in shape. And, in an era when childhood obesity is alarmingly on the rise, recognizing those who stay fit as they age together seems like an especially responsible activity.

Which is why we kick off a new series in Dallas Voice dedicated to fit couples — those who bond over a decadent lunch of Bibb lettuce and Tic-Tacs instead of burgers and beer. You’re unlikely to see a muffin in their hands — or a muffin top around their Spandex.

We begin the series with a couple who have made exercise a part of their lives and their relationship for more than 20 years.

— Jef Tingley

………………………….

Names and ages: Dave Swenson, 48, and James Maddox, 43.

Occupations: Swenson: Manager for a Frisco software company;

Maddox: Customs broker

Years together: 21 in October.

Sports: Swenson: Swimming; Maddox: Running and biking.

Exercise regime: Swenson: I swim with the Dallas Aquatic Masters (DAM) three to four times a week. I also lift weights at the gym, but not nearly as often as I’d like. I used to run and do triathlons, but running injuries have pushed me more towards swimming.

Maddox: I lift weights five times per week, as well as run and row three times a week.

Do you play any sports or are you on any leagues: Swenson: I’m a registered U.S. Masters swimmer, and swim with the Dallas Aquatic Masters. I used to swim fairly regularly in masters swim meets, but I’m starting to enjoy open water swimming more than pool swimming. Last summer I swam in the Waikiki Roughwater swim in Hawaii, finishing second in my age group and 24th overall out of about 1,000 swimmers. In July, I’m swimming in the International Gay and Lesbian Aquatic Championships in Oahu, which includes another open water swim.

Most memorable athletic goal accomplished: Swenson: There have been a few, for different reasons. Qualifying for the 1984 Olympic Trials; being named to a U.S. National Swim Team; setting the SWC swimming record in the mile; breaking a world record in masters swimming; completing my first marathon; and watching James finish his first half-marathon.

Maddox: I have completed two half-marathons. It is a great feeling to cross that finish line after months of continual exercise and pushing yourself.

Upcoming fitness goals: Swenson: Just to remain active and healthy. If my legs hold out, I’d like to finish an Ironman distance triathlon one day.

Maddox: Lose 10 pounds for our July beach vacation.

Least favorite piece of gym equipment: Swenson: A treadmill — running in place is a slow form of torture.

Least favorite exercise: Maddox: Sit-ups!

Workouts preference: mornings or evenings? Maddox: I prefer to run in the evenings. However, as the temperature increases, I will run in the morning before work, when it is cooler. I primarily lift weights on my lunch hour and row in the evenings at the gym.

Favorite spot in North Texas to exercise outdoors: Maddox: White Rock Lake is beautiful. The Katy Trail has beautiful people. However, the Addison Trail, near my home, is nice and convenient, so I utilize it most often.

If you could become an Olympian in any sport, what would it be and why: Maddox: Gymnastics. The talent and skill of good gymnasts is so evident in their performance. The best ones make it look so easy. And, they have incredible physiques.

How do you reward yourself for a great workout: Maddox: Cheesecake and peanut butter!

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition June 17, 2011.

—  Michael Stephens

Gilding the rainbow • Pride Weddings & Celebrations 2011

Invitations can be tricky for gay couples, but they don’t have to be

WRITE it right | Pay attention to details on invitations and make an elegant first impression.

BY HOWARD LEWIS RUSSELL

Face it: The day after the wedding, no guest ever recalls clear details about the event, except (possibly) that the bride managed to meet her goal weight by aisle date and even look halfway virtuous for once, and that the cake afterward at the reception was worth the calorie splurge (despite having been only served the barest micro-sliver of a slice). Nobody remembers what kind of out-of-season floral exotica draped the nuptial knot gazebo, or whether it was sea bass, steak kabobs or free-range organic chicken satays impaled upon plastic pink flamingo skewers. And certainly nobody in a zillion years ever recollects with lucid rapture the cleverly elegant invitation mailed them, or what even happened after they dropped off the gift.

The agony of indecision same-sex couples endure, sighing over their invitations’ border-edging of whimsically esprit “Lilacs in the Sun” versus majestically ceremonial “Winter Palace Mist,” or the slightly “naughty” font type of “Roman Bacchanalia” over the cursively sedate and proper “Mrs. Astor Regrets . . .” goes completely unappreciated by wedding guests the morning after — if it ever didn’t when they first opened an ornately faboo envelope in their snail-mail pile stone sober six weeks earlier.

Such beautiful, laboriously detailed ornamentation engraved upon 70 percent Egyptian pima cotton rag with raised, natural-dye embossing (never tested on animals) should be a cherished keepsake treasured by every guest forever rather than yet-another piece of cardboard detritus blankly thrown into a recycler the next day. And yet a hand-scribbled invite Xeroxed on canary yellow doesn’t capture the gravity of the event … and seems downright tacky.

Therein lies the crux in this new age of austerity: Where to spend the bucks for the biggest bang at one’s betrothal of fabulosity?

Invitations may seem the most natural area in which to trim wedding-cost corners. But since it will be the first swanky entrée for your guests  to see, it sets the tone of whether this ceremony is actually worth RSVPing to.

So why not have things both ways — simultaneously saving needed money (and face) and blowing your guests’ lavender carnation boutonnières off? If you can’t gild the rainbow a bit on your wedding day, then when should you?

All that glisters can be gold, gay and even groovy; plus, at least where wedding expenses are concerned, you won’t have to hock your ring two weeks back from that splendiferous Puerto Vallarta or P’town honeymoon simply to pay for the invitations.

Of course, you can use an online resource like GayWeddings.com, which offers a revelatory “Simply Sensible Line” of any and all essential stationary options, while the “Essentials Package” starts at only $114, for 100 invites, and includes extras like blank outer envelopes, response cards and a pre-printed return envelope.

For those of you lovebirds wishing to hands-on peruse in advance your options at literal bricks-and-mortar businesses specializing specifically in custom-printed gay and lesbian invitations, there are, sad to say, no such stationary stores located in Dallas. Not one.

However, for the personal touch, Write Selection at Royal and Preston is delighted to customize a same-sex wedding ceremony’s invitations.

“There are literally thousands of invitation choices to select from,” says Terry Cummings of Write Selection. “Most usually take only a week to produce; for specialized custom orders, around two weeks.”

Packages come in increments of 25: This consists of the invitation itself, with an outer envelope — formal if you like — and an inner envelope to the addressee, plus a RSVP set which includes a RSVP card with an envelope addressed back to you.” Cummings adds, “Always remember to put stamps on the RSVP envelopes before mailing out your invitations, excepting when guests live out of the country — in which case they are expected to provide the appropriate postage themselves.”

Write Selection, 314 Preston Royal Village. 214-750-0531

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition May 6, 2011.

—  Michael Stephens

Letting it REGISTER • Pride Weddings & Celebrations 2011

Gift registries can be intimidating. Dean Driver makes them easy

FASHION. PLATE. | Dean Driver knows how to make a tabletop pop — and how to make it easy on you to choose your gifts. (Arnold Wayne Jones/Dallas Voice)

BY RICH LOPEZ

Perhaps the one wedding tradition same-sex couples might waffle on is signing up for that beg-a-thon, the gift registry. Forget whether to do so (you should); the real question is, where can you find that particular china pattern you once saw in a magazine?

The answer to that question is probably Dean Driver. With his new company, Consilium Lifestyle Collections, Driver makes what could be a daunting (even intimidating) task for same-sex couples possibly the easiest  job out of all the wedding planning.

“I don’t know if the average gay couple feels comfortable going into stores,” Driver says. “They may, but many retailers just aren’t reaching out to gay couples.”

Teaming up with Consilium Creative Marketing, Driver created what may be the first by-appointment source of its kind in Dallas to provide a wedding gift registry for same-sex couples. While the services are for everyone, Driver believes that this personal touch can bring comfort to any gay newlyweds hesitant about how to sign up for gifts. It also gives them a home field advantage when looking for fine tabletop products and more.

“The way we do business is changing, and this has afforded me the ability to do in-home consultations and also wedding registries,” Driver says. “I come to the client with samples to get an idea of their lifestyle and suggest products and can see what will work with what’s already in the home.”

The affable Driver knows his stuff. After working with tabletop industries for years in large markets like New York, he has access to many luxury brands and even unique home products. The usual china and crystal items are no problem, but items like linens and household accessories are more easily available through him.

Driver’s first piece of advice on getting started with a registry: Don’t be intimidated.

“I demystify all that for you,” he says. “That’s what I’m here for. I’ll make it easier for you. And people shouldn’t think that everything offered in a registry costs so much. We do have some unique options that are moderately priced.”

Consilium has only been around for a few months, but it has burst out of the gate with a selection of up to 50 brands, some exclusive to them. And with Driver’s knowledge and background, he can pretty much get anybody anything they want.

“I’m a sort of an expert in tabletops, and I have my finger on the pulse of the industry,” he says. “I go to Paris, to Milan and see all the new patterns. And if you saw a plate in a magazine and brought it to me,  I could pinpoint what it is. When I say anything, I mean anything — and you may be only person in the country to have it.”

Something his company can guarantee is the death of that most dreaded wedding tradition: The return. Once items are selected for the registry, gift givers don’t have to worry about buying an item that’s already been purchased. Instead, the company does gift cards only, which are beautifully packaged for the giver to present.

“This prevents exchanges or duplicates,” he says. “Plus, clients may change their minds and gift cards give them an opportunity to get something else. And it’s a little more green without all that wrapping paper and shipping to worry about.”

Driver and company seems to have gotten rid of all the excuses couples can make to partake in registering for gifts. Being that a wedding is a life-changing event, Driver mostly wonders why not go all out?

“Couples shouldn’t shy away from getting nice things,” he says. “This is the one time to get the nice stuff, so why not? Anything you want, I can get.”

The only caveat — Driver encourages people to use the nice stuff everyday.

“Yeah, don’t pack it away in a cabinet like our parents did,” he says.

Of course, if there’s one thing gays know how to do it’s merchandise.

For more information, visit ConsiliumLifestyleCollections.com.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition May 6, 2011.

—  Michael Stephens

RI gay marriage advocates not giving up

DAVID KLEPPER | Associated Press

PROVIDENCE, R.I. — Advocates of gay marriage delivered a message to Rhode Island state lawmakers who blocked a same-sex marriage bill this year: We’re putting a political bull’s-eye on your back.

Hundreds of Rhode Islanders rallied at the Statehouse on Tuesday in favor of gay marriage (video above) — despite legislative leaders who say they’ll consider a compromise measure to create civil unions instead. Those at the rally vowed political revenge on those lawmakers who opposed making Rhode Island the sixth state to recognize gay marriage.

“The 2012 election cycle starts now,” Kate Brock, executive director of the group Ocean State Action, told a cheering crowd on the Statehouse steps. “We start recruiting candidates now. We start building our war chests now. Don’t get mad. Get elected.”

Meanwhile, House lawmakers introduced civil union legislation designed to give gay couples the same state rights afforded to married couples. Rep. Peter Petrarca, D-Lincoln, the bill’s sponsor, said he supports gay marriage but that it has no chance of passing this year. He said the rights granted through civil unions are a better than none at all.

“To think we should have a vote (on gay marriage legislation) when we know it’s going to die is just foolish,” he told The Associated Press.

Last week, House Speaker Gordon Fox, D-Providence, announced that he was throwing his support behind civil unions because gay marriage legislation couldn’t pass the Senate. Fox is openly gay and his announcement deeply angered many gay marriage advocates. One carried a sign at Tuesday’s rally reading “Fox Hunting Season is Open.”

“It’s time to disband the House and Senate,” said the protester, Gary D’Amario of Cranston. “It’s time to get rid of all of them.”

Those at the rally included religious groups, students, couples gay and straight and a young woman with a vuvuzela. Miss Rhode Island Deborah Saint-Vil attended, as did several lawmakers.

Marriage Equality Rhode Island, the group that organized the rally, dismisses the civil union bill as a hollow compromise.

Fox said last week that he knows many gay marriage advocates hold him responsible for the bill’s failure. He said he believes the state will one day recognize gay marriages, but that this year the votes weren’t there.

“I live it every day and I understand what they’re going through,” Fox said. “As speaker of the House, I have to worry about passing bills.”

Senate President Teresa Paiva Weed’s opposition was a key obstacle to the legislation. The Newport Democrat says she supports civil union legislation and believes the bill will win broad support in the Senate. Gov. Lincoln Chafee, an independent who has urged lawmakers to pass a gay marriage bill, said he will sign the civil union measure.

But Chris Plante, director of the National Organization for Marriage-Rhode Island, said the bill’s passage is not a foregone conclusion. Plante said civil unions have proven to be a stepping-stone to full gay marriage laws in other states. People opposed to gay marriage, he said, also should oppose civil unions.

“It’s same-sex marriage by another name,” he said. “It is a backdoor way into legalizing gay marriage. I believe that we will be able to peel off significant amounts of votes once (lawmakers) understand that.”

The civil union bill could receive hearings as early as next week.

—  John Wright

What’s Brewing: Vigil honors gay hate crime victim in Austin; Obama for same-sex marriage?

Norma Hurtado

Your weekday morning blend from Instant Tea:

1. More than 100 people attended a vigil in Austin on Thursday night for 24-year-old Norma Hurtado, who was murdered by her girlfriend’s father Monday in an anti-gay hate crime (video above). The vigil was organized by OutYouth, Austin’s LGBT youth organization. Jose Alfonso Aviles, 45, is charged with capital murder in the shooting deaths of Norma Hurtado and her mother, 57-year-old Maria Hurtado. Authorities say Aviles committed the crime because he was upset that Norma Hurtado was in a lesbian relationship with his 18-year-old daughter. Police have identified a second suspect who was with Aviles at the time of the shootings, but he has not been charged and his name is being withheld while authorities try to determine his role. Some LGBT advocates are calling for the case against Aviles to be prosecuted as an anti-gay hate crime, even though Texas law wouldn’t provide enhanced penalties since the offense is already a capital felony. We’d say it would be counterproductive to prosecute the case as a hate crime if it makes it more difficult to convict Aviles, but the Austin Police Department should certainly report the incident as a hate crime to the FBI, which the department apparently has not.

2. A state district judge in Montana has ruled against six gay couples who filed a lawsuit seeking rights similar to marriage. The American Civil Liberties Union, which represented the gay couples, says it will appeal to the Montana Supreme Court.

3. This may be the closest President Barack Obama has come to publicly admitting that he supports marriage equality — at least since he actually said it on a candidate survey in 1996. In the video below from a DNC fundraiser Monday night in San Francisco, Obama says during his speech that, “Our work is not finished.” Then someone in the crowd yells, “Gay marriage.” Obama pauses, then appears to respond by repeating, “Our work is not finished,” as if to indicate that the audience member had just illustrated his point.

—  John Wright

Baptists from Venus (Texas) crash LGBT tax day demonstration outside Dallas Main Post Office

Last-minute tax filers encountered two opposing groups while driving toward the Main Dallas Post Office on Monday: about a dozen queer activists protesting anti-gay tax laws, and an equal number of Kingdom Baptist Church members protesting the queer protesters.

The gay group’s hand-painted posterboards read, “Equal Taxes, Equal Rights,” “Love Knows No Gender,” and “With Liberty and Justice For ALL.”

Kingdom Baptist’s professionally printed signs read, “REPENT ABORTION AND MURDER,” “TURN OR BURN” and  “GAY IS NOT OK.” Over bullhorns the church members yelled ceaselessly about sin and sodomy while the gay folks occasionally shouted back about a loving God and the separation of church and state.

As it currently stands, federal law makes it illegal to lie on tax forms. But the Defense of Marriage Act requires legally married same-sex couples to file as two separate single individuals, which is, well, a lie. A recent campaign called “Refuse to Lie” urged wedded gays to file as married couples. Married gay couples pay higher taxes for filing separately and risk a potential IRS audit if they try to file as a married couple.

According to protest organizer Daniel Cates, “Today in America [marriage] brings with it 1,138 rights on a state and federal level. That’s what we’re after. We’re not asking [for people] to change what they believe religiously or to even to endorse our marriages in their churches. But we are asking for equality under the law.” The gay protesters want to reform the tax law through a DOMA repeal and full LGBT equality nationwide.

—  admin

DOMA under assault but still potent

Controversy over federal marriage ban creates rollercoaster ride for same-sex couples living with real-world consequences

DAVID CRARY  |  Associated Press

NEW YORK — These are frustrating, tantalizing days for many of the same-sex couples who seized the chance to marry in recent years.

The law that prohibits federal recognition of their unions in under assault in the courts. The Obama administration has repudiated it and taken piecemeal steps to weaken its effects.

Yet for now, the Defense of Marriage Act remains very much in force — provoking anger, impatience and confusion among gay couples.

Because of DOMA, some binational couples still worry about deportation of the non-citizen spouse. Survivor benefits aren’t granted after one spouse dies. And couples filing joint tax returns in the states allowing same-sex marriage must still file separately this month with the IRS.

Said Brian Sheerin, who wed his partner six years ago in Massachusetts, “There are times I feel like a third-class citizen.”

When DOMA was passed overwhelmingly by Congress in 1996, and signed by President Bill Clinton, it was a pre-emptive strike. There were no legally married same-sex couples in the United States.

Since 2004, however, thousands of gays and lesbians have married as Massachusetts, Vermont, Connecticut, New Hampshire, Iowa and the District of Columbia legalized same-sex unions. Many others have wed in foreign countries.

“What was once theoretical now has practical effects that people can see, that can’t be explained other than as discrimination,” said Jon Davidson, legal director of the gay-rights group Lambda Legal. “There are people who’ve been married six years who are increasingly getting impatient.”

The controversy around DOMA creates an emotional rollercoaster for same-sex couples.

Last July, for example, many of them rejoiced when a federal judge in Massachusetts ruled that the act was an unconstitutional infringement on equality for same-sex couples.

There was more elation in February, when President Barack Obama ordered his administration to stop defending the law in the still-pending Massachusetts case and several other lawsuits. Yet no one knows when these cases will finally be resolved.

Last month, there was a flurry of excitement among binational gay couples when a U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services spokesman indicated that cases would be “held in abeyance” while broader legal issues were reviewed. Hopes soared that this would mean a halt in deportations of foreigners married to gay Americans, but within two days the federal agency said there would be no policy change.

“It’s gut-wrenching to go through the ups and downs,” said Doug Gentry, whose Venezuelan spouse, Alex Benshimol, faces a deportation hearing in July.

They briefly hoped the case would be put on hold — but now have been notified that an application for permanent residency for Benshimol has been denied.

“I’ve had the rug pulled out from under me so many times,” Gentry said. “You’re so used to getting your hopes up, only to get them dashed, that you almost don’t want to hope.”

The couple, who married last year in Connecticut after six years as partners, run a pet grooming business in Palm Springs, Calif.

“I don’t feel we’re different from any other family,” said Gentry, 53. “I don’t want to be forced to stay with my husband by going into exile, and leaving my home, my business and my country behind.”

DOMA also complicates life for U.S. citizen Edwin Blesch and his South African husband, Tim Smulian, who married in Cape Town in 2007.

Unlike some gay binational couples, in which the foreigner overstays a visa, Smulian has abided by the terms of tourist visas which limit him to six months annually in the U.S. That means that to be together, the two retirees must uproot themselves from their comfortable home on the northeast tip of Long Island and spend half the year abroad.

“It’s a great personal, financial and medical inconvenience,” said Blesch, 70, who has had past health problems, faces surgery this spring and relies on the care that Smulian provides him.

Both men believe DOMA is doomed to be struck down by the courts or repealed by Congress, but Blesch says the endgame could take years.

“It will be a long process,” he said. “I might be sitting in a rocking chair in a nursing home by then — or dead.”

For men and women whose same-sex spouse has died, DOMA can prevent the payment of Social Security or Veterans Administration survivor benefits that would be paid out to heterosexual widows and widowers.

In California, 77-year-old Ron Wallen worries that he might be unable to afford staying in the home near Palm Springs that he and his partner of 58 years, Tom Carrollo, had shared before Carrollo’s death in March.

The two men married in June 2008, during a brief window where same-sex marriage was legal in California. But now DOMA prevents Wallen from receiving Carrollo’s Social Security survivor benefits, and he’s living only on his own $900-a-month Social Security check — about half of what Carrollo had been receiving.

“It would seem to smack the constitution in the face,” Wallen said of DOMA. “It hurts like hell.”

In Cheshire, Conn., retired school teacher Andrew Sorbo is in similar straits. His husband, Colin Atterbury, who died in May 2009, had been a federal employee at a nearby veteran’s hospital, and DOMA prevents Sorbo from receiving his VA pension.

The two men had entered into a civil union in Vermont in 2004, then married in Connecticut in January 2009 as Atterbury became ill with pancreatic cancer.

“80 percent of our household income disappeared when he died,” said Sorbo, 64. “It’s a betrayal of the ideals I used to teach my students … I know there isn’t justice for all.”

Though Connecticut is a relatively liberal state — with same-sex marriage now causing little controversy — Sorbo said many people he encounters are unfamiliar with DOMA.

“They have no idea how gay people are not getting the same rights they are,” he said. “It passes them by.”

He expects DOMA to be overturned eventually in court. “But they’ll never make it retroactive,” he said. “So for me it’s too late.”

Brian Sheerin says DOMA cost him and his husband, Ken Weissenberg, tens of thousands of dollars in extra taxes when they sold a home four years ago in order to move to Bedford, N.Y. A heterosexual married couple would have been able pocket $500,000 of the sale price before capital gains taxes kicked in, he said, but they were listed as “single” and taxed on proceeds over $250,000.

“That still sticks in my craw,” said Sheerin, 51, who married Weissenberg in Massachusetts in 2005.

He recalled returning with their two adopted daughters from a family vacation in Mexico to encounter a U.S. immigration officer who wanted Sheerin and Weissenberg to go through the entry point separately. The officer eventually relented, but the elder daughter took note.

“She asked, `Why did they do that?”’ Sheerin recalled.

DOMA’s future is uncertain. Democrats in Congress have introduced legislation to repeal it, but that effort is considered a long-shot while Republicans control the House. The pending court challenges could lead eventually to a Supreme Court decision on DOMA’s constitutionality — but that process, if it happens at all, could take several years.

DOMA’s foes are heartened by several recent opinion polls showing, for the first time, that more than half of Americans are ready to accept legal same-sex marriage. They hope this shift will reinforce the legal arguments against DOMA — notably that it creates an unwarranted exception to the historical federal policy of recognizing marriages of couples legally wed in the states.

“This exception denies thousands of legally married couples and their families the critical safety net that only marriage brings,” says Evan Wolfson, president of Freedom to Marry. “Perhaps worst of all, this is discrimination by the government itself, hurting families without helping anyone.”

One question is how DOMA will be defended in the pending court cases.

With the Obama administration now refusing to perform that task, the GOP leadership in the House says it will intervene to defend DOMA in court, but details remain sketchy. The Human Rights Campaign, a leading gay-rights group, has written to 200 of the country’s top law firms urging them not to take up the case on behalf of the House.

Joe Kapp, a Washington-based financial planner, said the uncertain status of DOMA has added to the challenges of advising his large gay clientele.

“The changes taking place are exciting, but there’s a lot of flux, and conflicting ways in which the administration is looking at relationships,” he said. “For now, couples probably should continue to assume that they will be recognized as strangers in the eyes of the law.”

Some activists are urging a more confrontational approach. A “Refuse to Lie” petition has been circulating on the Internet — promoted by various gay-rights groups — encouraging married gay couples to file joint federal tax returns in defiance of DOMA.

“The federal government’s refusal to recognize our marriages is blatant discrimination and we will not play along by lying on our tax returns and pretending we are single,” the petition says. “The government has chosen to discriminate and we choose to expose their bigotry by refusing to lie.”

At the bottom of the declaration is a disclaimer suggesting those who join the campaign consult an attorney for legal advice.

At least a half-dozen legal challenges of DOMA are pending, and the advocacy group Immigration Equality is laying the groundwork for an additional lawsuit focused on the plight of binational couples.

Meanwhile, several Democrats in Congress are urging federal immigration authorities to halt deportation cases affecting such couples.

“I recently applauded the president’s decision to order his Justice Department to stop defending DOMA in federal court,” said Rep. Jackie Speier, D-Calif. “In that same spirit, he should now order his Homeland Security Department to halt all deportations until we find the courage to kill this unconstitutional law.”

The administration already has taken some steps to ease DOMA’s impact, such as requiring executive branch agencies to extend benefits to same-sex domestic partners of federal employees.

On April 1, the Department of Health and Human Services advised states that they can henceforth treat gay couples — whether married or in domestic partnerships — similarly to straight couples with respect to benefit programs. For example, Medicaid has exemptions to avoid forcing a healthy spouse to give up the family home and retirement savings in order to qualify a spouse for long-term care; that protection will now be permissible for sex-same as well as heterosexual couples.

The incremental moves have been welcomed by activists, but don’t prevent impatience.

Said Jon Davidson, “Now that even the administration admits DOMA is unconstitutional, that has people wondering why it’s still there.”

—  John Wright

What’s Brewing: Gays still at risk for deportation; Ind. marriage ban advances; Midnite goes viral

Midnite and Bob Williams, the gay co-owner of Ranch Hand Rescue in Argyle.

Your weekday morning blend from Instant Tea:

1. On Tuesday we told you that immigration cases involving bi-national same-sex couples had been put on hold pending the outcome of lawsuits challenging the Defense of Marriage Act. But officials said later that the delay is only temporary and does not provide an opening for same-sex couples, as existing immigration laws will continue to be enforced. “We have to be very cautious,” Lavi S. Soloway, a lawyer for a bi-national same-sex couple, told The New York Times. He said gay couples should continue to understand that “if they file for immigration status, they may be putting themselves at considerable risk of deportation.”

2. After audience members interrupted the debate with chants of “stop hating, stop dividing, stop pandering,” the Indiana Senate on Tuesday approved a constitutional amendment that would ban both same-sex marriage and civil unions. The Indianapolis Star reports that in response to the chants, the Senate decided to close a balcony so the public was unable to watch the proceedings. The constitutional amendment, which already passed the House, still must clear another session of the Legislature in 2013 as well as a popular vote.

3. Bob Williams and Marty Polasko, the gay owners of the Ranch Hand Rescue animal rescue operation in Argyle, Texas, have made international news in recent days with the story of Midnite, a miniature horse born with a leg deformity who was neglected but is now running again thanks to a prosthetic leg. Already featured in the UK’s Daily Mail and USA Today, Midnite now gets a close-up from the Fort Worth Star-Telegram, and below is video from the Associated Press. None of the stories seems to mention that Williams and Polasko are a gay couple, but at least this should help with their fundraising. Congratulations, Bob and Marty — and of course Midnite.

—  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

Defining Homes: Table of Contents

Ask the Experts: Social media and real estate marketing

Frisco a go-go: LGBT homeowners find affordability key in this northern ‘burb

Welcoming Home: Cora Sue Anthony comes back to Dallas as the new host of HGTV’s ‘Real Estate Intervention’

Need an intervention?: Believe it or not, some gay couples do not have that fabulous design gene in them

First Impressions: The Make Ready Group takes care of all those finishing touches before your house goes on the market — and more

Better to have than have not: Having total peace of mind or … how buying a home warranty was the best decision I ever made

There goes the neighborhood: One pocket of an Oak Lawn neighborhood gets a pick-me-up

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—  John Wright