Fox goes uber-gay with ‘Allen Gregory,’ ‘American Dad’

Say what you want about their news channel and their leadership, but Sunday night on the Fox broadcast network was about as gay as TV gets.

It started, of course, with The Simpsons, one of the most gay-friendly shows on TV (though Sunday night’s was only gayish — it dealt with foodies). Also on deck was Family Guy — again, a tres gay series with a queer little baby who wants to take over the world and characters who break out into Broadway production numbers at the drop of a hat. We’re used to that.

But it reached new heights of homophilia with Allen Gregory and American Dad.

Allen Gregory is the new series from Jonah Hill. The premise of the show is already inherently queer: Two gay dads, pictured, rear their pretentious little 7-year-old Allen Gregory. There have been, in the previous few outings, several jokes per episode about gay sex between the pompous dad Richard (voiced by French Stewart) and his butch, derided partner Jeremy. But last night, not only were the dads central characters, the plot was all about a school dance where all the students in the elementary school were expected to ask same-sex partners to the dance. This is edgy stuff for established cable shows, but for “family night” on a freshman series?! Wow. The episode was not only funny (I’m already a huge fan of the series), but also witheringly insightful about perceptions of gay people. And the attempted seduction of Jeremy by Richard (including dropped towel) was hilarious.

That was followed by American Dad — again, well-established with a gay history, from the out couple across the street to the fey alien Roger who lives in the attic. But Roger finally met someone romantic … and it turned out the be Ricky Martin. The episode included Ricky and Roger kissing on a couch (and they were really going at it). You gotta love that!

I hope the ratings for both shows are good, and they are certainly worth a Hulu.com (here for American Dad, here for Allen Gregory) visit. Enjoy!

—  Arnold Wayne Jones

Queer at the movies

Gay-themed art house films dominate the movie landscape in Dallas this week: ‘Gun Hill Road,’ ‘Toast,’ ‘Weekend’

ARNOLD WAYNE JONES  | Life+Style Editor
jones@dallasvoice.com

It somehow seems appropriate that  in the middle of October — Gay History Month — a trio of gay art films arrive simultaneously on movie screens in North Texas…. And there’s not even a film festival in town. From a youthful coming-out comedy-drama to an intense story of a trans kid in the barrio to oversexed gay men in Britain, the slate shows a panorama of gay experiences — all compelling in their way.

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BOYS FITTING IN | A trans Latino teen (Harmony Santana, above left) worries about coming out to her violent dad (Esai Morales) in ‘Gun Hill Road

Gun Hill Road

Enrique (Esai Morales) has just been released from a three-year stretch in prison, planning to reconnect with his wife Angela (Judy Reyes) and teenaged son Michael (Harmony Santana). But much has changed since he was sent up. Angela has been emotionally if not physically unfaithful, taking comfort with a neighbor much more stable and affectionate than Enrique. Michael is terrified that his macho Puerto Rican father will discover that on the side, he identifies as trans; as Vanessa, he even performs in the local drag show.

Gun Hill Road is the kind of movie that, even as you are watching it, you cannot help but think, “How did this film get made?” I mean that in the best sense. With a cast of well known if not exactly bankable stars, it has some mojo behind it. But trans teens in Hispanic culture? This doesn’t exactly scream “box office bonanza.”

Which is part of what makes it so daring. Most coming out movies are distinct for being (a) silly comedies that are (b) about middle-class white folk. A drama set among Latinos, and one dealing not just with cross-dressing but a transgender teen protagonist? Well, such things are rarer than a cogent sentence out of Sarah Palin’s mouth. The scenes where Vanessa recklessly explores transitioning with untested drugs and procedures will make you squirm; it’s like pre-Roe v. Wade abortion movies, where people forced into shame become so desperate they put themselves in danger.

So much of Gun Hill Road is on the fringe, it is slightly disappointing that the story ultimately follows a well-worn path of discovery, recrimination, reconciliation. Last year’s La Mission with Benjamin Bratt trod similar ground, and was equally lacking in humor. La Mission was also more brightly lit and briskly paced.

Still, despite a few shortcomings, Gun Hill Road delivers a lot of what it promises, thanks to sincere performances by the three principals in telling a story with insight and understanding.

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In ‘Toast,’ a British lad (Freddie Highmore, above far right) takes solace from his miserable home life in the kitchen on his way to fame as a chef.

Toast

There’s an unmistakable connection between love, sex and food in the mind of young Nigel Slater (Oscar Kennedy). His mother is not the best cook — indeed, she seems to barely understand the concept at all. She has never purchased fresh produce (“You don’t know where it’s been!” she clucks) and cooks canned goods by dropping the sealed cans in a pot of boiling water. Nothing ever turns out as anything close to edible, though Nigel’s dad (Ken Stott) doesn’t seem to notice. Most meals end with mom slathering some butter on toast and calling the effort a success. (“It’s impossible not to love someone who makes toast for you,” Nigel observes, though I’m not quite sure I see the connection.)

It’s become almost clichéd that great chefs grew up with mothers’ who couldn’t boil water; former Gourmet magazine editor Ruth Reichl documented her own mom’s incompetence in memoirs like Tender at the Bone. So it is no surprise that Nigel would grow up to be one of Britain’s most respected food writers and TV cooking show hosts.

But Toast — the film adaptation of Slater’s memoir of growing up in 1960s England with a distant father, a loving but unadventurous mother and, eventually, a blowsy stepmom who happens to be an expert cook — is more than a whimsical comedy about a kid’s love of food. Indeed, aside from the overriding tone, it’s not much of a comedy at all. There’s death, parent-child abuse, homophobia and assorted feelings of anguish heaped on young Nigel, who even at age 9 is beginning to realize he’s attracted to other boys and feels just as lost in those feelings as he is in his love for duck a l’orange.

Some of the comic tension comes about halfway through in the form of Helena Bonham Carter as Nigel’s lower-class stepmother, a cleaning lady who woos his dad with her unrivaled lemon meringue pie. As the two jockey for the dad’s affection, the kitchen becomes a sort of battleground of wills.

Kennedy plays Nigel in the first half with guileless charm; Freddie Highmore (Finding Neverland, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory) takes over as the teenaged Nigel, showing tenderness as he gets his first kiss from a puppy love crush. It’s portrayed as something as delicate and sweet as a caramel tuile — a fitting metaphor for a film that gorges you on its beauty and fondness for food. That’s something to raise a toast to.

Weekend

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YOU GOT THE HOOK UP | A one-night-stand becomes something more for Russell (Tom Cullen, left) and Glen (Chris New) in the raw English drama ‘Weekend.’

You get a very different view of Britain and the gay experience with Weekend, an edgy, almost shapeless gay romance that crackles with familiarity even as it paints a detailed, specific portrait of average men trying to connect.

Russell (Tom Cullen) is a crack-smoking, working class English bloke hangin’ and drinkin’ with his straight mates before hitting a gay bar for some quick action. He meets Glen (Chris New), an otter whom he assumes will be a one-night stand before heading off to work on Saturday morning.  But Glen wants to turn the hook-up into an art project, asking Russell to record his experience. When Glen’s probing questions make Russell uncomfortable (“Are you completely out? Do you wish my dick was bigger?”), Russell’s bourgeois sensibilities emerge.

Writer-director Andrew Haigh has captured an authenticity of the modern gay experience with an off-handed, sharply observed eye. He shows an extended segment of Russell toying with texting Glen to apologize, feeling pangs of guilt but also curiosity and self-reflection — a process that will strike a note of familiarity with anyone on the dating scene today.

Weekend conjures moments of early Gus Van Sant, like My Own Private Idaho and Drugstore Cowboy: It’s full of textures and naturalistic moments that feel unforced. Haigh is a master of long takes that are voyeuristic without seeming prurient. When Glen and Russell meet up again, their banter is both meaningless and confessional, which creates a palpable tension. Their body language points to hormones racing, but they are determined not to make this relationship only about sex, even though the sexual energy is undeniable. This makes the scenes romantic and erotic, and when they explode with passion, you don’t feel like the director has inserted a de rigueur sex scene, but encapsulated the dynamics of the hookup-turned-real-relationship dance (including the slightly scary obsessiveness of “Is this the one?” angst).

Cullen and New have great chemistry and an easy way with the rambling dialogue, but this is Haigh’s movie. Because it’s fairly raw (there’s lots of casual frontal nudity), it’s not the kind of film likely to be a crossover hit with straight audiences, but neither does it ooze “gay-ghetto movie,” the kind that assumes a small, lemming-like audience who can get titillated and forget about it. Like the Irish romance Once, it rings truth out of every frame.

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• online exclusive

For more reviews of more films opening this weekend, including The Thing, pictured, and Incendiary, visit DallasVoice.com/ category/Screen.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition October 14, 2011.

—  Kevin Thomas

Anti-gay group’s campaign contributions questioned

Equality California accuses opponents of gay history law of hiding campaign donations

LISA LEFF | Associated Press
editor@dallasvoice.com

SAN FRANCISCO — California’s largest gay rights group on Monday, Oct. 3 accused the backers of a ballot measure seeking to repeal a law requiring gay history to be taught in public schools of deliberately hiding the size and source of campaign contributions.

Two conservative groups behind the StopSB-48 campaign “may have engaged in an unlawful scheme” to violate campaign reporting rules, Equality California Executive Director Roland Palencia said in a complaint filed with the state Fair Political Practices Commission.

Palencia’s group accuses Capitol Resource Institute and Pacific Justice Institute, the organizations that have taken the lead on undoing the first-of its kind law, of raising and spending money to qualify the repeal referendum for the June 2012 ballot without registering as campaign committees.

Under California’s strict campaign finance laws, political entities that receive more than $1,000 in contributions are required to register with the secretary of state, said Cary Davidson, an election law lawyer on the Equality California board.

“It is critical that backers of any initiative play by the rules, so it is particularly important when that initiative could have such a critical effect on the lives of Californians,” Palencia told reporters during a conference call.

Capitol Resource Institute Executive Director Karen England said her organization’s work on the repeal effort does not require it to register with the secretary of state. She says a new campaign committee, Stop SB-48, has been formed to report fundraising activity, but it has not received any donations of $5,000 or more that would trigger such a mandatory filing.

England also said that while she has been heavily involved in the campaign, it has been as a volunteer. The official Stop SB-48 campaign is leasing office space and equipment from her organization, but for a fee and not as a donation, she said.

Pacific Justice Institute Brad Dacus similarly ridiculed Equality California’s complaint as “a ridiculous but desperate attempt to try to hinder our efforts to get this on the ballot.”

“Our attorneys have been very, very careful to abide by all the requirements,” Dacus said. “We know election law. We’ve been around for 14 years, and we would never risk throwing that away.”

—  John Wright

Calif. gay history referendum faces uphill battle

LISA LEFF | Associated Press

SAN FRANCISCO — At churches, shopping centers, schools, and local tea party meetings in California, fired-up volunteers have started gathering signatures for a ballot referendum that would repeal the nation’s first law requiring public schools to include prominent gay people and gay rights’ milestones in school lessons.

Organizers of the Stop SB48 campaign — Senate Bill 48 was the law approved by the California Legislature and signed by Gov. Jerry Brown in July — are telling would-be voters the new mandate would inappropriately expose young children to sex, infringe on parental rights and silence religion-based criticisms of homosexuality. Those are talking points successfully used by proponents of Proposition 8, the 2008 ballot measure that banned same-sex marriage in California.

But so far, Mormon and Catholic church leaders and conservative groups who spearheaded the Proposition 8 campaign have not joined the effort to qualify the gay history referendum for the June 2012 ballot, leaving less-experienced Christian conservatives to lead the charge without the organizational prowess and funding to hire paid signature gatherers.

Political operatives say they can’t recall any citizens’ initiative that made the state ballot without professional petition circulators in almost three decades.

“If someone wrote a million-dollar check, we would be guaranteed to get this on the ballot,” said Pacific Justice Institute President Brad Dacus, whose legal aid firm wrote the proposed measure and is co-sponsoring the signature-gathering effort. “That’s not the case at this point… We are counting on people in churches and communities and families making the extra effort to get it done.”

Supporters have until Oct. 12 to collect 504,760 signatures from registered voters to qualify the measure for the ballot. Conventional wisdom among political consultants is that it will be difficult to meet the requirement with such a short window and only volunteers.

Sacramento political consultant Wayne Johnson, whose firm has worked on more than a dozen ballot initiative campaigns, said that with the same-sex marriage ban tied up in the courts, a presidential election on the horizon and many Christian parents with children in private schools, conservative groups with the most cash and experience may sit out this fight.

“We are in a different environment and a different economy,” Johnson said. “How much of your resources and energy can be devoted to preserving the status quo?”

Still, no one is ready to write off the repeal attempt, especially if a donor steps up in the next few weeks to fund professional petitioners. If ever there was a measure that could galvanize the electorate, it’s one dealing with gay rights and school children.

“On an issue like this one, sometimes an abundance of passion, on both sides, can make up for a lack of money,” said Dan Schnur, director of the Jesse M. Unruh Institute of Politics at the University of Southern California and a former GOP campaign spokesman. “A well-organized and very emotionally committed grassroots base may be able to get this on the ballot even without significant funding.”

The new law takes effect Jan.1 but state education officials say it is unlikely to be fully implemented until at least the 2015-16 school year. It adds lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender people, as well as European Americans and people with disabilities to the lengthy list of social and ethnic groups whose “roles and contributions” California public schools must include in California and U.S. history lessons and teaching materials such as textbooks.

The law also prohibits any instructional materials that “reflect adversely” on gays or particular religions. Because of the state’s budget straits, the California Department of Education’s timeline for adopting new textbooks has been pushed back until 2015. The work of revising the history and social studies curriculum framework that determines what students learn and at what grades has been suspended until further notice.

Fears that kindergartners will be hearing about prominent gays in history are misplaced, said Sherry Skelly Griffith, governmental relations specialist for the Association of California School Administrators.

Currently, California students do not receive any significant social studies until they study state history in fourth grade. They begin learning about U.S. history in eighth grade, but do not study 20th Century social movements, the most logical place for gay history to receive a serious treatment, until they are juniors in high school.

Educators who devise the curriculum are unlikely to include the sexual orientation of historical figures unless it is relevant, Griffith said.

“Frankly, there isn’t time to get into people’s personal lives…” she said. “Your textbook needs to address broad-brush themes.”

The group organizing the petition drive is the Capitol Resource Institute, a nonprofit organization that has fought gay rights bills, including measures that recognized slain gay rights leader Harvey Milk’s birthday. Three years ago, the institute unsuccessfully attempted to qualify a referendum that would have overturned a law prohibiting discrimination in schools based on sexual orientation.

Founded in 1987 as an anti-abortion lobbying group by two wealthy Christian businessmen from Orange County, former California Senate Republican leader Rob Hurtt and banking heir Howard Ahmanson Jr., the group has also championed a bill that would have made it more difficult to obtain a divorce in California and opposed others that would have made spanking a crime and stiffened penalties for hate crimes

Its annual income in 2009, the last year for which information was available, was a little over $282,000.

Karen England, the institute’s executive director, said that along with the Pacific Justice Institute, several other staunchly conservative groups with long histories of activism have endorsed the repeal and are rallying their members. England said she is convinced that the group will succeed. “We are going to do what it takes to ensure victory to get the referendum on the ballot,” she said.

Equality California, the state’s largest gay rights group, has launched a web site to counteract the information being put out by the campaign.

Executive Director Roland Palencia said his group assumes the measure will be on the ballot, given the organizational muscle that evangelical churches demonstrated during the Proposition 8 campaign. Gay rights activists will try to portray the backers of the repeal as extremists who are out of step with most Californians.

“If it qualifies … we will put up a fight.” he said.

—  John Wright

What’s Brewing: Texas judge delays deportation hearing for gay, married Costa Rican immigrant

David Gonzalez and Mario Ramirez, via Stop The Deportations: The DOMA Project

Your weekday morning blend from Instant Tea:

1. A Houston judge on Thursday delayed a deportation hearing for a gay Costa Rican immigrant who’s fighting to stay in Texas with his husband. The judge delayed the proceeding for 35-year-old David Gonzalez until Aug. 31 based on a technicality, but also urged the two parties — Gonzalez’s attorney and U.S. immigration officials — to resolve the matter before then. Gonzalez married his husband, U.S. citizen Mario Ramirez, in California in 2008, but is unable to obtain a green card because of the Defense of Marriage Act. According to The Houston Chronicle, “The delay announced by the immigration judge Thursday means the couple will be able to celebrate the sixth anniversary of the day they met, Aug. 21, together without worrying that immigration agents will come knocking on their door.” Read more about the couple at Stop the Deportations: The DOMA Project.

2. The Obama administration has asked a federal appeals court to suspend its order from last week halting enforcement of “don’t ask, don’t tell.” In a brief filed Thursday, the U.S. Department of Justice asks the court to suspend the order by today, saying it wants to follow the timetable laid out in the DADT repeal act passed by Congress last year.

3. California Gov. Jerry Brown signed a bill Thursday making the state the first in the country to require schools to teach students about the contributions of LGBT people. The bill also prohibits instruction that reflects adversely on people because of their sexual orientation.

—  John Wright

REVIEW: Q Cinema selection ‘We Were Here’

Getting its Southwest premiere at this year’s Q Cinema film fest, We Were Here documents the recent history gay San Francisco and the impact of “the gay plague” HIV/AIDS had on the community. David Weissman compiled a group of men and women recounting their stories of SF in the ’70s. It’s hard to believe this is the first documentary that takes such a look at this chapter of both the city and the LGBT community.

In a way, the film could be a sequel to his 2001 doc The Cockettes, which focused on the hippie gay culture burgeoning in 1960s San Fran. Now we’re seeing how the ’70s played out and the tragic fate that awaits. Without a lot of fanfare, Weissman points the camera at five old-school SF denizens and lets them tell their stories in timeline fashion. The interviews are spliced in with archival footage and photos of the survivors and their friends along with fascinating, rich images of gay history, as well as some of the darker moments. Public figures at the time railing against the community and AIDS still rile up anger.

Weissman handles each component of the interviews and the footage with the gentleness of laying out the fine china for the perfect place setting. The stories are tragic enough that Weissman lets them unfurl rather than piecing together an unnecessary, sensationalistic dramatic arc. If anything, though, the film actually echoes another documentary. Almost the same timeline structure can be seen in the compelling KERA documentary Finding Our Voice: The Dallas Gay & Lesbian Community.

Regardless, these are stories that need to be told and passed on. We Were Here may be a hard watch for those who were around at that time. It will likely bring up tough memories, but that’s not the overall message here. The strength and humor that lie within each of these survivors is also a testament to the resilience of the gay community, which is tested even to this day. Weissman didn’t create just a documentary in Here, he instead fashioned an heirloom that belongs in the entirety of LGBT history.

90 min. 3.5 stars.

Rose Marine Theater, 1140 N. Main St. June 5 at noon. $10. QCinema.org.

—  Rich Lopez

Fierce again

Cult gay performance artists PAH returns for one-night-only show

MARK LOWRY  | mark.lowry@att.net

POMO BETTER BOYS | Brian Freeman, center, teams with Thandiwe Thomas DeShazor and Dazie Rustin Grego for the new version of Pomo Afro Homos. (Photo courtesy Duane Cramer)

The Majestic Theatre,
1925 Elm St. Dec. 10–11
(Pomo Afro Homos Dec. 10 only). 7 p.m. $12.50.
ATTPAC.org.

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Any number of performance groups have followings while they’re still presenting work, but only a few leave legacies well beyond their demise. San Francisco’s Pomo Afro Homos — shorthand for Post-Modern African-American Homosexuals, in case you needed to know — lasted just five years in the first half of the 1990s, but they’ve been cited as influences on other performers and have at least one work that is studied on a collegiate level as an important text in black gay history.

Now all of that is coming back — albeit briefly — as one of the group’s founders tours a new show based on the original text, then called Fierce Love: Stories From Black Gay Life. (Notice the use of “fierce” long before Tyra or Christian Siriano claimed it). The new work, Fierce Love: A Remix, features a new trio of performers, plus a cameo from original PAH member Brian Freeman, who also directs the show.

“We were stepping into a void at the time,” says Freeman, a director, playwright and teacher in California. “There wasn’t much work that existed at that point [about the black gay experience]. There was a handful of novels, a few films.”

The remixed version is a highlight this weekend at the National Performance Network’s 25th anniversary showcase at the Majestic Theatre, featuring five recreations of seminal works from NPN’s history. (Others include a dance piece inspired by Tennessee Williams’ play The Glass Menagerie, and a performance from California solo artist Marc Bamuthi Joseph.) The Pomo Afro Homos show is Friday.

Freeman, with cofounders Bernard Branner and Eric Gupton (who died in 2003), performed monologues and comedy based on their experience as black gay men. The club where they started, in San Fran,

Josie’s Cabaret and Juice Joint, showcased the early talents of Margaret Cho, Lea DeLaria, Tim Miller and many others.

The trio, which eventually added Marvin K. White as a fourth performer, used experiences from their lives and others they know for the material, inspired by such writers and artists as James Baldwin, Alice Walker, Audre Lorde and Bill T. Jones. They toured Fierce Love around the country with mixed result; the mayor in Anchorage, Alaska tried to block a sign for the group on city buses, while in major spaces, including New York’s Public Theatre and Lincoln Center, they were readily welcomed. They performed the show in London three times.

“It was about life as it intersects with that community: Part of the African-American community, part of the gay community, part of the HIV community, and how those things don’t always play well together,” Freeman says.

He’s quick to add that it reaches beyond the boundaries of gays and African-Americans. “The show is rooted in this community, but also in lots of communities: Gay and straight, white, black, Asian, Latino,” he says.

Fierce Love: A Remix and the other shows in the NPN event are geared to support an organization that continues to support touring artists of multiple disciplines, whose work falls outside of the mainstream.

“We had a network to help us tour the shows and connect with other performers in different cities,” Freeman says. “A lot of the work that travels around the network is adventurous, community-specific, it’s not mass-market kind of work. Some shows have made the leap from the NPN to commercial runs.”

And some, such as the work of Pomo Afro Homos, has made the leap into history.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition December 10, 2010.

—  Kevin Thomas

Gay Oklahoma teen commits suicide following ‘toxic’ city debate over GLBT history month

Zach Harrington

A 19-year-old gay man from Oklahoma has taken his own life, and his parents say a hate-filled recent City Council meeting he attended may have driven him over the edge.

Zach Harrington was a talented musician who’d endured years of struggles due to his sexual orientation in high school in conservative Norman, Okla.

On Sept. 28, Harrington attended a three-hour public hearing on a proposal to declare October gay history month in the city. Although the council ultimately approved the proposal, Harrington’s parents described the meeting as potentially “toxic” for their son, a private person who internalized his feelings.

From The Norman Transcript:

Nikki Harrington, Zach’s older sister, said her brother likely took all of the negative things said about members of the GLBT community straight to heart.

“When he was sitting there, I’m sure he was internalizing everything and analyzing everything … that’s the kind of person he was,” she said. “I’m sure he took it personally. Everything that was said.”

Harrington’s father, Van, said he wasn’t sure why his son went to the meeting, especially after his experiences in Norman once he revealed that he was gay as a teenager. He said he feels his son may have glimpsed a hard reality at the Sept. 28 council meeting, a place where the same sentiments that quietly tormented him in high school were being shouted out and applauded by adults the same age as his own parents.

“I don’t think it was a place where he would hear something to make him feel more accepted by the community,” he said. “For somebody like Zach, it (the meeting) was probably very hard to sit through.”

Zach Harrington committed suicide at his family’s home in Norman seven days after the meeting, yet another apparent victim of anti-gay hate. His parents say they hope the story of his death will make people think twice before they say certain things about their friends and neighbors in public. We’re hoping it will also prompt them to reflect upon the hatred in their hearts.

—  John Wright

Is it OK to eat at Cracker Barrel?

Cracker Barrel, which has long ranked right up there with ExxonMobil Corp. on the list of well-known businesses that are considered anti-gay, improved its score on this year’s Corporate Equality Index by 40 points, from a 15 to a 55. Tennessee-based Cracker Barrel is cited in the 2011 CEI report, released Monday by the Human Rights Campaign, as one of 12 companies that increased their score by more than 30 points:

“Cracker Barrel Old Country Store Inc., once in the news for delivering pink slips justified by ‘The employee is gay,’ has implemented a non-discrimination policy and diversity training that includes sexual orientation and has even gone as far as to provide a cash grant to the Tennessee Equality Project,” according to HRC.

If you’ll remember, Cracker Barrel’s anti-gay history goes back at least as far as 1991, when the company instituted a policy requiring employees to display “normal heterosexual values which have been the foundation of families in our society.” From Wikipedia:

The company refused to change their policy in the face of protest demonstrations by gay rights groups. After ten years of proposals by the New York City Employees Retirement System, a major shareholder, the company’s shareholders voted 58 percent in 2002 in favor of rescinding the policy. The board of directors added sexual orientation to the company’s nondiscrimination policy.[3]

The Tennessee Equality Project, the recipient of Cracker Barrel’s donation, is applauding the company’s improved score on its website, going so far as to print “Equality — Now Being Served” under a Cracker Barrel logo.

Well, not quite.

Unlike 76 percent of companies rated in the CEI, Cracker Barrel still doesn’t prohibit discrimination based on gender identity; unlike 79 percent of companies in the CEI, Cracker Barrel still doesn’t have written gender transition guidelines and/or cover gender identity as a topic in diversity training; and unlike a whopping 95 percent of companies in the CEI, Cracker Barrel still doesn’t offer domestic partner health coverage.

In short, as tasty as it may sound, we’re not quite ready to order up an Apple Steusel French Toast Breakfast at one of Cracker Barrel’s eight locations within 50 miles of Dallas Voice’s zip code.

—  John Wright