LGBT issues take center stage in N.H. debates

Newt Gingrich, left, and Ron Paul

GOP presidential hopefuls spend whopping 13 minutes discussing gay rights during 2 weekend forums

LISA KEEN | Keen News Service

There were two debates for the major Republican presidential candidates over the weekend weekend, and a question about same-sex marriage seemed inevitable. The events were taking place in New Hampshire — one of only six states with marriage equality. The most anti-gay candidate among the major GOP hopefuls — Rick Santorum — had just made significant gains in Iowa and some subsequent polls, making him seem a more viable contender for the nomination than ever before. And the gay-related questions came fast and hard.

On Saturday night, national ABC reporter Diane Sawyer pressed the candidates for a heartfelt, “personal” response to a question from a gay viewer in Virginia who wanted to know “what do you want gay people to do who want to form loving, committed, long-term relationships?” On Sunday morning, Boston NBC reporter Andy Hiller challenged them to Santorum and frontrunner Mitt Romney to say how they had ever “stood up for gay rights.”

Their answers broke little news but demonstrated the candidates’ awareness that they will have to adopt a kinder, gentler tone toward gays in order to win more votes in Tuesday’s New Hampshire primary and, eventually, in the general election. But long-shot candidate Newt Gingrich, the former speaker of the U.S. House, bared his teeth against the time spent discussing the rights of gays, claiming it showed a bias by the media for gays and against religious institutions.

Sawyer read a question submitted to Saturday’s debate via yahoo.com by a 30-year-old man named Phil in Virginia. The man’s question was this: “Given that you oppose gay marriage, what do you want gay people to do who want to form loving, committed, long-term relationships? What is your solution?”

“What would you say personally sitting in your living rooms to people who ask questions like this?” asked Sawyer. She directed the question first to Gingrich.

“I think what I would say is that we want to make it possible to have those things that are most intimately human between friends occur. For example, you’re in a hospital, if there are visitation hours, should you be allowed to stay? There ought to be ways to designate that. You want to have somebody in your will? There ought to be ways to designate that.

“But it is a huge jump,” said Gingrich, “from being understanding and considerate and concerned — which we should be — to saying we’re therefore going to institute the sacrament of marriage as though it has no basis. The sacrament of marriage was based on a man and a woman, has been for 3,000 years, is at the core of our civilization, and is something worth protecting and upholding. And I think that protecting and upholding that doesn’t mean you have to go out and make life miserable for others, but it does mean you have to make a distinction between a historic sacrament of enormous importance in our civilization and simply deciding it applies everywhere and it’s just a civil right. It’s not. It is a part of how we define ourselves and I think that a marriage between a man and a woman is part of that definition.”

Sawyer prodded former Utah Gov. Jon Huntsman to talk about his support for civil unions.

“Well, personally, I think civil unions are fair. I support them. I think there’s such a thing as equality under the law,” said Huntsman. “I’m a married man. I’ve been married for 28 years. I have seven kids … and I don’t feel my relationship is at all threatened by civil unions.

“On marriage, I’m a traditionalist,” added Huntsman. “I think that ought to be saved for one man and one woman. But I believe that civil unions are fair, and I think it brings a level of dignity to relationships. And I believe in reciprocal beneficiary rights. I think they should be part of civil union rights as well.”

Local ABC reporter Josh McElveen then directed the discussion to Santorum, noting that 1,800 same-sex couples have obtained marriage licenses in New Hampshire under that state’s two-year-old law, “and they’re trying to start families, some of them.”

“Are you going to tell someone that they belong as a ward of the state or in foster care rather than have two parents who want them?” he asked.

“Well, this isn’t a federal issue, it’s a state issue,” said Santorum. “The states can make that determination, and New Hampshire — my feeling is that this is an issue that — I believe that the issue of marriage itself is a federal issue, that we can’t have different laws with respect to marriage, we have to have one law. Marriage is, as Newt said, a foundational institution of our country and we have to have a singular law with respect to that. We can’t have somebody married in one state and not married in another. …

“If we don’t have a federal law [banning marriage], I’m certainly not going to have a federal law that bans adoption for gay couples when there are only gay couples in certain states. So, this is a state issue, not a federal issue.”

McElveen followed up. What would happen to the marriages of the 1,800 New Hampshire gay couples if a federal ban on same-sex marriage is instituted?

Santorum responded as he has when asked the question in other forums.

“If the constitution says marriage is between a man and a woman,” said Santorum, “then marriage is between a man and a woman. And, therefore, that’s what marriage is and would be in this country and those who are not men and women who are married would not be married. That’s what the constitution would say.”

Sawyer jumped back in, asking Mitt Romney to explain what he would say in his living room to a gay couple “who would say, ‘We simply want the right to,’ as the person who wrote the e-mail said, ‘we want gay people to form loving, committed, long-term relationships.’ In human terms, what would you say to them?”

“The answer is, ‘That’s a wonderful thing to do,’ and that ‘There’s every right for people in this country to form long-term committed relationships with one another,’” Romney responded. “That doesn’t mean that they have to call it marriage or that they have to receive the approval of the state and a marriage license and so forth for that to occur. There can be domestic partnership benefits or contractual relationships between two people, which would include, as Speaker Gingrich indicated, hospital visitation rights and the like. We can decide what kinds of benefits we might associate with people who form those kinds of relationships, state by state. But to say that marriage is other than the relationship between a man and a woman, I think is a mistake. And the reason for that is not that we want to discriminate against people or to suggest that gay couples are not just as loving and can’t also raise children. But it’s instead a recognition that society as whole — the nation — will presumably be better off if children are raised in a setting where there’s a male and female. And there are many cases where that’s not possible — divorce, death, single parents, gay parents and so forth. But, for society to say we want to encourage, through the benefits that we associate with marriage, people to form partnerships between men and women and then raise children, which we think that will be the ideal setting for them to be raised.”

The discussion had gone on for about six minutes, when Gingrich apparently signaled that he wanted to speak, and Sawyer gave him the floor.

“I just want to say, since we spent this much time on these issues — I just want to raise a point about the news media bias. You don’t hear the opposite question asked,” said Gingrich. “Should the Catholic Church be forced to close its adoption services in Massachusetts because it won’t accept gay couples –which is exactly what the state has done.”

“Should the Catholic Church be driven out of providing charitable services in the District of Columbia because it won’t give in to secular bigotry? Should the Catholic Church find itself discriminated against by the Obama administration on key delivery of services because of the bias and the bigotry of the administration?

“The bigotry question goes both ways,” said Gingrich, “and there is a lot more anti-Christian bigotry today than there is concern on the other side, and none of it gets covered by the news media.”

The audience, which had been silent throughout the gay-related discussion, suddenly burst into applause, and Romney gained the floor.

“As you can tell, the people in this room feel that Speaker Gingrich is absolutely right,” said Romney, “and I do, too. And I was in a state where the Supreme Court stepped in and said marriage is a relationship required under the Constitution for people of the same sex to be able to marry. And John Adams, who wrote the Constitution, would be surprised. And it did exactly as Speaker Gingrich indicated. What happened was Catholic Charities, that placed almost half all the adopted children in our state, was forced to step out of being able to provide adoptive services. And the state tried to find other places to help children –We have to recognize that this decision about what we call marriage has consequence which goes far beyond a loving couple wanting to form a long-term relationship that they can do within the law now. Calling it marriage creates a whole host of problems for families, for the law, for the practice of religion, for education. Let me say this, 3,000 years of human history shouldn’t be discarded so quickly.”

Actually, though none of the reporters on the panel mentioned this — perhaps because they did not know — the state of Massachusetts did not “force” the Catholic Church to close its adoption services. The state required that Catholic Charities, a separate, non-profit organization, to obey state laws if it wished to receive state funding for its provision of adoption services. The group said it could not obey the state’s human rights law, which prohibits discrimination based on sexual orientation. And, thus, Catholic Charities chose to stop receiving state funds, rather than provide adoption services to gay couples, the same as straight couples.

Texas Gov. Rick Perry also responded to the question, reiterating his support for a federal marriage amendment and criticizing President Obama for not defending the Defense of Marriage Act in court.

“That is a war against religion, and it’s going to stop under a Perry administration,” Perry said.

Less than 12 hours later, the six candidates were back on stage in New Hampshire, this time with a special edition of NBC’s Meet the Press.

NBC Boston reporter Andy Hiller tried to tackle Romney on his 1994 statement during the Senate campaign. He read Romney’s quote to Bay Windows, a Boston gay newspaper, in which he said, “I think the gay community needs more support from the Republican party, and I would be a voice in the Republican party to foster anti-discrimination efforts.”

“How have you stood up for gay rights,” asked Hiller, “and when have you used your voice to influence Republicans on this issue?”

Romney responded that he had appointed a gay person to his cabinet, appointed people to the bench, “regardless of their sexual orientation,” and “made it very clear that we should not discriminate in hiring policies, in legal policies.”

“At the same time, from the very beginning, in 1994,” said Romney, “I said to the gay community, ‘I do not favor same-sex marriage. I oppose same-sex marriage,’ and that has been my view. But, if people are looking for someone who will discriminate against gays or will in any way suggest that people who have different sexual orientation don’t have full rights in this country, they won’t find that in me.”

Hiller turned his question to Santorum.

“Senator Santorum, would you be a voice for gay rights in the party?”

“I would be a voice in speaking out for making sure that every person in America, gay or straight, is treated with respect and dignity and has equality of opportunity,” said Santorum. “That does not mean that I would agree with certain things that the gay community would like to do to change laws with respect to marriage, with respect to adoption, and things like that. So, you can be respectful — this is the beautiful thing about this country. James Madison called the First Amendment … the perfect remedy — and that is that people of all different backgrounds — diversity, opinions, faith — can come into the public square and can be heard, and can be heard in a way that’s respectful of everybody else. But just because you don’t agree with someone’s desire to change the law doesn’t mean you don’t like them, or hate them, or that you want to discriminate against them, but you’re trying to promote things that you think are best for society. And I do so, and I if you watched the town hall meetings that I’ve been doing all over New Hampshire, I do so in a respectful tone, I listen to the other side, I let them make their arguments, and then we do so in a very respectful way. And you know what, we may not agree. That’s why we leave it open to the public to be able to elect members of Congress and the Senate and the President who support their ideas.”

“What if you had a son who came to you and said he was gay?” asked Hiller.

Without hesitation, Santorum, who has four sons, the oldest of whom is 18, said, “I would love him as much as the second before he said it. And I would try to do everything I can to be as good a father to him as possible.”

The audience applauded.

Later in Sunday’s debate, second-place challenger Ron Paul, in a discussion of entitlements, interjected that he doesn’t like to use the term “gay rights,” as had been used by Romney and Santorum.

“I don’t like to use those terms –gay rights, women’s rights, minority rights, religious rights,” said Paul. “There’s only one type of right. It’s your right to your liberty. And I think it causes divisiveness when we see people in groups. Because for too long, we punish groups, so the answer then was, ‘Well, let’s relieve them by giving them affirmative action.’ So, I think both are wrong, if you think in terms of individuals and protect every single individual.”

Jon Huntsman, too, chastised candidates for playing “the blame game” in referring to gays and unions.

“Everybody’s got something nasty to say,” said Huntsman. “You know what the people of this country are waiting for … they want a leader who is going to unify, who’s going to bring us together. Because, at the end of the day, that’s what leadership is all about. It’s not about taking on different groups and vilifying them for whatever reason. It’s about projecting a vision for a more hopeful tomorrow.”

In all, there were about 13 minutes of discussion of gay-related issues in the 210 minutes of weekend televised debate.

“Gov. Romney and Sen. Santorum today provided thoughtful and constructive answers to the questions they were asked about gay Americans,” Human Rights Campaign President Joe Solmonese said later. “If only they had been that thoughtful when they crafted their various policy positions.”

© 2012 by Keen News Service. All rights reserved.

—  John Wright

Candidate attacks gays at gay political forum

Virginia Senate candidate Tim McGhee

LGBT political groups have, through the years, gotten used to having candidates for public office come a’courtin’ for their votes.

Usually those candidates’ basic message is, “I support you and I will vote with you on your issues, so please vote for me.” Sometimes, though, the candidates’ message is something like, “Well, I won’t vote with you on the gay issues, but I still want you to vote for me.”

But Tim McGhee‘s appearance at Arlington Gay and Lesbian Alliance‘s candidate forum in Virginia may have been a first.

As GayPolitics.com reports, instead of explaining his stance on the issues and asking for an endorsement or even individual votes, McGhee, a Republican running for the Virginia Senate, on Tuesday, Oct. 18, instead delivered a sermon to his LGBT audience, claiming God made some people gay, even though God hates gays, just so God could prove what a big deal He is:

“For some of you here this evening, your frustrations go way beyond a state senate candidate. Some of you are beyond frustrated with God right now. Some of you refuse to believe in him altogether. You’ve asked the question or perhaps given up asking a long time ago, ‘Why? Why would God make me who I am and then tell me that’s wrong?’ May I put a question before you tonight? What if that’s exactly what God did? What if that’s exactly what God had to do to fully demonstrate who he is?”

Needless to say, the Arlington Gay and Lesbian Alliance folks were somewhat taken aback. In fact, GayPolitics.com notes, if you listen to the audio of McGhee’s speech, you can hear alliance members “gasping in disbelief.” Check it out for yourself by listening to the audio of McGhee’s speech here at NotLarrySabato.com.

Just on a side note, when I went to McGhee’s campaign website, I discovered that the candidate as a counter embedded on the page that not only tells you how old McGhee will be on Election Day 2011 (“12,674 days old, Lord willing”), but also lets you find out how old YOU will be next month on Election Day. I couldn’t resist trying it out, and this is what I discovered:

• On Election Day, Nov. 8, 2011, I will be 18,649 days old.

• Election Day also marks 85,958 days since the Declaration of Independence was signed on July 4, 1776, and

• 143,265 days since Virginia’s legislative body — “the oldest in the world” — began meeting on July 30, 1619.

Now, aren’t you glad you know that? And don’t you want to go to McGhee’s website and find out how many days old you are?

Oh, and if his website doesn’t tell you enough about him, check out this story on ARLNow.com to find out more about McGhee.

—  admin

LGBT history and the evolution of the media

For years, mainstream press ignored the LGBT community. Thankfully, LGBT media filled the gaps

David-Webb

David Webb The Rare Reporter

Editor’s note: October is National Gay History Month, and as the month begins, Rare Reporter columnist David Webb takes a look at the role the media — both mainstream and LGBT — has played in preserving our history.

If an LGBT person went into a coma a decade or so ago and came out of it today, they likely wouldn’t be able to believe their eyes when they recovered enough to survey the media landscape.

There was a time not so long ago when gay activists literally had to plead with or rant at editors and reporters at mainstream publications and television stations to get them to cover LGBT events. Even editorial staffs at alternative publications often dismissed political and cultural events in the LGBT community as unimportant to the majority of their audience.

Editors and reporters at traditional media outlets who happened to be members of the LGBT community often steared clear of gay issues to fall in line with the prevailing policies set by the publishers in the newsroom . Often, they were deep in the closet, or if not, just afraid to challenge the status quo.

I know all this to be true because as late as the early 1990s, I was engaged in legendary battles with my straight editor at an alternative publication who only wanted two or three “gay stories” per year. After the first quarter of one year I heard the editor telling another writer that I had already used up the newspaper’s quota for gay stories for the whole year.

This long-standing scarcity of coverage opened the door for the launch of gay newspapers to fill the void and the thirst for information that was coming not only from LGBT people but also straight allies, straight enemies and the non-committed in the gay rights movement.

After about two decades of working for the mainstream media and later at the alternative publication for a few years, I moved to a gay newspaper. Upon hearing about it, my former editor advised me that the job sounded “perfect” for me.

At the gay newspaper, I not only covered LGBT issues, but I also liked to scrutinize and comment on the coverage or lack thereof I observed in mainstream publications. It was, at the time, a dream job for me. I was flabbergasted to learn that no one at the newspaper had obtained a media pass from local law enforcement officials nor received official recognition at local law enforcement public relations departments.

What gay activists and enterprising journalists had come to realize was that straight people were just as interested in what our community was doing as we were. I also realized that elected and appointed public officials, civic and religious leaders, law enforcement officials and most others love media coverage, and the fact that it was a gay publication featuring them didn’t much matter at all.

As a result, gay publications across the country were providing coverage that gay and straight readers couldn’t find anywhere else. And those newspapers were flying out of the racks at the libraries, municipal buildings and on the street in front of the big city newspapers as fast as they disappeared from gay and lesbian nightclubs.

What it amounted to was that gay publications were enjoying a lucrative monopoly on LGBT news and, in the process, helping LGBT communities to grow strong in major urban areas.

It’s amazing how long it took the powers that be at the giant media companies to figure out what was going on, but they eventually did.

I would love to say that a social awakening was responsible for the new enlightened approach to LGBT issues by the mainstream media, but alas, I fear it was more motivated by dollars and cents. Publishers began to realize that those small gay publications were raking in lots of advertising revenue from car dealers, retail stores, real estate agencies and many other businesses where the owners knew LGBT people spent money.

Today, you can hardly turn on the television or pick up a newspaper or magazine without hearing or reading about something related to LGBT news or gay and lesbian celebrities and politicians. When I fired up my laptop today, I received an e-mail from the Huffington Post directing me to a story written by Arianna Huffington announcing new features that included the debut of “HuffPost: Gay Voices,” a page that will compile LGBT news stories together each day for the convenience of the readers.

With the power of the Internet and its capacity for documenting and archiving news stories, information about the LGBT community for both the present and the past will always be at our fingertips, except for those three decades between about 1970 and 2000 when the mainstream media couldn’t be bothered with us because they had no idea what a force we would one day become.

For information about that period of time we are going to have to scour the coverage of gay newspapers and magazines published before the days of the Internet, read fiction and non-fiction published by LGBT writers and encourage older members of our community to share their recollections in written and oral form.

It’s vitally important to the history of our culture that we not lose those stories, and it’s largely thanks to our communities’ own publications that we won’t.

David Webb is a veteran journalist who has covered LGBT issues for the mainstream and alternative media for three decades. E-mail him at davidwaynewebb@yahoo.com.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition October 7, 2011.

—  Kevin Thomas

Rawlins Gilliland debuts new KERA radio column

When he’s not auctioning at Art Con, Gililand speaks his mind on new KERA segment. (from Facebook)

We may not enjoy those lengthy membership drives KERA has like every other week (OK, every other month?), but thankfully Rawlins Gilliland brings a certain Southern panache to the drive. With sassy wit and comic timing, Gilliland also makes them bearable. We caught up with him last October when he and artist Cathey Miller repped the LGBT contingent at the Pecha Kucha event.

Today, he returned to KERA, not for a drive, but for the first of his on-air columns. And for his debut, “A Verbal Mongoose Guide To Bullies And Bores,” he talks about coping with bullying as he grew up.

He posted this Monday on Facebook announcing the new show:

I return to the KERA Commentary airwaves Tuesday Sept. 20th, both on Morning Edition & later on All Things Considered with an oral essay, “A Verbal Mongoose Guide to Bullies & Bores” about my personal journey to self-protection & creative retaliation regarding being pushed to the brink of teenage suicide.

The issue of bullying in general is very prominent today & relative to gay issues, endemic. So my hope is that my seemingly light spin on this critical issue will make people laugh, yes, but think. Think.

Typically these pieces air shortly after 6:30 am & repeat shortly after 8:30 & then air on All Things Considered shortly after 4:30ish all on 90.1 fm KERA. Hope you can hear it on-air but if not the link to listen will be posted on my FB page after it airs.
Love you, Rawlins

You can either listen to it or read the transcript here.

—  Rich Lopez

Hot, hirsute

British rugby star Ben Cohen has become a hero to gays for his message of inclusion to sports fans the world over

MARRIED… WITH CHILDREN Cohen exemplifies the straight ally: Comfortable with his gay fans, upfront in his defense of gay rights and always willing to pose for a little beefcake photography.

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

Ben Cohen is a bit nervous about coming to Dallas Pride as its special parade guest, but not for the reason you may think. Growing up in the cool climes of the north of England, “the closest I have gotten to Dallas is the TV program,” he laughs. So the thought of being in the famous Texas heat frightens him a bit. “I’m gonna melt!” he exclaims from his home in Britain.

Heat is about the only thing that could frighten Cohen. As the second all-time best rugby union scorer, he’s a master of the organized mayhem of the sport of rugby. And he’s been famous for years as perhaps the planet’s most prominent straight athlete to put gay issues on his public agenda.

A lot of gay men first came to know Cohen when he released a series of beefcake calendars, showing his bulky, rugby-honed physique. Before long, he was the toast of the gay ether, screen-grabs of his hirsute chest and devilish grin being exchanged faster than juicy gossip. That’s about the same time Cohen found out what a huge gay following he had.

“We has this website and found out we had 37,000 people who were fans, but they were all men!” he says. “I’ve been with my wife since we were 16. We have very good gay friends and my cousin is lesbian, so I am very comfortable with my sexuality. I was getting a lot of emails saying how people in the gay community feel so isolated while trying to find themselves, this downward spiral where they have no one to turn to for help.”

He began talking publicly about his support for gay people, which only increased his fan base. It hit a saturation point earlier this year when Cohen announced his retirement from rugby so he could pursue his activism.

Cohen’s StandUp Foundation, which he heralds as “the world’s first foundation dedicated to raising awareness of … bullying,” is unique in being led by a straight man yet targeting the gay community, and for having as a secondary goal the eradication of homophobia in sports.

“I’m really trying to create a movement,” he says in a thick Northampton accent.

Cohen traces his passionate feelings on the subject to 2000, when his father was murdered while trying to break up a brawl in a nightclub. Cohen concentrated on his then-young rugby career, “to get my aggression out on the pitch.” It made him acutely aware of bullying and how those who “are perceived as different, whether gay or with red hair or overweight,” are victimized, he says.

While homophobia in sports is a focus for Cohen, he’s a vocal defender of rugby as an inclusive, gay-friendly sport.

“I know Gareth Thomas [the rugby star who came out in 2009], and he is a world-class player. His problem was accepting himself. He did the best thing all around when he came out and he’ll tell you that. He’s at the top of his game now. It shows rugby is an accepting sport — everyone I know was accepting and supportive of Gareth. I’ve never witnessed any homophobia in the sport, though I’m sure there is some.”

He’s also proud of the Bingham Cup, named after gay American rugby star Mark Bingham, who died in 9/11 as a hero of United Flight 93.

“I’ve done a massive amount of work in bringing the Bingham Cup to Manchester next year,” he says. “It’s an honor and a lovely way to show their love and respect [for a gay rugby player]. His legacy lives on.” Cohen also crows for how gay and gay-friendly rugby clubs have raised the quality of play overall, as well their role in increasing awareness of the sport in the U.S. He feels an obligation to give back.

“I’m in a privileged position in that I am a successful sportsman and have a big gay following. I know I can make a difference in people’s lives,” he says.

“At the end of the day, we’re not about gay rights,” he says, but about the rights of people not to be victimized for whatever reason.

And if he has to endure 95 degree temperatures to do that? Well, that’s just the cost of doing the right thing.

Cohen hosts a StandUp fundraiser Sept. 16 featuring cocktails, appetizers and live music by Gary Floyd; email event@dallasstandup.com for invitation. On Sept. 17, Cohen will attend a Dallas Diablos match and practice, starting at 11:30 a.m.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition September 16, 2011.

—  Michael Stephens

WaterTower Pride mixer at S4 postponed

WaterTower Theatre’s launch party for its upcoming Pride series of plays, set for Thursday at Station 4, has been postponed “due to circumstances beyond our control,” according to Greg Patterson, the director of development and marketing for the company. The event will be rescheduled for September and will include live performances of scenes from the upcoming musical Spring Awakening.

The Addison theater has a reputation for high-quality productions, often with serious themes (including gay issues) in regional premieres like Take Me Out and the upcoming August: Osage County, as well as the Out of the Loop Fringe Festival every spring.

—  Arnold Wayne Jones

Bunny hop

Lady Bunny comes out! (as more than a drag queen DJ)

LADY BUNNY
Axiom Sushi Lounge,
4123 Cedar Springs Road.
June 3 at 8 p.m. 214-443-3840.

………………………

The Lady Bunny is most recognizable as that funny queen who created Wigstock, or as the DJ spinning at a circuit party in full drag. But the lady has a lot on her mind that’s not all fun and games. Though she’s never far from the sass.

“I really like to talk about issues because there is a lot of fluff on TV,” she says. “How great would it be if a gay channel would take on gay issues? I’d love that. Hear that, Logo?”

Bunny, who has practically made Dallas a second home lately, returns for a double gig this weekend: On Saturday, she shares the bill with Tony-nominee Kelli O’Hara as the DJ for the Dallas Theater Center’s Centerstage benefit. But Friday she returns to her performing roots for a birthday dinner and roast at Axiom Sushi Lounge at the ilume. And she knows the fish jokes should be easy that night.

“I am that tacky,” she laughs. “For me, I love sushi but drag and dinner only mix if there’s a girdle handy.”

Bunny is deeper than she usually gets credit for. Seeing Larry Kramer’s The Normal Heart on Broadway forced her to recall activism then vs. now. Minus the makeup and music, Bunny is impassioned about that which affects LGBT people today.

“I think that gay people have to a large extent lost their fight,” she says. “I don’t really know how putting ‘Equality’ as your middle name on Facebook, or a piece of tape over your mouth, helps. I can’t see how these trendy campaigns substitute for hard work.”

She’s also inspired by her work as the Dean of Drag on the upcoming season of RuPaul’s Drag U. With an increased role this time out, Bunny still keeps the camp but adds heart for her makeovers. Real life women get makeovers, but also come with dramatic back-stories.

“These women, they give up everything for their kids and their man,” she says. “I cried a few times. It made me appreciate that nurturing vibe that mothers have. I don’t think gay men know that kind of sacrifice. This season has been a real eye opener.”

For now, she snarkily warns of her own eye opener Friday.

“Well, I have this delightful tribute to Burlesque,” she says. “Did you see the movie? Ugh.”

— Rich Lopez

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition June 3, 2011.

—  Michael Stephens

FEEDBACK: Tavern Guild treasurer responds to criticism over gay Pride festival changes

Clearing up some Festival facts

I’m a bit disappointed by the tone of Hardy Haberman’s article on the Festival in Lee Park (“The end of the free festival,” Dallas Voice, April 15).

The writer admits up front that he never attended the event. I’m not sure where the nostalgia comes from if you have not been a regular in the park following the parade.

We all miss the “good old days” when the world was different. Days when people respected the law, followed rules, respected each other and controlled their drinking and fighting.

Things have changed. Sadly, the festival has degenerated to an embarrassing level. It was evident on the parade route this past year. It was most evident in the park for the last two years.

Uncontrolled drinking of cases and cases of beer brought into the park led to a lot of issues: Gay on gay issues; drunk, loud, vulgar language in front of children; rude behavior and more fights than we have ever experienced.

The actions of a few of our community disgusted several GLBT families with children. Rude, vulgar actions led only to anger on the part of the offending parties that their actions were questioned. And most all of it was due to uncontrolled beer and even liquor consumption.

Public drunkenness is illegal. Bringing liquor into the park is illegal. We run the risk of losing the support and attendance of much of the GLBT community if we do not control the events in the park. That would be a real loss.

TABC and Homeland Security are an issue, even though the writer scoffed at the idea. Homeland Security is the reason police requirements rose from 20 officers to 85 officers (DPD wanted 100 officers). These are all $35 to $45 per hour, per officer. We are approaching $20,000 in security.

Add to that a clean-up cost of $12,000 because in a celebration, no one wants to pick up after themselves. Add to that a festival in the park where the celebration is used by a few as an excuse to get as drunk as they want, with no thought or respect for others in attendance.

Frankly, this damages the GLBT image. It drives away good, responsible GLBT people from attending, and it cheapens the event.

A loss for the community? Yes, but that loss is not about a free event in the park. It’s a loss of reason, a loss of responsibility, a loss of respect and decency.

Americans in general have lost it. Some in the GLBT community have lost it. Fencing in the park was a last resort effort to control the drunkenness and the sanity during our festival.

The decision would have been taken out of our hands next year anyway. The Tavern Guild made the only good choice, and thanks to that decision, the festival will continue, “for now.”

Alan Pierce
Treasurer, Dallas Tavern Guild


More on charging for the Festival

Though I understand the reasoning, I think they will find that far fewer people attend the event, myself included … unless truly there is big name entertainment.

Bummer, via DallasVoice.com


The entire “Pride” thing is a joke. There is no pride. Its an excuse to be exhibionistic and to get stinking drunk. Sad, sad, sad.

Jim, via DallasVoice.com


This is what you get when you allow a community event to be sponsored by a group of business people whose main concern is getting a large amount of people into their bars and drinking their overpriced drinks. Lee Park is a PUBLIC PARK and the idea that a business group could fence it and charge admission goes against everything the idea of a public park should be. Of course, if the Tavern Guild is decrying the amount of “drunks” at the parade, they have no one to blame but themselves. Pride Schmide.

Brett, via DallasVoice.com


It (charging admission) is a great idea. I wish it would have happened sooner. I re-read the article and the negative comments seem extreme and unfounded.

Little Monster, via DallasVoice.com


Log Cabin Republicans was planning on having a booth as it always does at the festival until we read about the rule changes. The rule changes will impede attendance as much or more than the $5.

Can you imagine Lee Park with a perimeter fence? Nobody will be able to enter without going through a main entrance. Can you imagine renting a booth and not being allowed to bring in a cooler for your workers and guests? We just offer water and soft drinks, but coolers are now prohibited.

I don’t believe these rules will stand for very long as surely nobody will commit to a festival that nobody will attend.

Robert Schlein, via DallasVoice.com

—  John Wright

Pa. Catholic college fires gay professor

Associated Press

PHILADELPHIA — A Catholic college in Philadelphia says it has fired a part-time professor after learning from a post on his blog that he has been in a same-sex relationship for a decade and a half, which officials called contrary to church teaching.

Chestnut Hill College, a private Catholic school, said the Rev. James St. George was terminated after he made “public statements of his involvement in a gay relationship with another man for the past 15 years.”

St. George. 45, of Lansdale, was hired by the private Catholic school in 2009 to teach Bible studies and other subjects. He was to teach courses in theology and justice as well as world religions beginning Tuesday, March 1.

St. George confirmed to The Philadelphia Inquirer on Saturday that he is gay and recently celebrated the 15th anniversary of his relationship with his partner. He said he was shocked by the termination, which he learned about Feb. 18.

College officials appeared surprised that St. George belonged to a branch of Catholicism not associated with the Vatican that has different views on gay issues. St. George leads St. Miriam Church in Blue Bell, which is affiliated with the Old Catholic Apostolic Church of America, which vows no discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and performs commitment ceremonies for gays and lesbians.

Carol Jean Vale, president of Chestnut Hill College, said in a statement Friday night to several news organizations, including the Philadelphia Daily News, that when St. George joined the faculty “he presented himself as Father St. George and openly wore a traditional Catholic priest’s collar.”

Vale said that while St. George “appears to be an ordained pastor … his church allows priests the option to engage in same-sex partnerships.”

St. George denied that he had withheld anything from the college.

“What am I supposed to do?” he asked. “Say, ‘Before we go any further, I’m gay?’ Who says that?”

The college said officials only learned about the matter “after St. George chose to make his private life public information on his blog.”

“While we welcome diversity, it is expected that all members of our college community, regardless of their personal beliefs, respect and uphold our Roman Catholic mission, character and values both in the classroom and in public statements that identify them with our school,” Vale’s statement said. “For this reason, we chose not to offer an additional teaching contract to St. George.”

Jessica Murray, 23, who was one of St. George’s students, told the Inquirer that she was appalled by the firing.

“All you have to do is Google him, you can see that he’s openly gay,” she said. “They can’t claim they didn’t know.”

—  John Wright

What’s Brewing: Corpus Christi school refuses GSA; Hawaii governor signs civil unions bill

Nikki Peet, 17, wants to start a chapter of the Gay Straight Alliance at Flour Bluff High School in Corpus Christi. But school officials won’t allow it.

Your weekday morning blend from Instant Tea:

1. In an apparent violation of federal law, Flour Bluff High School in Corpus Christi is refusing to allow students to start a chapter of the Gay Straight Alliance. After reading the story, go here to get contact info for the school, then give them a call.

2. Hawaii Gov. Neil Abercrombie signed civil unions into law Wednesday, making Hawaii the seventh state in the nation to offer the legal status to same-sex couples. The law takes effect Jan. 1. “E Komo Mai: It means all are welcome,” Abercrombie said in remarks before signing the bill into law. “This signing today of this measure says to all of the world that they are welcome. That everyone is a brother or sister here in paradise.”

3. Two GOP lawmakers in Tennessee have introduced a bill that would prohibit schools from discussing any sexual orientation other than heterosexuality. “The Don’t Say Gay bill raises all kinds of issues about anti-gay bias, free speech and government overreach,” said Ben Byers with the Tennessee Equality Project. “It limits what teachers and students are able to discuss in the classroom. It means they can’t talk about gay issues or sexuality even with students who may be gay or have gay family.”

—  John Wright