Texas GOP leaders consider call to pardon DeLay

Former Congressman Tom DeLay high-fives staff members outside his Washington, D.C. office back in April 2006 — before he was convicted on felony money laundering charges

A week ago, on Friday, Nov. 6, John Wright posted this item on Instant Tea about the conviction of former Texas Congressman Tom DeLay on felony charges of money laundering for illegally funneling corporate dollars into Texas state legislative races in 2002, and how Travis County’s lesbian district attorney, Rosemary Lehmberg, helped get that conviction.

Now comes word, from the Austin American-Statesman, that members of Texas’ State Republican Executive Committee plan this weekend to consider a resolution calling on Gov. Rick Perry to pardon DeLay. The proposal — submitted by SREC member Clint Moore of Spring — was to be considered today by the SREC’s Resolutions Committee and, if approved, then advance for consideration by the full SREC.

DeLay, in case you don’t remember, represented a Houston-area House district from 1984 to 2005, and was known as one of Congress’ most anti-gay members.

Although I was rather stunned to read that the SREC is considering calling on Perry to pardon DeLay, I guess I really shouldn’t be surprised. After all, that’s pretty much par for the course for the party whose state platform calls for LGBT people to be declared criminals.

The resolution uses the word “desperately” a lot in describing how former Travis County District Attorney Ronnie Earle Jones worked to get DeLay indicted, and calls the trial that culminated with DeLay’s conviction “a mockery of a show trial.” The resolution says Perry should grant DeLay a complete pardon on all charges “to end the absurd political circus and gross abuse of our judicial system by Earle and his successor, as well as the corrupt Democrat judges of that county,” and concludes by calling on the Texas Legislature to “permanently eliminate the authority of the Travis County District Attorney’s office to prosecute state and federal elected officials like Tom Delay, due to the grossly politicized environment of Travis County, as well as to devise a special prosecutor system for cases involving state and federal elected officials, to be overseen and administered jointly by the Attorney General and the Governor of Texas.”

Go ahead and read the full text of the resolution after the jump.

—  admin

BREAKING: GOP pledge may doom DADT repeal

CBS News reports that Senate Republicans intend to block all legislation that isn’t related to tax cuts and government spending during the lame duck session. GOP leaders are quietly collecting signatures pledging to carry out the strategy:

If carried out, it would doom Democratic-backed attempts to end the Pentagon’s practice of discharging openly gay members of the military service and give legal status to young illegal immigrants who join the military or attend college.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid has made both measures a priority as Democrats attempt to enact legislation long sought by groups that supported them in the recent midterm elections.

—  John Wright

ELECTION 2010: Gay marriage surfaces as an issue in state races

DAVID CRARY  |  Associated Press

NEW YORK — This election will be the first since the 1990s without a measure to ban gay marriage on any state ballot, yet the divisive issue is roiling races across the country during a time of tumult for the gay rights movement.

In Minnesota, New Hampshire, California and New York, gubernatorial campaigns have become battlegrounds for rival sides in the debate, with the Democratic candidates supporting same-sex marriage and the Republicans opposed.

In Iowa, voters will decide whether to oust three state Supreme Court justices who joined last year’s unanimous decision making the state one of five where gay marriage is legal.

And in Rhode Island and California, Democratic candidates are seeking to become the fourth and fifth openly gay members of Congress. The Californian, Palm Springs Mayor Steve Pougnet, has a husband and 4-year-old twins, and would be Congress’ first openly gay parent.

The races are unfolding on a rapidly shifting gay rights landscape, with activists elated by important court rulings, irked at setbacks in Washington and jolted by high-profile cases of anti-gay violence and bullying-provoked suicides.

The mixed emotions have been evident in recent days as a federal judge ordered a halt to enforcement of the military’s “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy. The Obama administration says it agrees with the judge that gays should be allowed to serve openly. Yet to the frustration of gay activists, the administration appealed the ruling, saying it preferred that Congress repeal the policy.

“It’s the best of times and worst of times,” said Richard Socarides, a former Clinton White House adviser on gay rights.

“Culturally you see a huge increase in acceptance of gays and lesbians, and in the federal courts you see for the first time a willingness to embrace the Constitution as a vehicle for securing equality for gay people,” Socarides said. “Yet in our nation’s politics, we see essentially the opposite.”

He said President Barack Obama has failed to deliver on his pledges to gays regarding marriage recognition and repeal of “don’t ask, don’t tell.”

“The president made a conscious decision coming in that these were second- and third-tier issues,” Socarides said. “People were very excited by him. But he overpromised and underdelivered.”

Obama said Thursday, Oct. 14 that the military policy “will end and it will end on my watch,” but he acknowledged the constraints of the legal process.

Republicans have not emphasized social issues as much as in recent elections, calculating that dismay over the economy and frustration with the Democratic agenda will be enough to post big gains. The GOP’s recent “Pledge to America” did not call for a federal ban on gay marriage or broach the issue of gays in the military.

“Even the most conservative Republicans understand that these issues don’t work on their behalf nearly as effectively as they did a few years ago,” said Fred Sainz of the Human Rights Campaign, a national gay rights group.

Brian Brown of the National Organization for Marriage, a major financial backer of campaigns opposing same-sex marriage, said the GOP would be unwise to soften its stance on the issue.

“We’re not saying the No. 1 issue in every state is same-sex marriage,” he said. “We are saying it’s an important issue, and Republicans abandon it at their peril.”

A look at some of the notable races:

CALIFORNIA:

The high-profile races for governor and Senate coincide with legal wrangling over Proposition 8, the ballot measure approved by California voters in 2008 that banned same-sex marriage.

A federal judge ruled in August that the ban is unconstitutional. The case will be heard before the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in December. Attorney General Jerry Brown, the Democratic candidate for governor, supports same-sex marriage and has refused to defend Proposition 8 in court. His GOP opponent, Meg Whitman, opposes gay marriage and has pledged to defend the ban.

The Senate race has a similar split: Democratic incumbent Barbara Boxer supports same-sex marriage and Republican challenger Carly Fiorina opposes it.

Proposition 8 supporters organized a bus tour across the state intended to rally Latino support for Fiorina based on the marriage issue. They also released a TV ad in Spanish highlighting Boxer’s support for abortion rights and same-sex marriage.

___

NEW HAMPSHIRE:

Last year, Democratic Gov. John Lynch, who said he opposed gay marriage, signed a bill legalizing it after lawmakers approved provisions affirming religious rights.

Lynch is up for re-election, facing a Republican who opposes same-sex marriage, and the National Organization for Marriage is running ads against the governor depicting his signing of the bill as a betrayal of voters.

Andy Smith of the University of New Hampshire Survey Center said Lynch has a solid lead over GOP nominee John Stephen in the center’s latest poll, while voters seem relatively at ease with legalized gay marriage.

“When the economy is bad, it tends to blow social issues out the door,” Smith said. “Voters are more concerned about what’s on the table than what their neighbor is doing.”

___

MINNESOTA:

There’s a similar dynamic in the race to succeed Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty. GOP candidate Tom Emmer opposes same-sex marriage, while Democrat Mark Dayton and independent Tom Horner support it.

The National Organization for Marriage has run TV ads for Emmer, highlighting the trio’s stances on marriage. The ads infuriated some gay rights groups because they used the image of civil rights leader Martin Luther King Jr.

University of Minnesota political scientist Larry Jacobs says Dayton appears to be leading, but the race is up for grabs. According to Jacobs, few voters consider gay marriage a vital issue, and Emmer has not emphasized it.

“In past years Republicans have used gay marriage as an issue to mobilize their base, to bring out conservatives,” Jacobs said. “This year they don’t need it.”

Brown, the National Organization for Marriage’s president, disagreed.

“When marriage becomes an issue, as it has in Minnesota, people understand what’s at stake,” he said. “This could be a decisive factor in governor’s race.”

___

NEW YORK:

The Republican candidate for governor, Carl Paladino, was considered an underdog from the outset in his race against Democrat Andrew Cuomo.

Now Paladino’s task may be even harder after his recent entanglement in gay-related controversies. He railed against gay marriage in a speech to Orthodox Jewish leaders, then called the bumping-and-grinding at gay pride parades disgusting.

Under fire from gay rights advocates, including the Cuomo campaign, he apologized, costing him his support from a leading rabbi. Meanwhile, news reports surfaced that Paladino was once landlord of two gay clubs in Buffalo.

___

IOWA:

Polls show Iowa voters evenly split on whether to oust three Supreme Court justices who were part of the decision legalizing gay marriage. If the effort succeeds, it would be the first time since Iowa adopted its current system for appointing judges in 1962 that voters opted to remove a Supreme Court justice.

The targets include Chief Justice Marsha Ternus, who said the three wouldn’t undertake a counter-campaign because they don’t want to set a questionable example for judges by campaigning and raising money.

Brown said removal of any of the justices would be a “game-changer” with national impact.

“Judges will have to sit up and take notice that they can’t just arbitrarily make up the law,” he said.

—  John Wright

Austin City Limits preview: Festival won’t be supergay this year, but it’s still worth the trip

If you’re venturing down for this year’s ACL fest, chances are you’ve mentally prepared for a lack of personal space over the next two days. The weather will eventually get too hot, the treks too long and there’s bound to be mud somewhere. And that makes the music fest all the more glorious.

The roster of players is always impressive with at least one band that should appeal to the finickiest of music lovers. But I got a little curious as to finding the gay angle to ACL, which really is just seeing who’s playing that also plays on the LGBT side of the fence. Plus, I hope you won’t mind just a couple of non-gay recommendations along the way.

Friday night — If you missed them Wednesday night, Vampire Weekend, below,  plays at 7 p.m. on the ZYNC Card stage. I feel like I’ve pointed to gay member Rostam Batmanglij a lot this past week, but really, the band’s live show has a reputation of greatness. I wouldn’t know. Although The Strokes don’t have any confirmed gay members, there was that gay porn incident.They play at 8 p.m. on the AMD stage.

—  Rich Lopez

Megachurch pastor keeps mum on sex allegations

ERRIN HAINES | Associated Press

ATLANTA — On Sunday mornings, accused megachurch Bishop Eddie Long is usually draped in regal robes and dripping with diamonds and platinum — the kind of material rewards he often says are in God’s plan for those listening.

His message expected this Sunday, Sept. 26 will be the first in public since three young men accused him in lawsuits of having sexual relationships with them, which he has vehemently denied only through his lawyer and a Twitter posting.

Long built his congregation into a megachurch empire, telling his followers God wanted them to be wealthy and delivering fiery sermons with a secular swagger. He hangs with celebrities like rapper T.I. and donates money to charities and candidates. Even the county sheriff is among his followers.

Long spent more than 20 years building all that up, but his empire hangs in the balance. And his 25,000 followers aren’t about to let it all come tumbling down after the three men’s claims that the bishop abused his spiritual authority.

“I’ve always thought he was a very powerful man of God,” said Anshay Tull, a 27-year-old attendee of Long’s church, New Birth Missionary Baptist Church. “I’m just praying, trying to stay hopeful that it’s not true. If it is true, he has to take that up with God. But that can’t take away from the Word that he gives. I think he’s very gifted.”

He’s preached against gay marriage, and his church has counseled gay members to become straight — even though the men claim in their lawsuits that Long used money, cars, international trips, jewelry and other objects to lure them into sexual relationships when they were 17 or 18 years old.

Long came to New Birth in 1987, when it had just a few hundred members. He had a flock of 8,000 just four years later and moved the church into a $2 million building. By 1995, the church’s weekly television broadcast was airing in more than 170 countries. By Long’s 10th anniversary, New Birth paid off its debts and for 240 acres of land to build a multi-million dollar church complex.

The church grew alongside its home of DeKalb County, now the second-largest in the state. It has one of the most affluent populations of African-Americans in the country, many of whom attend New Birth. Long’s message of prosperity has dovetailed with their goals and dreams, as is evidenced by the many luxury cars in the parking lot on Sundays.

Long himself is a product of his message. His home was bought for $1.1 million in 2005.

`”He has a kind of celebrity status, given his megachurch leadership,” said Emory University religion professor Theophus H. Smith. “And Bishop Long has been especially noteworthy in terms of making a place for men’s spirituality and black male manhood in the church.”

Despite the church’s economic and political power, though, it faces a somewhat uncertain future.

“People who are members at that church probably felt better about themselves because they are members,” said Lester Spence, a professor at Johns Hopkins University. “Now, there are a whole bunch of people trying to figure out what their place is, what’s going to happen to the church and what’s going to happen to them.”

Today, New Birth operates more than 40 ministries. The centerpiece of its campus is the $50-million New Birth Cathedral, which opened in 2001 and seats 10,000. Membership stands at more than 25,000, and New Birth flags flying from car windows are a common sight around metro Atlanta.

Long is married to Vanessa — referred to as “The First Lady” of New Birth — and the couple has three sons and a daughter.

There are those turned off by the church’s size and its message, including former member Zack Hosley, 31, who criticized Long’s rich lifestyle.

“If you see (Long) out and about in Atlanta, he rubs elbows with celebrities and I just wouldn’t think a man of God would be hanging out with T.I,” he said, referring to the Atlanta-based rapper who served time on federal weapons charges and recently was arrested on drug charges.

He is beloved by his congregation, though, which has dismissed the accusations as a test from God. After he canceled both an interview on a popular syndicated radio show and a scheduled news conference, Long is expected to address New Birth members Sunday during church.

His lone remarks have been a statement read by his attorney and a Twitter posting: “Thanks for all the prayers and support! Love you all.”

“I wish the bishop would come out and make a comment and speak to us,” said Lance Robertson, a longtime church member. “We want to hear from him. I think the world wants to hear from him. Right now, in the court of public opinion, it does not look good.”

—  John Wright

Anti-gay Atlanta megachurch pastor denies sex with young men

ERRIN HAINES  |  Associated Press

ATLANTA — The prominent pastor of a 25,000-member megachurch near Atlanta denies allegations in a lawsuit that he coerced two young men from the congregation into a sexual relationship, his attorney said.

Lawyers for the men, now 20 and 21, say they filed the lawsuit Tuesday, Sept. 21 in DeKalb County Court against Bishop Eddie Long. The Associated Press generally does not identify people who say they were victims of sexual impropriety.

President George W. Bush and three former presidents visited the sprawling New Birth Missionary Baptist Church in the Atlanta suburb of Lithonia for the 2006 funeral of Coretta Scott King, the widow of the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. Long introduced the speakers and the Rev. Bernice King, the Kings’ younger daughter, delivered the eulogy. She is also a pastor there.

The men who filed the suit were 17- and 18-year-old members of the church when they say Long abused his spiritual authority to seduce them with cars, money, clothes, jewelry, international trips and access to celebrities.

Craig Gillen, Long’s attorney, says the pastor “categorically denies the allegations.”

“We find it unfortunate that these two young men would take this course of action,” Gillen said late Tuesday after news of the lawsuit broke. He said Long had not yet been served with copies of the lawsuits.

Long has called for a national ban on same-sex marriage and his church counsels gay members to become straight. In 2004, he led a march with Bernice King to her father’s Atlanta grave to support a national constitutional amendment to protect marriage “between one man and one woman.”

He also has released several gospel albums, authored books on relationships and spirituality, and hosts a weekly television program.

B.J. Bernstein, an attorney representing the plaintiffs, said that when the relationships started, the plaintiffs were past the legal age of consent in Georgia, which is 16.

“Defendant Long has utilized his spiritual authority to coerce certain young male members … into engaging in sexual acts and relationships for his own personal sexual gratification,” the lawsuits read.

When asked about a possible motive for the accusations, Gillen referred to a break-in at Long’s office in June.

Bernstein said one of the plaintiffs is facing a criminal burglary charge in the incident. She said the break-in was a way of lashing out at Long.

Bernstein said she contacted the U.S. Attorney’s Office earlier this month when she became aware of the young men’s allegations. She did not know what action, if any, the agency planned to take.

Bernstein told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution she has not contacted DeKalb County law enforcement because Long has ties to county officials.

Orzy Theus, a spokesman for the DeKalb County district attorney’s office, said he was not aware on Tuesday of an investigation in that office related to the allegations.

Long was appointed pastor of New Birth in 1987. Then, the church had about 150 members. Less than four years later, the church had grown to more than 8,000 members. Athletes and entertainers claim membership at the church.

Long’s church was among those named in 2007 in a Senate committee’s investigation into a half-dozen Christian ministries over their financing.

Today, New Birth sits on 250 acres and has more than 25,000 members, a $50 million, 10,000-seat cathedral and more than 40 ministries _ including the Longfellows Youth Academy, a tuition-based program for young men 13 to 18.

—  John Wright

Sen. John Cornyn calls Reid’s plan for vote on DADT repeal ‘cynical and politically transparent’

Texas Republican Sen. John Cornyn told The Hill on Tuesday that he believes Majority Leader Harry Reid’s decision to consider a repeal of “don’t ask don’t tell” as part of a defense spending bill  is “a cynical and politically transparent move.”

Cornyn didn’t say whether Republican senators plan to filibuster the 2011 National Defense Authorization Act over the DADT repeal provision, or whether he would join such a blockade.

“I know that leadership is asking members about their inclination, and I don’t know that that’s been whipped yet,” he told The Hill.

A spokesman for Cornyn, who’s never cast a single vote in support of LGBT equality, told Dallas Voice in June that he would oppose the DADT repeal measure.

“Sen. Cornyn believes that readiness must remain the highest priority of our military,” Cornyn spokesman Kevin McLaughlin said. “Right now, the Pentagon is studying how repealing DADT would affect military readiness, and this careful review is expected to be completed by the end of the year. Sen. Cornyn believes Congress should not to act on a possible repeal until that review has been completed.”

Cornyn has accepted an invitation to appear at the Log Cabin Republicans’ National Dinner in Washington later this month, and he has pledged to seek “common ground” with gay members of the GOP.

But if that common ground doesn’t include repealing a policy that 78 percent of Americans oppose, we’re at a loss as to where in hell it could possibly lie.

Actually, no we’re not. We’re pretty sure that by “common ground” Cornyn means “money” and “votes.” Talk about politically transparent!

—  John Wright

DADT is the danger to the military, not LGBT soldiers

Policy forces lesbian and gay servicemembers to keep secrets, and keeping secrets is what makes them vulnerable, puts them at risk

David E. Cozad
David E. Cozad

Gays and lesbians serving in the United States military are a threat to national security. But only if they’re subject to the indignity of “Don’t ask, don’t tell.”

I served as an officer in the United States Marine Corps during the early to mid-1970s. Having had this experience, I can tell you that I’d be very concerned if a Marine under my command felt the need to conceal a major aspect of their life from the rest.

Keeping one secret leads to the need to keep others, and that is a security problem no officer wants to face.

The British learned a hard lesson in this area half a century ago, when gay members of the civil service were blackmailed by Soviet agents. More recently, one of our own soldiers, apparently facing discrimination over his sexuality among other issues, chose to release a quarter-million State Department documents to Wikileaks.

Part of the fallout from this includes the outing of hundreds of Afghans who’ve rendered assistance to our efforts there. These men are as good as dead and an already tough environment will be even more dangerous for our people.

While this is the most dramatic event in this area, the constant grind of losing good people is an equally serious problem. We spend $300 million annually to replace those we discharge due to DADT, and there are other costs our troops should not be made to bear.

The straight lieutenant in charge of a convoy in Afghanistan didn’t even know the ambush his unit faced could have been avoided if we’d not discharged a gay linguist the previous month. He’ll write the letter to the mother of the soldier who died in that ambush, unaware that the lesbian nurse discharged the week before had the skills to save the man, a tuition that had been paid not with dollars, but with the blood of those she’d cared for previously.

Our nation faces many, many complex problems. Gay troops are not one of them.

Gay men have quietly served our nation since that first shot at the Old North Bridge in Concord, and it’s time we treat the LGBT men and women in our armed forces with the same respect we accord everyone else — both when they are in uniform, and after their honorable discharge at the end of their service.

David E. Cozad is the Democratic candidate for the District 6 seat in Congress. He is challenging incumbent Republican Joe Barton.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition August 6, 2010.

—  Kevin Thomas