Bettie Naylor remembered as ‘creator of the equal rights movement in Texas’

Bettie Naylor

Founding member of Equality Texas, HRC, Annie’s List dies at 84

ANNA WAUGH  |  Staff Writer

Legendary Texas activist Bettie Naylor died Wednesday night in her sleep. She was 84.

Naylor’s partner, Libby Sykora, found her Thursday morning, the Austin American-Statesman reports.

A founding member of Equality Texas, the Human Rights Campaign and Annie’s List, Naylor began lobbying for women’s rights in the ‘60s and began fighting for LGBT rights in the ‘70s, said Chuck Smith, Equality Texas deputy executive director.

While she was married to a man for 30 years, she later came out and embraced her sexuality, Smith said.

The original lobbyist for Equality Texas, Smith said that Naylor helped “change the face of women’s rights and gay rights in Texas.”

“In most respects, she was the creator of the equal rights movement in Texas,” he said.

While Naylor was fierce in her political fights, Smith said she was also funny and sweet.

“It was still easy to like Bettie because she was just so downright charming and fun to be around,” he said.

Although Naylor stopped lobbying in 2009, Smith said she and her partner remained activists in the LGBT community and in Austin.

“The two of them were quite the power couple,” he said.

Dianne Hardy Garcia, former Equality Texas executive director, worked with Naylor for many years in the ‘90s.

“We lost a great leader last night. Bettie was a loyal friend, a wise teacher and a generous soul,” she said. “She was also damn fun! I will forever be grateful to have learned from her and to have loved Bettie Naylor!”

Naylor was honored with Travis County Democratic Party’s Trio of Stars award in 2011. During an interview with the party, she was asked to describe the changes she’s witnessed during her activist and lobbying career.

Her response: “I’m amazed at the changes, although I would like to see things change more rapidly. But I think we’re far more acceptable to people now than we ever were,” Naylor said. “I think some of that has to do with the young gay people who don’t keep their sexuality a secret any more. They’re comfortable being who they are, and they’re not ashamed. You know, I was married for 30 years to a military pilot, and I was ‘outed’ by the San Antonio News-Express — on the front page and with a picture! Because of that, I have never hidden my sexuality, and now I’m very proud of it.”

Amid the sadness of her loss, Smith said Naylor will forever remain in the hearts of activists and the communities she changed for the better.

“She will be hugely missed, but I think that the work she’s done has made us better off,” Smith said. “She’ll always be a part of the LGBT movement in Texas.”

Equality Texas and HRC released statements addressing Naylor’s loss.

Equality Texas and HRC released statements addressing Naylor’s loss.

“Bettie Naylor was a force to be reckoned with, and played a central role in bettering the lives of LGBT people at both the national level and in Texas,” said HRC President Joe Solmonese.

“As a founding board member of the Human Rights Campaign, and a leader in starting our Austin Steering Committee, Bettie was a tireless advocate and never stopped working to ensure that members of our community received the rights, dignity, and respect that all people deserve. Bettie was driven by a desire to create a future where kids never had to be ashamed of who they were, but could instead live openly and without fear. Today, we live in a country where many loving, committed same-sex couples can marry and start families, where many students can thrive in their communities without fear of violence, and where a growing number of businesses are recognizing the importance of protecting their LGBT employees — these are all part of Bettie’s lasting legacy.”

 This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition April 20, 2012.

—  Dallasvoice

A reminder that all rights are human rights

Last week was International Women’s Day, which I had meant to write about, but frankly became distracted and forgot. I’m not a woman, of course, but my feeling is that pioneers of human rights — women’s rights, gay rights, civil rights for African-Americans — should be part of our consciousness, if we expect the populace to treat our cause with respect. (I’m often frustrated by those who deny that gay rights are the equivalent of rights for women or blacks. “They don’t choose to be black/women,” indicating an entirely appalling misunderstanding of the nature of sexual orientation.)

Then I saw this on Facebook: A link to a story in the U.K.’s Guardian newspaper about a Twitter thread showed the depth of inequality out there (as well as many people who are satisfied with ignorance, with characterizing the “new freedom” as a right to be a bigot — I’m looking at you, Piers Morgan!). (“What gives you the right to criticize anyone, you dumb queer?” is a message I have gotten many times after posting a review. I think, “At least every criticism I’ve ever posted of someone had my name attached; your hate mail is always unsigned.”)

Just yesterday, Phyllis Schlafly was on NPR stating categorically that feminists hate men and always have. Well, I’m a feminist, and I love men. Feminism isn’t a movement, it’s a belief in the equal rights of all people. Feminism is humanism.

Anyway, here’s the link to the Guardian story. Read it. And think about what it means that 40 years after the ERA NOW slogan, we all still have a very long way to go. (In other news, Mad Men starts up next month. Can’t wait.)

—  Arnold Wayne Jones

Perry says Obama’s push for LGBT rights abroad part of ‘war on traditional American values’

Gov. Rick Perry

Still polling in the single digits in Iowa and faced with the prospect that the Republican presidential primary is becoming a two-man race between Newt Gingrich and Mitt Romney, Texas Gov. Rick Perry is desperately resorting to extreme anti-gay tactics. In response to President Barack Obama’s memorandum today saying the U.S. will use foreign aid to promote LGBT rights abroad, Perry issued this statement:

“Just when you thought Barack Obama couldn’t get any more out of touch with America’s values, AP reports his administration wants to make foreign aid decisions based on gay rights.

“This administration’s war on traditional American values must stop.

“I have proposed a foreign aid budget that starts at zero. From that zero baseline, we will consider aid requests based solely on America’s national security interests. Promoting special rights for gays in foreign countries is not in America’s interests and not worth a dime of taxpayers’ money.

“But there is a troubling trend here beyond the national security nonsense inherent in this silly idea. This is just the most recent example of an administration at war with people of faith in this country. Investing tax dollars promoting a lifestyle many Americas of faith find so deeply objectionable is wrong.

“President Obama has again mistaken America’s tolerance for different lifestyles with an endorsement of those lifestyles. I will not make that mistake.”

Also condemning Obama’s memorandum was GOP presidential candidate Rick Santorum, according to CNN:

“I would suggest that we give out humanitarian aid based on humanitarian need, not based on whether people are promoting their particular agenda,” Santorum said. “Obviously the administration is promoting their particular agenda in this country, and now they feel its their obligation to promote those values not just in the military, not just in our society, but now around the world with taxpayer dollars.”

Santorum, who has long been an outspoken opponent of gay marriage, said Obama needed to clarify his stance on marriage rights. Obama has said he is “evolving” on the issue, but does not currently support the rights of gays to marry.

“He said he’s for traditional marriage, and now he’s promoting gay lifestyles and gay rights, and he’s fighting against traditional marriage within the courts, and I think he needs to be honest,” Santorum said.

UPDATE: According to the Washington Blade, Human Rights Campaign President Joe Solmonese issued a statement in response to Perry’s remarks.

“Rick Perry has made no secret of his dislike for LGBT Americans – but his most recent remarks are outrageous even by his own standards,” Solmonese said. “It is bewildering that someone who wants to be President of the United States wouldn’t want to see our nation be a global leader in universal human rights. This is further proof that Rick Perry doesn’t want to represent the best interests of all Americans — he wants to advance an extremist, anti-gay agenda that represents the fringe views of a very small few.”

UPDATE NO. 2: Log Cabin Republicans also issued a statement:

“With all due respect, Governor Perry is wrong. Speaking out for the basic human rights of LGBT people to life and liberty is anything but ‘at war with American values,’” said R. Clarke Cooper, Log Cabin Republicans executive director. “Throughout his administration, President George W. Bush was strongly committed to supporting and protecting dissident and minority voices abroad. Our nation can be proud of its long, bipartisan legacy of promoting freedom for all. Around the globe today, gay and lesbian people are often subject to ‘corrective’ rape, state-sponsored torture, imprisonment and execution. Combatting these injustices is not advocating for any kind of ‘special rights,’ and it is shameful for Governor Perry to suggest that American people of faith do not support protecting vulnerable populations from brutality.”

—  John Wright

BREAKING: 2 arrested in gay man’s beating

James Mitchell Laster, left, and Daniel Martin (Lamar County Sheriff's Department)

Two men have been arrested in connection with the brutal assault of a gay man early Sunday in Reno, Texas — which the victim and his friends say was a hate crime.

Reno Police Chief Jeff W. Sugg announced in a two-sentence statement this morning that Daniel Martin, 33, and James “Tray” Mitchell Laster III, 31, have been arrested in the beating of 26-year-old Burke Burnett.

Burke Burnett

Burnett said he was stabbed at least twice with a broken beer bottle and thrown onto a fire at a private party early Sunday, by up to four men who yelled gay slurs during the attack. Burnett needed more than 30 stitches to close stab wounds to his back and forearm, as well as a cut above his left eye from being sucker-punched at the start of the attack. He also suffered second-degree burns from being thrown onto a lit burn barrel.

Martin and Laster were arrested late Tuesday. Each is charged with one count of aggravated assault with a a deadly weapon, and one count of aggravated assault causing serious bodily injury —  second-degree felonies punishable by up to 20 years in prison. According to Sugg’s statement, the investigation is ongoing.

Reno police spokeswoman Alicia Myrick said it will be up the Lamar County District Attorney’s Office to determine whether the case is prosecuted as a hate crime.

“That’s not our decision,” Myrick said.

More to come …

—  John Wright

WATCH: Which one of Rick Perry’s anti-gay co-chairs in Florida is a bigger nutjob?

Pam Olsen

The other day we told you how John Stemberger, co-chair of Rick Perry’s leadership team for this week’s GOP presidential straw poll in Florida, once compared same-sex marriage to suicide (prompting one of our Twitter followers to quip, “It certainly has been for my sex life!”) But all joking aside, it turns out Perry’s other co-chair in Florida, though not as well known, appears to be just as crazy. Right Wing Watch reports that Pam Olsen heads the Tallahassee branch of the International House of Prayer, which helped put together Perry’s day of prayer in Houston in August . In July, Olsen said denominations that have allowed same-sex marriage and gay clergy are likely to blame for recent natural disasters:

“If anybody looks at the news and has just seen what’s been happening recently with the floods, the fires, the tornadoes, God is shaking. Yeah I think you have God shaking, sure you have the Enemy shaking, you have both and I don’t want to say oh that’s the judgment of God or that’s the Enemy. But the reality is God is judging us, and I think it’s going to get worse.”

As Mother Jones points out, it’s unclear why God would punish Texas with wildfires given Perry’s extreme anti-gay views.

Watch video of Olsen’s remarks below.

—  John Wright

Good Christian belle

Gay ally Kristin Chenoweth talks about her new country music CD (she adores Dolly!), queers … and the right way to be a Christian

THE GOSPEL ACCORDING TO KRISTIN | The performer has conquered stage, recording, TV … and uniting gay rights with her faith.

Kristin Chenoweth doesn’t get miffed very easily. But when she does, watch out. Last year, after Newsweek published a commentary on the inability of gay actors to play straight roles, she wrote an extensive letter to the magazine, calling the article “horrendously homophobic.”

But Chenoweth’s allegiance to the gay community goes back to growing up in Oklahoma — a place she returned to for her latest album, Some Lessons Learned, the first of four where the opera-trainer singer fully embraces her country roots.

We had lots to talk about when we caught up with Chenoweth, on a dinner break from shooting her upcoming series, Good Christian Belles. She discussed her history of dating gay men, her opinion on Michele Bachmann’s support of gay conversion clinics … and being a little bit wicked.

— Chris Azzopardi

………………………..

Dallas Voice: Your character’s name on Good Christian Belles is Cockburn — Carlene Cockburn. Chenoweth: I can’t wait for my family to hear that one. Are you kidding? I was like, “Wait a minute…!” But I just think the most important thing for me as an actress, because of the lines that come out of my mouth, is to just have to speak them and keep going, because they’re so funny and her name is so funny and the whole thing is just so great. I love it.

Does your character have anything in common with April Rhodes, who you play on Glee? Probably not on paper, but they’re both pretty outlandish people. Carlene, though, is the antithesis of April.

You grew up in Oklahoma, so country music is your roots. How is your new album a reflection of that? It’s so funny, because I get asked, “Why a country album now?” But that’s how it all began for me. Of course, why would anyone know that? It’s not something I’ve been talking about a lot, but it’s the music I grew up listening to. One of my biggest influences is Dolly Parton, and when you look at the history of songs in musical theater and in country, they’re both usually great storytellers.

I know just how lucky I am to do this kind of music. Getting to go to Nashville and sing this music that feels like home to me was a real gift, and one that I don’t take lightly.

The song “What Would Dolly Do?” reminds me a lot of Dolly herself. I co-wrote that. [Producer] Bob Ezrin asked, “Who’s had the biggest influence on you country music-wise?” I said, “Dolly, without question.” And he said, “How would she approach it? Let’s think: What would Dolly do?” I said, “Bob, why aren’t we writing that song?”

There’s something about her that I feel very attuned to. There’s only one Dolly. I’m not comparing myself, but I’m just saying her spirit and the way she looks at life is pretty similar to me. And the cover I did of hers [“Change”] is actually a very emotional thing and it reminded me — of course, how could I ever forget? — what an amazing songwriter she is. You know, I didn’t do a lot of covers. I did two covers, one of Carrie [Underwood] and one of Dolly’s, and I just love both of them. I love their music, I love their spirit — everything they stand for.

It makes total sense, because, to me, both you and Dolly epitomize happiness. Oh my god, thank you. That’s the biggest compliment you could give me.

So, being so happy… what pisses you off? Oh, gosh! I don’t really get mad that often. But I’m not going to lie: When I do, there’s a quiet that comes over me that is a little like whoa, and that happens when I don’t feel other people are prepared or doing their job or pulling their weight. I come from a family where my dad came from nothing and worked hard to get where he is, and he said, “Work hard, play hard, Kris,” and I guess that’s kind of been my motto in life. So when I see people squandering opportunities or having a sense of entitlement, that really makes me crazy. Because I don’t understand it. It’s not a world I get.

One thing that does make you upset is homophobic people. I don’t like that, you’re right.

Your letter in response to that Newsweek column said it all. Why was it important to address your feelings on that issue? To be honest, I wasn’t prepared for what was going to happen. I was on Broadway doing Promises, Promises, and I read the article and I actually thought it was pretty irresponsible. I’m not even talking about whether a person agrees with being gay or not, I’m talking about artistry and gay

actors trying to play straight. It just made me mad, because I thought, “Well, I’ve played a prostitute, does that mean I am one? No.” I just thought it was a little bit of a bullying thing, and I honestly prayed about it — no kidding, I prayed about it.

And by the way, I’m a big fan of the magazine, which is why I was so bummed. But I think that they felt bad and hopefully there’s been some discussion about it and some learning, because that’s what we’re here to do on this Earth, to learn our purpose. Well, one of my purposes in this life — since I’m a believer and a Christian — is to help people realize that not every Christian thinks that being gay is a sin.

To reinforce your point, you made out with your Promises, Promises co-star Sean Hayes at the Tonys last year. It might’ve been a little jibe. It might’ve been a little one! Ha!

What was it like to make out with a gay man? Was that your first time? Well, let’s face it, my high school boyfriend is gay, so I don’t think it’s my first time making out with gay men! I bet a lot of women don’t even know they’ve done it! And Sean Hayes is just a darn good kisser, what can I say?

Wait, so you dated a gay man in high school? Yeah, and I’m like, “Well, that’s why we were such a great couple!” He didn’t pleasure me in any way but he helped me pick out my prom dress!

Was he one of the first gay people you knew in Oklahoma? Yeah. I want to tell you something I know about myself: When I was in the second or third grade, I first heard the word “dyke,” and it was in reference to a girl in our school who was very, very tomboyish. I didn’t really understand what the word was, but I knew I didn’t like the way it was said. And for some reason I’ve always been drawn to the person that was alone, and I don’t mean to make me sound like I’m Mother Teresa, because I’m not. But I’ve always been drawn to people who felt left out or different, and maybe it’s because, I too, felt different and unique. People would not think this of me, because there’s this perception of me that, “Oh, life’s been perfect and things have come so easily.”

But let’s face it: My speaking voice is very interesting. Yes, I was a cheerleader but I also wanted to do all the plays, I was in renaissance choir, and, I too, felt a little bit like an outsider. I was always drawn to people who felt that way, too. And sure, some of them were gay and I never did understand — I guess the word is fear.

God made us all equal. He made me short, he made someone gay, he made someone tall — whatever it is, it’s not a sin; it’s how we’re made. And that’s the way I feel about it. It flies in the face of a lot of what Christians believe, but as I’m finding out there’s a lot of Christian people who think the same as me. So that’s my deal, and I think we should not be careful of the unknown but rather accepting and loving of it.

As someone who’s Christian and supports the gay community, how do you feel about the pray-away-the-gay program that Michele Bachmann supports? [Long pause] You know what, you can have your opinion. One of the great things about being in this country is we get to freely say what we believe. I just don’t happen to agree with that. Though I like the “pray” part!

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

—  Michael Stephens

‘Rick Perry’s vision of states’ rights is that it’s his right to say how everyone in the state will live’

Gov. Rick Perry

The Houston Chronicle has a story today about how Texas Gov. Rick Perry likes to rail against big government yet seems to be fine with government intrusion into people’s lives on some issues — including same-sex marriage. The money quote comes from Democratic consultant Jason Standford, who’s co-writing a book about Perry:

“It’s not really the nanny state. It’s the daddy-knows-best state. Rick Perry’s vision of states’ rights is that it’s his right to say how everyone in the state will live,” Standford says.

Allan Saxe, a political scientist from the University of Texas at Arlington, tells The Chronicle that the whole thing can be chalked up to the difference between conservative and libertarian. But here at Instant Tea, we just call it hypocrisy and political pandering.

—  John Wright

BREAKING: Bert, Ernie NOT gay

Despite the online petitions and pressure from LGBT groups, Bert and Ernie will not be getting married.

Sesame Workshop issued a statement about its two puppets today saying they’re just friends:

“Even though they are identified as male characters and possess many human traits and characteristics (as most Sesame Street Muppets™ do), they remain puppets, and do not have a sexual orientation.”

The couple, I mean puppets, live in New York where same-sex marriage is now legal. But it isn’t clear whether same-sex puppet marriage would also be allowed under the law.

On the Facebook page with Sesame Workshop’s statement, most commenters are against the idea of the Muppets marrying. The main reason given is, they don’t want to teach this to their children. Some called those in favor “douchebags” and asked “why does everything have to do with gay rights?” and compared homosexuality to abortion, polygamy — including polygamous forced rape of a young girl — the death penalty, murder.

Wow. They’re Muppets. Breathe.

—  David Taffet

Pastor threatens recall drive if DP benefits restored in El Paso; council to vote today

Pastor Tom Brown of Word of Life Church was the driving force behind a ballot measure to repeal DP benefits in El Paso.

The pastor behind a ballot initiative to repeal domestic partner benefits in El Paso is threatening to launch recall petitions against city councilmembers who vote in favor of an ordinance to restore them.

The council is slated to vote on the ordinance this morning that would restore benefits taken away under a ballot initiative approved by voters in November. Mayor John Cook introduced the ordinance last week after a federal judge upheld the ballot initiative.

The El Paso Times reports that today’s vote on the ordinance is expected to be close. Pastor Tom Brown, who spearheaded the ballot initiative, is threatening recall elections against Cook and any council member who votes in favor of the ordinance. From the EPT:

The initiative was intended by its authors just to end benefits for 19 unmarried partners of employees. But it also cost more than 100 others — including members of the City Council — benefits because of the way it was worded.

Brown said the mayor is now trying to override the will of the voters.

“We’re doing it because the mayor is trying to overturn the democratic process,” Brown said on Monday. “This is the first ordinance the people of El Paso have ever passed. If (what Cook is trying to do) works, it will be the end of direct democracy in El Paso.”

Cook said he proposed the ordinance as a matter of principle, not because it’s popular.

“I’m not going to change my position because of threats,” the mayor said.

City Rep. Susie Byrd, who supports Cook’s ordinance, was even more blunt.

“I don’t think public policy should be shaped by bullies or bigots,” she said.

—  John Wright

WATCH: Lady Gaga does Rome

Calling herself a ‘child of diversity,’ she denounces discrimination at Europride

FRANCES D’EMILIO  |  Associated Press

ROME — Lady Gaga sang a few bars of her smash hit “Born This Way” and demanded the end of discrimination against gays as she proclaimed herself a “child of diversity” at a gay pride rally Saturday night in the ancient Circus Maximus.

The star, whose Born This Way album recently topped 1 million sales in a week, delighted tens of thousands of people at a brief concert in the vast field where the ancient Roman masses would gather for spectacles.

Wearing a green wig, she played the piano and sang a few numbers. But she devoted much of her appearance after an annual European gay pride parade to denounce intolerance and discrimination against gays and transgender people. Among the places she cited was the Middle East, Poland, Russia and Lithuania.

Lady Gaga told the crowd she is often asked “How gay are you, Lady Gaga?”

“My answer is: ‘I am a child of diversity.”’

She also proudly cited her Italian roots — saying she was really named Stefania Giovanna Angelina Germanotta.

And she told fans her costume — a sleek black top with one bare shoulder and billowing plaid skirt — were from the last collection of Gianni Versace.

Decrying intolerance of homosexuality, Lady Gaga lamented that young people who are gay are susceptible to “suicide, self-loathing, isolation.”

Many in the crowd had participated in an hours-long parade of colorful floats and brightly costumed marchers through Rome’s historic center before the rally. The events were part of the annual Europride day to encourage gay rights on the continent.

Lady Gaga praised her audience for its “great courage” which she says inspires her.

Europride organizers hope the event will draw attention to discrimination gays face in many parts of the world. The U.S. ambassador was among those who invited Lady Gaga to Rome.

“I am so honored to be here,” Lady Gaga said, recalling how, earlier in the day, she lay naked in silk sheets in her hotel room and enjoyed the din of adoring fans and packs of photographers in the street below.

Organizers said Rome was a significant choice of venue, since it is home to the Vatican, which staunchly opposes legislation that would recognize same-sex marriage or adoption by gay couples.

Others hoped the turnout would send a message to Premier Silvio Berlusconi, the Italian leader dogged by a sex scandal involving an alleged 17-year-old Moroccan prostitute. The billionaire media mogul triggered outrage from gay rights groups last fall when he contended during a public appearance that it was “better to be passionate about a beautiful girl than a gay.”

Berlusconi’s equal opportunity minister, a woman, defended the premier, saying he had just been joking and had no intention of offending gays. A government undersecretary further provoked protests when she said she was sure “all Italian parents hope to have heterosexual children.”

The premier, who is on trial in Milan for allegedly paying the teenager for sex and then using his office to try to cover it up, has denied any wrongdoing.

—  John Wright