Gay GOP leader calls attacks on Leppert over gay Pride ‘repugnant’

Tom Leppert at gay Pride in 2007

Senate rivals rip former mayor for appearing in Dallas parade

JOHN WRIGHT  |  Senior Editor

One local gay Republican leader called attacks against GOP Senate hopeful Tom Leppert for appearing at gay Pride while Dallas mayor “reprehensible” and “repugnant.”

And another said the attacks have actually prompted him to support Leppert over tea party favorite Ted Cruz — despite the former mayor’s perceived betrayal of the LGBT community when he stepped down to run for Senate last year.

Cruz, the former Texas solicitor general, along with  ex-pro football player Craig James and longshot candidate Lela Pittenger, ripped into Leppert for twice appearing at gay Pride during a debate luncheon hosted by the right-wing Eagle Forum at the Dallas Country Club on Wednesday, Feb. 22.

The exchange featured some virulently anti-gay language, with James saying he believes homosexuality is a choice that goes against the Bible and Pittenger comparing the Pride parade to a drunken orgy.

“There was much that was said at the senatorial debate about gays and lesbians that was reprehensible and, at times, repugnant,” Thomas Purdy, president of Log Cabin Republicans of Dallas, said in a statement Thursday. “In an instance such as this, it would be easy to throw in the towel, but it really is a testament as to why Log Cabin Republicans must exist: to ensure the Party of Abraham Lincoln remains so and does not become the Party of Anita Bryant.”

Former Log Cabin President Rob Schlein, who now heads the gay GOP group Metroplex Republicans of Dallas, said Cruz’s attacks against Leppert for appearing at Pride — which began last month at a forum in Fort Worth —  have prompted him to support the former mayor.

“In terms of a personal favorite, even though I was very disappointed with his tweet six months ago, I would probably look beyond that and choose Tom  Leppert,” Schlein said. “I eliminated Ted Cruz when he came out and attacked Leppert. That was enough to dissuade me from supporting his campaign.  … All else being equal, then I will support the candidate that doesn’t attack the gay community. ”

Leppert appeared at gay Pride in 2007 and 2009 as Dallas mayor. He also employed an openly gay chief of staff — Chris Heinbaugh — and repeatedly expressed support for the community.

But when Leppert stepped down to run for Senate, he sent out an anti-gay message on Twitter, and came out against both same-sex marriage and civil unions on his campaign website.

But Leppert’s position on those issues appears similar to the other candidates in the GOP race.

Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst, whom polls show is the frontrunner, didn’t attend Wednesday’s debate. But Dewhurst has been touting his support for Texas’ 2005 marriage amendment, which enshrined a ban on both same-sex marriage and civil unions in the state’s Constitution.

Earlier this month, Dewhurst told a Houston radio station that marriage has been between a man and a woman “from the origins of the Bible, and this is a Christian nation, this is a Christian state, and that’s what we were reflecting.”

Cruz, meanwhile, has played up his role several years ago, when he worked for Attorney General Greg Abbott, in blocking a gay couple from obtaining a dissolution of their Vermont civil union in a Beaumont court.

And James said during Wednesday’s debate that same-sex couples shouldn’t receive any federal benefits from civil unions.

The fireworks began when debate moderator John C. Goodman, president and CEO of the National Center for Policy Analysis, noted that Cruz had attacked Leppert for appearing at gay Pride last month.

Goodman then asked Cruz, “Do you have something against gay people?”

“I have something against gay marriage,” Cruz responded. “I don’t support gay marriage. I think there is an onslaught right now in this country to tear down traditional marriage, and I don’t think it’s right.”

Goodman asked Cruz whether he was suggesting that Leppert supports same-sex marriage.

“When the mayor of a city chooses twice to march in a parade celebrating gay pride, that’s a statement, and it’s not a statement I agree with,” Cruz said.

Leppert then responded by referring to himself in the third person: “The mayor is against gay marriage. He believes that marriage should be defined as one man and one woman.

“My job as mayor was to represent everybody in this city,” Leppert said. “I visited with groups that didn’t agree with what I said. I talked to groups that I didn’t agree with what they said, but it was my obligation to represent everybody. I engaged everybody, and I will continue to do that.”

When Cruz attacked Leppert for appearing at gay Pride last month, Leppert responded by comparing himself to Jesus. This time, although he took a similar approach, he stopped short of invoking the lord’s name.

“I will tell you my role as a Christian is to reach out and touch everybody,” Leppert said. “I wish I could have made stands only when I was in a courtroom, but I didn’t. I was criticized time and time again for showing my faith and being open with it, and standing pro-life. In fact, The Dallas Morning News criticized me for taking a position of pro-life. It was the right thing to do, I will continue to do it. But I did it when I put my neck on the line as a leader standing up for what exactly was right. I was pro-life unabashedly, and I said it.

“I am against gay marriage,” Leppert said. “I believe marriage should be defined as one man and one woman. It is very clear. But I had a responsibility to represent everybody, and everybody understood exactly where my faith was, and if there’s any question you can see pastors like Robert Jeffress and David Dykes and those folks, who don’t understand me from the business standpoint, but they sure understand who I am, and they have stood unabashedly and endorsed me for this office.”

Goodman then noted that gay couples are denied more than 1,000 rights because the federal government doesn’t recognize same-sex marriage. Goodman asked the candidates whether, in lieu of legalizing same-sex marriage, the federal government should merely grant gay couples those benefits by recognizing civil unions or other partnerships.

That’s when James, the former SMU football star, chimed in.

“I think right now this country, our moral fiber is sliding down a slope that is gonna be hard to stop, if we don’t stand up with leaders who don’t go ride in gay parades,” James said. “I can assure you I will never ride in a gay parade. And I hear what you’re saying, Tom, but leaders, our kids out there and people need to see examples. Now, I’m a guy that believes in a man and a woman being the greatest governance occurring in a home at night between a husband and a wife, Adam and Eve and what the Bible says. And the backbone, and I know you’re a Christian, I’m not doubting that, Tom, but man you’ve got to stand up, if you are chosen as our senator, and be a leader, and not do things like that. We need examples for our kids.”

Goodman then asked James and the other candidates whether they think being gay is a choice.

“I think it’s a choice, I do,” James responded. “You have to make that choice, absolutely.… Same-sex marriage, if someone chooses to do that, then that’s them, and God’s going to judge each one of us in this room for our actions, but in that case right there, they’re going to have to answer to the lord for their actions. We should not give benefits to those civil unions. It should not occur. We have to stay strong on this. This is important, man. I tell you what, we have a fiscal issue in this county, but we also have a moral issue in this country, and as Christians we better stand up.”

Pittenger, a longshot candidate, was next to weigh in.

“I think what you see on the stage pretty much explains why we have so many denominations in the church,” Pittenger said. “Everyone kind of has a different perspective on what they think Christ would have done and how he would have acted. Now, I respect what Tom was saying, that he felt like he was to engage the entire community. I personally disagree with his approach, just because if there was a Republican club that was openly homosexual, and they wanted to talk issues, any number of issues, I’m happy to go visit with them about the issues. But I’m not going to walk down the street with them celebrating what I believe to be a sin. But I respect Tom’s approach. Christ reached people in many different ways. The Pharisees hated him because he ate dinner with sinners. And Jesus said, ‘The doctor doesn’t come for the well, he comes for the sick.’ And we just have to, each one of us has to stand before God, and make sure our heart is right with God about how we engage those who are living in sinful ways. Now while he ate dinner with them, I don’t believe he marched along with them as they were going down to have an orgy or have any sort of drunken revelries. But they came in his space, and he engaged with them there. This is about different perspectives on how we engage people we believe are lost, and you just have to decide which one’s better.”

Finally, Leppert was given an opportunity to respond to James and Pittenger.

“I’ve addressed the issue,” Leppert said, and the debate moved on to the topic of illegal immigration.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition February 24, 2012.

—  Kevin Thomas

Oklahoma House panel hears bill to reinstate ‘don’t ask, don’t tell’ for state’s National Guard

Rep. Mike Reynolds, R-Oklahoma City

Oklahoma State Rep. Sally Kern once called gays a bigger to America threat than terrorists, and Oklahoma certainly wouldn’t want terrorists in its National Guard. So according to Kern’s logic, that must mean the state shouldn’t allow gays and lesbians in its National Guard, either.

In January, State Rep. Mike Reynolds introduced a bill that would allow anyone eligible to serve in the military on Jan. 1, 2009 — 20 days before Barack Obama was inaugurated as president — to serve in the Oklahoma National Guard.

The bill would put the state at odds with military policy — which has allowed gays to serve openly since the repeal of “don’t ask, don’t tell” last year.

Last week, Servicemembers Legal Defense Network Executive Director Aubrey Sarvis wrote to Gen. Craig R. McKinley, the National Guard Bureau Chief, and asked him to come out against the bill.

“If a state National Guard ‘fails to comply with a requirement of this title, or a regulation prescribed under this title, the National Guard of that State is barred, in whole or in part, as the President may prescribe, from receiving money or any other aid, benefit, or privilege authorized by law,’” Sarvis warned McKinley.

In other words, if Reynolds’ bill passes, Oklahoma could lose $300 million from the federal government.

Sarvis also wondered what will happen to service personnel in the Oklahoma Guard who have come out since the repeal of DADT.

“Would those who have come out since the repeal of DADT be discharged?” he asked. “And if the Oklahoma National Guard mobilizes into federal service, will gay and lesbian guard members from Oklahoma be allowed to serve openly while deployed in accordance with DOD and National Guard Bureau policy, only to be demobilized and discharged under Oklahoma’s DADT law?”

The Oklahoma Daily weighed in with its opinion: “A ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’ rule for Oklahoma National Guard is wasteful and disrespectful to guardsmen.” John Aravosis of AmericaBlog has a different idea — call their bluff and let them hang themselves.

The Oklahoma House Veteran and Military Affairs Committee is scheduled to hear arguments about the bill this afternoon, according to the Oklahoma LGBT group The Equality Network.

UPDATE: Oklahoma Sen. Al McAffrey reports that the bill has been sent to a different committee where it will die.

“The bill reinstating Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell in the Oklahoma National Guard is dead!” McAffrey wrote. “It was pulled from the Veterans Committee and reassigned to the Rules Committee, where the Chairman will not hear the bill. It’s good for our state that this bad piece of legislation will not proceed.”

—  David Taffet

WATCH: Keller teen petitions City Council to outlaw anti-gay discrimination in restaurants

Isaiah Smith, left, collecting signatures in Keller. (From KDAF Channel 33)

After seeing an episode of the ABC reality show What Would You Do that was filmed at Norma’s Cafe in Farmers Branch last year, gay 16-year-old Isaiah Smith is trying to change a law in his own hometown, Keller.

In the ABC show, actors posed as a lesbian couple with children. The waitress acted shocked and said the children would be better off with a father. The point was to get a negative reaction from other customers.

According to a report by Dawn Tongish on KDAF last week, Smith has collected more than 400 signatures to encourage the Keller City Council to outlaw discrimination in restaurants in that city.

Austin, Dallas and Fort Worth are the only cities in Texas that prohibit discrimination based on sexual orientation in public accommodations.

In the report, Smith points out that gays and lesbians have no protection in Texas and, without a local ordinance, could be thrown out of a restaurant simply because of who they are.

—  David Taffet

The show goes on

Partners in life and in business, Darryl Allara and Ken Freehill travel the world staging theatrical productions for the Army. And they have seen a difference since the end of ‘don’t ask, don’t tell’

Inside-3

OUT ON BASE | Partners Ken Freehill and Darryl Allara have never hidden their sexual orientation or the fact that they are a couple from the military officials with whom they work. But the repeal of ‘don’t ask, don’t tell’ has made things less tense in many military communities, they say. (Photo Courtesy Darryl Allara and Ken Freehill)

David Webb  |  Contributing Writer
davidwaynewebb@yahoo.com

The end of “don’t ask, don’t tell” was a long time in coming — not only for the estimated 65,000 gays and lesbians serving in the U.S. Armed Services, but also for others engaged in little-known, supportive roles for active-duty personnel.

Dallas show business couple Darryl Allara and Ken Freehill, who tour the globe as civilian contractors for U.S. Army Entertainment, were as relieved as anyone else last fall when President Barack Obama officially recognized the end of the 18-year-old discriminatory policy. The life partners quietly cheered the Department of Defense memo released Sept. 20 lifting the ban on homosexuality, knowing it would provide a new sense of freedom for both them and the gay and lesbian soldiers they encounter on military installations.

“I think that in the communities we’ve been in, things are less tense,” said Freehill during an interview at their East Dallas home recently while the couple took a holiday break from 202 days on the road in 2011.

“I think maybe those people in the past who may have felt reluctant to talk to us now feel more comfortable in approaching us,” he added.

At the military installations Allara and Freehill visit, there are ample opportunities for one-on-one conversations with soldiers. Both men are judges for the U.S. Army’s Festival of Arts, and in a separate contractual project they stage Murder 101, an interactive comedy tailored to each base using soldiers and their family members and base civilian employees as actors.

“When we walk into a room, there is so much enthusiasm from everyone,” said Freehill, who has 30 years of experience as a director, producer, writer and actor and currently performs in one-man plays locally.

In staging the murder mystery dinner theater productions, the couple meets with volunteers who are interested in performing, assigns them roles, conducts rehearsals, markets the production, directs the shows and appears in the performances — all in one week’s time. It’s a  challenging task with a taxing schedule that they’ve mastered and carried out for 10 years now.

“We’ve been very mission-oriented, bringing theater to where it doesn’t exist,” said Allara, who received a U.S. Army scholarship that led to a degree in theatrical producing and directing after he ended a tour as a medic in Vietnam in 1969.

“By the time the week is over it looks like we’ve been working with them for a month,” Allara said.

Before the ban was lifted, it was a complex situation for Allara and Freehill, who in their roles entertaining, training and evaluating soldiers and their families weren’t subject to the provisions of the military prohibition on being openly gay. They wanted to be honest about themselves, yet not detract from the mission of their work.

“I did feel the policy had to be respected, because we never wanted to put a soldier in an awkward position, and we never wanted to cause anyone to be uncomfortable,” Allara said. “Our whole mission is to bring joy to everyone.”

Even so, the couple knew people would figure out they weren’t the rank-and-file type of civilian workers that soldiers expect to see on military bases, Allara noted.

“We have never encountered overt discrimination,” Allara said. “By the same token, we have never hidden who we are. It’s not a subject we initiate, but we’ve had soldiers talk to us about it.”

Freehill said that during 2011 while the Pentagon implemented the repeal of DADT and conducted related training for military personnel the couple traveled to 37 military installations for 50 events on three continents. They completed their work without experiencing any of the types of discriminatory incidents many naysayers warned would happen in the military if Congress lifted the ban, he said.

“People figure out in short order we’re a couple, and not just a theatrical partnership,” said Freehill, who points out they have been a couple for 32 years. “They see us together. We don’t make a big deal out of it. But they aren’t dumb.”

Freehill said they have always been careful not to give anyone the wrong impression.

“We are not on the make, and we don’t give that vibe off,” Freehill said. “Everyone feels secure. We are never alone with anyone.”

Allara said his experiences with the military have, for the most part, always been positive and no more discriminatory than in any other walk of life.

As a helicopter medic in Vietnam, he got his first taste of show business when he produced theatrical shows for fellow soldiers using what he had learned at a base playhouse during basic training at Fort Sam Houston in San Antonio.

“For lack of a better word it was a M*A*S*H unit, and I was my unit’s Radar O’Reilly,” said Allara, who noted he “screamed all the way” when he was forced to abandon his company clerk duties and fly in the helicopters to combat zones.

Allara said that deplorable conditions in Vietnam inspired him to take on the staging of a show and probably encouraged fellow soldiers to welcome it.

For one show he requisitioned six jeeps and drivers for the use of their headlights in a theatrical production. A stage was fashioned out of an old flatbed truck.

“We had a terrible morale problem,” Allara said. “We were looking for diversion. We needed to find a way to bond everyone together.”

Rather than getting court-martialed for the jeep stunt as he feared might happen, Allara’s amateur shows, including Sorry Wrong Number, brought him praise and requests for productions at other locations, including a production of Stop the World; I Want to Get Off.

Those efforts eventually led to his Army-sponsored scholarship to theatrical school in San Diego.

Allara said it is ironic that his theatrical work in the Army led to his lifelong career because he had no interest in theater in high school. The U.S. military has sponsored entertainment programs for personnel since World War II, and most bases had theatrical playhouses before television viewing became the most popular form of entertainment.

“When I was drafted I had no thoughts about theater at all,” Allara said. “I was picked on as a kid, and standing in front of people performing was the last thing I wanted to do.”

Later, Allara attended graduate school at the University of Arizona where Freehill was an undergraduate, but they never met. Oddly, they discovered later they had participated on a theatrical production at the same time, and they have a playbill with both of their names listed to verify it.

The couple later met in Los Angeles on a theatrical production and became lovers. For a while they operated a show business school together before relocating to Dallas, where Freehill took a job as executive director for the Screen Actors Guild.

It was about that time 17 years ago when Allara resumed his association with the military, accepting a job as a traveling second judge for the Army Festival of the Arts, a 40-year-old organization. The senior judge for the organization with whom Allara worked on a Bicentennial show in 1976 sought him out for the position.

“You meet people in life,” Allara said. “They go out of your life and then they come back.”

When about five years later the senior judge retired, Allara knew he didn’t have to look far for a new second judge. The Screen Actors Guild had relocated from Dallas to another city, leaving Freehill without a job.

So he joined the Army, too, so to speak.

About 10 years ago Allara and Freehill began staging their murder mystery productions for the Army. They first had designed and produced the mystery shows in Los Angeles, and they tried them out on military audiences with success.

An early production took place in Fort Campbell, Ky., where they still command great respect from base officials, volunteers and audiences, according to Linda Howle, director of the base recreation center.

“They are amazing, and they are fantastic,” said Howle in a telephone interview. “They are very creative. Every time I have them here they do a wonderful job, and when they come back it is always an even better performance.”

Allara said one of the reasons that he and Freehill enjoy so much respect from military officials is that they have a reputation for making sure the show will go on, no matter what. Their sexual orientation seems to have mattered little, if any at all, to Army officials in charge of military entertainment.

“They know they have two theater specialists they can send anywhere in the world,” Allara said.

About 15 years ago, Allara said, he met with a commanding officer who wanted to hire him, and he told the official about his relationship with Freehill.

“I knew they were rounding up soldiers and prosecuting them,” Allara said. “I told him I didn’t want it to bite him in the ass later. He thanked me for telling him.”

Allara said one of the reasons he and Freehill work together well as a romantic and a professional couple is that it is also economically advantageous to them. The Army pays them a flat fee for their work, from which all expenses must be deducted, and the arrangement of staying together on trips allows them to save money.

“We are able to keep rates really low for the Army because we share accommodations,” Allara said.

Fees for Allara’s and Freehill’s contracts come from discretionary funds raised by the Army from ticket sales and other enterprise activity, not from tax dollars, according to the show business couple.

The couple said the only hint of discrimination they ever felt during their travels for the military was when hotel staff asked if they wouldn’t prefer separate beds or rooms. Although they’ve never lost a military contract because of their sexual orientation, they did lose a couple in Los Angeles years ago because of it, they said.

“Discrimination is everywhere,” Allara said.  “It doesn’t have to be in the military.”

Allara said that as a combat veteran he sees the greatest benefit of the new policy to gay and lesbian soldiers to be the security of being part or a team, not the advantage of freedom of expression and social acceptance.

“They now will be able to serve their country without worrying about their backs in addition to the enemy in front of them,” Allara said.

For Allara and Freehill, life will continue much as it has for the past decade, together night and day except for when they are out of town on separate judging assignments. It seems natural to wonder whether they might enjoy the occasional break from each other’s company, but that is apparently not the case.

“It’s lonely,” Freehill said. “I admit it. We usually can’t wait to get home to be in each other’s company.”

Allara said that they often debate many subjects related to their work, but they always agree on how they feel about returning home to the company of the best audience anyone could have — the three dogs they rescued.

“It’s like dying and going to heaven for us,” Allara said.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition January 13, 2012.

—  Kevin Thomas

Chicago Cardinal who compared gays to the Klan issues apology

Cardinal Francis George

Several weeks ago, Cardinal Francis George of Chicago made comments comparing gays to members of the Ku Klux Klan. He later revised that statement to comparing gay marches to Klan marches in neighborhoods where they were unwelcome.

Really? Gays are unwelcome in Boystown in Chicago or Oak Lawn in Dallas?

Our friends at New Ways Ministries, a Catholic organization working for gay and lesbian equality within the Catholic Church, sent us an update with an apology by the Cardinal.

During a recent TV interview, speaking about this year’s Gay Pride Parade, I used an analogy that is inflammatory.

I am personally distressed that what I said has been taken to mean that I believe all gays and lesbians are like members of the Klan. I do not believe that; it is obviously not true. Many people have friends and family members who are gay or lesbian, as have I. We love them; they are part of our lives, part of who we are. I am deeply sorry for the hurt that my remarks have brought to the hearts of gays and lesbians and their families.

I can only say that my remarks were motivated by fear for the Church’s liberty. This is a larger topic that cannot be explored in this expression of personal sorrow and sympathy for those who were wounded by what I said.

Francis Cardinal George, OMI

Francis DeBernardo, executive director of New Ways Ministries, wrote, “The significance of this action is immense.  For the first time that I can remember, a prelate has acknowledged that words and ideas he has used in regard to the LGBT community were harmful, and he has apologized for the hurt they caused.”

He went on to suggest that if the cardinal is truly sorry, he could meet “parade-goers in front of Our Lady of Mount Carmel church on the day of the parade, and pass out water to them.”

In an update to the apology, DeBernardo published a comment the cardinal made to the local press.

“George said although church teaching does not judge same-sex relationships as morally acceptable, it does encourage the faithful to ‘respect everyone,’” DeBernardo wrote.

He wrote that he hoped the apology was “the first step toward greater reconciliation between the LGBT community and the Catholic hierarchy.”

—  David Taffet

TOP 10: Gays began serving openly in U.S. military

DADT

KISSING DADT GOODBYE | Petty Officer 2nd Class Marissa Gaeta, left, kisses her girlfriend, Citlalic Snell, at a Navy base in Virginia Beach, Va., on Dec. 22. According to Navy tradition, one lucky sailor is chosen to be first off the ship for the long-awaited kiss with a loved one. This time, for the first time, the happily reunited couple was gay. (Associated Press)

No 1:

Legislation to repeal “don’t ask, don’t tell” passed Congress last year and was signed by President Barack Obama on Dec. 22, 2010.

But 2011 was the year of implementation.

While other countries that changed policies about gays and lesbians serving in the armed forces recommended a quick implementation, the U.S. chose a slow, methodical approach.

Before repeal went into effect, the defense secretary, chairman of the joint chiefs and president had to certify that the military was ready for implementation.

Among the delays in implementing the repeal was to give the Pentagon time to change regulations and benefits, according to Defense Secretary Robert Gates.

Next, training materials had to be prepared and, finally, 2.2 million troops had to be trained. In February, the military announced some of its plans.

The idea of building separate bathroom facilities was rejected and personnel wouldn’t be given the option of refusing to serve with gays and lesbians.

The Navy announced its training schedule to be complete by June 30.

Support for the repeal grew and came from some surprising sources.

Former Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld even announced: “We know that gays and lesbians have been serving in the military for decades with honorable service. We know that [repeal] is an idea whose time has
come.”

As implementation progressed, conservative members of Congress continued to try to derail it. Rep. Duncan Hunter, R-Calif., introduced an amendment to the National Defense Authorization Act that would have required all four service chiefs to certify that DADT repeal wouldn’t hurt the military’s readiness.

Another amendment by Rep. Steven Palazzo, R-Miss, would require the military to “accommodate” servicemembers who believe that “homosexual or bisexual conduct is immoral and/or an inappropriate expression of human sexuality.”

The Navy previously announced that it would allow same-sex weddings on bases in states where it’s legal.

In May, it reversed course saying that the Defense of Marriage Act precluded it from allowing chaplains to perform marriages for gay and lesbian servicemembers on base.

As certification approached, the Pentagon made it clear that same-sex spouses of military personnel would not be recognized and would receive none of the benefits opposite-sex spouses receive.

On July 22, Obama, Defense Secretary Leon Panetta and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Adm. Mike Mullen certified that the U.S. military was ready for DADT repeal.

Repeal would be final 60 days from certification.

On Sept. 20 gays and lesbians could serve openly, if not equally, in the military. Members of the military began coming out without fear of expulsion, but those who had same-sex spouses were still not given 40 benefits that opposite-sex couples enjoy.

Those benefits include healthcare for the spouse and housing allowances that can be substantial.

Even if the couple has children, the spouse cannot be issued an identification card to get on base with the military member’s child for healthcare and cannot access the base attorney to write wills and other papers normally drawn up before an overseas deployment.

Servicemembers dismissed under DADT began to consider re-enlisting.

Cully Johnson, an owner of Dallas Eagle, said at a Sept. 20 DADT repeal celebration that he would like to return to complete his military career.

Although gays and lesbians can now serve without fear of dismissal or rebuke, the ban on transgenders serving remains in effect.

More than 14,000 men and women were discharged under DADT during its 18-year existence with some estimates of the cost to taxpayers running as high as $700 million.

— David Taffet

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition December 30, 2011.

—  Kevin Thomas

Potts’ agenda? To show the boring reality of LGBT life

Oral Roberts’ grandson vacuums and makes coffee in a public display designed to debunk the idea that there’s an ominous ‘gay agenda’

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GAY AGENDA | Randy Roberts Potts and his boyfriend, Keaton Johnson, perform ‘The Gay Agenda’ to show what ordinary lives gays and lesbians lead. (Photo by Ange Fitzgerald courtesy of Randy Roberts Potts)

DAVID TAFFET  |  Staff Writer
taffet@dallasvoice.com

To bridge the gap between what most evangelicals imagine when they think of a gay couple and what he knows most gay couples do, Randy Roberts Potts has come up with The Gay Agenda, a performance piece designed to be boring.

For a weekend, Potts, the out gay grandson of evangelist Oral Roberts, and his boyfriend Keaton Johnson will set up house, so to speak, in a public space in various locations in the central U.S. They will watch TV, make coffee and even take a nap.

What they won’t do is kiss or even touch much.

And they hope people from the area will come and watch — but only for a short time. Because what they’ll be doing is extremely boring.

They expect that local media will come and talk to them about their mundane lives. And on Sunday morning, Potts hopes a local church will allow him to come and speak.

Like many gay people, Potts had to deal with family issues wrapped up in religion. And like many other gay men, before he came out, he married and had three kids.

But Potts’ family was a special challenge. His grandfather Oral Roberts’ side of the family was the liberal side.

Potts said that he hasn’t spoken to his mother — Oral’s daughter Roberta who sits on the board of Oral Roberts University — in a year. But he doesn’t mourn that loss. He said he never had a close relationship with her.

On his father’s even more conservative side of the family, dancing was out and they never watched movies. Potts said he taught cousins on that side of the family what the pictures and numbers on playing cards meant.

But Potts is healthy and happy. He shares joint custody of his children and adores them. He and his boyfriend just celebrated their one-year anniversary. And his boyfriend’s family has warmly welcomed him into their family.

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AND PUPPY MAKES 3 | Potts and Johnson spent most of their time at the Aurora Arts Festival on the sofa watching TV. (Photo by Ange Fitzgerald courtesy of Randy Roberts Potts)

But Potts understands the pain many people from similar backgrounds feel. And he knows that much of it comes from the misconception people have about the lives gay people lead.

Before taking their show on the road, Potts and Johnson did a test run at the Aurora Arts Festival in the Arts District in Downtown Dallas on Oct. 30. They set up a living room along the street near the Winspear Opera House and proceeded to do those routine things people do at home. They spent much of the evening sitting and watching TV.

A small sign identified the art project. Potts said one woman watched curiously for a few minutes, then noticed the sign, grabbed her young daughter’s hand and moved along quickly. Others responded with amusement or simple bewilderment.

Potts said that there was little show of affection between him and his partner. He said that normally people don’t spend their time at home being affectionate. They just hang out together and do something dull like watch TV.

And the point wasn’t to shock people: When Potts and Johnson sat together on the couch, they were watching television. They weren’t kissing. They weren’t touching.

One of them got up to make some coffee. He brought a cup of coffee to the other, fixed the way he likes it. Again, that’s something couples do at home.
Boring.

That’s the point.

“Most people think of two men having sex,” Potts said. “This project is to push back on that stereotype.”

After the successful tryout in Dallas, Potts plans to take the installation on tour. Over the next year, he’d like to take the installation to some smaller cities, maybe one a month.

Tulsa? Maybe they’ll visit his hometown eventually. He said that may be the finale of the tour. But the first stop will be in his home state in Oklahoma City.

Potts said he’s not looking for confrontation or dangerous situations and he’s not looking to be a martyr. The goal is simply to perform The Gay Agenda in small cities throughout the center of the country.

In Dallas during the art fair, Potts said he felt safe performing out in the street. But in small-town America, he wants some level of protection.

So the plan is to rent an abandoned store window and borrow some living room furniture from some local gays so Potts and Johnson don’t have to haul their apartment all over the country. Then, for two days, they’ll lead their boring lives in the storefront for anyone in town to watch.

On Sunday morning, he said, he hoped a local church would allow the grandson of the famous evangelist to speak to the congregation.

“I don’t consider myself a preacher. “But churches are on the forefront of the battle for gay rights,” he explained.

To help fund the project, Potts is collaborating with the non-partisan Liberty Education Forum, a sister organization of Log Cabin Republicans. Potts said he thought that group would be a perfect partner because of its experience working in conservative areas.

He said the idea is to leave people with a different impression of gay people and what they do in their private lives in a way they’re not getting on television.

Potts said that the characters from Will & Grace and Modern Family have made The Gay Agenda possible. But this time the characters aren’t in New York or California, but right there in small-town America next to the kind of people the LGBT equality message needs to reach.

And while Potts doesn’t expect churches to suddenly embrace their LGBT members and neighbors, he hopes to nudge them toward providing a safer community.

If the piece succeeds in drawing attention and softening views, Potts said he’d like to see other same-sex couples perform The Gay Agenda in their own hometowns. But for now, he just hopes Liberty Education Forum will help him book about one performance a month over the course of the next year.

Why take the risk?

“If I felt accepted by my family, I wouldn’t go out and do this,” Potts said. “It’s my attempt to say, ‘I’m not that weird.’”
Johnson is in his late 20s and has been out since high school. His motivation is different.

“He wants to make things be the way he thought they always were,” Potts said.

Potts noted that there’s not much outreach to the evangelical community. The national organizations mostly work with potential allies. Most people in the LGBT community are afraid of or don’t know how to approach evangelicals.

But Potts knows that community intimately and deals with his strict religious upbringing with some amusement. He speaks of the university his grandfather founded with some pride, mentioning the school’s two best-known alumni — presidential candidate Michele Bachmann and Homer Simpson’s next door neighbor, Ned Flanders.

“Okaly dokaly,” Potts said. “Look at his wall. He has an ORU diploma hanging up.”

And although he tends to avoid contact with his immediate family in Oklahoma, Potts did attend his grandfather’s funeral. But he was not invited to sit with the family. And while his mother was delivering the eulogy, she spotted him in the audience. From the stage, in front of thousands of people, she began yelling at him.

Potts said he figures she was the one who looked foolish, not him.

Sharing the message

A year ago, Potts made an “It Gets Better” video dedicated to his Uncle Ronnie, Oral’s son who was also gay and who committed suicide. The video has gotten more than 130,000 hits.

And when he takes The Gay Agenda to smaller cities in Middle America, he said he hopes people will see that gays and lesbians lead the same sort of lives as straight people, that LGBTs aren’t a threat. If he gets to speak in a church, Potts said he hopes the congregation will get his simple message.

“I will be talking about the difference between tolerance and acceptance,” he said. “The LGBT community has been tolerated, in varying degrees, for the last 40 years since Stonewall. Tolerance is better than what came before, when our freedom of assembly rights were not guaranteed and even gay book clubs could be [and often were] stormed by the police.”

He said he wants people to understand that gays and lesbians would like to be open about themselves on Main Street, not just on a cruise, in a gay bar or on a gay-themed sitcom.

“Our little performance piece is symbolic of a move out of the ghetto and onto Main Street — how we’re received in each community will say a lot about how accepted our community is in that locale,” Potts said. “Our gay agenda, if there is one, is to be loved and accepted.”

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition December 9, 2011.

The Gay Agenda facebook page.

—  Kevin Thomas

President Obama issues memorandum on protecting LGBTs abroad

President Barack Obama and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton

Four days in advance of  Human Rights Day on Saturday, Dec. 10,  President Barack Obama today issued a presidential memorandum “to ensure that U.S. diplomacy and foreign assistance promote and protect the human rights of LGBT persons,” according to a statement just released by the White House press office.

The statement sent out by the White House includes these comments by the president:

“The struggle to end discrimination against lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) persons is a global challenge, and one that is central to the United States commitment to promoting human rights.  I am deeply concerned by the violence and discrimination targeting LGBT persons around the world — whether it is passing laws that criminalize LGBT status, beating citizens simply for joining peaceful LGBT pride celebrations, or killing men, women, and children for their perceived sexual orientation.  That is why I declared before heads of state gathered at the United Nations, “no country should deny people their rights because of who they love, which is why we must stand up for the rights of gays and lesbians everywhere.”  Under my Administration, agencies engaged abroad have already begun taking action to promote the fundamental human rights of LGBT persons everywhere.  Our deep commitment to advancing the human rights of all people is strengthened when we as the United States bring our tools to bear to vigorously advance this goal.”

The memorandum from Obama directs agencies to combat the criminalization of LGBT status or conduct abroad; protect vulnerable LGBT refugees and asylum seekers; leverage foreign assistance to protect human rights and advance nondiscrimination; ensure swift and meaningful U.S. responses to human rights abuses of LGBT persons abroad; engage international organizations in the fight against LGBT discrimination, and report on progress.

I give the president credit for issuing the memorandum at the same time he’s gearing up for what will likely be a tough re-election campaign during which opponents will no doubt use his stance and actions on LGBT issues against him. But I still have to point out that we as LGBT people still face discrimination and inequality right here in the good old U.S.-of-A:

• Our marriages are legally recognized at the federal level and they aren’t recognized in the VAST majority of state and local jurisdictions. We want the Defense of Marriage Act repealed and local and state ordinances and constitutional amendments prohibiting recognition of our relationships need to be overturned.

• There is still no federal protection against workplace discrimination based on sexual orientation and/gender expression and gender identity. Congress needs to pass — the president needs to sign — the Employment Non-Discrimination Act.

• Even though there is now a federal hate crimes law that includes LGBT people, as well as similar laws at many state and local levels, those laws are not well enforced.

Anti-LGBT bullying remains a deadly problem in our schools and our workplaces and on the Internet. We’ve made progress in combating such bullying, but not nearly enough. Dedicate the resources necessary to address the issue effectively.

So let’s applaud our president for the steps he has — and is — taking. There’s no doubt Obama has been more open than any other president about addressing LGBT issues and we have seen great strides forward toward equality during his administration. But there’s a long way to go yet, and we need to make sure that the president — and all our elected officials — know they can’t just rest on their laurels.

—  admin

Conservative Judaism working to make same-sex wedding ceremonies equal

According to the Israeli newspaper HaAretz, Conservative Judaism is working to come up with a same-sex marriage ceremony.

Note: Yes, same-sex marriage is performed in most branches of Judaism. Israel recognizes same-sex marriages performed elsewhere. Same-sex weddings are not performed in Israel, but neither are Reform weddings.

Here’s the debate that’s going on. Conservative Judaism wants the same-sex marriage ceremony to be as close to the traditional ceremony as possible. They argue that if the ceremony is different, then the marriage is different. If the marriage is different, then it isn’t kiddushin, or holy. Separate isn’t equal, they argue.

But in the traditional marriage ceremony as it’s existed since Biblical times, the husband is taking ownership of the wife. How would that work in a same-sex relationship? Who would buy whom? Would a dowry be paid?

So some who are coming up with the new ceremony want to update the vows to emphasize the loving relationship and partnership and support the couple gives each other.

Reform and Reconstructionist Judaism have already updated their vows. Husbands don’t generally buy wives in Reform synagogues.

And here’s where Maggie Gallagher, the American Family Association and all their right-wing buddies are completely right. Same-sex marriage is destroying traditional marriage as it’s existed since Biblical times.

In Judaism, rabbis are looking at those traditional marriage vows and throwing them out. Women don’t want to be purchased and men don’t want to own them and rabbis don’t want to be involved in transferring property rights.

But the Conservative Movement is right that the same-sex wedding ceremony needs to be as close to the opposite-sex wedding ceremony because separate isn’t equal. In the end, the Conservative wedding for opposite sex couples will change to reflect the equality of a same-sex marriage.

So once again, gays and lesbians are making the world a better place and to heterosexuals, we say, you’re welcome.

—  David Taffet

Republicans tout support for ‘traditional values’

Candidates jockey for position as most anti-gay at forum sponsored by ‘family values’ groups

Rep. Newt Gingrich

Rep. Newt Gingrich

Lisa Keen  |  Keen News Service
lisakeen@mac.com

Current Republican presidential frontrunner Newt Gingrich used a right-wing Christian forum Saturday, Nov. 19, to claim “the left” is trying to “drive out the existence of traditional religions … and use the government to repress the American people against their own values.”

He made the comment in the context of a discussion about whether religious-oriented adoption agencies should be allowed to refuse adoptions to same-sex couples. Some states, such as Massachusetts, have cut off government funding to adoption groups that refuse to obey state laws prohibiting discrimination based on sexual orientation.

At that same event, Texas Gov. Rick Perry said that gay couples in Texas cannot adopt, which isn’t true, strictly speaking. Gays and lesbians can adopt as individuals, and in most cases, that person’s partner can do a second-parent adoption separately.

Without referring to gay groups or the LGBT community specifically, Gingrich lashed out against a movement that, since the 1960s, has gone from “a request for tolerance to an imposition of intolerance … [and] closing down those with traditional values.”

Gingrich said he would support a law that would cut off “all federal funding to any jurisdiction that discriminates against religious beliefs in that format.”

The forum was the “Iowa Thanksgiving Family Forum,” sponsored by the Family Leader group of Iowa, as well as the National Organization for Marriage and Focus on the Family. Its format was an “around the family table” kind of conversation with Gingrich and five other Republican presidential hopefuls, including Ron Paul, Michele Bachmann, Rick Santorum, Herman Cain and Perry.

Mitt Romney, who has been eschewing most Iowa events, declined an invitation.

The candidates responded to questions from a moderator and from several representatives of the host groups, including Brian Brown of the National Organization for Marriage. The topics centered around such broad themes as values, morality and liberty, with a strong bent toward the view that the country is divided into conservatives — who are all happy, God-loving citizens — and liberals, who are all sad and out to destroy religious freedom.

As has become his routine, Santorum boasted about his superiority in the GOP field when it comes to opposing marriage between same-sex couples. Same-sex marriage, he said, “radically changes the entire moral fabric of our country.

“Gay marriage is wrong,” said Santorum. “As Abraham Lincoln said, the states do not have the right to do wrong. … America is an ideal. It’s not just a Constitution.”

But only Cain spoke up when Brown solicited responses for what each candidate would do, as president, if the U.S. Supreme Court should overturn the Defense of Marriage Act.

Cain said he would “lead the charge to overturn the Supreme Court.” After some prodding from the moderator, Gingrich did offer up that he thought it important to “make DOMA not appealable” in the courts.

Brown’s questions came near the end of the two-hour event, held at the First Federated Church in Des Moines. His first, directed to Rep. Paul, was whether he would support an amendment to the federal Constitution to ban same-sex marriage. It was an odd question, given that Paul has for years been on record publicly as opposing such an amendment and voted against it in 2004.

Paul reiterated his opposition, noting that he believes generally that the issue should be left to the states or, preferably, to individual churches and families.

But Paul added that he does support DOMA.

Brown then asked other candidates to explain why they believe a federal marriage amendment is necessary. Santorum jumped in with a recap of his strategy to “stop this problem” through battles state by state. Bachmann touted her own leadership against same-sex marriage in Minnesota.

The forum was marked by dramatically emotional moments in which the candidates shared personal stories related to their faith.

Santorum acknowledged having decided to keep an emotional distance from his infant daughter who he believed would soon die in order to avoid the pain of the potential loss.

Herman Cain talked about what it was like to hear that he had stage four cancer.

Michele Bachmann recalled what it was like, as a child, to watch her mother sell the family’s dishes and other possessions after she divorced Bachmann’s father.

The moderator, Fox News contributor Frank Luntz, and news reports indicated 3,000 people were in attendance at the forum. The chief sponsor, The Family Leader, helped organize last year’s ousting of three Iowa Supreme Court justices who voted with the unanimous court to say the state constitution required equal treatment of same-sex and heterosexual couples under marriage laws.

© 2011 by Keen News Service. All rights reserved.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition November 25, 2011.

—  Kevin Thomas