SMU adds transgender protections

SMUSouthern Methodist University has issued a new statement of nondiscrimination. The previous policy covered sexual orientation but not  gender identity and expression. The new policy reads:

SMU will not discriminate in any employment practice, education program, or educational activity on the basis of race, color, religion, national origin, sex, age, disability, genetic information, or veteran status. SMU’s commitment to equal opportunity includes nondiscrimination on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity and expression.

The policy reportedly went into effect on Jan. 1 after being approved in December. SMU is believed to be the first four-year university in North Texas with a fully inclusive policy. For the first time in several years, SMU was not included in the Princeton Review’s 2012 list of most homophobic campuses.

Dallas County Community College added gender identity and expression to its nondiscrimination policy last year.

Representatives from SMU couldn’t immediately be reached for comment on the change.

—  David Taffet

Efforts to resurrect local gay Catholic group are misguided

Article on fledgling Dignity Dallas chapter raises questions about why LGBT people would want to be part of a faith that doesn’t accept them

The Feb. 17 Dallas Voice informed us, under the eyebrow “Spirituality,” that some locals are working to re-establish the LGBT Catholic organization, Dignity Dallas.

This is so weird it ranks right up there with Rick Santorum’s assertion that, if one of his daughters was raped and impregnated, he would advise her to make the best of a bad situation.

It ranks right alongside Mitt Romney’s sacred underpants, Newt Gingrich’s moon base and Ron Paul’s un-conservative earmarks.

I do not know Jim Davis, and perhaps he is a very nice man. Certainly, he seems sincere in wanting to re-establish a local branch of Dignity since he is willing to be quoted saying, “I want my name out there.”

Out where? The Catholic Church does not recognize Dignity’s existence. It certainly does not recognize Dignity’s value. The DV article reports that, according to DignityUSA Executive Director Marianne Duddy-Burke, the group is “still a place to take refuge from the mounting attacks by bishops and the pope.”

Well, isn’t that the problem? Hey, people, the church does not want you. It thinks your sexuality, gender identity and/or gender expression is a choice. It thinks you should turn straight. It thinks you should be celibate. It thinks you should at the very least keep your mouth shut. Not to mention other parts of your anatomy.

Here is some of what the church has to say about LGBT people:

According to published reports, on Oct. 31, 1986, under Pope John Paul II, Cardinal Ratzinger (now Pope Benedict XVI) made public a “Letter to the Bishops of the Catholic Church on the Pastoral Care of Homosexual Persons.”

In the letter, he calls homosexuality “a more or less strong tendency … toward an intrinsic moral evil” and “an objective disorder.”

In other words, not only is homosexual activity wrong, but homosexuality itself is wrong. Evil. Disordered. Wrong.

Googling for items related to Catholic positions on homosexuality is fascinating and terrifying. For example, it is fascinating to note the many references to the Book of Genesis and its “creation” of Adam and Eve and their “union” as the basis for heterosexuality and hetero-only marriage. (There is no mention of who wrote the book, though many Catholics and other religions believe it was dictated by God.)

But it is terrifying to read the November 2000 “Statement” issued by the Catholic Medical Association. The statement lists “considerations” — the first being all the bad childhood experiences it alleges turned some of us away from the path of righteousness, including not enough rough-and-tumble play for boys. In a sort of footnote to the list, it alleges that adult women are turned to homosexuality by having an abortion. That’s a new one on me and perhaps on you as well.

The statement then makes “recommendations,” which include this questionable gem: “The priest … is in a unique position to provide specific spiritual assistance to those experiencing same-sex attraction.” Is this a joke? I’m not going there.

In any case, the Catholic Medical Association statement was issued years after the American Psychological Association changed its retrograde position and stated: “The research on homosexuality is very clear. Homosexuality is neither mental illness nor moral depravity.”

I have nothing against the Roman Catholic Church — nothing against any Abrahamic faith. I simply do not believe the practitioners should be passing judgment on all of us or meddling with marriage and abortion and contraception and military service and workplace rights and intimate relationships among members of our community.

And yet they do, or they try very hard to. So why would any LGBT seek to dignify such patriarchal, paternalistic views? It’s a puzzle.

Phyllis Guest is a longtime activist on political and LGBT issues and is a member of Stonewall Democrats of Dallas. Send comments to editor@dallasvoice.com.

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

—  Kevin Thomas

FFW to FWISD: Walk the walk

Advocacy group says school officials need to implement training, enforcement processes

Anable.Tom

Tom Anable

 

Tammye Nash  |  Senior Editor
nash@dallasvoice.com

FORT WORTH — Representatives of Fairness Fort Worth are set to meet next Tuesday, Oct. 25, with Walter Dansby, interim superintendent of the Fort Worth

Independent School District, and FFW President Tom Anable said his organization is hoping to see the district’s plans for implementing training and enforcement processes related to its anti-harassment and anti-bullying policies.

In the past year, the Fort Worth school board has, since the first of this year, expanded the district’s anti-harassment and anti-bullying policies to include protections based on gender identity and gender expression; protections based on sexual orientation were already included.

The board voted in January to include those protections in policies applying to faculty and staff members, and in June to policies applying to students.

LGBT advocates have routinely praised the district for those votes, noting that the changes make the FWISD policies among the most progressive and comprehensive in the state. This week, however, Anable said advocates have become frustrated with the district’s slow progress in implementing training regarding the policies and in enforcing them.

“They are talking the talk, now we want them to walk the walk,” Anable said.

He pointed to a series of recent incidences in Fort Worth schools as evidence that training and enforcement are lacking, including the mid-September furor that erupted over a Western Hills High School student’s alleged anti-gay comments in class.

Dakota Ary told the media that his German class teacher, Kristopher Franks, sent him to the principal after he made a comment to a friend during a classroom discussion, basically saying that as a Christian, he believes homosexuality is wrong.

Franks, however, said that Ary made the comment directly to him, that the comment was not pertinent to any classroom discussion and

Vasquez.Carlos

Carlos Vasquez

that it was part of a pattern of anti-gay comments and behavior aimed at him by Ary and three other students in the class.

Although Ary was initially suspended, school officials rescinded the punishment and cleared his record after Ary’s mother brought in Liberty Counsel’s Matt Krause to represent them and complained to school district officials.

Within days, school officials notified Franks that they were launching an investigation of him based on unrelated charges of inappropriate behavior that had just surfaced. Franks was suspended with pay for the duration of the investigation, but returned to the classroom three days later after the investigation cleared him of any wrongdoing.
Franks still ended up with a “letter of concern” in his file, the lowest form of discipline the district can take against a teacher, and was required to take a course in classroom management.

In an email to school board members dated Oct. 4, Franks also said that the Western Hills High School principal had, on his first day back in class, conducted an in-class evaluation — during the class that includes Dakota Ary — that Franks said was unwarranted and overly harsh. Franks said the principal refused to discipline a student who put on a pink shirt and “a pink lady’s hat” and pranced around the room to mock Franks, even though the principal was in the room when it happened.

Franks also said he learned from other students that the group of students who had been harassing him previously, during the time while he was suspended, were allowed by a substitute teacher to “dress in drag” and make fun of Franks.

Although Franks has since told colleagues the problem had been addressed and settled to his satisfaction, Anable said this week that the fact the harassment was allowed in the first place points to a lack of training and enforcement on the anti-harassment and anti-bullying policies.

In a second recent incident, a secretary at Carter-Riverside High School recently sent a memo through the school’s email system in which she quoted biblical passages supposedly condemning homosexuality while questioning the wisdom of allowing a “gender-bending day” during the school’s homecoming week activities.

“I am concerned that it may cause more confusion with those who are struggling with their own sexuality, which is common for teens,” wrote Victoria Martinez, who works in the school’s internal finance office.

She continued, “As representatives of FWISD, I would hate to think we are partakers of encouraging a lifestyle, which is an abomination unto the LORD, and which may not be acceptable to many parents of our children. We should strive to keep our students’ focus on academics and not what they or others are doing in the bedroom.”

And, Anable said, there have been reports that same-sex couples at the district’s Diamon Hill-Jarvis High School have been disciplined for holding hands at school, while opposite-sex couples holding hands have not gotten in trouble.

Openly gay FWISD Board of Trustees member Carlos Vasquez said Wednesday that he was disappointed that Fairness Fort Worth had decided to go public with its criticisms since, “We have already solved most of the issues and concerns they are bringing up.”

Vasquez said that had “visited with Kris Franks” during the recent Tarrant County Gay Pride Picnic, and that while “there were some concerns on his first day back in the class, those were quickly resolved.”

And Vasquez said that district officials had responded quickly to Martinez’s email, removing it from the email system and reprimanding the secretary.

“As soon as this was brought to my attention, I spoke to Supt. Dansby, the superintendent took care of it immediately,” Vasquez said, adding that Dansby “took the appropriate measures” against Martinez but that he could not elaborate further because he cannot discuss personnel matters.

Vasquez also said that he had not heard of any complaints from Diamon Hill-Jarvis before a call Wednesday from Dallas Voice.

“That’s one of my schools. It’s in my [school board] district,” Vasquez said. “I have already called the principal there and she said she had not heard anything about that, either. She assured me that all the students are being treated fairly.”

Vasquez continued, “I am kind of surprised that [Fairness Fort Worth] felt the need to go to the press with this. Supt. Dansby is working with the LGBT community, he’s working with me on these issues. This is the most open this school district has ever been with the LGBT community.”

But Anable said Fairness Fort Worth is simply trying to let the school district know that the community is watching and expects the district to follow through on its commitments in terms of training and enforcement of the anti-harassment and anti-bullying policies.

“We are not trying to be overly critical. But we do want them to know that we will keep the pressure on,” Anable said. “We have these policies in place, and we want to make sure they are enforced.”

Anable said his organization also wants to make sure that the LGBT community “has a place at the table” as the district continues its search for a permanent superintendent.

Dansby was appointed interim superintendent after former Supt. Melody Johnson resigned in June amid controversy, and the district continues a nation-wide search for a permanent replacement for Johnson.

Anable said the school board “creating a forum/focus group to assist the consultants they’ve hired to conduct the search for a new permanent superintendent, and we want to know if the district intends to include the LGBT community in that focus group,” Anable said. “We’ve made great progress in the schools here in Fort Worth. Now we don’t want to see them bring in someone who will ignore that progress and take the school district backwards on our issues.”

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition October 21, 2011.

—  Kevin Thomas

DISD to quietly add trans protections Thursday

The latest DISD policy changes haven’t generated the media hype that an anti-bullying policy did last fall, when news crews surrounded Resource Center Dallas’ Rafael McDonnell outside a board meeting.

A few weeks ago we reported that the Dallas school board is considering a series of policy changes designed to protect transgender students and employees against discrimination and harassment.

Well, it looks like the changes — in the form of amendments to six separate DISD policies — are on now the board’s Consent Agenda for its regular meeting this Thursday, meaning there’s no opposition and they’re expected to be approved without discussion.

The DISD board went over the changes during a briefing session two weeks ago.

“There was actually very little discussion of it at all,” said Resource Center Dallas’ Rafael McDonnell, who attended the briefing session. “There was more time talking about the addition of ‘genetic information,’ which is a federal requirement, than there was about adding gender identity or gender expression.

“I think in this case it shows the trustees remember the discussion we had last fall when the bullying policy was passed,” McDonnell said. “They were already familiar with the concept of gender identity and expression.”

McDonnell said DISD will become the third district in the state to ban discrimination and harassment based on gender identity and expression.

“I think this is an incredibly positive step for DISD,” he said. “We’d love to see other districts follow in the footsteps of Fort Worth ISD, Houston ISD and DISD.”

Thursday’s meeting is at 5:30 p.m. at DISD headquarters, 3700 Ross Ave.

—  John Wright

Commissioners to vote on trans protections Tuesday; LGBT community urged to attend

Clay Jenkins

In an unexpected but welcome development for LGBT advocates, the Dallas County Commissioners Court is slated to vote next week on whether to add transgender employees to the county’s nondiscrimination policy.

Item 23 on the Commissioners Court’s formal agenda for its regular meeting Tuesday is a Court Order that would add “transgender, gender identity and gender expression” to the nondiscrimination policy.

In March, the Commissioners Court voted unanimously to add sexual orientation to the nondiscrimination policy, but left out transgender protections for the county’s 7,000 workers. Since then, LGBT advocates have called on commissioners to go back and make the policy fully inclusive — speaking at the court’s meetings and flooding them with emails and letters.

In response, County Judge Clay Jenkins, who chairs the Commissioners Court, requested an opinion from the District Attorney’s Office about the impact of adding transgender protections to the policy. Jenkins said Friday afternoon he’s “confident” the amendment will pass on Tuesday.

“I got a verbal back from the DA today that they could sign off that this was not going to be unduly burdensome on the taxpayers or anything, so we’re taking a swing at it,” Jenkins said. “I feel good that it’s the right thing to do and that the majority of the court will support it. “

Jenkins and Commissioner Dr. Elba Garcia, who spearheaded the addition of sexual orientation to the policy, both support adding transgender protections. However, they’ve been struggling to find the third vote needed to get the amendment passed.

—  John Wright

RCD’s Rafael McDonnell explains gender identity to the Dallas County Commisisoners Court

Due to some scheduled meetings here at the Brewery, it’s not looking like Instant Tea will make it down to Commissioners Court this morning, where Resource Center Dallas’ Rafael McDonnell plans to address the court during public comments about the exclusion of gender identity/expression from Dallas County’s new nondiscrimination policy.

In lieu of being there, we thought we’d go ahead and post McDonnell’s prepared remarks, which he was kind enough to send over last night. We’ll also be following up on this topic later. But for now, McDonnell’s remarks are after the jump:

—  John Wright

TCC adds gays to nondiscrimination policy

MAKING STRIDES | Tom Anable, left, pictured here with Todd Camp, says that the lack of controversy surrounding the TCC board’s unanimous vote on adding sexual orientation to its employee nondiscrimination policy shows how far the Fort Worth area has come since the Rainbow Lounge raid.

Anable speaks at board meeting on adding transgender protections, says suggestion was well received

TAMMYE NASH  |  Senior Editor
nash@dallasvoice.com

FORT WORTH —  The board of Tarrant County College recently changed the school’s employee nondiscrimination policy to add protections based on sexual orientation and is considering another change to include protections based on gender identity and gender expression.

Tom Anable, president of Fairness Fort Worth, said he spoke to the TCC board about the importance of including protections based on gender identity and expression and was well received.

Anable said the impetus for the policy change began, in effect, last year when two TCC students started a gay-straight alliance on campus. This year’s LGBTQA Awareness Week at TCC last month grew out of that, Anable said, and the increased awareness of LGBT issues on campus prompted one faculty member to question whether the school’s nondiscrimination policy included protections based on sexual orientation.

Urged on by those questions, board members began a discussion about expanding the employee nondiscrimination policy that resulted in the March 9 vote.

Anable said that the big story here — as with the Fort Worth Independent School District’s recent vote to amend its anti-bullying policy for employees to include sexual orientation, gender identity and gender expression — is that “there was no story. The change passed on a unanimous vote as part of the consent agenda.

There wasn’t anyone who showed up to try and stop it. It wasn’t even controversial to them.”

Anable said it is also important to note that the change started within the faculty and the board, not because activists broached the subject first. He also said he believes the board’s failure so far to include protections based on gender identity and expression stem from a lack of understanding gender issues rather than a deliberate refusal to include them.

Anable said he heard about the then upcoming policy change vote when he participated in a panel discussion during LGBTQA Awareness Week in February, and asked for the chance to address the board regarding adding transgender protections.

“They said of course I could come speak, that they would love to have more information,” Anable said.

“I gave my presentation and it was a very positive experience. The trustees all seemed very receptive and very supportive and they want to continue the dialog. I think they will add protections based on gender identity and expression; I think they will do it sooner rather than later, and I think they will do it without much controversy,” he said.

Anable said Fairness Fort Worth also hopes to work with TCC to make sure the school complies completely with the U.S. Department of Education’s recent guidelines for anti-bullying efforts.

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

—  John Wright

FEEDBACK: Be above petty squabbles; Open letter to Elba Garcia; Know the facts on PrEP

Be above petty squabbles

I have followed with much interest the recent joint endorsements of municipal candidates by the Stonewall Democrats of Dallas and Dallas Stonewall Young Democrats. A spirited debate is always healthy, and it is good to see this happening, especially with the race for City Council District 14 which features the Stonewall-endorsed candidate, James Nowlin, and current City Councilmember Angela Hunt. However, I have been disheartened by the direction that some voices in the debate have taken. As members of the LGBT community, we should be inherently sensitive to the inappropriateness of comments that personally judge an individual and call into question their motives for running for office, or the legitimacy of emotion shown in public. We are above this!

James Nowlin is a member of this community and has served this community since first moving to Dallas. Now is the time to get behind candidates that are a part of our community, such as Mr. Nowlin and Cassie Pierce (City Council District 7 candidate), not because they are simply LGBT individuals, but because they are both qualified for the job and represent the much needed change we need on City Council in having representatives that can build consensus and take issues that impact not only us, but their entire constituency, through to the finish line. I encourage all in this community to contact the campaigns of those that support us and see how they can get involved.

Jared A. Pearce,
president, Dallas Stonewall Young Democrats

 

Open letter to Elba Garcia

On behalf of Resource Center Dallas, we wish to thank you and the court for voting to expand the county’s nondiscrimination policy to include sexual orientation.

This effort is long overdue and demonstrates a commitment to fairness and equality. We believe the policy should also specifically enumerate protections for gender identity and gender expression. I’d like to discuss this issue with you at your earliest convenience.

I read the post on [the March 22] vote on the Dallas Voice’s website. Sexual orientation, gender identity and gender expression are three separate characteristics. As subject-matter experts who offer diversity training as part of our mission, these are the definitions the center uses:

• Sexual orientation: A person’s enduring physical, romantic, emotional and spiritual attraction to another person.

• Gender identity: A person’s internal and personal sense of being a man or a woman. Gender identity and sexual orientation are not the same; transgender people may be heterosexual, lesbian, gay or bisexual.

• Gender expression: External manifestation of one’s gender identity, usually expressed through “masculine,” “feminine” or gender-variant behavior, clothing, haircut, voice or body characteristics. Typically, transgender people seek to make their gender expression match their gender identity.

The center and others in the LGBT community assert that a policy would need to specifically enumerate all three characteristics for maximum effectiveness and protections. It simply makes business sense. As you know, both the cities of Dallas and Fort Worth already offer these protections for their LGBT employees, as does DFW International Airport. Also, a better understanding of the LGBT community will aid Dallas County in employment recruiting and retention, and in serving your diverse public.

You may have seen some of the stories in the Dallas Morning News last summer about the center’s work with Dallas Area Rapid Transit (DART) as it added gender identity to its nondiscrimination policies. This is part of our ongoing work with businesses, universities and governmental agencies including Dallas ISD, DFW International Airport and TABC as they strive to make their workplaces more inclusive.

I look forward to hearing from you soon.

Rafael McDonnell, strategic communications and programs manager, Resource Center Dallas


Know the facts on PrEP

A robust public debate is underway about the potential use of anti-HIV drugs to prevent HIV infection (also known as pre-exposure prophylaxis or PrEP). Our study, called iPrEx, provided the first conclusive evidence that the daily use of PrEP with the FDA-approved HIV treatment Truvada® can significantly reduce HIV infection risk in gay, bisexual and other men who have sex with men (MSM) and transgender women, when delivered as part of a comprehensive package of prevention services, including condoms.

The protection provided by PrEP and condoms together could have a substantial impact in reducing new HIV infections among MSM worldwide.
Recently, a private healthcare provider has begun a paid advertising campaign urging the FDA not to even consider approving the use of PrEP — charging, among other things, that MSM will stop using condoms if PrEP is permitted. The pros and cons of PrEP use should be vigorously debated — but that debate should be based on facts, rather than the assumption that MSM will not act to protect themselves and others from infection.

Here are the facts about the iPrEX study:

• A diverse group of 2,499 HIV-negative MSM and transgender women on four continents with a range of sexual practices participated in iPrEx. All participants received a comprehensive package of HIV prevention services. Half also received Truvada, while the other half received a placebo (blank pill). Neither the study participants nor the investigators knew which pill they received during the study.

• The group that received PrEP with Truvada in addition to condoms had 44 percent fewer HIV infections. This protective effect was seen across different groups in the study, including those of different age, ethnicity and education level.

• Men in both study groups reduced their risk behaviors and increased their condom use — demonstrating that MSM can use PrEP and condoms together. PrEP does not protect against other sexually transmitted infections and should never be considered as a substitute for condom use or other safer sex precautions.

• Ensuring daily pill use will be critical to the success of PrEP. While many iPrEx study participants used the pill consistently, about 50 percent did not — which impacted the effectiveness of PrEP in the study. Among those who took the medication consistently, the level of protection PrEP provided reached 72 percent to 95 percent. A second phase of the iPrEx study will begin soon, in which all participants who want PrEP will receive it. We are hoping to learn whether knowing that PrEP works will help participants achieve higher rates of pill use and protection in this phase of the study.

• Truvada is widely used for HIV treatment because it is generally well tolerated. Rates of side effects were very low in the iPrEx study. A small amount of bone loss was seen among those receiving PrEP, a finding commonly seen in HIV-positive individuals starting anti-HIV treatment; these changes had no apparent negative health impact.

Studies to date also show no evidence of HIV drug resistance associated with PrEP use. HIV testing and medical evaluation before starting PrEP and while using PrEP are important to prevent resistance.

• A daily PrEP dosing regimen was used in the iPrEx study. It is not known whether PrEP can be taken less frequently to prevent HIV infections. Additional studies are underway or being planned to look at whether different dosing regimens (e.g., taking PrEP before and after sex, or on a regular schedule several times a week) would be safe and effective.

• The iPrEx study was paid for by the U.S. National Institutes of Health and by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, and was not organized or run by any drug company. iPrEx requested and received a donation of study drug from Gilead Sciences, but Gilead had no other input into the study.

Much more work lies ahead to determine whether PrEP can help stop HIV infections in other populations, such as heterosexuals and injection drug users, to better understand possible side effects of PrEP, to support consistent pill use among people who want to use it, and to ensure that PrEP is seen as one element of an HIV prevention strategy that includes regular condom use.

It will also be critical to address issues of cost, and to determine how to ensure that PrEP will be available to MSM in the United States and around the world who need it most.

Additional studies are also underway to test whether other anti-HIV medicines (including pills, gels, and other formulations) are safe and effective for HIV prevention.

We believe that MSM and all communities working to protect themselves and reduce the impact of the HIV epidemic have the right to full information about PrEP, and can make informed, intelligent decisions about whether or not to utilize PrEP as one component of a comprehensive HIV prevention strategy.

The iPrEx study investigators are committed to providing complete information about the study findings tohelp ensure that those decisions are made based on the facts about PrEP. We thank the volunteers who participated in this important study, including volunteers in San Francisco, and the more than 20,000 participants in PrEP trials worldwide for their commitment to advancing HIV prevention.

More information about iPrEx and PrEP is available at iPrexNews.com.

Robert Grant, MD, MPH, iPrEx Protocol Chair
Albert Liu, MD, MPH, iPrEx Medical Officer and San Francisco Site Researcher
Susan Buchbinder, MD, iPrEx San Francisco Site Researcher
Kenneth Mayer, MD, iPrEx Boston Site Researcher
Pedro Goicochea, MSc, MA, iPrEx Investigator
Jeff McConnell, MA, iPrEx Investigator

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

—  John Wright

Burns, Hicks unopposed in FW council races

Fort Worth City Councilmembers Joel Burns and Kathleen Hicks are unopposed in their 2011 re-election bids.

Yesterday (Monday, March 14) was the filing deadline for area municipal elections, and it’s official: Fort Worth’s first and only openly gay City Council member, Joel Burns, is unopposed in his second re-election bid since first winning the District 9 seat on the council in 2007 when he ran to replace Wendy Davis. Davis resigned to run for — and win — the District 10 seat in the Texas Senate.

In addition, the deadline passed without anyone filing to challenge Fort Worth’s District 8 incumbent, Kathleen Hicks, either. Hicks, who represents the district in which the Rainbow Lounge is located, has been a steadfast ally of the LGBT community, especially in the months since the June 29, 2009 raid on Rainbow Lounge.

W.B. “Zim” Zimmerman, the District 3 incumbent, also has no opponent. Zimmerman, along with Burns, Hicks, District 2 incumbent Sal Espino, District 5 incumbent Frank Moss and Mayor Mike Moncrief voted in October 2009 to add protections based on gender expression and gender identity to the city’s nondiscrimination ordinance. Espino has one opponent, Paul L. Rudisill, in the May 14 election, and Moss has two opponents: Charles Hibbler and Rickie Clark.

Moncrief is not seeking re-election, and a crowded field of five candidates have filed to replace him. They are Jim Lane, Betsy Price, Cathy Hirt, Dan Barrett and Nicholas Zebrun.

The three councilmembers who voted against the transgender protections all face opponents in this election. Mayor Pro-Tem Danny Scarth is being challenged by Lupe Arriola in District 2. And in District 6, incumbent Jungus Jordan is being challenged by Tolli Thomas. District 7 incumbent Carter Burdette is not running for re-election, and five candidates are running to replace him. They are Dennis Shingleton, Jonathan Horton, Jack Ernest, Jon Perry and Lee Henderson.

For more information on candidates in the Fort Worth city elections, check out the Fort Worth City Secretary’s Elections Page.

And look for an in-depth story on the mayor’s race in an upcoming issue of Dallas Voice.

—  admin

FW police chief enacts anti-bias policing policy

Fort Worth Police Chief Jeffrey Halstead

LGBT leader praises Halstead’s initiative, says ties between city, LGBT community continue to strengthen

TAMMYE NASH  |  Senior Editor
nash@dallasvoice.com

FORT WORTH —  Fort Worth Police Chief Jeffrey Halstead has implemented a new policy banning “bias-based policing” in his department, and Fort Worth LGBT community leader Jon Nelson this week praised the new policy as “a very positive move.”

“We didn’t discuss this with him [Halstead]. Nobody pressured him to do this. He did it on his own,” Nelson said of the new policy. “It’s as clear as it can be. It puts his employees on notice that they have to act without bias, and there are specific ramifications if they fail in that. I say, good for him.”

The policy, which Halstead issued Friday, Feb. 4, notes that “bias-based policing is prohibited in both enforcement of the law and delivery of police services.”

Any officer who violates the policy can be fired immediately.

The policy, the full text of which is available online at DallasVoice.com, reads: “Officers shall not use race, color, gender, age, national origin, religion, disability, economic status, sexual orientation, gender expression, gender identity, transgender status, membership in a cultural group or an individual’s ability/inability to speak English as the criteria for determining when or how to take enforcement action or provide police services.”

Jon Nelson

In an e-mail interview this week, Halstead said that although officers were already banned from acting on personal bias while on duty, the new policy is intended to reinforce that ban.

“The policy basically incorporates language located throughout departmental General Orders and consolidates it into one succinct order that clearly defines what bias-based policing means and strictly prohibits it,” Halstead said.

He also said the new policy was not implemented as a response to any particular incident, including the June, 2009, raid on the Rainbow Lounge gay bar by Fort Worth officers and agents with the Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission.

Instead, Halstead said, “It is a proactive step to continue building trust in the community, which is essential for public and officer safety.”

Halstead said that the new policy has been in the works since last summer when he asked his chief of staff, Lt. Paul Henderson, to research the idea and see if any other major cities had similar policies before drafting the Fort Worth policy.

“Creating policy can take a significant amount of time,” Halstead said. “We have to be careful to ensure we are not in conflict with any laws or regulations. And once it was drafted, we circulated it to our community relations officers, police leaders in our diverse associations and our law department to provide input and feedback.”

Once the final draft was complete, the order went into effect on Feb. 4.

“Although no specific reason behind the timing exists, it is appropriate and holds special meaning that the order went into effect at the beginning of Black History Month,” Halstead said.

The chief said that any officer who witnesses a possible incidence of biased policing is required to report the incident to his or her supervisor. The supervisor then reports the incident to the department’s Internal Affairs Division, which will investigate the allegations.

Citizens should report such violations directly to Internal Affairs, the chief said.

“Internal Affairs investigates all allegations dealing with discrimination in the workplace, as well as the city’s Human Resources Department,” Halstead said. “Internal Affairs is the lead investigative entity for allegations of discrimination regarding employees as it pertains to interactions with the public. If it is found that any criminality exists on the part of a police employee, the chief’s Special Investigative Unit would take the lead for filing criminal charges if applicable.”

Halstead also noted that his department is “in the process of putting together a hate or bias crimes alert program” through which community members who subscribe to the program will be notified of any hate or bias crimes that are reported. He said that the department is “in the process of completing the computer program necessary to build the service.”

In 2010, Halstead said, “six actual hate crimes” were investigated by Major Case detectives, the officers tasked with handling such cases.

“We use the word ‘actual’ because the definition of a hate crime is very specific regarding the primary motive for a criminal act, and many times what is reported as a hate crime does not meet the statute’s criteria,” Halstead said.

“In the future, we are looking to begin tracking ‘bias’ incidents, meaning that if any actions or statements are made as a part of a crime, but the crime itself does not meet the criteria of a hate crime, we want to be able to track those as ‘bias incidents,’” he said.

Halstead added that the new ban on bias-based policing is not directly related to the hate crime alert program, but is instead “more related to the protection of individual rights of our communities and to provide a clear departmental position that bias-based policing will not be tolerated.”

Although many LGBT community leaders were angered with Halstead’s initial response to the Rainbow Lounge raid, most now consider the police chief a valuable friend to the community.

“He is a human being, just like anyone else. We all make mistakes,” Nelson said of Halstead. “But he has gone from ‘Let’s just take a deep breath’ to, on his own, coming up with this new policy, a policy that has real teeth. That is a long way to come.

“I think that every step he has taken has brought the police department and our community closer together, starting with [the appointment of openly lesbian Officer] Sara Straten [as the department’s liaison to the LGBT community],” Nelson said. “That’s not just window dressing. … I think the chief wants his police force to be fundamentally fair, and he’s willing to buck the Police Officers Association to do it.”

The Police Officers Association is the FWPD officers’ union, an organization, Nelson said, with “tremendous political clout” whose “only concern so far has been to protect their own, even officers convicted of DWI and killing people with cars.”

Some community leaders have also suggested that it was pressure from the Police Officers Association that kept Halstead from being able to hand down stiffer discipline to officers involved in the Rainbow Lounge raid.

Halstead said this week that while his leadership approach “has not necessarily changed, I continue to learn from mistakes and experience personal growth. True leadership demands constant evaluation and adjustment in order to provide the best service possible. …  It also requires some risk-taking to implement progressive change within any organization.”

Halstead said that he believes “the culture of policing” is changing at the national level as the diversity of the country grows, and progressive police departments are “taking proactive steps to facilitate those changes as quickly as possible.”

“My intent when I was hired as the Fort Worth police chief has always been to focus on service and to provide an organizational model of ‘service with respect.’ That has not changed,” Halstead said. “I am proud that our police department is being viewed as a progressive policing model and remains on of the leaders in community policing today.”

Nelson said he believes that the strengthening relationship between Halstead’s department and the LGBT community is mirrored by the strengthening relationship between the community and city government over all.

“The bottom line is, we’ve gotten used to each other. There is a level of trust here now,” Nelson said. “They [city officials] understand that the community, that Fairness Fort Worth for example, will not be reluctant to stand behind the police chief when he does something like this. Nor will we be reticent to voice opposition if necessary.

“But we won’t do it by calling names or demonizing anybody,” he added. “We will do it the way the First Amendment meant for it to be done. We will voice our opinions, and we will take action when necessary.”

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition Feb. 11, 2011.

—  John Wright