WATCH: 6 Texas activists arrested at ENDA protest in Boehner’s office

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Three members of GetEQUAL in Speaker John Boehner’s office.

Eight members of GetEQUAL were arrested outside the office of House Speaker John Boehner this morning, including six from Texas.

The group wants Boehner to move the Employment Non-Discrimination Act to the House floor for a vote. The other two arrested were from Ohio, which also has no statewide LGBT employment protections.

According to Texas GetEQUAL organizer Michael Diviesti, those arrested were Tiffani Bishop, Austin; Koby Ozias, Corpus Christi; Carey Dunn, Austin; Erin Jennings, San Antonio; and Kaya Candia-Almanza and Cindy Candia. He said about 20 GetEQUAL members were in the room.

After speaking to staff members in Boehner’s office, they protested inside the office. When asked to leave, the continued their protest outside the office, where they were arrested.

Bishop was the first arrested.

The group called on President Barack Obama to issue an executive order requiring federal contractors to add sexual orientation and gender identity to their equal employee opportunity statements.

“It’s clear that Speaker Boehner has absolutely zero intention of supporting or moving forward the Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA) for a vote in the U.S. House of Representatives,” Sean Watkins, a gay Iraq War veteran and constituent of Speaker John Boehner, said in a statement issued by GetEQUAL.

Watch video of the eight in Boehner’s office below.

—  David Taffet

5 GetEQUAL TX activists arrested for blocking traffic in Austin ENDA protest


Five GetEQUAL TX activists were arrested this evening for blocking traffic near the state Capitol while protesting for LGBT nondiscrimination in the workforce.

Holding a sign that read, “We Work Together,” the group blocked the intersection at 11th and Congress in Austin, calling for the Texas Senate to stop blocking the progress of SB 237, which was left pending in committee. This is the second set of arrests in as many weeks for activists protesting SB 237.

The Austin action was part of a new national GetEQUAL campaign that launched today to urge Congress to pass the federal Employment Non-Discrimination Act, which was recently reintroduced. In Washington, D.C., activists held light panels on the grounds of Congress, reading “PASS ENDA NOW.”

The campaign, “Workplace INclusion: Winning LGBT Workplace Protections (WIN),” kicks off a week of action across the country to draw attention to need for workplace protections for LGBT employees. The actions will end May 14, the anniversary of Bella Abzug’s Equality Act of 1974, which was the first piece of pro-LGBT legislation in the U.S.

“For LGBT Americans from California to Connecticut and from Alabama to Alaska, the need for federal workplace protections is clear,” said Heather Cronk, co-director of GetEQUAL. “We hear story after story after story of folks who are simply trying to earn a living and provide for themselves and their families — but who encounter harassment on the job, who are refused jobs because of who they are, or who face insurmountable options for promotion because of who they love. In America, anyone qualified for a job should be able to get and hold that job without fear of violence, harassment, or termination. We need Congress to act now!”

A Dallas rally is planned for Saturday from11:30 a.m.-1:30 p.m. at Dallas County Courthouse, 600 Commerce St., to educate voters on the importance of passing SB 237 before the Texas Legislature ends its session in three weeks.

—  Dallasvoice

WATCH: Footage of GetEQUAL TX members’ arrests at Texas Capitol

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GetEQUAL members were arrested for trespassing in two state Senate offices earlier this week when they attempted to speak to the senators on a committee that heard SB 237, a state employment nondiscrimination bill.

Those arrested were Cd Kirven of Dallas, Erin Jennings and Jennifer Falcon of San Antonio, Tiffani Bishop of Austin and Koby Ozias of Corpus Christi.

Michael Diviesti notes that Jennings, who is a trans woman, was properly placed in a female cell. Ozias, who is a trans male, was also placed in a female cell and booked under his female name Stephanie Dees.

Austin CBS affiliate KEYE posted the below video of the arrests:

—  David Taffet

GetEQUAL TX activists released on bail, promise more actions


Cd Kirven as she was escorted out of the Capitol

Cd Kirven and four other GetEQUAL TX activists were released on $1,500 bail each on Wednesday. They were charged with class-B misdemeanors.

The five held sit-ins in state Senate offices to protest Senate bill SB 237 not being moved to the Senate floor for a vote. The legislation is a statewide LGBT employment nondiscrimination law.

“We have three weeks to push hard,” Kirven said.

GetEQUAL TX had threatened action if the bill was not moved to the Senate floor by May 1. Kirven said additional actions are planned.

While they were being arrested, Kirven said she was talking to officers about the lack of workplace protection for LGBT people.

“No wonder you’re doing this,” she said her arresting officer told her.

Kirven said a vote from just one of four Republican Senators targeted is needed to move the bill to the floor.

A preliminary hearing for the arrested activists is set for May 15, but defense attorney Dax Garvin left the country this morning for several weeks. His associate Makenna Hatter said the first hearing is always reset in Travis County so the case will probably be rescheduled for the end of the month.

Garvin also represents Dallas marriage-equality demonstrators Major and Beau Jiminez.

Kirven said GetEQUAL plans polling place demonstrations on May 11 when municipal elections are held throughout the state to let the public know about the lack of workplace protections. She said other actions are planned in and around the Capitol through the session until the bill moves to the floor of both houses for a vote.

Class-B misdemeanors are punishable by a fine of up to $2,000 and/or a jail sentence of up to 180 days. The court may also impose a maximum of two years of probation or three years of community supervision with an extension.

Kirven said she’s not sure if the charges against the group will stick. The Texas Capitol is considered public park land.

“You can’t criminally trespass on public land,” she said.

In 2010, Kirven was arrested in former House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s office in Washington, D.C., demonstrating for the federal ENDA bill. After serving six months probation, charges were dismissed.

After posting bail in Austin on Wednesday night, Kirven returned to Dallas and got home about 3 a.m.

“They haven’t seen the last of us,” Kirven said.

—  David Taffet

Dallas’ Cd Kirven played role in Supreme Court rally controversy

Cd Kirven at Supreme Court - High Res

Cd Kirven at Supreme Court (Photo courtesy Cd Kirven)

Dallas activist Cd Kirven says she played a role in the much-publicized controversy involving a transgender pride flag at a rally outside the U.S. Supreme Court last month.

Kirven said that after an HRC staffer told transgender activists to remove a transgender pride flag from behind the podium,  she picked it up and tried to make sure it was in every camera shot.

On March 26, about 8,000 people rallied for marriage equality outside the Supreme Court while justices heard oral arguments in a case challenging the Defense of Marriage Act. The rally was organized by United for Marriage, a coalition of 180 groups, but Kirven, who was a scheduled speaker, said HRC was in control of the stage and the event. Kirven is a national board member for GetEQUAL.

Kirven said she had to submit her speech and got it back about 15 minutes before she was about to speak with sentences blacked out and words changed. She said she stumbled through parts of it because it wasn’t her words.

“They said I was too aggressive and dark,” Kirven said.

—  David Taffet

Activists plan to ‘red out’ DART board meeting in support of DP benefits


GetEQUAL TX is planning on showing up in full force at next Tuesday’s DART board meeting to address the board about its lack of action on domestic partner benefits.

Activists will wear red in honor of marriage equality and stand up when speakers address the board about domestic partner benefits during the open comments portion of the meeting.

The board voted last week to table action on a plan to offer DP benefits until July so the U.S. Supreme Court can decide two marriage equality cases.

Rafael McDonnell with Resource Center Dallas said he wants someone to speak about their delayed action at every board meeting until they take up the issue again in July.

DART’s board meets next Tuesday at 6:30 p.m. at 483 N. Field St.

For more on Tuesday’s “red out,” go here.

—  Dallasvoice

Dallas County Clerk’s Office denies same-sex couple a marriage license

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Deputy County Clerk Tanisha Johnson, right, talks to Mark “Major” Jiminez, left, and Mike Montalvo after they applied for a marriage license at the Dallas County Records Building on Thursday. Montalvo was acting as a proxy for Jiminez’s husband, Beau Chandler. (David Taffet/Dallas Voice)

No one was arrested at today’s Valentine’s Day marriage counter protest at the Dallas County Records Building, one of many across the country coordinated by GetEQUAL.

Mark “Major” Jiminez applied for a license in Dallas with Mike Montalvo stepping in as a proxy for Jiminez’s husband, Beau Chandler.

Last year, Chandler was arrested once and Jiminez twice when they were turned down for licenses and refused to leave the building.

Dawn Knowlton said she came to the records building because it’s a cause she believes in.

“It’s only right,” she said. “Equality for all, not for some.”

Twice as many sheriff’s deputies as protesters were on hand, along with Detective Laura Martin, Dallas police LGBT liaison. Before entering the building, Martin briefed the deputies that the protest was expected to be peaceful with no arrests.

After Jiminez and Montalvo filled out the online form in the marriage license office, Deputy County Clerk Tanesha Johnson turned down the application.

“The state of Texas does not allow same-sex marriage,” she told Jiminez and Montalvo.

Jiminez told her the U.S. Supreme Court will hear two marriage equality cases in March and a decision could be made in June.

Johnson looked at the application and noticed Jiminez and Chandler both had July birthdays.

“Unfortunately, it can’t be a Valentine’s gift, but maybe it can be a birthday gift in July,” she said.

—  David Taffet

Same-sex couples to request marriage licenses on Valentine’s Day in Dallas


On Valentine’s Day 2012, County Clerk John Warren, right, explained to Daniel Cates, left, and same-sex couples trying to get married that he could not issue marriage licenses to them. (David Taffet/Dallas Voice)

Mark “Major” Jiminez is planning a Valentine’s Day marriage counter protest in Dallas, in coordination with protests across the country organized by Freedom to Marry.

“Nothing better highlights the state-sanctioned discrimination against same-sex couples than having same-sex couples, often with children and grandchildren in tow, turned away from the counter that serves every other heterosexual couple that approaches – no questions asked,” Freedom to Marry’s Brian Silva wrote in a press release.

Last year, several couples applied for marriage licenses in Dallas on Valentine’s Day and were turned away.

Jiminez, who attended the rally, walked to City Hall with GetEqual’s Daniel Cates after the protest to deliver Valentine’s cards to Mayor Mike Rawlings. The mayor had just refused to join Mayors for the Freedom to Marry. Jiminez was arrested on July 5 when he applied for his own marriage license and refused to leave the building.

The County Records Building is at 509 Main St. and protesters will gather outside on the plaza before noon.

Also, on March 25, Cates is organizing a rally in coordination with the National Call for Equality — called “Dallas says, ‘We do,'” — in advance of oral arguments before the U.S. Supreme Court in the Prop 8 and DOMA cases on March 26 and 27.

“Please bring signs in support of equal rights, Pride flags, candles and plenty of friends,” Cates writes on the Facebook event page.

People will meet at the Legacy of Love Monument on the corner of Oak Lawn Avenue and Cedar Springs Road.

—  David Taffet

Gay binational Texas couples must choose between partner and country

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For the holidays, GetEQUAL and Out4Immigration have been telling stories of same-sex couples forced to choose between country and partner.

Several of those stories involve Texas couples.

Art, a U.S. citizen from San Antonio, and Stuart, a citizen of the U.K.. are an example of a couple struggling to stay together despite U.S. marriage and immigration laws.

GetEQUAL’s Heather Cronk wrote in a press release that for more than 36,000 binational same-sex couples, holidays are times of sadness and loneliness, as LGBT Americans are prohibited under the Defense of Marriage Act from sponsoring their same-sex partner for immigration purposes.

Despite the White House’s refusal to defend the law in court, Congressional Republicans have spent $1.5 million defending the law in 14 pending cases and hit the spending limit set forth with the approval of the Committee on House Administration.

After the jump, read the stories of Texas couples Art and Stuart and Sally and Tammy.

—  David Taffet

Local LGBT groups, ousted lesbian den leader respond to Boy Scouts statement

Norman Rockwell painting in the Boy Scouts of America Museum collection in Irving

Local groups responded Tuesday to the Boy Scouts of America announcement that the group won’t change its discrimination policy of exclusion of gay Scouts and leaders from the organization. Although last week the Scouts said they were not studying the issue, this morning they announced that the new decision was the result of a two-year study.

Jennifer Tyrrell, who is in Dallas to deliver a petition to the Boy Scouts on Wednesday, issued a statement through GLAAD.

“A secret committee of 11 people can’t ignore the hundreds of thousands of people around the country — including thousands of Eagle Scouts, Scout families, and former Scouts — that want the ban on gay Scouts and scout leaders removed,” Tyrrell said. “This campaign doesn’t stop, and we will continue to show the Boy Scouts that discrimination and intolerance have no place in scouting. On Wednesday, I look forward to sharing with the BSA thousands of comments from families like mine that say the time is now to end this anti-gay policy.”

Resource Center Dallas said, “With this announcement, the Boy Scouts are choosing to remain mired in the past instead of embracing a more inclusive future.”

Fairness Fort Worth issued the following statement:

The Boy Scouts of America has chosen to continue to ban gay boys from participating in Scouting and gay parents from volunteering as leaders. BSA has a constitutional right to do so but what a horrible message it sends to those excluded from and those included in Scouting.

BSA describes itself as “the nation’s foremost youth program of character development and values-based leadership training …” Those in the LGBT community have been vilified, marginalized and stereotyped for such a long time and the BSA’a stance just continues the practice. So what kind of “character development” and what “values” is it talking about? This country was founded on principles of inclusiveness, diversity, respect and acceptance of that diversity. Apparently not the Boy Scouts.

As the trial in the Proposition 8 case clearly demonstrated, there is no factual or legal basis for treating those in the LGBT community as second-class citizens, so what exact reasons do the Boy Scouts have for doing so?

A straight boy asks his Scout leader why his gay best friend can’t join. What’s the answer? What answer will be given that doesn’t depict his gay friend in some negative light? What answer will be given that doesn’t call that friendship into question? Character development, value-based leadership training?

The Boy Scouts of America has given up a tremendous opportunity to be in the forefront of respect and equality for all and it’s just a shame.

GetEQUAL Texas state lead Michael Diviesti said, “Children are unnecessarily being taught that LGBT children are different. We see it in many arenas. We have a law in Texas that homosexuality must be taught as an unacceptable lifestyle. It’s part of an extremist mentality that tries to raise a next generation of bigots through indoctrination.”

—  David Taffet