Vigils planned across Texas for murdered Houston lesbian couple

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Four vigils are scheduled throughout Texas on Wednesday night to remember the lives of a Houston lesbian couple killed earlier this month.

Britney Cosby and Crystal Jackson, both 24, were found in a trash bin near Port Bolivar on March 7. They’d been a couple for two years.

Cosby’s father, James Larry Cosby, was arrested for tampering with evidence in the case. He remains a suspect in the women’s’ deaths. Cosby’s mother told Houston media outlets over the weekend that her daughter’s father was upset she was gay, and she believed he killed them because of their sexual orientation.

Galveston detectives are still searching for a man who police believe was last seen with the women and information about the couple’s Kia Sorrento that was stolen. A $150 reward for information has been raised through a fund Dallas GetEQUAL TX activist C.d. Kirven started.

“We want to celebrate the way Britney and Crystal lived and not the way they died. They were a part of a community, an LGBT family that mourns their loss,” Kirven said about the vigils in a statement.

She said the Galveston vigil was canceled, and a Fort Wirth vigil  was added, along with vigils in Dallas, Austin and Corpus Christi.

Tiffani Bishop, co-state lead organizer for GetEQUAL TX said, “The tragic murders of Britney and Crystal are truly heartbreaking. To discover that Britney’s father is suspected of committing these crimes is difficult to wrap my head around. It is beyond time that our community begin an open and honest dialogue about violence against queer women of color.”

People attending vigils or who want to show support for the women’s memory are asked to wear yellow in the memory of Cosby and Jackson.

Other vigils are still being solidified, including one for Williamson County. GetEQUAL TX will update vigil information on its Facebook page.

Anyone with information about the case should call the Galveston County Sheriff’s Office tip line at 866-248-8477 or Galveston County Crime Stoppers 409-763-8477.

Locations of the Texas vigils are below.

—  Anna Waugh

GetEQUAL TX marriage rally in Fort Worth 2-8-13

—  Steve Ramos

BREAKING: Federal government to expand recognition of same-sex marriage

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Mark Jiminez, center, and his husband, Beau Chandler, spoke at a GetEQUAL TX marriage rally in Fort Worth on Saturday.

When Dallas LGBT activist Mark Jiminez said “hope is on the horizon” at a GetEQUAL TX marriage rally in Fort Worth on Saturday, he didn’t know how close that horizon was.

Within minutes after the rally disbanded, the Los Angeles Times reported that Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. will issue a directive Monday expanding government recognition of same-sex marriages to all federal courtrooms and prisons, and some federal benefits programs.

The new policy, which Holder plans to announce Saturday night at a gay rights dinner in New York City, means the Justice Department will not object if gay or lesbian partners refuse to testify against their spouses in federal criminal and civil cases, and will push for them to be accorded the same rights in bankruptcy court as other married couples.

These privileges will be extended to same-sex couples even in states that do not recognize their marriages as long as they were legally married in another state.

FULL COVERAGE: Gay marriage in the Supreme Court

Same-sex marriages also would be recognized for some federal programs, including one that provides death benefits to surviving spouses of police officers and firefighters who are injured or killed in the line of duty, as well as the compensation fund for victims of the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.

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Cd Kirven, regional state leader for GetEQUAL TX, spoke at a marriage rally Saturday in Fort Worth.

While the changes may not affect large numbers of people, the gay advocacy community views them as another important step in the growing movement toward gender-based equality since the Supreme Court issued two rulings last June that expanded the rights of gay couples.

“While the immediate effect is that all gay married couples will be treated equally under the law, the long-term effects are more profound,” said Fred Saintz, vice president for communications at the Human Rights Campaign, which Holder will address Saturday night. “Today, our nation moves closer toward its ideals of equality and fairness for all.”

According to Holder’s prepared remarks, the government will take the position that married same-sex couples should be eligible to file jointly for bankruptcy and receive the same protections in bankruptcy court as other married couples.

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About a dozen people gathered in Fort Worth on Saturday for a GetEQUAL TX marriage rally.

Married same-sex couples in federal prisons will receive the same visitation privileges as other married inmates under the new policy. They also may be eligible for furloughs or even compassionate release in the case of a crisis involving their spouse.

Holder will remind the audience that he is the first African-American attorney general, and that his predecessors played a key role in the civil rights movement five decades ago.

“As all-important as the fight against racial discrimination was then, and remains today, know this: My commitment to confronting discrimination based on sexual orientation runs just as deep,” Holder will say, according to the advance text.

In Dallas County, the first black district attorney also drew upon the mistreatment of minorities as a catalyst to establish an LGBT Task Force that will work to eliminate discrimination in the judicial system. Dallas County DA Craig Watkins said Friday he “was disappointed to hear that many victims of domestic violence or hate crimes were afraid to speak out because they feared lack of a law enforcement response.”

Those sentiments of working for equality boomed from Cd Kirven, regional state leader of Get EQUAL TX, during Saturday’s rally.

“This is a country founded on principles bigger than religion,” she said to the dozen people who gathered. “It’s religious slavery to say I can’t marry the person I love, by telling me who I have to marry. And we have the nerve to point our fingers at Sochi. Marriage equality is coming, but we have to keep fighting for it.”

The marriage rally was held as a show of support for a marriage lawsuit filed by a Plano and Austin couple in San Antonio federal court. A hearing for a temporary injunction to prohibit state officials from enforcing Texas’ marriage ban takes place Feb. 12.

—  Steve Ramos

GetEQUAL TX plans Olympics protest, marriage equality rally this weekend

People flooded theCedar Springs Road in June for a Day of Decision rally after the Supreme Court marriage rulings. (Anna Waugh/Dallas Voice)

People flooded Cedar Springs Road in June for a Day of Decision rally after the Supreme Court marriage rulings. (Anna Waugh/Dallas Voice)

UPDATE: Due to weather conditions, the protest in San Antonio has been postponed.

ORIGINAL POST: LGBT advocates plan to protest Coca-Cola at the company’s bottling plant in San Antonio on Friday, the opening day of the Winter Games in Sochi, and then rally to support marriage equality in Fort Worth on Saturday.

The protest, organized by GetEQUAL TX, urges Coca-Cola to expand its LGBT support from a national focus to a global one.

“As a sponsor of the Olympic,s Coca Cola has the chance to become a leader on global human rights forefront by demanding the International Olympic Commission refuse any future bid from countries that use the law to persecute LGBTQ people who simply wish to live with dignity,” GetEQUAL TX states in a press release.

Then on Saturday, Cowtown-area activists will gather at Avoca Coffee to protest the freedom to marry in Texas in support of a marriage lawsuit filed by a Plano and Austin couple in San Antonio federal court. A hearing for a temporary injunction to prohibit state officials from enforcing Texas’ marriage ban takes place Feb. 12.

Among the speakers on Saturday are Dallas couple Mark Jiminez and Beau Chandler, who were arrested in their attempts to receive a marriage license in Dallas

“With a legal battle taking place in San Antonio, I could not help to think of the many civil rights that have been fought for in wars and completely forsaken,” protest organizer Damon Carver said. “After overturning DOMA, most of the nation celebrated good news, some couples who resorted to tourist weddings had great news. On this day we will be presumptuously toasting to celebrate our victories.”

“Defecting to another state for any freedom including marriage is anti-American, and will soon be anti-Texan,” he added.

Rally participants are encouraged to wear different styles of cowboy hats to the event since Texans are represented with cowboy hats. and the different styles represent the variety in the LGBT community.

The protest in San Antonio is 6 p.m. Friday at the bottling plant, located at 1 Coca-Cola Place.

The marriage rally is noon Saturday at Avoca Coffee, located at 1311 W. Magnolia Ave. in Fort Worth.

—  Anna Waugh

PHOTOS: LGBT activists speak during pro-choice rally at Dallas City Hall

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Gay couple Mark ‘Major’ Jiminez and Beau Chandler, who gained notoriety last year when they were arrested for seeking a marriage license at the Dallas County Clerk’s Office, attend a pro-choice rally at City Hall on Tuesday night.

GetEQUAL TX was among the organizers of the Texans Unified for Change rally outside Dallas City Hall on Wednesday night.

About 50 people gathered to protest the anti-abortion bill working its way through the special session of the Legislature.

Activist Cd Kirven carried a wire hanger to symbolize women having to resort to dangerous methods of abortion.

Speakers included Texas Stonewall Democratic Caucus co-chair Erin Moore and Dallas Gay and Lesbian Alliance President Patti Fink.

Moore, wearing pink Wendy Davis sneakers, encouraged the crowd to become more involved in politics to help get more people like Davis in office and those who oppose women’s rights out of office.

“It’s easy for men to write a bill to attack women’s rights,” Fink said.

—  David Taffet

PHOTOS: About 500 attend Day of Decision rally on Cedar Springs

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By the time Dallas’ Day of Decision rally began at 7 p.m. at the Legacy of Love Monument, more than 300 people had gathered. As the crowd grew to close to 500, police closed a lane of Oak Lawn Avenue and two lanes of Cedar Springs Road.

GetEQUAL TX organizer Daniel Cates began the rally with chants of, “Right here, right now, I deserve full equality!”

Before the scheduled speakers, people from the crowd spoke in an open-megaphone session. One who claimed to be an “ex-lesbian” was countered with a chant of “No more hate” until the mic was taken from her and she left the steps of the monument.

Some of the speakers discussed the implications of the Supreme Court’s marriage equality decisions. Lambda Legal’s Ken Upton called the DOMA ruling a broad decision. He said it would take awhile to sort out the full implications.

“The ruling benefits the whole LGBT spectrum,” trans activist Oliver Blumer said. “It breaks down barriers.”

—  David Taffet

Hundreds march in support of Dallas equality resolution (photos, video)

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GetEQUAL TX and Hope for Peace and Justice rallied at City Hall on Saturday to demand an equality resolution be placed on the Dallas City Council’s agenda. Love is Stronger was the theme for the protest.

More than 100 people gathered at 6 p.m. on City Hall Plaza. Several people, including straight allies, spoke before the group marched across Downtown to Razzle Dazzle Dallas, which took place at Main Street Garden and opened at 7 p.m.

Before leaving City Hall Plaza, GetEQUAL TX regional coordinator Daniel Cates drew a line with chalk on the ground and compared it to William Travis drawing a line in the sand at the Alamo.

Cates said Mayor Mike Rawlings had gone too far in calling the equality resolution a waste of time and asked everyone to cross the line with him.

The march headed from City Hall west to Griffin Street, then north to Main Street, before traveling the final four blocks to Main Street Garden.

Along the route, people in cars honked and waved. People in restaurants ran out to take pictures and some along the route joined the march.

No protesters or detractors made themselves known along the route. One group of 10 street preachers reading from the Bible on Main at Akard Street stood silently as the procession passed.

Inside the park, the rally continued on the main stage. Several speakers, including Midway Hills Christian Church Senior minister the Rev. Arthur Stewart and Congregation Beth El Binah Rabbi Steve Fisch, addressed the crowd.

More photos and video below.

—  David Taffet

WATCH: LGBT protesters ‘shame’ Dallas Mayor Mike Rawlings

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The good news is, Mayor Mike Rawlings is no longer afraid to show up at an event where he knows there will be LGBT protesters. The bad news is, LGBT protesters are still forced to gather outside places where Rawlings is scheduled to show up.

Although Rawlings tried to look diplomatic by greeting the protesters in front of the TV news cameras, activists like Cd Kirven of GetEQUAL weren’t having it, and they ultimately chanted, “Shame, shame, shame!” as Rawlings walked back to his vehicle.

Watch the report from WFAA-TV’s Jonathan Betz below.

—  John Wright

GetEQUAL TX to protest Rawlings for pulling pro-equality resolution

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Mayor Mike Rawlings

LGBT activists plan to protest Mayor Mike Rawlings on Thursday morning after he said he planned to pull a resolution in support of LGBT job protections and marriage equality.

Regional GetEQUAL TX coordinator Daniel Cates said advocates will protest Rawlings’ appearance at Lakewood Country Club, 6430 Gaston Ave., from 11:30 a.m. to 1 p.m.

“It seems like we have a lot of work to do here,” Cates said.

Last January, after he declined to sign a pledge from the Mayors for the Freedom to Marry, Rawlings skipped a neighborhood meeting to avoid a gay-rights protest.

Activists are also planning to communications bomb Jasso, who withdrew her support for the resolution and allowed Rawlings to pull it. They’re encouraging people to call her office, email and Facebook message her Thursday morning until Friday at 4 p.m. to demand why she withdrew her support.

Jasso’s assistant, Gary Sanchez, can be reached at 214-670-4052, and her secretary, Mariza Perez, can be reached at 214-670-4055.

—  Anna Waugh

Activists plan 2nd annual Dallas Harvey Milk celebration May 26

Participants hold candles as they listen to speakers Tuesday, May 22, during Dallas’ first-ever Harvey Milk Day celebration at the Legacy of Love Monument. (John Wright/Dallas Voice)

Participants hold candles as they listen to speakers May 22, 2012, during Dallas’ first-ever Harvey Milk Day celebration at the Legacy of Love Monument. (John Wright/Dallas Voice)

Dallas activists are having a Harvey Milk celebration again this year.

The event will include speakers, music and a staged reading of “Dear Harvey” by Patricia Loughrey, which will be the first time the play has been staged in Dallas in any form.

GetEQUAL TX regional coordinator Daniel Cates, who is directing it, said he hopes to mount a full production later in the year.

“This is a beautiful piece and one that I am excited to bring to Dallas,” he said in a statement. “Harvey’s message of hope is one that all people, LGBT and not, should hear. This will be an inspiring evening.”

“Dear Harvey” is an ensemble piece created though interviews with people who actually knew Milk, his personal and political writings, newspaper stories and letters written to him from across the nation.

The cast includes the the Rev. Carol West of Celebration Community Church in Fort Worth, Lynn Walters, executive director of Hope for Peace and Justice, Jeffrey Harper, Mark Calloway, Todd Whitley and Alan Dudley of the Cathedral of Hope Theatre Ministry, and local activist Natalie Johnson.

The 2nd annual event planned by GetEQUAL TX and Hope for Peace and Justice will be 7 p.m. Sunday, May 26, at Cathedral of Hope’s Interfaith Peace Chapel.

“It is important for us to celebrate and remember our history as LGBT people. No one is going to tell our story for us, we have to do it ourselves. We owe it to younger generations to let them know where they come from and how far they can go,” Cates said.

Tickets to the Dallas Harvey Milk Celebration are available here for a suggested $15 All proceeds benefit programs of Hope for Peace and Justice and GetEQUAL TX.

—  Anna Waugh