AIDS housing funding survives challenge in Houston city council

Helena Brown

The city funding for four Houston nonprofits providing housing to at-risk populations living with HIV/AIDS survived a challenge from city council member Helena Brown last Wednesday. Under consideration by the council were ordinances to dispense almost $2.5 million in federal funds managed by the city to the SRO Housing Corporation, Bering Omega Community Services, Catholic Charities and SEARCH Homeless services.

Brown initially used a parliamentary procedure known as a “tag” to delay the funding for the Houston SRO Housing Corporation and Bering Omega. Any council member may tag an item under consideration, delaying the vote on the item for one week. Brown explained that she objected to government funding of charitable entities:

“I spoke last week on this very issue on grant funds and the idea that we are, you know, fighting with other entities and other governments for grant funds that really isn’t there. The federal government is in a worse condition than the city of Houston and to continue to try to milk the system where there’s no milk, is just, I mean, we’re fighting with our brothers, as I said last week, to get credit for who is going to push a friend over the cliff… We need to continue to look at the private sector and the business sector. Because even, I attended this event where this wonderful speaker was talking about the generosity of Americans and 80% of donations to nonprofits come from private individuals, not even corporations, and we need to continue to rely on that right now because the government right now, we’re broke – we need to face that reality.”

Other council members spoke passionately of the need for continued funding, arguing that by assisting people living with HIV/AIDS in achieving independence, particularly those who are homeless or at risk of homelessness,  the programs added to the tax based and help insure long-term stability.

“We don’t live in a perfect a world,” said freshman council member Mike Laster (the first out gay man to serve on the Houston City Council). “These organizations do their very best to raise money to care for the people among us, but they still need to reach out to entities that have that kind of capital, and by the grace of God this city and this government as an entity has some of that capitol, and I’m very proud that we’re able to provide those kind of services to some of my community members.”

Council member Wanda Adams, who serves as chair of the council’s Housing and Community Development Committee, also spoke in favor of continuing funding. Council member Ellen Cohen, whose district contains both SRO Housing and Bering Omega, spoke of how her life had personally been touched by AIDS:

“One of the first young men to pass away in New York City was a cousin of mine of something [then] called a very rare form on pneumonia… which we now realize was not. So I understand the need for these kinds of services. On a personal note I worked with Bering and I know all the fine work that they do, I’m addressing all the items but I’m particularly addressing [the Bering Omega funding] and feel it’s absolutely critical that we provide the kind of funding items, and that we are, in fact, our brother’s and our sister’s keepers.

After Laster asked Mayor Annise Parker the procedure for overriding a tag Brown removed her tag, but raised a new concern about HIV/AIDS housing, saying that her office had requested a list of the owners of apartment units where those receiving rental assistance lived. City Attorney David Feldman explained to Brown that federal law prohibits making public information that could be used to identify people receiving assistance through the housing program. Feldman said that, in his legal opinion, revealing the names of the owners of the apartments would violate federal law. Brown said that she was concerned that their might be a “conflict of interest” with apartment owners that needed to be investigated, claiming that as the reason for her tag.

Brown eventually removed her tag, rather than have it overturned. All four ordinances providing funding passed with only Brown voting “nay.”

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Iconic LGBT activist Ray Hill files for Texas House seat

Ray Hill

Ray Hill

Long time Houston LGBT activist Ray Hill filed paperwork this week to run for the 147th Texas House seat against incumbent Garnet Coleman, D – Houston. The iconic (and iconoclastic) Hill said that he and Coleman agree on many issues but that he had “some issues  that aren’t on the table in Austin.”

Specifically Hill has concerns with the legislature’s approach to criminal justice issues. “The Texas legislature is a serial world class red-necking competition,” says Hill. “What they are doing on criminal justice is wrong and it doesn’t work… we need a serious rethink.”

Coleman has a strong history of supporting LGBT legislation. For the last three sessions he has attempted to pass anti-bullying legislation that would require school districts to report instances of bullying using an enumerated list of motivating characteristics that include both sexual orientation and gender identity and expression, he has also filed legislation to remove the the crime of “homosexual conduct” from the Texas penal code (a law that has been declared unconstitutional by the Supreme Court), to equalize age of consent laws in Texas and to add gender identity and expression to the state’s hate crime law. In the 82nd legislature earlier this year Coleman authored seven pieces of legislation designed to create greater equality for LGBT people, including the first ever filing of legislation to standardize change of gender marker procedures for the transgender community and the first effort to repeal the state’s constitutional prohibition against marriage equality.

Hill recognizes Coleman’s historic contributions, “The incumbent and I agree on a lot of issues,” says Hill, “but we don’t tell young gay people ‘if you work real hard and go to school and do your best you can grow up to have straight friends in Austin who like you.’ No, we tell them ‘if you work hard they can grow up to be Mayor of Houston, or City Supervisor of San Francisco.’”

When asked why the community would be better served by him than Coleman, a 20 year legislative veteran, Hill replies “I understand how government works. A freshman legislator can’t do anything more than irritate, but that’s about all any member of the minority party can do. On that level the incumbent and I are on the same level… I think we need somebody obnoxious [in the legislature] who’s going to purposefully rub the cat hair the wrong direction.”

Since being elected to the legislature for the first time in 1992 Coleman has been unopposed in 5 of his 9 primary reelection bids. No primary challenger to Coleman has pulled more than 21% of the vote.

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What’s Shakin’ – Stone Soup at F Bar, Washtonians support marriage equality

Stone Soup1. For people living with AIDS proper nutrition is more than just healthy living, it’s a vital part of the regimen that keeps them alive. Unfortunately the struggling economy and cuts to government HIV/AIDS nutrition programs mean that, for some, eating right, or just eating, is a challenge.  That’s where the AIDS Foundation Houston Stone Soup Food Assistance Program steps in.  Kelly McCann, CEO of of AFH, says that the program has recently seen a 40% increase in request for assistance and needs an additional $25,000 a month to meet demand. F Bar (202 Tuam) is doing its part to help out tonight, collecting monetary and food donations from the community. Donors will receive a VIP invitation to an appreaciation party on Nov 22, and be entered in a raffle to win fabulous prizes.
2. Washington may soon become the seventh state to have full marriage equality, if a recent poll by the University of Washington, Institute for the Study of Ethnicity, Race & Sexualityis accurate.  The poll asked 938 registered voters in the evergreen state if they would support a same-sex marriage law were it to appear on the 2012 ballot: 47% responded that yes, they would strongly support it, only 32% said they would strongly oppose.
3. Voter turnout in Harris County is slowly catching up with the last municipal election cycle in 2009, but continues to lag.  So far 28,679 people have cast their ballots, 81% of the 34,485 who had voted at this point in the process the last go around.  Early voting continues through November 3.  Election day is Nov 8. A list of all early voting locations and sample ballots  are available at harrisvotes.org.

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FEEDBACK: Why I’m supporting Kunkle

Why I’m supporting Kunkle

Thank you for the in-depth expose on the three major mayoral candidates (“Decision in Dallas,” Dallas Voice, April 8).

While there are different opinions regarding the candidates, David Kunkle is my personal choice. I have watched him closely over the last several years and was so impressed with his style of leadership and soft-spoken manner when he was police chief. He went all over this city, listening and getting feedback from not only the GLBT community, but everywhere.

Additionally, he is effective. He may not be the flashiest or most dynamic of the candidates, but he’s a keen thinker and avid reader focused on real world solutions on what works and what doesn’t.

He also appreciates the eclectic aspects of Dallas. That’s an important place to be in my mind, so that we can attract not only Fortune 500 companies but also the small businessman/woman and the budding creative entrepreneurs who want to live in our city.

I don’t know that I necessarily want another CEO as mayor. We hear all the time that government should be run like a business. I think it should not be. Contrary to popular belief today, government is not a business.

Municipal government needs an experienced and competent administrator. In addition to serving as Dallas police chief, David Kunkle also has experience serving as the assistant city manager of Arlington, which will provide him with a skill set from day one that will no doubt serve him well as mayor.

Ron Natinsky and Mike Rawlings both are pleasant gentlemen and they each bring their own “skill set” to the table and there are good people supporting them. But I’m going to be casting my ballot for David Kunkle.

Jay Narey
Dallas

—  John Wright

British government ready to implement full marriage equality in the UK

They already had civil partnerships, but our mates across the pond are ready to leave the U.S. in the cultural dust again.

The British government is expected to announce full marriage equality for gays and lesbians under reforms to marriage laws expected to be announced later this week by the Liberal Democrat equality minister, Lynne Featherstone.

The announcement will also include the time table for civil partnerships to be held in religious buildings. The reported move will end the final major legal discrimination against gays and lesbians in Britain.

The reaction from faith groups:

The Quakers and Liberal Judaism have already stated that they wish to conduct same sex marriages.

Although the Archbishop of York, Dr John Sentamu, gave the reports a guarded welcome telling the BBC that he “believes in a liberal democracy, and actually wants equality with everybody,” the Church of England does not support the introduction of gay marriages or civil partnerships being held in churches. A spokesman said: “Given the Church’s view on the nature of marriage, the House of Bishops has consistently been clear that the Church of England should not provide services of blessing for those who register civil partnerships.”

The spokesman said the change will “lead to inconsistencies with civil marriage, have unexplored impacts, and lead to confusion, with a number of difficult and unintended consequences for churches and faiths”.

“Any change could therefore only be brought after proper and careful consideration of all the issues involved, to ensure that the intended freedom for all denominations over these matters is genuinely secured.”

The Catholic Church and those representing the Muslim faith are also opposed to gay marriage and holding religious civil partnerships.

Pam’s House Blend – Front Page

—  David Taffet

Socarides: ‘the bottom line is the government continues to oppose full equality for its gay citizens’

As John reported last night, the Obama administration is still defending DOMA in the courts. The President and his Department of Justice don’t have to do it, but they are. And, that’s just wrong. I don’t think this counts as “evolving.”

From Ben Smith:

Gay groups are furious with a Justice Department brief defending — though in quite narrow terms — the Defense of Marriage Act, which Candidate Obama, unlike even his Democratic rivals, had pledged to repeal in full.

“DOMA is supported by rationales that constitute a sufficient rational basis for the law. For example, as explained below, it is supported by an interest in maintaining the status quo and uniformity on the federal level, and preserving room for the development of policy in the states,” says the government’s brief (.pdf) in two cases in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the First Circuit. The brief focuses solely on the virtues of keeping the federal law while state’s experiment, and not the underlying question of marriage.

The half-heartedness of that defense didn’t offer much solace to activists who — despite the Justice Department’s traditional role defending federal laws — are demanding that Obama return to the full support for same-sex marriage that he advocated in the 1990s.

“There are some improvements in tone in the brief, but the bottom line is the government continues to oppose full equality for its gay citizens,” said Equality Matters chief Richard Socarides in an email. “And that is unacceptable.”

Completely unacceptable. And, this is going to be a problem for the reelection campaign. Soon-to-be Campaign Manager Jim Messina is going to have to figure this one out. The President is going to have to be clear about his full support for marriage equality.




AMERICAblog Gay

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Transphobia As An Apparent Government Function

Sometimes, one can’t help but wonder if one of the functions of state and local government is transphobia. Below are two stories on agents of government allegedly behaving badly.

Story 1.) You may remember Amber Yust. She’s the California transgender woman who filed for a new driver’s license, only to allegedly have the DMV employee who assisted her send a letter to her home.

Thumbnail Link For TLC Press Release, Entitled 'Transgender Law Center Investigating Offensive Letter from DMV Employee'The letter was framed in antigay terms. The letter tied her name change to “[t]he homosexual act,” and went on to say:

Supporting those who commit this act and encouraging and justifying those who have the orientation also lead one to hell.

The letter quotes and highlights scriptures from Leviticus, 1 Corinthians, Romans, and Genesis.

The Santa Cruz Sentinel has added to the story in their article DMV employee put on leave after allegedly sending hate mail to transgender woman. In the article, learned the name of the DMV employee that allegedly wrote to Amber Yust: His name is Thomas Demartini. From the article:

[Below the fold: More about the California DMV Employee (Thomas Demartini) and the DMV's action so far, and the DC Trans Coalition press release, entitled DCTC Condemns Alleged Anti-Trans Assault by MPD Officer].

Yust received a letter at her home from Demartini that was dated Oct. 22, the day after he processed the changes to her DMV record.

The one-page document lists biblical references that imply homosexuality and gender transitions are mortal sins. In the letter, Demartini apparently begs Yust not to complete her gender transition.

“Jesus clearly prohibits gender change operations,” Demartini wrote. “If an operation like this is the reason for changing one’s name, then one has made a very evil decision.”

The ABC affiliate in Los Angeles is reporting DMV employee in transgender case suspended — apparently Thomas Demartini has been suspended with pay.

The San Francisco Chronicle, in their piece Transgender woman says DMV clerk warned of hell, reports the following (emphasis added):

The same day, Yust said, a DVD arrived from a fundamentalist church warning of eternal damnation for anyone “possessed by demons” of homosexuality. The DMV employee’s letter had referred her to the church’s website as a source of “critical information for your salvation.”

What’s more, the DMV had kept the employee on in 2009 even after he refused to process another transgender woman’s name-change application, Yust said in a damage claim filed with the state, the precursor to a lawsuit.

I had “the demon of transvestism” cast out of me in 1979. I know all about how Evangelicals and Pentecostals — basically, Christian fundamentalists — feel about transgender people. Too bad Thomas Demartini never closely read Matthew 19:12; Isaiah 56:3-5; Acts 8:25-40; Judges 4; and 1 Samuel 16:7b, and learned that his God respected gender variance, and that while folk like him look at people from the outside, his God looks at people’s hearts.

Anyway, UPI is reporting in their piece DMV worker faces lawsuit:

In a damage claim filed with the state, preliminary step in the filing of a lawsuit, Yust alleged the DMV retained Demartini on its payroll following an incident in 2009 in which he refused to process a name-change application for another transgender woman.

California’s DMV needs to take antitransgender behavior very seriously — I know I’m planning on telling the DMV that via their General Drivers License and Registration Information number, which is 1-800-777-0133, that I want to know if transphobia is something they take seriously. Hey, I found the number on the DMV Phone Directory webpage — I plan on asking for the management official who is in charge of their antidiscrimination policy.

2.) The DC Trans Coalition has a new press release out, entitled DCTC Condemns Alleged Anti-Trans Assault by MPD Officer. From the press release:

Washington, DC – The DC Trans Coalition is alarmed by the alleged assault of a transgender woman by an off-duty Metropolitan Police officer on December 1, as reported last week by the Washington Blade. Thumbnail Link: DCTC Condemns Alleged Anti-Trans Assault by MPD OfficerIf the allegations prove true, this case would mark a flagrant violation of the DC Human Rights Act. Even more disturbing is that to date, criminal charges are still pending against the alleged victim of this assault.

According to the Blade, Chloe Moore and a friend approached a man – off-duty Officer Raphael Radon – to ask for a light for a cigarette. Upon discovering Moore and her friend were trans, Radon proceeded to utter transphobic epithets and threatened violence, and, according to Moore, also shoved her. At this juncture, Moore used pepper spray in self-defense. Radon proceeded to chase Moore two blocks, and beat her on the sidewalk. Soon after, uniformed MPD officers arrived and determined, based on witness testimony, that Radon had instigated the incident. However, Moore was handcuffed and taken to First District headquarters, where the watch commander ordered that she be charged with assault, against the advice of the officers who had arrived at the scene.. MPD officials have said that the issue is under investigation.

“What’s especially disturbing about this case is that it features several flagrant violations of MPD’s general order on dealing with trans people,” said Alison Gill, a DCTC attorney. “Medical attention was apparently not provided promptly, and the use of degrading, transphobic language is expressly forbidden,” Gill continued. Since June, DCTC has been working with several LGBT community organizations to train officers affiliated with MPD’s special liaison units in cultural competency and relevant MPD policies. So far, roughly 70 officers have been trained in this program. “What this incident shows us is that training self-selected volunteers is only a small step toward ensuring that MPD officers fully comply with DC’s human rights law. We want to see a swift rejection of this kind of behavior from the highest levels within MPD, along with a real plan for making sure that every law enforcement officer knows and follows the law, including mandatory training for the entire force,” Gill said.

“We will provide whatever support we can to Chloe Moore as she battles this injustice, and we look forward to working with Mayor-elect Vince Gray and MPD officials to ensure that this kind of violence does not happen again,” said Sadie-Ryanne Vashti, a DCTC advocate. “We call on our allies to stand up and reject transphobia perpetuated by the criminal justice system. No one should be arrested for being the victim of an assault,” Vashti said.

What can I say about this story that the DC Trans Coalition hasn’t already said?

Still, it does seem strange that alleged antitransgender behavior by agents of the government occurs still in parts of the country where gender identity or expression is a protected class. And, that antitransgender behavior by agents of the government isn’t treated by the managers of these agents of the government as seriously as other kinds of bad behavior by agents of the government would be.

I ask the question of myself and others — what can do we do to affect changes in the way government deals with antitransgender discrimination? What can we do to make sure enforcement of antidiscrimination laws and policies based on gender identity or expression are approached with the same level of seriousness that we would expect antidiscrimination laws and policies based on race, gender, and disability would be treated?

I’m know I’m starting with a phone call to the California DMV about how Amber Yust was allegedly treated. If I lived in the District of Colombia, I’d be calling the Metropolitan Police Department, the city Mayor’s office, and LGBT organizations based in DC — specifically to ask them to take action regarding the alleged behavior against Chloe Moore.

~~~~~

Related:

*California DMV Employee Tells Trans Woman In Letter She’s Made A “Very Evil Decision”

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Pam’s House Blend – Front Page

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Cindy McCain does video opposing DADT, accuses ‘our government’ of sending signal that bullying is okay – her hubbie is the lead defender of DADT

John McCain is leading the filibuster against the “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” “repeal” legislation in the Senate (it’s not an actual repeal, but we’ll leave that for another time).  Today, Cindy McCain joined a number of celebrities in a video about gay youth suicide and bullying.  Mrs. McCain’s part of the video condemned DADT and then accused our government of sending bullies a message that what they do is okay.

The woman basically accused her husband of sharing the blame for gay kids killing themselves.

I’m astonished.  And impressed as hell.

CINDY MCCAIN:

Our political and religious leaders tell LGBT youth that they have no future.

They can’t serve our country openly.

VARIETY OF SPEAKERS:

What’s worse, these laws that legislate discrimination teach bullies that what they’re doing is acceptable.

CINDY MCCAIN:

Our government treats the LGBT community like second class citizens, why shouldn’t they?




AMERICAblog Gay

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How Is Chile’s Government Cracking Down On Domestic Abuse? By Calling Violent Husbands ‘Faggots’

A federal Chilean public awareness campaign to fight domestic violence has a wonderful way of convincing macho men not to beat their wives: call them faggots. How creative!

CONTINUED »


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Queerty

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TX: GOP congressional candidate: violent overthrow of government is ‘on the table’

Holy mother of dog, this is the Texas GOP in 2010. This guy is referred to as “Constitutionalist Pastor” Stephen Broden. (Dallas Morning News):

Republican congressional candidate Stephen Broden stunned his party Thursday, saying he would not rule out violent overthrow of the government if elections did not produce a change in leadership.

In a rambling exchange during a TV interview, Broden, a South Dallas pastor, said a violent uprising “is not the first option,” but it is “on the table.” That drew a quick denunciation from the head of the Dallas County GOP, who called the remarks “inappropriate.”

Broden, a first-time candidate, is challenging veteran incumbent Rep. Eddie Bernice Johnson in Dallas’ heavily Democratic 30th Congressional District. Johnson’s campaign declined to comment on Broden.

In the interview, Brad Watson, political reporter for WFAA-TV (Channel 8), asked Broden about a tea party event last year in Fort Worth in which he described the nation’s government as tyrannical.

“We have a constitutional remedy,” Broden said then. “And the Framers say if that don’t work, revolution.”

I love the soft sell response by the county chair — “inappropriate” LOLOLOL. WTF!?  Bring on the crazeee…

Also in June 2009, Broden compared those governing the United States to Nazi Germany.


“Let me tell you that is something that happened in Germany when the Jews were walking into the furnaces and they didn’t even try to stop or fight their way. They walked in because they did not believe that this was happening. They didn’t believe that humanity could be so evil. I am submitting to you tonight that is where America is right now. They are our enemies and we must resist them.”

News 8 wanted to know if Broden was trying to say that Barack Obama is like Adolph Hitler. “No I am not,” he said Thursday.

Pam’s House Blend – Front Page

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