Measure would ban anti-LGBT discrimination in Houston

Charter amendment could also allow DP benefits for city workers

DANIEL WILLIAMS  |  Contributing Writer

HOUSTON — Long-brewing plans to place a city-wide non-discrimination policy before Houston voters became public this week.

Since December a coalition of organizations and leaders have been working to draft a city charter amendment that would make it illegal to discriminate in housing, employment or public accommodations on the basis of  “age, race, color, creed, religion, national origin, ancestry, disability, marital status, gender, gender identity or expression, sexual orientation, or physical characteristic.”

The amendment would also remove anti-LGBT language added to the Houston city charter in 1985 and 2001 — which could allow the City Council to vote to offer health benefits to the domestic partners of municipal employees.

Houston Mayor Annise Parker, who famously became the only out LGBT person elected mayor of a major American city in 2009, has declined to comment on the proposed charter amendment until the language is finalized. She told the Houston Chronicle: “I believe it’s important for the city of Houston to send a signal to the world that we welcome everybody and that we treat everybody equally, and depending on the elements of what was actually in it, I might or might not support it,”

According to Equality Texas Executive Director Dennis Coleman, the prospect of Houston voters approving the non-discrimination amendment has ramifications for efforts to pass similar measures in the state Legislature.

“Nondiscrimination in Houston builds a better case for us when we go for nondiscrimination in Austin,” said Coleman. “To be able to tell representatives that they represent areas that already support these efforts is very helpful.”

The cities of Austin, Dallas and Fort Worth all already have similar nondiscrimination ordinances and offer DP benefits to employees.

But Houston’s form of governance makes this effort unique. While the City Council is empowered to pass city ordinances covering issues of discrimination, they can be overturned by popular vote if those opposing the ordinance collect 20,000 signatures to place the issue on the ballot.

That was the case in 1985 after Houston Mayor Kathy Whitmire pushed through the council the city’s first protections for gay and lesbian Houstonians (no protections were provided for the bisexual or transgender communities).

A coalition of right-wing voters led by Louie Welch, then president of the Houston Chamber of Commerce, was able to place the issue on a city-wide ballot, claiming the policy “promoted the homosexual lifestyle.” The group also recruited a “straight slate” of candidates to run against City Council members who had favored the protections, with Welch running against Whitmire.

The public vote on nondiscrimination was held in June 1985 and Welch’s forces prevailed, but the city’s temperament had changed by the time of the City Council and mayoral races in November. A comment of Welch’s that the solution to the AIDS crisis was to “shoot the queers” was aired on local TV and few in Houston wished to be associated with him after that. The “straight slate” failed to capture a single City Council seat and Whitmire remained mayor, but the defeat of the city’s nondiscrimination policy remained.

By 1998 Houston had changed: Annise Parker was serving as the city’s first out lesbian city council member and Houston boasted the state’s first out gay judge, John Paul Barnich. Mayor Lee Brown, sensing the change, issued an executive order protecting LGBT city employees from employment discrimination. But the city had not changed that much. Councilman Rob Todd led efforts to fight the order in court, arguing that since voters rejected city-wide protections from discrimination in 1985, it was inappropriate for the mayor to institute them without voter approval. The city spent the next three years defending the policy in court, finally emerging victorious.

The joy of that 2001 victory would be shortlived, however. That year Houston’s voters approved another amendment to the city charter, this time prohibiting the city from providing domestic partner benefits for city employees. In a narrow defeat, just over 51 percent of voters decided that the city should not offer competitive benefits.

The current proposed non-discrimination amendment would remove the language added in 1985 and 2001. While it would provide non-discrimination protections it would not require the city to offer benefits of any kind to the spouses of LGBT city employees, leaving that question back in the hands of the City Council.

The organizers of the current effort are confident that this year is the year for victory.

Noel Freeman, the president of the Houston GLBT Political Caucus, which is spearheading the effort, explains that the previous votes occurred in “non-presidential years,”when voter turnout in general is low, and conservative voters make up a larger percentage of the electorate.

Additionally, polling by Equality Texas in 2010 showed that 80 percent of Houstonians support employment protections for gay and lesbian people.

In order to place the non-discrimination amendment on the November ballot the coalition supporting it will need to collect 20,000 signatures of registered Houston voters and submit them to the city clerk. Freeman says that the final charter amendment language is still under consideration and that once it is finalized the group will begin collecting signatures.

Even former Councilman Todd, who once fought the city’s policy of non-discrimination for LGBT employees, supports the current effort.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition February 17, 2012.

—  Michael Stephens

BACH for the holidays …. and beyond

Volunteer Wanda Brown helps get ready for the Breakfast at Cathedral of Hope on Chirstmas Eve

I have been out of the office, on vacation, since Dec. 22, and when I got back to work today and started wading through the thousands of emails in my inbox, I found one from Hank Henley, asking if we could include some information in Dallas Voice about BACH, the weekly Breakfast At Cathedral of Hope program in which church volunteers prepare and serve breakfast to the homeless.

So I am including Hank’s write-up about BACH’s Christmas Eve event here on Instant Tea, just as he sent it to me:

Use the words “Bach” and “cathedral” in a sentence this time of year, and most people will picture the “Christmas Cantata” or “Jesu, Joy of Man’s Desiring.” But at a certain church in Dallas, BACH stands for “Breakfast at the Cathedral of Hope,” a program that just celebrated its four-year anniversary in November. On Christmas Eve morning, while most of Dallas was nestled all snug in their beds, a small army of volunteers was in the kitchen at the Cathedral of Hope whipping up a hot and hearty breakfast for the homeless and needy that would be coming through their doors by 7:30 a.m. Under the direction of Rev. William Baldridge, Associate Pastor for Community Outreach, this weekly breakfast has grown from serving just 11 guests at the first meal to an average of 200 guests each Saturday morning.

And guests they are: receiving a hot meal served on china plates and with silverware and glasses. The guests may also receive a haircut after they eat, if they so chose.

This week, in addition to the usual food and drink, each guest received a bag with a blanket, hat, gloves, toiletries, water and food coupons. The gift bags were the result of the generous work of Jan Okerlund and Leslie Frye.

Leslie Frye, one of the volunteer coordinators, when asked how the volunteers feel about the work they do, said, “The real blessing is in the cooking for and serving those less fortunate, not only during this Season, but all year long.”

This Saturday’s volunteers included members of the church community of the Cathedral of Hope, members of the Turtle Creek Chorale and a group of 14 students from “I-CERV,” the “Ismaili Community Engaged in Responsible Volunteering.” They are here once a month, all year long. Kenneth Campbell, the Interfaith Services Director Volunteer Coordinator of the Memnosyne Foundation, brought these energetic and focused youth.

The Memnosyne Foundation is a wonderful organization whose mission is “to help a diverse people of the world consciously encourage an evolution of themselves and for future generations by providing the means to encourage positive, peaceful global collaboration.” The diverse crowd of leaders, volunteers and guests were certainly doing that on this morning.

And one guest, who guest shared his story quietly and privately with tears streaming down his face, personifies the spirit of sharing and giving. This time last year, he was on the street, living under a bridge and depending on the generosity of others to survive. He told me he could always count on a hot meal and being treated with respect when he came to BACH. This year, he is able to draw social security and is donating $25 a month to BACH. “They always fed me and helped me get through. Now I want to give back whatever I can. God blessed me and it’s what I want to do.”

Across the room, his hands deep in a bucket of soapy water, volunteer Jamie Rawson, spent the morning scraping plates and glasses, getting them ready for the dishwashers.

“There a few things a person can do which so clearly put Christmastime in perspective as doing something to help others. It is has been said so often as to become a cliché — but it is no less true for being a cliché. It is heart-warming to see so many people gathered to help provide for those in need. It is especially affirming to see so many young people from such a diversity of backgrounds. This has been the most fitting and rewarding way to truly start my Christmas.”

When the guests were finished with breakfast, finished visiting with friends and volunteers, finished with their haircut, and picked up their bag of supplies for warmth and comfort, they left the cathedral and headed back into the rain and the street.

As they left, Richard Boule greeted each of them and wished them a Merry Christmas.

“As I watched those people leaving the Cathedral after breakfast this morning, I could not help wondering where they were going and what each one of them had to look forward to this Christmas time. But I had the feeling that they were grateful for the humanity they were shown, so many left with a smile. May they be blessed.”

If you would like to help with BACH, please call Rev. Baldridge at the Cathedral of Hope at 214-351-1901.

You can see more photos from the Christmas Eve Breakfast at Cathedral of Hope after the jump.

—  admin

Choose between O.M.D at HOB or k.d. Lang at the Meyerson

Decisions, decisions

Whether you’re in the mood for swoony torch songs or synth-pop from the ’80s, tonight is your night. k.d. Lang stops in town with her new band the Siss Boom Bang in support of her latest album Sing it Loud. She’ll likely have you as putty in her hands once her mouth hits the microphone. Or for some flat-out fun pop that will take you back a few decades, hit up Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark (or O.M.D.) tonight. The band hit it big with “If You Leave” and “Dreamin’” back in the ’80s and then kinda faded away. But last year, they dropped History of Modern and tour and have been getting raves ever since.

If only you could be in two places at once.

DEETS: k.d. Lang and the Siss Boom Bang, Meyerson Symphony Center, 2301 Flora St. at 8 p.m. $40–$100. DallasSymphony.com.

O.M.D., House of Blues, 2200 N. Lamar St. at 8 p.m. $25–$45. HouseofBlues.com.

—  Rich Lopez

From screen to stage

Q Cinema veterans tackle live theater with the guerrilla-like QLive!

CURTAIN UP! | Producing partners Todd Camp and Kyle Trentham have theater backgrounds, but QLive! is a departure from the movie-focused work their organization, Q Cinema, has done for a dozen years.

MARK LOWRY  | Special Contributor
marklowry@theaterjones.com

………………..

QLIVE: NONE OF THE ABOVE
Trinity Bicycles patio,
207 S. Main St., Fort Worth.
Sept. 23–24 at 8 p.m.
$15, QCinema.org

…………………

Anyone who’s ever wanted to start a theater company will tell you that the biggest hurdle is finding the right space. It’s no different in DF-Dub, where the opportunities seem endless, but affordable spaces that can work for the demands of theater are limited.

QLive!, a new theater company based in Fort Worth, is finding ways to work around that. Its first full production, for instance, is None of the Above , a two-person drama by Jenny Lyn Bader. It opens Friday on the back patio of a bicycle shop just west of downtown Cowtown.

“One of the things we’ve talked about is the immersive experience, where it’s not just that you sit down and watch a show, but you experience a show,” says QLive’s Todd Camp, who founded Fort Worth’s LGBT film festival, Q Cinema. “The three shows that we have lend themselves quite well to that.”

Those three shows, which run this fall, begin with Above, which deals with a parochial school student and her teacher. In November, there’ll be Yasmina Reza’s oft-produced Art, which will hopefully happen in a gallery space (they’re still negotiating). It will close out the year with Terrence McNally’s controversial Corpus Christi, taking place in a machine shop near downtown Fort Worth.

QLive! has been a project three years in the making, and will be led by Camp’s Q Cinema cohort Kyle Trentham, as artistic director. The group has already launched a successful Tuesday night open mike comedy event at Percussions Lounge, and in February presented a staged reading of Frank Wedekind’s 1891 play Spring Awakening, the day before the musical based on that play opened at Bass Performance Hall. They also brought Hollywood comedy writer Bruce Vilanch in for a one-night performance.

Like other arts groups with a large LGBT following that present works of interest to that community — including Uptown Players and the Turtle Creek Chorale — Trentham says QLive doesn’t want the label of “gay theater” … despite the big “Q” in its name.

“Young [audiences] don’t think in those terms anymore,” he says. “They just want to see theater they like.”

With Corpus Christi, Trentham says that creating an immersive experience will be crucial to the production. “It’s a working machine shop,” he says. “You walk in and the actors are working, getting their hands dirty. Then in the cleansing scene, they actually are cleaned.”

Camp, who has led Q Cinema for 13 years, is no stranger to controversy. He was a critical player in the late ‘90s “Labor of Love” project at the now-defunct Fort Worth Theatre. That group presented shows like Paul Rudnick’s Jeffrey and The Most Fabulous Story Ever Told, and Mart Crowley’s The Boys in the Band. A few times, there were protesters in front of the performance space, Orchestra Hall.

Considering the dust-up Corpus Christi caused in Texas last year when a Tarelton State University junior had his student production of it canceled, Camp is prepared for blowback.

“You are not going to tell me what I can and cannot do in my town, even if you’re the lieutenant governor,” he says. “This is an important work by a Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright who’s from Texas. … It’s an incredibly pro-spiritual show. It’s not anti-religion or blasphemous. It takes organized religion, which has been used to club the gay and lesbian community for many years, and retells the story that makes it a little more compatible and open to them.”

For now, they’ll have to see how their audience deals with a show outside a bike shop.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition September 23, 2011.

—  Michael Stephens

Pet of the week: Mator

Mator is a gorgeous guy with a personality to match. He’s about 18 months old and weighs 45 pounds. Mator sits, shakes hands and loves belly rubs. He’s a friendly, affectionate dog who never meets a stranger and should make a great addition to any family.

………………..

Mator and many other dogs, cats, puppies and kittens are available for adoption from Dallas Animal Services, 1818 N. Westmoreland at I-30, just minutes west of Downtown Dallas. The shelter is open Monday-Saturday 11 a.m.-6:30 p.m. and Sundays noon-5 p.m. The cost to adopt is $85 for dogs and $55 for cats and includes spay/neuter surgery, vaccinations, microchip and more. All dogs are negative for heartworms, and cats have been tested for FeLV and FIV. For more information, visit DallasAnimalServices.org or call 214-671-0249.

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

—  Michael Stephens

Focus hands Speaker Boehner 45k signatures, 1 valid reason to cry

According to Focus on the Family’s own reportage, the “pro-family” mega-group has delivered 45,000+ petitions to House Speaker John Boehner, calling on the 112th Congress to, among other things:

4.) Defend the free exercise of religion and speech by rejecting the proposed Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA) and repealing the Hate Crimes bill passed in 2009.

5.) Support the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) and demand that the Obama Administration uphold and defend DOMA.

6.) Reinstate the “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy and underlying federal law that affirms homosexuality is incompatible with military service

Good News: Speaker Boehner Hears from 45,000 Family Advocates [FOtF]

Such principled focus they have.

But honestly? 45k sounds pretty darn low, considering how established, financed, and conserva-nnected FoTF is. We’d think by now, their bat signal would be finely tuned enough to drum up half a mil pieces of misplaced scapegoating, if they really wanted. So perhaps this is actually progress?




Good As You

—  David Taffet

Mubarak sets up potential bloodbath with speech; hands over limited power to VP

Is it me or is aging, out-of-touch, egomaniac dictator Hosni Mubarak asking for a bloodbath coup with a speech that basically says he’s still in charge?

In what looks like a bone-headed, stubborn and potentially deadly political move, Egypt’s President Hosni Mubarak, who apparently hasn’t been looking at the teeming crowds of people in the streets calling for him to get lost, today digged in his heels. The speech clearly caught everyone — including the White House — off guard, as most figured the guy was going to resign and jet off to some paradise to live out the rest of his years. You know, something that would make sense for the garden variety dictator.

But egomaniacs like to hold on to power, so he handed over some responsibilities to his VP:

I am telling you, as a president of the country, I do not find it a mistake to listen to you and to respond to your requests and demands. But it is shameful and I will not, nor will ever accept to hear foreign dictations, whatever the source might be or whatever the context it came in.

…I have delegated to the vice president some of the power – the powers of the president according to the constitution. I am aware, fully aware, that Egypt will overcome the crisis and the resolve of its people will not be deflected and will [inaudible] again because of the – and will deflect the arrows of the enemies and those who [inaudible] against Egypt.

But Mubarak still holds power over the country’s constitution and ability to dismiss Parliament, according to CNN.

The White House has yet to respond. Who knows what the Egypt’s army will do.

***

UPDATE: The WH response:

THE WHITE HOUSE

Office of the Press Secretary

_____________________________________________________________

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

                                                                                                                            February 10, 2011

Statement of President Barack Obama on Egypt

The Egyptian people have been told that there was a transition of authority, but it is not yet clear that this transition is immediate, meaningful or sufficient. Too many Egyptians remain unconvinced that the government is serious about a genuine transition to democracy, and it is the responsibility of the government to speak clearly to the Egyptian people and the world. The Egyptian government must put forward a credible, concrete and unequivocal path toward genuine democracy, and they have not yet seized that opportunity.  

As we have said from the beginning of this unrest, the future of Egypt will be determined by the Egyptian people. But the United States has also been clear that we stand for a set of core principles. We believe that the universal rights of the Egyptian people must be respected, and their aspirations must be met. We believe that this transition must immediately demonstrate irreversible political change, and a negotiated path to democracy. To that end, we believe that the emergency law should be lifted. We believe that meaningful negotiations with the broad opposition and Egyptian civil society should address the key questions confronting Egypt’s future: protecting the fundamental rights of all citizens; revising the Constitution and other laws to demonstrate irreversible change; and jointly developing a clear roadmap to elections that are free and fair.

We therefore urge the Egyptian government to move swiftly to explain the changes that have been made, and to spell out in clear and unambiguous language the step by step process that will lead to democracy and the representative government that the Egyptian people seek.  Going forward, it will be essential that the universal rights of the Egyptian people be respected. There must be restraint by all parties. Violence must be forsaken. It is imperative that the government not respond to the aspirations of their people with repression or brutality. The voices of the Egyptian people must be heard.

The Egyptian people have made it clear that there is no going back to the way things were: Egypt has changed, and its future is in the hands of the people. Those who have exercised their right to peaceful assembly represent the greatness of the Egyptian people, and are broadly representative of Egyptian society. We have seen young and old, rich and poor, Muslim and Christian join together, and earn the respect of the world through their non-violent calls for change. In that effort, young people have been at the forefront, and a new generation has emerged. They have made it clear that Egypt must reflect their hopes, fulfill their highest aspirations, and tap their boundless potential. In these difficult times, I know that the Egyptian people will persevere, and they must know that they will continue to have a friend in the United States of America.

###

Below the fold is the Mubarak transcript.

 

In the name of Allah, the merciful, the compassionate, dear fellow citizens, my sons, the youth of Egypt, and daughters, I am addressing you tonight to the youth of Egypt in Tahrir Square, with all of its diversity.

I am addressing all of you from the heart, a speech from the father to his sons and daughters. I am telling you that I am very grateful and am so proud of you for being a symbolic generation that is calling for change to the better, that is dreaming for a better future, and is making the future.

I am telling you before anything, that the blood of the martyrs and the injured will not go in vain. And I would like to affirm, I will not hesitate to punish those who are responsible fiercely. I will hold those in charge who have violated the rights of our youth with the harshest punishment stipulated in the law.

I am telling families of the innocent victims that I have been so much in pain for their pain, and my heart ached for your heartache.

I am telling you that my response to your demands and your messages and your requests is my commitment that I will never go back on to. I am determined to fulfill what I have promised you in all honesty, and I’m determined to execute and carry out what I have promised without going back to the past.

This commitment is out of my conviction of your honesty and your movement and that your demands are the demands – legitimate and just demands. Any regime could make mistakes in any country, but what is more important is to acknowledge these mistakes and reform and correct them in a timely manner, and to hold those responsible for it accountable.

I am telling you, as a president of the country, I do not find it a mistake to listen to you and to respond to your requests and demands. But it is shameful and I will not, nor will ever accept to hear foreign dictations, whatever the source might be or whatever the context it came in.

My sons and daughters, the youth of Egypt, dear fellow citizens, I have announced, without any doubt, that I will not run for the next presidential elections and have said that I have given the country and served the country for 60 years in public service, during wartime and during peacetime.

I have told you my determination that I will hold steadfast to continue to take on my responsibility to protect the constitution and the rights of people until power is transferred to whomever the people choose during September, the upcoming September, and free and impartial elections that will be safeguarded by the freedom – the call for freedom.

This is the oath that I have taken before God and before you. And I will protect it and keep it until we reach – we take Egypt to the safety and security.

I have given you my vision to get out of this current situation, to accomplish what the youth and the people called for, within the respect for the legitimacy and the constitution in a way that will accomplish security, and security for our future and the demands of our people, and at the same time will guarantee a framework of peaceful transition of power.

Through a responsible dialogue between all factions in the society, with all honesty and transparency, I have given you this vision under commitment to take the country out of this current crisis, and I will continue to accomplish it. And I’m monitoring the situation hour by hour.

I’m looking forward to the support of all those who are careful about the security and want a secure Egypt, within a tangible time, with the harmony of the broad base of all Egyptians that will stay watchful to guard Egypt and under the command of its military forces.

We have started a national dialogue, a constructive one, that included the youth who have called for change and reform, and also with all the factions of opposition and of society. And this dialogue resulted in harmony, and preliminary harmony in opinions that has placed us on the beginning of the road to transfer to a better future that we have agreed on.

We also have agreed on a road map – a road map with a timetable. Day after day, we will continue the transition of power from now until September. This national dialogue has — has met and was formed under a constitutional committee that have looked into the constitution and what was required – and looked into what is required, and the constitution reforms that is demanded [inaudible].

We will also monitor the execution – the honest execution of what I have promised my people. I was careful that both committees that were formed – to be formed from Egyptians who are honorable and who are independent and impartial, and who are well-versed in law and constitution.

In addition to that, in reference to the loss of many Egyptians during these sad situations that have pained the hearts of all of us and have ached the conscience of all Egyptians. I have also requested to expedite investigations and to refer all investigations to the attorney general to take the necessary measures and steps – decisive steps.

I also received the first reports yesterday about the required constitutional reform – reforms that was suggested by the constitutional and law experts regarding the legislative reforms that were requested. I am also responding to what the committee has suggested. And based on the powers given to me according to the constitution, I have presented today a request asking the amendment of six constitutional articles, which is 76, 77, 88, 93 and 187, in addition to abolishing article number 79 in the constitution, with the affirmation and conviction that later on we can also amend the other articles that would be suggested by that constitutional committee, according to what it sees right.

Our priority now is to facilitate free election – free presidential elections and to stipulate a number of terms in the constitution and to guarantee a supervision of the upcoming elections to make sure it will be conducted in a free manner.

We – I have also looked into the provisions and the steps to look into the parliamentary elections, but those who have suggested to abolish article number 179 in the constitution will guarantee the balance between the constitution and between our security and the threat of terror, which will open the door to stopping the martial law, as soon as we regain stability and security and as soon as these circumstances — circumstances assure the stability.

Our priority now is to regain confidence between citizens among themselves and to regain confidence in the international arena and to regain confidence about the reforms that we have pledged.

Egypt is going through some difficult times, and it is not right to continue in this discourse because it has affected our economy and we have lost day after day, and it is in danger — it is putting Egypt through a situation where people who have called for reform will be the first ones to be affected by it.

This time is not about me. It’s not about Hosni Mubarak. But the situation now is about Egypt and its present and the future of its citizens.

All Egyptians are in the same spot now, and we have to continue our national dialogue that we have started in the spirit of one team and away from disagreements and fighting so that we can take Egypt to the next step and to regain confidence in our economy and to let people feel secure and to stabilize the Egyptian street so that people can resume their daily life.

I was a young man, a youth just like all these youth, when I have learned the honor of the military system and to sacrifice for the country. I have spent my entire life defending its land and its sovereignty. I have witnessed and attended its wars with all its defeats and victories. I have lived during defeat and victory.

During the victory in 1973, my happiest days were when I lifted the Egyptian flag over Sinai. I have faced death several times when I was a pilot. I also faced it in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia and elsewhere. I did not submit nor yield to foreign dictations or others. I have kept the peace. I worked towards the Egyptian stability and security. I have worked to the revival in Egypt and the prosperity.

I did not seek authority. I trust that the majority — the vast majority of the Egyptian people know who is Hosni Mubarak, and it pains me to what I have — what I see today from some of my fellow citizens. And anyway, I am completely aware of the — what we are facing and I am convinced that Egypt is going through a historical — a historical moment that necessitates we should look into the higher and superior aspirations of the nation over any other goal or interest.

I have delegated to the vice president some of the power – the powers of the president according to the constitution. I am aware, fully aware, that Egypt will overcome the crisis and the resolve of its people will not be deflected and will [inaudible] again because of the – and will deflect the arrows of the enemies and those who [inaudible] against Egypt.

We will stand as Egyptians and we will prove our power and our resolve to overcome this through national dialogue. We will prove that we are not followers or puppets of anybody, nor we are receiving orders or dictations from anybody — any entity, and no one is making the decision for us except for the [inaudible] of the Egyptian [inaudible].

We will prove that with the spirit and the resolve of the Egyptian people, and with the unity and steadfastness of its people and with our resolve and to our glory and pride.

These are the main foundations of our civilization that have started over 7,000 years ago. That spirit will live in us as long as the Egyptian people – as long as the Egyptian people remain, that spirit will remain in us.

It will live amongst all of our people, farmers, intellectuals, workers. It will remain in the hearts of our senior citizens, our women, our children, Christians and Muslims alike, and in the hearts and minds of all those who are not born yet.

Let me say again that I have lived for this nation. I have kept my responsibilities. And Egypt will remain, above all, and above any individuals — Egypt will remain until I deliver and surrender its — it to others. This will be the land of my living and my death. It will remain a dear land to me. I will not leave it nor depart it until I am buried in the ground. Its people will remain in my heart, and it will remain — its people will remain upright and lifting up their heads.

May God keep Egypt secure and may God defend its people. And peace be upon you.

Pam’s House Blend – Front Page

—  David Taffet

Pelosi hands Boehner the gavel; Robert Gibbs packs his bags

Get a load of this fantasy headline from the LA Times. Even if Boehner means what he says, as outgoing Speaker Nancy Pelosi hands him the gavel, his Tea Party peeps are going to be on his posterior from day one:

John Boehner elected as House speaker, promises new GOP-controlled chamber will be ‘honest, accountable and more responsive’

Boehner, a 20-year congressman from southern Ohio, will pledge to make the House “honest, accountable, and more responsive” to the needs of the American people.

“Our aim will be to give government back to the people,” Boehner is expected to say, according to excerpts of his address released early Wednesday. “In seeking this goal, we will part with some of the rituals that have come to characterize this institution under majorities Republican and Democratic alike. We will dispense with the conventional wisdom that bigger bills are always better; that fast legislating is good legislating; that allowing additional amendments and open debate makes the legislative process “less efficient” than our forefathers intended. These misconceptions have been the basis for the rituals of modern Washington. The American people have not been well served by them.”

But the challenges of governing and holding a perhaps fractious GOP caucus together may clash with Boehner’s stated goals of a more open and inclusive process. Already Democrats are slamming next week’s expected vote in the House to repeal the healthcare overhaul legislation because Republicans are not going to allow the repeal bill to be debated and amended.

“Republicans have now broken at least three of the pledges they made in the election,” Democratic National Committee spokesman Brad Woodhouse said Wednesday. Beyond the healthcare repeal, Woodhouse cited the House GOP’s move to exempt the proposed repeal from a requirement that legislation that increases the federal budget deficit be offset by spending cuts elsewhere. (Proponents of the healthcare law say it will reduce the deficit over the next 20 years.)The GOP may also be backing away from a pledge to slice 0 billion from the budget for the current fiscal year because a quarter of the year has almost passed.

***

Changing gears, Robert Gibbs announced today that he was stepping down as White Press Secretary. His departure comes as there are several shifts under way at the White House as the President and his team gear up for the 2012 re-election bid.

Mr. Gibbs said that he intended to leave in early February. His successor has not yet been decided, he said, but will likely be announced within the next two weeks.

President Obama, who is in the middle of making final decisions on the first major reorganization of his administration, said in a brief telephone interview on Wednesday that Mr. Gibbs would remain a close adviser and “will continue to shape the dialogue politically for many years to come.”

The departure of Mr. Gibbs is part of a series of moves inside the West Wing as the president prepares for a new phase of his administration. The internal shuffling also could bring a new White House chief of staff, a decision the president is expected to make by week’s end, with an announcement as early as next week.

Gibbs did his job, conveying basic information with as little detail as possible, particularly on DADT. One could sum up his answers to questions from The Advocate’s Kerry Eleveld and ABC’s Jake Tapper, among others as 1) fibbing assclownery or 2) making him appear to be an empty vessel that is never briefed by high level WH officials.

I’m sure his replacement will bring the same level of candor to the podium

Of course here at the Blend we’ve been telling you that unless the President and Congress act on LGBT legislation in the first two years, the focus will turn away from progress to getting Barack Obama re-elected and members of Congress focusing on their seats. Of course this is now exacerbated by the turnover of the House to the GOP, making it a certainty ENDA (or any other items in the queue on the Hill) will not go anywhere. DADT squeaked by, thank goodness, but that’s still not fully repealed.
Pam’s House Blend – Front Page

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TAKE ACTION: Fate of Lesbian & Gay Service Members in President’s Hands

Moments ago, the Senate voted against bringing up debate on the National Defense Authorization Act — the bill to which “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” repeal is attached.  That the Senate refused to take up the issue is certainly a failure of leadership by both parties.

Since it appears Congress won’t repeal the law this year, the fate of lesbian and gay service members now rests in President Obama’s hands. To make good on his commitment to end “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” in 2010, the President must stop defending DADT in federal court and issue a stop-loss order halting military discharges.

Tell President Obama right now: End the discharges under “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” and stop defending this unconstitutional law in court.

As HRC President Joe Solmonese outlined in an October letter, the Administration should call “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” what it is – an unconstitutional and discriminatory law that hurts our national security – and cease its legal defense of the statute.  Separately, the President needs to immediately use his powers as Commander in Chief to issue a stop-loss order halting discharges.

As Joe Solmonese said in a statement today:

“The Senate’s apparent refusal to act on ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’ repeal makes Presidential action imperative in order for him to fulfill his state of the union promise. The only measure of success is an end to the discharges and anything less is unacceptable.  Every day that ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’ is in force, Americans are losing out on the best and brightest service members defending our country.  If Congress won’t act, it’s up to the President to clean up the mess they made when they enacted this discriminatory and unconstitutional law nearly two decades ago.”

Take action right now by sending an email to President Obama reminding him that millions of Americans will stand with him when he asserts his leadership on this issue. And taking action today will add crucial pressure for President Obama to act before 2010 ends in just a few weeks.


Human Rights Campaign | HRC Back Story

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Margie Phelps at Supreme Court: ‘Mark it down: Every death is in God’s hands, and he’s just getting warmed up.’

Kerry Eleveld was at the U.S. Supreme Court today to hear the oral arguments in the case brought against the Phelps by the family of Marine Lance Cpl. Matthew Snyder. He died in Iraq and the Phelps clan protest at his funeral. More on that subject here and here.

This is a First Amendment case and the Phelps were represented by one of their own, Margie:

Margie Phelps represented Westboro in front of the nine Supreme Court justices, displaying a mostly flat affect and decent command of the legal issues surrounding the case. But when she stepped in front of the microphones following the proceeding, Phelps switched on the more dogmatic and combative temperament that she and her church members are known for, even treating the mass of reporters to several lines of a variation on Ozzy Osbourne’s “Crazy Train.”

Here are some of the rantings that occurred outside the Court:

“Note to all — when you have a private funeral, we will not be there. When you have a public funeral and you broadcast to the nation that that dead soldier is a hero and that God is blessing America, we will be there and tell you, God is cursing America. It is a curse for your young men and women to be coming home in body bags. And if you want that to stop, stop sinning.”

“Look at you all right here. We don’t have to follow anybody. You follow us. We did not know any — we don’t know these families. We know this nation, whose destruction is imminent, has brought wrath from God. You have dead children coming home from that war. You have dead children. God’s promise to you is that if you would obey him, you would not need a standing army.”

“No, it’s not only the soldiers dying. God is bringing the trauma. He’s opened up his armory, and there’s no limit to the ways he can bring you trauma.… Everybody who dies, God kills. He holds the breath of life in his hands, and that’s what this rebellious nation is mad about, I think. You don’t want to say there’s a sovereign God with the breath of life in his hands. Mark it down: Every death is in God’s hands, and he’s just getting warmed up.

(Margie Phelps is joined by her sister Shirley Phelps-Roper in song.)

Cryin’ about your feelings / For your sin, no shame / You’re going straight to hell on a crazy train.

I think the Phelps are already on board that crazy train.




AMERICAblog Gay

—  John Wright