REGIONAL: Novotny says her advantage is Kern’s extremism

Trans candidate for Oklahoma House says Republican supporters say Kern is ‘on a different level’ from conservative constituents

DAVID TAFFET  |  Staff Writer taffet@dallasvoice.com

Brittany Novotny
Brittany Novotny

OKLAHOMA CITY — The New York Times named several transgender candidates around the country as having a good chance of election. Among them was Brittany Novotny, running for the Oklahoma Legislature.

Other transgender candidates are running in more likely places like Hawaii, Oregon and California. Theresa Sparks, a candidate for San Francisco’s Board of Supervisors, is seeking the seat once held by Harvey Milk and is seen as the conservative candidate in the race.

Novotny’s district encompasses northern suburbs of Oklahoma City usually considered on the far end of the conservative spectrum. But she said this week her campaign is going well.

While Novotny stays on message, her Republican opponent, incumbent Rep. Sally Kern, rose to fame by calling gays a bigger problem than terrorism. The comment was especially harsh in a district that was home to many of the Oklahoma City bombing victims.

After media criticism every time she spoke about homosexuality, Kern agreed to stick to the issues rather than leveling personal attacks. However, a Kern supporter recently referred to Novotny as “a confused it.”

“The issues in my district are economic development, good jobs, roads and transportation, education,” Novotny said. “Teachers, technology, textbooks.”

Her district is usually characterized as Republican with a conservative incumbent.

Novotny said that isn’t a fair description of the area.

“It’s a moderate swing district,” she said, with an extremist incumbent.

She has been told that 48 percent in her area consider themselves moderate or liberal. People in the area are concerned with jobs, not her gender identity, she said.

“In knocking on 3,000 doors, it’s only come up once,” she said, referring to her gender identity.

Novotny said her Republican supporters have told her, “I’m conservative but Kern is on a different level.”

She believes that will be the margin of difference that will get her elected.

“We feel we have done a good job of sticking to the issues,” Novotny said.

In an interview last month, Houston Mayor Annise Parker commented on Novotny’s approach to the race by concentrating on issues.
“That’s how you win an election,” Parker said.

Novotny said she went to law school because of her interest in going into public service.

“Some thought I was going to be the LGBT candidate,” she said. “But I’ve always been interested in politics.”

Kern refused to debate Novotny in an open town hall forum. Instead they squared off on KFOR, the NBC affiliate in Oklahoma City, on the show Flash Point for 20 minutes.

The Daily Oklahoman, the state’s largest newspaper that is based in Oklahoma City, has declined to endorse in legislative races.

“But they’re not fans of my opponent,” Novotny said.

She spent 45 minutes with the editorial board and said they talked about her values and vision for Oklahoma.

Mara Keisling is the executive director of The National Center for Transgender Equality, an organization that does not endorse candidates. She commented on Novotny’s race and compared it to Parker’s Houston election.

“The people of Houston weren’t looking for a lesbian mayor,” she said. “They were looking for a competent mayor.”

She said the question to voters is: Can she do a better job?

She believes Novotny has a good chance of election because Kern “has a reputation of being controversial.”

Keisling said that if Novotny wins, it will be because people in Oklahoma are concerned about jobs and the economy and want a responsible and mature state representative.

“I never wanted my trans status to hold me back,” Novotny said.

She has out fundraised Kern. In the latest filing, Novotny reported $25,000 to Kern’s $14,000. She is ahead in total raised throughout the campaign as well and has 500 small donors, also more than her opponent.

“I’m real proud of the way we’ve run the campaign and I hope it pays off on Election Day,” she said.

If elected, she would become the first transgender state legislator in the country.

Her election watch party on Nov. 2 will be at the Holiday Inn on Old Route 66 in Bethany, Okla., the same location where she announced her candidacy more than a year ago.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition October 29, 2010

—  Kevin Thomas

A perfect example of the politics of fear: California Sen. Roy Ashburn apologizes for anti-gay votes

Sen. Roy Ashburn

California State Sen. Roy Ashburn isn’t really someone to point to as a role model when it comes to proud gay men. He was deeply closeted most of his life, and spent his time as a senator diligently voting against anything even remotely gay positive, including his vote last November against establishing an annual Harvey Milk Day in honor of the murdered gay rights activist. And in 2005, he not only voted against same-sex marriage in California, he organized an anti-gay-marriage rally.

But then this past March 10, Ashburn’s house of cards came tumbling down: He was stopped as he left a well-known gay bar, with a man in the car with him, and arrested for DWI.

So Ashburn owned up and came out. He admitted, he is gay. But he still defended his anti-gay votes, saying that he was following the wishes of the constituents in his district.

Now, though, the senator — in his final term — has taken yet another step forward: He has apologized for his anti-gay votes in a blog post on GayPolitics.com. He said:

“I am sincerely sorry for the votes I cast and the actions I took that harmed lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people. Just as important to me, I am sorry for not stepping forward and speaking up as an elected official on behalf of equal treatment for all people.”

And why, you may ask, did he vote against the best interests of himself and his community for so long? He has an answer:

“I chose to conceal who I truly am and to then actually vote against the best interests of people like me. All this was done because I was afraid — terrified, really — that somehow I would be revealed as gay.”

He was afraid. He was afraid because he lived with a secret. He lived, as a transgender friend of mine described it, “stealth.” What better example could anyone ask for of the dangers of living in the closet?

He may have not come out all that willingly, but now that he is out, Roy Ashburn is changing his tune — and his politics. And he is calling on his party — the Republican Party — to change its politics, too:

“We stand for equality as well as opportunity. We stand for individuals living their lives without fear or limits imposed by a powerful government. We stand for a government of limited powers over citizens, including not being involved in the private lives of people. These tenets of Republican ideology call for bold action by our party when confronted with the real-life issues of discrimination against LGBT people.

“I am no longer willing, nor able to remain silent in the face of unequal and hurtful treatment of my community. It may have taken me a strange, incoherent and long path to get here, but this is where I find myself as a gay Republican senator. It’s time for Republicans to find our way and fight for equal treatment for all people, especially the freedom to be unique and have our rights acknowledged and protected.”

OK, so while his life up until this year isn’t role-model material, it looks like Ashburn is moving in that direction. I just wish it wasn’t his last term in the California Senate. And I hope his GOP colleagues will listen to him.

—  admin

DVtv: Video from Sunday’s Stonewall commemoration and, how The Dallas Morning News got it wrong — again

Apparently the Dallas Morning News attended a different rally last night than me. At the rally The DMN attended, all the LGBT community did was complain about Democrats. There was no mention of the Texas Republican platform. There was no mention of the hatred from religious extremists going on across the street. No mention of the success last week at the DART board meeting. No mention of the Rainbow Lounge Raid. No remembrance of Harvey Milk or other hate crime victims.

Nope. Just non-stop complaining about Democrats.

At the rally I attended, one banner read, “Dems: Keep your promises.”

One. That’s it.

But signs accused homophobes of murder and demanded equality now.

After savagely ridiculing the Republican platform and skewering the handful of protesters blaring hatred on bullhorns across the street, Daniel Cates did have a line for some Democrats who are bowing to right-wing pressure.

“The time has come to lead or get out of the way,” he said.

One line.

But from the Morning News article, the rally was a Democrat-bashfest.

What happened?

Several of the speakers asked me if I thought it was odd that the Morning News contacted them ahead of time. I answered that if a writer didn’t report regularly on LGBT issues, he was just doing his homework so he’d be up on the issues and concerns of the community when he got there. That’s just being prepared.

But that’s not what happened. The DMN article doesn’t quote what any speaker said during the rally. The article might quote what some of them said ahead of the rally. On the phone.

But not one quote FROM the rally. Not one chant from the parade route. Not one answer to the religious extremists.

So according to the Morning News, the rally was all about bashing the Democrats. Interesting, because it would have been hard to find a single Republican in the crowd. And if there were any Republicans there, other than the reporter whose piece could be used as a Republican Party press release and the counter-demonstrators across the street, it sure didn’t seem like they were very excited about the current Texas Republican Party with its platform calling for making criminals out of LGBTA people.

Read our coverage of the march and rally by going here.

—  David Taffet

Stonewall remembered at Dallas march

Rally draws more than 100 from as far as Tyler, Fort Worth


Activist Aaron Rathbun waves one of many Rainbow flags that could be seen flying during Sunday’s Stonewall commemoration in downtown Dallas. (David Taffet/Dallas Voice)

DAVID TAFFET  |  Staff Writer  taffet@dallasvoice.com

The LGBT community marked the 41st anniversary of the Stonewall Rebellion and the first anniversary of the Rainbow Lounge raid with a rally, march and candlelight vigil on Sunday evening, June 27 in Downtown Dallas.

A crowd of about 150 gathered outside the Dallas County Records Building at 6:30 p.m. Elizabeth Pax energized the crowd before a march through downtown.

Event organizer Daniel Cates said he was inspired by the words of gay rights pioneer Harvey Milk, who encouraged the LGBT community to march down Main Street. From Historical Plaza in front of the Records building, marchers proceeded down Commerce Street, turned the corner at Neiman Marcus and returned to the square walking hand-in-hand while chanting along Main Street.

The march took about 30 minutes and was led by a group representing each letter in LGBT. They carried a banner that said, “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.”

Another banner read, “Full federal equality now.”

Signs said things like, “Adam & Steve. Madam & Eve. It’s all good” and “Wake Up America. Being homophobic kills. Equality now.”

Several signs remembered Milk.

“Harvey Milk. American politician who became the first openly gay man to be elected to public office in California, winning the seat on the San Francisco Board of Supervisors,” one sign read.

Shannon Kern, a straight ally, served as emcee of the rally that followed the march.

“Burst down those closet doors because you are perfect the way you are,” Kern said.

Jesse Garcia of Dallas gay LULAC council told the crowd to vote and encouraged straight allies to do the same. He challenged the group to reach out to fellow minorities who understand that the fight is for civil rights, and to stick together and not bow to forces that want the community to turn against itself.

When Rafael McDonnell from Resource Center Dallas spoke, he began by asking how many were attending their first gay-rights rally. About a quarter of the crowd cheered.

Get Equal Now activist Michael Robinson reminded the crowd of last week’s DART non-discrimination victory.

“Lock me up and set me free,” said activist Chastity Kirven. She was referring to her arrest at House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s office while protesting inaction on the Employment Non-Discrimination Act.

Kirven led the group in several chants including “One struggle, one fight,” driving home the evening’s theme of unity.

Referring to the handful of anti-gay counterprotesters from a Mansfield church who’ve become a fixture at local LGBT events, Kirven questioned their morality.

“When they want to look into your bedroom, who’s the pervert?” Kirven shouted.

Renee Baker spoke on behalf of the transgender community and, as a Youth First Texas board member, on behalf of young people.

“I’m doing this for our youth,” she said. “They’re taking the brunt of this because they’re still in the public schools.”

Nonnie Ouch, president of the Gay Straight Alliance at Texas Tech University, also mentioned the counterprotesters.

“Let’s not be like our enemy who cowers behind his theology,” she said.

Cates responded to the Mansfield group’s signs saying homosexuality is a choice that does not deserve “special rights.”

“I’ll tell you what’s a choice. Religion is a choice and it’s protected by the constitution,” Cates said.

Cates finished his remarks by thanking the Republican Party of Texas for defining their hatred of gays and lesbians so heinously in its platform that it’s being ridiculed in the national media.

The Rev. Steve Sprinkle of Brite Divinity School in Fort Worth spoke about the response to last June’s Rainbow Lounge raid. He said the event united Dallas and Fort Worth into one LGBT community to produce an appropriate response.

He said while the goal of police was to harass and humiliate, the LGBT community showed it won’t be intimidated.

A candlelight vigil followed to remember those no longer with us.

Spencer Young, from the cast of the Tyler production of “The Laramie Project,” which right-wingers tried to cancel, remembered Nicholas West during the vigil.

West was 23 when he was kidnapped from a Tyler park and murdered on Dec. 30, 1993. Young compared that murder to Matthew Shepard’s five years later. As he told the story, the clock in the tower above Old Red eerily tolled the hour.

Pax ended the evening by leading the crowd in rounds of “We Shall Overcome.”

—  David Taffet

Local briefs • 06.25.10

Vedda wins Chamber scholarship

The U.S. Chamber of Commerce’s Institute for Organization Management has awarded its Regent Scholarship to Tony Vedda. The award is given to chamber professionals across the country.

In his application, Vedda stressed the chamber’s need for diversity in its training programs.

Vedda, executive director of the North Texas GLBT Chamber of Commerce, will attend a five-day session at Loyola Marymount in Los Angeles in July. The course is part of a four-year leadership-training program. This is Vedda’s third year.

“It’s a testatent to our board that they see value in this,” he said. “It’s just a terrific program.”



AA Rainbow Team salutes Cirillo

FORT WORTH — In celebration of National Gay Pride Month, American Airlines’ Rainbow Team is honoring the sales group’s founder, Rick Cirillo.

For Rainbow Team newsletter, they interviewed Cirillo who talked about being the first employee in Harvey Milk’s Castro Street camera shop. Cirillo had just come out and had a chance encounter with Milk, which led to his involvement in work for LGBT rights.

Cirillo later moved to Dallas and went to work for American Airlines in the marketing department. After the 1993 March on Washington and the airline’s decision to work with the gay and lesbian community and stop discriminating against passengers with AIDS, Cirillo formed the Rainbow Team to market to the LGBT community.

His marketing group was a first for a major American company but has since been copied by most other airlines and a number of other corporations such as IBM.



TDWCC to endorse candidates

The next general meeting for Texas Democratic Women of Collin County will be Monday, June 28, at 6:45 p.m. in the Shawnee Room F148 of Founders Hall at the Preston Ridge Campus of Collin College, 9700 Wade Blvd. in Frisco.

The meeting will include a candidate forum to vet and vote on endorsements for the November election. The following candidates and representatives have confirmed attendance: The daughter of gubernatorial candidate Bill White representing his campaign; Dinah Weems representing the campaign of her husband, railroad commissioner candidate Jeff Weems; 3rd Congressional District candidate John Lingenfelder; Collin County Court at Law Place 3 candidate Sajeel Khaleel; county judge candidate David Smith, Collin County district attorney candidate Rafael de la Garza; county commissioner candidate Rick Koster; justice of the peace candidate Rey Flores; 5th District Court of Appeals Place 4 candidate Bonnie Lee Goldstein; and 5th District Court of Appeals Place 12 candidate Larry Praeger.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition June 25, 2010.

—  Dallasvoice

Saturday is Harvey Milk Day

Saturday is the first official Harvey Milk Day. Harvey Milk Day legislation passed the California legislature in August 2008.

May 22 would have been Milk’s 80th birthday. He was assassinated in his office in San Francisco City Hall on Nov. 27, 1978. He was 48.

I take special pride in Harvey Milk for a number of reasons.

First, he graduated from my school, University at Albany, class of 1951. Our most famous alumni was honored last year at the school at a luncheon, and Harvey’s gay nephew Stuart Milk spoke (see video above). Soon after the opening of our Alumni House in 1977, his fraternity made a donation in his name, and the library of the new building was named for him.

Next is Milk’s Dallas connection. John Wright recently unearthed evidence that Milk lived in Dallas in the 1960s at 21 Turtle Creek, just a few blocks from the Dallas Voice office.

—  David Taffet

UPDATED: Harvey Milk once lived in Dallas, and Neil Emmons says he knows where

harveymilk

Neil Emmons, history buff and openly gay former Dallas city plan commissioner, said he heard from a “friend of a friend” over the weekend that gay rights pioneer Harvey Milk once lived in his building, Turtle Creek Gardens at 2525 Turtle Creek. Emmons said he was initially “very skeptical,” but for some reason it kept gnawing at him. Emmons noted that he didn’t have to look any further than the Wikipedia entry on Milk to confirm that he once lived in Dallas, and this week Emmons went to the downtown library to do some additional research. What Emmons came up with is a 1969 city directory that lists a “Harvey Milk” as living at 2525 Turtle Creek, then called the Gardens on Turtle Creek but since renamed Turtle Creek Gardens. Emmons says the surname “Milk” was very uncommon in Dallas at the time, and he’s convinced this was the listing for the man who would later become the mayor of Castro Street.

“It’s good enough for me,” Emmons said. “I’m excited. I’m ecstatic. I think this is great, and Dallas should know he was here. I promise I’m the only gumshoe who’s gone down and pulled those out of the back of the seventh floor of the library.”

Based on my subsequent research, it appears to be true that Milk once lived in Dallas for a brief time, which is news in and of itself. But I’m not sure Emmons’ listing in the city directory matches up with the dates when Milk was here. According to the Susan Davis Alch Collection at the San Francisco Public Library, Milk and then-partner Joe Campbell lived in Dallas from September 1957 to February 1958 but moved back to New York because they were “unhappy” here. The timeline is based on letters Milk wrote to his friend Susan Davis. I can’t find the letters themselves online anywhere, but a document on the library’s Web site provides this summary:

After completing his stint in the Navy, Harvey Milk spent the fall and winter of 1955 in Los Angeles. Mike Sather, a mutual friend, introduced Milk to Susan Davis during that time. It is also during this period that Milk met and fell in love with John Harvey, a friend of Sue’s. In spring 1956, Milk moved to Miami with John Harvey and Don [Donna?]. Once there, Milk and Harvey parted company. In a few letters, Milk notes that he had a “blind” love for Harvey which was not returned. Although Milk intended to settle in Miami, he returned to New York in May because of family problems.
In spite of his desire to spend the summer in New York and then return to Miami, Milk remained in NYC after meeting Joe Campbell in June or July 1956. In September? 1957, they moved to Dallas and his letters describe how unhappy they were there. They moved back to NY in February 1958, after taking a trip through New Orleans for Mardi Gras. Shortly after their return, Campbell’s mother died in March or April 1958. In December, Milk describes Campbell’s job as a page and handyman at Xavier Cugat’s Club, Casa Cugat.

No one here at the Voice — including Publisher Robert Moore, who started the paper in 1984, and Senior Editor Tammye Nash, who came here in 1989 — was even aware that Milk had lived in Dallas. And despite all the hype surrounding the release of the biopic “Milk” two years ago, I’ve never heard anyone mention it. Needless to say, though, we’ll piece together whatever information we can about Milk’s time in Dallas for an upcoming issue. Thanks for the tip, Neil.

UPDATE: Neil Emmons just sent me a follow-up e-mail. Here’s what he said:

After the Dallas Voice was “unsure of my dates,” I couldn’t let it rest. I was able to locate a Dallas co-worker of Milk’s from 1968. James F. Wilson was working as an intern in 1967-68 when Harvery Milk was transferred from New York to Dallas by Bache & Co. where he worked as a securities analyst. Wilson remembers Milk well as someone who was always smiling, ever kind, and treated everyone equally, even the interns. In this time period, there was only one person with the last name Milk in the city of Dallas, and I have no doubt that the Harvey Milk listed in the 1969 city directory was THE Harvey Milk. Happy Easter and Happy Passover, Harvey. So much you had yet to do. …

—  John Wright