Galveston B&B removed from property listing site after throwing out a gay couple

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Jonathan Wang, left, and his partner, Brent

A Galveston B&B  has been removed from the Airbnb vacation rental site after the owner allegedly threw out a gay couple who had paid for a two-night stay.

“We have a zero tolerance policy for discrimination on Airbnb. The host in question has been removed from the site. Airbnb has clear guidelines that a host or a guest may not promote hate or bigotry,” Airbnb officials said in a statement to ABC 13 Eyewitness News in Houston.

Jonathan Wang, a commercial airline pilot, and his partner, Brent, had booked a room at the bed-and-breakfast — which was not named in news reports and whose owner was identified only as Heather — for two nights while they were in Galveston for a friend’s wedding.

Wang said he and his partner unpacked at the B&B and then went to the wedding reception. When they returned to their lodgings later that night, Heather stopped him and asked where his wife was. When he told her he had not said he had a wife and asked if it were okay that he instead had a male partner, Heather said no and told them to leave immediately.

Because it was late and a weekendnight, accommodations on the island were already full, Wang said, adding that he had to call in a favor from his job as a pilot to find some place he and Brent could stay the night. He said later when he looked more closely at the Airbnb listing for Heather’s establishment, he noticed small type declaring it to be “straight friendly.”

During a phone call with ABC 13 in Houston, Heather said that in forcing the two men to leave, “I’m completely of my legal realms and morals.” When the reporter asked her is she rented to same-sex couples, Heather answered, “That’s none of your business. That’s my private home.”

Airbnb is an online service through which homeowners around the world can list their accommodations to rent out to travelers. Some rent a room in their home, while others rent out entire homes, apartments, condos, etc.

—  Tammye Nash

BREAKING NEWS: All Plano recall petition signatures ruled invalid

PlanoThe team that screwed up the Houston Equal Rights Ordinance recall has proven  to be equally incompetent in Plano. The “county of residence” requirement was omitted from the Plano petitions, which invalidated all of the signatures on it.

In Houston, fewer than 4,000 signatures on petitions to overturn that city’s newly-enacted equal rights ordinance were valid out of more than 50,000 turned in. In Plano, none of the signatures were valid because that requirement was omitted.

Plano spokesman Steve Stoler wrote in a press release this morning (Friday, Feb. 20), that the city of Plano has determined that the recently circulated petition is invalid and will not move forward.  Plano’s city secretary was unable to certify the petition because it failed to meet state and local requirements for validation.

Stoler wrote:

On Dec. 8, 2014, the Plano City Council approved an Equal Rights Ordinance, expanding the city’s policy to prohibit discrimination against the following classes: U.S. military/veteran status, genetic information, sexual orientation and gender identity.  The petition called for the city to either repeal that ordinance or submit it to the citizens for a  vote.

The petition contained false information regarding the Equal Rights Ordinance, claiming it regulates bathrooms.  The ordinance does not regulate bathrooms. By making this false representation, the Equal Rights petition asked signees to repeal an ordinance that does not exist.

Texas Election Code requires petitions submitted in cities located in two counties to include a column for the signee’s county of voter registration.  Since Plano is in two counties, that column was mandatory.  However, none of the petition pages included it.

The Plano City Charter requires petitions to include a copy of the legislation sought to be repealed or changed.  The Equal Rights petition did not include an attachment of the ordinance.

On Dec. 30, three weeks prior to the deadline for the Equal Rights petition to be turned in, the city of Plano sent an email to the groups organizing the petition drive, including Texas Values, the U.S. Pastor Council and Plano Citizens United, to clarify information. It outlined problematic issues with the petition, including those aforementioned.  The email read, ‘The city is providing information in an attempt to facilitate accuracy in referendum petitions to avoid any potential disputes regarding validity of signatures.’ Links were provided to the city of Plano Charter, Texas Election Code and petition information on the Secretary of State website. The city made a good faith attempt to avoid dispute and facilitate accuracy.

Nonetheless, not a single page of submitted petitions was valid.

—  David Taffet

BREAKING: Restraining order bars Houston from offering equal benefits

Houston-Mayor-Annise-Parker

Houston Mayor Annise Parker

A district judge has ordered Houston to stop offering same-sex benefits to its employees. The order, found here, states that the city cannot issue benefits under the city’s charter and Family Penal Code because same-sex couples are not formally recognized by Texas.

“The city is preparing an immediate appeal.  Once that appeal is filed, today’s ruling will be stayed and a previous order issued at the federal court level allowing the city to implement same sex spousal benefits will continue in effect.  As a result, today’s action will have no impact on the status quo,” city spokeswoman Janice Evans said in a statement.

Follow the Voice for more information.

—  James Russell

Classic Chassis Car Club of Dallas brings home awards from Golden Girls show

Classic Chassis Car Club of Dallas members recently returned with several awards from Golden Girls 2014, the annual car show organized by Classic Chassis Car Clubs of Texas hosted this year by CCCC Houston in Galveston. Classic Chassis Car Clubs of Texas is a division of Lambda Car Club International.

The show was held on Galveston’s Pier 21, with the backdrop of water and ship, and those attending said even the sudden cloudburst couldn’t spoil the day. The show was followed by an evening of entertainment, food, prizes and awards hosted at the Lone Star Flight Museum.

Golden Girl winners from Dallas this year are:

• Russ Johnson, “Best Truck” for his 2013 Ford F150 Lariat.

• Michael Smith, first place in the 1990s Open Division with his 1991 Figaro.

• David and Tom, second place in the 1980s Closed Division with their Pontiac Fiero.

• Robert Gamble, first place in the 1970s Open Division with his 1971 Olds Cutlass.

• James Gudat, first place in the 1970s Closed Division with his 1974 AMC Matador.

• Bill Allen, first place in the 1960s Open Division with his 1961 Olds Starfire. Allen also received the award for “Longest Distance Travelled.”

• Steve Slaughter, “Best in Show” and first place in the Pre-1949 Division with his 1938 Packard Six.

Next year’s Golden Girls show will be hosted by the Austin CCCC Chapter and will be on the Grand National Circuit of events for Lambda Car Club International. It will be only the second time in GG history a Texas club has hosted a Grand National; Dallas was the first to do so in 2004.

—  Tammye Nash

BREAKING: Houston Mayor Annise Parker withdraws sermon subpoenas

Annise ParkerHouston Mayor Annise Parker announced this morning, Oct. 29, that Houston will withdraw subpoenas of five pastors in the lawsuit over the Houston Equal Rights Ordinance, the Houston Chronicle reports.

Parker and the city came under national scrutiny when lawyers representing the city subpoenaed five pastors’ sermons in the lawsuit brought by pastors opposed to the ordinance. The request resulted in a national outcry. A  group of religious leaders sponsored by the Family Research Council plans to descend on Houston this coming Sunday, Nov. 2, to protest against the subpoenas.

Parker said at a press conference she met with national and Houston clergy members yesterday, Oct. 27, to “hear their concerns about religious liberties,” the Chronicle reports. But she did not indicate then whether or not she would withdraw the subpoenas.

“What is best for the city of Houston, not what is best for the litigation,” she said, but adding “I don’t want to have a national debate about freedom of religion” while trying to defend HERO.”

 

—  James Russell

Jon Buice again denied parole in 1991 gay bashing murder

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Jon Christopher Buice

The Texas Board of Pardons and Paroles voted today, Tuesday, Oct. 21, to once again deny convicted killer Jon Christopher Buice’s request for parole.Buice, now 40 years old, was one of 10 men — ranging in age at the time from 16 to 22 — convicted of the 1991 murder of Paul Broussard, a Houston gay man who was beaten and stabbed to death after leaving a gay bar in the Montrose neighborhood on July 4.

It was Broussard’s murder that prompted then-Texas Gov. Ann Richards to call a special session of the Texas Legislature to pass the state’s first hate crimes law in 1993.

Andy Kahan, a victim advocate for the city of Houson, said Tuesday, “Since Jon made the deliberate conscious effort to deprive Paul of his life, all we can do in return is to deprive him of his liberty and today we at least accomplished that for another year.”

Dallas Voice is waiting for comments from Broussard’s mother, Nancy Rodriguez, who was worked diligently since her son’s death to see his killers convicted, and to keep Buice in jail.

Buice, who admitted at trial that he was the one that inflicted the stab wound that actually killed Broussard, was sentenced to 45 years in prison. He was denied parole in 2007 and in 2009. In 2011, the Board of Pardons and Parole initially granted Buice’s request for parole but then reversed its decision following an outcry by the LGBT community and Rodriguez.

Buice’s was denied parole again in 2012, 2013 and today. Raymond Estrada, spokesman for the Board of Pardons and Paroles, said the reason given for denying parole was “the nature of the offense.” He said Buice is up for review again on Oct. 1, 2015.

—  Tammye Nash

HERO opponents granted temporary restraining order

Houston-Mayor-Annise-ParkerOpponents of the Houston Equal Rights Ordinance won a small victory in a district court yesterday evening when a district judge granted them a temporary restraining order delaying implementation of the ordinance.

“[U.S. District Judge Gray Miller's] ruling was evidence of the abject lack of any credible legal basis for City Attorney David Feldman’s motion, leaving it clear that it was indeed just a delay tactic that did not work,” said the opposition group No UNEqual Rights Houston in a statement.

Mayor Annise Parker  previously announced that the city would delay the ordinance’s implementation.

Woodfill v. Parker was filed in the 152nd District Court shortly after the city rejected the opponents petitions calling for a November ballot referendum. Attorneys with the city of Houston must appear before the court on August 15 and make their case for why the order should be vacated.

The Equal Rights Houston campaign in a statement denounced the ruling. “It is unfortunate that the opponents of equal rights have taken this issue to the courts after first losing at City Council … [we are] confident the court will uphold the city of Houston’s decision that the repeal signatures were not collected in the clearly defined process.  The bottom line is that this state court decision is still just a TRO, and not a final ruling on the merits.”

 

—  James Russell

BREAKING NEWS: HERO petition rejected but city will delay implementation

Parker.AnniseThe Houston Equal Rights Ordinance will not appear on the November ballot, Mayor Annise Parker announced at a press conference today.

“The petition is simply invalid,” said David Feldman, the city’s attorney.

Officials said there were too many irregularities in the petition. Some of the pages weren’t notarized, and too many of the signatures were not registered voters, they said. Feldman said, essentially, that there were so many problems with the petition as it was submitted that the city couldn’t accept it.

Mayor Annise Parker predicted that opponents will take legal action. Because of expected legal action, she will then delay implementation of the ordinance.

The petition was submitted by opponents of the ordinance, which added protections for the LGBT and other communities.

The decision came as proponents of the ordinance questioned the legitimacy and tactics of the petition drive lead by opponents, putting in to doubt whether or not the drive would succeed.

Late last week, an anonymous group published the names of the signatories, calling for transparency and independent reviews of each signature. Among the names found by this reporter are State Rep. Dwayne Bohac and Ryan Patrick, the son of Republican lieutenant governor nominee and state Senator Dan Patrick.

Under state law, petitions submitted to government agencies are public record.

—  James Russell

Anti-gay factions challenge Houston equal rights ordinance

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Mayor Annise Parker during the HERO debate

Opponents of the Houston Equal Rights Ordinance turned in 50,000 signatures to get the issue on the November ballot. Only 17, 269 are needed. The city secretary’s office has 30 days to validate the signatures.

The ordinance passed on May 28. The Houston city charter allows a recall election on an issue if 10 percent of voters in the last election sign a petition. A recall against a mayor or council member requires 25 percent of voters in that election to sign a petition.

Until HERO was passed, Houston was the only major city in the United States without an equal rights ordinance of any sort. In addition to protecting the LGBT community, the ordinance puts into place protections based on sex, race, color, ethnicity, national origin, age, familial status, marital status, military status, religion, disability, genetic information or pregnancy. None of these categories were protected by the city before the ordinance was enacted.

The anti-HERO forces have claimed the law allows men to dress as women so they may enter women’s restroom and attack little girls. There is no mention of bathrooms in the ordinance.

The city plans to defend the ordinance.

“The Houston I know does not discriminate, treats everyone equally and allows full participation by everyone in civic and business life,” said Mayor Annise Parker. “We don’t care where you come from, the color of your skin, your age, gender, what physical limitations you may have or whom you choose to love. I am confident voters will soundly defeat any challenge to the ordinance.”

—  David Taffet

Opponents threaten Parker with recall

Houston City Council

Houston City Council. Mayor Annise Parker in red front, center.

The debate on the proposed nondiscrimination ordinance in Houston just got nasty.

Mayor Annise Parker’s perennial adversary Dave Wilson said he’s planning a recall vote against the mayor and several council members, according to CBS affiliate KHOU.

Recall in Houston isn’t easy. Signatures of 25 percent of voters who voted for the official must be collected in 30 days. Reasons allowed for recall in the city charter are incompetence, misconduct, malfeasance or unfitness for office. Wilson claims passing an ordinance that contradicts state law amounts to incompetence.

Houston is the only major city in Texas with no nondiscrimination ordinance and the only major city in the U.S. without one.

According to KHOU, more than 42,000 signatures would have to be collected to a recall of Parker up for a vote. Some council members could face recall with less than 2,500 signatures.

Wilson was elected to the Houston Community College District Board of Trustees in a majority black district by insinuating he was black in his campaign literature.

Former Dallas City Councilwoman Veletta Lill who served when Dallas passed its nondiscrimination ordinance more than a decade ago commented on the controversies in San Antonio and Houston during her appearance on LGBT talk show Lambda Weekly last week. She said when Dallas debated its ordinance, several people did voice opposition and concerns. She said those concerns were taken into consideration and addressed and the ordinance passed without controversy.

—  David Taffet