HISD trustee distributes anti-gay flier

Rodriquez Flier (excerpt)

Excerpt from the Rodriquez flier attacking Fonseco for his advocacy for LGBT people and his endorsement by the Houston GLBT Political Caucus (click to view full flier)

Houston Independent School District Trustee Manuel Rodriquez Jr. is under fire for an anti-gay flyer attacking his opponent, Ramiro Fonseca. Both seek the HISD District III seat held by Rodriquez. Rodriquez’s flyer attacks Fonseca for his history of advocating for LGBT people, and his endorsement by the Houston GLBT Political Caucus. The flyer also suggests that Fonseca being 52 and unmarried is a reason that Houstonians should not trust him to make decisions affecting children, and points out that he has a “male partner.”

The GLBT Political Caucus was quick to denounce the flyer, issuing a statement on Saturday. “Manuel Rodriguez is assuming the voters of District III share the same bigoted, hateful views he holds,” said Caucus president Noel Freeman. “Houstonians have proven time and time again that such views are not welcome in our City, and have consistently rejected candidates who espouse such hateful views. We urge the voters of District III to reject Manuel Rodriguez on election day.”

Other HISD Trustees have joined in the chorus of people speaking out against the mailer. “I denounce the reprehensible, mean-spirited, bigoted mailer that was sent out in the HISD, District III race,” Trustee Juliet Katherine Stipeche said via her Facebook wall. “I ask my colleagues to maintain and uphold HISD’s total non-discrimination policy and treat every person, including other candidates, with dignity and respect. Let us embrace diversity and equality and treat every person as we would like ourselves to be treated ” Stipeche is seeking re-election to her district VIII seat.

HISD District I member Anna Eastman echoed Stipeche’s comments. “My fifteen year old son could not comprehend why someone would think that distinction would change a vote for school board and would be used as such by a candidate.”

The GLBT caucus is urging people to contact the editorial board of the Houston Chronicle to encourage them to rescind their endorsement of Rodriquez in light of his campaign tactics.

HISD elections are part of the general elections taking place this Tuesday, Nov 8. Visit HarrisVotes.org to find your voting location and view a sample ballot.

—  admin

Chronicle blogger blames ‘It Gets Better” project for LGBT teen suicides

Kathleen McKinley

Kathleen McKinley

Kathy McKinley is a self-described “conservative activist” who blogs for the Houston Chronicle under the monicker “TexasSparkle.” In a recent post McKinley took the “It Gets Better” project to task for what she believes is their culpability in the suicides of LGBT teens:

“These kids were sold a bill of goods by people who thought they were being kind. The “It will get better” campaign just didn’t think it through. They didn’t think about the fact that kids are different from adults. They handle things differently. They react differently. Why? BECAUSE THEY ARE KIDS. You can grumble all day long how unfair it is that straight teens can be straight in high school, and gay kids can’t, but life is unfair. Isn’t the price they are paying too high?? Is it so much to ask them to stand at the door of adulthood before they “come out” publically? Because it may save their life.”

McKinnley’s primary confusion about the “It Gets Better” campaign (other than its name) is the assumption that the goal is to encourage teens to come out of the closet, or encourage them to become sexually active:

“Why in the world would you give teenagers a REASON to tease you? Oh, yes, because the adults tell you to embrace who you are, the only problem? Kids that age are just discovering who they are. They really have no idea yet. The adults tell you to “come out,” when what we should be telling them is that sex is for adults, and there is plenty of time for figuring out that later.”

I would like to encourage Ms. McKinley to watch the “It Gets Better” project’s founder Dan Savages’ video. Please, Ms. McKinley, listen, and tell me if you hear Savage or his partner Terry say anything about teens coming out or having sex. I think what you’ll hear them say is that all of the things that most kids, gay and straight, dream of (falling in love, starting a family, having the support of their parents, co-workers and friends) are possible for LGBT teens. I think you’ll hear them talk about how difficult their teen years were, and about the fears they had that their parents would reject them, that they’d never find success and that they’d always be alone.

Choosing to have sex is one of the most personal decision a person will ever make. For LGBT people, choosing to come out is another. I have not watched all of the thousands of videos from people who have participated in the “It Gets Better” project. It’s possible that there are a few that tell kids to come out right away, or to become sexually active, but I doubt it.

Every video in the project that I have seen has had the same simple message: that the person making it understands how tortuously awful the experience of being Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual or Transgender in Junior and High School can be, but there is a wonderful world of loving, vibrant, successful, engaged LGBT adults out there and if queer teens can just hang on, just for a few years, they can join it. I doubt that any of the contributors to the project think that hanging on for a few years will be easy. I suspect that most of them remember, with excruciating clarity, contemplating ending those temporary years of terror with a permanent solution and that is why they choose to reach out.

I grew up without role models, where people like Barbara Gittings, Bayard Rustin and Harvey Milk didn’t exist . I grew up in a small town where the two men with the pink house were talked about in hushed tones that immediately fell silent when I walked into the room, because it wasn’t appropriate for children’s ears. I grew up in a world where my mother wouldn’t tell me what “gay” meant, where the evening news was turned off if it reported on the AIDS crisis, where I wasn’t given words to describe who I was, and so the only word I could find was “alone.”

I was lucky. My suicide attempt failed.

I was lucky, I survived, and went to college, and found a church that embraced and loved LGBT people. That’s where I met doctors and lawyers and business owners and teachers who were like me. That’s where I met two wonderful women who had built a life together for over 50 years. That’s where I discovered I wasn’t alone and that being gay didn’t mean that i couldn’t have all of those things I’d dreamed of.

That is what McKinley missed in her blog post. In her haste to lay blame on anything other than the overwhelming prejudice perpetuated by schools, churches and governments against LGBT people McKinley missed the fact that kids need role models. In her rush to shove queer teens back into the closet she forgot that human beings need the hope of a better world, lest they give up in despair.

McKinley got one thing right in her post. She titled it “Are Adults Also To Blame For Gay Teen Suicides? Yes.” Adults are to blame for LGBT teen suicides. When adults hide the stunning diversity of God’s creation from their children they create a vision of reality that some of those children can’t see themselves in. When adults tell LGBT teens that they should be invisible then it is all too clear who is to blame when those teens believe them, and take steps to make themselves invisible permanently.

To all the LGBT kids out there: it does get better. There are adults who care about you and want all the wonderful things you dream of to come true, but you have to hang on. If you need to keep who are secret to remain safe then do so. If you need someone to talk to please call the Trevor Project at 866-4-U-Trevor (866-488-7386).

—  admin

Poll shows Perry now trailing Romney

Thanks to his disastrous performance in last week’s debate, Texas Gov. Rick Perry has fallen behind Mitt Romney in the latest poll of likely voters in the GOP presidential primary. The Fox News poll released Wednesday shows Perry with 19 percent, behind Romney with 23 percent. Herman Cain is third with 17 percent. The poll’s margin of error is ± 3 percent. From The Houston Chronicle:

While one poll isn’t a trend and it will take additional polls to confirm the findings, the results seem to indicate that Perry’s poor debate performance may have done more damage to the Perry campaign than originally thought.

Perry has attempted to mitigate the damage from that debate by claiming that he is truer to conservative principles, even if Romney is the more avuncular debater.

As part of that damage control effort, CNN reported that Perry has also participated in telephone-townhalls with conservative activists in Iowa and South Carolina, where he again tried to explain his positions on immigration, border security and the controversial HPV vaccinations that he mandated.

To top it all off, Perry told a conservative blog earlier today that he may have been over the top in his description of critics of the Texas DREAM Act, walking back from his earlier comments at the debate where he said that critics of the program did not “have a heart.”

Read the full poll results here.

UPDATE: Perry is also now fourth in a poll of likely Iowa caucusgoers, behind Romney, Michele Bachmann and “undecided.”

—  John Wright

Southwest CEO on lesbian actress’ removal from flight: ‘We’re not trying to dictate social norms’

Gary Kelly, CEO of Dallas-based Southwest Airlines, is standing behind an SWA flight crew’s decision to remove lesbian actress Leisha Hailey and her partner from a plane on Monday after they were observed kissing.

After Hailey, who starred in The L-Word and is a member of the band Uh Huh Her, called for a boycott of the airline on Twitter, SWA released a statement describing the kissing as “excessive.”

Hailey responded with a statement saying it was “one, modest kiss,” before the airline issued a follow-up saying the couple was removed from the flight during a stop in El Paso due to their “aggressive reaction,” including loud use of “profane language.”

Hailey’s publicist tells Instant Tea that the actress isn’t doing interviews about the incident, but Kelly (pictured) discussed it with The Houston Chronicle on Wednesday.

“We’re not trying to dictate social norms,” Kelly told the Chronicle. “Any of us have boundaries that we think people should behave within. …

“I think our people try very hard to accommodate the needs and the wishes of our customers, and they make judgments of what is appropriate and what is not appropriate,” Kelly said. “In all cases, we do the best we can to take care of our customers and if we can’t get them where they need to go, obviously we’re apologetic for that. … 

“It’s very difficult to script out exactly how one should deal with any particular circumstance.”

—  John Wright

‘Rick Perry’s vision of states’ rights is that it’s his right to say how everyone in the state will live’

Gov. Rick Perry

The Houston Chronicle has a story today about how Texas Gov. Rick Perry likes to rail against big government yet seems to be fine with government intrusion into people’s lives on some issues — including same-sex marriage. The money quote comes from Democratic consultant Jason Standford, who’s co-writing a book about Perry:

“It’s not really the nanny state. It’s the daddy-knows-best state. Rick Perry’s vision of states’ rights is that it’s his right to say how everyone in the state will live,” Standford says.

Allan Saxe, a political scientist from the University of Texas at Arlington, tells The Chronicle that the whole thing can be chalked up to the difference between conservative and libertarian. But here at Instant Tea, we just call it hypocrisy and political pandering.

—  John Wright

Associate judge in Houston bars gay man’s children from being alone with his husband

Associate Judge Charley Prine

In what appears to be a case of anti-gay judicial activism, an associate judge in Houston issued an order preventing a gay man’s children from being alone with his partner — or anyone who isn’t related to them by blood or adoption — despite the fact that there are no allegations of abuse.

The Houston Chronicle‘s Geoff Berg has the story:

William [Flowers] and Jim [Evans] were married on March 19 of last year in Connecticut, one of seven states which recognize same-sex unions. It was a second marriage for both.

When William and his ex-wife divorced in 2004, they agreed that their three children would live with her. Wanting to change the arrangement, William recently filed for custody in Harris County. A jury found that she should keep the kids, though his regular visitations would continue. Neither William nor his ex-wife alleged that the children had been abused or were in any danger of being abused.

Following the trial, Harris County Associate Judge Charley E. Prine, Jr. issued a ruling which included an injunction applicable only to William. It prohibits him from leaving his children alone with any male to whom the kids are not related by “blood or adoption.” So if, for example, William wants to visit his mother in the hospital (where she’s been for several weeks), he can’t leave his kids at home with his husband. As written, the injunction also prohibits male doctors, teachers and pastors from being alone with the children.

Attorneys who practice family law in Texas point out that in cases of abuse, it is common for courts to prevent children from being alone with specific people. But those same lawyers say that they’ve never heard of a case in which a step-parent or long-term partner is permanently enjoined from being alone with his or her step-children when abuse is not even alleged, let alone proven. No lawyer consulted for this story has ever heard of an order which prohibits children from being left alone with an entire gender.

Needless to say, Flowers plans to appeal the decision.

In his LinkedIn profile, under Groups and Associations, Associate Judge Prine lists the Republican National Committee, the Republican National Committee Alumni Employees and the Republican National Lawyers Association. On his Facebook page, Prine’s Activities and Interests include Rick Perry for President 2012.

—  John Wright

Gay Costa Rican man married to U.S. citizen faces deportation hearing in Houston on Thursday

Gay Costa Rican immigrant David Gonzalez, an accountant who is fighting to stay in Texas with his husband, U.S. citizen Mario Ramirez, faces a deportation hearing Thursday morning in Houston. Gonzalez and Ramirez, who’ve been together for six years and live in the Houston suburb of Humble, were married in California in 2008. But Gonzalez has overstayed his tourist visa, and because of the Defense of Marriage Act, he cannot apply for a Green Card based on the couple’s marriage. If the judge doesn’t agree to put his deportation on hold Thursday, Gonzalez’s attorney plans an asylum claim based on the fact that he fled Costa Rica in 2000 to get away from an abusive ex-lover who is on the country’s police force. The Houston Chronicle reports:

For years, Gonzalez said, he dreaded this day, but his hopes have been buoyed by a spate of high-profile cases involving same-sex couples and by the support of Ramirez, his “soul mate.”

“I am not afraid anymore,” Gonzalez said. “I am glad this day is coming — whatever the outcome.”

The Houston case follows on the heels of several recent decisions that have — at least temporarily — spared gay and lesbians in long-term relationships with U.S. citizens from deportation. On Wednesday, a San Francisco immigration judge postponed for two years the deportation proceedings against a Venezuelan man married to a U.S. citizen.

In June, the U.S. government canceled deportation proceedings for a Venezuelan man in New Jersey married to an American man — a high-profile case that immigrant and gay advocates said signaled a major shift toward greater leniency for same-sex couples in immigration proceedings.

“Certainly the families and couples we work with are more hopeful today than really at any prior point,” said Steve Ralls, a spokesman for the national advocacy group Immigration Equality.

—  John Wright

Houston Chronicle puts Pride atop main page

Houston Pride is Saturday, and Instant Tea contributor Daniel Williams will have a report from the festivities later in the weekend. But for now we wanted to point out that the Bayou City’s daily newspaper, the Houston Chronicle, posted a Pride preview as the top story on its main page this afternoon, complete with a photo of a lesbian couple kissing behind what appears to be their son (screen grab below). Needless to say, The Dallas Morning News would never, ever do this. If you’re headed to Houston this weekend, check out the Chronicle’s schedule of events.

—  John Wright

Another trans person murdered in Houston

Houston police have released a composite sketch (right) of a suspect wanted in the murder of a transgender victim whose body was found behind a trash bin at an apartment complex early Monday.

The vicitm, identified as 44 year-old Nathan Eugene Davis, was wearing a red dress, makeup and a wig when found shot to death at about 12:30 a.m., the Houston Chronicle reports. KPRC Channel 2 identifies Davis in a headline as “a cross-dressing male prostitute.”

Davis’ is the latest of several murders in Houston involving transgender victims over the last few years.

In March, a homeless man was arrested and charged in two of the murders.

Anyone with information about Davis’ murder should call the Houston Police Department’s homicide division at 713-308-3600 or Crime Stoppers at at 713-222-TIPS.

—  John Wright

WATCH: Nikki Araguz mobbed by TV reporters outside court appearance on theft charge

A day after her attorneys announced they’ll appeal a judge’s ruling declaring her marriage invalid, transsexual widow Nikki Araguz was arraigned today on a theft charge for allegedly stealing a Rolex watch fr0m a woman at a Houston bar in February.

The Houston Chronicle reports that although a filmmaker accompanied Araguz —  who plans a documentary and reality show — she declined to talk to the media. In the below video from ABC 13, Araguz shouts an expletive at TV cameramen who try to get in an elevator with her.

On Wednesday, Araguz’s attorneys said they’ll appeal a Wharton judge’s decision to deny her death benefits from her late husband, volunteer firefighter Thomas Araguz III. In a setback for transgender equality, the judge declared the Araguzes’ marriage invalid because he said Araguz was born male.

Nikki Araguz is free on $2,000 bond on the theft charge.

—  John Wright