Good luck getting your same-sex union blessed by the Episcopal Church in Dallas

Stanton.James

James Stanton

A resolution in the works for years came to fruition this week when same-sex blessings were approved by the House of Bishops at the Episcopal General Convention.

The blessing is a recognition of the couple’s commitment by the church and blesses their union together, much like a wedding ceremony without the legality. The Episcopal Church became the largest denomination in the U.S. to endorse same-sex unions with the resolution, which passed with a vote of 111-41 with three abstentions and approves the blessings for three years.

However, Dallas’ heavily LGBT Episcopal Church of St. Thomas the Apostle won’t likely perform the ceremonies at all. The Rev. Steve Waller, openly gay rector at St. Thomas, told Dallas Voice last month that he had not asked for permission to perform the blessing if it was approved at convention because conservative Dallas Diocese Bishop James Stanton wouldn’t allow them.

Bishops have the authority to approve or ban same-sex blessings in parishes in their diocese as outlined in the resolution.

“We would not be given such permission by our diocese,” Waller said. “I can’t speak for the bishop, but I suspect he will toe the line and not grant permission. Our bishop has been pretty clear that he didn’t want to do that.”

Waller could not be reached Thursday for comment on the resolution’s passage. Stanton didn’t return calls last month or Thursday asking whether he would allow the blessings.

The Episcopal Diocese of Fort Worth’s provisional bishop, the Rt. Rev. C. Wallis Ohl, told Dallas Voice that he would retire soon and would leave it up to the next bishop to decide if the blessing will be allowed.

The Houston Chronicle reports that the passage brought tears to gay couples at St. Stephen’s Episcopal Church in Houston’s heavily gay Montrose area.

“I’ve had people in tears” over the approval, said the Rev. Lisa Hunt. “It’s one thing for us as community to say you’re welcome and then to have rites that you can’t do … now they can really believe that the welcome is true.”

St. Stephen’s and St. David’s Episcopal Church in Austin were the first two parishes to be granted permission to perform the blessings by Bishop Andy Doyle of the Diocese of Texas. Hunt said she plans to perform them as early as November.

The convention, which began last week and ends today, also approved new anti-discrimination language for transgender clergy and church members.

—  Anna Waugh

Victory Fund endorses out lesbian Ann Johnson in Texas House race in Houston

The Washington D.C.-based Gay and Lesbian Victory Fund announced 17 endorsements Tuesday including Houston’s Ann Johnson.

Johnson, who is the daughter of former state Rep. Jake Johnson, ran unopposed in the Democratic Primary in House District 134. She will face against one-term Republican incumbent Sarah Davis in November.

Johnson is a former prosecutor who handles child advocacy cases in a private practice, representing victims of bullying and harassment in public schools.

If Johnson wins in November, she will be the second lesbian voters send to the state House after Mary Gonzalez’s election in the Democratic Primary in May. Gonzalez doesn’t have Republican opponent in the general election.

Victory Fund spokesman Denis Dison said having two openly LGBT legislators join the Texas House would intensify the impact and change in dialogue among the conservative-controlled House.

“Ann’s deep experience as an assistant district attorney and legal advocate for kids makes her well-suited to serve in the Texas House,” he told Instant Tea. “She is carrying on her family’s impressive legacy of public service, and we are proud to support her campaign.”

Look for more about Gonzalez and Johnson in Friday’s Dallas Voice.

—  Anna Waugh

Anti-gay email linked to campaign of candidate for Harris County Democratic Party chair

The above screen grab shows the yellow information window that pops up when you 'mouse over' a link at the bottom of an anti-gay email sent by 'Ministers for Keryl Douglas.' Based on this 'metadata,' the Houston GLBT Political Caucus alleges the email was in fact sent by Douglas' campaign itself.

On Monday we told you about a letter purportedly written by a Houston minister attacking Lane Lewis, an openly gay candidate for chair of the Harris County Democratic Party. The Rev. Willie J.Howard, writing on behalf of a group called “Ministers for Keryl Douglas” (Douglas is Lewis’ opponent in the primary), suggested in the letter that if “homosexuals” are allowed to “take over,” it could destroy the Democratic Party.

In a press release sent out last night in response to Howard’s letter, the Houston GLBT Political Caucus alleged that a digital analysis shows the email containing Howard’s letter was in fact sent by Douglas’ campaign itself, and not by “Ministers for Keryl Douglas.”

We contacted Noel Freeman, president of the Houston GLBT Caucus, to find out how the Caucus determined this. Freeman explained that electronic data, called “metadata,” is attached to every email. When you use an email client — such as iContact or Constant Contact, but in this case “MailChimp” — it attaches its own specific data.

“We examined the metadata on that email that was sent out and compared it to an official email from the Keryl Douglas campaign,” Freeman said. “They were identical. The metadata that was attached was identical, and it says Keryl Douglas campaign.”

Freeman directed us to “mouse over” a link at the bottom of the copy of Howard’s email that was forwarded to us. We confirmed that when you mouse over a link that says “Add us to your address book” at the bottom of the email, what pops up is a web address associated with Douglas’ campaign website. (See screen grab above.)

“You’d be amazed at how stupid people can be about this stuff,” Freeman said.

We left phone and email messages with Douglas’ campaign, which reportedly is denying any involvement. Thus far, no response.

Freeman added that Dallas Voice is the only media outlet that’s covered the anti-gay email. “Probably because it’s the primary,” he said. “It’s a race for the party chair, it’s not for state representative. That’s the only thing I can figure. I would guess that a lot of outlets probably see it as an internal dispute.”

Despite the lack of media attention, Democrats in Harris County have taken notice. Freeman said the email has led to an influx of support and financial contributions for Lewis, and garnered the attention of “well-respected, well-entrenched leaders and public figures in the Democratic Party with loud voices.”

“The party faithful have come out in force against this,” Freeman said. “I think it will significantly diminish the support that Ms. Douglas has in the community, and by community I mean the Democratic community.”

Read the Caucus’ full press release below.

—  John Wright

TX minister: Gays will destroy Democratic Party

Lane Lewis

Denis Dison at the Gay & Lesbian Victory Fund alerts us to this letter from a Houston minister attacking Lane Lewis, the openly gay former president of the Houston GLBT Political Caucus who’s running for Harris County Democratic Party chair. Lewis has been serving as interim party chair since December, and last we checked, Houston hadn’t fallen into the Gulf of Mexico. The author of the letter, the Rev. Willie J.Howard, said he’s organizing ministers in support of Keryl Douglas, who’s running against Lewis. Here’s an excerpt from Howard’s letter:

I am writing to you because Keryl is in a close race. Her opponent is openly Gay and has already told supporters behind closed doors that the Democratic Party will endorse a Gay Marriage agenda in November. Friends, this is not the direction we need to go as a community or Party. If the gays take over we are poised to lose everything we have worked for during President Obamas historic win. The Republicans will rally their troops behind a united front of making sure this push for same sex marriage is defeated.

Keryl’s opponent is being supported heavily by Annise Parker, another openly gay politician. If you haven’t seen what has happened at the City of Houston here are the facts:

• More Gays and Lesbians serve in leadership roles on boards and commissions.
• The City of Houston got rid of Blue Cross Blue Shield because CIGNA supports Same Sex benefits.
• The Mayor openly advocated the support of Gay marriage and even tried to embarrass President Barack Obama because he believes marriage is between one man and one woman.

Please share this with your friends and loved ones. This race is the most important down ballot race we will vote for. If we don’t Vote they will continue their take over and pretty soon, the party that we once knew will be a party of homosexuals. Our directives shouldn’t come from San Francisco, but from Harris County voters. How will Democrats look electing a man who sales perfume for a living and lays up with another man? Why are our so called community leaders (Rev. Lawson, Howard Jefferson etc.) supporting this agenda? Are they supportive of this lifestyle too??

View Howard’s full letter after the jump. To learn more about Lewis or to support his campaign, visit his website.

—  John Wright

Annise Parker says Mike Rawlings ‘will eventually come around’ on same-sex marriage pledge

Mayor Annise Parker

But Houston mayor says she’d be ‘shocked’ if Obama evolves on marriage equality before November

During her opening remarks at the third annual Haas LGBT Journalists convention in Houston this past Friday, openly lesbian Mayor Annise Parker said that when President Barack Obama called to congratulate her on her successful mayoral bid in 2009, Parker was in an interview with her phone on silent and let his go to voicemail.

“You would think that the president of the United States would have somebody that could call ahead and say, ‘The President’s gonna call you — answer the damned phone!’” Parker told the crowd of journalists. “But no. But it did make for a nice souvenir for about a week until I accidentally erased it.”

She then went on to take “no-holds-barred” questions from the journalists about reproductive rights, conservative Christians, marrying her partner and whether the Democratic party will support marriage equality in the 2012 election. We snagged her best quotes for you below:

—  Daniel Villarreal

For the 1st time ever, a gay immigrant is allowed to stay in Texas based on a same-sex marriage

David Gonzalez and Mario Ramirez (via Stop the Deportations: The DOMA Project)

A Houston immigration judge has allowed a gay Costa Rican immigrant to stay in the U.S. based on his same-sex marriage to an American — which LGBT advocates say is a first in Texas.

The Houston Chronicle reports that Judge Richard Walton on Thursday closed a deportation case against David Gonzalez, an accountant who’s been fighting to stay in Texas with his husband, U.S. citizen Mario Ramirez, since last year.

Gonzalez and Ramirez, who’ve been together for more than six years and live near the Houston suburb of Humble, were married in California in 2008 — during the brief window when same-sex marriage was legal there. But Gonzalez has overstayed his tourist visa, and because of the federal Defense of Marriage Act, he cannot apply for a Green Card based on the couple’s marriage.

Steve Ralls, a spokesman for Immigration Equality, notes that the outcome is consistent with other recent cases involving same-sex couples across the country — including high-profile ones in California and New Jersey. Last August, the Obama administration announced it would focus on high-priority immigration cases involving public safety concerns — a move which benefited same-sex couples where one partner is facing deportation. From the Chronicle:

Gonzalez said he left Costa Rica in Spring 2000 on a tourist visa to escape an abusive ex-lover. More than six years ago, he met Mario Ramirez, a U.S. citizen, whom he calls his “soulmate.”

The couple married in Los Angeles in 2008, during the brief period that same-sex marriage was legal in California. They moved to Texas, bought a home near Humble, and started talking about adopting children.

The closure of Gonzalez’s case means that the government is no longer seeking to deport him, but he still has no legal right to work in the United States.

“It is definitely good news that the administration is beginning to drop deportation proceedings, but now the individuals who are spared from deportation need to be able to receive that legal recognition that is so important as they continue to build a life here with their U.S. citizen partners,” Ralls said.

—  John Wright

Lesbian saves Orthodox Jewish athletes

Beren Academy

Mayor Annise Parker has prevailed. She intervened in the case of an Orthodox Jewish high school in Houston and according to the Houston Chronicle, they will be allowed to compete.

For the first time in its history, the Beren Academy’s basketball team is competing in Class 2A in the Texas Association of Private and Parochial Schools (TAPPS) state basketball championships. But the Beren School is an Orthodox Jewish school and the state championships are played on Friday night — Shabbat.

Parker noted in her complaint to state officials that Texas already makes a religious exemption — games are not played on the Christian sabbath, Sunday.

The school would have had to forfeit.

With the change in time to Friday afternoon, the school will be able to compete and the Texas basketball champs (Class 2A) may just be — the Orthodox Jewish kids from Houston. Even Reform synagogues in Dallas are cheering for them.

Which reminds us of the great line from the movie Airport.

“Oh stewardess. Do you have something light to read?”

“Yes, I have this pamphlet, Great Jewish Sports Heroes.”

—  David Taffet

HuffPo profiles Annise Parker, who’s again falsely accused of violating Texas Constitution

Mayor Annise Parker

Readers of the Huffington Post discovered Monday what Houstonians have known for a long time: Annise Parker’s a pretty cool lady. Parker was profiled by SiriusXM radio host Michelangelo Signorile, who also interviewed her for his show. The profile reveals that Parker (shockingly!) believes that the state of Texas should allow for full marriage equality and (even more shockingly!) some people are going to hate anything she does because she’s a lesbian.

“While it’s been a tough time to be an incumbent at any level of government, there’s definitely a hard-core group here that is just mortally offended that there is a lesbian mayor, and one of my opponents ran specifically because of that issue and raised it at every opportunity,” she said.

That would be Dave Wilson, who landed 12 percent of the vote in the last mayoral election. You can read the full story and listen to the audio of the interview at HuffingtonPost.com

Speaking of people who hate Annise Parker: Last week Houstini reported that the Houston Area Pastor Council attacked Parker for her stand on marriage equality, accusing her of violating her oath to “defend the Constitution” (as we pointed out, the Houston mayoral oath of office doesn’t include anything about defending the Constitution). The Houston Chronicle reports that Pastor Steve Riggle of Grace Community Church has picked up that line, telling Parker, “Respectfully, if you cannot uphold the Texas Constitution, then you should do the honorable thing and step down.”

As I pointed out last week, there’s a difference between failing to uphold a law (also known as breaking a law) and advocating for the law to be changed. The Texas Constitution has been changed 474 times since it was written in 1876. Everyday Texans across the state see things they don’t like about how the government works and say they think the law should be changed, whether it’s questioning our tax structure or feeling wearing white after Labor Day should be outlawed.

By Riggle’s standard, any elected official who doesn’t think the Constitution, as it now stands, is perfect should “do the honorable thing and step down.” While it might be tempting to imagine a state in which every politician resigned simultaneously (which the institution of the Riggle standard would undoubted precipitate), the reality of such an event, and the ensuing anarchy it would create, would undoubtedly be counter to the pastor’s wishes for a well run world.

—  admin

Another Houston athelete called out over homophobic tweets

Just last week Houstini reported that the Houston Aeros’ Justin Faintaine was handed a two game suspension from the Minnesota owners of the team after a homophobic tweet. Now the Houston Chronicle‘s Ultimate Texans Blog reports that Houston Texans lineman Rashad Butler is embroiled in a similar controversy.

“Butler made a crack about Kobe Bryant and referred to the Lakers star as No. 8. Of course, testy Lakers fans quickly responded with corrections because Bryant changed to No. 24 a couple years ago.

Butler shot back, but in his effort to call the critics jerks, like Fontaine, he used a word that is considered to be a gay slur.

“Like I said, Y’all F—— knew wat I meant,” he wrote in a tweet that has since been removed. (Screen shot here).”

No word on if Butler will face any sort of discipline from the team for his use of the slur.

Frankly, I’m not sure if he should. Assuming that the twitter account in question is Butler’s own and not some promotional tool set up and promoted by the team, his comments were clearly made off the clock and represent his own personal homophobia, which is his protected right under the first amendment. What is not protected by the first amendment is protection from public scorn. The use of hateful words meaning “gay man” to describe something the speaker finds stupid or distasteful is hurtful and contributes to a culture that tells LGBT people that they are stupid and distasteful.

Of course commenters on the Ultimate Texans blog are already deriding the fracas as “political correctness” run amok and defending Butler’s first amendment rights. But the same rights that protect Butler’s homophobia protect my right to call him homophobic )and if the comments sections on Houstini are any indication, protect the public’s right to disagree with me). Likewise the first amendment protects the right of Houston Texans fans to take to twitter and tell @RB2cool what they think of his constitutionally protected hate speach.

The first amendment cuts both ways.

 

—  admin

Public input sought on non-discrimination amendment effort

Fairness Works Houston, a new organization formed to pass a proposed non-discrimination charter amendment in Houston, will hold a public meeting this Saturday, Feb. 25, to seek public input. As previously reported by Houstini, the proposed charter amendment, which is still being drafted, will remove discriminatory language added to the city charter in 1985 and 2001 and make it a crime to deny employment, housing or public accommodation to a person because of their “age, race, color, creed, religion, national origin, ancestry, disability, marital status, gender, gender identity or expression, sexual orientation, or physical characteristic.”

The meeting, scheduled for 1 pm at the GLBT Cultural Center (401 Branard) in rooms 112/113, looks to identify community resources that can be used both topass the amendment and to gather the 20,000 signatures that will be needed to place the amendment on the November ballot. Scheduled speakers include Noel Freeman, president of the Houston GLBT Political Caucus and Jenifer Rene Poole who chairs the Caucus’ committee on the proposed amendment.

—  admin