Eddie Bernice Johnson receives perfect score on LGBT equality from HRC

Rep. Eddie Bernice Johnson

Five members of Texas’ congressional delegation support marriage equality, according to the Human Rights Campaign, but only two earned perfect scores of 100 percent on the group’s Congressional Scorecard for the 112th Congress released Thursday.

Reps. Eddie Bernice Johnson, D-Dallas, and Silvestre Reyes, D-El Paso, were among 115 members of the House nationally who receive scores of 100 percent from HRC. While Johnson is expected to win re-election easily on Nov. 6, Reyes was defeated by Beto O’Rourke in the Democratic Primary. Johnson received a perfect score for the sixth consecutive time, dating back 10 years to 2002. She has failed to receive a 100 only twice during two decades in Congress.

Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee, D-Houston, who has regularly received a 100 on the scorecard, fell to 85 this year for failing to co-sponsor legislation that would “equalize the tax treatment of employer-provided health coverage for domestic partners and other non-spouse, non-dependent beneficiaries.”

Overall, the average score in the House fell from 50.8 percent in the 111th Congress to 40 percent in the current Congress, according to the Washington Blade. In the Senate, the average score went from 57.3 percent in the 111th Congress to 35 percent in the current 112th Congress.

“While we continue to make advancements towards equality in Washington, the 112th Congress has more anti-equality members set on halting our progress,” HRC President Chad Griffin told the Blade.

This year, for the first time, HRC asked members of Congress whether they support marriage equality. Their responses are listed on the scorecard but were not factored into their scores.

The Texas representatives who said they support marriage equality were all Democrats: Johnson, Reyes, Jackson Lee, Charlie Gonzalez of San Antonio and Lloyd Doggett of Houston.

Among Texas’ 23 Republicans, the only two who didn’t receive zeroes on the scorecard were Ron Paul and Ted Poe, who both received a 15.

In the Senate, Texas Republican John Cornyn received a score of 15, while fellow Republican Kay Bailey Hutchison received a zero.

Click here to view the full scorecard.

—  John Wright

EQTX launches Hospital Equality Project

Equality Texas is surveying hospitals and patients to compile a database of hospitals in the state with LGBT-friendly policies.

Torsten Knabe, a public policy intern with the statewide LGBT advocacy group, said the idea is in response to many new federal guidelines regarding things like visitation, and he wants to see whether policies like it have been properly implemented.

Knabe is calling the project Hospital Equality Project, which has two parts. The first is a Hospital Equality Index that is completed by hospital human resources representatives about the policies they have. The second is the Hospital Equality Survey for patients to fill out based on their experiences at hospitals.

He has narrowed the survey down to about 10 policies to focus on for hospitals to see if they have them and to what level they are enforced. He said he still wants people to complete a survey even if the hospital does not have the policy, so he can work with hospitals to create them.

And he wants to direct people who have had bad experiences or faced discrimination in hospitals to contact the hospital or police to report it.

Knabe then wants to publish the hospital information into an online searchable database for people across the state, which he said would be a vital resource for comfortable and quality healthcare.

“It’s important because it’ll allow people to know and have more information to take care of their health needs,” he said.

Only two Texas hospitals completed surveys for the Human Rights Campaign’s Hospital Equality Index in 2012 about LGBT-friendly policies, Legacy Community Health Services and The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center, both in Houston.

To take the patient survey, go here.

—  Anna Waugh

Austin street to be named in honor of lesbian activist Bettie Naylor

Naylor.Bettie

Bettie Naylor

Part of Austin’s West Fourth Street will soon bare the name of longtime Austin activist Bettie Naylor.

Austin City Council approved a resolution Thursday to name a five-block stretch of the street in Austin’s Historic District after Naylor. Naylor died in April at 84.

Naylor was a founding member of Equality Texas, the Human Rights Campaign and Annie’s List. After lobbying for women’s rights in the ’60s, she began fighting for LGBT rights in the ’70s, becoming Equality Texas’ original lobbyist. She later came out as a lesbian after 30 years of marriage.

Although Naylor stopped lobbying in 2009, she and her partner remained activists in the LGBT community and in Austin.

Libby Sykora, Naylor’s partner, told KUT News that she hoped the street would remind people to stop and think about what they could do for their community.

“That was Bettie’s thought every day,” Sykora said. “What am I doing for my community? And what could we do better?”

Bettie Naylor Street will be belong West Fourth Street between Congress Avenue and Rio Grande Street and will be unveiled during Austin’s LGBT Pride celebration in September.

—  Anna Waugh

HRC needs Dallas phone bankers

Human Rights Campaign is coming to one of it strongest cities of support for some phone banking and is looking for volunteers.

HRC will hold four phone banks in Dallas in September. The calls will be made from Resource Center Dallas on Sept. 10–13 beginning each night at 6 p.m.

Callers will be phoning to marriage equality states.

The organization promises to give volunteers all the tools they need and refreshments will always be close by.

To volunteer, click here.

—  David Taffet

Plano Chick-fil-A claims safety issues with Muppets toys; former Dallasite organizes same-sex kiss-in

A Chick-fil-A location in Plano reportedly is among those that have posted signs announcing an alleged Muppets toy recall, after the Jim Henson Co. severed its ties with the chicken chain over its opposition to gay rights.

The above photo from a Chick-fil-A store announcing it “voluntarily recalled all of the Jim Henson’s Creature Shop Puppet Kids Meal toys due to a possible safety issue” is from a Plano location.

Human Rights Campaign board member Meghan Stabler, who lives in Round Rock, told Instant Tea the sign is from the Plano store at the Willow Bend Mall, where servers were instructed to tell customers that there were safety issues with the toys.

The sign states that “there have not been any cases in which a child has actually been injured, however there have been some reports of children getting their fingers stuck in the holes of the puppets.”

Phone calls to the restaurant were not answered.

The Jim Henson Co. announced that it would sever ties with Chick-fil-A after its President Dan Cathy again made anti-gay comments last week and expressed continued support for “traditional family values.” Henson Co. CEO Lisa Henson is a supporter of marriage equality and announced that the company would donate money from Chick-fil-A to GLAAD.

Meanwhile, former Dallasite Carly McGehee, who attended Flower Mound High School, has created the event National Same Sex Kiss Day at Chick Fil A, scheduled for Aug. 3. McGehee, who now lives in New York, said she has boycotted the company since 2010 when she found out it funds anti-gay groups.

—  Anna Waugh

WATCH: Chad Griffin in Dallas

I am delayed in getting this posted (it’s been a long week), but new Human Rights Campaign President Chad Griffin spoke in Dallas on June 23 during the DFW Federal Club’s Summer Luncheon at the Tower Club. Griffin took over for Joe Solmonese earlier this month. Watch video of Griffin’s remarks in two parts below.

—  John Wright

Arlington police arrest 1st suspect in anti-gay hate crime; 4 others expected to turn themselves in

Daniel Sibley

Arlington police have arrested one teenager and expect four more to turn themselves in after video footage identified them as suspects in a vandalism spree June 10 that included anti-gay slurs spray-painted on a lesbian couple’s SUV.

Sgt. Christopher Cook said Wednesday during a press conference that Fort Worth teen Daniel Sibley, 18, was arrested Tuesday. He is in custody on a $2,500 bond.

Cook explained that two surveillance cameras on residences captured several teens spray-painting derogatory images and words on homes and cars in a total of 13 incidents. The second video captured the vehicle information and led to the identification of five teens ages 16-18.

Cook said the two other adults have attorneys and will be booked into jail Wednesday afternoon. A female juvenile is also expected to turn herself in. Police are still trying to contact a female adult.

All suspects will be charged with the state jail felony of criminal mischief for damage ranging from $1,500-$20,000.

The punishment for a state jail felony is 180 days to two years in jail and up to a $10,000 fine. If the classification is enhanced by the hate crime statute to a third-degree felony, the teens could face two to 10 years behind bars in addition to the fine.

A racial slur was spray-painted on a vehicle, but Cook said it not being reported as a hate crime because the man who owned the car was Caucasian. He said based on the statement from Sibley that the teens saw a sticker on the lesbian couple’s SUV – which featured two female caricatures with a child and pet – and made an assumption that they were gay before vandalizing the vehicle.

Arlington police Chief Will Johnson

Acting police chief Will Johnson said it was clear that the incident involving the lesbian couple was hate crime from early on because the words “queers” and “faggot” were spray-painted on their SUV.

“A crime of hatred is not only a crime against an individual but it is a crime against the community,” he said. “Early in this investigation it was clear that hateful and biased language was used to damage property at multiple locations. It was equally clear that at least one of our 13 victims was targeted specifically because of their sexual orientation.”

He said the incident would be reported to the FBI as a hate crime and that authorities would continue to investigate and prosecute hate crimes in Arlington in the future.

“We are committed in Arlington to prevent all crime especially crime that was committed for no other reason than possibly toward hatred,” Johnson said. “This type of behavior will not be tolerated, it will be fully investigated — and to the fullest extent of the law prosecuted.”

Kim Lovering said she and her partner were woken up by police early Sunday morning, June 10. Neighbors had already called police but she said her family was unaware of the vandalism to their SUV. She said she was grateful her son, not yet 2, was too young to understand what happened.

From the police presence to Johnson calling her later that day to check on her family, Lovering said she was impressed by the support from the community and police.

“They stood behind us,” she said. “It was really a huge relief that something like this was handled the right way. And I’m glad it’s our city.”

As for the arrest and suspected capture of the remaining suspects, she said it will help her sleep at night and hopes the teens’ arrests will change their attitudes.

“I’m so thankful for the way this turned out just for our safety and peace of mind,” she said.

Fairness Fort Worth President Tom Anable praised the police response, calling it a “textbook” example of how police should respond and engage with the community.

Anable said anti-gay slurs are “so offensive and dehumanizing” and “will never go away,” adding that the quick identification and arrest of suspects send the message that hate crimes won’t be tolerated anymore.

“It’s nothing new for us. What is new is having a dialogue with law enforcement and the FBI,” he said. “I can’t say enough about how well the Arlington Police Department handled this. … It is absolutely textbook perfect.”

Anable said his organization has reached out to the Human Rights Campaign to try to bring national attention to “how things can go right.”

“The citizens of Arlington should take great pride in their police department and the quality of their city,” he said.

HRC released a statement Wednesday applauding Arlington PD for “responding swiftly and thoroughly.”

The full HRC statement is below, along with video from the press conference.

—  Anna Waugh

BREAKING: ExxonMobil shareholders again reject LGBT employment protections (with photos)

ExxonMobil shareholders have again voted down a proposal to add gay and transgender employees to the Irving-based corporation’s nondiscrimination policy.

Meeting at the Meyerson Symphony Center in the Dallas Arts District, the ExxonMobil shareholders voted 80 percent to 20 percent Wednesday morning against a resolution asking the corporation to amend “its written equal employment opportunity policy to explicitly prohibit discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity and to substantially implement the policy.”

The proposal has been introduced each year since Mobil and Exxon merged in 1999. The highest level of support came in 2008 at nearly 40 percent.

“It’s disappointing, but this isn’t the end of the issue for us,” said Resource Center Dallas’ Rafael McDonnell, who has lobbied the company on the issue. “We’re going to continue to reach out and engage them. … I think the White House needs to go back and revisit this executive order.”

The proposed executive order would require contractors to include sexual orientation and gender identity in their nondiscrimination policies if they do business with the federal government, which Exxon does. However, President Barack Obama’s administration indicated earlier this year that he doesn’t plan to sign the proposed order anytime soon.

Mobil was one of the first companies in the world to include sexual orientation in its nondiscrimination policy and offer benefits to the same-sex partners of gay employees. But ExxonMobil rescinded those policies after the merger.

Outside the meeting, dozens of protesters lined Flora Street in front of the Meyerson on Wednesday. About 50 people with organizations including Code Pink, United Steel Workers and Occupy Dallas joined GetEQUAL protesters to shout for equality and ending discrimination, while a handful of protesters parodied the CEOs that make the choices and profit from ExxonMobil.

Daniel Cates, North Texas regional coordinator for GetEQUAL, who helped organized the protest, said he wouldn’t be surprised by the vote regardless of the result.

“The people that are against it seem very against it. The people who are for it really done a good job of pushing it this year,” he said. “We’ve got a better shot than in the past.”

As for Exxon not voting in favor of adding the protections in the past, Cates said the company had not learned to change and be more inclusive, which would ultimately hurt business.

“They clinging to antiquated business practices,” he said. “It’s a matter of really learning that this is good for business.”

This year, the resolution was initiated by New York State Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli, who wants the company to not only amend the nondiscrimination policy, but also to begin offering health benefits to the spouses of employees married in the Empire State.

The comptroller controls the state’s pension funds. As of May 18, New York’s pension fund held more than 16 million shares of ExxonMobil worth more than $1 billion.

ExxonMobil has called the measure unnecessary. It says the company is a “meritocracy” for its 82,000 workers worldwide, and that it already prohibits all forms of discrimination.

This is also the first year ExxonMobil appealed to the Securities and Exchange Commission to have the shareholder resolution thrown out. The company based its claim on a nondiscrimination statement in its Corporate Careers publication.

The SEC refused to allow ExxonMobil to throw out the resolution, saying the publication doesn’t have the weight of a corporate nondiscrimination policy.

Meanwhile, ExxonMobil maintains the lowest possible rating on the Human Rights Campaign’s Corporate Equality Index, with a minus-25.

In response to Wednesday’s vote, the Human Rights Campaign issued a statement noting that as of 2012, 86 percent of Fortune 500 companies include sexual orientation in their EEO policy and 50 percent include gender identity.

“The shareholder resolution to add sexual orientation and gender identity to ExxonMobil’s EEO policy was a non-binding referendum and the company still has the chance to do the right thing,” said HRC President Joe Solmonese. “As perhaps the largest corporation in the country, ExxonMobil has a responsibility to be a good corporate citizen; sadly they have fallen far short. The company has resisted offering basic employment protections for their LGBT workers for years and it’s time they treat all of their employees like the valuable assets they are.”

—  John Wright

Funeral for Bettie Naylor set for May 5

Naylor.Bettie

Bettie Naylor

Family and friends of beloved Texas activist Bettie Naylor will celebrate her life spent advocating for LGBT and women’s rights May 5.

The service will be at 3 p.m. at the First United Methodist Church, 1201 Lavaca Street in Austin.

A celebration will then follow at the Family Life Center located one block from the Church, according to information released on behalf of Naylor’s partner Libby Sykora by Equality Texas. Memorial donations may be made to Family Eldercare, 1700 Rutherford Lane in Austin, in honor of the The Bettie Naylor Fund established to provide care for LGBT seniors.

Sykora found Naylor, 84, April 19. She had died in her sleep.

A founding member of Equality Texas, the Human Rights Campaign and Annie’s List, Equality Texas Deputy Executive Director Chuck Smith told Dallas Voice that she was the  “creator of the equal rights movement in Texas.”

—  Anna Waugh