What’s Shakin’ – Stone Soup at F Bar, Washtonians support marriage equality

Stone Soup1. For people living with AIDS proper nutrition is more than just healthy living, it’s a vital part of the regimen that keeps them alive. Unfortunately the struggling economy and cuts to government HIV/AIDS nutrition programs mean that, for some, eating right, or just eating, is a challenge.  That’s where the AIDS Foundation Houston Stone Soup Food Assistance Program steps in.  Kelly McCann, CEO of of AFH, says that the program has recently seen a 40% increase in request for assistance and needs an additional $25,000 a month to meet demand. F Bar (202 Tuam) is doing its part to help out tonight, collecting monetary and food donations from the community. Donors will receive a VIP invitation to an appreaciation party on Nov 22, and be entered in a raffle to win fabulous prizes.
2. Washington may soon become the seventh state to have full marriage equality, if a recent poll by the University of Washington, Institute for the Study of Ethnicity, Race & Sexualityis accurate.  The poll asked 938 registered voters in the evergreen state if they would support a same-sex marriage law were it to appear on the 2012 ballot: 47% responded that yes, they would strongly support it, only 32% said they would strongly oppose.
3. Voter turnout in Harris County is slowly catching up with the last municipal election cycle in 2009, but continues to lag.  So far 28,679 people have cast their ballots, 81% of the 34,485 who had voted at this point in the process the last go around.  Early voting continues through November 3.  Election day is Nov 8. A list of all early voting locations and sample ballots  are available at harrisvotes.org.

—  admin

Dallas celebrates end of DADT

As ban on open gays and lesbians in the military ends, active-duty military personnel come out, some who were discharged consider re-enlisting

Johnson.Cully
Cully Johnson

DAVID TAFFET  |  Staff Writer
taffet@dallasvoice.com

As the repeal of “don’t ask, don’t tell” became final this week, some active-duty service members came out while some who were discharged under the policy made plans to re-enlist.

Dallas celebrated the repeal with a reception at Resource Center Dallas during which

Dave Guy-Gainer, a board member of Servicemembers Legal Defense Network, presented his archive of photos, papers and other memorabilia to the Phil Johnson Library.

Among the papers was correspondence with senators and representatives about supporting the repeal effort. Also included was correspondence with the White House that concluded with Guy-Gainer’s invitation to the final repeal signing ceremony in July.

Guy-Gainer said that he almost missed the invitation, because he almost forgot to check his email one Monday night. When he did remember and checked the inbox, he realized that he had received an invitation to the repeal certification signing ceremony in Washington that Wednesday.

Guy-Gainer said he immediately cleared his schedule and made plans to attend.

Despite repeal of DADT, Guy-Gainer said, SLDN’s  work is not over. Although gays and lesbians may now serve openly, those who are married will not receive 40 benefits that married heterosexual service members enjoy.

Those benefits include their partners having an identity card to get on base and using that card to shop in the PX or use the library.

Same-sex dependents will not be able to use the base attorneys to write wills and other legal papers.

Same-sex couples will not have the access to base housing that opposite-sex couples have, nor will they be eligible for subsistence payments to subsidize off-base housing. That money is offered to many heterosexual couples.

Dependents of heterosexuals also have access to full health care that same-sex partners of servicemen and women will not receive.

Across the country, a number of gays and lesbians who had been discharged under DADT started talking to recruiters Tuesday about re-enlisting, including Cully Johnson, one of the owners of Dallas Eagle.

Johnson was a captain and said he is consiering re-enlisting in the Air Force. He had an appointment with a recruiter to discuss the possibility on Wednesday, Sept. 21.

Johnson said he was stationed in Germany for the beginning of Operation Iraqi Freedom. When Turkey refused to allow American planes to use its airspace, he said, he was responsible for finding alternate routes and bases that allowed the mission to happen.

After serving more than nine years, Johnson was dismissed from the military under DADT.

But like many who were dismissed, Johnson never “told.”

Another member of the Air Force asked him out on a date. When he turned the man down, that airman went to Johnson’s superior and reported him as being gay.

Johnson said there was no defense he could present. His attorney said that explaining the story of why he was turned in would just be seen as retaliation.

So Johnson was given an honorable discharge and he returned to Dallas while the closeted gay man who turned him in remained in the Air Force.

Johnson said he would like to finish his 20 years to take advantage of full military retirement benefits. Although he is talking to a recruiter, Johnson said that in addition to his business, he recently purchased a condo and has a new partner.

His partner was taking a wait-and-see attitude toward Johnson’s re-enlistment.

“We’ll deal with it when the time comes,” said his partner, who works for an employer that doesn’t offer nondiscrimination protection and asked not to be identified.

Because Johnson was an officer, there may not be an immediate slot for him in the Air Force. With President Barack Obama’s proposed drawdown of armed forces, many who want to re-enlist whose specialties have been filled will also have to wait for an opening.

Pepe Johnson had an appointment with a recruiter on Wednesday also. Before his DADT discharge, he had been named soldier of the year at Fort Sill and became a sergeant.

Today, the former Dallas resident, who still owns a house in Oak Cliff, works as a petroleum land man in West Virginia.

“I want to sit down with a recruiter and look at the options available to me,” Pepe Johnson said, adding that he holds no resentment against the Army for his 2003 dismissal.

“‘Don’t ask, don’t tell’ was a law created by Congress and imposed on the military,” he said. “The Army was an incredible experience for me.”

If he re-enters, Pepe Johnson said he would have to go through basic training again because of the length of time since he served. Then, he said, he’d like to enter officer candidate school.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition September 23, 2011.

—  Kevin Thomas

Grindr goes non-gay with Project Amicus

On Thursday, the famous hook-up … I mean, location-based social network app, Grindr, will announce its newest venture. Via webcast, Grindr CEO Joel Simkhai will launch Project Amicus, which takes the Grindr idea of men meeting meN and opens it up to “everyone, whether you’re female, male, straight, gay, lesbian or bi,” according to an invitation to the webcast.

So finally, your non-gay male friends can leave you alone about how you’re hooking up all the time … err, making friends, because they can now do it for themselves.

In Thursday’s webcast, Simkhai will announce the app’s name (Project Amicus is a working title), key features and discuss how it will affect the socializing scene, which this guy isn’t all too fond of. But with Grindr’s bragging rights of having 2.6 million users, they have to be doing something right.

To get your invite to the Project Amicus app, click here to begin. If you’re interested in Thursday’s webcast at 10 a.m. Central time, email here to RSVP.

UPDATE: The new app’s name is Blendr. Simkhai tries hard to keep the app sounding G/PG rated by telling the New York Times today, ““If someone speaks the same language or is also into cooking, or crafts, that’s a strong basis of commonality and you might want to go meet them.”

—  Rich Lopez

Perfect match

Bob Nunn and Tom Harrover have been a couple for 4 decades. But it wasn’t until a near tragedy that they realized they were truly meant for each other

LIFE GOES ON | Nunn, right, and Harrover stand before a project commissioned for the convention center hotel. Four years ago, Nunn was near death because of kidney disease. (Rich Lopez/Dallas Voice)

RICH LOPEZ  | Staff Writer
lopez@dallasvoice.com

Bob Nunn agrees with the adage that the longer a couple lives together, the more they begin to look alike. Nunn and his partner Tom Harrover might not look that similar on the outside, but they match in a way that few couples do.

Let’s start with some history.

The two have that classic meet-cute that began on the wrong note. As Nunn tells it, Harrover was the dullest person he’d ever met —the two just didn’t like each other. Then, following a spontaneous invitation to a midnight movie, they ended up hitting it off. That movie led to conversation and then dating.

Forty-two years later, they still watch movies — as Nunn puts it, “I couldn’t get rid of him.”

A job in Houston took Nunn away from Harrover for three months, but old-fashioned letter writing kept the newbie relationship afloat.

“Tom had been writing me letters. He’s a very good writer,” Bob boasts. “He basically proposed to me by letter.”

They committed to each other, moving in and pursuing their careers: Harrover in architecture and Nunn teaching art. For 37 years, they lived in “a fabulous house” in Hollywood Heights. Life was good.

Then their life took a sharp turn.

“When we got together, Tom knew I had a kidney disease,” Nunn says. “Nothing was really a problem until about 30 years after we met — my kidneys began to fail and I had to start dialysis.”

Nunn registered with Baylor for the national organ donor list, but the experience was frustrating:  They received little response or encouragement from the hospital.

“Bob was on a downhill slide and the frustration with Baylor seemed like they were stonewalling us,” Harrover says. “We talked about going to Asia even. It felt like they didn’t want to deal with a senior-age gay couple.”

A LITTLE DAB’LL DO YOU | Bob Nunn is officially retired from teaching art, but continues to paint.

Then Harrover suggested something novel: He could donate his kidney to the organ list, with the idea that Nunn could get a healthy one.  Sort of a kidney exchange.

In desperation, they went back to their physician, who enrolled them in St. Paul Hospital’s then-new program for kidney transplant. The experience was a complete turnaround. Nunn was tested and processed immediately while Harrover prepped for his organ donation to an anonymous recipient.

Kidney transplants require a seven-point match system; a minimum of three matches is necessary for the recipient to be able to accept the organ into the body.

The tests revealed that Harrover’s kidney matched Nunn’s on all seven points.

“We assumed I would donate mine for use elsewhere,” Harrover says. “It never occurred to me that we’d be a match. The odds for that are off the charts.”

“See what happens when you live together for so long?” he chuckles.

Just six months after entering St. Paul’s program in 2007, they were on the operating table. They were the first direct living donor pair in the program. “It was all fairly miraculous,” Nunn understates.

Four years later, both men are doing well. Although officially retired, they both continue to work: Harrover does the occasional contract job while Nunn is currently on commission for an art project at the new convention center hotel. Outside of any official work, each interjects their quips about home, life be it cooking together or working on the lawn.

The obvious question for them might be “What’s the secret?” But they don’t see it just that way. Their relationship boils down to the obvious virtues of trust, respect and compromise.

“Selfishness doesn’t rear its ugly head in this relationship,” Harrover says. “You just have to be willing to accommodate, support and encourage what the other is interested in.”

Nunn agrees. “I would not be doing what I’m doing without his support.”

Nunn says if there is a secret, it’s akin to the dynamic on a playground: Like each other and share. If you don’t share your whole life, there isn’t a relationship, he says. At this point, Harrover says it would be impossible to separate. On paper, they are so intertwined with their house and financials, he jokes they are “Siamese twins.”

They’ve witnessed a lot in their decades together, including something they never expected to come to pass in their lifetimes: Same-sex marriage. Coming from a time when just being gay conflicted with moral codes set by their jobs, they wonder over the progress made in recent years. (They were officially married in Boston in October 2009.)

“I’m confident that it will happen for everyone,” Harrover says. “I’m sorry that it’s moving at a glacial pace, but it has that same inevitability as a glacier. We’ll get there.”

But nothing compares to the bond Harrover and Nunn already have, a shared intimacy few couples could imagine. Same-sex marriage was merely unlikely; what they have experienced is miraculous.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition July 29, 2011.

—  Michael Stephens

Gov. Perry to break anti-gay boycott of CPAC

Gov. Rick Perry

Where is the outrage?

According to multiple reports, Texas Republican Gov. Rick Perry has accepted an invitation to speak at the annual Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) in February, thereby breaking a boycott of the conference by socially conservative groups over the inclusion of the gay group GOProud as a participating organization.

“Happy to announce that Governor Rick Perry is confirmed to speak at CPAC 2011,” the conference announced last week on its Facebook page.

According to the Washington Times, groups boycotting this year’s conference include the Heritage Foundation, the Family Research Council, the Center for Military Readiness, the American Family Association, the American Principles Project, the Liberty Counsel and the National Organization for Marriage:

“The base-line reason is that homosexuality is not a conservative value,” said Bryan Fischer, the American Family Association’s director of issue analysis. “It’s the conservative PAC, not the libertarian PAC.”

Of course, these same groups and their members have historically been among Perry’s biggest supporters, and he’s been among their strongest anti-gay allies. But now that Perry is considering running for vice president, he’s apparently willing to throw them under the bus in exchange for a high-profile speaking engagement. What’s next, accepting an award from Log Cabin Republicans? Taking a gay lover? Wait, maybe he’s already done that.

Anyhow, we’ve left a message with the governor’s press office to try to find out what in the hell he was thinking, but we haven’t heard back.

Again, we ask, where is the outrage?


—  John Wright

Laura Bush: It wasn’t my role to defend the gays

Laura Bush

Former first lady Laura Bush, who recently said she supports equality for same-sex couples, tells The Texas Tribune she didn’t speak out publicly about the issue while her husband was in office because she was not the elected official and it wasn’t her responsibility. In her recent book, Laura Bush said she asked George not to make gay marriage “a significant issue” and that she “could never have imagined what path this issue would take and where it would lead.” In the interview with the Tribune, she responds to criticism that she didn’t speak up publicly about the matter:

TT: … You found yourself back in the headlines not so long ago for taking positions on gay marriage and abortion that appeared to be at odds with your husband and with the GOP. What do you say to the critics who argue you had a responsibility to come forward sooner, or who suggest you maybe hid those opinions from view?

Bush: Well, I didn’t hide them from view. They were very well known from the first day George was elected, when Katie Couric asked me the question. I’m not elected. I was not elected. George is. He’s the one who’s elected. I was not the elected official. It was not my responsibility, I didn’t think, to speak out in ways to get in some sort of debate with him. I just didn’t see that as part of my role.

Apparently Bush still doesn’t see advocacy on behalf of the LGBT community as part of her role, because she ignored an invitation to attend Dallas’ gay Pride celebration this year. Meanwhile, despite her focus on education, Bush hasn’t said anything about the national teen bullying suicide crisis. Asked at the end of the TT interview about the governor’s race, Bush says, “Absolutely we’re supporting Gov. Perry.”

—  John Wright

Bill White’s big gay breakfast in Austin

Looks like the gays in Austin hosted a breakfast for Bill White, the Democratic candidate for Texas governor, on Wednesday morning. Above is a screen shot of the invitation from White’s campaign website.

If you weren’t invited, don’t feel bad, because neither was Instant Tea. But we’ll post pics or video if any turn up. And just because you missed the breakfast doesn’t mean you can’t help out, according to Equality Texas on Twitter. Make a contribution to White’s campaign on the site.

It’s nice to see White reaching out to the gays, and maybe he’ll duplicate this breakfast in other cities around the state. We understand the concerns about anti-gay Republican Gov. Rick Perry using this stuff against him, but White is trailing in the race by 7 points, according to the latest poll. What does he really have to lose?

UPDATE: We found some pics and they are here.

—  John Wright