AIDS housing funding survives challenge in Houston city council

Helena Brown

The city funding for four Houston nonprofits providing housing to at-risk populations living with HIV/AIDS survived a challenge from city council member Helena Brown last Wednesday. Under consideration by the council were ordinances to dispense almost $2.5 million in federal funds managed by the city to the SRO Housing Corporation, Bering Omega Community Services, Catholic Charities and SEARCH Homeless services.

Brown initially used a parliamentary procedure known as a “tag” to delay the funding for the Houston SRO Housing Corporation and Bering Omega. Any council member may tag an item under consideration, delaying the vote on the item for one week. Brown explained that she objected to government funding of charitable entities:

“I spoke last week on this very issue on grant funds and the idea that we are, you know, fighting with other entities and other governments for grant funds that really isn’t there. The federal government is in a worse condition than the city of Houston and to continue to try to milk the system where there’s no milk, is just, I mean, we’re fighting with our brothers, as I said last week, to get credit for who is going to push a friend over the cliff… We need to continue to look at the private sector and the business sector. Because even, I attended this event where this wonderful speaker was talking about the generosity of Americans and 80% of donations to nonprofits come from private individuals, not even corporations, and we need to continue to rely on that right now because the government right now, we’re broke – we need to face that reality.”

Other council members spoke passionately of the need for continued funding, arguing that by assisting people living with HIV/AIDS in achieving independence, particularly those who are homeless or at risk of homelessness,  the programs added to the tax based and help insure long-term stability.

“We don’t live in a perfect a world,” said freshman council member Mike Laster (the first out gay man to serve on the Houston City Council). “These organizations do their very best to raise money to care for the people among us, but they still need to reach out to entities that have that kind of capital, and by the grace of God this city and this government as an entity has some of that capitol, and I’m very proud that we’re able to provide those kind of services to some of my community members.”

Council member Wanda Adams, who serves as chair of the council’s Housing and Community Development Committee, also spoke in favor of continuing funding. Council member Ellen Cohen, whose district contains both SRO Housing and Bering Omega, spoke of how her life had personally been touched by AIDS:

“One of the first young men to pass away in New York City was a cousin of mine of something [then] called a very rare form on pneumonia… which we now realize was not. So I understand the need for these kinds of services. On a personal note I worked with Bering and I know all the fine work that they do, I’m addressing all the items but I’m particularly addressing [the Bering Omega funding] and feel it’s absolutely critical that we provide the kind of funding items, and that we are, in fact, our brother’s and our sister’s keepers.

After Laster asked Mayor Annise Parker the procedure for overriding a tag Brown removed her tag, but raised a new concern about HIV/AIDS housing, saying that her office had requested a list of the owners of apartment units where those receiving rental assistance lived. City Attorney David Feldman explained to Brown that federal law prohibits making public information that could be used to identify people receiving assistance through the housing program. Feldman said that, in his legal opinion, revealing the names of the owners of the apartments would violate federal law. Brown said that she was concerned that their might be a “conflict of interest” with apartment owners that needed to be investigated, claiming that as the reason for her tag.

Brown eventually removed her tag, rather than have it overturned. All four ordinances providing funding passed with only Brown voting “nay.”

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Letting it REGISTER • Pride Weddings & Celebrations 2011

Gift registries can be intimidating. Dean Driver makes them easy

FASHION. PLATE. | Dean Driver knows how to make a tabletop pop — and how to make it easy on you to choose your gifts. (Arnold Wayne Jones/Dallas Voice)


Perhaps the one wedding tradition same-sex couples might waffle on is signing up for that beg-a-thon, the gift registry. Forget whether to do so (you should); the real question is, where can you find that particular china pattern you once saw in a magazine?

The answer to that question is probably Dean Driver. With his new company, Consilium Lifestyle Collections, Driver makes what could be a daunting (even intimidating) task for same-sex couples possibly the easiest  job out of all the wedding planning.

“I don’t know if the average gay couple feels comfortable going into stores,” Driver says. “They may, but many retailers just aren’t reaching out to gay couples.”

Teaming up with Consilium Creative Marketing, Driver created what may be the first by-appointment source of its kind in Dallas to provide a wedding gift registry for same-sex couples. While the services are for everyone, Driver believes that this personal touch can bring comfort to any gay newlyweds hesitant about how to sign up for gifts. It also gives them a home field advantage when looking for fine tabletop products and more.

“The way we do business is changing, and this has afforded me the ability to do in-home consultations and also wedding registries,” Driver says. “I come to the client with samples to get an idea of their lifestyle and suggest products and can see what will work with what’s already in the home.”

The affable Driver knows his stuff. After working with tabletop industries for years in large markets like New York, he has access to many luxury brands and even unique home products. The usual china and crystal items are no problem, but items like linens and household accessories are more easily available through him.

Driver’s first piece of advice on getting started with a registry: Don’t be intimidated.

“I demystify all that for you,” he says. “That’s what I’m here for. I’ll make it easier for you. And people shouldn’t think that everything offered in a registry costs so much. We do have some unique options that are moderately priced.”

Consilium has only been around for a few months, but it has burst out of the gate with a selection of up to 50 brands, some exclusive to them. And with Driver’s knowledge and background, he can pretty much get anybody anything they want.

“I’m a sort of an expert in tabletops, and I have my finger on the pulse of the industry,” he says. “I go to Paris, to Milan and see all the new patterns. And if you saw a plate in a magazine and brought it to me,  I could pinpoint what it is. When I say anything, I mean anything — and you may be only person in the country to have it.”

Something his company can guarantee is the death of that most dreaded wedding tradition: The return. Once items are selected for the registry, gift givers don’t have to worry about buying an item that’s already been purchased. Instead, the company does gift cards only, which are beautifully packaged for the giver to present.

“This prevents exchanges or duplicates,” he says. “Plus, clients may change their minds and gift cards give them an opportunity to get something else. And it’s a little more green without all that wrapping paper and shipping to worry about.”

Driver and company seems to have gotten rid of all the excuses couples can make to partake in registering for gifts. Being that a wedding is a life-changing event, Driver mostly wonders why not go all out?

“Couples shouldn’t shy away from getting nice things,” he says. “This is the one time to get the nice stuff, so why not? Anything you want, I can get.”

The only caveat — Driver encourages people to use the nice stuff everyday.

“Yeah, don’t pack it away in a cabinet like our parents did,” he says.

Of course, if there’s one thing gays know how to do it’s merchandise.

For more information, visit

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition May 6, 2011.

—  Michael Stephens

Marriage Equality Top Agenda Items in Three States

As legislatures begin convening around the country, marriage equality was front and center today in the two of the three states on the brink of enacting equal marriage.

Today in his State of the State address, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo reiterated his call for marriage equality in the Empire State.  The newly inaugurated governor said, “Make New York the progressive capital of the country.  If you believe in social justice, then let’s pass marriage equality in New York.”

With Governor Cuomo in office, marriage equality could soon be reality in New York.  HRC’s work around the state resulted in important victories on November 2 and a net pick up of two pro-equality votes in the state Senate.  With the possibility of marriage equality looming, New York is one of HRC’s priority states in 2011.

HRC’s Brian Ellner was at Governor Cuomo’s State of the State Address and has been on the ground in New York heading our Campaign for New York Marriage.  He reported:

“It was inspiring today hearing Cuomo pledge to once again make New York the progressive capital of the nation and achieve the social progress that made the State famous.  This statement from one of our most stalwart allies sends a clear signal and gives us momentum as we move into the legislative fight.”

Marriage equality is also a possibility in two other East Coast states.  In Rhode Island, Governor Lincoln Chaffee today mentioned the marriage bill in his inaugural address saying, “I urge the General Assembly to quickly consider and adopt this legislation. When marriage equality is the law in Rhode Island, we honor our forefathers who risked their lives and fortune in the pursuit of human equality. Rhode Island today must be as welcoming to all as [the state’s founder] Roger Williams intended it to be.”

In Maryland, several pro-equality lawmakers were elected November 2, increasing the chances of a marriage equality bill.  Governor Martin O’Malley has said publically that he would sign the bill if it makes it to his desk.

Human Rights Campaign | HRC Back Story

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This and that open thread…on auto-pilot, but keeping up with some newsworthy items

As I mentioned on Facebook and Twitter today…

Apologies, all. Pre-surgery pain has rendered me w/little motivation to write/email. #fibro + #fibroids=bad combo. On auto-pilot.

I’ve reached the point where I’m in physical pain so that my fibromyalgia has flared up to sing in concert with my fibroid-laden uterus. Lovely. Anyhow, now that I’ve hit the wall, you may not see many blog posts from me for a while.I’ll keep up my posting on Facebook and Twitter as it saps less from me.

On that note, what I’ve been Facebooking and Tweeting about:

* Anti-Gay Bullying Blamed in Suicide of Pennsylvania Teen (via Towleroad):

Students at Midd-West High School cried out against bullying Friday as they mourned the loss of a classmate who in the early morning hours walked about 13 miles from his home to Routes 11-15, where he ran in front of a southbound tractor-trailer after leaving a suicide note at his home. Freshman Brandon Bitner, 14, of Mount Pleasant Mills, ran in front of the truck at 3 a.m. near Liverpool, according to state police at Newport. “It was because of bullying,” friend Takara Jo Folk wrote in a letter to The Daily Item. It was not about race, or gender, but they bullied him for his sexual preferences and the way he dressed. Which,” she said, “they wrongly accused him of.”

* Mullen surprised at Amos’ stand on DADT. Apparently talking out of school got Amos a rebuke.

Adm. Mike Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said he thought the top brass had agreed to make recommendations privately to Defense Secretary Robert Gates. Marine Corps Commandant Gen. James Amos. Amos had said that with forces fighting in Afghanistan and still deployed in Iraq, now is the wrong time to lift the ban.

“I was surprised by what he said and surprised he said it publicly,” Mullen told reporters in Australia, where he attended meetings of defense and diplomatic chiefs.

He said the heads of the military services had committed to “look at the data and then make our recommendations privately.”

* DADT: Democrats ready to stand for nothing, fall for anything (The American Prospect). Fabulous piece by Adam Serwer.

Look, if Democrats can’t repeal a policy more than two thirds of the American people, including a majority of conservatives want gone then they can’t expect people to vote for them…That Democrats would cave on this now shows how far the party of Harry Truman has fallen.

* HRC Hits Back Against “Background Noise” On DADT Repeal. (MetroWeekly):

In the past 24 hours, several media outlets have reported on the possibility of a version of the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) moving forward in the Senate with the “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” repeal provision stripped from it – discussions the leadership at the Human Rights Campaign struck back at today as “background noise” that does not have the support of Democratic leaders in the Senate.

On Monday, Fred Sainz, HRC’s communications vice president, called the reports “interesting background noise,” but added, “At this point, this is nothing more than a rumor that has always been a possibility.” …In what he called a sign that HRC truly does believe that talk of DADT repeal’s demise to be just talk, HRC sent staff out across the country today to eight states important for Senate repeal. Sainz said that staff had been dispatched to Alaska, Arkansas, Illinois, Indiana, Maine, Ohio, Virginia and West Virginia.

* Major lawsuit announcements at pressers tomorrow. On Tuesday, Gay & Lesbian Advocates & Defenders (GLAD) will announce the filing of a major federal lawsuit.

* Challenge To So-Called “Defense Of Marriage Act” To Be Announced At Press Conference Tuesday.

On Tuesday, November 9 at 11:00 a.m., the American Civil Liberties Union and the law firm of Paul, Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton & Garrison LLP will host a press conference to announce a lawsuit filed that day challenging the constitutionality of the so-called “Defense of Marriage Act” (DOMA). DOMA is a federal statute that defines marriage as a “legal union between one man and one woman as husband and wife.”

* Nightline Tonight – WTF is this?! From Gay to Straight? Controversial Retreat Helps Men Deal With ‘Unwanted Attraction’.

When Preston met up with a bunch of his friends in New Caney, Texas, for a guys’ weekend at a secluded camp, it wasn’t for hunting or fishing. These men traveled here to attend emotional counseling sessions to cope with unwanted sexual attraction towards other men.

The retreat called “Journey to Manhood” offers therapeutic peer counseling over 48 hours to help men like Preston, who voluntarily come to learn how to deal with what they call “same-sex attractions.” For the first time ever, the retreat allowed cameras inside their controversial organization and ABC News was granted exclusive access.

* Pentecostal minister calls on christian faithful to use the word ‘fag’. Nothing like a dose of bestiality and teh crazee to keep you awake…

James Manning, a New York City-based Pentecostal minister has recently released a video in which he states that use of the homophobic epithet, “Fag” is biblically acceptable and needs to be employed frequently when referring to any LGBT person. Manning also stated that equality rights for LGBT Americans who practice the “biblical abomination” of homosexuality will lead to the legalization of bestiality, citing an example of the potential for the video’s viewership to possibly have a loved one desire to marry a dog or a goat.

* Stalker Asst AG Andrew Shirvell Suspended Pending Hearing. (via LezGetReal). BTW, the University of Michigan has lifted the ban on Shirvell being on campus.

Andrew Shirvell has been placed on paid administrative leave pending the results of an investigation into his conduct. The Michigan Assistant Attorney General is still being investigated for harassing and blogging about University of Michigan’s class president Chris Armstrong, which Shirvell accuses of having a “radical homosexual agenda”…According to a spokesman for Attorney General Mike Cox, “because we are extending the hearing, we placed him on administrative paid leave.”

Pam’s House Blend – Front Page

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