LEGE UPDATE: State ENDA pending; another pro-LGBT bill advances

State Rep. Mike Villarreal

State Rep. Mike Villarreal

Two state House bills that would end anti-LGBT job discrimination were left pending in committee Wednesday, but Equality Texas is hopeful the measures will make it out of committee by next week.

Testimonies were given in favor HB 238 by Rep. Mike Villarreal, D-San Antonio, and HB 1146 by Dallas Democrat Eric Johnson before the House Economic and Small Business Development Committee.

Daniel Williams, Equality Texas field organizer, said he was confident the bills would make it out of the committee by next week, as it is common for committees vote on a bill a week after its hearing. The Senate version is still pending in committee.

Williams urged advocates to contact members of the House committee and ask them to advance the bill. Members are: Chairman John Davis, R-Houston, Vice Chairman Hubert Vo, D-Houston, Cecil Bell, R-Magnolia, Yvonne Davis, D-Dallas, Jason Isaac, R-Drippings Springs, Jim Murphy, R-Houston, Mary Ann Perez, D-Houston, Eddie Rodriguez, D-Austin, and Paul Workman, R-Austin.

Earlier this week, LGBT state Rep. Mary Gonzalez’s HB 2403, which would protect same-sex minors in intimate relationships under the “Romeo and Juliet” defense, was voted out of the House Criminal Jurisprudence Committee. The Senate version was voted out of committee earlier this month.

Anti-gay HB 1568 also passed out of committee earlier this week. The bill by Republican Drew Springer of Muenster originally aimed to cut state funding for school districts that offered domestic partner benefits and was withdrawn from consideration by the committee last week.

But Williams said a committee substitute bill was passed. The substitute would allow the Texas attorney general to defund and decertify school districts that offer domestic partner benefits without an appeals process. Williams said the substitute bill is “much worse than the first one.”

“As the bill progresses through the system we’ll have a better understanding of how to kill it,” he said, adding that people should contact their lawmakers now to tell them they oppose the bill.

Two pro-equality bills have hearings scheduled for Monday, April 29. HB 201, which would allow same-sex parents to sign an adopted child’s supplementary birth certificate, will be heard by the House Judiciary and Civil Jurisprudence Committee.

And HB 1701, which would remove the state’s “homosexual conduct” law found unconstitutional by the U.S. Supreme Court in 2003 from the Texas Penal Code, will have a hearing by the House Criminal Jurisprudence Committee. The Senate version has already passed out of committee.

Equality Texas is trying to get HB 1696 a hearing before the deadline on May 6.

“We’re very much on a deadline,” Williams said.

The bill authored by Democrat Jessica Farrar of Houston would remove language form public school curriculum that condemns homosexuality.

He’s urging advocates to contact House Public Education Committee Chairman Rep. Jimmie Don Aycock, R-Killeen, at 512-463-0684 and tell him to give HB 1696 a hearing.

—  Dallasvoice

Rep. Jessica Farrar files bill to remove sodomy law from Texas Penal Code

Rep. Jessica Farrar

State Rep. Jessica Farrar

Houston Democrat Jessica Farrar has filed HB 1701 to remove Texas’ “homosexual conduct” law from the Texas Penal Code.

Despite the U.S. Supreme Court finding the law unconstitutional in the 2003 case Lawrence v. Texas, the law remains on the books as a misdemeanor offense, even though it is not enforceable.

State Rep. Garnet Coleman, D-Houston, who has filed the bill every session since the law was found unconstitutional, said he planned to file the legislation again this year.

State Sen. Jose Rodriquez, D-El Paso, filed the companion bill, SB 538, earlier this month. It has been assigned to the State Affairs Committee.

“There is absolutely no justification for this antiquated and unconstitutional provision to remain on the books,” Equality Texas Executive Director Chuck Smith said. “It is past time for this relic of the past to be repealed from the Texas Penal Code.”

Read the full release below.

—  Dallasvoice

Former Girl Scout Jessica Farrar calls Boy Scouts’ gay ban ‘unconscionable’

Rep. Jessica Farrar

State Rep. Jessica Farrar, D-Houston

After reading the long list of Republican state legislators who signed a letter calling for the Boys Scouts to keep their gay ban, it’s sure nice to see at least one Texas lawmaker taking a public stand on the right side of history. Now, won’t a few others please hurry up and join her? Here’s Rep. Jessica Farrar’s full statement:

Rep. Farrar to Boy Scouts of America: Lift Ban, Promote Inclusion

AUSTIN, TX — In support of all Texans, Representative Jessica Farrar urges the Boy Scouts of America to adopt a national policy of full inclusivity and non-discrimination without further delay. As a Girl Scout, Representative Farrar believes that scouting and similar youth organizations that play a crucial role in establishing common community values should be open to all individuals.

Representative Farrar said, “Gay youth have been excluded by the Boy Scouts for too long. Socially ostracizing anyone is immoral; causing mental anguish to potentially emotionally vulnerable youth is unconscionable.” She continued, “Inclusion has long been considered a hallmark of the American experience. The Boy Scouts should embrace this value, too. Local control is not enough; inclusion should be an organization-wide policy.”

While Representative Farrar regrets that the Boy Scouts of America did not make a decision today, she understands that some people need more time to contemplate this issue. However, she urges the Boy Scouts of America to stand with young American men and women by promoting full diversity and inclusion among its membership.

The Boy Scouts of America have the chance to stop building walls and start building bridges. They have the opportunity to promote equality, teach tolerance, embrace diversity, and implement policies of inclusivity that will benefit the state and the nation.

The Boy Scouts of America is an otherwise honorable organization that is responsible for broadening the views of youth while educating them to have an ethical role in their communities. As the Boy Scouts look to their future, they have a chance to chart a new course. Representative Farrar stands hopeful that this course will begin with an official, fully inclusive non-discrimination policy that embraces the values all scouts hold dear.

—  John Wright

“Youth of the Union” conference brings young progressives to U of H

Rep. Jessica Farrar, keynote speaker at the Youth of the Union Conference

While much attention has been paid to the contribution of the youth vote in President Obama’s 2008 victory, there’s been less recognition of the effect it had in other elections. “In 2008 young voters came out in record numbers for progressive candidates,” says Brad Pritchett, one of the organizers behind this Saturday’s “Youth of the Union” conference at the University of Houston. “When young people are engaged on the issues and empowered to vote, they will.”

In Harris County that 2008 youth surge contributed to the election of Texas’ first out elected LGBT judge, Steven Kirkland, and helped turn 14 of the county’s 26 Texas House districts Democratic. Pritchett says that, while it’s easy to focus on the presidential races, judicial and legislative seats on the ballot in 2012 are crucial to progressive issues like LGBT equality and will be largely determined by whether or not the young people who came out in 2008 return to the polls this year.

The Youth of the Union Conference is sponsored by a number of Democratic Party organizations, including the National Stonewall Democrats, an LGBT Democratic club, but is designed for young progressives across the across the spectrum of sexual orientations and gender identities. The conference kicks off at 11 am Saturday, February 4, at the University of Houston’s University Center with a “young and involved” panel and includes workshops on becoming a Democratic delegate, influencing the party platform, the effect of recent photo ID legislation and more.

State Representative Jessica Farrar, who last year introduced legislation to repeal Texas’ unconstitutional law criminalizing “Homosexual Conduct” is the keynote speaker. Farrar was just 27 years old when she was first elected to the Texas House in 1994.

Pritchett says that registration is closed but that a limited number of “at-the-door” registrations are available on a first come first served basis.

For more information visit youthoftheunion.com.

—  admin

Parker expected to win re-election in Houston

With lesbian mayor at the top of the ballot, 4 LGBTS among candidates for seats on City Council

Annise-Parker-wins

Annise-Parker-wins

 

Daniel Williams  |  Contributing Writer
editor@dallasvoice.com

Houston Mayor Annise Parker, who’s 2009 election made her the first out LGBT mayor of a major American city, faces five challengers in her bid for re-election on Nov. 8, and more than one of those challengers brings a decidedly anti-gay record to the race.

Most prominent among the anti-gay candidates is Dave Wilson, who is infamous for his decades-long efforts to roll back advancements for LGBT Houstonians.

In recent weeks, the Wilson campaign has launched robocalls attacking Parker, as Wilson claims, using her position to advance her “alternative lifestyle.”

Also in the race are perennial socialist candidate Amanda Ulman, little-knowns Kevin Simms and Jack O’Conner, and Fernando Herrera.

Last year Herrera ran as the Republican candidate for Texas House District 148 against Democrat Rep. Jessica Farrar. During that race Herrera responded to a questionnaire from the right-wing think tank The Heritage Foundation with a statement that he opposed allowing same-sex couples to adopt or be foster parents.

A poll of 748 likely voters, published by television station KHOU-Houston on Oct. 17, shows Parker with a commanding lead, with 37 percent of the respondents saying they intended to vote for her. Most pundits expect the incumbent to win re-election handily.

Her five challengers split 11 percent.

But the big winner in the poll was “Do Not Know,” the option that pulled in more than 50 percent, reflecting the disinterest most Houstonians appear have towards the race.

Council elections

Houston has a 16-member city council, made up of 11 members representing districts assigned letters A-K, and five at-large positions. All 16 council members are up for election, as is the city controller, the position Parker held before being elected mayor.

Incumbent City Controller Ronald Green is unopposed.

The lack of a real contest in the mayoral race has driven voter participation down 20 percent from the last municipal elections in 2009, sending candidates scurrying for every available vote.

With Parker at the top of the ticket, several LGBT candidates are among those vying for a seat at the council table.

In at-large position 2, transgender candidate Jenifer Rene Poole and gay candidate Bolivar “Bo” Fraga are among the crowded field of 10 jockeying for position in the race.

Poole has the support of the Houston GLBT Political Caucus, the Houston Stonewall Democrats and the Houston Young Stonewall Democrats, while Fraga has the endorsement by the term-limited position incumbent, lesbian political veteran Sue Lovell.

Other position 2 candidates are Eric Dick, Elizabeth Perez, David Robinson, Kristi Thibaut, Griff Griffin, Rozzy Shorter, Andrew Burks and Gordon Goss.

In District C, gay candidate Josh Verde is one in a field of five contenders, including former state Rep. Ellen Cohen, who has the backing of the GLBT Political Caucus and Stonewall.

Other District C candidates are Brian Cweren, Karen Derr and Joshua Verde.

Gay candidate Mike Laster enjoys the endorsement of the Gay and Lesbian Victory Fund, the GLBT Political Caucus and both Stonewall clubs in his District J race. Laster has handily outstripped his two rivals — Rodrigo Canedo and Criselda Romero — in both fundraising and endorsements, but the race remains highly contested.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition November 4, 2011.

—  Kevin Thomas

Annise Parker officially files for re-election

Mayor Annise Parker

Houston Mayor Annise Parker, the first openly LGBT person elected mayor of a major American city, officially filed re-election papers with the city clerk on Thursday. Parker is seeking a second two-year term in city elections this November. In a speech to supporters at Houston watering hole Howl at the Moon, Parker spoke of her great love for Houston and her job as mayor.

“I’m more in love with this city than I was when I started in this office on Jan. 2, 2010, and I do love this city.  I’m more excited about the job than I was when I first started,” said Parker. “There’s an old saying that if you have a job you love then you never have to work a day in your life. It’s true. I love what I do, I’m excited every day to have the honor of representing the citizens of Houston and helping shape the future of this truly wonderful city.”

Two other candidates have officially filed in the mayor’s race: Kevin Simms and Amanda Ulman. Simms is a former staffer for Congresswoman Sheila Jackson Lee and currently serves as the night supervisor at the University of Houston Recreation and Wellness Center. Ulman is the perennial Socialist Party candidate. Neither is considered a serious challenger. Other candidates have declared their intent to run, but have not officially filed, including Fernando Herrera, who ran as the Republican challenger to State Rep. Jessica Farrar, the House Democratic leader.

As previously reported by Instant Tea, Herrera attacked Parker in July for the Houston Convention and Visitors Bureau’s ‘My Gay Houston” Campaign, which seeks to attract LGBT tourists. Herrera specifically objected to an article on the My Gay Houston website titled “The Gay Boys Weekend in H-town” and questioned whether the campaign should be funded with tax dollars. The Convention and Visitors Bureau is funded by a hotel occupancy tax.

When asked if he expects further anti-gay attacks as part of the campaign, Victor Castillo, co-chair of the steering committee for Parker’s re-election campaign, conceded that, as an out lesbian elected official, she faces opposition based solely on her sexual orientation. “That has always been the case,” said Castillo,  “but that is not a distraction for the campaign. The campaign is moving forward in terms of providing more jobs for the city of Houston, building a stronger local economy for the city of Houston — that is what Houstonians want.”

The most recent campaign finance report filed by Parker indicates she has a a war chest of more than $2 million dollar for the campaign. In contrast Herrera reports less than $4,000 in the bank and has raised a total of just over $12,000 in the election.

—  admin

What’s Brewing: Hearing today in suit over Perry’s day of prayer; parole fought for gay man’s killer

Several elected officials have joined the fight to keep Jon Buice behind bars for the 1991 hate crime murder of gay banker Paul Broussard, pictured.

Your weekday morning blend from Instant Tea:

1. A federal judge will hear arguments today in a lawsuit that seeks to bar Texas Gov. Rick Perry from promoting or participating in his anti-gay day of prayer on Aug. 6 in Houston. The lawsuit was filed earlier this month by the Freedom From Religion Foundation, a Wisconsin-based group of atheists and agnostics that contends the governor’s involvement in the event violates the separation of church and state. Meanwhile, it’s still unclear what Perry’s role will be in the day of prayer or whether he’ll speak at the gathering.

2. In any case, Gov. Perry appears to be sticking to his position that issues like marriage equality and abortion should be left up to the states under the 10th amendment. Perry said Wednesday that if Roe. v. Wade were overturned, he’d support allowing states to legalize abortion. Last week Perry said he’s “fine” with New York’s decision to legalize same-sex marriage. Both stances have landed him in hot water with social conservatives. “You either have to believe in the 10th amendment or you don’t,” Perry said. “You can’t believe in the 10th Amendment for a few issues and then something that doesn’t suit you, you say, ‘Well we really rather not have that state decide that.’”

3. Several elected officials from the Houston area have joined the fight to keep Jon Buice behind bars for the 1991 hate crime murder of gay banker Paul Broussard, The Houston Chronicle reports. Buice, who’s served 20 years of his 45-year sentence, was granted parole earlier this month and is set to be released sometime in October. But elected officials have joined Broussard’s mother, LGBT advocates and others in calling on parole commissioners to revisit their decision to release Buice. Those who’ve written letters to the the state parole board include Harris County District Attorney Pat Lykos, state Sens. John Whitmire and Rodney Ellis, and state Reps. Jessica Farrar and Garnet Coleman. To submit your own letter opposing Buice’s release, go here.

—  John Wright

Houston bigot Dave Wilson sends out another anti-gay mailer attacking Annise Parker

It was only a matter of time really: Dave Wilson is sending anti-gay letters (above) to Houstonians attacking Annise Parker, who’s seeking re-election in November.

Wilson, you may remember, is the homophobic electrician who sent 35,000 fliers like the one below to Houston homes during the 2009 elections with a picture of Parker’s swearing in for her previous position as City Comptroller, her partner Kathy Hubbard at her side. The 2009 fliers asked the question, “Is this the image Houston wants to portray?” To which Houston voters resoundingly replied, “Yes!” Parker became the first openly gay person elected mayor of a top 10 U.S. city.

Wilson’s latest attack is on a much smaller scale than his full color assault from 2009: It’s a personal letter sent to Parker’s donors and Houston Democratic precinct chairs. The letter, dated May 25, reads as follows:

—  admin

Coleman’s suicide prevention bill headed to governor’s desk

Texas state Rep. Garnet Coleman, a Houston Democrat, announced Thursday night, shortly before 7 p.m., that the Texas House has accepted Senate amendments HB 1386, giving the bill final approval and sending it to Gov. Rick Perry’s desk for signing.

State Rep. Garnet Coleman

The legislation, authored by Coleman and fellow Democrats Reps. Jessica Farrar of Houston and Marissa Marquez of El Paso, is intended to help prevent youth suicide by allowing school districts to implement suicide prevention programs that help school officials recognize the early warning signs of suicide and to notify parents to intervene if necessary, according to a press release from Coleman’s office.

Coleman said, “I’m extremely proud of this bill. This is one of my most important legislative priorities. We’ve heard too many tragic stories of children and teenagers who have taken their own lives due to emotional distress. This loss of life can be prevented. It’s important that we let parents know of any early warning signs in their child’s behavior so that they can prevent a bad outcome. It is the parents who can best care for their children.”

Sen. Rodney Ellis, another Houston Democrat, has sponsored the bill in the Senate. He called the measure “a small step in the right direction to aid school districts in identifying and aiding those students who are at risk of suicide.”

—  admin

Rep. Farrar: GOP’s ‘silence is deafening’ on removing ‘homosexual conduct’ law from books

Rep. Jessica Farrar

Mother Jones magazine has an excellent piece up today about efforts to remove Texas’ unconstitutional “homosexual conduct” law from the books.

Unlike other recent stories about the issue, the Mother Jones article notes that the Texas GOP platform opposes the legalization of sodomy. The story also points out that Republican Gov. Rick Perry voiced support for the “homosexual conduct” law in 2002 — “I think our law is appropriate that we have on the books,” he said — and again in his new book Fed Up.

If you’ll remember, GOP State Rep. Wayne Christian recently told an Austin newspaper that the Legislature simply doesn’t have time to deal with the issue this session. But the Mother Jones story notes that when it comes to removing other unconstitutional laws from the books, that hasn’t been a issue:

“Texas has actually done a pretty good job revising its laws and cleaning stuff up,” explains Charles Spain, a Houston municipal court judge and former chairman of the LGBT law section for the State Bar of Texas. In 2009, the legislature passed an omnibus bill formally repealing more than three-dozen bills that had been ruled unconstitutional by the courts. But the homosexuality statute was pointedly not included in that package.

As good as all this stuff is, the best part of the MJ article is the below quote from State Rep. Jessica Farrar, D-Houston, the author of one of the bills to remove the “homosexual conduct” law from the books. Farrar acknowledges that even though the bills have had committee hearings, they’re unlikely to go any further because of the GOP supermajority in the House.

“Their silence is deafening,” Farrar says of House Republicans. “It’s killing us. It’s just as bad as if they were vocal.”

—  John Wright