FW Councilman Joel Burns, hubby J.D. Angle celebrate 20th anniversary


Gay Fort Worth City Councilman Joel Burns sends along word that he and his husband, J.D. Angle, are celebrating their 20th anniversary today. Burns, who is running unopposed for a fourth term in May, posted the above photo from the couple’s wedding day on March 20, 1993.

“Twenty years ago, on the first day of Spring 1993, on a West Texas hilltop, under a gorgeous pink and purple and orange sunset, and among a dozen head of black Angus cattle who thought we were feed, I asked J.D. Angle to spend the rest of his life with me,” Burns wrote. “Fortunately for me, he said ‘yes.’ It’s been an amazing 20 years, J.D. I look forward to the next 20 with you, and then some …”

Congratulations, Joel and J.D, and thank you both for being living proof that it just keeps getting better.

—  John Wright

UTA celebrates 1st-ever Pride Week

The University of Texas at Arlington will celebrate its first Pride Week this week with several events, activities and speakers planning to attend.

The festivities kick off tonight at 6 p.m. in the university center with gay bingo.

Campus Pride Executive Director Shane Windmeyer will speak Tuesday afternoon about ways colleges can meet the needs of their LGBT students.

Windmeyer will also speak Tuesday night as the week’s keynote speaker, addressing challenges facing LGBT youth and ways to provide safer and more welcoming communities.

Gay Fort Worth City Councilman Joel Burns will talk about bullying on Wednesday afternoon, followed by a Thursday National Coming Out Day event on campus with a pink door and the college’s Safe Zone training in the afternoon.

Most events are free and open to the public. For more information, go here.

UTA has planned events around National Coming Out Day before but funded a $42,000-initiative this summer for the planning of LGBT events and activities on campus. Leaders of the new program said they wanted to have larger events, a Pride Week and even a drag show eventually in the coming months.

Check out the flyer with the full schedule below.

—  Dallasvoice

WATCH: Joel Burns on new bullying law

Almost two years after a viral speech made him an instant celebrity, gay Fort Worth Councilman Joel Burns is enjoying another round of TV appearances this week to discuss the state’s new anti-bullying law.

Burns has been vocal about his personal experience with bullying when he was teen at Crowley High School and about the need for bullying legislation. He was on WFAA last week and KTVT this morning to discuss House Bill 1492, which the Texas Legislature passed last year. It went into effect Sept. 1 of this year.

During today’s interview, Burns talked about being beaten up his high school gym as a freshman at 13 and his speech before City Council almost two years ago.

“And I realized that that is a lifelong impact,” he said about bullying. “It’s something you carry with you for the rest of your life.”

Burns said he is “very proud” of the new bill, which he lobbied for in Austin, but he called it a baseline and encouraged parents to contact their school boards to help add on to the bill’s requirements.

The bill does not include LGBT protections, but both Dallas and Fort Worth ISD have included LGBT protections in their policies.

Burns will be back on KTVT at 4 p.m. today.

Watch the videos below.

—  Dallasvoice

BREAKING: Fairness Fort Worth President Thomas Anable has died


Thomas Anable, the president of Fairness Fort Worth who became an LGBT activist after witnessing the Rainbow Lounge raid, died unexpectedly late Friday or early Saturday. He was 58.

According to a press release from the Benbrook Police Department, officers discovered Anable’s body after responding to a call in the 400 block of Lakeview Drive in Benbrook at 8:26 a.m. Saturday. Anable’s body was found in Dutch Branch Park on Benbrook Lake, and he appeared to have died from a self-inflicted gunshot wound, the press release states.

The Rev. Carol West, pastor of Celebration Community Church and vice president of Fairness Fort Worth, called Anable’s death “a horrible tragedy.”

“Thomas did so much for this community, and he leaves a wonderful legacy,” West said. “Thomas was Fairness Fort Worth, and he did so much, and he’s going to be horribly missed.”

Anable was the accountant for the Rainbow Lounge and was in the bar checking receipts in the early morning hours of June 28, 2009, when the establishment was raided by police.

In the wake of the raid, Anable helped form Fairness Fort Worth, the city’s LGBT advocacy group. He became president of Fairness Fort Worth in June 2010. Later that year Anable decided to sell his accounting practice so he could devote himself to activism full time.

“He lived it, he drank it, he slept it,” West said. “It was everything to him. Advocacy was what he breathed. He was a big believer in making a difference.”

Jon Nelson, another founding member of Fairness Fort Worth, said he’s amazed by what Anable accomplished in just a few years.

“Once he started to take action, and once he saw that what he was doing was actually making a difference, I think he was just totally energized,” Nelson said. “I’ve never seen anybody work as hard, as effectively, in such short periods of time as he did.”

Nelson said Fairness Fort Worth has a decision to make about whether to continue Anable’s legacy.

“We will move forward,” Nelson said, “and I think that one of the reasons we’ll do it is out of a sense that that’s what Tom would want. It’s very sobering, and I think that out of a respect and admiration for him, and an acknowledgment of how much he cared, I think this will further solidify our desire to continue what he started.”

Stay tuned to Instant Tea for more on Anable’s death.

—  John Wright

Tarrant County Stonewall Dems fundraiser banks $20K to back Sen. Wendy Davis, House candidates

State Sen. Wendy Davis addresses the crowd at the Tarrant County Stonewall Democrats Spring Fundraising Kick-off Party in Fort Worth Wednesday, May 23. (Anna Waugh/Dallas Voice)

The Tarrant County Stonewall Democrats raised close to $20,000 Wednesday night at the Spring Fundraising Kick-off Party in Fort Worth.

The event was the group’s launch for fundraising efforts and will go toward backing Sen. Wendy Davis’ campaign in the general election. She is unopposed in the primary. In addition, funds will go to state House candidates and the Congressional District 33 Democratic candidate selected in the primary, chapter President Felipe Gutierrez said.

About 100 people attended to donate, mingle and hear Fort Worth Councilman Joel Burns and Davis speak about local and state issues.

Burns spoke first, addressing the national attention focused on marriage equality. He said the president’s announcement was among the things he “never thought I would see in my entire life.”

“Things like the president of the United States telling me that he wants me and my husband to legally marry here in the state of Texas,” he said. “This is something we should have all along. This is something that we are owed. It is a fundamental right that we should’ve already have but it’s still monumental.”

He also acknowledged local success, recapping the efforts of the Fort Worth City Council to embrace equality by adding transgender protections to the city’s nondiscrimination ordinance, something he said he was “incredibly proud” to accomplish and acknowledged Stonewall and Fairness Fort Worth for the groups’ efforts in helping make it a reality. He also said the city has extended partner benefits for LGBT city employees and improved police and firefighter training.

Fort Worth Councilman Joel Burns speaks about the important accomplishments made in favor of equality locally and nationally at a Tarrant County Stonewall Democrats fundraising event May 23. (Anna Waugh/Dallas Voice)

While many lawmakers are following the president’s lead, he said he was “incredibly proud to have an ally” like Davis in Austin fighting for the rights of everyone. He told the audience to unite in the coming months to help motivate voters in Senate District 10 to re-elect Davis by “reminding them of just how incredibly kick-ass awesome Wendy Davis is.”

Davis then spoke about “shifting the dialogue” about what Texas has and can accomplish. She praised the state Legislature for passing an anti-bullying bill in the last session, but reminded the crowd to continue to fight for education and healthcare funding, two things she relied on as a single mother at 19 attending college. Davis has been outspoken about Texas defunding Planned Parenthood.

“I certainly didn’t ever look like I was going to be one of those people who made my way up into a place in the world that has the meaning that my life has today,” she said about her upbringing.

At 19, Davis said she destined to love the life of her mother, who raised her and her three siblings on her own. She was divorced with a 1-year-old, working two jobs and sometimes still couldn’t pay her bills.

But when a co-worker brought a brochure for Tarrant County College to work, Davis enrolled in classes to become a legal assistant. Later, she received a Texas Equalization Grant to attend Texas Christian University on her way to becoming a lawyer and graduating from Harvard.

The grant was “obliterated” in the last session, Davis said, placing the future generations at risk without opportunities others enjoyed in the past and what voters have the power to bring back by voting for candidates who want to improve people’s futures.

Davis was elected to the state Senate in 2008 in a district that still leans to the Republican side, she said. But that may not hinder her support in November because the voters in her district understand the issues she fights for.

“It doesn’t matter whether you have an R or a D next to your name when what you care about is your healthcare, your children’s future and education and so many of the other issues that we’re working on,” she said.

Founding members awards were given out at the end of the event to recognize the charter members who founded Tarrant County Stonewall Democrats. Certificates were presented to state Rep. Lon Burnam,  Mary Edward, Lisa Thomas, Steve Bratka, Drew Sutton, Bayliss Camp, Lynn Johnson, Glenda Thompson, Chris Randolph and Tim Meagher.

—  Dallasvoice

Sen. Wendy Davis, Councilman Joel Burns to headline Tarrant Stonewall spring fundraiser

Sen. Wendy Davis

Tarrant County Stonewall Democrats will launch their spring fundraising efforts Wednesday at the group’s Spring Fundraising Kick-off Party.

Fort Worth Councilman Joel Burns is scheduled to speak about various LGBT issues before introducing state Sen. Wendy Davis as the keynote speaker, said Felipe Gutierrez, president of Tarrant County Stonewall Democrats. Davis will highlight key issues at stake in her district and in the state, such as healthcare and education.

Gutierrez said the goals of the organization are to re-elect Davis and to get out the votes for House districts, in addition to supporting candidates who win the primary by making donations. The group’s bylaws prohibit endorsements in the primaries.

“We need all the help we can get to meet our fundraising goals in order to meet our goals for the year,” he said. “And it’s very important that Senator Davis gets re-elected. We cannot afford to lose her.”

About 100 people are expected to attend the event from 7-10 p.m. at the Botanical Research Institute of Texas, at 1700 University Drive in Fort Worth. Sponsorships ranging from $50-$2,500 are still available and will be announced at the event.

Those interested in attending should contact Gutierrez at 817-713-7426 or felipe76@swbell.net.

Sponsorship levels are below.

• Gold ($2500) You will receive six event tickets, and your name will appear in the invitation and event signage.

• Silver  ($1000) You will receive four event tickets, and your name will appear in the invitation and event signage.

• Bronze ($500) You will receive three event tickets, and your name will appear in the invitation and event signage.

• Individual ($50) You will receive one event ticket.

Ways to donate:

1. Make checks payable to Tarrant County Stonewall Democrats and mail to 3905 Summercrest Drive, Fort Worth, TX 76109.

2. Donate online here and click on Act Blue.

—  Dallasvoice

WATCH: Fairness Fort Worth’s submission to the White House Pride Month Video Challenge

Thomas Anable, president of Fairness Fort Worth, reports that the below video focusing on the city’s response to the Rainbow Lounge raid has been submitted to the White House Pride Month Champions of Change Video Challenge.

The video, which features narration by Councilman Joel Burns and clips from the recently released film Raid of the Rainbow Lounge, was put together by Fairness Fort Worth in conjunction with the city and the Police Department, Anable said.

The deadline for submissions to the White House contest is today, and a panel will now select semi-finalists before the public helps select finalists in June to attend a Champions of Change event at the White House.

Watch the video below.

—  John Wright

Dallas Children’s Theater shows “it gets better”

In tomorrow’s edition, I have a review of the Dallas Children’s Theater’s production of The Secret Life of Girls, an hour-long drama about bullying among 14-year-old girls. Though the piece doesn’t directly address gay-bashing, it does show in stark and disturbingly realistic ways how the orbits of clique-ish girls form, and the dangers of it. (On opening night, Fort Worth Councilman Joel Burns participated in the talk-back that follows.)

The play, though, is only one part of a larger program at DCT, that continues this weekend at the Baker Idea Institute, which has as its theme “It Gets Better.” In addition to Girls, there will be a one-day teen summit on Saturday, (starting at 9:30 a.m. and running until 6:30 p.m.), as well as a staged reading of the play The Transition of Doodle Pequeno, pictured, which deals with gender identity issues. (You can read an interview with the playwright on TheaterJones.com, here.)

For more information on the summit, visit BakerIdea.org.

—  Arnold Wayne Jones

Top 10: Suicides led to anti-bullying law


PARENTAL RESPONSE | David and Amy Truong, the parents of 13-year-old gay suicide victim Asher Brown, became tireless advocates for anti-bullying legislation this year. (David Taffet/Dallas Voice)

No. 4

In the fall of 2010, a number of high-profile suicides brought attention to the problem of bullying in schools. This year, the LGBT community worked to change laws and save lives.

After helping to push through policies in the Dallas and Fort Worth school districts, as well as a few others around the state, the LGBT community focused on passing statewide anti-bullying legislation in the 2011 session of the Legislature.

Equality Texas made the legislation a priority and a number of bills were introduced.

In February, Equality Texas hosted a Lobby Day. Several hundred people from around the state participated.

Among them were Fort Worth City Councilman Joel Burns, suicide victim Asher Brown’s parents — Amy and David Truong — and a group of 10 students from Youth First Texas.

Burns and the Truongs met with key legislators including members of the committees that would  hear the bills.

The students from YFT spoke to their senators and representatives telling their own stories of being bullied.

Legislators not usually considered allies were visibly moved by stories of violence in schools in their hometowns.

Equality Texas board chair Anne Wynn, Executive Director Dennis Coleman and Deputy Director Chuck Smith spent the spring lobbying on behalf of the bills.

The organization arranged for the Truongs as well as the parents of Montana Lance and Jon Carmichael, two other Texas suicide victims, to testify at committee hearings.

As originally crafted, the bills specified categories that would be covered. National studies have shown that the more specific the law, the more effective it is in protecting LGBT students. When sexual orientation and gender identity are not specified, school staff often ignore anti-gay bullying. But to increase the chances that anti-bullying legislation would pass, several bills were combined and all references to specific groups, including sexual orientation and gender identity, were deleted.

The new anti-bullying “super bill” passed unanimously in the Senate and by a wide margin in the House — and was eventually signed by Republican Gov. Rick Perry.

Under the new law, for the first time, the bully rather than the victim can be transferred to another classroom or school. Parental notification rules were strengthened and protections added for the person reporting the bullying. The definition of bullying now includes electronic means, or cyberbullying. And every school district must adopt an anti-bullying policy, including any necessary procedures to address the prevention, investigation and reporting of incidents.

A second bill also passed that provides money for counseling services, which includes services for both the bully and the victim. School staff already receive training to recognize potential suicide risks. That training will be expanded to include victims of bullying.

Meanwhile, although the Dallas Independent School District approved an LGBT-inclusive anti-bullying policy last year, Resource Center Dallas and Lambda Legal accused some DISD officials of blocking its implementation.

RCD Executive Director and CEO Cece Cox along with Lambda Legal community educator Omar Narvaez addressed the DISD board about the problem in December.

Cox said she had gotten word from frustrated school district employees that principals were being instructed not to use the electronic reporting system that the board mandated. She said she would continue to track the district’s compliance with the policy in 2012.

— David Taffet

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition December 30, 2011.

—  Kevin Thomas

WATCH: This 19-year-old Iowan (yes, 19!) speak about his lesbian moms

You may have seen this, as it’s been making the rounds on Facebook since yesterday, but if not here’s your chance. Watch Zach Wahls, a 19-year-old Iowa Democrat, talk about his lesbian moms in front of lawmakers. He could become this year’s Joel Burns.

—  Arnold Wayne Jones