BREAKING: Dallas County approves domestic partner insurance benefits


Derrick Spillman with DFW Pride Movement addresses the Dallas County Commissioners Court on Oct. 30, 2012. (Anna Waugh/Dallas Voice)

The gay and straight domestic partners of Dallas County employees will soon be eligible for a $300 monthly subsidy from the county to help pay for health insurance.

The County Commissioners Court voted 3-2 along party lines Tuesday morning to offer the subsidy to employees who have same- or opposite-sex domestic partners who do not have insurance through other means. The subsidy will be equal to the amount the county contributes to an employee’s health insurance.

County Judge Clay Jenkins, and Commissioners Dr. Elba Garcia and John Wiley Price, who comprise the court’s Democratic majority, voted in favor of offering the domestic partner subsidy. Republican Commissioners Mike Cantrell and Maurine Dickey voted against it.

Commissioners made comments before several speakers addressed the court on the issue.

Dickey said the court shouldn’t fund a special group outside of the Public Employee Benefits Cooperative because its members didn’t approve it.

Jenkins and Garcia, who spearheaded the initiative, had initially hoped to offer domestic partner benefits through the PEBC, a multi-county partner agency, but other members — including Denton and Tarrant counties — would not allow it.

Dickey said approving benefits for domestic partners would lead to funding other special groups, such as obese people, smokers or people that have blue Pontiacs.

“We must stay within the realm of our group, of our PEBC, in order to offer our employees the best possible and lowest possible health insurance,” she said.

—  Dallasvoice

Republican commissioners speak out against domestic partner benefits

LGBT activist C.d. Kirven addresses the Dallas County Commissioners Court about the importance of offering domestic partner benefits Tuesday morning. (Anna Waugh/Dallas Voice)

The two Republican members of the Dallas County Commissioners Court said they oppose a plan to offer domestic partner benefits to county employees on Tuesday, citing the state’s ban on same-sex marriage.

After the Commissioners Court was briefed on the plan, several speakers highlighted the issue of equality and the county’s need to be competitive to recruit and retain quality employees. The speakers were Cece Cox with Resource Center Dallas, Omar Narvaez with Lambda Legal, Travis Gasper with Equality Texas and C.d. Kirven with GetEQUAL TX.

Republican Commissioner Mike Cantrell then read a statement into the record, calling the plan part of a political agenda. He said the county should not offer the benefits because the federal and state government don’t recognize domestic partners.

“The county is an arm of the state government and as an elected official, my duties are bound to conform with legislation that dictates and defines what determines a legal union,” he said.

—  Dallasvoice

Dallas County weighs health-insurance vouchers for unmarried partners

Garcia.Elba

Commissioner Elba Garcia

A long-discussed proposal for Dallas County to offer health benefits to the partners of gay employees is finally taking shape.

The Dallas County Commissioners Court will be briefed on the domestic partner benefits plan Tuesday, according to an agenda posted online today.

The plan, detailed below, will provide benefits to both opposite- and same-sex domestic partners who do not have insurance provided to them through other means.

Commissioner Elba Garcia told Instant Tea that heterosexual domestic partners were added to prevent any perceived discrimination.

Garcia said the plan would offer subsidies to employees whose partners buy private insurance, and they would be refunded by the county the same amount the county pays for an employee’s insurance.

She said this was the only way to provide benefits outside of the county’s healthcare provider because the Public Employee Benefits Cooperative would not allow Dallas County to offer the benefits through the co-op.

Those who enroll will have to sign a domestic partner affidavit for Human Resources, as well as provide two forms of proof that they have lived together for six months, such as a lease agreement or joint bank accounts, Garcia said. She said partners must be at least 18 and not be married.

The projected cost is under $100,000, Garcia said.

Garcia said members of the court could suggest changes on Tuesday or it could be approved for a vote at the next meeting. Garcia, along with Commissioner John Wiley Price and County Judge Clay Jenkins, who make up the court’s Democratic majority, have said they support offering domestic partner benefits.

Gay Dallas County District Clerk Gary Fitzsimmons wrote a letter to the commissioners that will also appear on the briefing agenda for Tuesday’s meeting. The letter, below, states that “the provision of these benefits is a simple and clear issue of fairness that will make the county’s commitment to non-discrimination a reality for many of our employees.”

Fitzsimmons told Instant Tea that the plan isn’t ideal but what the best option to offer the benefits outside of the PEBC.

“Until such time that as the situation changes with the PEBC, this is an appropriate accommodation,” he said.

See the detailed plans below.

—  Dallasvoice

EQTX pushes for Dallas County commissioners to approve DP benefits

Equality Texas is calling on Dallas County citizens and employees to tell members of the Commissioners Court to approve offering domestic partner benefits to county employees.

The statewide LGBT advocacy group created an action letter that people can sign online and send to commissioners.

Equality Texas Interim Executive Director Chuck Smith said offering DP benefits has become a standard practice.

“It’s what people in the real world, real businesses in the real world, do in order to attract and retain good employees to where it’s not a big step,” he said. “It’s not going out on a limb for municipalities and counties to start doing this.”

Dallas County would become the third county to approve the benefits after Travis and El Paso counties.

County Judge Clay Jenkins and Commissioner Elba Garcia are working on a plan to offer the benefits despite the lack of support from a regional government partner agency. A Commissioners Court vote is expected in the next few months.

—  Dallasvoice

Lawsuit accuses St. Luke pastor of homosexual harassment

Minister at iconic black Methodist church in Dallas steps down amid allegations he coerced young men

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The Rev. Tyrone D. Gordon

DAVID WEBB  |  Contributing Writer
davidwaynewebb@hotmail.com

A lawsuit filed against St. Luke Community United Methodist Church in Dallas and its former senior pastor, the Rev. Tyrone D. Gordon, portrays the pastoral office of the predominantly African-American church in Southeast Dallas as a hotbed of homosexual harassment.

St. Luke, with 5,000 members, is one of the largest African-American churches in the North Texas Annual Conference of the United Methodist Church, which is also named as a defendant in the lawsuit. St. Luke isn’t one of the six gay-affirming Methodist churches in the Dallas area, but its congregation includes some LGBT members.

The Rev. Zan Holmes, who preceded Gordon’s appointment in 2002 as senior pastor at St. Luke, is a respected civil rights leader. The church is known as a center for community activism, and it has attracted prominent members such as Dallas County Commissioner John Wiley Price and former Dallas Mayor Ron Kirk, a U.S. trade representative appointed by President Barack Obama.

Thus far, church leaders at St. Luke and the North Texas Conference have remained silent about the lawsuit, as has Gordon, who announced his resignation as senior pastor from St. Luke in January to take effect on Wednesday, Feb. 15. On that date Holmes, who has also kept silent, will return as interim minister.

W. Earl Bledsoe, the bishop of the North Texas Conference, released a statement at the time of the resignation noting Gordon gave up his credentials during the investigation of complaints lodged against him by St. Luke church members.

The Rev. Eric Folkerth, pastor of the gay-affirmative Northaven United Methodist Church in Dallas, said in a telephone interview this week that his reaction to the news of the lawsuit was one of “deep sadness and sorrow.” Folkerth said he hopes the controversy will be viewed as a “sexual abuse of authority,” rather than in terms of the sexual orientation involved.

“I am hoping, praying and trusting that hopefully all of this will be dealt with appropriately in the church and in the legal system,” Folkerth said.

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The Rev. Cameron Greer

The Rev. Cameron Jerrod Greer, 26, who is a graduate student at SMU’s Perkins School of Theology and a pastor ministering at Cockrell Hill United Methodist Church, alleges in the lawsuit, filed on Feb. 3 in 101st District Court in Dallas, that Gordon, 53, sexually harassed him and several other young male members of the church for at least seven years.

In the petition filed by Dallas attorney and St. Luke church member Marilynn Mayse, Greer alleges that in 2003 and 2004, beginning when Greer was 18, Gordon rubbed his penis up against Greer’s buttocks on more than one occasion in front of four other young men who appeared to regard the activity as “normal behavior.”

In another instance, Greer alleges he observed a young man wiping sweat off of Gordon’s body as the pastor stood in his underwear with his pants lowered. Greer, who worked as an audiovisual technician at St. Luke, alleges in the lawsuit that he observed numerous instances of inappropriate behavior by Gordon involving young men.

The incidents often occurred in Gordon’s church office and sometimes between two Sunday services, according to the lawsuit.

Greer also alleges that Gordon invited him to his home in August 2004 when the pastor’s wife was out of town to discuss the young man’s plans to become a Methodist minister. Gordon allegedly prepared one of Greer’s favorite meals, spaghetti, and invited the young man to watch a movie with him. While sitting on the sofa Gordon allegedly moved closer to Greer but was interrupted by the arrival of one of Gordon’s two daughters.

In two other alleged incidents in 2009 and 2010, Greer claims in the lawsuit that, while he was serving as a pastor at First United Methodist Church in Seagoville, he visited Gordon at St. Luke, where Gordon insisted on hugging him and rubbed his penis against him. Greer adds in the petition that he asked Gordon to be a guest preacher at the Seagoville church, and Gordon implied that Greer would have to do “something” for him in return.

The lawsuit alleges that St. Luke church leaders had been informed about complaints of sexual misconduct and sexual harassment made by church employees and members against Gordon as early as 2006, but they took no action. It also claims that church leaders failed to protect Greer and other young men from Gordon’s alleged harassment.

In the lawsuit, Greer explains his delay in lodging complaints against Gordon as part of a process that was required to address the “issues” and to begin a “quest toward healing.”

The lawsuit, which accuses church officials of breach of duties, claims Greer has suffered “severe emotional distress, mental pain and suffering, and adverse physical consequences, physical pain and suffering.” It seeks unspecified punitive damages.

The lawsuit describes Gordon as a “predator” who used his spiritual authority to “coerce certain young male members and employees” into “sexual acts and relationships for his own personal sexual gratification.”

Gordon, who was born in Los Angeles, received a bachelor’s degree from Bishop College in Dallas, and he did his graduate work at Fuller

Theological Seminary in Pasadena, Calif. He came to St. Luke as senior pastor after serving as senior pastor of St. Mark United Methodist Church in Wichita, Kan.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition February 10, 2012.

—  Kevin Thomas

Dems seek supermajority on Commissioners Court

LGBT ally Theresa Daniel among those vying for Dickey’s seat

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GOING AFTER THE GAY VOTE | Cecile Fernandez, left, speaks to Log Cabin Republicans of Dallas on Tuesday, Jan. 31 at Texas Land & Cattle in Uptown. Fernandez is one of two Republicans who’ve filed to replace retiring GOP Commissioner Maurine Dickey. On the Democratic side, longtime LGBT ally Theresa Daniel, above right, and Daniel Clayton are two of the three candidates running for Dickey’s District 1 seat.

DAVID TAFFET  |  Staff Writer
taffet@dallasvoice.com

Stonewall Democrats President Omar Narvaez thinks Democrats have an excellent chance of picking up a fourth seat on the Dallas County Commissioners Court since newly drawn lines extend a district into Oak Lawn.

District 1 Republican incumbent Maureen Dickey — who voted against transgender nondiscrimination protections for county employees last year — isn’t seeking re-election. Two Republicans and three Democrats have filed to run for the seat Dickey has held since 2004.

Narvaez said two of the three Democratic candidates are members of Stonewall Democrats of Dallas — Theresa Daniel and Gloria Levario.

The redrawn district, he said, will be harder for a Republican to retain. Cedar Springs Road is the dividing line. The northeast side of the street will be part of the new District 1. The southwest side of the street will be represented by District 4 Commissioner Dr. Elba Garcia.

District 3 Commissioner John Wiley Price, also up for re-election, lost the Oak Lawn portion of his district but picked up more of Oak Cliff and Cedar Hill. Parts of South Dallas between Interstate 30 and US Highway 175 also shifted from Price to the new District 1.

Usually the filing period ends on Jan. 1 for the November race. Because of legal challenges to redistricting maps, Narvaez said the filing period will be reopened. Candidates whose districts have changed may decide to change races or may pull out of the running and receive a refund.

“And that’s extremely unusual,” Narvaez said.

So he said that the field of candidates — even for the Commissioners Court races where boundary lines haven’t been challenged — isn’t necessarily set. Although the primary is still tentatively scheduled for April 3, a firm date cannot be set until new maps are approved.

“I wonder how long this marathon is going to be,” said Daniel, one of the Democratic candidates for the District 1 seat.

Daniel was a staff member for Democratic Congressman Martin Frost. She has served on the State Democratic Executive Committee since 1996 and as chair of the Dallas County Democratic Party Advisory Committee for four years. Currently, she works with the Dallas Independent School District in program evaluation and accountability and is an adjunct professor of urban and public affairs at the University of Texas at Arlington.

Daniel said she’s been a member of Stonewall Democrats for 10 to 15 years. As a member of the SDEC she helped add two seats to the state body for Stonewall Denocrats leaders.

“With their activity level, both locally and at a state level, they were a model,” she said.

In 2004, Daniel received Stonewall’s Democrat of the Year award.

Daniel said she’s glad sexual orientation and gender identity were added to the county’s employment nondiscrimination policy last year and called health benefits for the domestic partners of county employees a “civil right.”
County Judge Clay Jenkins has said he supports DP benefits but didn’t bring the proposal forward last year due to budget constraints.

On healthcare issues, Daniel said she needs to take a look at how agencies are funded but said, “I’d work to keep funding on track.”

She called the new Parkland hospital “absolutely wonderful.”

“When you have an 80-year-old building we’re going to have problems,” she said, adding that the new hospital shows Dallas County’s commitment to public health.

Daniel Clayton is the third Democrat running for the District 1 seat. He has worked for state Sen. Royce West for five years and currently serves as his political director.
Before joining West’s office, he worked on a number of campaigns. In 2001, he campaigned for Jim McGreevey, who became New

Jersey’s “gay-American” governor. Clayton served as deputy field director for former Dallas Mayor Ron Kirk’s Senate campaign.
Since 2007, Clayton has served as president of the Texas Coalition of Black Democrats.

In 2004, he was executive director of the Dallas County Democratic Party. That year, Sheriff Lupe Valdez and other Democrats swept into office, which began a run of Democrats who were elected to county-wide office.

“How do we make county government more efficient?” Clayton said when asked about his top concern.

He said continued funding for AIDS programs was a priority.

“Dallas County’s rate of HIV is so high,” he said. “It’s affecting the minority community terribly.”

On partnership benefits, he said the idea sounds fair and he needs to study the economic impact.

On the Republican side, Dickey has endorsed Cecile Fernandez, a former Dickey’s Barbecue executive vice president who helped create the franchise program and take the company national. District 2 Commissioner Mike Cantrell has endorsed Fernandez’s opponent, attorney Larry Miller.

Fernandez attended the kick-off event this week for the new Dallas Log Cabin Republicans chapter.

“I was impressed with the turnout,” she said of the meeting, adding that she attended because several of the founders “are longtime personal friends.”

She said that although the new boundaries of District 1 give Democrats a slight edge, her connections in the Hispanic community and position as vice chair of the Dallas chapter of the Republican National Hispanic Assembly will make the difference.

“I think I’m the Republican who can win that seat,” she said.

She expressed support for LGBT issues. She backs partnership benefits for county employees, but worried that in the new budget year everyone’s benefits will have to be cut.

She said that funding for HIV and AIDS treatment must remain in place and added she sees no room for discrimination.

“It’s not the ’80s,” she said. “Everyone knows someone who’s died of AIDS.”

She said she supports Parkland Hospital and has had people in her family use the facility.

“The people at Parkland are so caring,” she said. Despite being overworked in a rundown facility, “they must really love their jobs.”

Miller and Levario did not return messages before press time.

Levario, the sister of Dallas County’s 204th District Court Judge Lena Levario, works for Baylor’s physician network to manage their medical practices. She’s also a member of Stonewall Democrats of Dallas, Narvaez said.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition February 3, 2012.

—  Kevin Thomas

CARTOON OF THE DAY: Did the Dallas Observer really just go there?

The Dallas Observer is currently featuring the below depiction of Dallas County Commissioner John Wiley Price — who’s under investigation by the FBI — rather prominently on the main page of the alt-weekly’s website. Thoughts?

 

—  John Wright

Top 10: County, DISD, FWISD added trans protections

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STRIKING A POSE | LGBT activists celebrate outside the Dallas County Administration Building in April, after the Commissioners Court voted to add transgender protections to the county’s employment nondiscrimination policy. (John Wright/Dallas Voice)

No. 6

Although transgender rights continue to be the last frontier in the ongoing battle for LGBT equality, the trans community made significant progress in North Texas in 2011.

The all-too-familiar scenario of transgender being left out of laws protecting lesbians and gays played out in March when the Dallas County Commissioners Court voted in favor of adding sexual orientation — but not gender identity and  expression — to the nondiscrimination policy covering the county’s roughly 7,000 employees.

County Judge Clay Jenkins and Commissioner Dr. Elba Garcia, two Democrats who spearheaded the addition of sexual orientation to the policy, said they had not been aware of the distinction between sexual orientation and gender identity and expression.

But after Dallas Voice reported on the oversight, LGBT advocates went back to the court to insist that commissioners correct the omission.

Republican Commissioner Maureen Dickey added insult to injury during an April Commissioners Court meeting when she not only announced she would vote against trans protections, but also compared being transgender to being overweight.

But on April 26 — after activists spoke at several consecutive meetings in an effort coordinated by Resource Center Dallas — the court voted 3-2 along party lines to add trans protections. Jenkins, Garcia and Commissioner John Wiley Price voted in favor of trans protections, while Dickey and fellow Republican Mike Cantrell voted against them.

Dallas County is the only county in the state with a trans-inclusive employment nondiscrimination policy — and momentum from the decision appeared to spread as the year went forward.

In late June, the Fort Worth school board added gender identity and expression to the district’s anti-bullying policy. And in early August, shortly before the start of a new school year, came news that the Dallas school board would consider a series of policy changes intended to protect transgender students, faculty and other employees from discrimination and harassment. The vote to add the protections came on Aug. 25.

The wave of transgender victories hit a small snag in November, when the Dallas County Community College District initially refused to add trans protections, insisting that the district’s protections based on sexual orientation covered trans people. But after another effort coordinated by the Resource Center, DCCCD President Wright Lassiter announced in November that an amendment to the district’s nondiscrimination policy to specifically protect transgender people is on the agenda for the board’s January meeting.

— Tammye Nash

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

 

—  Kevin Thomas

Trinity Clinic grand opening celebration

The grand opening celebration of the new Trinity Health and Wellness Clinic in Oak Cliff was held on Tuesday, Oct. 11. (photos by David Taffet/Dallas Voice)

—  David Taffet

NOONER: Price to seek re-election; Dewhurst to run for Senate; Perry 3rd in GOP presidential poll

Your lunchtime quickie from Instant Tea:

• Despite FBI investigation, John Wiley Price says he’ll seek re-election in 2012 to an eighth consecutive term on the Dallas County Commissioners Court.

• Temperature at DFW Airport dips into 70s for first time in two weeks.

• Texas Gov. Rick Perry finishes third behind Mitt Romney and Michele Bachmann in GOP presidential primary poll.

• Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst formally announces that he’s running for U.S. Senate, joining race that includes former Dallas Mayor Tom Leppert. (Watch video below.)

Participants sought for research project examining impact of violence on LGBT people of color in Texas.

—  John Wright