David Mack Henderson named president of Fairness Fort Worth

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David Mack Henderson

David Mack Henderson, who has been associated with Fairness Fort Worth since its inception, was named the group’s new president on Thursday. Former president Jon Nelson stepped down recently after moving to Dallas.

Also elected were Vice President James F. McAlister,  Secretary Robert C. Miller and Treasurer Denise Bennett.

Henderson is a tax accountant and realtor. He has a bachelor’s degree in music and business from the University of Texas at Arlington, where he founded the school’s first LGBT student organization in 1980. In Dallas he served as a board member of Dallas Gay Alliance in 1984 during the formation of the AIDS Resource Center, now known as Resource Center Dallas.

After the raid on the Rainbow Lounge, he helped form Fairness Fort Worth in July 2009 and served as its treasurer for three years. He’s been involved as an LGBT awareness facilitator for city of Fort Worth employees and FWISD counselors.

—  David Taffet

Fort Worth Council declares today ‘Jon Nelson Day’ in honor of FFW president

JonNelsonDay

Jon Nelson, center left, shakes Councilman Joel Burns’ hand during the Jon Nelson Day proclamation presentation at Fort Worth City Council. (Via Facebook)

The Fort Worth City Council issued a proclamation Tuesday declaring it “Jon Nelson Day” in the city to honor the local LGBT leader.

Nelson, who worked on the city’s Diversity Task Force after the Rainbow Lounge raid and later helped start the city’s LGBT advocacy group Fairness Fort Worth, moved to Dallas’ Oak Cliff neighborhood earlier this month.

Nelson has lived in Fort Worth for 38 years and has been involved in numerous city organizations and commissions for at least 30 of those years. He said city leaders wanted to recognize his contributions to the city over that period.

“I’m honored,” Nelson said about the proclamation. “It was a surprise to me that I got that but I was honored to get it.”

—  Anna Waugh

Fairness Fort Worth holds 1st mixer

Jon Nelson

Jon Nelson

Fairness Fort Worth is holding its first mixer.

The FFW board will present an LGBT community update at Times Ten Cellar, 1100 Foch St., Fort Worth this evening.

FFW formed in the wake of the raid of the Rainbow Lounge in 2009 and was successful in updating nondiscrimination ordinances and adding benefits for Fort Worth LGBT employees.

“The purpose is to inform people about what Fairness Fort Worth is, what it’s done and what it plans to do in the future,” FFW President Jon Nelson said.

He said the group has several committees and wants to get people involved. He’ll talk about how they can help.

Free hors d’oeuvres and a cash bar begin at 6 p.m. and Nelson will make his remarks at 7 p.m.

Nelson said this isn’t a fundraiser but just a way for people in the community to get together and meet others in Fort Worth who want to make a difference.

—  David Taffet

Army vet and FFW President Jon Nelson asks USAA to add LGBT protections

Fairness Fort Worth President Jon Nelson used this Veterans Day to impact change at United Services Automobile Association.

USAA is a Texas-based company that provides banking, investing and insurance serves to people and families of those who have served in the U.S. military.

Nelson is an Army veteran who served as a combat infantry officer in Vietnam. He is a policyholder with USAA, which doesn’t offer its employees or policyholders LGBT protections.

He wrote to CEO Gen. Josue Robles this week to encourage him as a gay veteran and policyholder to consider adding policies that covered everyone USAA employs and insures.

“When I was in the Army, I was taught to lead by example,” Nelson writes. “It’s time USAA did so by changing its policies and procedures to acknowledge, provide for and protect those LGBT policyholders and employees.  These changes that USAA, just like American Airlines and others, make will send a clear message.”

In related news, USAA received the worst possible score of zero on the Human Rights Campaign’s annual Corporate Equality Index, which was released today.

Read Nelson’s full letter below.

—  Anna Waugh

After Anable’s death, Fairness Fort Worth names Jon Nelson president

Jon Nelson

In Anna Waugh’s story in Friday’s Dallas Voice about the death of Thomas Anable, she mentioned that the board of Fairness Fort Worth planned to select a new president “in the near future.” Turns out that future was indeed very near, as the group announced in a press release Friday afternoon that Jon Nelson has been named Anable’s successor. Nelson was one of the founding members of Fairness Fort Worth and has served as the group’s spokesman since it formed in response to the Rainbow Lounge raid.

“Tom’s tireless efforts for the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community created a firm foundation upon which we are eager to build,” Nelson said in the release. “The next chapter in obtaining full equality for all of our citizens begins today. We’re encouraged by the growing empowerment within our community and by the eagerness of allies in government, business and civic engagement who walk with us.”

A memorial service for Anable will be held at 10:30 a.m. Saturday, Aug. 25, at Celebration Community Church, at 908 Pennsylvania Ave. in Fort Worth.

Read Fairness Fort Worth’s full press release below.

—  John Wright

Rainbow Lounge panel to feature FW police chief, TABC captain, Queer LiberAction founder

An “unprecedented” panel discussion focused on the Rainbow Lounge raid and its aftermath will follow a third-anniversary screening of Robert Camina’s documentary film about the raid on Thursday in Dallas.

The panel discussion will feature Fort Worth police Chief Jeffrey Halstead, Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission Maj. Charlie Cloud, TABC agent and LGBT liaison Leigh Ann Wiggins, Queer LiberAction founder Blake Wilkinson, Fairness Fort Worth spokesman Jon Nelson and Camina himself. The 30-minute panel discussion will be moderated by yours truly.

“I really do think that the panel discussion is unprecedented, where all these people are getting together in one room to talk about it,” Camina said.

Tickets are still available for Thursday’s screening of Camina’s Raid of the Rainbow Lounge at the Magnolia Theater, which will precede the panel discussion. The screening is the third and last scheduled for the award-winning film in Dallas.

Doors open at 7 p.m., and the screening begins at 7:30. Those who’ve seen the film but want to attend the panel discussion should arrive by 9 p.m.

Tickets are $12 and can be purchased here. Use Coupon Code ETT87D to get a $3 discount. For more on the film, go here.

—  John Wright

What’s Brewing: FW officials briefed on LGBT progress; GLAAD rips Houston’s Fox affiliate

Jon Nelson

Your weekday morning blend from Instant Tea:

1. Fort Worth officials received a briefing Tuesday on progress the city has made in addressing the concerns of the LGBT community in the nearly two years since the Rainbow Lounge raid. According to the Star-Telegram, the city has implemented 19 of 20 recommendations made by an LGBT task force formed after the raid. The only recommendation left outstanding is that the city provide health insurance to cover the cost of sex reassignment surgery for transgender employees. Other ongoing concerns include some apparent resistance to diversity training among police and firefighters, as well as the question of whether the city should subsidize domestic partner benefits. But overall, everyone seems pleased with the progress. “I think there is no city, because I’ve looked, in the United States which has done more in less time on these issues than the city of Fort Worth,” said Jon Nelson, a member of the task force and a leader of Fairness Fort Worth.

2. A Texas House committee is expected to take up a bill this morning that would allow same-sex parents to put both their names on the birth certificate of an adopted child. HB 415, by Rep. Rafael Anchia, D-Dallas, would resolve an issue in Texas that’s been the subject of a high-profile lawsuit in Louisiana, where a federal appeals court recently ruled against a same-sex couple in a case that could go to the U.S. Supreme Court. Meanwhile, the full House could give final approval today to an anti-bullying bill that’s become Equality Texas’ top priority in this year’s legislative session. HB 1942, by Rep. Diane Patrick, R-Arlington, would then go to the Senate for consideration.

3. GLAAD is calling on Houston’s Fox affiliate (KRIV-26) to apologize for a segment that aired last week called, “Is TV too gay?” which criticized Glee‘s portrayal of gay teens. The segment aired the same night as a Glee‘s “Born This Way” episode and featured Bryan Fischer of the American Family Association, which has been certified as a hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center. Watch the full segment below. To sign GLAAD’s petition, go here.

 

—  John Wright

Burns, Hicks unopposed in FW council bids

Joel Burns

5 candidates vying to replace Moncrief as mayor; Zimmerman is only other incumbent unopposed

TAMMYE NASH   | Senior Editor
nash@dallasvoice.com

FORT WORTH — With the filing deadline passed for the Fort Worth City Council elections in May, the city’s LGBT community is assured of having its two strongest allies — openly gay District 9 Councilmember Joel Burns and District 8 Councilmember Kathleen Hicks — back in their seats in the council chambers since neither drew any challengers in their re-election bids.

It will be Burns’ second full term on the council after being elected in a December 2007 runoff to replace Wendy Davis when she stepped down to run for the Texas Senate.
Hicks is going into her fourth term representing District 8.

The only other uncontested seat on the council is in District 3 where W.B. “Zim” Zimmerman, one of six councilmembers who voted in favor of adding transgender protections to the city’s nondiscrimination ordinance in October 2009, is running unopposed for his second council term.

But at least two candidates are running for each of the six other seats at the council table, including mayor where five candidates are vying to replace Mike Moncrief, who decided to retire after serving four terms.

Mayoral candidates include two former city council members Cathy Hirt and Jim Lane, Tarrant County Tax Assessor/Collector Betsy Price, former state Rep. Dan Barrett and experimental filmmaker Nicholas Zebrun.

Fort Worth attorney Jon Nelson, one of the founders of the LGBT advocacy group Fairness Fort Worth, said this week said that while “it’s really still too soon to tell, I have heard that people supposedly knowledgeable in the area of Fort Worth politics” predict that the race to replace Moncrief will come down to Hirt and Lane.

Nelson said he is supporting Hirt, because he believes she is a “very intelligent … nuts-and-bolts kind of person who will get things done” and because “her stance on equality is very solid.”

But Nelson said that he believes Lane and Barrett “would have supported what the mayor and City Council did” in the wake of the June 2009 raid on the Rainbow Lounge by adding trans protections to the nondiscrimination ordinance and establishing a diversity task force to address LGBT issues.

Nelson acknowledged that he knows little about Price and said he has “never heard of Zebrun.”

Council races

In District 2, incumbent Sal Espino, an attorney is running for his fourth term on the council against Paul L. Rudisill, who is in the healthcare industry.

Espino provided a positive vote on LGBT issues in the months since the Rainbow Lounge raid, including voting for adding transgender protections to the city’s nondiscrimination ordinance.

Rudisill, on his campaign website, describes himself as a conservative who will work to “steer City Hall in the direction you, the taxpayer, desire, not the way liberals have in the past.”

In District 4, incumbent and Mayor Pro Tem Danny Scarth is running for his fourth term. Scarth was one of the three councilmembers to vote against adding trans protections to the nondiscrimination ordinance.

Scarth, executive director of Hope Media, is being challenged by businesswoman Lupe Arriola, who with her husband owns a string of fast-food restaurants. On her website, Arriola promises she will “not rubber stamp the wants of the special interests groups.”

Real estate broker Frank Moss in District 5 is the only incumbent running for re-election to draw more than one challenger. Moss, running for his third term, voted favorably on LGBT issues, including the transgender nondiscrimination measure. He is being challenged by designer Charles Hibbler and school administrator Rickie Clark.

Dallas Voice was unable to locate campaign websites for either Hibbler or Clark. However, webs searches indicate both have previously run unsuccessful campaigns for public office.

In District 6, incumbent Jungus Jordan, who voted against adding transgender protections to the nondiscrimination ordinance, is running for his fourth term. Jordan, a retired economist, is being challenged by civic advocate Tollie Thomas, who has no campaign website available.

District 7 incumbent Carter Burdette, the third councilmember to vote against trans protections, is not running for re-election. Five candidates are vying to replace him on the council.

Burdette is backing Dennis Shingleton, senior associate dean of finance and administration at the University of North Texas Health Science Center.

Also running in District 7 are bank officer Jonathan Horton, Jack Ernest who works in business management, Merchant Services Inc. CEO Jon Perry and consultant Lee Henderson.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition March 18, 2011.

—  John Wright

FW police chief enacts anti-bias policing policy

Fort Worth Police Chief Jeffrey Halstead

LGBT leader praises Halstead’s initiative, says ties between city, LGBT community continue to strengthen

TAMMYE NASH  |  Senior Editor
nash@dallasvoice.com

FORT WORTH —  Fort Worth Police Chief Jeffrey Halstead has implemented a new policy banning “bias-based policing” in his department, and Fort Worth LGBT community leader Jon Nelson this week praised the new policy as “a very positive move.”

“We didn’t discuss this with him [Halstead]. Nobody pressured him to do this. He did it on his own,” Nelson said of the new policy. “It’s as clear as it can be. It puts his employees on notice that they have to act without bias, and there are specific ramifications if they fail in that. I say, good for him.”

The policy, which Halstead issued Friday, Feb. 4, notes that “bias-based policing is prohibited in both enforcement of the law and delivery of police services.”

Any officer who violates the policy can be fired immediately.

The policy, the full text of which is available online at DallasVoice.com, reads: “Officers shall not use race, color, gender, age, national origin, religion, disability, economic status, sexual orientation, gender expression, gender identity, transgender status, membership in a cultural group or an individual’s ability/inability to speak English as the criteria for determining when or how to take enforcement action or provide police services.”

Jon Nelson

In an e-mail interview this week, Halstead said that although officers were already banned from acting on personal bias while on duty, the new policy is intended to reinforce that ban.

“The policy basically incorporates language located throughout departmental General Orders and consolidates it into one succinct order that clearly defines what bias-based policing means and strictly prohibits it,” Halstead said.

He also said the new policy was not implemented as a response to any particular incident, including the June, 2009, raid on the Rainbow Lounge gay bar by Fort Worth officers and agents with the Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission.

Instead, Halstead said, “It is a proactive step to continue building trust in the community, which is essential for public and officer safety.”

Halstead said that the new policy has been in the works since last summer when he asked his chief of staff, Lt. Paul Henderson, to research the idea and see if any other major cities had similar policies before drafting the Fort Worth policy.

“Creating policy can take a significant amount of time,” Halstead said. “We have to be careful to ensure we are not in conflict with any laws or regulations. And once it was drafted, we circulated it to our community relations officers, police leaders in our diverse associations and our law department to provide input and feedback.”

Once the final draft was complete, the order went into effect on Feb. 4.

“Although no specific reason behind the timing exists, it is appropriate and holds special meaning that the order went into effect at the beginning of Black History Month,” Halstead said.

The chief said that any officer who witnesses a possible incidence of biased policing is required to report the incident to his or her supervisor. The supervisor then reports the incident to the department’s Internal Affairs Division, which will investigate the allegations.

Citizens should report such violations directly to Internal Affairs, the chief said.

“Internal Affairs investigates all allegations dealing with discrimination in the workplace, as well as the city’s Human Resources Department,” Halstead said. “Internal Affairs is the lead investigative entity for allegations of discrimination regarding employees as it pertains to interactions with the public. If it is found that any criminality exists on the part of a police employee, the chief’s Special Investigative Unit would take the lead for filing criminal charges if applicable.”

Halstead also noted that his department is “in the process of putting together a hate or bias crimes alert program” through which community members who subscribe to the program will be notified of any hate or bias crimes that are reported. He said that the department is “in the process of completing the computer program necessary to build the service.”

In 2010, Halstead said, “six actual hate crimes” were investigated by Major Case detectives, the officers tasked with handling such cases.

“We use the word ‘actual’ because the definition of a hate crime is very specific regarding the primary motive for a criminal act, and many times what is reported as a hate crime does not meet the statute’s criteria,” Halstead said.

“In the future, we are looking to begin tracking ‘bias’ incidents, meaning that if any actions or statements are made as a part of a crime, but the crime itself does not meet the criteria of a hate crime, we want to be able to track those as ‘bias incidents,’” he said.

Halstead added that the new ban on bias-based policing is not directly related to the hate crime alert program, but is instead “more related to the protection of individual rights of our communities and to provide a clear departmental position that bias-based policing will not be tolerated.”

Although many LGBT community leaders were angered with Halstead’s initial response to the Rainbow Lounge raid, most now consider the police chief a valuable friend to the community.

“He is a human being, just like anyone else. We all make mistakes,” Nelson said of Halstead. “But he has gone from ‘Let’s just take a deep breath’ to, on his own, coming up with this new policy, a policy that has real teeth. That is a long way to come.

“I think that every step he has taken has brought the police department and our community closer together, starting with [the appointment of openly lesbian Officer] Sara Straten [as the department’s liaison to the LGBT community],” Nelson said. “That’s not just window dressing. … I think the chief wants his police force to be fundamentally fair, and he’s willing to buck the Police Officers Association to do it.”

The Police Officers Association is the FWPD officers’ union, an organization, Nelson said, with “tremendous political clout” whose “only concern so far has been to protect their own, even officers convicted of DWI and killing people with cars.”

Some community leaders have also suggested that it was pressure from the Police Officers Association that kept Halstead from being able to hand down stiffer discipline to officers involved in the Rainbow Lounge raid.

Halstead said this week that while his leadership approach “has not necessarily changed, I continue to learn from mistakes and experience personal growth. True leadership demands constant evaluation and adjustment in order to provide the best service possible. …  It also requires some risk-taking to implement progressive change within any organization.”

Halstead said that he believes “the culture of policing” is changing at the national level as the diversity of the country grows, and progressive police departments are “taking proactive steps to facilitate those changes as quickly as possible.”

“My intent when I was hired as the Fort Worth police chief has always been to focus on service and to provide an organizational model of ‘service with respect.’ That has not changed,” Halstead said. “I am proud that our police department is being viewed as a progressive policing model and remains on of the leaders in community policing today.”

Nelson said he believes that the strengthening relationship between Halstead’s department and the LGBT community is mirrored by the strengthening relationship between the community and city government over all.

“The bottom line is, we’ve gotten used to each other. There is a level of trust here now,” Nelson said. “They [city officials] understand that the community, that Fairness Fort Worth for example, will not be reluctant to stand behind the police chief when he does something like this. Nor will we be reticent to voice opposition if necessary.

“But we won’t do it by calling names or demonizing anybody,” he added. “We will do it the way the First Amendment meant for it to be done. We will voice our opinions, and we will take action when necessary.”

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition Feb. 11, 2011.

—  John Wright

Fort Worth Police Department bans ‘bias-based policing’ against LGBT people, other groups

Chief Jeffrey Halstead

The Fort Worth Police Department has a new policy prohibiting “bias-based policing” — including bias against LGBT people — and officers who violate the policy are likely to be fired, according to FWPD officials who spoke to the Star-Telegram.

A police spokesman said the policy is not a response to any specific incident, but acknowledged that the department’s raid of the Rainbow Lounge gay bar in June 2009 was “on our mind.”

FWPD suspended three officers for a total of five days for their actions related to the raid, but determined that they didn’t use excessive force.

Jon Nelson, a founder of Fairness Fort Worth who once called the suspensions “absolutely inadequate,” praised Police Chief Jeffrey Halstead for the new policy.

“This policy would not exist but for the chief of police,” Nelson told the Star-Telegram. “He sets the tone and he made this decision and I think that this Police Department is significantly different because of his leadership.”

Halstead signed a special order enacting the new policy on Friday. It will be distributed to employees next week and takes effect immediately.

The policy specifically prohibits bias based on “race, color, gender, age, national origin, religion, disability, economic status, sexual orientation, gender expression, gender identity, transgender status, membership in a cultural group or other individual characteristics or distinctions.”

—  John Wright