GALLERY: Third annual Time to Thrive Conference’s opening night

The third annual Time to Thrive conference sponsored by the Human Rights Campaign Foundation, American Counseling Association and National Education Association. The conference provides opportunities for educators and other professionals who work with LGBT youth. You can read my story about the conference here.

The evening included speeches by conference organizer Vincent Pompei, transgender teen and author Jazz Jennings and Secretary of Housing and Urban Development and former San Antonio mayor Julian Castro.

Check out my story Friday on the national and local barriers facing LGBT people and an interview with Secretary Castro.

—  James Russell

Davis endorses SA nondiscrimination ordinance, gets Castro’s support


Sen. Wendy Davis announcing her bid for governor

State. Sen. Wendy Davis appeared in San Antonio on Monday for a campaign stop, during which she endorsed the city’s new nondiscrimination ordinance and was endorsed by Mayor Julian Castro.

Davis said she hoped the new ordinance in San Antonio would become commonplace throughout Texas. Fort Worth has a similar ordinance, which Davis voted for when she sat on the City Council.

“I hope that it becomes something that is commonplace,” Davis said. “I look forward to a Texas where we see that in every city in the state.”

Davis later told reporters that it’s “important that people be treated equally in the workplace, plain and simple.”

Her position is the opposite of Attorney General Greg Abbott, the frontrunner for the Republican nomination. He threatened to file suit against the ordinance, claiming it violated freedom of religion. He dropped the suit when he couldn’t find any way discriminating against people was a religious right.

An Abbott spokesman reiterated his opposition to the nondiscrimination ordinance but also indicated opposition to some private companies adopting those policies.

“Both the U.S. and Texas Constitutions protect faith-based organizations from being coerced into employing persons in a way that would require them to violate their faith,” the spokesman told Texas Tribune.

Davis announced she was running for governor last week at a rally in Haltom City.

Filing for the primaries begins Nov. 9. The primary will be held in March.

—  David Taffet

Dan Branch to Julian Castro: Stop San Antonio’s nondiscrimination ordinance

Rep. Dan Branch

Dan Branch

Texas attorney general candidate Dan Branch has made his anti-gay views part of his legislative agenda while a state representative for part of Oak Lawn, but now he’s trying to push San Antonio Mayor Julian Castro to discriminate.

Branch sent Castro a letter Monday encouraging him to withdraw the proposed nondiscrimination ordinance from the San Antonio City Council’s consideration, the San Antonio Express-News reports. The measure would ban discrimination in employment, housing and public accommodations based on sexual orientation, gender identity and veteran status.

Castro has voiced support for the ordinance, and recently condemned anti-gay comments by Councilwoman Elisa Chan made public in a recording last week.

Branch has an issue with people of faith not being able to discriminate based on religious beliefs.

“The proposed ordinance itself discriminates — against people of faith,” Branch wrote. “The proposed city ordinance would exclude citizens from being appointed to city office … if they believe — as millions of people of faith do — in the traditional institution of marriage.”

But Branch failed to mention his home district in Dallas, which has a nondiscrimination ordinance, as does Fort Worth, Austin and El Paso.

Branch has a long anti-gay voting history in the state House, co-authoring Texas’ 2005 constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage. He filed a brief in a gay divorce case before the Texas Supreme Court earlier this month defending the state’s amendment and asking the court to overturn a divorce granted to a lesbian couple in Austin.

During his campaign for attorney general, he’s already featured anti-gay content and vowed to uphold traditional values.

Read Branch’s full letter below.

—  Dallasvoice

San Antonio councilwoman says anti-gay comments were ‘personal opinions’


San Antonio Councilwoman Elisa Chan

A San Antonio city councilwoman was unapologetic this week in her explanation of recorded homophobic comments she made that were released by a staff member last week.

In response, GetEQUAL TX has issued a travel advisory for the city.

According to KENS 5, Elisa Chan made this statement about her recorded comments that gays were disgusting and that same-sex couples should be banned from adopting children:

“The comments from the staff meeting on May 21st were and are my personal opinions and thoughts as guaranteed to me by the 1st amendment to the U.S. Constitution. It is unfortunate that a former member of my D9 Council team betrayed the trust of my staff members and me. I will fight, I will always fight for our freedom of speech, especially in a private setting.”

Her remarks were condemned by Mayor Julian Castro.

“Very discouraging words to hear,”  Castro said. “Councilwoman Chan’s remarks obviously were hurtful and they are ignorant.”

In reaction to the delay in voting on a nondiscrimination ordinance, GetEQUAL TX issued a travel advisory for the city that expires on Sept. 6, the day after the scheduled vote.

“This alert has been issued based on the fact that San Antonio — the 7th largest city in the country — refuses to pass a non-discrimination ordinance that would protect LGBT travelers from discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity,” the organization wrote in a press release.

—  David Taffet

San Antonio delays LGBT protections

Julian Castro

Mayor Julian Castro

Evangelical protesters and LGBT equality advocates clashed at San Antonio City Hall this week, and a proposal to add sexual orientation, gender identity and veteran status to the city’s nondiscrimination policy was delayed in committee.

According to a Human Rights Campaign field organizer who has been in the city since January working on the ordinance, the protesters thought the city was debating same-sex marriage.

Mayor Julian Castro said San Antonio is lagging behind Dallas, Fort Worth and Austin, which already have LGBT protections.

“I believe that we cannot have second-class citizens in this city,” Castro said. “If you are for this ordinance you are against discrimination. If you are against this ordinance you are for discrimination.”

“The question is, do we believe that people should reserve the legal right to discriminate against them for being who they are?” Councilmember Diego Bernal said. “And I think for the most part, we all agree that the answer is no.”

The committee voted unanimously to have the city attorney draft the changes to the city ordinance and send the proposal to the full council for discussion, QSanAntonio reported. The changes would cover public accommodations, fair housing, city employment, city contracts and appointments to city boards and commissions.

Councilman Dan Medina, who is an evangelical Christian and has voted against LGBT proposals in the past, wanted the proposal to remain in committee another month. He is in a runoff with a candidate who supports the proposal.

—  David Taffet

Stonewall Democrats of San Antonio withholds endorsement of Julian Castro

Mayor Julian Castro

Mayor Julian Castro

Stonewall Democrats of San Antonio did not endorse Mayor Julian Castro in his re-election bid.

Castro signed a Freedom to Marry pledge last year along with mayors from Austin, Houston and several San Antonio suburbs. In his keynote speech at the Democratic Convention, he said gays and lesbians have a right to marriage equality. And he was the first mayor of his city to march in a Pride parade, serving as grand marshal.

But when Stonewall sent him a questionnaire this year, the mayor refused to sign it. According to the San Antonio Express News, Castro just doesn’t like these type of surveys.

“First, I don’t like those surveys, the ones that say, ‘Yes or no,’” Castro told the newspaper. “They don’t need to read a survey. They just need to read my record.”

—  David Taffet

Could TX elect a lesbian governor?

Mayor Annise Parker polled 40 percent against Gov. Rick Perry’s 47 percent in a Public Policy Polling poll

Public Policy Polling’s latest indicates that Texans are ready for a change in the governor’s office. The polling outfit looked at everyone from one of the LGBT community’s staunchest opponents to a member of the LGBT community.

Of Republican Primary voters, 41 percent want Gov. Rick Perry to run for another term while 47 percent want someone else. Among Texans in general, 31 percent favor another Perry term while 61 percent don’t.

Attorney General Greg Abbott is the governor’s closest opponent and trails Perry by just 3 points. But Abbott doesn’t have good name recognition. Among voters who know him, he leads 55 to 33 percent. (Abbott is perhaps best know in the LGBT community for challenging two same-sex divorces.)

The poll shows that Democrats have a better chance to taking the governor’s mansion if Perry wins the Republican Primary.

Against three Democrats, Perry would get 47 percent of the vote, according to PPP. San Antonio Mayor Julian Castro polls 42 percent, State Sen. Wendy Davis would get 41 percent and Houston Mayor Annise Parker would get 40 percent.

Castro was a strong supporter of nondiscrimination in San Antonio. Davis ran for re-election last year with support from Equality Texas and Stonewall Democrats of Tarrant County. Parker, who is lesbian, is in her second term as mayor, making Houston the largest city with an LGBT person at the helm.

None of the Democrats has indicated whether they have interest in running for governor yet. Abbott has told supporters he plans to run.

The general election will be in November 2014.

—  David Taffet

San Antonio mayor appoints LGBT liaison in response to city’s MEI score

Adam Greenup

After reviewing San Antonio’s score on the Human Rights Campaign’s new Municipal Equality Index, Mayor Julian Castro took action in appointing a mayoral LGBT liaison to keep him informed about LGBT issues.

San Antonio scored a 48 out of 100, compared to Austin’s 91 score and Dallas’ 76.

“We weren’t last in Texas, but our score showed room for improvement,” Castro told the San Antonio Express-News.

Castro appointed Adam Greenup last week. He currently serves as senior policy adviser to Castro and will continue in that role in addition to his new duties as LGBT liaison.

Greenup has worked with the LGBT community during his time as chief of staff for Councilwoman Mary Alice Cisneros.

“My life experiences have provided me a good foundation to connect with members of the LGBT community and groups that feel like they are underrepresented in the community,” he said. “I am a familiar face a lot of members of the community feel comfortable going to.”

HRC reports on its blog that Greenup hasn’t wasted any time getting to know people in his new role as LGBT liaison for the mayor, attending a local HRC Steering Committee after his appointment.

“The local San Antonio LGBT community and HRC are thrilled that Mayor Castro took this important step,” HRC regional field director Karin Quimby writes.

While Dallas officials have pledged to increase the city’s score by 10 percent this year, no specific initiatives have been announced yet.

—  Dallasvoice

DNC keynoter Julian Castro has been strong LGBT ally in San Antonio

Mayor Julian Castro at San Antonio’s gay Pride in 2009 (via the San Antonio Express-News).

San Antonio Mayor Julian Castro, who keynotes the Democratic National Convention tonight, has been a friend to the LGBT community since he was elected in 2009.

Soon after he was elected, Castro became the first mayor of that city to serve as grand marshal of the Pride Parade.

When a Christian radio station talk show host organized a protest of Castro’s participation in Pride, Castro responded firmly about where he stood.

“To equate lesbians and gays with something immoral is just wrong,” he said.

Earlier this year, Castro signed the Freedom to Marry Pledge.

“Today I proudly joined the mayors of Houston, Austin, New York, Chicago, Boston, Los Angeles and more than 60 other American mayors of cities big and small in support of the ‘Mayors for the Freedom to Marry’ petition for same-sex marriage equality,” Castro wrote on his Facebook page the day he signed the pledge.

Last September, Castro spearheaded a push to offer domestic partner benefits in his city, which passed the City Council on a 8-3 vote. The item was originally part of the general city budget but was pulled out as a separate item and council members were able to comment on it.

“This is not a new issue — this should have be done some time ago,” Castro said, speaking in support of DP benefits.

Speaking to Stonewall Democrats in 2009, Castro told the group there are no second-class citizens in San Antonio.

When he speaks tonight, Castro will become the first Hispanic keynote speaker at a national Democratic or Republican convention. His 15-minute speech is being compared to President Barack Obama’s speech at the 2004 Democratic Convention that began his rise to the White House even before he was elected to the Senate that November.

In his keynote address, Castro is expected to talk about striving for the American Dream. Earlier in the evening, delegates are expected to approve a platform with a number of pro-LGBT planks, including marriage equality. Castro will be speaking to a crowd that includes more LGBT delegates than have ever attended a Democratic convention. There was no advance word about whether Castro would include LGBT issues in his speech, which is set for 9 p.m. Central time.

—  David Taffet

Fort Worth’s Betsy Price won’t sign marriage pledge; N. Texas still has no mayors on list

Fort Worth Mayor Betsy Price in the Tarrant County Pride Parade last year.

In case you missed it, Fort Worth Mayor Betsy Price issued a statement the other day saying she doesn’t plan to sign a pledge in support of same-sex marriage. Although Price is a Republican, she expressed support for the LGBT community during her campaign last year and served as grand marshal of the Tarrant County Gay Pride Parade in October. On the marriage pledge issue, however, Price is a taking similar tack to Dallas Mayor Mike Rawlings:

“I remain focused on the business of the City of Fort Worth,” Price said in a statement. “The issue of same sex marriage is one for the state, not local government.”

Six Texas mayors have now joined about 100 others from across the U.S. in signing the pledge in support of same-sex marriage, according to Freedom to Marry. But none of those six is from North Texas, which is kinda sad. After all, Dallas-Fort Worth is the fourth-largest metropolitan area in the U.S., so you’d think we’d have a least one name on the list. As it stands, Bexar County is leading the way in the Lone Star State with three mayors who’ve signed the pledge: Julian Castro of San Antonio, Bruce Smiley-Kalff of Castle Hills (pop. 4,202) and A. David Marne of Shavano Park (pop. 1,754). The other three mayors from Texas are Annise Parker of Houston, Joe Jaworski of Galveston and Lee Leffingwell of Austin.

Stay tuned to Instant Tea for coverage of tonight’s protest outside Dallas City Hall and Saturday’s meeting between Mayor Rawlings and LGBT leaders. I’ll also do my best to keep you updated on Twitter, where someday I hope to have 1,000 followers.

—  John Wright