Vonciel Hill sparks largest rally ever in Dallas’ black LGBT community

#RevLOVE - 13

In what one longtime activist called the largest rally in the history of the local black LGBT community, about 50 people gathered in a South Dallas parking lot on Saturday morning to voice their objections to City Councilwoman Vonciel Hill’s anti-gay comments last week concerning an HIV prevention billboard.

The billboard, part of the Greater Than AIDS campaign, features a black man with his arms around another black man and says, “UPDATE YOUR STATUS.”

Hill, who is African-American and virulently anti-gay, told a TV news station that she objected to the billboard in her district because she believes it sends the message that homosexuality is “acceptable.”

Saturday’s rally, which had as its theme a hashtag, #RevLOVE, was held under temporary awnings erected in the parking lot of Abounding Prosperity, an HIV/AIDS agency in the heart of South Dallas at Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard and SM Wright Freeway. Harold Steward, who organized the rally, explained to those who braved 90-degree heat that the hashtag #RevLOVE is based on a line from pioneering gay black activist Joseph Beam’s book, In The Life.

“Black men loving black men is the revolutionary act,” Beam wrote.

“We have been here before,” Steward told the crowd. “If we have to we will plaster our faces and lives and our loves on every billboard in America. We will love in this revolutionary way until our haters catch up with our history.”

—  John Wright

Texas Senate didn’t take up transgender marriage ban today — but may take it up on Tuesday

The Texas Senate adjourned today without taking up SB 723, the bill by Sen. Tommy Williams, R-The Woodlands, that could prevent transgender people from marrying people of the opposite sex in Texas.

SB 723, apparently prompted by the Nikki Araguz case, would remove a “court order of sex change” from the list of identifying documents that can be used to obtain marriage licenses in Texas. And while transgender people could still theoretically use their driver’s licenses to obtain marriage licenses, advocates say the “legislative intent” of Williams’ bill would allow courts to declare those marriages invalid. Moreover, they say the bill could effectively lead to the state refusing to recognize the existence of transgender people for any purpose.

“If SB 723 gets a favorable vote it will enshrine Littleton vs Prange (1999) logic — you are what the doctor put on your birth certificate — into Texas State law,” writes Meghan Stabler, a transgender woman from Round Rock who serves on the Board of Directors for the Human Rights Campaign. “This will lay the foundation for the State of Texas to cease to recognize the transitioned status of transgender people.”

The bill was on the Senate’s intent calendar for today, meaning it could have come up for a vote if two-thirds of the Senate agreed to consider it. While the Senate didn’t get to the bill today, it remains on the intent calendar, and advocates are continuing to ask people to call Democratic senators and ask them to vote against SB 723. Republicans are one vote short of a two-thirds majority in the Senate, meaning if no Democrats vote to take up the bill it will die.

Contact info for Democratic senators is after the jump.

—  John Wright

ACTION ALERT: Tell Senate Democrats to vote against bill to ban transgender marriage

dead firefighter's transgender wife
Nikki Araguz

As we noted below, the Texas Senate is slated to consider a bill Monday would effectively bar transgender people from marrying people of the opposite sex. The bill is a direct response to the case of transgender widow Nikki Araguz.

In order to take up the bill, the Senate must have 20 votes. Republicans are one vote short of a 20-vote majority, meaning they will need at least one Democratic vote.

The Transgender Education Network of Texas issued an action alert this morning for people to contact Senate Democrats and urge them to vote against Senate Bill 723 by Sen. Tommy Williams, R-The Woodlands. Here is contact information for Senate Democrats:

Mario Gallegos (512) 463-0106
Wendy Davis (512) 463-0110
Rodney G. Ellis (512) 463-0113
Kirk Watson (512) 463-0114
John Whitmire (512) 463-0115
Carlos I. Uresti (512) 463-0119
Juan “Chuy” Hinojosa (512) 463-0120
Judith Zaffirini (512) 463-0121
Royce West (512) 463-0123
Leticia R. Van de Putte (512) 463-0126
Eduardo A. (Eddie) Lucio, Jr. (512) 463-0127
José R. Rodríguez (512) 463-0129

—  John Wright

Bill would ease sexting penalties, but consensual gay sex can still be a felony for teens in Texas

Attorney General Greg Abbott

Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott is endorsing legislation that would ease criminal penalties for teens who are convicted of sexting — transmitting explicit photos of themselves or other minors using computers and mobile devices.

Currently, teens who send or receive photos of someone who is underage can be charged with third-degree felony child pornography, punishable by up to 10 years in prison, and forced to register as sex offenders for the rest of their lives.

Under SB 408, which was filed today, sexting would become a class-C misdemeanor for first-time violators who are under 18.

“Studies show that teenage students are increasingly taking, sending and receiving explicit pictures of themselves on their mobile telephones,” Abbott said in a press release. “This dangerous trend is harmful to young Texans. We are joining with Sen. Kirk Watson to address the growing problem of sexting and educate – not criminalize – young Texans who make the unwise decision to participate in it.”

For once we agree with Abbott here. This bill makes sense for both straight and LGBTQ teens, and perhaps especially for gay teens in the age of Grindr, etc.

But if our attorney general truly supports the concept of not criminalizing teens, he should also support efforts to fix the state’s discriminatory age-of-consent laws, commonly referred to as “Romeo and Juliet” provisions.

As we’ve noted before, if a 17-year-old MALE has consensual sexual contact with a 16-year-old MALE in Texas, the older individual can be charged with a second-degree felony and sentenced to up to 20 years in prison. On the other hand, if the older individual is MALE and the younger person is FEMALE (or vice versa), the older person can argue an “affirmative defense” and have the charge dismissed on that basis.

In other words, while SB 408 would make sexting a class-C misdemeanor, gay teens who have consensual sex, unlike their straight peers, have no defense against a charge of indecency with a minor.

Rep. Garnet Coleman, D-Houston, has introduced bills in previous sessions that would fix this discriminatory law, but there’s no word on whether he plans to do so this year.

Even if he does, don’t expect Abbott to support it.

UPDATE: Coleman’s office confims that he does plan to file the bill again this year.

—  John Wright