Remembering John Lawrence, the man behind Lawrence v. Texas

Lawrence

John Lawrence and Tyrone Gardner

Metro Weekly reports that one-time Houstonian John Geddes Lawrence, the “Lawrence” in Lawrence v. Texas, passed away last month at the age of 68:

“In the facts underlying the Supreme Court case, Lawrence v. Texas, Lawrence and Tyron Garner were arrested under Texas’s Homosexual Conduct Law after police entered Lawrence’s home on Sept. 17, 1998, and saw them “engaging in a sexual act.” The couple challenged the law as unconstitutional”

I was 22 and living in Dallas in 2003 when the Supreme Court issued its opinion in Lawrence declaring Texas’ law against “homosexual conduct” unconstitutional. A group of over 100 people gathered in the parking lot of the Resource Center of Dallas as Dennis Coleman, then with Lambda Legal, read excerpts of the decision. I remember the exuberant electricity in the air, the crowd bubbling with joy and the relief of centuries of official oppression finally coming to an end. Similar get-togethers took place across the state, as an entire community breathing a collective sigh of relief.

That relief has turn to frustration over the years. Although the Supreme Court decision rendered Penal Code Section 21.06 unconstitutional, the law remains on the books, and efforts to remove it have met with significant resistance. During a hearing this spring on finally removing the unconstitutional law, Rep. Jose Aliseda, R – Pleasanton, lamented that repeal of the law would entail removing portions of the Health Code requiring that HIV education efforts include information that “homosexual conduct is not an acceptable lifestyle and is a criminal offense under Section 21.06, Penal Code.”

Before Lawrence several attempts were made to remove the law against “homosexual conduct.” The Texas legislature voted to remove it from the penal code as part of a complete rewrite of the code in 1971, but the measure was vetoed by Gov. Preston Smith. In 1973 the Legislature again undertook a rewrite of the code, keeping “homosexual conduct” a crime but making it a class C misdemeanor. In 1981 a U.S. District Court ruled in Baker v. Wade that the law was unconstitutional, but as that case was winding its way through an unusually torturous appeals process the Supreme Court ruled in Bowers v. Hardwick that a similar law in Georgia was constitutional, making the questions in Baker moot. Similarly, in the 90′s there was hope that Texas v. Morales might finally prevail in defeating the “homosexual conduct” prohibition, but the Texas Supreme Court decided that since, in their opinion, the law was rarely enforced, there was no reason for them to rule in the matter.

Lawrence’s legacy lives on in a scholarship named after him and Garner administered by the Houston GLBT Community Center. The scholarship “recognizes outstanding leadership shown by gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender Texas high school seniors and college
students by contributing to the cost of their continuing education. Selection is based upon character and need.” Tim Brookover, president of the community center, expressed sorrow at Lawrence’s passing “John was a hero, the community owes a great debt of gratitude to John and Tyrone for taking the case all the way to the Supreme Court,” said Brookover. “They could have easily allowed it to slip away, but they decided to stay and fight and that makes them heroes and role models.”

The application deadline for the John Lawrence/Tyrone Gardner Scholarship is March 2, 2012.

—  admin

A win-win arrangement

The generosity of Bert Gallagher and Hudson Ferus Vodka is paying off for the new company and for the LGBT community

gallagher-and-jacobson

Bert Gallagher

Tammye Nash  |  Senior Editor
nash@dallasvoice.com

Gay Realtor Brian Bleeker knows how difficult it can be to raise money for a cause. And he knows how difficult it is for someone planning a small-scale fundraiser to find corporate sponsors for those events.

It’s not that companies don’t want to help, Bleeker said. But they plan their budget, including their charitable giving, months in advance, usually too early for those planning smaller or last-minute events to apply. The companies also usually want a lot of information on the event so they can gauge what kind of return they expect on their investment. And that is often information that organizers for smaller events don’t really have.

And then Bleeker met Bert Gallagher, cofounder and co-owner of a relatively new company producing Hudson Ferus Vodka, and that changed. Bleeker said he met Bleeker through a representative for a local liquor distributor, and he invited Gallagher to attend a mixer for the DFW Federal Club.

“It was almost two years ago, and I think he was just really impressed by the amount of time and effort people were willing to put into something we believed in,” Bleeker said.

Gallagher asked to meet with Bleeker and other local organizers, and at that meeting, “He said, ‘What can I do to help?’

Before long Gallagher had joined the DFW Federal Club and the Lambda Legal Liberty Circle, and he was donating vodka to events for those organizations and more.

And although some might be amazed that a straight man is so willing to be involved in LGBT activism, for Gallagher, it’s a no-brainer.

Gallagher and his business partner Doug Jacobson had a publication based in San Antonio before they got into the vodka business, and their first real exposure to HIV/AIDS and LGBT activism came when they were asked to sponsor the Fashion Nation event benefiting AIDS service organizations in that city.

Working with Fashion Nation organizers, Gallagher said, “gave me the chance to see firsthand how events like that can impact people’s lives. We knew then that we wanted to continue to be involved in events like that.” And when he met Bleeker and other activists in Dallas, Gallagher saw a natural extension of that involvement for Hudson Ferus.

“It was so impressive to see how organized the people are, how galvanized they are to make a difference,” Gallagher said. “The work these organizations are doing is really amazing, and that feeling has been reinforced each and every time we have sponsored an event,” he said.

Gallagher and Bleeker said that the sponsorships are definitely a win-win arrangement: Event organizers get the chance to offer free drinks made with a premium vodka, giving those attending events the chance to donate more to the cause; and the folks at Hudson Ferus are seeing their popularity rising steadily in the LGBT community.

“Folks are going in to their favorite bars and asking for Hudson Ferus, and when enough people ask for it, the bars will start stocking it. That’s how we are getting into places,” Gallagher said.

Bleeker noted that he is constantly astounded by the generosity of Gallagher and Hudson Ferus. “He has given away hundreds, thousands even, of bottles of vodka,” Bleeker said.

But for Gallagher, again, it is a no-brainer. “To whom much is given, much is expected. We have been given so much, and this is one way to give back.”

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition December 23, 2011.

—  Kevin Thomas

Lambda Literary nominee Gregory G. Allen book signing at Krimson & Klover

On writing ‘Well’

Author Gregory G. Allen returns to Dallas from New York to sign his new book Well With My Soul about two brothers, one gay, coming to terms with each other. It even garnered a Lambda Literary nomination. Welcome home, sir.

DEETS: Krimson & Klover, 3111 Cole Ave., Ste 101. 5–7 p.m. GGAllen.net.

—  Rich Lopez

Teacher accuses TC College of discrimination

Gill says English Department chair at Northeast Campus told her the state and the school ‘do not like homosexuals’

Jacqueline “Jackie” Gill
Jacqueline “Jackie” Gill

TAMMYE NASH  |  Senior Editor
nash@dallasvoice.com

HURST — Jacqueline “Jackie” Gill filed suit Wednesday, Sept. 7, against a professor and a dean at Northeast Campus of Tarrant County College in Hurst, claiming that she was denied the opportunity to apply for a permanent, full- time teaching position there because of the English Department chair’s bias against what he perceived her sexual orientation to be.

Tarrant County College adopted a nondiscrimination policy prohibiting discrimination based on sexual orientation on March 9 of this year.

Frank Griffis, director of public relations and marketing for Tarrant County College, said it “would not be appropriate” for school officials to comment on pending litigation. He also said school officials had not yet been served with papers and therefore had not read the complaint.

Gill said she had worked as a full-time temporary English professor for about a year at the Northeast Campus. But when the position was to be made permanent, English Department Chair Eric Devlin refused to allow her to apply for the permanent position.

Gill said when she complained about Devlin to Northeast Campus Humanities Division Dean Antonio R. Howell, he initially seemed to side with her, but after speaking to Devlin, Howell refused to communicate further with her. Gill said although she is a lesbian and has never tried to hide that fact, she had never talked about her orientation with Devlin or anyone else at the school.

Both Devlin and Howell are named as co-defendants in the lawsuit.

Gill is represented in the lawsuit by Lambda Legal South Central Region staff attorney Ken Upton, joined by pro bono counsel Benjamin D. Williams from the law firm of Gibson, Dunn and Crutcher.

Gill and Upton held a press conference Wednesday to announce that the lawsuit had been filed earlier that morning in U.S. district court in Fort Worth. The press conference was held at a Hurst hotel located just a few blocks from the Tarrant County College campus where Gill had taught.

According to the complaint filed Wednesday, and statements Gill made during the press conference, Gill was first hired on a full time, temporary basis as an English professor on Aug. 21, 2009. A little more than a month later, at the end of October, a female “dual-enrollment” student — a high school student who was also taking college classes — in Gill’s distance learning class cheated by stealing an exam and skipped some classes.

The student’s high school counselor told Gill that the student has a history of disruptive behavior, and when the student dropped the class, Gill was told the situation was closed.

On Nov. 9, however, Devlin called Gill into his office and told her the student had accused Gill of “flirting” with female students. Gill denied the accusations, noting that there was always another teacher in the class at the same time.

That’s when Devlin responded with “a lengthy diatribe about homosexuals and how the Texas public views them,” according to the complaint. Gill said Devlin went on to say that Texas is a conservative state and TCC is a conservative school, and that “Texas and Tarrant County College do not like homosexuals.”

Gill continued to teach at TCC, receiving high praise and compliments from students and staff alike, including from Devlin. Then in May 2010, she and other full-time temporary professors were told by Howell that all seven temporary full- time positions were being made permanent, and that they were being re-designated as adjunct faculty until the permanent positions were filled.

Gill said Howell also encouraged her and the other temporary professors to apply for the permanent jobs. Gill applied for all seven but was the only one of the seven temporary professors not hired for the permanent positions. Gill said that she was, in fact, not even allowed to interview for any of the positions, even though her experience and credentials were as good as or better than those who were hired.

Gill said she met with Howell and told him about Devlin’s anti-gay comments and refusal to allow her to interview for the permanent positions. She said Howell promised her to discuss the situation with Devlin immediately, but that he never got back in touch with her.

She said she also got no response when she tried to discuss the situation with the vice president and president of Tarrant County College.

Gill continued to teach as an adjunct professor at the campus through December 2010, although, she said, Devlin’s attitude toward her became “even more hostile.”

And she said that although she was originally assigned classes for the 2011 spring term, as she was preparing for those classes she discovered she had been removed as the professor. When she inquired about the status of the class, Gill said, she was told that Devlin had specifically instructed that those classes be taken away from her.

Upton said that Devlin and Howell violated the equal protection clause of the U.S. Constitution by refusing to allow Gill to apply for the permanent teaching position. He said Gill’s suit is asking that she be allowed to complete the application process and that she be compensated for the time she has been unemployed.

Gill, who is a Ph.D. candidate at the University of Texas at Arlington, said she would love to get a teaching job with TCC, and while she would prefer to work at another campus, she is willing to go back to the Northeast Campus and work again in Devlin’s department.

“I worked hard. I earned it,” Gill said of the permanent position. “I have nothing to be ashamed of. If it [her working in Devlin’s department again] would be awkward for anyone, I think it would be awkward for him [Devlin] because he is the one who was in the wrong.”

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition September 9, 2011.

—  Michael Stephens

LANDMARK EVENT

SUCCESS | Lisa Blue Baron, center, keynote speaker for the Landmark Dinner held Aug. 13 at the W Hotel is pictured with Lambda Legal Leadership Committee member Brian Bleeker and Dallas County Sheriff Lupe Valdez. The event raised more than $120,000 for Lambda Legal. (Photo courtesy Debra Gloria)

—  John Wright

Spin 4 a Cause at Axiom Sushi tonight benefits Kidd’s Kids

Hey Mr. DJ

Don’t say music can’t bring people together. That’s the weekly goal of Spin 4 a Cause with DJ Jose G. Every Wednesday S4AC is intent on “bringing together community leaders, music and food to raise awareness and funds for local nonprofit chapters and organizations.” This week’s guest DJ is Derrick Brown and the night benefits Kidd’s Kids. So all that and happy hour drink specials? Umm, yes, please.

DEETS: Axiom Sushi Lounge,4123 Cedar Springs Road. 6 p.m. No cover.

—  Rich Lopez

Janssons to speak at Truth Wins Out event

KC, left, and Larry Jansson

KC and Larry Jansson, the subject of last week’s Valentine’s article, will speak in Memphis on Feb. 21. That stop is the end of a 12-city tour for Truth Wins Out founder Wayne Besen.

The event will highlight the harm caused by programs that claim to turn gay people straight through prayer and therapy, according to a Truth Wins of press release. Besen said he chose Memphis as his final stop because Exodus International’s flagship ministry, Love In Action, is based here. The Janssons met while participating in the six-month program at Love In Action.

They will share how they tried to “pray away the gay,” according to the press release. Well, maybe Larry did. He called himself the more brainwashed of the two. But KC thought the rules were a joke. He attended because his parents sent him and his choice was to be homeless.

Truth Wins Out wrote this:

Besen’s multi-media presentation offers a unique, innovative and entertaining look behind the mask of so-called “ex-gay” programs. Besen is the author of two books including the critically acclaimed, “Anything But Straight: Unmasking the Scandals and Lies Behind the Ex-Gay Myth”. He is also noted for photographing “ex-gay” poster boy John Paulk in a gay bar in Washington, DC and helping expose the late Rev. Jerry Falwell’s personal “ex-gay” activist Michael Johnston as a fraud.

The couple appeared on the Michelangelo Signorelli’s show on OutQ on Sirius radio today. Then on March 6, they will appear locally on Lambda Weekly on 89.3 KNON-FM at noon.

Larry called the attention they’ve gotten from the article overwhelming.

“It’s important to continue to speak out so that others don’t have to live through the pain we did,” said Larry. “It’s possible to live a happy and healthy life as gay.”

Sound like an “It Gets Better” video? They’re planning one soon.

—  David Taffet

Gay poets to be featured at SMU Lit Fest

Rick Barot and C. Dale Young have been announced as two of the eight writers scheduled for the SMU Literary Festival 2011.  The event will be held March 24–26 on the school’s campus.

Barot’s last book, 2009′s Want, was a collection of poetry Lambda Literary reviewer Brent Calderwood described as an “impressive collection.” And the excerpt he includes in the review is also kinda hot.

In “Theories of the Invisible,” Barot collages pithy, lush observations about art with the fleshly beauty of a man with whom the speaker shared a summer house. In pondering the nipple of a Greek sculpture, Barot notes the “deliberate / chiseling accorded even to the brailled / texture surrounding the stiff eraser-like tip” as well as “the prerogative no of the youth something I can only imagine, / no worked into the cold sinew, the utterly / soft cock.” In this way, Barot intimates that the speaker’s adoration for his summer housemate was also unrequited.

Young’s Torn is slated for a Spring release and perhaps right in time for the festival. He was a finalist for the 2007 Lambda Literary Award in poetry. And if that’s not enough, the guy is also a practicing physician and educator. He recently posted on his blog that Lambda Literary listed Torn as one of the “23 Highly Anticipated Books of 2011.”

The book is described on his site as an “earnest investigations into the human, depicted as both spiritual being and a process, as “the soul and its attendant concerns” and as a device that “requires charge, small / electrical impulses / racing through our bodies.” What Young tells and shows us, what his poems let us hear, does not aim to reassure or soothe. These are poems written from “white and yellow scraps / covered with words and words and more words— // I may never find the right words to describe this.”

Now you know.

—  Rich Lopez

Lambda Literary features photos from Joanne Santangelo’s ‘Proud to Serve’

Lambda Literary has featured several of the photos from Joanne Santangelo’s DADT photo exhibit titled, ‘Proud to Serve.’

You’ll recognize some of the faces and names from the battle to end DADT, including our own Tim Beauchamp.




AMERICAblog Gay

—  admin

Lambda Legal DOMA case heard in California

After the “don’t ask, don’t tell” win this week, mainstream media immediately looked for what we’d be after next. An ABC affiliate in California picked up on partner benefits.

A Lambda Legal case, Golinski v. US Office of Personnel Management, was heard before a district court judge in Northern California on Dec. 17.

“Here it’s very difficult for the government to justify giving unequal health insurance to employees that are doing equal work,” said Lambda Legal Marriage Project Director Jennifer Pizer.

The government’s case is based on the Defense of Marriage Act, which they claim is the basis for denying an employee’s partner health benefits.

In this case, Karen Golinski is an attorney who worked for the San Francisco Federal Appeals Court. She has been a federal employee for 19 years. In 2008, she married her partner. They have a 7-year-old son. Denying her wife benefits given other employees is discriminatory, she claims.

As in other recent cases, this one puts the Obama administration in the position of saying it supports the repeal of DOMA, then sending an attorney to defend the law. If Golinski wins, the ruling probably will apply only to her case.

—  David Taffet