Public input sought on non-discrimination amendment effort

Fairness Works Houston, a new organization formed to pass a proposed non-discrimination charter amendment in Houston, will hold a public meeting this Saturday, Feb. 25, to seek public input. As previously reported by Houstini, the proposed charter amendment, which is still being drafted, will remove discriminatory language added to the city charter in 1985 and 2001 and make it a crime to deny employment, housing or public accommodation to a person because of their “age, race, color, creed, religion, national origin, ancestry, disability, marital status, gender, gender identity or expression, sexual orientation, or physical characteristic.”

The meeting, scheduled for 1 pm at the GLBT Cultural Center (401 Branard) in rooms 112/113, looks to identify community resources that can be used both topass the amendment and to gather the 20,000 signatures that will be needed to place the amendment on the November ballot. Scheduled speakers include Noel Freeman, president of the Houston GLBT Political Caucus and Jenifer Rene Poole who chairs the Caucus’ committee on the proposed amendment.

—  admin

Measure would ban anti-LGBT discrimination in Houston

Charter amendment could also allow DP benefits for city workers

DANIEL WILLIAMS  |  Contributing Writer

HOUSTON — Long-brewing plans to place a city-wide non-discrimination policy before Houston voters became public this week.

Since December a coalition of organizations and leaders have been working to draft a city charter amendment that would make it illegal to discriminate in housing, employment or public accommodations on the basis of  “age, race, color, creed, religion, national origin, ancestry, disability, marital status, gender, gender identity or expression, sexual orientation, or physical characteristic.”

The amendment would also remove anti-LGBT language added to the Houston city charter in 1985 and 2001 — which could allow the City Council to vote to offer health benefits to the domestic partners of municipal employees.

Houston Mayor Annise Parker, who famously became the only out LGBT person elected mayor of a major American city in 2009, has declined to comment on the proposed charter amendment until the language is finalized. She told the Houston Chronicle: “I believe it’s important for the city of Houston to send a signal to the world that we welcome everybody and that we treat everybody equally, and depending on the elements of what was actually in it, I might or might not support it,”

According to Equality Texas Executive Director Dennis Coleman, the prospect of Houston voters approving the non-discrimination amendment has ramifications for efforts to pass similar measures in the state Legislature.

“Nondiscrimination in Houston builds a better case for us when we go for nondiscrimination in Austin,” said Coleman. “To be able to tell representatives that they represent areas that already support these efforts is very helpful.”

The cities of Austin, Dallas and Fort Worth all already have similar nondiscrimination ordinances and offer DP benefits to employees.

But Houston’s form of governance makes this effort unique. While the City Council is empowered to pass city ordinances covering issues of discrimination, they can be overturned by popular vote if those opposing the ordinance collect 20,000 signatures to place the issue on the ballot.

That was the case in 1985 after Houston Mayor Kathy Whitmire pushed through the council the city’s first protections for gay and lesbian Houstonians (no protections were provided for the bisexual or transgender communities).

A coalition of right-wing voters led by Louie Welch, then president of the Houston Chamber of Commerce, was able to place the issue on a city-wide ballot, claiming the policy “promoted the homosexual lifestyle.” The group also recruited a “straight slate” of candidates to run against City Council members who had favored the protections, with Welch running against Whitmire.

The public vote on nondiscrimination was held in June 1985 and Welch’s forces prevailed, but the city’s temperament had changed by the time of the City Council and mayoral races in November. A comment of Welch’s that the solution to the AIDS crisis was to “shoot the queers” was aired on local TV and few in Houston wished to be associated with him after that. The “straight slate” failed to capture a single City Council seat and Whitmire remained mayor, but the defeat of the city’s nondiscrimination policy remained.

By 1998 Houston had changed: Annise Parker was serving as the city’s first out lesbian city council member and Houston boasted the state’s first out gay judge, John Paul Barnich. Mayor Lee Brown, sensing the change, issued an executive order protecting LGBT city employees from employment discrimination. But the city had not changed that much. Councilman Rob Todd led efforts to fight the order in court, arguing that since voters rejected city-wide protections from discrimination in 1985, it was inappropriate for the mayor to institute them without voter approval. The city spent the next three years defending the policy in court, finally emerging victorious.

The joy of that 2001 victory would be shortlived, however. That year Houston’s voters approved another amendment to the city charter, this time prohibiting the city from providing domestic partner benefits for city employees. In a narrow defeat, just over 51 percent of voters decided that the city should not offer competitive benefits.

The current proposed non-discrimination amendment would remove the language added in 1985 and 2001. While it would provide non-discrimination protections it would not require the city to offer benefits of any kind to the spouses of LGBT city employees, leaving that question back in the hands of the City Council.

The organizers of the current effort are confident that this year is the year for victory.

Noel Freeman, the president of the Houston GLBT Political Caucus, which is spearheading the effort, explains that the previous votes occurred in “non-presidential years,”when voter turnout in general is low, and conservative voters make up a larger percentage of the electorate.

Additionally, polling by Equality Texas in 2010 showed that 80 percent of Houstonians support employment protections for gay and lesbian people.

In order to place the non-discrimination amendment on the November ballot the coalition supporting it will need to collect 20,000 signatures of registered Houston voters and submit them to the city clerk. Freeman says that the final charter amendment language is still under consideration and that once it is finalized the group will begin collecting signatures.

Even former Councilman Todd, who once fought the city’s policy of non-discrimination for LGBT employees, supports the current effort.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition February 17, 2012.

—  Michael Stephens

“Head Figure Head” more about journalism than about Gov. Rick Perry’s sex life

Head Figure Head, the new e-book from Glen Maxey, details the author’s arduous and frustrating six-month effort to investigate rumors of Gov. Rick Perry’s gay sex life. Maxey served as executive director of the Lesbian/Gay Rights Lobby of Texas (now Equality Texas) during Perry’s tenure as a state representative, later serving for 12 years as a state representative, spanning Perry’s time as agricultural commissioner, lieutenant governor and governor. Of all the people who’ve attempted to look into the rumors of Perry’s trysts with men, Maxey is perhaps best positioned to get to the truth, and takes great pains to ensure we are aware of that fact.

The book is the narrative of Maxey’s research, assisted by a journalist from a national media outlet. Like almost every character in the book other than Maxey and Perry himself, “the Journalist” is referred to only as a pseudonym. Maxey and the Journalist begin their search for proof in June 2011 as rumors of Perry’s impending presidential bid are widely circulating. Immediately the pair find that almost every gay man in Austin has a friend who has a friend who claims to have slept with Perry. For the next three months they track those leads and come excruciatingly close to breaking the story.

—  admin

Movie Monday: ‘Weekend’ at the Magnolia

Start week out with the ‘Weekend’

Weekend conjures moments of early Gus Van Sant, like My Own Private Idaho and Drugstore Cowboy: It’s full of textures and naturalistic moments that feel unforced. Haigh is a master of long takes that are voyeuristic without seeming prurient. When Glen and Russell meet up again, their banter is both meaningless and confessional, which creates a palpable tension. Their body language points to hormones racing, but they are determined not to make this relationship only about sex, even though the sexual energy is undeniable. This makes the scenes romantic and erotic, and when they explode with passion, you don’t feel like the director has inserted a de rigueur sex scene, but encapsulated the dynamics of the hookup-turned-real-relationship dance (including the slightly scary obsessiveness of “Is this the one?” angst).

Read the entire review here.

—  Rich Lopez

Southwest issues follow-up statement on Leisha Hailey incident

The Internet is out at the house (screw you, AT&T), so I’m attempting to post this from my phone (wish me luck). Below is a follow-up statement from Southwest Airlines regarding Monday’s incident involving Leisha Hailey. Note that the statement says the incident occurred in El Paso, as opposed to St. Louis, as previously reported. I can’t post the link here, but what is it about El Paso and same-sex kissing? Anyhow below is the statement. I’ll try to get more when I’m back on the grid in the a.m.

Updated Information Regarding Customers Removed from Flight 2274

Additional reports from our Employees and Customers onboard flight 2274 during a stop in El Paso on Sunday now confirm profane language was being used loudly by two passengers. At least one family who was offended by the loud profanity moved to another area of the cabin. Although we have reports of what Customers characterize as an excessive public display of affection, ultimately their aggressive reaction led to their removal from the aircraft. We do not tolerate discrimination against anyone for any reason. In this situation, their removal was directly and solely related to the escalated conversation that developed onboard the aircraft.

Our tenets of inclusion and celebration of diversity among our Customers and Employees—including those in the LGBT communities—anchor our Culture of mutual respect and following the Golden Rule. The more than 100 million people who fly Southwest each year reflect the great diversity of our country and our Company — and ALL are valued and welcome. In fact, we’ve been recognized as a leader in diversity throughout our 40 years of service.

Our Customer Advocacy Team reached out to extend goodwill and a full refund for an experience that fell short of the passengers’ expectation.

—  John Wright

Senate could vote Wednesday on Defense bill with DADT language

UPDATE at 12:08 AM with additional reporting from Kerry Eleveld:

Senate majority leader Harry Reid may bring to a vote on Wednesday the National Defense Authorization Act with “don’t ask, don’t tell” repeal attached, according to a source familiar with the negotiations.

Democrats might make use of a narrow window of down time if the four bills scheduled for a vote Wednesday fail to garner the 60 votes necessary to proceed to debate. Those bills include a firefighters collective bargaining bill, the DREAM Act, a 9/11 firefighters health compensation measure, and a measure extending a one-time 0 payment to senior citizens. If all fail, the NDAA could be brought to a vote by sometime Wednesday afternoon.

The strategy is still preliminary but the source said the White House had begun to engage on the issue and President Barack Obama intends to make calls to key GOP targets.

That’s the first time we’ve heard the news about Obama making calls. Makes this seem more real. And, by that, I mean the prospects for the vote seem real.
____________________
This story is breaking tonight. DADT could be on the Senate floor tomorrow. Via John Stanton at Roll Call:

With President Barack Obama’s tax cut deal with Republicans running into stiff Democratic resistance and a long-term continuing resolution for government spending still days away, if Republicans filibuster those bills as expected, the chamber will not have any pending business.

As a result, Democratic aides said, Reid could opt to return the defense authorization bill to the floor, which includes the repeal of the “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy.

It is unclear whether Democrats would have enough votes to break a filibuster on that bill — a number of Republicans support repeal, while some Democrats oppose it.

But even if he does have the votes, Reid could be forced to drop the issue altogether once his Caucus comes to terms with the tax cut deal. With less than two weeks until the Senate is expected to adjourn, Republican opponents could drag out the DADT debate for days, eating up time needed to pass the tax cuts and continuing resolution before Christmas.

Stay tuned.




AMERICAblog Gay

—  admin

WH and Reid: Defense Authorization bill with DADT language will move to Senate floor in lame duck

I’m just going to post this entire joint press release from SLDN, HRC and CAPAF:

Key Senate leadership and Administration officials this evening met with representatives of the Human Rights Campaign (HRC), Servicemembers Legal Defense Network (SLDN), and the Center for American Progress Action Fund (CAPAF). The officials told the groups that Majority Leader Harry Reid and President Obama are committed to moving forward on repeal by bringing the National Defense Authorization Act – the bill to which “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” repeal is attached – to the floor in the lame duck session after the Thanksgiving recess. Further the Majority Leader and the President made clear their opposition to removing the DADT provision from the NDAA. Information on the exact timing and procedural conditions will be announced by the Majority Leader’s office.

Present at the meeting with representatives from HRC, SLDN and CAPAF were: Jim Messina, Deputy White House Chief of Staff; Phil Schiliro, White House Director of Legislative Affairs; Chris Kang, Special Assistant to the President for Legislative Affairs; Brian Bond, Deputy Director of the White House Office of Public Engagement; David Krone, Chief of Staff to Majority Leader Reid; and Serena Hoy, Senior Counsel to Majority Leader Reid.

Interesting that the White House and Reid’s office were willing to name the participants of the meeting. Apparently, this is supposed to signal that they’re all really engaged. Better late then never, I guess.

Let’s not get too excited. This is just one step forward. There are still many hurdles to get over. The President, the Majority Leader and all of these meeting participants have a lot of work to do to make sure the bill get to the Senate floor — and passes.

The key to success lies in “the exact timing and procedural conditions.” We keep hearing that the Senate wants to go adjourn on December 10th. That can’t happen if this effort is going to succeed.

Greg Sargent is right: Action on DADT “could still happen, if the Dem leadership tries to make it happen.”




AMERICAblog Gay

—  admin

Greg Sargent: DADT language could pass ‘if the Dem leadership tries to make it happen’

Via Greg Sargent, news that passing the DADT language is possible, but it will take some commitment from the Majority Leader:

It’s widely assumed that the White House and Dems will punt on holding a vote on Don’t Ask Don’t Tell during the lame duck session because there aren’t 60 votes for it in the Senate to get it past a GOP filibuster. Senator Carl Levin, who heads the relevant committee, is talking about separating out DADT repeal from the Defense Authorization Bill for precisely this reason.

But very plugged in staffers who are actively involved in counting votes for Senators who favor repeal tell me it’s premature to conclude this — and that it could still get 60 votes in the Senate. These staffers tell me they’ve received private indications from a handful of moderate GOP Senators that they could vote for cloture on a Defense Authorization Bill with DADT repeal in it — if Dem leaders agree to hold a sustained debate on DADT on the Senate floor.

Here’s why this is important: It throws the ball back into the court of Senator Harry Reid and the White House. It means the onus is on them, mainly on Reid, to agree to a two-week Senate debate on the bill, including allowing amendments. Reid had previously tried to limite amendments, leading GOP moderates to balk. And Dem leaders may not want to allow this two week debate now, because time is short and it could prolong the session. But they should do it, because it’s the only real chance to get repeal done. And it could get done.

The GOP Senators who are in play, according to these staffers, are Richard Lugar, George Voinovich, Olympia Snowe and Susan Collins. A spokesman for Lugar, Mark Helmke, tells me that Lugar would vote for cloture if Reid staged “ordered debate on a number of issues in the bill.”

Our allies, from the White House to Capitol Hill, keep saying they want to pass the Defense bill with the DADT language intact. Okay, do it.

This means that Congress can’t go home on December 10th. Senators will may have to work right up til Christmas, you know, like most Americans do (and, unlike most Americans, those Senators can’t change their plane reservations without penalties and most don’t have to worry about finding a parking space at the airport.)

There are two other developments worth noting. Greg Sargent also reports:

Sources also tell me that senators Joe Lieberman, Mark Udall and Kirsten Gillibrand will hold a press conference tomorrow urging the Dem leadership to allow the final two-week debate, arguing that this still can happen. This is no small thing: They are urging their own party leadership to do this.

And, via Kerry Eleveld, according to the White House, the President and his staffers are making calls to Senators:

“Today, President Obama called Chairman [Carl] Levin to reiterate his commitment on keeping the repeal of ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’ in the National Defense Authorization Act, and the need for the Senate to pass this legislation during the lame duck. The President’s call follows the outreach over the past week by the White House to dozens of Senators from both sides of the aisle on this issue.”




AMERICAblog Gay

—  admin

Mormon Handbook To Use Softer Language On Gays

The guideline changes in the handbook will be announced today during a large get-together of Mormon leaders. The Salt Lake Tribune reports:

Mormon The book, known as the Church Handbook of Instructions, lays out Mormon policies on everything from baptism to running a worship service to counseling troubled marriages.

The updated reference book, scheduled to be presented to thousands of Mormon leaders in a giant televised training session Saturday, will set the tone for church interactions for years to come.

The new handbook makes a clear distinction between same-sex orientation and behavior. It eliminates the suggestion, mentioned in a 2006 edition, that same-sex relationships "distort loving relationships" and that gays should repent of their "homosexual thoughts or feelings."

It also says that celibate gay Mormons who are "worthy and qualified in every other way" should be allowed to have "callings," or church assignments, and to participate fully in temple rituals.

The handbook simply repeats what top LDS leaders have been trying to say, but in more explicit terms that many members will understand, said David Pruden, president of Evergreen International, a support group that helps gay Mormons live by church standards.

Joanna Brooks of the website Religion Dispatches looks at the impact of the changes: "The new CHI does not offer institutional welcome or affirmation to LGBT people who want to live full lives as LGBT people. It maintains that 'homosexual behavior' is sinful. It does not create space for LGBT Mormons to attend church on Sunday with their partners, as I am able to do. But it does show institutional LDS movement on LGBT issues, most crucially—one hopes—for LDS LGBT young people who may have been brought up to despise themselves simply for having homosexual thoughts and feelings."

The changes in the guidelines are a start, but a very small one. You may remember that just last month the president of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, Boyd K. Packer, reiterated the church's anti-gay stance by declaring that "to enter into any relationship that is not in harmony with the principles of the Gospel must be wrong."


Towleroad News #gay

—  admin

Arkansas Republicans Go After HIV/AIDS Prevention Using Gay Baiting Language

It never ends.  It just gets worse and worse with these clowns.  Arkansas Republicans in the state legislature have decided to go after a program designed to reduce the spread of STDs like HIV among minorities and the LGBT community, specifically by attacking a state program that promotes condom usage and HIV testing among gay black man.  What's more, they're using some pretty foul gay-baiting tactics to do so.

The charge is a simple one.  The group, a non-profit called “Brothah's and Sistah's Inc.” got k from the state to test out new methods for fighting HIV/AIDS in minority communities.  Specifically, the group set up shop in a gay club geared towards African American gay men, and handed out condoms and did HIV tests.  At issue is whether or not the group handled ,000 of the k it recieved appropriately.  Fair enough.

However, Arkansas Republicans couldn't stop there.  According to sources, three members (more on them later) went beyond this.  One wondered aloud whether or not there were enough gay black men to be concerned about the project…another took the position that people engaged in “risky behavior” (being gay) should just deal with the consequences of their actions.  Republicans are already trying to turn this into a political issue, using gay-baiting language to smear Democrats.  Check the title of a recent blog post by a prominent Arkansas Republican blogger:

State Grant for Distributing Condoms at Gay Bar Stirs Controversy in Committee

All ready, Republican trolls are trying to tie this to state senator Joyce Elliott, a candidate for Congress in Arkansas and an LGBT ally because, get this, she's the state senator of the district where the gay club was located…I shit you not.

Republicans are determined to make an issue of this.  Arkansas progressive activists plan to do the same, but not the way the Republicans are hoping…stay tuned.

Pam’s House Blend – Front Page

—  John Wright