Equality Texas action alert on anti-bullying bill

Equality Texas has issued an action alert calling on people to contact their representatives and urge them to vote in favor of HB 1942, an anti-bullying bill by State Rep. Diane Patrick, R-Arlington. The bill has been placed on the House General State Calendar for Monday. Click here to send an email to your state representative. Here’s the full text of Equality Texas’ alert:

ACTION ALERT

Vote is Monday, May 2nd on Anti-Bullying Bill HB 1942!

Fact: Time is running out on the Texas Legislature to pass meaningful legislation to address the loss of life associated with bullying, cyberbullying, and harassment. Barely over one month remains in the Session and lawmakers are focused on the budget and redistricting.

Fact: According to information compiled by the Texas School Safety Center at Texas State University – San Marcos, there have been four bullying-related suicides of Texas students since the 2009 Legislative Session when lawmakers also failed to pass meaningful legislation.

Fact: House Bill 1942 by Rep. Diane Patrick has just been placed on the House General State Calendar for Monday, May 2nd.

Fact: We need thousands of Texans to contact their State Representative now and urge passage of  House Bill 1942 by Rep. Diane Patrick .

We simply cannot allow the clock to run out again without taking meaningful action to protect the lives of Texas children.

Please act now.

Click here to send an email to your State Representative.

—  John Wright

Hundreds rally against Ind. marriage amendment

DEANNA MARTIN | Associated Press

INDIANAPOLIS — Several hundred people gathered Monday at the Indiana Statehouse to rally against a proposed constitutional amendment banning gay marriage and civil unions.

The “Equality for All Hoosiers” rally Monday came two days before a Senate committee meeting that will take up the issue. The Republican-controlled House already has approved the proposal, and the Republican-led Senate also is expected to pass it.

But those at the rally said the amendment would write discrimination into Indiana’s constitution. They’re urging lawmakers to vote against the proposal and voters to pay attention to those votes during the next election cycle.

If the General Assembly approves the proposed amendment this year, it would have to pass again in 2013 or 2014 to be on the ballot in 2014.

—  John Wright

Lawmakers to file DOMA repeal Wednesday

Federal District Judge Joseph Tauro in Massachusetts has ruled — in two separate cases, no less — that the federal Defense of Marriage Act is unconstitutional.

President Barack Obama has said that DOMA is unconstitutional and the Justice Department, under his administration, will no longer defend it in court.

Republican Speaker of the House John Boehner has said that the House of Representatives will defend DOMA in court since the Obama administration won’t.

And now, a group of five U.S. senators is set to introduce legislation to repeal DOMA.

Democratic Sens. Dianne Feinstein of California, Patrick Leahy of Vermont, Kirsten Gillibrand of New York, Christopher Coons of Delaware and Richard Blumenthal of Connecticut will officially announce their DOMA repeal bill in a press conference at 2 p.m. EST on Wednesday in the Senate Office Building.

Of course, with Republicans in charge of the House already having announced their plans to defend DOMA in court, and a narrow Democratic majority in the Senate, it’s not likely that Obama will get to keep his campaign promise this year. Still, it’s nice to know DOMA repeal is still on the agenda.

—  admin

YFT plans new lobby effort

YFT
SPEAKING UP | Members of Youth First Texas gather in Sen. Florence Shapiro’s office on Monday, March 7, as part of Equality Texas’ Lobby Day efforts. The teens visited lawmakers to tell their personal stories of bullying and harassment in order to get support of anti-bullying measures now being considered by the Legislature. (David Taffet/Dallas Voice)

Teens tell lawmakers personal stories of bullying, suicide attempts

DAVID TAFFET  |  Staff Writer
taffet@dallasvoice.com

Ten teens from Youth First Texas went to Austin to talk to legislators about anti-bullying legislation on March 7. They joined about 350 LGBT activists and allies from around the state who came for Equality Texas lobby day.

Equality Texas executive director Dennis Coleman talked to the group about coming back to Austin later in the session to testify before committees that will hear testimony about the proposed laws.

As they rehearsed their stories, trying to pare them down to one minute each, the teens realized that they wouldn’t be able to speak to every representative and senator personally. But because they believed their personal stories could make a difference in the way lawmakers vote, the teens began brainstorming on how to get their stories out.

They came up with the idea of recording their stories to DVD to send to each senator and representative. The teens planned to start the project as soon as they returned to Dallas.

The group’s first stop in the Capitol on Monday was the office of Sen. Florence Shapiro of Plano, who represents the district in which three of the teens live.

YFT member Giancarlo Mossi, one of the three living in Shapiro’s district, began telling the group’s story to two legislative aides. He said he was regularly called a faggot at Plano Senior High School, and other students threw things at him on the bus.

Reporting it didn’t make a difference and the harassment continued through graduation, Mossi said.

Pierce Magnus is still in school. He walks with a cane and said he has always been treated differently. At best, other students give him the coldshoulder, something that’s been going on since middle school. At one point, he tried to kill himself.

After his suicide attempt failed, Magnus said, he was put in an institution and is now on medication. He blames the suicide attempt on bullying and harassment by other students and the indifference with which the school staff reacted.

“That’s a terrible way to go through high school,” Magnus said.

Alice Nightingale said that her high school teachers know how she’s treated and don’t do anything about it.

“I stood up for myself once and got suspended,” she said. “It seems like we try and just do more harm.”

Magnus and Nightingale also live in Shapiro’s district.

The students were lobbying lawmakers to vote for Asher’s Law, Rep. Garnet Coleman’s anti-bullying bill that he renamed this week and reintroduced into the Texas House of Representatives. Sen.

Wendy Davis of Fort Worth introduced anti-bullying legislation in the Senate that will be heard in Shapiro’s education committee.

Mossi said that passing Asher’s Law was crucial.

“I try to let people know they’re not alone,” he said. “But I’m not in high school anymore.”

Magnus said that YFT is a safe space, but “Passing this law will make schools a safe space, too.”

Sen. John Carona’s office was the group’s next stop. Carona represents Richardson, the Park Cities, parts of Garland and most of North Dallas. Other YFT members explained their experiences to Carona’s staff.

Elliott Puckett said that when he was attacked in the bathroom at his high school, the principal told him he brought it on himself.

“I’ve been through so much bullying,” said YFT member William Morvant, “I almost became one of those statistics.”

He tried killing himself three times, he said.

“I’ll be graduating from school soon,” Morvant said. “But I don’t want others going through this.”

Morvant was among those who had also spoken at a Dallas Independent School District meeting before their new anti-bullying policy was adopted.

After their morning lobbying session, the group walked across the Capitol lawn toward First United Methodist Church on Lavaca Street, where Equality Texas provided lunch.

They returned to speak to more legislators in the afternoon and stayed through Tuesday for a second day of lobbying.

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

—  Kevin Thomas

What’s Brewing: Marriage updates from Maryland, New Hampshire; poll shows U.S. evenly divided

Sam Arora

Your weekday morning blend from Instant Tea:

1. A marriage equality bill once thought to be assured of passage in the Maryland House remains stalled in committee, with lawmakers who once supported the measure now wavering under intense pressure from the religious right. The most notable flip-flopper is Democrat Sam Arora, who campaigned on his support for the bill but now says he’ll vote against it on the floor.

2. New Hampshire lawmakers put off until next year consideration of proposals to repeal marriage equality, saying they want to focus on fiscal issues first. A House committee voted 15-0 to retain the repeal bills until 2012, and LGBT advocates are disappointed the measures weren’t killed outright. 

3. But Ti-i-i-ime is on our side, yes it is. A new Pew poll shows the nation is now evenly divided on marriage equality, with a strong trend of increasing support. According to the poll, 46 percent say same-sex marriage should not be legal, while 45 percent say it should, with a 3 percent margin of error that makes for a statistical tie. Just two short years ago, a Pew poll found that 54 percent of Americans opposed marriage equality, while only 37 supported it.

—  John Wright

Delaware may be next civil unions state

Delaware State Capitol

With a marriage bill advancing in neighboring Maryland, Delaware lawmakers have proposed civil unions for that state, according to WBOC in Dover.

Equality Delaware helped craft the legislation. The bill is intended to give couples with a civil union the same state rights as married couples and gives religious groups an exemption from participating.

A poll released this week shows that 48 percent of people in Delaware support full marriage equality. Only 31 percent were strongly opposed. Others were not sure or fell in the middle. In neighboring Maryland, where a marriage bill is close to passing, 51 percent of the population supports marriage equality.

Delaware Right to Marry statewide director Bill Humphrey said that opposition to marriage equality “dropped dramatically” in states like Vermont and Massachusetts as people saw firsthand that same-sex marriage has no negative impact on their lives.

—  David Taffet

Zach Wahls Tells Ellen: Lawmakers ‘Are Supposed To Protect Us’

Zach Wahls, son of two gay moms in Iowa, already gives me the tingles. Appearing on Ellen, with his mom Terry in the audience, Zack says of the men and women he addressed on Feb. 2, "The scary part about that for me is that they’re lawmakers, they’re supposed to protect us, not take our rights away." Wahls says he's heard from plenty of folks after his speech hit the web, including a fella "raised in the deep South" who's shipping off to Afghanistan anxious about the repeal of Don't Ask Don't Tell, and whose mind has changed. Goosebumps!


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Queerty

—  David Taffet

What’s Brewing: Chick-fil-A skewered; Lady Gaga v. Justin Bieber; Ind. marriage ban advances

Your weekday morning blend from Instant Tea:

1. Signs like the one above — an apparent reference to Chick-fil-A’s anti-gay ties — have cropped up on telephone poles around the West Virginia University campus, which is home to one of the chain’s franchises. We happen to think the signs are brilliant, but apparently they might be a little too heady for West Virginia, where police say they could represent a hate crime.

2. Our new anthem — Lady Gaga’s “Born This Way” — will be released two days early, on Friday, according to a tweet from Gaga on Monday. Smart move. No matter how good the song really is, it will undoubtedly seem utterly amazing compared to Friday’s other notable pop release — Justin Bieber’s 3D biopic Never Say Never.

3. An Indiana House panel voted 8-4 Monday to advance a proposed constitutional amendment that would ban same-sex marriage. Perhaps the lawmakers were swayed by the following testimony from Micah Clark of the American Family Association, who compared marriage to the Super Bowl: “If any two teams could place it would lose the significance. It wouldn’t be so super.” Does anyone else sense that these folks are getting really desperate?

—  John Wright

Gov. Rick Perry won’t join anti-gay boycott of CPAC — in fact, he’ll be a keynote speaker

Gov. Rick Perry

As we’ve mentioned before, Texas Gov. Rick Perry has apparently opted not to join the growing anti-gay boycott of this year’s “Republican Woodstock” — the annual Conservative Political Action Conference next week.

In fact, according to the Dallas Morning News, Perry has landed a keynote speaking slot at CPAC, where he may be rubbing elbows with people like Lt. Dan Choi. (Note that the first and only comment below the DMN post is this: “Why no mention of the speakers not coming to CPAC this year because of the presence of Gay Republicans?”)

Lawmakers boycotting CPAC this year over the inclusion of the gay Republican group GOProud include Sen. Jim DeMint, R-S.C., and Rep. Jim Jordan, R-Ohio. And the boycott is being led by some of Perry’s favorite groups — such as the Family Research Council and the Heritage Foundation.

Alas, it appears politics and ego will always trump conviction and loyalty for Perry, who may have his sights set on the White House in 2012. But again, why no backlash from the right-wingers in Texas who’ve been so supportive of Perry?

Anyhow, we’re hoping Perry seeks the Republican presidential nomination next year. If nothing else, a national campaign will undoubtedly mean a much closer look at those pesky gay rumors.

UPDATE: Perry will make it to CPAC, but he won’t make it to the Super Bowl in his own state. Plus, he wasn’t around for Texas’ cold weather emergency this week. He’s in Southern California. What a douche.

—  John Wright

HRC goes on strike, threatens to spam our Inbox until it has 32 new members from Texas

We’re joking, of course, but that is kinda what President Joe Solmonese implies in a mass e-mail this morning. Here’s an excerpt:

We have staff on the ground around the country and plans to deploy even more. We’re bolstering state groups, even as we fight against hostile federal bills and amendments. But to make it work, we need 2,011 new members like you – that works out to just 32 more from Texas – to join HRC in the next week. Once you do, we’ll stop sending reminders and get back to the work of securing equality.

Solmonese goes on to reiterate his warning that if you don’t join, you’ll continue to receive these e-mails:

Be part of the civil rights battle of our day. Fight for marriage. Join now — and we won’t send you any more emails for the remainder of our membership drive.

On a serious note, the e-mail comes under the subject line “The next Prop 8,” and it notes that lawmakers in New Hampshire are set to try to repeal same-sex marriage. It also says “hateful groups” are trying to ban same-sex marriage in Indiana, Minnesota, New Mexico, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, Iowa and West Virginia. There are now 20 state legislatures with anti-LGBT majorities, Solmonese says, which is twice as many as are under pro-equality leadership.

And if that isn’t reason enough to join HRC, check out the USB car charger above that’s offered with a new membership, which can be had for as little as $35.

If journalism ethics didn’t discourage us from supporting individual LGBT groups, Instant Tea would be tempted. Then again, we’d stop receiving these fun e-mails. But seriously, maybe you should join so that HRC will start working again. Full e-mail after the jump.

—  John Wright