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

Five queer alternatives to the Super Bowl

Yes, Yes… I know… plenty of gay men enjoy football, are fans even, and there are lots of LBT fans as well, but if you’re like me you greet all the hoopla over the Super Bowl with a resounding “meh.”

So if you’re looking for a way to avoid a (morning) afternoon (and evening (seriously, how long are football games supposed to be?)) of indecipherable sports jargon, over-hyped commercials and disproportionate passion for the accomplishment of moving dead pig parts 300 feet here are some alternatives with a decidedly queer bent you might enjoy (don’t worry, you can Tivo Madonna’s half time show):

1. ¡Women Art Revolution at The Museum of Fine Arts

Starting from its roots in 1960s in antiwar and civil rights protests, the film ¡Women Art Revolution details major developments in women’s art through the 1970s. The Contemporary Arts Museum of Houston presents this documentary at 5 pm on Sunday at the The Museum of Fine Arts’ Brown Auditorium Theater (1001 Bissonnet). Artist Lynn Randolph and U of H art history professor Jenni Sorkin will be on hand to provide insight into the film

!W.A.R. features Miranda July, The Guerilla Girls, Yvonne Rainer, Judy Chicago, Yoko Ono, Cindy Sherman, and countless other groundbreaking figures. Tickets are $7 and are available at mfah.org.

2. The Rape of Lucrecia at Houston Grand Opera

Written by gay composer Benjamin Britten and scored by Ronald Duncan, The Rape of Lucrecia is set during the decline of the Roman Empire. When a group of soldiers unexpectedly returns home to Rome they find that their wives have all been unfaithful, with the excpection of Collatinus’ wife Lucretia. Later that night the king’s son, Prince Tarquinius, accepts a drunken dare to seduce Lucretia. After she rebuffs his advances Tarquinius forces himself on her spurring Collatinus to rebellion against the king.

The dialogue of the Opera (which is in English by the way) is punctuated by two choruses, one male and one female, who engage the audience in the emotional responses of the male and female characters respectively.

The Rape of Lucretia plays at the Houston Grand Opera (510 Preston) at 2 pm on Sunday. Tickets start at $38 and may be purchased at HoustonGrandOpera.org.

4. The Drunken City at the Rice University, Department of Visual and Dramatic Arts

“The city’s like a monster, like a sleeping dragon or some dark creature in the night that cracks open an eye, and whispers dark dangerous dark ideas into your ear.”

The Drunken City is populated by thoroughly unpleasant people, the kind of loud sequin-wearing party girls who can immediately turn a hip bar passe and the men who hunt them. Marnie, the alpha-female and soon-to-be bride, has taken her co-worker bridesmaids out on the town for a ladies night. Seriously inebriated, they soon run into Frank and Eddie. Frank quickly takes a shine to Marnie, despite her girlfriends objections. Eddie, on the other hand, isn’t interested in any of the girls but seems to know their shared boss quite well (if you catch my drift). The play is sprinkled through with warnings about human desire and the dangers of consumption.

The Drunken City is presented by the Rice University College of Visual and Dramatic Arts at Hamman Hall on the Rice Campus (6100 Main) at 3 pm. Tickets are $10 and are available at the door or by calling 713-348-PLAY .

Steve Bullitt as Hay and Mitchell Greco as Gernreich

4. The Temperamentals at Barnvelder Movement/Arts Complex

The off-Broadway hit The Temperamentals, by Jon Marans, explores the events surrounding the founding of the Mattachine Society, one of the first “gay rights” groups in America (although the Society for Human Rights has it beat by a quarter of a century). The story centers on Harry Hay (Steve Bullitt), a communist and Progressive Party activist and his lover Rudi Gerneich (Mitchell Greco), a Viennese refuge and costume designer. Set in the early 1950′s in Los Angeles, the play is an intimate portrayal of two men who created history and the epic struggle they overcame.

Sunday’s curtain for the Celebration Theater produced play is at 3 pm at the Barnvelder Movement/Arts Complex. Tickets are $30 and may be purchased at buy.ticketstothecity.com.

5. Closing Night of Bring It On: The Musical at Theater Under the Stars

Bring It On: The Musical finishes up its run at the Hobby Center for the Performing Arts (800 Bagby Suite 300) on Sunday. Theater Under the Stars (TUTS) presents this musical re-imagining of the 2000 film with a matinee at 2 pm and an evening showing at 7 pm.

Two rival cheer-leading squads are out for the national championship, and neither is going to give up without a fight. The ensemble for the show features some of the nation’s most skilled competitive cheerleaders led by Taylor Louderman and Adrienne Warren as the leaders of the rival squads.

Tickets start at $24 and are available on-line at TUTS.com, by phone at (713) 558-TUTS (8887), or in person at the Theatre Under The Stars Box Office (800 Bagby).

—  admin

Say cheers to “Bring It On:The Musical” with OUT@TUTS

Bring It On: The Musical is currently showing at the Hobby Center for the Performing Arts (800 Bagby Suite 300) through Feb 5. Theater Under the Stars (TUTS) presents this musical re-imagining of the 2000 film. Two rival cheer-leading squads are out for the national championship, and neither is going to give up without a fight.

Tomorrow night, January 26, join OUT@TUTSfor a post-show, cabaret-style event at Artista Restaurant (800 Bagby Suite 400) for TUTS’ LGBT friends. Open to both season and single ticket holders the event includes free bites and happy hour drink specials – a great opportunity to party and mingle with cast members and other musical theater lovers.

The ensemble for the show features some of the nation’s most skilled competitive cheerleaders led by Taylor Louderman and Adrienne Warren as the leaders of the rival squads.

Tickets start at $24 and are available on-line at TUTS.com, by phone at (713) 558-TUTS (8887), or in person at the Theatre Under The Stars Box Office (800 Bagby).

After the jump get a sneak peak of the energetic cast of Bring It On: The Musical.

—  admin

Girl Scout cookie boycott may backfire, if Twitter is any indication

The Huffington Post reports on an effort to boycott girl scout cookies in response to the organization’s trans affirming positions. Last fall, after a Colorado troop leader initially refused to allow Bobby Montoya to participate because she was identified as male at birth, Girl Scout leaders in that state with the support of the national organization quickly responded by re-enforcing their policy of allowing all girls to participate. “If a child identifies as a girl and the child’s family presents her as a girl,” said the GSC statement, “Girl Scouts of Colorado welcomes her as a Girl Scout.”

That act of common decency inspired this video:

If the initial response on Twitter is any indication, however, the burgeoning boycott may backfire, begetting a bumper year for Tag-a-longs, Thinmints and Trefoils (those yummy shortbread cookies).

—  admin

Council member Jones to be first cisgender reader at Houston Day of Remembrance

Jolanda Jones

Jolanda Jones

Houston City Council member Jolanda Jones is scheduled to be the first cisgender reader in the history of Houston’s Transgender Day of Remembrance. Lou Weaver, president of the Transgender Foundation of America, one the events sponsors, says that Jones was originally approached to be a speaker at the event because of her advocacy for trans children, but that she requested to read instead.

“I begged to read, I begged them,” corrects Jones, “they asked me if I wanted to speak and I begged them to read instead because it’s profound and it touches you. I think it’s better to read because it’s important.”
Jones said she was particularly moved at last year’s Day of Remembrance by the story of 17 month old Roy A. Jones who was beaten to death by his babysitter for “acting like a girl.” “I was so touched when they read about the baby that was killed,” said Jones, “the readers tell the story.”

Jones led efforts this year to encourage local homeless youth provider Covenant House to adopt a nondiscrimination policy that covers both sexual orientation and gender identity and expression. She used her position on City Council to threaten to cut Covenant House’s funding unless they addressed accusations of discrimination. That threat persuaded the organization to overhaul their policies and begin regular meetings with community leaders to discuss their progress in serving LGBT youth.
The Houston Transgender Day of Remembrance is Saturday, November 19, from 7-9:30 pm at Farish Hall on the University of Houston Campus.

—  admin

TCU LGBT alumni group forms

Organizer says school has been helpful, supportive in forming group for gay graduates

DAVID TAFFET  |  Staff Writer
taffet@dallasvoice.com

There are some schools that are — or have been — affiliated with religious institutions that  not only wouldn’t welcome an LGBT alumni group, they would block such a group outright.

But when Doug Thompson, a graduate of Fort Worth’s Texas Christian University, associated with the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ), approached his alma mater’s alumni association about forming an LGBT affiliate, he said, the response was, “Absolutely. No problem.”

TCU’s new LGBT alumni group will hold its first large meeting on Saturday, Oct. 22, after the TCU homecoming game. Thompson acknowledged that sports isn’t the main concern of many LGBT alumni, but homecoming is still a time when many alumni return to visit the campus.

Thompson said when he asked the alumni association whether the LGBT group would need approval by the school’s administration, he was told the administration would back it. The group was approved in April.

Unlike Baylor University, which sued to keep its LGBT alumni from using the school name to organize a group, Thompson said there has been no objection from the TCU campus.

“We just want to get people involved however they want to be involved,” Kristi Hoban, associate vice chancellor alumni of relations, said. “We just reach out, whether it’s a class or the business school or a special interest group.”

She said that black alumni were not participating until the Black Alumni Alliance formed about 11 years ago. Now, she said, they’re active leaders in class reunions, homecoming and department alumni events, adding that she hopes to see the same thing happen with the LGBT network.

Finding LGBT alumni hasn’t been easy, Thompson said, as students aren’t asked about their sexual orientation before they graduate.

But Thompson said about 120 alumni have already responded, mostly to calls on social media sites. And now that the school has a Gay Straight Alliance, he said, finding future alumni will be easier.

“Our goal will be to support gay and lesbian students and start a scholarship,” Thompson said. “And we’ll form activities around things gay alumni have an interest in.”

He mentioned support for the Trinity Shakespeare Festival on campus as a direction for the group.

Thompson said that having an LGBT alumni group will help the school provide a better environment for its LGBT students.

Two years ago, TCU proposed setting aside dorm space for LGBT students. A week after the announcement, when only eight students had signed up for the housing, the school scrapped those plans.

“That got totally blown out of proportion,” Hoban said.

She said the intention was never segregated housing but really just an LGBT campus group.
Thompson said the school would have avoided the bad publicity if it had the alumni group to guide them.

The LGBT alumni group will get together after the homecoming game against New Mexico on Saturday, Oct. 22. They will meet at Tommy’s Hamburgers’ Camp Bowie Boulevard location from 5 p.m. to 7 p.m.

…………………

OUT, PROUD ATHLETE

Pryor.Victor

Victor Pryor

Perhaps one of the best known Texas Christian University grads that will be attending the new LGBT alumni group’s meeting this weekend is Vincent Pryor, a TCU Horned Frogs football star from 1994.

That year, before the final game of the season against the Texas Tech Red Raiders, Pryor came out to his teammates. Rather than shunning him, Pryor’s coach told him he was proud of his honesty

“My teammates and my coaches overwhelmingly supported and accepted me,” Pryor writes on his website, VincentPryor.com. “All of the fears and concerns I had about being kicked off the team, or losing my scholarship, or embarrassing my school — none of that happened.  And the best part of it was that I became a better athlete after I came out.”

That day, Pryor had the biggest game of his college career, tallying a record 4.5 sacks — a record that still stands today. His performance helped TCU win the conference title and a berth in a post-season bowl game.

Today, Pryor works in sales and lives in Chicago with his partner of 12 years, who was a classmate at TCU. To watch his just-
released an “It Gets Better” video, below.

—  Kevin Thomas

Developing Women Leaders in the Fight for Equality

Though wintry weather threatened some travel plans, it could not stop two dozen women from coming to HRC’s headquarters in late January for the third annual Women and Leadership Retreat.

Women are already key leaders in all aspects of HRC’s work. The retreat is just one opportunity for rising stars to develop new skills, and for current leaders to build on their abilities to help move us all closer to winning equality for all.

All of the attendees are current HRC Board and Steering Committee members who came from places like Houston, Chicago, Phoenix, New York and Los Angeles. Utah had representation – two attendees, in fact – for the very first time!

A key theme of the four-day retreat was diversity. Of course, the attendees brought much diversity to the table, in terms of age, background, gender history, race, ethnicity and more. They learned how to navigate through these intersections to unite people around common goals.

The retreat “allowed me to be vulnerable and helped me identify my strengths and growth opportunities to becoming a true leader,” said Cathy Sarky of the Greater Cincinnati Steering Committee. “It inspired me to allow my voice to be heard and empowered me to achieve my hope for true equality for all.”

The women explored topics such as effective communication and the impact of gender bias on the individual. Small discussion groups – which were named for and drew inspiration from innovative leaders such as Jane Addams, Margaret Chung and Sylvia Rivera – allowed the retreat attendees to work on applying what they learned to situations they face in their local HRC communities.

“The most valuable part of the W&L Retreat was meeting the other women and marveling at their tenacity, dedication and spirit in developing into productive passionate leaders in their community,” said Marilyn Abalos of the Greater New York Steering Committee. “Their struggle and survival in life are examples to emulate.”

Interested in attending next year’s retreat? Keep your eye on www.hrc.org/women for details on the application process.


Human Rights Campaign | HRC Back Story

—  David Taffet

Senate Leaders Come to Agreement on Senate Fix

Senators Reid and McConnell announced today that they have reached agreement on a bi-partisan set of reforms to improve the functioning of the United States Senate.  In recent years, particularly during the last Congress, the abuse of Senate rules led to continual filibustering and partisan gridlock.  These problems delayed essential executive branch appointments, the appointment of equality-minded judges, as well as the passage of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” repeal legislation.

In response, HRC joined a coalition of groups calling on the Senate to prioritize open debate, increase transparency and accountability, and prevent needless partisan obstructionism.  Today those efforts were rewarded.  Under the terms of the agreement, the full Senate will vote on approving the following reforms designed to streamline the process while preserving robust and open debate:

  • Eliminating secret holds, including the right of senators to pass their secret holds to another anonymous senator to continue a rolling secret hold for weeks with no accountability;
  • Eliminating the delaying tactic of forcing the actual reading on the floor of the Senate of an amendment that has already been submitted for 72 hours and is publicly available; and
  • Legislation to exempt about 1/3 of all nominations from the Senate confirmation process, reducing the number of executive nominations subject to Senate delays.

In addition, the Senators agreed to further reforms designed to ensure that Congress runs smoothly under the updated rules.  First, Senators Reid and McConnell made an official agreement that they would not use the so-called “constitutional option” to seek further rules reform in this or the next Congress.  The Senators also agreed to limit their use of two tactics that have frustrated both parties – filibusters on motions to proceed and “filling the tree” to block amendments to legislation.

Thanks to HRC staff counsel Aaron Welo for his contributions to this post.


Human Rights Campaign | HRC Back Story

—  admin

Blue Hampshire: GOP House leader’s message on marriage was ‘SPIN’

I trust Blue Hampshire over a NH GOP leader any day. Yesterday, the GOP House Majority Leader appeared to indicate that repealing the state’s same-sex marriage law wasn’t on their agenda.

Anti-gay leaders are “undaunted” and seem pretty sure they’ll be getting their vote, according to the Boston Globe.

And, elwood at Blue Hampshire dissected what was — and wasn’t — said:

[Speaker Bill ]O’Brien and [Majority Leader D.J.]Bettancourt:
* Have NOT committed to “retaining” any social issues bills until 2012;
* Have NOT said that Committee chairs have been instructed to vote against these bills;
* Have NOT said the the leadership will provide cover to legislators against Tea Party wrath (you’ve noticed that tea party activists oppose gay marriage, right?) by publicly opposing these bills;
* Have NOT even said that votes on these bill will be entirely up to the conscience of the legislator, with no pressure from leadership.

There is nothing at all behind this announcement, except a desire to get the spotlights off themselves.

The homophobes want their vote. Seems like GOP leaders will eventually give it to them. In other words, the Majority Leader probably lied yesterday.




AMERICAblog Gay

—  admin

Presidential candidates and Congressional leaders to mingle with anti-gay hate groups

crossposted on Holy Bullies and Headless Monsters

From People for the American Way's Right-Wing Watch:

In April, the Freedom Federation will host its second annual “Awakening” conference entitled “Raising Our Voices: Equipping and Empowering a New Revolution” which organizer hope will feature a mix of right-wing activists like Lou Engle, Tony Perkins, Mat Staver, Frank Gaffney, Wendy Wright, David Barton, and Gary Bauer with Republican leaders like Cuccinelli, Michele Bachmann, Marco Rubio, Alan West, Mike Pence, Newt Gingrich, and Mike Huckabee

The following are the list of speakers, some of which are a cornucopia of anti-gay voices:

Photobucket Photobucket Photobucket

I see that Mike Huckabee, Sen. Marc Rubio, and Reps. Mike Pence, Allen West and Michelle Bachmann are going to be at the conference and thus will be hobnobbing with members of the Family Research Council (Tony Perkins), the Traditional Values Coalition (Andrea Lafferty), and Concerned Women for America (Wendy Wright) – three anti-gay hate groups according to the Southern Poverty Law Center,

The designations was given to these three organizations not because of their “religious beliefs” regarding homosexuality and gay marriage but because of their insistence in spreading false and ugly propaganda about the gay community (i.e. homosexuality and pedophilia are connected.)

One has to wonder what the panel discussions at the conference will be this year. Last year, Lafferty and the Liberty Counsel's Matt Barber led a panel discussion on the so-called dangers of homosexuality. It was during this discussion that Lafferty made the absurd claim that pro-gay nondiscrimination laws will lead to the molestation of crippled war veterans.

No doubt, Huckabee and company will probably still attend this conference even after told about these organizations and no doubt they will give a false explanation of why they will mingle with anti-gay groups if asked – something along the line of “it's unfair that these groups are being called hateful simply because their religious beliefs.”

But the fact that these folks will attend a conference with anti-gay hate groups is good to know, especially in light of the knowledge that Huckabee, Pence, and Bachmann are possible Presidential candidates.  All the more reason that they become three people who have no place residing at 1600 Pennsylvania Ave.

Pam’s House Blend – Front Page

—  admin