Arlington man sentenced to 14 months for hate crime arson at mosque

Henry Clay Glaspell

U.S. District Judge Terry R. Means this week sentenced Henry Clay Glaspell, 34, of Arlington, to 14 months in prison after Gaspell pleaded guilty to a hate crime charge in connection with an arson fire at the children’s playground at the Dar El-Eman Islamic Education Center in Arlington in July 2010, according to this report from the Fort Worth Star-Telegram.

Means ordered Glaspell, who has been free on bond, to surrender to the Bureau of Prisons on Nov. 21.

Glaspell also admitted that he had stolen and damaged some of the mosque’s property, that he had thrown used cat litter at the mosque’s front door and that he had shouted racial and ethnic slurs at people at the mosque on several occasions. Glaspell said his actions were motivated by hatred for people of Arabic or Middle Eastern descent.

Texas legislators passed the James Byrd Jr. Hate Crimes Act, which allows enhanced penalties to be assessed to those convicted of hate crimes. But while hate crimes are frequently reported and labeled as such by law enforcement, prosecutors rarely take hate crimes charges to court for fear that it would be too hard to prove a perpetrator’s bias-based intent to a jury.

—  admin

Marriage equality bill introduced in Uruguay

According to the Chilean newspaper El Mercurio, legislators in Uruguay have introduced a marriage equality bill. The bill has a good chance of passing because the liberal Frente Amplio party controls both houses of the legislature.

The bill’s author, Rep. Sebastián Sabini, explained the strategy to pass the law.

“We do not focus so much on the issue of gay marriage but of equal marriage regardless of sex, gender or religion,” Sabini said.

Laws that refer to “husband and wife” would change to “spouses” or “conjugal partner.”

If one spouse in a relationship had biological children, the law would give the non-biological partner the same rights and responsibilities in caring for the child.

Supporters said they hoped the law would be passed by both the Chamber of Deputies and the Senate by the end of the year.

—  David Taffet

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: Valentine’s Day recap edition

Your weekday morning blend from Instant Tea:

1. THE GOOD: Legislators in Washington state and Colorado were struck by Cupid’s arrow, as they introduced bills Monday to legalize same-sex marriage and civil unions, respectively. Meanwhile, The Washington Post reports that 24 Maryland senators have now said publicly that they’ll support pending marriage equality legislation, giving the bill the votes it needs to pass by the slimmest of margins.

2. THE BAD: The Indiana House was scheduled to vote Monday on a constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage, but the measure, which is expected to pass, was postponed because some lawmakers who want to go on record supporting the ban were absent. Meanwhile, lawmakers in New Hampshire are moving forward with hearings on a proposed repeal of same-sex marriage, despite polls showing a majority of residents oppose the repeal. And, in Chicago, six activists were arrested when they refused to leave a marriage bureau after a same-sex couple was denied a license.

3. THE UGLY: If you want to get really angry, or need a reminder as to what the struggle for equality is all about, watch the above video of police in Lima, Peru, using violence to break up a Valentine’s Day “Kisses Against Homophobia” demonstration that took place Saturday. According to Living in Peru, one activist needed 10 stitches to the back of her head.

—  John Wright

Washington state legislators send a Valentine to gay and lesbian families

What better day to unveil a marriage equality bill (SB 5793) than Valentine’s Day?

OLYMPIA – Lawmakers have chosen today – the day that millions across the country celebrate the bonds of affection shared between two people in love – as the day to introduce major legislation that would no longer restrict gays and lesbians from their right to marry.

Today is not the first time the issue of marriage equality for gays and lesbians and the Valentine’s Day holiday have crossed paths.

In early February of 1998, in what has proven to be the darkest of Valentine’s for gay and lesbian families in our state, the Legislature enshrined discrimination as the law of the land in Washington by overriding the veto of then-Gov. Gary Locke to approve the so-called “Defense of Marriage Act.”

This Valentine’s Day, Rep. Jim Moeller, D-Vancouver, and Sen. Ed Murray, D-Seattle, said the night is darkest just before the dawn.

“Over the past several years, the Legislature and the public together have been steadily building a bridge to equality for gay and lesbian families,” said Moeller. He noted the passage of civil rights legislation in 2006 protecting gays and lesbians from discrimination in employment, housing, and financial transactions, and then three successive years of securing broader and broader domestic partnership rights — which included successfully withstanding a hostile referendum challenge at the ballot in 2009.

“We’ve made tremendous progress since 1998,” Murray said. “Gay and lesbian families in Washington now enjoy the same state spousal rights that their married straight friends enjoy – except for the name ‘marriage’. The recognition that their loving, lifelong commitment is no different from the loving, lifelong commitment of straight couples is the final step to achieving full equality. I believe the Legislature and the public are both ready to take that final step.”

Please sign the Marriage Equality petition today and ask friends to do the same.
The pro-equality vote in Washington state has been rising steadily for the past five years.  With a concerted effort, we can put the numbers over the top in 2012.  Recall that in 2009 the Washington electorate was the first in the nation to ratify a same-sex relationship recognition law at the polls, 52.6% to 27.4%.

As Equal Rights Washington reminds us, “The most important thing you can do in support of marriage equality is to talk to your friends, family, neighbors and coworkers about why marriage equality matters to you and people you love. Nothing is more powerful than personal stories.  So let’s keep the conversation going.”

Another way to “get engaged” and help make marriage equality a reality in Washington state by participating in the Equality Day 2011 in Olympia on March 22, 2011.

Equality Day 2011 is your opportunity to engage with your legislators in person. On March 22 you can educate your legislators about your lives. Tell them how the decisions they make help you contribute fully as a member of the community, promote your freedom to love who you love, and live healthy productive lives.  We have many opportunities this year to support our families by creating protections for children and parents in the Uniform Parentage Act, creating a safe and supportive educational environment for our students, promoting awareness of HIV/AIDS and good public health, and making progress toward marriage equality.

Your legislators have their hands on the levers of power, but they need your help to know which way to pull them.

Help Spread the Word! Print and Post an Equality Day 2011 flyer on bulletin boards inside LGBT friendly establishments in your community.

Click here for more information on Equality Day 2011.
Pam’s House Blend – Front Page

—  David Taffet

Oklahoma lawmakers spar over how conservative to be

After sweeping into power in November’s election, state’s ultra-conservative Republicans take aim at moderate House leader

Sean Murphy  |  editor@dallasvoice.com

OKLAHOMA CITY — As Republicans in control of the Oklahoma House opened two days of meetings to set their 2011 agenda this week, their incoming leader was taking shots from the chamber’s ultra-conservative wing because he has put the state’s struggling economy at the top of his agenda rather than social issues.

KrisSteele
Oklahoma State Rep. Kris Steele

Members of the House GOP meet Monday and Tuesday, Dec. 6-7. in Bartlesville, and Kris Steele, who will be formally elected as House Speaker next month, believes the Legislature next year should concentrate on economic development and plugging holes in the state budget.

More-conservative Republicans want legislators to tighten access to abortion, relax regulations on firearms and attempt to restrict immigration.

“There’s going to be some fireworks within the caucus,” said state Rep. Mike Christian, R-Oklahoma City, who acknowledged some of his GOP colleagues have privately questioned whether Steele is too liberal to lead the House.

For the first time in state history, Republicans in Oklahoma will control the House, Senate and the governor’s mansion, after Oklahoma voters in November ushered in huge gains for the GOP, including all eight Democrat-held statewide seats on the ballot.

Steele, a soft-spoken minister from Shawnee, said House Republicans are still united — but cracks are obvious among the 70-member-strong Republican majority as they hammer out their agenda for the legislative session that begins in February.

This week’s meetings haven’t gone unnoticed by Oklahomans wanting action on social issues. But moderate House Republicans fear an inordinate amount of attention on social issues will create a House divided and divert attention from the budget and a struggling Oklahoma economy.

“I’m seeing people every day who are concerned because they don’t have a job or health insurance,” said Rep. Doug Cox, R-Grove, an emergency room physician in far northeast Oklahoma. “They could care less about right-to-carry [firearms]), abortion, gays. They’re worried about their health care and putting food on the table.”

State Rep. Richard Morrissette, D-Oklahoma City, agrees.

“I would ask my ultra-conservative friends — do they understand that we are in the bottom of median family income, that we lead the nation in incarceration of female prisoners, that some of our nonviolent, criminal statutes are some of the most oppressive in the nation?” he asked. “We have serious issues in the state that are challenging us, especially when the budget situation is as bleak as it’s been in the history of this state.”

For his part, Steele says he’s never wavered on his commitment to expanding gun rights, restricting abortion or targeting illegal immigration. He said he supports a measure to allow for open carrying of firearms that Democratic Gov. Brad Henry vetoed last year, and that he will not thwart legislative attempts to further restrict abortion or address illegal immigration.

“Just because I’d like to pursue initiatives to create a business-friendly environment in Oklahoma and give us the opportunity to foster job creation and job opportunities for Oklahomans does not mean I’m any less committed to my stance on pro-life issues or Second Amendment rights or states’ rights or any of those things,” Steele said. “I think we can take a balanced approach and pursue an agenda that ultimately accommodates both arenas.”

Republican Gov.-elect Mary Fallin said she agrees with Steele that the state’s budget and fostering a good business environment should be the top priority for lawmakers when they return to the state Capitol in February.

“We’ve got to focus on getting Oklahoma’s economy back on track, creating the very best business climate possible,” Fallin said. “We’ll certainly consider the other ideas that the Legislature has, and that’s not to take away from their ideas, but just says these are the important priorities I believe will get Oklahoma back on track.”

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition December 10, 2010.

—  Kevin Thomas

Marriage battle continues in Latin America, with more wins for our side

The Mexico Supreme Court ruled last week that a Mexico City law, passed by legislators there earlier this year, is constitutional. The ruling came in a challenge to the new law pressed mainy by the country’s Roman Catholic religious leaders.

In another victory for LGBT civil rights, the Mexican Supreme Court ruled yesterday (Tuesday) that same-sex marriages performed legally in Mexico City must be legally recognized throughout the country, even though other Mexican states have not legalized gay marriage.

Mexico’s Supreme Court was expected to rule Thursday on an appeal of another law — passed by the Mexico City Legislature the same day that lawmakers legalized gay marriage there — that gives same-sex couples the right to adopt.

And today comes word that the Supreme Court of Costa Rica has ruled that a referendum that had been set to go to voters on Dec. 5 and that would have banned legal recognition of same-sex civil unions is unconstitutional.

“Minority rights that are derived from claims against the majority cannot be subject to a referendum process where majorities are needed,” the court said in a statement, according to Inquirer.net.

The referendum, again pushed by the Catholic Church, had come in response to draft legislation, introduced in 2008, that would give Costa Rican gays and lesbians access to legal civil unions that would carry some of the legal rights of marriage, including inheritance, health benefits and the right to hospital visitation in the event of injury or illness. The legislation has been stalled since it was introduced.

—  admin

Talking Equality at the State Legislators Summit

The annual National Conference of State Legislators Legislative Summit brings together state senators and representatives from across the country to discuss the most pressing state issues of the day. But, while more than 450 bills having a direct impact on the LGBT community were introduced in 2009 and more than 300 already introduced this year, a substantive discussion of sexual orientation and gender identity were notably absent from the official agenda. HRC worked to highlight the importance of LGBT inclusion by providing a booth dedicated to state successes and failures on our issues. We also hosted a reception along with Gill Action and the Victory Fund for LGBT and allied state legislators. By covering broad problems such as interstate recognition of same-sex marriages [pdf] and relationships as well as targeted discussions such as lack of inclusive anti-bullying provisions [pdf] and hate crimes laws [pdf], state legislators were drawn in to discussions of how they can introduce or support efforts to pass bills specific to their state.

Many state legislators told stories of personally supporting the LGBT community but decried a lack of support from their constituents. Your state legislators need to hear from you! Passing state legislation is equally important to passing federal legislation. Often state legislation can cover issues inaccessible by federal laws or fill in gaps. Under the federal hate crimes law, the Department of Justice can only prosecute crimes where there is a federal nexus. States must pass their own inclusive hate crimes laws to ensure adequate protection. By reaching out to state legislators, pressure can be created to pass a wide range of critical legislation.


Human Rights Campaign | HRC Back Story

—  John Wright

GetEQUAL NOW to protest anti-gay Texas GOP platform at Republican event in Dallas next week

When I caught up with Michael Robinson this morning, he was on his way to perform 10 hours of community service stemming from his arrest a few months ago in San Francisco at a protest related to the Employment Non-Discrimination Act.

Robinson was arrested in the offices of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi during an action organized by GetEQUAL. Since then, he and fellow local activist CD Kirven have split off from GetEQUAL and formed thier own group, GetEQUAL NOW, which is aimed at bringing more diversity to the LGBT equality movement. (Incidentally, Robinson said GetEQUAL leaders have demanded that the new group use a different name, but he has no plans to change it.)

I was calling Robinson because I noticed that GetEQUAL NOW is preparing to stage its first action, and it looks like they’ve picked a good one. According to the Facebook page, they’ll be protesting anti-gay language in the Texas GOP platform next week outside the Blue Mesa restaurant across from NorthPark Center.

As best I can tell, that’s where conservative radio host Mark Davis of WBAP will be speaking on immigration at a meeting of the Dallas Chapter of the Republican National Hispanic Assembly.

Robinson noted that the GOP platform also calls for anti-immigration legislation similar to the bill that recently passed in Arizona. And he noted that even GOP groups like the Republican Liberty Caucus have come out against the anti-gay language in the GOP platform.

Robinson acknowledged that the anti-gay language in the platform is not new, but he said it’s time to do something about it before GOP legislators decide to act on it.

“Somebody needs to get mad,” he said. “They need to change that platform. It’s ridiculous, it’s stupid and it’s hurtful.”

Robinson said while many LGBT people are aware of the anti-gay language, they’re passive about it and choose instead to complain about President Barack Obama.

“We’re going to make some noise on this one,” Robinson said. “This is crazy. We’re calling them out, and we’re serious, we’re not playing.”

Rob Schlein, presdient of Dallas Log Cabin Republicans, told me earlier today he won’t be participating in the protest. Log Cabin has been working to remove the anti-gay language from the platform for several years, and the group issued an official statement about the controversy over the platform earlier today. Asked whether he would attend the protest, Schlein said: “No. Our disagreement is focused on the anti-gay elements and the harsh language. This protest takes a more broader vision of opposition.”

Here’s Log Cabin’s full statement:

Recent attention has been given to the Republican Party of Texas and what many consider are the anti-gay planks in its 2010 Platform.  Although these planks are not new, the attention is.  From the Dallas Voice to bloggers all over the nation, Republicans are being painted as anti-gay and intolerant.

At the Texas Republican Party State Convention we warned our fellow delegates of the consequences of including extremist language in the party platform regarding gay and lesbian Texans.  For years, Log Cabin Republicans (a group representing gay, lesbian and like minded Republicans) has submitted resolutions to remove the extremist language at the precinct and state senatorial convention levels.  Emails were also sent to every member of the state platform committee imploring them to either remove the passages or reword them, and  Log Cabin Republicans Dallas offered suggested substitute language.  Those resolutions and emails were ignored by the Platform Committee at the state convention.

Language such as, “We believe that the practice of homosexuality tears at the fabric of society, contributes to the breakdown of the family unit, and leads to the spread of dangerous, communicable diseases. Homosexual behavior is contrary to the fundamental, unchanging truths that have been ordained by God, recognized by our country’s founders”, and language equating gay parents with child molesters and abusive parents is obviously not supported by the majority of Texans, rank and file Republicans or even people of faith.

We are regularly contacted by activist Republicans and Republican groups expressing their concern about the appalling language included in this document.  Many gay and lesbian business owners and professionals that are natural allies of the GOP sit on the sidelines at a time when we need their help more than ever.  Young Republicans and young evangelicals are often embarrassed by the antiquated statements in the platform. Worse yet, a recent fundraising drive by a left leaning Washington D.C. gay rights organization highlighted the language from the Texas Party Platform in a letter to its well healed contributors.

The enemies of the Republican Party will do anything during this election to distract voters from the dangerous consequences of their explosive expansion of government and unsustainable deficits.  Republican fiscal and pro-free enterprise policies can save our country.  Now is not the time to be shooting ourselves in the foot simply to pacify passionate but wrongheaded elements of our own party.

The party platform is controlled by a handful of party activists.  We call on Republicans at all levels to publicly repudiate many of the extremist positions taken in the Texas Party Platform.  It is time for Republican office holders to stop pointing fingers while claiming to have “never read the state platform” and clearly state their agreement or disagreement with such foolish language.

We are happy this language is receiving wide exposure since we are certain it cannot survive the light of scrutiny. That said, we also believe the stakes are too high and Log Cabin Republicans is committed to working toward Republican victory despite the language in the platform.

—  John Wright

Gay legislators – we need to get us one

This state house has more LGBT legislators than any other
This state house has more LGBT legislators than any other

Yesterday, I wrote about a Utah state representative who is lesbian and acting as surrogate mother for a gay couple. What I thought was interesting was that she was one of three openly gay legislators in that very red state. Yet Texas has none. How are other states doing?

According to the Gay and Lesbian Victory Fund, 79 LGBT legislators serve in state houses across the country. Here are some of the stats I came up with:

28 states have at least one LGBT legislator.

The state with the most is no surprise: Massachusetts has six. Marriage equality. Sky not fallen. Even has an openly gay Republican running for lieutenant governor. Elaine Noble was the first open gay or lesbian elected to a state legislature in the United States. In 1975, she was elected to the Massachusetts State House.

States with five LGBT legislators are mostly no surprise: Arizona, Connecticut, New York, Vermont, Washington state. Connecticut and Vermont have marriage equality. Washington has an equality law that gives domestic partners everything that marriage does, but with a different name. New York recognizes marriages performed elsewhere. Arizona is a purple state. John McCain is one of their senators. Republican John Kyl is the other. But Janet Napolitano was their governor and now serves in Obama’s cabinet. It’s only only state to have had three women governors in a row. (Jane Hull preceeded Napolitano and Jan Brewer is the current governor).

Three states have four LGBT legislators: California, Maryland and New Hampshire. New Hampshire has marriage equality. California has thousands of legally married couples and Prop. 8 currently is tied up in court. Maryland does not ban marriage equality and they tried but failed to pass it last session.

In addition to Utah, Rhode Island has three gay legislators. Despite a governor who killed marriage equality last year and vetoed a bill that would allow gays or lesbians to make funeral arrangements for their partners, the state is generally very blue. The legislature overrode the governor’s veto and the mayor of Providence is also gay.

Texas? Glen Maxey was one of the first openly gay state legislators nationally. But since he left office, we’ve had none.

—  David Taffet