BREAKING: Utah judge reverses order removing child from lesbians’ care

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April Hoagland and Beckie Peirce

Utah Judge Scott Johansen has signed an order allowing lesbian foster parents April Hoagland and Beckie Peirce to retain custody of the 9-month-old child of whom they have had custody for three months, according to an Associated Press report from Salt Lake City.

The reversal came after widespread backlash following Johansen’s order Tuesday that the child be removed from Hoagland and Peirce’s home. The couple and Utah state officials had immediately filed challenges demanding Johansen rescind that order.

Johansen initially said the child should be removed from the lesbian couple’s custody because research shows that children do better when raised by heterosexual parents. That claim flies in the face of all reputable studies on the subject. And the American Psychological Association has said there’s no scientific basis for the claim that gay couples are unfit parents just based on sexual orientation.

—  Tammye Nash

Texarkana paper refuses to print gay couple’s wedding announcement

This is the photo Michelle Cooks and Patricia Wrightner  wanted the Texarkana Gazette to run with their wedding announcement.

This is the photo Michelle Cooks and Patricia Wrightner wanted the Texarkana Gazette to run with their wedding announcement.

Texarkana couple Michelle Cooks and Patricia Wrightner plan to marry next weekend in Mexico and want their friends in the area to know about their upcoming union.

They tried to have a wedding announcement printed in the Texarkana Gazette, but the paper refused to run it because they are a same-sex couple.

“They refused us because we are a gay couple,” Cooks told KSLA News 12. “We were discriminated against. There’s no other reason not to have our picture in the paper.”

The couple has been together for more than a year and plans to marry in Mexico this coming Friday.

The Texarkana Gazette’s editor released a statement, explaining that it only publishes announcements for weddings that will be recognized in the state.

—  Dallasvoice

San Antonio student fights to get photo of her and girlfriend back in yearbook

This photo of Felicia Rivera, right, and her girlfriend, Lialani Hernandez, was removed from a San Antonio yearbook.

This photo of Felicia Rivera, right, and her girlfriend, Lialani Hernandez, was removed from a San Antonio yearbook.

A 16-year-old San Antonio student is petitioning Brennan High School to allow a photo of her and her girlfriend to be printed in the school’s 2013 yearbook.

The picture, above, depicts Felicia Rivera holding her girlfriend at school. The photo was selected to run on the Valentine’s Day page but the yearbook adviser removed the image from the page after she found out it was two girls.

The couple has been dating for a year and Rivera has gathered more than 200 student signatures to have the photo placed back on the yearbook page.

“You shouldn’t be discriminated against just because you’re gay,” she told KENS 5. “You shouldn’t worry about people bashing you or talking behind your back just for you to be you.”

Pascual Gonzalez, director of public information for the school district, said the photo wasn’t like other photos selected for the page where students were looking directly at the camera and was “too intimate” and  “a little bit too much, exaggerated public display of affection.” The student handbook prohibits public displays of affection on campus.

But Rivera’s father isn’t buying the school’s reasoning behind pulling the photo after it’d already been placed and approved, until the two girls were identified.

“They were fine with it until they realized it was girl-girl,” Felix Rivera said. “It got placed, it got set and it was going to print and then it got pulled.”

Even if the photo isn’t put back in the yearbook, Rivera said the experience has made her want to start a Gay-Straight Alliance on the campus to prevent further discrimination from occurring.

Watch KENS 5’s report below.

—  Dallasvoice

Police issue trespassing warning to lesbian after she reports possible hate crime in Terrell

The victim said she suffered a sprained wrist, shown days later, when the neighbor charged her and pushed her to the ground after yelling, "We don't want your kind here."

A Kaufman County lesbian couple is concerned about their safety after a neighbor assaulted one of the women in a possible anti-gay hate crime during an argument over fireworks on the Fourth of July.

The couple also said they are outraged that police issued one of them a trespassing warning and listed the neighbor who committed the assault as a victim in the report, even though he had no injuries. The woman who was assaulted suffered a sprained wrist.

The couple, who asked that their names be withheld for safety reasons, said they were sitting on the patio in front of their home in Terrell on July 4 when fireworks being set off at the neighbor’s house across the street began landing in their yard.

One of the women went to the neighbor’s home around 9 p.m. to inform him that the fireworks were landing in their yard and asked him to be more careful. She said he became upset and yelled at her to leave his property.

After another firework landed in the couple’s yard a short time later, the woman took it to the neighbor’s house and showed it to him.

That’s when he yelled at her to leave his property and said she could not prove it was one of his fireworks. The woman told Instant Tea she “pushed the firework toward his stomach and threw it on the ground.”

The neighbor then yelled at her, “We don’t want your kind here” and “You’re not wanted here” and told her they should move to where their “kind” was welcome. After she started backing up, the man “charged her” and pushed her backward, knocking her to the ground, she said.

She went back home and her partner called the police. She went to the doctor the next morning and learned she had a sprained wrist and would have to have it bandaged for several days before returning to the doctor.

—  Dallasvoice

Nearly 100 attend Dallas vigil for teen lesbian couple shot in South Texas (photos, video)

More than 75 people gathered at the Legacy of Love Monument at Cedar Springs Road and Oak Lawn Avenue at sunset on Saturday, June 30 to remember the teenage lesbian couple shot last week in Portland, Texas. Many brought candles and flowers they left on the monument.

The rally was organized by Daniel Cates, North Texas regional coordinator for GetEQUAL.

Norma Gan, congregational care minister at Cathedral of Hope, began the rally with a prayer for Mollie Olgin, 18, who was killed, and Kristene Chapa, 19, who remains hospitalized.

The first speaker, Equality Texas Executive Director Dennis Coleman, said attacks on the LGBT community are increasing.

“I wish I could tell you these horrific attacks were a diversion from the norm, but I can’t,” he said.

He listed a number of recent incidents in Texas including a teen suicide that was the result of bullying.

“People are gathering at vigils like this one and saying ‘enough,’” Coleman said. “Demanding children — all children — be safe. This is a dark day for our community.”

—  David Taffet

Creech advocates for LGBT rights

Pastor lost his ordination in 1999 for performing same-sex wedding


The Rev. Jimmy Creech (Courtesy of Natalia Weedy)

DAVID TAFFET  |  Staff Writer
It was in the 1980s that a member of  the Rev. Jimmy Creech’s  church came out to him as gay, it didn’t just turn the Methodist minister into an LGBT equality supporter, it also set him onto a path of advocacy that eventually cost him his ordination

“It changed my perspective and attitude,” Creech, who will be in the Dallas area speaking at several area churches Oct. 31-Nov. 2, said this week of that coming out moment. “It began to challenge my ideas about homosexuality.”

One of Creech’s early triumphs advocating for the LGBT community was lobbying the Raleigh, N.C., City Council to include sexual orientation in its nondiscrimination policy in 1988. He said that passage of the ordinance while

Jesse Helms was still the state’s senator made the victory so much sweeter.

But most of Creech’s work has been within the Methodist Church.

“I was concerned the messaging [about homosexuality] was condemnatory,” he said. “Everything you heard a religious leader say was negative.”

So he sponsored conferences about “Homophobia and the Bible,” in an attempt to “educate about the damaging theology in Christian tradition,” he said.

In 1990, Creech performed his first holy union.

“Two men asked if I’d do it,” he said. “I agreed without hesitation. How can you support an individual and deny their relationship?”

He performed more ceremonies over the next few years, and it was no problem since the Methodist Church had no prohibition against doing so — until 1996.

That year, Creech moved to a church in Nebraska where he continued welcoming LGBT people and honoring their relationships. But after he presided over a holy union for a lesbian couple in 1997, charges were brought against him for violating the Order and Discipline of the United Methodist Church.

He was acquitted in a church trial.

Creech said the reason was very technical. The prohibition was added to the social principles rather than to religious law. Social principles guide moral behavior.

“My defense was that it was not law,” he said.

And that defense was successful. However after his trial, the one sentence prohibiting Methodist clergy from performing a same-sex wedding was given the weight of law. Creech said it is the only sentence in the social principles to have that designation, something he called “institutional bigotry.”

After his acquittal, Creech moved back to North Carolina and in 1999 charges were filed against him again after he presided over the wedding of two men in Chapel Hill. This time, a jury found him guilty of “disobedience to the Order and Discipline of The United Methodist Church” and withdrew his credentials of ordination.

Since then, Creech has been writing and speaking about LGBT rights. His recently released book, Adam’s Gift: A Memoir of a Pastor’s Calling to Defy the Church’s Persecution of Lesbians and Gays, deals with his experiences with the church’s struggle to welcome and accept LGBT people.

In his book, Creech explains that he defied church law to do what he thought God would want him to do.

“As a pastor, my mission was to help people overcome whatever damaged them spiritually, whatever diminished their capacity to trust God’s love, to love others and to love themselves,” he wrote.

Although heterosexual, Creech has appeared on Out Magazine’s Out 100 list several times, and he received the HRC Equality Award in 1999.

Northaven United Methodist Church Senior Pastor Eric Folkerth said, “Jimmy Creech stands as a powerful witness to those who have been standing up for social justice.”

Folkerth said 1,000 Methodist clergy have recently signed a pledge that if asked, they would perform a same-sex wedding. Many were in marriage-equality states New York and Connecticut.

And while performing a same-sex wedding remains “absolutely still a chargeable offense,” according to Folkerth, the church courts hearing the charges have differed in their response.

Creech said that each of those pastors could be charged.

“But do you want to spend all of the church’s resources on this?” he asked.

He said each one would have to be tried individually.

“Bishops will find a way to get around it,” he said.

Folkerth called it “open dissent against what is church law.”

He said that although this region is more conservative than some others, gays and lesbians are welcome not only at his church but a number of other Methodist churches in the area.
Celebration Community Church, 908 Pennsylvania Ave., Fort Worth. Oct. 31 at 7 p.m. Reception follows.
Northaven United Methodist Church, 11211 Preston Road. Nov. 1 at 7 p.m.
Cathedral of Hope, 5910 Cedar Springs Road. Guest preacher at contemporary worship service, Nov. 2 at 7:15 p.m.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition October 21, 2011.

—  Kevin Thomas

Gay divorce cases before Texas Supreme Court

Panel requests briefs, indicating it may rule on whether couples married elsewhere can divorce here


JOHN WRIGHT  |  Senior Political Writer
Nearly three years after the gay Dallas resident known as J.B. filed an uncontested petition for a divorce from his husband, H.B., the couple’s matrimonial fate rests in the hands of the state’s highest court.

The Texas Supreme Court recently requested briefs from both sides as justices decide if they’ll review the issue of whether same-sex couples legally married elsewhere can divorce in Texas.

J.B. and H.B. were married in Massachusetts in 2006 before moving to Dallas. After J.B. filed his petition for divorce in January 2009, Democratic State District Judge Tena Callahan of Dallas ruled in October of that year that she had jurisdiction to hear the case — and in doing so declared Texas’ bans on same-sex marriage unconstitutional.

Republican Attorney General Greg Abbott immediately intervened and appealed Callahan’s decision, which the 5th Court of Appeals in Dallas overturned last year, ruling that Texas judges cannot grant same-sex divorces because the state doesn’t recognize same-sex marriage.

In February, J.B.’s attorneys at Akin Gump Strauss Hauer & Feld filed their petition for review to the Texas Supreme Court.

“They’re in limbo,” Akin Gump’s Jody Scheske said of J.B. and H.B. “They’re still married. They don’t want to be married. Texas can’t prevent them from getting married because they’re already married. All they want is the equal right to divorce that should be available to everybody.”

J.B. and H.B.’s is one of two same-sex divorce cases currently pending before the Texas Supreme Court. The panel has also requested briefs in State of Texas v. Angelique Naylor and Sabrina Daly.

In the Naylor case, the 3rd Court of Appeals in Austin upheld a Travis County district court’s decision to grant a divorce to Naylor and Daly, a lesbian couple. The appeals court ruled that Abbott intervened in the case too late, but the AG’s office has appealed the decision to the Texas Supreme Court.

Akin Gump is also representing Naylor and Daly. Scheske said the high court’s decision to request “briefs on the merits” in the two cases is part of its decision-making process about whether to review them.

“It’s actually not an indicator that they plan to take the case necessarily, but if they don’t request briefs on the merits, they will not take the case,” he said. “They only take a very small percentage of the cases that are actually petitioned.”

Scheske said he hopes the high court will accept J.B.’s case and decline the AG’s petition in Naylor. He said it’s also possible the court will consolidate the two cases. There is no timeframe for the Supreme Court to decide whether to review the cases, and at this point it’s unlikely oral arguments would be heard anytime before the spring.

“They can take as long as they want to or as short as they want to,” Scheske said. “So now we hurry up and wait.”
Asked whether he’d appeal an unfavorable ruling to the U.S. Supreme Court, Scheske said he is unsure. “If we lost the cases at the

Texas Supreme Court, that would be the next and final step, but I haven’t discussed that with either client, just because we don’t know what’s going to happen,” he said.

A spokesman for the AG’s office declined to comment on the cases beyond the briefs it has already filed.

Ken Upton, a Dallas-based senior staff attorney at the LGBT civil rights group Lambda Legal, said he believes the Texas Supreme Court will take the cases.

“I think this an awful lot for them to read not to take it,” Upton said of the briefs the court has requested. “They’re looking at what happened in Austin and what happened in Dallas, and I suspect they want to have a uniform result. Let everybody guess what that will be, but I’m not terribly optimistic.”

Upton said he thinks it’s unlikely the U.S. Supreme Court would hear an appeal, meaning the impact of the cases will be limited to Texas.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition October 21, 2011.

—  Kevin Thomas

Marrying for love, marching for equality

Dallas lesbian couple 1 of at least 5 couples participating in a marriage equality march and mass wedding Saturday in downtown Dallas

OLD FASHIONED WEDDING | Ashlyn Jones, left, and Amanda Evans will participate in a mass wedding in Founders Plaza in Downtown Dallas on Saturday, Oct. 15, as part of a demonstration for marriage equality.

DAVID TAFFET  |  Staff Writer

Ashlyn Jones and Amanda Evans are getting married in downtown Dallas this weekend. They invited 50 of their friends, but would like everyone to attend.

“I want people I don’t even know to come and say, ‘Congratulations,’” Jones said. “That would be awesome.”

Jones and Evans are one of at least five couples that will participate in a mass wedding on Saturday evening at Founder’s Plaza in front of the Dallas County Records Building, as part of a protest in support of marriage equality.

Event organizer Daniel Cates said the couples are encouraged to apply for a marriage license inside the Records Building earlier in the week, even though those applications will be denied.

Similar events sponsored by GetEQUAL and P-FLAG are being held in about 10 cities across the state. In addition to the major cities, Harlingen, Brownsville, Huntsville and Odessa also have marriage equality events planned.

Cates said that while Texas is not close to granting marriage equality, LGBT Texans must demand the right.

“Since the New York marriage victory, people in other states are fighting back,” Cates said. “Once we lost the marriage battle here, we stopped fighting.”

Jones said that the Saturday wedding ceremony will also be a celebration of their five-year anniversary as a couple.

“In front of all of our friends, we’ll tell each other that we love each other,” Jones said.

The couple met in high school, and “When we met, it was electricity,” Jones said.

But the two kept their relationship a secret for three years. Their school had no gay-straight alliance, although they attended Teen Project in downtown Fort Worth until that group shut its doors.

When the couple told their parents they were lesbians, Jones said she and Evans were shunned by their families. Although relations have gotten better, none of their family members will be attending the wedding.
Jones said she expects marriage equality to come to Texas

eventually, “But I think it’s an uphill battle.”

Jones said she works for a very conservative company with very conservative customers, and “I had a customer walk out when she heard me talk about my wedding.”

After the downtown event, Jones said she and Evans and their friends will go to Chili’s to celebrate and then the couple will leave on their honeymoon. They’re going to Granbury to relax and get away from work, she said.

“We talked about following this up with a New York wedding,” Jones said. And then she’d like to come home and just be accepted.

“I would love to be able to hold my wife’s hand in a mall without a mother coming up to me and telling me it’s wrong to do that in front of her children,” she said.

Cates said that couples who would like to participate in the wedding ceremony should arrive at 4 p.m. for a short rehearsal. At 4:30 p.m. there will be an open mike for 30 minutes before a sidewalk march.

Cates said that a street permit was denied because the police are stretched thin with the State Fair of Texas and the Occupy Dallas protests. Sidewalk marches require fewer officers.

After the march, two people will speak before the mass wedding takes place. Richard Curtin, better known as Edna Jean Robinson, will officiate. He will conduct a “white knot” ceremony rather than have the couples exchange rings.  The white knot, a symbol of marriage equality, represents tying the knot.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition October 14, 2011.

—  Michael Stephens

UPDATE #2: Apology letter for State Fair incident


—  David Taffet

UPDATE: Lesbian couple to receive apology


Dondi Morse, left, and Latisha Pennington

In today’s paper, I wrote about an incident that happened at the State Fair of Texas last weekend. A couple was called over to a booth with their seven-year-old daughter to win a prize. Instead, they were subjected to an anti-gay tirade that left their daughter in tears.

Latisha Pennington contacted fair officials but after getting few results she called Dallas Voice. I suggested she contact Craig Holcomb, a former city council member who is openly gay and runs Friends of Fair Park.

I got in touch with the public relations office, which assured me that Fair Director Kelly Pound had already had a talk with the folks at the Full Gospel Business Men’s Fellowship in America booth, where the verbal assault took place.

I mentioned that although I would never advocate, only report, my article would include the name of the group and their booth location. The public relations office decided to pay the group another visit.

Thursday night, Pennington and her partner Dondi Morse got word from Holcomb that the man who hurled the epithets at them would no longer be working at the booth at the fair. The group renting the booth would be sending the family a letter of apology. And the fair sent them tickets for a return visit.

The next step would have been filing a complaint with the Dallas Fair Housing Office, the department that handles all claims of discrimination. None of that is necessary now. It’s nice to work on a story that resolves itself with an apology and an understanding of why something that happened was so wrong.

—  David Taffet