What’s Brewing: Anti-gay activist calling for boycott of Chili’s; Maryland marriage marathon

1. In response to the gay boycott of Chick-fil-A, anti-gay activist Peter LaBarbera is calling for a boycott of Dallas-based Chili’s. LaBarbera, founder of Americans for Truth About Homosexuality, cites Chili’s support of the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force, which he accuses of promoting polyamory: “If you want to take a small step to stand up for family and marriage, take your family out to Chick-fil-A — and drive right by when you see a Chili’s,” LaBarbera says.

2. A Maryland Senate committee heard more than seven hours of testimony Tuesday on a bill that would legalize same-sex marriage. The president of the Senate puts the bill’s chances of passage at 60- 70 percent, and a vote could come next week. Maryland would be the sixth state, in addition to the District of Columbia, to legalize same-sex marriage.

3.

—  John Wright

Ricky Martin becomes a hero for Latino gays

SIGAL RATNER-ARIAS | Associated Press

NEW YORK — It’s been almost a year since Ricky Martin announced to the world he was gay, but among many gay Latinos, a community that has lived in obscurity for fear of harassment or rejection, his message is still making an impact.

“Today I ACCEPT MY HOMOSEXUALITY as a gift that gives me life,” Martin wrote last March in an open letter to his fans, after refusing to speak about his sexual orientation for years. “I feel blessed to be who I am!”

“By hiding, he validated millions of closeted gays’ that homosexuality is not honorable,” Daniel Shoer Roth, a Venezuelan columnist of the Miami Herald who is gay, told The Associated Press recently.

“In the gay community we have always known that Ricky Martin is one of us,” he added. “Because he is an idol, Ricky has paved the way so these gays now say, ‘If he could do it, so can I.”’

The revelation of the Puerto Rican singer and activist, whose album Music+Soul+Sex came out last week, has had positive effects for the Latino gay community and the society in general, according to advocates for the gay, lesbian and transgender community.

“The example of Ricky Martin as citizen of the world, humanitarian, father, intelligent person, is a good example for those who have obvious stereotypes and also for those who don’t have prejudice but have ideas that may act as barriers in the lives of lesbians, gays, bisexuals and transgenders (LGBT),” said Jarrett Barrios, president of GLAAD (The Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation). “Ideas like ‘a gay man is good to water my flowers at home but not for business’ limit the opportunities for the LGBT community.”

Pedro Julio Serrano, communications manager of the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force, says that “when Ricky made the announcement the tectonic plates moved, it was almost like an earthquake.”

“It was one of the most important news in the fight for equality that the Latino LGBT community leads. It touches the hearts and opens the minds of many people,” said Serrano, who became a friend of the artist after his announcement.

Ricardo Torres, a Mexican man who was raised in Texas and lives in Chicago, was in the audience when Oprah Winfrey interviewed Martin last year. He thanked Martin, saying that his revelation was good for his own relationship with his mother.

“For the first time my mother asked me personal questions. For almost 20 years she has known that I am gay but she never asked anything … she told me not to tell anyone else in my family. It was a secret … a big taboo,” Torres, 38, told the AP.

“Everything changed after Ricky came out of the closet,” he added. “Like someone in our family came out and by doing so gave us the right to live more openly.”

And the audience in general seems to support Martin.

Me, which came out Nov. 2, was a New York Times best-seller and its Spanish edition, Yo, reached No. 1 biography in the United States. His single “Lo mejor de mi vida eres tu,” released the same week of the book, was at the top of Billboard’s Latin Pop Songs chart (English version “The Best Thing About Me Is You” debuted on Oprah and was officially released on Feb. 1.)

“If in Puerto Rico people used to love him, now they love him even more,” said Serrano, who recounted that during Martin’s first public appearance post-announcement, in April at the Latin Billboard Awards, the singer not only received a standing ovation in the theater but a multitudinous cheer from the people on the streets.

“That says a lot about the welcoming and I think demonstrates the reality of our society,” he said. “Even though we still have to fight a lot of homophobia, there is much more acceptance today.”

According to statistics published online by The Trevor Project, a help-line for LGBT teenagers who may be contemplating suicide, LGBT youth are up to four times more likely to attempt suicide than their heterosexual peers; more than one third have attempted taking their own lives and those in highly rejecting families are more than eight times as likely to have attempted suicide than LGBT peers who reported no or low levels of family rejection.

Torres considers that “one of the biggest positive effects (of Ricky’s coming out) is that Latino teenagers that are struggling with their sexuality have an example to follow.”

“Ricky gives hope to thousands of teens that are recognizing their sexual orientation or their gender identity and this tells them that even when there is homophobia and lack of acceptance, they can get to be whatever they want to be,” Serrano concluded. “I believe that with his story he is saving lives, and for me that is crucial, it is wonderful.”

—  John Wright

What’s Brewing: Gay couple burned out of home; trans discrimination study; marriage updates

Your weekday morning blend from Instant Tea:

1. A gay couple in Clayton, N.C., was burned out of their home (above) in a possible hate crime on Friday after suffering anti-gay harassment repeatedly over the last year. A neighbor says the couple had their tires slashed, had a gay slur written on their home in marker and received a note with a gay slur in their mailbox telling them to move. Police, however, still aren’t convinced it was a hate crime. Watch a video report here.

2. The largest study ever on discrimination against transgender people showed that 41 percent have attempted suicide, compared to 1.6 percent of the general population. The study, by the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force and the National Center for Transgender Equality, also showed that trans people are four times more likely to live in extreme poverty, and that 26 percent said they’d lost a job because of their gender identity/expression. Read more here, or download the full study here.

3. Same-sex marriage updates from Maryland, Rhode Island and Indiana.

—  John Wright

Giffords’ friend, out State Sen. Kyrsten Sinema, keynotes Texas Stonewall conference in March

Two years ago I attended the first Biennial Statewide Conference of the Texas Stonewall Democratic Caucus in Austin, which among other things yielded this rather memorable gaffe by then-freshly elected out Congressman Jared Polis of Colorado. That same year, the conference also included a visit from Matt Foreman, a venerable gay-rights activist and former executive director of the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force.

The point is, it was a pretty solid lineup of speakers, and it looks like Texas Stonewall has come pretty close to duplicating it for this year’s second biennial event, set for March 5 and 6 in the capital. (On top of that, it looks like they’ve stepped it up from the DoubleTree on 15th to the Hilton Garden Inn downtown.)

Daniel Graney

Topping the list of speakers this year will be Arizona State Sen. Kyrsten Sinema, D-Phoenix, who happens to be good friends with recovering Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords of Tuscon (Sinema’s interview with a local TV station the night of the shooting is above).

Sinema, who’s bisexual, has led two statewide campaigns to defeat anti-gay propositions in Arizona, and some may remember her from visits to Dallas in support of President Barack Obama in 2008.

This year’s conference will also feature Mara Keisling, executive director of the National Center for Transgender Equality, State Rep. Mike Villarreal, D-San Antonio; Austin Mayor Lee Leffingwell; Texas Democratic Party Chairman Boyd Richie; Equality Texas Executive Director Dennis Coleman; and National Stonewall Democrats Executive Director Michael Mitchell.

The theme is “The New Political Landscape In Texas: Where Do We Go From Here?,” and the conference will focus on what went wrong in November 2010 and how Democrats in Texas can reverse the huge losses they suffered. And once again, people are encouraged to stay over for Equality Texas’ Lobby Day on Monday, March 7.

For conference information and to register online, go here (the discounted hotel rate expires Feb. 14). A full press release from TSDC President Daniel Graney is after the jump.

—  John Wright

Reactions to DADT repeal signing

Human Rights Campaign President Joe Solmonese:

“Today gay and lesbian patriots serving their country in silence, and thousands more who wish to serve the country they love, can breathe a sigh of relief that “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” is on its way out. Soon, all service members will be able to serve with the full honesty and integrity the uniform demands.  No more careers will come to an end because of an unjust law.  ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’ has weakened our military readiness and is now on its way to the dustbin of history.

“After 17 years of this failed and discriminatory law, a stain has been removed from our nation.  This historic day would not be possible without the leadership of President Obama, Defense Secretary Gates and Joint Chiefs Chairman Admiral Mike Mullen.  In the U.S. House of Representatives, we are grateful to Speaker Nancy Pelosi, House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer, and Rep. Patrick Murphy for their dogged determination. And in the U.S. Senate, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, and Sens. Joe Lieberman, Susan Collins, Kirsten Gillibrand and Mark Udall will go down in history as champions of this national security measure. Through their leadership, they have made our nation more secure and restored honesty and integrity as core values of our military.

“It’s now incumbent on the president and the Pentagon to act expeditiously so that the final nail can be put in the coffin of this unjust and discriminatory law.”

National Gay and Lesbian Task Force Executive Director Rea Carey:

“We celebrate this historic day, when our country has honored the principles of fairness and justice it holds so dearly. This is a tremendous victory. We thank all those who fought for and supported an end to the ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’ policy — they truly are on the right side of history. Seventeen years of witch hunts under this policy have cost thousands of exemplary service members their careers, once again proving there are very personal and costly consequences of discrimination. This cannot end fast enough. Our entire country benefits when fairness prevails, when qualified and patriotic service members no longer have to fear being targeted by their own government, when courageous men and women are able to serve openly and honestly. We thank President Obama for signing this critical legislation and now call upon him as commander in chief, and his top military leaders, to swiftly lead us through to full implementation.”

Servicemembers Legal Defense Network Executive Director Aubrey Sarvis:

“In signing this bill today, President Obama delivered on a defining civil rights measure for our country and for gay, lesbian, and bisexual service members who have been silenced for far too long. Clearly, this is President Obama’s Lyndon Johnson moment in history. A measure of dignity has been restored to thousands of service members on active duty, and to over a million gay veterans who served in silence. This historic moment is about those service members and their service.

“President Obama was decisive and forceful in steering the course as he brought along critical stakeholders, including the Defense Department. Now, it’s on to finishing the job at the Pentagon. Troops remain at risk under the law. We respectfully renew our call for Secretary Gates to use his authority to suspend all ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’ investigations and discharges during this limbo period. Until there is certification and until the 60-day implementation period must be wrapped up no later than the first quarter of 2011.

“This victory would not have been possible without several tenacious Congressional leaders, including House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer, and U.S. Rep. Patrick Murphy. In the Senate we saw remarkable determination by Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, Chairman Carl Levin and Senators Lieberman, Mark Udall, Gillibrand, Collins and so many others.”

—  John Wright

‘Mission Incomplete’ rally will call on Senate to remain in session until DADT is repealed

A bevvy of pro-repeal groups are teaming up for “Mission Incomplete,” a rally on Capitol Hill on Friday to call on the Senate to remain in session until it can consider the Defense Authorization bill, which includes an amendment that would end “don’t ask don’t tell.” According to the Servicemembers Legal Defense Network, which is putting together the rally, other organizations who’ve signed on thus far are American Veterans for Equal Rights, the Equality Federation, Get Equal, the Human Rights Campaign, the Kentucky Fairness Alliance, Knights Out, MoveOn PAC, the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force, the National Center for Lesbian Rights, OutServe, PFLAG National, People For The America Way, PROMO Missouri, National Stonewall Democrats, Swish, VoteVets and Young Democrats of America.

Here’s a statement from SLDN Executive Director Aubrey Sarvis:

“We call upon the Senate and the President to remain in session and in Washington until the National Defense Authorization Act is passed — which includes the repeal of ‘Don’t Ask.’ The Senate is scheduled to break for holiday vacation; we can’t let them leave. We must show our rage for repeal and insist the Senate stay in Washington until they have finished the job. We implore all who support repeal to join us outside the Senate this Friday. As Secretary of Defense Robert Gates said, ‘If not now, when?’

“The lame-duck vote on repeal was set up and dictated by some of the same Senators — like John McCain and Mitch McConnell — who are now delaying to kill the bill. They wanted the Pentagon report — now they have it. They wanted hearings — now they’re done. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid has said he is determined to pass the defense bill with repeal. Senators must not be allowed to hide any longer behind process, procedure, and tax cuts for the wealthy, while the discrimination continues. We’ve lost 14,000 troops to this antiquated law, and by God, we must not lose another on our watch.

“More Americans than ever are with us in this moment. We have the Commander in Chief, the Secretary of Defense, the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and a majority of the service chiefs who support repeal. We know that 92 percent of service members are just fine working with their gay, lesbian and bisexual colleagues, according to the Pentagon report. Their attitudes mirror those of nearly 80 percent of Americans.

“With increased pressure — a raised voice — and help from our allies at this key moment, I believe the Senate will stay in session. We will hit 60 votes. We will fight back on attempts to kill repeal. We will send the bill to the President’s desk. The discharges will end. And gays and lesbians will keep serving this nation — but this time with the integrity they so deserve.”

For more info on the rally, go here. If you can’t make the rally but want to take action, go here. And to add your organization to the list of those supporting the rally, e-mail eas@sldn.org.

—  John Wright

Task Force: GOP majority in House doesn’t necessarily mean ‘blockade on LGBT rights’

Rea Carey, executive director of the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force, issued the following statement tonight on the shift in the balance of power in Congress:

“We’ll cut to the chase: The shift in the balance of power will very likely slow advancement of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender rights legislation in Congress. Does this mean a blockade on LGBT rights? Not if we can help it. Fact is, our community has always had to fight — and fight hard — for equality. This is nothing new to us. But here’s another fact: There are Americans, from every part of the country, from every background, from every political leaning and of every faith, who support equality for LGBT people — and those numbers grow bigger every day.

“No matter what the political breakdown is in Washington, the Task Force will continue to identify and work with all fair-minded members of Congress who are willing to support and defend equality for LGBT people. Through our New Beginning Initiative, we will continue to push for the administration and its agencies to make tangible changes that benefit lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people and our families — changes that can be done without Congress. We will continue working with local partners in communities across the country to secure equality. Bottom line: While political winds and players may shift, the fundamental needs of the people do not. No matter who is in office, people need jobs, protection from discrimination, a roof over their heads, a way to feed their families, a fair shake. No one should settle for less — we won’t.”

—  John Wright

Gay backlash over Robert Rowling’s donations spreads from Gold’s Gym to Omni Hotels

We’ve been saying all along that if the LGBT community is going to get pissed off at Gold’s Gym over Robert Rowling’s political contributions, the community should be equally pissed at Omni Hotels. Rowling is the CEO of TRT Holdings, which owns both Gold’s Gym and Omni Hotels. Well, it appears as though some media outlets that have been covering this story are finally beginning to pick up on this fact. The Huffington Post even points to our coverage of Omni’s decision to offer domestic partner benefits at the city of Dallas’ convention center hotel:

But TRT Holdings also owns the Omni Hotels, which may be facing increased heat in the coming days.

“We’re concerned about the massive infusion in corporate money being poured into campaigns in an effort to influence the governance of the country,” says Rea Carey, executive director of the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force. “This is extremely disturbing to many, including ourselves. As for the Omni Shoreham, we have used it in the past as an event venue, but have no current plans to do so. We do take such issues into consideration when looking at venue options.”

The Omni Shoreham in Washington, D.C. is a popular hotel and venue for conferences and events, and just one of several dozen of the brand’s locations.

This is not the first time the Omni Hotels have been embroiled in controversy over LGBT issues. Last year, a Dallas Omni chain agreed to offer domestic partner benefits in response from city officials and the North Texas GLBT Chamber of Commerce.

“The Human Rights Campaign has not used an Omni Hotel in a long time,” said Fred Sainz, HRC’s vice president of communications and marketing. “We also have no plans to boycott the hotel chain. We generally don’t agree with boycott as they impact people well beyond the owners of the hotel.”

While HRC didn’t go as far as the Task Force, it did stress it was “concerned about the influx of a lot of anonymous money into this election.” Omni did not return The Huffington Post’s request for comment.

—  John Wright

LGBT groups call on DeMint to apologize for repeating old insult

S.C. Republican rubbed ‘salt in the wound’ when he repeated comments from 2004 saying gays shouldn’t be teachers, Carey says

MEG KINNARD  |  Associated Press

Jim DeMint

Jim DeMint

COLUMBIA, S.C. — National gay and women’s rights groups on Tuesday, Oct. 5, called on U.S. Sen. Jim DeMint to apologize for referencing his own six-year-old comments that gays and lesbians and some unmarried pregnant women should not be teaching in the state’s public schools.

“It is salt in the wound in our community,” said Rea Carey, executive director of the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force. “It’s irresponsible for Sen. DeMint to reassert this position in this day and age. I would ask him to apologize.”

Carey was reacting to DeMint’s remarks at an Oct. 1 appearance at a Spartanburg rally, where the Republican referenced the public backlash and quiet support that followed his 2004 comments that gays and lesbians and unmarried pregnant women with live-in boyfriends should not be teaching in the state’s public schools.

“No one came to my defense. But everyone would come to me and whisper that I shouldn’t back down,” DeMint said at the Greater Freedom Rally, according to a published report in the Herald-Journal of Spartanburg. “They don’t want government purging their rights and their freedom of religion.”

DeMint first addressed the issue in October 2004 during a televised debate with state Education Superintendent Inez Tenenbaum weeks before the election to replace retiring U.S. Sen. Ernest “Fritz” Hollings, D-S.C. The candidates were questioned about a state Republican Party platform item saying gays should not teach in public schools.

“I don’t think they should,” DeMint said then, adding that government should not endorse particular behaviors.

“We need the folks that are teaching in schools to represent our values.”

Tenenbaum replied by calling that stance “un-American.”

Gay groups demanded an apology from DeMint, then a third-term congressman. During an interview with the Aiken Standard newspaper two days after the debate, DeMint expanded the list of people whom he thought should not teach in public schools.

“I would have given the same answer when asked if a single woman, who was pregnant and living with her boyfriend, should be hired to teach my third grade children,” said DeMint, who apologized a day later for that particular remark. “I just think the moral decisions are different with a teacher.”

Terry O’Neill, president of the National Organization for Women, said the comments underscore the importance of the coming midterm elections.

“Sen. DeMint is a bigot and a sexist and he doesn’t belong in the U.S. Senate,” O’Neill said. “Being conservative is one thing. Being hate-filled is different. Jim DeMint is hate.”

On Tuesday, a DeMint spokesman said the Republican senator on Oct. 1 was merely making a point about attacks on people who speak out on morality issues.

“Senator DeMint believes that hiring decisions at local schools are a local school board issue, not a federal issue,” spokesman Wesley Denton said. “He was making a point about how the media attacks people for holding a moral opinion.”

One of DeMint’s general election opponents said DeMint, who has spent months campaigning for tea party-leaning candidates in other states in the run-up to the Nov. 2 elections, is referencing the comments to cater to far right-leaning voters.

“I consider his remarks as outrageous and out of step with the majority thinking in this state,” said Tom Clements, an anti-nuclear activist and Green Party candidate. “Everything he says is very much calculated to appeal to a certain audience. … He’s feeling his oats right now, and he thinks he can get away with saying outrageous things that he thinks will resonate with the public.”

An adviser to Democratic nominee Alvin Greene would not weigh in on DeMint’s comments, and instead reiterated Greene’s commitment to rejuvenating the state’s education system, in part through an affiliation with the Department of Homeland Security.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition October 08, 2010.

—  Kevin Thomas

Out & Equal convention coming to Dallas in 2011

Largest LGBT national convention should have an $8 million economic impact on city, officials estimate


DAVID TAFFET  |  Staff Writer taffet@dallasvoice.com

George Carrancho
George Carrancho

The 2011 Out & Equal convention will be held in Dallas at the Hilton Anatole Hotel, officials with the Dallas Convention and Visitors Bureau.

“We’re excited to host the 2011 Out & Equal Conference in Dallas,” said Phillip Jones, president and CEO of the CVB. “With its more than $8 million economic impact to the city, it will be the largest LGBT convention held in Dallas to date.”

Jones said that convention and leisure travel to Dallas has increased in the past five years.

“We were selected to host this convention in part because of our strong, cohesive LGBT community,” he said. “This community support is essential as we continue to promote Dallas as a top LGBT destination.”

Out & Equal Workplace Advocates is a national organization based in San Francisco advocating from within companies for workplace equality for LGBT employees. They provide a variety of services to companies and employee resource groups and offer diversity training specific to LGBT workplace issues.

There are 18 regional affiliates, including ones in Dallas and Houston.

Tony Vedda, executive director of the North Texas GLBT Chamber of Commerce, said his group partnered with the Dallas CVB to bring the convention to the city.

“They were looking at several cities,” he said. “We’re thrilled they chose us.”

Earlier this year, the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force held its annual Creating Change conference in Dallas for the second time.Officials estimated the impact of that conference at about $4 million for the city.

Vedda said that successfully hosting one LGBT event helps bring the next one.

“It shows the rest of the world that Dallas is a welcoming city,” he said.

Vedda said that the GLBT Chamber works well with the city. When the area was bidding on this season’s Super Bowl, the GLBT Chamber was asked to send a letter supporting the bid.

Vedda said that these events are very important to the city’s economy and has a positive effect on LGBT-owned businesses, especially in Oak Lawn.

“When we bring in conferences, those people leave lots of tax money for us,” he said. “That’s money that local residents don’t have to spend for services themselves.”

Veronica L. Torres, director of diversity and community relations with the CVB called the convention a big win for Dallas. She said this was the largest LGBT convention the city has booked.

Each year different groups partner with the CVB to stage events, like the Dallas Bears who host the annual Texas Bear Round Up and Dallas Southern Pride which holds its annual black gay Pride each fall, Torres said.

In addition to Out & Equal, the CVB helped book Reaching Out MBA for Oct. 2011 at the Fairmont Hotel. Torres said that 500 to 1,000 people are expected for that convention. In Sept. 2012, the Gay and Lesbian Band Association will meet at the Melrose Hotel.

Torres said she is hoping a small meeting of GALA choruses managers in Dallas next month translates into the convention of LGBT choral association booking the city. They would take over the all of the performing arts venues in the Arts District.

“Dallas is our hometown,” said George Carrancho of American Airlines Rainbow Team. “We’ve been a partner of Out & Equal for at least eight years.”

Carrancho worked with the CVB and GLBT Chamber to bring Out & Equal to Dallas.

He said Out & Equal recognizes the work of the airline. American’s chief commercial officer, Virasb Vahidi, will be the opening speaker of this year’s convention in Los Angeles, and Denise Lynn, vice president of diversity and leadership strategies, is up for the Out & Equal’s Champion Award, given annually to an ally.

To help Dallas win the convention, Carancho said he offered the convention an aggressive discount program.

“This is a big win for American and a big win for Dallas,” he said.

Vedda said that a number of things work in favor of the city of Dallas including the annual press tour for travel writers.

“We get beaucoups of great coverage,” he said. “We’ve done a good job of showcasing Dallas and Fort Worth as welcoming cities.”

Vedda said groups are impressed by the corporate support the local LGBT community gets.

“And not every city can call the mayor, ask him to come to help us sell the city and he does,” Vedda said.

Vedda said the GLBT Chamber continues to work with the Dallas CVB and they have their sites set on several additional conferences, conventions and LGBT sports groups.

“We’re always working on bringing new stuff to Dallas,” he said.

Officials with Out & Equal declined to discuss the 2011 convention, saying they do not announce the coming year’s convention until the end of the convention for the current year.

The 2010 Out & Equal Workplace Summit is scheduled for Oct. 5-8 in Los Angeles.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition August 20, 2010.

—  Michael Stephens