Employees’ Retirement Fund board takes up city of Dallas pensions

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The board of trustees for the city’s Employees’ Retirement Fund brainstormed ideas Tuesday morning about the best approach to make the pension plan equal for LGBT retirees.

The Dallas City Council passed a comprehensive equality resolution last month directing the city manager to evaluate areas in city employment where disparities for LGBT employees exist. Among them, were the pension plans.

Under the current plan, opposite-sex spouses receive lifetime benefits when their spouses die, but same-sex spouses are treated as designees, and their benefits run out after 10 years.

The ERF board spent half an hour discussing the resolution, as well as the state’s constitutional marriage amendment and the Texas Family Code, both of which prevent the state from recognizing same-sex marriages.

—  Dallasvoice

Vigils planned across Texas for murdered Houston lesbian couple

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Four vigils are scheduled throughout Texas on Wednesday night to remember the lives of a Houston lesbian couple killed earlier this month.

Britney Cosby and Crystal Jackson, both 24, were found in a trash bin near Port Bolivar on March 7. They’d been a couple for two years.

Cosby’s father, James Larry Cosby, was arrested for tampering with evidence in the case. He remains a suspect in the women’s’ deaths. Cosby’s mother told Houston media outlets over the weekend that her daughter’s father was upset she was gay, and she believed he killed them because of their sexual orientation.

Galveston detectives are still searching for a man who police believe was last seen with the women and information about the couple’s Kia Sorrento that was stolen. A $150 reward for information has been raised through a fund Dallas GetEQUAL TX activist C.d. Kirven started.

“We want to celebrate the way Britney and Crystal lived and not the way they died. They were a part of a community, an LGBT family that mourns their loss,” Kirven said about the vigils in a statement.

She said the Galveston vigil was canceled, and a Fort Wirth vigil  was added, along with vigils in Dallas, Austin and Corpus Christi.

Tiffani Bishop, co-state lead organizer for GetEQUAL TX said, “The tragic murders of Britney and Crystal are truly heartbreaking. To discover that Britney’s father is suspected of committing these crimes is difficult to wrap my head around. It is beyond time that our community begin an open and honest dialogue about violence against queer women of color.”

People attending vigils or who want to show support for the women’s memory are asked to wear yellow in the memory of Cosby and Jackson.

Other vigils are still being solidified, including one for Williamson County. GetEQUAL TX will update vigil information on its Facebook page.

Anyone with information about the case should call the Galveston County Sheriff’s Office tip line at 866-248-8477 or Galveston County Crime Stoppers 409-763-8477.

Locations of the Texas vigils are below.

—  Dallasvoice

Lesbian couple files for divorce in Bexar County

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A San Antonio couple has filed to dissolve their 2010 D.C. marriage.

The couple, Allison Leona Flood Lesh and Kristi Lyn Lesh, filed for divorce on Feb. 18 after separating in July. Their case is the first divorce sought by a same-sex couple in Bexar County, according to the San Antonio Express-News.

Eight days after they filed, U.S. District Judge Orlando Garcia ruled that the state’s ban on same-sex marriage and its refusal to recognize out-of-state marriages is unconstitutional. But Garcia stayed his ruling pending appeal. Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott later appealed the ruling to the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals.

The case may be put on hold until the Texas Supreme Court decides whether to allow same-sex couples to divorce in Texas. The court heard arguments for same-sex divorce in the state back in November, when lawyers for an Austin couple, who were granted a divorce, and a Dallas couple, who were still trying to obtain one, argued that the state didn’t need to recognize the marriages to dissolve the unions since the state where they were married already recognized their unions as legal.

The court has yet to rule in the cases, but a decision is expected by summer before the court’s recess.

But the San Antonio couple wants the case to move forward because they are also battling for custody of their 13-month-old daughter. Flood, who hasn’t seen the child in six months,  wants to share custody, while Lesh doesn’t because her wife isn’t the girl’s biological or adoptive parent. The Austin couple also has a child, but the case didn’t deal with custody.

“This illustrates what Judge Garcia identified as (what) same-sex couples are deprived of,” Neel Lane, one of the San Antonio lawyers for the gay couples who sued the state over the same-sex marriage ban, told the San Antonio Express-News. “First, they are deprived of the benefits of an orderly dissolution of a marriage. Second, their children are denied the benefit of the many laws to protect their interests in the event of a divorce.”

The couple has a hearing on Thursday.

—  Dallasvoice

Equality Texas calls on police, public to help solve lesbian couple’s death

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A sketch of the man who police believe was the last person to be seen with the women.

Statewide LGBT advocacy organization Equality Texas is calling on the Department of Justice and local police to solve the deaths of a lesbian couple found dead in Port Bolivar over the weekend.

Britney Cosby and Crystal Jackson, both 24, were found Friday morning near the trash bin of a convenience store. Police have since released a sketch of the man who was last seen with the women.

Police believe the women were killed somewhere else before being moved to the trash bin. They were in Galveston County last week celebrating Mardi Gras before family members lost contact with them. Autopsy reports this week revealed that Cosby died of blunt force trauma and Jackson was shot to death.

“Equality Texas is deeply saddened by this murder, and our hearts and prayers are with Ms. Cosby’s and Ms. Jackson’s family and friends during this difficult time,” Equality Texas Executive Director Chuck Smith said in a statement. “For many in the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community this is a stark reminder that nearly a third of Texas’ hate crimes are motivated by bias against sexual orientation.  A report issued last year by the National Coalition of Anti-Violence Programs found that 73.1 percent of all anti-LGBT homicide victims in 2012 were people of color.

“I have faith that the Galveston County Sheriff’s department is working hard to bring closure to this senseless tragedy and will work with the Texas Department of Public Safety and the Department of Justice to fully investigate,” Smith added.

GetEQUAL TX activist Cd Kirven has set up a reward fund to encourage people to come forward with information. All money collected will go to Galveston County Crime Stoppers. Donations can be online here or checks and money orders can be mailed to Captain Cook with the Galveston County Crime Stoppers at 601 54th St. Galveston, TX 77551.

Investigators are seeking the public’s help in identifying the man in the sketch and locating the couple’s silver 2006 Kia Sorrento with paper tags. Anyone with information about the case should contact the Galveston County Sheriff’s Office tip line at 866-248-8477.

—  Dallasvoice

Houston lesbian couple killed over weekend in Galveston County

Crystal Jackson and Britney Cosby

Crystal Jackson and Britney Cosby

Questions still remain after a lesbian couple was found near a store dumpster in Port Bolivar in Galveston County early Friday.

Crystal Jackson and her girlfriend, Britney Cosby, both 24, were found killed near a convenience store dumpster off State Highway 87 when a beer salesman noticed their bodies. The cause of the death hasn’t been determined.

Police released a sketch overnight of the man who was last seen with the women. He’s described as a black male with an average build, standing between 5 feet, 11 inches and 7 feet tall. He’s in his late 20s or early 30s.

Family members told Houston’s KTRK that Jackson was a mother to a 5-year-old girl. The couple had been together for two years.

The women were in Galveston last week for Mardi Gras and the two were last in contact with family on Wednesday. Police believe it’s possible the women were killed somewhere else before their bodies were moved.

Investigators are looking for Cosby’s missing vehicle, a silver 2006 Kia Sorrento with paper tags.

Anyone with information about the case should call the Galveston County Sheriff’s Office tip line at 866-248-8477 or Galveston County Crime Stoppers 409-763-8477.

Houstonsketch

A sketch of the man who police believe was the last person to be seen with the women.

Watch KTRK’s report below.

—  Dallasvoice

Gay matchmaking service He’s For Me opens Dallas office

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From left, He’s For Me Dallas manager Dana Foley-Taylor, owner Tammy Shaklee and North Texas GLBT Chamber’s Tony Vedda and Ron Watterson help cut the ribbon at the office’s opening Friday. (Steve Ramos/Dallas Voice)

Dallas gays now have no excuse to be single — at least not for long.

Gay matchmaking service He’s for Me opened its Dallas office on Friday to celebrate Valentine’s Day and introduce the full-time staff to the community. Staff members were joined by members of the GLBT North Texas Chamber of Commerce, of which H4M is a member.

The company started in Austin in the fall of 2012. Within six months, matchmakers were setting up Dallas and Houston couples, owner Tammy Shaklee said.  The popularity made a full-time office in Big D necessary, and she plans to open a Houston location next.

Shaklee said it’s easy to meet people, but it’s hard to know if they’re single, looking for a serious relationship and if you’re compatible with them.

And she met her husband through a dating service in Austin seven years ago.

“I would have never met him without the matchmaking service,” she said.

She then tried to convince a gay friend to use a service to find love. Only he couldn’t find a service that paired gays.

“I started the research, and after three days of trying to find service for him, I found that none existed,” she said. “When I couldn’t find a service for him to hire to help him, I started the process to start it myself.”

H4M also serves gays in Seattle, after a Houston client relocated and wanted Shaklee’s company to help him there. The company now serves gays in Denver, Miami, Chicago and Atlanta.

While Shaklee, a straight ally, saw the need for gays to have a service, she said she’s researching expanding the company for lesbians with a She’s For Me component.

“I really do believe in my heart that it took a straight ally to give the community something that it hadn’t had the opportunity to have before,” she said.

H4M Dallas office is located at at 2911 Turtle Creek Blvd., 3rd Floor. For more info about HFM, go here.

—  Dallasvoice

Denton County Stonewall endorses out candidates for state House

Daniel Moran

Daniel Moran

Stonewall Democrats of Denton County voted at a meeting in Lewisville Wednesday night to endorse out state House candidates Daniel Moran and Emy Lyons. The group’s entire endorsed slate for the March 4 Democratic Primary is below.

U.S. Congressional District 24 – Patrick McGehearty

TX State Representative District 63- Daniel Moran

TX State Representative District 64- Emy Lyons

TX State Representative District 65- Alex Mendoza

TX State Representative District 106- Lisa Osterholt

District Judge 367th Court- David Heiman

U.S. Senate- Maxey Scherr

Governor- Wendy Davis

Lieutenant Governor- Leticia Van de Putte

Attorney General- Sam Houston

Comptroller- Mike Collier

Land Commissioner- John Cook

Agriculture Commissioner- Hugh Fitzsimons

Railroad Commissioner- Steve Brown

TX Supreme Court Place 7- Gina Benavides

—  Dallasvoice

King unable to attend Sochi opening ceremony, Cahow to replace her

Cahow

Caitlin Cahow

Billie Jean King announced Wednesday she would not be going to Sochi for the opening ceremony of the Winter Olympics on Friday because her mother is ill.

Instead, Caitlin Cahow, an Olympic silver and bronze medalist in women’s ice hockey, will replace her.

Cahow was supposed to be part of the closing ceremony but now will not participate in that. No replacement has been named yet.

Cahow and King are both lesbian and were named to the Olympic delegation by President Barack Obama to make a statement about Russia’s new anti-gay law.

Cahow will be joined by Brian Boitano, an Olympic gold medalist in figure skating. Boitano came out recently after he was named to the opening ceremony delegation.

Janet A. Napolitano, president of the University of California and former Secretary of Homeland Security, will lead the delegation. Michael A. McFaul, U.S. ambassador to the Russian Federation, and Robert L. Nabors, assistant to the president and deputy chief of staff for policy, round out the delegation. On Tuesday, McFaul announced his resignation as ambassador effective the end of the month.

—  David Taffet

PHOTOS: Creating Change 2014 in Houston

Nona Hendryx performs Sunday at Creating Change in Houston. (Anna Waugh/Dallas Voice)

Nona Hendryx performs Sunday at Creating Change in Houston. (Anna Waugh/Dallas Voice)

 HOUSTON — Thousands of LGBT advocates departed from Houston Sunday as the 26th annual National Conference on LGBT Equality: Creating Change came to a close.

The annual five-day conference set records for the amount of attendees and workshops in its first year in Houston. And the inspiration of the weekend was all around during the conference, from Houston Mayor Annise Parker’s welcome to trans actress Laverne Cox’s keynote speech and National Gay and Lesbian Task Force Executive Director Rea Carey’s State of the Movement address. (If you missed any of the speeches, you can watch them here.)

And, like any celebration in the LGBT community, it ended with a bang as bisexual singer Nona Hendryx rocked out on stage on Sunday after brunch.

More photos below.

—  Dallasvoice

Annise Parker touches on importance of elections, unity at Creating Change

Houston Mayor Annise Parker addresses the Creating Change conference in Houston Thursday night. Jessica Borges/Dallas Voice)

Houston Mayor Annise Parker addresses the crowd at the national Creating Change conference in Houston Thursday night. (Jessica Borges/Dallas Voice)

HOUSTON — Mayor Annise Parker was cheered to the stage by thousands of people when she was introduced Thursday evening as Mrs. Annise Parker at The National Conference on LGBT Equality: Creating Change.

Parker married her longtime partner earlier this month in California. She welcomed the applause during her welcome address at the conference, now in its 26th year, which is in Houston for the first time.

“You’re acting as if you’ve never seen a lesbian before,” Parker said. “And, yes, this what a lesbian mayor looks like.”

While conference organizers had hoped to hold the event in Houston when Parker was mayor — she’s now in her third and final term — Parker said she wanted to be a part of the experience that happens when thousands of LGBT activists and advocates converge for the national gathering.

“It was important for me to be here tonight because one, you’re my family,” she said. “Two, it is important for the rest of the United States and the rest of the state of Texas to experience what we do here at Creating Change, and I wanted to be a part of that.

“And I get to home to my new wife,” she added.

Parker, who said she lit up City Hall in rainbow colors for the conference, touched on her citywide elections and how LGBT people can create change by electing the right people to any office.

“I’m here to tell you elections matter,” she said. “And when you put someone in the state house or in the city council chamber or in the mayor’s office, you can make a difference in the lives of people that you will never meet and never see, but you know that you are transforming people’s lives. And those mayors might do something like penning the most comprehensive nondiscrimination ordinance in the United States as their third executive act.”

Parker has said this term she plans to have the council pass a nondiscrimination ordinance similar to those in Dallas, Fort Worth, Austin and San Antonio.

She also said people could elect a mayor who supports marriage equality. Parker is a co-chair of Mayors for the Freedom to Marry, and she encouraged attendees to go by Freedom to Marry’s booth and email their mayors to support marriage equality.

And with such a diverse representation of the LGBT community, Parker ended by encouraging the community’s strength to focus on common goals instead of divisive factors.

“The most important thing that we can do here today, this evening and at this conference, is to look around at who’s here with us, look at the strength we have as a community, recognize that the differences that divide us are so much less than the things that unite us,” she said. “Our strength is powerful.”

—  Dallasvoice