Texas Voter ID law ruled unconstitutional. Here’s a breakdown on its impact.

vote-buttonA federal district judge on Friday, Oct. 10, struck down Texas’ voter photo identification law, just 10 days before early voting in the state is to begin.

In her 140-plus-page decision, federal Judge Nelva Gonzales Ramos called the law “a poll tax” and “discriminatory”  against African-Americans and Hispanics.

Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott immediately appealed the decision, urging the Fifth Circuit to “resolve this matter quickly to avoid voter confusion in the upcoming election,” said Lauren Bean, a spokeswoman for the AG’s office.

Explaining his appeal, Abbott said he believed the sudden ruling could confuse voters and burden election administrators. “Voters need certainty when they go to the polls and having this decision come out just 10 days before early voting begins injects uncertainty so I’m asking a court of appeals to decide this before early voting begins a week from Monday,” he told KXAN.

In the meantime, the law’s opponents praised the decision.

“Now we must redouble our efforts to restore the Voting Rights Act and to ensure that every LGBTQ voter gets the opportunity to vote at the upcoming election,” said the Rev. Darlene Nipper, deputy executive director of National LGBTQ Task Force.

Texas state. Sen. Wendy Davis, who is running against Abbott for governor, blasted Abbott’s appeal. “This is great news for democracy. I call on Attorney General Greg Abbott to drop his defense of a law that a court has now called a ‘poll tax’ and ‘discriminatory’ against African-Americans and Hispanics.”

U.S. Rep. Marc Veasey, D-Fort Worth and a plaintiff in the lawsuit, agreed. “Abbott should do what’s best for all Texans instead of pushing his discriminatory political agenda that would disenfranchise eligible voters.”

While the judge believes the law discriminates against African-Americans and Hispanics, the ruling impacts the transgender community as well.

According to the Williams Institute, a LGBT policy think tank, of the 25,000 eligible transgender voters in Texas, around 6,800, or 27%, do not have updated voter ID records.

Should the ruling be upheld, said Nell Gaither of the Trans Pride Initiative, “It makes it easier for transpeople to vote.” But she added that the transgender community still faces barriers most other voters do not.

Texas does not have a statewide law accommodating people who have transitioned from one gender to another; voters or would-be voters must rely on their county laws.

Chad Dunn, an attorney who represented the plaintiffs, told the Lone Star Project he believes Abbott will appeal to the Fifth Circuit and likely ask for the U.S. Supreme Court’s final say.

“To my knowledge, a law found to be intentionally discriminatory, after a full trial on the merits, has never been allowed to remain in effect,” Dunn said.

—  James Russell

‘Rocky Horror’ review review: Mary L. Clark responds

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Yesterday afternoon (Tuesday, Sept. 23), Dallas Voice’s executive editor of life+style, Arnold Wayne Jones, posted this blog criticizing this review, by Mary L. Clark, associate critic for John Garcia’s The Column, of Dallas Theater Center‘s current production of The Rocky Horror Picture Show.

Arnold’s blog obviously generated a lot of discussion. It has, as I write this, been “tweeted” nine times and “shared” or “liked” on Facebook 401 times. I was out of the office taking photos of Gay World Series opening day games, so I missed the uproar. But I heard about it this morning.

In my email was a response from Mary L. Clark. I read that, then I started reading Arnold’s review of the DTC production and then his post criticizing Mary Clark’s review. Then I got a call from John Garcia. I don’t think he was satisfied with my response because I didn’t agree to delete Arnold’s blog about Mary Clark’s review. What I am going to do, though, is post Mary Clark’s email here on our blog — find it below — and give folks the chance to see what she had to say. I think that’s fair.

And also in the interest of fairness, let me say these two things: I believe that some of the language to which Arnold objected has been changed in Mary Clark’s review posted online at The Column. And John Garcia stressed that some of the language to which Arnold objected — including the word “lifestyle”—  were, in fact, direct quotes from the production’s director, Joel Ferrell, that Mary Clark found in an interview with him elsewhere.

On a personal note, let me say this: I would not EVER presume to critique a theatrical performance or a movie or a restaurant or a theater/movie/restaurant critic. I would totally suck at that. I mean, I loved Sharknado and potato chips and some beef jerky from the corner convenience store are my idea of fine dining. So I don’t feel comfortable criticizing either Mary Clark’s review of the show, Arnold Wayne Jones’ review of the show or of Mary Clark’s review, nor do I feel qualified to comment on John Garcia’s complaint that it is unheard of for one critic to so publicly criticize another’s work.

Here is Mary L. Clark’s response:

Hey Arnold, I got home late yesterday evening and had a call concerning your commentary on DallasVoice.com and the comments posted afterward. Was surprised to say the least and thought it a good idea to go over some things.

First, I didn’t know you read any of The Column’s reviews, so thank you for reading mine. Yes, I am a true Mrs. Malaprop — I did mean “free love” — thanks for the correction.

As for culling from Wikipedia, well not really, but facts are facts. I read several articles on The Rocky Horror Show and, as you read our reviews, you’ve certainly noticed they often include the history of a play or musical as our readers appreciate some background on a piece.

That you didn’t like my writing style, I can’t help you there. We all have our own opinions and I thank you for yours. You wrote your review on the basis of being a gay man and I wrote mine on the basis of not seeing any labels at all.

Apologies to Foe Destroyer — I have a friend named Zoe, and even after proofing three times, the word just went by me. Even you made the same error Arnold, and that’s all it was, a human error.

But now, to the real reason you wrote your commentary, my using the words “lifestyle” and “choice”.

I can see where you would think I meant being gay is a choice. Of course it’s not.

No, the word “choice” refers to being open to one’s beliefs, sexuality, or anything. The word lifestyle is defined as “the habits, attitudes, tastes, moral standards, etc. that together constitute the mode of living of an individual or group”.

To choose to live your life openly as a gay person is a lifestyle, and that is how I used it. Throughout my adult life I’ve heard many friends and others who are gay talk of it being their lifestyle. I cannot be sorry, as that means that I was at fault. I can, however, apologize if my choice of the words offended you.

The information I got on Joel Ferrell’s vision and choices in directing the musical came from an interview in another magazine where he says, “… we’re going to work to confuse you on gender identity as much and in as many ways as we possibly can”.

Me saying, “I never thought about gender equality when seeing Rocky Horror” means just that. In the 20+ times I’ve watched the film, never once did I view it as a banner for homosexuality. I saw it as a crazy, fun movie about people who weren’t afraid to be who they wanted to be and reveled in their differences. Early college days and being in theatre is a great time to learn about that!

Arnold, you forgot to include that my statement “don’t be worried you are going to be pro-gay rallied or asked to make any choices other than to have a really good time” came AFTER I wrote about the film, and now musical, not offending me, and that we see wilder things on TV, in video games and in magazines. But after my description of the characters, the costumes, and some of the scenes, I did not want our readers to think DTC is rallying around homosexuality any more than they are rallying around heterosexuality . . . and isn’t that the point after all, and what Ferrell was after, to blur the lines?

And here is a good place to note that only you used the phrase “catch gay”. I found it interesting that so many of people that commented jumped on the same phrase, the phrase only you used.

I’m not upset about your commentary. Thank god for free speech. What made me sad, though, were comments made by several people I met after the musical. I’m disappointed that my true self and my beliefs were not reflected in all the fun we were having talking about the show, the clothes everyone was wearing, and the audience reactions. That they met me, hopefully formed some opinion of me, but then made inaccurate decisions about me based on your commentary is truly the saddest part of it all. Oh, what the power of speech can do indeed.

Regards to all,

Mary L Clark

(And yes, Kent Boyer, I worked for Dallas Voice, mainly writing theatre reviews and one huge feature article on being a production assistant for the JFK film while here. So that would be around 1988 – 1990.)

—  Tammye Nash

UPDATE: More on the latest marriage ruling out of Louisiana

Adam Polaski at FreedomToMarry.org has posted this blog about the latest court ruling out of Louisiana on same-sex marriage, this time striking down the state’s ban on gay marriage.Screen shot 2014-09-22 at 4.24.40 PM

Polaski explains: “The case, In Re Costanza and Brewer, was filed in 2013 on behalf of Angela Marie Costanza and Chastity Shanelle Brewer, who are raising their 10-year-old son in Lafayette. The case sought respect for Angela and Chastity’s marriage license; since Louisiana did not respect their marriage, one mother was not permitted to legally adopt her son.

“The ruling today grants the second-parent adoption and affirms that the Louisiana amendment violates the due process and equal protection clauses of the 14th Amendment.”

Polaski calls Louisiana federal Judge Martin Feldman’s Sept. 3 upholding the same-sex marriage ban an “out-of-step decision,” and notes that “40 separate rulings have been issued since June 2013 in favor of the freedom to marry for same-sex couples [and m]ore than 80 cases have been filed in state and federal courts across the country.”

—  Tammye Nash

BREAKING NEWS: Louisiana state judge says marriage ban is unconstitutional

KLFY Channel 10 News in Lafayette is reporting that Louisiana State Judge Edward Rubin has ruled that the state’s law banning same-sex gavelmarriage is unconstitutional because it violates the due process clause of the 14th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, the equal protection clause of the 14th amendment and the full faith and credit clause of the Constitution.

That’s all I can find on the ruling right now, but Rubin’s ruling is in direct contrast to a ruling earlier this month by federal Judge Martin L. C. Feldman in Louisiana that the state’s gay marriage is not unconstitutional. Feldman’s ruling on Sept. 3 is the only ruling in favor of gay marriage bans.

 

—  Tammye Nash

PHOTOS FROM PRIDE: Scenes from the 31st annual Alan Ross Texas Freedom Parade

Photos from the Alan Ross Texas Freedom Parade on Sunday by Kat Haygood, Arnold Wayne Jones, Chad Mantooth and Stephen Mobley.

—  Tammye Nash

Our PRIDE should unite us, not divide us

By Todd Whitley  | Contributing Columnist

We have a problem.

Many have known it for a long time. Some deny it. Others — like me — who LOVE the parade are waking up to the realization that all things are not equal in the Dallas LGBT community.

A march that originated as a defiant celebration of personal expression, sexual freedom, and individuality, has turned into a parade. A parade full of rainbows, pulsating music and pelvises, and unbridled joy. A parade where straight allies and churches march along with drag queens and kings, leather daddies, go-go dancers, and all manner of lesbians and gays. A parade that people in our community celebrate with their families. A parade that now has corporations participating and giving us money to be a part of it.

And a parade that many question whether it actually reflects all LGBTQ people, whether it’s outgrown its purpose, whether it’s off-track, whether it’s even necessary.

In many ways the evolution of Pride is inspiring even as it’s troublesome.

Let’s talk about some of those trouble spots.

First off: The forebearers of the current Dallas Pride parade have maintained a legacy for the Dallas gay community for 31 years and they deserve our gratitude, especially for doing it in a time where it was nowhere near acceptable or safe to do so.

But several issues make it appear the event has lost its way — or hasn’t evolved as it should. And further, I believe Dallas is not unique in the controversy — too corporate, too exclusive, too white — surrounding other Pride celebrations.

At the predominately LGBTQ (some of us prefer “gay and straight together”) church I belong to, I would hope, in my heart, that all people of all orientations, gender expressions and races would know they are welcome. And regardless, I respect their right to organize/attend churches they might better identify with — churches that might be largely heterosexual, or mostly African-American, for example

Similarly, there is absolutely a specific need for separate events like Teen Pride, Tejano Pride, Black Pride, and in other cities, Trans Pride. These communities have specific issues to address that don’t necessarily reflect or aren’t being addressed by the at-large community. However, to drive these folks into these events specifically because they are not welcomed is a poor expression of the solidarity that should bind us.

And therein lies the problem: When we fail to acknowledge, understand or admit there’s a problem, we cannot even begin to change it.

The burden of feeling welcomed is not on the individual, it is on the group doing the welcoming or lack thereof. If someone doesn’t feel welcome, our response should be to ask why, not immediately go on the defensive and justify how we do include them. We must ask ourselves, honestly, “ Are we really actively seeking to represent everyone and do our actions reflect that?”

All lesbians, gays and transgender people are children of the Queer movement. We are counter-culture. As diverse as we are, we all want — and deserve — to be treated fairly and with equity, especially within our own community.

Some of us want to become more mainstream, while others of us want to maintain our unique queerness.

Some of us want marriage; others of us do not want to assimilate to that societal structure.

Some of us want to express ourselves with our bodies; others prefer not to.

Some of us are twinks, some are bears, some are into leather, BDSM, dressing in drag; others are not.

Some of us congregate with people who are more like us in one way or the other but I suspect most of us do not do so intentionally to exclude others.

Some of us love the spirit of a parade while others want a more vigorous march and protest.

But we are all of us QUEER. And as I’ve said before, we have far more in common than we have separating us.

Back in June, the more traditional month of Pride, Mused Magazine published an article entitled  “Gay Pride is for White People” rejecting the notion that Pride is only “synonymous with white, skinny, able-bodied, cisgender maleness.” [Preach!]

I reposted this article and asked people to comment. Hardly scientific, this survey nonetheless yielded some not-so-surprising (at least to me) results.

Of the few folks who would actually wade into the debate, the white folks were somewhat mixed in their observations while every non-white person asserted Pride is at the very least unwelcoming if not downright exclusive. (Incidentally, not a single lesbian or trans person commented on my post.)

Here are some of the responses:

• From a white person: Too often the face of gay Pride is young, white, male, slender and upper middle class. I don’t think that’s an accurate image. The reality is more of a rainbow. It includes LGBTQ people of all races, gender expressions, shapes, ages and classes.

• From an Asian person: I feel that Asians get marginalized and fetishized. You are only visible if you are white and affluent. If you are a minority, you are a sex object or accessory.

• From a black person: The black community generally has it’s own Pride events, I’m thinking mainly because of the segregation that occurs within the gay community and the difference in celebration styles.

• From a white person: I personally haven’t felt or seen marginalization in the parades here.

• From a black person: We still have a long way to go with equality but I think what we are failing to realize is it starts within our community.

• From a Latino person: Every Pride event I’ve ever been to — East Coast, West Coast, Dallas, Houston —has included diversity as far as I’m concerned. But if for example someone’s going to say that my people, Latinos, are under-represented, first of all I would question that, and also I would say it’s up to my chicos to get up there on a float, not wait to be asked.

• From a white person: I do think that this issue in the LGBT community reflects issues affecting the society at large.

• From a black person: I don’t know if it’s just my city or the because I live in the South, but I don’t feel welcomed at gay functions that are predominately white let alone feel apart of the gay community.

• From a white person: As an older member of the LGBT community, I don’t necessarily feel “celebrated” by the younger ones, but that’s just how it is. There certainly is plenty of racism, ageism, and sexism in our community, and especially discrimination among the sub-groups.

Sadly, the Dallas Pride Parade’s history of all-white grand marshals propagates the notion that “Pride” isn’t for non-whites. Their recent evolution allowing the community to submit nominations is a step in the right direction but it’s not near enough.

Also deeply problematic for us is that we allow groups to give us money with one hand while their other hand is extended to those who would oppress us and continue to marginalize us or used to marginalize their own employees. I am deeply concerned that we will just take anyone’s money to support us. Frankly, if you’re going to vote against my equality or support causes that marginalize me, you can keep your damn money. Period.

And beyond our [un]intentional exclusivity, it’s important to consider what a Pride parade is all about anyway. I believe it is first and foremost a celebration. But it is also a vigorous, counter-cultural display of solidarity and assertion of our queerness.

As much as gays and lesbians have become accepted into mainstream society (we still have much work to do on behalf of our trans sisters and brothers), there is much work to do to reach a point where we are all respected for who we are — even if we choose not to assimilate.

We all love a good parade, especially a gay one. (Wait! Aren’t they all pretty gay?) But sisters and brothers, we must MARCH!

Cathedral of Hope minister — and someone I refer to as a spiritual matriarch — the Rev. Shelley Hamilton challenged us last year in her Pride Sunday sermon: “It’s time to give up parades and start marching.” [And trust: she had a LOT of other good things to say, too! “Hallelujah and Amen,” indeed!]

So, those are the trouble spots.

Here’s what I want to know:

How do other community members get involved in the leadership of the Pride celebration?

What is the organizing group doing to make sure that every single facet of our community is represented?

Why isn’t there a purposefully diverse parade committee — diverse in every area in terms of race, gender expression, sexual identity — appointed to plan the parade?

Why do we not create a morals and ethics committee to vet every single sponsor to ensure they’re there to SUPPORT our community and not exploit us.

How can we come together to create a festival that is free to everyone who wants to attend?

The parade appears to be “owned” by a group, but PRIDE is not owned by any one organization, any one race, any one sexual identity. WE — people of every gender, every race, age, HIV status, yea every group — We have done it without corporate money before and the results were world-changing. And we can do it again.

There are some people who think the “image” of the Pride parade should be cleaned up, edited. Folks, our self-expression is not what needs to be cleaned up. Our hearts need to change and our actions need to reflect that change.

I believe there is room in Dallas Pride for all of us and yet, perhaps Dallas is a two-Pride-events city. Regardless, let’s create a community in Dallas that includes everyone, that respects everyone, that holds accountable those who would proclaim to support, and that gives each other — and our allies — room to grow.

The notion of PRIDE is to celebrate who we are. To educate the community and world around us. To march proudly for ourselves. To act up.

Let’s come to the table, all of us, and start working toward that. Together.

I leave us with this:

“Each of us has lived through some devastation, some loneliness, some weather superstorm or spiritual superstorm. When we look at each other we must say, I understand. I understand how you feel because I have been there myself. We must support each other because each of us is more alike than we are unalike.”
― Maya Angelou

Todd Whitley is a local activist who can usually be found tweeting (@toddwhitley), holding a picket sign, thrift store shopping, or eating Tex-Mex. Read his blog at tdub68.wordpress.com.

—  Tammye Nash

Symantec online filter no longer automatically blocking LGBT websites

Officials with the popular online safe-search filter Symantec have announced that the security firm is ending its practice of blocking links to mainstream gay and lesbian advocacy groups for users hoping to avoid obscene sites, according to reports by The Associated Press.Screen shot 2014-09-16 at 3.27.07 PM

Online security firm Symantec told AP that while customers can still set their search to block offensive websites, there will no longer be an option to block websites just because they relate to sexual orientation.

Fran Rosch, executive vice president of Norton Business Unit, Symantec, said, “Making this change was not only the right thing to do, it was a good business decision. Having a category in place that could be used to filter out all LGBT-oriented sites was inconsistent with Symantec’s values and the mission of our software.”

—  Tammye Nash

Michael Sam in Dallas: Dale Hansen’s take

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Michael Sam, left, and Dale Hansen

As soon as we heard this week that Michael Sam was possibly coming to Dallas, my editorial staff and I started working on getting contacts for a story. We contacted the Dallas Cowboys public relations department. We contacted Sam’s agents. We contacted friends who contacted friends who knew somebody who knew …….

Well, you get the picture.

Wednesday afternoon late, I heard back from Sam’s agent, who informed me that Sam isn’t doing any “one-on-one interviews” right now because he just wants to focus on playing football. And you know what, I understand that. This is a young man who maybe didn’t get chosen as early in the draft as he might have been because of the media hoopla over the fact that he’s openly gay. He might have lost out on a spot on the St. Louis Rams roster for the same.

Everybody has been focused on Michael Sam’s sexual orientation and not his abilities as a football player. I am sure it’s frustrating for him. I understand that. Of course, as the largest LGBT newsmagazine in Texas, Michael Sam playing for the Cowboys is a story Dallas Voice has to go after. Even if we understand his desire to focus on football. Hopefully we can do it in a reasonable way, and talk about something other than what it might be like in the showers for Sam and his teammates (way to go, ESPN).

Yesterday, WFAA Channel 8 sportscaster Dale Hansen posted a piece on his blog, Dale Hansen Unplugged, that puts the situation in very clear, simple-to-understand terms: “He simply wants a chance.”

Hansen, who already won the hearts and minds of LGBTs across the country in February with his commentary on how ridiculous it is for the NFL to not have a problem with players who beat up their girlfriends, kill a teammate in a drunk driving accident or “lie to police to cover up a murder,” but then turn around and have such a huge problem with an openly gay player.

Hansen’s opinion on Michael Sam surprised a lot of people, and earned him a place of honor at this year’s Black Tie Dinner coming up in November.

This week, Hansen posted another Hansen Unplugged blog on Sam: “So the Cowboys decide to sign Michael Sam (and do we really need to say ‘The NFL’s first openly gay player?’ Geez, I hate hearing that every time his name is mentioned … and I would think he does, too).”

Hansen admits that Michael Sam being openly gay is a “very big” story, if for no other reason than “the first of anything is a big story.” At the same time, Hansen says he is fed up with the idea that Sam is too much of a “distraction” to play pro football. The real question is can Sam play at a pro level. “He simply wants a chance. The Cowboys are giving him that chance — nothing more, nothing less,” Hansen says.

As for all the other uproar, Hansen cemented his position as a valuable LGBT ally with this closing statement: “But the critics who are concerned about the decline of America because a gay man plays football disgust me, and I would hope they disgust you, too.”

Thanks Dale Hansen. We couldn’t agree more.

—  Tammye Nash

Steve Grand’s au natural plunge for ALS

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Steve Grand takes the plunge for ALS

I like country-western music in general, but I have to admit, I hadn’t heard about Steve Grand until a coworker sent me a link to Grand’s FB post about how he answered the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge.

So I watched the video for his song, “All-American Boy,” (below) which went viral after it his YouTube back in July 2013, and it’s pretty good. And maybe I am not the right person to judge how hot the photo is that he posted for his ALS Challenge answer, but I think he did a pretty good job with the challenge.

You know what the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge is, right? It’s where someone agrees to be doused in ice water and/or donate money to the ALS Foundation to raise money for and awareness research and treatment into the disease also known as Lou Gehrig’s Disease, and then calls out their friends to do the same. You make a video of your answer to the challenge and post it online, so the effort perpetuates itself.

Everybody is doing it. Some people are ridiculing it. Others are criticizing it for wasting water.

For those making fun of the challenge and those who participate, the Ice Bucket Challenge has raised more than $100 million so far, according to this article posted yesterday by the New York Daily News. For those criticizing the challenges as a waste of precious water, well, Steve Grand found a way to avoid that:

“I didn’t want to waste fresh water (since there are so many without) so naturally, I jumped into Lake Superior, naked, after my performance here in Duluth, MN.,” he posted Saturday on Facebook — along with a naked photo of him getting ready to take the plunge (the one at the top of this post).

Grand notes that in addition to skinny-dipping for the cause, he will be making a cash donation to ALS Foundation and to TheWaterProject.org and to “a local charity” addressing homelessness among LGBT youth.

And, his post ends, “do your research, and donate according to your means.”

So I still don’t know much about Steve Grand, but I know this: I kind of like his style.

—  Tammye Nash

BREAKING: Dallas County Schools amends policies to protect LGBT employees, students

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Larry Duncan

Officials with Dallas County Schools have announced that DCS revised its policies today (Thursday, Aug. 29) to include protections for LGBT employees and students in its nondiscrimination policy.

The new rules apply to both DCS’ 3000 employees and to the 440,000-plus students it serves, officials said.

DCS is a pupil transportation provider that also provides student safety programs, technology solutions, online instructional services, psychology services and risk management solutions to schools throughout Texas.

Officials said the new policy takes “the broadest comprehensive approach” nu prohibiting “all discrimination, including harassment, on the basis of race, religion, color, national origin, sex, age, military status, disability, sexual orientation, gender identity, gender expression, genetic information or on any other basis that is prohibited by applicable law and these policies.”

The policy also expressly prohibits retaliation against anyone who complains that they have suffered such discrimination.

DCS officials acknowledged that the policy is “not enforceable on employee health care and retirement benefits because DCS is bound by Texas law to the state Teachers Retirement System for both.”

DCS Board President Larry Duncan said, “We are committed to dealing with all our employees and students on a fair and equal basis. There are no excuses.”

DCS Trustee Omar Narvaez said that DCS had asked Lambda Legal to review its policies and procedures and make recommendations, and that all of Lambda Legal’s recommendations are included in the policy revisions.

“Today, we took a vital step forward in our continued commitment to creating an inclusive, safe and respectful workplace,” Narvaez said.

Duncan and Narvaez noted that DCS has had an anti-bullying policy on the same comprehensive basis since 2011.

 

—  Tammye Nash