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

Know Your Rights at Work

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Greg Nivens

As we get ready to celebrate the Labor Day weekend holiday, Lambda Legal is launching the newest section of its “Know Your Rights” information hub, this time focusing on workplace rights for LGBT and HIV-positive people.

Greg Nevins, a Lambda Legal counsel and Workplace Fairness Project strategist based in the agency’s Atlanta office. said that workplace issues continue to be a major concern among those who call Lambda Legal’s Legal Help Desk. The new Know Your Rights Workplace site “will help people advocate for themselves as well as assist them if issues arise,” Nivens said.

He said the hub will soon be mobile-friendly and translated into Spanish. It includes legal and advocacy guidance on a wide array of issues, including what to do if you experience discrimination, what laws protect you, HIV discrimination in the workplace, what to do if you are fired, gender identity discrimination. job searches, immigrant rights, good company policies, how unions can help and same-sex spousal and partner benefits.

This is Lambda Legal’s third Know Your Rights hub. The other two are Know Your Rights: Teens and Young Adults, and Know Your Rights: Transgender.

—  Tammye Nash

16 LGBT rights organizations express grief over Michael Brown death

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An undated photo of Michael Brown, an 18 year old black killed by a police officer, in Ferguson, Mo.

Sixteen LGBT organizations signed onto an open letter decrying the tragic murder of Michael Brown, an unarmed, 18 year old black man killed by a police officer this week in Ferguson, Missouri. The accounts ofd the incident of the events, but it’s a sobering reminder, according to the August 12 letter, of the all too familiar experience of harassment and violence toward marginalized communities.

Among them are the Human Rights Campaign, Soulforce and the National Center for Transgender Equality.

The 16 organizations denounced the brutality and called on “the national and local media to be responsible and steadfast in their coverage of this story and others like it — racialized killings that have marred this nation since the beginning of its history.” See a copy of the letter here.

The St. Louis suburb has been in turmoil following his death. Numerous leaders and organizations have called for investigations amidst the ongoing anger and violence sweeping the city. Attorney General Eric Holder said he has opened an investigation.

 

—  James Russell

Michele Bachmann: Gays want to legally marry multiple partners and rape children

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Michele Bachmann

Failed Republican presidential candidate and right-wing nutjob Michele Bachman was back at it this week, warning on the conservative Christian radio talk show “Faith and Liberty” that gays and lesbians are gaining ground in our efforts to enact hate speech laws that promote “tyranny” and intolerance of any dissenting points of view, to enact laws allowing polygamy and to abolish age of consent laws so that we can freely “prey on” children sexually.

Bachmann also proudly displayed her ignorance of history with this claim: “For all of the thousands of years of recorded human history, about 5,000 years, there is no instance of any culture, nation or tribe ever having as the established standard for marriage anything other than between man and woman. It may have been multiple women and a man, it may have been something like that, but it was always between men and women.”

Right Wing Watch has this audio clip of the interview:

—  Tammye Nash

New report calls marriage equality in Texas a “gold mine”

domareact_0627met001A report released by the LGBT think tank Williams Institute at the University of California Los Angeles School of Law estimates that legalized same-sex marriage in Texas would give new meaning to the phrase “Texas Miracle.”

According to the report, if same-sex marriage was legalized today, wedding planning would bring jobs, tourists and lots of cash.

Of the state’s 46,000 same-sex couples, 23,200 would marry over the next three years, the report estimates. That means:

• Total spending on wedding arrangements and tourism by resident same-sex couples and their guests would add an estimated $181.6 million to the state and local economy of Texas over the course of three years, with a $116.2 million boost in the first year alone.”

• This economic boost would add $14.8 million in sales tax revenue to state and local coffers.

• Spending related to same-sex couples’ wedding ceremonies and celebrations would generate 523 to 1,570 full- and part-time jobs in the state

The study follows a federal ruling in February striking down Texas’ ban on same-sex marriage.

You can read the full report here.

—  James Russell

San Antonio City Council appoints new interim mayor

ivytaylorThe San Antonio City Council appointed Councilwoman Ivy R. Taylor as its interim mayor today following Julian Castro’s resignation in the wake of his appointment as the new U.S. Secretary of Housing and Urban Development. Taylor was one of the three “no” votes against amending the city’s non-discrimination ordinance to include sexual orientation and gender identity.

According to the San Antonio News-Express, she voted no over concerns that it would stifle religious freedom.

At her swearing in today, however, Taylor said she looks forward to working with the entire community.

Chuck Smith of Equality Texas said in a statement he looks forward to working with Taylor “to ensure that the equal opportunities envisioned by the city’s nondiscrimination ordinance (NDO) can become a reality for the 1.3 million people who make San Antonio their home.”

Taylor, who has been on the council since 2009, will be the city’s first African-American mayor. She will serve until the May 2015 elections and has said in the past she would not run for the open position.

—  James Russell

Vulture.com: Before visiting Texas, read this book

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If you’ve ever wondered what to read before visiting a state, Vulture.com, the online entertainment portal owned by New York Magazine, just made the list for you. In choosing 50 nonfiction books to read about 50 states, the website includes both national treasures like James Agee and Walker Evans’ Let Us Now Praise Famous Men (Alabama), Zora Neale Hurston’s Dust Tracks on the Road (Florida) as well as some kitschier choices like Vice President Joe Biden’s Promises to Keep: On Life and Politics (Delaware).

Before even scrolling down, I assumed their choice would be kitschier, if not dismissive. (Think Rick Perry’s presidential manifesto Fed Up.)

Nope.

If you want to learn about Texas, Vulture.com suggests the groundbreaking Borderlands/La Frontera: The New Mestiza by the late Gloria Evangelina Anzaldua, a well-known Chicana lesbian activist and writer born in the Rio Grande Valley. Released in 1987, the semi-autobiographical book challenges and explores, through poems and prose, concepts like borders and identity.

If you’re interested, the book is available at Amazon.com and if you’re lucky, your neighborhood library.

—  James Russell

Obama signs executive order banning discrimination

Barack ObamaPresident Barack Obama signed an executive order this morning barring federal contractors from discriminating based on sexual orientation or gender identity. The Williams Institute at the University of California at Los Angeles School of Law estimates that the order would protect nearly 34 million employees nationwide, or about one-fifth of the nation’s workforce.

A fact sheet provided by the White House cites wide-ranging public support for barring discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity.

You can read the full text of the order here.

Check out the video here:

—  James Russell