Galveston B&B removed from property listing site after throwing out a gay couple

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Jonathan Wang, left, and his partner, Brent

A Galveston B&B  has been removed from the Airbnb vacation rental site after the owner allegedly threw out a gay couple who had paid for a two-night stay.

“We have a zero tolerance policy for discrimination on Airbnb. The host in question has been removed from the site. Airbnb has clear guidelines that a host or a guest may not promote hate or bigotry,” Airbnb officials said in a statement to ABC 13 Eyewitness News in Houston.

Jonathan Wang, a commercial airline pilot, and his partner, Brent, had booked a room at the bed-and-breakfast — which was not named in news reports and whose owner was identified only as Heather — for two nights while they were in Galveston for a friend’s wedding.

Wang said he and his partner unpacked at the B&B and then went to the wedding reception. When they returned to their lodgings later that night, Heather stopped him and asked where his wife was. When he told her he had not said he had a wife and asked if it were okay that he instead had a male partner, Heather said no and told them to leave immediately.

Because it was late and a weekendnight, accommodations on the island were already full, Wang said, adding that he had to call in a favor from his job as a pilot to find some place he and Brent could stay the night. He said later when he looked more closely at the Airbnb listing for Heather’s establishment, he noticed small type declaring it to be “straight friendly.”

During a phone call with ABC 13 in Houston, Heather said that in forcing the two men to leave, “I’m completely of my legal realms and morals.” When the reporter asked her is she rented to same-sex couples, Heather answered, “That’s none of your business. That’s my private home.”

Airbnb is an online service through which homeowners around the world can list their accommodations to rent out to travelers. Some rent a room in their home, while others rent out entire homes, apartments, condos, etc.

—  Tammye Nash

Another anti-gay-voting Republican is outed, and he’s ok with that

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State Rep. Randy Boehning

Another Republican lawmaker with a record of anti-gay votes has been outed by someone he sent photos of his junk to on Grindr. But in a refreshing change of pace, this guy isn’t trying to convince anyone he really isn’t gay.

According to InForum.com, North Dakota state Rep. Randy Boehning of Fargo says his exchange on Grindr, complete with a photo of his penis, was made public in retaliation for his vote against SB 2279, which would have protected LGBT North Dakotans from discrimination. Boehning didn’t say who he thought was behind the outing, just that he had been warned by a Capitol employee that another legislator was going to out him if he didn’t stop voting against gay rights bills.

InForum reports: “The exchange came to light when Dustin Smith, a 21-year-old Bismarck man with no known connections to the Capitol, contacted The Forum earlier this month, saying he recognized Boehning from a gay dating smartphone app called Grindr. Chatting under the user name Top Man!, Boehning sent Smith sexually suggestive messages and, in the early morning hours of March 12, an unsolicited photo of his penis, according to exchanges reviewed by The Forum.”

When first asked about the Grindr messages two weeks ago, Boehning declined to comment. But on Saturday, April 25, the lawmaker confirmed that he is Top Man!, and said that sending the photo was not a lapse in judgment on his part because, well duh! That’s what gay guys on Grindr do!

He told The Forum: “That’s what gay guys do on gay sites, don’t they? That’s how things happen on Grindr. It’s a gay chat site. It’s not the first thing you do on that site. That’s what we do, exchange pics on the site.”

Boehning also said that he is attracted to women as well as to men, and that he is relieved that his secret is out: “The 1,000-pound gorilla has been lifted. I have to confront it at some point.”

He also said that he voted against the anti-discrimination bill because he is representing the interests of his constituents, and that’s the way they wanted him to vote.

—  Tammye Nash

BUSINESS NEWS: GLBT Chamber celebrates 10th anniversary

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Tony Vedda

The North Texas GLBT Chamber of Commerce celebrated its 10th anniversary on Friday night, April 24, with its Celebration of Excellence Dinner, held at the Renaissance Dallas Hotel.

Chamber officials presented a number of awards during the dinner, including presenting Mark Arthur Shekter with a Lifetime Achievement Award. Shekter owns Surrealty Corporation, a real estate agency, and Graphic+Design+Group+International. He is known for his work as an architectural and interior designer, but he is also known for his years of volunteer work in Dallas’ LGBT community. Shekter founded Meals on the Move, or MOM, which for several years delivered meals to people with HIV.

Other individuals recognized for their contributions to the community were Capt. Kathi Durst, chief pilot for American Airlines; Andy Smith, executive director of the Texas Instruments Foundation; Roger Thomson, executive vice president and chief administrative officer for Brinker International; and Zack Hicks, chief information officer for Toyota Motors North America.

The 2014 Business Excellence Awards were also presented at the event. Business of the Year honors went to Liberty Burger, founded by Mariel Street and sponsored by Prudential Financial. The Extra Mile Award went to Pride Pharmacy, led by President John Shero and sponsored by American Airlines. The Community Impact Award went to ilume Management Services, led by President Luke Crosland and sponsored by Raytheon.

The Corporate Ally Award went to Haynes & Boonem LLC, with Theo Foster as LGBT diversity chair. Det. Christopher Gorrie of the Fort Worth Police Department, sponsored by Allied Stone, won the Emerging Leader Award. Robin Pulford with American Airlines accepted the Supplier Diversity Award, sponsored by Dallas Convention and Visitors Bureau. And the Member Service Award with TravelOUT owner Michael Henshaw, sponsored by Pride Pharmacy.

In the final award presentation of the evening, chamber Chairman Larry Paschall named the chamber’s president and CEO, Tony Vedda, as winner of the Chairman’s Award.

—  Tammye Nash

Ted Cruz: I still hate gays, and here are 2 bills to prove it

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Sen. Ted Cruz

Declared 2016 presidential candidate and Texas Sen. Ted Cruz, in his ever-vigilant efforts to save the United States from the horrors of marriage equality, has filed two pieces of legislation to protect states’ ability to discriminate against LGBT citizens. The bills are intended, obviously, as an end-run around the U.S. Supreme Court, which will be hearing oral arguments in four marriage equality cases next Tuesday (April 28), and which is expected to rule sometime in June, likely in favor of marriage equality.

One of Cruz’s bills would establish a constitutional amendment shielding states that define marriage as between one woman and one man from legal action, according to Bloomberg News. The second would ban federal courts from weighing in on the issue again until such an amendment is adopted.

Cruz, a Tea Party darling here at home in Texas, is trying to “broaden his appeal to evangelical voters in early voting states, namely Iowa, by sending a message to the court,” Bloomberg News suggested. The newspaper also notes that Cruz’s anti-equality marriage bills would face “solid opposition” in the U.S. Senate, but that his intent is “to force his competitors [in the 2016 Republican primaries] to keep the issue alive even if the court rules in favor of same-sex marriage.”

Or perhaps, this was just part of his effort to reaffirm his anti-gay credentials after attending a fundraiser Monday night (April 20) in Manhattan at the home of gay, white, rich real estate developers Mati Weiderpass and Ian Reisner, owners of Parkview Developers. That event, he claimed, proves he is “’a big tent Republican’ instead of a panderer.” He issued his statement making sure everybody knows he is an anti-gay bigot who opposes marriage equality just a couple of hours before introducing his two bills.

Earlier this month, on his first trip to Iowa as a declared presidential candidate, Cruz declared that any Supreme Court ruling legalizing marriage equality nationwide would be “fundamentally illegitimate.”

Cruz and Utah Sen. Mike Lee filed similar legislation last year, but those bills died when the session ended.

Just in case anybody wants to send good ol’ Ted a note to let him know what you think of his bills, click here.

—  Tammye Nash

As U.S. Supreme Court prepares for marriage hearing, Mexico’s strikes down marriage bans

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Mexican Supreme Court chamber

As the U.S. Supreme Court prepares to hear the case for marriage equality, La Supreme Corte de Justicia de la Nation — the Mexican Supreme Court — struck down laws in that country banning same-sex marriage on April 15.

Here’s a translation of a portion of the decision from the Mexican Supreme Court’s website:

“Thus the reason why same-sex couples have not enjoyed the same protections as heterosexual couples is not careless of the legislature, but by the legacy of severe prejudices that have traditionally existed against him. The absence of the benefits that the law attaches to the institution of marriage is a direct consequence of prolonged discrimination that has existed for homosexual couples because of their sexual preference.”

Meanwhile, final briefs are due at the U.S. Supreme Court for the case that will be heard on April 28. The latest brief filed is by the former U.S. military officials, who wrote discrimination hurts military preparedness and is unfair to same-sex military couples that can’t choose where to live.

“Those willing to risk their lives for the security of their country should never be forced to risk losing the protections of marriage and the attendant rights of parenthood simply because their service obligations require them to move to states that refuse to recognize their marriages,” the brief says.

—  David Taffet

Female Go Ape Marketing CEO says women shouldn’t be president

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Cheryl Rios

Ok. So. I heard something a day or so ago about some woman who owns her own marketing/PR company saying something unbelievably stupid about how a woman should never be president of the United States because, you know, we all get all hormonal and ridiculous and unreliable all the time.

I rolled my eyes and went on about my day.

Today I saw another social media post about this woman that said she lives in Texas and gave the name of her company. So I did an Internet search for the company name and learned, to my consternation, that the woman lives in Dallas. I looked again and, to my absolute horror, saw that offices for her company are located on Cedar Springs Road.

No! No way someone that backward and idiotic could actually have offices here in the midst of the Gayborhood!

So I looked up the address and realized, thankfully, her offices are on the near-downtown part of Cedar Springs, not the Gayborhood end. Whew!

Seriously though, it truly turns my stomach to think that a woman who owns and operates her own company could still believe something so ridiculous.

In case you haven’t heard the story:

Cheryl Rios, CEO of Go Ape Marketing, in a recent Facebook post explained her opposition to Hillary Clinton’s presidential aspirations: “If this happens – I am moving to Canada. There is NO need for her as she is not the right person to run our country – but more importantly a female shouldn’t be president. Let the haters begin . . . but with the hormones we have there is no way we should be able to start a war. Yes I run my own business and I love it and I am great at it BUT that is not the same as being the President, that should be left to a man, a good, strong, honorable man.”

She also opined: “We’re built differently, we have different hormones. In the world we live in, we have equal rights…and I support all of that.  I don’t support a woman being President.”

When contacted about her post by KTXA-TV (Channel 11, the local CBS affiliate), Rios told reporter Steve Pickett, “There’s an old biblical sound reasoning why a woman shouldn’t be president.” She didn’t, however, say where she found that in the Bible, but did say that it there was a “biblical sound reasoning in my mind.”

The website for Go Ape Marketing is pretty plain for a marketing/PR firm, but it does include on its home page testimonials from clients praising Rios’ creativity, dependability and work ethic. But at least one of her clients was a little confounded by her opinion on female presidents. Rick Fairless of the custom motorcycle shop Strokers Dallas, told Channel 11, “I can’t comprehend someone who thinks a woman can’t do anything a man can do. They can. I promise you they can.”

—  Tammye Nash

Study shows support growing for marriage equality, especially in marriage equality states

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Evan Wolfson

A new study by UCLA’s Williams Institute shows that fears that eliminating state bans on same-sex marriage will create a backlash against marriage equality and LGBT people are in accurate. In fact, the study indicates, getting rid of those bans usually accelerates acceptance of marriage equality.

Evan Wolfson, president of the national marriage equality advocacy organization Freedom to Marry, said the study “confirms that marriage wins are a self-fulfilling engine of support. Once  the freedom to marry comes to a state, people see families helped and no one hurt, and support surges.”

Wolfson added that the study results “solidly debunk opponents’ desperate efforts to conjure up the specter of an impending ‘backlash,’ and undersore the unfairness of depriving people in the remaining 13 states” — including Texas — “of the informed choice that the end to discrimination provides. Once the Supreme Court brings an end to the exclusion from marriage in the states still left out, we can expect support to grow rapidly there as well — a true win-win.”

The U.S. Supreme Court will hear oral arguments April 28 in marriage equality cases from four states in the 6th Circuit — the only federal circuit appeals court to rule against marriage equality since the SCOTUS ruling in U.S. v Windsor in June 2013, in which the court struck down portions of the Defense of Marriage Act.

The Supreme Court last fall refused to hear appeals of circuit court rulings in favor of marriage equality, creating an immediate jump in marriage equality states from 19 to more than 30.

The study shows that since 2004, public support for marriage equality has increased in every state in the U.S., with an average increase of 2.6 percent per year. Public support for marriage equality has increased more rapidly since 2012, jumping up to an average of about 6.2 percent per year. But in the last year, the most rapid rate of increase in support happened in states that already legally recognize same-sex marriage.

“Indeed, legal recognition of marriage for same-sex couples has been followed by more rapid increases in public support,” the study notes.

If current trends continue, by 2016 public support for marriage equality will be at least 40 percent in every state, with six states above 45 percent and the remaining states at between 50 percent and 85 percent in terms of support.

“America is ready for the freedom to marry,” Wolfson said. “The Supreme Court can now do the right thing, knowing that not only history, but the public today, will vindicate a ruling to end marriage discrimination leaving no state and no family behind.”

—  Tammye Nash

Florida Senate votes to repeal gay adoption ban

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Sen. Don Gaetz

Although Florida’s ban on adoptions by same-sex couples has been officially lifted since 2010, the law remains on the books, so to speak, since lawmakers never actually repealed it. That changed today (Tuesday, April 14).

The Florida Senate today gave final approval to a bill primarily intended to help more foster children find permanent homes, but which also removes the ban on adoption by same-sex couples.

Nadine Smith, chief executive of Equality Florida praised the bipartisan vote as a “symbolic action [that will] finally move our state past its Anita Bryant era of discrimination and intolerance.

Smith said that former Senate President Don Gaetz, R-Destin, helped clinch the deal with his “eloquent” arguments urging lawmakers not to be swayed by arguments that the bill might go against the religious principles of some private, taxpayer-supported adoption agencies.

Gaetz, a Lutheran, pointed out that his denomination, which does not discriminate against same-sex couples as prospective adoptive parents, placed 183 children in adoptive homes last year. That’s “more than three times as many” adopted through the Lutheran agencies as through the Baptist and Catholic agencies that refuse to place children with same-sex couples. “So I ask you today to follow the law,” Gaetz said. “Follow the law that says we don’t discriminate. Follow the law that says we’re going to give these [children waiting for adoption] the best chance we can.”

Watch Gaetz’s closing arguments below.

The bill has already been approved by the House of Representatives and now goes to Gov. Rick Scott for his signature.

The ban dates back to 1977 when right-wing singer Anita Bryant launched her “Save Our Children” campaign. It survived several court challenges and even was upheld by the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals in 2004. It was overturned in 2010 when a state appeals court upheld a lower court ruling that the ban violated the Florida state constitution, and the governor and attorney general chose not to appeal further.

—  Tammye Nash

Congresswoman re-introduces resolution calling for end to reparative therapy

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Rep. Jackie Speier, D-California.

U.S. Rep. Jackie Speier, D-California, re-introduced the Stop Harming Our Kids Resolution today (Tuesday, April 14), which calls on states to protect minors from the discredited practice of reparative therapy, also known as “conversion therapy.”

“It’s time to end this abusive quackery masquerading as medicine. Being transgender, gay, lesbian or bisexual is not a disease to be cured or a mental illness that requires treatment,” Rep. Speier said at a press conference. “That view has been rejected as scientifically invalid by the American Psychiatric Association and many other mental health groups for nearly 40 years.”

National Center for Transgender Equality Executive Director Mara Keisling lauded the resolution. “Discredited by every major mental health organization in the U.S., these unsafe programs take advantage of vulnerable transgender and LGB kids and their parents. Today’s resolution draws attention to these baseless programs and encourages states to take steps to protect minors from these efforts,” she said.

“Transgender youth face extraordinary challenges. Many desperately need real support. Nationally, 75 percent of trans youth feel unsafe at school. Unfortunately, many parents just don’t have information about what it means to be transgender. They are reaching out for insight and support, because they love their child,” NCTE Director of Policy Harper Jean Tobin added. “So-called ‘conversion therapy’ offers a dangerous illusion for these families–instead it delivers harm…Today’s resolution draws attention to these baseless programs and encourages states to take steps to protect minors. Every child deserves to be loved for who they are.”

The action comes on the heels of White House Senior Advisor Valerie Jarrett’s response last week to a “We the People” petition calling for a federal ban on conversion therapy. The petition, which generated more than 120,000 supporters, was sparked by the tragic suicide of Leelah Alcorn, a transgender teen in Ohio who was forced into conversion therapy by her parents.

“We share your concern about conversion therapy and its devastating effects on the lives of transgender as well as gay, lesbian, bisexual, and queer youth,” Jarrett said. “As part of our dedication to protecting America’s youth, this administration supports efforts to ban conversion therapy for minors.”

Currently California, New Jersey and the District of Columbia have banned conversion therapy. Bills have been introduced in 18 states, including Texas, that would ban the process. Texas Rep. Celia Israel, D-Austin, who authored HB 3495 to ban conversion therapy, is currently awaiting a committee hearing on her bill.

—  James Russell

Federal workplace discrimination rules go into effect today

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President Barack Obama signed executive orders to protect LGBT employees from federal workplace discrimination on Monday, July 21. (AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin)

A new federal rule barring discrimination against LGBT employees of federal contractors and subcontractors went into effect today (Wednesday, April 8), a little less than a year after President Obama announced the historic move.

In a blog post, Labor Secretary Tom Perez called the move a civil rights victory.

“It will mean a more dynamic and inclusive workforce that captures the talents of more of our people. It advances the principle that we should be leaving no one on the sidelines, that America is strongest when it fields a full team,” Perez wrote.

Until today, Perez wrote, neither sexual orientation nor gender identity were considered protected classes under federal contracting ordinances. This is the first time the rule has been changed since 1974.

“Today is an important mile marker on the path to workplace equality, but our efforts are far from finished. We will move with all haste, bringing to bear the full resources of this department to implement and enforce these new protections on behalf of the LGBT Americans who work for federal contractors,” wrote Perez.

—  James Russell