Equality ordinance drew Facebook to Fort Worth

facebookBefore committing to opening a data center in Fort Worth, Facebook checked the city’s LGBT nondiscrimination ordinance. Passed in 2000, it was the first of its kind in the state.

According to an editorial in the Star Telegram:

City officials told the Star-Telegram Facebook executives studied the city’s ordinances before announcing a new $1 billion data center investment here last week.

Awareness of LGBT rights has jumped dramatically. Fort Worth can be proud that it helped lead the way.

The data center will be built on a 110-acre site near I-35W in North Fort Worth. It will open with 250,000 square feet of space and is expected to triple in size. Although Facebook is expected to be worth $21 million in new taxes to Fort Worth over 10 years, the facility will open with only 40 employees. Facebook said more may be added later.

—  David Taffet

New anti-marriage ad is quite entertaining

Screen shot 2015-07-02 at 4.47.29 PM

Totally not gay guy talking about being for marriage discrimination

A new anti-marriage ad was posted by YouTube by CatholicVote.

A group of people who don’t realize they’re gay or lesbian get emotional talking about marriage being between a man and a woman. Well, they don’t really talk about it. They just say it and then get emotional being alone.

Of course they’re alone. A majority of Catholics in this country favor marriage equality.

Watch the video here. It’s really very entertaining. Maybe a couple of these guys will find themselves a boyfriend.

—  David Taffet

Decision Day: The Press Conference

After the announcement that marriage equality would extend to 50 states, religious leaders and community leaders held a press conference at 11:30 a.m. in front of the Dallas County Records Building. Inside, couples began lining up for marriage licenses by 9:30 a.m.

—  David Taffet

Collin, Denton, Johnson, Hood, Wise counties refuse to issue licenses and Patrick is an idiot

Judge ParkerWhile Dallas and Tarrant counties got a windfall in revenue today as hundreds of couples married, officials in Collin, Denton, Johnson, Hood and Wise counties refused to issue licenses today.

Representatives for Denton County claimed the delay was a computer problem and it will start issuing on Monday.

The others are simply dragged their feet, claiming they need a new form from the state. Funny how Dallas and Tarrant counties didn’t have that problem.

Texas Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick claimed he was getting calls from county clerks in every county across the state that said they didn’t want to perform weddings for religious reasons. Here’s some news for the lieutenant governor: county clerks issue state licenses. They do not perform weddings.

—  David Taffet

More than 100 attend Senior Summit to discuss issues facing aging LGBTs

Senior Summit

The first Senior Summit for Aging LGBT was held on Saturday at Senior Source on Harry Hines Boulevard. More than 100 people attended.

Population estimates from the Census Bureau show there are about 371,000 LGBT people 45 years and older in Texas and 60,000 in Dallas County. Organizers of the summit called those figures an upcoming crisis in the LGBT community.

“We’ve been focused for 35 years on HIV/AIDS,” said organizer Cannon Flowers. “We’ve ignored trans people, elders and youth.”

Among the biggest fears addressed was gays and lesbians having to go back into the closet to live safely in assisted living or nursing facilities. As the baby boomer generation ages, more people who were never in the closet and don’t know how to live in the closet or who fought for equality refuse to live miserably pretending to be someone they’re not.

Several approaches were offered.

Rob Emery discussed plans for an Oak Lawn area assisted living facility. He said management is not a problem. Nor is financing. The biggest obstacle at this point is securing the right property. Two are currently being negotiated.

Sharyn Fein is CEO of Ed-U-Care and its Bridge Building Network supports marginalized groups like the LGBT community by encouraging healthy living choices through education, cultural sensitivity training, exploration and self- awareness. She talked about working with existing nonprofits to provide services of interest to LGBT elders.

Lambda Legal Community Educator Omar Narvaez spoke about case work his organization is doing for LGBT elders. Social Security is one of the federal programs that still doesn’t offer equal benefits to gay and straight couples.

Other speakers included Bart Poche who spoke about research going on at University of North Texas on LGBT elders and the Rev. Steve Sprinkle gave the morning’s keynote address.

A second summit dealing more specifically with some of the issues addressed in smaller breakout sessions is being planned.

—  David Taffet

Lambda Legal to file federal discrimination suit against officials of the Employee Retirement System of Texas


Ken Upton, Lambda Legal senior staff attorney

The Employee Retirement System of Texas discriminates against its LGBT employees by not offering equal pension benefits to same-sex couples.

Lambda Legal will announce today (Friday, June 19) that it is filing suit against the state retirement plan in federal court on behalf of Texas state employees and retirees. Ken Upton, senior staff attorney for Lambda Legal who works in the Dallas office, will announce the case at the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Texas, 501 W. Fifth St., Austin.

Pensions are federally regulated and subject to federal regulations. The federal government recognizes marriages performed in marriage equality states even if the state of residence is not a marriage equality state.

—  David Taffet

Michigan gov signs adoption discrimination into law

Gov. Rick Snyder

Gov. Rick Snyder

Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder signed a bill into law that allows religious-affiliated adoption agencies to discriminate.

The LGBT community was the obvious target, but the broad wording allows for all sorts of discrimination. Adoptive parents could be denied access to services based on their religion, race or any other trait an agency decides is not to their liking, despite receiving state funding. Straight unmarried couples and singles may also be targets of religious bigots.

“We’re deeply disappointed that Governor Snyder signed this dangerous legislation,” said Rana Elmir, ACLU of Michigan deputy director. “We are developing a lawsuit with our Muslim, Jewish, Christian and LGBTQ partners.”

Democrats tried to tack amendments onto the bill, but they all failed. Among them were proposals to force agencies that were going to discriminate to disclose their policies and limit the law to agencies that receive under $500,000 from the state. They also tried to pass second-parent adoptions for unmarried couples, which is currently not available in the state. That failed as well.

A similar measure failed to pass in the Texas Legislature despite repeated attempts by its author, Rep. Scott Sanford, R-McKinney.

—  David Taffet

Something special in the air: American Airlines celebrates Pride

American Airlines logo

On its Facebook page, American Airlines posted this Pride Month logo and wrote, “Proud to support the LGBT community and its allies.”

Equality. Doing what they do best.

—  David Taffet

Rep. Linda Koop alienates some LGBT supporters and constituents

KoopMembers of the LGBT community in Dallas were outraged this weekend when they discovered freshman Rep. Linda Koop signed a letter supporting HB 4105. She is one of 93 out of 98 House Republicans who signed the letter.

“This is a woman who has been to our house numerous times, has attended Richard’s birthday parties, and has a GAY BROTHER,” wrote Jeff Henderson on his Facebook page. His partner is Richard Shampain. “So disappointed in her and her lack of leadership.”

Henderson’s post on her campaign Facebook page was immediately removed. He got a screen shot of his post before it was deleted.

Koop is a former Dallas City Councilwoman who regularly supported the LGBT community during her time on the council. Her brother is former City Councilman Paul Fielding, who is gay.

DGLA President Patti Fink said her message to Koop was promptly deleted as well.

Koop represents a North Dallas district. In the November election that added sexual orientation and gender identity to the Dallas City Charter’s nondiscrimination policy, every precinct in Koop’s district voted for the measure. That measure passed with 77 percent of the vote, getting more votes of support than any of the 11 measures on the November 2014 ballot.

Rep. Jason Villalba, a Republican who represents Northeast Dallas, was one of five House Republicans who did not sign the letter. Every precinct in his district voted for the measure also.

—  David Taffet

Rep. Israel releases statement on HB 4105


Rep. Celia Israel

Rep. Celia Israel, who worked tirelessly to kill HB 4105, the only anti-LGBT bill to make it to the Texas House floor, released a statement moments after midnight:

“I am relieved that the Texas House was not forced to entertain a mean-spirited, divisive bill that could keep us from doing the work our constituents sent us here to do: make the lives better for the people of Texas. This bill dying means that many of my Republican colleagues will not be forced to choose between party loyalty and standing on the right side of history. This bill dying means that same-sex couples across the state will not be forced to witness their elected representatives debate if their love is as worthy as their neighbor’s.

“When a member opposes one of your major pieces of legislation or speaks against you during committee, we all try to not take it personally.  This body will not always agree on how to best serve this state. But when a colleague attacks your family just for being who you are, it is impossible to not take it personally. My family, and the millions like it, took this bill very personally. I am hopeful that this bill is the final vain attempt to push back against the wave of change across our country. Texans are ready for marriage equality, and I look forward to hearing the wedding bells.”

—  David Taffet