BREAKING: Zedler withdraws LGBT resource center amendment

State Rep. Bill Zedler

State Rep. Bill Zedler

Arlington state Rep. Bill Zedler withdrew his amendment that would defund LGBT resource centers at state universities when it hit the House floor tonight amid cheers from the gallery.

Matthew Posey, Zedler’s legislative director, told Dallas Voice Thursday afternoon that it’d be “pulled down.” He declined to comment on the decision to remove the amendment.

News of the amendment that stated LGBT and gender centers caused high-risk behavior and the spread of HIV/AIDS and other sexually transmitted diseases created an uproar among LGBT advocates.

Petitions and letters opposing the amendment were sent to lawmakers this week.

Daniel Williams, field organizer with Equality Texas, said the organization had been preparing for the amendment for the past year after a similar one from the previous session was filed, which was withdrawn after pressure to stall the appropriations bill.

“Because of Equality Texas’ outreach, there was massive public outcry about the amendment,” he said. “Zedler was under tremendous pressure to remove it.”

Three other amendments that would have some impact on the LGBT community were considered.

An amendment filed by state Rep. Elliott Naishtat, D-Austin, was adopted and will allot grant money to school districts for suicide prevention, mental health and substance abuse programs.

State Rep. Roberto Alonzo, D-Dallas, withdrew his amendment that would collect data on the number of LGBT people under the age of 24 who seek mental health services.

An amendment by state Rep. Lon Burnam, D-Fort Worth, was tabled. The measure would require school districts to make reports based on alleged discriminatory incidents based on sexual orientation, gender identity and expression, and other categories.

Amendments are still being debated on the floor. Watch here.

—  Anna Waugh

Measure targets campus LGBT centers, says they lead to ‘high-risk’ behavior

State Rep. Bill Zedler

State Rep. Bill Zedler

An amendment to the Texas Legislature’s general appropriations bill, SB1, would defund gender and LGBT resource centers on the basis that they encourage risky sexual behavior.

State Rep. Bill Zedler, R-Arlington, filed the amendment to cut state funding from universities that have “Gender and Sexuality Centers and Related Student Center[s].” The amendment argues that “to support, promote, or encourage any behavior that would lead to high risk behavior for AIDS, HIV, Hepatitis B, or any sexually transmitted disease.”

A representative from Zedler’s office did not return calls seeking comment.

An amendment to defund and prevent universities from housing LGBT resource centers on campus last session was filed by former state Rep. Wayne Christian. He eventually withdrew the amendment after Democrats threatened to derail the bill it was attached to.

Daniel Williams, field organizer for Equality Texas, said that while the University of Texas at Austin, Texas A&M and the University of Houston have dedicated offices for their LGBT resources centers, the amendment could also affect the LGBT program at the University of Texas at Arlington, as well as women’s centers at several universities.

In related news, the Texas A&M Student Senate may vote this week on a measure that would allow students to opt out of funding the GLBT Resource Center with their activity fees if they have religious objections.

Williams said Zedler’s reasoning for filing amendment on the grounds that centers would encourage unsafe sexual behavior is unfounded and hopes the LGBT community contacts representatives to stop the amendment from moving forward. (CLICK HERE TO FIND YOUR STATE REPRESENTATIVE)

“If the community mobilizes and lets the 150 members of the Texas House know that this amendment is hurtful and represents antiquated stereotypes that belong in a bygone era, we can beat it,” he said.

The amendment could be voted on as early as Thursday.

Equality Texas has endorsed eight budget amendments from lawmakers that would collect data on LGBT bullying and suicide risk, as well as reinstate Planned Parenthood in the Women’s Heath Program and study the cost of litigation the Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott’s office has spent defending laws that include anti-gay bias.

See the amendments below.

—  Anna Waugh

Demolition of new Resource Center Dallas site draws large crowd, generous donations

A construction crew begins the demolition of the strip center at the site of the future home of Resource Center Dallas, 5714 Cedar Springs Road, on Saturday, April 28. More photos from the event below. (Anna Waugh/Dallas Voice)

The journey to a new Resource Center Dallas became a little shorter Saturday with the demolition of the strip center at the site of RCD’s future home near Cedar Springs and Inwood roads.

“Brunch & Bulldozers” brought music and food trucks to entertain the crowd throughout the three-hour event. Dozens of attendants paid $5 each for the chance to swing a sledge hammer at the brick building, denting the walls and even shattering some windows.

Roughly 300 people attended the event, RCD Capital Campaign Manager Mack Campbell said.

“This was the first public awareness event for the capital campaign,” Campbell said. “We had great participation from the community.”

While the amount raised on Saturday was still being calculated, Campbell put the figure at more than $10,000, which will be added to the $4 million already raised for the new $12 million building.

—  Anna Waugh

Bigot of the Day: Sally Kern v. Justin Thompson

Sally Kern, left, and Justin Thompson

The competition for today’s honor is pretty intense, and in the end we couldn’t make up our minds. So we’re turning to you to decide this toss-up between the undisputed heavyweight bigot from up north, Oklahoma State Rep. Sally Kern, and a fiery young challenger from the south, Texas A&M University student Justin Thompson.

Let’s start with the familiar Kern, who on Wednesday said that minorities earn less than white people because they don’t work as hard and don’t have as much initiative, according to the Tulsa World. Kern made her comments during debate on a proposed constitutional amendment to ban affirmative action in state government.

“We have a high percentage of blacks in prison, and that’s tragic, but are they in prison just because they are black or because they don’t want to study as hard in school?” Kern said. “I’ve taught school, and I saw a lot of people of color who didn’t study hard because they said the government would take care of them.”

And now for the newcomer, Thompson, who penned a guest column for the Battallion, the student newspaper at Texas A&M, in support of a bill to slash funding for the school’s LGBT resource center. Here’s a snippet from Thompson’s column:

“I do not hate homosexuals; their lifestyle is offensive and against my beliefs. I feel the same about extramarital sex and similar actions common today.  All are a misuse of a gift from God. Sex is not about recreation or either of the two participants; it is about an attempt to create new life. Sex that has no possibility of conception is wrong because it deprives a person at a chance at life. Extramarital and homosexual sex is selfish and reprehensible because they put the participants first at the expense of the most vulnerable.  …

“I know that many have homosexual tendencies that may or may not be natural. Even if they are, that does not excuse acting them out. I can have innate feelings for a married woman, but that does not excuse adultery. We are not animals, dominated by instinct. We have free will and, to some extent, self-discipline. It is our instinct to sleep until the sun wakes us, but we set our alarms and go to class in the morning. We diet, exercise, take medicine and do a multitude of things that are against our instincts. Sometimes, doing the right thing takes effort and goes against what we want to do.  I sympathize with those fighting the temptation; I know it is a long, hard struggle.”

So, who should take home today’s Bigot of the Day prize? You decide, and let us know in the comments.

—  John Wright

What’s Brewing: Texas A&M student body president vetoes anti-gay Student Senate bill

State Rep. Wayne Christian, R-Center, says he doesn’t know what the impact of his anti-gay budget amendment would be: “Ask the attorneys,” he says.

Your weekday morning blend from Instant Tea:

1. Texas A&M Student Body President Jacob Robinson has vetoed an anti-gay measure passed by the Student Senate last week aimed at slashing funding for the school’s LGBT resource center. The Student Senate voted 22-21 in favor of the bill supporting a state budget amendment by Rep. Wayne Christian, R-Center, that would require schools with LGBT resource centers to spend an equal amount on centers for “family and traditional values.” Meanwhile, Christian told the American Independent that he doesn’t even know what the impact of his budget amendment would be: “I am interested in finding out the legal opinion — does our bill also instruct them with what to do with private funds? I am not sure, that’s something to ask attorneys, so no, I don’t know the answer.” How do you introduce a budget amendment without even knowing what its impact will be? What kind of fiscal responsibility is that? The sad part is, the amendment passed the Texas House by a vote of 110-24. The state Senate is expected to take up the appropriations bill, with Christian’s amendment attached, this week.

2. A San Antonio man who unsuccessfully tried to use the gay panic defense was sentenced to 30 years in prison Wednesday for fatally slashing the throat of a retired teacher with a cheese knife. Augustine Sauceda, 23, claims to be straight and says he committed the crime because the victim, 56-year-old Joe Ramon Jr., started groping him and wouldn’t take no for an answer. But that didn’t explain why Sauceda initially told police he was bisexual and had been at a gay bar the night before the murder. It also didn’t explain the fact that Ramon’s DNA was found on the victim’s flat-screen TV, suggesting that the real motive for the crime was robbery. In any case, 30 years still seems like a pretty light sentence, especially given that Sauceda will be eligible for parole after 15? Would he have gotten more time if the victim was straight?

3. Dallas police aren’t releasing any additional information about the murder of a gay Lake Highlands couple found dead inside their burned apartment early Wednesday. The victims names are being withheld pending positive identification of their bodies by the medical examiner, and authorities are still searching for a missing vehicle belonging to one of the victims. Police also continue to say that while they don’t believe the murders were a hate crime, they don’t really know what the motive was.

—  John Wright