Houston passes equal-rights ordinance

CITY_OF_HOUSTON_LOGO-325x294After nearly nine hours of chanting and tears from seas of opponents and supporters in color-coded T-shirts, Houston City Council passed an ordinance on Wednesday extending equal rights protections to gay and transgender residents, The Houston Chronicle reported.

Despite weeks of discussion and dissent over the measure, the final vote was 11-6, a count that matched guesses made months ago, when Mayor Annise Parker— the first openly lesbian mayor of a major American city — said she planned to bring forward such a measure.

The approval was greeted with thunderous applause from the audience, largely full of supporters, and chants of “HERO,” for the Houston Equal Rights Ordinance.

“While much of the debate has centered around the gay and transgender section of the ordinance, it is a comprehensive ordinance,” Parker said after the vote. “It is a good step forward for the city of Houston.”

The measure bans discrimination based not just on sexual orientation and gender identity but also, as federal laws do, sex, race, color, ethnicity, national origin, age, religion, disability, pregnancy and genetic information, as well as family, marital or military status.

The ordinance applies to businesses that serve the public, private employers, housing, city employment and city contracting. Religious institutions would be exempt. Violators could be fined up to $5,000.

—  Steve Ramos

Florida curriculum designed to make your children as homosexual as they possibly can

Florida state Rep. Charles van Zant

Florida state Rep. Charles van Zant

I love it when crackpots come from other states rather than Texas. I feel we’re overrepresented. Today’s crackpot is Florida state Rep. Charles van Zant.

Florida’s adopting a new educational curriculum called Common Core. The latest Common Core curriculum Florida adopted is in mathematics.

Van Zant completely opposes Common Core because it’s trying to “attract every one of your children to become as homosexual as they possibly can.”

Van Zant warns, “If you just go look on their website, AIR.org, you see that they’re very much in support and say on their website that they’re supportive and provide all sorts of research data and things regarding the LGBT agenda, the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender agenda. I don’t believe that that has any place being introduced into Florida’s schools. I further do not believe that we have a place to make that a part of Florida’s curricula.”

If you do a search for LGBT, a number of articles appear on “gay agenda” items like protecting LGBT kids from bullying. From reading a few of them, it seems research proves that when kids aren’t bullied, they perform better in school.

But who wants that? Certainly not Rep. Van Zant. That’s turning kids as gay as possible.

Search the website for other topics like “inner city,” and you’ll find 10 times the number of articles than those on LGBT. Search for “rich kids” and you’ll also find 15 times as much. That’s because AIR, the American Institutes for Research, is looking for ways to teach all kids. Even LGBT kids.

Van Zant said he only wants things like history and civics taught. I guess he thinks there are no gay historical figures. I guess he’d ban singing “America the Beautiful,” since it was written by a lesbian. Or visiting the Statue of Liberty with its inscribed poem also by a lesbian. And civics. As long as you don’t teach about nondiscrimination laws, I guess we’re fine there. Or mention some of our state representatives. Or sheriff. Or district clerk. And if you live in Houston, just don’t ever mention you have a mayor.

Even math’s not safe. Van Zant must be imagining this as the representative gay agenda Common Core algebra question:

The last train to Fort Worth leaves Victory Station at midnight. If a gay man is walking 1.5 miles from JR.’s to the train, and he can walk four miles an hour while drunk, what time should he order his last drink, assuming he can down it in 5 minutes and already has his train ticket purchased, yet still make the train?

I only regret I never got a Florida education. Who knows what my full homosexual potential might have been?

—  David Taffet

Open carry group will be on Cedar Springs looking for allies

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LGBT liaison police Laura Martin

LGBT police liaison Laura Martin called to give the community a heads up about a group planning to be out on Cedar Springs Road on Sunday afternoon looking for allies.

The folks supporting the right to carry guns in public openly plan to gather at Walgreens at about 2 p.m. and walk the streets in the neighborhood for an hour or two. Martin assures they will be there only to hand out literature, talk to people and educate.

She said 15 to 30 people usually participate in these events, but there may be fewer because they have several planned rallies this weekend. Many carry long guns openly, which is already legal.

She also wanted everyone to understand the group is there to enlist support for their cause. They are looking for allies in the community and assured us there’s nothing hostile intended. Two plain clothes officers will be with them.

They’ve been doing this in other areas of the city including Downtown and Bishop Arts.

—  David Taffet

A week of the worst reasons to deny marriage equality ever

Steve Brashear

Gov. Steve Brashear

Last week proved to be a week of stupidity for those arguing for discrimination against same-sex couples. The excuses are becoming both more inane and ridiculous and more hateful than ever.

In Kentucky, Gov. Steve Brashear will defend the marriage ban because equality threatens “long-term economic stability through stable birth rates.”

He didn’t explain what that means. Only straight couples who are married have children? If Kentucky continues to ban same-sex marriage, gay people will marry people of the opposite sex and procreate? If gay people marry, straight people will no longer be able to have sex?

The governor’s office said it had no comment. In the original ruling overturning the state’s marriage ban, the judge ruled that using procreation as an argument for discrimination against same-sex couples “makes just as little sense as excluding post-menopausal (heterosexual) couples or infertile couples.”

In Oregon, Attorney General Ellen Rosenblum has ordered new marriage license documents to reflect the expected change in the state’s marriage laws, should that occur. The 9th Circuit Court of Appeals that covers Oregon has already expressed how it feels about marriage discrimination in its Proposition 8 ruling, which upheld a lower court ruling that overturned California’s marriage ban. In that circuit, Hawaii, California and Washington are marriage equality states.

So what Rosenblum did was prepare the state for a smooth transition to equality, if that occurs.

The National Organization for Marriage chimed in last week asking to defend the law. They charge Rosenblum with “dereliction of duty” for not finding arguments to support discrimination.

The Supreme Court’s Prop 8 decision that plaintiffs must have standing and be directly affected should preclude NOM from replacing Rosenblum as the defendant.

Oral arguments in the Oregon marriage case will be heard in U.S. district court on Wednesday. Rosenblum is not defending the state’s marriage ban, and the state is not expected to appeal should it be ordered to issue marriage licenses this week.

While Kentucky and Oregon defenders of discrimination displayed how stupid the arguments can get, Indiana showed just how contemptible a state can be.

Amy Sandler and Niki Quasney, an Indiana couple, sued to have their Massachusetts marriage recognized by their home state. Quasney has terminal stage 4 ovarian cancer. They have young children, and they want to make sure their kids get the death benefits they’d be entitled to if the parents were straight.

“The current rule of law does not allow for a hardship exception from the statute for one person or two people, as that would create inconsistency for all other citizens of Indiana,” the state attorney general wrote in a statement.

Wait, it gets worse.

The state argued gay people can get married as long as they marry someone of the opposite sex. In other words, you can marry whomever the state tells you to marry.

But the most disgusting statement was this one. In court documents, the attorney general said recognizing this marriage could raise false hopes for others because courts might eventually uphold the state’s gay marriage ban.

Since the Windsor decision last June that overturned parts of the Defense of Marriage Act, no court has upheld a state’s marriage ban. That’s the naive part. But that statement is truly one of the most hateful things said in this debate about the LGBT community.

The basis for refusing to recognize the marriage of one couple with a dying partner who want to protect their children is that gays and lesbians are narcissistic, greedy, selfish pigs. We only care about ourselves, and if we can’t have something personally for ourselves, no one else should, either.

Personally, I can’t imagine going through multiple surgeries followed by chemotherapy and having to deal with courts and attorneys and an attorney general spewing hate at me. But that’s exactly what Quasney did. Not because she’s selfish, but because she wants to make sure her two children are taken care of after she dies. She’s guilty of being a mom who loves her kids and wants to make sure they get what every other kid is entitled to.

I can’t imagine anyone in the LGBT community not sending her our love and prayers or good thoughts. I can’t imagine any gay or lesbian being as hateful and hurtful as Indiana’s attorney general paints us.

How did he come up with such a scenario? The only thing I can imagine is that he’s describing himself. He wouldn’t allow anyone to have something he can’t have.

On Thursday, a federal judge ruled that Indiana will comply with his order to list Sandler as Quasney’s spouse on her death certificate when the time comes.

On Friday, the state announced it will appeal.

—  David Taffet

Storm damages Legacy’s building

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All the glass is missing from the skylight at Legacy Counseling Center

Yesterday’s torrential storm did damage all around the city, and one space not spared was Legacy Counseling Center.

Melissa Grove, executive director of Legacy, jokes that she was “lying in her office getting a suntan,” because the storm blew out the atrium skylight window at the agency’s McKinney Avenue headquarters and counseling office.

“Despite the roof being blown off, we continued to serve our clients, because that’s what we do,” Grove said.

She said the building lost electricity and suffered some water damage. Pieces of the skylight smashed through the windshield of one agency counselor’s car.

Grove  said everyone is safe and agency operations continue as normal, but I suggested it might be a good fundraising opportunity.

“Hey, I’ll always ‘ho’ out for donations,” Grove said. Donations to help repair office damage can be made here.

—  David Taffet

That wet stuff is called rain … or who knew rivers had water in them

Some areas of the city have received three inches of rain Thursday. Turtle Creek is a low spot in Oak Lawn, so the street was flooding. I just ran out to get some shots of the creek overflowing its banks and water rushing over the falls. We haven’t seen anything like this in quite awhile.

—  David Taffet

UPDATE: United Black Ellument presents interfaith panel discussion postponed

UPDATE: Because of the weather, the event has been postponed. We’ll let you know when it’s been rescheduled.
UBE

 

This evening, I’ll be part of an interfaith panel sponsored by United Black Ellument. Everyone’s welcome to join us.

The event will be held at the SGI-USA Cultural Center at 13608 Midway Road just north of Alpha Road. Soka Gakkai International–USA (SGI) is a Buddhist association for peace, culture, and education. Members seek, through their practice of Buddhism, to develop the ability to live with confidence, to create value in any circumstance and to contribute to the well-being of friends, family and community.

The Buddhist faith is among the five that will be represented. I’ll be doing the Jews, and God only knows what will come out of my mouth. Hopefully, no one will ask me about Hannukah. I can’t stand Hannukah. Lots of other things to talk about us quirky, loudmouth left-wing Jews.

Islam, Christianity and Atheism will also be presented by members of those faiths and traditions.

United Black Ellument, a program of Resource Center, is dedicated to building Dallas’ young black gay and bisexual men’s community. By creating new ways for young men to come together, meet, socialize and support each other, U-BE provides alternative social events and opportunities for gay and bisexual men to promote their diversity, well-being and strength as individuals and as a community.

This evening’s event should be a lot of fun. Looking forward to seeing a nice crowd.

—  David Taffet

Nondiscrimination ordinance passes in Mississippi city

map_of_bay_st.louis_ms“As an elected official, we should not and must not discriminate against anyone,” said Joey Boudin before voting for a nondiscrimination resolution that passed unanimously Tuesday.

Boudin is a city councilman. From New York? L.A.? No, he’s the Ward 5 Councilman from Bay St. Louis, Miss.

This is the sixth Mississippi city to pass a similar ordinance this year after Starkville, Hattiesburg, Greenville, Magnolia and Oxford, according to the Biloxi Gulfport Sun Herald.

Bay St. Louis resident Pat Robinson said, “It sends a very clear-cut message to everyone — particularly the gay youth — that everyone is valued in the Bay. We don’t discriminate against gender identity and expression and sexual orientation.”

The ordinance follows the recent signing of the Mississippi Religious Freedom Restoration Act, which bans the state from doing anything to limit the practice of religion. Apparently, in Mississippi, religious groups were being prevented from fully practicing their religious beliefs.

Like 150-year-old Beth Israel Congregation, the large Reform synagogue in Jackson that some of my relatives attend. Rabbi Valerie Cohen has been prevented from performing same-sex weddings. I’m sure the “restoration” of her “religious freedom” will allow her to freely practice her Judaism and perform same-sex weddings at her temple.

—  David Taffet

Rich Sheridan is running against the Sodomites

SheridanIt’s always entertaining when Rich Sheridan runs for office. This time he’s running for DISD school board.

From his campaign literature, we understand Rich hates the Sodomites and Rich hates the Medranos.

Well, I knew we had Medranos in Dallas. One even represents me on the Dallas City Council. Another is running for Dallas County Treasurer. But I didn’t know we had Sodomites in Dallas.

Sdom is a small town in Israel on the Dead Sea that’s been there since Biblical times, and its residents are known as Sodomites. The town’s best known for being the fourth largest producer of potash in the world.

I don’t know why Rich hates those potash producers so much, but he seems to despise them with a vengeance.

Rich accuses incumbent Miguel Solis of being a “trojan horse for the Sodomites.”

Well, I don’t know if Solis has ever been to Israel, but he’s been endorsed by Stonewall Democrats and, as a DISD board member, toured Resource Center to find ways they can work together.

Solis has been in a long-term relationship with his girlfriend, and they recently got engaged. As they say in Sodom, “Mazel tov.”

As for Rich, he’s breaking a campaign promise from his last election by running.

At a debate in the race for Dallas City Council District 13, one of the candidates was 18-year-old Jacob King. Rich promised he’d never run for office again if Jacob got more votes than he did. Indeed, Jacob got more votes than Rich.

So here’s the question. If you can’t keep the most basic campaign promise, Rich, why should we trust you on anything at all ever again?

—  David Taffet

Are SMU students getting away with hate speech?

Students took to a social media app, using anti-gay slurs to defeat a vote that would have added an LGBT seat to the student Senate

SMU

YES H8 | Students stroll in and out of SMU’s Dallas Hall during the week before finals. Several of them talked about homophobic attacks on Yik Yak, a social media app. (Steve Ramos/Dallas Voice)

DAVID TAFFET | Staff Writer
Southern Methodist University students littered a recent vote with hate speech that showed how deeply some of them despise the LGBT community. Rants appeared on Yik Yak, a social media app where people can comment anonymously, when the students were voting whether to include an LGBT seat on the student Senate.

“Homosexual isn’t a race its a fucked up way of life,” one student posted on Yik Yak. “Yeah, I’m homophobic. So what?” another student fired off. And there were more. “Fuck fags” also was among the numerous posts.

Yet, there is no firestorm of protests to match those created by another hate-generated tirade. Los Angeles Clippers owner Donald Sterling was banned from the NBA on Tuesday, fined $2.5 million and is being pressured to sell his team after he was recorded making racist comments. On the SMU campus, however, the students’ anti-gay rants have barely stirred the manicured azaleas.

“To me that just shows that it’s OK to hate gay people and say anything you want about them, but you can’t say anything hateful about other groups,” said Glenda Long, who was eating lunch at a restaurant on Cedar Springs Road. “It’s just not right that people say such hateful things about us, and no one cares. But then that basketball team owner says something racist, and everyone wants his head on a platter. Where’s the concern for our community?”

One SMU student was concerned. Dillon Chapman had been documenting the anti-gay comments for weeks, and he said he noticed the number of comments increased as the vote approached. He said he stopped doing it after other students accused him of “cheapening the level of discourse.”

SMU has other minority seats that represent its African-American, Asian, Hispanic, foreign and tranfer students, but attempts to add an LGBT seat have failed repeatedly. In April, the student Senate voted 43 to 3 to create the seat, but the student body voted against changing the student constitution.

The measure’s supporters rallied and collected more than the 10 percent of student signatures needed for a revote. It failed by an even greater margin than the first vote.

Carl McClain, one of the 1,000 students who voted against creating the LGBT seat, said homophobia didn’t influence his vote. He didn’t vote in the first election because he couldn’t make up his mind, but he voted “no” in the revote because he felt students should have accepted the results of the first vote.

“Our student constitution is currently silent on the issue on re-votes, and it was through this kind of technicality that a second ballot was pushed,” McClain said. “I understand that the re-vote proposal emerged from several student senators, though LGBT-friendly organizations eventually endorsed the idea.”

When the anti-gay slurs appeared, encouraging students to vote against the measure, the university’s newspaper, The Daily Campus, devoted its editorial page to the Yik Yak controversy.

“The app is, of course, not responsible for homophobia on campus, but it has brought those sentiments to the forefront, clearly demonstrating to the university the deep-seeded hate a large number of students have against persons identifying as lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender,” the editorial board wrote. The editorial further explained that the hateful, anonymous comments that encouraged students to vote against the LGBT seat are  exactly the reason the seat is needed.

In the same issue, SMU President Gerald Turner wrote a letter, condemning the “disrespectful anonymous comments” posted on social media. He called the reports “extremely troubling” and said they violate the Student Code of Conduct.

“When students violate these values through anonymous social media comments, they are harming our community and, we believe, themselves,” Turner wrote.
Sammi Partida, a junior at SMU, says he has ideas to resolve the problem, but when he contacted Turner’s office, he was given a copy of the president’s letter.

“It was good that he was taking note, but a letter won’t cut it,” Partida said. “The newspaper is something that we can all read, feel good about, but at the end of the day, where does it end up? Discarded in a box somewhere.”

SMU-2

CLASSLESS | SMU students took to social media to hurl anti-gay slurs during a recent vote to add an LGBT seat to the student Senate. (Steve Ramos/Dallas Voice)

Partida said he’d like to see funding for the Women’s and Gender Studies program increased to allow for more events and programming. He also said sexual orientation and gender identity should be addressed to allow for more events and programming. Professors, he suggested, could address the issue for a few minutes throughout the semester, especially at times such as the LGBT Senate seat vote or when anti-LGBT incidents occur on campus.

While professors in the gender studies program probably have addressed the Yik Yak comments, Partida doesn’t believe professors at the Cox School of Business have. A lesson might be framed in terms of how unacceptable the anti-gay slurs are in a corporate setting.

“Whether it’s in the workplace, on social media or the company’s intranet sites, we do not tolerate discrimination of any sort, including that based on sexual orientation or gender identity, age, race gender, ethnicity, religion or national origin,” an AT&T spokesman said. “Our social media standards for employees point out explicitly that conduct that is prohibited in the workplace (discrimination, bullying or harassment) also is prohibited in the digital space.”

Turner suggested in his letter that students who feel victimized have resources available to them, including the campus police. Partida, though, doesn’t give that any weight. He said he reported an incident to police when he felt threatened by other students who were calling him homophobic names. The police, he said, told him it didn’t warrant an investigation. Several weeks ago, it happened again, he said. Then, three students who Partida said were drunk, followed him on campus at night and called him a “faggot.” He said he didn’t bother to report it because campus police didn’t do anything the first time.

The lack of action by campus police concerns James Tate, Community Relations Consultant with the Dallas County District Attorney’s Office.

“Situations like these are unfortunate but an everyday reality for some students,” he said. “This is why education and awareness are crucial. What we know is that many times acts of violence begin with name calling and other forms of bullying, and we should avoid a spark turning into a flame. The district attorney’s office is committed to victims of any crime, and we are here to help.”

The campus police said they do take those incidents seriously.

“We do take these kinds of reports and would refer the case to the SMU student conduct office for investigation as possible violations of the student code of conduct,” said SMU Chief of Police Richard Shafer.

So given the outrage volleyed at Sterling for his racist comments, shouldn’t people, especially LGBT people, direct a similar demand for accountability at SMU? LGBT Sports Coalition spokeswoman and ESPN.com editor Christina Kahrl sees a connection between Sterling’s racist remarks and the SMU students’ homophobic posts. She said the national attention Sterling’s comments attracted reflects how engaged people are with sports, but she noted that the anti-gay slurs on Yik Yak are equally offensive. However, many people don’t feel homophobic comments are relevant to them.

“This kind of backlash shows the need for their inclusion even more and shows serious concern for their safety,” Kahrl said.

Yik Yak CEO Tyler Droll and COO Brooks Buffington said in a statement that “Yik Yak is an anonymous app built to foster responsible interaction and build networks in hyper-local areas. While most of the posts and activity is positive, we make every effort to ban offensive or abusive use of the app. When an inappropriate comment is posted, we can suspend and ultimately ban users from communicating on Yik Yak.”

Yet, no SMU student was banned from Yik Yak for the anti-gay slurs. Sarah Gimbel, an SMU freshman, said she’s “very anti-Yik Yak.”

“I took it off my phone,” she said.

Some faculty members also expressed their disappointment that the students voted not to add the LGBT seat.

“This week, a large number of undergraduate students turned out to prevent the student Senate from creating an LGBT representative for the student Senate,” School of Education Dean David Chard wrote on Facebook. “If this move had been defeated by a handful of students it would be less hurtful. However over a thousand students turned out to vote; a crowd usually reserved at SMU for alcohol and dancing. This is very, very disappointing.”

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition May 2, 2014.

 

—  David Taffet