Parkland supplier diversity doesn’t include the gays

New ParklandParkland Memorial Hospital sent over a press release titled “Parkland recognized for commitment to minority business development.”

That’s great. The hospital should be doing business with minority-owned businesses.

“Supplier diversity is a priority at Parkland,” said Indria Hollingsworth, Parkland’s director of supplier diversity and ethical sourcing. “Parkland’s Board of Managers made inclusion of diverse suppliers a strategic priority for the organization. The Board’s vision, coupled with the guidance of the executive leadership team, has created a climate of meaningful inclusion.”

So I wrote back and asked which of the businesses are LGBT-owned. That’s something I’d love to highlight. Parkland has many LGBT employees. Parkland has lots of LGBT patients. Amelia Court, the hospital’s HIV/AIDS clinic, was originally created primarily for gay patients. Until an executive order by President Obama changed things, Parkland was the only hospital in Dallas that had a policy ensuring same-sex couples could visit their partners in the hospital.

So who are the LGBT suppliers?

Parkland Media Supervisor Catherine Bradley sent Hollingsworth’s response:

“Our program does not include the LGBT community. We are governed by County Code and the focus of the County Code is ethnic minority and women owned business enterprises.”

Disappointing.

So the first place I’m posting this information is on Dallas County Judge Clay Jenkins’ Facebook page. Let’s see if we can get something done.

—  David Taffet

Why raising the minimum wage is an LGBT issue

rustinHTThe U.S. Senate votes Wednesday on raising the minimum wage to $10.10, which may help lift a disproportionately high number of LGBT households out of poverty.

The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights sent some statistics compiled by their LGBT partners, the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force and the National Center for Transgender Equality.

According to studies, a $10.10 minimum wage would mean higher earnings for 17 million workers with little to no effect on the employment rate, and could lift nearly five million Americans out of poverty.

While the perception is that the gay community is wealthy, raising the minimum wage will disproportionately help the LGBT households.

•  Household income among trans people is four times as likely to be below $10,000 per year.

•  While 5.7 percent of opposite-sex married couples live in poverty, 7.6 percent of lesbian couples live in poverty.

•  Same-sex African-American couples have twice the poverty rate of opposite-sex African-American couples.

Over the past decade, studies have compared wages earned by gay and bisexual men compared to straight men. Taking into consideration education, occupation and region of the country, gay and bi men earn 10 to 32 percent less.

The Minimum Wage Fairness Act would:

•  raise the federal minimum wage from $7.25 to $10.10 by 2016, in three increments of 95 cents each

•  adjust the minimum wage each following year to keep pace with the rising cost of living

•  raise the minimum wage for tipped workers, which has been frozen at a $2.13 per hour for more than 20 years

—  David Taffet

SMU students vote down LGBT Senate seat, post anti-gay rants

yikyak

A revote on an LGBT Southern Methodist University student Senate seat failed this week.

“The results were 1,107 votes in favor and 1,025 against — meaning it lost by an even larger margin than it did last time,” Spectrum co-President Shelbi Smith said. Spectrum is the university’s LGBT student organization.

“We have been doing a social media blitz, talking to strangers, and emailing all of the supporters who signed our petition,” former Spectrum President Harvey Luna said.

After trying to pass a bill in the student Senate since 2009 to add an LGBT special interest seat, the Senate approved the measure this year for the first time and passed it overwhelmingly. That entailed a change to the student constitution, which takes a two-thirds vote of the student body.

On the initial vote, the measure failed. Students had a week to collect signatures of 10 percent of the student body to bring the issue up for a revote. Spectrum members were successful in collecting enough signatures, but they failed to convince enough students to participate and did not receive two-thirds of the vote.

An anti-gay campaign seems to have raged on YikYak, an app that allows someone to post anonymously.

Luna sent a copy of some of the comments that included statements like, “Yeah, I’m homophobic so what?” and “I hope the gay community uses yik yak because yeah we do hate you and we do want you to know it.”

Others were collected by SMU student Dillon Chapman and can be found here.

—  David Taffet

Another Texas judge rules state’s marriage law unconstitutional

JudgeNellermoe250

Judge Barbara Nellermoe

Another Texas judge ruled that Texas, marriage amendment is unconstitutional.

While the Texas Supreme Court continues to delay ruling on two same-sex divorces, Judge Barbara Nellermoe in San Antonio ruled today that the marriage law is unconstitutional, and she can proceed hearing a couple’s divorce and custody case.

In one of the divorce cases before the Texas Supreme Court, Dallas Judge Teena Callahan ruled the Defense of Marriage Act was unconstitutional and proceeded to grant the divorce. Earlier this year, U.S. District Judge Orlando Garcia cited the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision last year declaring DOMA unconstitutional and ruled the Texas marriage law also unconstitutional.

Today’s ruling in the San Antonio case involves a lesbian couple who married in Washington, D.C. in 2010.

Kristi Lesh became pregnant and gave birth last year, and the couple split up later in the year.

Lesh argues that since she’s the biological mother, she should retain full custody, since Texas doesn’t recognize same-sex marriage. Allison Flood Lesh says a straight couple would generally be granted joint custody or visitation, and she should be awarded the same privilege.

So Kristi believes she had the right to take advantage of marriage when it suited her, but for the purposes of divorce, she’s acting like Greg Abbott, pleading the marriage doesn’t exist.

The judge agreed with Allison and called for a hearing.

—  David Taffet

Hundreds of DA staffers go through diversity training

DA Craig Watkins’ policies could ensure violence against LGBT people won’t go unpunished

CoverStory

NOH8 | The Dallas County District Attorney’s office welcomed Roberta Clark of the Anti-Defamation League to the office for a training on “Why Diversity Matters.” Nearly 300 prosecutors and investigators attended the training. (Tracy Nanthavongsa/Dallas District Attorney’s Office of Communications)

 

STEVE RAMOS  |  Senior Editor

They were the words no mother wants to hear. Maria Ramos, tough ranch woman that she was, must have weakened when the Arkansas official told her that her son was injured and probably wouldn’t live through the day. It was 1985. People weren’t awakened by genial cell phone tones in those days. Instead, a 10-pound phone ringing in the early morning hours roused people like a cattle prod to the brain. The news that your son is near death would only rev that shock to a mind-splintering level.

Minutes after she hung up the phone, Maria’s bags were packed, and she was herding other family members into action. Bad news travels through Mexican neighborhoods faster than the speed of light in a vacuum, and the community circled the wagons around her. Within the hour, family friends were dropping off money to help with the trip. A couple of dollars from one, five bucks from another. Tears from all of them.

Maria and her six other children pointed their cars toward the barely rising sun. Normally, sunrises are glorious in the Texas Panhandle, but the streaks of magentas and oranges would have been lost to the family on that morning. Instead, the sun’s movement westward was only a reminder that time was running out. Doubtlessly, Maria would have prayed 10 rosaries during that tortuous drive — one for each of the hours that separated her from her dying son.

I don’t know who told Grandma what happened to my uncle, or if she knew the details before she left home or was told at the hospital. It doesn’t matter. He was brain dead, the result of a brutal gay bashing. Eyewitnesses reported that a man attacked my uncle from behind, knocked him to the ground and then kicked him in the head repeatedly.

Because. He. Was. Gay.

After the attack, my uncle was able to get up, the witnesses said, but he later collapsed. It was the last time he would walk. We soon learned the assailant had prior convictions of assault in Arkansas and Louisiana and was on probation for assault at the time of the attack. One would think it was an open-and-shut case. But not in Arkansas. And certainly not in 1985.

The district attorney should have just stayed home on the day of the trial. A first-year law student could have swatted away his feeble prosecution like a child slapping a geriatric gnat. He just didn’t care. He allowed the defense to mock the gay eyewitnesses, turning the trial into a finger-pointing at them, that they and my uncle were somehow responsible for the attack — just for being gay. They were ridiculed and humiliated, forced to divulge to their neighbors the personal details of their gay lives. They were on trial. The gay community was on trial. The only one not on trial was the defendant.

It turns out the jury didn’t care, either. Despite the eyewitness testimony that detailed the attack on my uncle, and despite the assailant’s criminal record, a dozen jurors found him not guilty. Imagine a mother being told by 12 people that her son’s life has no value to them. Indeed, as one of my aunts was later walking down the courthouse steps, she overheard someone say, “It’s just one less faggot walking the streets as far as I’m concerned.” My grandmother never recovered.

Sadly, my uncle’s story isn’t a unique one in the LGBT community. Laramie, Tyler, Paris, Dallas, Houston — this list goes on. Dallas Voice reporter David Taffet is working on a story about the Texas Obituary Project that has documented, so far, about 140 violent deaths in the community over the last several decades. How many law enforcement agencies and district attorneys buried LGBT hate crimes during those years or just determined not to prosecute them? How many mothers were told their sons’ and daughters’ lives were of no value to the legal system because they were LGBT? Too many.

Dallas County District Attorney Craig Watkins agrees. Watkins announced in February the creation of the Dallas County District Attorney’s LGBT Task Force, and in March nearly 300 of his prosecutors and investigators took part in sensitivity training, titled “Why Diversity Matters,” that will help them better understand the county’s diverse communities.

“The diversity training will benefit our office and the residents of Dallas County as a whole,” Watkins said. “We are better prosecutors, better investigators, when we understand the communities that we serve. Not only will it provide us a better understanding of the people we must prosecute, but equally with the victims and witnesses of crimes.”

Watkins said he’s aware that many LGBT people are reluctant to report crimes committed against them. Their experiences with law enforcement officials haven’t always been good, and as one trans woman recently reported, police officers in Paris told her “Being the way you are, you should expect that” treatment, after she reported to them she was receiving death threats in the East Texas city.

Watkins certainly sees a lot of hate. It’s even been directed at him, Dallas County’s first African-American DA, and as he steers his office toward an understanding of diversity, he’s liable to see more.

“My role is very controversial,” he said, “but I’m going to live up to the principles I believe in. I’ve seen people use their power to hold people back from living the American dream. It’s impossible to change this office overnight, but I am going to set the standard of behavior of what the justice system should be.”

Watkins’ creation of the LGBT Task Force and putting his staff through diversity training could stop the rise in anti-LGBT hate crimes. The FBI and the National Coalition of Anti-Violence Programs report an increase in those crimes, and the breakdown is horrifying.  Transgender people and gender non-conforming people continue to experience higher rates of homicide. LGBTQH (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer and HIV-affected) people of color represented 53 percent of total reported survivors and victims of all hate crimes, but 73.1 percent of homicide victims.

Watkins said he’s an advocate for change and the Task Force and training will have a ripple effect in his office and in the county. He also believes it will reach the community.

“We’re already seeing it,” he said. “Many LGBT people don’t believe in law enforcement because it hasn’t worked for them. They’ve been marginalized.”

My grandmother, gone for 19 years now, would have loved to hear those words from a district attorney. The Task Force — comprised of four attorneys, an investigator, a case worker, a victim advocate and a spokesperson — will now help ensure no one in the community is excluded from the judicial process. And when LGBT people are on the defendant’s side, they are being told they can expect to face a more understanding prosecutor.

No members of the LGBT community are on the Task Force, but James Tate, LGBT spokesman, said, “We are exploring a future date and time to conduct a town hall meeting. In essence, this would allow us to introduce ourselves to the community and let them know we are here to help.”

Three of the Task Force members identify with the LGBT community, but no members of the community are on it because there will be cases that potentially come before the Task Force that can be viwed only by the district attorney’s office.

As Watkins finishes the last year of his second term, he reflects on how the job has changed him. He earned five times the amount of money in private law practice than he does as the district attorney.

“But I was unhappy,” he said. “I’m happy now. I’m very religious, and I read the Bible. We are all children of God, whether you’re LGBT or a member of any other community. In my office, we need to protect everyone.”

That sentiment did trickle down to the prosecutors in Watkins’ office.

“In some way, almost all of us are minorities,” said Brian Higginbotham, an assistant district attorney in the appellate division. “It may be gender, race, ethnicity, sexual orientation, religion, disability or many other things. As prosecutors, we see all kinds of people at their worst and at their best.”

In our fight for marriage equality, Watkins said, “the Constitution says you have the right to marry.” And he encourages LGBT people to marry “even if it means you’re hauled off in handcuffs.”

“Live your life the way you want to,” he advised.

Twenty-nine years ago, my grandmother saw prosecutors at their worst, but I’m hopeful that I’m now seeing one at his best. The community will hold Watkins’ to the message drawn on his cheek for the NOH8 picture. It’s a powerful symbol for a powerful office, and it’s high time for the changes promised to us.

If members of the community have a concern they want to discuss with the Task Force, they can send an email to lgbt@dallasda.com.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition April 18, 2014.

—  Steve Ramos

Oak Lawn library’s Angie Bartula named Librarian of the Year

BigDReads.113821Oak Lawn Library’s branch manager Angie Bartula was named Dallas Librarian of the Year.

“She won talent, swimsuit AND personality,” North Oak Cliff branch manager Ray Sablack said.

To celebrate, D Magazine is staging a festival at the deck park downtown.

“On the 26th, we are having a huge festival at Klyde Warren Park celebrating storytelling of all forms,” said D Magazine’s Community Engagement Manager Krista Nightengale. “It’s a free event that’s open to the public.”

Bartula encouraged people to bring a book to the park and spend the afternoon reading.

However, in the event she’s unable to fulfill her reign as Dallas Librarian of the Year …

“Hey,” Bartula objected. “Why wouldn’t I be able to fulfill my term?”

Absolutely no reason at all.

Since becoming Oak Lawn’s librarian, she’s expanded the LGBT section at her branch and encouraged other branches to begin LGBT sections as well, which Sablack has done in North Oak Cliff. She recently partnered with Dish, at ilume across the street from her branch, to host author lesbian Leslea Newman for a reading.

She’s active throughout the community, welcoming senior citizens, a crime watch and a North Dallas High School group. She’s encouraged a knitting group that meets at the library, a homeowners group and loves to help people with their job searches.

Well deserved, Angie, and we’re looking forward to the D Magazine centerfold in May.

—  David Taffet

Trans teacher gets to keep job as substitute with Lumberton ISD

Laura.Klug

Laura Klug received news from the Lumberton Independent School District superintendent Friday morning that she’d be able to return to the district’s classrooms as a substitute.

Klug was suspended earlier this week after parents complained that a transgender woman was teaching their children, calling her presence a “distraction.”

Her fate with the district was discussed during a packed school board meeting Thursday evening, where people on both sides of the argument expressed their opinion, 12 News reports.

“She’s not transgender. She’s a woman,” LGBT advocate Christopher King said. “This is a constitutional issue. You have to ask yourself this question: Is there any rational basis for her termination?”

Others felt Klug shouldn’t return.

“It is time to stop catering to special interest groups who are bent on influencing our children in a negative way,” Lumberton parent Cyndi Crews said. “The transvestite sub teacher has caused distraction and disruption in the Lumberton schools.”

Klug didn’t speak on her behalf but told 12 News  she should be able to return because being trans has no impact on her ability to do her job.

“I am capable of doing a job, and I was hired to do that job. And I would like to continue doing that job,” she said.

No decision was announced Thursday because the school board can’t vote on Klug’s situation since she is not a contract employee. The superintendent has the power to fire her, and he told her Friday morning she would be welcome as a substitute in the district’s schools.

—  Anna Waugh

Is someone at Liberty University going to hell for hiring a gay?

Goldberg

Liberty University hired this gay

The Christian Post reported that Liberty University — What? Yes, I read the Christian Post, so you don’t have to, now stop interrupting.

The Christian Post reported yesterday that Liberty University — the school Jerry Falwell founded — hired gay dancer Geoffrey Goldberg to choreograph its production of Mary Poppins.

As the Christian Post put it, “the conservative Christian school’s stage company had sought the services of an ‘open homosexual advocate.’”

The school, to its credit, issued this statement to blogger Benjamin Corey:

“The choreographer in question is an independent contractor supplied to the university through a third party association and has never applied for employment at Liberty University and has never been an employee of Liberty. Liberty has never required vendors who provide goods and services to the university to adhere to the university’s doctrinal beliefs.”

To make things worse, Liberty’s stage company director Linda Nell Cooper told Christian News Network, she hired Goldberg “based on his professionalism and his talent like everyone else.”

And just what makes Goldberg so qualified?

He was in the original Broadway production of Mary Poppins.

The world is certainly coming to an end when theater is taken over by the gays — even at Liberty University. What makes this even more delicious, and The Christian Post  seems to have missed this, the school not only got a gay, but they got a gay Jew.

Mary Poppins opens tonight, in case you happen to be in Lynchburg, Va.

—  David Taffet

Division I basketball player comes out

espnapi_dm_140409_ncb_kellogg_interview_wmain

Derrick Gordon, left. (Photo by ESPN)

Derrick Gordon, a sophomore starter for the University of Massachusetts men’s basketball team, stepped forward Wednesday as the first openly gay player in Division I men’s college basketball, sharing his story with ESPN and Outsports, ABC News reported.

The 22-year-old shooting guard came out to his family, coaches and teammates in just a few days at the beginning of April. That’s when he also decided to publicly acknowledge his sexuality.

 ”I just didn’t want to hide anymore, in any way,” Gordon told ESPN. “I didn’t want to have to lie or sneak. I’ve been waiting and watching for the last few months, wondering when a Division I player would come out, and finally I just said, ‘Why not me?’”

Gordon, a native of Plainfield, N.J., said that a key moment for him came when the Brooklyn Nets signed veteran center Jason Collins to a 10-day contract in February. Collins, who publicly acknowledged his sexuality in April 2013, became the first openly gay player in NBA history when he took the court against the Los Angeles Lakers on Feb. 23.

“That was so important to me, knowing that sexuality didn’t matter, that the NBA was OK with it,” Gordon said.

A number of people in the UMass athletic administration worked closely with Gordon behind the scenes as he prepared to come out to his teammates.

 ”UMass is proud to have Derrick Gordon as a member of our athletic family and to honor his courage and openness as a gay student-athlete,” athletic director John McCutcheon said in a written statement. “UMass is committed to creating a welcoming climate where every student-athlete, coach and staff member can be true to themselves as they pursue their athletic, academic and professional goals.”

Gordon said he reached his decision to come out publicly in the days after the team’s first-round loss to Tennessee in the NCAA tournament on March 21.

“I just had a lot of time to myself, thinking, and I didn’t know what I was waiting for,” said Gordon, who transferred to UMass after one season at Western Kentucky.

In his first season with UMass, the 6-foot-3 Gordon averaged 9.4 points and 3.5 rebounds per game. He started all 33 of the Minutemen’s games and had a season-high 22 points on Nov. 21 against Nebraska.

 He played his high school basketball at St. Patrick High in Elizabeth, N.J., one of the best prep programs in the country, then went on to lead Western Kentucky in scoring as a freshman with 11.8 points per game. The team made the NCAA tournament, and Gordon was a third-team All-Sun Belt Conference player as a true freshman, but he decided to transfer so he could be closer to his family.

Gordon came out to his teammates on April 2, after telling UMass coach Derek Kellogg in a phone conversation three days earlier. Kellogg stood by Gordon’s side in the team meeting.

“From speaking with Derrick, I realized the pressure he had, the weight that was on his shoulders,” Kellogg said. “You can already see in his demeanor that he is so much happier. I actually think this is something that brings our team closer together and helps Derrick play more freely.”

Sophomore forward Tyler Bergantino said that even before Gordon addressed his teammates, there was something different in his demeanor.

 ”He looked happier, stress-free, like that was the real him,” Bergantino said. “Before, when he would walk into the locker room, there was this cloud around him, like you couldn’t quite get to him.”

About a year ago, Gordon reached out to Wade Davis, executive director of the You Can Play Project, a group that works to ensure respect and safety for all athletes without regard for sexual orientation. Davis connected Gordon to a network of allies behind the scenes, and Gordon told ESPN these connections have been instrumental for him.

“Over the past year, I’ve gotten to know Derrick Gordon,” Davis said. “He’s like a little brother to me. I’ve watched him grow into a confident young man who is ready to be a leader on and off the court. His fearless desire to be his authentic self and his personal story of triumph will inspire others and continue to expand consciousness.”

According to Gordon, after he made his announcement, one of his teammates immediately spoke up and said, “We got you; you’re one of us.” Afterward, Gordon and four other members of the team ate dinner together.

“Before, I usually just kept to myself because I didn’t want to lie or be fake,” Gordon said. “But not anymore. I feel so good right now. It’s like this huge weight has been lifted off my shoulders.”

—  Steve Ramos

Employees’ Retirement Fund board takes up city of Dallas pensions

employees-retirement-fund-of-the-city-of-dallas-78620670

The board of trustees for the city’s Employees’ Retirement Fund brainstormed ideas Tuesday morning about the best approach to make the pension plan equal for LGBT retirees.

The Dallas City Council passed a comprehensive equality resolution last month directing the city manager to evaluate areas in city employment where disparities for LGBT employees exist. Among them, were the pension plans.

Under the current plan, opposite-sex spouses receive lifetime benefits when their spouses die, but same-sex spouses are treated as designees, and their benefits run out after 10 years.

The ERF board spent half an hour discussing the resolution, as well as the state’s constitutional marriage amendment and the Texas Family Code, both of which prevent the state from recognizing same-sex marriages.

—  Anna Waugh