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.
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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

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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.”

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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

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

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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

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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