Drawing Dallas

If stunning actor/model Jeffrey Irokwe doesn’t look familiar now, he might soon

MARK STOKES | Illustrator
mark@markdrawsfunny.com

Name and age: Jeffrey Irokwe, 22
Occupation: Model, actor
Spotted: Cityplace

Tall, handsome and talented, Jeffrey was born in Dallas to an American mother and a Nigerian father, a software engineer who came to the U.S. in the early 1980s to work for Microsoft.

Model citizen: His stunning looks garnered him his first model shoot at age 15. This lead to fashion shows, print work and runway modeling. While pursuing modeling, he was also a football and track-and-field star.

Jeffrey’s personal interests include technology, art, bodybuilding, martial arts and rock climbing. He and his older brother Jesse own a company called C.O.V. (Collection of Visuals) producing music, music videos and graphics.

Web series: Jeffrey is a lead actor in the web-based LGBT series Gayborhood Dallas, written and directed by Jennifer Sands. Future plans include continuing to pursue his acting career. He eventually hopes to win an Emmy Award.

You can follow him on Instagram at Jeffrey_irokwe and collectionofvisuals.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition March 24, 2017.

—  Dallasvoice

One more try

A major new work from artist Damien Hirst pays tribute to George Michael

Damien-Hirst---Beautiful-Beautiful-George-Michael-Love-Painting,-2017

The news last Christmas that music icon George Michael had died unexpectedly shuddered a lot of people worldwide, but perhaps no more palpably did it hit than here in Dallas, where Michael and once made his home. Although he has his partner Kenny Goss eventually split romantically, they remained good friends, and both contributed much to the artistic culture of Dallas with the Goss-Michael Foundation. The gallery/museum/charity is a jewel of the North Texas art scene, with an impressive collection of works from many contemporary English artists, chief among them the bad boy of British modernism Damien Hirst.

So when we learned this week that Hirst had created a one-of-a-kind painting of George Michael, specifically to be auctioned off at the MTV RE:DEFINE fundraiser this weekend, we asked Kenny Goss to share his thoughts on the piece, the charity and George himself.                       

— Arnold Wayne Jones

Dallas Voice: When did you know Damien Hirst was doing this piece, and what you were going to do with it?  Kenny Goss: We knew about it a month or so ago. Damien shared with us that he was creating this especially for 2017 MTV RE:DEFINE. Damien has generously donated a number of pieces to the MTV RE:DEFINE auction over the years. Since this year is a tribute to George, he decided to create a one-of-a-kind piece honoring George.

 What does MTV RE:DEFINE mean to you? It means a lot in many ways. The Goss-Michael Foundation is the founding partner and both George and I have provided ongoing support to the event since its founding. George presented Staying Alive’s first-ever documentary on HIV/AIDS for MTV in 1998 and was a driving force behind MTV RE:DEFINE’s formation more than 10 years later. The event was founded here in Dallas and The Goss-Michael Foundation is proud to have helped make the event possible.

 Many in Dallas have known about George’s philanthropy, but the extent of his generosity was really revealed after he passed. What do you think it would mean to him that this work is going to a charity auction? George was very much aware and has been a supporter of MTV RE:DEFINE, since the event started in 2011. Both George and I have been huge fans, collectors and friends of Damien Hirst. The Goss-Michael Collection has one of the largest collections of Damien Hirst work in the world. Our Saint Sebastian, Exquisite Pain piece was recently featured in Tom Ford’s movie Nocturnal Animals.

Obviously, the piece — entitled Beautiful Beautiful George Michael Love Painting — is amazing. As a fan of Hirst, what about it stands out to you? The entire piece says “Damien.” What stands out to me most is Damien’s creativity in capturing the image of George in a way only Damien could. This was Damien’s idea, and his creative genius.

 What does the work mean to you personally? What has it captured that seems singular to you? It is such a significant work that pays tribute to George. It is emotionally and visually impactful. That Damien took the time to create something so special for MTV RE:DEFINE underlines his generosity to this event and the beneficiaries —The MTV Staying Alive Foundation and the Dallas Contemporary.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition March 24, 2017.

—  Arnold Wayne Jones

Coming Friday: DVtv in SPAYSE!

Last Friday, March 17, I participated in an episode of Don’t Panic!, Israel Luna’s internet radio/TV program that streams live every Friday on the Spayse Station YouTube Channel from 3-4 p.m. — live from Israel’s Spayse Studio. Joel S. Hoselton (aka entertainer Jenna Skyy) and poor college student Michael Anthony Garza were the other guests, along with Israel as the host. (You can also watch here, on the Spayse Studio Facebook page.)

You can watch it here.

I had a lot of fun, and now, I get to do it again!

On Friday, immediately after Don’t Panic! We are going to livestream the first episode of what I’m calling DVtv in Spayse!

Israel and I will be there, along with DVtv host Brad Pritchett and Dallas Voice’s newest freelance contributor, Brandi Amara Skyy. We’ll be talking about news, entertainment and more.

Put it on your schedule and check it out!

—  Tammye Nash

Trump administration has removed questions on sexuality from surveys on aging

The administration of Donald Trump, the man touted by gay Republicans as the “most pro-gay” Republican president ever, has now removed questions regarding sexuality from federal surveys on aging and services for the disabled. Trump’s minions had already withdrawn another planned survey intended to evaluate the effectiveness of a homelessness project for LGBT youth.

According to ABC News, the National Survey of Older Americans Act Participants, a Health and Human Services department survey conducted each year, gathers information from those receiving transportation, homemaker and meal services, visiting senior centers, or taking part in other programs funded by the Older Americans Act. In a draft of this year’s survey, a single question asking about respondents’ sexual orientation has been removed. In the Annual Program Performance Report for Centers for Independent Living, a second report sponsored by HHS, has been edited to delete the only question regarding sexual orientation. This survey is intended to gather feedback on counseling, skills training and other services provided to the disabled.

Kelly Mack, a spokeswoman for the Administration for Community Living, the HHS division which oversees the two surveys, claimed the question on sexual orientation had only been included in the first place as part of a “pilot test,” and that it was removed because “the sample size was insufficient to be reliable,” according to ABC News. But LGBT advocates called bullshit, saying the survey results had already provided insight into the lives of LGBT elders.

Mack was also questioned by Associated Press journalists who noted that she claimed the question on sexual orientation was one of several removed from the surveys, but that in fact, it was the ONLY question removed. In response, Mack pointed to a question on respondents’ date of birth, then posted a revised version of the surveys in which that question was also removed. (Hey Kelly Mack, “two” does not equal “several.”)

Laura Durso, vice president of the LGBT Research and Communications Project at the Center for American Progress, accused the Trump administration of “choosing to not only ignore us but erase us from the discussion.”

Human Rights Campaign Government Affairs Director David Stacy said, “Today, there are an estimated 1.5 million LGBTQ seniors in America. This is an extremely vulnerable population, many of whom will have to face the challenges of advanced age or illness without the traditional support systems and legal protections that other seniors can take for granted. If we do not collect data on LGBTQ seniors, policymakers and advocates can not know the extent of the problems they face.”

HRC “implore[d] the Trump Administration to add this crucial question back to the NSOAAP and expand their questions to include data collection on gender identity.”

Officials with Services and Advocacy for LGBT Elders (SAGE) has launched a nationwide effort to “oppose the Trump administration’s proposed erasure of LGBT elders from the National Survey of Older Americans Act Participants.”

SAGE CEO Michael Adams said, “Caring about our LGBT elders means making sure they have access to publicly-funded senior services, which can be literally life-saving. Now it appears that the Trump Administration wants to make believe LGBT older people don’t exist, by erasing them from this critically important survey. We insist that this decision be reversed and that the federal government commit to serving all elders in need, including those who are LGBT.”

 

 

—  Tammye Nash

A message from a Trump American?

Really? I guess that depends on your definition of “great”.

When you are an openly LGBT person working for a well-known LGBT newspaper/website, you expect to get some hateful (sometimes threatening, sometimes just downright weird) letters/calls/emails on occasion. And since my first day on the job with Dallas Voice — which, by the way, was Monday, June 6, 1988 — I have gotten my fair share of all those things.

For instance, five days short of my one-year anniversary with Dallas Voice, a red-haired man walked into our office and confessed that he was the one who had deliberately set the February fire that had destroyed the Cedar Springs Road offices of the Dallas Gay Alliance and the AIDS Resource Center, and had damaged several other businesses there, including the Round-Up Saloon. That kind of thing doesn’t happen very often.

A few years ago, when our offices were still on Travis Street, a handsome, well-groomed and neatly-dressed young man walked into my office and proceeded to tell me about the police officers and secret agents who were harassing him by following him and shooting x-rays through the walls of his apartment to read his mind and fry his brain. When he started making threats against then-President George W. Bush, I knew I was going to have to contact authorities, including the Secret Service. I mean, I didn’t really think this guy was going to try to assassinate the president or that he had any true information about somebody else trying to assassinate the president. But I wasn’t willing to take that chance.

We used to get all kinds of weird and/or threatening letters, back in the day when people mailed things instead of emailing them. And since the dawn of the age of email and the internet, we get all kinds of weird and/or threatening and/or hateful emails in our inboxes and comments on our website. But honestly, it’s really not as bad as it used to be. It seemed the bigots and the crazies had retreated into their holes, unable to stand in the dawning light of a new age of equality.

And then came Trump. And the bigots and the crazies decided his election meant they had won, and that they once again have free reign to harass, insult, threaten and even harm those of us outside the parameters of their brand of normal.

I said all that as prelude to sharing a couple of emails I got this week, and my responses to them. Yes, I know that I probably should have ignored the troll and trashed the email. But I am genetically pre-dispositioned to smart-ass, and sometimes I can’t help myself. So here you go; here are the transcripts of my recent email communications with “Danny,” presented as evidence that we are living in a time of renewed hatred and bigotry:

(First email sent to Dallas Voice, via our website:)
LGBT Meaning
Please clear this up: I am hearing LGBT stands for: Liberty, Guns, Beer, Trump
Is that true?

(My first reply:)
Mr. XXXX,
Yes, indeed, LGBT stands for Liberty, Guns, Beer, Trump. If that’s how you want to use the acronym.
It might also stand for Let Go Bitch, There! Or any number of other phrases.
Here at Dallas Voice, though, it also stands for lesbian/gay/bisexual/transgender.
Thanks for writing.
Tammye Nash, Managing Editor

(His reply to my email:)
HaHa,
Actually, alot of us are sick and tired of your LGBT craming that lifestyle down our throats as being normal, and frankly sir, we are not going to allow it in the future. We will stand up against it

(And my answer to him:)
Haha, I’m not a sir.
Just so you know, a person’s sexual orientation is not their lifestyle. My “lifestyle” involves working a full-time job and a couple of freelance jobs to pay the bills for me and my family. I drive a small car, that I bought used, because it was cheap and it gets good gas mileage. I stay home most nights and watch TV with my family. I don’t smoke; I rarely drink. Maybe one weekend a month my partner and I go out with friends (most of whom are heterosexual). That’s my lifestyle. I don’t see anything “abnormal” or “exotic” about it. And I am not cramming that lifestyle down yours or anyone else’s throat. I am minding my own business and living my own life.
Frankly, Mr. XXX, what you think you get to allow or not allow makes no difference to me. You don’t get to tell me what I can or cannot do. You don’t get to decide what is and is not normal for anyone other than yourself. If you don’t like LGBT people, don’t be around them. And don’t write them stupid, threatening emails. Trust me, I don’t imagine there are any LGBT people who want to spend any time in your company, either.
A lot of us are tired of your bigotry and hatefulness. Grow up.

—  Tammye Nash

The grand delusion

This isn’t River City, and Trump isn’t the Music Man

music-man

 

Haberman-Hardy-This morning I checked in on a GoFundMe campaign. I like GoFundMe. It’s a way to give an extended community a chance to participate in charitable or entrepreneurial endeavors. It can be effective in helping friends out or funding special events.

One event that organizers have turned to GoFundMe to pay for is the “DeploraBall Picnic,” the brainchild of Peter Boykin. If you don’t recognize that name, just think these three words: “Gays for Trump.”

Yes this deluded man is one of the driving forces behind a movement that is so “alt-right” it’s just “alt-wrong.” According to Boykin’s Facebook page, his group wants to “end political correctness, build unity, strengthen the economy and Make America Great Again!”  Funny way to do that, by backing a party that has played a major role in leading America into two economic disasters, the Great Depression and the Great Recession.

Boykin supports a political party that has historically increased the deficit at the expense of the middle class and poor Americans. But hey Peter, don’t let facts get in your way. After all, your buddy Trump doesn’t.

Mr. Boykin’ latest venture, a 4th of July Picnic, looks destined to make the Trump inauguration “crowd” look like a real crowd, considering at last check his goal of $25,000 is only $24,875 away from success after one month.  Guess they will be celebrating by eating “alternative hot dogs” and drinking “alternative beer” (aka “bread and water”).

The whole venture begs the question, “Gays for Trump”? Really?

I mean, seriously, how can we expect any kind of protections for LGBTQ Americans from an administration that has appointed notoriously anti-LGBTQ people to every level of government. Top that off with a hostile vice president whose record on equal rights is dismal, and I can only think that Boykin is in need of serious psychotherapy.

Perhaps it is the same malady affecting the unemployed coal miners who saw Trump as the savior of the coal industry when he promised to reopen the mines and bring American industry back to life. The problem is that use of coal is declining world-wide, ceding to cheaper natural gas and more environmentally-friendly renewables.

Yet, the miners believed Trump, because they wanted to believe. It is more of a matter of faith than reality, and putting faith in a politician’s promise is only slightly smarter than putting faith in a billionaire who has made a fortune selling lies.

The “Gays for Trump” want to believe that the 45th president will be some kind of savior, when in reality he is just a skilled con man preying on the misguided beliefs of delusional people.

Of course, being gay myself, I can find an analogy in a Broadway musical. The Music Man told the story of just such a con man. He comes to River City and discovers a pool table has just been delivered to a local establishment.

Seizing the opportunity, he convinces the town that the evils of “pool” will destroy their town, its morality and civilization in general. The answer? Band instruments!

Just imagine Donald Trump, wearing a sparkling uniform, convincing America that what he is selling is the answer to the “disaster” our country has become: “Oh we’ve got trouble, right here in River City!”

And now we await delivery of the band instruments for an orchestra that doesn’t know how to play. We await the alleged returning jobs, but those that return will be for skilled workers in new fields and the workers waiting on them are not prepared.  So even if they do return, the plight of the coal miners will remain bleak.

But they believe! And like the “Gays for Trump,” they think that belief, misguided though it is, will be enough.

Sadly thought, there is no happy ending in this performance. The parade will not happen, and the “Gays for Trump” will be left on the sidelines, watching and cheering as their freedoms and rights are swept away in the wake of the Trump march toward disaster.            

Hardy Haberman is a longtime local LGBT activist and a board member of the Woodhull Freedom Alliance. His blog is at DungeonDiary.blogspot.com.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition March 17, 2017.

—  Dallasvoice

Showing respect for the dead, even when the family doesn’t

As possibly the only transgender funeral director in the area, Scottlynd Cosgrove  would like others in his field to learn what’s appropriate when dealing with a trans body

Scott-Cosgrove

Scottlynd Cosgrove

 

DAVID TAFFET  |  Senior Staff Writer

As far as Scottlynd Cosgrove can tell, he’s the only licensed embalmer and funeral home director who has transitioned. And he said he has handled five funerals for transgender people — and every time, there were problems.

“The families were not supportive,” he said, adding that he encountered other problems in some instances. In some, “Regardless of gender marker changes, the death certificate still had the birth gender.”

That’s because even though the deceased had taken care of the paperwork during their life, the medical examiner ruled based on the physical exam. The person had had her gender marker changed, but she had not had gender confirmation surgery.

And faced with an unsupportive family, Cosgrove said, he could do nothing other than “untransition” the body before burial. It was either that or refer the family to a different undertaker, who might have been less respectful. And he could have lost his job on top of everything else.

Cosgrove was asked recently to participate on a panel addressing others in the funeral industry, discussing the best way to handle the bodies of transgender people and to work with their families.

Cosgrove said he told the audience that the worst thing he had seen was a funeral director talking to the unsupportive family of a transgender person. As the family began making fun of the deceased, the undertaker joined right in making jokes.

“My position is speaking to individuals respectfully,” he said. That means never making jokes about the person who died, even if the family is acting in a disrespectful way.

In speaking with family members, “It might be most respectful to remain gender neutral,” he said, suggesting that funeral directors say things like, “I’m sorry for the loss of your loved one,” and “I’m sure your loved one was a wonderful person.” 

Cosgrove said the transgender people he’s buried had not had their gender markers changed. He said his work would have been easier had they had birth certificates changed to indicate their proper gender and then had birth certificates and marriage licenses that matched, although he acknowledged birth certificates are changed in the state where someone was born and not all states make that very easy.

He said that if all the paperwork isn’t in place, “then the funeral director or mortician will decide on the gender on the death certificate.”

In none of the five cases he’s worked with was paperwork in place, Cosgrove said.

“Once things are legally in place — birth certificate, name change — the family’s hands are tied,” he added.

During the service, the families can say whatever they want to say, Cosgrove said. Of the five transgender funerals he’s handled — two female-to-male and three male-to-female — he said the comments during the service were atrocious. The family of one of the trans women described her as a whore. The trans men were obviously on hormones and referred to as women.

Cosgrove didn’t begin his four-year funeral degree until after he had transitioned. Before that he had come out as lesbian and was a nurse. So, he said, the comments he heard as a funeral director about transgender people were nothing new. As a nurse, one of the most atrocious comments he remembers about a trans patient was, “Have I got a show for you.”

Cosgrove started his transition in Claremore, Okla., where he worked for the Veterans Administration. He was the first to go through the court system there to change his gender marker.

“No one had a problem with it,” he said. Then he moved to Dallas, with its large LGBT community.

“There’s lots of ignorance in the gay community,” he said.

When approached by gay men at JR.’s, he’s tried to show the same respect he uses at work. He thanks them, but explains he’s straight. That often leads to questions about why he’s in a gay bar if he is straight, in a tone that’s partially confused but also annoyed.

His answer: “Because I’m the T in LGBT.”         

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition March 17, 2017.

—  David Taffet

A new kind of candidate

Congressional candidate Danielle Pellet looks for ways to untangle political issues that will solve several problems at once

Pellet-Danielle

Danielle Pellet

 

Tammye Nash  |  Managing Editor

For most people, the issues facing the U.S. today seem as difficult as a Gordian knot. But Danielle Pellet says the trick to unraveling the knot is recognizing that seemingly unrelated ends are actually connected in the middle of it all.

Pellet is the transgender woman who hopes to unseat Pete Sessions next year and win the right to represent Texas 32nd District in Congress. She has already filed paperwork to form an exploratory committee, has created a campaign website and has a staff of “about a dozen people” helping her get her campaign in gear.

Pellet, who lives with her wife J.J. Larson in Richardson, understands that the fact that she is transgender will play a role in her campaign. But, she said, she doesn’t want anyone to vote for her or against her because of that. She wants voters to cast their ballots based on her stance on the issues.

“I’m not a token candidate,” Pellet said during a recent interview. She has very definite ideas on how to solve the dilemmas surrounding the most problematic issues — from immigration to funding Social Security, from stopping global warming to finding newer, greener forms of energy.

That’s where the Gordian Knot comes in.

“Look at the Gordian Knot. You can’t start in the middle and unravel it. It has to be untied from the ends,” Pellet said. Then she adds with a grin, “Ok, well, in the myth Alexander just sliced through the knot, which doesn’t work with my analogy.”

Actually though, it does. Pellet has ideas to cut through the B.S.

For example, how do you address the issue of undocumented immigrants and, at the same time, avoid cutting Social Security? Create a path to citizenship through which undocumented immigrants expand the tax base and pay into Social Security. It’s not some nebulous theory; Pellet has a very specific and detailed — and ultimately, workable — plan to make it happen.

“My family were immigrants as recently as two generations ago, and I refuse to turn others away due to racial or religious fears,” Pellet notes on her website. “Immigrants have enriched our society and we have been stronger together by embracing our melting-pot culture.”

Global warming is a fact, Pellet said, and this country has to come up with a plan to address it and remedies for it’s effects, including drought that is plaguing portions of the country. One idea, she said, is to build desalination plants on the east and west coasts, then use pipelines to deliver the potable water to drought-stricken areas inland.

As an added bonus, building and operating the desalination plants and the pipelines, Pellet said, creates jobs. With more people employed, there will be fewer people receiving federal benefits, and more money circulating through the economy.

While “conservative” candidates tend to demonize those receiving “welfare,” Pellet says the answer is to create not just jobs, but to create income equality.

“If you want people off food stamps, then pay them a living wage,” she said. “I’ve played Monopoly, and I’ve seen how it ends. As you go around the board, it gets more and more expensive to ‘live.’ But you still only get $200 for passing Go.”

She advocates for raising the minimum wage gradually to $15 an hour by 2024, and for abolishing sub-miminum wages, including tipped wages and wages paid to disabled people.

Pellet advocates for “getting off foreign oil,” not just because fossil fuels put the U.S. in a position of funding foreign powers that sponsor terrorism, but also because “burning hydrocarbons is bad for the environment.” But she is quick to note that she isn’t “just some environmentalist liberal hippy” out hugging trees; she also believes that the best way to replace fossil fuels is with thorium energy, a reactor-based nuclear power with low radio-toxicity waste.

Pellet doesn’t just throw out a bunch of scientific terms to dazzle folks, hoping that someone else will come along to find a way to make it work. She graduated from the University of North Texas with degrees in sociology and forensic chemistry and worked as a teaching assistant in the criminalistics lab courses. Now, she works as a chemist.

Pellet said that she was 6 years old when she first “picked out my middle name,” Jessica. But it was 2004 and she was in the Air Force ROTC at UNT and “two months away from field time” when she finally decided to come out as transgender.

The Air Force stresses “integrity first,” Pellet said, and keeping her gender identity a secret was creating “horrible conflict. … I walked away from a career as a pilot. I just couldn’t” stay silent and hidden.

Pellet also wants voters to know that while she has never held public office — this is, in fact, her first campaign — this isn’t her first foray into politics. Last year, she served as a delegate first to the Texas state Democratic Convention and then to the Democratic National Convention. And at the state convention, she used direct democracy tactics to “accomplish the impossible” and get three planks approved in the state party platform without going through the platform committee.

The planks, she said, 1. build on Hillary Clinton’s clean energy challenge and turn it into a “New Deal-type program;” 2. stop corporate lobbyists from being super delegates, and 3. bring back money hidden in overseas tax shelters.

Pellet was founding president of the first transgender student organization at a Texas university, and later on worked with the Feminist Majority Leadership Alliance and the Progressive Alliance. She stressed that she is committed not only to her on campaign for the U.S. House of Representatives, but also to getting progressive candidates elected across the board. To that end, she’s developing a free canvassing app she calls Prometheus, which will help activists and campaigns engage at the grassroots level. 

For more information visit Pellet’s campaign website, DaniForCongress.com.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition March 17, 2017.

—  Kevin Thomas

Equality rights vs. religious liberty

LGBT advocates worry that SCOTUS nominee Gorsuch will fall on the wrong side of that line

Neal-Gorsuch

 

Lisa Keen  |  Keen News Service
lisakeen@mac.com

The big question for the LGBT community over the next week is not so much whether President Trump’s nominee for the U.S. Supreme Court will be confirmed; he almost certainly will be. And almost every national LGBT group opposes his confirmation.

The real question is if Judge Neil Gorsuch will discuss, during his March 20 confirmation hearing, whether he will favor the U.S. Constitution’s guarantee of free exercise of religion over its guarantee of equal protection of the law.

Most people in the LGBT community supports both rights, and most judges will say they do, too.

But the increasingly frequent clashes between those who support equal rights for LGBT citizens and those who feel fear or hostility toward LGBT people is coming to a head at the U.S. Supreme Court. And the legal battleground of those clashes is equal protection versus free exercise.

Neil Gorsuch’s confirmation is virtually guaranteed. As Democratic U.S. Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand pointed out recently, the Republican majority in the Senate — the GOP holds 32 seats there — will almost certainly change the Senate rules, if necessary, to ensure Gorsuch is confirmed by a simple majority vote.

And as for the religion-versus-equal protection balance, Gorsuch’s record lends itself to the assumption that he will weigh religious arguments more heavily than those of equal protection. If asked about a specific case on LGBT cases, he’s likely to say — as most judicial nominees do — that he will abide by the Supreme Court’s decisions on those cases.

But the Supreme Court’s decisions have been mixed. Pro-LGBT legal activists have won several major victories at the nation’s highest court in recent years, seeing the ban on marriage for same-sex couples (Obergefell v. Hodges, 2015) and the Defense of Marriage Act, which prevented equal federal benefits for same-sex married couples (U.S. v. Windsor, 2013), struck down by SCOTUS.

But anti-LGBT activists using religious exercise arguments have scored points, too. The Supreme Court’s Hobby Lobby decision in 2014 was seen as a “dangerous and radical” one that could enable employers to simply claim religious beliefs to gain exemption from laws barring discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity.

In its analysis of Gorsuch’s record, Lambda Legal officials concluded that this nominee has displayed “a vision of a society where religion prevails over law, and where the concerns of religious parties override the concerns of other citizens.

“In supporting this vision, Judge Gorsuch’s opinions open the door to all manner of assaults on the civil rights of ordinary citizens — including lesbians, gay men, bisexuals, and transgender people, and everybody living with HIV,” Lambda officials said in a statement.

Gorsuch’s record, according to that statement, is “more recklessly conservative” than that of Justice Antonin Scalia, the person he was nominated to replace.

That is a particularly bold statement. Before he died in February 2016, Scalia had amassed the worst voting record on LGBT issues of any justice on the high court. Some court observers believe that Gorsuch can’t do worse than Scalia, so his confirmation will simply put things back to the way they were.

But Lambda disagrees.

“Don’t for a second think that, because Gorsuch would be replacing Scalia, he’d be no more than a continuation of the status quo. It’s far worse than that,” Lambda officials opined in an email to its supporters last month, marking the first time Lambda Legal has publicly opposed a Supreme Court nominee.

Other LGBT organizations are also opposing Gorsuch.

The National Center for Lesbian Rights said Gorsuch has a “dangerously radical view of religious liberty that would undermine anti-discrimination protections for LGBT people and others.”

GLBTQ Legal Advocates & Defenders (GLAD) said he has “expressed hostility to progressive movements’ use of the judicial process to safeguard constitutional liberties and protections for all.”

Part of Gorsuch’s record before becoming a judge on the Tenth Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals appears to show a dismissive attitude toward lawsuits seeking equal protection for LGBT people. In a 2005 article he wrote for National Review Online, he referred to such lawsuits as part of a “social agenda” and suggested that, rather than the courts, progressive people should seek redress from “elected leaders and the ballot box.”

His other pre-court writings revealed his ability to parse language to suit his needs. For instance, as an editor of The Federalist Paper at Columbia University, he objected to a description of the paper as a “political organization.” Instead, he and his fellow editors explained, it was a “forum” for debate on “the issues of the day.”

As a judge on the Tenth Circuit, Gorsuch wrote a concurring opinion in Burwell v. Hobby Lobby that suggested employers would be “involved in the wrongdoing of others” if they complied with employment laws that prohibited certain types of discrimination in health care coverage.

The case dealt with a department store employer who objected to paying for contraception for the company’s employees. Advocates in the LGBT community, however, easily envision employers making religious objections to things like preventive care against HIV infection or the use of medical insemination for lesbians seeking to have children.

What the LGBT community has to hope for is that Gorsuch’s preference for freedom of religion can be tempered by his apparent comfort with LGBT people on an individual basis. A New York Times article noted that Gorsuch has had two openly gay clerks, at least one of who told Gorsuch he was gay before Gorsuch hired him.

In addition, the judge belongs to a church in Boulder, Colo., that welcomes gays. And, to the extent this might be telling, one gay male friend said Gorsuch “didn’t skip a beat” when he told Gorsuch he was gay. In fact, said the friend, Gorsuch and his wife have been very welcoming of the man and his husband.

At a law forum in Columbus, Ohio, on Feb. 24, a gay man who had been one of several housemates of Gorsuch at Harvard Law said he felt Gorsuch was comfortable with him and two other housemates who were gay.

But having a gay law clerk or friend has not always translated into a belief that LGBT people should have equal protection under the law. Several years ago, another New York Times article noted that Justice Clarence Thomas, who has consistently voted against LGBT people in cases before the court, was very accepting of his openly gay clerk.

Gorsuch himself clerked for Justice Byron White seven years after White wrote the 1986 decision in Bowers v. Hardwick that held that any right to privacy in the federal constitution did not extend to private sexual relations between same-sex partners. In a speech honoring White, Gorsuch said he admired White “enormously.”

White, said Gorsuch at the 2006 opening of an exhibit about the former justice, “passionately believed in human equality: the dignity of all persons and civil rights.”

The Hardwick decision was reversed in 2003 in a decision led by Justice Anthony Kennedy, for whom Gorsuch also clerked briefly during the 1993-94 session after White retired.

Senate President Mitch McConnell said the Senate would likely vote on Gorsuch’s nomination the week before its April 8 recess.           

© 2017 Keen News Service. All rights reserved.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition March 17, 2017.

 

—  Kevin Thomas

Sean Baugh: Servant leader

His humble approach to leadership is what attracts people to the chorale’s talented conductor

Sean-Baugh-

Sean Baugh directing the Chorale, left, and with pianist Scott Ayers, below.

 

DAVID TAFFET  |  Senior Staff Writer

Turtle Creek Chorale Artistic Director Sean Baugh isn’t the larger-than-life figure one of his predecessors was. Those who work with him at the chorale and at Cathedral of Hope, where he serves as associate director of music and worship, describe him as warm and approachable, but at the same time, he is someone who gets his vision across.

Dallas Voice readers this year voted Baugh as their LGBT Role Model. Friends and coworkers this week said the honor is well deserved.

While clearly a fan of what’s come across on stage under Baugh’s leadership, Chorale Executive Director Bruce Jaster is awed by Baugh’s ability to express his musical vision to such a talented but diverse group of men.

“He retains a level of humility that is incredibly endearing,” Jaster said.

He called that “servant leadership.”

Sean-Baugh-at-pianoTri Truong credits Baugh’s leadership for building and retaining membership in the chorale.

“He made extraordinary changes putting us back out in the community,” Truong said. “We’re part of the community and need to be out there.”

That includes everything from singing after the Orlando Pulse massacre to help the community heal, to singing at a funeral to help a family heal.

Truong said Baugh bases his values on the question, “When things happen, what can we do to help our community?” Baugh is, Truong said, “really good at that.”

The Rev. Neil Cazares-Thomas with Cathedral of Hope said Baugh a role model in the way he collaborates. When Cazares-Thomas suggested a musical series of programs, and “Within three weeks, he had a program laid out, and was recruiting folks to expedite it. To me, that’s really good leadership.”

Folks at the cathedral worried that as more and more of Baugh’s time became consumed by the chorale, they’d lose him. But they’ve learned he needs both aspects of his music — the liturgical and the performance — to fulfill him.

“He’s funny, witty and always brings something to the conversation, whatever that conversation’s about,” Cazares-Thomas said.

B.J. Cleveland will be the ringmaster for the upcoming Turtle Creek Chorale performance, Topsy Turvy. Cleveland, one of the area’s busiest actors, is also a director. But he said working under Baugh’s direction has been a pleasure.

“He’s a great leader,” Cleveland said. “He gives positive affirmation about the work first and then gives the notes.”

That is a great leadership skill, Cleveland said. It’s too easy to simply go after what’s wrong on stage; that’s what much lesser directors do. But that’s not how Baugh operates.

“Sean has good vision,” Cleveland said. “He’s done his homework.”

Baugh said he was humbled by the recognition.

“I guess I try to be kind to everybody I meet,” Baugh said. “No matter their age, looks, who they are.”

He doesn’t see the chorale as just a group of men that blend into one voice. He sees each person in the group as an individual, each with his own story. His advice to each of them is: Follow your dreams.

Baugh is certainly following his. Five years ago, he said, he never would have dreamed that he’d have a full-time career back in music.

And how does he balance two full-time music jobs?

“Not well,” he said.

Of course, everyone associated with the chorale and with the music ministry at Cathedral of Hope disagrees.

Ideas, Baugh said, come to him at any moment of the day — while he’s reading, driving and listening to music, watching TV or just talking to friends. He keeps his phone nearby at all times to record those ideas that may result in an idea for a new concert or how to arrange a particular song.

Baugh said he tries to live a life of authenticity and integrity. “I hope others see that,” he said.

Not only do the eople who’ve performed under his direction see it, but they voted him the LGBT community’s best role model for it.

“Trying to hold court in a room full of 250 gay men is difficult and he does it so well,” Cleveland said. .             

The Turtle Creek Chorale’s next concert is Topsy Turvy at 7:30 p.m. on March 23-25 at City Performance Hall, 2520 Flora St. Tickets at TurtleCreekChorale.com.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition March 17, 2017.

—  David Taffet