Bryan Fischer: FW teacher is ‘pro-homosexual bigot’ who committed ‘hate crime’ against student

Bryan Fischer

As we noted earlier, there are now major questions about the accuracy of news reports from last week stating that a high school teacher in Fort Worth suspended a student simply for stating his belief that homosexuality is wrong. Needless to say, those questions haven’t stopped the religious right from running full speed ahead with the story, which was largely concocted by an attorney from the Liberty Institute in the first place.

During his radio show on Friday, American Family Association spokesman Bryan Fischer called the teacher in the case a “pro-homosexual bigot” who committed “a hate crime” against the student. Fischer also seized upon the fact that the incident took place in a German class — launching into a rant about his infamous theory that Hitler was gay and the Nazi party was started by homosexuals. Here’s a partial transcript of Fischer’s remarks, which you can watch below.

“What in the world is a German teacher doing talking about homosexuality in his classroom in the first place?” Fischer said. “Apparently the tenuous link was that the teacher brought up the subject of homosexuality in Germany. And this brings up what I mentioned to Matt Krause [the Liberty Institute attorney who's representing the student], does this German teacher tells his students in German class that Adolf Hitler was a homosexual, that he developed a police record as a homosexual prostitute on the streets of Vienna? Doe this German teacher, when the subject of homosexuality in Germany comes up, does he tell his students that the the Nazi party started in a homosexual bar in Munich? Does this teacher tell his students that virtually all of the brown shirts — the storm troopers who were Hitler’s thugs and enforcers — that virtually all of them were homosexuals? Does he tells his students that students in German schools today are taught these things because they never want a repeat of the Nazi horror? And that’s why I say this illustrates a point that I’ve often made, that we have to come to grips with the simple truth that we’re going to have to choose between the homosexual agenda and freedom, because we cannot have both.”

—  John Wright

Group says FW teacher was harassed by student he punished for saying homosexuality is wrong

We’re working on a more in-depth story for this Friday’s print edition about the case of a Fort Worth school district teacher who’s accused of suspending a student for saying that homosexuality is wrong. But for now, we thought we’d go ahead and share the below info from Marvin Vann, a member of the group LGBTQ S.A.V.E.S., formed about a year ago to protect LGBT students and teachers in Tarrant County from anti-gay harassment.

Vann is calling on members of the LGBT community to speak out in support of the teacher in this case, whom he identifies as Kristopher Franks. Contact info for Fort Worth ISD administrators is at the end of Vann’s post:

—  John Wright

Transgender marriage bill back on Texas Senate calendar for Monday; contact your senator now

Sen. Tommy Williams

Equality Texas reports that SB 723, the anti-transgender marriage bill from Sen. Tommy Williams, R-The Woodlands, has been placed back on the state Senate’s Intent Calendar for Monday. As we reported earlier, Williams’ bill is on life support at this late stage of the session, but it isn’t quite dead yet. Backed by anti-LGBT groups like the Plano-based Liberty Institute, who say they’re trying to preserve “traditional marriage,” the bill would remove an affidavit of sex change from the list of documents that can be used to obtain marriage licenses in Texas. A direct response to the case of widow Nikki Araguz,  the bill is designed to bar transgender people from marrying people of the opposite sex. To pass this year, the bill would have to clear the Senate as well as a House committee by midnight on Saturday, May 21. That means Williams and his cohorts have only one week left. Go here to contact your senator urge them to oppose this bill.

Above is video of Nikki Araguz confronting a staffer in Williams’ office about the bill. The video reportedly is also a trailer for a documentary about the Araguz case. Araguz’s husband, Thomas, was a volunteer firefighter who died in the line of duty last year. Thomas’ family is suing Nikki Araguz to prevent her from receiving death benefits, arguing that their marriage was not valid because she is transgender.

—  John Wright

Liberty Institute, on behalf of Chisum and Staples, asks Texas’ high court to take gay divorce cases

Kelly Shackelford

The right-wing, Plano-based Liberty Institute has filed briefs asking the Texas Supreme Court to hear two same-sex divorce cases so justices can resolve allegedly conflicting opinions from state appellate courts in Austin and Dallas.

The Liberty Institute announced today that it filed the briefs on behalf of State Rep. Warren Chisum, R-Pampa, and Republican Agriculture Commissioner Todd Staples, a former state senator from Palestine.

In both cases, district judges ruled to allow same-sex divorces, prompting Republican Attorney General Greg Abbott to intervene. In the Dallas case, the 5th court of appeals overturned Democratic Judge Tena Callahan’s ruling. J.B., the gay Dallas resident who’s seeking a divorce from his Massachusetts marriage to H.B., appealed the decision to the Texas Supreme Court in March.

In the Austin case, State of Texas v. Angelique Naylor and Sabina Daly, the 3rd court of appeals upheld the district judge’s decision, saying Abbott’s attempt to intervene was too late.

“The district judges’ rulings granting same-sex divorces illegitimately overturned the will of more than two million Texans and their elected officials,” Liberty Institute President and CEO Kelly Shackelford said in a press release. “The debate over same-sex marriage and divorce should play out in our democratic institutions and should not be short-circuited by activist judges.”

The Liberty Institute previously filed a brief on behalf of Chisum and Staples in the Dallas case when it was before the appeals court.

Read a copy of the Liberty Institute’s brief in the Dallas case here, and the Austin case here.

Austin-based attorney Jody Scheske of Akin Gump Strauss Hauer & Feld, which is representing both J.B. and Naylor/Daly, declined to comment on the briefs.

—  John Wright

Right-wing Liberty Institute issues action alert in support of transgender marriage ban

Sen. Tommy Williams, R-The Woodlands

Daniel Williams at Legislative Queery reports that the Texas Senate has again adjourned for the day without taking up a bill that would bar transgender people from marrying people of the opposite sex. However, The Woodlands Republican Tommy Williams’ SB 723 remains on the Senate’s calendar for Thursday. The bill, a response to the Nikki Araguz case, would remove a court order of sex change from the list of documents that can be used to obtain marriage licenses in Texas.

Daniel Williams also notes that today, the right-wing, Plano-based Liberty Institute issued an action alert calling on people to urge senators to support the anti-LGBT bill. Here’s an excerpt:

Some Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, and Transgender advocates, want to thwart a Texas appeals court decision and force the state to recognize their gender (for marriage purposes) as something other than what was assigned at birth, to change their gender later on in life and force county clerks to recognize the changed gender. Such an outcome will create confusion for county clerks, for the courts and no doubt will be used by the GLBT community to undermine our marriage laws, which affirm traditional marriage, between one man and one woman.

Protect traditional marriage, support SB 723.

If you haven’t already contacted your senator and asked them to oppose this bill, this disgusting action alert from the Liberty Institute should provide plenty of motivation to do so. Email your senator by going here.

—  John Wright

Removal of sexual orientation doesn’t stop bigots — or the ACLU — from opposing anti-bullying bill

Jonathan Saenz

The removal of sexual orientation from an anti-bullying bill didn’t stop anti-gay groups from opposing the measure during a Texas House committee hearing on Tuesday afternoon.

Jonathan Saenz, director of legislative affiars for the Plano-based Liberty Institute, told the House public education committee that even though sexual orientation and other enumerated categories were removed from Rep. Mark Strama’s HB 224, Saenz fears the categories will be restored to the measure at some point.

“It is about the gay rights, the homosexual community, the transgender community, and an effort to create special categories and special rights in our law that don’t currently exist, and really carve off protections for some groups and not others,” Saenz told the committee. “It’s not about bullying, and it’s not about solving this problem. It’s about creating new classes of people and giving special protections to some categories and not others.”

Strama said during the hearing that he has no plans to restore the enumerated categories to the bill.

“We took all those classes out so we wouldn’t have to have this discusssion,” said Strama, D-Austin. “It’s not my intention to put any of that list back in the bill. At this point I’d like to keep it the way it is if we can get this bill moving through the process.”

Representatives from Equality Texas, which supports the bill and testified in favor of it on Tuesday, have said the enumerated categories were removed to improve the bill’s chances of passage and de-politicize the issue.

Also testifying against Strama’s bill were both the anti-gay Texas Eagle Forum and the normally pro-equality American Civil Liberties Union.

ACLU representatives say Strama’s bill, which would allow school officials to crack down on cyberbullying that occurs off campus, creates concerns about free speech and parental rights.

The bill was left pending in the education committee. To watch video of the committee hearing, go here.

—  John Wright

House GOP caucus endorses Straus for speaker; LGBT community breathes sigh of relief

Although more conservative factions in the state had been calling for the ouster of Rep. Joe Straus as speaker of the Texas House, the House Republican Caucus today endorsed Straus — known as a moderate Republican — for the seat.

Rep. Joe Straus

That news comes as something of a relief for LGBT advocates who had feared that someone further to the right would be chosen as speaker and given the chance to control the legislative agenda. Back in November, Reps. Warren Chisum of Pampa and Ken Paxton of McKinney both announced they were running for speaker. Chisum has long been known as one of the most anti-gay members of the House, routinely introducing and/or supporting bills on such topics as preventing LGBT people from becoming foster or adoptive parents. Chisum also was the primary author of the constitutional amendment passed in 2005 to ban same-sex marriage in Texas. Paxton was a co-author of the amendment and also voted in favor of banning LGBT foster and adoptive parents.

Among those fighting the hardest to defeat Straus’ bid for another term as speaker were leaders of the anti-gay Texas Eagle Forum, who had warned lawmakers the group would base half its score for legislators on who they supported for speaker. Others who have been outspoken in opposing Straus are Liberty Institute President and CEO Kelly Shackelford, Heritage Alliance President Richard Ford and Texas Eagle Forum founder Cathie Adams.

And in December, The Texas Observer reported that John Cook, a member of the State Republican Executive Committee, said he was campaigning against Straus — who is Jewish and attends a synagogue that supports LGBT rights — because, “I got into politics to put Christian conservatives into office.” Cook also accused Straus of being pro-choice and pro-gay rights.

The Houston Chronicle reported today that 70 of the 100 lawmakers attending the House Republican Caucus meeting today voted to back Straus for speaker. The Chronicle report noted that the caucus vote is non-binding but “virtually guarantees Straus’ re-election Tuesday when the Texas Legislature opens a new session.”

—  admin

Gov. Perry wages war on Christmas. Shouldn’t he be on First Baptist Church’s ‘Naughty List’?

Pastor Robert Jeffress needs to give Gov. Rick Perry a big spanking, or maybe a lump of something that’s rock hard. That’s because Perry has been a naughty, naughty boy and once again left out any mention of Christmas in his family’s holiday card. Needless to say, Instant Tea didn’t actually receive one of these, but according to the Texas Freedom Network, the card is shown above. And as you can see, it says, “We wish you Joy from our hearts.” Joy my ass. There appears to be a Psalm at the bottom, but if you think that counts, you’ve obviously made some sort of deal with the Devil. Perry himself has accused the American Civil Liberties Union of waging “war on Christmas.” And, of course, he’s closely tied to a lot of the nutjobs like Jeffress who have weird sexual fantasies involving the Grinch. So why hasn’t anyone said anything about this card, the TFN wonders:

So where are the howls of protest from the religious right about Gov. Perry’s personal “war on Christmas”? We hear nothing but crickets chirping. Why? Because groups like AFA and Liberty Institute aren’t serious. Their “war on Christmas” nonsense is just a gimmick — one that uses faith as a political weapon to divide Americans and to raise more money. ‘Tis the season to be a hypocrite, apparently.

—  John Wright

If one of these nutjobs defeats Joe Straus for House speaker, we could be in deep doo-doo

Rep. Joe Straus is shown alongside Rep. Senfronia Thompson after being elected speaker in 2009.

If Rep. Joe Straus is ousted as speaker of the Texas House, it’s safe to say it will not be a good thing for the LGBT community. Dennis Coleman, executive director of Equality Texas, confirmed the obvious yesterday when he told us the statewide gay-rights group is sincerely hoping Straus can hang on to his post.

One of Straus’ challengers, Rep. Warren Chisum of Pampa, is among the biggest homophobes in the Texas Legislature. Chisum was the primary author of Texas’ 2005 constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage, and he’s also been behind efforts to outlaw gay foster and adoptive parents.

Another candidate for speaker, Rep. Ken Paxton of McKinney, who entered the race this week, doesn’t appear to be much better than Chisum on LGBT issues. Paxton was a co-author of the marriage amendment and voted in favor of a ban on gay foster parents in 2005.

Straus, meanwhile, voted in favor of the marriage amendment — not to do so might have been political suicide  — but he did not sign on as an author. He also voted against the gay foster parent ban, which was actually killed by socially moderate Republicans like himself. Straus attends a gay-affirming synagogue that performs same-sex marriages in San Antonio. Read more about all that here.

But if you really want to know why we should be pulling for Straus to remain speaker, all you have to do is consider who’s behind the effort to oust him. It’s a who’s who of nutjobs, and they’ve all signed an open letter posted on the website of Empower Texans. Prominent signatories include people like Kelly Shackelford, president and CEO of Plano-based Liberty Institute; Richard Ford, president of the Heritage Alliance; and Cathie Adams, founder of the anti-gay Texas Eagle Forum. Any of those names ring a bell? The list goes on and on, but the bottom line is that if these groups are successful in ousting Straus, we’ll be at much greater risk of anti-gay legislation in the 2011 session. And with a two-thirds Republican majority in the House, our best and only defense may be distractions like redistricting and the budget shortfall.

According to its website, Empower Texans is conducting its anti-Straus campaign under the guise of fiscal conservatism. But since Straus is pretty darn fiscally conservative, we suspect there are other motives. Surely these right-wing groups don’t like the fact that Straus was elected speaker two years ago thanks to support from Democrats, which he continues to enjoy. They also don’t like the fact that he’s socially moderate — on abortion, immigration and yes, gay rights.

The speaker of the House is arguably the most powerful position in state government, and right now, Joe Straus may be the LGBT community’s best friend in the Texas Legislature. That being said, we aren’t sure there’s much the the community can do at this point to help Straus hang on to the post, except maybe pray.

—  John Wright

Are right-wing politicians in Texas starting to realize that gay-baiting no longer works?

Attorney General Greg Abbott appears to be letting the Liberty Institute's Hiram "Sassy" Sasser, shown during yesterday's press conference, do the AG's dirty work for him.
Attorney General Greg Abbott seems to be letting people like the Liberty Institute’s Hiram “Sassy” Sasser, shown during yesterday’s press conference, do his dirty work for him. (DAVID TAFFET)

During this year’s big national gathering of conservative political activists, called CPAC, a poll found that virtually none considered “stopping gay marriage” to be one of their top priorities.

Meanwhile, three consecutive polls of likely Texas voters have found that a healthy majority — about 60 percent — support some form of relationship recognition for same-sex couples, such as civil unions.

Also recently, lesbian Annise Parker overcame appeared to benefit from vicious anti-gay attacks on her way to becoming mayor of the nation’s fourth-largest city — which happens to be in Texas.

All this seems to raise the question of whether gay-baiting or gay-bashing or whatever you want to call it is still an effective political strategy, even in the reddest of big states. Indeed, there are signs that even politicians who’ve traditionally been virulently anti-gay are calling off the dogs. Take Gov. Rick Perry, for example.

When a Tarleton State University student wanted to stage a gay-themed play for his class project last month, it was Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst — and not Perry — who issued hateful statements slamming the production. While both Perry and Dewhurst are up for re-election this year, most believe the governor’s race is the only statewide contest that a Democrat has a reasonable chance of winning.

Which also helps explain why Agriculture Commissioner Todd Staples doesn’t have any qualms about being an outspoken opponent of gay divorce, even as Perry has remained completely silent about the issue — at least since issuing a statement when the Dallas case was first filed in January 2009.

Where’s Rick? As far as I can tell, he hasn’t said a word about the gays in months. His opponent, Democrat Bill White, was endorsed by the Human Rights Campaign, the nation’s largest gay-rights group, in early March, but I haven’t heard a peep out of Perry about it. Former Eagle Forum President Cathie Adams, who’s now chairwoman of the State Republican Party, has also been strangely silent.

And even Attorney General Greg Abbott, who initiated the challenges to gay divorce, may now be backing away from the issue just a little bit.

Indeed, Abbott appears to be letting the Liberty Institute, which should be called the Oppression Institute, do his dirty work for him. When politicians can gay-bait through a third party, they still get a boost from homophobic voters, but without the backlash from fair-minded people.

Yesterday, not only was Abbott not present, but the attorney arguing the case for his office didn’t even show up for a press conference after the gay divorce hearing. Instead, it was Hiram “Sassy” Sasser from the Liberty Institute at the microphone. Surprisingly, none of the reporters on hand questioned why in the hell the AG’s office wasn’t speaking for itself.

Of course, the canned answer would have been that the AG’s office doesn’t comment on cases that are still pending. But I’ll tell you the real reason: People like Perry and Abbott are starting to worry that gay-baiting will backfire. Four years ago, both Perry and Abbott probably would have been at the press conference themselves. But not anymore, and that’s a good sign. Now we just need some pro-LGBT politicians with enough guts to go on the offensive.

—  John Wright