Remembering John Lawrence, the man behind Lawrence v. Texas

Lawrence

John Lawrence and Tyrone Gardner

Metro Weekly reports that one-time Houstonian John Geddes Lawrence, the “Lawrence” in Lawrence v. Texas, passed away last month at the age of 68:

“In the facts underlying the Supreme Court case, Lawrence v. Texas, Lawrence and Tyron Garner were arrested under Texas’s Homosexual Conduct Law after police entered Lawrence’s home on Sept. 17, 1998, and saw them “engaging in a sexual act.” The couple challenged the law as unconstitutional”

I was 22 and living in Dallas in 2003 when the Supreme Court issued its opinion in Lawrence declaring Texas’ law against “homosexual conduct” unconstitutional. A group of over 100 people gathered in the parking lot of the Resource Center of Dallas as Dennis Coleman, then with Lambda Legal, read excerpts of the decision. I remember the exuberant electricity in the air, the crowd bubbling with joy and the relief of centuries of official oppression finally coming to an end. Similar get-togethers took place across the state, as an entire community breathing a collective sigh of relief.

That relief has turn to frustration over the years. Although the Supreme Court decision rendered Penal Code Section 21.06 unconstitutional, the law remains on the books, and efforts to remove it have met with significant resistance. During a hearing this spring on finally removing the unconstitutional law, Rep. Jose Aliseda, R – Pleasanton, lamented that repeal of the law would entail removing portions of the Health Code requiring that HIV education efforts include information that “homosexual conduct is not an acceptable lifestyle and is a criminal offense under Section 21.06, Penal Code.”

Before Lawrence several attempts were made to remove the law against “homosexual conduct.” The Texas legislature voted to remove it from the penal code as part of a complete rewrite of the code in 1971, but the measure was vetoed by Gov. Preston Smith. In 1973 the Legislature again undertook a rewrite of the code, keeping “homosexual conduct” a crime but making it a class C misdemeanor. In 1981 a U.S. District Court ruled in Baker v. Wade that the law was unconstitutional, but as that case was winding its way through an unusually torturous appeals process the Supreme Court ruled in Bowers v. Hardwick that a similar law in Georgia was constitutional, making the questions in Baker moot. Similarly, in the 90′s there was hope that Texas v. Morales might finally prevail in defeating the “homosexual conduct” prohibition, but the Texas Supreme Court decided that since, in their opinion, the law was rarely enforced, there was no reason for them to rule in the matter.

Lawrence’s legacy lives on in a scholarship named after him and Garner administered by the Houston GLBT Community Center. The scholarship “recognizes outstanding leadership shown by gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender Texas high school seniors and college
students by contributing to the cost of their continuing education. Selection is based upon character and need.” Tim Brookover, president of the community center, expressed sorrow at Lawrence’s passing “John was a hero, the community owes a great debt of gratitude to John and Tyrone for taking the case all the way to the Supreme Court,” said Brookover. “They could have easily allowed it to slip away, but they decided to stay and fight and that makes them heroes and role models.”

The application deadline for the John Lawrence/Tyrone Gardner Scholarship is March 2, 2012.

—  admin

Pet of the Week • 12.09.11

Floppsy

Pet-Floppsy

Floppsy

Floppsy is a gorgeous yellow Labrador retriever. She’s 7 months old and currently weighs about 45 pounds. Floppsy is incredibly friendly, loving and full of life. She’ll make a great companion for someone with an active lifestyle.

Floppsy and many other dogs, cats, puppies and kittens are available for adoption from Dallas Animal Services, 1818 N. Westmoreland at I-30, just minutes west of downtown Dallas. The shelter is open Monday-Saturday 11 a.m.-6:30 p.m. and Sundays noon-5 p.m. The regular adoption cost is $85 for dogs and $55 for cats, but discounts are offered for animals in the shelter longer than 45 days, to senior citizens and to those who adopt two animals at the same time. All dogs are negative for heartworms, and cats have been tested for FeLV and FIV.  For more information, visit DallasAnimalServices.org or call 214-671-0249.

—  Kevin Thomas

Lesbian ‘lifestyle’ creates higher risk of breast cancer: Important info lost in sea of insensitive language

An article published today on the website “Medical News Today” explains that research indicates lesbians and bisexual women may be at a higher risk of dying of breast cancer, listing a number of factors that could lead to the increase in risk.

The No. 1 reason is that lesbians and bisexuals (spelled “bi-sexual”) women tend not to see a doctor as often, not to get routine mammograms and not to be as open and up front in talking to their doctor about their health. The article quotes Liz Margolies, executive director of the National LGBT Cancer Network, who says that lesbians and bisexual women tend not to seek medical treatment and get routine health checkups because the healthcare system is insensitive to, and sometimes even hostile to, lesbians and bisexual women.

And the MNT article makes that blatantly obvious, just in the way it is written. For example, the article — written by Rupert Shepherd, who I am willing to bet is a straight man — starts off this way: “Whilst in no way a condemnation of lifestyle choices, new research is showing that Lesbian and Bi-sexual women tend to engage in more high risk behaviors that can lead to them being more at risk from breast cancer.”

Can you guess what irritated me right away? And that’s not the only time it happens in the article. Shepherd uses the terms “lifestyle” and “sexual preference” throughout.

To be honest, the article contains a lot of very important and useful information. For instance, according to the American Cancer Society, 230,000 women are diagnosed with breast cancer every year, and each year, an estimated 40,000 women die of breast cancer. And it includes information on things that can increase a woman’s risk of getting breast cancer — like smoking, alcohol use, obesity and not getting pregnant before age 30.

(According to the article, studies show that lesbians and bisexual women tend to smoke more, drink more, weigh more and, believe it or not, get pregnant less than straight women. So lesbians and bisexual women tend to have more risk factors for breast cancer.)

Unfortunately all that important and helpful information tends to get lost in the sea of Shepherd’s poor choices when it comes to language. And that’s really too bad.

Of course, there are options. And the National LGBT Cancer Network website looks like a really good one. So if you or someone you love has cancer or is at risk for cancer, check out this website instead. You can “create a personal cancer risk report,” “find local LGBT-friendly screening facilities,” “sign up for electronic screening reminders” and more. And on this site, if you see the word “lifestyle,” I bet it is referring to things like whether you smoke or drink, not whether or not you are LGBT. And I’m also willing to bet that the National LGBT Cancer Network isn’t going to confuse “sexual preference” with “sexual orientation,” either.

—  admin

GLBT Broadway pre-show chat at ‘Hair’ tonight

‘Hair’ raising experience

How gay is the musical Hair? Find out at this special performance as the Lexus Broadway series presents GLBT Broadway in Hamon Hall. The pre-show event features Dallas Voice LifeStyle Editor Arnold Wayne Jones discussing issues of gender identity and sexuality within the counterculture musical.

DEETS: Winspear Opera House, 2403 Flora St. 7 p.m.  $30–$150. ATTPAC.org.

—  Rich Lopez

Letting it REGISTER • Pride Weddings & Celebrations 2011

Gift registries can be intimidating. Dean Driver makes them easy

FASHION. PLATE. | Dean Driver knows how to make a tabletop pop — and how to make it easy on you to choose your gifts. (Arnold Wayne Jones/Dallas Voice)

BY RICH LOPEZ

Perhaps the one wedding tradition same-sex couples might waffle on is signing up for that beg-a-thon, the gift registry. Forget whether to do so (you should); the real question is, where can you find that particular china pattern you once saw in a magazine?

The answer to that question is probably Dean Driver. With his new company, Consilium Lifestyle Collections, Driver makes what could be a daunting (even intimidating) task for same-sex couples possibly the easiest  job out of all the wedding planning.

“I don’t know if the average gay couple feels comfortable going into stores,” Driver says. “They may, but many retailers just aren’t reaching out to gay couples.”

Teaming up with Consilium Creative Marketing, Driver created what may be the first by-appointment source of its kind in Dallas to provide a wedding gift registry for same-sex couples. While the services are for everyone, Driver believes that this personal touch can bring comfort to any gay newlyweds hesitant about how to sign up for gifts. It also gives them a home field advantage when looking for fine tabletop products and more.

“The way we do business is changing, and this has afforded me the ability to do in-home consultations and also wedding registries,” Driver says. “I come to the client with samples to get an idea of their lifestyle and suggest products and can see what will work with what’s already in the home.”

The affable Driver knows his stuff. After working with tabletop industries for years in large markets like New York, he has access to many luxury brands and even unique home products. The usual china and crystal items are no problem, but items like linens and household accessories are more easily available through him.

Driver’s first piece of advice on getting started with a registry: Don’t be intimidated.

“I demystify all that for you,” he says. “That’s what I’m here for. I’ll make it easier for you. And people shouldn’t think that everything offered in a registry costs so much. We do have some unique options that are moderately priced.”

Consilium has only been around for a few months, but it has burst out of the gate with a selection of up to 50 brands, some exclusive to them. And with Driver’s knowledge and background, he can pretty much get anybody anything they want.

“I’m a sort of an expert in tabletops, and I have my finger on the pulse of the industry,” he says. “I go to Paris, to Milan and see all the new patterns. And if you saw a plate in a magazine and brought it to me,  I could pinpoint what it is. When I say anything, I mean anything — and you may be only person in the country to have it.”

Something his company can guarantee is the death of that most dreaded wedding tradition: The return. Once items are selected for the registry, gift givers don’t have to worry about buying an item that’s already been purchased. Instead, the company does gift cards only, which are beautifully packaged for the giver to present.

“This prevents exchanges or duplicates,” he says. “Plus, clients may change their minds and gift cards give them an opportunity to get something else. And it’s a little more green without all that wrapping paper and shipping to worry about.”

Driver and company seems to have gotten rid of all the excuses couples can make to partake in registering for gifts. Being that a wedding is a life-changing event, Driver mostly wonders why not go all out?

“Couples shouldn’t shy away from getting nice things,” he says. “This is the one time to get the nice stuff, so why not? Anything you want, I can get.”

The only caveat — Driver encourages people to use the nice stuff everyday.

“Yeah, don’t pack it away in a cabinet like our parents did,” he says.

Of course, if there’s one thing gays know how to do it’s merchandise.

For more information, visit ConsiliumLifestyleCollections.com.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition May 6, 2011.

—  Michael Stephens

Quote of the Day: Pat Carlson

Pat Carlson

“There is a continual effort by the homosexual community to push their agenda on the rest of us. The bottom line is they are trying to destroy traditional marriage as we know it in the country and make their lifestyle the norm. They make it seem that anybody who has a problem with it is homophobic.”

Pat Carlson, president of the Texas Eagle Forum, in a Star-Telegram article about marriage equality demonstrations on Valentine’s Day in Texas

—  John Wright

Video: Claiming Oprah nurtures nature’s lies, YouTuber chooses angry lifestyle

I was five. Kindergarten graduation day. I was totally into the cute boy with the “rat tail” hair style and the hi-top sneaks with multi-colored, neon laces.

That’s my first memory of crushing on a dude. Though according to this guy, it never happened. I’m either a liar or a victim of child abuse when I look back on such puppy attractions (which would of course be received as benign and adorable if they were male-female). Oh, and a certain talk show host is a “big headed” source of rage if she gives credence to the remembrances:

But don’t worry. Somehow we think Oprah will find solace in either her blankie, a warm shoulder, or the gagillion dollar empire that bears her name.

As for this writer? Well l find solace in knowing that my biological attractions weren’t faked, because there was no reason to fake them. And this was true when those attractions had nothing to do with my junk and where I wanted to place it, and everything to do with my impetus to ditch pal Nicole whenever Ethan requested a pretend opponent for his pretend Hulk Hogan.




Good As You

—  admin

WATCH: Bigots lash out at Mayor Annise Parker over appointment of Texas’ 1st transgender judge

On Thursday we reported that longtime activist Phyllis Randolph Frye had become the first transgender judge in Texas, after being appointed by Mayor Annise Parker. Well, just leave it to the Houston Area Pastors Council and the Fox affiliate to make an issue out of it:

The Houston Area Pastoral Council, which represents about 300 churches, has a big problem with the appointment. Executive Director Dave Welch says for years Frye has been undermining Texas marriage laws. He says the appointment confirms Mayor Parker, who is openly gay, is making her lifestyle a central part of her policy agenda.

“This is not just a benign act. This is someone (Frye) who is very well known as an aggressive activist on sexual diversity issues and very much against the mainstream of most of the people….As we all know municipal court judges are the first step in the elevation of different judgeships. They typically go on to civil district court judges or family court judges and beyond, so this is not a benign appointment. It’s a statement. It really is. We’ll be calling on the churches to stand up and be involved,” said Welch.

—  John Wright

Letters • 09.10.10

True diversity is more than labels

Late last year I received a rather unhappy e-mail from a couple that had visited our community one Sunday. “Dear Rev. Weldes,” it began, “We had heard that the Center for Spiritual Living was an open and affirming congregation, so we came to check it out.”

The e-mail went on to point out that this couple had seen no evidence, much to their disappointment, that we were an open and affirming community. So they informed me they were going to another church where they felt accepted.

I have to say I didn’t know whether to laugh or cry. You see half our staff is gay, and at least 30 percent of our community is, as well. But they were obviously looking for outward signs that we were a “gay-friendly church.”

A couple of years ago, a lovely African-American couple came to a community retreat, one eagerly and one not so eagerly. “Why would I want to spend the weekend with so many white people?” she openly admitted to the group at the end of the weekend.

Needless to say, she had a transforming experience. Two years later, she came to me one Sunday morning, and said, “Now this is what an integrated church looks like,” as our growing African-American population was happily sitting in and amongst everybody else that day.

The goal, I believe, is to be a truly inclusive community. This goes way beyond tolerance or even acceptance, but is actually about acknowledging and celebrating each person’s individual uniqueness, and to treasure our diversity.

This means that every person is an integral part of the whole community, not just a sub-set. At the Center for Spiritual Living, we welcome and embrace and accept people, whatever their path or lifestyle.

Perhaps what our visitors didn’t recognize is that a truly inclusive and diverse community has no need to draw attention to the labels that are given to people: gay, African-American, or what have you. No one is simply the label someone has given them or the one they adopt for themselves. Rather, each one of us is uniquely and exactly and precisely who we are, in our totality.

How many gay people do you know that only hang around other gay people? How many blacks only have black friends? How many Christians only interact with other Christians?

Someone once told me that the Sunday morning hour is the still the most segregated hour in America. This narrowing of our perspective effectively shuts us off from our brothers and sisters. It keeps us from ever having to learn to get along with those different from us.

And it effectively allows each of us to keep holding on to our own prejudices.

Even if we believe that “birds of a feather flock together,” aren’t we all just a little bit different anyway? One hates spiders; one loves to rock climb; one seeks to be financially wealthy, and one seeks to save the whales — and none of these differences are mutually exclusive.

Each of us has our own past, our own traumas, our own story, and our own path to healing and wholeness.

In a community that truly celebrates individual diversity, you won’t see groups based around labels, but rather an overarching, profound respect for the inherent dignity, value and worth of each and every person, and isn’t that what we are all looking for?

The Rev. Petra Weldes is senior minister at the Center for Spiritual Living. Contact her through e-mail at therock@csldallas.org or by phone at 972-866-9988. For more information about the church, go online to CSLDallas.org.

Rev. Petra Weldes, senior minister
Center for Spiritual Living Dallas

Don’t condemn Mehlman

Since Ken Mehlman’s coming out, we have seen numerous opinions from those who are outraged at his silence and his active role in some of the anti-gay rhetoric from six years ago. They decry his hypocrisy, espouse his cowardice and are incredulous that he now wishes to speak up and become an ally.

To those who hold these opinions and to all the gay community, I challenge those who have never remained silent to speak the first criticism.

At one time or another; even currently in our day-to-day lives, we have all remained silent when confronted by or exposed to intolerance, anti-gay rhetoric or insensitivity. It may have been something said or done by a family member, a stranger or co-worker, and we did or said nothing to correct them or raise their consciousness.

At times, we even “straight-wash” or coach our own language so we do not create an uncomfortable conflict or conversation; telling ourselves, it’d be too much trouble. Make no mistake; this passive action and activity is just as damaging, dangerous and destructive as the active acceptance that Ken Mehlman engaged in. We all become guilty of promoting the “rhetoric” when we do nothing to contradict it. At times, when there is real physical danger involved, keeping silent is necessary. But all to often in situations where this danger does not exist, we pass on correcting and confronting intolerance.

And when we do, we give a pass to the offending persons. We give a pass to let them think that their words, opinions, jokes, etc. are OK. After all, no one is saying otherwise, so you must agree.
Remember, silence equals consent.

Should we not be upset over Ken Mehlman’s damaging involvement in being part of a policy that has set us back years in our quest for equality? No. We do have cause be upset, angry and hurt over it.

But we should also look at those three fingers that point back at ourselves when we point the fingers at others who don’t speak up. We should make an effort in our own lives to speak up more than we do; strive to speak up every time we encounter someone or something that impedes us from true equality.

We should also realize that we cannot change what has been. We have no time machine to go back and fix it and make it right. We can only change what lies ahead of us. No matter how upset we may be with Ken Mehlman, that will never get us closer to the equality we seek.

The only thing that can get us closer is accepting every ally we can, no matter how late or by what means they arrive at the game. You can’t deny that we need to make more allies than we do enemies.

Patrick Hunter
Alexandria, Va.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition September 10, 2010.

—  Kevin Thomas