Gay matchmaking service He’s For Me opens Dallas office

IMG_9788

From left, He’s For Me Dallas manager Dana Foley-Taylor, owner Tammy Shaklee and North Texas GLBT Chamber’s Tony Vedda and Ron Watterson help cut the ribbon at the office’s opening Friday. (Steve Ramos/Dallas Voice)

Dallas gays now have no excuse to be single — at least not for long.

Gay matchmaking service He’s for Me opened its Dallas office on Friday to celebrate Valentine’s Day and introduce the full-time staff to the community. Staff members were joined by members of the GLBT North Texas Chamber of Commerce, of which H4M is a member.

The company started in Austin in the fall of 2012. Within six months, matchmakers were setting up Dallas and Houston couples, owner Tammy Shaklee said.  The popularity made a full-time office in Big D necessary, and she plans to open a Houston location next.

Shaklee said it’s easy to meet people, but it’s hard to know if they’re single, looking for a serious relationship and if you’re compatible with them.

And she met her husband through a dating service in Austin seven years ago.

“I would have never met him without the matchmaking service,” she said.

She then tried to convince a gay friend to use a service to find love. Only he couldn’t find a service that paired gays.

“I started the research, and after three days of trying to find service for him, I found that none existed,” she said. “When I couldn’t find a service for him to hire to help him, I started the process to start it myself.”

H4M also serves gays in Seattle, after a Houston client relocated and wanted Shaklee’s company to help him there. The company now serves gays in Denver, Miami, Chicago and Atlanta.

While Shaklee, a straight ally, saw the need for gays to have a service, she said she’s researching expanding the company for lesbians with a She’s For Me component.

“I really do believe in my heart that it took a straight ally to give the community something that it hadn’t had the opportunity to have before,” she said.

H4M Dallas office is located at at 2911 Turtle Creek Blvd., 3rd Floor. For more info about HFM, go here.

—  Dallasvoice

Gay couples file motion to block state marriage amendment in Texas

Vic Holmes and Mark Phariss

Vic Holmes and Mark Phariss

An attorney representing two Texas gay couples filed a motion for temporary injunction Friday, requesting that state officials stop enforcing the state’s constitutional amendment prohibiting same-sex couples from marrying.

Mark Phariss and Victor Holmes of Plano, joined by Austin couple Cleopatra DeLeon and Nicole Dimetman, are the plaintiffs in the case. Both couples met in San Antonio years ago, but while the lesbian couple later married out of state, they want their union recognized here, and Phariss and Holmes want to marry in Texas.

The motion, filed in the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Texas in San Antonio by attorney Barry Chasnoff, requests  the court prevent state officials from enforcing Article I, Section 32 of the Texas Constitution and corresponding provisions in the Texas Family Code that prevent same-sex couples from obtaining marriage licenses.

—  Dallasvoice

Houston Area Pastor Council accuses Mayor Parker of violating oath of office

Mayor Annise Parker

Mayor Annise Parker has been quite vocal on the issue of marriage equality lately. Last month she co-chaired the bi-partisan “Mayors for the Freedom to Marry.” This last Valentine’s Day she greeted marriage equality activists in front of city hall, declaring it “Freedom to Marry Day” in Houston (an action that carried no legal weight).

Of Course the Houston Area Pastor Council is riled up about all this talk of “freedom” and “equality.” In a statement released today HAPC characterized Parker’s actions as a “declaration of war on the traditional family.” Former mayoral candidate and HAPC president Dave Welch (who famously once claimed that the solution to the AIDS crisis was to “shoot the queers”) said ““The battle lines are drawn again as [Mayor Parker] proves her contempt for the churches of the city, the traditional family and our state Constitution.”

The statement from HAPC also claims Parker “violated her oath of office to uphold and defend the Constitution of the State of Texas” by advocating for the legal recognition of same-sex couples, which is prohibited under the Texas Constitution. HAPC may want to check out the Houston Mayoral Oath of Office before making such accusations, because this is the oath Parker took when she assumed office:

“I, Annise Parker, do solemnly swear that I will faithfully execute the duties of the office of mayor of the city of Houston of the State of Texas, so help me God.”

Absolutely nothing about upholding or defending the Constitution of the State of Texas, just a promise to execute her duties and a prayer for God’s assistance. The city charter says nothing about the mayor having a duty to uphold the Texas Constitution. So, considering that the mayor’s oath was to execute her duties, and the charter doesn’t say that she has a duty to not criticize the state, it’s hard to imagine how advocating for marriage equality would violate her oath of office.

But let’s assume that Parker had sworn to uphold the state constitution. Members of the state legislature and statewide elected officials like the governor do take that oath. If we follow the logic of the HAPC, those individuals would be violating their oaths of office if they publicly advocated changing what the Texas Constitution has to say about marriage. Which is interesting because in 2005 a majority of state legislators and Gov. Rick Perry did just that when they pushed through the constitutional amendment that currently prohibits marriage equality. By the arguments of Dave Welch and the HAPC all of those individuals should be removed from office for violating their oath.

I’m starting to like where this is going…

—  admin

Rev. Amy Delong, tried by Methodists for being a lesbian, to preach at Bering Memorial Methodist Church

Rev. Amy DeLong

Paperwork can be the bane of any job. For Rev. Amy Delong a simple annual report catapulted her into the maelstrom of the United Methodist Church’s debate on accepting LGBT people. DeLong visits Houston’s Bering Memorial United Methodist Church (1440 Harold) on Sunday, Feb. 12 to preach at both the 8:30 and 10:50 service.

In 2009 DeLong was approached by two women who wanted to get married. After conducting premarital counseling with the couple Delong agreed to perform the ceremony. As a clergy person, DeLong was required to report on her activities at the end of the year, including any weddings she had performed. She knew that the Methodist Church did not allow same-sex marriage but thought “I don’t know if anybody even reads these.” Boy, was she wrong!

With-in three days she was hauled into the her boss’s (the bishop) office. DeLong’s relationship with her partner Val was well known to her colleagues. “I’ve never had a bishop or a leader in the church or a pastor who didn’t know that I was gay,” says DeLong. “Everyone knows Val.” But the church was determined now to make an example of her, and DeLon’s relationship would now be an issue.

In 2011 DeLong was tried in the church’s court with violating the Methodist “Book of Discipline” by being in a same-sex relationship and by performing a same-sex wedding. During the trial she refused to answer pointed questions about her and her partner’s sex life. “No heterosexual couples are ever asked if they
still engage in genital contact in their marriages,” says DeLong. That refusal left the court with no evidence against her on the first charge.

She was convicted of performing the wedding and suspended from ministry for 20 days. The court also required DeLong to work with a group of ministers to prepare a statement on how to “help resolve issues that harm the clergy covenant, create an advesarial spirit or lead to future trails.” “This sentence is complicated,” says DeLong. “It doesn’t lend itself well to media soundbites. So a lot of folks have been saying to me ‘I can’t tell, is this penalty good?’” DeLong responds with a resounding “Yes!” Saying that she welcomes the opportunity to write, teach and study on a topic dear to her heart.

DeLong recalls that during that initial meeting in the bishop’s office one of the bishop’s assistants referred to her as a “self-avowed practicing homosexual.” To which she responded “Val and I aren’t practicing any more… we are pretty good at it by now.” The assistant laughed. More than anything that is the impression one gets of DeLong: someone with a lot of humor and aplomb who is unwilling to back down from a fight for justice.

After the jump watch a clip of DeLong talking about her experience.

—  admin

Houston’s State Rep. Garnet Coleman applauds Prop. 8 decision

State Rep. Garnet Coleman

Rep. Garnet Coleman, D-Houston, took to his blog today to applaud yesterday’s decision by the United States Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals declaring Proposition 8  unconstitutional (Prop. 8, passed in 2008, prohibited marriage equality in California):

“Yesterday’s 9th Circuit decision, just like the decision in Lawrence v. Texas, is a stepping stone on the path to marriage equality for all. As Judge Stephen R. Reinhardt of the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals wrote in the opinion, ‘Proposition 8 serves no purpose, and has no effect, other than to lessen the status and human dignity of gay men and lesbians in California, and to officially reclassify their relationships and families as inferior to those of opposite-sex couples.’ The same holds true for the marriage equality ban in Texas. That is why I continue to fight for marriage equality and continue to file the repeal of the ban of same sex marriage. Denying gay couples the right to marry is unconstitutional and a blatant denial of human rights. “

Coleman has a long history of filing pro-LGBT legislation in the Texas House. Last year he introduced historic legislation that, had it passed, would have called for a state-wide vote to repeal the section of Texas’ constitution prohibiting same-sex marriage, so he’s no stranger to the battle for marriage equality.

Coleman is seeking re-election to his District 147 seat. He will face long-time local LGBT activist Ray Hill in the Democratic Primary. No republican candidate has filed for the seat.

Read Coleman’s full statement on his blog.

—  admin

“Defining Marriage: A Debate!” at U of H tomorrow

Dr. Jennifer Roback Morse

Dr. Jennifer Roback Morse

One day we will get to the point where an University inviting guests to debate marriage equality will be greeted with the same scorn that an on-campus debate on women’s suffrage or whether or not African-Americans are 3/5 of a person would engender, but that day is not today. Just in time for the expected U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit ruling on Prop. 8  tomorrow, Feb. 7, the Federalist Society and Outlaw at the University of Houston present “Defining Marriage: A Debate!” at noon in the Bates Law Building room 109.

Dr. Jennifer Roback Morse, founder of the Ruth Institute, a project of the National Organization for Marriage, will be on hand to defend the continued prohibition against marriage equality. Mitchell Katine, who served as local counsel in Lawrence v. Texas (the Supreme Court case declaring Texas’ law against “homosexual conduct” unconstitutional) will defend marriage as a civil right, constitutionally guaranteed by equal protection under the law.

As a bonus the first 70 attendees to arrive will receive a free Chick-Fil-A sandwich and waffle fries, because we like our civil rights debated with a side of irony.

After the jump get a sneak peak at the kind of keen logical arguments to be expected from Dr. Morse:

—  admin

Annise Parker now co-chair of “Mayors for the Freedom to Marry,” Austin’s Leffingwell joins

Lee Leffingwell

Austin's Mayor Lee Leffingwell

Houstini reported yesterday that Houston’s Mayor Annise Parker was scheduled to appear at the “Mayors for the Freedom to Marry” press conference in Washington D.C., and that she was the only Texas mayor to participate. This morning we found out that Parker, along with New York’s Michael Bloomberg and L.A.’s Antonio Villaraigosa, is serving as co-chair for the effort. Additionally Austin’s Mayor Lee Leffingwell has joined the effort.

So that makes 2 of Texas’ 1,215 mayors with the bravery to stand up for what’s right, leaving the citizens of 1,213 citizens with the task of persuading their mayors. In Dallas Daniel Cates of GetEqual has started an online petition encouraging Mayor Mike Rawlings to sign on which currently has 216 signatories. The Dallas Voice reports that Rawlings claims to personally support marriage equality, despite his unwillingness to join “Mayors for the Freedom to Marry:”

“This one obviously was very difficult for me, because I personally believe in the rights of the gay community to marry,” Rawlings said Thursday… “I think this [same-sex marriage] is way overdue and we need to get on with it, but that’s my personal belief, and when I start to speak on behalf of the city of Dallas … I’ve got to be thoughtful about how I use that office and what I want to impact, and that’s why I decided to stay away from endorsing and signing letters like that.”

Rawlings’ chief of staff, Paula Blackmon, told the Voice “the mayor does not plan to publicly support any social issues but would rather focus on the policy issues that impact Dallas,” adding “we have not signed onto other similar requests.”

—  admin

Araguz booking raises questions about Harris County jail’s treatment of transgender inmates

Judge Vanessa Valasquez

Judge Vanessa Valasquez

According to the Houston Chronicle, Nikki Araguz has been booked into the Harris County Jain after arriving 40 minutes late for a scheduled court appearance on Friday. The court date was to allow Araguz to plead guilty to charges that she stole a watch from an acquaintance last year. Under the proposed plea bargain Araguz would have paid $2,600 in restitution and served 15 days in county jail. State District Judge Vanessa Velasquez, a Republican first appointed to the bench by Gov. Rick Perry, responded to Araguz’ apologies for her tardiness with “It’s too late for sorry,” ordering bailiffs to escort her to a hold cell next to the courtroom.

Araguz is the widow of firefighter Capt. Thomas Araguz who died in the line of duty last year. Capt. Araguz’s ex-wife and mother have sued to claim the portion of his survivor’s benefits reserved for the spouses of slain firefighters, claiming that since Nikki Araguz was identified as male at birth the marriage was invalid under Texas’ laws prohibiting the recognition of same-sex marriage. Mrs. Araguz’s birth certificate identifies her as female, as does her state issued identification.

Araguz’s booking has raised questions about the Harris County’s treatment of transgender detainees. The Sheriff Department’s Public Information Inquiry System listed Araguz using her male birth name on Friday. They have since removed the name from the site’s searchable database but have retained the record, listing it under the department’s “special person number” (SPN) filing system. The SPN record includes Araguz’s birth name. The Sheriff’s office has not returned calls from Houstini asking why the department is not using Araguz’s legal name and if this is common practice.

According to a friend who has visited Araguz at the jail her identity bracelet correctly identifies her gender as “F” – but reflects Araguz’s birth name, not her legal name. Araguz is segregated from the general jail population, but can receive visitors during regular visiting hours.

Araguz will remain in the Harris County Jail until Jan 25 when she is scheduled to appear again before Judge Velasquez.

—  admin

Proposed divorce law could make D.C. the marriage destination of choice for gay Texans

Mrs. Barry Herridge

The straights have a new poster child for traditional marriage.

Sinead O’Connor ended her marriage to therapist Barry Herridge after 16 days. She said she knew the marriage was doomed just three hours after the ceremony.

But she still made it to 16 days. Maybe she needs to see a therapist. Oh wait … maybe she just needs to blame it on the gays.

But at least she will be able to end her marriage — no matter where she lives.

The Washington D.C. city council will take up a same-sex divorce ordinance in January, according to the Washington Post. The bill has the support of eight out of 13 city council members.

The problem, according to the city’s leaders, is that anyone can marry in D.C., but only residents can file for divorce there.

Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott has done his part to deny marriage to same-sex couples by preventing them from getting divorced. One case in which he intervened involves a Dallas couple that was married in Massachusetts. Currently all 50 states and D.C. have a residency requirement for divorce.

With the attorney general’s intervention, the Dallas couple remains married, three years after beginning the process of divorce.

Should the D.C. law pass, couples married in that city will be able to divorce there, no matter where they live. Abbott will be unable to prevent Texas couples married there from divorcing there.

But O’Connor will be able to get divorced wherever she lives. And her 16-day marriage will be considered “traditional.”

—  David Taffet