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

‘Perform or provide’

DADT repeal gives progressive chaplains a chance to counter evangelical clergy in the military

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CATCH-ALL CHAPLAIN | Chaplain Chris Antal (Lt.) attended the meeting of the Forum on Military Chaplaincy at Cathedral of Hope in October. (David Taffet/Dallas Voice)

DAVID TAFFET  |  Staff Writer
taffet@dallasvoice.com
When a soldier recently came to Chaplain Chris Antal, a lieutenant in the Army National Guard in New York and a Unitarian Universalist minister, and asked if he’d pray with her even though she was a pagan, he said he replied, “Of course I will, but you’ll have to show me how.”

Several weeks later, when he saw her again, she told him that the day she had come to visit him, she had hit rock bottom. He had, she told him, saved her life that day.

But Antal said he was only doing his job — helping any soldier who comes to him.

“I’ve earned the nickname, the Catch-all Chaplain,” he said, explaining that it means he takes everyone the other chaplains don’t want to deal with.

Carpenter.Dodd

Capt. Tom Carpenter (ret.) and Col. Paul Dodd (ret.)

Being there to help a soldier in need is what it’s all about for a military chaplain, said Col. Paul Dodd, a retired chaplain who now lives in Austin.

“The duty of a military chaplain is to perform or provide,” said Dodd, adding that he once sponsored an Islamic conference.

Dodd said that no chaplain can perform every service needed by every member of the military. But if a chaplain can’t perform the service requested, he or she must provide that soldier with a referral to someone else who can.

Antal said that chaplains who enlisted knew what they were getting into — to some extent. But none of them really expected the repeal of the military’s anti-gay “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy. And for many, that repeal was a game changer.

In October, a group of active and retired chaplains and military personnel and other people of faith, such as the Rev. Steve Sprinkle from Brite Divinity

School in Fort Worth, met at the Interfaith Peace Chapel at Cathedral of Hope to begin looking at ways of addressing the issues that arose for military chaplains around DADT repeal.

Dave Guy Gainer said The Forum on Military Chaplaincy is not exactly new. It formed in 2005 as a project of Servicemembers Legal Defense Network and worked under the radar until DADT was repealed.

Sprinkle said people in the Pentagon, up through Secretary of Defense Robert Gates, knew about their work and considered their statements throughout the DADT repeal process.

And now, with repeal complete, the group met to “come out.” At their meeting in Dallas, forum members considered ways to become an independent organization helping to ensure newly out service members receive the pastoral care they need while serving in the military.

Susan Gore, principle of The Mentor Group and editor of the book Coming Out In Faith, moderated the Dallas conference. She said the group started with several retired military officers “who wanted to push back against the far-right skew.”

Sprinkle has been part of the forum for four years and said he was recruited to participate because of his work on hate crimes.
Since the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, Sprinkle said, more and more members of the Chaplain Corps have come from just one school — Liberty

University, founded by far-right evangelical Jerry Falwell. Today, Sprinkle estimated, one-third of military chaplains come from Liberty University.

“They instituted a program that barely meets minimum requirements,” he said of the evangelical school. “It’s an online course.”

And, Sprinkle said, Liberty University’s goal is to take control of the Chaplain Corps and use the military as a pool for religious recruits.

“This is fertile ground to bring people to Jesus at taxpayer expense,” said Tom Carpenter, a retired Marine captain and one of the forum’s founders.

“I’ve heard stories of them holding the hand of someone who’s dying and trying to bring them to Jesus.”

And although such actions contradict military policy, no one in the corps has been disciplined or dismissed for it.

“They give chaplains a lot of leeway,” Carpenter said.

Gainer said the military is looking for well-rounded ministers who bring experience with them to the military.

According to the U.S. Army Chaplain Center and School in Fort Jackson, S.C., candidates must be endorsed by their denomination or faith group and be “sensitive to religious pluralism and able to provide for the free exercise of religion by all military personnel, their family members and civilians who work for the Army.”

But Sprinkle said that Liberty University is transparent about its goals, and those goals do not line up.

“They’re not committed to pluralism or serving all the troops,” he said.

Gainer said that the greatest opposition to repealing DADT came from the Chaplain Corps because military chaplains answer to two groups — the military and their denomination. Those chaplains that didn’t adhere to a strict stance of maintaining the ban on gays and lesbians were threatened with losing their accreditation from their endorsing religious body — and with it their livelihood and their pensions.

But that contradicts the stated goals of the Chaplain Corps.

“Someone has to say, ‘Either you comply and serve all the troops all the time or get out,’” Sprinkle said.

Gore said that one of the goals of the newly public forum is to “rebalance the Chaplain Corps by bringing in more mainstream faiths.” She said that for many who come from more liberal traditions, questions of what’s a just war make it hard to serve in the military. Antal, for example, is one of just four Unitarian Universalists in the Chaplain Corps.

During its push for repeal of DADT, members
said, the forum had several successes working behind the scenes.

Despite the assumption of confidentiality between parishioner and clergy, that wasn’t always the case between gay soldier and chaplain. Dodd said that a number of discharges under DADT occurred after a soldier talked to a chaplain and the chaplain turned them in.

In fact, he wrote a white paper on the practice. After he submitted it, the military tightened up on chaplain confidentiality, Dodd said.

Carpenter, an attorney, wrote an amicus brief for the Log Cabin Republicans’ lawsuit against DADT. The court found in favor of declaring DADT unconstitutional, but Congress repealed the law before the decision could be enforced.

Carpenter said that the repeal allows gays and lesbians to serve with no protection. The legal decision, had it not been vacated upon repeal, would have allowed gays and lesbians to serve equally.

Now that DADT is gone, the forum is examining how to ensure LGB personnel receive the same services as other troops from chaplains.

Dodd said that right-wing chaplains charge that allowing gays and lesbians to serve in the military will force them to act in ways that go against their beliefs. Some have said they would be required to perform same-sex weddings.

Dodd called that ridiculous. Chaplains are never asked to perform duties that go against their religious beliefs, he said.

“I turned down weddings,” he said. “An officer came to me who wasn’t divorced.”

He said the officer tried to pull strings and force the issue, but Dodd wasn’t going to discuss marrying someone who was still married to someone else.

“But we’re insisting chaplains have the authority, if it’s in keeping with their faith, to marry same-sex couples,” he said.

Because of the Defense of Marriage Act, the repeal provides no family benefits. For some issues, Dodd and Carpenter suggested work-arounds.

Issuing ID cards would be extremely helpful, especially to same-sex couples with children, Carpenter said, noting that “That way either parent could get on base to get a child to the hospital.”

In another example, joint assignments can be offered at the discretion of a commanding officer, and married couples are often assigned together when they both qualify for positions that are available at the same base. Same-sex couples could be given the same priority.

As the forum looks ahead, rebalancing the Chaplain Corps with members from a more diverse background to reflect the membership of the military is a priority.

“And we need to take care of our trans brothers and sisters,” Carpenter said.

The repeal of DADT did not address any transgender issues and does not allow transgender men or women to serve in the military.

Gainer believes representatives of the forum need to sit down with far-right members of the Chaplain Corps and agree to disagree. He said that before the repeal of DADT, they talked to people at Veterans of Foreign Wars and the American Legion. While both groups testified against the repeal, they met with some success.

“The president of the VFW in Pflugerville said it was the right thing to do,” Gainer said.

That dialogue, he believed, would help chaplains perform or at least provide a useful referral, rather than doing more damage to a soldier seeking help.

Gore thought that the focus of discussion should be with the majority of chaplains “who want to do a good job and are part of the moveable middle.”

“We have to convince administrators and educators in divinity schools to encourage some of their best and brightest to serve,” Sprinkle said. “So many schools dropped what they were doing during the Vietnam era.”

Antal thinks that gays and lesbians will gain more acceptance as they tell their stories in non-confrontational settings and others see “their identity as professional service members is primary.”

While the work of the forum will concentrate on helping LGB military personnel, creating a more diverse Chaplain Corps may help a majority of service members. Recent polls show that a majority of troops find the chaplaincy irrelevant.

Sprinkle called the work of the forum a gift from the LGBT community to the nation.

“You wouldn’t think we’d be the ones opening the doors so that all troops will be served with dignity, integrity and respect,” he said.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition November 4, 2011.

 

—  Kevin Thomas

Master of HIS domain

Ben Starr, the recently out Dallas cheftestant on Fox’s ‘MasterChef,’ camps it up on Gordon Ramsay’s cooking competition series

ARNOLD WAYNE JONES  | Life+Style Editor
jones@dallasvoice.com

…………………….

MASTERCHEF
Airs Tuesdays on Fox (Ch. 4) at 8 p.m.

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When Lewisville-based travel writer Ben Starr auditioned for Fox’s MasterChef, he doubted they’d be interested in his style of home cooking. But not only did he make the cut, he’s been one of the more memorable cheftestants — just this week, he had the judge’s favorite dish.

The series is only halfway through, but for Starr, it’s already made a huge difference in his life: It forced him to come out to his parents just last month. We talked to him about the experience and his favorite meals.

…………………….

You’ve been struggling since you wowed the judges at your audition. The audition kinda set me up to expect that I would do well in the competition, but we spun pretty quickly into an emphasis on gourmet cuisine, which is not my thing at all. My street tacos were a little bit spiffy, and I am extremely well traveled, but I tend to eat peasant food even when I travel. I was seeing all these people around me making restaurant quality cuisine and trying to compete on their level. Nice to make a good ol’ catfish in a skillet.

What was the hardest challenge for you? The biggest challenge has definitely been psychological. I’m competitive by nature and I want to feel like I’m competition, but I was surrounded by chefs that were a little more connected to the Food Network that I am. They’d use words like umami [a Japanese word for a savory flavor] and I had to go look it up. There was a common lexicon among the contestants about what these famous chefs I’ve never heard of are doing in their restaurants. I felt like an idiot stumbling around in the dark. That started to leak into my cooking and I began to question, “Is this sophisticated enough? Is this even sophisticated?” The episode this week was a turning point. I felt like for the first time I’m back in my own element.

You certainly have made an impression with your outfits. I don’t wear those hats at home, though I do wear an apron, just for practicality. But [the show] has started this storytelling legacy — people expect me to wear them when they come over. My mom made me the pumpkin hat and apron. Actually, she made me five or six pairs to wear. That’s why you always see a different one on me each episode. I was going through them.

Was wearing them part of a conscious effort to stand during the auditions? I am fairly myself, though I had to set myself apart that wasn’t just about food. I needed to be someone [the judges] remember when they go home at night. That’s why I talked about my rural upbringing, because I thought it would generate a memory.

Had you watched the show before? Did you know what to expect? I don’t watch much TV, but this is not my first time being on TV, which is ironic because I abhor reality television —it brings out the worst in our culture. But I did Rachael Ray’s So You Think You Can Cook in 2007. The audience there was much more caring and nurturing than the machine on MasterChef, but I was a little bit prepared for the frank judgment.

I did not watch the first season of MasterChef, but my friend Karen Rutherford said, “I’ll never speak to you again if you don’t audition [for season 2].” So I watched them all on Hulu. I just sweated my way through them. I knew how intense and stressful it is to cook on TV, and saw how brutal Joe Bastianich and Gordon Ramsay were with the contestants. I thought: Screw this. Then a few weeks passed and the terror faded [and I went through the lengthy audition process]. It was a lot of work — the most difficult full-time job I’ve ever had that doesn’t pay.

What’s your favorite kind of cuisine? While my DNA wants to say Mexican food — I had it in the womb six times a week — I am most intrigued by Thai food. It is so complex, yet so much of it is cooked on the street in a tiny little cart. From the richest to the poorest, everybody eats on the street.

How about a favorite meal? One of the most memorable meals I’ve ever had was in Egypt on New Year’s Eve in 2001. I spent it on Mount Sinai and hiked eight miles back down to the car for the drive back to our resort. [The driver] fell asleep at the wheel and we plummeted into a canyon. Eventually a camel train of Bedouins came by the bottom of this canyon. They took us onto the camels and rode four or five miles to their camp. All the women came out, killed a goat and started cooking while the men tried to pull our car out of the canyon.

It was a humble meal — just a goat stew and some flat bread — but the flavors were really intense and felt they came right out of the desert. I could not even communicate with these people who live in abject poverty, but still they were willing to kill one of their last goats and throw a big feast for us because it’s in their nature to be hospitable. I realized it was important to me to use food to nurture people in my life — I could never be a chef and be in the back. I need to be with the people. My partner is one of the main reasons I cook — we’ve been together eight years and I want to marry him one day.

Did you plan to be “the gay guy” on the show? When I was on [Rachael Ray] it was not addressed and I didn’t talk about it openly. At that point my family didn’t know I was gay — in fact, I didn’t come out to my parents until about five weeks ago. They were totally shell-shocked — they didn’t have a clue.

Maybe mom should have guessed since she made you all those hats. Ha! Maybe.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition July 8, 2011.

—  Michael Stephens

Sheriff Lupe Valdez, a Democrat, on why she’s going to the Log Cabin Republicans Convention

Sheriff Lupe Valdez

The Log Cabin Republicans will hold their National Convention in Dallas this coming weekend, and we’ll have a full story in Friday’s print edition. But because the convention actually begins Thursday, we figured we’d go ahead and post the full program sent out by the group earlier this week.

Perhaps the biggest surprise on the program is a scheduled appearance by gay Dallas County Sheriff Lupe Valdez, who is of course a Democrat.

Valdez, who’ll be one of the featured speakers at a Saturday luncheon, contacted us this week to explain her decision to accept the invitation from Log Cabin (not that we necessarily felt it warranted an explanation). Here’s what she said: 

“We have more things in common than we have differences, but it seems like in politics we constantly dwell on our differences,” Valdez said. “If we continue to dwell on our differences, all we’re going to do is fight. If we try to work on our common issues, we’ll be able to accomplish some things.”

On that note, below is the full program. For more information or to register, go here.

—  John Wright

Guest Column: The freedom to marry is denied to Ben & Danny on Valentine’s Day

Note from Lurleen: On Valentine’s Day 2011 Ben Crowther and Danny Canham joined dozens of other LGBT couples in over 13 states taking part in GetEqual’s direct action “drawing attention to the fact that loving couples – some of whom have been together for decades – are still living as second-class citizens without the right to marry.”  I asked Ben and Danny to describe their experience and they kindly agreed.  Here is their story in their own words.


On Valentine’s Day, two students marched down to the local courthouse in Bellingham, WA and demanded they be given a marriage license. As expected, they were denied and turned away, but not without giving bystanders a show first.

As the Washington State Co-Lead of GetEQUAL, Ben Crowther started hearing about Valentine’s Day protests several weeks ago. The stories and plans of other activists from around the country and the energy, passion, and creativity he heard from them inspired him to organize an event where he lives in Washington. The night before the action was to take place, he asked who among his friends wanted to try and marry him the next day.

His friend, Danny Canham, volunteered to be his partner in crime. While Danny doesn’t view marriage as a necessity for equality or something that should be aspired to, actions for equality are still actions for equality. No matter the cause, even if one doesn’t believe in marriage equality specifically this was an action worth participating in.
While neither intends to get married in the near future, they want the opportunity for this to be available in the future. Additionally, institutional inequality is inherently damaging because it establishes a system wherein some identities are designated as inferior.

That afternoon, Ben and Danny met to plan their action. Together they filled out their application for a marriage license. As they reviewed the application, Ben noticed the gendered language of the form and quickly decided to correct it so the form read “male” and “fe male.” They alerted their friends and reporters from the campus newspaper and within an hour were headed to the courthouse.

Knowing the reality that they would be rejected, Crowther and Canham approached the demonstration to prove a point. They wanted to challenge the state office, forcing them to justify the law while simultaneously showing how ridiculous it was. Further, they aimed to raise awareness of this as an important issue. As they learned from reading the article in the school paper the next day, this was the first time the Whatcom County state auditor had had a same-sex couple apply for a marriage license in her 23 years.

Entering the Licensing Office with an entourage of media in tow and forms in hand, they took their place in line. A county records clerk called them forward, and as they explained their intent to apply for a marriage license, the clerk became uneasy and explained that Washington does not allow same-sex couples to marry. The clerk suggested that they instead apply for a domestic partnership, which offers all the state benefits of marriage. When they questioned the value of domestic partnerships and demanded to know why they were excluded from marriage, the clerk quickly called in the state auditor.

By this point, others in the office were taking notice of the fuss being made at the counter, their heads peaking over cubicle walls. The state auditor approached the counter. When Ben asked why the pair couldn’t get married that day, she urged them to speak to the state legislature attempting to remain polite as possible while clearly becoming increasingly frustrated.

Ben immediately pointed out that she was the one who ultimately decided whether or not they would walk away with a marriage license that day. As the person in a position of authority at the moment, she was the one saying no, and he would be approaching the legislature regardless.

When she made the argument that she was not legally allowed to give them a marriage license, Ben countered with the fact that she was under no obligation to follow a law that is unconstitutional under multiple court rulings specifically that stating laws against marriage equality are against the constitution. Ben made similar arguments to President Obama at a protest before the fall elections when it was first ruled that Don’t Ask Don’t Tell was unconstitutional.

He asked how she would react if they were an interracial couple. Would she deny them in that instance even though it has been ruled unconstitutional? He was met with the same lines. Talk to the legislature to change the laws, talk to the Secretary of State office about getting a domestic partnership. The problem with domestic partnerships is that they create a separate but equal system that is inherently flawed. If it were actually equal to marriage, there would be no reason for different names.

He brought up the point that even if he and Danny had been together for 20 years, regardless of their relationship, they would still be denied access to the 1138 Federal rights associated with marriage, simply because they both had penises. Yet he could have married Eliza Chan who Ben only known for about a week simply because she has a vagina. Comically, he stood between Eliza and Danny saying “marriage” and “domestic partnership” as he stepped from one to the other.

After one final question, Ben wished the room a happy Valentine’s Day and walked out the door. He was told later that as the debate escalated, a security guard had entered the office.

Outside, they were asked what they would have done if the auditor had granted them a marriage license. Both approached the action presenting themselves as a hypothetical couple, the idea being to bring light the failures within the system not to actually get married. Had they been offered, they would have accepted the license, being the first same-sex couple in state history to have received a license.  
Pam’s House Blend – Front Page

—  David Taffet

Calling for the Freedom to Marry in Maryland

HRC volunteer Vanessa Watson prepares for her first call.

I spent this Saturday afternoon with eight terrific HRC volunteers on the phones calling for the freedom to marry in Maryland.

We were calling HRC members and supporters in Maryland to make sure they know about the January 31st Why Marriage Matters Day at the State Capitol in Annapolis.  This great event will start with a gathering at five o’clock on Lawyers’ Mall at the State House.  The Equality Maryland team will then provide participants with talking points and a quick training before teaming them up with other supporters of equality from their legislative districts for in-person meetings with their legislators.

With votes in the legislature likely coming up fast, there’s nothing more important than supporters of marriage equality telling their stories directly to their state legislators and explaining why they support the freedom to marry.

If you’re a Maryland resident, sign up today to participate in the January 31st Why Marriage Matters Day.  And to get more involved in the campaign for marriage equality in Maryland, fill out our online survey or send a message to Sultan Shakir at sultan.shakir@hrc.org.


Human Rights Campaign | HRC Back Story

—  admin

Lesbian couple, who are ‘high-level Episcopal priests,’ marry in Massachusetts

This is apparently a first for the Episcopal Church — and it came with the blessing fo the local bishop who performed the ceremony:

Episcopalians here and across the country are already divided over whether to elect gay bishops and allow their priests to perform same-sex weddings. Now they have another issue to discuss: The marriage of two lesbians who are high-level Episcopal priests in Massachusetts.

In a wedding that appears to be the first of its kind in the U.S. – at least in the Episcopal Church – former Plymouth priest the Rev. Mally Lloyd married the Rev. Katherine Ragsdale, dean and president of the Episcopal Divinity School in Cambridge, on New Year’s Day. The Rev. Lloyd, a former pastor at Christ Church in Plymouth, is now a ranking official of the Episcopal Diocese of Massachusetts.

The Rev. Lloyd and the Rev. Ragsdale were married in a ceremony at the Cathedral Church of St. Paul in Boston, with about 400 guests attending. Bishop M. Thomas Shaw, the state’s highest ranking Episcopal official, presided.

Bishop Shaw has openly supported gay marriage for years. In 2009, a few months after the Episcopal general convention voted to allow “generous pastoral response to meet the needs of members of this church,” he gave parish priests permission to perform same-sex marriages – to “solemnize” them, in the language of the Episcopal Church. Those actions came five years after gay marriage became legal in Massachusetts.

Very cool.

Of course, the Catholics had to be a little bitchy about this. The headline on Catholic.org reads: “Two Episcopal Lesbian Leaders ‘Marry’ in Boston Cathedral.” Had to put marry in quotes and had to write about all the discord this will create at the next meeting of Episcopal leaders. Thing is, the couple is married in the eyes of the law. And, let’s be real, Catholic.org, you may want to stir the pot in the the Episcopal church about marriage. But, that church can discuss these issues and not worry about the endless scandals involving its priests rapign children. That’s what Catholics leaders are forced to talk about at their meetings.




AMERICAblog Gay

—  admin

Obama: ‘At This Point’ He’s Ready To Let Gays Die For America, But Not Marry

Barack Obama said yesterday, before signing the repeal of Don't Ask Don't Tell, that he was "not going to make more news" by trumping this week's big gay news by stating he was suddenly going to back same-sex marriage, an issue on which he's said his views are "evolving." Asked about that position again at Wednesday's post-repeal presser, Obama repeated that his "feelings are constantly evolving" — but still believes is between a man and a woman. Which means, for the time being, Obama publicly supports gay men and women who want to die for their county, but not gay men and women who want to marry the ones they love.


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Queerty

—  admin

Iowa For Freedom: ‘What if we wanted to marry our cameras?’

Posted to Iowa For Freedom‘s official YouTube channel:

Mark McCormick is right to laugh, because frankly — what else is one to do when gays are compared to Kodaks?

If only lives, careers, rights, and the independent judiciary were not attached to the silliness.

***

**MORE: “Gotcha”-ing attempt from this faceless IFF camera man:




Good As You

—  admin

Watch: Alec Baldwin is Angry He Can’t Marry Jesse Tyler Ferguson

Baldwin

Alec Baldwin responds to the announcement in August by Jesse Tyler Ferguson that they're getting married, in a new spot for Fight Back NY.

As you may recall Fight Back NY is the PAC targeting anti-gay lawmakers in the New York Senate. Their current target is Queens senator Frank Padavan. If you feel inclined to take Alec's advice, help them out here.

Watch, AFTER THE JUMP



Towleroad News #gay

—  John Wright