Dallas police seek info in gay man’s murder

Moments ago the Dallas Police Department sent out the below alert seeking information in the murder of Aaron Cheung, a 27-year-old gay man who was found fatally shot in northeast Dallas on Sunday morning.

According to the alert, an unknown suspect wearing a black hoodie and black pants was seen running from the scene of Cheung’s murder.

Sr. Cpl. Kevin Janse, a spokesman for DPD, confirmed Monday afternoon that investigators don’t believe the incident was a hate crime.

“Nothing leads the detectives to believe his sexual orientation played a role in this offense,” Janse said. “Robbery is believed to be the motive. No suspect or witnesses at this time.”

Anyone with information is asked to call homicide at 214-671-3661 or 214-671-3618.

—  John Wright

UPDATE: Gay Dallas couple considers legal action after D.C. court declares Skype wedding invalid

Mark Reed-Walkup, left, and Dante Walkup

A gay Dallas couple’s highly publicized Skype wedding has been declared invalid by a court in Washington, D.C., Instant Tea confirmed Monday afternoon.

Mark Reed-Walkup said he and his partner of 10 years, Dante Walkup, were “extremely disappointed” to receive a letter Friday from the Superior Court for the District of Columbia. The letter, shown below, states that the couple’s marriage couldn’t be certified or registered because all parties weren’t physically present for the ceremony.

Reed-Walkup said the letter came as a surprise because a supervisor in the clerk’s office told the couple prior to the wedding that nothing in D.C. law would prohibit what is known as an e-marriage. The couple held the ceremony at the W-Dallas Victory hotel, and it was officiated via Skype from the nation’s capital, where same-sex marriage is legal.

“It was extremely disappointing. We were very depressed on Friday,” Reed-Walkup told Instant Tea on Monday. “We felt like we had covered our bases, and all of the media out there was agreeing. No one was saying what we did wasn’t legal, so we felt very confident that we had succeeded, and so it really was a kick in the stomach and it hurt. Having that piece of paper that says you’re legally married really means a lot to a couple, at least it did to us. It made a stronger emotional bond that we didn’t expect. That same emotional bond that we felt strengthened our relationship was take away on Friday.”

Reed-Walkup said he believes someone must have complained about the marriage to D.C. officials after reading media reports about the Skype wedding, which has made international news in recent weeks. But Reed-Walkup said he thinks it’s unfair that the couple wasn’t notified the court was reviewing the matter until they received a copy of the letter.

“I can only speculate that there was somebody out there motivated by homophobia or politics or both that wanted to see this marriage annulled and prevent other couples from pursuing it,” Reed-Walkup said.

“We’re going to be talking to legal counsel to see what our options are,” he added. “If we feel like we have a strong case based on the information that we received when we applied for our license, we’ll pursue it legally. But if it’s not a strong case, we’re not going to waste time and resources. We’ll just take a quick trip to D.C., have her [the officiant] marry us in the airport, and go back to Dallas. We will get eventually married one way or the other through Washington, D.C.”

Reed-Walkup said the couple has also withdrawn a discrimination complaint it filed last week against The Dallas Morning News for refusing to publish its wedding announcement.

“Right now legally we don’t have a legal marriage, so we felt we could no longer pursue the case with The Dallas Morning News until we get this resolved,” he said. “Once we do, we will be back at trying to change the policy with regard to the publication of same-sex weddings.”

—  John Wright

FWISD to update bullying policy

Director of counseling says officials did not realize sexual orientation didn’t include gender identity, expression, and applauds new bullying awareness campaign

Tammye Nash  |  Senior Report nash@dallasvoice.com

FORT WORTH — When the Dallas Independent School District was lauded recently for becoming the first school district in the state to approve an LGBT-inclusive anti-bullying policy, officials in the Fort Worth Independent School District reacted with consternation.
The Fort Worth District, officials said, had passed such a policy months before, in March.

But the problem, Kathryn Everest, director of guidance and counseling for the Fort Worth district, said this week, was that “We didn’t know what we didn’t know.”

And what school officials didn’t know was that the term “sexual orientation” does not include issues of gender identity and gender expression, Everest said.

“Our policy protects all students,” Everest said, adding that she initially believed simply saying “all students” would be adequate. But she said she understands the need for more specific wording after discussion with those in the community advocating for changes in the policy.

Everest said that she met Monday afternoon, Nov. 22, with gay Fort Worth Councilman Joel Burns and Jon Nelson of Fairness Fort Worth. Both men, she said, have pledged to help the district fine-tune the wording of its policies.

“We want to make it plain that everyone is included. Now that we have found out what we didn’t know — that sexual orientation doesn’t include gender identity and gender expression — we will make those changes. We’re not fighting it, and we’re not intimidated by it. We just didn’t know,” Everest said.

She added that the policy in question relates specifically to students. The district also has a mirror policy protecting faculty and staff members, and it, too, will be updated, Everest said.

“We want our policies to align with the city of Fort Worth’s policy,” she said. The Fort Worth City Council voted last year to amend its nondiscrimination ordinance, which already included protections based on sexual orientation, to include specific protections based on gender identity and gender expression.

Another point of confusion centered on the wording of Fort Worth’s anti-bullying policy itself. The policy defines bullying, gives examples and outlines the procedure for reporting incidences of bullying and for investigating those reports. But it does not enumerate specific groups protected under the policy, as the Dallas ISD policy does.

Everest explained this week that the Fort Worth ISD’s “Freedom from Bullying” policy is an extension of the district’s “Freedom from Discrimination, Harassment and Retaliation Policy, which reads:

“The District prohibits discrimination including harassment, against any student on the basis of race, color, religion, gender, sexual orientation, national origin, disability, or on any other basis prohibited by law, that adversely affects the student.”

Everest said FWISD officials now recognize that, technicalities aside, the bullying policy should also include that wording — with the addition of gender identity and gender expression — so that it is clear.

Although gender identity and gender expression were not among the protected categories listed, evidence of the district’s intention to provide protections based on those categories exists in the discrimination policy, under the category of examples:

“Examples of prohibited harassment  may include offensive or derogatory language directed at another person’s religious beliefs or practices, accent, skin color, gender identity or need for accommodation … .”

‘It’s not okay’

While the Fort Worth school district may be lagging behind the Dallas ISD in perfecting the wording of its nondiscrimination and anti-bullying policies, Fort Worth is several steps ahead of Dallas when it comes to it’s anti-bullying campaign, Everest said.

The district implemented the “It’s not okay” campaign at the beginning of the current school year, focusing each month on a different aspect of harassment. Topics are “bullying, cyberbullying, sexting, teen dating violence, suicidal thinking, sexual harassment, use of alcohol, tobacco and other drugs and gangs.

The campaign includes efforts to explain each topic and to promote the district’s procedures for reporting and investigating offenses. A primary component, Everest said, is the “Friends 4 Life” hotline that anyone can call to report specific incidents or concerns. Students discovered to be targets of bullying or harassment are paired with counselors who work with them and help them find other resources if necessary, Everest said.

She said students had input in designing the campaign, helping choose the topics and suggesting ways to address each one. The district also has designed posters on each topic to be displayed in schools, as well as billboards that are going up each month around the city.

“By the end of the school year, we will have billboards across the city addressing each one of these topics,” Everest said. “There is a kind of entrenched generational acceptance of certain kinds of harassment and bullying — the idea that it’s just what kids do, and you need to get over it and move on. That’s what we have to change. We have to say to the whole world that it’s not OK.

“And this [campaign] is not just a flash in the pan, not just a one-time thing,” Everest continued. Our goal is to make it an ongoing program, something that is deep and broad and addresses all the angles. That’s how you change the social norms. That’s how you stop the bullying.”

She added, “This is all a learning process for us. We are making corrections and improvements as we go along. We thought we were covering everything, and now that we know we didn’t, we will make the changes we need to make.

“Our goal is to make our entire educational community as safe as possible — our students, our faculty and our staff. And we will do what we need to do to make that happen.”

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition November 26, 2010.

—  Michael Stephens

Gay couple married via Skype files complaint against DMN for not publishing announcement

Mark Reed-Walkup, left, and Dante Walkup

A gay couple has filed a discrimination complaint against The Dallas Morning News for refusing to publish their same-sex wedding announcement.

Mark Reed-Walkup and Dante Walkup, who were legally married in Washington, D.C., in October, filed the complaint on Friday. The couple’s wedding has made international news in recent weeks because it was held in Dallas but officiated from D.C. via Skype.

Reed- Walkup said he’s been trying for several weeks to get The Morning News to publish their paid announcement in its “Weddings” section. But the newspaper has refused due to a policy that says same-sex wedding announcements can only be published in a separate section called “Commitments.” The policy reportedly is based on the fact that same-sex marriage isn’t legal in Texas.

The couple filed the complaint under a city ordinance that prohibits discrimination based on sexual orientation in employment, housing and public accommodations. Reed-Walkup says he believes wedding announcements, which are paid advertisements, constitute a public accommodation.

“Our ultimate goal is for the newspaper to realize that this is discrimination and change their policy,” Reed-Walkup said. “They [the city] may agree with the newspaper that because of the ban on same-sex marriage in Texas, they have every justification to not publish it in the ‘Weddings’ section. At least we can say that we tried, and take it from there.”

Beverly Davis, director of the city’s Fair Housing Office, said she didn’t receive the complaint until Monday.

“We just got it,” Davis said Monday afternoon. “I haven’t had time to make an assessment yet.”

The Fair Housing Office investigates complaints under the ordinance before turning them over to the City Attorney’s Office for possible prosecution. Each violation of the ordinance is punishable by a $500 fine.

Jim Moroney, publisher and CEO of The Morning News, couldn’t immediately be reached for comment.

—  John Wright

GLAAD: Chris Krok disciplined; station to apologize for anti-gay rant against Joel Burns

Chris Krok

The other day we brought attention to a homophic rant by Dallas radio host Chris Krok of KLIF 570 AM, who ridiculed Fort Worth City Councilman Joel Burns’ recent “It Gets Better” speech. According to a report from GLAAD on Monday, Krok has been disciplined for the rant, and the station is working toward an on-air apology:

On behalf of Joel and the many others whose life stories intersect with his, GLAAD made a phone call this afternoon to Jeff Catlin, the operations manager for Cumulus Media Dallas, KLIF’s parent company.  The conversation was a productive one; Catlin both understands and shares our concern.  As the person who oversees KLIF, Catlin acknowledged that he has the “responsibility to be responsible” for what airs on the station.

Without going into detail, Catlin said that he spoke with Krok and that he was disciplined shortly after the segment aired.  He also pointed out that Krok has not spoken about this since then.

After speaking with GLAAD, Catlin also realizes the need to issue some sort of on-air apology.  He wants Krok (who’s out of the office until tomorrow) to be “part of the solution.”  To that end GLAAD, Catlin and Krok will meet on Wednesday morning to discuss what such a solution will look like.  We’ll be certain to let you know in advance so you can be sure to tune-in.

—  John Wright

Regardless of Tuesday’s outcome, this poster featuring local gay Dems will be a collector’s item

Dallas County District Clerk Gary Fitzsimmons, who happens to be gay, sent over this poster that will reportedly be going up around town in the next few days. It’ll also be part of an ad in this week’s Voice, we think. We can’t seem to get in touch with Fitzsimmons to ask him how it all came about — and how they managed to get all these folks in one room at the same time — but in some ways the poster speaks for itself. Fitzsimmons also mentioned that he can make extra copies, so you’d like one, call his campaign headquarters at 214-948-8700.

UPDATE: We finally spoke with Fitzsimmons, and he said the photo shoot for the poster was put together hastily on Monday afternoon in response to rumors that some in the LGBT community may stay home from the polls this year over disappointment with President Barack Obama and Congress, for failing to fulfill their promises on things like “don’t ask don’t tell.”

“The major thing here is that the Democratic Party in Dallas County has done very well by the gay community,” Fitzsimmons said. “A lot of folks may be disappointed in the pace of progress in Washington, but when you look at the Democratic Party in Dallas County, we’ve kept our promise to the LGBT community.”

Fitzsimmons pointed to people like District Judge Tena Callahan, a straight ally who’s up for re-election after last year declaring Texas’ bans on same-sex marriage unconstitutional.

“If we’ve got Democratic elected officials putting their asses, their careers, on the line for the gay and lesbian community, then the least we can do is stand up for them on Election Day,” he said.

Fitzsimmons said he’s “bullish” about Democrats’ chances in Dallas County on Tuesday and feels they will win most countywide races, including his own. But he said he’s concerned about races like the one for the District 4 seat on the Commissioners Court, which pits Republican incumbent Ken Mayfield against Democratic challenger Dr. Elba Garcia. Fitzsimmons called Mayfield “the most homophobic elected official in Dallas County” and “a sworn enemy of the gay community,” whereas Garcia is a proven friend.

“That race may be decided by less than 50 votes,” he said, noting the District 4 includes heavily gay neighborhoods in North Oak Cliff. “You can be dissatisfied with Washington, but this election is about what’s going on in Dallas County.”

—  John Wright

BREAKING: Transgender girl not a finalist for homecoming queen despite enough votes

SISTERLY SUPPORT | Andy Moreno, left, has her family — including sister Daisy Moreno, right — and her friends backing her up in her bid to be the 2010 homecoming queen at North Dallas High. (Tammye Nash/Dallas Voice)
Andy Moreno, left, and her sister Daisy Moreno

Trangender student Andy Moreno wasn’t among the three finalists for homecoming queen at North Dallas High School announced Monday, according to her sister, Daisy Moreno.

Daisy Moreno told Instant Tea that according to poll watchers and friends on the counting committee, Andy received more votes than at least one of the three finalists. However, based on the principal’s previous decision, school officials didn’t allow votes for Andy to count.

Another transgender youth who also identifies as female was nominated for homecoming king and won, Daisy Moreno said. The school allowed the other youth to run for king because she was born male. Students will choose the homecoming king and queen from among the finalists on Friday, Oct. 15.

Queer LiberAction is reportedly planning a protest of Andy’s exclusion from the ballot.

The Canadian Broadcasting Company saw the story about Andy’s homecoming bid on Dallas Voice’s website and interviewed her Monday afternoon. The report is scheduled to run on NPR in the United States.

It’s unclear whether Andy would have a winning case if she brought legal action against the school or the district, according to Ken Upton, a senior staff attorney at Lambda Legal in Dallas.

Upton said recent federal court rulings have supported students’ right to dress consistently with their gender identity in other contexts, but he couldn’t recall one that dealt specifically with homecoming. In Indiana, for example, a school district recently changed its policies and settled a case brought by a trans student who wasn’t allowed to wear female attire to the prom.

“In this type of a situation, there would probably be some federal arguments you could make,” Upton said. “It would depend a lot on the circumstances of the homecoming event, and whether it was truly just extracurricular or whether it was related to the curriculum of the school. But as a general rule, the federal law has been in some cases protective of students who kind of buck the gender norms or bend the molds and administrators don’t like it.

“I think it’s something we’re seeing more and more of, because students are increasingly becoming comfortable in their own skin in situations where five or 10 years ago, they would have been scared to death to be themselves,” he said.

Upton added that regardless of the legal implications, he doesn’t understand the school’s motivation.

“What’s the harm?” Upton said. “Especially in the context of proms or homecoming, I always wonder, what really is the objection? And that’s the question that I’ve never gotten a satisfactory answer to. You [the school district] might win a lawsuit, but why would you care, and why would you expend so much energy on something like this? You’ve got bigger problems.”

Online editor John Wright contributed to this article.

—  David Taffet

UPDATE: Vonciel Jones Hill again snubs the gays, and we’re officially ‘castigating’ her for it

Vonciel Jones Hill

We’ve confirmed with a staff member in Dallas City Councilwoman Angela Hunt’s office who handles the invitations that Vonciel Jones Hill is the only councilmember, other than Mayor Tom Leppert, who doesn’t plan to attend gay Pride this year.

As we reported earlier, Leppert has a “longstanding personal commitment” on the day of the Alan Ross Texas Freedom Parade, but he’s appeared at Pride twice before. Hill, on the other hand, has never appeared in the parade since joining the council in 2007 and has in fact stated that she never will.

No one answered the phone in Hill’s office Monday afternoon, but we’re assuming her reason for not attending the parade hasn’t changed from last year. Here’s what she told us a year ago:

“I won’t be participating [this year], and based on my present beliefs, I won’t be participating in the future,” Hill said. “There’s no reason I should be castigated for that.”

Asked what those beliefs are, Hill said: “I believe that all people are loved by God, all people are created equal under God, but there are acts that God does not bless. It does not mean the person is any less God’s child. I’m entitled to stand for what I believe, and I don’t appreciate anyone castigating me for standing for what I believe.”

Not only does Hill not believe in gay Pride, but she also even refuses to sign the letter from the City Council that appears in the Dallas Tavern Guild’s annual Pride guide, which will be distributed inside this coming Friday’s Dallas Voice. The letter simply congratulates and thanks the Tavern Guild for putting on another successful Pride celebration. The staff member in Hunt’s office said Hill is the only council member who refused to sign the letter.

With a city election in May 2011, we’re hoping this will be Hill’s last chance to totally disrespect her LGBT constituents in District 5.

—  John Wright