WATCH: Nancy Pelosi speaks Wednesday in Dallas at reception hosted by Harryette Ehrhardt

It wasn’t open to the media, but DV sales rep Chance Browning, who is perhaps Nancy Pelosi’s No. 1 fan, paid his way into the Dallas County Democratic Party’s Wine and Cheese Reception with the former House speaker on Wednesday afternoon in Dallas. The reception was hosted by pioneering LGBT ally and former Texas State Rep. Harryette Ehrhardt, D-Dallas, shown above introducing Pelosi. Chance says more than 200 people attended, and he recounted a charming story about how Ehrhardt and Pelosi first met many moons ago: They were the only two elected officials attending a National Stonewall Democrats convention. Pelosi’s flight home was canceled, and Ehrhardt ended up giving her a lift. They became friends during the two-hour ride.

Below are a few more of Chance’s pics, as well as his video of Pelosi’s speech, in which she talks about Texas turning blue and even mentions the repeal of “don’t ask don’t tell.”

—  John Wright

COMIC RELIEF

SUPER, GIRL!  | For C.D. Kirven, the colored pencil is mightier than the sword, as she draws images for her activist comic book, background, which features a lesbian black hero. (Arnold Wayne Jones/Dallas Voice)

Local activist C.D. Kirven hopes to open eyes with her first gay superhero of color (any resemblance to Eva Mendez is purely intentional)

RICH LOPEZ  |  Staff Writer
lopez@dallasvoice.com

Comic book geeks know Storm, Steel and the Falcon as superheroes of color who fight crime and world domination by evil menaces. But among these iconic heroes in the comic universe, C.D. Kirven noticed something missing that maybe many regular readers didn’t — none were gay.

You might be familiar with Kirven in her political activism. She’s loud and proud about gay rights and is one of the founders of the local activist group Get Equal Now. Her work extends beyond Dallas, writing articles for national websites and blogs. Kirven was even arrested in Washington, D.C., for her actions, and protested “don’t ask, don’t tell” in front of the office of former Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi.

But adding to the list of accomplishments — author, filmmaker and educator — is comic book maven. And as Kirven’s life is impassioned by gay rights, so too is her comic. Yet, The Tao Diaries is actually her escape from activism — even though it may not seem like it.

“I know, in my heart, the world is big enough for all types of people, but to open up the fantasy world of comic books to the possibility of LGBT acceptance will change the world in a very positive way,” she says. “Tao is the first black lesbian butch superhero ever. The first one! I’m excited about that.”

Kirven created a detailed back-story for the character of Tao, so try to keep up: Her father is a billionaire shoe company owner of Chinese-British descent, while her mother is an African-American dancer who hails from Brazil. When her parents were killed, Tao was raised by monks who trained her in martial arts. And she’s a police crime sketch artist by day.

Initially, it sounds a little out there, but think about the origins of the Hulk, Superman or Rogue. This background is indicative of Kirven’s approach — all or nothing.

“Any real change starts with me,” she says. “Perhaps people can read this and say to themselves, ‘I can be in this world and be a hero and matter.’ I have to do my part. Even if I am a poor, black gay woman in Texas, I want to change the world a little bit at a time.”

Kirven finds the need to make change where she can, even if not through direct activism. With Diaries, not only did she create the first gay female superhero of color, she figures LGBT youth will look past the pages to see opportunity. With her grassroots approach that includes self-publishing along with writing and illustrating, Kirven could be a sort of beacon.

“If there are any LGBT youth reading this article who like comics and are talented, they should dream big and know anything is possible,” she says. “You could be the one to create the first nationally accepted gay superhero. Don’t let the ignorance of a few stop you from living out your dreams.”

When you ask Kirven about her Diaries, she starts a non-stop monologue that easily derails from the comic book into social issues. She throws out statistics faster than a speeding bullet. She details the imbalance of LGBT, black and Latino communities against an Anglo-male dominated society. She discusses the plight of younger generations not seeing themselves on TV shows or on movies or magazines.

“Unless they are Wanda Sykes-famous it looks hopeless because the most of the youth committing suicide now are of color,” she says. “How can we as adults tell children it’s gonna get better when it’s not? It’s not stopping the bleeding.”

She weaves a fabric of news and current events back into her work on the comic book. When Kirven finally delves into what drives her work in this medium, it’s a combination of both her activism and her self-proclaimed nerdiness.

“What most people don’t know about me is that I’m actually a geek,” she admits. “I grew up watching Christopher Reeve as Superman and freaked out over Jessica Alba in Fantastic Four. You’d have to be dead not to look at her.”

But it’s the presence of an LGBT voice in comics that pushes her. In a recent interview with the web site ComicAttack.net, she criticized mainstream publishers for their portrayals of gay characters, despite a growing number of them over the past years, such as DC’s Batwoman and Marvel’s Northstar.

Zeus Comics’ gay owner, Richard Neal, adds that writers like Kirven create this LGBT community in comic universes. Despite the big name publishers and their out characters, gay aspects continue to be driven by a more independent scene.

“DC or Marvel aren’t on the forefront for this,” he says. “Most comics that feature LGBT storylines or characters are self-published and people like her get their stuff out there and get people asking for it. The best places for her are comic conventions where people meet her or if she’s on a site like PrismComics.org.”

“I don’t believe we’ve had any fully developed LGBT characters in mainstream comics,” Kirven said in her interview. “Like most media, intolerance is a universally accepted practice. In television, film, music and news reporting, LGBT subject matter is often neglected due to religious opposition. This allows superficial stereotypes to become the face of our community. This is extremely unfortunate because I believe everyone has an LGBT person in their lives.”

And if they don’t, they can turn to Tao. Mixed-race, lesbian and tough, the book follows her trials as she battles Corporeal, King of the Living Dead, who killed her lover Bliss (who looks, not coincidentally, a lot like Eva Mendes).  Kirven keeps the story simple, pitting basic good against evil without overdone government conspiracy storylines and real life drama mixed into a fantasy world. Tao uses her Capoeria fighting technique to kick ass against Corporeal, his sidekick Mink and armies of evil spirits inhabiting human beings.

Life is pretty tough for Tao — and Kirven can relate.

“As a poor kid from South Dallas, it wasn’t a pretty existence,” she says. “So, fantasy came in handy. Now, I just want to do my little bit to make an impact and provide some escape.”

Besides, she has to get back to her activist work for gay rights. Clearly Kirven has no secret identity in her heroic efforts.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition Jan. 14, 2011.

—  John Wright

Top 10: Dallasites helped fuel GetEQUAL

Reed.Mark
SPEAKING UP | GetEQUAL board member Mark Reed-Walkup of Dallas uses a megaphone to get his message across outside Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison’s Dallas office last week during a protest of her vote against repealing ‘don’t ask, don’t tell.’ (John Wright/Dallas Voice)

No. 9:

View all of the Top 10

Dallas activists have played key roles in GetEQUAL, which has quickly become one of the most influential national LGBT direct action organizations since ACT-UP.

According to its website, GetEQUAL’s mission is “to empower the LGBTQ community and our allies to take bold action to demand full legal and social equality, and to hold accountable those who stand in the way.”

The group was founded on March 11 by Robin McGehee and Kip Williams — organizers of last year’s National Equality March — as an alternative to other groups such as the Human Rights Campaign.

Mark Reed-Walkup, a Dallas business owner who also helped organize the National Equality March, now serves on the board for

GetEQUAL, which gained nonprofit status in June. In May, Reed-Walkup became the third activist from Dallas to be arrested at demonstrations organized by GetEQUAL. He was arrested along with five others for chaining himself to the White House fence in a protest to demand a repeal of “don’t ask don’t tell.”

On March 18, Dallas activists Chastity Kirven and Michael Robinson had been arrested — Robinson in House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s Washington office and Kirven in Pelosi’s San Francisco office — during protests to demand a vote on the Employment Non-Discrimination Act.

This same day, Lt. Dan Choi handcuffed himself to the White House fence in his first protest of DADT as part of GetEQUAL’s new direct action campaign. Choi was dischraged from the Army under DADT.

Local members of Get Equal also organized several actions in Dallas.

They held an ENDA rally outside the Dallas office of Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison. They also protested outside ExxonMobil Corp.’s shareholders meeting at the Meyerson in June, and at Oak Lawn-area service stations.

Last week, Get EQUAL Texas held rallies outside Hutchison’s offices across the state to protest her vote against repealing DADT.
Reed said GetEQUAL is just beginning to organize chapters in all 50 states and should  become more active in Texas in 2010.

— From staff reports

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition December 31, 2010.

—  Kevin Thomas

Reactions to DADT repeal signing

Human Rights Campaign President Joe Solmonese:

“Today gay and lesbian patriots serving their country in silence, and thousands more who wish to serve the country they love, can breathe a sigh of relief that “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” is on its way out. Soon, all service members will be able to serve with the full honesty and integrity the uniform demands.  No more careers will come to an end because of an unjust law.  ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’ has weakened our military readiness and is now on its way to the dustbin of history.

“After 17 years of this failed and discriminatory law, a stain has been removed from our nation.  This historic day would not be possible without the leadership of President Obama, Defense Secretary Gates and Joint Chiefs Chairman Admiral Mike Mullen.  In the U.S. House of Representatives, we are grateful to Speaker Nancy Pelosi, House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer, and Rep. Patrick Murphy for their dogged determination. And in the U.S. Senate, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, and Sens. Joe Lieberman, Susan Collins, Kirsten Gillibrand and Mark Udall will go down in history as champions of this national security measure. Through their leadership, they have made our nation more secure and restored honesty and integrity as core values of our military.

“It’s now incumbent on the president and the Pentagon to act expeditiously so that the final nail can be put in the coffin of this unjust and discriminatory law.”

National Gay and Lesbian Task Force Executive Director Rea Carey:

“We celebrate this historic day, when our country has honored the principles of fairness and justice it holds so dearly. This is a tremendous victory. We thank all those who fought for and supported an end to the ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’ policy — they truly are on the right side of history. Seventeen years of witch hunts under this policy have cost thousands of exemplary service members their careers, once again proving there are very personal and costly consequences of discrimination. This cannot end fast enough. Our entire country benefits when fairness prevails, when qualified and patriotic service members no longer have to fear being targeted by their own government, when courageous men and women are able to serve openly and honestly. We thank President Obama for signing this critical legislation and now call upon him as commander in chief, and his top military leaders, to swiftly lead us through to full implementation.”

Servicemembers Legal Defense Network Executive Director Aubrey Sarvis:

“In signing this bill today, President Obama delivered on a defining civil rights measure for our country and for gay, lesbian, and bisexual service members who have been silenced for far too long. Clearly, this is President Obama’s Lyndon Johnson moment in history. A measure of dignity has been restored to thousands of service members on active duty, and to over a million gay veterans who served in silence. This historic moment is about those service members and their service.

“President Obama was decisive and forceful in steering the course as he brought along critical stakeholders, including the Defense Department. Now, it’s on to finishing the job at the Pentagon. Troops remain at risk under the law. We respectfully renew our call for Secretary Gates to use his authority to suspend all ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’ investigations and discharges during this limbo period. Until there is certification and until the 60-day implementation period must be wrapped up no later than the first quarter of 2011.

“This victory would not have been possible without several tenacious Congressional leaders, including House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer, and U.S. Rep. Patrick Murphy. In the Senate we saw remarkable determination by Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, Chairman Carl Levin and Senators Lieberman, Mark Udall, Gillibrand, Collins and so many others.”

—  John Wright

House OKs standalone bill to repeal DADT

Lisa Keen  |  Keen News Service

The U.S. House of Representatives voted Wednesday afternoon, Dec. 15 to approve a measure to repeal “don’t ask, don’t tell.” The vote was 250-175. It was the second time this year the House approved such a measure. In May, the vote was 232 to 180.

The measure will now go to the Senate where it is expected to reach the floor sometime next week.

“Today’s vote by the House of Representatives provides another resounding indication that Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell can and should be repealed legislatively this year,” said a statement issued by several pro-repeal groups. “With this second vote in favor of repeal, the House joins our top military leaders, a super-majority of Americans, the President, and a 60-vote majority in the Senate in agreeing that it is time to give the Pentagon the power to carry out its carefully crafted plans for ending Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell. With the Pentagon Working Group report in hand and the Secretary of Defense pleading for Congressional action, there is no more time for excuses — the Senate must follow the lead of the House and pass the bipartisan repeal legislation championed by Senators Lieberman and Collins before the end of the 111th Congress.”

Groups issuing the joint statement were the Center for American Progress Action Fund, the Human Rights Campaign, Log Cabin Republicans, Stonewall Democrats, the Servicemembers Legal Defense Network, Servicemembers United and Third Way.

The House vote may have confused someone just tuning in to the debate because it appeared, on the surface, to be a debate about a small business bill. But that bill, which has been approved by both houses but not sent to conference, was gutted and language from a DADT repeal bill was inserted. This new language was introduced by Rep. Patrick Murphy, D-Pa., as a standalone repeal bill Tuesday, as a way of encouraging and speeding up the passage of a similar standalone bill in the Senate.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi took to the floor early in the debate to urge passage of the measure and cite polling data released Wednesday showing 8 out of 10 Americans support repeal.

“It is my hope to encourage the Senate to take this long overdue action,” said Pelosi.

Rep. Murphy, urging support for repeal, said, “Enough of the games. Enough of the politics. … This vote is about whether we’re going to continue telling people willing to die for our freedoms that they need to lie in order to do so.”

Rep. Susan Davis, D-Calif., controlled debate for Democrats and led with remarks saying, “The time to act is here.” Davis is a member of the House Armed Services Committee.

“Change is never easy but it rarely is as necessary as it is today,” said Davis. “If we miss this opportunity to repeal this law, history will judge us poorly.”

Rep. Buck McKeon, R-Calif., who will be the chairman of the House Armed Services Committee beginning in January, expressed “strong opposition” to the repeal measure. He lamented the committee was not being given an opportunity to hold its own hearing on the Dec. 1 report submitted by the Pentagon. The Senate Armed Services Committee held such a hearing on Dec. 2 and 3.

Rep. Trent Franks, R-Ariz., urged voting against the repeal measure to provide the military with more time to “deal with this in their own way.”

Many of the Republicans who spoke lamented the fact that Congress has yet to pass the annual Defense Authorization bill, suggesting that debating the DADT repeal was somehow interfering with that bill. The irony, of course, was that Republicans in the Senate blocked consideration of the Defense Authorization bill, in large part because it included DADT repeal.

Rep. Barney Frank, D-Mass., called Republicans out on that, saying they’ve repeatedly blocked consideration of the defense bill. He also argued that it’s not servicemembers who are uneasy with the change, but Republican members of Congress.

Rep. Tammy Baldwin, D-Wisc., also spoke in favor of repeal, saying the current policy is un-American.

The Senate last week fell just three votes short of moving to consideration of the issue through the Defense Authorization bill, which includes repeal language. If Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid attempts to bring it to the floor of the Senate in the next few days, it will still need 60 votes.

West Virginia activists and the Servicemembers Legal Defense Network delivered 800 petitions to the offices of West Virginia’s new Democratic Senator, Joe Manchin, on Wednesday, hoping to reverse his recent vote against consideration of DADT repeal. Manchin, the only Democrat to vote with Republicans to keep a filibuster going last week, said he voted no because he hadn’t had enough time to review the issue.

Sen. Blanche Lincoln, D-Ark., said last week she would have voted for cloture on the defense bill had she been in the chamber during the vote. And Sen. Scott Brown. R-Mass., has said he would vote for cloture after the Senate completes passage of a bill to extend tax cuts. Sen. Olympia Snow, R-Maine, also announced her support for DADT repeal on Wednesday.

The Senate on Wednesday passed the tax cut extension bill and then moved immediately to consideration of a new arms control treaty (START). Some are predicting the House will soon pass the tax cut bill, too, fulfilling a Republican Party demand that has prevented consideration of DADT repeal and other issues.

One troubling development for repeal — though not one that is expected to deliver much punch — was a statement Tuesday from U.S. Marine Corps Commandant James Amos. Amos told reporters at a Pentagon briefing that he thinks repeal threatens the lives of Marines in combat because a soldier’s being gay presents a “distraction” to Marines and “distractions cost Marines’ lives.”

“I don’t want to lose any Marines to distraction,” said Amos. “I don’t want to have any Marines that I’m visiting at Bethesda [Army Hospital] with no legs.”

President Barack Obama issued a statement Wednesday night applauding the standalone repeal bill’s passage.

“Legislative repeal is supported by the Secretary of Defense and the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff,” Obama said. “The process contained in this legislation allows for a smooth and responsible repeal of ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’ in a way that maintains good order and discipline in our military ranks. Indeed, all of the Service Chiefs have said that when this law is changed , they will implement an orderly transition effectively and efficiently. As the comprehensive study by the Department of Defense clearly shows, we can move to a new policy in a responsible manner that ensures our military strength and our national security.”

© 2010 Keen News Service

—  John Wright

BREAKING: A new plan for DADT repeal

Details are emerging today about a new plan to pass a repeal of “don’t ask don’t tell” in the lame duck session of Congress.

Rep. Patrick Murphy, D-Pa., introduced DADT repeal legislation in the House this morning that could see a vote as early as Wednesday. The plan reportedly involves attaching DADT repeal as an amendment to a bill that has already passed the House and the Senate Armed Services Committee. The House amendment to a Senate bill will become “an amendment between the Houses” and holds “priviledged status,” allowing Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid to call it up at any time to the floor.

“We applaud House Speaker [Nancy] Pelosi, Reps. [Steny] Hoyer and Murphy for their extraordinary leadership in the waning hours of the lame-duck session,” said Aubrey Sarvis, executive director of the Servicemembers Legal Defense Network. “Let’s be clear: we’ll still need 60 votes in the Senate. This ‘privileged’ House bill will need to pass the full House and then move to the Senate. While we avoid a cloture vote to proceed and save time on the Senate floor, we’ll still need 60 votes to complete the bill and send it directly to the President’s desk. Repeal supporters need to contact their House member to vote for repeal tomorrow. We also need to keep the pressure on the Senate and not relent. Time remains the enemy and Senators need to complete the bill before leaving for holiday vacation. Get on the phone and help hold the frontlines.”

Below is the list of key senators SLDN is targeting. To contact them, call the Capitol switchboard at (202) 224-3121.

–Susan Collins (R-ME);
–Olympia Snowe (R-ME);
–Richard Lugar (R-IN);
–Judd Gregg (R-NH);
–Scott Brown (R-MA);
–George Voinovich (R-OH);
–Kit Bond (R-MO);
–Lisa Murkowski (R-AK);
–Mark Kirk (R-IL);
–And the sole unpersuaded Democrat: Joe Manchin (D-WV)


—  John Wright

LGBT groups react to big losses in House, Senate

From Staff and Wire Reports

Republicans won control of the U.S. House in Tuesday’s elections. As of 3 a.m. Wednesday, it appeared the GOP will hold at least 234 seats, to Democrats’ 180.

But Democrats retained a slim majority in the U.S. Senate — holding 51 seats, compared to the Republicans’ 47. At 3 a.m. Wednesday, Senate races in Washington State and Colorado were considered too close to call.

The LGBT community will be able to celebrate the addition of a fourth openly gay member to the House and the re-election of the three openly gay incumbents, but the loss of a Democratic majority in that chamber spells the end for hope that any of the dozen or so pro-gay measures pending in Congress have any chance of advancing in the next two years. The new Republican majority also increases the likelihood that measures hostile to LGBT civil rights issues can be publicized through hearings in committee that will, starting next January, be chaired by Republicans.

“Social justice movements always experience steps forward and steps back and this election turned out to be a mix of both,” Human Rights Campaign President Joe Solmonese said in a statement reacting to the election results. “Even though we will face greater challenges in moving federal legislation forward, nothing will stop us from using every tool to advance LGBT equality at every level. Attempts to hold back the tide of the equality movement will surely put anti-LGBT leaders on the wrong side of history.”

While House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., made many promises to move LGBT legislation on her watch, the next likely speaker, Rep. John Boehner, R-Ohio, has a score of zero on gay-related matters in the past three sessions of Congress, according to the Human Rights Campaign. Two other political zeros will be at his side: Eric Cantor of Virginia as the likely minority whip, and Mike Pence of Indiana, as Republican Conference Chair.

“We will be prepared to fight attempts to turn back the clock on equality as well as highlight how far this new leadership is outside the mainstream of public opinion,” Solmonese said. “We need not look any further than their decade of House control that brought us attempts to pass a federal marriage amendment, strip courts of jurisdiction to hear LGBT rights claims, cut HIV/AIDS funding and vilify openly LGBT appointees.”

Rea Carey, executive director of the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force, said: “We’ll cut to the chase: The shift in the balance of power will very likely slow advancement of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender rights legislation in Congress. Does this mean a blockade on LGBT rights? Not if we can help it. Fact is, our community has always had to fight — and fight hard — for equality. This is nothing new to us. But here’s another fact: There are Americans, from every part of the country, from every background, from every political leaning and of every faith, who support equality for LGBT people — and those numbers grow bigger every day.”

“No matter what the political breakdown is in Washington, the Task Force will continue to identify and work with all fair-minded members of Congress who are willing to support and defend equality for LGBT people,” Carey said. “Through our New Beginning Initiative, we will continue to push for the administration and its agencies to make tangible changes that benefit lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people and our families — changes that can be done without Congress. We will continue working with local partners in communities across the country to secure equality. Bottom line: While political winds and players may shift, the fundamental needs of the people do not. No matter who is in office, people need jobs, protection from discrimination, a roof over their heads, a way to feed their families, a fair shake. No one should settle for less — we won’t.”

On the bright said, openly gay Reps. Barney Frank, D-Mass., Tammy Baldwin, D-Wisc., and Jared Polis, D-Colo., will return to their seats in the next Congressional session. And they will be joined by the openly gay mayor of Providence, R.I., who will be representing that state’s 1st Congressional district. Two other openly gay candidates for Congress on Tuesday did not succeed — Steve Pougnet in California and Ed Potosnak in New Jersey.

There were numerous other losses for the LGBT community to mourn in Tuesday’s results. U.S. Rep. Patrick Murphy, D-Penn., who led the charge to gain passage of a measure to repeal “don’t ask, don’t tell,” lost his seat to Republican challenger Michael Fitzpatrick. And five other strong LGBT supporters lost Tuesday night, including Reps. Phil Hare of Illinois, (Illinois’ 17th Congressional district), John Hall and Michael Arcuri of New York, John Salazar of Colorado and Carol Shea-Porter of New Hampshire. Hare earned a 100 percent score from HRC; Hall earned a 90, Arcuri an 85; and Salazar and Shea-Porter an 80.

Among other candidates with LGBT support who lost Tuesday night included Arizona Democratic Rep. Harry Mitchell, who voted for ENDA in 2007 and opposed an amendment to ban same-sex marriage in the federal constitution. Mitchell was defeated by Republican David Schweikert, who has said, “Traditional marriage is the basis for a functional society.” Texas Democratic Rep. Chet Edwards earned an HRC contribution even though he was not a strong supporter of equal rights for gays. But he was trounced by an even more conservative Republican opponent, Bill Flores. Flores says he believes “there is one definition of marriage and that is between one man and one woman” and has said he will “stand firm against any effort to change this or force Texas to recognize ‘gay marriages’ in other states.”

Twelve of the 17 Republican candidates endorsed by Log Cabin Republicans won their races Tuesday night, including Reps. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen of Florida, Judy Biggert of Illinois, Todd Platts and Charles Dent of Pennsylvania, Dave Reichert of Washington, Leonard Lance of New Jersey, and Nan Hayworth and Richard Hanna of New York. One painful loss for Log Cabin was Republican was incumbent Joseph Cao of Louisiana. The group just this year presented Cao with its “Spirit of Lincoln” award for his support on the hate crimes bill and co-sponsorship of a bill to repeal DADT.

Republican Sean Bielat, who earned the endorsement of the new gay conservative group, GOProud, lost in his bid to unseat longtime Democratic gay Congressman Barney Frank. Bielat is against repealing DADT and supports “traditional marriage.”

In the Senate, the LGBT losses include longtime civil rights supporter Russ Feingold, a Democrat from Wisconsin, who was beaten by Republican newcomer Ron Johnson. Feingold was one of only 14 senators who voted against the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) in 1996. Johnson, like Feingold, supports repeal of DADT but only if the military approves it. Johnson opposes marriage equality for same-sex couples. Pro-gay Democrat Alex Giannoulias lost in his bid for the U.S. Senate seat from Illinois to Congressman Mark Kirk.

During his time in the House, Kirk earned relatively strong scores from HRC, but last June he voted against repeal of DADT. Following numerous reports by bloggers that Kirk is a closeted gay man, a local television reporter asked him why the bloggers “keep saying that.” Kirk, who has said publicly he is not gay, said he thinks it’s because he’s divorced.

Meanwhile, both Democrat Kendrick Meeks and Independent Charlie Crist failed to win a Senate seat in Florida. That, instead, will be held by Republican Mark Rubio, who opposes repeal of DADT.

On the brighter side, Senate Majority leader Harry Reid beat out Tea Party Republican Sharron Angle. Reid was supportive of LGBT civil rights; Angle is not. California Sen. Barbara Boxer, a longtime LGBT supportive Democrat and one of the 14 DOMA opponents, eld onto her seat, defeating less supportive Republican Carly Fiorina. And pro-gay Democrat Chris Coons, endorsed by the Human Rights Campaign, easily defeated Republican gadfly Christine O’Donnell. Coons has said he will “continue fighting for LGBT issues,” including marriage equality, repeal of DADT and the Defense of Marriage Act, and passage of the Employment Non-Discrimination Act.

It is still unclear who has won the Senate races in Colorado and Washington State. In Colorado, incumbent Democrat Michael Bennet is in a very tight race against Republican Ken Buck, who has implied that homosexuality is akin to alcoholism. And in Washington, incumbent pro-gay Democrat Patty Murray was clinging to a thin lead over Republican challenger Dino Rossi, who opposes marriage equality and domestic partnerships.

—  John Wright

Local activist C.d. Kirven successfully completes probation after arrest in Speaker Pelosi’s office

C.d. Kirven protests cautiously during her probationary period

“I’m very excited to be free!” said activist C.d. Kirven.

Kirven was arrested and later received probation for participating in a GetEqual sit-in at House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s Washington offices in March. When her six months of probation ended on Oct. 7, all charges were dropped.

“According to [the] ENDA 4 attorney yesterday, charges dropped and record clean,” Kirven said in an e-mail.

Four activists were arrested in Pelosi’s office protesting the speaker’s failure to bring the Employment Non-Discrimination Act up for a vote in the House. Two of the protesters who live in Washington, D.C. received community service along with their probation.

While on probation, Kirven had to be careful not to get arrested. That didn’t stop her from staging other protests, but she said she’s been careful. Now that her probation is over, she said she won’t tone it down.

“So, I’m planning my next direct action but it won’t be like before,” she said.

Since that time, she and fellow Dallas activist Michael Robinson, who was arrested at the same time in Pelosi’s San Francisco office, have formed their own direct action group, Get Equal Now.

—  David Taffet

5 of the 12 House Democrats from Texas have failed to sign on as co-sponsors of ENDA

Cuellar, Green, Ortiz, Rodriguez voted in favor of 2007 bill

The Employment Non-Discrimination Act, which would prohibit workplace discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity, currently has 202 co-sponsors in the U.S. House of Representatives, according to the Human Rights Campaign. The bill needs 216 votes to pass the House.

Five House Democrats who are uncommitted on ENDA — and haven’t signed on as co-sponsors — are from Texas. Four of those five voted in favor of ENDA in 2007, when the bill didn’t include gender identity.

HRC this week unveiled Countdown 2010, a grassroots initiative aimed at urging congressional action on both ENDA and  repeal of “don’t ask don’t tell.” And HRC listed Texas as one of the states where it will be focusing its efforts on ENDA.

This is a likely indication that HRC believes these five Democrats need to hear from their constituents about supporting a fully inclusive ENDA — and that they need to hear from them soon. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi has promised a vote on ENDA by the end of the year.

With that, here are phone numbers for the Washington offices of the five House Democrats from Texas who haven’t signed on as ENDA co-sponsors. If you live in one of their districts, you may want to give them a call. You may also want to contact them via the Countdown 2010 website. All except for Chet Edwards voted in favor of ENDA in 2007.

Rep. Henry Cuellar (Laredo, Mission, Rio Grande City, San Antonio, Seguin): 202-225-1640

Rep. Chet Edwards (Waco, Bryan, Cleburne): 202-225-6105

Rep. Gene Green (Houston, Baytown): 202-225-1688

Rep. Solomon Ortiz (Corpus Christi, Brownsville): 202-225-7742

Rep. Ciro Rodriguez (San Antonio, Eagle Pass, Fort Stockton, Del Rio): 202-225-4511

—  John Wright

WATCH: 8 GetEQUAL activists arrested at Capitol

The Advocate reports:

The direct action group GetEqual staged a sit-in in the rotunda of the U.S. Capitol Wednesday afternoon as part of an effort to push House Speaker Nancy Pelosi to take a vote on the Employment Nondiscrimination Act, which would outlaw workplace discrimination against people based on their sexual orientation and gender identity.

—  John Wright