“Youth of the Union” conference brings young progressives to U of H

Rep. Jessica Farrar, keynote speaker at the Youth of the Union Conference

While much attention has been paid to the contribution of the youth vote in President Obama’s 2008 victory, there’s been less recognition of the effect it had in other elections. “In 2008 young voters came out in record numbers for progressive candidates,” says Brad Pritchett, one of the organizers behind this Saturday’s “Youth of the Union” conference at the University of Houston. “When young people are engaged on the issues and empowered to vote, they will.”

In Harris County that 2008 youth surge contributed to the election of Texas’ first out elected LGBT judge, Steven Kirkland, and helped turn 14 of the county’s 26 Texas House districts Democratic. Pritchett says that, while it’s easy to focus on the presidential races, judicial and legislative seats on the ballot in 2012 are crucial to progressive issues like LGBT equality and will be largely determined by whether or not the young people who came out in 2008 return to the polls this year.

The Youth of the Union Conference is sponsored by a number of Democratic Party organizations, including the National Stonewall Democrats, an LGBT Democratic club, but is designed for young progressives across the across the spectrum of sexual orientations and gender identities. The conference kicks off at 11 am Saturday, February 4, at the University of Houston’s University Center with a “young and involved” panel and includes workshops on becoming a Democratic delegate, influencing the party platform, the effect of recent photo ID legislation and more.

State Representative Jessica Farrar, who last year introduced legislation to repeal Texas’ unconstitutional law criminalizing “Homosexual Conduct” is the keynote speaker. Farrar was just 27 years old when she was first elected to the Texas House in 1994.

Pritchett says that registration is closed but that a limited number of “at-the-door” registrations are available on a first come first served basis.

For more information visit youthoftheunion.com.

—  admin

With National Stonewall Democrats ‘struggling,’ Dallas chapter marks its 15th anniversary

Stonewall Democrats of Dallas will celebrate its 15th anniversary tonight, during the group’s regular meeting at 6:30 p.m. at Ojeda’s on Maple Avenue.

“October marks the 15th anniversary when founders Bill Fry, Christy Kinsler, Gary Fitzsimmons & Michael Milliken gathered in a living room and created our organization,” the group wrote in an email Monday. “I don’t know if they realized where we would be today, but I sure am glad they did it! A warm hearted thank you to our founders, and especially to each and every one of you who has made SDD grow and develop into what we are today!”

Featured speakers at tonight’s meeting will be Dallas County Elections Administrator Toni Pippens-Poole, who’ll talk about the new voter ID law, and County Democratic Party Executive Director Steve Tillery, who’ll talk about constitutional amendments on the November ballot. And yes, there will be cake!

Meanwhile, National Stonewall Democrats Michael Mitchell announced his resignation Monday after two years in the position. Mitchell, almost laid off earlier this year due to budget problems, told Metro Weekly the national group is “struggling” to raise money due to the bad economy and the fact that the mainstream Democratic Party has become so pro-LGBT. National Stonewall currently has only six of 15 board positions filled (including Erin Moore of Dallas), but the group’s leaders insist there’s still a place for the organization — largely because of the 70 local chapters like Stonewall Democrats of Dallas. From interim executive director Jerame Davis: “It doesn’t matter how good the DNC is on LGBT issues, if, for instance, the Democratic Party in Mississippi is horrible and they elect a Democrat to Congress that doesn’t care about the LGBT community. The work is never-ending, regardless of how things might look in Washington or however many successes we might have on a national level, there’s still a lot of work to be done in the various states.”

 

—  John Wright

What’s Brewing: Gov. Perry’s Day of Prayer linked to Uganda bill calling for execution of gays

(From “Protest of Rick Perry’s Prayer Event” on Facebook.)

Your weekday morning blend from Instant Tea:

1. The Human Rights Campaign is calling on members to write letters to their governors asking them to decline Texas Gov. Rick Perry’s invitation to a Day of Prayer at Reliant Stadium in Houston on Aug. 6. The Day of Prayer, dubbed “The Response,” is being bankrolled by the American Family Association, designated an anti-gay hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center. In addition, HRC notes that David Lane, who’s listed as fundraising director for the Response, played a major role in last year’s recall of three Iowa state Supreme Court justices who ruled in favor of major equality. HRC also says the Day of Prayer involves leaders associated with the International House of Prayer and Lou Engle’s TheCall, which “played an active role in supporting anti-gay sentiment in Uganda, where legislation under potential consideration would make homosexuality a crime punishable by death in some circumstances.” HRC’s full press release from Wednesday afternoon is after the jump. To take action, go here.

2. Also issuing a statement Wednesday about Gov. Perry’s Day of Prayer was Michael Mitchell, executive director of National Stonewall Democrats: “If there is a worse partner than the American Family Association for Texas Governor Rick Perry’s day of prayer event, I certainly can’t think of one,” Mitchell said. “As a certified hate group hell-bent on rolling back every bit of progress lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people have made, this is certainly not going to be an uplifting event for LGBT Texans, especially those of faith. Rick Perry’s presidential aspirations seem to be getting the best of him. Rather than organize an event worthy of all Texans, he has chosen to ally himself with the deep pockets of the AFA. Let’s hope the 49 other governors he has invited turn down their invitations. We would urge all Texans who care about the rights of LGBT people to steer clear of this event.”

3. Tim Wildmon, president of the American Family Association, acknowledged in an interview with the Houston Chronicle that one of the purposes of the Response is to pray for an end to the increasing acceptance of homosexuality in American society:

Tim Wildmon, president of the American Family Association, rejected the label of “hate group” and characterized his organization’s position on homosexuality as representative “of a lot of people who have traditional values.”

“They want somebody to speak for them,” he said. “We try to do that. We are reaching the Christian community with the truth about what is going on in our country.”

He acknowledged that a stated purpose of the August prayer event initiated by Perry – to pray for an end to the “debasement of our culture” – refers to the increasing acceptance of homosexuality by American society.

—  John Wright

Giffords’ friend, out State Sen. Kyrsten Sinema, keynotes Texas Stonewall conference in March

Two years ago I attended the first Biennial Statewide Conference of the Texas Stonewall Democratic Caucus in Austin, which among other things yielded this rather memorable gaffe by then-freshly elected out Congressman Jared Polis of Colorado. That same year, the conference also included a visit from Matt Foreman, a venerable gay-rights activist and former executive director of the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force.

The point is, it was a pretty solid lineup of speakers, and it looks like Texas Stonewall has come pretty close to duplicating it for this year’s second biennial event, set for March 5 and 6 in the capital. (On top of that, it looks like they’ve stepped it up from the DoubleTree on 15th to the Hilton Garden Inn downtown.)

Daniel Graney

Topping the list of speakers this year will be Arizona State Sen. Kyrsten Sinema, D-Phoenix, who happens to be good friends with recovering Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords of Tuscon (Sinema’s interview with a local TV station the night of the shooting is above).

Sinema, who’s bisexual, has led two statewide campaigns to defeat anti-gay propositions in Arizona, and some may remember her from visits to Dallas in support of President Barack Obama in 2008.

This year’s conference will also feature Mara Keisling, executive director of the National Center for Transgender Equality, State Rep. Mike Villarreal, D-San Antonio; Austin Mayor Lee Leffingwell; Texas Democratic Party Chairman Boyd Richie; Equality Texas Executive Director Dennis Coleman; and National Stonewall Democrats Executive Director Michael Mitchell.

The theme is “The New Political Landscape In Texas: Where Do We Go From Here?,” and the conference will focus on what went wrong in November 2010 and how Democrats in Texas can reverse the huge losses they suffered. And once again, people are encouraged to stay over for Equality Texas’ Lobby Day on Monday, March 7.

For conference information and to register online, go here (the discounted hotel rate expires Feb. 14). A full press release from TSDC President Daniel Graney is after the jump.

—  John Wright

‘Mission Incomplete’ rally will call on Senate to remain in session until DADT is repealed

A bevvy of pro-repeal groups are teaming up for “Mission Incomplete,” a rally on Capitol Hill on Friday to call on the Senate to remain in session until it can consider the Defense Authorization bill, which includes an amendment that would end “don’t ask don’t tell.” According to the Servicemembers Legal Defense Network, which is putting together the rally, other organizations who’ve signed on thus far are American Veterans for Equal Rights, the Equality Federation, Get Equal, the Human Rights Campaign, the Kentucky Fairness Alliance, Knights Out, MoveOn PAC, the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force, the National Center for Lesbian Rights, OutServe, PFLAG National, People For The America Way, PROMO Missouri, National Stonewall Democrats, Swish, VoteVets and Young Democrats of America.

Here’s a statement from SLDN Executive Director Aubrey Sarvis:

“We call upon the Senate and the President to remain in session and in Washington until the National Defense Authorization Act is passed — which includes the repeal of ‘Don’t Ask.’ The Senate is scheduled to break for holiday vacation; we can’t let them leave. We must show our rage for repeal and insist the Senate stay in Washington until they have finished the job. We implore all who support repeal to join us outside the Senate this Friday. As Secretary of Defense Robert Gates said, ‘If not now, when?’

“The lame-duck vote on repeal was set up and dictated by some of the same Senators — like John McCain and Mitch McConnell — who are now delaying to kill the bill. They wanted the Pentagon report — now they have it. They wanted hearings — now they’re done. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid has said he is determined to pass the defense bill with repeal. Senators must not be allowed to hide any longer behind process, procedure, and tax cuts for the wealthy, while the discrimination continues. We’ve lost 14,000 troops to this antiquated law, and by God, we must not lose another on our watch.

“More Americans than ever are with us in this moment. We have the Commander in Chief, the Secretary of Defense, the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and a majority of the service chiefs who support repeal. We know that 92 percent of service members are just fine working with their gay, lesbian and bisexual colleagues, according to the Pentagon report. Their attitudes mirror those of nearly 80 percent of Americans.

“With increased pressure — a raised voice — and help from our allies at this key moment, I believe the Senate will stay in session. We will hit 60 votes. We will fight back on attempts to kill repeal. We will send the bill to the President’s desk. The discharges will end. And gays and lesbians will keep serving this nation — but this time with the integrity they so deserve.”

For more info on the rally, go here. If you can’t make the rally but want to take action, go here. And to add your organization to the list of those supporting the rally, e-mail eas@sldn.org.

—  John Wright

Local briefs • 12.03.10

National Stonewall leader to attend Dallas group’s holiday party

Michael Mitchell, the new executive director of National Stonewall Democrats, will be the special guest at the Stonewall Democrats of Dallas’ annual holiday party Monday, Dec. 6, 6:30 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. at The Round-Up Saloon, 3912 Cedar Springs Road. The program begins at 7 p.m., and the event is free and open to everyone.

The event will include a holiday basket auction, and proceeds will be divided between Stonewall Democrats and Youth First Texas’ anti-bullying and suicide prevention efforts.

There will also be an auction where participants can bid on a lunch with their favorite elected official from among the list of elected officials who have signed up to participate. And Stonewall Democrats will be collecting donations of toiletry items for clients at Legacy Founders Cottage, a hospice for people with HIV/AIDS. Legacy clients need paper towels, laundry detergent, latex and nitrile gloves, men’s socks, new men’s underwear, shampoo and conditioner, deodorant, disposable razors and shaving cream, tissues, body lotion and baby powder.

Stonewall Democrats will also present its annual awards to members, allies and elected officials. Nominees for the “Distinguished Democrat” award are Judge-Elect Tonya Parker, Dallas County District Attorney Gary Fitzsimmons, Dallas County Commissioner Dr. Elba Garcia and Judge Carl Ginsberg.

Nominees for the Buck Massey Member of the Year Award are Pamela Curry, Michael Wetter, Laurie McClurg and Tony McMullen. Nominees for Ally Organization of the Year are the Dallas County Democratic Party, Equality Texas, Preston Hollow Democrats and the Dallas Gay and Lesbian Alliance. And nominees for the Pink Pump Award are Dallas City Councilwoman Delia Jassa, Judge Elizabeth Crowder, Judge-elect Tina Yoo and George Freeman.

Bill Fry and Darryl Sanchez will be presented with the P.L. Moore Philanthropist Award, and Stonewall Democrats President Erin Moore will present the Board Member of the Year Award.

Stonewall Democrats of Dallas elected new officers at the organization’s Nov. 16 meeting. They are Omar Narvaez, president; Michael Wetter, vice president; Phyllis Guest, secretary and Mike McCue, treasurer. Outgoing officers are President Erin Moore, Vice President Jay Narey and Secretary Kenneth Denson.
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Round-Up holding benefit for Resource Center food pantry

Demand is up and donations are down at Resource Center Dallas’ food pantry for people with HIV/AIDS. So to help bring donations up to the level of demand, the Round-Up Saloon will host a raffle during Retro Sunday, beginning at 7 p.m. Anyone who brings at least three non-perishable food items to donate to the pantry will get a free raffle ticket for a drawing for a new DVD player. Movie tickets and other prizes will also be raffled off during the evening.
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Tarrant Area Food Bank offers to send holiday cards for donors

Sending holiday greeting cards can be such a chore. But now there’s a way to let somebody else do the tedious part, while at the same time donating to a worthy cause.

Just send a donation and a list of up to 20 recipients to the Tarrant Area Food Bank, and the food bank will mail out special cards — hand-addressed and stamped — to those on the list.

The 5-inch-by-7-inch cards say “Season’s Greetings” on the front and have a special holiday recipe from Chef Blaine Staniford with Grace Restaurant in Fort Worth inside the front cover. The message inside reads: “Thanks for making eating a part of everyone’s holiday season. A gift has been made in your honor to Tarrant Area Food Bank by ___________.”

Deadline to participate is Friday, Dec. 10. There is no minimum donation required.

TAFB officials said all information and mailing lists remain strictly confidential. Capital One has helped underwrite the cost of the project so that all donations go directly to helping feed North Texans in need.

Tarrant Area Food Bank has 300 partner agencies, including the food pantry at AIDS Outreach Center of Tarrant County, which provides food for people with HIV/AIDS.

TAFB officials said those agencies have seen the need for food assistance grow by 40 percent over the previous two years.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition December 3, 2010.

—  Michael Stephens