Fayetteville, Ark. passes LGBT nondiscrimination ordinance

map_of_fayetteville_arEarly Wednesday morning the Fayetteville, Ark. City Council voted 6-2 to approve a measure protecting LGBT residents and visitors from discrimination in public facilities, housing and employment. It also creates a civil rights administrative position, according to NWO.

The city is the first in Arkansas to add such protections. At the state level, Arkansas does not protect people from discrimination based on sexual orientation, gender identity or expression.

The ordinance was not without its detractors.

BuzzFeed reports that Michelle Duggar of TV’s Nineteen Kids and Counting, a prominent backer of anti-LGBT Republican presidential candidate and former Sen. Rick Santorum (Penn.), blasted a robocall alleging that the ordinance would “allow men — yes I said men — to use women’s and girls’ restrooms, locker rooms, showers, sleeping areas and other areas that are designated for females only.”

Of the three amendments proposed for the ordinance, two passed. The first amendment extended discrimination on religious grounds to include all tax-exempt organizations. The second clarifies that no one may enter a men’s or women’s restrooms with illegal intentions. The third, which failed on a 6-2 vote, would have called for a referendum vote.

“I see a day when we don’t put tags and labels on people and we’re all citizens under the same umbrella of the Constitution of the United States and we all have the same equal rights,” Mayor Lioneld Jordan said after the vote.

The language also adds protections “from discrimination based on real or perceived race, ethnicity, national origin, age, gender, gender identity, gender expression, familial status, marital status, socioeconomic background, religion, sexual orientation, disability and veteran status.”

It goes into effect Sept. 20.

—  James Russell

Houston continues to debate equal-rights ordinance

Parker

Mayor Annise Parker

The Houston Equal Rights Ordinance is expected to pass Wednesday evening.

Through the afternoon, the Houston City Council has been hearing public comments. Among the speakers was Rafael McDonnell from Resource Center, who said friends who are Houston activists asked him to attend. He told council members that in the 10 years since the Dallas ordinance passed, 53 complaints have been filed and all were settled or dismissed.

“Not one complaint went to adjudication,” he said.

He said the ordinance was designed to be a “golden rule.”

“If you know better, you do better,” he said. “It’s not designed to be punitive.”

Because the opposition came from churches, religious leaders who favor the ordinance spoke.

Gay Houston City Councilman Mike Laster’s pastor, Steve Wells, of South Main Baptist Church was among the speakers. Another speaker in favor was from the National Council on Jewish Women.

Former councilwoman Jolanda Jones said she often disagreed with Houston Mayor Annise Parker but completely agreed with her on this issue. She said that voting against the ordinance because of the LGBT issue would be like “throwing out the baby with the bath water.” Refusing to vote for equality for the LGBT community would also deny equality based on race, religion and a list of other characteristics.

A mother spoke about her transgender son and addressed the accusations that have been thrown at the trans community during debate on the ordinance.

“My son is not confused,” she said. “My son is not a predator. My son is a good student and a good person.”

Several speakers said they opposed the amendment and called it words like “unjust” without explaining what ways an equality ordinance was unfair.

—  David Taffet

Opponents threaten Parker with recall

Houston City Council

Houston City Council. Mayor Annise Parker in red front, center.

The debate on the proposed nondiscrimination ordinance in Houston just got nasty.

Mayor Annise Parker’s perennial adversary Dave Wilson said he’s planning a recall vote against the mayor and several council members, according to CBS affiliate KHOU.

Recall in Houston isn’t easy. Signatures of 25 percent of voters who voted for the official must be collected in 30 days. Reasons allowed for recall in the city charter are incompetence, misconduct, malfeasance or unfitness for office. Wilson claims passing an ordinance that contradicts state law amounts to incompetence.

Houston is the only major city in Texas with no nondiscrimination ordinance and the only major city in the U.S. without one.

According to KHOU, more than 42,000 signatures would have to be collected to a recall of Parker up for a vote. Some council members could face recall with less than 2,500 signatures.

Wilson was elected to the Houston Community College District Board of Trustees in a majority black district by insinuating he was black in his campaign literature.

Former Dallas City Councilwoman Veletta Lill who served when Dallas passed its nondiscrimination ordinance more than a decade ago commented on the controversies in San Antonio and Houston during her appearance on LGBT talk show Lambda Weekly last week. She said when Dallas debated its ordinance, several people did voice opposition and concerns. She said those concerns were taken into consideration and addressed and the ordinance passed without controversy.

—  David Taffet

Formal opposition to San Antonio nondiscrimination ordinance ends

Councilman Diego Bernal

Councilman Diego Bernal

After the San Antonio City Council passed a nondiscrimination ordinance last September, opponents tried to force a repeal election. To do so they had 40 days to collect signatures from 10 percent of the city’s voters. They managed to get only about a third of the signatures needed.

The group’s next target was Councilman Diego Bernal, author of the nondiscrimination ordinance.

To recall the councilman, opponents needed signatures of 10 percent of the registered voters in the district. Although they promoted the idea that the ordinance allowed men to use women’s bathrooms where they would assault little girls, the group was unable to collect the needed signatures by the March deadline. They were 1,000 signatures short of the 5,800 needed.

The new strategy is to support an opponent of Bernal in the 2015 election. He ran unopposed in the previous election.

Bernal thanked his staff for acting professionally despite the amount of hate mail they received.

Gina Casteneda, organizer of the opposition to the ordinance, has taken the position of Texas field organizer for Americans for Prosperity, the conservative group funded by the Koch brothers.

—  David Taffet

Annise Parker touches on importance of elections, unity at Creating Change

Houston Mayor Annise Parker addresses the Creating Change conference in Houston Thursday night. Jessica Borges/Dallas Voice)

Houston Mayor Annise Parker addresses the crowd at the national Creating Change conference in Houston Thursday night. (Jessica Borges/Dallas Voice)

HOUSTON — Mayor Annise Parker was cheered to the stage by thousands of people when she was introduced Thursday evening as Mrs. Annise Parker at The National Conference on LGBT Equality: Creating Change.

Parker married her longtime partner earlier this month in California. She welcomed the applause during her welcome address at the conference, now in its 26th year, which is in Houston for the first time.

“You’re acting as if you’ve never seen a lesbian before,” Parker said. “And, yes, this what a lesbian mayor looks like.”

While conference organizers had hoped to hold the event in Houston when Parker was mayor — she’s now in her third and final term — Parker said she wanted to be a part of the experience that happens when thousands of LGBT activists and advocates converge for the national gathering.

“It was important for me to be here tonight because one, you’re my family,” she said. “Two, it is important for the rest of the United States and the rest of the state of Texas to experience what we do here at Creating Change, and I wanted to be a part of that.

“And I get to home to my new wife,” she added.

Parker, who said she lit up City Hall in rainbow colors for the conference, touched on her citywide elections and how LGBT people can create change by electing the right people to any office.

“I’m here to tell you elections matter,” she said. “And when you put someone in the state house or in the city council chamber or in the mayor’s office, you can make a difference in the lives of people that you will never meet and never see, but you know that you are transforming people’s lives. And those mayors might do something like penning the most comprehensive nondiscrimination ordinance in the United States as their third executive act.”

Parker has said this term she plans to have the council pass a nondiscrimination ordinance similar to those in Dallas, Fort Worth, Austin and San Antonio.

She also said people could elect a mayor who supports marriage equality. Parker is a co-chair of Mayors for the Freedom to Marry, and she encouraged attendees to go by Freedom to Marry’s booth and email their mayors to support marriage equality.

And with such a diverse representation of the LGBT community, Parker ended by encouraging the community’s strength to focus on common goals instead of divisive factors.

“The most important thing that we can do here today, this evening and at this conference, is to look around at who’s here with us, look at the strength we have as a community, recognize that the differences that divide us are so much less than the things that unite us,” she said. “Our strength is powerful.”

—  Anna Waugh

San Antonio judge leaves GOP over Republican anti-gay ‘hate speech’

Key

Judge Carlo Key

The fight over a nondiscrimination ordinance in San Antonio has lost the Republican Party one of its members.

Bexar County Court-at-Law No. 11 Judge Carlo Key switched his party affiliation to the Democratic Party, saying in a YouTube video Monday that he didn’t leave the Republican Party but it left him. He was referring to the nasty debate over a city ordinance that covers sexual orientation and gender identity in the city.

“I cannot tolerate a political party that demeans Texans based on their sexual orientation, the color of their skin or their economic status,” he said. “I will not be a member of a party in which hate speech elevates candidates for higher office rather than disqualifying them.”

Among other things he was referring to was Councilwoman Elisa Chan’s homophobic rants. She has since resigned the council to run for the legislature.

Key is up for reelection in 2014.

Watch the video of his announcement below.

—  David Taffet

Petition to repeal San Antonio nondiscrimination ordinance fails

Councilman Diego Bernal

Councilman Diego Bernal

A petition drive to repeal San Antonio’s new nondiscrimination ordinance has failed.

The drive was led by a megachurch pastor who claimed 50 churches launched petition drives to overturn the law. The group had 40 days from the time the ordinance passed to collect signatures from 10 percent of the city’s voters. They needed more than 60,000 signers and got about 20,000.

Some churches were worried about their nonprofit statuses. Federal law prevents a nonprofit from actively participating in political campaigns or endorsing candidates.

The church is still working on a recall petition against Councilman Diego Bernal, who sponsored the ordinance. Most churches are staying even farther away from that petition effort, which comes even closer to endorsing or opposing a political candidate and jeopardizing their nonprofit status.

A recall election would occur if 10 percent of voters in the council member’s district signed the petition.

—  David Taffet

Tea party PAC investigating San Antonio Stonewall ethics violations

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The Texas Ethics Advisory Board is investigating the Stonewall Democrats of San Antonio’s campaign finance report because  of the group’s LGBT policies agenda and its involvement in helping the city’s nondiscrimination ordinance pass.

The Texas Ethics Advisory Board is a tea party political action committee that has no affiliation with the state ethics commission, but member William Elmer told KENS 5 it found violations in three categories. The group alleges that Stonewall didn’t disclose political contributions and expenditures required by the ethics rules, including not listing the occupation of people who donated more $50 and didn’t identify the candidate or party the group supports.

He said the board started looking into the group after the ordinance passed, adding that the state ethics commission usually looks into complaints the group files.

Elena Guajardo, a former San Antonio City Councilwoman and now co-chair of the San Antonio Stonewall chapter, said the allegations will be found to be baseless.

She said Stonewall is “mindful and respectful of our need to be transparent and accountable in our financial reporting.”

Watch KENS 5’s report below.

—  Anna Waugh

Group aims to recall San Antonio councilman who sponsored city’s nondiscrimination ordinance

Councilman Diego Bernal

Councilman Diego Bernal

A group opposed to San Antonio’s new nondiscrimination ordinance are circulating a petition to recall Councilman Diego Bernal, the measure’s chief sponsor.

They claim because of the new ordinance, men are using women’s bathrooms and sexually assaulting little girls. Police have no complaints of men in women’s bathrooms and no reports of sexual assaults of little girls.

But why should facts stand in their way?

Opponents of the ordinance argued before passage that it would infringe on their religious freedom. Attorney General Greg Abbott threatened to file a lawsuit against the ordinance based on wording that was debated and removed before it passed.

San Antonio’s city’s charter allows a recall of city officials if signatures of 10 percent of registered voters in the district is collected. The group said it should have those signatures within a few weeks.

They are also threatening to begin a recall of Mayor Julian Castro. That would take 10 percent of the city’s voters.

—  David Taffet

Davis endorses SA nondiscrimination ordinance, gets Castro’s support

Wendy_Davis_Governor_Candidacy_Announcement_Podium_Copyright_2013_Patrick_Hoffman_All_Rights_Reserved

Sen. Wendy Davis announcing her bid for governor

State. Sen. Wendy Davis appeared in San Antonio on Monday for a campaign stop, during which she endorsed the city’s new nondiscrimination ordinance and was endorsed by Mayor Julian Castro.

Davis said she hoped the new ordinance in San Antonio would become commonplace throughout Texas. Fort Worth has a similar ordinance, which Davis voted for when she sat on the City Council.

“I hope that it becomes something that is commonplace,” Davis said. “I look forward to a Texas where we see that in every city in the state.”

Davis later told reporters that it’s “important that people be treated equally in the workplace, plain and simple.”

Her position is the opposite of Attorney General Greg Abbott, the frontrunner for the Republican nomination. He threatened to file suit against the ordinance, claiming it violated freedom of religion. He dropped the suit when he couldn’t find any way discriminating against people was a religious right.

An Abbott spokesman reiterated his opposition to the nondiscrimination ordinance but also indicated opposition to some private companies adopting those policies.

“Both the U.S. and Texas Constitutions protect faith-based organizations from being coerced into employing persons in a way that would require them to violate their faith,” the spokesman told Texas Tribune.

Davis announced she was running for governor last week at a rally in Haltom City.

Filing for the primaries begins Nov. 9. The primary will be held in March.

—  David Taffet