Obama makes pitch for gay rights bill

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President Barack Obama

WASHINGTON — The Senate is set to vote Monday on the Employment Non-Discrimination Act, a day after President Barack Obama blogged in the Huffington Post, encouraging Congress to pass the measure.

Obama wrote that while Americans can’t lose their jobs because of race, religion, gender or disability, “in many states a person can be fired simply for being lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender,” Yahoo News reported.

ENDA would ban discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity.

“It’s offensive. It’s wrong,” Obama wrote. “And it needs to stop, because in the United States of America, who you are and you love should never be a fireable offense.”

The same legislation failed by a single vote, 50-49, the last time it was considered by the Senate in 1996, the Washington Post reports. Along with 55 Democratic senators, the bill currently has the support of at least four Republicans.

—  Steve Ramos

Obama official highlights business equality at N. TX GLBT Chamber dinner

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Fred Hochberg, the openly gay president of the Export-Import Bank of the U.S., speaks at the North Texas GLBT Chamber of Commerce’s eight annual Business Excellence Awards dinner on Thursday night. (John Wright/Dallas Voice)

Fred Hochberg is using his position as president of the Export-Import Bank to advance LGBT equality among business leaders and politicians.

Hochberg said he frequently gets an opportunity to educate anti-equality lawmakers about LGBT issues because they want and need to understand the issues of international business.

Hochberg, the first openly gay president of the Export-Import Bank of the U.S. and the highest-ranking gay person in the Obama administration, spoke about the importance of educating people on LGBT issues as the keynote speaker at the North Texas GLBT Chamber of Commerce’s eighth annual Business Excellence Awards Dinner Thursday.

Hochberg’s role includes trying to double U.S. exports by the end of 2014. With 95 percent of the world’s consumers outside of the U.S., Hochberg said he has conversations with people who vote against LGBT issues, but strive to understand the issues in a global market. And he uses his position to help gain understanding for the LGBT community.

But even as the highest ranking openly LGBT official, Hochberg said times weren’t always so accepting, mentioning his hesitancy to come out in the 1970s. He joked that he came out slowly instead of young people now who come out on Facebook.

“If you’re not out, I’ll let you it is a hell of a lot better on the other side,” Hochberg said.

While his career was in business, he said he wanted to do more and dedicated himself to helping elect President Bill Clinton and then focused on lifting the ban on gays in the military, which he called “a gift to America.”

Clinton appointed him to head the Small Business Administration in 1998. And President Barack Obama later tapped him to head the Export-Import Bank in 2009, a position for which he was recently nominated again.

He said he was proud to see Obama repeal “don’t ask, don’t tell,” sign an LGBT-inclusive federal hate crimes bill into law and come out for marriage equality. But he reminded the audience that the work is not done, and when people see successful groups like the GLBT chamber, they think all LGBT people are successful and happy, when there are many who are not.

“They don’t see the discrimination. They don’t see that our brothers and sisters who work at jobs are afraid to come out or our partners that are not covered by insurance,” Hochberg said. “We all have to keep working because I think our work is not done.”

Recipients of the chamber’s business excellence awards were recognized during the dinner. The awards were: The law office of Rob Wiley, Business of the Year; Kristopher Parker of Resource Center Credit Union, Emerging Leader; Jeremy Bradford of the American Cancer Society, Member Service; Cooper Smith Koch of Cooper Smith Agency, Community Service; Nancy Minchillo of Hewlett Packard, Supplier Diversity Champion; Southwest Airlines, Corporate Ally; and Marsha Thomas of TNT Promotions, Chairman’s Award.

More photos below.

—  Anna Waugh

White House responds to Texas secession petition

A White House spokesman responded Monday to a petition asking that Texas be allowed to peacefully “withdraw from the United States.”

The answer is no.

The petition had gained more than 125,000 signatures, although at the time of this writing, 10 of the last 12 signers were not from Texas.

According to the site, petitions that gain more than 25,000 signatures in 30 days will get an official response. The petition was first posted by “Micah H” of Arlington on Nov. 9.

The response was written by Jon Carson, director of the Office of Public Engagement. He opens by politely thanking the signers for participating in their government in “free and open debate.”

“But as much as we value a healthy debate, we don’t let that debate tear us apart,” Carson wrote.

Those in Texas hoping to create a new country under President Rick Perry will be disappointed. And those elsewhere hoping to get rid of Texas may be even more disappointed.

But most of us will just laugh, as the last word on this invites those who hate President Barack Obama to read more about his ideas:

So let’s be clear: No one disputes that our country faces big challenges, and the recent election followed a vigorous debate about how they should be addressed. As President Obama said the night he won re-election, “We may have battled fiercely, but it’s only because we love this country deeply and we care so strongly about its future.”

Whether it’s figuring out how to strengthen our economy, reduce our deficit in a responsible way, or protect our country, we will need to work together — and hear from one another — in order to find the best way to move forward. I hope you’ll take a few minutes to learn more about the President’s ideas and share more of your own.

—  David Taffet

Gay Dallas activist’s petition seeks apology from Lubbock County judge

Tom Head

Gay Dallasite Cannon Flowers has created a Change.org petition demanding an apology from Lubbock County Judge Tom Head.

Head set off a firestorm earlier this week when he went on the local Fox station and claimed he needed to raise taxes to protect Lubbock from civil war if Obama is re-elected. The Houston Chronicle declared “crazy county judge makes Lubbock a national laughingstock.”

Bloomberg quotes Lubbock County Democratic Party chair Kenny Ketner who said, “It’s not the first time he’s said something ridiculous.”

Lubbock Democrats are discussing removing Head from office. The Lubbock Avalanche has a picture of Head’s office door with these words scribbled on it: “Hide your kids. Hide your wife. They’re coming.”

Flower’s petition reads:

Lubbock County Judge Tom Head has used his office to issue a veiled threat of civil war in the United States if the current President Barack Obama is re-elected. … Judge Head said regarding a possible Obama re-election, “We are talking civil unrest, civil disobedience, possibly, possibly civil war, OK? Now what happens? What happens? Now I’m not talking just talking riots here and there. I’m talking Lexington, Concord, take up arms, get rid of the dictator. ..And in this political climate and financial climate, what is the very worst thing that can happen right now? Obama gets back in the White House. No. God forbid.”

These comments, spoken on behalf of the power of the office as County Judge of a major county in Texas, are seen to possibly incite violence and potentially cause great harm to the United States. Judge Head must be held accountable and the officials of Lubbock County must also be held accountable for any further actions occurring from these statements.

To sign the petition, go here.

—  David Taffet

Marriage equality soars in popularity among African-Americans since Obama announcement

President Barack Obama

A new Washington Post/ABC News poll found that President Barack Obama’s announcement in support of same-sex marriage has had a major impact on African-Americans.

Before Obama made his statement, 41 percent of African-Americans said same-sex marriage should be legal. In a poll released today, 59 percent said they support marriage equality. Since Obama made his statement, the NAACP passed a resolution in favor of marriage equality and a number of hip-hop artists have announced their support.

Opposition to same-sex marriage also hit a new low, according to a related Washington Post/ABC News poll. Only 39 percent said same-sex marriage should be illegal.

Of those polled, 23 percent said Obama’s statement was a major reason to oppose his re-election, 20 percent said it was a major reason to support his re-election, and 55 percent said it was just not a major factor.

A University of Texas/Texas Tribune poll in February looked at how Texans view same-sex marriage. According to that poll, 51 percent of African-American Texans support some form relationship recognition — either marriage or civil unions. Relationship recognition is supported by 62 percent of whites and 65 percent of Hispanics.

The UT/Tribune poll found that the less religious Texans are, the more likely they are to support equality. Only 30 percent of those who go to church more than once a week support same-sex marriage or civil unions. That number increases to 44 percent among those who attend once a week to 77 percent support for those who never attend.

By party, 67 percent of those who lean Democratic support same-sex marriage and another 17 percent support civil unions. Only 7 percent of “strong Republicans” and 13 percent of those who lean Republican support marriage equality. But 40 percent of those labeled strong Republicans support civil unions.

Support also increases as the level of education increases. Only 21 percent of high school dropouts and those with a high school degree support marriage equality. Those with a two-year degree support marriage by 35 percent. Four-year college graduates support marriage by 38 percent and post-grads by 46 percent. Civil union support adds about 30 percent to each of those categories.

And support for some form of relationship recognition is more popular popular among Texas men than women by 2 percent.

—  David Taffet

More photos from Wednesday’s rally in Dallas

To go with our coverage in today‘s Voice, below are a few more photos from Wednesday’s marriage equality rally in Dallas.

—  David Taffet

Planned protest to become a celebration

Daniel Cates

What was going to be a protest in response to North Carolina’s vote against same-sex marriage has turned into a likely celebration after President Barack Obama came out in support of marriage equality today.

Daniel Cates, North Texas regional coordinator for GetEQUAL and organizer of tonight’s rally on Cedar Springs in Dallas, said the focus of the event has changed but he still wants to call on other elected officials to support equality.

“Obviously we want to celebrate the president joining the conversation,” Cates said. “That is wonderful, so we will celebrate that, but we will continue to call on the Democratic National Committee to follow suit and go ahead and endorse marriage equality and full federal equality. And we will also continue to call on our president to sign that executive order and to push for employment protections.”

On the Facebook page for the rally, GetEQUAL TX wrote, “While we have every reason to protest tonight, we now also have a reason to celebrate! Tonight we will make a clear call for elected leaders from Mayor Mike Rawlings to Members of Congress to the DNC to follow the President’s example and stand up for what they know is right!”

The group added that crews from several local TV stations will be on hand for the rally, which begins at 7 p.m. at the Legacy of Love monument at Oak Lawn Avenue.

 

—  David Taffet

Gap partners with El Centro to offer curriculum

There’s nothing particularly gay about this item, except that one of El Centro College’s gay professors alerted us to it. And as part of Dallas County Community College, El Centro added protections based on gender identity to its nondiscrimination policies earlier this year. And it does concern San Francisco-based, but not-really-gay The Gap and El Centro’s not-really-gay but probably-mostly-gay fashion department.

Gap Inc. has chosen El Centro as one of 15 community colleges across the country to participate in its “Gap for Community Colleges” program. The program is part of President Barack Obama’s “Skills for America’s Future” initiative.

Beginning this week, El Centro College fashion marketing students will have access to the training curriculum given to Gap store managers covering a variety of workplace skills. This is the first time the program has been offered outside the company and will be useful to students not seeking a career with Gap Inc., including topics such as interview skills and resume writing as well as workplace skills such as managing people and setting priorities.

 

 

—  David Taffet

WATCH: Scissor Sisters’ “Shady Love”

The queer-centric Scissor Sisters are back on the radar with their new single “Shady Love.” Dropped on the Interwebs yesterday, the SS is making buzz with its video of kiddos awkwardly performing the romp of a song for their school play in front of an indifferent crowd of parents. The song is OK as Krystal Pepsi (aka Azealia Banks) throws in her vocal help and frontman Jake Shears raps over some high energy beats, but watching kids “sing” about Obama, booties and boobies is kind of hilar.

Watch it after the jump.

—  Rich Lopez

Feedback • 12.16.11

An Open Letter to Rick Perry

Dear Gov. Perry,

Your antics since you announced your bid for the Republican presidential nomination have already almost pushed me over the edge. You have long-since made me regret having voted for you the first go-round (before seeing the light). There have been multiple times that I have been embarrassed by you in much the same way that residents of Alaska must have been embarrassed by their then-governor Sarah Palin.

But the video commercial you released last week crossed the line. I am not only embarrassed that you are our state’s top elected official, I am ashamed of — and for — you.

It’s so apparent that you are making a completely unveiled attempt to pander to religious conservatives with this babble about “Obama’s religious war.”

Gov. Rick Perry

Gov. Rick Perry

Yes, there are people across the nation — and unfortunately, many of them here in the South — who will identify with your narrow-minded and hateful ideologies. But you, Mr. Governor, do not represent all Texans and certainly could in no way ever assume a position where you lead on behalf of an entire nation.

Your comments are hateful and full of fear. They are misinformed with respect to the ideals our country were shaped by and founded upon. And they place you absolutely on the wrong side of history — the same whitewashed tomb of people who opposed women’s rights, civil rights for people of all races and rights for the handicapped.

So here is what I say to you, oh woefully out-of-touch public servant to the people of Texas:

I’ve been a Christian my entire life and I believe in essentially the same creator, center of the Universe, life-giver, omniscient, all-loving being you claim to believe in — the very same Essence that millions of human beings believe in across the world. And although I no longer occupy a pew within a specific religious body, I respect your right to do so.

So go ahead on into your house of worship and occupy your pew. Worship the way you want to worship, say what you want to say, follow whatever rules they ascribe, judge those within your body, and exclude whomever you want to exclude. I will not judge you.

I would appreciate it, however, if you would behave in kind and refrain from bringing your hateful judgment to me or to any of my fellow human beings and their families.

Keep it there, inside your religion; it is not welcome in my house, my state, my nation.

Remember, the lines drawn between church and state are there for a reason. Our country was founded on the pursuit of liberty and the desire for religious freedom — not on narrow-minded ideologies that discriminate against a minority. These people did not want to come to the New World to impose their religion on others but rather to worship the God they wanted to worship. Period, end of story.

Though it’s true that many of our founding fathers were chauvinists and slave owners, I believe many of them had a seed of foresight to believe that the statement “all men are created equally” applied (or would apply) to both genders, all races and eventually all sexual orientations.

Our respectable President Barack Obama — who leads in a way you apparently will never be able — did not start a religious war. Prayer in school has been an issue of contention since I was a child. And gays serving in the military have nothing to do with an attack on your religion.

What a foolish comparison; high school students come up with more reasonable — and creative — theses than that.

“Gays in the military” no more impedes your right to worship than women being allowed to vote or allowing a black man to drink from the same water fountain as someone of your race did. Yet religious people somehow once supported such absurd and un-Godly beliefs as those, too.

People who dare breathe such views today are frowned upon, eschewed and pitied. At least generally, they have the sense to keep those thoughts to themselves.

You, sir, are not the only one who wears the name “Christian.” I know many such people who are heterosexual and accept their gay and lesbian brothers and sisters. And I know many homosexual Christians who sit in pews and worship Jehovah and obey the two greatest commandments: loving God with all their hearts, minds, souls and strength and loving their neighbors as they love themselves.

(You would be a wise student to note that it does not say “love only your heterosexual neighbors.” Are you, Mr. Perry, doing that?)

It seems to me that every time you open your mouth and say something hateful, you diminish the very witness of the Christ you claim to follow. Your unkind words belie any love that your namesake should evoke.
We don’t need you to save us, nor do we need your judgments or your pronouncement of some ridiculous war made up to get yourself attention within a small group of narrow-minded, religious people like yourself. We are not trying to destroy your religion or asking for admission into your religious sects; further, we are not asking your leaders to perform our marriages.

We demand, however, that you respect us and our families. The United States of America is not just the home of Republican, Christian heterosexuals; it is our home too and at home, we are created equally — every last one of us.

Please, sir, do not attempt to force your religious beliefs on my humanity. As a homosexual, I am no less deserving of rights than any heterosexual. You are my governor, not my judge.

Fear-mongering public servants like you will become relics that students of government and politics will study as examples of narrow-mindedness and shameful behavior. When they study the great women and men of politics, you will be absent from among them; I rather think you will be in the category of those rued and pitied — George Wallace will keep you company there.

Rick Perry, you should be ashamed of your ridiculous video. You should immediately apologize and reconsider whether running for the office of president of the United States is something you’re cut out for.
By your words and your actions — embarrassing gaffes and soundbites nothwithstanding — you continue to prove you are not the man for the job.

Respectfully,
Todd Whitley, Granbury

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This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition December 16, 2011.

—  Michael Stephens