Top 10: Rare bathhouse raid sparked controversy

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When Dallas vice officers raided The Club Dallas on Oct. 8 for the first time in recent memory, it made national news and gave rise to some conspiracy theories. Some said the raid was part of a city effort to shut down the gay bathhouse to make way for redevelopment around a new DART rail station, which sits directly adjacent to the 34-year-old establishment at 2616 Swiss Ave. in Deep Ellum. Others said the raid was politically motivated since it came just before a major election, as such crackdowns have historically tended to do. Still others, of course, felt it was an example of law enforcement targeting the gay community.

But the Dallas Police Department, in a rare statement issued by the vice unit several days later, said the raid was conducted in response to a complaint from a citizen. “The Dallas Police Department is charged with the duty of investigating, enforcing, and responding to citizen complaints regarding sexually oriented businesses throughout the city,” the statement read in part. “The Vice Unit is committed to being responsive to community concerns and thus, conducts its investigations in an equitable and just manner.”

Indeed, records obtained by Dallas Voice through a Freedom of Information request confirm that an unidentified person made a complaint to police about the club on Oct. 5. Three days later, on a Friday night, plainclothes vice officers purchased day memberships, rented private rooms and changed into towels. Then they went into the common areas of the business and observed patrons engaged in sex acts, according to police reports.

After uniformed officers were called in, police arrested seven patrons on charges of public lewdness and three on charges of indecent exposure. They also arrested a manager for interfering with police after he refused to let in the uniformed officers, who eventually forced open a door.

Club members and others accused the Police Department of harassment and intimidation. They also argued that raiding the gay bathhouse would only drive men looking for sex into parks and public restrooms.

The Club Dallas bailed its members out of jail and said it would provide attorneys.

Meanwhile, according to police records, the person who made the complaint called back on Oct. 13 and asked authorities to raid the business again. Despite the second complaint, vice officers haven’t returned to Club Dallas.

— John Wright

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

—  Kevin Thomas

DPD says Club Dallas complaint came from ‘citizen,’ no arrests made in private rooms

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition October 15, 2010.
Laura Martin

Laura Martin, the Dallas Police Department’s liaison officer to the gay community, just forwarded a statement from DPD’s vice unit that provides additional information about a controversial Oct. 8 raid of The Club Dallas that resulted in 11 arrests. The statement from the vice unit apparently seeks to dispel some of the conspiracy theories that have arisen about the raid of the gay bathhouse in Deep Ellum, including that it was designed to shut down the business to make way for redevelopment around a DART rail station, and that it was orchestrated for political purposes less than a month before an election.

The statement from DPD’s vice unit says the department received a complaint from “a citizen” related to The Club Dallas on Oct. 5, three days before the raid. “The citizen stated that the management was renting out rooms for the viewing of adult movies and use as motel rooms,” according to the statement. “The rooms were allegedly being used for sexual activities.” Martin has said that when the vice unit receives a complaint, they are bound to respond in the same way that patrol officers must respond to 911 calls.

The statement doesn’t specifically say whether the citizen was a Club Dallas member, and Martin declined to confirm this. However, given the details in the complaint about what was going on inside the club, a reasonable person might conclude that it came from a member.

Also of note in the statement, the vice unit points out that none of the arrests were made in private rooms at The Club Dallas. In other words, even though the complaint related to the use of those rooms, undercover officers who bought day memberships to the club didn’t have to take their investigation that far: “Officers observed a large number of individuals engaging in sexual activity. These acts were occurring in the public areas of the spa, which include the pool area, hallway, and other common areas.”

Dallas Voice has filed a Freedom of Information request for all records related to the raid. Among other things, the Police Department has only released reports related to three of the 11 people who were arrested.

Anyhow, here’s the full statement from DPD’s vice unit, which came across late Wednesday morning:

On October 5, 2010, the Vice Unit received a complaint from a citizen regarding an alleged sexually oriented business violation at 2616 Swiss Avenue. The citizen stated that the management was renting out rooms for the viewing of adult movies and use as motel rooms. The rooms were allegedly being used for sexual activities.

On October 8, 2010, undercover officers entered the location to investigate the allegations articulated in the citizen complaint. Officers purchased a day membership and entered the location. Officers observed a large number of individuals engaging in sexual activity. These acts were occurring in the public areas of the spa, which include the pool area, hallway, and other common areas.

Ten arrests were made for the Texas Penal Code violations of Public Lewdness and Indecent Exposure. These acts were occurring in a public place. Arrests were not made for the acts taking place in the private rooms. One arrest was made for Interference with Public Duties, Peace Officer, when the manager refused admittance to uniformed police officers responding to assist the undercover officers.

As a result of the investigation it was determined the allegations made in the citizen’s complaint were accurate. There has been no vice investigative activity or complaints received at this location in several years.

The Dallas Police Department is charged with the duty of investigating, enforcing, and responding to citizen complaints regarding sexually oriented businesses throughout the city. The Vice Unit is committed to being responsive to community concerns and thus, conducts its investigations in an equitable and just manner.

—  John Wright

Texas Republican seeking to intervene in marriage cases

Lamar Smith claims a ‘protectable interest’ in defending DOMA in Massachusetts lawsuits

Lisa Keen  |  Keen News Service lisakeen@mac.com

Claiming that the Obama Department of Justice is not doing enough to defend the federal Defense of Marriage Act, U.S. Rep. Lamar Smith, the Republican who represents Texas’ 21st district, has asked a federal court for permission to serve as an intervenor-defendant in two cases expected to come before the First Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals.

The Alliance Defense Fund announced Tuesday, Oct. 5,  that it had filed motions on behalf of Smith in the U.S. District Court for Boston, where Judge Joseph Tauro had ruled — in two cases — that one part of the federal Defense of Marriage Act is unconstitutional.

The Department of Justice still has until Oct. 12 and Health and Human Services has until Oct. 18 to give the court notice of whether the federal government intends to appeal those decisions.

In its Oct. 5 motions to intervene, the ADF claims the Department of Justice is mounting “no defense at all” for DOMA. The lawsuits in question challenge only DOMA Section 3, the section that limits the interpretation of “marriage” for any federal purpose to heterosexual couples.

“We should be strengthening and protecting marriage, not subjecting it to a hostile takeover through the courts,” said Dale Schowengerdt, legal counsel for the Alliance Defense Fund, in a press release. “If the Obama administration won’t defend marriage, we are ready and willing to do so.”

ADF claims the DOJ has failed to raise certain crucial arguments in defense of DOMA. For instance, it argues that DOJ should have noted that the U.S. Supreme Court’s “decision” in the 1972 Baker v. Nelson “was binding precedent that DOMA is constitutional.”

“Under the new administration, which strongly supports DOMA’s repeal, the DOJ traded these winning rationales for anemic arguments never recognized by any court in a challenge to DOMA or a similar state marriage definition,” states the ADF’s motion to intervene.

Actually, the Supreme Court did not issue a “decision” in Baker; it dismissed the appeal of a gay couple who had sought a marriage license in Minnesota.

Dismissing an appeal has more significance than simply refusing to hear the appeal. But, in dismissing the Baker appeal, the high court explained it was doing so because there was no “substantial federal question” presented by the case.

There is dispute within legal circles as to whether that dismissal means anything today.

And Mary Bonauto, civil rights director for Gay & Lesbian Advocates & Defenders that brought one of the DOMA lawsuits, said the lawsuits here are not — like Baker — about marriage.

Bonauto also said she wasn’t surprised to learn of ADF’s motion to intervene.

“The ADF tries to intervene in everything,” said Bonauto. “We’re just surprised it took this long.”

Bonauto said her organization would oppose Smith’s motion to intervene “on multiple grounds.”

The motions to intervene will be decided by Judge Tauro sometime during the next few weeks or so. Bonauto said she doesn’t imagine the motions will be granted if the federal government decides to appeal the two cases.
The ADF motion claims that Rep. Smith has a “protectable interest” in the outcome of these lawsuits because, as ranking minority member of the House Judiciary Committee, he has a duty to see that federal laws “are fully defended and that adverse decisions are appealed.”

The motion says Smith asked Attorney General Eric Holder, by letter, on Aug. 9, whether DOJ intends to appeal the DOMA cases. DOJ had not yet made a decision, notes ADF.

“[I]t is difficult to understand to DOJ’s indecision,” says ADF’s brief.

Attorneys for the HHS have until Tuesday, Oct. 12, to file notice that they intend to appeal the decision in the state’s case, Massachusetts v. HHS. DOJ attorneys have until Oct. 18 to file notice of appeal in GLAD’s case, Gill v. Office of Personnel Management. GLAD’s Bonauto said it is common for the appealing party to give the court notice of its appeal in the last couple of days remaining to do so.

Thus, the timing of ADF’s motion could have the political benefit of appearing to prod DOJ and HHS to file notice. But Arthur Leonard, a long-time legal scholar on LGBT cases, says it’s also not unusual for Smith to file the intervenor motion.

“There have been occasions in the past where members of Congress have sought to intervene in order to present what they think would be stronger arguments than the Justice Department is likely to present, especially when the administration that is defending the statute is different from the administration that signed it into law,” said Leonard.

“But,” he added, “to the extent this is about getting particular arguments before the court of appeals, I can’t imagine that an appeal of the DOMA case won’t attract plenty of amicus briefs that would make all the arguments that Rep. Smith would want to make.”

© 2010 Keen News Service

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition October 08, 2010.

—  Kevin Thomas

LGBT activists to raise money, awareness for female workers who’ve sued Dallas Fire-Rescue

Get Equal Now is planning a “Ribbons and Roses” rally and candlelight vigil for Sunday, Oct. 17, at 7:30 p.m. in front of Dallas City Hall to show solidarity with female employees of Dallas Fire Rescue who say they have faced harassment and discrimination on the job. And to raise money to pay for the rally, some women will become “kings” when they stage the “King for A Night” drag king fundraising show on Friday, Oct. 15, at 10 p.m. at The Brick.

The show will star C.D. “Jaime Fauxx” Kirven, Elizabeth “Julian” Pax, AB aka Twisher, Laura R. aka Prynce, and more. And if you want to be one of the “more,” just e-mail Kirven at cdkirven@aol.com by Tuesday, Oct. 5.

For more information, check out the “King for A Night” Facebook page. Show up with a copy of the flier below and get into the show free. Fliers will be available at businesses along Cedar Springs Road and at Resource Center Dallas.

—  admin

Trevor Project calls for moment of silence for suicide victims at 7 p.m. Dallas time today

We aren’t aware of any specific events planned for Dallas in response to the suicides of six teens in the U.S. who were gay or perceived as gay in September, but it looks like a National Safe Schools Day of Action will take place next Tuesday, Oct. 5. Also, there will be a Stand Up to Youth Suicide Rally and March in San Francisco on Friday, Oct. 8, and rallies are reportedly being planned next weekend through the “It Gets Better” project, in advance of National Coming Out Day on Oct. 11. Does anyone know of anything that’s planned for Dallas? As we reported earlier, many plan to gather around Big Tex at the State Fair at noon Saturday, Oct. 9 during the unofficial Gay Day, so perhaps this would be a good time to do it. Just a thought.

Anyhow, The Trevor Project is calling for a moment of silence and reflection at 7 tonight Dallas time in remembrance of the victims. Here’s the full press release:

The Trevor Project Asks All Americans for a Moment of Silence at 8pm ET, 5pm PT Tonight

(West Hollywood, CA, October 1, 2010) – Statement from Charles Robbins, Executive Director of The Trevor Project:

Late last night, The Trevor Project learned of yet another young LGBTQ person who died by suicide. Raymond Chase was a sophomore at Johnson and Wales University in Rhode Island when he took his own life on Wednesday. Words do not adequately describe the tragic loss felt across the country for the five promising young individuals who were so isolated and felt so alone and cut off from their peers and society that suicide became an option.

We encourage all people who feel connected to these tragic events, whether friends, family, peers, community members, and sympathetic human beings to pause today at 8:00 PM Eastern, 5:00 PM Pacific for a moment of silence and reflection in remembrance of Raymond Chase, Tyler Clementi, Seth Walsh, Asher Brown and Billy Lucas. Events are being planned across the country in the coming weeks to mourn the loss of these young people, and to take action to stop bullying crimes that lead to suicide, and a website http://makeitbetterproject.com/.

To help stop the cycle that leads young lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and questioning people to feel they are alone, connect them to The Trevor Project. There is a place that’s free of bullying and judgment online, where young LGBTQ people, their friends and allies ages 13-24 can connect safely and be themselves. More than 13,000 young people already belong to TrevorSpace.org, and more youth join every day. If you or someone you care about shows warning signs for suicide, please do not hesitate to call The Trevor Lifeline at: 866-4-U-TREVOR (866-488-7386). The call is free and confidential.

We mourn the loss of these 5 young people, and today we will stand in silent solidarity for an end to the unnecessary loss of young lives.

—  John Wright