WATCH: Rally against hate in El Paso

About 30 people attended a “Fight Against Hate Crimes” rally in front of the El Paso County Courthouse on Friday, the El Paso Times reports. The rally was organized in response to a brutal attack outside the Old Plantation gay nightclub in downtown El Paso earlier this month. Four suspects have been arrested in the May 7 beating of 22-year-old Lionel Martinez, which family members say was an anti-gay hate crime. Martinez’s sister says he finally regained consciousness last Wednesday but remains in critical condition and is struggling with his memory. LGBT advocates say El Paso police haven’t done enough to address violence in the area of the Old Plantation. A fundraiser to help Martinez’s family reportedly is planned for June 5 at the nightclub.

—  John Wright

Time to start blaming the bigots behind the repeal of DP benefits for anti-gay violence in El Paso

Pastor Tom Brown of Word of Life Church was the driving force behind a ballot measure to repeal DP benefits in El Paso.

A fourth suspect has been arrested in connection with a brutal assault outside the Old Plantation gay nightclub in downtown El Paso on May 7, which the victim’s family members claim was a hate crime.

Manny Portillo, 19, was served with a warrant in the El Paso case while in custody on unrelated charges in Las Cruces, N.M. Portillo now awaits extradition back to Texas.

The other three men who’ve been arrested in the El Paso case are a 19-year-old, a 17-year-old and a 16-year-old. The victim, 22-year-old Lionel Martinez, remains in critical condition. A total of six suspects punched, kicked and beat Martinez with a baseball bat while he was waiting for a ride outside the Old Plantation. Martinez’s sister, who witnessed the crime, has said that although her brother is not gay, she believes it was a hate crime because the suspects were yelling anti-gay slurs.

El Paso police say the attack was gang-related and they aren’t treating it as a hate crime. However, the FBI is investigating the incident as a civil rights violation.

It’ s difficult to ignore the connection between this brutal crime and the ballot measure to repeal domestic partner benefits for El Paso city employees, which was upheld by a federal judge last week. For one thing, both cases serve to make El Paso look like an unwelcoming place for LGBT people — especially given allegations from LGBT advocates that police haven’t done enough to address violence in the area of the Old Plantation.

Beyond that, though, the ballot measure to repeal DP benefits effectively legitimizes anti-gay hatred and sends a dangerous message to all of society. The blood is on the hands of the bigots who were behind this initiative.

An anti-hate rally is scheduled for 11 this morning in front of the El Paso County Courthouse.

—  John Wright

What’s Brewing: 3rd El Paso suspect arrested

Ivan Gallardo

Your weekday morning blend from Instant Tea:

1. A third suspect has been arrested in a brutal beating outside a gay nightclub in downtown El Paso on May 7. Ivan Gallardo, 17, is charged with aggravated assault with a deadly weapon. Two other suspects, ages 16 and 19, have also been arrested in connection with the attack outside the Old Plantation, which police say was gang related. The 22-year-old victim, Lionel Martinez, remains in critical condition after suffering a fractured skull and brain swelling. A total of six people reportedly jumped Martinez while he was waiting for a ride, punching him, kicking him and hitting him with a baseball bat. Martinez is straight, but LGBT advocates say it was a hate crime because the suspects were yelling anti-gay slurs, and the FBI is investigating the incident as a possible civil rights violation. Police have increased patrols around the nightclub in the wake of the incident, and an anti-hate crime rally reportedly is planned for next week outside the County Courthouse.

2. Uganda’s Anti-Homosexuality Bill, which calls for the death penalty in some cases, is still alive. The bill is one of three that have been carried over to the new Parliament, which convenes today, after the old Parliament was dissolved without considering them.

3. The Minnesota House is expected to vote today on a constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage. The amendment, which would appear on the 2012 ballot, has already cleared the Senate. On Wednesday the House Rules Committee voted 13-12 to approve the amendment. Democratic Gov. Mark Dayton opposes the amendment but cannot veto it.

—  John Wright

What’s Brewing: Lawmakers refuse funding for HIV/AIDS drugs; 2nd El Paso suspect arrested

Your weekday morning blend from Instant Tea:

1. Up to 1,800 low-income Texans with HIV/AIDS could be denied life-sustaining drugs over the next two years, after lawmakers chose not to fund a $19.2 million request from the the state health department for the Texas HIV Medication Program, according to The Dallas Morning News (paid subscription required). Lawmakers claim people won’t be denied access to drugs because the state can siphon off money for the HIV Medication Program from Medicaid, and repay it using a supplemental measure during the 2013 legislative session. But that would require approval from Gov. Rick Perry and the 10-member Legislative Budget Board, and it would make the looming Medicaid shortfall even worse. For political reasons, lawmakers don’t want to raise taxes or use any more of the state’s rainy day fund, so they’re left to make decisions like this. If people are turned away from the HIV Medication Program, it will only result in more new HIV infections and more emergency room visits, which are far more expensive for the state. This is where the tea party gets you, folks, and it’s why these folks should be thrown out on their asses in 2012. But let’s face it, this is not just a fiscal decision. The fact is, some of these lawmakers still view HIV/AIDS as a gay disease, and they believe homosexuality is immoral. The LGBT community should be outraged. Watch video of one client talking about the potential impact of the cuts below.

Ramon Olvera

2. A second suspect has been arrested in connection with a brutal beating and possible hate crime outside a gay nightclub in El Paso on May 7.  Roman Olvera, 19, is charged with aggravated assault with a deadly weapon. Olvera and a 16-year-old arrested last week allegedly were among six gang members who punched, kicked and hit 22-year-old Lionel Martinez with a baseball bat outside the Old Plantation, while yelling anti-gay slurs. Martinez, who is straight, remains in critical condition. The FBI is investigating Martinez’s beating and other recent hate crimes near the nightclub. LGBT advocates, who say police have failed to address the problem of anti-gay violence, plan a meeting tonight at the local Metropolitan Community Church. CORRECTION: The LGBT group actually met Tuesday night and plans a rally in front of the courthouse next week, according to the El Paso Times.

3. Wade Emmert was elected Dallas County’s new Republican Party chairman Tuesday night. Emmert was endorsed by Log Cabin Republicans President Rob Schlein, who accused Emmert’s tea party opponent of anti-gay tactics during the campaign. Emmert is scheduled to speak to the gay GOP group on Monday. “Congratulations to Wade Emmert for his very decisive victory, 140 vs 95,” Schlein writes on Facebook. “We look forward to being one of the first clubs visited by the new party chairman!”

—  John Wright

What’s Brewing: Pro basketball executive Rick Welts, CNN anchor Don Lemon come out

Don Lemon

Your weekday morning blend from Instant Tea:

1. An anti-transgender marriage bill is back on the Texas Senate’s Intent Calendar for today. That means if you haven’t already contacted your senator and urged them to vote against SB 723, by Sen. Tommy Williams, you should do so now by going here. If the bill doesn’t clear the Senate and a House committee by midnight Saturday, it will die.

2. The FBI has expanded its probe into a brutal beating outside a gay nightclub in downtown El Paso to include other recent possible hate crimes in the area, the El Paso Times reports. The victim, 22-year-old Lionel Martinez, remains in a coma more than a week after the attack, and LGBT advocates say El Paso police haven’t been taking anti-gay incidents near the Old Plantation nightclub seriously.

3. The weekend was marked by two pretty big coming-out stories: Rick Welts, president and chief executive officer of the NBA’s Phoenix Suns; and CNN anchor Don Lemon.

—  John Wright

What’s Brewing: El Paso teen arrested in brutal beating outside gay nightclub

The Old Plantation in downtown El Paso.

Your weekday morning blend from Instant Tea:

1. A 16-year-old has been arrested on suspicion of aggravated assault in connection with a brutal beating last weekend outside the Old Plantation gay nightclub in downtown El Paso, the El Paso Times reports today. Police say they believe the attack was gang related and aren’t treating the incident as a hate crime, even though family members and LGBT activists insist the victim, 22-year-old Lionel Martinez, was targeted only because he was outside a gay venue. Martinez, who’s straight but had been to the Old Plantation with friends, remains in critical condition and has not regained consciousness since the attack last Friday night or Saturday morning. The FBI reportedly is investigating the incident as a possible civil rights violation, and more arrests are expected. A total of six people were involved in the attack, and a security guard says there’s been an upswing of gang activity around the nightclub. But just because something is gang related doesn’t mean it’s not a hate crime. In fact, it’s quite common for gang initiations to include bashing a queer, and here’s a story about another hate crime that occurred just a week before.

2. The Ugandan Parliament has adjourned without taking up an Anti-Homosexuality Bill that includes a death penalty provision, the Associated Press reports. The bill was slated to be considered today, but the speaker of the parliament says there isn’t enough time to debate the bill before the session ends next week.

3. A new poll shows that a majority of Minnesotans oppose a state constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage. The Minnesota Senate voted to place such an amendment on the 2012 ballot this week, and the House is expected to follow suit. But the poll shows that 55 percent oppose the amendment, while only 39 percent support it. Just seven years ago, a poll found that 58 percent of Minnesotans supported a ban on same-sex marriage.

—  John Wright

Victim’s sister says El Paso beating was anti-gay hate crime; police say victim still unconscious

El Paso police say they’ve been unable to determine whether a brutal beating outside a gay nightclub early Saturday was a hate crime because the victim remains unconscious. Detective Mike Baranyay, a spokesman for the police department, told Instant Tea that the 22-year-old victim suffered a serious head injury in the attack. The victim was punched, kicked and hit with a baseball bat by six attackers outside the Old Plantation nightclub, where he’d been waiting for a ride.

“He’s got pretty critical injuries,” Baranyay said this afternoon. “At this point we can’t confirm that it’s a hate crime or it’s not. Hopefully by tomorrow we’ll have some idea.”

Although police say don’t know whether the attack was a hate crime, the victim’s sister told KTSM-TV that even though her brother is not gay, she believes it was:

We spoke with the victim’s sister, Deanne Martinez, this morning at UMC where her brother is still listed in critical condition.

Martinez was there Saturday night and witnessed the attack. ”He was on the floor laying there knocked out and they still kept bashing his head with a bat. That to me is so cowardly.”

Martinez says she and another family member tried to stop the attack but the men turned on them. “I was trying to pull out my brother and she was pushing off the guys. They ended up bashing her Jeep Liberty.”

So far police say they have no evidence to call the attack a hate crime. Martinez calls that ridiculous.

She says her brother isn’t gay but he was alone outside of a gay club and the men who attacked him made it clear why they picked him.

Martinez said, “They were yelling gay slurs and yelling their gang name or where they’re from.”

Martinez also told us this isn’t the first time she’s heard of that same group of men harassing people in the area.

She hopes someone comes forward with information about who these guys are. “I want these guys to be caught. Because this was a brutal and heartless crime.”

Baranyay told Instant Tea there had been no arrests in the case as of this afternoon. He also said he doesn’t believe anti-gay violence is a problem in El Paso.

“We’re a very tolerant community,” he said. “People pretty much leave each other alone in this town.”

 

—  John Wright

Man severely beaten outside El Paso’s Old Plantation gay nightclub in possible hate crime

The Old Plantation in downtown El Paso.

A 22-year-old man is in critical condition after he was severely beaten by six attackers outside a popular gay nightclub in El Paso early this morning, the El Paso Times reports.

The man was waiting for a ride outside the Old Plantation club shortly after midnight when he got into an argument with the six suspects. From the El Paso Times:

Police said that the verbal confrontation became physical and the six suspects allegedly began punching, kicking the victim. The group allegedly also used a bat to hit the victim.

One of the victim’s friends, a woman, tried to help and had her vehicle damaged as she tried to do so.

Police said that the suspect struck her 2003 Jeep Liberty windshield with a bat to stop her from helping the victim. The suspects then fled the area in what appeared to be a van.

At least one media outlet is already calling the incident an anti-gay hate crime, but thus far there is no evidence confirming that.

Anyone with information on the case is asked to call the El Paso Police Department at 915-832-4400 or Crime Stoppers at 915-566-8477.

Stay tuned to Instant Tea for updates.

—  John Wright

CORRECTION: Union Jack older than The Bronx

I received a friendly phone call from Richard Longstaff, owner of Union Jack, who lamented the passing of The Bronx but reminded me that his store is older. In my recent story, I called The Bronx the oldest gay-owned business on the street.

Longstaff opened Union Jack in August 1971 on Hillcrest Avenue across from SMU. In December 1972, he moved to his current location on Cedar Springs Road. For several years, the only other gay-owned business on the street for several years was a bookstore owned by Larry Lingle.

The Bronx opened in the mid-’70s. In the late ’70s, Frank Caven leased property on the corner now occupied by Hunky’s. That space burned down before he opened, but he leased across the street and opened a bar called The Candy Store.

Throckmorton Mining Co. opened in the late ’70s. So did Magnolia’s, which became the Round-Up Saloon. The Old Plantation that became Village Station moved from downtown in the early ’80s.

But Union Jack was the fixture all along. The store moved from its current location after a fire in 1989 that also damaged the Dallas Gay Alliance office and the Round-Up.

Longstaff said he moved to a vacant storefront for about a year and a half as his original space was rebuilt. He has been back in that space since 1991.

In the early ’70s, Longstaff was the first person to appear on television in Dallas as a gay business owner. For years whenever anything happened in the LGBT community, it was filmed in front of his store.

So how did I forget that Union Jack was first?

“People think I’m years younger than I really am,” he said.

Of course that’s the reason.

—  David Taffet