Laster becomes first out gay man on Houston City Council

Mike Laster

Mike Laster

With 57% of precincts reporting Mike Laster is the presumptive victor in the Houston District J City Council race. Laster, an out gay candidate endorsed by the Victory Fund and the Houston GLBT Political Caucus, has a commanding lead with 67% of the vote. His nearest opponent Criselda Romero trails with 22%.

Laster is the first out gay man to be elected to the Houston City Council.

From the Victory Fund website:

A graduate of the University of Texas at Austin’s Plan II Honors Program, Mike earned his Juris Doctorate from the University of Houston Law Center. While at the Law Center, Mike distinguished himself as the National Vice Chair of the American Bar Association Law Student Division.

Today Mike is an attorney specializing in real estate with the firm of Williams, Birnberg & Andersen, L.L.P. in Houston, where he has practiced for the past thirteen years. From 1989 to 1995, Mike served as a Senior Assistant City Attorney in the Real Estate Division of the City Attorney’s Office, where he handled many aspects of a general real estate and development practice for the city.

—  admin

East coast victories for LGBT candidates

While we’re waiting here in Houston for the results of today’s municipal elections the Victory Fund reports of victories for LGBT candidates on the East coast where polls closed an hour earlier than Texas.

State Del. Adam Ebbin (D-District 30) was elected to Virginia’s state Senate today, making him the Commonwealth’s first openly gay senator.

“I am honored by the trust the voters have showed in me,”  Ebbin said in a statement. “During the campaign, I listened to the voters’ concerns and will work on behalf of the values we all share: improving our public schools, expanding our transit system and cleaning up Virginia’s environment. I will make sure their voices are heard…”

“Alex Morse, a 22-year-old graduate of Brown University, has just been elected mayor of Holyoke, Mass., a city of nearly 40,000 residents near Springfield…”

“Zach Adamson has won his race for city council in Indianapolis, giving the city its first openly LGBT city council member.”

“An incumbent on the Largo, Fla., City Commission who attacked her openly gay opponent over his sexual orientation has lost her reelection bid to him tonight. Michael Smith defeated Mary Gray Black, who has a history of anti-gay and anti-trans activism on the commission.”

—  admin

DEALING with it

A LEAGUE OF OUR  OWN | Flirting can be used to your advantage when playing poker in a gay league. Just ask Pocket Rockets founder Jeff Teller. (Arnold Wayne Jones/Dallas Voice)

Even with Lady Gaga’s advice, poker face does nothing to help the couch potato know when to hold ’em and fold ’em in gay traveling card tourney

RICH LOPEZ  | Staff Writer
lopez@dallasvoice.com

Playing for money without really playing for money is my kind of betting. With gas at three bucks a gallon, my wallet is screaming for help, but Pocket Rockets turns me into one high roller. All I really have to dole out is a couple of bucks for drinks and put on a poker face for some Texas Hold ‘em action at three clubs around the gayborhood. The best part — total exhilaration — comes even when my ass is handed to me by my opponent’s full house.

“We go out of our way to make sure people are comfortable in poker setting,” says owner Jeff Teller. “It’s just about fun.”

At Sue Ellen’s on a recent Tuesday, I got my game on. Activities that involve sitting while partaking of alcohol are ideal for the dedicated couch potato. The cardio behind it is just my speed at the deal … but seriously, poker is stressful. Thinking it would be all drinks and laughs, the “fun table” was just as serious as the tournament final table dealing across the dance floor. I’d played Texas Hold ‘em once before at some friends’ loft. Once. And that was three years ago. Without Cliff’s Notes in hand, I was about to be “that guy.” But once people figured I was the speed bump, they all pitched in to help.

“Lots of people are intimidated by poker, but we’re really friendly,” Teller assures. “[My partner, Aaron Ahamed and I] were nervous our first time. The one thing we do at our league is, we emphasize good sportsmanship. I really feel that enables us to bring in new players.”

By day, Teller is a yoga teacher and licensed massage therapist, but his interest in poker got him started on the path with his new company.

Poker isn’t new to Dallas gays: The Round-Up Saloon hosts a Wednesday tourney that goes on hiatus for a while after each championship. Pocket Rockets, however, runs continuously, offering prizes each night (which I didn’t win).

Teller says up to 45 players will play on any given night, which (as of now) takes place four times a week. Along with Sue Ellen’s on Tuesdays, Pocket Rockets hosts poker tourneys at TMC: The Mining Company on Thursdays and at the Brick Saturdays and Sundays. Teller and Ahamed plan to keep players going at each of those venues while adding more.

“We’re making an effort to get out there, be involved,” he says. “We started going and went to a couple of other leagues and thought how nice it’d be to put emphasis on gay community.”

My night of play, despite my half-hearted efforts in true CPAJ style, left me a total loser. My first plan of attack wasn’t working: Fold and never bet until people fell out of the game. This was not a good idea. Confusion led to checking which led to unfortunate bets. When I looked down I had less than 10 chips — just over a $1,000. This was the inevitable “fuck it moment” and I went all-in with a hand that I felt confident about … too confident as it turned out.

With an ace and a queen in hand and an ace and queen on the table, I had a strong two pair hand. I was edging, trying not to jump ahead to do my “in your face” dance. Something about a side bet would have put me back on track but another player won with his ace and king, also mirrored on the table. One other player had his ace but a weaker hand. It was climactic and the table rallied with “ohhhs” as each hand revealed.

“Yeah, there’s that drama because queens are playing,” Teller says. “ Some people take their game so seriously that you’d think the Super Bowl was going on. You can’t help the drama.”

I have no idea what he’s talking about.

Going in as a novice, margaritas and beers obviously did not affect my judgment, but Teller still gave me tips on how to be ready for the next time.

“Sense you’re players and if they are cute, that could work in your favor,” he says. “You can distract with flirtation and then all of the sudden take him out. And glute exercises, because sometimes you’re sitting for hours at a time.”

Wait, exercise? Ugh.

For more information, visit PocketRocketsDallas.com.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition Feb. 25, 2011.

—  John Wright

What’s Brewing: Ugandan gay activist murdered; Ark. store unshields magazine; Ted Haggard

Your weekday morning blend from Instant Tea:

1. A prominent opponent of Uganda’s “kill gays” legislation has been beaten to death at his home in the African country, according to Human Rights Watch. Gay activist David Kato’s murder comes a little more than three months after he was outed on the cover of a tabloid magazine that called for him and others to be hanged (above). Then again, violent rhetoric shouldn’t be blamed for murder, right? So this item is probably just another example of “blood libel.”

2. Speaking of magazine covers, Harps Food Stores issued a statement Wednesday saying it has removed a shield that was placed over a magazine cover depicting (gasp!) gay parents at one of its stores in Arkansas. The company says it removed the shield from a US Weekly cover featuring Elton John and his family in response to complaints received at its corporate office. Watch Anderson Cooper discuss the controversy with Dr. Phil below.

3. Disgraced televangelist Ted Haggard says he’s “bisexual” in a new GQ interview but claims he only used the meth he bought from escort Mike Jones for masturbation. C’mon, does Haggard really think he can get into Heaven with that lame excuse?

—  John Wright

Is Wyoming the next gay marriage battleground?

State Rep. Cathy Connolly

In the state-by-state march toward marriage equality, four states have been on the radar for possible legalization of same-sex marriage this year. This week, a fifth state became a new possibility.

According to the Billings Gazette, Wyoming State Rep. Cathy Connolly, D-Laramie, will file two bills. One would legalize same-sex marriage, the other civil unions. Connolly is lesbian.

Wyoming does not have a constitutional amendment that bans same-sex marriage. Bills have been filed to change that, and Connolly’s bills are in response.

Like Iowa, where same-sex marriage became legal a few years ago, Wyoming does have a history of equality. When Wyoming was admitted to the union in 1890, it became the first to allow women to vote and was the first to elect a woman governor. (That was 1924 and Texas elected a woman — “Ma” Ferguson — that year as well).

In Wyoming’s 60-seat lower house, only 10 of those seats are held by Democrats. In the Senate, only four out of 30 are Democrats.

Four other states that may consider marriage equality this year are New York, Rhode Island, Maryland and Minnesota.

Of those four, Rhode Island and Maryland are the states where it is most likely to pass. Rhode Island’s new governor favors marriage equality and Democrats hold a strong majority in both houses. Their former governor opposed equality although the state already recognizes marriages performed elsewhere.

Maryland has been studying equality for more than a year and a bill is progressing.

New York recognizes marriages performed elsewhere and two courts have upheld that recognition. The state’s new governor, Andrew Cuomo, supports equality, as did their former governor, but the state Senate has a one-vote Republican majority that may block passage.

In his inaugural speech, Cuomo said, “We believe in justice for all, then let’s pass marriage equality this year once and for all.”

Minnesota’s new governor campaigned as an LGBT ally, countering his opponent’s staunch anti-gay bigotry. Support of the Republican is what led to an unorganized Target boycott. The new Democrat has said he supports marriage equality and would like to see a bill pass.

—  David Taffet

John McCain doesn’t want whoever manages Sarah Palin’s Twitter account to think he’s gay

Sen. John McCain

Arizona Republican Sen. John McCain, the leading opponent of the repeal of “don’t ask don’t tell,” now says he will do everything he can to make it work. The Hill reports:

McCain signaled that he had made peace with the lame-duck bill to do away with the military’s ban on openly gay and lesbian service members, of which he had been an outspoken critic.

“I think I have to do everything I can to make sure that the [impact on the] morale, retention, recruitment and battle effectiveness of the military is minimized as much as possible,” McCain said on Fox Business. “It is a law and I have to do whatever I can to help the men and women who are serving, particularly in combat, cope with this new situation. I will do everything I can to make it work.”

Who knows for sure what’s behind McCain’s change of heart, which is just the latest in his series of flip-flops on the issue. But we’d be willing to bet that it’s politically motivated on some level.

Of course, we could also speculate that his wife, Cindy, finally got to him. Or that he saw Sarah Palin’s retweet the other day and set out to again prove that he’s not gay. In any case, he remains firmly atop our Top 10 RINFs, which is a companion to this list.

—  John Wright

Log Cabin seeks vacation (*and not like the way they helped vacate DADT hero Patrick Murphy by endorsing his opponent)

Screen Shot 2010-11-05 At 4.56.43 PmThe Log Cabin Republicans have filed with SCOTUS, seeking to vacate the Ninth Circuit Court order staying Judge Phillips’s injunction pending appeal. Translation: The gay GOP group thinks the stay stinks, so they want it go the way midwestern Democrats did on Tuesday night:

If the Court vacates the stay order, DADT is dead pending the appeal, and we have for all intents and purposes won. If it doesn’t, we will next move in the Ninth Circuit to expedite the Judge Phillips’s decision.

Log Cabin Republicans File U.S. Supreme Court Appeal Of DADT Overturn Stay [J.M.G]

We’ll have to wait and see if this goes anywhere. You DADT watchers are used to that by now, yes?




Good As You

—  admin

Barney Frank Accuses Limbaugh Of ‘Vicious, Homophobic’ Attack, Helping Republican Opponent

Franklimbaugh

Barney Frank has had enough of Rush Limbaugh. Though Limbaugh frequently takes shots at the openly gay Massachusetts representative, Frank insists Limbaugh's latest antics crossed the proverbial line.

It all began last week, when Limbaugh referred to Frank, chairman of the House Financial Services Committee, as the "banking queen" and played the song "My Boy Lollypop," with bonus slurping sounds, while discussing the incumbent Democrat, who's up for reelection.

Frank found the entire thing offensive, and told MSNBC's Lawrence O'Donnell last night that the incident qualifies as a "vicious" and "homophobic" attack, one that's designed to help Frank's opponent:

[Limbaugh] just launched this very, even for him, vicious, homophobic attack.

My opponent, the Republican, Sean Bielat, who‘s running against me, told “The Wall Street Journal,” before they told me today, that he raised a lot of money from out of state.  He was very explicit earlier this year.  He said if I can‘t get help out of state I can‘t win this thing.  He‘s helped by the right wing media, by Hannity and Limbaugh, by FOX News.

Frank's campaign reiterated their collective displeasure today by calling Limbaugh's actions "disgusting" and "revolting."

Watch Frank's remarks, AFTER THE JUMP.



The Limbaugh-related discussion starts at the 4:55 mark.


Towleroad News #gay

—  John Wright

Business Week on Annise Parker, lesbian

Annise Parker at Dallas Pride.

Business Week ran a story this week about Houston Mayor Annise Parker.

She told the magazine that when she first started running for office, it was as if “lesbian” was her last name.

When Craig McDaniel sat on the Dallas city council, he used to jokingly refer to himself as Craig McDaniel, F.O.G. Those initials, which stood for First Openly Gay, came from every reference to him by the Dallas Morning News, even when the story was about something completely unrelated. If the story was about the opening of the State Fair, it would have read, “Mayor Ron Kirk, council member Chris Luna and First Openly Gay Councilman Craig McDaniel were at the State Fair today….”

Parker’s office forwarded me a link to the story from Business Week. After rereading my own story about Parker from last week, I noticed I used the word “lesbian” 10 times. Once was referring to Christine Quinn, who heads the New York City Council, so that doesn’t count; and once referred to Dallas County Sheriff Lupe Valdez, so neither does that one. The others were mostly quoting her, though. And I never called her “Annise Parker, Lesbian.”

But during our conversation, I did ask about some of the issues she’s passionate about — like fixing the flooding problems in South Houston and other infrastructure problems. And we talked about her trade mission to China.

I think I was clearer about why she actually won — most people in Houston got past the whole lesbian thing and voted for the person they thought would do the best job. Her opponent in the runoff was a good guy who would have made a decent mayor but she had a lot more experience than anyone else running and people just like her. Her approval rating has soared since the election.

I’m surprised Business Week missed one important business piece of the story — she’s the only big city mayor who hasn’t had to lay anyone off, mostly because she’s been good at managing the budget.

She’s advanced the image of gays and lesbians as being hard-working average Americans. In my talk with her she said her family and friends were surprised when she ended up running for public office because she was more of a nerdy policy wonk.

She told Business Week, “I’m a middle-aged soccer mom and I appear in public with my spouse of 20 years and my kids. It’s hard to make me scary.”

But the line I really love is, “I take a lot of credit for raising Houston’s coolness factor.”

She’s right. We love Houston’s mayor, but Dallas has always been much cooler.

—  David Taffet

Rep. Grayson Launches ‘Taliban’ Attack on GOP Opponent Webster

Talibandanwebster

Hoping to sway voters their way this November, Democrats are rolling out an aggressive, exceedingly negative campaign strategy to smear their Republican opponents, and the trend's definitely taken hold down in Florida, where Rep. Alan Grayson has launched a hardball at virulently conservative GOP opponent Daniel Webster.

"Democratic candidates across the country are opening a fierce offensive of negative advertisements against Republicans, using lawsuits, tax filings, reports from the Better Business Bureau and even divorce proceedings to try to discredit their opponents and save their Congressional majority," the New York Times reported yesterday.

The offensive clearly includes comparing opponents to religious fanatics, as Grayson does in his commercial, "Taliban Dan Webster."

"Religious fanatics try to take away our freedom in Afghanistan, Iran and right here in central Florida," the female narrator says before the viewer hears audio of Webster saying a wife should "submit" to her husband. "Daniel Webster wants to impose his radical fundamentalism on us… Taliban Dan Webster, hands of our bodies, and our laws."

Webster's campaign website stays away from gay issues, which are roiling in Florida, although he does describe himself as a "family man," so often used as code for anti-equality. Further, Webster's largest campaign contributions com from Christian Nationalist David Barton, whose organization, Providence Foundation, hopes to implement Old Testament law, like the stoning of gay people, a punishment also championed by the Taliban.

So, this leads to the larger question: does Webster deserve to be compared to the Taliban, or is this just "dirty politics?"

Watch Grayson's commercial, AFTER THE JUMP, and decide for yourself…


Towleroad News #gay

—  John Wright