Measure would ban anti-LGBT discrimination in Houston

Charter amendment could also allow DP benefits for city workers

DANIEL WILLIAMS  |  Contributing Writer

HOUSTON — Long-brewing plans to place a city-wide non-discrimination policy before Houston voters became public this week.

Since December a coalition of organizations and leaders have been working to draft a city charter amendment that would make it illegal to discriminate in housing, employment or public accommodations on the basis of  “age, race, color, creed, religion, national origin, ancestry, disability, marital status, gender, gender identity or expression, sexual orientation, or physical characteristic.”

The amendment would also remove anti-LGBT language added to the Houston city charter in 1985 and 2001 — which could allow the City Council to vote to offer health benefits to the domestic partners of municipal employees.

Houston Mayor Annise Parker, who famously became the only out LGBT person elected mayor of a major American city in 2009, has declined to comment on the proposed charter amendment until the language is finalized. She told the Houston Chronicle: “I believe it’s important for the city of Houston to send a signal to the world that we welcome everybody and that we treat everybody equally, and depending on the elements of what was actually in it, I might or might not support it,”

According to Equality Texas Executive Director Dennis Coleman, the prospect of Houston voters approving the non-discrimination amendment has ramifications for efforts to pass similar measures in the state Legislature.

“Nondiscrimination in Houston builds a better case for us when we go for nondiscrimination in Austin,” said Coleman. “To be able to tell representatives that they represent areas that already support these efforts is very helpful.”

The cities of Austin, Dallas and Fort Worth all already have similar nondiscrimination ordinances and offer DP benefits to employees.

But Houston’s form of governance makes this effort unique. While the City Council is empowered to pass city ordinances covering issues of discrimination, they can be overturned by popular vote if those opposing the ordinance collect 20,000 signatures to place the issue on the ballot.

That was the case in 1985 after Houston Mayor Kathy Whitmire pushed through the council the city’s first protections for gay and lesbian Houstonians (no protections were provided for the bisexual or transgender communities).

A coalition of right-wing voters led by Louie Welch, then president of the Houston Chamber of Commerce, was able to place the issue on a city-wide ballot, claiming the policy “promoted the homosexual lifestyle.” The group also recruited a “straight slate” of candidates to run against City Council members who had favored the protections, with Welch running against Whitmire.

The public vote on nondiscrimination was held in June 1985 and Welch’s forces prevailed, but the city’s temperament had changed by the time of the City Council and mayoral races in November. A comment of Welch’s that the solution to the AIDS crisis was to “shoot the queers” was aired on local TV and few in Houston wished to be associated with him after that. The “straight slate” failed to capture a single City Council seat and Whitmire remained mayor, but the defeat of the city’s nondiscrimination policy remained.

By 1998 Houston had changed: Annise Parker was serving as the city’s first out lesbian city council member and Houston boasted the state’s first out gay judge, John Paul Barnich. Mayor Lee Brown, sensing the change, issued an executive order protecting LGBT city employees from employment discrimination. But the city had not changed that much. Councilman Rob Todd led efforts to fight the order in court, arguing that since voters rejected city-wide protections from discrimination in 1985, it was inappropriate for the mayor to institute them without voter approval. The city spent the next three years defending the policy in court, finally emerging victorious.

The joy of that 2001 victory would be shortlived, however. That year Houston’s voters approved another amendment to the city charter, this time prohibiting the city from providing domestic partner benefits for city employees. In a narrow defeat, just over 51 percent of voters decided that the city should not offer competitive benefits.

The current proposed non-discrimination amendment would remove the language added in 1985 and 2001. While it would provide non-discrimination protections it would not require the city to offer benefits of any kind to the spouses of LGBT city employees, leaving that question back in the hands of the City Council.

The organizers of the current effort are confident that this year is the year for victory.

Noel Freeman, the president of the Houston GLBT Political Caucus, which is spearheading the effort, explains that the previous votes occurred in “non-presidential years,”when voter turnout in general is low, and conservative voters make up a larger percentage of the electorate.

Additionally, polling by Equality Texas in 2010 showed that 80 percent of Houstonians support employment protections for gay and lesbian people.

In order to place the non-discrimination amendment on the November ballot the coalition supporting it will need to collect 20,000 signatures of registered Houston voters and submit them to the city clerk. Freeman says that the final charter amendment language is still under consideration and that once it is finalized the group will begin collecting signatures.

Even former Councilman Todd, who once fought the city’s policy of non-discrimination for LGBT employees, supports the current effort.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition February 17, 2012.

—  Michael Stephens

Starvoice • 09.09.11

By Jack Fertig

CELEBRITY BIRTHDAY

Jennifer Hudson turns 30 on Monday.
The Oscar winner has made headlines in the recent past mostly on her weight loss. She talks to Self magazine this month about losing over 80 pounds. This year, she returns to the big screen in Winnie, portraying Nelson Mandela’s wife, and in 2012’s The Three Stooges.

…………………..

THIS WEEK

Venus coming home to Libra normally helps us to be more gracious, social and polite. Opposing Uranus on the way in whips up some crazy ideas of what that might mean. Compassion and imagining yourself in the other’s position is usually the best way to start out.

…………………..

VIRGO Aug 23-Sep 22
You find amazing deals at estate sales, perhaps even your true love. If you already have one, bring him or her along and you find some treasure that will become an emblematic keepsake.

LIBRA Sep 23-Oct 22
You’re looking especially gorgeous. The attention you get will surprise you. Of course you’re not just a pretty face; a new contact could prove very helpful as a colleague.

SCORPIO Oct 23-Nov 21
Hiding out from the social whirl may give you peace, but doesn’t do much for your anxieties. Hum the first tune that comes to mind. That song will offer insights to face your worries.

SAGITTARIUS Nov 22-Dec 20
Party it up but don’t go overboard. Seek out new, interesting, unusual people at these events. Their perspectives can trigger new insights into your own roots.

CAPRICORN Dec 21-Jan 19
Career opportunities are looking good, but are you prepared? Know your strengths and the difference between reaching and overreaching. Work causes you to neglect issues at home.

AQUARIUS Jan 20-Feb 18
Think a little harder before opening your mouth. Does it really need to be said? Your words carry more weight than you realize. Treat them like currency and don’t waste them.

PISCES Feb 19-Mar 19
Opportunities abound as Venus is flashing her goodies in your house of illicit pleasures. She offers a deeper challenge to re-
examine your priorities and values.

ARIES Mar 20-Apr 19
You’re suddenly looking marriageable no matter what local laws allow. Let someone special see your inner wounds. Allowing yourself to be vulnerable shows confidence in both of you.

TAURUS Apr 20-May 20
A friend in need is a pain in the ass. You have your own problems. Even so, helping out your pal can not only get you out of your own problems for a bit, but help point you to a solution.

GEMINI May 21-Jun 20
Your idea of social outreach is a little outré. One on one is fine for scaring off people you don’t want to deal with, but if you’re working with a group, behave accordingly.

CANCER Jun 21-Jul 22
New recipes go better than you’d hoped for. Even if things screw up, you get points for trying. At work keep your boss up on any experiments, just in case.

LEO Jul 23-Aug 22
Advice is not necessarily appreciated, as you could find out the hard way. An earnest, soul-searching talk about sex can be more satisfying than actually doing it. Not that one rules out the other.

Jack Fertig can be reached at 415-864-8302 or Starjack.com

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition September 9, 2011.

—  Kevin Thomas

Cindy McCain does video opposing DADT, accuses ‘our government’ of sending signal that bullying is okay – her hubbie is the lead defender of DADT

John McCain is leading the filibuster against the “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” “repeal” legislation in the Senate (it’s not an actual repeal, but we’ll leave that for another time).  Today, Cindy McCain joined a number of celebrities in a video about gay youth suicide and bullying.  Mrs. McCain’s part of the video condemned DADT and then accused our government of sending bullies a message that what they do is okay.

The woman basically accused her husband of sharing the blame for gay kids killing themselves.

I’m astonished.  And impressed as hell.

CINDY MCCAIN:

Our political and religious leaders tell LGBT youth that they have no future.

They can’t serve our country openly.

VARIETY OF SPEAKERS:

What’s worse, these laws that legislate discrimination teach bullies that what they’re doing is acceptable.

CINDY MCCAIN:

Our government treats the LGBT community like second class citizens, why shouldn’t they?




AMERICAblog Gay

—  admin

Nine States File Brief With Federal Court Opposing Marriage Equality

It happened late in the day yesterday in what seems to be a clear reaction to last month's Prop 8 ruling. According to the Associated Press:

Tr Wyoming and nine other states have filed a gay marriage opposition brief to a federal appeals court in California.
The amicus brief sent Friday to the 9th Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals said that the Constitution does not require marriage to include same-sex couples. The 39-page brief also said that states, not federal courts, have final say in whether to allow same-sex marriages.

The Casper Star-Tribune reported that other states who joined the brief against gay marriage are Alabama, Florida, Idaho, Indiana, Louisiana, Michigan, South Carolina, Utah and Virginia. They argued that same-sex marriage is not a fundamental right.

"If public affirmation of anyone and everyone's personal love and commitment is the single purpose of marriage, a limitless number of rights claims could be set up that evacuate the term marriage of any meaning," the brief said. The amicus brief was criticized by Jason Marsden, of the Matthew Shepard Foundation, a Denver-based gay-rights organization. He told the newspaper it was "very puzzling" that Wyoming Attorney General Bruce Salzburg joined given that he Wyoming Legislature last year defeated a resolution to ban recognition of gay marriages performed in other states.


Towleroad News #gay

—  John Wright

Prop 8 Plaintiffs File Motion Opposing Judge Walker’s Stay

The American Foundation for Equal Rights, who represented the plaintiffs in the Prop 8 trial, filed the motion yesterday, the day it was due.

Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger and attorney general Jerry Brown filed their own motions yesterday as well.

Ob AFER issued the following statement calling for same-sex marriages in California to resume at once.

“The unconstitutionality of Proposition 8 has been proven beyond a doubt. Extending Prop. 8’s denial of fundamental constitutional rights represents a grave injustice. The time for the court’s ruling to go into effect is now. We welcome Governor Schwarzenegger’s and Attorney General Brown’s opposition of a stay after their thoughtful analysis of the evidence, the court’s ruling and the law.”

Read the full motion here.

The National Center for Lesbian Rights has published an explanation on the possible ways the stay could potentially play out:

"Judge Walker can decide whether to stay the decision for longer at any time. If he grants the motion to stay, same-sex couples will not be able to marry in California until after the appeal is finished. The Judge can also delay the decision for a short time until the Ninth Circuit appeals court decides whether they will order a stay. If Judge Walker denies the stay and permits his decision to take immediate effect, the Yes on 8 proponents can ask the Ninth Circuit appeals court to order an emergency stay. Several counties have announced that, if Judge Walker lifts the stay, they are ready to begin issuing licenses and performing civil ceremonies for same-sex couples."

Meanwhile, David Boies, one half of the team who repped the prop 8 plaintiffs, told a large crowd in San Francisco that he believes it is a "dead certainty" the case will end up in the hands of the US Supreme Court. Watch a clip of him speak, AFTER THE JUMP.

Finally, Equality California is calling on everyone to sign their electronic petition that urges Meg Whitman and Steve Cooley, who are running for the CA governorship and AG positions respectively, to state that they will refuse to defend Prop 8 in court if they are ever elected.

Sign it here.


Towleroad News #gay

—  John Wright