AIDS housing funding survives challenge in Houston city council

Helena Brown

The city funding for four Houston nonprofits providing housing to at-risk populations living with HIV/AIDS survived a challenge from city council member Helena Brown last Wednesday. Under consideration by the council were ordinances to dispense almost $2.5 million in federal funds managed by the city to the SRO Housing Corporation, Bering Omega Community Services, Catholic Charities and SEARCH Homeless services.

Brown initially used a parliamentary procedure known as a “tag” to delay the funding for the Houston SRO Housing Corporation and Bering Omega. Any council member may tag an item under consideration, delaying the vote on the item for one week. Brown explained that she objected to government funding of charitable entities:

“I spoke last week on this very issue on grant funds and the idea that we are, you know, fighting with other entities and other governments for grant funds that really isn’t there. The federal government is in a worse condition than the city of Houston and to continue to try to milk the system where there’s no milk, is just, I mean, we’re fighting with our brothers, as I said last week, to get credit for who is going to push a friend over the cliff… We need to continue to look at the private sector and the business sector. Because even, I attended this event where this wonderful speaker was talking about the generosity of Americans and 80% of donations to nonprofits come from private individuals, not even corporations, and we need to continue to rely on that right now because the government right now, we’re broke – we need to face that reality.”

Other council members spoke passionately of the need for continued funding, arguing that by assisting people living with HIV/AIDS in achieving independence, particularly those who are homeless or at risk of homelessness,  the programs added to the tax based and help insure long-term stability.

“We don’t live in a perfect a world,” said freshman council member Mike Laster (the first out gay man to serve on the Houston City Council). “These organizations do their very best to raise money to care for the people among us, but they still need to reach out to entities that have that kind of capital, and by the grace of God this city and this government as an entity has some of that capitol, and I’m very proud that we’re able to provide those kind of services to some of my community members.”

Council member Wanda Adams, who serves as chair of the council’s Housing and Community Development Committee, also spoke in favor of continuing funding. Council member Ellen Cohen, whose district contains both SRO Housing and Bering Omega, spoke of how her life had personally been touched by AIDS:

“One of the first young men to pass away in New York City was a cousin of mine of something [then] called a very rare form on pneumonia… which we now realize was not. So I understand the need for these kinds of services. On a personal note I worked with Bering and I know all the fine work that they do, I’m addressing all the items but I’m particularly addressing [the Bering Omega funding] and feel it’s absolutely critical that we provide the kind of funding items, and that we are, in fact, our brother’s and our sister’s keepers.

After Laster asked Mayor Annise Parker the procedure for overriding a tag Brown removed her tag, but raised a new concern about HIV/AIDS housing, saying that her office had requested a list of the owners of apartment units where those receiving rental assistance lived. City Attorney David Feldman explained to Brown that federal law prohibits making public information that could be used to identify people receiving assistance through the housing program. Feldman said that, in his legal opinion, revealing the names of the owners of the apartments would violate federal law. Brown said that she was concerned that their might be a “conflict of interest” with apartment owners that needed to be investigated, claiming that as the reason for her tag.

Brown eventually removed her tag, rather than have it overturned. All four ordinances providing funding passed with only Brown voting “nay.”

—  admin

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

Out & Equal to honor Parker, Welts

Mayor Annise Parker

Out & Equal Workplace Advocates will honor Houston Mayor Annise Parker and Golden State Warriors President Rick Welts at its Leadership Celebration on March 14 in San Francisco.

In October, Out & Equal held its week-long Workplace Summit at the Hilton Anatole in Dallas. Because of rave reviews, the group plans to return in the next few years. Welts was among the speakers at the Dallas convention.

Now in its fifth year, the Leadership Celebration is a fundraising event that includes a hosted reception and dinner. Parker and Welts will be recognized as role models and inspirations in the movement to achieve equality in the workforce.

To attend the San Francisco event, register online.

The 2012 Workplace Summit will be in Baltimore on from Oct. 29-Nov 1.

—  David Taffet

Annise Parker now co-chair of “Mayors for the Freedom to Marry,” Austin’s Leffingwell joins

Lee Leffingwell

Austin's Mayor Lee Leffingwell

Houstini reported yesterday that Houston’s Mayor Annise Parker was scheduled to appear at the “Mayors for the Freedom to Marry” press conference in Washington D.C., and that she was the only Texas mayor to participate. This morning we found out that Parker, along with New York’s Michael Bloomberg and L.A.’s Antonio Villaraigosa, is serving as co-chair for the effort. Additionally Austin’s Mayor Lee Leffingwell has joined the effort.

So that makes 2 of Texas’ 1,215 mayors with the bravery to stand up for what’s right, leaving the citizens of 1,213 citizens with the task of persuading their mayors. In Dallas Daniel Cates of GetEqual has started an online petition encouraging Mayor Mike Rawlings to sign on which currently has 216 signatories. The Dallas Voice reports that Rawlings claims to personally support marriage equality, despite his unwillingness to join “Mayors for the Freedom to Marry:”

“This one obviously was very difficult for me, because I personally believe in the rights of the gay community to marry,” Rawlings said Thursday… “I think this [same-sex marriage] is way overdue and we need to get on with it, but that’s my personal belief, and when I start to speak on behalf of the city of Dallas … I’ve got to be thoughtful about how I use that office and what I want to impact, and that’s why I decided to stay away from endorsing and signing letters like that.”

Rawlings’ chief of staff, Paula Blackmon, told the Voice “the mayor does not plan to publicly support any social issues but would rather focus on the policy issues that impact Dallas,” adding “we have not signed onto other similar requests.”

—  admin

World AIDS Day event planned in Plano

Roseann Rosetti opening a Quilt panel

In addition to co-sponsoring the World AIDS Day event at the new Main Street Garden in Dallas, C.U.R.E. will host a commemoration in Plano.

Billed as a ceremony of healing and hope, the Plano gathering will remember people lost to AIDS. Panels from the AIDS Memorial Quilt will be on display. It takes place at Community Unitarian Universalist Church at 2875 East Parker Road. Plano-based Health Services of North Texas is also sponsoring.

“Our ceremony will include the dedication of new panels created by family and friends of a loved one lost to AIDS,” said C.U.R.E. co-founder Roseann Rosetti. “The new panels will be presented to The Names Project Foundation to be included as part of the nationally acclaimed AIDS Memorial Quilt.”

Anyone with a new panel to present may attend the ceremony.

“If you would like to present a panel in honor of someone you know and love, C.U.R.E. will be honored have you dedicate and present your panel at our World AIDS Day ceremony,” Rosetti said.

The panels will be sent to the Names Project’s home in Atlanta to be sewn into blocks for exhibit.

—  David Taffet

WATCH: Annise Parker wins second term as Houston Mayor

Annise Parker

Annise Parker greets the crowds at her victory party

Before a cheering crowd at Houston’s Union Station Annise Parker thanked her supporters and family for making her reelection as mayor of Houston possible. With 50.86% of the vote Parker narrowly avoided a runoff, but handily defeated her nearest opponent, Jack O’Conner, who received less than 15% of the vote.  The reelection to the office of mayor marks Parker’s eighth victory in a citywide election as she previously served three terms as an at-large city council member and three terms as city comptroller.

—  admin

Dave Wilson robo-calls Houstonians, warns of Annise Parker’s ‘alternative lifestyle’

Houston mayoral candidate Dave Wilson has stepped up his homophobic attacks against incumbent Mayor Annise Parker with a recent robo-call targeting Houston voters:

“Hello Houstonians, this is Dave Wilson, candidate for mayor. In 2009 I warned voters that Annise Parker would use her position to promote her alternative lifestyle, and she’s done that. Her very first executive order was to allow men dressed as women to use the women’s restroom. Her appointments have been based on sexual orientation, rather than ability. She appointed George Greanias, head of Metro, who was caught viewing porn sites such as rentaboy.com. Dave Wilson would have fired him on the spot. Join me in taking our city back, vote Dave Wilson, paid for by the Dave Wilson for Mayor.”

Wilson’s call contains several misleading, or outright false, claims, such as saying that Parker’s first executive order was to allow “men dressed as women to use the women’s restroom.” The first executive order Parker signed after being sworn in (E.O. #1-50), clarified the process for filing sexual harassment claims for city employees. The second (E.O #1-25) dealt with city operations during a natural disaster, the third (E.O. #1-42) with city credit cards, and the fourth (E.O. 1-14) with the city’s procurement procedure. The fifth and sixth executive orders signed by Parker (E.O. 1-8 and E.O. 1-20) dealt with discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity and expression and the use of hate language by City of Houston employees while on the job. Both order were signed on March 25, 2011, 2 months and 23 days after Parker took office. These are is the ones that chafe Wilson. Under order 1-20 access to public accommodations in city buildings, including restrooms, cannot be denied to any member of the public because they are LGBT. While Wilson fears “men in dresses” discretely handling their business in the stall next to his wife, he seems to miss that it also allows burly, bearded men who happened to have been assigned a female identity at birth to use the men’s room. One wonders if he’s ever thought about that.

Executive Order 1-20 is about basic courtesy and access to public facilities that most of us take for granted. No one should be put in the position of risking arrest for using a public restroom (which happened shortly after E.O. 1-20 went into effect), and it is humiliating to expect trans Houstonians to have to ask “which bathroom do you expect me to use” every time they’re in a city building.

The situation with George Greanias, CEO of Houston’s public transit system Metro, is far more complicated than Wilson describes it. To hear the robo-call you’d think Greanias was simply caught looking at pornography, a constitutionally protected right. The issue is that Greanias was caught looking at porn on Metro’s internet wi-fi, all be it accidentally. According to the Metro investigation Greanias accessed sites containing gay oriented adult material on 14 separate days between February 9, 2011 to July 1, 2011. The access was from Greanias’ personal computer and he believed through his personal internet access. In a letter to Metro employees he explained that “the violation was unintentional. I thought I was using my own computer, but was in fact in Metro’s system — but it was a violation all the same. The sites I accessed were of a sexual nature — to say the least, highly inappropriate, and embarrassing.”

Typically a violation of this nature by a Metro employee would have resulted in a verbal warning. Because of the high profile nature of Greanias’ job he received a much harsher punishment. According to Metro’s official statement “Chairman Gilbert Garcia has concluded that, as president and CEO, Mr. Greanias must be held to a higher standard, and decided instead of a warning Mr. Greanias would receive a more stringent punishment of one week suspension, without pay.”

None of that matters to Wilson. He “would have fired [Greanias] on the spot,” bypassing the review process guaranteed to all Metro employees and likely subjecting the city to a very expensive lawsuit. More than his overt homophobia, it’s Wilson’s blind ignorance of the procedural facts of running a city that should frighten Houstonians.

Early voting in Houston municipal elections (including mayor) continues through Nov. 3 at all early voting locations. Election day is Nov. 8. Early voting turnout continues to lag; votes cast during the first four days of voting have trailed the 2009 municipal election turnout by 21%.

—  admin

Tony Award wrap-up: Totally gay (again)

It was an untenable situation for the gay Dallasite: Watch the Tony Awards or game 6 of the Mavs? Thank god I had two DVRs. Best of both worlds.

Of course, the Tony Awards are always the gayest of award shows, and they did nothing to disguise that Sunday night starting with the opening number by the telecast’s gay host, Neil Patrick Harris, “‘[Theater] is not Just for Gays Anymore.” He then did a medley duet with Hugh Jackman that was damn funny. (It got even gayer when Martha Wash performed “It’s Raining Men” with cast of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert.)

Then the first award of the evening went to Ellen Barkin for her Broadway debut in Larry Kramer’s The Normal Heart, giving a shout out to the 30th anniversary of the AIDS epidemic. She was immediately followed by gay actor and Plano native John Benjamin Hickey for his role in The Normal Heart. (He even chastised his family: “You’d better not be watching the Mavericks game.” Sorry, John, I for one kept flipping between them.) The play also won the award for best revival — a controversial choice, since The Normal Heart never opened on Broadway until this year, usually a requirement for a revival nominations (some thought it should be eligible for best play). Kramer accepted the award. “To gay people everywhere whom I love so, The Normal Heart is our history. I could not have written it had not so many of us so needlessly died. Learn from it and carry on the fight.”

The very gay-friendly Book of Mormon from South Park creators Trey Parker and Matt Stone won several off-camera awards, including score of a musical (the composers thanking gay producer Scott Rudin), orchestrations, scenic design, lighting design and sound design, before taking their first onscreen trophy for best direction of a musical to Parker and gay director Casey Nicholaw (The Drowsy Chaperone), on its way to winning nine total awards, including best musical, best featured actress (newcomer Nikki M. James, defeating prior winners Laura Benanti, Patti LuPone and Victoria Clark and prior nominee Tammy Blanchard) and book of a musical.

“This is such a waste of time — it’s like taking a hooker to dinner,” said best musical presenter Chris Rock before announcing The Book of Mormon for the night’s last prize, best musical.

Other winners in the musical category include John Larroquette for best featured actor (How to Succeed…, apparently the only straight nominee in his category), choreographer Kathleen Marshall for Anything Goes, which also beat How to Succeed for best revival of a musical and won best actress for Sutton Foster. Norbert Leo Butz was the surprise winner for best actor in a musical for Catch Me If You Can. One more really gay winner: Priscilla, Queen of the Desert took best costumes, natch.

The big winner in the play category (other than The Normal Heart) was the brilliant War Horse, which won 5: best play, direction, lighting design, sound design, scenic design, as well as a special Tony for the puppet designs of the horses.

Other play winners include The Importance of Being Earnest (costumes), Good People (best actress Frances McDormand) and Jerusalem, a surprise winner for best actor Mark Rylance.

—  Arnold Wayne Jones

7PM ET: PHB liveblog with candidate for North Carolina Democratic Party chair David Parker

The URL for the liveblog is: http://tinyurl.com/parkerPHB.



The election of state party chairs is quite relevant because of the circumstances we find many states in — they have lost control of their legislatures to teabaggers and GOP fringers because of the wealth of dissatisfaction over the economy last fall. Incumbents took the hit from the voters at all levels and the NC GOPers in the Gen Assembly are already flexing their bigoted muscles: Republicans file bill to prohibit anyone not in U.S. legally from attending NC community colleges or universities. And yesterday the Republicans elected proud bigot eruption-prone Sen. Jim Forrester as deputy president pro tempore. This is the man who refused to meet with P-FLAG and files a marriage amendment year after year as his first act as a legislator. We’ll see how soon he puts this on the agenda. He (in)famously said last year: “I’m not against homosexuals.” He said he has gay patients who see him in his medical practice “and I treat them like everyone else.”

In the case of North Carolina, a regrouping and fresh ideas are necessary, but in an emerging socially moderate state, the selection of a party chair for Democrats is particularly crucial. And if you’re LGBT, you want to see the party not willing to run away from equality issues.

Attorney David Parker is running for NC Democratic Party Chair (the election is on Jan 31). He wanted to hold a short live blog on the Blend to share his vision of leadership in the North Carolina Democratic Party, which is now facing a challenging landscape as the General Assembly here is now Republican controlled, the first time since Reconstruction. The LGBT community in NC faces the prospect of a marriage amendment that will be heard on the floor of the state House and Senate. Parker seeks LGBT support as an ally. Right out of the box, he’s in favor or transparency and participation for the community and is frank about it:

I am committed to creating an LGBT Caucus in NC and have an endorser who wants to lead the effort at the breakout sessions that I will convene within 30 Minutes of being elected Chair – I have attached my “First 30 Minutes Plan” and Breakout group agenda to show you my vision for that day. There is a “First 30 Days” Plan that dovetails with those efforts as well.

I would very much like your readers’ input and suggestions on how to make this work and not be a flash in the pan. For instance, I would like to see Caucuses and Roundtables in those counties where they can be formed. All three components of Members (organization), Message and Money come into play and need to be worked. We need to be aggressive on our messaging.

In reading through your site, I am committed to the Dallas Principles – they are sensible and should be a part of our Platform with “personal individual dignity” as “core value” to be at the top of our Platform in a Preamble. Part of what has sparked my email to you is seeing where the GOP will be going with the repeal of DADT as indicated by Bill James remarks in Charlotte about gays being “sexual predators”.

My most important action in the gay rights area has been as a part of the Covenant Network of Presbyterians. I have worked closely with Chris and Lou East from Greensboro (she is the minister for Epiphany – you can read about her at http://www.covenantnetwork.org/news/east.html ; Chris is also an ordained Presbyterian Minister and works as a Counselor at Replacements, Ltd.). I have not just given money and attended meetings, I wrote and performed the solo anthem for the national Covenant Network gathering in Davidson several years ago.

I next was a member of the PUP task force that worked through the changes arising out of the General Assembly’s passing of scrupling protocols as a way to permit the ordaining of gays in our Church. Stewart Ellis of Winston-Salem can tell you about my involvement there. We were able to get a protocol adopted in our Presbytery without objection – a signal accomplishment done with a lot of good dialogue.

As a PC(USA) General Assembly Commissioner this past summer, I argued in front of the roughly 2,000 folks there assembled for expanding pension and beneficiary benefits to gay partners. We passed the new enabling policy. You can read about the pension changes at https://www.pc-biz.org/IOBView.aspx?m=ro&id=3271 We have come a ways, but still have a long way to go….We are faced with the prospect of the Bill James of the world being in control – scary, scary stuff – no telling what will come out of this General Assembly. We can expect a Marriage Amendment and other acts to be presented to Gov. Perdue with a challenge to veto them – and a challenge to the State House to sustain her veto. With a 4 vote “cushion”, we may have issues.

This work is based on my belief that sexual orientation is a gift from God.

One of other candidates running for the post, Bill Faison, has had to contend with an interview he gave a few years ago in the Independent Weekly where he stated that he was not a supporter of marriage equality.

Gordon Smith, an ally on the Asheville City Council, did Q&As with Parker (and Bill Faison as well as the third candidate in the race, Dannie Montgomery). You can see all of their answers at Gordon’s blog, Scrutiny Hooligans.

It’s an interesting opportunity for Blenders to think about how the political parties in their state are considering LGBT issues in 2011, particularly if you’re in a state with few or no protections and have to contend with reluctant party leadership.

I hope you’ll join me as David and I discuss the future work a party can do to move equality forward. Video is below the fold.

Pam’s House Blend – Front Page

—  admin

7PM ET: PHB liveblog with candidate for North Carolina Democratic Party chair David Parker

The URL for the liveblog is: http://tinyurl.com/parkerPHB.



The election of state party chairs is quite relevant because of the circumstances we find many states in — they have lost control of their legislatures to teabaggers and GOP fringers because of the wealth of dissatisfaction over the economy last fall. Incumbents took the hit from the voters at all levels and the NC GOPers in the Gen Assembly are already flexing their bigoted muscles: Republicans file bill to prohibit anyone not in U.S. legally from attending NC community colleges or universities. And yesterday the Republicans elected proud bigot eruption-prone Sen. Jim Forrester as deputy president pro tempore. This is the man who refused to meet with P-FLAG and files a marriage amendment year after year as his first act as a legislator. We’ll see how soon he puts this on the agenda. He (in)famously said last year: “I’m not against homosexuals.” He said he has gay patients who see him in his medical practice “and I treat them like everyone else.”

In the case of North Carolina, a regrouping and fresh ideas are necessary, but in an emerging socially moderate state, the selection of a party chair for Democrats is particularly crucial. And if you’re LGBT, you want to see the party not willing to run away from equality issues.

Attorney David Parker is running for NC Democratic Party Chair (the election is on Jan 31). He wanted to hold a short live blog on the Blend to share his vision of leadership in the North Carolina Democratic Party, which is now facing a challenging landscape as the General Assembly here is now Republican controlled, the first time since Reconstruction. The LGBT community in NC faces the prospect of a marriage amendment that will be heard on the floor of the state House and Senate. Parker seeks LGBT support as an ally. Right out of the box, he’s in favor or transparency and participation for the community and is frank about it:

I am committed to creating an LGBT Caucus in NC and have an endorser who wants to lead the effort at the breakout sessions that I will convene within 30 Minutes of being elected Chair – I have attached my “First 30 Minutes Plan” and Breakout group agenda to show you my vision for that day. There is a “First 30 Days” Plan that dovetails with those efforts as well.

I would very much like your readers’ input and suggestions on how to make this work and not be a flash in the pan. For instance, I would like to see Caucuses and Roundtables in those counties where they can be formed. All three components of Members (organization), Message and Money come into play and need to be worked. We need to be aggressive on our messaging.

In reading through your site, I am committed to the Dallas Principles – they are sensible and should be a part of our Platform with “personal individual dignity” as “core value” to be at the top of our Platform in a Preamble. Part of what has sparked my email to you is seeing where the GOP will be going with the repeal of DADT as indicated by Bill James remarks in Charlotte about gays being “sexual predators”.

My most important action in the gay rights area has been as a part of the Covenant Network of Presbyterians. I have worked closely with Chris and Lou East from Greensboro (she is the minister for Epiphany – you can read about her at http://www.covenantnetwork.org/news/east.html ; Chris is also an ordained Presbyterian Minister and works as a Counselor at Replacements, Ltd.). I have not just given money and attended meetings, I wrote and performed the solo anthem for the national Covenant Network gathering in Davidson several years ago.

I next was a member of the PUP task force that worked through the changes arising out of the General Assembly’s passing of scrupling protocols as a way to permit the ordaining of gays in our Church. Stewart Ellis of Winston-Salem can tell you about my involvement there. We were able to get a protocol adopted in our Presbytery without objection – a signal accomplishment done with a lot of good dialogue.

As a PC(USA) General Assembly Commissioner this past summer, I argued in front of the roughly 2,000 folks there assembled for expanding pension and beneficiary benefits to gay partners. We passed the new enabling policy. You can read about the pension changes at https://www.pc-biz.org/IOBView.aspx?m=ro&id=3271 We have come a ways, but still have a long way to go….We are faced with the prospect of the Bill James of the world being in control – scary, scary stuff – no telling what will come out of this General Assembly. We can expect a Marriage Amendment and other acts to be presented to Gov. Perdue with a challenge to veto them – and a challenge to the State House to sustain her veto. With a 4 vote “cushion”, we may have issues.

This work is based on my belief that sexual orientation is a gift from God.

One of other candidates running for the post, Bill Faison, has had to contend with an interview he gave a few years ago in the Independent Weekly where he stated that he was not a supporter of marriage equality.

Gordon Smith, an ally on the Asheville City Council, did Q&As with Parker (and Bill Faison as well as the third candidate in the race, Dannie Montgomery). You can see all of their answers at Gordon’s blog, Scrutiny Hooligans.

It’s an interesting opportunity for Blenders to think about how the political parties in their state are considering LGBT issues in 2011, particularly if you’re in a state with few or no protections and have to contend with reluctant party leadership.

I hope you’ll join me as David and I discuss the future work a party can do to move equality forward. Video is below the fold.

Pam’s House Blend – Front Page

—  admin