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

Celebration of Love Gala raises funds for Lesbian Health Initiative

The scooter's way cuter in pink, sorry Liz

The Lesbian Health Initiative of Houston is celebrating Valentine’s Day a little early with their Celebration of Love Gala Saturday, Feb. 11. at the Double Tree Hotel downtown (400 Dallas Street). The 10th annual gala is the 20-year-old organization’s major fundraiser of the year.

This year the gala features comedienne Susanne Westenhoefer, who claims to be the “first openly-gay comedian to appear on television” (yep, she was out before Ellen).  Dorothy Weston, co-founder and CEO of The Rose (a breast cancer prevention and treatment organization) will be honored  for her years of service. In addition the evening includes dinner, dancing, a silent auction and the raffling of a pink Vitacci 50cc Retro Scooter. LHI executive director Liz James is particularly excited about the raffle even if she didn’t quite get her way on the prize. “I wanted it to be a black scooter, as I’m a bit on the butch side,” said James, adding that more “femme” forces in the organization prevailed and a pink scooter was selected instead.

Regardless of the color of the scooter, the Celebration of Love Gala promises to be a fun filled night, not just for sapphic romantics, but for anyone looking for a valentine’s date night that supports a good cause. Tickets for the black tie affair start at $100 and can be purchased at lhihouston.org. Doors open at 6 pm.

—  admin

Al Franken asks public for help passing Student Non-Discrimination Act

Sen. Al Franken

Sen. Al Franken

Sen. Al Franken, D – Minnesota, is asking the public for help passing S. 555, The Student Non-Discrimination Act, a bill that would prohibit discrimination against public school students on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity. Under the provisions of S. 555 students who experienced discrimination because of their real or perceived sexual orientation or because of their association with LGBT people could bring a civil suit against the school officials or districts responsible for the discrimination. The bill currently has 34 co-sponsors (none from Texas) and its House companion (H.R. 998 by Rep. Jared Polis, D – Colorado) has 150 (with 7 Texan co-sponsors including Houston’s own Sheila Jackson Lee and Al Green) . Both bills have been referred to committee but neither has received a hearing, a crucial step towards becoming law.

In the video requesting the public call their Senators (after the break) Franken points out that federal law already provides protection for school children harassed because of race, color, sex, religion, disability, and national origin, but that no protection exists for sexual orientation or gender identity.

The inclusion of “association” in S. 555 is particularly well thought out. According to the Williams Institute nearly 1 in 5 same-sex couples in the United States is raising children, in Harris County 18% of same-sex couples are.  As these children enter school it’s important that they be able to receive an education without harassment or bullying due to who their parents are.

Franken is asking people to call the Senate switchboard at 202-224-3121 and encourage their Senator’s to support the bill.

—  admin

“Head Figure Head” more about journalism than about Gov. Rick Perry’s sex life

Head Figure Head, the new e-book from Glen Maxey, details the author’s arduous and frustrating six-month effort to investigate rumors of Gov. Rick Perry’s gay sex life. Maxey served as executive director of the Lesbian/Gay Rights Lobby of Texas (now Equality Texas) during Perry’s tenure as a state representative, later serving for 12 years as a state representative, spanning Perry’s time as agricultural commissioner, lieutenant governor and governor. Of all the people who’ve attempted to look into the rumors of Perry’s trysts with men, Maxey is perhaps best positioned to get to the truth, and takes great pains to ensure we are aware of that fact.

The book is the narrative of Maxey’s research, assisted by a journalist from a national media outlet. Like almost every character in the book other than Maxey and Perry himself, “the Journalist” is referred to only as a pseudonym. Maxey and the Journalist begin their search for proof in June 2011 as rumors of Perry’s impending presidential bid are widely circulating. Immediately the pair find that almost every gay man in Austin has a friend who has a friend who claims to have slept with Perry. For the next three months they track those leads and come excruciatingly close to breaking the story.

—  admin

Council member Jones to be first cisgender reader at Houston Day of Remembrance

Jolanda Jones

Jolanda Jones

Houston City Council member Jolanda Jones is scheduled to be the first cisgender reader in the history of Houston’s Transgender Day of Remembrance. Lou Weaver, president of the Transgender Foundation of America, one the events sponsors, says that Jones was originally approached to be a speaker at the event because of her advocacy for trans children, but that she requested to read instead.

“I begged to read, I begged them,” corrects Jones, “they asked me if I wanted to speak and I begged them to read instead because it’s profound and it touches you. I think it’s better to read because it’s important.”
Jones said she was particularly moved at last year’s Day of Remembrance by the story of 17 month old Roy A. Jones who was beaten to death by his babysitter for “acting like a girl.” “I was so touched when they read about the baby that was killed,” said Jones, “the readers tell the story.”

Jones led efforts this year to encourage local homeless youth provider Covenant House to adopt a nondiscrimination policy that covers both sexual orientation and gender identity and expression. She used her position on City Council to threaten to cut Covenant House’s funding unless they addressed accusations of discrimination. That threat persuaded the organization to overhaul their policies and begin regular meetings with community leaders to discuss their progress in serving LGBT youth.
The Houston Transgender Day of Remembrance is Saturday, November 19, from 7-9:30 pm at Farish Hall on the University of Houston Campus.

—  admin

We Were Here, AIDS documentary at 14 Pews

We Were HereWe Were Here, the award winning documentary of the early days of the AIDS crisis, premiers at 14 Pews theater (800 Aurora) Saturday, November 20, at 4:30 pm. The film, from director David Weissman, will be proceeded by a panel discussion on the state of the AIDS crisis today.

I came out in 1998, right at the tail end of the worst days of the AIDS crisis. I remember, with vivid clarity, the days of the walking wounded: when every other gay man I met would tell how their doctor said they should have died five years ago, when the community told time by recalling if an event took place before or after a certain person’s funeral.

Fortunately those days are largely behind us, but as new HIV infections continue to rise and we struggle to maintain funding for medications that are keeping people alive (at a cost of thousands of dollars a month), it’s important that we never forget the early days of the pandemic. For people of my generation and younger the mysterious “Gay Plague” that threatened our community in the early eighties can seem more like a fairy tale monster than the horrifying crisis it was, and is.

We Were Here tells the real life stories of five people who survived. Their mundane and profound recollections highlight, not only their personal experiences, but the broad political and social upheavals unleashed by the crisis. From their different vantage points as caregivers, activists, researchers, as friends and lovers of the afflicted, and as people with AIDS themselves, the interviewees share stories which are not only intensely personal, but which also illuminate the much larger themes of that era: the political and sexual complexities, and the terrible emotional toll. The film highlights the role of women – particularly lesbians – in caring for and fighting for their gay brothers.

Tickets for We Were Here are $10 and can be purchased at 14pews.org.

After the jump watch the trailer for We Were Here.

—  admin

Local Briefs

GAIN holding monthly meeting

GAIN, the GLBT aging interest network that is a program of Resource Center Dallas, will meet Thursday, April 28, from 6:30 p.m. to 8 p.m. at the Resource Center, 2701 Reagan.
Educator, public speaker and writer Deneen Robinson, BSW, will present the program on Alzheimer’s and dementia in the aging LGBT community.
Hors d’oeuvres and beverages will be served.

Students seeks study participants

Cindy Chwalik, a clinical psychology student at Walden University who is interning with Youth First Texas, is looking for natal females (those who were born biologically female) who were born in the South and came out as lesbians while living in the South to participate in a research project she is conducting. She is particularly looking for women born in Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama and South Carolina.

Participation involves a 60-to-90-minute interview. Chwalik said there is no compensation for participating, but the information will help those who come out in the future.
Contact her via email at cindychwalik @aol.com.

TDWCC to hear from candidates

Texas Democratic Women of Collin County will hold their next general meeting Monday, April 25, at 6:45 p.m. at the Preston Ridge Campus of Collin College, 9700 Wade Blvd. in Frisco, Founders Hall, Shawnee Room F148.

The program will feature a forum of candidates in the upcoming non-partisan municipal elections. Confirmed thus far from Plano are Judy Drotman, campaign manager for City Council Place 3 candidate Andre Davidson; City Council Place 5 candidate Matt Lagos; City Council Place 5 candidate Jim Duggan, and City Council Place 7 candidate Pat Gallagher.

Candidates in the Frisco elections who have confirmed so far are Mayor Maher Maso, City Council Place 5 candidate Bart Crowder, and Frisco ISD candidated Anne McCausland and Dody Brigadier.

—  John Wright

We’re still dreaming; IFI still acting like particularly atonal alarm clock

Martin Luther King Jr. of course didn’t live to see a day when his friend and trusted ally Bayard Rustin could fight for his own political rights as a gay man. But the person who knew MLK best, his late wife Coretta, certainly felt that King’s dream included LGBT:

CORETTA QUOTES

I still hear people say that I should not be talking about the rights of lesbian and gay people and I should stick to the issue of racial justice… But I hasten to remind them that Martin Luther King, Jr., said, ‘Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere’ … I appeal to everyone who believes in Martin Luther King, Jr.’s dream to make room at the table of brotherhood and sisterhood for lesbian and gay people.

-March 31, 1998

Like Martin, I don’t believe you can stand for freedom for one group of people and deny it to others”, she would tell black civil rights leaders angered by gays and lesbians comparing their struggle to their own. She would quote her husband and say, “I have worked too long and hard against segregated public accommodations to end up segregating my moral concern. Justice is indivisible.”

-June 23, 1994

Gay and lesbian people have families, and their families should have legal protection, whether by marriage or civil union. A constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriages is a form of gay bashing and it would do nothing at all to protect traditional marriages.

March 24, 2004

We have a lot more work to do in our common struggle against bigotry and discrimination. I say “common struggle” because I believe very strongly that all forms of bigotry and discrimination are equally wrong and should be opposed by right-thinking Americans everywhere. Freedom from discrimination based on sexual orientation is surely a fundamental human right in any great democracy, as much as freedom from racial, religious, gender, or ethnic discrimination.

November 9, 2000

We have to launch a campaign against homophobia in the black community.

June 8, 2001

Homophobia is like racism and anti-Semitism and other forms of bigotry in that it seeks to dehumanize a large group of people, to deny their humanity, their dignity and personhood. This sets the stage for further repression and violence that spread all too easily to victimize the next minority group.

April 1, 1998

Though why should we glean our insight from she who was enshrined in the bonds of marriage with the late civil rights leader, when we can instead let the self-appointed “protect marriage” crowd tell us what MLK wanted? This from the Illinois Family Institute:

King’s Legacy and Civil Rights Cause Misrepresented

“Civil Unions” Bill Not Analogous to Civil Rights Movement

Contact: David E. Smith, 773-858-6602; Pastor Al Cleveland, 708-275-1633; Laurie Higgins, 815-519-3808

HILLSIDE, Ill., Jan. 16, 2011 /Christian Newswire/ — More than 40 African-American religious and political leaders will gather on Martin Luther King Day to decry the misrepresentation of King’s legacy and the noble civil rights cause. The recent passage of the “civil unions” bill has been trumpeted by some lawmakers as an achievement to civil rights. It is not.

Some lawmakers have suggested that King’s interest would have included homosexuality. David Smith, Executive Director of the Illinois Family Institute, says, “Skin color is not analogous to behavior. To equate homosexuality to race is offensive and perverts the noble cause of a great man and an important movement in our history.”

Press Conference Details—

When: January 17, 2011; 10:30 A.M.

Where: Freedom Baptist Church, 4541 Harrison Street, Hillside, IL 60162; 708-449-3733

Speakers:

Pastor Al Cleveland

Bishop Michael Love

Dr. Hiram Crawford

Apostle Stephen Garner

Dr. Eric Wallace

Rev. Isaac Hayes

Pastor Larry Rogers

Cedra Crenshaw

John Arrington

Linda Jernigan

plus others…

During House Floor debate on the issue of “civil unions,” both State Representative Careen Gordon (D-Morris) and openly homosexual State Representative Greg Harris (D-Chicago) exploited a flawed analogy by comparing same sex marriage to interracial marriage. In essence they are claiming that opposition to discrimination based on an immutable, non-behavioral, morally neutral condition like race is equivalent to homosexuals’ fight to normalize and institutionalize deviant sexual relations. Rep. Gordon expressed a radical and heretical notion in her plea for civil unions, which is merely a more publicly palatable term for same sex marriages. She described the passage of the civil union bill as doing “God’s work.”

Homosexual activists and their allies are advancing their subversive moral and political goals by hijacking the rhetoric of the Civil Rights Movement and Martin Luther King Jr.’s legacy. They seek to intimidate philosophical conservatives into silence by associating them with racism and bigotry. Volitional homosexual acts are not equivalent to race. And morals beliefs regarding volitional homosexual conduct are not equivalent to racism.

We shouldn’t allow the exploitation of the legacy of Dr. King to be exploited for the destructive purposes of the movement to normalize homosexuality and demonize traditional moral beliefs.

King’s Legacy and Civil Rights Cause Misrepresented [Illinois Family Institute press release]

(*Sidenote: Clearly IFI’s Laurie “homosexuality is like incest” Higgins wrote this release, as she is bizarrely/humorously addicted to the word “volitional” and its overuse)

Pretty rich to hear the word “exploit” tossed around by people who are HOLDING A POLITICAL PRESS CONFERENCE ON MLK DAY! If you want to get mileage out of this day, then fair enough. But at least have the fortitude to admit your own capitalization and derived benefit!

Though who has the time for self-awareness when there are just so many good and decent gay couples to purposelessly decry?

***

*Pete’s excited:

Screen Shot 2011-01-17 At 8.29.53 Am




Good As You

—  admin

For Senate action on DADT, ‘it’s fair to say the odds aren’t particularly good’

Kerry Eleveld’s column this week is another must-read. She deconstructs the current situation with the legislative effort on DADT. As we’ve been saying all week, it’s not looking good:

If the bill is not voted on between next Monday, when Congress returns from recess, and October 8 (a period that may actually only yield about two voting weeks in the Senate) it may still have a chance of passage during the lame-duck session after the midterms, but that chance will be greatly diminished. Quite honestly, political observers of the Hill vary wildly in their prognostications, from “zero” chance to “50-50,” each of which strikes me as too low and too high, respectively. But if nothing else, it’s fair to say the odds aren’t particularly good.

So what exactly stands in the way of this bill making it to the floor? Some combination of timing, strategy, and sheer lack of guts.

Timing: Most Hill insiders believe Carl Levin, chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, will need about five to seven legislative days to debate and pass the defense authorization bill to which repeal is attached — that could eat up a big chunk of the very narrow window left before the midterms.

Strategy: It appears that Democrats have their eye on pushing one major debate about tax cuts for small businesses in order to score political points before the November election. They’re desperately trying to save their majorities in both chambers after nearly every pundit around has not only put the House in play but also thinks Republicans have an outside chance of retaking the Senate.

Guts: While 234 House members approved the bill and there’s only evidence of a couple of them being targeted for that vote, Sen. Harry Reid seems to be getting cold feet. The only explanation is that he’s locked in a dead heat with Tea Party candidate Sharron Angle and Reid himself was the object of one DADT ad paid for by the Family Research Council.

Could one ad from a fringe conservative group like FRC send Reid running scared? Hard to know, but a Friday Roll Call article noted that the short, monthlong work period might still be too long for the likes of Democrats

I do have this piece of advice: Don’t believe anyone who says we’ll get things done in the lame duck session. Read this and this before you buy that.




AMERICAblog Gay

—  John Wright

Every Retailer Is Lying To You About Your Waist Size. Particularly Old Navy

THE SHOT — Those 36-inch pants at H&M? They're actually a 37. And don't even get us started on Old Navy, which spins more fibs about your true pant size than Maggie Gallagher drunk at a marriage convention. Though I firmly believe high-end designers like Jil Sander and J. Lindeberg also lie, just in the other direction.

CONTINUED »


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Queerty

—  John Wright