Community rallies to support GLBT Community Center President

Tim Brookover

Last fall Tim Brookover, a long-time Houston LGBT activist and current president of the Houston GLBT Community Center, made public that he was undergoing treatment for cancer. Throughout his treatment Brookover has remained the vibrant advocate for LGBT people that Houston has always known him to be (he even started a cancer support group at the center). Brookover recently ended his employment in the office of Houston City Council member Sue Lovell and applied for disability.

While his application is pending the people of his long-time church home have decided to help. Bethel United Church of Christ (1107 Shepherd) will host a spaghetti dinner to raise funds for Brookover’s expenses this Sunday, Feb. 12, at noon. Ticket’s are $10 and include beverages and speghetti. RSVP via facebook.

—  admin

Death • 09.30.11

Wendy Churitch, 55, died suddenly at her home in Irving early Thursday morning, Sept. 29.

Churitch was born July 26, 1956, and grew up in Chicago. She moved to the Dallas-Fort Worth Metroplex in 1980.

She was known and much loved for her eccentric and ever-present sense of humor, her love of pranks and practical jokes and for her devotion and loyalty to her family and to her large number of friends that she thought of — and that thought of her — as family.

After seven-and-a-half years as a couple, Churitch and the love of her life, Kay Mathews Churitch, were legally married in Iowa on Aug. 17, 2009.

Churitch was preceded in death by her parents, Helen and Pete Churitch Sr., and by her brother, Michael.

She is survived by her wife, Kay Mathews Churitch of Irving; by her brother, Pete Churitch Jr., and one sister, Robin Littrell, both of Indiana; by her wife’s sister, Erin Urquhart of Coppell, and brother, Robert Mathews of Buda; by her wife’s two daughters, Courtney Mathews of Lubbock and Amber Mathews of Three Rivers, Mich., and three grandchildren, Michael and Jourdan of Mesquite and Makenzie of Lubbock; by her beloved dogs, Bailey and Pala; and by a host of loving friends.

Churitch’s remains will be cremated. A memorial service is pending and details will be announced when they become available.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition September 30, 2011.

—  Michael Stephens

Teacher accuses TC College of discrimination

Gill says English Department chair at Northeast Campus told her the state and the school ‘do not like homosexuals’

Jacqueline “Jackie” Gill
Jacqueline “Jackie” Gill

TAMMYE NASH  |  Senior Editor
nash@dallasvoice.com

HURST — Jacqueline “Jackie” Gill filed suit Wednesday, Sept. 7, against a professor and a dean at Northeast Campus of Tarrant County College in Hurst, claiming that she was denied the opportunity to apply for a permanent, full- time teaching position there because of the English Department chair’s bias against what he perceived her sexual orientation to be.

Tarrant County College adopted a nondiscrimination policy prohibiting discrimination based on sexual orientation on March 9 of this year.

Frank Griffis, director of public relations and marketing for Tarrant County College, said it “would not be appropriate” for school officials to comment on pending litigation. He also said school officials had not yet been served with papers and therefore had not read the complaint.

Gill said she had worked as a full-time temporary English professor for about a year at the Northeast Campus. But when the position was to be made permanent, English Department Chair Eric Devlin refused to allow her to apply for the permanent position.

Gill said when she complained about Devlin to Northeast Campus Humanities Division Dean Antonio R. Howell, he initially seemed to side with her, but after speaking to Devlin, Howell refused to communicate further with her. Gill said although she is a lesbian and has never tried to hide that fact, she had never talked about her orientation with Devlin or anyone else at the school.

Both Devlin and Howell are named as co-defendants in the lawsuit.

Gill is represented in the lawsuit by Lambda Legal South Central Region staff attorney Ken Upton, joined by pro bono counsel Benjamin D. Williams from the law firm of Gibson, Dunn and Crutcher.

Gill and Upton held a press conference Wednesday to announce that the lawsuit had been filed earlier that morning in U.S. district court in Fort Worth. The press conference was held at a Hurst hotel located just a few blocks from the Tarrant County College campus where Gill had taught.

According to the complaint filed Wednesday, and statements Gill made during the press conference, Gill was first hired on a full time, temporary basis as an English professor on Aug. 21, 2009. A little more than a month later, at the end of October, a female “dual-enrollment” student — a high school student who was also taking college classes — in Gill’s distance learning class cheated by stealing an exam and skipped some classes.

The student’s high school counselor told Gill that the student has a history of disruptive behavior, and when the student dropped the class, Gill was told the situation was closed.

On Nov. 9, however, Devlin called Gill into his office and told her the student had accused Gill of “flirting” with female students. Gill denied the accusations, noting that there was always another teacher in the class at the same time.

That’s when Devlin responded with “a lengthy diatribe about homosexuals and how the Texas public views them,” according to the complaint. Gill said Devlin went on to say that Texas is a conservative state and TCC is a conservative school, and that “Texas and Tarrant County College do not like homosexuals.”

Gill continued to teach at TCC, receiving high praise and compliments from students and staff alike, including from Devlin. Then in May 2010, she and other full-time temporary professors were told by Howell that all seven temporary full- time positions were being made permanent, and that they were being re-designated as adjunct faculty until the permanent positions were filled.

Gill said Howell also encouraged her and the other temporary professors to apply for the permanent jobs. Gill applied for all seven but was the only one of the seven temporary professors not hired for the permanent positions. Gill said that she was, in fact, not even allowed to interview for any of the positions, even though her experience and credentials were as good as or better than those who were hired.

Gill said she met with Howell and told him about Devlin’s anti-gay comments and refusal to allow her to interview for the permanent positions. She said Howell promised her to discuss the situation with Devlin immediately, but that he never got back in touch with her.

She said she also got no response when she tried to discuss the situation with the vice president and president of Tarrant County College.

Gill continued to teach as an adjunct professor at the campus through December 2010, although, she said, Devlin’s attitude toward her became “even more hostile.”

And she said that although she was originally assigned classes for the 2011 spring term, as she was preparing for those classes she discovered she had been removed as the professor. When she inquired about the status of the class, Gill said, she was told that Devlin had specifically instructed that those classes be taken away from her.

Upton said that Devlin and Howell violated the equal protection clause of the U.S. Constitution by refusing to allow Gill to apply for the permanent teaching position. He said Gill’s suit is asking that she be allowed to complete the application process and that she be compensated for the time she has been unemployed.

Gill, who is a Ph.D. candidate at the University of Texas at Arlington, said she would love to get a teaching job with TCC, and while she would prefer to work at another campus, she is willing to go back to the Northeast Campus and work again in Devlin’s department.

“I worked hard. I earned it,” Gill said of the permanent position. “I have nothing to be ashamed of. If it [her working in Devlin’s department again] would be awkward for anyone, I think it would be awkward for him [Devlin] because he is the one who was in the wrong.”

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

—  Michael Stephens

DEATHS: James ‘Kissey’ Olson, James Edward ‘Beaux’ Geer, Ray ‘Alpha Pup’ Witt

James “Kissey” Olson, 62, died at his home in Dallas on March 30 after recently being diagnosed with liver cancer.

Olson was native of Iron River, Mich. After graduating from high school, he served in the U.S. Air Force for six years. He went to work for AT&T, living in Phoeniz, Little Rock and finally Dallas, where he retired.

He had lived in the Dallas area for more than 24 years.

His home here was party central and was always open to his many friends who will miss his and his hospitality.

Olson is survived by his mother, Minnie, and sisters, Ruth and Doris, of Iron River; his brother, Ron, of Milwaukee; his ex-wife, Jo, of Yuma, Az.; his two children, Scott and Amy of Phoenix, and six grandchildren; and his beloved Chihuahua, Moose.

Olson was cremated and his ashes were buried at Iron River. A celebration of his life will be held on the patio at The Hidden Door, 5025 Bowser St., on Saturday, April 30, at 2 p.m.

 

James Edward “Beaux” Geer, 46, died April 13.

Geer worked as a hairdresser with Salon D for 23 years. He was also an artist who founded “Healing Texas through the Arts” to showcase new artists and make their works available to the public.

Geer was truly loved by friends and family, and he had an innocent sweetness of spirit and extraordinary talent that turned everything he touched into a thing of beauty. His paintings provided a view into his soul. He will be profoundly missed by those who knew him and will keep him forever in their hearts.

Geer is survived by his mother and stepfather, Bill and Millie Ritter of Plano; his father, Thomas Geer, Lafayette, La.; his brother Greg “Blackie” Geer, wife Kayce, daughter Typhane and grandson Thor, all of Austin; his best friend and brother-of-the heart, Dale Hall; and a host of other family and friends. Plans are pending for a celebration of life memorial gathering.

 

Ray “Alpha Pup” Witt, 59, died March 30 from an apparent stroke. Witt, loving boy and partner to Daddy Ron Hertz of Dallas and a member of the Dallas leather community, was a former member of Discipline Corps and NLA-Dallas. He held the first International Puppy title presented in 2001, thus becoming the “Alpha Pup.” His gift for storytelling and his warm heart endeared him to many in the community and his presence will be missed.Witt is survived by his partner of 9 ½ years, Ron Hertz of Dallas; his mother, Duluth Witt of Lexington, Ky.; and his canine friend “Mugsy.” A celebration of his life will be held at a later date.

 

—  John Wright

Ninth Circuit Grants Stay of DADT Ruling Pending Appeal

The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals has granted the government its request for a stay in the injunction barring enforcement of 'Don't Ask, Don't Tell' pending appeal, the AP reports:

Dadt "Monday's decision by a three-judge panel of the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals means gay Americans who disclose their sexual orientations still can't enlist in the armed forces and can be discharged. The panel granted the government's request for a stay while it challenges the trial court's ruling that the ban on openly gay service members is unconstitutional. The same panel imposed a temporary hold keeping 'don't ask, don't tell' in place last week. Monday's ruling also heightens pressure on the Obama administration to persuade the U.S. Senate to repeal the 1993 law before a new Congress is sworn in."

The Wonk Room notes:

In an eight-page decision, the justices identify “three reasons that persuade us to grant a stay pending appeal”:

- First, Acts of Congress are presumptively constitutional, creating an equity in favor of the government when balancing the hardships in a request for a stay pending appeal.

- Second, “‘judicial deference . . . is at its apogee’ when Congress legislates under its authority to raise and support armies.”

- Third, the district court’s analysis and conclusions are arguably at odds with the decisions of at least four other Circuit Courts of Appeal: the First, Second, Fourth, and Eighth.

Here's the order:

DADT Stay Order


Towleroad News #gay

—  admin

Letter From Sister of Decorated Pilot Pending Discharge Under DADT

Last week, the Pentagon sent out 150,000 surveys to the heterosexual spouses of service members for their opinion on a repeal of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell”. With this family survey now in the field, our friends at Servicemembers Legal Defense Network, will release a letter each day this week from family members and spouses of former service members impacted by DADT. As the Pentagon reaches out to 150,000 straight couples on how their lives are impacted, these letters will share the perspective of those forced to serve under this law alongside their loved ones.

Wrapping up this week’s letters, we hear from Angela Trumbauer. Angela’s brother is decorated Air Force pilot Lt. Col. Victor Fehrenbach, who faces the threat of discharge under DADT:

August 27, 2010

Hon. Jeh C. Johnson
General Counsel, U.S. Department of Defense
Co-Chair, Comprehensive Review Working Group

General Carter F. Ham
Commanding General, U.S. Army Europe
Co-Chair, Comprehensive Review Working Group

CC:
U.S. Sen. Carl M. Levin
Chairman, Senate Armed Services Committee

U.S. Sen. John S. McCain
Ranking Member, Senate Armed Services Committee

U.S. Sen. Joseph I. Lieberman
Member, Senate Armed Services Committee

Dear Mr. Johnson and General Ham:

My name is Angela Trumbauer.  I am an Air Force enlisted veteran.  I was born and raised in a family of 8 children by my father, a retired Air Force officer (deceased 1979), and my widowed mother, a former Air Force officer, who just turned 78 years young this month.  I am married to a retired Air Force Senior Master Sergeant.  My stepson is an active-duty Air Force Technical Sergeant.  My brother is Lt. Col. Victor Fehrenbach, a highly decorated 19-year Air Force officer.  I hail from the “military family” in every sense.

Over Victor’s military career, our family had limited opportunities to see and spend time with him.  He came home to Ohio for visits once or twice a year, usually over the Thanksgiving or Christmas holidays.  I took my kids to visit him at his assigned Air Force Bases a few times over the years.  We prepared and sent him care packages when he was deployed to Iraq.  Vic sent me care packages when I was stationed in Greece years ago, while he was still a high school student.  Reflecting back, I never gave much thought to his short 2-3 day trips home or the seemingly strained nature of the visits.  All that changed in May, 2009, however, when my brother was forced to reach out and seek our family’s support in the most difficult battle of his life – fighting against his discharge under “Don’t Ask Don’t Tell.”

The revelations that have come to light and emotions evoked throughout the past year have brought a great sense of loss and heartache to our family, not unlike that experienced in grief and death.  It saddened me deeply to realize that my single, younger brother could never enjoy a close personal relationship, free from fear of persecution or harassment, throughout his near 20 years serving.  His family back home was free to enjoy wonderful family relationships with their spouses and children, but Vic was never to experience that same freedom and privilege while in uniform.  I often wonder how alone or lonely he must have felt all those years, especially when he couldn’t even share his personal struggles with his very own family.

I recently took the opportunity to ask my brother who he would like us to notify in the event of an emergency or upon his death, after I realized he had no one else to confide in.   Most soldiers and airmen have a support system in place, where their spouses or immediate family members are aware of their dying wishes and will share urgent news or handle the appropriate notifications with those closest to their loved one.  In my brother’s case, I just figured the military would let us know if something happened to him and that no one else aside from his family members needed to be notified, since he was single and has no children.

Under “Don’t Ask Don’t Tell,” the Fehrenbach family has been robbed of truly knowing and loving our brother for who he is for nearly two decades.  He chose to serve in silence to protect his own family – the only family he can legally call his own – from potential exposure to investigation under DADT.  We can never get those years back.  Nor can we accept the damage to and destruction of our family’s long-standing military history that will result from Lt. Col. Fehrenbach’s discharge under this discriminatory and unjust law.  Our family legacy goes back generations, in which our father, mother, grandfathers, spouses, children, uncles and cousins have all answered the call to serve.

Despite all the suffering that Don’t Ask Don’t Tell has caused my brother and our family, we have reaped a benefit far greater than words can measure.   Since I’ve come to know and understand my brother’s true identity, and because he no longer has to hide any part of himself from me, our relationship has become much closer and deeper, where we laugh and share more than ever before.  Vic can now be completely open and honest with me – an element that was clearly missing in our lives and relationship in the past.  I can’t express the immense pleasure I’ve experienced in getting to know my baby brother  — “Uncle Baldy” as some of our 17 nieces and nephews call him.

In light of the infinite family gains that the repeal of “Don’t Ask Don’t Tell” will yield, I sincerely believe that allowing open service is necessary, right, and just in every sense.  Each and every service member deserves the FULL love and support of their family and friends, without fear of persecution, discrimination and harassment.  A strong sense of support and love is essential for our troops at all times.  It only stands to reason that overall military performance is enhanced and the resolve to accomplish the mission is strengthened by complete and unhindered family bonds.

Sincerely,
Angela Trumbauer

HRC joins with our allies in the efforts to ensure passage of repeal in the Senate, as we work to muster the critical votes needed to end this discriminatory law. We are proud to join SLDN in the call to acknowledge the sacrifice of those partners and families of service members serving in silence under this failed law.

To join in HRC and SLDN’s joint campaign to garner support for repeal, visit countdown2010.hrc.org.


Human Rights Campaign | HRC Back Story

—  John Wright

The “Witt Standard” and Pending DADT Cases

By Sher Kung, Perkins Coie Legal Fellow, ACLU of Washington

Last week, Air Force Lt. Col. Victor Fehrenbach filed a high-profile lawsuit arguing that the Air Force should be forced to meet the "Witt standard" if it attempts to discharge him from military service under Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell (DADT).

The "Witt standard" comes from a significant 9th Circuit Court of Appeals decision (PDF) in an ACLU of Washington case, Witt v. U.S. Air Force, in which the court ruled that the Air Force must prove that dismissing a specific servicemember under DADT is necessary to ensure “good order, morale, and discipline” within the unit he or she served, rather than simply proving in a more general way that DADT broadly advances military readiness. With that requirement of proof, the “Witt standard” was born.

We filed this lawsuit back in 2006 on behalf of Maj. Margaret Witt, who was discharged from the U.S. Air Force on the grounds that she engaged in homosexual conduct. Maj. Witt is a much-decorated flight nurse and operating room nurse assigned to McChord Air Force Base near Tacoma. In 1993, she was selected to be the “poster child” for the Air Force Nurse Corps recruitment flyer. In 2003, she was awarded an Air Force Commendation Medal for saving the life of a Defense Department employee who had collapsed aboard a flight from Bahrain.

The lawsuit sought to reverse the decision to discharge Maj. Witt. The military provided no evidence that her sexual orientation had caused a problem in the performance of her military duties. The district court initially dismissed the suit.

We appealed the case to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit. In 2008, the 9th Circuit ruled that in order to pass constitutional muster, the Air Force must prove discharging Maj. Witt is necessary for purposes of military readiness within her unit. While the 9th Circuit’s decision did not overrule DADT, it made clear that the military must make this individualized determination before it can discharge LGBT service members.

Lt. Col. Fehrenbach’s case, which the New York Times says "rests heavily" on the 9th Circuit’s Witt standard, is pending before the federal district court in Idaho. (Rachel Maddow interviewed him and his lawyer on her show. Previously, then-Supreme Court nominee Elena Kagan discussed the significance of the Witt standard in her confirmation hearings.)

In the meantime, Maj. Witt’s case will be back before the U.S. District Court for Western Washington for trial, scheduled for September 13. The ACLU will prove that it was Maj. Witt’s dismissal — not her presence in her unit — that was bad for morale.

Pam’s House Blend – Front Page

—  John Wright

BREAKING: Ninth Circuit grants stay of Walker’s decision pending appeal

Just received this notice via email from the Ninth Circuit:

Filed order (EDWARD LEAVY, MICHAEL DALY HAWKINS and SIDNEY R. THOMAS) Appellants’ motion for a stay of the district court’s order of August 4, 2010 pending appeal is GRANTED. The court sua sponte orders that this appeal be expedited pursuant to Federal Rule of Appellate Procedure 2. The provisions of Ninth Circuit Rule 31-2.2(a) (pertaining to grants of time extensions) shall not apply to this appeal. This appeal shall be calendared during the week of December 6, 2010, at The James R. Browning Courthouse in San Francisco, California. The previously established briefing schedule is vacated. The opening brief is now due September 17, 2010. The answering brief is due October 18, 2010. The reply brief is due November 1, 2010. In addition to any issues appellants wish to raise on appeal, appellants are directed to include in their opening brief a discussion of why this appeal should not be dismissed for lack of Article III standing. See Arizonans For Official English v. Arizona, 520 U.S. 43, 66 (1997). IT IS SO ORDERED. [7441574] (JS)

So, the motion to stay is granted, pending appeal. That means marriages won’t begin on Wednesday or anytime soon.

The appeal has been expedited. Arguments will be held in early December. One other thing: This order states that Ninth Circuit Rule 31-2.2 does not apply, meaning no extensions. Under Rule 31-2.2 (a), “If good cause is shown, the clerk or a designated deputy may grant an oral request for a single extension of time of no more than 14 days to file an opening, answering or reply brief. Such extensions may be applied for and granted or denied by telephone.” No one gets the 14 days extension. Sounds like the judges want this case to move ahead without delay.

And, the appellants, meaning the pro-Prop. 8 side, have to explain why they have standing. That remains a major issue for them moving forward. For more on this issue, see Prof. David Cruz’s post: Do the Prop. 8 proponents have Standing to Appeal?

I’m sure we’ll have more on this soon.




AMERICAblog Gay

—  John Wright

Protect Marriage Files 95-Page Emergency Motion For Stay Pending Appeal

Note that the first citation is an article from San Diego’s Gay & Lesbian Times.
Protect Marriage Appeal

Joe. My. God.

—  John Wright

Maddow: “If DADT is going to end, the President could stop enforcement of that policy, pending that change. Why isn’t he?”

Rachel Maddow closed her show last night with a rather strong broadside against Robert Gibbs and President Obama, over DADT, but more generally, over everything. Rachel says this White House refuses to spend political capital, refuses to show guts. She says the White House won’t stop the DADT discharges now because “it would be hard.” She concludes:

“If DADT is going to end, the President could stop enforcement of that policy, pending that change. Why isn’t he?”

Why isn’t he? Because either the policy isn’t ending, or the President is afraid of something. Afraid of standing up to the Pentagon (remember, THEY work for HIM), afraid of spending political capital, afraid of making Republicans angry, afraid of doing anything that in any way might seem “controversial.”

It’s interesting that Rachel did this, since the White House made quite a big deal recently over her recent broadcast in which she praised Obama and his accomplishments. I’m guessing the White House won’t be sharing this video with anyone. It’s spot on.




AMERICAblog Gay

—  John Wright