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

Work it!

Dallas is awash in places for fitness-conscious gay men to build muscles … and show off a little

There’s not a loss for gyms around the Oak Lawn neighborhood. Several fitness centers dot the healthy landscape from Uptown to Downtown and several in between. This is a list of health clubs that are among the favorites for the LGBT community.

— Rich Lopez

…………………………………

Club Dallas
Exclusively serving gay men for more than 30 years, this institution actually has one of the largest gyms in the city, and is open 24 hours, 365 days a year.
2616 Swiss Ave
214-821-1990
TheClubs.com

Diesel Fitness
Located on the third floor of the Centrum, it’s right in the heart of the gayborhood.
3102 Oak Lawn #300
214-219-6400
DieselFitness214.com

Energy Fitness joins an already bustling roster of gyms in the Uptown area. Located in the West Village, this gym has garnered praise for its no-nonsense approach and competitive membership fees.

Energy Fitness
This recent gym has gained a reputation for affordable memberships and solid service right in the West Village.
2901 Cityplace West Blvd.
214-219-1900
UptownEnergyFitness.com

Equinox
Located in the old Park Place Motorcars location, it offers a full range of fitness services
4023 Oak Lawn Ave.
214-443-9009
Equinox.com

Gold’s Gym
Locations are throughout the city, but the one in Uptown serves a fit, very gay customer base.
2425 McKinney Avenue
214-306-9000
GoldsGym.com

The LA Fitness by Love Field has been a favorite for the community with its convenience to the Oak Lawn area and an impressive list of amenities and classes. (Rich Lopez/Dallas Voice)

The LA Fitness by Love Field has been a favorite for the community with its convenience to the Oak Lawn area and an impressive list of amenities and classes. (Rich Lopez/Dallas Voice)

LA Fitness
Has multiple locations, but the one at Lemmon and Mockingbird by Love Field is popular with gay clientele.
4540 W. Mockingbird Lane
214-453-4899
LAFitness.com

Trophy Fitness Club
With four total locations, one can be found in the downtown Mosaic (formerly Pulse) and in one Uptown.
2812 Vine St. Suite 300
214-999-2826
TrophyFitnessClub.com

24 Hour Fitness
Popular locations include the one Downtown and one at Mockingbird Lane and Greenville Avenue.
700 North Harwood St.
214-220-2423
24HourFitness.com

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

—  Michael Stephens

Canasta for a good cause, this Sunday at Tony’s Corner Pocket

The American novelist Mary McCarthy once quipped that Canasta has the advantage of “doing away with the bother of talk after dinner.” But the classic Uruguayan card came popular among the aged and experiencing a rebirth among hipsters has much more to offer. While Canasta may not have the high-stakes glamor of Baccarat, or the back-room luridness of Poker it harkens back to the halcyon days of the 1950′s when it was first introduced to the United States, with smartly dressed men and more smartly dressed cocktails. It’s that paen for a more stylish age that has caused this once nigh-forgotten game to experience a rebirth of late.

If you’ve caught the Canasta bug there’s an opportunity this Sunday, Feb. 12, to indulge in all the melds your heart can muster at Tony’s Corner Pocket  (817 West Dallas). Brunch and registration start at noon with “Pick a Partner” at 12:30. Then at 1 pm single elimination tournament play kicks off. Canasta is played with teams of two, but don’t worry if you don’t have a partner to come with you. Single players are welcomed. Registration is $10, with half of the proceeds going to the tournament winners and the other half benefiting Montrose Grace Place, a non-profit helping homeless youth.

Register early by e-mailing houstonglbtcanasta@yahoogroups.com

—  admin

Dallas baker wins Food Network challenge

To a pastry chef, the term “piece o’ cake” probably pisses you off. (Don’t even get ‘em started on “easy as pie.”) Cake is hard! Especially when you’re trying to impress the judges on a national network, commemorating the re-release of the most popular animated film of all time.

But Dallas’ Bronwen Weber of Frosted Art Bakery and Studio made it look, well, like a piece o’ cake Sunday night, when she won the Food Network’s Lion King-themed bake-off.

Weber’s dynamic interpretation of the villainous Scar in mid-leap bested all the other competitors, with the show airing the second weekend when the new 3D Lion King claimed the No. 1 spot at the weekend box office.

This is nothing new for the gay-friendly Weber, who last year designed “pride cake” cupcakes with rainbows and HRC symbols. She has won 14 medals from the Food Network, including eight first-place citations — three more than her nearest competitor. The episode airs again tonight at 7 p.m.

You can find Weber’s treats at FrostedArt.com.

—  Arnold Wayne Jones

Starvoice • 05.27.11

By Jack Fertig

CELEBRITY BIRTHDAY

Heidi Klum turns 38 on Wednesday. The model turned TV host and producer changed the way we look at the fashion world with her very popular Project Runway. Because of the show, some gay designers have gone to be stars of their own like Austin Scarlett, Santino Rice and season four winner Christian Siriano. A Runway all-stars is apparently in the works.

…………………….

THIS WEEK

Mercury squaring Neptune in Pisces while entering Gemini inflates wonderfully imaginative notions. Jupiter entering Taurus could ground them and find profitable applications. Jupiter in Taurus for the next year should_ be good for the economy. It will be good for bankers at least.

…………………….

GEMINI May 21-Jun 20
Get creative. You have big challenges in the next year. Your intuition is now unusually sharp to see how you can turn those into opportunities. Spiritual guidance can be especially helpful now.

CANCER Jun 21-Jul 22
Dreams lure you too easily into never-never-lands of fantasy and escape. Sharing some of those phantasmagorical reveries with friends can help you find some practical outlet for them.

LEO Jul 23-Aug 22
Remember the difference between dreams and goals. Friends encouraging you to chase after your dreams offer helpful inspiration, but don’t let them distract you from practical aims.

VIRGO Aug 23-Sep 22
Your brain is buzzing with schemes for success. Your partner encourages all your wildest ideas. Not. You need a leveler head with a bit of critical distance to give you pragmatic advice.

LIBRA Sep 23-Oct 22
Expansive, fortunate Jupiter is starting a year in your house of sex. The deeper you go the greater the rewards. Don’t be shy. Neither is without risks, but Jupiter is good to have on your side.

SCORPIO Oct 23-Nov 21
You and your sweetie are due for some frolic. That could open up some questions and confusion. Keeping communications clear is a small challenge. The rewards are well worth it.

SAGITTARIUS Nov 22-Dec 20
Job opportunities open up for you. Have faith in yourself. If familial encouragement is unrealistic, don’t worry about letting them down for what’s in the real world. If you’re happy, they are too.

CAPRICORN Dec 21-Jan 19
You’re way too open to distractions and thus, accidents. Mediation, poetry, music or art will get you back in balance. Take classes in any of those . You need new ways of seeing the world.

AQUARIUS Jan 20-Feb 18
Struggle between your deepest desires and economic necessity feels brutal. A light, playful conversation with your partner  can help you find a way to afford your dreams, or find reconciliation.

PISCES Feb 19-Mar 19
Whatever you have to offer, make it heard and known. Your family will back you up in your endeavors, but you really need to be very clear on who you are and what it is you’ve got.
ARIES  Mar 20-Apr 19
Your recent lucky spree will focus more on financial fortune. Mad dreams and inspirations offer some clues. Talk out your crazy notions with friends and find a way to bring them to the bank.

TAURUS Apr 20-May 20
Recent hard times turn around. Cash in on your good fortune. Turn your friends’ suggestions into practical ideas. Inspirations now point the way to future fulfillment of your dreams.

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

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition May 27, 2011.

—  Kevin Thomas

FEEDBACK: Why I’m supporting Kunkle

Why I’m supporting Kunkle

Thank you for the in-depth expose on the three major mayoral candidates (“Decision in Dallas,” Dallas Voice, April 8).

While there are different opinions regarding the candidates, David Kunkle is my personal choice. I have watched him closely over the last several years and was so impressed with his style of leadership and soft-spoken manner when he was police chief. He went all over this city, listening and getting feedback from not only the GLBT community, but everywhere.

Additionally, he is effective. He may not be the flashiest or most dynamic of the candidates, but he’s a keen thinker and avid reader focused on real world solutions on what works and what doesn’t.

He also appreciates the eclectic aspects of Dallas. That’s an important place to be in my mind, so that we can attract not only Fortune 500 companies but also the small businessman/woman and the budding creative entrepreneurs who want to live in our city.

I don’t know that I necessarily want another CEO as mayor. We hear all the time that government should be run like a business. I think it should not be. Contrary to popular belief today, government is not a business.

Municipal government needs an experienced and competent administrator. In addition to serving as Dallas police chief, David Kunkle also has experience serving as the assistant city manager of Arlington, which will provide him with a skill set from day one that will no doubt serve him well as mayor.

Ron Natinsky and Mike Rawlings both are pleasant gentlemen and they each bring their own “skill set” to the table and there are good people supporting them. But I’m going to be casting my ballot for David Kunkle.

Jay Narey
Dallas

—  John Wright

Dallas could elect 1st gay judge

Judicial candidates John Loza, Tonya Parker among 4 LGBTs running in local races in 2010

By John Wright | News Editor wright@dallasvoice.com
IN THE RUNNING | Dallas County District Clerk Gary Fitzsimmons, clockwise from top left, County Judge Jim Foster, attorney Tonya Parker and former Councilman John Loza are LGBT candidates who plan to run in Dallas County elections in 2010. The filing period ends Jan. 4.

Dallas County has had its share of openly gay elected officials, from Sheriff Lupe Valdez to District Clerk Gary Fitzsimmons to County Judge Jim Foster.
But while Foster, who chairs the Commissioners Court, is called a “judge,” he’s not a member of the judiciary, to which the county’s voters have never elected an out LGBT person.

Two Democrats running in 2010 — John Loza and Tonya Parker — are hoping to change that.

“This is the first election cycle that I can remember where we’ve had openly gay candidates for the judiciary,” said Loza, a former Dallas City Councilman who’s been involved in local LGBT politics for decades. “It’s probably long overdue, to be honest with you.”

Dallas County’s Jerry Birdwell became the first openly gay judge in Texas when he was appointed by Gov. Ann Richards in 1992. But after coming under attack for his sexual orientation by the local Republican Party, Birdwell, a Democrat, lost his bid for re-election later that year.

Also in the November 1992 election, Democrat Barbara Rosenberg defeated anti-gay Republican Judge Jack Hampton.

But Rosenberg, who’s a lesbian, wasn’t out at the time and didn’t run as an openly LGBT candidate.

Loza, who’s been practicing criminal law in Dallas for the last 20 years, is running for the County Criminal Court No. 5 seat. Incumbent Tom Fuller is retiring. Loza said he expects to face three other Democrats in the March primary, meaning a runoff is likely. In addition to groups like Stonewall Democrats of Dallas, he said he’ll seek an endorsement from the Washington, D.C.-based Gay and Lesbian Victory Fund, which provides financial backing to LGBT candidates nationwide.

Parker, who’s running for the 116th Civil District Court seat, declined to be interviewed for this story. Incumbent Bruce Priddy isn’t expected to seek re-election, and Parker appears to be the favorite for the Democratic nomination.

If she wins in November, Parker would become the first LGBT African-American elected official in Dallas County.

Loza and Parker are among four known local LGBT candidates in 2010.
They join fellow Democrats Fitzsimmons and Foster, who are each seeking a second four-year term.

While Foster is vulnerable and faces two strong challengers in the primary, Fitzsimmons is extremely popular and said he’s confident he’ll be re-elected.

“I think pretty much everybody knows that the District Clerk’s Office is probably the best-run office in Dallas County government,” Fitzsimmons said. “I think this county is a Democratic County, and I think I’ve proved myself to be an outstanding county administrator, and I think the people will see that.”

Randall Terrell, political director for Equality Texas, said this week he wasn’t aware of any openly LGBT candidates who’ve filed to run in state races in 2010.

Although Texas made headlines recently for electing the nation’s first gay big-city mayor, the state remains one of 20 that lack an out legislator.

Denis Dison, a spokesman for the Victory Fund, said he’s hoping Annise Parker’s victory in Houston last week will inspire more qualified LGBT people to run for office.

“It gives other people permission really to think of themselves as leaders,” Dison said.

The filing period for March primaries ends Jan. 4.


This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition December 18, 2009.

—  admin