Openly gay candidate runs for chair of Denton County Democratic Party

John McClelland serves on water board, founded chapters of Drinking Liberally and Stonewall Democrats

mcclelland.john

IF AT FIRST YOU DON’T SUCCEED | John McClelland lost races for Dallas City Council and Texas House before winning a seat on the local water board. Now he’s running for Denton County Democratic Party chair.

DANIEL VILLARREAL  |  Contributing Writer
editor@dallasvoice.com

DENTON — When he got elected to the district board of the Denton County Fresh Water Supply in March 2010, John McClelland says he became the first openly gay elected official in the county’s history.

This year he’s running for chair of the county’s Democratic Party with the hopes of finally turning Denton — and possibly the whole Lone Star State — blue.

And it all started with a drink.

When President George W. Bush got re-elected in 2004, McClelland consoled himself with the thought that things in the U.S. couldn’t really get much worse. Then in 2005, they did.

The state’s voters passed Proposition 2, an amendment banning both same-sex marriage and civil unions in the Texas Constitution.

McClelland had identified as a Republican during his college days, but gradually came to feel like he couldn’t be gay in the GOP.

He spent time making phone calls, marching on the Capitol and organizing voters against Prop 2. But in the end it still passed with 76 percent of the vote. And by the time it was all over, all McClelland wanted was a drink.

He’d read about Drinking Liberally, a group of New York progressives dedicated to discussing politics over drinks, so he decided to start his own

Addison chapter. He placed an ad on Craigslist and seven people showed up, mostly wondering why he’d even bothered organizing a progressive meeting in such a conservative state.

“Most of the people just wanted a place to sit down, talk and air their grievances, kinda like

Festivus [the made-up holiday celebrated on TV’s Seinfeld], just without the pole and the wrestling match,” he said.

But as the meet-ups continued, McClelland felt he couldn’t just sit around without doing something to make the world a better place. So in 2007, he decided to run against Ron Natinsky for the Dallas City Council District 12 seat.

Natinsky got 4,452 votes. McClelland got 979.

Undeterred, he decided to run against Republican incumbent Myra Crownover in the 2008 race for Texas House District 64.

Crownover received 40,758 votes and McClelland only received 28,195. But considering that Crownover had raised $216,471 for her campaign and McClelland had only raised $28,134, McClelland considered it a worthwhile achievement.

“Being an openly gay, Democrat in a red district in Denton County, that’s pretty good.”

Though he admits that having Barack Obama at the top of the ticket certainly helped, McClelland feels that voters didn’t care that he was a Democrat or gay; they just wanted new leadership and knew that McClelland was qualified.

Though he kept hanging out with the Drinking Liberally crowd, after Obama got elected in 2008, their national outlook became more optimistic.

Instead of complaining about Bush all the time, they complained about the Republicans controlling the state Legislature.

Likewise, McClelland himself had changed. Not only had he run two local races, he had also founded the Stonewall Democrats of Denton County, the national gay political organization’s fifth chapter in North Texas.

“It’s important for LGBT people to have that sort of thing, to be around one another and educate the people that you’re dealing with in the grand scheme of the big tent,” McClelland says. “There are a lot of people who don’t even know what Stonewall means. A lot of people think it refers to Stonewall Jackson, the war general, instead of Stonewall bar.”

He continued acting as his Stonewall chapter’s president after he got elected to the district board of the Denton County Fresh Water Supply in March 2010. But after three years in the office, he has stepped down and refocused his efforts on becoming Denton County Democratic Party chair.

Typically, a county Democratic Party chair supports Democratic campaigns by working closely with candidates, conducting primary elections and helping precinct chairs get out the vote.

But McClelland thinks that the Denton County Democratic Party can do a lot more to help make this happen. As chair, he would train precinct chairs on how to use voter databases to contact voters and host events, fundraise through local donors who normally give to the Democratic

National Committee but not to their local party (“the money doesn’t trickle down,” he says) and prepare future candidates and party organizers through a county program called “Project Farm Team.”

Right now he has 2,000 hangers sitting on his floor just waiting to grace the doors of potential voters.

“I want to get Democrats elected, that’s the main reason I’m doing this, that’s the goal,” McClelland said. “Without Denton or Collin county, it’s gonna be a pretty tough spot getting a Democrat elected, like a governor or a U.S. Senator. Getting Denton County to turn blue is one of the keys to getting the entire state to turn blue.”

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition February 10, 2012.

—  Kevin Thomas

If you liked Bush, you’ll love Perry

Gov. Rick Perry and President George W. Bush are shown together in Austin in 2008. (Associated Press)

Anti-gay governor’s presidential bid is a nightmare, but sadly some in LGBT community will support him

DAVID WEBB  |  The Rare Reporter

Someone please shake me awake, because this must be a nightmare. That’s what I was thinking last weekend as I watched Texas Gov. Rick Perry’s announcing that he’s seeking the Republican Party’s nomination for president in 2012. The most outrageously outspoken anti-gay governor in the history of Texas has decided that he wants to take his act to Washington.

More than anything else, I’ve wanted to see a conclusion to Perry’s seemingly unending, tyrannical reign over Texas politics, but this is not what I had in mind.

The scariest part is that I wouldn’t be surprised at all if Perry snatches the Republican nomination away from current GOP frontrunner Mitt Romney — and anyone else who is eyeing the spot. The only scenario that could make the situation any worse would be Perry naming his buddy Sarah Palin as a running mate.

My guess is that Perry and his team feel pretty confident.

This is a career politician who, in addition to being the longest-serving governor, has never lost an election since he entered politics as a state legislator in 1984.
During his announcement speech in South Carolina, Perry focused on economics and steered clear of social issues, but we all know where he stands on LGBT equality.

He is adamantly opposed to it, just as he is to a woman’s right to choose.

The week before his announcement, Perry held a rally in Houston to pray away the nation’s problems. As the poster boy for evangelical Christians, Perry has made it clear he’ll do that group’s bidding if he goes to Washington.

In his speech he only referred to overturning President Barack Obama’s health care plan, but anyone who thinks he wouldn’t target every other progressive measure approved in the last three years is in for a big shock. As a former Air Force pilot and Texas A&M cadet yell leader, he no doubt bristled when “don’t ask, don’t tell” was repealed.

What makes Perry particularly dangerous to the LGBT community is the rumor that he once was sexually involved with other men in Austin. The rumor has plagued his career, although he appears to have convinced his conservative religious base that it’s untrue. Perry may view anti-gay rhetoric as a way of combating the rumor.

Gay activists and journalists from the national media are combing through Perry’s past at this moment to determine if there is any truth to the rumor, but I suspect they are coming up empty-handed.

I recently wrote that I didn’t think there was any truth to the rumor, and I received quite a few
emails from gay Texans telling me I was wrong. I spoke with one of them on the phone who told me that a married, closeted male legislator had allegedly told several people that he had been involved sexually with Perry.

The biggest problem with the story is that the former legislator has credibility problems. On top of that, I understand that he now denies having ever been involved with Perry.

The only other incident possibly involving homosexuality is a story about Perry and another Boy Scout in Haskell County being caught in a sleeping bag together on a camping trip. That was when Perry, now 61, was about 10, and he reportedly got into the sleeping bag of a 12-year-old because he was cold. The two reportedly slept “back to back” during the night.

The Scoutmaster reportedly raised a fuss about the innocent incident when he discovered the two boys together the next morning, so that could possibly help explain some of Perry’s aversion to anything related to LGBT people. Such a scolding at that early of an age could have made a strong impression on our presidential hopeful.

I had also heard that Perry was seen in the late 1980s in an Austin gay disco called the Boat House, but I have a little trouble believing that as well.

Perry has clearly been motivated all of his life to succeed and overcome his humble beginnings, and that has involved a lot of macho posturing. In my opinion he would never have made an appearance at a gay bar, even if he was bi-curious and experimenting a little bit.

Unless someone has some compromising pictures of Perry or someone credible comes forward to acknowledge a same-sex relationship with the governor, I don’t think that story is going anywhere.

There are plenty of tales out there about Perry and wild youthful antics before he was married, but those are of no consequence in 2011, as a veteran politician
pointed out to me recently. Hypocrisy equals zilch in terms of derailing a presidential bid in today’s world.

In fact, I’m confident many LGBT voters will support Perry for president. It’s a curious phenomenon that I’ve seen time and time again. Politicians can spout anti-gay rhetoric from dawn to dusk, and many members of our community will still vote for them.

To those people I would say, if you liked having George W. Bush in the White House, you no doubt would love seeing James Richard “Rick” Perry in the Oval Office.

David Webb is a veteran journalist who has covered LGBT issues for the mainstream and alternative media for three decades. Email him at davidwaynewebb@yahoo.com.

—  John Wright

LGBT Democrats meet to strategize for the future

Texas Stonewall Democrats assess 2010 ‘ass-whipping’ at the polls during weekend meeting}

See related slideshow here

 

From Staff Reports

editor@dallasvoice.com

Members of the Texas Stonewall Democratic Caucus from all across the state met in Austin on March 5-6 to assess the “ass-whipping” Democrats took at the polls last November and to develop messaging and other strategies for winning in 2012, according to caucus president Dan Graney.

Keynote speakers were openly bisexual Arizona state Sen. Kyrsten Sinema and national transgender activist Mara Keisling.

Sinema warned Texas Democrats that “Arizona is coming to a state near you,” calling her home state the breeding ground for the anti-immigrant, anti-choice, anti-worker’s rights and anti-children’s health care measures currently being proposed in many state legislatures, including Texas.

Sinema called the spreading efforts an attempt by the Tea Party to “mainstream hatred in this country,” adding that “Tea Party” is just another name for Republicans.

Sinema said Democrats must build coalitions to stop such legislation, and encouraged LGBT Democrats to reach out to even unlikely allies to get — and give — support.

“After all, LGBT people make up only 4 percent of the electorate and you need 50 percent plus one to win,” Sinema said, who stayed after her speech to autograph copies of her book, “Unite And Conquer: Building Coalitions That Win — And Last.”

Keisling, mixing healthy dose of humor in with her experience and expertise, urged LGBT Democrats to move outside their “issue silos” and talk about racism, immigration and other progressive issues. She jokingly referred to former President George W. Bush and Texas Gov. Rick Perry as her “prior husbands” and referred to the Tea Party as a reincarnation of the John Birch Society.

Keisling expressed little hope for the advancement of the federal Employment Non-Discrimination Act over the next two years, saying that the measure is dead for now thanks to the Republican majority in the U.S. House.

Other guest speakers at the conference included Austin Mayor Lee Leffingwell, Texas Democratic Party Chairman Boyd Richie, Equality Texas Executive Director Dennis Coleman and state Rep. Mike Villarreal, D-San Antonio.

Villarreal led a plenary session that included an analysis of the November 2010 election and small group sessions to develop messaging for the 2012 election. A second plenary session, led by TSDC Vice President Erin Moore and Rio Grande Valley Chapter President Eli Olivarez, focused on winning strategies for the 2012 election.

Awards were presented to Houston LGBT activist Brad Pritchett,  Stonewall Democrats of the Rio Grande Valley and state Sen. Wendy Davis, D-Fort Worth. The conference also included a TSDC executive board meeting and workshops on a variety of topics, such as building a bigger club and youth involvement and use of social media.

Many who attended the conference stayed to participate in Equality Texas Lobby Day on Monday, March 7.

A total of 70 LGBT Democrats and straight allies from across the state registered for the conference. There was representation at the conference from all nine active chapters statewide, including many young people, as well as from Galveston and Tyler.

For more information about the conference, go online to  TexasStonewalldemocrats.org

.

—  Kevin Thomas

Judges that will hear Prop 8 case called ‘a very good panel’ for gay marriage supporters

Backers of anti-gay California initiative say development means case even more likely to be decided by Supreme Court

LISA LEFF | Associated Press

SAN FRANCISCO — Two judges appointed by Democratic presidents and one named by a Republican will decide if a San Francisco trial judge improperly struck down California’s same-sex marriage ban, a federal appeals court announced Monday, Nov. 29.

Judges Michael Hawkins, Stephen Reinhardt and N. Randy Smith of the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals were randomly assigned the landmark case from the court’s pool of 27 active judges.

The panel is scheduled to hear arguments next week over the constitutionality of the voter-approved ban, known as Proposition 8.

Reinhardt, a 79-year-old Los Angeles resident, was appointed by President Jimmy Carter in 1980 and is regarded as one of the 9th Circuit’s most liberal jurists. Hawkins, a 65-year-old Arizonan, was appointed by President Bill Clinton in 1994.

Smith, 61, was appointed by President George W. Bush in 2007 and keeps his chambers in his native Idaho.

Proposition 8′s sponsors are appealing Chief U.S. District Judge Vaughn Walker’s August ruling that overturned the 2008 law as a violation of gay and lesbian Californians’ civil rights. They argue that Walker ignored a U.S. Supreme Court precedent from 1973 that held the U.S. Constitution does not recognize marriage rights for gays.

Observers predicted the panel’s makeup makes it less likely Walker would be reversed.

“Anyone who follows the 9th Circuit closely would say that this a very good panel for the Prop 8 opponents and a very bad panel for its defenders,” said Arthur Hellman, a University of Pittsburgh School of Law professor who is an expert on the court. “I expect a 2-1 decision, with Reinhardt and Hawkins outvoting Smith.”

Proposition 8′s supporters had the same interpretation, and reiterated their plan to take the case to the U.S. Supreme Court, if necessary.

“Judge Reinhardt’s inclusion on the 9th Circuit panel adds more weight to what the Prop 8 Legal Defense team has said since this case was filed in federal court: We fully expect that it will ultimately be decided by the highest court in the land,” the California Family Council, which was part of the coalition of religious and conservative groups that backed the 2008 measure, said in a statement.

When they meet in San Francisco on Dec. 6, one of the issues the judges will consider is whether the ban’s backers had the authority to bring the appeal after Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger and Attorney General Jerry Brown decided not to challenge the lower court ruling.

Officials from conservative Imperial County have asked the 9th Circuit to allow them to represent the state’s interests if the panel decides that Proposition 8′s sponsors lack standing.

—  John Wright

GLBT History Month’s 1st icon is gay ex-Marine from Texas who lost leg in Iraq war

For the fifth consecutive year, the Equality Forum presents GLBT icons for each day of October, to mark GLBT History Month. And this year’s first icon is Texas’ own Eric Alva of San Antonio, who was the first casualty of the Iraq war. Alva, a Marine staff sergeant, lost his leg when he stepped on a land mine three hours into the ground invasion in 2003. But it wasn’t until after Alva returned home — and had been visited by President George W. Bush in the hospital and appeared on “Oprah” — that he came out as gay and become a spokesman for the repeal of “don’t ask don’t tell.” From our story on Alva in April 2007:

He says it wasn’t until one night last fall that it came to him. He had always wanted to help people, but wasn’t sure how.

“I would always talk about it, but it was more words just coming out of my mouth because I never did anything about it,” he says.

After Alva’s partner, whom he met after returning from Iraq, pleaded with him to do something before his notoriety wore off, Alva decided to e-mail HRC.

“I said, ‘I don’t know how I may help you, but the story is I am a gay Marine,’” Alva recalls.

A few days later, HRC returned his call. Then, after U.S. Rep. Marty Meehan, D-Mass., announced plans to reintroduce the Military Readiness Enhancement Act, which would repeal “Don’t ask, don’t tell,” they called again.

“They called and said, “‘Eric, we need you now,’” Alva says. “I knew that what I was about to do was a huge sacrifice on my part. But I needed to tell people that this is the way the country should be.”

Of course, more than three years later, “don’t ask don’t tell” remains in place. So perhaps it’s fitting that Alva is the first icon of this year’s GLBT History Month. We haven’t heard much from him lately, but according to the Equality Federation, he’s working on his master’s degree in social work.

—  John Wright

Former RNC Chair Ken Mehlman, who headed Bush’s 2004 campaign, comes out as gay

Ken Mehlman

Gay blogger Mike Rogers, a pretty reliable source when it comes to these things, is reporting that former Republican National Committee Chairman Ken Mehlman, who served as President George W. Bush’s 2004 campaign manager, is set to come out of the closet — in an Atlantic magazine column to be published Friday or early next week. Before leading what Rogers calls “the most homophobic national campaign in history,” Mehlman served as chief of staff to Texas Congresswoman Kay Granger and legislative director for Texas Congressman Lamar Smith. From Rogers: 

So, how can Ken Mehlman redeem himself? I want to hear from Ken that he is sorry for being the architect of the 2004 Bush reelection campaign. I want to hear from Ken that he is sorry for his role in developing strategy that resulted in George W. Bush threatening to veto ENDA or any bill containing hate crimes laws. I want to hear from Ken that he is sorry for the pressing of two Federal Marriage Amendments as political tools. I want to hear from Ken that he is sorry for developing the 72-hour strategy, using homophobic churches to become political arms of the GOP before Election Day.

And those state marriage amendments. I want to hear him apologize for every one of those, too.

And then there is one other little thing. You see, while you and I had the horrible feelings of being treated so poorly by our President, while teens were receiving the messaging ‘gay is bad’ giving them ‘permission’ to gay bash, while our rights were being stripped away state by state, Ken was out there laughing all the way to the bank. So, if Ken is really sorry, and he very well may be, then all he needs to do is sell his condo and donate the funds to the causes he worked against so hard for all those years. He’s done a lot of damage to a lot of organizations, while making a lot of money. A LOT of money. It’s time to put his money where his mouth is. Ken Mehlman is sitting in a $3,770,000.00 (that’s $3.77 million) condo in Chelsea while we have lost our right to marry in almost 40 states.

THEN, and only then, should Mehlman be welcomed into our community.

Read more at blogactive.com.

UPDATE: The Atlantic’s story is now up:

“It’s taken me 43 years to get comfortable with this part of my life,” Mehlman said. “Everybody has their own path to travel, their own journey, and for me, over the past few months, I’ve told my family, friends, former colleagues, and current colleagues, and they’ve been wonderful and supportive. The process has been something that’s made me a happier and better person. It’s something I wish I had done years ago.”

—  John Wright

Laura Bush says she asked George not to make gay marriage 'a significant issue'

Dallas resident and former first lady Laura Bush’s memoirs, “Spoken from the Heart,” won’t be released until next Tuesday, but The New York Times and Politico are already reporting on some of the contents. According to Mike Allen at Politico, one memorable passage appears on Page 303:

“In 2004 the social question that animated the campaign was gay marriage. Before the election season had unfolded, I had talked to George about not making gay marriage a significant issue. We have, I reminded him, a number of close friends who are gay or whose children are gay. But at that moment I could never have imagined what path this issue would take and where it would lead.”

Let’s just hope those “close friends” aren’t friends at all anymore.

—  John Wright