More on the anti-gay Baylor Health Care System

OK, so if anything I should be working on my Super Bowl centerpiece story for next week’s Voice right now, but I felt compelled to provide an update on the situation involving the Baylor Tom Landry Fitness Center given the comment thread below.

Today I spoke with Beverly Davis, a very sweet woman who’s in charge of the city of Dallas’ Fair Housing Office, which investigates complaints under the sexual orientation nondiscrimination ordinance.

Davis explained that her office did not, as alleged, advise Steven Johnson to withdraw his complaint against the Fitness Center last year because the Fitness Center is considered exempt from the ordinance as a “private club.”

Davis, whom I trust, said the city never got a chance to determine whether the ordinance applies to the Fitness Center, because Johnson withdrew the complaint voluntarily and on his own before the investigation began. (I have my suspicions as to why Johnson chose to withdraw the complaint, but I won’t get into that here.)

So, no determination has been made about whether the ordinance applies to the Fitness Center. And again, there is no specific mention in the ordinance of an exemption for “private clubs.” Furthermore, the exemption for religious organizations should not apply because despite any affiliations the Fitness Center is not engaged in religious activities.

Alan Rodriguez, another gay man who was discriminated against by the Fitness Center, says he plans to file a complaint on Monday.

Which, I think, is a good thing.

After all, what’s the point of having the ordinance if you’re not going to attempt to use it? Filing a complaint will force the city to investigate, and it will undoubtedly force Baylor to get its attorneys involved. And at some point, they may start to wonder whether all this is really worth it to defend some backward-ass policy that probably loses money for the Fitness Center.

The city may offer mediation to Baylor and a chance to change the policy. If Baylor refuses, the City Attorney’s Office will decide whether there is cause to prosecute. If they choose not to prosecute, it becomes a City Council issue. These cases shouldn’t be decided by the City Attorney’s Office; they should be decided by judges and juries. Again, in the nine years since the ordinance was passed, there have been more than 40 complaints filed, and not one has ever been prosecuted by the city.

Granted, even if the city were to prosecute a case successfully, it’s only a maximum $500 fine per violation. But that’s not the point.

—  John Wright

OUTRAGE: Baylor Health Care System confirms that it doesn’t consider your family a family

Jennifer Coleman

Jennifer Coleman, senior vice president of consumer affairs for the Baylor Health Care System, has yet to respond to our request for comment from Wednesday about the Tom Landry Fitness Center’s policy of blatantly discriminating against same-sex couples.

However, Coleman did respond to a letter from Alan Rodriguez, the gay East Dallas resident who’s planning to file a discrimination complaint against the Baylor-owned Fitness Center for refusing to sell a family membership to him and his partner of 10 years.

“Thank you for your e-mail and phone call,” Coleman wrote in an e-mail to Rodriguez, which he provided to Instant Tea. “The Baylor Tom Landry Fitness Center offers, and will continue to offer, a family discount to a husband and wife pursuant to the Texas law definition of marriage. The fitness center is a private membership health club that is open to all applicants who meet membership criteria that are non-discriminatory. The fitness center has and welcomes a diverse membership.”

We’ve heard several people in the LGBT community comment that if the Fitness Center wants to discriminate against same-sex couples, people should simply take their money and memberships elsewhere.

And while this is certainly true, there are a few other problems: One, the Baylor Health Care System operates a dozen medical facilities in North Texas alone, which is downright scary in light of this policy; and two, the city of Dallas has an ordinance that prohibits this type of discrimination — in the same way that state and federal law prohibit businesses from discriminating on the basis of things like race.

Unfortunately, the city doesn’t seem to want to enforce the ordinance. As we’ve said repeatedly, more than 40 c0mplaints have been filed since the ordinance passed in 2002, but not one has every been prosecuted by the city.

Steven Johnson, a gay man who filed a discrimination complaint against the Tom Landry Fitness Center last year, says he withdrew it after city officials advised him that the gym is exempt from the ordinance because it’s a private club.

But that’s a bunch of bullshit. The ordinance provides no exception for private clubs.

We’ve been playing phone tag with Beverly Davis of the city’s Fair Housing Office, which is charged with investigating complaints under the ordinance, to find out whether it’s true that officials advised Johnson to withdraw his complaint.

We’ll let you know when we get in touch with Davis and/or Coleman.

In case you’re wondering, Coleman can be reached by e-mail at jennifco@BaylorHealth.edu.

—  John Wright

TABC issues 1st licenses in dry Dallas areas

The Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission has issued the first two liquor licenses to restaurants in the formerly dry areas of Dallas, according to a press release we received today.

A mixed beverage permit ihas been issued to Bee at 202 West Davis St. near the Bishop Arts District. This will be the first restaurant in Oak Cliff to serve alcohol without a private club permit since the area went dry in a 1958 election.

The first convenience store south of the river will be able to sell beer and wine as well. That store is on South Loop 12 Ledbetter.

On Nov. 2, a local option was held, legalizing wine and beer off-premises, as well as mixed beverage permits in restaurants that hold food and beverage certificates. Those votes were canvassed, with the results certified and reported to TABC and the Secretary of State in mid-November. TABC accepts applications only after they’ve been certified by the city and county.

A lawsuit has been filed to contest the election, but an injunction has not been ordered, so TABC has begun issuing licenses.

At issue is whether the election is valid. The election in the 1950s that turned parts of Dallas dry were Justice of the Peace district elections. The repeal was citywide. Under Texas law, only a JP district election can repeal a previous JP district election.

About 10 restaurants have liquor licenses pending. Bishop Arts District could be one of the biggest winners if the election is upheld.

—  David Taffet

Dallas voters to decide alcohol sales propositions

Hunky’s in Bishop Arts would benefit from Proposition 2

Four propositions appear on Tuesday’s ballot in the city of Dallas.

Proposition 1 would lift restrictions on the sale of beer and wine in convenience and grocery stores throughout the city. Proposition 2 would allow restaurants throughout the city to sell beer and wine without becoming private clubs.

Currently, restaurants in dry areas that want to sell alcohol must become private clubs. The owner of Vera Cruz in Bishop Arts said his board, made up of a group of his neighbors, meets three times a week to vote members in and out. He rents a storage unit just to store all the paperwork.

Kathy Jack, owner of Jack’s Backyard, told Dallas Voice that since alcohol distributors aren’t allowed to deliver to dry areas, her employees regularly have to pick up their alcohol.

Outside an early voting location in Oak Cliff last week, opponents of both propositions were campaigning.

“They do nothing but bring down our community,” said Tyrone Rushing. “I don’t want that in my community.” He was specifically opposing Proposition 1.

“We are for a safer environment,” Rhaneesh Dixon added.

The “No” vote is being coordinated by liquor stores that line the streets on the borders between wet and dry areas. They do not want the competition. If Oak Cliff residents could buy beer and wine at Tom Thumb on Hampton Road or Kroger at Wynnewood Village, they wouldn’t cross the river to shop at the run-down liquor stores on Riverfront Boulevard.

If the propositions pass, opponents of beer and wine sales plan to seek an injunction. They claim the election that made Oak Cliff dry was a Justice of the Peace District 7 election. The current election is countywide. According to Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission code, JP district elections trump county elections and only a JP district election can repeal a JP district vote.

Propositions 3 and 4 are related to the sale of two parks by the city. For more on them, go here.

—  David Taffet

Letters • 10.22.10

Many questions on Club Dallas raid

I just read John Wright’s article about the recent raid at Club Dallas (“11 arrested in raid at Club Dallas,” Dallas Voice, Oct. 15).

What is not clear to me is this: What exactly was the “complaint” that was filed with Dallas Police Department? I did not read this in the article. I am not so much interested as to who filed this complaint (though there are many people or groups that I am sure would love to see Club Dallas shut down!). But what was the substance of this complaint that “forced” the DPD to investigate Club Dallas?

Surely, the DPD knows, or should have known, what the 34-year-old Club Dallas is all about, as well as all of the other adult swingers’ clubs and bathhouses in the city where nudity and sexual contact are common? Was this a person who somehow paid and entered this private club, not knowing what a bathhouse was and why many members of the community patronize this private club? Or was this simply a “noise” issue of people coming and going at all hours?

If what is going on in these clubs is illegal, why are they allowed to be open for business at all?

Is Laura Martin seriously unaware of what goes on in a bathhouse? Seriously? Is she aware of the substance of the initiating complaint? Is she OK with DPD’s follow-up investigation and subsequent arrests?

Can Laura Martin, or anyone at the DPD, give us a direct explanation as to how a private club that requires a paid entry fee and, if I remember correctly, warning signs as to the nudity that goes on in the establishment is considered a “public space”?

Isn’t by definition a public space some place where anyone, man, woman or child, can freely visit? Can just anyone walk into Club Dallas? If not, again, how is it considered by law enforcement and the courts as a public space?

Does this mean that all of the other bathhouses and any other sex clubs in Dallas will also be subject to the same type of investigations, gay or straight?
Your thoughts here would be appreciated. Again, please keep up the good work.

Ludwik Kowal
Hong Kong

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Thanks for the hot Szot

Thank you for the great coverage of Paulo Szot (“Hot Szot,” Dallas Voice, Oct. 15). It’s so refreshing to see an out gay man in this kind of role.

Gordon Yusko
Via E-Mail

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Broden’s dangerous views

Thanks for your coverage of congressional candidate Stephen Broden’s homophobic statements on Fox’s The Glenn Beck Show (DallasVoice.com/Instant Tea, Oct. 5).

It is troubling that Dallas Morning News has not covered this and would endorse this radical individual given the 30th District’s large LGBT community.
I also want to point out Broden’s close ties to a radical abortion group called Maafa 21 and his association with Life Dynamics President Mark Crutcher.

Broden holds many very dangerous views!

Michael Thomas
Dallas

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Aggie Corps more accepting of gays now

I am writing in response to the open letter Dallas Voice published online from Clint Hooper to Texas A&M’s acting commandant, Col. Jake Betty (“A former Aggie cadet comes out and comes clean,” Dallas Voice.com Instant Tea, Oct. 11).

In 2003 I became the first openly gay cadet to complete the Corps of Cadets program, and did so as an outfit commander, just like Mr. Hooper. While my interactions with some other cadets were sometimes difficult and occasionally devolved into outright harassment, I had the full support of then-commandant Gen. John Van Alstyne and his staff, which included Col. Jake Betty.

Mr. Hooper’s very public coming out is something that takes a lot of courage to do, particularly when you consider the conservative history and environment of the Corps of Cadets, and I commend him for it. However, his letter lends the impression that corps leadership, and Col. Betty in particular, do not understand what gay and lesbian cadets face and do not have an adequate sensitivity to those issues in order to address them properly.

I respectfully disagree.

Col. Betty is one of the most honorable men I know, and I could not have made it through the corps being openly gay were it not for the leadership, guidance and understanding of him, Gen. Van Alstyne and the rest of the commandant’s staff.

I can assure you and your readers that Col. Betty and the rest of commandant’s staff do indeed understand what it means to be openly gay in the Corps of Cadets and will not allow it to be an impediment to the success of any cadet. In fact, their understanding and sensitivity have helped ensure that openly gay cadets do not experience the negativity I did all those years ago.

After I served as the first openly gay outfit commander in 2003, there was an openly gay Aggie Band drum major in 2004, and another openly gay cadet served as an outfit commander just a few years later.

Our experiences and the support we received from Col. Betty and others clearly demonstrate openly gay men and women have been and will continue to be successful, strongly contributing members of the Corps of Cadets.

I am pleased Mr. Hooper’s letter has given us an opportunity to have this discussion again in the Aggie community, but I question the decision to publish it in Dallas Voice, as opposed to the A&M student newspaper The Battalion, where it might have the greatest impact among Aggies.

I think it is a discussion to be had among alumni and current students who have the greatest stake in the organization, but the broadcasting of a letter that misplaces the blame for intolerance in a statewide forum reinforces the view that the Corps of Cadets is still a harshly intolerant place for us. Trust me: It is a far better place than it used to be, and a far better organization than Mr. Hooper presents it to be

While there is still a lot of progress to be made, the Fightin’ Texas Aggie Corps of Cadets is a more welcoming place for gays and lesbians because of the outstanding leadership of Col. Jake Betty and the rest of the commandant’s staff.

Thanks and Gig ’em!

Noel A. Freeman
Texas A&M Class of 2003

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This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition October 22, 2010

—  Kevin Thomas