Alan Steen, who guided TABC through Rainbow Lounge aftermath, to retire from agency in June

Alan Steen

Administrator Alan Steen, who guided the Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission through the aftermath of the Rainbow Lounge raid, is retiring from TABC effective June 1, according to a press release.

Steen famously apologized to the LGBT community after the raid, which TABC conducted with the Fort Worth Police Department. Three TABC officers involved in the raid were later fired, and the agency settled with Rainbow Lounge patrons who were injured. TABC also became the first state agency to conduct comprehensive LGBT diversity training for all employees, and assigned a liaison to the LGBT community.

“I wanted to leave the agency when it was right for me personally and when I felt the agency was in the best shape of its existence,” Steen said in the release. “I believe that time is now. I know the dedicated employees of TABC will continue to progress and move forward. … I’d like to acknowledge the board that hired me. They wanted change for the agency and took a chance on someone who had no alcoholic beverage industry experience and who wasn’t a peace officer. I also want to thank the current board. During tough times, they stood by me, pushing the agency to cultivate a professional image, business-friendly practices, and a common sense approach.”

According to the press release, Steen has accepted the position of executive director of the National Cutting Horse Association (NCHA), which is based in Fort Worth and has more than 20,000 members around the world. Steen is a native of Granbury. An interim head for TABC has not been named.

—  John Wright

Owner of Cherries acquires 3 Fort Worth clubs

Former Rainbow Lounge manager and owner of Randy’s Club Cherries, Randy Norman has made his big move in Fort Worth. He is reportedly the new owner of the Rainbow Lounge, Best Friends Club and Percussions Lounge all in Cowtown. This comes from the Dallas Gay Bars website. We spoke with Norman this afternoon and his sights are set on getting Fort Worth clubs to a high standard. Sensing some decline in the clubs’ upkeep, Norman took action.

—  Rich Lopez

‘Rainbow Lounge’ doc premieres in Fort Worth

CLICK HERE TO VIEW MORE PHOTOS FROM THE PREMIERE

For the first half hour of Thursday night’s premiere in Fort Worth of Robert Camina’s documentary Raid of the Rainbow Lounge, the audience sat completely still and silent. Many were in tears as they relived the horror of the raid. Among those in the audience was Chad Gibson, who was injured in the raid and later settled with the Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission and the city of Fort Worth for more than $600,000.

Not until attorney Jon Nelson rebutted Police Chief Jeffrey Halstead’s assertion that it wasn’t a raid with the comment, “If it walks like a raid and quacks like a raid, it’s a raid,” did the audience break out into applause.

While Nelson was applauded the most through the film, raid witness Todd Camp got the most laughs. His first was when he described the police officers who claimed in their report that the officers were groped during the raid as having a “Village People fixation.”

Halstead is the “character” in the film that evolves most. The week of the raid, he’s seen reading from his officers’ report and defending his department. He said the comments of one woman at the first city council meeting after the raid affected him the most. She had driven from San Francisco to speak. He said he wondered what could have affected someone so much that she decided to drive halfway across the country to speak for three minutes and then turn around and drive back home. At that moment, he began to understand the frustration and anger of the community.

Mayor Mike Moncrief is the person who comes across the worst on film. He appears to have been cornered into making an apology that anyone in the city was hurt. Unlike Halstead, he did not appear in an on-camera interview in the film.

After the film, Halstead, who attended the premiere, again apologized for offending the community with his initial reaction and said that his department has changed. He said that within weeks of the raid, three male officers came out to him.

Halstead told the audience that when a similar raid happened in Atlanta 10 weeks later, he got a call from the acting chief in that city.

“Jeff, help me,” Atlanta’s chief said.

Halstead said that the atmosphere in the Fort Worth Police Department is completely different now than it was less than three years ago. When a rookie class is training, he said he enjoys introducing Sara Straten, the city’s first LGBT community liaison, by saying, “This is Sara. She’s a lesbian.” He said the reaction is always, “Did he really just say that?”

But he said that the raid has made a difference in training on a variety of issues including how officers respond to domestic violence calls.

Meredith Baxter, who narrated the film, spoke briefly at the premiere about how she became involved: A lot of nagging from Fairness Fort Worth President Tom Anable.

The film will be shown in Dallas at the Magnolia Theater on April 25. Tickets are available at RaidoftheRainbowLounge.com.

 

 

—  David Taffet

WATCH: Robert Camina’s long-awaited “Raid of the Rainbow Lounge” to premiere March 15

Meredith Baxter and Robert Camina

Robert Camina announced that the premiere of his documentary film Raid of the Rainbow Lounge will be held on March 15 at the AMC Palace 9 in Sundance Square in Downtown Fort Worth.

Meredith Baxter, who narrates the film, and Camina will be in attendance.

The film documents the events that happened at the newly opened Rainbow Lounge when Fort Worth police and the Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission raided the bar on the 40th anniversary of the Stonewall Rebellion.

Camina uploaded a new trailer for the film. Watch it below.

—  David Taffet

Camina raising funds to complete Rainbow Lounge documentary before March premiere

Filmmaker Robert Camina

Filmmaker Robert Camina said his new film Raid of the Rainbow Lounge is currently being mixed at a sound studio, and he is raising money to pay off costs incurred and post-production expenses as well as pay for distribution fees.

The 100-minute documentary details the bar raid that took place in Fort Worth on the 40th anniversary of the Stonewall Rebellion. The Rainbow Lounge raid left two patrons of the bar injured, including one with severe head injuries.

“But I hope it has an inspiring message,” Camina said.

He said the film goes beyond documenting the raid to tell the story of the progress Fort Worth’s LGBT community made as a result of the incident. The raid, conducted by two Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission agents and seven Fort Worth police officers, led to new transgender protections in the city’s nondiscrimination ordinance, a police liaison to the LGBT community, sensitivity training for all city employees and a variety of other advances.

Before making this film, Camina’s experience was with comedies.

“I learned more about politics making this film,” he said.

The film is narrated by Meredith Baxter, and Camina hopes to premiere it in March in Fort Worth.

Contributions to expenses for the film can be made here. As a thank you, Camina Entertainment is offering mugs, T-shirts and autographed copies of Baxter’s book, Untied.

—  David Taffet

Banks Appointed to Citizen Police Oversight Board

Kris Banks

Kris Banks

On Wednesday the Houston City Council confirmed Mayor Annise Parker’s appointment of Former Houston GLBT Political Caucus President Kris Banks to the Independent Police Oversight Board.  The Oversight Board provides a way for Houstonians to have input into allegations against police officers involving use of excessive force, discharge of firearms, serious bodily injury or death or mistreatment of citizens.  The Board also makes recommendations on recruitment, training and evaluation of police officers; and considers community concerns regarding the Department.  Houstini talked with Banks about his new role:

[Houstini] Why have you agreed to serve on the Oversight Board?

[Banks] I believe the Oversight Board performs an important and vital function that benefits all involved. Police officers are granted extraordinary powers over their fellow Houstonians. They can, under legally sufficient circumstances, detain people against their will, walk into other people’s homes without their permission, and even use physical force to make people comply. We grant police officers these powers because they are necessary for the officers to do their jobs. However, with these great powers come great responsibility, and the Oversight Board exists as a check on those powers, thereby protecting the public against the very rare officer who uses her or his powers irresponsibility or excessively. It also benefits the police department. With the assurance that the Board is providing oversight, members of the public can be more confident of the police department, and form a better working relationship with officers.

[Houstini] What do LGBT Houstonians who have concerns about police behavior need to know about the mission of the Oversight Board?

[Banks] Historically, the LGBT community has had concerns about very broad and obvious police harassment, like bar raids. Incidents like these still occur (see Rainbow Lounge in Fort Worth), but they tend to not be the focus of issues that exists between the LGBT community and the police department. Concerns between the community and the police department now tend to be over specific incidents that sometimes come to light and sometimes do not. That being said, the IPOB will review internal police investigations for complaints of excessive force, any discharge of a firearm, any time there is a death or serious injury, or any matter the police chief refers to us. We make recommendations, and the chief has ultimate discretion. What I want to highlight here is that a complaint has to be made for the IPOB to have any role. Complaints have to be sworn, either by the complainant, or, if the complaint is anonymous, by the person taking the complaint.

LGBT Houstonians should also know that I take my role as a community representative very seriously. I will not only take my perspective as an LGBT Houstonian to the police department, I will also take the knowledge I gain back of police procedure back to the community. For instance, I mentioned anonymous complaints above. In the training I have received so far, I learned that organizations can be deputized to take anonymous complaints (LULAC and the NAACP are both deputized). Anonymous complaints are, unfortunately, a big concern for our community. Whether because our congress has failed to pass job protections, family concerns, or any other personal reason, there are still many, many people in the closet. But being in the closet does not mean that a person is not protected. I will learn more about the deputizing community groups and take that back to organizations in our community like the Caucus, Community Center and Transgender Foundation so they can begin that process (as a caveat, I do not have a full list of deputized organizations and any of these organizations may already be deputized).

—  admin

Officer assaulted in fight near Rainbow Lounge

Five people were arrested early Sunday — one for assault on a police officer — after a fight broke out on South Jennings Street, near the Rainbow Lounge. The officer was not injured, according to this report by the Fort Worth Star-Telegram.

Liaison officer Kellie Whitehead

Tom Anable, president of Fairness Fort Worth, noted that the Star-Telegram story incorrectly implies the incident occurred inside the bar, which became famous after a June 29, 2009 raid by police and the Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission.

“This was a fight between two groups of people that happened outside the bar, after the bar was closed,” Anable said.

Fort Worth LGBT Liaison Officer Kellie Whitehead said today she’s still trying to confirm all the details, but reported that officers were called to the scene at 2:27 a.m. in response to a fight between two groups of people. She said the first officers to arrive on the scene approached a man who appeared to be about to fight with someone else. She said the man “turned on the officer and took an aggressive stance,” and so the officer put the man in handcuffs.

Rainbow Lounge owner J.R. Schrock, who made the call to 911, told Anable that he could not hear nor clearly see what transpired between the officer and the man, but that the officer “took him down and handcuffed him.”

At that point, Whitehead said, others in the crowd “started getting aggravated,” and someone threw a high-heeled shoe at the officer. Other officers arrived, and one of them approached a man “who appeared to be intoxicated,” and that person punched the officer.

—  admin

Tarrant County Pride starts Thursday

Suzanne Westenhoefer performs Friday night at the Sheraton Fort Worth as part of a full weekend of Tarrant County Pride events

You can catch our Friday issue for a complete story on Tarrant County Pride events coming up this weekend, but the fun actually starts on Thursday, before the Friday issue hits the newsstands. So here’s a list of events on tap to let you start getting your Pride on early.

The Sheraton Hotel in downtown Fort Worth is the host hotel for Tarrant County Gay Pride Week Association’s Weekend Pride Stay package, and there are lots of events planned there on Thursday, beginning at noon. There’s the Fort Worth Trading Post in the Piney Woods Room on the second floor, from noon to 10 p.m., plus an art exhibit and the “Big As Texas Auction,” both in the second floor foyer from noon to 10 p.m.

A number of different community nonprofits are participating in the Community School House educational sessions on Thursday at the Sheraton: From noon to 1 p.m., AIDS Outreach Center presents “Stress Reduction;” from 1:30 to 2:30 p.m., Healing Wings presents “Safer Sex is Sexy: Take Responsibility for your Sexual Health;” Outreach Addiction Services presents “Sex: Safety the Gay Way” from 4:30 p.m. to 5:30 p.m.; Stonewall Democrats present “Make Your Voice Heard” from 6 p.m. to 7 p.m.; Fairness Fort Worth presents “Grassroots Organizing: The Creation of Fairness Fort Worth” from 7:30 p.m. to 8:30 p.m.; and Trinity Metropolitan Community Church presents “Overcoming Spiritual Abuse and the Ex-Gay Ministries” from 9 p.m. to 10 p.m.

—  admin

Fairness Fort Worth, city’s Human Rights Commission receive IAOHRA President’s Award

Tom Anable

When Fairness Fort Worth President Tom Anable headed to Austin this week, he thought he was just going to speak as part of a panel discussion during a session of the International Association of Human Rights Agency‘s annual conference. But conference organizers talked him into attending the conference’s Tuesday night dinner, and when he found out why they asked him to stay, it was a welcome surprise: They wanted him there to accept the annual IAOHRA President’s Award on behalf of Fairness Fort Worth.

The award, the organization’s highest honor, was presented jointly to FFW and to the Fort Worth Human Rights Commission in recognition of their work, in the wake of the June 2009 raid on the Rainbow Lounge, in creating positive change in the city on human rights issues. Human Rights Commission Chair Estrus Tucker was there to accept the award on behalf of the city.

“This is a big coup for the city,” Anable said Wednesday. “They [city officials] have done a great job. … I couldn’t be more pleased that they gave it to us jointly, because that shows they recognize how well we [FFW and the city] work together to solve our problems.”

Watch the Friday, Sept. 2 print edition [and online, of course] for more on the award, including — hopefully — photos from the award presentation Tuesday night.

—  admin

WHAT’S BREWING: Morning Edition offers gay cure, Perry too centrist, Miami Beach settles

1. Yesterday morning, NPR did one of their most irresponsible stories in their history. Trying to present a balanced picture, they found a gay man who claimed he was cured. Their conclusion is “the jury is still out.” Here’s the link. Comments can be directed to KERA, the local NPR affiliate. Morning Edition is supported locally by Gay and Lesbian Fund for Dallas.

2. The Amarillo Globe News weighed in on the comment Gov. Rick Perry made about same-sex marriage being a states rights issue. Their conclusion is that Perry is going for votes from centrists. Interestingly, they point out that in figuring out how to allow a gay couple in Dallas to divorce, the state had to recognize their marriage existed and that, they conclude, is totally unacceptable.

3. The Rainbow Lounge victims weren’t the only ones paid a settlement over the last week. In Miami Beach, a gay tourist who was falsely arrested and roughed up by police in 2009 was paid a $75,000 settlement. The two officers involved were also fired last week, according to the Miami Herald.

—  David Taffet