WATCH: HISD Board gets earful on anti-gay flier

Manuel Rodriguez

Trustee Manuel Rodriguez in the hot seat as public condemns his homophobia

A standing-room-only crowd greeted the Houston Independent School Board last night. While the board’s monthly meetings often attract an assortment of parents, community members and gadflies many in the crowd were there with a decidedly non-educational issue on their minds: the anti-gay flier distributed by Trustee Manuel Rodriguez during his recent reelection campaign. As previously reported by Houstini, the flier encouraged Houstonians to vote against Rodriquez’s opponent, Ramiro Fonseca. because of his sexual orientation.

The first to address the issue were Rodriquez’s fellow trustees, Anna Eastman and Juliet Stipeche. Eastman spoke passionately of the importance of HISD’s anti-bullying policy which “protects people from harassment and bullying based on attributes we all have,” and said that she felt Rodriguez’s actions violated the spirit of that policy. Stipeche, near tears, read the names of teens who had committed suicide after enduring anti-LGBT bullying.

The board had planned to vote on a new ethics policy at the meeting that covered behavior by trustees. At the encouragement of two speakers, and the motion of Eastman, the board decided to delay that vote until December so that a policy stating that encouraging discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity and expression could be added.

After three and a half hours the crowd in the board’s chambers had dwindled, with most of those who had come to confront Rodriquez still waiting. When Board President Paula Harris finally opened the floor for public comment the first person to step up was Houston GLBT Political Caucus President Noel Freeman. Freeman told the board that the extant of Rodriquez’s homophobic campaigning was far greater than the flier which had drawn so much media attention. “What you all might not know is that he also went on television and said that he just couldn’t understand why a 54 year old unmarried man would want, quote ‘access to children,’” said Freeman. “That statement in and of itself, and the implications made therein is reprehensible and simply disgusting.”

Freeman asked that the Board remove Rodriquez as their representative on the Texas Council of School Boards, and as the board’s vice president. He went on to criticize the apology issued by Rodriquez after the election, saying that it did not address the concerns of the GLBT community, nor was it delivered to the community but rather to the press. “You cannot simply say ‘oops, I’m sorry’ and this all goes away,” said Freeman. “We will never forget what you did!”

Board President Harris had made frequent reference throughout the meeting to a group of students from HISD’s Milby High School, letting them know that their time to speak would come. As the students’ designated speaker stepped to the podium his hands visibly shook in nervousness. “When I first heard about [Rodriquez's flier] I did not agree with it because I believe that the message was that a gay person could not be as successful as a straight person and that really hurt me,” said the student. “My question to you is are you going to help us stop the bullying, or are you going to be a bully yourself?”

Perhaps the strongest response from the board was garnered by Paul Gonzales, who choked back tears as he described the challenges he faces as a gay man and parent of an HISD student. “I have a kid, and I have a kid that I have enrolled in HISD, and I love her. Me and my partner every single day are trying to show her that there’s nothing wrong, there’s nothing wrong with our family. So for a board member to say that my family is reprehensible to him… I have to explain [to her] that there are still people who consider us not the kind of family that deserve respect,” said Paul to the board, who were fighting back tears of their own. “GLBT parents like myself trust HISD to give us that haven for our children, that they’re not going to be looked at any differently. But the words that we saw on this flier just made me cringe to think that this isn’t the place that I thought that it was.”

After the jump, watch some of the eighteen people who spoke to the board.

—  admin

Local LGBT activists to confront Rodriquez for anti-gay flier

Manuel Rondriquez

Manuel Rodriquez

A group of Houston LGBT activists, including representatives from the Houston GLBT Political Caucus, is urging people to attend tonight’s Houston Independent School Board Meeting to confront HISD Trustee Manuel Rodriquez for an anti-gay flier he distributed during his recent reelection campaign. As previously reported by Houstini, the flier encouraged Houstonians to vote against Rodriquez’s opponent, Ramiro Fonseca. Under the header “Vote NO for my opponent” the flier reads in part:

Program manager of Minority male Initiative at HCC
His records [sic] show he spent years advocating for Gay, Lesbian, Bi-sexual, transgender rights……….. not Kids.

Endorsed by the Houston GLBT Political Caucus (HGLBTPC) is the South’s oldest civil rights organization dedicated solely to the advancement of gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender rights.
54 years [sic] old man with no children
Male partner

The GLBT Political Caucus issued a statement on Saturday, Nov 5, condemning the flier. On Sunday, Nov 6, the Houston Chronicle retracted its endorsement of Rodriquez over the flier. Rodriquez defended the flier throughout the weekend and Tuesday’s election. “[Fonseca] will be responsible for making policy for HISD, and I as a parent, as a grandfather, as a person who has probably more understanding of what a child’s needs are,” Rodriquez told the Chronicle. “[I] just want to give the voters information so that they can make their own choice.” Rodriquez campaign volunteers distributed the flier at polling locations throughout the day of the election on Tuesday.

Yesterday Rodriquez issued an open letter apologizing for the flier.

… I am aware that some people have said they were offended by one of my ads, and I apologize to all those people.

Earlier this year, I proudly joined my colleagues on the HISD Board of Education in unanimously adopting more stringent anti-bullying and anti-discrimination specifically protect the rights and safety of all students and employees regardless of their race, ethnicity, religion, or sexual orintation. I voted for this policy because it was the right thing to do and I remain committed to creating a culture in our schools where all people feel welcome and safe…

Rodriquez’s critics feel his apology is insufficient, and that it stops short of addressing their concerns. Mike Pomeroy of the GLBT Political Caucus has created a Facebook event encouraging people to attend tonight’s HISD board meeting. “I don’t think he gets it,” Pomeroy told the Chronicle. “He was throughout the weekend saying, ‘I don’t know what’s wrong with this. It’s the truth.’ And he was still handing out the flier at the polls. This is all coming a little bit too late.” ” We have several signed up to speak,” added Pomeroy, “but also want as many as possible there to stand with us in solidarity against bigotry on the HISD School Board!”

The School Board meets tonight at the Hattie Mae White – Houston ISD Administration Bldg, 4400 West 18th Street from 5-8 pm.

—  admin

WATCH: Annise Parker wins second term as Houston Mayor

Annise Parker

Annise Parker greets the crowds at her victory party

Before a cheering crowd at Houston’s Union Station Annise Parker thanked her supporters and family for making her reelection as mayor of Houston possible. With 50.86% of the vote Parker narrowly avoided a runoff, but handily defeated her nearest opponent, Jack O’Conner, who received less than 15% of the vote.  The reelection to the office of mayor marks Parker’s eighth victory in a citywide election as she previously served three terms as an at-large city council member and three terms as city comptroller.

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East coast victories for LGBT candidates

While we’re waiting here in Houston for the results of today’s municipal elections the Victory Fund reports of victories for LGBT candidates on the East coast where polls closed an hour earlier than Texas.

State Del. Adam Ebbin (D-District 30) was elected to Virginia’s state Senate today, making him the Commonwealth’s first openly gay senator.

“I am honored by the trust the voters have showed in me,”  Ebbin said in a statement. “During the campaign, I listened to the voters’ concerns and will work on behalf of the values we all share: improving our public schools, expanding our transit system and cleaning up Virginia’s environment. I will make sure their voices are heard…”

“Alex Morse, a 22-year-old graduate of Brown University, has just been elected mayor of Holyoke, Mass., a city of nearly 40,000 residents near Springfield…”

“Zach Adamson has won his race for city council in Indianapolis, giving the city its first openly LGBT city council member.”

“An incumbent on the Largo, Fla., City Commission who attacked her openly gay opponent over his sexual orientation has lost her reelection bid to him tonight. Michael Smith defeated Mary Gray Black, who has a history of anti-gay and anti-trans activism on the commission.”

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Obama will look to gay donors — and Texas — to fuel his 2012 campaign. And yes, that means you

Break out your checkbooks, because it looks like the president is about to tap the GAY-TM for a Texas-sized withdrawal. At least that’s what we took away from stories published today by The Dallas Morning News and Politico.

The DMN (paid subscription required) reports that Obama isn’t writing off Texas in 2012. In other words, even though it’s pretty unlikely he’ll win a state that he lost by 11 points the last go-round, he wants to raise a lot of money here and force the GOP candidate — whomever it may be — to play some defense:

An Obama fundraiser is scheduled for Tuesday in Austin. It is the first of several such events anticipated over the next year in a state that historically is among the top five sources of campaign cash for both Republicans and Democrats.

Obama forces have kept a staff in the state since the 2008 election. The Organizing for America offices in Austin and Dallas will become the nucleus of the Obama for America campaign in Texas.

Meanwhile, Politico reports that Obama will rely heavily on gay donors in 2012:

Pleased by an all-out White House push to repeal “don’t ask, don’t tell,” gay donors have surprised campaign officials with the extent of their support. And the campaign’s new fundraising apparatus appears designed to capitalize on their enthusiasm: Obama’s finance committee included one gay man in 2008; there are 15 this year, a source said. …

The spur for the gay community becoming an anchor for Obama’s reelection fundraising is a series of policy shifts in 2010. After a year of rocky relations and suspicion from Obama’s gay supporters that he wasn’t really committed to their issues, the last year saw a surge in activity. Along with the high-profile repeal of the military ban, Obama’s Justice Department recently refused to defend the Defense of Marriage Act. And the administration has taken smaller steps, like gay partner hospital visits and hate crimes legislation, concrete and important gestures that simply weren’t made during the Bush administration.

“It’s ironic — a year ago there was no constituency more unhappy. There was a sea change,” said David Mixner, a veteran New York gay activist, who said that White House actions during the past year had swayed restive gay donors. “You not only will see a united community that will contribute to Obama, but they will work their asses off.”

—  John Wright

Lieberman Won’t Seek Reelection in 2012

JOE LIEBERMAN X390 (GETTY) | ADVOCATE.COMDemocratic sources said Tuesday that Connecticut senator Joseph
Lieberman will not seek reelection in 2012, though his office has yet to
confirm his possible retirement.
Advocate.com: Daily News

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Another candidate files in District 14

Jim Rogers

Although Angela Hunt has not officially announced her plans, a second candidate, Jim Rogers, has filed to run for her District 14 City Council seat in May. Hunt is expected to make a run for mayor after Tom Leppert announced he would not seek re-election.

Rogers said others made the decision for him after a meeting with supporters on Sunday. He filed his paperwork with the city this morning at 9:30 a.m. and his campaign website went live.

Former State Rep. Harryette Ehrhardt, a pioneering LGBT ally, has endorsed Rogers, he said.

James Nowlin, a gay business owner, announced last week that he’s running for Hunt’s seat. More coverage of the District 14 race will appear in Friday’s Dallas Voice.

Rogers said he will attend tonight’s Stonewall Democrats meeting. Stonewall meets at 6:30 p.m. at Ojeda’s Restaurant, 4617 Maple Ave.

—  David Taffet

Wounded gay Texas Marine: Amos ‘spit on me,’ and I wish Obama would ‘fire his ass on the spot’

Eric Alva

Former Marine Staff Sgt. Eric Alva, a gay wounded veteran from San Antonio, today responded to Marine Commandant Gen. James F Amos’ comments on Tuesday suggesting that repealing “don’t ask don’t tell” would lead to casualties.  Alva became the first casualty of the Iraq war in 2003 when his leg was blown off by a land mine. From The Advocate:

“He pretty much spit on me, my Purple Heart, and my 13 years of service,” Alva said of Amos Wednesday as the House of Representatives prepared to vote on a stand-alone repeal bill — one sponsored by Pennsylvania Rep. Patrick Murphy, a fellow Iraq War veteran who lost his reelection bid in November. “I would definitely ask Amos for a meeting to explain his comments, and I’d bring my Purple Heart with me.”

Responding to questions from reporters at the Pentagon, Amos, who was appointed to the position by Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates in June but is at odds with the White House on “don’t ask, don’t tell,” said Tuesday: “Mistakes and inattention or distractions costs Marines lives. … I don’t want to lose any Marines to the distraction. I don’t want to have any Marines that I’m visiting at Bethesda [National Naval Medical Center] with no legs be the result of any type of distraction.” (Read Stars and Stripes coverage of the remarks here.)

Alva, 39, called Amos’s behavior insubordinate and reminiscent of the conduct of another four-star general: Stanley A. McChrystal, who resigned under pressure in June after Rolling Stone published remarks attributed to Gen. McChrystal and his aides critical of senior administration officials.

“I wish Obama would invite [Amos] to the White House and fire his ass on the spot,” Alva told The Advocate.

—  John Wright

Your daily dose of Joel Burns

Ever since his “It Gets Better” speech, it seems not a day (or even an hour) goes by that we don’t hear something new about openly gay Fort Worth City Councilman Joel Burns. Today’s news comes from GayPolitics.com, which reports that Burns is the Victory Fund’s first endorsed candidate for 2011.

His powerful October speech about the suicides of young gay people, delivered in the chambers of the Fort Worth City Council, has been viewed nearly 2.5 million times on YouTube, prompting media outlets from across the country (and the world) to seek interviews to discuss the issue of anti-LGBT bullying.

Councilman Joel Burns has become a hero to LGBT youth who so desperately need role models — people who are successful and respected, but who are also open and honest about being gay.

Now Burns is also the first 2011 candidate to earn the Victory Fund’s endorsement. He’s running for re-election to represent District 9 on the Fort Worth City Council, and the Victory Fund is out to make sure he wins.

“Joel represents what the Victory Fund is all about — making sure LGBT voices are represented in government, and making sure we are heard,” said Chuck Wolfe, president and CEO of the Victory Fund.

—  John Wright

‘We have did what was right for Arizona’

Gov. Jan Brewer of Arizona is up for re-election this fall. Brewer, a Republican, took over for Janet Napolitano in 2008 when Napolitano became secretary of Homeland Security. Brewer is best known for supporting and signing that state’s new anti-immigration law.

While we don’t usually highlight politics in other states unless it’s LGBT-related, but this one-minute video is really very funny. Or embarrassing. But how else could it turn out when you start by saying “It’s  great to be here with Larry, Barry and Carrie … I have … shit … done so much …”

—  David Taffet