Remembering John Lawrence, the man behind Lawrence v. Texas

Lawrence

John Lawrence and Tyrone Gardner

Metro Weekly reports that one-time Houstonian John Geddes Lawrence, the “Lawrence” in Lawrence v. Texas, passed away last month at the age of 68:

“In the facts underlying the Supreme Court case, Lawrence v. Texas, Lawrence and Tyron Garner were arrested under Texas’s Homosexual Conduct Law after police entered Lawrence’s home on Sept. 17, 1998, and saw them “engaging in a sexual act.” The couple challenged the law as unconstitutional”

I was 22 and living in Dallas in 2003 when the Supreme Court issued its opinion in Lawrence declaring Texas’ law against “homosexual conduct” unconstitutional. A group of over 100 people gathered in the parking lot of the Resource Center of Dallas as Dennis Coleman, then with Lambda Legal, read excerpts of the decision. I remember the exuberant electricity in the air, the crowd bubbling with joy and the relief of centuries of official oppression finally coming to an end. Similar get-togethers took place across the state, as an entire community breathing a collective sigh of relief.

That relief has turn to frustration over the years. Although the Supreme Court decision rendered Penal Code Section 21.06 unconstitutional, the law remains on the books, and efforts to remove it have met with significant resistance. During a hearing this spring on finally removing the unconstitutional law, Rep. Jose Aliseda, R – Pleasanton, lamented that repeal of the law would entail removing portions of the Health Code requiring that HIV education efforts include information that “homosexual conduct is not an acceptable lifestyle and is a criminal offense under Section 21.06, Penal Code.”

Before Lawrence several attempts were made to remove the law against “homosexual conduct.” The Texas legislature voted to remove it from the penal code as part of a complete rewrite of the code in 1971, but the measure was vetoed by Gov. Preston Smith. In 1973 the Legislature again undertook a rewrite of the code, keeping “homosexual conduct” a crime but making it a class C misdemeanor. In 1981 a U.S. District Court ruled in Baker v. Wade that the law was unconstitutional, but as that case was winding its way through an unusually torturous appeals process the Supreme Court ruled in Bowers v. Hardwick that a similar law in Georgia was constitutional, making the questions in Baker moot. Similarly, in the 90′s there was hope that Texas v. Morales might finally prevail in defeating the “homosexual conduct” prohibition, but the Texas Supreme Court decided that since, in their opinion, the law was rarely enforced, there was no reason for them to rule in the matter.

Lawrence’s legacy lives on in a scholarship named after him and Garner administered by the Houston GLBT Community Center. The scholarship “recognizes outstanding leadership shown by gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender Texas high school seniors and college
students by contributing to the cost of their continuing education. Selection is based upon character and need.” Tim Brookover, president of the community center, expressed sorrow at Lawrence’s passing “John was a hero, the community owes a great debt of gratitude to John and Tyrone for taking the case all the way to the Supreme Court,” said Brookover. “They could have easily allowed it to slip away, but they decided to stay and fight and that makes them heroes and role models.”

The application deadline for the John Lawrence/Tyrone Gardner Scholarship is March 2, 2012.

—  admin

President Obama issues memorandum on protecting LGBTs abroad

President Barack Obama and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton

Four days in advance of  Human Rights Day on Saturday, Dec. 10,  President Barack Obama today issued a presidential memorandum “to ensure that U.S. diplomacy and foreign assistance promote and protect the human rights of LGBT persons,” according to a statement just released by the White House press office.

The statement sent out by the White House includes these comments by the president:

“The struggle to end discrimination against lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) persons is a global challenge, and one that is central to the United States commitment to promoting human rights.  I am deeply concerned by the violence and discrimination targeting LGBT persons around the world — whether it is passing laws that criminalize LGBT status, beating citizens simply for joining peaceful LGBT pride celebrations, or killing men, women, and children for their perceived sexual orientation.  That is why I declared before heads of state gathered at the United Nations, “no country should deny people their rights because of who they love, which is why we must stand up for the rights of gays and lesbians everywhere.”  Under my Administration, agencies engaged abroad have already begun taking action to promote the fundamental human rights of LGBT persons everywhere.  Our deep commitment to advancing the human rights of all people is strengthened when we as the United States bring our tools to bear to vigorously advance this goal.”

The memorandum from Obama directs agencies to combat the criminalization of LGBT status or conduct abroad; protect vulnerable LGBT refugees and asylum seekers; leverage foreign assistance to protect human rights and advance nondiscrimination; ensure swift and meaningful U.S. responses to human rights abuses of LGBT persons abroad; engage international organizations in the fight against LGBT discrimination, and report on progress.

I give the president credit for issuing the memorandum at the same time he’s gearing up for what will likely be a tough re-election campaign during which opponents will no doubt use his stance and actions on LGBT issues against him. But I still have to point out that we as LGBT people still face discrimination and inequality right here in the good old U.S.-of-A:

• Our marriages are legally recognized at the federal level and they aren’t recognized in the VAST majority of state and local jurisdictions. We want the Defense of Marriage Act repealed and local and state ordinances and constitutional amendments prohibiting recognition of our relationships need to be overturned.

• There is still no federal protection against workplace discrimination based on sexual orientation and/gender expression and gender identity. Congress needs to pass — the president needs to sign — the Employment Non-Discrimination Act.

• Even though there is now a federal hate crimes law that includes LGBT people, as well as similar laws at many state and local levels, those laws are not well enforced.

Anti-LGBT bullying remains a deadly problem in our schools and our workplaces and on the Internet. We’ve made progress in combating such bullying, but not nearly enough. Dedicate the resources necessary to address the issue effectively.

So let’s applaud our president for the steps he has — and is — taking. There’s no doubt Obama has been more open than any other president about addressing LGBT issues and we have seen great strides forward toward equality during his administration. But there’s a long way to go yet, and we need to make sure that the president — and all our elected officials — know they can’t just rest on their laurels.

—  admin

Houston Chronicle pulls endorsement of school board member Rodriguez over anti-gay flier

Manuel Rodriguez

The Houston Chronicle has rescinded its endorsement of Houston Independent School District Trustee Manuel Rodriquez over an anti-gay flier distributed by the Rodriquez campaign. As previously reported by Houstini, the flier attacked Rodriquez’s opponent, Ramiro Fonseca, for his history of advocating for LGBT people, and his endorsement by the Houston GLBT Political Caucus. The flier also suggested that Fonseca being 52 and unmarried is a reason that Houstonians should not trust him to make decisions affecting children, and points out that he has a “male partner.”

In the online opinion piece removing their endorsement, the Chronicle editorial board called out the overt homophobia in the Rodriquez flier.

“With his hateful flier, Rodriguez perpetuates the kind of stereotypes that put our kids in danger. And he implies that all right-thinking people agree with him – an insult to his constituents, and precisely the kind of blithe, old-school homophobia that makes school hallways so treacherous.

Members of the school board are supposed to be role models, not bullies. They’re supposed to support civil rights, not fight against them. They’re supposed to fight hate speech, not commit it.”

In response to the Rodriquez flyer the Houston GLBT Political Caucus had encouraged people to contact the editorial board and ask that the Chronicle endorsement be rescinded. “Certainly we’re very pleased that the Chronicle has taken this step,” said Caucus president Noel Freeman. “They recognize that there is no place for this kind of homophobia on the school board.” Freeman added the next step for the Caucus will be to continue to work to elect Fonseca. “We’re looking for volunteers who can help us by handing out literature at the polls.”

Until this recent controversy very little attention had been paid to the District III HISD race outside of political circles. No scientific polling on the race has been made public, but it’s considered to be a dead heat, with neither candidate having a clear advantage. It remains to be seen how the Rodriquez flier, and the overwhelmingly negative response it has garnered, will affect the outcome of the race.

HISD elections are part of the general elections taking place this Tuesday, Nov 8. Visit HarrisVotes.org to find your voting location and view a sample ballot.

—  admin

Death • 09.30.11

Wendy Churitch, 55, died suddenly at her home in Irving early Thursday morning, Sept. 29.

Churitch was born July 26, 1956, and grew up in Chicago. She moved to the Dallas-Fort Worth Metroplex in 1980.

She was known and much loved for her eccentric and ever-present sense of humor, her love of pranks and practical jokes and for her devotion and loyalty to her family and to her large number of friends that she thought of — and that thought of her — as family.

After seven-and-a-half years as a couple, Churitch and the love of her life, Kay Mathews Churitch, were legally married in Iowa on Aug. 17, 2009.

Churitch was preceded in death by her parents, Helen and Pete Churitch Sr., and by her brother, Michael.

She is survived by her wife, Kay Mathews Churitch of Irving; by her brother, Pete Churitch Jr., and one sister, Robin Littrell, both of Indiana; by her wife’s sister, Erin Urquhart of Coppell, and brother, Robert Mathews of Buda; by her wife’s two daughters, Courtney Mathews of Lubbock and Amber Mathews of Three Rivers, Mich., and three grandchildren, Michael and Jourdan of Mesquite and Makenzie of Lubbock; by her beloved dogs, Bailey and Pala; and by a host of loving friends.

Churitch’s remains will be cremated. A memorial service is pending and details will be announced when they become available.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition September 30, 2011.

—  Michael Stephens

WATCH: Bystanders lift vehicle, pull motorcyclist from beneath it after fiery wreck in Logan, Utah


I have no reason for posting this here other than it happened in a city where I once worked at the daily newspaper — Logan, Utah — and the victim is apparently the nephew of one of my former colleagues. Also, it’s a pretty amazing rescue. According to my old paper, The Herald Journal, the motorcyclist remains in intensive care but is expected to recover. Watch the rescue below.

—  John Wright

Starvoice • 04.29.11

By Jack Fertig

CELEBRITY BIRTHDAY

Lesley Gore turns 65 on Monday. Much has changed in music since singer Lesley Gore recorded her biggest hit “It’s My Party” back in 1963. But maybe it was Gore who “changed” the most. The iconic singer came out as lesbian in 2005 and stated she knew in her late teens that she was attracted to women. Now we have to go back and listen to all her lyrics again.

……………………………….

THIS WEEK

Uranus, newly in Aries, cranks up spontaneous individualism and assertion. The sun is in Taurus, semi-square to Uranus provoking a lot of stubbornness. Don’t challenge others with an uppity, obstinate attitude; look for creative new ways to show loyalty and resilience.

………………………………

TAURUS  Apr 20-May 20
Life’s tough blows have been piling up, but don’t let it give you piles. Much as people depend on the solid, reliable you, you need to be able to let it out and lean on someone else.

GEMINI  May 21-Jun 20
Your friends are only human. Don’t take disappointments to heart. Cutting off communications is a big mistake, but so is over-talking the problem. A short break may be best.

CANCER  Jun 21-Jul 22
Your friends’ ideas fare too much from the heart, not enough from the brains. Going along with them could hurt your rep and your wallet. Thank them for their ideas and change the subject.

LEO  Jul 23-Aug 22
In your ideal relationship you’re the star married to your agent or manager. That means you can’t always be the boss! Arguments are normal but listening remains more important than speaking.

VIRGO  Aug 23-Sep 22
Novel sex techniques are a blast but require some safety. They also open up a lot of suppressed feelings. How well do you know your partner? Just be sure that he or she can be trusted.

LIBRA  Sep 23-Oct 22
You and your mate have a great time exploring kinky new fun. Anything from silk scarf bondage to cattle prods is open to testing. Slow, careful and easy is the best approach, at first anyway.

SCORPIO  Oct 23-Nov 21
You are part of a team and everyone else is as important as you. As much as your special talents do contribute to the team, cultivate humility as one of those talents.

SAGITTARIUS  Nov 22-Dec 20
Argue about movie, art, sports, anything fun or creative; you’re sure to find amazing new ideas. Keep your mind and ears open and respectful of other notions. Be polite with the idiots.

CAPRICORN  Dec 21-Jan 19
Livening up your home life should be a fun creative challenge, not a painful economic one. Unleash your dark side in planning changes, but not in how you treat housemates.

AQUARIUS  Jan 20-Feb 18
Criticism of family, housemates or your community is surprising in its harshness. If you can’t be kind, give your loved ones a break and look for schmucks who deserve your wrath.

PISCES  Feb 19-Mar 19
Financial surprises work your nerves. You need a break. Try something new and different even if it’s just a quiet stroll in a park or country road you’ve never trod before.

ARIES  Mar 20-Apr 19
The cost of living force some choices in how you unwind. Look ahead 10 years and imagine what friendships, talents and skills you’d like to have developed through your hobbies.

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

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition April 29, 2011.

—  Michael Stephens

House votes today on standalone DADT bill. There are still ‘minefields’ in the Senate remains the hurdl

The House will vote on the standalone DADT bill today. It should pass, but House members still need to hear from us. The switchboard number is 202-224-3121.

After passage, the bill will be sent as a “message” to the Senate, thereby avoiding an initial filibuster. The Senate can immediately begin debate on the legislation, although when that debate actually starts is unclear. We will need 60 votes to end the debate.

So, while the action is in the House today, all eyes are on the Senate. There was a lot swirling around yesterday. The Washington Blade’s Chris Johnson was on the Hill getting the latest:

Winnie Stachelberg, vice president for external affairs at the Center for American Progress, also said she believes there’s a chance the bill will pass before Congress is out of session.

“Having a chance is all that you need,” she said. “And you need the pieces to fall into place and the commitment of those on the Hill and the White House to get it done. People really need to lean into this to get it done.”

Good lord. Having a chance is all we need? Really, Winnie. Actually, we need 60 votes. Anytime I read a quote from Winnie Stachelberg, I worry. She’s been one of the masterminds behind the DADT repeal strategy all year. Now, she wants the White House “to lean into this.” Winnie is very close to the White House — and she went along with the original plan to push back a vote until after the Pentagon survey was completed. We needed the White House to lean in back in 2009 and early 2010. I still don’t understand why Winnie is so influential in this process, but we’ll discuss that — and the failings of other parties — in the weeks to come. Today, we’ve got to focus on the task at hand. Because while things look better, this is not a done deal at all.

On the GOP side, not everyone is so optimistic:

But a Senate Republican aide, who also spoke on condition of anonymity, was more cautious and said passage depends “on so many variables.”

“I think if the omnibus, the continuing resolution, all that stuff stretches past Thursday night, Friday, then it gets real difficult,” the aide said. “Those things are already set in motion. It could happen, but there’s just a lot of minefields.”

Yes, there are a lot of minefields. And, the mines are being laid by John McCain and GOP Leader Mitch McConnell.

Sam Stein encapsulated the Senate battle ahead:

In the Senate, there are currently myriad scenarios under which a standalone repeal could either pass or fail. But several sources — both Republican and Democrat, on the Hill and off — conveyed the sense that the bill’s fate rests on two main questions: Whether McCain, who has spearheaded the opposition to repeal, will be able to delay or torpedo the measure through amendments, and whether Obama will dive into the trenches to help Senate Democratic leadership corral the votes for passage.

We know that McCain is willing to use all the tricks at his disposal. We still don’t know that Obama will dive into the trenches. He hasn’t yet.




AMERICAblog Gay

—  admin

Visitation, ours: ‘Here I brought you this flower, dying spouse’ remains evangelical hot potato

So let’s say, for the sake of argument, that social conservatives like Matt Barber are 100% committed to their convictions against sinners as they usually describe them. Does this mean that they’d deny obstetric services to adulterers? Cut off treatment to an overdosing drug addict? Nix life-saving surgery to an alcoholic victim of a booze-induced car accident? Limit hospital visitation only to those whose lie detector results prove that they’ve borne true witness all year?

Screen Shot 2010-11-19 At 2.54.13 PmOr: Is it only one kind of “sinner” that they care to target? This from the American Family Association’s One News Now:

According to the new rule, which takes effect in 60 days, hospitals receiving Medicare or Medicaid money have to inform patients of their right to designate a spouse, domestic partner, family member, or a friend. HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius said on Wednesday the rule grants “full and equal” rights to patients to choose who they want by their bedside. But Matt Barber of Liberty Counsel points out they already have the right to choose visitors.



[Matt] Barber considers the new rules political theater in trying to create the disingenuous idea that people based on their so-called “sexual orientation” are roundly discriminated against. Faith-based hospitals are not exempt from the rule.

“Certainly there are Catholic hospitals and Baptist hospitals that recognize homosexual behavior as sinful behavior,” he points, “and they do not want to take part in affirming homosexual sin under the strong arm of the government.”

Some religious hospitals may have to make a decision as to whether to conform to the rules or not accept Medicare patients. Barber says what the Obama administration is doing is casting liberty of conscience aside and forcing acceptance of homosexuality

Feds to hospitals: Go gay…or go broke [ONN]

Honestly, if you’re at a medical hospital that holds this as the (or even a) focus, then you might wanna go somewhere else anyway. And this goes not only for gays — it goes for anyone among us who’d much rather get the fast cure than cast the first stone!




Good As You

—  admin

US News: ‘the bullying of gay teens remains widespread’

This issue is getting a lot more attention in the wake of the recent suicides. It’s also something the LGBT community is increasingly focused on. I think we’re realizing that many of our elected allies aren’t looking out for us, so we have to do it for ourselves:

Cases like these are far from rare, and “this may be the tip of the iceberg,” said Dr. David Reitman, chair of the Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual Transgender and Questioning Special Interest Group, part of the Society for Adolescent Health and Medicine. In a statement, he said “the tragic outcome in these cases underscores the profound consequences that bullying and harassment can have on a young person.”

Of course any child, gay or straight, can become victims of bullying, as the much-publicized suicide in January of 15-year-old Phoebe Prince of South Hadley, Mass., showed all too tragically. She had withstood months of bullying from schoolmates after moving from Ireland.

But experts say adolescence renders young people especially vulnerable to harassment, and the difficulties of grappling with sexuality can complicate that further.

Columbia University psychiatry professor Dr. Jeffrey Lieberman noted that the adolescent brain is still developing and sensitive to negative feedback from peers. Teens “are very prone to take things to an extreme,” he told ABC News. “So what may be an insult or a setback to an adult, to an adolescent is the end of the world.”

Add to that the impulsive nature of youth and suicide becomes more likely. “Something happens, they’ve got to take care of it right away,” Lieberman said. “They can’t sit with it or try to work through it or not react to it.”

Despite some headway in societal acceptance of gay people generally, the bullying of gay teens remains widespread.

LGBT kids are dying. It has to stop.

The messages of hate and inequality from elected and religious types has to stop first. That kind of language makes hating gays acceptable. The LGBT community may need to devote its resources to organizations that protect kids instead of politicians who don’t support full equality. We’re just enabling the hate when we support anyone who doesn’t think we deserve full equality.

If you’re in DC, stop by the fundraiser for the Trevor Project tonight.




AMERICAblog Gay

—  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