The beginning of the end of bigotry in Texas

Editor’s note: Below is an opinion piece written by Todd Whitley, a columnist who contributes regularly to the Texas Voices (formerly Viewpoints) section of the print edition of Dallas Voice. Whitley will also be a regular contributor to our new blog page, which will be called CommuniTEA and which will feature the voices of people of our LGBT community. Watch for CommuniTEA, coming to our website soon.

A vision of what could be, if we all turn out to vote next month

Todd Whitley, Contributing Columnist

I can still remember that moment as if it were just yesterday: I had watched the past two presidential elections with amazement. But never had an election seemed to affect me so personally — in my own state.

Todd WhitleyYou see, back then, although gays and lesbians were making great progress toward marriage equality in other states, in Texas the nation’s longest serving governor, the Republican-controlled state Legislature, both U.S. senators and most of the U.S. representatives were against us. We had no marriage equality and no job protection.

Heck, the establishment was against women and poor people, too.

I admit: I had felt helpless, as if my vote — my voice — didn’t matter. But still, I voted.

As the polls closed, we had only a glimmer of hope. But we had no idea that hope was about to be realized.

A small group of us were watching the election returns at JR.’s. First, the early vote numbers came in and how we rejoiced at the landslide! Then, county by county, we held our collective breath.

Most — but not all — of the rural counties went red, as expected. But the vote count was closer than anyone could have predicted.

But how would the four major urban areas turn out?

The wait was excruciating and the entire bar was on edge, waiting to see what Houston, Austin, San Antonio and Dallas would do.

Then, like a line of dominoes, they fell as something that had once seemed impossible happened. One county after another went blue — definitively so. People in overwhelming numbers — women, lesbians, gays, Latinos, African-Americans — had shown up at the polls and elected Wendy Davis as the first Democratic governor of Texas in 20 years, and only the third woman ever!

It is said, “As Texas goes, so goes the nation.” A state that had been so deeply red — the hateful, anti-gay, anti-women, anti-immigrant shade — began to change. And so did our country.

Our new governor set about to expand Medicaid so that the taxes we were sending to Washington came back home to take care of our most vulnerable citizens, including those with HIV/AIDS. She set a course for our Legislature that increased funding to our schools instead of slashing it. She fought the uphill battle to end discrimination of Texas gays and lesbians, both in matrimony and in the workplace. And she fought for the rights of young Texas “DREAMers” to receive higher education.

Eventually she increased the minimum wage and we experienced real job growth — not the kind that comes from more minimum wage jobs.

It was not easy at all. The stubborn, still-Republican-controlled Legislature fought her tooth and nail.

But by the next election, more Democrats and moderate Republicans had won seats in both houses, and the country began to take notice.

What our governor started could be continued for decades and could catch on in other formerly red states.

You see, no longer was Texas a safe haven for those who would try to oppress women, take away their access to safe healthcare or control their bodies. No longer would the state exclude lesbian, gay and transgender Texans from the benefits and protections heterosexuals enjoyed.

No longer did our students perform at the bottom of the nation but rather they excelled because of the investment we made in their educations. No longer was Texas a state that gave preference to white, heterosexual citizens and instead became known as the Everyone has a Chance State, where each one of us — white and Latino, straight and LGBT, wealthy and poor — had equal footing, was respected, and flourished.

We still had our guns. Churches still decided whether to perform same-gender marriages. But we moved ahead so far.  And the nation followed suit.

All because we showed up at that Nov. 4, 2014 election.

 *****

So.

This scenario is fiction, a vision of what could be.

This history has yet to be written. But it will be written, in just a few days.

And it could happen.

We are so close to seeing this vision become a reality. But only if you claim the power of your vote.

The future of Texas — and the nation — is up to you.

Todd Whitley is a local activist who can usually be found tweeting (@toddwhitley), holding a picket sign, thrift store shopping, or eating Tex-Mex. Read his blog at tdub68.wordpress.com.

—  Tammye Nash

This week in marriage equality: Republicans are all over the place

Marriage-Equality-Bumper-Sticker-(7423)A Republican Senate candidate in Oregon supports marriage equality, Georgia’s Republican attorney general wants to avoid it while Indiana’s Attorney General wants it figured out already.

OREGON:

Oregon Republican Senate Candidate Monica Wehby released a TV ad declaring her support for marriage equality. She is the only Republican Senate candidate this cycle to declare her support for marriage equality. She is running against the pro-LGBT equality incumbent Sen. Jeff Merkley (D). Should she be elected to the Senate, she would join four other Republicans senators in supporting marriage equality. The incumbent has consistently lead Wehby in the polls. Watch the video here.

GEORGIA:

Down south, Georgia’s Attorney General Sam Olen has asked that Inniss v. Aderhold, which challenges Georgia’s ban on marriage equality, be dismissed. Lambda Legal, which brought the suit, responded in a brief: “Our democracy functions and prevails because we promise liberty and equality for all. Our judiciary exists to enforce that promise. Plaintiffs turn to this Court to vindicate their families’ rights to liberty and equality.” Read the whole response here.

INDIANA:

Indiana’s Attorney General Greg Zoeller is asking the U.S. Supreme Court to review the state’s marriage equality ban, Baskin v. Bogan, also filed by Lambda Legal.“Only the highest court in the country can provide the secure relief that same-sex couples and their children need, and it’s extremely important that these families are able to count on the protections of marriage as soon as possible,” said Paul Castillo, Staff Attorney for Lambda Legal.

—  James Russell

Did state Rep. Jonathan Stickland once support same-sex marriage?

jonathan-stickland_1

Jonathan Stickland

State Rep. Jonathan Stickland, R-Bedford, is being accused of supporting same-sex marriage by Andy Cargile, his opponent in the Republican Primary.

Cargile’s campaign is circulating Facebook comment from Stickland’s page that tout his support for same-sex marriage.

In an August 2011 post, Stickland comments, “I a pro-union rights, and I am pro-gay marriage.” Screenshots of the posts were sent to the Texas Tribune.

Family Values is  listed on Stickland’s campaign website under issues.

“The family is the foundation of every society and I believe it is under attack,” his website states. “I believe marriage is between a man, a woman and God.”

Stickland’s office did not immediately respond for requests for comment.

But Stickland spokesman Luke Macias told the Tribune via email: “HAHA. Gay marriage really????” He added that Stickland “is one of the biggest advocates for traditional marriage in Texas. Jonathan believes marriage is between a man and woman and has a voting record to back it up.”

Stickland scored a 14 on Equality Texas’ Legislative Scorecard last year.  He co-authored HB 1568, authored  by state Rep. Drew Springer, R-Muenster, aimed to cut state funding for school districts that offer domestic partner benefits after Pflugerville ISD announced it would offer DP benefits. The bill was left pending in committee.

Statewide advocacy group Equality Texas released a statement disputing the claims that Stickland has a voting record on marriage.

“The issue of marriage equality simply did not come up for a vote during Stickland’s single term in the Legislature,”  Equality Texas Legislative Specialist Daniel Williams said. “It’s bad enough to actually have an anti-marriage voting record, but to lie and claim to have one when none exists is truly bizarre.”

—  Anna Waugh

San Antonio judge leaves GOP over Republican anti-gay ‘hate speech’

Key

Judge Carlo Key

The fight over a nondiscrimination ordinance in San Antonio has lost the Republican Party one of its members.

Bexar County Court-at-Law No. 11 Judge Carlo Key switched his party affiliation to the Democratic Party, saying in a YouTube video Monday that he didn’t leave the Republican Party but it left him. He was referring to the nasty debate over a city ordinance that covers sexual orientation and gender identity in the city.

“I cannot tolerate a political party that demeans Texans based on their sexual orientation, the color of their skin or their economic status,” he said. “I will not be a member of a party in which hate speech elevates candidates for higher office rather than disqualifying them.”

Among other things he was referring to was Councilwoman Elisa Chan’s homophobic rants. She has since resigned the council to run for the legislature.

Key is up for reelection in 2014.

Watch the video of his announcement below.

—  David Taffet

Gay Dallas activist’s petition seeks apology from Lubbock County judge

Tom Head

Gay Dallasite Cannon Flowers has created a Change.org petition demanding an apology from Lubbock County Judge Tom Head.

Head set off a firestorm earlier this week when he went on the local Fox station and claimed he needed to raise taxes to protect Lubbock from civil war if Obama is re-elected. The Houston Chronicle declared “crazy county judge makes Lubbock a national laughingstock.”

Bloomberg quotes Lubbock County Democratic Party chair Kenny Ketner who said, “It’s not the first time he’s said something ridiculous.”

Lubbock Democrats are discussing removing Head from office. The Lubbock Avalanche has a picture of Head’s office door with these words scribbled on it: “Hide your kids. Hide your wife. They’re coming.”

Flower’s petition reads:

Lubbock County Judge Tom Head has used his office to issue a veiled threat of civil war in the United States if the current President Barack Obama is re-elected. … Judge Head said regarding a possible Obama re-election, “We are talking civil unrest, civil disobedience, possibly, possibly civil war, OK? Now what happens? What happens? Now I’m not talking just talking riots here and there. I’m talking Lexington, Concord, take up arms, get rid of the dictator. ..And in this political climate and financial climate, what is the very worst thing that can happen right now? Obama gets back in the White House. No. God forbid.”

These comments, spoken on behalf of the power of the office as County Judge of a major county in Texas, are seen to possibly incite violence and potentially cause great harm to the United States. Judge Head must be held accountable and the officials of Lubbock County must also be held accountable for any further actions occurring from these statements.

To sign the petition, go here.

—  David Taffet

UPDATED: Fred Karger ad featuring gay kiss deemed “inappropriate” by YouTube

Fred Karger

Fred Karger has released the first ad in history for a presidential candidate that includes a gay kiss.

Karger is one of four Republicans left in the presidential race. Six names, including Karger’s, will appear on the California ballot.

He is kicking of his California campaign with a press conference in Sacramento on Wednesday. A 30-second version of the ad begins airing in three southern California counties — Los Angeles, Orange and San Diego — on Thursday.

“This is our biggest and most exciting commercial to date,” Karger wrote in an email. “It ends with a gay kiss, a first for a Presidential campaign commercial. My friends Andrew Reynolds and Michael Aguirre have been together for 7 years and I really appreciate their history making smooch.”

Below is the one-minute online version of the ad dubbed “Sexy Frisbee.” The Karger campaign has been giving out frisbees as campaign mementos.

UPDATE: On Wednesday morning I received this message from Fred Karger:

Thanks for the coverage of our commercial, you’re the best.

Guess what? YouTube pulled it as “inappropriate.” Going to do battle with them to put it back up. Crazy. Was it the kiss? Will keep you posted.

All the best,
Fred Karger

—  David Taffet

Houston’s State Rep. Garnet Coleman applauds Prop. 8 decision

State Rep. Garnet Coleman

Rep. Garnet Coleman, D-Houston, took to his blog today to applaud yesterday’s decision by the United States Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals declaring Proposition 8  unconstitutional (Prop. 8, passed in 2008, prohibited marriage equality in California):

“Yesterday’s 9th Circuit decision, just like the decision in Lawrence v. Texas, is a stepping stone on the path to marriage equality for all. As Judge Stephen R. Reinhardt of the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals wrote in the opinion, ‘Proposition 8 serves no purpose, and has no effect, other than to lessen the status and human dignity of gay men and lesbians in California, and to officially reclassify their relationships and families as inferior to those of opposite-sex couples.’ The same holds true for the marriage equality ban in Texas. That is why I continue to fight for marriage equality and continue to file the repeal of the ban of same sex marriage. Denying gay couples the right to marry is unconstitutional and a blatant denial of human rights. “

Coleman has a long history of filing pro-LGBT legislation in the Texas House. Last year he introduced historic legislation that, had it passed, would have called for a state-wide vote to repeal the section of Texas’ constitution prohibiting same-sex marriage, so he’s no stranger to the battle for marriage equality.

Coleman is seeking re-election to his District 147 seat. He will face long-time local LGBT activist Ray Hill in the Democratic Primary. No republican candidate has filed for the seat.

Read Coleman’s full statement on his blog.

—  admin

Republicans at debate boo the Golden Rule

No matter what you think of Texas Congressman Ron Paul, R-Lake Jackson, you have to admire the way he sticks to what he believes no matter what reaction he gets from the audience. And you have to wonder what the Republicans who attend these debates are thinking.

Rep. Ron Paul

In Monday night’s debate in South Carolina sponsored by Fox News, Paul said the U.S. should use the Golden Rule in its foreign policy.

“Don’t do to other nations what we don’t want them to do to us,” Paul said. “We endlessly bomb these countries and we wonder why they get upset with us.”

The audience did cheer, however, when Paul said we don’t need another war. He said we need to quit the ones we’re in and bring home the troops.

Audience reaction has at times been just as interesting in the debates as anything the GOP candidates have said. Audiences have booed a gay Iraq war veteran, cheered Gov. Rick Perry’s execution record, etc.

Below is video of last night’s audience booing Paul as he talks about using the Golden Rule to guide foreign policy:

—  David Taffet

Araguz booking raises questions about Harris County jail’s treatment of transgender inmates

Judge Vanessa Valasquez

Judge Vanessa Valasquez

According to the Houston Chronicle, Nikki Araguz has been booked into the Harris County Jain after arriving 40 minutes late for a scheduled court appearance on Friday. The court date was to allow Araguz to plead guilty to charges that she stole a watch from an acquaintance last year. Under the proposed plea bargain Araguz would have paid $2,600 in restitution and served 15 days in county jail. State District Judge Vanessa Velasquez, a Republican first appointed to the bench by Gov. Rick Perry, responded to Araguz’ apologies for her tardiness with “It’s too late for sorry,” ordering bailiffs to escort her to a hold cell next to the courtroom.

Araguz is the widow of firefighter Capt. Thomas Araguz who died in the line of duty last year. Capt. Araguz’s ex-wife and mother have sued to claim the portion of his survivor’s benefits reserved for the spouses of slain firefighters, claiming that since Nikki Araguz was identified as male at birth the marriage was invalid under Texas’ laws prohibiting the recognition of same-sex marriage. Mrs. Araguz’s birth certificate identifies her as female, as does her state issued identification.

Araguz’s booking has raised questions about the Harris County’s treatment of transgender detainees. The Sheriff Department’s Public Information Inquiry System listed Araguz using her male birth name on Friday. They have since removed the name from the site’s searchable database but have retained the record, listing it under the department’s “special person number” (SPN) filing system. The SPN record includes Araguz’s birth name. The Sheriff’s office has not returned calls from Houstini asking why the department is not using Araguz’s legal name and if this is common practice.

According to a friend who has visited Araguz at the jail her identity bracelet correctly identifies her gender as “F” – but reflects Araguz’s birth name, not her legal name. Araguz is segregated from the general jail population, but can receive visitors during regular visiting hours.

Araguz will remain in the Harris County Jail until Jan 25 when she is scheduled to appear again before Judge Velasquez.

—  admin

Meeting the candidates: ‘Democrat’ Randall Terry and Vermin Supreme?

Presidential candidates Vermin Supreme, left, and Randall Terry

I know that there are a handful of Republican candidates who are getting all the attention these days as we gear up for the 2012 presidential election — folks like Mitt Romney and Newt Gingrich and Rick Perry and Michele Bachmann. President Obama doesn’t have any big name Democratic opposition in his bid for re-election, so he’s keeping kind of quiet so far.

But there are some other candidates out there, both Republican and Democratic, who are running for our nation’s highest elected office who haven’t gotten much play in the media. And they showed up in Manchester, N.H., on Monday, Dec. 19, to participate in the New Hampshire Institute of Politics’ “forum for lesser known presidential candidates.” You can read all about it here at ConcordMonitor.com.

Here is what was, for me, the big surprise of the evening: Randall Terry is running for president — as a Democrat!

You remember Randall Terry, right? He founded what was, at one time, the biggest anti-abortion group around, Operation Rescue. He’s the one that suggested in 2009 that the murder of Doctor George Tiller, who performed abortions, was justified. He is also virulently anti-gay and when his adopted son Jamiel came out in 2004, Terry basically disowned him. (Jamiel was killed in a car wreck in Georgia on Nov. 30.)

Well, Terry, who now lives in Purgitsville, W. Va., announced early this year that he would be running for president, as a Democrat believe it or not, and he was one of the candidates at the NHIOP forum last night. His two main campaign issues are, of course, ending abortion and ending gay marriage. “We will never restore the greatness of this nation as long as we are killing our own offspring,” he said at the forum, adding that the “states’ rights” argument is not valid in either case. “There’s some things that are fundamentally evil, like slavery and there is no state right to hold another human being, there is no state right to kill your offspring, there is no state right to have homosexual marriage,” he said.

But Terry is not the only “fringe” candidate who was at the forum. They were all pretty much fringe candidates in one way or another. But the fringiest of them all was probably perpetual candidate Vermin Supreme of Rockport, Mass., who has, according to ConcordMonitor.com, “made a name for himself since 2004 running on a platform of giving a pony to every American and mandatory oral hygiene — ‘strong teeth for a strong America.’”

(Oh, and check out his website, where he lists his campaign priorities as “Dental Hygiene Law,” “Flying Monkey Public Safety Assurance Program” and “Time Travel Research Funding.”

At the Monday night forum, he declared, “I am a tyrant that you should trust, and you should let me run your life because I, too, know what is best for you.”

OK, who wouldn’t want a pony? And who can be against good oral hygiene? And to make it even better, Vermin Supreme goes around wearing a rubber boot on his head like a wizard’s hat, and one of those green toy Hulk fists over his crotch, kind of like a codpiece, I guess. And if THAT’s not enough for you, at the Monday night forum, Vermin threw glitter all over Randall Terry while yelling, “He’s turning gay, he’s turning gay, whoooooo!”

What’s not to love? I mean, when you have serious Republican candidates pledging to do away with judges if they do something they don’t like, voting for a guy who promises everybody a pony doesn’t seem like that much of a stretch, after all.

—  admin