Early voting in runoff election off to slow start

For those who missed it, there is an election happening in Houston right now. Four City Council races wound up in run-offs after the November 8 municipal elections and Houstonians have until December 10 to decide the fate of these crucial races.  So far fewer than 2,000 people have voted. Without a “big ticket” item like the mayor’s race at the top of the ballot turnout in the runoff is expected to be very low. The upshot of which is that every ballot cast carries more weight than ever.

Two of the races are at-large seats, so every citizen of Houston gets to vote on this races:

  • In At-large position 2 former State Representative Kristi Thibaut faces Andrew C. Burks Jr. Pastor of Bailey Chapel Christian Methodist Episcopal Church.
  • In At-large position 5 incumbent council member Jolanda Jones faces Jack Christie, former State Board of Education member .

Two of the races are for district seats, so only people who live in those districts get to vote on these races:

  • In District A incumbent council member Brenda Stardig faces republican activist Helena Brown.
  • In District B local restauranteur and education advocate Jerry Davis faces Alvin Byrd, current staffer for council member Jarvis Johnson.

Early voting continues through December 6th, election day is November 8. Voters may cast their ballot at any early voting location. Visit harrisvotes.org to find your election day polling location (it may be different than your November polling place) and to view a sample ballot.

—  admin

‘The Response’ returns, but without Perry

GetEqual at The Response

Get Equal protests at The Response last August in Houston

Remember The Response? The amalgam of Republican Party politics and  right-wing anti-LGBT “Christianity” Gov. Rick Perry used to launch his presidential campaign is back, but this time without Perry. The event’s organizers, including  hate group The American Family Association, have announced they plan to hold four more prayer rallies modeled on the August event in Houston, but are being careful to distance themselves from partisan politics in general and Perry’s flagging presidential campaign specifically:

“Though Governor Rick Perry initiated The Response in Houston, these upcoming state-wide gatherings will not be affiliated with any particular presidential candidates. The Response is committed to prayer above politics, to seeing the church moved to stand for righteousness and to pray for God’s mercy for America.”

Perry continues to sag in the polls, and his recent gaffs and apparent lack of basic English language skills make him an increasingly unattractive candidate for Republican voters, so it’s not surprising to see The Response scurry to flee the sinking Perry ship.

At the same time the locations of the four mini-Responses are interesting: Iowa, South Carolina, Florida and Arizona. All are key states during the Republican primary. So while The Response may have ditched Perry it’s clear that at least one of the things they’re praying for is a viable Republican presidential candidate.

—  admin

What’s Shakin’ – ‘Our Time in Eden’ at EVO Lounge, voter turnout still weak

Our Time in Eden

It's Ava and Eve, not Adam and Eve.

1. Say “Garden of Eden” and most people will conjure an image of a naked (white) man and woman frolicking in a surprisingly well-tended arboretum,  but the people at Ultraviolet Productions envision an Eden where the strict binary of Adam and Eve is smeared across a blazing tableau of gender, sexuality and race. “Our Time in Eden,” a variety/drag show exploring what paradise means in a world free of labels, struts the stage tonight at 8 pm at EVO Lounge, 2707 Milam.  For a $5 cover you can check out the best drag kings, queens and gender performance artists Houston has to offer.

2. Early voting in Harris County continues through Nov 3 at all early voting locations. Voter turnout continues to be low. On Tuesday, 2,599 people voted in person, versus 4,206 who voted on the second day of early voting during the last municipal election in 2009.  Overall, there’s been a 24% decrease in voter turnout from 2009.  The upshot of which is that each vote is 24% more powerful. So grab three friends and get to the polls, together the four of you almost get an extra vote.

3. Rev. Pat “God-sends-hurricanes-to-punish-gay-people” Robinson, founder of the Christian Coalition and former Republican Presidential hopeful, warned his 700 Club audience that pushing the current crop of GOP frontrunners too far to the extreme right will hurt their chances in the 2012 general election. When the man who said that the Haiti earthquake was caused because the nation made a pact with the devil thinks you’ve gotten too extreme that’s saying something!  Right Wing Watch has more.

—  admin

Will this debate sink Perry’s presidential hopes?

Gov. Rick Perry

Texas Gov. Rick Perry came out of the gate strong when he jumped into the race to become the Republican nominee for president in 2012. How could he not? He had that great hair, and that supposed good ol’ Texas boy charm on his side, not to mention the prayers of all those people who attended The Response in August. He was riding high, jumping to the tops of the polls and apparently leaving folks like Mitt Romney and Michele Bachmann in the dust.

And then he opened his mouth and talked. And things started going downhill fast.

Perry’s troubles started with the Republican debates. At the first one, on Sept. 7, he was taken to task for calling Social Security “a ponzi scheme” and for his controversial executive order requiring schoolgirls to be vaccinated against HPV. And while the audience applauded when Perry said he doesn’t lose sleep over executions in Texas, there were plenty of people who found that statement appalling.

And things got worse at the Sept. 22 debate, from which Perry came away looking “shell shocked,” according to the Huffington Post, after other candidates, like nutball Rick Santorum, attacked him for being too lenient on immigration policies.

And now, as Perry prepares for his third debate tonight in New Hampshire, sponsored by Bloomberg News and The Washington Post, some folks — like MSNBC — are calling this “do or die time” for him. This MSNBC report shows that Romney has regained the lead in the polls, holding a precarious three-point lead over Herman Cain in Iowa and a robust 30-point advantage over the other candidates in New Hampshire, the sites of the earliest primaries, according to the most recent NBC News-Marist polls

And where is Perry? In Iowa, he is tied for fourth place with Bachmann, with 10 percent each, behind his fellow Texan, Ron Paul who has 11 percent. And in New Hampshire, where Romney leads with 44 percent and Cain and Paul are tied for second with 13 percent each, Perry scraped in 6 percent for fourth place, barely beating out Jon Huntsman, who had 5 percent.

Poor Rick — he went from the top of the heap to scraping the bottom of the barrel in just a little more than two months. Talk about your monumental flame-out! I guess that means that it takes more than a pretty face and good hair to win the presidency — and the support of rabid right-wingers like the Rev. Robert Jeffress. And I guess that means we’ll probably have to keep putting up with Perry here in Texas until at least 2014.

—  admin

N.Y. Republican on gay marriage: ‘F**k it. I’m trying to do the right thing’

As we reported here on Instant Tea, the New York Senate appears to be just one vote shy of the majority needed to pass a bill legalizing same-sex marriage in that state. And one reason marriage supporters are so close to the magic number of 32 is because one Republican, Sen. Roy McDonald, decided it was time to throw partisanship out the window and “do the right thing.”

New York Sen.Roy McDonald

According to this post on TMZ.com, in announcing his decision earlier this week to vote for marriage equality, McDonald declared:

“You get to the point where you evolve in your life where everything isn’t black and white, good and bad, and you try to do the right thing. You might not like that. You might be very cynical about that. Well, fuck it. I don’t care what you think. I’m trying to do the right thing. I’m tired of Republican-Democrat politics. They can take the job and shove it. I come from a blue-collar background. I’m trying to do the right thing, and that’s where I’m going with this.”

Well, I say, you go, Sen. McDonald. It’s about time somebody actually pointed out that this is an issue of fairness and equality; partisan politics shouldn’t matter, and neither should some individuals’ personal religious beliefs. What matters is doing the right thing.

Marriage equality supporters — and I am one — appreciate all the New York senators who are backing the marriage bill there. But when someone is willing to step out and state their support in such unequivocal terms and to stress that they support marriage equality because it is the right thing to do as McDonald did, then they deserve some special thanks.

—  admin

Oetken sidesteps questions on brief in sodomy case

Paul Oetken

Gay court nominee says arguments in brief he wrote for Lawrence v. Texas expressed his client’s views, not necessarily his

LISA KEEN  |  Keen News Service
lisakeen@mac.com

When openly gay federal district court nominee Paul Oetken went before the U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee in March, Sen. Charles Grassley was the only Republican who showed up.

 

He introduced Oetken, who was born in his home state of Iowa, but had no questions.

But not all questioning takes place in front of cameras. Some takes place on paper, and that’s where Grassley grilled Oetken over his positions on gay-related issues, and Oetken responded in a way that might make some LGBT activists cringe.

“Do you personally believe that government classifications based on sexual orientation deserve a heightened level of scrutiny?” asked Grassley, in one of 17 questions to Oetken.
Grassley’s question concerned a brief Oetken wrote for the National Gay and Lesbian Bar Association and submitted to the U.S. Supreme Court in support of overturning laws prohibiting same-sex sexual relations.

The case was Lawrence v. Texas and, in 2003, a majority of the Supreme Court did overturn such laws. Oetken’s brief argued that the courts should use the strictest form of scrutiny when examining laws that treat gay people differently.

In responding to Grassley, Oetken put some distance between himself and the brief, saying, “I have not expressed a personal view on this subject. The arguments in the amicus brief that I co-authored in Lawrence v. Texas were arguments made on behalf of clients.”

“Although I believed that there was a good faith basis in Supreme Court precedent for making those arguments [in the brief], they do not necessarily reflect how I would approach these issues as a district judge,” wrote Oetken.

Oetken also put some distance between his brief and the Supreme Court’s decision, noting that, “The Supreme Court in Lawrence v. Texas did not decide that case under the Equal Protection Clause, but rather under the Due Process Clause, and it therefore did not decide the issues addressed in my amicus brief in that case.”

Oetken also said, “If confirmed as a district judge, I would apply the applicable precedents of the Supreme Court and the Second Circuit.”

Republican Sen. Jeff Sessions also submitted written questions about Oetken’s brief in Lawrence. Sessions noted that Oetken had argued that the issue of physician-assisted suicide should be decided by each state legislature.

He quoted Oetken saying, the issue of physician-assisted suicide “should stay where it belongs, in the legislatures” because the states’ “varied approaches to the issue may, over time, aid in forming a national consensus, making it possible for Congress to resolve it through national legislation.”

But Sessions was interested in how Oetken could argue, in 2002, to leave the suicide issue to the states and then argue, in 2003, “that Texas’ anti-sodomy law was something that warranted federal intervention. …”

Oetken, again, noted that the Lawrence brief included “arguments made on behalf of clients.”

His argument to leave the suicide issue to the states, he said, was appropriate given that there was no federal legislation addressing it.

Oetken’s nomination was reported out of committee on April 7 and is awaiting a vote by the full Senate.

© 2011 Keen News Service. All rights reserved.

—  John Wright

Sheriff Lupe Valdez, a Democrat, on why she’s going to the Log Cabin Republicans Convention

Sheriff Lupe Valdez

The Log Cabin Republicans will hold their National Convention in Dallas this coming weekend, and we’ll have a full story in Friday’s print edition. But because the convention actually begins Thursday, we figured we’d go ahead and post the full program sent out by the group earlier this week.

Perhaps the biggest surprise on the program is a scheduled appearance by gay Dallas County Sheriff Lupe Valdez, who is of course a Democrat.

Valdez, who’ll be one of the featured speakers at a Saturday luncheon, contacted us this week to explain her decision to accept the invitation from Log Cabin (not that we necessarily felt it warranted an explanation). Here’s what she said: 

“We have more things in common than we have differences, but it seems like in politics we constantly dwell on our differences,” Valdez said. “If we continue to dwell on our differences, all we’re going to do is fight. If we try to work on our common issues, we’ll be able to accomplish some things.”

On that note, below is the full program. For more information or to register, go here.

—  John Wright

Equality Texas lauds House committee’s decision to advance bipartisan anti-bullying bill

Rep. Diane Patrick

The Texas House Committee on Public Education voted 10-1 today to advance a bipartisan anti-bullying bill, authored by Republican Rep. Diane Patrick of Arlington. The bill, a committee substitute for Patrick’s HB 1942, doesn’t specifically protect LGBT youth but incorporates much of the language from another anti-bullying bill by Rep. Mark Strama, D-Austin. For example, Patrick’s bill would update the definition of bullying to include cyberbullying, and it would allow the bully, instead of just the victim, to be transferred to another classroom or campus. Strama’s bill had the backing of Equality Texas, which now plans to support Patrick’s bill. The text of the committee’s substitute for Patrick’s bill wasn’t immediately available on the Legislature’s website, but Equality Texas provides details of the measure in a press release below.

—  John Wright

Updates from California and Hawaii

The California Supreme Court justices announced today that they will be issuing an opinion on whether YesOn8.com, the group that successfully pushed for Proposition 8 amending the state’s constitution to ban same-sex marriage there, has standing to appeal Federal District Judge Vaughn Walker’s ruling that Prop 8 violates the U.S. Constitution.

That announcement further delays the 9th Court of Appeals’ consideration of the appeal in the case that could ultimately end up in the U.S. Supreme Court.

Further west, news coming out of Hawaii was much more positive, as a bill creating civil unions for same-sex couples  cleared its final legislative hurdle and is headed to the governor’s desk.

Although Republican then-Gov. Linda Lingle vetoed essentially the same bill last July. But current Democratic Gov. Neil Abercrombie has said he will sign it into law.

—  admin