Perry threatens funding veto if Travis County DA Lehmberg doesn’t resign

Rosemary Lehmberg

Rosemary Lehmberg

Gov. Rick Perry is using his power to threaten a veto of funding for the state’s Public Integrity Unit unless Travis County District Attorney Rosemary Lehmberg resigns.

Lehmberg, who’s openly gay, is over the unit responsible for investigating wrongdoing by state officials, but her integrity came into question when she was arrested for driving while intoxicated in April. After her arrest, she apologized and said she wouldn’t resign. Instead, she said she would seek treatment for her behavior.

She was sentenced to 45 days in jail, but was later released after serving half the sentence for good behavior.

Perry’s announcement Monday is one of several attempts to remove Lehmberg from office. Attorney Kerry O’Brien filed a request to have her removed shortly after she was arrested, but it was later dismissed.

Now former prosecutor Rick Reed, who ran against Lehmberg in 2008, has filed a criminal complaint, alleging that she engaged in various criminal acts while in custody. Lehmberg allegedly threatened and spat at offices and was belligerent during arrest.

Perry has been accused of using the funds to force Lehmberg out because he wants to fill her position with a Republican. He has until Sunday to veto bills by the Legislature.

—  Dallasvoice

Today marks the 15th anniversary of the murder of James Byrd Jr.


James Byrd Jr.

Today is the 15th anniversary of the murder of James Byrd Jr. in Jasper. Three men picked Byrd up in a bar and after they left, beat him, hooked him by a chain to the back of their pickup and dragged him to his death. Because of the horrific nature of the crime, the story received international attention.

After Byrd’s death, Lesbian/Gay Rights Lobby Executive Director Dianne Hardy Garcia met with the Byrd family. She had been working almost a decade tracking hate crimes, attending the trials of those indicted on murder charges in bias cases and lobbying the Legislature to enact a hate-crime penalty-enhancement law.

Hardy Garcia explained to the Byrds that a hate crime bill would pass if it didn’t include sexual orientation. Byrd’s mother asked if gays and lesbians were targets of hate crimes. Hardy Garcia showed her the statistics.

“No family should have to go through what my family went through,” Mrs. Byrd told Hardy Garcia.

The Byrds became staunch allies of the LGBT community and insisted sexual orientation remain in the bill.

Despite the national attention the Byrd case brought to Texas, the Legislature blocked any attempt to pass a hate crime bill in 1999 as Gov. George W. Bush campaigned for president.

However, the 2001 Texas Legislature passed the James Byrd Jr. Hate Crime Law and Gov. Rick Perry signed it into law. In 2009, President Barack Obama signed an LGBT-inclusive federal hate crimes law, called the Matthew Shepard and James Byrd, Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act.

The three men involved in the murder were arrested. Lawrence Brewer was executed. John William King is on death row. Shawn Berry is serving a life sentence.

Fox 26 Houston talked to members of the Byrd family and discussed the background of the murderers on the 10th anniversary of Byrd’s death:

—  David Taffet

WATCH: Texas’ ‘Governor for a Day’ delivers emotional pro-LGBT speech


Sen. Leticia Van de Putte is sworn in as ‘governor for a day’ on Saturday.

The governor of Texas delivered impassioned remarks in support of LGBT equality on Saturday.

Unfortunately, San Antonio Democratic Sen. Leticia Van de Putte was only “governor for a day” — a ceremonial honor bestowed upon the president pro tempore of the Texas Senate for one day each legislative session.

After returning to his pulpit on Sunday, Gov. Rick Perry would inanely compare his opposition to gays in the Boy Scouts to Gov. Sam Houston’s opposition to slavery. But on Saturday, Van de Putte choked back tears as she compared her support for LGBT equailty to Gov. Houston’s support for American Indians.

“A few minutes ago I swore on Sam Houston’s Bible to uphold the oath,” Van de Putte told those gathered at the Capitol for her address. “Sam Houston stood proud and he stood up for our Native Americans, our first nation, who at that time were considered savages, and he said, ‘I am aware that presenting myself as an advocate for the Indians and their rights, I shall stand very much alone.’ But Sam Houston stood up, and he did because it was the right thing to do, and I so I will stand because it’s the right thing to do.”

Van de Putte, the author of a bill to ban anti-LGBT job discrimination in Texas, talked about meeting Staff Sgt. Eric Alva, the openly gay Marine from San Antonio who lost his leg when he stepped on a landmine in Iraq in 2003.

“He fought for us. He fought for you,” she said. “He nearly died for our country, and he still suffers for it every day, and yet, here in his home state, he can be denied or fired from a job, not because he’s Hispanic, and not because he has a disability, but because he is gay. A man who protects our country is not protected at home. A man who loves his country is denied and is discriminated against because of who he loves, and Texans, that has to change.”

Van De Putte concluded by referencing portraits of people like Barbara Jordan and Henry B. Gonzalez hanging in the state Capitol.

“At one time it would have been unthinkable to think that an African-American woman and a Mexican-American man, that their portraits would hang, would be adorned on these hallowed walls,” she said. “Someday on these walls there will be a portrait of a Texas hero who just happens to be gay, and it won’t matter, because they’re a Texas hero.”

Watch Van de Putte’s historic remarks below.

—  John Wright

Gov. Rick Perry compares support for BSA gay ban to opposition of slavery

Gov. Rick Perry

Gov. Rick Perry

Gov. Rick Perry is still adamant about his opposition to gay youth and leaders in the Boy Scouts.

While the decision to allow gay youth into the organization will be voted on later this month, Perry appeared on the anti-gay Family Research Council’s Stand With Scouts Sunday show yesterday to voice his disdain for gay Scouts.

He appeared from the library in the governor’s mansion, and compared the gay ban to slavery, saying the BSA should reject pop culture like the greatest governor in Texas’s history, Gov. Sam Houston, opposed slavery.

“That’s the type of principled leadership, that’s the type of courage that I hope people across this country on this issue of Scouts and keeping the Boy Scouts the organization that it is today,” he said. “If we change and become more like pop culture, young men will be not as well served. America will not be as well served, and Boy Scouts will start on a decline that I don’t think will serve this country well as we go into the future.”

Perry also said he hopes the push for LGBT equality as the “flavor of the month” won’t override the BSA’s moral history.

“I know there are those in the world today that would tear that apart. But the fact is this is a private organization,” Perry said. “Their values and principles have worked for a century now. And for pop culture to come in and try to tear that up because it just happens to be, you know, the flavor of the month so to speak and to tear apart one of the great organizations that have served millions of young men, helped them to become men and become great fathers. That is just not appropriate. Frankly, I hope the American people will stand up and say, ‘Not on my watch.’”

Watch the video below.

—  Dallasvoice

Bob Perry, No. 1 donor behind Texas marriage amendment in 2005, dies


Bob Perry

Bob Perry, who built homes in Oak Lawn and was the top donor to the anti-gay marriage amendment in Texas, died Saturday.

Perry came to national attention in 2004 when he funded Karl Rove’s “swiftboating” campaign against Sen. John Kerry, who was challenging President George W. Bush. The purpose was to cast doubt on Kerry’s claim to being a decorated Vietnam War hero. Until the swiftboat ads ran, Kerry was ahead in the polls.

But the following year, Perry’s contribution of $110,000 to a PAC supporting the anti-gay amendment, caused many in the LGBT community to boycott his properties. In Oak Lawn, Perry built The Reserve at Reagan and Wycliff Place. Downtown he built City View at Farmer’s Market.

Gay real estate agent Jack Evans said at the time: “Why feed the enemy? The more profit he makes from the community, the more he’s going to try his best to bury it.”

An Austin-based Perry spokesman at the time said Perry was not homophobic because he wouldn’t be building homes in LGBT neighborhoods if he were. Perry Homes also built properties in Houston’s heavily gay Montrose neighborhood.

—  David Taffet

Gov. Perry, Mayor Rawlings visit anti-gay First Baptist Church of Dallas


Texas Gov. Rick Perry, right, greets pastor Robert Jeffress as he exits the stage at First Baptist Church of Dallas on Sunday. (Via WFAA-TV)

The bigoted views of Robert Jeffress may be too extreme for the likes of evangelical NFL quarterback Tim Tebow, who canceled a scheduled appearance at Jeffress’ First Baptist Church of Dallas last month.

But Jeffress’ views, as it turns out, are not too extreme for Texas Gov. Rick Perry — and they’re not even too extreme for Dallas Mayor Mike Rawlings.

Both Perry and Rawlings attended a dedication of First Baptist’s $130 million expansion project on Sunday, with Perry delivering a speech that amounted to a sermon in which he appeared to reference homosexuality while using coded language.

“I do believe it is right, under the purview of Scripture, for the church to judge certain behaviors,” Perry said. “But that is totally different from judging fellow sinners. … We must love all.

“We cannot condemn certain lifestyles while turning a blind eye to sins that, in God’s eye, are just as grievous,” he added. “We must love all… welcome all … and be a model for Christ.”

WFAA says Perry’s comments “reflect a shift from previously-stated beliefs,” referring to his anti-gay record, but I wouldn’t go that far. If anything, it was an attempt by Perry to put some space between himself and the extremism of Jeffress — who has called homosexuality “unnatural,” “filthy,” “perverse” and “abnormal” — as he prepares to run for president again in 2016. Unfortunately for Perry, it’s more than a little hypocritical to stand at a place like First Baptist — led by one of the most hateful anti-gay preachers in the world — and talk about God’s love.

As for Rawlings, we’ve reached out to his chief of staff, Paula Blackmon, for a comment on his decision to attend the event. Blackmon did not immediately respond, but we’ll update if she does.

Let’s just hope Rawlings isn’t going down the same road as his predecessor, Tom Leppert, who became a member of First Baptist in an effort to pander to conservative Republican Primary voters as he prepared to run for U.S. Senate. How’d that work out for you, Tom?

Watch Perry’s remarks at First Baptist below.

—  John Wright

GLBT Aggies gear up for forum on anti-gay Student Senate bill


Texas A&M Student Senator Chris Woolsey, second from left, is shown in this photo with Gov. Rick Perry from Woolsey’s Facebook page. Woolsey is the sponsor of the GLBT Funding Opt-Out Bill.

The LGBT community at Texas A&M University is gearing up for an open forum Wednesday night to discuss a Student Senate bill designed to cut funding for the school’s GLBT Resource Center.

The GLBT Funding Opt-Out Bill, introduced two weeks ago, would allow students to opt out of funding the campus GLBT Resource Center with their activity fees if they have religious objections. According to The Battallion student newspaper, about $100,000 goes to the GLBT Center annually — or about $2 per student.

The campus group GLBT Aggies says the bill, similar to one introduced two years ago, is discriminatory and amounts to an attack against the LGBT community under the guise of religious freedom. Just as in 2011, a parallel effort is under way in the state Legislature to defund LGBT resource centers on college campuses in Texas.

“As a community dedicated to respecting diversity, we support measures sincerely aimed at protecting the religious beliefs of Texas A&M students, including those of many within the LGBT community,” GLBT Aggies wrote in a news release about the Student Senate bill last week. “However, while SB 65-70 claims to promote religious freedom, we cannot ignore that it only allows students with one religious belief to control how their student fees are used: only religious traditions that disapprove of LGBT interests are given a voice. A bill truly dedicated to allowing religious designation of fees would make the opportunity available to students of all faiths toward whatever policy creates a moral conflict of interest for them. Given the extremely narrow scope of this bill, we can only conclude that its interest lies not in promoting religious freedom but specifically in targeting the LGBT community. Whatever the intentions of the bill may be, its effect is clearly discriminatory.”

—  John Wright

Memo to Gov. Perry: ‘You’re done here’

On the same day the U.S. Supreme Court took up California’s ban on same-sex marriage, Texas Gov. Rick Perry told the Dallas Morning News on Tuesday that both he and the state of Texas still oppose marriage equality:

“In Texas, it is fairly clear about where this state stands on that issue,” Perry said when asked by reporters about the Supreme Court cases.

“As recently as a constitutional amendment that passed – I believe, with 76 percent of the vote. The people of the state of Texas, myself included, believe marriage is between one man and one woman,” Perry said.

Unfortunately for Perry, and as Mother Jones aptly notes, Texas’ marriage amendment passed eight years ago in an off-year election, and it banned not only same-sex marriage, but also civil unions.

Of course, what Perry really means is that a majority of Republican Primary voters in Texas still oppose same-sex marriage, because that’s his political base.

A majority of Americans, however, now support marriage equality, which helps explain why Perry’s anti-gay tactics helped doom his presidential campaign last year.

Furthermore, as the chart above shows, his statements about Texas are rapidly becoming false if not so already.

Numerous polls over the last few years have shown that roughly two-thirds of Texas voters now support either marriage or civil unions for same-sex couples — meaning if it were on the ballot today, the amendment would fail.

So, in the words of the heckler who interrupted Perry during “Texas Faith and Family Day” at the Capitol on Tuesday: “You don’t represent me. 2016 — no way! You’re done here!”

—  John Wright

Is ‘Sodomites’ the new ‘queer’?

Unnatural SinAs we reported in today’s Dallas Voice, Montana is one of four states including Texas that still has its gay-only sodomy law on the books. Apparently, some Montana legislators are attempting to clean up the penal code too.

State Rep. Ellie Boldman Hill posted on her Facebook page a photo, right, of some reading material every legislator received, called The Truth About Homosexuals — 21st Century Sodomites. Hill wrote:

Here’s what all Montana legislators received in their Capitol mailboxes today. There are no words for what is going on up here. — at Montana State Capitol.

Time Magazine named Hill one of their “40 Under 40” and he Missoula Independent named her that city’s best activist three years in a row. But in the Montana House, she’s facing the same opposition that Rep. Garnet Coleman and Sen. Jose Rodriguez will encounter in the Texas Legislature.

Sodomites. I haven’t heard that stupid, mistranslated (yes, I speak Hebrew and that word is mistranslated) word used seriously in years. But every time the right wing loses another argument, they come up with something new. Sodomite seems to be their latest fad and expect to hear it more.

Earlier this week, Right Wing Watch reported Vision America’s Rick Scarborough delivered a guest sermon at at a New Jersey church and said sodomite should be used in place of gay. “They’re not gay … that’s a twist into the words,” Scarborough said. “It won’t be long until we’ll be calling pedophiles ‘happy people.’”

On Monday and Tuesday, Scarborough will be spreading his love in Austin. Monday he’ll be at a private reception with Gov. Rick Perry, who coincidentally has been accused over the years of being a sodomite himself, and on Tuesday at a pro-life march and rally.

Queer used to be a bad word. A terrible insult. Maybe we should appropriate the word sodomite in the same way.

Watch a clip from Scarborough’s sermon below.

—  David Taffet

Warren Chisum: ‘I don’t think Texas has changed their mind’ on gay marriage

Warren Chisum

Warren Chisum, who authored Texas’ 2005 marriage amendment that prohibits same-sex marriage, still thinks voters support the measure.

Despite increased support for same-sex relationship recognition across the country and in Texas, conservative state leaders believe voters still agree with the state’s constitutional amendment prohibiting same-sex marriage.

Five pieces of legislation have recently been filed by state lawmakers to repeal the state’s marriage amendment and to allow marriage equality or civil unions if the amendment is repealed.

But former state Rep. Warren Chisum, who authored the amendment, still believes that Texas voters support it.

“I know there’s a big push, seems like, around the United States, but you know, I don’t think Texas has changed their mind,” Chisum told the San Antonio Express-News. “We’ll be the oddball of all of them, I guess. If everybody else in the country switches, I still think the view of Texas is a little more conservative than the rest of the country.”

A spokeswoman for Gov. Rick Perry’s also said he agrees with voters who passed the amendment in 2005 and the definition of marriage in Texas should stay between a woman and a man.

State Rep. Lon Burnam, D-Fort Worth, filed a bill Thursday to bring marriage equality to Texas and mandate the recognition of same-sex marriage performed in other states. The legislation would go into effect only if legislation to repeal the marriage amendment were first successful. The repeal legislation would need a two-thirds majority in both chambers and a majority of support from voters in November.

While lawmakers and LGBT advocates have admitted the process to repeal the amendment would be a challenge, nine lawmakers signed on as co-authors of Burnam’s bill yesterday — Reps. Mary Gonzalez, Ana Hernandez Luna, Donna Howard, Eddie Lucio III, Poncho Nevárez, Mark Strama, Chris Turner, Armando Walle and Gene Wu.

Burnam’s office said the bill was sent out to the Democratic Caucus last night, so more lawmakers are expected to sign on as co-author.

Equality Texas’ field organizer Daniel Williams released a special Valentine’s Day issue of the organization’s weekly legislative update, which highlights the need for five pieces of recently filed legislation for marriage equality, as well as a Friday edition. Equality Texas is calling on supporters of the legislation to contact their representatives to encourage them to sign on as co-author and support the bill.

Watch both legislative updates below.

—  Dallasvoice