Gay matchmaking service He’s For Me opens Dallas office

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From left, He’s For Me Dallas manager Dana Foley-Taylor, owner Tammy Shaklee and North Texas GLBT Chamber’s Tony Vedda and Ron Watterson help cut the ribbon at the office’s opening Friday. (Steve Ramos/Dallas Voice)

Dallas gays now have no excuse to be single — at least not for long.

Gay matchmaking service He’s for Me opened its Dallas office on Friday to celebrate Valentine’s Day and introduce the full-time staff to the community. Staff members were joined by members of the GLBT North Texas Chamber of Commerce, of which H4M is a member.

The company started in Austin in the fall of 2012. Within six months, matchmakers were setting up Dallas and Houston couples, owner Tammy Shaklee said.  The popularity made a full-time office in Big D necessary, and she plans to open a Houston location next.

Shaklee said it’s easy to meet people, but it’s hard to know if they’re single, looking for a serious relationship and if you’re compatible with them.

And she met her husband through a dating service in Austin seven years ago.

“I would have never met him without the matchmaking service,” she said.

She then tried to convince a gay friend to use a service to find love. Only he couldn’t find a service that paired gays.

“I started the research, and after three days of trying to find service for him, I found that none existed,” she said. “When I couldn’t find a service for him to hire to help him, I started the process to start it myself.”

H4M also serves gays in Seattle, after a Houston client relocated and wanted Shaklee’s company to help him there. The company now serves gays in Denver, Miami, Chicago and Atlanta.

While Shaklee, a straight ally, saw the need for gays to have a service, she said she’s researching expanding the company for lesbians with a She’s For Me component.

“I really do believe in my heart that it took a straight ally to give the community something that it hadn’t had the opportunity to have before,” she said.

H4M Dallas office is located at at 2911 Turtle Creek Blvd., 3rd Floor. For more info about HFM, go here.

—  Dallasvoice

Lambda Legal files lawsuit against city of Houston over spousal benefits

Upton.Ken

Ken Upton

Lambda Legal filed a federal lawsuit Thursday against Houston Mayor Annise Parker and the city of Houston to ensure spouses of legally married same-sex couples will receive health benefits.

The lawsuit was filed in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Texas on behalf of three city employees after a challenge to the coverage forced them to withdraw and cancel the coverage.

Parker announced last month that the benefits would be extended in light of the U.S. Supreme Court ruling on the federal Defense of Marriage Act. But last week, state District Judge Lisa Millard signed a temporary restraining order prohibiting the city of Houston from offering benefits to same-sex couples after the Harris County GOP chairman filed a lawsuit.

“City employees who are married to same-sex spouses are doing the same work as coworkers who are married to different-sex spouses—at the end of the day this case is about equal pay for equal work,” Ken Upton, senior staff attorney at Lambda Legal’s South Central office in Dallas, said in a statement. “These employees, some who have worked for the City for many years, acted in good faith when notified the City was extending health coverage benefits to their legal spouses.”

Noel Freeman, the lead plaintiff in the lawsuit and a president of Houston GLBT Political Caucus, is an administrative coordinator with the City of Houston Public Works & Engineering Office who has worked for the city for nine years. He and his husband, Brad, have been together for more than 11 years and were married in Washington, D.C., in 2010.

“The notice from the City was like a punch in the stomach. Brad and I were so excited when we learned we could enroll him on my plan that we signed him up within an hour of finding out,” Freeman said. “And now, just a month later, they tell us they’re going to have to take it away, that once again I will be paid less than my married heterosexual colleagues for the same work. How is this fair?”

The other plaintiffs in the suit are Yadira Estrada, a Houston police officer who married her partner of seven and a half years, Jennifer Flores, in Maine in June, and Ron Reeser, a systems administrator who married his husband, Vince Olivier, in Canada in 2008 after they had been together for three years.

Upton said the city’s refusal to implement the health benefits change and offer the benefits to same-sex spouses after they signed up for coverage is unfair.

“By refusing to recognize the legal marriage of same-sex couples for the purpose of providing employment benefits, the City deprives some Houston families of a critical safety net and financial security,” Upton said. “By stripping legally married gay and lesbian city employees of spousal benefits, including health insurance coverage, the City not only inflicts severe hardship, but sends a signal that their families are less worthy than those of their coworkers. This the Constitution does not allow.”

—  Dallasvoice

UTSA decides to give military wife in-state tuition without changing policy

UTSA

Officials at the University of Texas at San Antonio have decided to offer the wife of an Air Force captain in-state tuition after previously denying her the rate.

Officials wouldn’t discuss the reasoning behind their original decision last week, only saying they were looking into it. While the state doesn’t recognize same-sex marriage, the federal government does, and Lambda Legal said public universities that receive federal funding were required to offer military members and their families in-state tuition.

UTSA spokesman Joe Izbrand emailed Dallas Voice late last week to explain the spouse would be given in-state tuition.

“After carefully reviewing this matter, it has been determined that the student will be charged resident tuition,” he wrote in an email. “Our university is enriched through inclusiveness and diversity. We honor the service of our military personnel and recognize the sacrifices made by their families.

“Because of the complexities involved and the potential conflict between the federal statute and state law, the university will seek additional legal guidance on this issue.”

The spouse told Dallas Voice that while the policy hasn’t changed, she was informed on Friday that she would be given a $1,000 scholarship. Since students who are offered scholarships of at least $1,000 are given in-state tuition, she will now receive in-state tuition.

She said while she’s glad the issue was resolved, she hopes the policy is changed to be inclusive, so other same-sex military spouses can receive in-state tuition and she won’t worry about not receiving the rate next year if she doesn’t receive a scholarship.

“I’m bothered about it personally,” she said of the situation. “I’m bothered because it hasn’t changed the problem in the future or for next year.”

—  Dallasvoice

Dallas makes top 20 list for its sugar daddy population, but No. 1 for gay men

Earlier this week, I learned that Dallas ranks in the top 20 of cities with the most Sugar Daddies per capita. Number 16 to be exact. This news came from Brandon Wade, the founder and CEO of SeekingArrangement.com which touts itself as the largest sugar daddy dating site. On Wednesday, he released a statistical study based on five years of data from this website profiling where the generous rich men are. You can read the entire study after the jump.

While Dallas did make the top 20, number 16 really just didn’t come off as an impressive number, right? That is until I asked about stats on same-sex/bisexual breakdowns. That turned out to be quite interesting, at least for gay men. Public relations manager Jenn Gwynn told me that the site is open to same-sex arrangements and that there are active profiles on the site for those seeking from both sides of the equation.

Our site does cater to same sex relationships, both Sugar Daddy-(Male) Sugar Baby and Sugar Mommy-(Female) Sugar Baby. There are also many instances where profiles identify as “seeking” either sex.

On average, nationwide, his sugar preferences, 95.6% are heterosexual, 3.8% are homosexual, and 0.6% are bisexual. But in Dallas, it is: 94.1% heterosexual, 5.2% homosexual, 0.7% bisexual. So Dallas as a whole, has more gay sugar daddies than the average sugar daddy in America. There are 12.1 male sugar babies in Dallas for every 1 sugar daddy.

So it would appear Dallas is actually no. 1 — in our eyes. Wade added that “In the Dallas Metropolitan area, approximately 1.54 out of every 1000 adult men are Sugar Daddies.  A typical Dallas sugar daddy has an average income of $268,911, is worth about $5.5 million, and spends approximately $3,969 a month on his sugar addiction.”

Which really begs the question: Who needs MegaMillions?

—  Rich Lopez

Rev. Amy Delong, tried by Methodists for being a lesbian, to preach at Bering Memorial Methodist Church

Rev. Amy DeLong

Paperwork can be the bane of any job. For Rev. Amy Delong a simple annual report catapulted her into the maelstrom of the United Methodist Church’s debate on accepting LGBT people. DeLong visits Houston’s Bering Memorial United Methodist Church (1440 Harold) on Sunday, Feb. 12 to preach at both the 8:30 and 10:50 service.

In 2009 DeLong was approached by two women who wanted to get married. After conducting premarital counseling with the couple Delong agreed to perform the ceremony. As a clergy person, DeLong was required to report on her activities at the end of the year, including any weddings she had performed. She knew that the Methodist Church did not allow same-sex marriage but thought “I don’t know if anybody even reads these.” Boy, was she wrong!

With-in three days she was hauled into the her boss’s (the bishop) office. DeLong’s relationship with her partner Val was well known to her colleagues. “I’ve never had a bishop or a leader in the church or a pastor who didn’t know that I was gay,” says DeLong. “Everyone knows Val.” But the church was determined now to make an example of her, and DeLon’s relationship would now be an issue.

In 2011 DeLong was tried in the church’s court with violating the Methodist “Book of Discipline” by being in a same-sex relationship and by performing a same-sex wedding. During the trial she refused to answer pointed questions about her and her partner’s sex life. “No heterosexual couples are ever asked if they
still engage in genital contact in their marriages,” says DeLong. That refusal left the court with no evidence against her on the first charge.

She was convicted of performing the wedding and suspended from ministry for 20 days. The court also required DeLong to work with a group of ministers to prepare a statement on how to “help resolve issues that harm the clergy covenant, create an advesarial spirit or lead to future trails.” “This sentence is complicated,” says DeLong. “It doesn’t lend itself well to media soundbites. So a lot of folks have been saying to me ‘I can’t tell, is this penalty good?’” DeLong responds with a resounding “Yes!” Saying that she welcomes the opportunity to write, teach and study on a topic dear to her heart.

DeLong recalls that during that initial meeting in the bishop’s office one of the bishop’s assistants referred to her as a “self-avowed practicing homosexual.” To which she responded “Val and I aren’t practicing any more… we are pretty good at it by now.” The assistant laughed. More than anything that is the impression one gets of DeLong: someone with a lot of humor and aplomb who is unwilling to back down from a fight for justice.

After the jump watch a clip of DeLong talking about her experience.

—  admin

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

Kiss-in seeks domestic partner benefits for U of H

Pucker up!

Valentine’s Day is next Tuesday, while some battle the supermarket crowds for chocolate and champagne and others battle  that soul-sucking feeling that they will be alone forever, students at the University of Houston will be battling for equal benefits for LGBT employees.

“Our LGBT faculty and staff at the University of Houston are not given the same benefits as their heterosexual counterparts,” says James Lee, one of the student organizers. “This rally is an issue campaign to let administration know we care about our professors, directors and advisers and we think they all deserve to be treated equally.”

Lee explains that the event is not just for same-sex couples, the organizers want opposite-sex couples to participate to help demonstrate that straight and LGBT relationships are the same.  Got no one to kiss? No problem, says Lee, “We will have rally signs and other goodies you can show support with.”

The smooch-fest kicks off at 12:30 pm in Butler Plaza (in front of the MD Anderson Library).

—  admin

WATCH: GLSEN student ambassadors, executive director on Great Day Houston

Dr. Eliza Byard

Dr. Eliza Byard

The Gay Lesbian and Straight Education Network (GLSEN) executive director Dr. Eliza Byard and GLSEN Student Ambassadors Tommy Surratt and Gabe Maffuz stopped by Great Day Houston last week to talk about the organiation’s efforts. Surratt, who is straight, was joined by his father Jim Surratt who talked briefly about the discrimination that the children of same-sex couples face in schools.

—  admin

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