LGBT advocate vows to work with GOP in Texas House, says LGBT equality ‘not a partisan issue’

Log Cabin Dallas president urges not to just automatically assume Republican lawmakers are anti-gay

Tammye Nash  |  Senior Editor nash@dallasvoice.com

Log Cabin Dallas President Rob Schlein
NO ASSUMPTIONS | Log Cabin Dallas President Rob Schlein believes there are Republicans in the Texas House who will support certain LGBT issues.

Republicans across the country rode a wave of voter unrest into office at all levels on Election Day, and that includes the Texas House of Representatives, where Democrats lost 23 seats, giving Republicans a two-thirds majority.

In a state where the GOP party platform calls for the sodomy law to be reinstated and for anyone performing a same-sex wedding to be jailed, that Republican landslide seems — at least at first glance — to be a disaster for the LGBT community.

But Chuck Smith, deputy director for Equality Texas, said this week that Republicans are likely to have far too many pressing issues piled high on their plates when the Legislature convenes in January to spend any time on anti-LGBT measures.

“These legislators are going to be too busy trying to balance the budget,” Smith said. “Gay bashing is notgoing to rise to the level of anyone’s top priority.”

And Rob Schlein, president of Log Cabin Republicans of Dallas, suggested that Democrats shouldn’t be too quick to judge GOP lawmakers as anti-gay, anyway.

“It’s a little early to be prognosticating about what’s going to happen,” Schlein said. “I would recommend that these activists not be so quick to project that all these Republicans are so anti-gay. You don’t know that. Just take a deep breath and deal with the landscape as it exists today. Get your issues together, find out who can stand behind them, and move ahead with them one at a time.”

Smith said that when the 2011 legislative session opens, there will be 100 Republicans and 50 Democrats in the Texas House, compared to the 2009 session when there were 77 Republicans and 73 Democrats.

Of those 150 lawmakers, 37 will be new to the Legislature, and of those six will be Democrats and 31 will be Republicans. Of those 31 Republican newbies, Smith said, “only four made any mention at all of being pro ‘traditional marriage’ or pro ‘family values’ in their campaigns or on their websites.”

Those four, Smith said, were Erwin Cain in District 3, Connie Scott in District 34, Four Price in District 87 and Kenneth Sheets in District 107.

Cain, whose website says he believes “that marriage is between one man and one woman,” owns a real estate investment company. He defeated incumbent Democrat Mark Homer by a 15-point margin. Cain lives in Como, and attends First Baptist Church in Sulphur Springs.

District 3 encompasses the suburban and rural area north and east of Dallas, including Paris, Sulphur Springs and Mt. Pleasant.

In District 34, Scott defeated Democratic incumbent Abel Herrera by an 8-point margin. On her website, Scott said she supports “preserving family values” and that she opposes gay marriage. She co-owned and operated a small pipeline construction company for 10 years, and now lives in Robstown. She is a member of River Hills Baptist Church.

District 34 encompasses primarily Nueces County, including Corpus Christi, on the Texas Gulf Coast.

Four Price, who swamped Democratic candidate Abel G. Bosquez by a 58-point margin in District 87, described himself on his website as “pro-family/pro-life,” and said he opposes gay marriage. He is an attorney and co-managing shareholder in Irwin, Merritt, Hogue, Price & Carthell, P.C.

District 87 is located in the Texas Panhandle, with Amarillo — where Price lives — on the district’s southern edge.

Sheets defeated LGBT ally and Democratic incumbent Allen Vaught by 5 points in District 107, located on the west side of Dallas County. Sheets’ website describes him as “supporting pro-life and pro-traditional marriage policies.” He wrote, “I also believe the definition of marriage should always remain as the union between one man and one woman.”

Sheets is an attorney who served in the Marine Corps in Iraq, and he is active in the St. Thomas Aquinas community.

Despite their inclusion of anti-gay stances on their websites, Smith said, “None of them ran campaigns on supporting bullying in the schools or bashing gay people. Like everyone else, they focused on the economy, jobs and the deficit.”

Smith said, “The turnover we saw [Tuesday night] was based on the economy and on jobs and on spending. Certainly, it was sad to see any of the members with whom we have had good working relationships in the past not be re-elected.

“But equality should be a non-partisan issue, and we will be looking to work with” lawmakers of both parties.”

Smith said Equality Texas’ No. 1 priority in 2011 will be anti-bullying legislation, and that he believes there are Republicans in the state House who will support such a measure.

“We have to pass this bill so that not one more child is ever left to feel hopeless and consider taking their own lives,” Smith said. “We had bipartisan support for [Rep. Mark] Strama’s anti-bullying bill in 2009, and I think we can have that support again in 2011. This is a child welfare issue, and not one more child should die before the state of Texas deals with it.”

Schlein said he also believes there are Republicans in the House who will support anti-bullying measures, including District 108 Rep. Dan Branch, who defeated gay candidate Pete Schulte by 32 points to be re-elected.

Schlein said he had spoken with Branch’s campaign coordinator, telling him that there are “some real problems in the gay community than can be solved, things like hospital visitation and passing property between partners.

“And he told me they had been looking at the bullying issue. So I think we should approach them and start there.”

Schlein also agreed with Smith that the budget would be everyone’s top priority.

“I don’t think denying gays any rights is really high on the agenda for Republicans. Actually, I am hearing more and more activists within the party saying that the [anti-gay elements of the state platform are] hurting us, and we need to fix it. I am hearing them say the party needs to be a lot more open to minorities,” Schlein said. “I just think people need to not be so quick to judge. That hurts our chances of being successful when you just do that automatically.”

Smith and Schlein also both said they believe that moderate Republican Joe Straus is likely to be re-elected as speaker of the House, despite Warren Chisum’s plans to run for the position. Chisum, who represents District 88 in the Panhandle and lives in Pampa, has in the past often spear-headed attempts to pass anti-gay legislation, including bills that would have prevented lesbians and gays from being foster or adoptive parents.

“I think Strauss will win it again, even though a lot of the Republican activists are hoping for someone more conservative. Strauss seems to be a pretty pragmatic guy,” Schlein said.

Even if Chisum were to win the speaker’s seat, Smith predicted, “we would still come back to the budget deficit being the No. 1 issue. He [Chisum] still wouldn’t have any more time to deal with the kinds of social issues he is on record as supporting.”

Despite his pledge that Equality Texas will work with House Republicans, Smith acknowledged that the LGBT community did lose a number of allies in the midterm elections — and those could have been prevented if Democratic turnout had been higher.

“Twenty-two seats in the House flipped from Democrat to Republican, and 10 of those 22 flips were decided by less than 2,000 votes,” Smith said.

In North Texas, three allies of the LGBT community — Kirk England, Robert Miklos, Paula Pierson and Allen Vaught — lost by narrow margins, he noted.

“If there had been just a little bit more turnout, those flips wouldn’t have happened,” Smith said. “It all comes down to people not taking voting seriously.”

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition November 5, 2010.

—  Michael Stephens

Dallas County ballots include 3 gay candidates

Log Cabin president says election offers LGBT voters several viable Republican candidates to back

DAVID TAFFET  |  Staff Writer taffet@dallasvoice.com

The ballot for this year’s election is long — nine pages in some parts of Dallas County. Voters will decide races for district attorney, county clerk and county judge in addition to a number of family, district and criminal court judges.

Those are in addition, of course, to all statewide positions and members of the Texas and U.S. House of Representatives.

Four propositions also appear on the ballot. Two countywide questions would legalize beer and wine sales throughout Dallas County. Two are city questions about selling two parks.

Three openly gay candidates appear on the ballot. Gary Fitzsimmons is seeking re-election as county clerk. Tonya Parker is running for 116th Civil District Court judge. And Peter Schulte appears on the ballot in parts of the city. He is challenging Dan Branch for the Texas House in a district that includes parts of Oak Lawn.

All three are Democrats.

Log Cabin Republicans President Rob Schlein touted a number of Republican candidates, especially some running for judicial positions.

“Jonathan Neerman is an attorney and lined up quite a few competent people who know what it takes,” Schlein said.

Neerman is chairman of the Dallas County Republican Party.

This is not a complete list but highlights some races of interest in the LGBT community.

District Clerk
Former City Councilman Craig Holcomb is treasurer of Fitzsimmons’ re-election campaign.

“As Dallas County district clerk, he has moved that office into the 21st century,” Holcomb said of Fitzsimmons.

For the first time, all documents are now transmitted electronically.

Fitzsimmons has saved almost $1 million for his office since he was first elected in 2006 when compared with his predecessor during the previous four years. He also removed a one-year backlog of family court filings.

“And I’ve never seen him work as hard as he has in the last four years,” Holcomb said.

Fitzsimmons worked for Holcomb for 15 years.

Stonewall Democrats President Erin Moore said, “He’s one of the more competent elected officials in Dallas County.”

Fitzsimmons’ opponent in the race is Tammy Barnes, 47. She has a bachelor’s degree in law enforcement and is a candidate for a masters’ in criminal justice from the University of North Texas.

Barnes is a member of the Lancaster Zoning Board of Adjustment,  a Big Sister volunteer and president and casework volunteer for Family Outreach of Southern Dallas.

County Judge
Clay Jenkins defeated County Judge Jim Foster in the Democratic primary and now faces Republican Wade Emmert in the general election.

“We need to have someone who sees the county as needing tending and not as their own personal playground,” Moore said of the county judge’s office. “Clay has a good perspective on that.”

She said he has the personality and wherewithal to be a good county judge.

Jenkins served as an intern to U.S. Rep. Martin Frost and was Oscar Mauzy’s law clerk when he served on the Texas Supreme Court.

Jenkins is president of the law practice Jenkins & Jenkins, with offices in Dallas and Waxahachie. This is his first run for public office.

Emmert is also an attorney and serves on the Cedar Hill City Council.

“On the City Council, he develops budgets and does the things that are needed as county judge,” said Log Cabin Republicans of Dallas President Rob Schlein.

Emmert often attends Log Cabin meetings and Schlein believes that if elected he’d be open and accessible to the LGBT community.

County Commissioner District 4
Former Dallas City Council member Elba Garcia is challenging 16-year incumbent Ken Mayfield for County Commissioner District 4.

Mayfield is known for his combative style in Commissioners Court. Fitzsimmons called him “the most homophobic elected official in Dallas County.”

In 1995, Mayfield signed a letter with two other commissioners regarding condom distribution.

“We don’t want anyone, especially anyone in authority, telling our children or future grandchildren that it’s an approved or acceptable lifestyle to be a homosexual, a prostitute or a drug user,” Mayfield and the others wrote.

Garcia, on the other hand, is seen as a strong ally of the LGBT community. She served four terms on the Dallas City Council representing North Oak Cliff.

Moore called the county commissioner seat critical when it comes to funding HIV services at Parkland hospital.

“She was not only there for us, she was first in line leading the effort,” Moore said of Garcia’s tenure on the council. “She was instrumental in passing the city’s nondiscrimination ordinance.”

But Mayfield, Moore said, is one of the LGBT community’s worst enemies.

In the last days leading up to the election, Mayfield has been accusing Garcia of voter fraud. Mayfield’s supporters said that absentee ballots were sent when none were requested and they charge that Garcia encouraged people to vote twice.

No charges have been filed.

District Attorney

Danny Clancy is challenging incumbent Democrat Craig Watkins for Dallas County district attorney.  Although Watkins sought LGBT support in his first campaign, Moore said that as district attorney he has been a divisive figure, accused of being a celebrity D.A. and not doing his job here.

Neerman believes that more than any other race, this is the one for the LGBT community to consider voting Republican.

Clancy has been an assistant district attorney, criminal court judge and private attorney. He has prosecuted more than 250 cases and, as judge, presided over more than 450 cases.

“Clancy will protect all of Dallas County,” said campaign spokesman Brian Mayes.

He said that this race is between a D.A. caught in a number of ethical controversies who refuses to pursue a number of cases and a prosecutor who is tough on crime.

Mayes said sexual orientation would play no role in how tough Clancy would prosecute. He said that he’s looking for support from Log Cabin Republicans and the rest of the LGBT community.

“He’s a good guy,” said Mayes. “His heart’s in the right place. He has no political agenda in fighting crime.

“It’s about competence vs. incompetence,” said Schlein. “Not about left and right.”

County Criminal Court No. 2
Dan Montalvo is challenging incumbent King Fifer for County Criminal Court No. 2.

Schlein said Montalvo spoke to Log Cabin at the recent Grand Ol’ Party. He told the group he’s challenged about being Hispanic and Republican just as Log Cabin is questioned about being gay and Republican. Schlein believes he’d be a fair judge.

Montalvo is challenging Democratic incumbent Jeff Rosenfield.

116th Civil District Court
Tonya Parker faces Mike Lee for 116th Civil District Court.

“She’s one of the most eminently qualified people running to be judge and we support her 100 percent,” Moore said.

Among her honors, Parker was listed as a rising star by Texas Monthly three times and in 2006 was named Dallas Association of Young Lawyers Outstanding Young Lawyer.

Mike Lee is an attorney whose practice focused on civil litigation. He has significant experience representing minors in cases before Dallas County juvenile courts.

“Mike Lee’s a good guy,” said Schlein. “He’s someone gay people should be comfortable with,” he said.

193rd District Court
Carl Ginsberg is an active member of Dallas Stonewall Young Democrats. He took the lead in educating his colleagues about gender-marker changes and said that there’s statutory authority to make those changes.

“Believe it or not, there’s actually the legal authority in Texas to do it,” Ginsberg told Dallas Voice earlier this year.

Dallas Stonewall Young Democrats President Pennington Ingley said, “He’s an avid supporter of ours. He’s very approachable and has been a strong supporter of LGBT issues.”

His opponent is Republican Wes Johnson.

194th District Court

Judge Ernest White presided over the Jimmy Lee Dean hate crime trial. The jury handed down a sentence even tougher than the one the prosecutor suggested.

Michael Robinson was a witness to the crime. He testified in the case and sat through the entire trial. He said he was impressed with how White handled the case and allowed his testimony to be given.

“The LGBT community needs more judges like Judge Ernest White to allow crimes like these to be heard fairly and without any bias towards the community,” Robinson said.

“Judge White allowed all the evidence to be heard so the jury could make a decision to convict Bobby Singleton [to receive] 75 years and Jonathan Gunter [to receive] 30 years [in prison].”

His opponent is Republican David Lewis.

292nd Judicial District Court

Lisa DeWitt is challenging incumbent Democrat Larry Mitchell.

“She’s a member of Log Cabin,” Schlein said of DeWitt, “an open and active supporter.”

DeWitt uses her Log Cabin endorsement in all of her campaign literature and stood up for the group when questioned about her support and involvement, Schlein said.

Log Cabin honored her recently at their Grand Ol’ Party. She has been a county attorney and a public defender.

The Democrat in the race is Larry Mitchell.

298th Civil District Court
Emily Tobolowsky is a longtime member of Stonewall Democrats but her current claim to fame is from her cousin Stephen. He plays disgraced gay music teacher Sandy Ryerson on Glee.

Before her 2007 election, Tobolowsky was an attorney with experience from commercial, real estate and employment litigation to family law.

Her opponent in the race is Bryce Quine, a trial lawyer and a partner at the law firm of Locke Lord Bissell & Liddell LLP.

301st Family District Court

Judge Lynn Cherry, a Democrat, ruled against a transgender DART employee and overturned a gender-marker change at the request of DART.

That ruling began a push by a number of groups to get DART to change their discriminatory policy against transgender employees and had LGBT groups questioning why the agency would interfere in a family court matter.

Cherry hasn’t commented on the matter or explained why an employer’s opinion would be considered in a family court matter.

Her opponent is George White, a family court attorney with 35 years experience. He has completed more than 8,000 cases. He was member of the Texas Army National Guard. Schlein calls him affable and said he’s been to a couple of Log Cabin meetings.

302nd Family District Court  Judge Tena Callahan declared that the state’s ban on same-sex marriage violated the equal protection clause of the 14th amendment to the U.S. Constitution. The decision related to a gay couple who had married in Massachusetts and filed for divorce in Texas.

Attorney General Greg Abbott challenged the divorce. A three-judge appeals court panel overturned her decision. The divorce is again on appeal. “She would say she made the right decision and was just doing her job,” Moore said.

Her opponent is family law attorney Julie Reedy, who endorsed Callahan before deciding to run for the office herself. Reedy’s campaign website refers to Callahan’s decision by saying, “I promise NOT to legislate from the bench and will serve the court to the letter of the law.”

Propositions
Two countywide propositions appear on the ballot in Dallas. The first would lift the restriction on sale of beer and wine in convenience and grocery stores throughout the county. The second would allow restaurants throughout the county to sell beer and wine without being private clubs.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition October 29, 2010

—  Kevin Thomas

Log Cabin to hold 2011 convention in Dallas

Rudy Oeftering, from left, Rob Schlein and R. Clarke Cooper show off Schlein’s Texas State Flag this morning outside DV offices.

We were lucky enough to receive a visit this morning from R. Clarke Cooper, executive director of Log Cabin Republicans National, who was accompanied to Dallas Voice offices by local gay GOP’ers Rob Schlein and Rudy Oeftering.

Cooper was in town for the Grand Ol’ Party, the Dallas chapter’s annual fundraising dinner, over the weekend. (You can watch part of conservative author S.E. Cupp’s keynote speech below.) Also during the dinner, Schlein was presented with a Texas State Flag that was flown over the Capitol in Austin in his honor. Oeftering said he presented the flag to Schlein on behalf of State Rep. Dan Branch, R-Highland Park.

Anyhow, among other topics that were discussed in this morning’s visit, Cooper announced that Log Cabin plans to hold its national convention in Dallas next year. He said the convention will be at the Hilton Anatole in April and should draw at least several hundred poeple from across the country.

Log Cabin picked Dallas for the convention for several reasons, Cooper said. For one, Texas is “ripe for growth” for Log Cabin, and the state’s Republican delegation to Congress has room for improvement on LGBT issues. Also, two members of that delegation, Congressman Pete Sessions and Sen. John Cornyn, happen to occupy key leadership positions, heading up the Republican campaign committees for their respective chambers. Finally, several of Log Cabin’s top individual donors, as wells as its first corporate sponsor American Airlines, are based in Texas.

“The stars kind of aligned for us to be here in 2011,” Cooper said.

—  John Wright

Republican DA hopeful visits Log Cabin — PLUS, full text of Rob Schlein’s intro for John Cornyn

Danny Clancy

Danny Clancy, the Republican candidate for Dallas County District Attorney, will speak at Log Cabin Republicans’ monthly meeting on Monday night, Sept. 27.

Rob Schlein, president of Log Cabin, said Clancy’s campaign manager approached him and asked whether the candidate could address the group.

“I think it’s his first time to our club, and I think it may be the first time we’ve had a DA candidate.” Schlein said, adding that he thinks District Attorney Craig Watkins, the Democratic incumbent, is “vulnerable.”

“I think Dallas County’s going to go red,” Schlein said. “Republican voters are energized about this election, and Democratic voters are not.”

The meeting is at Mattito’s Restaurant, 3011 Routh St., at 6:30 p.m. Monday.

Also, Schlein sent over the full text of his remarks last week, when he introduced Texas Republican Sen. John Cornyn at a reception prior to Log Cabin’s National Dinner in Washington, D.C. We’ve posted Schlein’s Cornyn intro in its entirety below.

—  John Wright

Critics give Texas GOP platform too much weight

Log Cabin Dallas president responds to critcism of Republican Party, state platform and gay GOP group’s effectiveness

ROB SCHLEIN | Guest columnist

I agree with Hardy Haberman (“A platform of ideas — bad ideas,” Dallas Voice, June 25) that when it comes to LGBT issues, the Texas GOP platform contains some vehement rhetoric.

Where I completely disagree is his inflated sense of the significance of the platform, his view that Log Cabin Republicans has done little to moderate the party and the impact of the Tea Party.

I could go on and on about the platform writing process, how it’s controlled by the extremists of our party, and how the old guard scheduled the Texas Republican Convention to make it difficult to have honest debate on the floor.

What is more important is to understand the real impact the platform has on Republican legislative priorities.

The fact is, Hardy Haberman is absolutely wrong in believing the platform is used as a litmus test for candidate recruitment and that it’s the basis for legislative decisions. Even those that participate on platform committees would admit to that. Their number one complaint is that legislators do not govern by the platform.

Legislators understand the platform is a way for a small minority of hard-liners to vent their beliefs. They recognize that it contains many planks, not just the ones on “homosexuals,” that aren’t consistent with the views of the general voting public and do not represent the views of rank and file Republican voters.

Additionally, those who recruit candidates and support them with the most funds to their campaigns are outside the Texas GOP structure, and they don’t have an interest in demonizing gays.
Haberman fails to see how the efforts of Log Cabin have had any effect on the Texas GOP. If he is so narrowly focused on the belief that the platform is the complete and almost biblical metric of success, then it would be hard to discern our achievement.

A better measure for our accomplishments, though, is the willingness of legislators to reach back to us when we reach out. Some that Dallas Voice labels as “anti-gay” attended important Log Cabin events: Texas State Rep. Dan Branch and Congressman Pete Sessions.

Others important to the Texas GOP that have visited Log Cabin include U.S. Senate candidate Michael Williams (former railroad Commissioner), Dallas County GOP Chairman Jonathan Neerman, Dallas County Commissioner Maurine Dickey and candidate for governor Debra Medina, who now leads a large political group called “We Texans.”

Naturally, people like Haberman love to complain when others use language that is vehement. Yet he engages in similar language when he says that, “The politically astute will note that most of these changes seem to be a bow to the ‘tea baggers’ and are simply appeasements never to be written into law.”

The term “tea bagger” is no less offensive to me that than the word “faggot.”

Tea Partiers are natural allies to our community. They don’t have a dog in the fight when it comes to combating gays and their aspirations. In fact, just the opposite is true.

Their views on social issues lean libertarian — “live and let live,” “get government out of our lives and our bedrooms.” Their focus is on economic security (reducing the deficit) and keeping our country safe.

Ken Emanuelson, a board member of the Dallas Tea Party, spoke at Log Cabin’s Grand Ol’ Party. And just this week the Republican Liberty Caucus issued a press release condemning the anti-homosexual planks of our platform.

I wonder, too, how Hardy Haberman discerns between planks that appease when he complains that the same planks are the basis for a legislative agenda? Has he ever considered that the passages on “homosexuals” are appeasements never to be written into law?

Lastly, our party’s leadership has changed. Cathie Adams, one of the most strident anti-gay activists, was defeated by Steve Munisteri in a contested race for state party chair. I talked to Steve by phone early in his campaign, and he believes gays should be included in our party.

The defeat of Cathie Adams should have merited a large headline in the Dallas Voice.

And, although I lost my precinct chairman’s race by three votes out of 800 cast against Homer Adams (Cathie’s husband), it’s clear to me that activists of her ilk are on the decline.

Our acceptance and welcoming by Dallas Young Republicans confirms that on questions of gay rights, views are shifting.

Would we like our platform more to our liking? Certainly.

Does the platform in its present form mean Log Cabin isn’t making a difference? Does it mean we should bolt from our party when we agree with Republican principles of limited, smaller, lower cost and efficient government, and disagree with the many actions taken by the Obama administration that have exploded our deficits, placed new burdens on gay business owners and stunted job creation?

Do we abandon our party with which we agree on principles of strong national security and an unapologetic support of Israel for the Democrats who appease our enemies that murder men for just being gay?

Do we switch parties for the “hope” of gay rights as narrowly defined by people like Hardy Haberman? No!

Log Cabin Republicans is making an impact here at home, and nationally with our new executive director, a former Bush appointee and Iraq War veteran.

If Hardy Haberman doesn’t see the impact we are having, it means he isn’t looking.

Rob Schlein is the president of Log Cabin
Republicans of Dallas.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition July 02, 2010.

—  Kevin Thomas