UPDATE: Liebbe placed on leave for investigating boss

Jeremy+Liebbe

Jeremy Liebbe

Jeremy Liebbe, the gay D.I.S.D. administrator placed on leave last week, had been investigating his boss in the human resources department for lying about her criminal background on her job application, according to the Dallas Morning News.

Liebbe’s investigation began after learning Tonya Sadler Grayson, an executive director in the human resources department, served 12 months’ probation for misdemeanor charges when she was 19.

Grayson said it was a misunderstanding on her part. “When I read the questions on the application, I believed that my situation did not apply,” Grayson said in an email sent to DMN. “Upon notification, I fully disclosed the misdemeanor from when I was 19 years old to the district prior to my employment.”

The district’s human resources chief Carmen Darville defended Grayson in a email to the human resources staff on late Thursday, saying the issue was resolved. “Employees may disclose background information verbally or on their job application. When Tonya was made aware of the misdemeanor…she shared with me details of the incident.”

Peter Schulte, Liebbe’s lawyer, said his client had not been told why he was on leave. “I have asked repeatedly to be told what the allegations are,” Schulte said. “This causes me great concern with the integrity of the investigation.”

A source familiar with the investigation said a superior who often butted heads with Liebbe conducted the investigation without prior notice. The DMN added that private investigations are common in the district.

—  James Russell

Hold ‘Em High for Hope poker tournament at Axiom

Aces high

Hope for Peace and Justice teams up with Pocket Rockets tonight for their Hold ‘Em High for Hope poker tourney and mixer. With over $400 in prizes, the event benefits the anti-bullying campaign, the Safe Schools Program. Raffles, silent auction, drinks and food make the evening an event. And don’t worry. Non-poker players are just as welcome. Hey, it is a mixer, also.

DEETS: Axiom Sushi Lounge,  4123 Cedar Springs Road. 6:30 p.m. PocketRocketsDallas.com

—  Rich Lopez

President Obama issues memorandum on protecting LGBTs abroad

President Barack Obama and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton

Four days in advance of  Human Rights Day on Saturday, Dec. 10,  President Barack Obama today issued a presidential memorandum “to ensure that U.S. diplomacy and foreign assistance promote and protect the human rights of LGBT persons,” according to a statement just released by the White House press office.

The statement sent out by the White House includes these comments by the president:

“The struggle to end discrimination against lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) persons is a global challenge, and one that is central to the United States commitment to promoting human rights.  I am deeply concerned by the violence and discrimination targeting LGBT persons around the world — whether it is passing laws that criminalize LGBT status, beating citizens simply for joining peaceful LGBT pride celebrations, or killing men, women, and children for their perceived sexual orientation.  That is why I declared before heads of state gathered at the United Nations, “no country should deny people their rights because of who they love, which is why we must stand up for the rights of gays and lesbians everywhere.”  Under my Administration, agencies engaged abroad have already begun taking action to promote the fundamental human rights of LGBT persons everywhere.  Our deep commitment to advancing the human rights of all people is strengthened when we as the United States bring our tools to bear to vigorously advance this goal.”

The memorandum from Obama directs agencies to combat the criminalization of LGBT status or conduct abroad; protect vulnerable LGBT refugees and asylum seekers; leverage foreign assistance to protect human rights and advance nondiscrimination; ensure swift and meaningful U.S. responses to human rights abuses of LGBT persons abroad; engage international organizations in the fight against LGBT discrimination, and report on progress.

I give the president credit for issuing the memorandum at the same time he’s gearing up for what will likely be a tough re-election campaign during which opponents will no doubt use his stance and actions on LGBT issues against him. But I still have to point out that we as LGBT people still face discrimination and inequality right here in the good old U.S.-of-A:

• Our marriages are legally recognized at the federal level and they aren’t recognized in the VAST majority of state and local jurisdictions. We want the Defense of Marriage Act repealed and local and state ordinances and constitutional amendments prohibiting recognition of our relationships need to be overturned.

• There is still no federal protection against workplace discrimination based on sexual orientation and/gender expression and gender identity. Congress needs to pass — the president needs to sign — the Employment Non-Discrimination Act.

• Even though there is now a federal hate crimes law that includes LGBT people, as well as similar laws at many state and local levels, those laws are not well enforced.

Anti-LGBT bullying remains a deadly problem in our schools and our workplaces and on the Internet. We’ve made progress in combating such bullying, but not nearly enough. Dedicate the resources necessary to address the issue effectively.

So let’s applaud our president for the steps he has — and is — taking. There’s no doubt Obama has been more open than any other president about addressing LGBT issues and we have seen great strides forward toward equality during his administration. But there’s a long way to go yet, and we need to make sure that the president — and all our elected officials — know they can’t just rest on their laurels.

—  admin

‘Perform or provide’

DADT repeal gives progressive chaplains a chance to counter evangelical clergy in the military

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CATCH-ALL CHAPLAIN | Chaplain Chris Antal (Lt.) attended the meeting of the Forum on Military Chaplaincy at Cathedral of Hope in October. (David Taffet/Dallas Voice)

DAVID TAFFET  |  Staff Writer
taffet@dallasvoice.com
When a soldier recently came to Chaplain Chris Antal, a lieutenant in the Army National Guard in New York and a Unitarian Universalist minister, and asked if he’d pray with her even though she was a pagan, he said he replied, “Of course I will, but you’ll have to show me how.”

Several weeks later, when he saw her again, she told him that the day she had come to visit him, she had hit rock bottom. He had, she told him, saved her life that day.

But Antal said he was only doing his job — helping any soldier who comes to him.

“I’ve earned the nickname, the Catch-all Chaplain,” he said, explaining that it means he takes everyone the other chaplains don’t want to deal with.

Carpenter.Dodd

Capt. Tom Carpenter (ret.) and Col. Paul Dodd (ret.)

Being there to help a soldier in need is what it’s all about for a military chaplain, said Col. Paul Dodd, a retired chaplain who now lives in Austin.

“The duty of a military chaplain is to perform or provide,” said Dodd, adding that he once sponsored an Islamic conference.

Dodd said that no chaplain can perform every service needed by every member of the military. But if a chaplain can’t perform the service requested, he or she must provide that soldier with a referral to someone else who can.

Antal said that chaplains who enlisted knew what they were getting into — to some extent. But none of them really expected the repeal of the military’s anti-gay “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy. And for many, that repeal was a game changer.

In October, a group of active and retired chaplains and military personnel and other people of faith, such as the Rev. Steve Sprinkle from Brite Divinity

School in Fort Worth, met at the Interfaith Peace Chapel at Cathedral of Hope to begin looking at ways of addressing the issues that arose for military chaplains around DADT repeal.

Dave Guy Gainer said The Forum on Military Chaplaincy is not exactly new. It formed in 2005 as a project of Servicemembers Legal Defense Network and worked under the radar until DADT was repealed.

Sprinkle said people in the Pentagon, up through Secretary of Defense Robert Gates, knew about their work and considered their statements throughout the DADT repeal process.

And now, with repeal complete, the group met to “come out.” At their meeting in Dallas, forum members considered ways to become an independent organization helping to ensure newly out service members receive the pastoral care they need while serving in the military.

Susan Gore, principle of The Mentor Group and editor of the book Coming Out In Faith, moderated the Dallas conference. She said the group started with several retired military officers “who wanted to push back against the far-right skew.”

Sprinkle has been part of the forum for four years and said he was recruited to participate because of his work on hate crimes.
Since the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, Sprinkle said, more and more members of the Chaplain Corps have come from just one school — Liberty

University, founded by far-right evangelical Jerry Falwell. Today, Sprinkle estimated, one-third of military chaplains come from Liberty University.

“They instituted a program that barely meets minimum requirements,” he said of the evangelical school. “It’s an online course.”

And, Sprinkle said, Liberty University’s goal is to take control of the Chaplain Corps and use the military as a pool for religious recruits.

“This is fertile ground to bring people to Jesus at taxpayer expense,” said Tom Carpenter, a retired Marine captain and one of the forum’s founders.

“I’ve heard stories of them holding the hand of someone who’s dying and trying to bring them to Jesus.”

And although such actions contradict military policy, no one in the corps has been disciplined or dismissed for it.

“They give chaplains a lot of leeway,” Carpenter said.

Gainer said the military is looking for well-rounded ministers who bring experience with them to the military.

According to the U.S. Army Chaplain Center and School in Fort Jackson, S.C., candidates must be endorsed by their denomination or faith group and be “sensitive to religious pluralism and able to provide for the free exercise of religion by all military personnel, their family members and civilians who work for the Army.”

But Sprinkle said that Liberty University is transparent about its goals, and those goals do not line up.

“They’re not committed to pluralism or serving all the troops,” he said.

Gainer said that the greatest opposition to repealing DADT came from the Chaplain Corps because military chaplains answer to two groups — the military and their denomination. Those chaplains that didn’t adhere to a strict stance of maintaining the ban on gays and lesbians were threatened with losing their accreditation from their endorsing religious body — and with it their livelihood and their pensions.

But that contradicts the stated goals of the Chaplain Corps.

“Someone has to say, ‘Either you comply and serve all the troops all the time or get out,’” Sprinkle said.

Gore said that one of the goals of the newly public forum is to “rebalance the Chaplain Corps by bringing in more mainstream faiths.” She said that for many who come from more liberal traditions, questions of what’s a just war make it hard to serve in the military. Antal, for example, is one of just four Unitarian Universalists in the Chaplain Corps.

During its push for repeal of DADT, members
said, the forum had several successes working behind the scenes.

Despite the assumption of confidentiality between parishioner and clergy, that wasn’t always the case between gay soldier and chaplain. Dodd said that a number of discharges under DADT occurred after a soldier talked to a chaplain and the chaplain turned them in.

In fact, he wrote a white paper on the practice. After he submitted it, the military tightened up on chaplain confidentiality, Dodd said.

Carpenter, an attorney, wrote an amicus brief for the Log Cabin Republicans’ lawsuit against DADT. The court found in favor of declaring DADT unconstitutional, but Congress repealed the law before the decision could be enforced.

Carpenter said that the repeal allows gays and lesbians to serve with no protection. The legal decision, had it not been vacated upon repeal, would have allowed gays and lesbians to serve equally.

Now that DADT is gone, the forum is examining how to ensure LGB personnel receive the same services as other troops from chaplains.

Dodd said that right-wing chaplains charge that allowing gays and lesbians to serve in the military will force them to act in ways that go against their beliefs. Some have said they would be required to perform same-sex weddings.

Dodd called that ridiculous. Chaplains are never asked to perform duties that go against their religious beliefs, he said.

“I turned down weddings,” he said. “An officer came to me who wasn’t divorced.”

He said the officer tried to pull strings and force the issue, but Dodd wasn’t going to discuss marrying someone who was still married to someone else.

“But we’re insisting chaplains have the authority, if it’s in keeping with their faith, to marry same-sex couples,” he said.

Because of the Defense of Marriage Act, the repeal provides no family benefits. For some issues, Dodd and Carpenter suggested work-arounds.

Issuing ID cards would be extremely helpful, especially to same-sex couples with children, Carpenter said, noting that “That way either parent could get on base to get a child to the hospital.”

In another example, joint assignments can be offered at the discretion of a commanding officer, and married couples are often assigned together when they both qualify for positions that are available at the same base. Same-sex couples could be given the same priority.

As the forum looks ahead, rebalancing the Chaplain Corps with members from a more diverse background to reflect the membership of the military is a priority.

“And we need to take care of our trans brothers and sisters,” Carpenter said.

The repeal of DADT did not address any transgender issues and does not allow transgender men or women to serve in the military.

Gainer believes representatives of the forum need to sit down with far-right members of the Chaplain Corps and agree to disagree. He said that before the repeal of DADT, they talked to people at Veterans of Foreign Wars and the American Legion. While both groups testified against the repeal, they met with some success.

“The president of the VFW in Pflugerville said it was the right thing to do,” Gainer said.

That dialogue, he believed, would help chaplains perform or at least provide a useful referral, rather than doing more damage to a soldier seeking help.

Gore thought that the focus of discussion should be with the majority of chaplains “who want to do a good job and are part of the moveable middle.”

“We have to convince administrators and educators in divinity schools to encourage some of their best and brightest to serve,” Sprinkle said. “So many schools dropped what they were doing during the Vietnam era.”

Antal thinks that gays and lesbians will gain more acceptance as they tell their stories in non-confrontational settings and others see “their identity as professional service members is primary.”

While the work of the forum will concentrate on helping LGB military personnel, creating a more diverse Chaplain Corps may help a majority of service members. Recent polls show that a majority of troops find the chaplaincy irrelevant.

Sprinkle called the work of the forum a gift from the LGBT community to the nation.

“You wouldn’t think we’d be the ones opening the doors so that all troops will be served with dignity, integrity and respect,” he said.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition November 4, 2011.

 

—  Kevin Thomas

TCU LGBT alumni group forms

Organizer says school has been helpful, supportive in forming group for gay graduates

DAVID TAFFET  |  Staff Writer
taffet@dallasvoice.com

There are some schools that are — or have been — affiliated with religious institutions that  not only wouldn’t welcome an LGBT alumni group, they would block such a group outright.

But when Doug Thompson, a graduate of Fort Worth’s Texas Christian University, associated with the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ), approached his alma mater’s alumni association about forming an LGBT affiliate, he said, the response was, “Absolutely. No problem.”

TCU’s new LGBT alumni group will hold its first large meeting on Saturday, Oct. 22, after the TCU homecoming game. Thompson acknowledged that sports isn’t the main concern of many LGBT alumni, but homecoming is still a time when many alumni return to visit the campus.

Thompson said when he asked the alumni association whether the LGBT group would need approval by the school’s administration, he was told the administration would back it. The group was approved in April.

Unlike Baylor University, which sued to keep its LGBT alumni from using the school name to organize a group, Thompson said there has been no objection from the TCU campus.

“We just want to get people involved however they want to be involved,” Kristi Hoban, associate vice chancellor alumni of relations, said. “We just reach out, whether it’s a class or the business school or a special interest group.”

She said that black alumni were not participating until the Black Alumni Alliance formed about 11 years ago. Now, she said, they’re active leaders in class reunions, homecoming and department alumni events, adding that she hopes to see the same thing happen with the LGBT network.

Finding LGBT alumni hasn’t been easy, Thompson said, as students aren’t asked about their sexual orientation before they graduate.

But Thompson said about 120 alumni have already responded, mostly to calls on social media sites. And now that the school has a Gay Straight Alliance, he said, finding future alumni will be easier.

“Our goal will be to support gay and lesbian students and start a scholarship,” Thompson said. “And we’ll form activities around things gay alumni have an interest in.”

He mentioned support for the Trinity Shakespeare Festival on campus as a direction for the group.

Thompson said that having an LGBT alumni group will help the school provide a better environment for its LGBT students.

Two years ago, TCU proposed setting aside dorm space for LGBT students. A week after the announcement, when only eight students had signed up for the housing, the school scrapped those plans.

“That got totally blown out of proportion,” Hoban said.

She said the intention was never segregated housing but really just an LGBT campus group.
Thompson said the school would have avoided the bad publicity if it had the alumni group to guide them.

The LGBT alumni group will get together after the homecoming game against New Mexico on Saturday, Oct. 22. They will meet at Tommy’s Hamburgers’ Camp Bowie Boulevard location from 5 p.m. to 7 p.m.

…………………

OUT, PROUD ATHLETE

Pryor.Victor

Victor Pryor

Perhaps one of the best known Texas Christian University grads that will be attending the new LGBT alumni group’s meeting this weekend is Vincent Pryor, a TCU Horned Frogs football star from 1994.

That year, before the final game of the season against the Texas Tech Red Raiders, Pryor came out to his teammates. Rather than shunning him, Pryor’s coach told him he was proud of his honesty

“My teammates and my coaches overwhelmingly supported and accepted me,” Pryor writes on his website, VincentPryor.com. “All of the fears and concerns I had about being kicked off the team, or losing my scholarship, or embarrassing my school — none of that happened.  And the best part of it was that I became a better athlete after I came out.”

That day, Pryor had the biggest game of his college career, tallying a record 4.5 sacks — a record that still stands today. His performance helped TCU win the conference title and a berth in a post-season bowl game.

Today, Pryor works in sales and lives in Chicago with his partner of 12 years, who was a classmate at TCU. To watch his just-
released an “It Gets Better” video, below.

—  Kevin Thomas

The Hong Kong Schools That Are Aiding And Abetting The Bullying Of Gay Students

No, this is not the Tehachapi Unified School District in California. It's Hong Kong, where Wing, now a college student, says he was tormented by classmates in high school when confiding a same-sex attraction to a friend led to his entire school finding out. So why didn't he go to administrators? Because he doesn't think the school could've done anything to help him. And there was the fear of them telling his parents. But they found out anyway, and it didn't have a happy ending. Then there's the story of Jack, a student at an all-boys Catholic school, whose "friend" starting charging him a day to keep his secret. "It's actually extortion," he says of the nine-month blackmail, which ultimately cost him ,200. Suicide seemed like an obvious way out. And I can see why: When you live a society that doesn't even protect you from such discrimination by law, watching a few It Gets Better videos sometimes just doesn't cut it. And then there's the 16-year-old girl whose school issued her a booklet, Homosexuality And Hope, about how to prevent "same-sex attraction"; being "gay" is never mentioned. Not surprisingly, it's produced by the Catholic Medical Association. [The entire segment is subtitled, in case you can't hear over the loud background music.]


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—  admin

Moving Forward on Marriage and Safe Schools in Minnesota

All across the country, progressives are gearing up for a tough election. Our friends and allies will need our help this year; perhaps more than ever. Here in Minnesota, we are in marathon mode. The prize at the end of this race is the possibility of finally passing a safe schools bill and the chance at securing full marriage equality for Minnesota families. We know what is at stake, and Minnesotans are stepping up to the plate.

If this week was any indication, we are going to spend November 3rd celebrating. Our recent phonebank was packed with supporters and allies calling across Minneapolis to spread the good word about Mark Dayton and other pro-equality candidates to let people know about their support for LGBT rights. We made thousands of calls and had hundreds of conversations to remind them about the importance of voting for pro-equality candidates this November.

I also recently had the pleasure of running into Senator Al Franken. Senator Franken has been a solid ally in Congress and he stopped by a Get Out The Vote training to thank and support us staffers. He promised us that together we will keep Minnesota moving forward. If we elect Mark Dayton this November, we will truly make history.

If you have not already signed up to volunteer or help out, shoot me an email to get plugged in – terry.mcguire@hrc.org

See you on the campaign trail!

Paid for by the Human Rights Campaign Minnesota PAC and authorized by Mark Dayton for a Better Minnesota and the Minnesota DFL


Human Rights Campaign | HRC Back Story

—  admin

Rutgers President Defends School’s Handling Of Clementi Case

6a00d8341c730253ef0133f4e8cffa970b-800wi-1 Rutgers University President Richard McCormick last night spoke out for the first time about Tyler Clementi's suicide.

McCormick maintained that he has looked into what happened and that officials did everything they could to help the freshman. "I have studied the record carefully and I can’t say very much about it," he said. "But I believe Rutgers responded appropriately to the information that we had."

He repeated, "Based on everything I know, I believe that we did all we could and we did the right thing."

Despite his assurances McCormick says the school will not release records of Clementic complaints against roommate Dharun Ravi and peer Molly Wei, who are accused of streaming his sexual encounter on the internet. Soon after, Clementi jumped from the George Washington Bridge.

Lawyers for both students proclaimed their innocence this week.


Towleroad News #gay

—  John Wright

Safe Schools Czar Kevin Jennings: How About You Just Cross Your Fingers And Hope Bullying Stops?

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As is the case for most of those reading this message, I have been horrified by the recent media coverage of student suicides prompted by bullying. I am fortunate to have a boss who is just as horrified and today made the below statement. I hope each of you will consider ways you can help bring bullying to an end and urge you to check out www.bullyinginfo.org for useful resources in so doing.

—Kevin Jennings, the man Obama appointed to make American schools safer, breaks his silence on a Friday evening, when everybody stops paying attention to the news, with these empty and useless remarks. (Technically, Jennings says it is "the recent media coverage" that horrifies him, not the suicides themselves, but grammar schmammar.) His boss, Education Secretary Arne Duncan, released this note.


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—  John Wright

Back to School: An Ally’s Perspective on Welcoming Schools

This post is part of our Welcoming Schools “Back to School” blog series. Welcoming Schools, a project of the HRC Foundation, offers administrators, educators and parents/guardians the tools they need to ensure their elementary schools welcome all students and families.

This post comes from Dr. William A. Howe, past-president of the National Association for Multicultural Education and a Welcoming Schools advisory council member:

Why Should a Straight Guy Like Me Care About an LGBT Inclusive Approach in Elementary Schools?

As an educator for 35 years now, I have watched our schools grow into a microcosm of our larger society – more colorful and more inclusive. Trained as an elementary and special education teacher, I started my career working with mentally and physically handicapped students warehoused and hidden in institutions. Those institutions are gone and now these students share the same public schools with other students. Walking the halls of schools today I often see what I hope will be the future of our country – recent arrivals practicing English, students speaking multiple languages, children of all colors playing and learning together, able-bodied students pushing the wheelchairs of their classmates. Teachers are preparing students for a vastly different world, where skills in working with diversity are just as essential as the three R’s.

As an educator and an activist, I have worked with Jewish students taunted with anti-semitic comments, Muslim students who were called terrorists, disabled students shunned by peers, children of same sex parents brought to tears by cruel comments, gay and lesbian students driven to attempt suicide by callous fellow students and, yes – teachers. As a human being how can I not care? My students’ problems are mine too. Their success in life depends on learning in a school environment where they feel safe, both physically and emotionally.

An inclusive approach to education introduces students to the full spectrum of American life that does not always mirror the world as a Norman Rockwell painting. An LGBT inclusive school teaches students that differences in family structures are not deficits. Students are learning about life at a younger age. As an educator I have learned that as young minds, beliefs and values form we must guide them to make their own, informed decisions. We hold our breaths hoping that they will grow up to be compassionate, empathetic, accepting and caring human beings that take a stand against bigotry of all forms. That, for a teacher, is just as important as academic success.

Non-traditional families – single parent, same-sex parents, bi-racial, multicultural, multi-ethic, two-religion — loving families are now a part of the grand experiment of democracy envisioned by the founders of this country. A multicultural, LGBT inclusive America presents the best opportunities for our children to succeed in a global economy and diverse workforce.


Human Rights Campaign | HRC Back Story

—  John Wright