Public input sought on non-discrimination amendment effort

Fairness Works Houston, a new organization formed to pass a proposed non-discrimination charter amendment in Houston, will hold a public meeting this Saturday, Feb. 25, to seek public input. As previously reported by Houstini, the proposed charter amendment, which is still being drafted, will remove discriminatory language added to the city charter in 1985 and 2001 and make it a crime to deny employment, housing or public accommodation to a person because of their “age, race, color, creed, religion, national origin, ancestry, disability, marital status, gender, gender identity or expression, sexual orientation, or physical characteristic.”

The meeting, scheduled for 1 pm at the GLBT Cultural Center (401 Branard) in rooms 112/113, looks to identify community resources that can be used both topass the amendment and to gather the 20,000 signatures that will be needed to place the amendment on the November ballot. Scheduled speakers include Noel Freeman, president of the Houston GLBT Political Caucus and Jenifer Rene Poole who chairs the Caucus’ committee on the proposed amendment.

—  admin

HISD trustee distributes anti-gay flier

Rodriquez Flier (excerpt)

Excerpt from the Rodriquez flier attacking Fonseco for his advocacy for LGBT people and his endorsement by the Houston GLBT Political Caucus (click to view full flier)

Houston Independent School District Trustee Manuel Rodriquez Jr. is under fire for an anti-gay flyer attacking his opponent, Ramiro Fonseca. Both seek the HISD District III seat held by Rodriquez. Rodriquez’s flyer attacks Fonseca for his history of advocating for LGBT people, and his endorsement by the Houston GLBT Political Caucus. The flyer also suggests that Fonseca being 52 and unmarried is a reason that Houstonians should not trust him to make decisions affecting children, and points out that he has a “male partner.”

The GLBT Political Caucus was quick to denounce the flyer, issuing a statement on Saturday. “Manuel Rodriguez is assuming the voters of District III share the same bigoted, hateful views he holds,” said Caucus president Noel Freeman. “Houstonians have proven time and time again that such views are not welcome in our City, and have consistently rejected candidates who espouse such hateful views. We urge the voters of District III to reject Manuel Rodriguez on election day.”

Other HISD Trustees have joined in the chorus of people speaking out against the mailer. “I denounce the reprehensible, mean-spirited, bigoted mailer that was sent out in the HISD, District III race,” Trustee Juliet Katherine Stipeche said via her Facebook wall. “I ask my colleagues to maintain and uphold HISD’s total non-discrimination policy and treat every person, including other candidates, with dignity and respect. Let us embrace diversity and equality and treat every person as we would like ourselves to be treated ” Stipeche is seeking re-election to her district VIII seat.

HISD District I member Anna Eastman echoed Stipeche’s comments. “My fifteen year old son could not comprehend why someone would think that distinction would change a vote for school board and would be used as such by a candidate.”

The GLBT caucus is urging people to contact the editorial board of the Houston Chronicle to encourage them to rescind their endorsement of Rodriquez in light of his campaign tactics.

HISD elections are part of the general elections taking place this Tuesday, Nov 8. Visit HarrisVotes.org to find your voting location and view a sample ballot.

—  admin

Starvoice • 09.09.11

By Jack Fertig

CELEBRITY BIRTHDAY

Jennifer Hudson turns 30 on Monday.
The Oscar winner has made headlines in the recent past mostly on her weight loss. She talks to Self magazine this month about losing over 80 pounds. This year, she returns to the big screen in Winnie, portraying Nelson Mandela’s wife, and in 2012’s The Three Stooges.

…………………..

THIS WEEK

Venus coming home to Libra normally helps us to be more gracious, social and polite. Opposing Uranus on the way in whips up some crazy ideas of what that might mean. Compassion and imagining yourself in the other’s position is usually the best way to start out.

…………………..

VIRGO Aug 23-Sep 22
You find amazing deals at estate sales, perhaps even your true love. If you already have one, bring him or her along and you find some treasure that will become an emblematic keepsake.

LIBRA Sep 23-Oct 22
You’re looking especially gorgeous. The attention you get will surprise you. Of course you’re not just a pretty face; a new contact could prove very helpful as a colleague.

SCORPIO Oct 23-Nov 21
Hiding out from the social whirl may give you peace, but doesn’t do much for your anxieties. Hum the first tune that comes to mind. That song will offer insights to face your worries.

SAGITTARIUS Nov 22-Dec 20
Party it up but don’t go overboard. Seek out new, interesting, unusual people at these events. Their perspectives can trigger new insights into your own roots.

CAPRICORN Dec 21-Jan 19
Career opportunities are looking good, but are you prepared? Know your strengths and the difference between reaching and overreaching. Work causes you to neglect issues at home.

AQUARIUS Jan 20-Feb 18
Think a little harder before opening your mouth. Does it really need to be said? Your words carry more weight than you realize. Treat them like currency and don’t waste them.

PISCES Feb 19-Mar 19
Opportunities abound as Venus is flashing her goodies in your house of illicit pleasures. She offers a deeper challenge to re-
examine your priorities and values.

ARIES Mar 20-Apr 19
You’re suddenly looking marriageable no matter what local laws allow. Let someone special see your inner wounds. Allowing yourself to be vulnerable shows confidence in both of you.

TAURUS Apr 20-May 20
A friend in need is a pain in the ass. You have your own problems. Even so, helping out your pal can not only get you out of your own problems for a bit, but help point you to a solution.

GEMINI May 21-Jun 20
Your idea of social outreach is a little outré. One on one is fine for scaring off people you don’t want to deal with, but if you’re working with a group, behave accordingly.

CANCER Jun 21-Jul 22
New recipes go better than you’d hoped for. Even if things screw up, you get points for trying. At work keep your boss up on any experiments, just in case.

LEO Jul 23-Aug 22
Advice is not necessarily appreciated, as you could find out the hard way. An earnest, soul-searching talk about sex can be more satisfying than actually doing it. Not that one rules out the other.

Jack Fertig can be reached at 415-864-8302 or Starjack.com

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition September 9, 2011.

—  Kevin Thomas

Lieberman Won’t Seek Reelection in 2012

JOE LIEBERMAN X390 (GETTY) | ADVOCATE.COMDemocratic sources said Tuesday that Connecticut senator Joseph
Lieberman will not seek reelection in 2012, though his office has yet to
confirm his possible retirement.
Advocate.com: Daily News

—  admin

Audio: When we seek equal American pie slice, Ken has beef

Ken Hutcherson, noted anti-gay and officiant at Rush Limbaugh’s recent wedding (yes the same one that featured Elton John), analogizes the gay/anti-gay “culture war”:

Aft Smhutcherson-Ad


(click to play audio clip)

*AUDIO SOURCE: Ken Hutcherson [Peter LaBarbera's local radio show]



Never have I more fully embraced my vegetarianism.




Good As You

—  admin

Gay Vets Seek Meeting with WH Advisor

valerie jarrett2Servicemembers United has called for a meeting with White House senior adviser Valerie Jarrett on “don’t ask, don’t tell” repeal prior to her attending Saturday’s Human Rights Campaign dinner in Washington, D.C.
Advocate.com: Daily News

—  John Wright

From OMG! to O-your-G!: As millennials divorce church and state, elders seek Marriage Wars 2.0

So Lifeway Research, a Christian polling and data outfit, released a new report that says 61% percent of those Americans born between 1980-1991 are either Screen Shot 2010-09-03 At 9.15.16 Amsomewhat or strongly accepting of same-sex marriage. Which even sounds low to us, knowing what we know about this generation. But again: Lifeway is a conservative evangelical firm, so — yea.

Okay, so in this data, Lifeway also reported this finding:

Two-thirds of those with no religious preference agree strongly there is nothing wrong with same-sex marriage, while only 1 in 7 of those who say they trust Christ as Savior agree strongly. Further, 46 percent of those who say they trust Christ as Savior strongly disagree and in fact find fault with marriage between members of the same gender.” [SOURCE]

Not a big surprise. While there are welcome exceptions, we pro-LGBT peeps know that the evangelical church is still our most reliably consistent well of opposition. Kids who are brought up in the church are typically injected with fear about LGBT people from the moment they start putting two Barbies together in one dream house. Anti-gay indoctrination is the all-too-reliable order of the evangelical day.

But the good thing about that: We LGBT activists and lawyers and varied equality voices are talking about CIVIL marriage equality. CIVIL. As in disconnected from the church by law. As in a custom where the religious ceremonial component is fully optional, but the CIVIL marriage license is a requirement (at least if the couple wants the state/fed. rights and benefits). Civil marriage, as in the institution that all heterosexual Americans experience now, with churches free to make whatever decisions they want in regards to the couples they will and will not marry or solemnize or recognize or chicken dance-erize. So in a perfect world, the above passage about evangelicals’ personal faith-based feelings should not even come into play into the civil marriage conversation. Those feelings are for their own family, in terms of what weddings they will or won’t attend and what gift registries they will and won’t acknowledge, and their own church membership bodies, in terms of what weddings they will accommodate. We *FULLY* respect their right to make these decisions.

Unfortunately, the evangelical opposition is not willing to afford us the same respect. Here is Lifeway president Thom Ranier talking to Focus on the Family:

It will be a critical issue for churches – soon to be led by Millennials – to establish their biblical positions on the issue of same-sex relationships,” he said. “If it is to find relevance with Millennials, the church must be willing to deal directly with the issue of same-sex attraction and relationships. The church must voice a clear, biblical ethic of sexuality.” [SOURCE]

NO, NO, NO, NO, NO! Here we have research that shows milliennials are more supportive of gay people’s civil rights than any generation to come before (and again, we think the Lifeway data is still low). We also see, unsurprisingly, that evangelical Christians are one of the biggest sticking points (the survey also cites Men, African-Americans, and Southerners as greater resisters). But the man whose firm conducted this survey responds by saying that more church-infused opinion is the answer? That more condemnation of same-sex relationships is the way we handle gay people’s placement within civil society? That more church injection into American politics is the answer, even while similar studies show that millennials are increasingly turned off by the church, with anti-gay attitudes cited as a reason why?

Just NO! What modern-day “culture warriors” like Mr. Ranier and Focus on the Family need/must do is realize/admit that their overwrought attempt to control civil law with personal faith is something that has wounded modern American politics/government! The Falwell era? Well, it may have Fared-well for a spell, but it ultimately FAILed-well too. It divided us deeply. The hand was overplayed, with the overreaching both exposing the inadequacies of the evangelicals’ argument against LGBT people’s rights, as well as raising questions among increasingly inquisitive younger generations about why, exactly, the church feels like it has any kind of right to set public policy in such a way. It is past time for the religious right to admit these mistakes, learn from these missteps, and move on to a more tenable position. A position that absolutely utilizes their own religious freedom to shout their anti-LGBT biblical interpretations with a ferocity, a right that we would theoretically join them in court in defending. But it’s also a position that must stop acting as if all Americans, by virtue of birth, chose one of two options: (1) To willfully join their national church, or (2) sit quietly and doodle on the church bulletin while the national sermon shapes the constitution. Just like choir director Barbara Jean’s reliably inedible covered dishes, this sort of forced national church fellowship is primed to spoil even before a young chuch-goer can complete the question, “aren’t their homeless and hungry people who could use our time, energy, and funding?




Good As You

—  John Wright

Texas Court of Appeals Rules Same-Sex Couple Can Not Seek an In-State Divorce

Today, the Texas Court of Appeals for the Fifth District, located in Dallas, ruled that a same-sex couple that had married in Massachusetts could not legally seek a divorce, following their move to Texas.  The case,  entitled In re the Marriage of J.B. and H.B.,  was appealed by the state following a victory in the lower court in which the judge had granted the two men a divorce and declared Texas’ mini-Defense of Marriage Act (mini-DOMA) as violating the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution.  The state argued that since Texas did not recognize the men’s marriage as valid, they were not eligible for the remedy of divorce.  Specifically, Texas claimed that the courts did not have jurisdiction, or the right and power, to even hear the case and thus it should be dismissed.

The Appeals Court looked to the language of the Texas mini-DOMA in deciding that it was clear that the legislature intended to declare same-sex marriages illegal and thus the court could not acknowledge their existence, even for the purpose of granting a divorce from a legal marriage in another state.  The court denied the principle of comity, which requires that courts in one state give effect to the laws of another state, stating that it would not extend comity to other states, if doing so would violate Texas public policy.  The court rejected rulings from other states, including New York, which allowed such divorces, even though same-sex couples may not yet legally marry in New York.  It also stated that there was no fundamental right to same-sex marriage and that sexual orientation was not a suspect classification, denying that the mini-DOMA in Texas violated the Fourteenth Amendment.  This ruling stands in sharp contrast to that issued by Judge Walker in the California Prop 8 decision, Perry v. Schwarzenegger, which held that such a right existed and that sexual orientation should be protected as a suspect class. 

A second Texas case, in which a judge in Austin granted a divorce to a lesbian couple, is likely to be appeal by the State to the Texas Court of Appeals for the Third District, with one or both of these cases potentially winding up in the Texas Supreme Court.

The Texas case is but one decision in an ongoing judicial debate across the nation regarding how much deference states with no relationship recognition or even explicit laws on the books which deny any rights at all to same-sex couples must accord those states which allow such partnerships.  Returning to the state that issues the marriage license is not an option for most couples as all states currently have a residency requirement for divorce. Generally, at least one half of the couple must live in the state six months or more in order for the state to grant a divorce.  Relationship termination is an essential part of allowing both individuals to move on with their lives. Until the federal Defense of Marriage Act is repeal by Congress or struck down by the Supreme Court, couples will continue to be vulnerable during the most difficult period in their relationship.


Human Rights Campaign | HRC Back Story

—  John Wright

Partner denied sick leave by AT&T

Bryan Dickenson, left, and Bill Sugg hold hands in Sugg’s room at a rehabilitation facility in Richardson on Wednesday, Jan. 27. (Source:John Wright/Dallas Voice)

Despite 100% rating from HRC, company won’t allow gay man time off to care for ailing spouse

JOHN WRIGHT  |  News Editor
wright@dallasvoice.com

Bryan Dickenson and Bill Sugg have been together for 30 years.

For the last 12 of those years, Dickenson has worked as a communications technician for Dallas-based AT&T.

After Sugg suffered a debilitating stroke in September, Dickinson requested time off under the federal Family Medical Leave Act to care for his partner.

But AT&T is refusing to grant Dickenson the 12 weeks of leave that would be afforded to a heterosexual spouse under the act.

As a result, Dickenson is using vacation time so he can spend one afternoon a week at Sugg’s bedside at a rehabilitation facility in Richardson. But Dickenson fears that when his vacation runs out, he’ll end up being fired for requesting additional time off to care for Sugg. Dickenson’s attorney, Rob Wiley of Dallas, said he initially thought AT&T’s refusal to grant his client leave under FMLA was just a mistake on the part of the company. Wiley said he expected AT&T to quickly rectify the situation after he sent the company a friendly letter.

After all, AT&T maintains the highest score of 100 percent on the Human Rights Campaign’s Corporate Equality Index, which ranks companies according to their treatment of LGBT employees. And just this week, HRC listed AT&T as one of its “Best Places to Work.”

But AT&T has stood its ground, confirming in a statement to Dallas Voice this week that the company isn’t granting Dickenson leave under FMLA because neither federal nor state law recognizes Sugg as his domestic partner.

“I really couldn’t be more disappointed with AT&T’s response,” Wiley said. “When you scratch the surface, they clearly don’t value diversity. I just think it’s an outright lie for AT&T to claim they’re a good place for gays and lesbians to work.”

Wiley added that he’s disappointed in HRC for giving AT&T its highest score. Eric Bloem, deputy director of HRC’s workplace project, said Thursday, Jan. 28 that he was looking into the matter. Bloem said a survey for the Corporate Equality Index asks companies whether they grant FMLA leave to same-sex couples, and AT&T replied affirmatively.

“I’m not exactly sure what’s going on, so I don’t really want to make an official comment on it,” Bloem said.

Walt Sharp, a spokesman for AT&T, said the company has “a long history of inclusiveness in the workplace.”

“There are circumstances under which our administration of our benefits plans must conform with state law, and this is one of those circumstances,” Sharp said in a written statement. “In this case, neither federal nor state law recognizes Mr. Dickenson’s domestic partner with legal status as a qualifying family member for a federal benefit program. There is no basis for this lawsuit or the allegations contained in it and we will seek its dismissal.”

Sharp didn’t respond to a request for further comment.

Wiley said Sharp’s statement doesn’t make sense. No law prohibits the company from granting Dickenson an unpaid leave of absence, which is what he’s requesting. Wiley also noted that no lawsuit has been filed, because there isn’t grounds for one.

The federal FMLA applies only to heterosexual married couples, Wiley said. Some states have enacted their own versions of the FMLA, requiring companies to grant leave to gay and lesbian couples, but Texas isn’t one of them.

Wiley said the couple’s only hope is to somehow convince the company to do the right thing, which is why he contacted the media.

“At some point in time this just becomes really hateful that they wouldn’t have any compassion,” Wiley said of the company. “I think the recourse is to tell their story and let people know how AT&T really treats their employees.”

Through thick and thin

This isn’t the first time Dickenson and Sugg have endured a medical crisis.

Sugg, who’s 69 and suffers from congenital heart problems, nearly died from cardiac arrest shortly after the couple met in 1980.

At the time, Dickenson was a full-time student and didn’t have car. So he rode his bicycle from Garland to Parkland Hospital in Dallas every day to visit Sugg in the intensive care unit.

In an interview this week at the rehab facility, Sugg’s eyes welled up with tears as he recalled what a Parkland nurse said at the time – “If that isn’t love, then I don’t know what the hell love is.”

“And sure enough, it was,” Sugg said over the whirr of his oxygen machine, turning to Dickenson. “As long as I have you, I can get through anything.”

Dickenson said in addition to visiting Sugg each Wednesday afternoon, he wakes up at 7:30 on Saturday and Sunday mornings so he can spend the day with Sugg at the rehab facility.

This past Christmas, Dickenson spent the night on the floor of Sugg’s room.
“That would have been our first Christmas separated, and I just couldn’t bear that, him being alone on Christmas,” Dickenson said.

The worst part of the whole ordeal was when he had to return to work after taking 13 days off following Sugg’s stroke, Dickenson said. Sugg didn’t understand and thought his partner had abandoned him for good.

“He called me over and over every night, begging me to please come see him,” Dickenson said. “And I said, ’Honey, you don’t understand, I had to go back to work to save my job.’

“That’s what really hurts about what they’ve put me through, not my pain and anguish, but his,” Dickenson said.

Dickenson said it was 3 a.m. on Sept. 22 when he rushed Sugg to the hospital. Doctors initially said it was “the worst sinus infection they’d ever seen,” but within 48 hours Sugg had suffered a stroke affecting his cerebellum.

Sugg lost the ability to swallow and his sense of balance. He’s still unable to walk and suffers from double vision.

Because he wasn’t out as gay at work, Dickenson initially told supervisors that his father was sick.

When he returned to work after 13 days at the hospital, Dickenson explained that his domestic partner was ill and he needed more time off. His supervisor managed to get him an additional 30 days of unpaid leave.

In the meantime, Dickenson phoned the company’s human resources department and asked whether he’d be eligible for leave under FMLA, which allows 12 weeks (or about 90 days) per year. Dickenson said he was told that since he lives in Texas, he wouldn’t be eligible.

Dickenson filled out the FMLA forms anyway and sent them to the company, but he never got any response.

When Dickenson returned to work, he asked to be reclassified as part-time employee, so he could spend more time with Sugg. His supervisor refused and told him his best bet was FMLA leave, even though he’d already been denied.

That’s when Dickenson contacted Wiley.

Sugg is scheduled return to the couple’s Garland home from rehab in about a week, but he’s still on a feeding tube and will require nursing care. With any luck, he’ll someday be able to walk again.

Sugg bragged that he was able to drink his first cup of coffee last week, and he’s looking forward to getting back to his hobby of raising African violets.

Dickenson said he knows of at least seven medical appointments he’ll have to arrange for Sugg once he returns home. He said his vacation time likely will run out by April, and he fears that if he loses his job, the medical expenses will eventually cause him to go broke.

But Dickenson, who’s 51, said he’s committed to taking care of Sugg, even if it means living on the street someday.

“When it runs out, I’ll be fired, and it really hurts to be in a situation like that, because I’ve worked very hard for AT&T,” Dickenson said. “We suffer now, but maybe other people in our shoes in the future, if they work for AT&T, they won’t suffer like we do.”

—  John Wright

Dallas could elect 1st gay judge

Judicial candidates John Loza, Tonya Parker among 4 LGBTs running in local races in 2010

By John Wright | News Editor wright@dallasvoice.com
IN THE RUNNING | Dallas County District Clerk Gary Fitzsimmons, clockwise from top left, County Judge Jim Foster, attorney Tonya Parker and former Councilman John Loza are LGBT candidates who plan to run in Dallas County elections in 2010. The filing period ends Jan. 4.

Dallas County has had its share of openly gay elected officials, from Sheriff Lupe Valdez to District Clerk Gary Fitzsimmons to County Judge Jim Foster.
But while Foster, who chairs the Commissioners Court, is called a “judge,” he’s not a member of the judiciary, to which the county’s voters have never elected an out LGBT person.

Two Democrats running in 2010 — John Loza and Tonya Parker — are hoping to change that.

“This is the first election cycle that I can remember where we’ve had openly gay candidates for the judiciary,” said Loza, a former Dallas City Councilman who’s been involved in local LGBT politics for decades. “It’s probably long overdue, to be honest with you.”

Dallas County’s Jerry Birdwell became the first openly gay judge in Texas when he was appointed by Gov. Ann Richards in 1992. But after coming under attack for his sexual orientation by the local Republican Party, Birdwell, a Democrat, lost his bid for re-election later that year.

Also in the November 1992 election, Democrat Barbara Rosenberg defeated anti-gay Republican Judge Jack Hampton.

But Rosenberg, who’s a lesbian, wasn’t out at the time and didn’t run as an openly LGBT candidate.

Loza, who’s been practicing criminal law in Dallas for the last 20 years, is running for the County Criminal Court No. 5 seat. Incumbent Tom Fuller is retiring. Loza said he expects to face three other Democrats in the March primary, meaning a runoff is likely. In addition to groups like Stonewall Democrats of Dallas, he said he’ll seek an endorsement from the Washington, D.C.-based Gay and Lesbian Victory Fund, which provides financial backing to LGBT candidates nationwide.

Parker, who’s running for the 116th Civil District Court seat, declined to be interviewed for this story. Incumbent Bruce Priddy isn’t expected to seek re-election, and Parker appears to be the favorite for the Democratic nomination.

If she wins in November, Parker would become the first LGBT African-American elected official in Dallas County.

Loza and Parker are among four known local LGBT candidates in 2010.
They join fellow Democrats Fitzsimmons and Foster, who are each seeking a second four-year term.

While Foster is vulnerable and faces two strong challengers in the primary, Fitzsimmons is extremely popular and said he’s confident he’ll be re-elected.

“I think pretty much everybody knows that the District Clerk’s Office is probably the best-run office in Dallas County government,” Fitzsimmons said. “I think this county is a Democratic County, and I think I’ve proved myself to be an outstanding county administrator, and I think the people will see that.”

Randall Terrell, political director for Equality Texas, said this week he wasn’t aware of any openly LGBT candidates who’ve filed to run in state races in 2010.

Although Texas made headlines recently for electing the nation’s first gay big-city mayor, the state remains one of 20 that lack an out legislator.

Denis Dison, a spokesman for the Victory Fund, said he’s hoping Annise Parker’s victory in Houston last week will inspire more qualified LGBT people to run for office.

“It gives other people permission really to think of themselves as leaders,” Dison said.

The filing period for March primaries ends Jan. 4.


This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition December 18, 2009.

—  admin