Al Franken asks public for help passing Student Non-Discrimination Act

Sen. Al Franken

Sen. Al Franken

Sen. Al Franken, D – Minnesota, is asking the public for help passing S. 555, The Student Non-Discrimination Act, a bill that would prohibit discrimination against public school students on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity. Under the provisions of S. 555 students who experienced discrimination because of their real or perceived sexual orientation or because of their association with LGBT people could bring a civil suit against the school officials or districts responsible for the discrimination. The bill currently has 34 co-sponsors (none from Texas) and its House companion (H.R. 998 by Rep. Jared Polis, D – Colorado) has 150 (with 7 Texan co-sponsors including Houston’s own Sheila Jackson Lee and Al Green) . Both bills have been referred to committee but neither has received a hearing, a crucial step towards becoming law.

In the video requesting the public call their Senators (after the break) Franken points out that federal law already provides protection for school children harassed because of race, color, sex, religion, disability, and national origin, but that no protection exists for sexual orientation or gender identity.

The inclusion of “association” in S. 555 is particularly well thought out. According to the Williams Institute nearly 1 in 5 same-sex couples in the United States is raising children, in Harris County 18% of same-sex couples are.  As these children enter school it’s important that they be able to receive an education without harassment or bullying due to who their parents are.

Franken is asking people to call the Senate switchboard at 202-224-3121 and encourage their Senator’s to support the bill.

—  admin

Dallas celebrates end of DADT

As ban on open gays and lesbians in the military ends, active-duty military personnel come out, some who were discharged consider re-enlisting

Johnson.Cully
Cully Johnson

DAVID TAFFET  |  Staff Writer
taffet@dallasvoice.com

As the repeal of “don’t ask, don’t tell” became final this week, some active-duty service members came out while some who were discharged under the policy made plans to re-enlist.

Dallas celebrated the repeal with a reception at Resource Center Dallas during which

Dave Guy-Gainer, a board member of Servicemembers Legal Defense Network, presented his archive of photos, papers and other memorabilia to the Phil Johnson Library.

Among the papers was correspondence with senators and representatives about supporting the repeal effort. Also included was correspondence with the White House that concluded with Guy-Gainer’s invitation to the final repeal signing ceremony in July.

Guy-Gainer said that he almost missed the invitation, because he almost forgot to check his email one Monday night. When he did remember and checked the inbox, he realized that he had received an invitation to the repeal certification signing ceremony in Washington that Wednesday.

Guy-Gainer said he immediately cleared his schedule and made plans to attend.

Despite repeal of DADT, Guy-Gainer said, SLDN’s  work is not over. Although gays and lesbians may now serve openly, those who are married will not receive 40 benefits that married heterosexual service members enjoy.

Those benefits include their partners having an identity card to get on base and using that card to shop in the PX or use the library.

Same-sex dependents will not be able to use the base attorneys to write wills and other legal papers.

Same-sex couples will not have the access to base housing that opposite-sex couples have, nor will they be eligible for subsistence payments to subsidize off-base housing. That money is offered to many heterosexual couples.

Dependents of heterosexuals also have access to full health care that same-sex partners of servicemen and women will not receive.

Across the country, a number of gays and lesbians who had been discharged under DADT started talking to recruiters Tuesday about re-enlisting, including Cully Johnson, one of the owners of Dallas Eagle.

Johnson was a captain and said he is consiering re-enlisting in the Air Force. He had an appointment with a recruiter to discuss the possibility on Wednesday, Sept. 21.

Johnson said he was stationed in Germany for the beginning of Operation Iraqi Freedom. When Turkey refused to allow American planes to use its airspace, he said, he was responsible for finding alternate routes and bases that allowed the mission to happen.

After serving more than nine years, Johnson was dismissed from the military under DADT.

But like many who were dismissed, Johnson never “told.”

Another member of the Air Force asked him out on a date. When he turned the man down, that airman went to Johnson’s superior and reported him as being gay.

Johnson said there was no defense he could present. His attorney said that explaining the story of why he was turned in would just be seen as retaliation.

So Johnson was given an honorable discharge and he returned to Dallas while the closeted gay man who turned him in remained in the Air Force.

Johnson said he would like to finish his 20 years to take advantage of full military retirement benefits. Although he is talking to a recruiter, Johnson said that in addition to his business, he recently purchased a condo and has a new partner.

His partner was taking a wait-and-see attitude toward Johnson’s re-enlistment.

“We’ll deal with it when the time comes,” said his partner, who works for an employer that doesn’t offer nondiscrimination protection and asked not to be identified.

Because Johnson was an officer, there may not be an immediate slot for him in the Air Force. With President Barack Obama’s proposed drawdown of armed forces, many who want to re-enlist whose specialties have been filled will also have to wait for an opening.

Pepe Johnson had an appointment with a recruiter on Wednesday also. Before his DADT discharge, he had been named soldier of the year at Fort Sill and became a sergeant.

Today, the former Dallas resident, who still owns a house in Oak Cliff, works as a petroleum land man in West Virginia.

“I want to sit down with a recruiter and look at the options available to me,” Pepe Johnson said, adding that he holds no resentment against the Army for his 2003 dismissal.

“‘Don’t ask, don’t tell’ was a law created by Congress and imposed on the military,” he said. “The Army was an incredible experience for me.”

If he re-enters, Pepe Johnson said he would have to go through basic training again because of the length of time since he served. Then, he said, he’d like to enter officer candidate school.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition September 23, 2011.

—  Kevin Thomas

Right-wing Liberty Institute issues action alert in support of transgender marriage ban

Sen. Tommy Williams, R-The Woodlands

Daniel Williams at Legislative Queery reports that the Texas Senate has again adjourned for the day without taking up a bill that would bar transgender people from marrying people of the opposite sex. However, The Woodlands Republican Tommy Williams’ SB 723 remains on the Senate’s calendar for Thursday. The bill, a response to the Nikki Araguz case, would remove a court order of sex change from the list of documents that can be used to obtain marriage licenses in Texas.

Daniel Williams also notes that today, the right-wing, Plano-based Liberty Institute issued an action alert calling on people to urge senators to support the anti-LGBT bill. Here’s an excerpt:

Some Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, and Transgender advocates, want to thwart a Texas appeals court decision and force the state to recognize their gender (for marriage purposes) as something other than what was assigned at birth, to change their gender later on in life and force county clerks to recognize the changed gender. Such an outcome will create confusion for county clerks, for the courts and no doubt will be used by the GLBT community to undermine our marriage laws, which affirm traditional marriage, between one man and one woman.

Protect traditional marriage, support SB 723.

If you haven’t already contacted your senator and asked them to oppose this bill, this disgusting action alert from the Liberty Institute should provide plenty of motivation to do so. Email your senator by going here.

—  John Wright

What’s Brewing: Anti-gay bill clears Montana House; Maryland Senate takes up marriage

Nathan Bowen

Your weekday morning blend from Instant Tea:

1. The Montana House approved a bill that would nullify local LGBT discrimination protections. “Missoula’s Democratic legislators were infuriated by the passage of House Bill 516, by Rep. Kristin Hansen, R-Havre. Her bill passed 60-39 and faces a final House vote before heading to the Senate. Sixty Republicans voted for it. All 32 Democrats voted opposed it, joined by seven Republicans. One Republican was absent.”

2. The president of a GLBT center in Enid, Okla., is accused of sexually molesting a 15-year-old. “According to EnidGLBT.org, Nathan Bowen is President of the Enid GLBT Community Center located in the 1300 block of S. Van Buren Street. According to the police report, Bowen and the victim began texting each other sexual messages after the victim met Bowen on Friday. The molestation incident happened on Sunday after Bowen allegedly picked up the minor at a park and took him to a home in the area.”

3. The Maryland Senate will begin debate on a marriage equality bill today: “Debate on the contentious measure to allow same-sex couples to marry is expected to run into Wednesday evening and carry over to Thursday. Miller has told senators to clear their weekend schedules in case an expected filibuster extends into Saturday. The bill, which would repeal Maryland’s definition of marriage as the union of a man and a woman, is widely expected to clear the Senate — but there are no guarantees. Twenty-four senators have declared their support for the measure, the minimum needed for final passage.”

—  John Wright

A queer take on the Texas Lege

Former Dallas resident Daniel Willams (right), who n0w lives in Houston, is the author of a very informative blog devoted to coverage of the Texas Legislature from an LGBT perspective, Legislative Queery. Williams has agreed to allow Instant Tea to cross-post his material from time to time, and we hope to do so regularly in our Community Voices section as this year’s session progresses. Read Williams’ first contribution to Instant Tea below, and be sure to visit his blog yourself to catch up on other topics.

DANIEL WILLIAMS | Legislative Queery

Today is the 11th day of the 82nd regular session of the Texas Legislature. Both the House and Senate will reconvene on Monday at 1:30 p.m. The Senate is expected to begin what is certain to be an impassioned debate on voter suppression legislation, the House may finally adopt rules.

Senate committee assignments are also expected which means bills should start being referred to committee. Of particular interest is SB 245 by Sen. Wendy Davis, D-Fort Worth, which proposes comprehensive and inclusive anti-bullying measures. We’ll be watching that carefully and will let you know as soon as it’s referred to committee.

Today is Friday, which means that most of the representatives and senators are back in their district offices in your cities and neighborhoods. Fridays are great days to call your local office and ask for support from the people elected to represent you. This is particularly important if you know that your elected officials are not supportive of the queer community.

To find the phone number for your representative and senator’s district offices go HERE. Put in your address and press enter, then scroll down the page until you see the listing for state senator and state representative and find the phone numbers for their district office. Now put those numbers in your phone’s address book so you don’t have to keep looking them up!

For a suggested script for your phone call read Legislative Queery’s post from Day 4.

You can call about any topic that’s important to you. For lists of bills that have been filed this session check out the taps at the top of this page.

I suggest calling your representative about HB 604 by Farrar, which would repeal the state’s unconstitutional ban on “Homosexual Conduct”. Ask them to “co-author HB 604″. Equality Texas has an excellent fact sheet on the bill HERE.

Sen. Davis has been unabashed in her support for anti-bullying legislation. I want to thank her by reiterating my suggestion from last week to call your senator and ask them to “co-author SB 245.” The Equality Texas fact sheet is HERE.

—  John Wright

NY Senator’s early Xmas gift: Glowing front page NYT profile

Today’s New York Times features a great, front page feature on a great, front line ally:

NYT-Gillibrand[Senator Gillibrand (D-NY)], who had represented a conservative upstate district in Congress, was not well known to liberals or gay rights groups at the time. But in an interview, she said she had realized from an early age that discrimination against gays was wrong.



Her mother — a black belt in karate who the senator said “did things differently her whole life” — worked in the arts and surrounded herself with gay friends. During the height of the AIDS crisis, Ms. Gillibrand’s sister, a playwright and actress, volunteered to help children with AIDS.

And when Ms. Gillibrand was a young associate, working long nights at the law firm Davis Polk & Wardwell, she recalled, “the straight men found time to date and get married and have kids and went home at six every night, and the only ones left were the women and gay men.”

So she wound up vacationing with gay colleagues on Fire Island and in the Hamptons, and forging lifelong friendships. “A lot of them are now having children,” she said. “And it never occurred to me that they should not have every benefit that I have.”

FULL PIECE: Gillibrand Gains Foothold With Victory on 9/11 Aid [NYT]

I’ve personally seen this senator hop on a barroom table and give a strong, off-cuff advocacy speech. I’ve also seen her stump in her own home’s back yard, with an on-the-go burger in one hand and a toddler in the other. Not to mention, oh yea — those bills she’s championed when others might’ve been ready to give up.

In politics, it’s sometimes hard to spot the real deal. But from what I’ve seen: Senator Gillibrand is either it, or she’s the Meryl Streep of the Democratic party.




Good As You

—  admin

Don’t ask, don’t tell, don’t ever forget the anti-gay bigots who voted against repealing DADT

The impending end of “don’t ask, don’t tell” doesn’t change the fact that Texas’ two anti-gay senators, Republicans John Cornyn and Kay Bailey Hutchison, voted against repealing the policy. The beauty of the standalone bill to repeal DADT, aside from the fact it had enough votes, was that it forced lawmakers to take a position on the policy itself. On Saturday, Cornyn, Hutchison and 29 others went on record as supporting injustice, dishonesty and discrimination.

It’s truly sad that both our senators would vote to harm our national security during a time of war by continuing to discharge valuable servicemembers for no good reason. Indeed, those who voted against DADT repeal will go down in history as being on the wrong side of it, and we should never, ever forget that.

Which is apparently why GetEQUAL Texas is moving forward with plans for protests/celebrations outside Hutchison’s offices around Texas on Tuesday. From Facebook:

GetEQUAL Texas will go forward with their planned protest of Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison scheduled for Tuesday, December 22 at noon in front of the Senator’s offices in Houston, Dallas, Austin and San Antonio. The group is celebrating Saturday’s repeal of the military’s Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell policy, but recognizes the importance of highlighting the oppressive vote of Ms. Hutchison on a measure which had the support of over 70% of Americans in several major polls.

Please join GetEQUAL Texas and other community members and allies to celebrate this victory by telling Kay Bailey Hutchison that “Enough is Enough.”

“We will no longer sit by and allow votes like that of Sen. Hutchison on the repeal measure to go unnoticed. Although the repeal measure passed the Senate with a filibuster proof majority, Senator Hutchison attempted to silence those willing to defend the rights and freedoms of the United States with their lives by voting against the repeal. We will not be silenced. The freedom of speech is guaranteed to all Americans, not just those who the Senator prefers.” stated Michael Diviesti an Army veteran and state coordinator for GetEQUAL Texas.

Both Texas Senators Kay Bailey Hutchison and John Cornyn voted against repeal, which passed with a filibuster proof majority in the Senate.

—  John Wright

ALERT FOR DADT REPEAL ADVOCATES IN VIRGINIA: Stop what you’re doing, pick up the phone, and call your senators

The senate has scheduled a final vote on “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” repeal for tomorrow. Even though a majority of senators support repeal, we need 60 votes to overcome a filibuster – and when they last voted, we had 57. This could be our last chance for years. Every single call counts. And with the vote just hours away, every single minute counts.

Click here to call Sen. Mark Warner at (202) 224-2023 and Sen. Jim Webb at (202) 224-4024 and tell them: I’m counting on you to repeal “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.”

1.     Call one senator’s office, and tell the staff person who answers where you live so they know you’re a real constituent.

2.     Tell them you want the senator to support the standalone bill repealing “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” – and that you’ll remember how they vote when they’re next up for election.

3.     Thank them, hang up, and make your second call to the other senator.

4.     Click here to let us know you made a call – we use this information to guide our lobbying efforts, so please don’t skip it.

Whether your senator is a courageous champion of repeal, or a die-hard opponent – you still need to call. Right-wing activists are desperately trying to stop this bill, and I can guarantee they are lighting up the phone lines right now. If you don’t get through right away, try again.


Human Rights Campaign | HRC Back Story

—  admin

BREAKING: Reid sets DADT vote for Saturday

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid says he will hold a cloture vote on the standalone measure to repeal “don’t ask don’t tell” on Saturday, Think Progress’ The Wonk Room reports. Above is video of Reid filing for cloture on the DADT bill tonight after he abruptly pulled an omnibus spending bill off the floor due to a lack of votes. From The Wonk Room:

The Washington Post’s Greg Sargent argued that this is the best case scenario for repealing the policy since “[i]f Reid waits until New START is done before holding the vote on DADT, Senators could start going home once the treaty is resolved, dooming DADT repeal.” “By contrast, if the DADT repeal vote is done first, no Senator will leave Washington before START is resolved. So doing DADT repeal first doesn’t imperil START.”

To contact your senator, call the Capitol switchboard at 202-224-3121.

—  John Wright

Mayor in Portland, ME Calls on Senators to Repeal DADT

With votes on the repeal of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” looming in both the House and Senate, HRC field staff recently met with the Mayor of Portland, Nick Mavadones, at town hall. We updated the Mayor on the status of repeal and watched as he signed a personal letter to both Senators Collins and Snowe on the topic. In his letters, he urges both Senators to “exercise their leadership and repeal this outdated policy.” You can read the full text of the Mayor’s letters here.

After the unsuccessful vote on the Department of Defense Authorization Act in the Senate last week, Senator Susan Collins of Maine, announced that she is cosponsoring a new stand alone bill. The bill may be our last chance to see “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” repealed this year. We are grateful to Senator Collins for her stand on this bill, but we do not yet have a commitment from Senator Olympia Snowe. We have been holding phone banks every night and canvassing Mainers in public areas everyday, asking them to call Senator Snowe and urge her to cosponsor the new bill to repeal “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” NOW!

As we continue to watch this develop in the Senate, we must keep pushing with all that we have. If you live in Maine, please call Senator Snowe NOW and ask her to cosponsor S.4023, the new stand alone bill to repeal DADT.

Senator Olympia Snowe:
DC: 202-224-5344
Portland: 207-874-0883

If the line is busy, keep trying. If you have called already, call again. The vote could take place at any moment!

When you are through, you can also send a “thank you” message to Senator Susan Collins and others in the Senate who have championed this cause.


Human Rights Campaign | HRC Back Story

—  admin