WATCH: Occupy Dallas in 90 seconds

So Rich Lopez and I literally took a swing past the Occupy Dallas demonstration in front of the Federal Reserve Bank on Pearl Street during the lunch hour, and below is what we saw.

It starts off kinda slow, with us sitting at a red light on the Woodall Rodgers service road, and a lone Ron Paul supporter shouting through a megaphone in our direction. (Talk about getting co-opted!!!)

But hang in there because things get pretty intense as we make the turn onto Pearl and a Dallas police officer, noticing Rich with the Flip camera in the passenger seat, yells, “Let’s go! Let’s go!”

As you can see, there was a fairly solid line of demonstrators behind the barricades facing Pearl for an entire block, and when we complied with their demands to blow the horn, there was quite a response.

Consider Dallas occupied.

—  John Wright

Death • 09.30.11

Wendy Churitch, 55, died suddenly at her home in Irving early Thursday morning, Sept. 29.

Churitch was born July 26, 1956, and grew up in Chicago. She moved to the Dallas-Fort Worth Metroplex in 1980.

She was known and much loved for her eccentric and ever-present sense of humor, her love of pranks and practical jokes and for her devotion and loyalty to her family and to her large number of friends that she thought of — and that thought of her — as family.

After seven-and-a-half years as a couple, Churitch and the love of her life, Kay Mathews Churitch, were legally married in Iowa on Aug. 17, 2009.

Churitch was preceded in death by her parents, Helen and Pete Churitch Sr., and by her brother, Michael.

She is survived by her wife, Kay Mathews Churitch of Irving; by her brother, Pete Churitch Jr., and one sister, Robin Littrell, both of Indiana; by her wife’s sister, Erin Urquhart of Coppell, and brother, Robert Mathews of Buda; by her wife’s two daughters, Courtney Mathews of Lubbock and Amber Mathews of Three Rivers, Mich., and three grandchildren, Michael and Jourdan of Mesquite and Makenzie of Lubbock; by her beloved dogs, Bailey and Pala; and by a host of loving friends.

Churitch’s remains will be cremated. A memorial service is pending and details will be announced when they become available.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition September 30, 2011.

—  Michael Stephens

DEATH: Paul David Tomko

Paul David Tomko, 41, of Dallas died on Aug. 19.

He was born in El Paso and graduated from Irvin High School and University of Texas in El Paso.

Tomko had lived in Dallas for the past 10 years. He worked as a senior IBM consultant, and previously had worked as a project manager at CPM, and before that worked at White Sands Missile Range.

Tomko was preceded in death by his mother, Dorothy Tomko.

He is survived by his father, Donald Tomko; brothers, Jackie Tomko, Donald Tomko Jr., DwayneTomko and Jammye Tomko; nieces, Megan Tomko and Samantha Tomko; and many aunts, uncles and friends.

A memorial service will be held Saturday, Aug. 27 at 11 a.m. at North Dallas Funeral Home, 2710 Valley View Lane.

Tomko was a frequent donor to AIDS Inerfaith Network, Resource Center Dallas and Genesis Women’s Shelter and donations in his memory can be made to any of these organizations.

—  John Wright

Death: Burleigh John ‘B.J.’ Smith

Burleigh John “B.J.”  Smith, 62, of Dallas died March 29 from complications due to liver cancer.

Born in Shreveport to the late Bernard Cyril and Gwendolyn Smith, B.J.Smith worked 20 years for Cinemark Theaters as a film buyer before retiring in early 2010. He had a very outgoing and uplifting personality and he never met a stranger. His hobbies and interests included singing with the Turtle Creek Chorale for 11 years, movies, traveling, cooking and enjoying food and wine with friends.

He is survived by his partner of 31 years, Dennis Bellotto,; his sister Lynn Norton and family of Flower Mound; his brother Barney Smith and family of San Antonio; and his cherished cat Lance.

In lieu of flowers, Smith requested that memorial donations be made to AMFAR or The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society No formal memorial service is planned at this time.

—  John Wright

State Department Creates New Visa Program for Same-Sex Partners of Foreign Service Employees

In a cable issued yesterday, the State Department informed its personnel worldwide that it has created a program under which non-citizen same-sex partners of Foreign Service employees can obtain visas to allow them to come to the U.S. when the State Department employee partner receives a domestic assignment.  An employee’s same-sex partner will now be eligible for a J-1 visa, allowing them to live and work in this country under certain conditions.  This development is the latest in a range of benefits extended to the partners of Foreign Service employees by the Obama administration.

The State Department’s action is an unfortunate necessity because, under current U.S. immigration law, while American citizens and legal permanent residents can sponsor their spouses and other family members for immigration purposes, they are not permitted to do for their same-sex partners.  As a result, a non-citizen partner must have an independent reason to remain in the country lawfully – such as a work or student visa.  Unfortunately, all too often, binational same-sex couples are left with the heart-wrenching choice between the country they love and the person they love.  That is why HRC supports the Uniting American Families Act, legislation that would end this inhumane treatment of loving, committed same-sex couples.

We applaud today’s action by the State Department on behalf of its LGBT employees, but also urge the Administration and Congress to take action to ensure that all binational same-sex couples are treated fairly by our nation’s immigration laws.

Human Rights Campaign | HRC Back Story

—  David Taffet

Transgender Veterans Talking About Open Military Service

Lisa Leff of the Associated Press (AP) wrote an article recently that was carried in newspapers and news websites across the country. Thumbnail link: San Diego Union Tribune posting of Associated Press (AP) article: Transgender Vets Want Military Access For Own (January 11, 2011)The name of the piece was Transgender Vets Want Military Access For Own. Transgender veterans are beginning to raise the prospect of open service for transgender people who wish to serve in the U.S. military services.

The repeal legislation for Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell (DADT) didn’t address transgender service — as it shouldn’t have. There has been federal law that stated, in essence, that lesbian, gay, and bisexual people couldn’t serve openly. There is no federal law barring the service of transgender people — there is only military policy. From the article:

The “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy now heading toward history does not apply to transgender recruits, who are automatically disqualified as unfit for service. But the military’s long-standing posture on gender-identity has not prevented transgender citizens from signing up before they come out, or from obtaining psychological counseling, hormones and routine health care through the Department of Veterans Affairs once they return to civilian life.

Image: Autumn Sandeen holding photo of herself from when she was in the U.S. Navy. Photo of Autumn in uniform is from 1980. Photo by Gregory Bull.So as the Pentagon prepares to welcome openly gay, lesbian and bisexual service members for the first time, [Autumn] Sandeen is not alone in hoping the U.S. will one day join the seven other nations — Canada, the United Kingdom, Spain, Israel, the Czech Republic, Thailand and Australia — that allow transgender troops.

“There is really no question, it’s just a matter of when,” said former Army Capt. Allyson Robinson, 40, a 1994 West Point graduate who has spoken to sociology classes at the alma mater she attended as a male cadet. “There are active-duty, as well as reserve and national guard transgender service members, serving today.”

Monica Helms, the president of the Transgender American Veterans Association spoke at Atlanta’s DADT repeal event about the future prospect of transgender people being able to serve openly.

There are transsexuals serving in the U.S. military — some who were not discovered to have had genital reconstruction surgery when they had their intake physicals. There are some transsexuals who are serving who are not out in their target sex as of yet. There are genderqueer people who are serving who are serving as the sex defined by their genitalia at birth; there are crossdressers who are serving now, hiding their propensity to dress as members of the opposite sex. Again, from the AP article:

No one knows how many transgender people are serving or have served. Neither the Department of Defense nor the VA keep statistics on how many service members have been discharged or treated for transgender conditions or conduct.

The National Center for Transgender Equality has strongly recommended transgender servicemembers should not come out of the closet with the repeal of DADT.

Military regulations state that men and women who identify with or present a gender different from their sex at birth have mental conditions that make them ineligible to serve. Those who have undergone genital surgery are listed as having physical abnormalities. Service members caught cross-dressing on base have been court-martialed for interfering with “good order and discipline,” according to the National Center for Transgender Equality.

About a week or so ago I spoke to a former service member who was discharged for being a transsexual — she received a military discharge code on her DD-214 that indicated she had a “personality disorder” — the same discharge code used for pedophiles.

Employment, housing, public accommodation, access to heathcare (to include transition services), and access to education are all transgender community priorities that are probably higher than open military service for transgender community members, but that doesn’t mean that open military service for transgender community members isn’t on the priority list. Just as the lesbian, gay, and bisexual members of the lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) community — as well as their intra- and extra-community allies — are capable of working on more than one community issue at the same time, so too is the transgender subcommunity — and their intra- and extra-community allies capable of working on more than one issue at the same time.

Quite a number of transgender community members strongly stood shoulder-to-shoulder with their LGB community siblings regarding repeal of DADT — it will be interesting to see if lesbian, gay, and bisexual community members will stand as strongly, shoulder-to-shoulder, with their transgender community siblings for open military service for transgender people.

But to be sure though, one day the U.S. will join with Canada, the United Kingdom, Spain, Israel, the Czech Republic, Thailand, and Australia in allowing transgender people to serve openly in the military services. It’s just a matter of time.

[Below the fold: AP video that accompanied the AP article (Photographed by Gregory Bull).]

Pam’s House Blend – Front Page

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Daniel Hernandez speech at the Tucson memorial service

This young man is so impressive. During the President’s speech, Obama said to Daniel, “We’ve decided, you are a hero.”:


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Watch LIVE: Obama Speaks at Memorial Service in Tucson

Here's a live feed for those interested in watching the memorial service for victims of Saturday's shooting in Tucson. The service is scheduled to start at 8 pm.

To open this in a separate window, click HERE.

Towleroad News #gay

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HRC Governor Receives Community Service Award from Orlando Area LGBT Organization

HRC Governor Jennifer Foster will receive the Metropolitan Business Association’s 2010 Debbie Simmons Community Service Award.

The Debbie Simmons Community Service Award is given each year to “an individual who has demonstrated integrity and leadership in their business endeavors while supporting and promoting the fight for LGBT equality.”

In addition to being a founding member of HRC’s Orlando Steering Committee, Jennifer has been a tireless advocate for LGBT rights in Orlando through her organizing efforts fighting against anti-marriage opponents in the state and her support for fair minded local, state and federal candidates. Jennifer’s spirit, energy, sense of humor, and smile have opened minds and hearts in Orlando and beyond.

The HRC family is so proud of Jennifer for this well-deserved recognition.

Human Rights Campaign | HRC Back Story

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More Discharged Service Member File Suit in Ninth Circuit

More Discharged Service Member File Suit in Ninth Circuit

Today, three highly decorated service members discharged under “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” (DADT) filed suit in federal district court seeking re-instatement and challenging the constitutionality of DADT.  In their complaint, which was filed before a Ninth Circuit district court in California, the three plaintiffs assert that the military bears the burden of proving that the sexual orientation of each discharged service member had a negative impact on the military.  The complaint states that if the military cannot fulfill this burden, the three plaintiffs should be re-instated in their respective branches and provided credit toward retirement for the period they were unconstitutionally discharged.

A similar argument was asserted before a different Ninth Circuit district court earlier this year in Witt v. Air Force.  The district court in Witt determine that the military failed to prove that Major Margaret Witt’s sexual orientation had a negative impact on the military, and provided for her re-instatement in the Air Force.  Also, occurring only months ago, a different Ninth Circuit district court declared DADT unconstitutional in Log Cabin Republicans v. United States.  The litigation in each of these decisions is ongoing, but illustrates the rise of litigation regarding DADT – particularly in the Ninth Circuit.

Earlier this year, the President expressed his support for repealing DADT and the House passed repeal legislation.  However, only last week, the Senate failed to take action on the Defense Authorization bill, which contained language that would lead to a repeal DADT.  Until Congress moves forward to legislatively repeal DADT, discharged service members are likely to continue to bring suits challenging the constitutionality of DADT and DADT discharges.

HRC applauds plaintiffs Mike Almy, Anthony Loverde, and Jason Knight  for their courage in challenging the DADT law, as well as Servicemembers Legal Defense Network and Morrison & Foerster LLP for filing this suit on behalf of the plaintiffs.

Human Rights Campaign | HRC Back Story

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