House panel hears bills to remove ‘homosexual conduct’ law, add trans hate crimes protections

Daniel Williams

By DANIEL WILLIAMS | Legislative Queery

Four bills that would improve the lives of LGBT Texans were heard by the House Criminal Jurisprudence Committee on Tuesday. The Committee is responsible for making recommendations to the state House of Representatives on bills that effect the Texas Penal Code. The first step in that process is to hold a public hearing. Any member of the public may testify for, or against, a bill during the hearing.

The first bill, House Bill 1909 by Rep. Garnet Coleman, D-Houston, amends the state’s law against “indecency with a child” to provide LGBT teens with the same protections as straight teens. Currently, the law contains a provisions that allows consensual sexual contact between a person under the age of 17 and a person who is no more than three years older. Dubbed the “Romeo and Juliet” rule, the exception recognizes that teenagers engage in sexual behavior with their boyfriends/girlfriends and that prosecuting “heavy petting” by high school sweethearts serves no purpose.

However, there’s a catch! When the Romeo and Juliet rule was created in 1973, “homosexual conduct” was still an enforceable crime in Texas. The authors of the exception were very careful that it only apply to couples “of the opposite sex.” Coleman’s bill removes the opposite sex requirement to give “Juliet & Juliet” the same protections as their straight contemporaries. Dennis Coleman, executive director of Equality Texas, testified in favor of the bill. There was no opposition.

Next, the committee heard House Bill 2227, also by Coleman. Texas law allows prosecutors to seek tougher sentences for crimes committed due to the perpetrator’s bias against people with specific attributes, including “race, color, disability, religion, national origin or ancestry, age, gender, or sexual preference.” HB 2227 would add “gender identity and expression” to that list.

—  admin

What’s Brewing: Youth pastor at anti-gay church says he had sex with boys to purify them

 

Brent Girouex

Your weekday morning blend from Instant Tea:

1. A former youth pastor at an anti-gay church in Iowa is charged with 60 counts of sexual exploitation after he told police he molested young males to purify them in the eyes of God. Brent Girouex, 31, of Victory Fellowship Church in Council Bluffs, said he wanted to help the victims with homosexual urges by praying while they had sexual contact with him, according to police. “When they would ejaculate, they would be getting rid of the evil thoughts in their mind,” Girouex allegedly told authorities. In 2010, Victory Fellowship Church used its website to call on people to oust three Iowa Supreme Court justices who voted to legalize same-sex marriage. Read more on Girouex’s church from Truth Wins Out.

2. Speaking of “ex-gay” therapy, Exodus International now claims its iPhone app isn’t designed to cure people of homosexuality. The group’s statement comes in response to a petition by Truth Wins Out — which now has more than 127,000 signatures — calling on Apple to remove the ex-gay app from the iTunes store.

3. A homophobic new ad (screen grab above) for the Brazilian liquor Cachaça Magnifica suggests that parents might need a strong drink after discovering their son is gay. Who the hell comes up with this shit? Answer: Agência 3, Rio.

—  John Wright

DA Craig Watkins says Club Dallas charges were dismissed based on U.S. Constitution

On Wednesday we reported that charges have now been dismissed or rejected against all 11 men arrested in the Dallas Police Department’s October raid of The Club Dallas, a gay bathhouse in Deep Ellum.

Today, Dallas County District Attorney Craig Watkins for the first time publicly addressed the reasons behind his office’s dismissal of the charges, issuing a one-sentence statement.

“Based upon the U. S. Constitution and the applicable Texas statute, the elements of the offense were unprovable,” Watkins said.

Watkins didn’t specify which portion of the Constitution he was referring to, but undoubtedly it’s the right to privacy.

Seven of the men were charged with public lewdness, which is defined as sexual intercourse or sexual contact in a public place. However, defense attorneys have raised questions about whether the confines of the Club Dallas are considered a public place under the law.

Three of the men were charged with indecent exposure, which is defined as exposing one’s genitals with the intent to arouse or gratify and in a manner that is “reckless about whether another is present who will be offended or alarmed …” But defense attorneys say it’s difficult to argue that sex in a bathhouse is recklessly offensive when all members typically sign waivers saying they acknowledge it takes place.

—  John Wright

Bill would ease sexting penalties, but consensual gay sex can still be a felony for teens in Texas

Attorney General Greg Abbott

Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott is endorsing legislation that would ease criminal penalties for teens who are convicted of sexting — transmitting explicit photos of themselves or other minors using computers and mobile devices.

Currently, teens who send or receive photos of someone who is underage can be charged with third-degree felony child pornography, punishable by up to 10 years in prison, and forced to register as sex offenders for the rest of their lives.

Under SB 408, which was filed today, sexting would become a class-C misdemeanor for first-time violators who are under 18.

“Studies show that teenage students are increasingly taking, sending and receiving explicit pictures of themselves on their mobile telephones,” Abbott said in a press release. “This dangerous trend is harmful to young Texans. We are joining with Sen. Kirk Watson to address the growing problem of sexting and educate – not criminalize – young Texans who make the unwise decision to participate in it.”

For once we agree with Abbott here. This bill makes sense for both straight and LGBTQ teens, and perhaps especially for gay teens in the age of Grindr, etc.

But if our attorney general truly supports the concept of not criminalizing teens, he should also support efforts to fix the state’s discriminatory age-of-consent laws, commonly referred to as “Romeo and Juliet” provisions.

As we’ve noted before, if a 17-year-old MALE has consensual sexual contact with a 16-year-old MALE in Texas, the older individual can be charged with a second-degree felony and sentenced to up to 20 years in prison. On the other hand, if the older individual is MALE and the younger person is FEMALE (or vice versa), the older person can argue an “affirmative defense” and have the charge dismissed on that basis.

In other words, while SB 408 would make sexting a class-C misdemeanor, gay teens who have consensual sex, unlike their straight peers, have no defense against a charge of indecency with a minor.

Rep. Garnet Coleman, D-Houston, has introduced bills in previous sessions that would fix this discriminatory law, but there’s no word on whether he plans to do so this year.

Even if he does, don’t expect Abbott to support it.

UPDATE: Coleman’s office confims that he does plan to file the bill again this year.

—  John Wright

In wake of one activist’s murder, another faces deportation back to homophobic Uganda

As mourners in Uganda on Friday laid to rest gay activist David Kato, bludgeoned to death on Wednesday in his home in Kampala, in Britian several members of Parliament were calling on their government to halt the imminent deportation of Brenda Namigadde, a 29-year-old lesbian activist who was supposed to be sent back to Uganda tonight.

Same-gender sexual contact is illegal in Uganda, with those convicted facing sentences of up to 14 years in prison. Some government officials have in the last year been pushing to make the laws regarding homosexuality in Uganda even harsher, including death sentences in some cases.

According to reports by the BBC, Namigadde, who fled Uganda for the United Kingdom in 2002, said she was beaten and victimized in her home country because of her sexual orientation. However, when she applied for asylum, British immigration officials denied her application, saying that “an immigration judge found on the evidence before him that Ms. Namigadde was not homosexual.”

Ugandan MP David Bahati, the main force behind the death-to-gays legislation there, has said that Namigadde must either “repent or reform” or she will be arrested on her return, according to reports in The Guardian.

Although Namigadde’s first appeal asking for an injunction to stop her deportation was denied, her lawyers continue to work to have the deportation stopped.

Among the MPs calling on immigration officials to halt Namigadde’s deportation is Andy Slaughter, MP for Hammersmith where Namigadde lived while in England. Slaughter said, “Whatever the circumstances surrounding Ms Namigadde’s presence in Britain, it is clear that she cannot be deported to Uganda at present. Both the public mood and the official stance towards homosexuals in Uganda are lethal at the moment — we should not be contemplating sending my constituents back to a society where she will be in grave danger of her life.”

—  admin

Letters • 10.22.10

Many questions on Club Dallas raid

I just read John Wright’s article about the recent raid at Club Dallas (“11 arrested in raid at Club Dallas,” Dallas Voice, Oct. 15).

What is not clear to me is this: What exactly was the “complaint” that was filed with Dallas Police Department? I did not read this in the article. I am not so much interested as to who filed this complaint (though there are many people or groups that I am sure would love to see Club Dallas shut down!). But what was the substance of this complaint that “forced” the DPD to investigate Club Dallas?

Surely, the DPD knows, or should have known, what the 34-year-old Club Dallas is all about, as well as all of the other adult swingers’ clubs and bathhouses in the city where nudity and sexual contact are common? Was this a person who somehow paid and entered this private club, not knowing what a bathhouse was and why many members of the community patronize this private club? Or was this simply a “noise” issue of people coming and going at all hours?

If what is going on in these clubs is illegal, why are they allowed to be open for business at all?

Is Laura Martin seriously unaware of what goes on in a bathhouse? Seriously? Is she aware of the substance of the initiating complaint? Is she OK with DPD’s follow-up investigation and subsequent arrests?

Can Laura Martin, or anyone at the DPD, give us a direct explanation as to how a private club that requires a paid entry fee and, if I remember correctly, warning signs as to the nudity that goes on in the establishment is considered a “public space”?

Isn’t by definition a public space some place where anyone, man, woman or child, can freely visit? Can just anyone walk into Club Dallas? If not, again, how is it considered by law enforcement and the courts as a public space?

Does this mean that all of the other bathhouses and any other sex clubs in Dallas will also be subject to the same type of investigations, gay or straight?
Your thoughts here would be appreciated. Again, please keep up the good work.

Ludwik Kowal
Hong Kong

…………………………

Thanks for the hot Szot

Thank you for the great coverage of Paulo Szot (“Hot Szot,” Dallas Voice, Oct. 15). It’s so refreshing to see an out gay man in this kind of role.

Gordon Yusko
Via E-Mail

…………………………

Broden’s dangerous views

Thanks for your coverage of congressional candidate Stephen Broden’s homophobic statements on Fox’s The Glenn Beck Show (DallasVoice.com/Instant Tea, Oct. 5).

It is troubling that Dallas Morning News has not covered this and would endorse this radical individual given the 30th District’s large LGBT community.
I also want to point out Broden’s close ties to a radical abortion group called Maafa 21 and his association with Life Dynamics President Mark Crutcher.

Broden holds many very dangerous views!

Michael Thomas
Dallas

…………………………

Aggie Corps more accepting of gays now

I am writing in response to the open letter Dallas Voice published online from Clint Hooper to Texas A&M’s acting commandant, Col. Jake Betty (“A former Aggie cadet comes out and comes clean,” Dallas Voice.com Instant Tea, Oct. 11).

In 2003 I became the first openly gay cadet to complete the Corps of Cadets program, and did so as an outfit commander, just like Mr. Hooper. While my interactions with some other cadets were sometimes difficult and occasionally devolved into outright harassment, I had the full support of then-commandant Gen. John Van Alstyne and his staff, which included Col. Jake Betty.

Mr. Hooper’s very public coming out is something that takes a lot of courage to do, particularly when you consider the conservative history and environment of the Corps of Cadets, and I commend him for it. However, his letter lends the impression that corps leadership, and Col. Betty in particular, do not understand what gay and lesbian cadets face and do not have an adequate sensitivity to those issues in order to address them properly.

I respectfully disagree.

Col. Betty is one of the most honorable men I know, and I could not have made it through the corps being openly gay were it not for the leadership, guidance and understanding of him, Gen. Van Alstyne and the rest of the commandant’s staff.

I can assure you and your readers that Col. Betty and the rest of commandant’s staff do indeed understand what it means to be openly gay in the Corps of Cadets and will not allow it to be an impediment to the success of any cadet. In fact, their understanding and sensitivity have helped ensure that openly gay cadets do not experience the negativity I did all those years ago.

After I served as the first openly gay outfit commander in 2003, there was an openly gay Aggie Band drum major in 2004, and another openly gay cadet served as an outfit commander just a few years later.

Our experiences and the support we received from Col. Betty and others clearly demonstrate openly gay men and women have been and will continue to be successful, strongly contributing members of the Corps of Cadets.

I am pleased Mr. Hooper’s letter has given us an opportunity to have this discussion again in the Aggie community, but I question the decision to publish it in Dallas Voice, as opposed to the A&M student newspaper The Battalion, where it might have the greatest impact among Aggies.

I think it is a discussion to be had among alumni and current students who have the greatest stake in the organization, but the broadcasting of a letter that misplaces the blame for intolerance in a statewide forum reinforces the view that the Corps of Cadets is still a harshly intolerant place for us. Trust me: It is a far better place than it used to be, and a far better organization than Mr. Hooper presents it to be

While there is still a lot of progress to be made, the Fightin’ Texas Aggie Corps of Cadets is a more welcoming place for gays and lesbians because of the outstanding leadership of Col. Jake Betty and the rest of the commandant’s staff.

Thanks and Gig ’em!

Noel A. Freeman
Texas A&M Class of 2003

…………………..

TO SEND A LETTER  |  We welcome letters from readers. Shorter letters and those addressing a single issue are more likely to be printed. Letters are subject to editing for length and clarity, but we attempt to maintain the writer’s substance and tone. Include  your home address and a daytime telephone number for verification. Send letters to the senior editor, preferably by e-mail (nash@dallasvoice.com). Letters also may be faxed (214-969-7271) or sent via the U.S. Postal Service (Dallas Voice, 4145 Travis St., Third Floor, Dallas TX 75204). All letters become the property of Dallas Voice.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition October 22, 2010

—  Kevin Thomas

11 arrested in DPD vice operation at Club Dallas

Officer Laura Martin

Eleven people were arrested at Club Dallas on Friday night, Oct. 8, when vice officers raided the gay-oriented gym in response to a complaint, according to Laura Martin, the Dallas Police Department’s LGBT liaison officer.

Martin said 10 of those arrested were charged with public lewdness — or sexual activity in public — while one was charged with interfering with police. The person charged with interfering with police reportedly was a Club Dallas employee who didn’t immediately comply with officers. Martin said she believes it was the first vice operation at Club Dallas —commonly known as a gay “bathhouse” — since 2003.

“We’ve done operations in that club since the late ’70s. There just hasn’t been one in a while because there hasn’t been a complaint,” Martin said. “They [officers] were in there for a legitimate reason, and obviously there was illegal activity going on or that many arrests wouldn’t have been made. It just happened that no one complained in a few years, so they haven’t been in there in a few years.”

The manager of Club Dallas, on Swiss Avenue in Deep Ellum, didn’t immediately return a phone call seeking comment, but Martin said she feels the vice operation was justified and conducted appropriately.

“I’ve certainly never been there, but I’ve heard that public lewdness does go on in the club,” she added. “All you have to do is keep your ears open.”

Though they may seem private, the confines of businesses such as Club Dallas are considered public places under Texas’ public lewdness statute.

Martin said police won’t reveal the source of the complaint, but she said it was “most likely a former member who thought they didn’t get what they paid for.” However, she said it’s also possible that the complaint was made by another business owner in the area, which is undergoing redevelopment thanks to DART’s new rail line.

“When somebody complains we have to go in, just like when someone calls 911 we have to go to the call,” Martin said. “Now that so much activity was found there, they can probably expect more vice operations there.”

One Club Dallas member who witnessed the vice operation but was not arrested said officers were rude and unprofessional during the operation. He also said he feels the club is being targeted by the city to make way for the redevelopment.

The member, who asked not to be identified, said he was working out when he went around the corner to get a drink of water and was confronted by an officer. He said he was forced to remain seated throughout the operation.

“He said, ‘You sit down there and you don’t move,’” the member said. “I tried to ask him what’s this about, and he said, ‘You just chill out.’ They detained us when we were just working out, which I thought was strange.”

The member said about a dozen officers participated in the raid, which began at 9:30 p.m. and lasted until 10:15 p.m.

The officers came in carrying plastic flexcuffs and seemed to be trying to intimidate patrons, the member said.

At one point the member said he heard one of the officers remark that, “I’m going to have nightmares forever after this,” a reference to the fact that it was a gay-oriented business.

The member said he was also at Club Dallas the following night when the fire marshal paid a visit.

“There’s real crime going on in the city, and they don’t need to be harassing a private club,” he said. “I’m irritated and I’m frustrated because I feel like the police department is targeting them, and I don’t appreciate being talked to like that, being detained.”

Public lewdness is a class-A misdemeanor, punishable by up to a year in jail and a maximum $4,000 fine.

—  John Wright