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

Measure would ban anti-LGBT discrimination in Houston

Charter amendment could also allow DP benefits for city workers

DANIEL WILLIAMS  |  Contributing Writer

HOUSTON — Long-brewing plans to place a city-wide non-discrimination policy before Houston voters became public this week.

Since December a coalition of organizations and leaders have been working to draft a city charter amendment that would make it illegal to discriminate in housing, employment or public accommodations on the basis of  “age, race, color, creed, religion, national origin, ancestry, disability, marital status, gender, gender identity or expression, sexual orientation, or physical characteristic.”

The amendment would also remove anti-LGBT language added to the Houston city charter in 1985 and 2001 — which could allow the City Council to vote to offer health benefits to the domestic partners of municipal employees.

Houston Mayor Annise Parker, who famously became the only out LGBT person elected mayor of a major American city in 2009, has declined to comment on the proposed charter amendment until the language is finalized. She told the Houston Chronicle: “I believe it’s important for the city of Houston to send a signal to the world that we welcome everybody and that we treat everybody equally, and depending on the elements of what was actually in it, I might or might not support it,”

According to Equality Texas Executive Director Dennis Coleman, the prospect of Houston voters approving the non-discrimination amendment has ramifications for efforts to pass similar measures in the state Legislature.

“Nondiscrimination in Houston builds a better case for us when we go for nondiscrimination in Austin,” said Coleman. “To be able to tell representatives that they represent areas that already support these efforts is very helpful.”

The cities of Austin, Dallas and Fort Worth all already have similar nondiscrimination ordinances and offer DP benefits to employees.

But Houston’s form of governance makes this effort unique. While the City Council is empowered to pass city ordinances covering issues of discrimination, they can be overturned by popular vote if those opposing the ordinance collect 20,000 signatures to place the issue on the ballot.

That was the case in 1985 after Houston Mayor Kathy Whitmire pushed through the council the city’s first protections for gay and lesbian Houstonians (no protections were provided for the bisexual or transgender communities).

A coalition of right-wing voters led by Louie Welch, then president of the Houston Chamber of Commerce, was able to place the issue on a city-wide ballot, claiming the policy “promoted the homosexual lifestyle.” The group also recruited a “straight slate” of candidates to run against City Council members who had favored the protections, with Welch running against Whitmire.

The public vote on nondiscrimination was held in June 1985 and Welch’s forces prevailed, but the city’s temperament had changed by the time of the City Council and mayoral races in November. A comment of Welch’s that the solution to the AIDS crisis was to “shoot the queers” was aired on local TV and few in Houston wished to be associated with him after that. The “straight slate” failed to capture a single City Council seat and Whitmire remained mayor, but the defeat of the city’s nondiscrimination policy remained.

By 1998 Houston had changed: Annise Parker was serving as the city’s first out lesbian city council member and Houston boasted the state’s first out gay judge, John Paul Barnich. Mayor Lee Brown, sensing the change, issued an executive order protecting LGBT city employees from employment discrimination. But the city had not changed that much. Councilman Rob Todd led efforts to fight the order in court, arguing that since voters rejected city-wide protections from discrimination in 1985, it was inappropriate for the mayor to institute them without voter approval. The city spent the next three years defending the policy in court, finally emerging victorious.

The joy of that 2001 victory would be shortlived, however. That year Houston’s voters approved another amendment to the city charter, this time prohibiting the city from providing domestic partner benefits for city employees. In a narrow defeat, just over 51 percent of voters decided that the city should not offer competitive benefits.

The current proposed non-discrimination amendment would remove the language added in 1985 and 2001. While it would provide non-discrimination protections it would not require the city to offer benefits of any kind to the spouses of LGBT city employees, leaving that question back in the hands of the City Council.

The organizers of the current effort are confident that this year is the year for victory.

Noel Freeman, the president of the Houston GLBT Political Caucus, which is spearheading the effort, explains that the previous votes occurred in “non-presidential years,”when voter turnout in general is low, and conservative voters make up a larger percentage of the electorate.

Additionally, polling by Equality Texas in 2010 showed that 80 percent of Houstonians support employment protections for gay and lesbian people.

In order to place the non-discrimination amendment on the November ballot the coalition supporting it will need to collect 20,000 signatures of registered Houston voters and submit them to the city clerk. Freeman says that the final charter amendment language is still under consideration and that once it is finalized the group will begin collecting signatures.

Even former Councilman Todd, who once fought the city’s policy of non-discrimination for LGBT employees, supports the current effort.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition February 17, 2012.

—  Michael Stephens

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

Focus hands Speaker Boehner 45k signatures, 1 valid reason to cry

According to Focus on the Family’s own reportage, the “pro-family” mega-group has delivered 45,000+ petitions to House Speaker John Boehner, calling on the 112th Congress to, among other things:

4.) Defend the free exercise of religion and speech by rejecting the proposed Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA) and repealing the Hate Crimes bill passed in 2009.

5.) Support the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) and demand that the Obama Administration uphold and defend DOMA.

6.) Reinstate the “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy and underlying federal law that affirms homosexuality is incompatible with military service

Good News: Speaker Boehner Hears from 45,000 Family Advocates [FOtF]

Such principled focus they have.

But honestly? 45k sounds pretty darn low, considering how established, financed, and conserva-nnected FoTF is. We’d think by now, their bat signal would be finely tuned enough to drum up half a mil pieces of misplaced scapegoating, if they really wanted. So perhaps this is actually progress?




Good As You

—  David Taffet

El Paso may put DP benefits back on ballot

After a ballot measure passed in November to rescind domestic partner benefits for El Paso employees, the City Council is considering another ballot measure to restore them. The November ballot measure sponsored by religious groups aimed to take away benefits for the partners of gay and lesbian employees. However, because it was so vaguely worded, the ballot measure also threatened benefits for the partners of retired city workers, and it’s now the subject of a federal lawsuit.

The El Paso Times reports on the latest development:

The El Paso City Council on Tuesday introduced a proposed ordinance for a May ballot initiative that would restore health benefits to gay and unmarried partners of city employees.

The public rescinded those benefits in the Nov. 2 election, but they remain in effect while the courts hear a lawsuit in the matter.

The council did not discuss the proposed ordinance or take public comment on it. A public hearing will be held in coming weeks. If the City Council does not vote to put the matter on the ballot, supporters still can do so by gathering enough signatures on a petition.

—  John Wright

John Cornyn provides a copy of the GOP letter that threatens to doom DADT repeal

Via our old pal John Cornyn (don’t ever say he’s totally worthless), here’s a copy of the aforementioned Senate GOP letter that says Republicans won’t agree to do anything in the lame duck session until Democrats have done everything Republicans want to do. The letter, which Cornyn says was delivered to Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid this morning, has 42 signatures, which represents enough votes to block consideration of any legislation Democrats put forward, including a repeal of “don’t ask don’t tell.”

—  John Wright

Proposal revived to prohibit Cedar Springs club-goers from parking on Hall Street

A little over a year ago we wrote about a proposal to establish a “resident-parking only” zone on the 3900 block of Hall Street, just off the Cedar Springs strip.

The RPO zone would prohibit non-residents from parking on the block during certain hours on weekend nights.

Some residents say the RPO is needed because they have no place to park due to spaces being taken by patrons of the gay entertainment district.

But opponents say those residents knew it was an entertainment district when they moved there, and they fear another RPO zone would make a bad parking situation worse in Oak Lawn.

There are dozens of RPO zones in Dallas — mostly in the Lower Greenville area. There currently is only one RPO near the gay entertainment district — in the 3200 block of Throckmorton Street.

According to Jim Musick, a resident of the 3900 block of Hall Street who opposes the RPO, the proposal appears to have been revived after more than a year.

“I find this totally inappropriate and offensive.” Musick wrote to Instant Tea.

Musick forwarded a note from the property manager for his complex seeking volunteers to circulate a petition in support of the RPO. As the note dated Oct. 12 states, the petition would need the signatures of two-thirds of homeowners on the block for the proposal to proceed. Here’s what the note said:

Hi All:

It had been mentioned to me at the Board meeting held last month that there is an interest in homeowners and guests being able to park in the street and spaces being available.

I met with a neighboring property on your street that I also manage and they have visited the city to see what needs to be done to apply for permits for homeowners on Hall Street . I have a form that each homeowner would have to sign and provide your license plate number. A total of 2/3 of the homeowners have to sign this document to be submitted to the city.

I need a volunteer that can visit each homeowner within your community to get it signed. Would someone like to help me with this project as I need original signatures?

Please let me know and I can drop by and give you the form.

Thanks
Ed

Ed Colvin, CMCA, AMS
Association Manager
Principal Management Group, AAMC, AMO

—  John Wright

Pushing for Senate DADT Repeal Vote, HRC Delivers Thousands of Constituent Signatures

For many months, HRC organizers have been crisscrossing the country working in priority districts and states on the repeal of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.” With a good vote behind us in the House and the Senate Armed Services Committee, we are now pushing for the Senate to take a vote on the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), which contains DADT repeal language. This week, we shipped off thousands of postcards, petition signatures and handwritten letters that we have generated during our repeal DADT campaign. Every United States Senator will receive a package with contacts from constituents in their home states, reiterating that there is broad, national support for the repeal of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.”

Yesterday’s shipment comes off of the heels of an earlier delivery on Capitol Hill, and is in addition to the over 20,000 hand-signed postcards that were delivered by veterans to priority U.S. Senators on that day.

While the defense bill is on a list of possible votes in September, it is important to keep the pressure on your senators and remind them that you want to see a speedy vote on the National Defense Authorization Act, and that they should keep repeal language in this bill. For more information on how to contact your representatives, visit our interactive Countdown 2010 website.


Human Rights Campaign | HRC Back Story

—  John Wright

Wash. Signatures Back in Court

Opponents of the expanded domestic-partnership law in Washington State returned to federal court Wednesday in hopes of blocking the disclosure of petition signatures.
Daily News

—  John Wright