Top 10: Perry presidential bid galvanized gays

clip-Strong-Perry

BROKEBACK PERRY | Rick Perry’s ‘Strong’ ad, in which he’s wearing a jacket similar to the one worn by Heath Ledger in ‘Brokeback Mountain,’ has the second-most dislikes of any video on YouTube.

No: 3

Rick Perry began 2011 being sworn in to a third four-year term as Texas’ governor. He ends it on a bus tour of Iowa, where he’s trying frantically to climb back into contention for the GOP presidential nomination as the Hawkeye State’s Jan. 3 caucuses near.

Perry is perhaps the most anti-gay governor in Texas history — and that’s saying something. So, when rumors began to swirl this spring that “Governor Goodhair” was planning to run for president, the LGBT community seemed to collectively grimace. For most, the downside of Perry holding national office would far outweigh one small consolation: At least he would finally have to depart the Lone Star State.

Longstanding rumors that Perry is a closeted homosexual quickly resurfaced. And, as if to try to put an end to them once and for all, Perry organized a “day of prayer” at Reliant Stadium in Houston, called The Response and funded by the American Family Association. The AFA is considered an anti-gay hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center, and those who signed on as endorsers of Perry’s prayer rally certainly had the views to back up the designation.

The Response drew a huge response from, among others, the LGBT community, with activists staging counterdemonstrations in H-Town during a sweltering first weekend of August. Perry insisted The Response wasn’t political, but a week later he announced his campaign for president.

Republicans were smitten, and Perry skyrocketed to the top of GOP presidential polls — positioning himself as a highly-sought-after, more conservative alternative to presumptive frontrunner Mitt Romney.

Just before he formally launched his presidential bid, Perry stated at an event in Colorado that he believed marriage is a state’s rights issue and New York’s decision to legalize same-sex marriage was “fine with me.”

Under intense pressure from social conservatives, he quickly retracted the statement and came out firmly in support of a federal marriage amendment.

But that didn’t stop Rob Schlein, then president of Log Cabin Republicans of Dallas, from writing a controversial column in which he said he would vote for Perry over President Barack Obama, despite the governor’s anti-gay record. The column was one of several factors that led National Log Cabin to de-charter the Dallas chapter, which is now known as Metroplex Republicans.

Perry would go on to sign a pledge from the anti-gay National Organization for Marriage and come out against the repeal of “don’t ask don’t tell.” But in the end, it appears his right-wing credentials weren’t enough to overcome major, repeated gaffes during nationally televised debates this fall.

In the most memorable one, Perry forgot the third federal department he would eliminate as president in what has become known as his “oops” moment.

Desperate to recover from the gaffes, Perry’s campaign lurched even further to the right — releasing a campaign ad called “Strong” in which he declared: “I’m not ashamed to admit that I’m a Christian, but you don’t need to be in the pew every Sunday to know there’s something wrong in this country when gays can serve openly in the military but our kids can’t openly celebrate Christmas or pray in school.”

“Strong” spawned many parodies, with some harping on the fact that Perry’s jacket in the ad resembled the one worn by Heath Ledger in Brokeback Mountain. “Strong” also garnered the second-most dislikes of any video on YouTube. Above all, though, where it really counts among Republican voters, the ad didn’t work.

As of this week, Perry was polling fifth in Iowa — and second among candidates from Texas behind Congressman Ron Paul.

— John Wright

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

—  Kevin Thomas

The dangers of conversion therapy

Southern Poverty Law Center, Truth Wins Out join forces to shine a light into the darkness of those who try to change others’ orientation

Imagine being told your lifetime of thoughts and feelings were unacceptable, and that what you think and feel in the future would need to be remolded to conform to what others consider acceptable.

That’s the reality of conversion therapy, an unscientific methodology rooted in conservative Christian philosophy that is designed to reorient homosexuality to heterosexuality.

Conversion therapy is condemned by all major medical, psychiatric, psychological and professional counseling groups. Yet fundamentalist religious leaders advocate its widespread practice to “cure” homosexuality. They recommend this treatment for both adults and for gay and lesbian teenagers, who are often forced into the therapy against their will.

Opposition to conversion therapy is strong in the LGBT community, and it gained even more momentum recently when the Southern Poverty Law

Center and Truth Wins Out joined forces to launch a coordinated campaign to counter proponents of the controversial therapy.

David-Webb

David Webb - The Rare Reporter

The prestigious civil rights group — SPLC — and the LGBT rights organization — TWO — scheduled a series of community meetings in Maryland, Pennsylvania and Washington, D.C., for former patients of the therapy to share their stories. One of the campaign’s goals is to seek help from community activists and elected leaders in monitoring and evaluating local conversion therapy programs.

For most people, the notion of conversion therapy achieving any measure of success would probably be laughable if it were not so destructive to those who are exposed to it. Critics of the therapy warn that individuals who undergo it often suffer anxiety, depression and suicidal thoughts — in addition to retaining their sexual orientation.

The radical therapy is reminiscent of unscrupulous scientific experiments from previous decades that horrified the world when they came to light. In those events groups of scientists in the U.S. and other countries carried out hideous psychological and medical experiments using as their subjects prisoners, orphans, mental patients, minorities and other powerless people.

Through my work as a journalist I have met several individuals over the years that underwent conversion therapy. Without exception, all reported the therapy caused them more anguish than they felt before receiving it.

One person — who was raised by a domineering, Bible-obsessed mother — was sent from his East Coast home when he was in his 20s to a conversion therapy treatment program in, of all places, San Francisco, the gay capital of the U.S. It’s not difficult to figure out what happened there.

The group of like-minded individuals in the program reportedly had the time of their life when the lights went out at night, and at one point they went over the wall to see the sights of Baghdad on the Bay.

Again, the lack of logic is humorous, but the therapy left the young man and his family, which had expected him to return home “cured,” more troubled than ever.

In subsequent years he engaged in the abuse of alcohol and illegal substances, promiscuity and criminal activity.

His mother drifted into a state of denial and, even though her son contracted the HIV virus, she maintained that he did not engage in sex with other men.

The last I heard, the man was still allowing his mother to run his life, which she has dedicated to ensuring would not include the company of a male partner.

In another case, a man in his 30s sought help from a counselor whose facility was located on the campus of a large mainstream church. Placing his trust in the counselor — in part because he supposedly was a straight, married man — the patient participated in a bizarre treatment program that involved the patient removing his clothes during the sessions. The “treatment” eventually progressed to the counselor instructing the patient to perform oral sex upon him.

Eventually, the patient came to his senses, reported the counselor to law enforcement officials and filed a lawsuit against him. The patient suffered severe psychological problems as a result of the contact with the counselor, but he recovered through the help of a traditional counselor who helped him accept his sexual orientation.

The last time I heard from the patient he was attempting to get on with his life as a gay man and had met someone with whom he was trying to bond.

The files of Truth Wins Out are full of stories of unscrupulous conversion therapists who masquerade as professional counselors, when in fact they are what the organization’s founder, Wayne Besen, refers to as “quacks.”

Besen has also cornered advocates of conversion therapy who claim to be “ex-gay” in gay bars and exposed others as frauds because they still engage in homosexual activity.

The influence of the powerful Southern Poverty Law Center — which is best known for its work in waging successful legal fights against violent white supremacist groups — will likely help Besen spread his message to an audience that he might not have otherwise reached. The nonprofit group’s Teaching Tolerance project has received high praise for its outreach.

As regards religious leaders who recommend conversion therapy, they are doing neither the individuals nor their families any favors. Coming to terms with one’s sexual orientation — for both gay men and lesbians and their family members — is challenging enough without the interference of religious leaders who apparently are less concerned with the welfare of the individual than they are in demanding observance of antiquated religious laws.

For gays or lesbians attempting to deny their sexual orientation, it might be useful to learn a lesson from the legions of people who have already struggled with the same issue and finally came to realize that a person’s basic nature cannot be transformed.                                              •

David Webb is a veteran journalist who has covered LGBT issues for the mainstream and alternative media for three decades. E-mail him at davidwaynewebb@yahoo.com.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition November 4, 2011.

—  Kevin Thomas

NATIONAL BRIEFS: Officer who produced anti-gay videos can stay in the Navy

Officer who produced anti-gay videos can stay in the Navy

NORFOLK, Virginia — A Navy panel says the former commander of a nuclear-powered aircraft carrier who produced raunchy videos aboard the ship can remain in the service.

The board of inquiry issued its recommendation Wednesday, Aug. 24. It had been looking at whether to dismiss Capt. Owen P. Honors from the Navy.

Honors was relieved of command in January after media reports about the videos surfaced. The videos included simulated same-sex shower scenes, anti-gay slurs and references to prostitution in foreign ports.

Honors says the videos were made to improve morale while teaching important shipboard lessons. He helped produce and appeared in the videos that aired on the ship between 2005 and 2007, when he was the ship’s executive office.

Both sides satisfied in talks over school district policy

ST. PAUL, Minn. — Both sides say they held productive talks toward settling two lawsuits against Minnesota’s largest school district challenging its policy requiring staff to remain neutral when sexual orientation is discussed in the classroom.
The plaintiffs say the policy prevents the Anoka-Hennepin School District from protecting kids perceived as gay from bullying and harassment.

Both sides issued a statement Tuesday night, Aug. 23, after talks mediated by U.S. Magistrate Judge Steven Rau in St. Paul saying they “look forward to future constructive dialogue.” They also say they’ve agreed not to comment further on the settlement process.
No new talks are scheduled.

The lawsuits were filed this summer on behalf of six former and current students by the Southern Poverty Law Center and the National Center for Lesbian Rights after previous settlement efforts failed.

Gay council candidate says he is target of anti-gay messages

CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. — A gym owner who says he’s the first openly gay candidate to run for Charlottesville City Council says he’s been receiving anti-gay messages.

James Halfaday told the Daily Progress one of his fliers was returned Aug. 7 with a disparaging message and his face crossed out. He said he sought legal advice but was told the defaced flier didn’t constitute a threat, so there was little he could do.

Halfaday said the flier is the latest in a string of attacks, including a July 31 email accusing him of “promoting perversion” and an insulting Facebook message in May. The Facebook message was configured to make it look like it was sent by Kathy Galvin, one of Halfaday’s six opponents in the Democratic primary, but both campaigns and party officials say Galvin had nothing to do with it.

A letter to Halfaday and Galvin from Charlottesville Democratic Committee co-chairs Tom Vandever and Jim Nix says the message was likely generated “by an unknown third party” with the goal of damaging the campaigns of both candidates.
Nix and Vandever urged both campaigns to keep the incident quiet to lessen its impact.

Halfaday said he originally wanted to keep the hate mails quiet because he assumed they would die down and he didn’t want to start an “uproar” in the gay and lesbian community.

He said he chose to come forward now because he’s run a successful campaign despite the negatives, adding that he’s not going to be intimidated.

Jonathan Stevens, a Galvin campaign adviser, said he thought the Facebook issue was a “dead letter” a long time ago.

“It was put aside as one of those nasty little things that can happen on the Internet,” Stevens said.

Nix said that, to his knowledge, Halfaday is indeed the first openly gay person to run for City Council.

“This is 2011, it’s not 1970 or something like that,” Nix said. “Sadly, we do still live in an age where some people just don’t accept that and do mean things.”

Philadelphia trans inmate being moved to men’s prison

PHILADELPHIA — A transgender woman who has been incarcerated at Riverside Correctional Facility, the city’s only prison for women, for the past 14 months is being moved to a facility for male prisoners after complaining that a corrections officer had forced her to perform oral sex on him, according to reports by The Advocate.

Jovanie Saldana, 23, who has been living as a female since she was 12, was charged in June 2010 with felonies including armed robbery. Prison officials reportedly did not know Saldana was transgender until they recorded a telephone conversation between her and her mother while investigating Saldana’s allegations against the corrections officer.

The Advocate reports that Saldana, who has not had gender-reassignment surgery, should have undergone a cavity search when she was first incarcerated in the prison, and then again each time she returned following outings for court appearances.

Lorenzo North, president of the union representing corrections officers, has said that the error in searching Saldana is proof that the officer Saldana accused of sexual abuse is innocent, according to the Advocate.

Teacher didn’t violate policy with anti-gay Facebook post, officials say

Lake County School District Superintendent Susan Moxley has reinstated Mount Dora High School social studies teacher Jerry Buell, suspended after making anti-gay posts to his Facebook page, saying the posts did not violate the school district’s code of conduct, WFTV.com has reported. Mount Dora is in Florida.

Buell, the district’s former teacher of the year, was transferred to an administrative position while district officials investigated complaints over his Facebook page. Buell allegedly posted on Facebook that same-sex unions are a “cesspool” that make him want to throw up. The posts reportedly angered a number of his Facebook “friends,” including current and former students.

Mount Dora High School graduated Brett Winters filed the complaint against Buell, saying that his Facebook posts indicated he was “dangerous to
gay students.”

Buell insisted he was “exercising my [free speech] rights as a citizen of this country.”

The district is still investigating comments Buell made on a school web page and a class syllabus, and the teacher has been given a list of directives to follow, although that list has not been made public.

Fred Karger invited to California GOP’s convention

Openly gay Republican presidential candidate Fred Karger has been invited to speak at the upcoming California GOP convention, according to reports by On Top Magazine. The invitation came within an hour of the publication of an article in the San Francisco Chronicle in which Karger accused the party of giving him “the cold shoulder.”

Karger has said that his 2 percent showing in several recent polls marks him as a legitimate candidate, and State GOP Communications Director Mark Standriff said Karger has always been welcome in the California GOP.

But Jimmy LaSalvia, executive director of the gay Republican group GOProud said Karger is not a credible candidate.

“Unfortunately, Fred Karger is playing a stunt, and his stunt has run its course,” LaSalvia told On Top.

Voluntary manslaughter conviction an option in McInerney trial

LOS ANGELES — A California judge has decided jurors may consider voluntary manslaughter in the trial of a teen accused of murdering a gay classmate at school.

Ventura County Superior Court Judge Charles Campbell decided Tuesday, Aug. 23, the panel could opt for the lesser charge rather than first-degree murder if they find Brandon McInerney guilty of killing 15-year-old Larry King.

The Ventura County Star reports Campbell felt that not allowing jurors to consider voluntary manslaughter would be problematic if there is an appeal.

The shooting occurred in February 2008 at E.O. Green Junior High School in Oxnard. McInerney, who is now 17, did not testify.

Closing arguments were expected to begin Thursday, Aug. 25.

The trial was moved to Los Angeles because of pretrial publicity.

—  John Wright

Responding to “The Response”

From partisan to apolitical, from atheistic to interfaith — groups from around the state are speaking out against Gov. Perry’s Houston prayer meeting

Rick Perry

Daniel Williams  |  Contributing Writer
editor@dallasvoice.com

HOUSTON — Texas Gov. Rick Perry has partnered with the American Family Association to present a day of prayer and fasting they have dubbed “The Response” on Saturday, Aug. 6, at Houston’s Reliant Stadium.

Organizers are calling the event “a call to prayer for a nation in crises.”

But opponents have a different take. They are calling the event everything from a political maneuver pandering to the right wing intended to kick off Perry’s 2012 presidential bid to an unconstitutional confluence of church and state.

And those opponents from around the state have been hard at work in recent weeks, planning their own response to the Perry prayer meeting.

Perry’s choice to partner with the American Family Association, which is paying for the Saturday event, quickly raised eyebrows in the LGBT community, where AFA is considered one of the country’s leading anti-gay groups. In fact, the Southern Poverty Law Center has classified AFA as an anti-gay hate group.

AFA’s contention that homosexuality is sinful according to the Bible is not enough, in and of itself, to put AFA on the SPLC hate group list.

But the AFA’s “propagation of known falsehoods — claims about LGBT people that have been thoroughly discredited by scientific authorities — and repeated, groundless name-calling” was more than enough to earn a place on the list.

To bring attention to their concerns over “The Response,” opponents have planned a variety of events in Houston and around the state: from partisan to apolitical, from atheist to interfaith.

Each event, organizers say, strives to stand in contrast to what they see as the blurring of church/state separation and the promotion of hate against LGBT people fostered by “The Response.”

Houston GLBT Caucus

For Noel Freeman, president of the Houston GLBT Political Caucus, “The Response” is just the latest in a long line of anti-LGBT events the caucus has encountered.

The caucus is spearheading an event highlighting the LGBT community’s response at 7 p.m, Friday, Aug. 5. State Rep. Garnet Coleman, a Houston Democrat and longtime LGBT ally in the Texas Legislature, will deliver the keynote address for the event at Tranquility Park at 400 Rusk St., in downtown Houston.

The Friday night LGBT event is being staged just one block from the site of a 1977 rally the caucus held to oppose Anita Bryant, who at the time was one of the most visible and most vocal foes of LGBT equality.

Fresh off her successful campaign to repeal a Dade County, Fla., ordinance banning discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation, Bryant brought her “Save The Children” campaign to Houston. And the GLBT Caucus responded.

“The caucus has always stood up against the forces of hate. Look at our response in ’77,” said Freeman.

The caucus organized a massive counter-protest when Bryant came to town. And among those participating was a 22-year-old student and activist named Annise Parker.

Parker later became as the caucus’ eighth president before beginning her political career. She now serves as Houston’s mayor, becoming the first out LGBT mayor of a major American city when she was elected in 2009.

Freeman says responding to Perry’s rally is a duty for LGBT activists, a continuation of the caucus’ legacy of fighting hate and fostering young leadership.

“We have to support our community and say that hate is not acceptable in any capacity,” he said.

(left to right) The Rev. Adam Robinson, Daniel Scott Cates, Noel Freeman, Brad Pritchett and Robert Shipman
(left to right) The Rev. Adam Robinson, Daniel Scott Cates, Noel Freeman, Brad Pritchett and Robert Shipman

GetEQUAL

Dallasite Daniel Cates, North Texas regional coordinator for GetEQUAL, is heading to Houston on Friday to participate in the caucus’ rally. But the main reason for his trip is a protest planned by GetEQUAL outside Reliant Stadium on Saturday as “The Response” takes place inside.

Cates said the national attention paid to the fact that Perry is partnering with a hate group to stage “The Response” has helped galvanize activism in Texas.

“For a while we’ve been pretty quiet. I think that with events like this and events like the [June 2009] Rainbow Lounge [raid in Fort Worth], people are waking up,” Cates said.

“What’s interesting about the reaction to ‘The Response’ is that it’s been statewide,” he continued. “You’re seeing all these cities — Austin, San Antonio, Houston, Dallas — all these different cities coming together.”

GetEqual’s protest will be at the corner of Kirby Drive and McNee Road, starting at 8 a.m. Saturday.

Michael Divesti with GetEQUAL said that the protesters will remain at Reliant Stadium throughout the day. He urged participants to bring water and drink it often to fight the heat.

“We don’t want anyone getting heat stroke out there,” Divesti said.

GetEQUAL is partnering with the American Atheists for the protest, but GetEQUAL leaders stressed that the event is not anti-prayer.

“We’re not at all anti-prayer or anti-religion,” said Cates. “We’re anti-the-state-getting-involved-in-religion.

“I pray; my faith is very important to me,” he added.

CNN reported last month that Perry may not even speak at the rally, although it was his idea to stage the event. The possibility doesn’t surprise Divesti, who believes “The Response” has always been more about political pandering than sincere prayer.

“Perry was a Democrat until he figured out he would be more popular as a Republican. He was Methodist until he figured out he would be more popular as an evangelical,” Divesti said. “He believed in state’s rights until he figured out he would be more popular as a DOMA supporter. So now that his support of the AFA is proving unpopular on the national stage, is anyone surprised he’s scrambling to distance himself?”

FW First Congregational Church

Also planning to protest outside of Reliant Stadium on Saturday is a group from Fort Worth’s First Congregational Church.

Marvin Van, who is organizing the group, said he expects 15 to 20 people to make the trek to Houston on Friday night to participate in an interfaith service at Mount Ararat Baptist Church before spending Saturday at Reliant Stadium.

Van said that as representatives of a mainstream Christian church, his group is in a unique position to respond to “The Response.”

“We are very specifically protesting the misuse of the gospel to promote hate speech,” Van said.

“We know we’re not going to convince the governor or the AFA. That’s not why we’re going. We’re going for that gay or lesbian teenager or that Muslim teenager who thinks Christianity is only about hate,” he said.

FIGHTING HATE  |  In 1977, Anita Bryant brought her “Save the Children” campaign to Houston and the LGBT community responded.
FIGHTING HATE | In 1977, Anita Bryant brought her “Save the Children” campaign to Houston and the LGBT community responded.

Harris County Democratic Party

While Cates, Divesti and the people of First Congregational Church are protesting at Reliant Stadium Saturday, the Harris County Democratic Party will hold its fourth “Trailblazers Luncheon” downtown at the Hyatt Regency Hotel — ironically, the same hotel that was the venue for Anita Bryant’s 1977 event.

The traditional luncheon is the Harris County party’s way of highlighting contributions by members of historically oppressed communities. Previous luncheons have honored women, African-Americans and Latinos. According to the event’s co-chairs, Brad Pritchett and Robert Shipman, the party had already planned to honor members of the LGBT community at this year’s luncheon before learning of “The Response.”

“We hadn’t decided on a date for the event yet. But when Perry’s event was announced, it seemed like the perfect opportunity to counter-program,” Pritchett said.

Shipman added, “I think the tag line of the luncheon says it best: ‘A Celebration of Diversity.’ We’re focusing on the positive.”

Pritchett said while he sees parallels between Saturday’s “Response” and Anita Bryant’s 1977 “Save the Children” event in Houston, he believes Perry’s rally is worse.

“We should feel even more attacked because it’s our own governor bringing a hate group here,” he said. “He was elected to represent all Texans, but instead decided to align himself with the most extreme fringe.”

Pritchett also said he isn’t surprised Perry has refused so far to confirm whether he will speak at “The Response” event on Saturday, because the governor has “seen a negative push-back from his association with the AFA. He doesn’t know how that’s going to affect him when he’s trying to court moderate voters in a presidential election.”

Tickets for the Trailblazer’s Luncheon are available at the door and on-line at HCDP.org. Check-in begins at 9:30 a.m.

First UU Church of Houston

Another — uniquely apropos — response to “The Response” is planned for 2 p.m. Saturday: an interfaith prayer service.

The Rev. Adam Robinson of First Unitarian Universalist Church of Houston, who is organizing the event, said that it’s sometimes difficult for people of faith to oppose events like “The Response” for fear of appearing anti-prayer.

“It’s hard for faith leaders to take a stand and not make it look like they oppose praying to God to make the country better,” Robinson acknowledged. But, he said, he felt he had a responsibility to do something.
“I despise that our governor has aligned himself with a hate group. I feel called to provide people with an alternative,” Robinson said.

First Unitarian Universalist Church of Houston is located at 5200 Fannin St.

The aftermath?

Dennis Coleman, executive director of the statewide LGBT advocacy organization Equality Texas, said he believes “The Response” has already backfired on Perry.

“There’s been a galvanization of the community around the state,” Coleman said. “Texans are taken aback by the people our governor has aligned himself with.”

But Coleman said he suspects Perry’s attempt to distance himself from the prayer meeting has more to do with fears of low turnout at the event rather than concerns over being associated with a hate group.

“I think he’s backpeddling because his event’s a flop, not because of the association with the AFA,” Coleman said. “The AFA is controversial, but Perry is controversial. He wants this to be a success. He doesn’t want 7,500 people in a 75,000 seat arena. But I think that’s what he’s going to get.”

Coleman is traveling to Houston to speak at the GLBT Caucus’ Friday night rally and to present the keynote address at the Trailblazer’s Luncheon on Saturday. The legacy of “The Response” remains to be determined and will depend largely on whether Perry decides to finally announce his much-hinted-at presidential bid.

But for those organizing the responses to “The Response,” the event has created a unique flash-point, a moment in time to focus and unite the people of Texas in opposition to hate.

“We’ve had so many victories lately — in local government, in the state legislatures and nationally,” Coleman said. “But it’s sometimes hard for people to find a single, concrete issue that they can wrap their hands around and participate in.

“Gov. Perry, by aligning himself with the AFA and other hate groups, has provided that moment, and LGBT Texans and their allies have responded unanimously: ‘There is no room for hate in our state.’”

……………………………..

Texans responds to ‘The Response’

• The Houston GLBT Caucus will hold a rally Friday, Aug. 5, at 7 p.m., at Tranquility Park, 400 Rusk St. in downtown Houston. State Rep. Garnet Coleman will be keynote speaker.

• GetEQUAL will hold a day-long protest outside Reliant Stadium, at the corner of Kirby Drive and McNee Road, beginning at 8 p.m. and lasting as long as “The Response.” Participants are urged to bring plenty of water.

• Members of Fort Worth First Congregational Church, 4201 Trail Lake Drive, will be leaving for Houston on Friday night and will be holding a rally outside Reliant Stadium on Saturday. Call the church at 817-923-2990 for details.

• The Harris County Democratic Party will hold its fourth annual “Trailblazers Luncheon” Saturday at Houston’s Hyatt Regency Hotel. Tickets for the Trailblazer’s Luncheon are available at the door and on-line at HCDP.org. Check-in begins at 9:30 a.m. Go online for more information.

• First Unitarian Universalist Church of Houston, led by the Rev. Adam Robinson, will hold an interfaith prayer service Saturday at 2 p.m. to offer a faith-based alternative to “The Response.” The church is located at 5200 Fannin St. For more information call the church at  713-526-5200.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition August 5, 2011.

—  Michael Stephens

Overjoyed, yet full of consternation

HATE LIVES ON | Like the Ku Klux Klan that vilified all minorities in its terroristic oppression of people and also operated under the guise of Christianity, today’s militant Christian Rights groups target LGBT people for scapegoating.

UN resolution on LGBT equality is a victory, but also a reminder of how far we have left to go toward equality

DAVID WEBB |  The Rare Reporter

The passage of a resolution by the United Nations Human Rights Council last month declaring that LGBT people around the world should be afforded equal protections with all other human beings left me overjoyed — yet still full of consternation.

The measure’s passage represented a great victory for human rights advocates who pressed for it. But the very need for such an action underscored how dangerous it is to be gay, lesbian, bisexual or transgender in many parts of the world, including the United States of America.

Homosexuality remains illegal in 76 of the globe’s countries, and it is punishable by death in five of them.

In the United States, where the Texas sodomy law — and in effect, all sodomy laws in the country — were struck down by the U.S. Supreme Court in 2003, discrimination and violence against LGBT people continues to run rampant. An analysis of 14 years of FBI hate crime data by the Southern Poverty Law Center’s Intelligence Project in late 2010 revealed that LGBT people are more than twice as likely to be violently attacked as Jews and blacks, more than four times as likely as Muslims and 14 times as likely as Latinos.

In a press release by the U.S. Department of State, Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton called the U.N. resolution an “historic moment to highlight the human rights abuses and violations that LGBT people face around the world based solely on whom they are and whom they love.”

She noted that torture, rape, criminal proceedings and killings are sanctioned all over the world by religions that condemn anyone who does not adhere to traditional heterosexual norms regarding sexual orientation and gender identity.

The controversial resolution, which was proposed by South Africa, passed narrowly on a vote of 23 to 19. Although the measure was supported by the U.S. and other Western countries, it was opposed by African and Arab countries where the prosecution and persecution of LGBT individuals is the most severe.

Three countries, including China, abstained from voting.

Reaction to the U.N. resolution from opponents of LGBT rights was telling.

Archbishop Silvano Tomasi, the Vatican’s representative to the Human Rights Council meeting in Geneva, denounced it as a maneuver in an international agenda to restrict the freedom of churches.

Tomasi claimed the church opposes violence against homosexual behavior and punishment based on a person’s “feelings and thoughts,” but he condemned the measure as detrimental to society and likened laws against homosexuality to prohibitions against incest, pedophilia and rape.

In Ghana, the Rev. Joseph Bosoma of the Sunyani Central Ebenezer Presbyterian Church called on President John Evans Atta Mills to crack down on homosexuality in the country, warning that society was on the verge of a punishment similar to what happened to Sodom and Gomorrah in Biblical times.

The president assured the pastor that the government would take action to check homosexual activity.

Similarly, Alex McFarland of the American Family Association, the group that is sponsoring Texas Gov. Rick Perry’s The Response Prayer Rally in Houston on Aug. 6, declared recently that the world is now in “The Latter Days,” in response to the passage of marriage equality in New York.

He argued that LGBT rights are not the equivalent of human rights.

Soulforce, an LGBT group that monitors conservative religious groups, noted that another host of Perry’s rally, Lou Engle, the leader of The Call, is one of three evangelical leaders in the U.S. who supported the “Kill the Gays” bill in Uganda.

For three decades, the greatest impediment to the LGBT rights movement has been Christian Rights groups and their leaders who have seized on the concept of a “homosexual agenda” bent on destroying American culture and society. James Dobson, founder of Focus on the Family, declared the fight against LGBT rights to be a “second civil war.”

Some of these Christian Rights groups have earned the distinction of being identified as hate groups by the Southern Poverty Law Center because they have resorted to crude name-calling and spreading false information about LGBT people in an effort to draw support to their cause.

Like the Ku Klux Klan that vilified all minorities in its terroristic oppression of people and also operated under the guise of Christianity, today’s militant Christian Rights groups target LGBT people for scapegoating.

LGBT people comprise the last minority group left that it is politically correct in some quarters to attack, and Christian Rights groups and politicians like Gov. Perry are making the most of it.

The beginning of this summer marked the 16th anniversary of the Southern Baptist Convention’s apology to black people for its abominable treatment of that race over the years, and some gay activists, such as Wayne Besen of Truth Wins Out, petitioned the church group to issue a similar apology to LGBT people.

That, of course, did not happen, but one day perhaps it will.

Until groups like the Southern Baptist Convention, which urges followers to “go the extra mile when witnessing to gay people,” recognize LGBT people as equal, freedom will continue to be a worldwide challenge.

The U.N. resolution was a milestone in that journey to equality, but the road ahead for LGBT people will continue to be a long and difficult one. The U.S., which admittedly is far behind some countries, will likely see success long before LGBT people in some parts of the world feel free.

David Webb is a veteran journalist who has covered LGBT issues for the mainstream and alternative media for three decades. E-mail him at davidwaynewebb@yahoo.com.

—  John Wright

Perry’s association with hate groups nothing new

Gov. Rick Perry’s planned Aug. 6 day of prayer and fasting, “the Response,” has garnered a range or reactions over the last month, from Houston clergy expressing concern about the blurring of lines between church and state, to the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force decrying the rally as “profoundly harmful.” What almost every denouncement of “the Response” has in common is shock that the governor would align himself with the American Family Association, an organization listed by the Southern Poverty Law Center as a hate group.

For those who’ve followed Perry’s political career closely, however, his connections with a notorious hate group are just par for the course.

The Southern Poverty Law Center is a pro-bono legal firm and civil rights advocacy group. Since shortly after its founding in 1971 the SPLC has declared certain groups “hate groups” based on the groups’ perpetuation of inaccurate and harmful information about communities fighting for their civil rights. In the case of anti-gay groups the SPLC places organizations on the list of hate groups for “their propagation of known falsehoods — claims about LGBT people that have been thoroughly discredited by scientific authorities — and repeated, groundless name-calling. Viewing homosexuality as unbiblical does not qualify organizations for listing as hate groups.”

Perry publicly aligned himself with the AFA as early as 2005, when AFA founder Don Wildmon was invited to participate in a signing ceremony celebrating the passage of Texas’ constitutional amendment defining marriage as between “one man and one woman.” The governor’s signature is not required on constitutional amendments. In fact, the executive branch of Texas government can neither propose nor approve constitutional provisions. That didn’t stop Perry from conducting a media event designed to take credit for the amendment’s passage. Perry selected Calvary Christian Academy in Fort Worth as the venue for the event, despite concerns that holding an (albeit superfluous) government ceremony in a religious facility strayed dangerously close to violating the separation between church and state. Also invited to the ceremony was former Louisiana State Rep. Tony Perkins, president of another group on the SPLC’s list, the Family Research Council.

—  admin

Time to raise hell over Perry’s decision to partner with anti-gay hate group for ‘day of prayer’

HARDY HABERMAN  |  Dungeon Diary

So if our governor participated in a Ku Klux Klan rally most Texans, (I said “most”) would be outraged. A call for his resignation would ring so loudly the state Capital dome would shatter. Why? Well the KKK is a hate group plain and simple.

So where is the outrage that our governor plans to participate in a “day of prayer” with another recognized hate group, the AFA? The American Family Group has long been a bastion of anti-LGBT rhetoric and is now recognized for what it is, a “hate group” by the SPLC. This is the same organization who tracks other hate groups like the skinheads and KKK throughout the nation. The AFA and its activities fall well within the definition of a hate group and as such our governor should have nothing to do with them. Instead Rick Perry is touting his participation in a “day of prayer and fasting”.

I sincerely believe we need to be vocal in disapproving this outrageous action by our state’s governor. The AFA has a history of defaming LGBT Americans as well as Jews, Muslims and other minorities. Start writing those letters!

—  admin

Westboro Baptist to picket Gov. Perry’s day of prayer, sponsored by fellow anti-gay hate group

Margie Phelps, the daughter of Fred Phelps, reports on Twitter tonight that Westboro Baptist Church will picket Gov. Rick Perry’s “The Response” — a day of prayer and fasting set for Aug. 6 at Reliant Stadium in Houston. The Response is of course sponsored by the American Family Association, designated as an anti-gay hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center. Westboro Baptist is also listed as an anti-gay hate group by the SPC. So it’s pretty clear that Perry will have to do a better job of uniting homophobic bigots — and build a bigger tent of hate — if he wants to win the GOP presidential nomination.

—  John Wright

What’s Brewing: FW officials briefed on LGBT progress; GLAAD rips Houston’s Fox affiliate

Jon Nelson

Your weekday morning blend from Instant Tea:

1. Fort Worth officials received a briefing Tuesday on progress the city has made in addressing the concerns of the LGBT community in the nearly two years since the Rainbow Lounge raid. According to the Star-Telegram, the city has implemented 19 of 20 recommendations made by an LGBT task force formed after the raid. The only recommendation left outstanding is that the city provide health insurance to cover the cost of sex reassignment surgery for transgender employees. Other ongoing concerns include some apparent resistance to diversity training among police and firefighters, as well as the question of whether the city should subsidize domestic partner benefits. But overall, everyone seems pleased with the progress. “I think there is no city, because I’ve looked, in the United States which has done more in less time on these issues than the city of Fort Worth,” said Jon Nelson, a member of the task force and a leader of Fairness Fort Worth.

2. A Texas House committee is expected to take up a bill this morning that would allow same-sex parents to put both their names on the birth certificate of an adopted child. HB 415, by Rep. Rafael Anchia, D-Dallas, would resolve an issue in Texas that’s been the subject of a high-profile lawsuit in Louisiana, where a federal appeals court recently ruled against a same-sex couple in a case that could go to the U.S. Supreme Court. Meanwhile, the full House could give final approval today to an anti-bullying bill that’s become Equality Texas’ top priority in this year’s legislative session. HB 1942, by Rep. Diane Patrick, R-Arlington, would then go to the Senate for consideration.

3. GLAAD is calling on Houston’s Fox affiliate (KRIV-26) to apologize for a segment that aired last week called, “Is TV too gay?” which criticized Glee‘s portrayal of gay teens. The segment aired the same night as a Glee‘s “Born This Way” episode and featured Bryan Fischer of the American Family Association, which has been certified as a hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center. Watch the full segment below. To sign GLAAD’s petition, go here.

 

—  John Wright

Memorial tree for gay suicide victim Zack Harrington to be planted in Norman, Okla. park

Zack Harrington

The father of Zack Harrington, the gay teen who took his own life after listening to homophobic comments at a Norman, Okla. city council meeting last year, says his family plans to plan a tree in his memory at a city park.

Zack Harrington’s death served as the inspiration for gay Fort Worth Councilman Joel Burns’ “It Gets Better” speech.

Zack’s father, Van Harrington, said the family plans to plant the Oklahoma White Bud on April 29, which would have been Zack’s 20th birthday.

“We now have site approval and digging permit for planting of Zack’s tree,” Van Harrington said in an email this morning.

They’ve also ordered a memorial bench from the Norman Park Service that will be placed there at a later date.

Van Harrington said a documentary film is being produced about Zack’s life by Still Point Pictures, a New York company. They’ll be back in July for more filming, he said.

Also, Lecia Brooks from the Southern Poverty Law Center recently brought the film Bullied to Norman for two separate showings in Zack’s name.

“Hopefully these interests in Zack’s life will make a difference for others,” he said. “I know it helps me.”

—  David Taffet