BREAKING: Fort Worth city attorney drops charges against Rainbow Lounge patrons

This photo, taken by Chuck Potter inside Rainbow Lounge on June 28, 2009, is believed to show TABC agents arresting Chad Gibson

A spokesman in the office of Fort Worth Mayor Mike Moncrief has just confirmed reports we received earlier this morning that the city attorney’s office has dropped all charges against Chad Gibson and George Armstrong in connection with the June 28, 2009 raid on the Rainbow Lounge.

The spokesman said the city would release a statement later this afternoon, so watch Instant Tea for updates.

Gibson was hospitalized for a head injury he incurred during the raid, although questions remain about whether Gibson was injured when an agent with the Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission slammed him against a wall in the club and then threw him to the floor, or when Gibson fell on the sidewalk outside while he was handcuffed.

Armstrong, who said he suffered severe bruising and a muscle strain when police arrested him, was charged with misdemeanor public intoxication.

Gibson was charged with misdemeanor public intoxication and misdemeanor assault on a law enforcement officer after TABC Agent Chris Aller said Gibson groped him while he was attempting to arrest Gibson. However, Aller and the second TABC agent involved in the raid, as well as their supervising sergeant, were fired after TABC officials conducted an internal investigation and determined that the agents should not have raided the bar in the first place.

An internal investigation conducted by the Fort Worth Police Department also indicated that FWPD officers involved in the raid had violated procedures, and three officers were suspended for a total of five days as a result.

Adam Seidel, attorney for both Gibson and Armstrong, said he had received a notice from the court earlier this week that Gibson’s case had been set for jury trial on Dec. 7. Shortly afterward, however, he was notified by the court clerk that the charges had been dismissed.

“I am glad they did the right thing and dropped their charges against these two victims. It shows a commitment to move forward,” Seidel said.

Gibson suffered bleeding in his brain and is still receiving treatment for his injuries, according to Tom Anable, president of Fairness Fort Worth.

FFW was formed in the wake of the raid initially to help witnesses give testimony for both FWPD’s and TABC’s internal investigations. The organization has since become more formally organized and has been directly involved in negotiations with city officials that played a role in the vote to add protections for transgenders to the city’s nondiscrimination policy and in the recent vote to offer partner benefits to the city’s LGBT employees.

Anable said Thursday that Fairness Fort Worth is pleased with the city’s decision to drop the charges against Gibson and Armstrong.

“I think they finally just realized that the facts of the case didn’t support the charges,” Anable said. “I think this is a real positive step forward. It’s a show of good faith as we continue to resolve the issues related to the incident at the Rainbow Lounge.”

—  admin

‘Come see history being made’

LGBT advocates are encouraging people to attend this Thursday’s DISD board of trustees meeting, where a final vote is expected on an LGBT-inclusive bullying policy.

“Come see history being made,” said Rafael McDonnell, a spokesman for Resource Center Dallas. “We would certainly like to see a packed crowd of people supporting the policy. You can stop by on your way home.”

The meeting is at 5:30 p.m. in the Ada L. Williams Auditorium at 3700 Ross Ave. in Dallas.

If the measure is approved, the district will become the first in the state to adopt an LGBT-inclusive bullying policy.

McDonnell said RCD Executive Director Cece Cox is slated to address the board of trustees prior to the vote. The center was also working to line up DISD students to speak.

None of the school district’s nine trustees objected to the proposed policy when it was first discussed in a work session two weeks ago, but McDonnell said he’s not taking anything for granted.

To read the policy, go here.

—  John Wright

Pentagon spokesman Geoff Morrell yet again goes soft on DADT repeal, contradicts President

Typical. He refuses to urge Congress to pass the compromise DADT legislation, and even worse, he yet again seemed to suggest that the DOD study of DADT implementation is somehow geared as well towards whether we should repeal DADT.

Watch the video, he gets asked why DOD is urging Congress to pass the START treaty but not urging Congress to pass the DADT legislation. The President says he wants the DADT compromise passed during the lame duck session, why can’t the Pentagon?

Even after we lose an election the President still can’t find the backbone to get the Pentagon in line.




AMERICAblog Gay

—  admin

Trustee says DISD administration resisting protections for gay students in bullying policy

Bernadette Nutall

The Dallas Independent School District’s administration is reportedly resisting an effort to include specific protections for LGBT students in a new bullying policy, setting up a possible showdown over the issue during Thursday’s board of trustees meeting.

DISD trustee Bernadette Nutall told Instant Tea on Wednesday that the district’s attorneys are objecting to her proposal to list categories of protected students in the bullying policy, because they say it could open up the district up to lawsuits from those who are left out.

Nutall said she submitted a fully inclusive policy that includes both sexual orientation and gender identity/expression to the administration on Tuesday, Nov. 2. However, the administration has posted a noninclusive version of the policy that doesn’t list any categories of protected students on Thursday’s agenda.

Nuttall encouraged people in the LGBT community to attend the board meeting and speak in support of the substitute policy she’s proposing along with Trustee Lew Blackburn. Those who wish to speak at the meeting must sign up by calling 972-925-3720 before 5 p.m. Wednesday. The meeting will be at 11:30 a.m. Thursday in the board room at district offices, 3700 Ross Ave. in Dallas.

“I don’t know why they don’t want to put it in there,” Nutall said. “I was very frustrated. I really don’t understand the resistance. I’m thinking it’s a no-brainer, but I’m finding out that it’s not. … The community needs to drive this policy.”

A DISD spokeswoman said the board of trustees will discuss the proposed bullying policy on Thursday but will not take a final vote.

“They will be talking about the policy that you see [on the agenda], and they can add or change the language as they see fit,” the spokeswoman said. “Tomorrow’s briefing will kind of determine what direction this is going to take and what additional language, if any, they want to see.”

Rafael McDonnell, a spokesman for Resource Center Dallas, said Wednesday that at least three LGBT leaders, including himself, plan to speak at Thursday’s meeting. The others are Jesse Garcia, president of the LULAC Rainbow Council, and Roger Poindexter, the new director for Lambda Legal’s South Central Region.

McDonnell said he’ll request that the board of trustees delay consideration of the bullying policy until it can further discussed.

“Even if people don’t want to speak, I think we need to pack the chambers,” McDonnell said, noting that many other school districts around the nation have adopted fully inclusive bullying policies without objections from attorneys. “Clearly there are other legal minds who come to a different answer.”

—  John Wright

Is DISD refusing to protect gay kids from bullying?

We’ve been told repeatedly in recent weeks that DISD’s board of trustees planned to put off a vote on a new bullying policy until officials could further discuss whether it should enumerate specific categories of students who would be protected, including those who are targeted based on sexual orientation and gender identity.

So it comes as quite a surprise that this Thursday’s board agenda includes an item calling for approval, on second reading, of the same non-inclusive bullying policy that was initially proposed by the DISD administration. If you’ll recall, the non-inclusive policy prompted objections from LGBT groups, and at least two DISD trustees responded by saying they’d propose a substitute that enumerates specific protections.

We’ve got calls in to district spokesman Jon Dahlander, as well as trustees Bernadette Nutall and Lew Blackburn, to find out what’s going on. But for the record, Rafael McDonnell at Resource Center Dallas is concerned:

“We’re disappointed,” he said. “Based on the conversations with several board members, this proposed policy doesn’t reflect the information we gave them and how they responded to us.”

McDonnell notes that the only apparent change in the proposed policy since it was first introduced is the addition of the following paragraph at the very top:

—  John Wright

Another DISD trustee comes out in support of a bullying policy that protects gay, transgender kids

Bernadette Nutall

A second Dallas Independent School District trustee spoke out publicly this week in support of a bullying policy that provides specific protections for gay and transgender students.

Trustee Bernadette Nutall, who represents District 9, said she’s asked DISD staff to draft a proposed policy that protects as many categories of students as possible, including those who may be bullied on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity/expression.

Nutall joins trustee Lew Blackburn among those who’ve publicly stated their support for an LGBT-inclusive bullying policy.

The district has been considering a new bullying policy, but as originally drafted by the DISD administration, the proposal didn’t include specific categories of students that would be protected.

Jon Dahlander, a spokesman for the district, suggested last week that a new bullying policy isn’t necessary because DISD already has an anti-harassment policy that includes sexual orientation.

But Nutall disagreed.

“Harassment is bullying, but how many kids come home and say, ‘Mom, I was harassed today’?” Nutall told Instant Tea on Wednesday, Oct. 27. “Can’t we just keep it simple?

“I think we need to be very clear, if you mistreat someone because they are different or because they’re not like you, there are consequences for your actions,” Nutall said.

Nutall said she was bullied as a child and currently has a daughter in middle school in the district. She also said she’s a devout Baptist but believes people need to set aside their personal beliefs.

“Ultimately you have to protect all people whether you agree with them or not,” Nutall said. “It’s not about that, it’s about you have the right to be who you are.”

Nutall said she’s forwarded to district staff copies of policies from places like Broward County, Fla., and Philadelphia that include sexual orientation and gender identity/expression.

Despite likely opposition from the religious right, which is fighting LGBT-inclusive bullying policies nationally, Nutall is confident her proposal will receive support from a majority of the nine-member DISD board when the policy comes back up for a vote, which is expected to be sometime in November.

“I think I have the five votes,” Nutall said. “I do believe it’s going to pass without a problem.”

LGBT advocates have encouraged people in the community to contact their trustees and urge them to support a fully inclusive police. Contact info for trustees is listed on the DISD website.

—  John Wright

GLBT History Month’s 1st icon is gay ex-Marine from Texas who lost leg in Iraq war

For the fifth consecutive year, the Equality Forum presents GLBT icons for each day of October, to mark GLBT History Month. And this year’s first icon is Texas’ own Eric Alva of San Antonio, who was the first casualty of the Iraq war. Alva, a Marine staff sergeant, lost his leg when he stepped on a land mine three hours into the ground invasion in 2003. But it wasn’t until after Alva returned home — and had been visited by President George W. Bush in the hospital and appeared on “Oprah” — that he came out as gay and become a spokesman for the repeal of “don’t ask don’t tell.” From our story on Alva in April 2007:

He says it wasn’t until one night last fall that it came to him. He had always wanted to help people, but wasn’t sure how.

“I would always talk about it, but it was more words just coming out of my mouth because I never did anything about it,” he says.

After Alva’s partner, whom he met after returning from Iraq, pleaded with him to do something before his notoriety wore off, Alva decided to e-mail HRC.

“I said, ‘I don’t know how I may help you, but the story is I am a gay Marine,’” Alva recalls.

A few days later, HRC returned his call. Then, after U.S. Rep. Marty Meehan, D-Mass., announced plans to reintroduce the Military Readiness Enhancement Act, which would repeal “Don’t ask, don’t tell,” they called again.

“They called and said, “‘Eric, we need you now,’” Alva says. “I knew that what I was about to do was a huge sacrifice on my part. But I needed to tell people that this is the way the country should be.”

Of course, more than three years later, “don’t ask don’t tell” remains in place. So perhaps it’s fitting that Alva is the first icon of this year’s GLBT History Month. We haven’t heard much from him lately, but according to the Equality Federation, he’s working on his master’s degree in social work.

—  John Wright

Is Greg Abbott going to sit idly by while a federal court throws out Texas’ gay marriage ban?

Greg Abbott

Ten states have submitted a brief opposing same-sex marriage to the federal appeals court that will decide whether California’s Proposition 8 violates the U.S. Constitution, The Associated Press reports. But guess what? Texas isn’t one of them.

Anti-gay Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott, who’s fought to prevent Texas courts from recognizing same-sex marriage even for the limited purpose of divorce, has failed to get involved in a case that could ultimately result in the state’s marriage ban being thrown out:

Former Utah Sen. Scott McCoy, the first openly gay state senator, said Saturday he is not surprised Utah signed on to the opposition brief. If the California ruling against Proposition 8 is upheld, it would follow that Utah’s Amendment 3, which defines marriage as a union exclusively between a man and a woman, is unconstitutional, he said.

Abbott’s failure to get involved is even more surprising given that the brief filed Friday specifically argues that states, and not federal courts, should determine whether to allow same-sex marriage. As you may know, Abbott is all about states’ rights and protecting us from Washington and the evil federal government. So what gives?

We’ve contacted spokesman Jerry Strickland to find out why the Texas AG’s office has chosen to sit this one out, but thus far no response. Stay tuned.

—  John Wright

UPDATED: Man robbed at gunpoint just 1 block from strip; suspects make off with $500 in cash

Between the shooting of Doug Tull and another holdup last week on Travis Street, it sure seems as though there’s been a rash of gun-involved robberies targeting gay bar patrons of late.

The most recent robbery occurred at 10:15 p.m. Friday at 4000 Dickason Ave., which is at the intersection of Reagan Street, just one block from the Cedar Springs strip.

The suspects pointed a gun at the 21-year-old white male victim and demanded his property, before making off with $500 in cash and a cell phone valued at $500, according to police reports.

Sr. Cpl. Kevin Janse, a spokesman for the Dallas Police Department, said Tuesday that no arrests have been made in the case. The suspects are described as two Latin males in their 20s, Janse said. One is about 5 feet, 8 inches tall and was wearing a white shirt at the time of the robbery.

“There is no evidence that links this to any other robberies in the area,” Janse said.

UPDATE: The victim, who asked not to be identified, said he had walked around the corner from JR.’s  to retrieve his keys from a friend’s car that was parked on Dickason Avenue. He said he was leaning into the car when the two suspects came out of nowhere and put a gun to his head.

“I was thinking, ‘Oh my God, are they going to shoot me? Is this a hate crime or am I about to get mugged?’” he said. “I had no idea what was going on. It was the quickest thing ever, but I’ve never been more scared in my life.”

The victim, who’s gay, said he thinks bars in the area need to do a better job of making it safe.

“I really feel like the bars need to step up their game,” he said. “They need to invest in the people who spend the money, and they need to protect them.”

As he was running back to JR’s, the victim said he saw one of the suspects fleeing behind Woody’s and notified a security guard. “The security guard wouldn’t do anything. He told me I needed to chill out.”

The victim said he was carrying a large amount of cash because he was in a fender bender earlier in the day and had been unable to go to the bank.

“I was alone. It was stupid,” he said, adding that the suspects must have thought they hit the lottery. “I would never even think that that area would be a safety issue.”

The victim said he doesn’t plan to go back to the area anytime soon.

“You just have to be careful, especially with the whole gay Pride thing coming up,” he said. “It’s just scary. I don’t even know how it happened. It’s kind of like a dream, a bad, bad dream — a nightmare.”

—  John Wright

Coming to the site of Elliott’s Hardware … Kroger?

Ever since Elliott’s Hardware announced in June that it’s selling its flagship store on Maple Avenue in Oak Lawn, many have been wondering what will replace it. Well, The Dallas Morning News reports today that Kroger is eyeing the property: 

“We’re doing due diligence on the site,” said Gary Huddleston, Texas spokesman for the nation’s largest traditional supermarket chain. A decision is expected by late next week.

Huddleston said Kroger is “bullish on the city of Dallas” and investing in an extensive remodel of its Cedar Springs store that should be done in October.

Hey, at least it’s not Target!

—  John Wright