PHOTOS: Response to ‘The Response’ begins

Riki Miller, Zombie McZee and Britney Miranda.

The responses to “The Response” are under way in Houston. First out of the gate was Friday night’s LGBT Texans Against Hate Rally.  Despite temperatures that had barely come down from the triple digits, Houstonians thronged to Tranquility Park in downtown. Beyond commenting on the temperature, the common theme of most of the speakers was that the American Family Association and Gov. Perry’s rally is not representative of Houston and is not welcomed.

Robert Shipman, president of the Houston Stonewall Young Democrats, said: “I kinda think Rick Perry chose the wrong city!”

He continued “They are the bigots, we are not … we are Houston.”

“I guess we should take comfort in the fact that, except for some of his staffers, [Gov. Perry] couldn’t find enough homegrown bigotry in the state of Texas to put on the event himself,” said Mike Craig, co-chair of Out & Equal Houston. “He had to bus them in from Tupulo, Miss., and Colorado Springs, Colo.” Craig was referring to American Family Association (based in Tupulo) and Focus on the Family (based in Colorado Springs), both co-sponsors of “The Response.”

State Rep.  Garnet Coleman, D-Houston, provided the closing address. He criticized Gov. Perry for using divisive religious rhetoric for political gain. “Being here today I’m proud that we are fighting back against a narrow, theocratic view of the world that we live in and of our country that says that people are not welcomed — that says that people are bad because of who they are. That is not America,” said Coleman. “That is what is dividing our city, our state and our country.”

Stay tuned to Instant Tea for more coverage of the LGBT community’s response to “The Response.” More photos from the LGBT Texans Against Hate Rally below (click to enlarge):

—  admin

Texas Senate didn’t take up transgender marriage ban today — but may take it up on Tuesday

The Texas Senate adjourned today without taking up SB 723, the bill by Sen. Tommy Williams, R-The Woodlands, that could prevent transgender people from marrying people of the opposite sex in Texas.

SB 723, apparently prompted by the Nikki Araguz case, would remove a “court order of sex change” from the list of identifying documents that can be used to obtain marriage licenses in Texas. And while transgender people could still theoretically use their driver’s licenses to obtain marriage licenses, advocates say the “legislative intent” of Williams’ bill would allow courts to declare those marriages invalid. Moreover, they say the bill could effectively lead to the state refusing to recognize the existence of transgender people for any purpose.

“If SB 723 gets a favorable vote it will enshrine Littleton vs Prange (1999) logic — you are what the doctor put on your birth certificate — into Texas State law,” writes Meghan Stabler, a transgender woman from Round Rock who serves on the Board of Directors for the Human Rights Campaign. “This will lay the foundation for the State of Texas to cease to recognize the transitioned status of transgender people.”

The bill was on the Senate’s intent calendar for today, meaning it could have come up for a vote if two-thirds of the Senate agreed to consider it. While the Senate didn’t get to the bill today, it remains on the intent calendar, and advocates are continuing to ask people to call Democratic senators and ask them to vote against SB 723. Republicans are one vote short of a two-thirds majority in the Senate, meaning if no Democrats vote to take up the bill it will die.

Contact info for Democratic senators is after the jump.

—  John Wright

Hearing today on bill aimed at preventing transgender people in Texas from marrying

dead firefighter's transgender wife
Nikki Araguz

A bill that would prevent some transgender people in Texas from obtaining marriage licenses will be heard by a Senate committee this afternoon.

The bill is an apparent response to the case of Nikki Araguz, the transgender widow from Wharton County. Araguz was sued by the family of her husband, a firefighter who was killed in the line of duty, to prevent her from obtaining death benefits.

Senate Bill 723, by Sen. Tommy Williams, R-The Woodlands, would remove a court order of sex change from the list of identifitying documents that can be presented to obtain marriage licenses in Texas.

The Transgender Education Network of Texas sent out an alert this morning asking people to call the members of the Senate Committee on Jurisprudence and urge them to kill the bill in committee. The committee members can be reached at 512-463-4630. The hearing begins at 1:30 p.m. and can be viewed live here. Here are instructions for calling from TENT:

IDENTIFY: yourself by name, any organization you represent, and town from which you are calling
EXPLAIN: “I am calling to oppose Senate Bill: SB 723 as it is an injustice to trans identified people in the state of Texas” Be polite and concise, concentrate on 1 or 2 talking points you wish to make.
REQUEST: A written response to your phone call.
THANK: the person who took the phone call for their time and consideration.
Repeat for each member of the committee
In the Austin area: Go by the Senate Committee on Jurisprudence meeting on Tuesday, March 22, 2011 at 1:30 pm room 2E.20 (Betty King Cmte. Rm.) of the Capitol and submit a testimony card AGAINST SB 723.

 

—  John Wright

Stonewall Dems of Dallas responds to Ramos

Omar Narvaez, president of Stonewall Democrats of Dallas, sent over the below resolution responding to recent statements by Bexar County Democratic Party Chairman Dan Ramos, who last week compared gays to “termites” and Stonewall to the “Nazi Party.” As we noted this morning, Ramos followed up with another anti-gay rant in which he said being gay is “not natural” and compared it to being born with a polio leg. Narvaez said the resolution was approved unanimously by Stonewall’s members at Tuesday night’s meeting:

Whereas, the Texas Democratic Party Platform supports action against all forms of discrimination and specifically calls for the repeal of discriminatory laws and policies against members of the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community; and

Whereas, the honor of serving as County Chair in the Democratic Party in the State of Texas is accompanied by the solemn responsibility to uphold the rights and freedoms guaranteed by the Constitution without equivocation; and

Whereas, the Bexar County Democratic Chair Dan Ramos has gone on record describing the gay-rights movement as “very sinister”, the Stonewall Democrats as “termites” that “managed to get their people in key positions” in the Bexar County Democratic Party, and other reprehensible characterizations; and

Whereas, the unanimously elected Texas Democratic Party Chair Boyd Richie and many Dallas County Democratic Party officials have publicly called upon Bexar County Democratic Chair Dan Ramos to apologize or resign to no effect; and

Whereas, it is incumbent upon us as both Democrats and staunch defenders of equality for all people under the law including the LGBT community; therefore be it

Resolved, that the Stonewall Democrats of Dallas County join the chorus of voices from San Antonio, Rio Grande Valley, Houston, Austin and elsewhere in this great state of Texas to call for the resignation of Dan Ramos as Bexar County Democratic Party Chair.

—  John Wright

Coleman files bill to repeal Texas’ marriage ban

Rep. Garnet Coleman

State Rep. Garnet Coleman, D-Houston, has filed a joint resolution that would repeal the state’s constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage. Coleman has filed a similar resolution in each session since the constitutional amendment was placed on the ballot by the Legislature in 2005.

In order to pass, the resolution would need a two-thirds majority vote in both the House and Senate. Needless to say, this isn’t going to happen, but hey, you’ve gotta start somewhere. If Coleman’s resolution were to pass, repeal of the amendment would still need to be approved by a simple majority of voters and would appear on the ballot in November 2011.

Unfortunately, a repeal of the constitutional amendment is necessary before Texas can grant same-sex couples any form of relationship recognition, including civil unions or domestic partnerships. That’s because the broadly worded amendment prohibits the state or a political subdivision from creating or recognizing any legal status identical or similar to marriage.

The full text of Coleman’s H.J.R. 102 is after the jump.

—  John Wright

Equality Texas is looking for a few good board members, especially from places like Dallas

Last week we told you that in the face of staffing cuts, Equality Texas plans to rely heavily on active, volunteer board members to assist with lobbying duties during the state legislative session that began today.

Well, it turns out that the group is also looking for a few additional board members, and particularly people of color from Dallas, El Paso, Lubbock and Corpus Christi. An ad posted Monday on SmartBrief Jobs notes that Equality Texas board members serve a maximum of three two-year terms and have a fundraising requirement of $7,500 in 2011, which will increase to $10,000 in 2012:

This is a challenging opportunity with an emerging organization dedicated to the most compelling civil rights issue of our time. It may appeal to a younger person whose career would be enhanced by association with a high profile organization that can effect social change, as well as by the opportunity for building relationships with other business and civic leaders who serve as Directors. Alternatively, this might appeal to a more senior executive who has a strong personal conviction about the importance of addressing these issues in the state of Texas.

To read the full ad or apply, go here.

—  John Wright

Have a heavy metal holiday with Halford at House of Blues

Judas Priest frontman Rob Halford makes one stop in Dallas

Last year, some of us (OK, one of us) were excited about Rob Halford’s eponymous-named band releasing a holiday album. Metal and Christmas? And with the lead singer from Judas Priest? It was gonna be awesome. But since then, Halford has released the album, Made for Metal, and the tour makes one stop in the whole state of Texas — and it’s here. The band stops at House of Blues tonight with Philm supporting. We’re hoping since it is December, the gay metal icon will whip out some Christmas carols as only he can. At the very least, we know he should be rocking the leather daddy look. We’re hoping anyway.

DEETS: House of Blues, 2200 N. Lamar St. 8 p.m. $20–$35. HouseOfBlues.com.

—  Rich Lopez

Gay couple files complaint against Dallas Morning News for not printing wedding announcement

Mark Reed-Walkup, left, and Dante Walkup

Paper’s CEO says policy based on state’s ban on same-sex marriage

John Wright  |  Online Editor
wright@dallasvoice.com

A gay couple has filed a discrimination complaint against The Dallas Morning News for refusing to publish their same-sex wedding announcement.

Mark Reed-Walkup and Dante Walkup, who were legally married in Washington, D.C., in October, filed the complaint on Friday, Nov. 19. The couple’s wedding has made international news in recent weeks because it was held in Dallas but officiated from D.C via teleconference.

Reed- Walkup, a board member for the national LGBT direct action group GetEQUAL, said he’s been trying for several weeks to get The Morning News to publish their paid announcement in its “Weddings” section.

But the newspaper has refused because of a policy that says same-sex wedding announcements can only be published in a separate section called “Commitments.” The policy is based on the fact that same-sex marriage isn’t legally recognized by the state of Texas.

The couple filed the complaint under a 2002 city ordinance that prohibits discrimination based on sexual orientation in employment, housing and public accommodations. Reed-Walkup says he believes wedding announcements, which are paid advertisements, are a public accommodation.

“Our ultimate goal is for the newspaper to realize that this is discrimination and change their policy,” Reed-Walkup said. “They [the city] may agree with the newspaper that because of the ban on same-sex marriage in Texas, they have every justification to not publish it in the ‘Weddings’ section. At least we can say that we tried, and take it from there.”

James M. Moroney III, publisher and CEO of The Morning News, said he didn’t want to discuss specifics of the complaint because he had not seen a copy of it.

Moroney said The DMN’s policy was enacted several years ago as a way to allow same-sex couples to announce things like civil unions. As more states have legalized same-sex marriage, the newspaper has started to receive requests to publish the announcements as weddings.

“We’ve just so far said that we’re thinking about it,” Moroney said.  “Certainly if the state of Texas recognized the marriage of same-sex couples, we would put it in the paper. … This is the community and state we represent and live in, and we’re dealing with that.”

Moroney added that it’s not “a closed subject” and stressed that he believes the Morning News does a good job of reporting on LGBT issues.

“What troubles me a little bit is that some folks jump to this next level and say the newspaper is homophobic,” he said. “That really is an unfair accusation if they would only take the time to read the paper every day.”

Beverly Davis, director of the city’s Fair Housing Office, confirmed this week that her office received the couple’s complaint and is reviewing it. The Fair Housing Office investigates complaints under the ordinance before turning them over to the City Attorney’s Office for possible prosecution. Each violation of the ordinance is punishable by a $500 fine.

“We’re having to consult with our attorney’s office on whether or not we have jurisdiction in this particular case,” Davis said. “Whenever we get a complaint, we go the extra mile to examine it. I imagine it will probably be next week sometime before I have a decision.”

In addition to the question of whether wedding announcements are a public accommodation, Davis noted that the ordinance doesn’t prohibit discrimination based on “marital status.”

The city once dismissed a complaint against a landlord who refused to allow a lesbian couple to live together in his apartment complex. The city determined that the landlord had not violated the ordinance because the policy was based on “marital status” and not sexual orientation.

But Ken Upton, a senior staff attorney at Lambda Legal in Dallas, said that because Texas doesn’t recognize same-sex marriage, sexual orientation and marital status are effectively the same.

“That’s really an old dodge to try to avoid the real issue,” Upton said.

Upton said he believes wedding announcements are public accommodations, because they’re paid commercial advertisements offered as a service. He also said it’s ironic that someone’s wedding announcement wouldn’t be published based on marital status.

Texas’ ban on same-sex marriage in no way prohibits the newspaper from publishing the announcement, Upton said. And he questioned whether the Morning News investigates announcements of heterosexual marriages performed outside the state to confirm that they’re legally recognized in Texas.

“Just because the state of Texas doesn’t recognize it doesn’t mean they’re not married,” Upton said.

Gay Couple’s Complaint Against DMN

—  John Wright

WATCH: N. Dallas High School bars transgender girl from running for homecoming queen

A male-to-female transgender student at North Dallas High School says the school’s principal is discriminating against her by barring her from running for homecoming queen, according to a report that aired Wednesday night on Fox 4.

Andy Moreno, an 18-year-old senior, told the station that some friends nominated her for homecoming queen. However, a few days ago, a counselor warned Moreno that some school administrators were opposed to the idea. Moreno says she went to talk to the principal, who told her to run for homecoming king instead.

The Dallas Independent School District says it has no formal policy on the issue, but DISD issued a statement saying: “The district fully supports the decision of the principal at North Dallas High School. It should be noted that the Dallas Independent School District is proud to have one of the most aggressive anti-harassment policies among school districts in the state of Texas.”

Moreno says she doesn’t feel comfortable running for homecoming king because she identifies as a female, and her friends support her.

“I do feel like I’m being harassed and I feel like I’m being discriminated against,” Moreno told Fox 4. “I feel like the principal is embarrassed to have a transgender queen.”

Stay tuned to Instant Tea and Dallas Voice for more on the story.

—  John Wright

Online Extra: St. Vincent’s dean defends decision to reject lesbian couple’s daughter

Ryan Reed

In this week’s print edition you’ll find a full story on the lesbian couple from Bedford whose 4-year-old daughter was recently denied admission to a local preschool, St. Vincent’s Cathedral School, because she has two mommies. We also wanted to share the full text of responses to our questions that we received via e-mail from Ryan Reed, the dean of St. Vincent’s. Here they are:

DV: Why was Olivia Harrison denied admission to St. Vincent?
Dean Ryan Reed: When we met with Jill and learned of her family situation, we told her that the values taught at the school were in conflict with those at home. We thought this might put Olivia in a very conflicted situation to which Jill agreed. We don’t dispute God’s love for this family just that one of the basic Christian values that we subscribe to is sexual activity inside a faithful, lifelong relationship between a husband and wife. As best we could ascertain, this was not something that Jill was in agreement about.

DV: Why did the school fail to notice in more than two months that Jill Harrison had crossed out father and put mother on the application, and written in the name of her wife, Tracy Harrison?
Reed: When the admissions officer saw the changes on the application, she made 4 or 5 phone calls and sent at least one email asking for clarification, none of which were returned. We don’t have documentation of the phone calls but we do for the email.

DV: Why is the school continuing to use the name Episcopal even though it is no longer affiliated with the Episcopal Church USA?
Reed: This is obviously the confusing issue but far less emotional then having to say this family would not be a good fit. St. Vincent’s is part of the Episcopal Diocese of Fort, which is a corporation in the state of Texas run by a board of trustees. This diocese and this corporation voted to withdraw our voluntary association with the Episcopal Church USA and associate with a different province of the Anglican Communion (of which TEC is but one) but that did not change the fact that this is an Episcopal Diocese, governed by a Bishop using the Book of Common Prayer. This messy issue is what is at dispute in the Texas Court System right now. TEC does not own the term Episcopal. There is in this country the Charismatic Episcopal Church for example or in other places the Scottish Episcopal Church. In conversation, I refer to myself as an Anglican but until the lawsuit is settled we are still the Episcopal Diocese of Fort Worth, “province of the Southern Cone” (which is part of South America).

DV: Is it true that St. Vincent would allow Olivia Harrison to attend the school if she were a single, unmarried lesbian?
Reed: Yes. Our handbook asks our parents and requires our staff to abide by basic Christian values. That means abstinence or sexual activity confined to marriage. We have been consistent with this policy in that an unmarried teacher became pregnant and was dismissed. Likewise, we turned away two men with a daughter two years ago, and like the Harrison’s, referred them to a school where they would be more comfortable and their relationship accepted. (They are doing quite well there by the way). We have banned a husband from the school who left his wife for another women. The child stayed with the mother in this case and was not asked to leave.

We are simply asking people to strive toward the traditional Christian teaching in matters of how we live our lives. We don’t follow people around if they are single and dating to make sure the date stops at the front door. We don’t monitor what husband and wives are doing. But if something becomes public, we try to handle it in a pastoral and private way. By nature, Jill and Tracey’s relationship is very public.

We recognize that every parent who comes here is by nature prone to sin. We simply ask that they attempt to live by basic Christian values. In this case, the Harrison’s relationship was by nature in opposition to this belief and it is by nature a requirement that they cannot meet.

DV: How do you justify punishing a 4-year-old girl for who her parents are?
Reed: Back to the first answer. Because this young girl would likely hear Christian teaching on marriage at St. Vincent’s as well as the struggle that we all have with sin, she might be put in a place where she questioned not only the values of her mother but her moral authority as well. Olivia would certainly find herself in conflict with most of classmates when it comes to this very tough subject. We would not want this to happen to Jill, Tracey, or Olivia. It seems far from punishment to me, in fact, it seems more loving to refer them to a school that can accommodate their family situation rather than put her in a situation where the moral legitimacy (and still in Texas the legal legitimacy) of her mom’s relationship is called into question.

One final thought: I am not the pastor of the school parents which ties my hands a little.  In the congregation, where I am pastor, we have a loving community of sinners who are all working through their walk with God. We have, and have had, gays and lesbians, both couples and singles. Without singling them out, they have been asked to wrestle alongside the rest of us with the fact that they are sinners in need of God’s forgiveness. Trying to conform our lives and our relationships with God’s will for us is done in a private and pastoral way.

—  John Wright