Stonewall Democrats to host watch party for SOTU, which will include 2 special lesbian guests

Ginger Wallace, left, and Lorelei Kilker

Stonewall Democrats of Dallas will host its second annual watch party at the Brick tonight during President Barack Obama’s State of the Union Address.

The Washington Blade reports that two lesbians are among those who’ve been invited to sit in first lady Michelle Obama’s gallery during the address. They are Lorelei Kilker, an analytical chemist from Colorado who was involved in a landmark sex discrimination case against her employer; and Air Force Col. Ginger Wallace, who’s training to deploy to Afghanistan and is the first service member to have a same-sex partner participate in a pinning-on promotion ceremony.

Others who’ll be sitting in the first lady’s gallery include San Antonio Mayor Julian Castro, who has served as grand marshal of the city’s gay Pride parade and who recently signed a pledge in support of same-sex marriage.

The Blade also takes a look at the question of whether Obama will endorse same-sex marriage — or otherwise mention LGBT issues — during his speech.

Stonewall’s watch party begins at 6:30 p.m. at the Brick, 2525 Wycliff, Suite 120.

Read the White House’s bios of Castro, Kilker and Wallace after the jump.

—  John Wright

Court refuses to suspend lawsuit challenging DADT

LISA LEFF  |  Associated Press

SAN FRANCISCO — A federal appeals court has denied the government’s request to suspend a lawsuit challenging the military’s ban on openly gay servicemembers.

The 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco issued an order Friday, Jan. 28 requiring the Department of Justice to file papers by Feb. 25 arguing why the court should overturn a Southern California trial judge who declared the “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy unconstitutional.

Government lawyers asked the 9th Circuit earlier this month to set aside the case because the Pentagon was moving quickly to satisfy the steps Congress outlined last month when it voted to allow the ban’s repeal. A Justice Department spokeswoman said it had no comment Saturday.

The appeals court did not explain in its order why it rejected the request. In his State of the Union address, President Barack Obama said he expected to finalize the repeal and allow openly gay Americans to join the armed forces before the end of the year.

On Friday, the vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff told reporters that the training of officers and troops the Pentagon has said is a predicate to full repeal would begin in February.

The Log Cabin Republicans, the gay political group whose lawsuit challenging “don’t ask, don’t tell” persuaded District Court Judge Virginia Phillips in September to enjoin the military from enforcing the policy, had opposed the government’s effort to put the case on hold.

R. Clarke Cooper, the group’s president, said Saturday that while he thinks the Pentagon’s efforts are sincere, the case should proceed as long as gay servicemembers still can be discharged.

“We said all along to the government we would drop our case if they would cease all discharges and remove all barriers to open service,” Cooper said.

Cooper, an Army reserve officer, said he knew of at least one service member facing a discharge hearing next month, even as the Pentagon moves forward with its training plan.

“We are not questioning the implementation process. We recognize the need for a deliberative process for implementing proper training materials and guidances for leadership,” he said. “But when you have a servicemember going before a discharge panel, this is kind of a ‘left hand-right hand’ thing that is happening.”

—  John Wright

Pentagon provides update on DADT repeal

Clifford Stanley

Few spousal benefits will be available to gay and lesbian servicemembers after the repeal of “don’t ask, don’t tell” is implemented, according to Defense Undersecretary Clifford Stanley and Gen. James Cartwright.

Stanley and Cartwright spoke at a press conference this afternoon on the progress of implementing the repeal of DADT.

In his State of the Union address this week, President Obama said, “Starting this year, no American will be forbidden from serving the country they love because of who they love.”

Stanley said the Pentagon is still working through the process of drafting new policies needed to implement DADT repeal.

Asked to pinpoint a timetable for implementing the repeal beyond “expeditiously” or “quickly,” neither Stanley nor Cartwright was specific.

However, Cartwright said, “Expeditiously is better than dragging this out,” citing the experience of other countries in allowing gays and lesbians to serve in their armed forces. Training, they agreed, should begin in February.

Stanley and Cartwright addressed chaplains — one of the largest and most vocal groups opposing the repeal of DADT — saying they practice their own faiths and no rules changes would be needed. The two officials did not address chaplains refusing to serve gay and lesbian troops.

—  David Taffet

Obama again mentions ‘don’t ask, don’t tell’ in State of the Union, but not gay marriage

HRC welcomes comments; GetEQUAL sees missed opportunity

LISA KEEN | Keen News Service

President Barack Obama once again brought up the issue of gays in the military during his annual State of the Union address. Last year, he called for repeal of the federal law barring openly gay people from serving. This year, just a month after having signed a bill to repeal that law, the president urged universities which have barred military recruiters over the gay ban now allow recruiters back on campus.

“Our troops come from every corner of this country — they are black, white, Latino, Asian and Native American. They are Christian and Hindu, Jewish and Muslim. And, yes, we know that some of them are gay. Starting this year, no American will be forbidden from serving the country they love because of who they love.”

That drew applause.

“And with that change,” continued Obama, “I call on all of our college campuses to open their doors to our military recruiters and the ROTC. It is time to leave behind the divisive battles of the past. It is time to move forward as one nation.”

That drew a brief standing ovation.

Human Rights Campaign President Joe Solmonese welcomed President Obama’s words concerning the repeal of “don’t ask don’t tell,” but added that “there remain a number of pressing issues for the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community when it comes to economic security.”

“The President and Congress can do much more to ensure the economic empowerment of LGBT people including ending the unfair taxation of partner health benefits, prohibiting workplace discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity, and ensuring that all married couples have access to the same federal benefits and protections for their families,” said Solmonese, in a statement released before the president delivered his address to Congress. “We look forward to working with this President and allies in Congress on the challenges ahead.”

But Robin McGehee, director of the activist group GetEQUAL, expressed disappointment.

“Tonight, President Obama missed an opportunity to lay out an agenda and strategy that continues progress made toward LGBT equality – removing the burden of being second-class citizens and acknowledging our families,” said McGehee, in a statement.

“Sadly, while national hero Daniel Hernandez sat with the First Lady to witness this historic speech, he did not have the luxury of sitting there as an equal – for that, our elected officials should be ashamed. It is time for the President to put the power of the White House behind the passage of legislation that would give the right of full federal equality to LGBT Americans. As a community, it is our promise and our obligation to continue the work of holding both the President and Congress accountable for the inalienable human rights, dignities, and freedoms we all deserve.”

He did not, as some LGBT activists had urged, set a new goal for Congress — repeal of the Defense of Marriage Act.

President Obama did include an openly gay man as one of his special guests in the House visitors’ gallery Tuesday night.

The man was Daniel Hernandez Jr., who was singled out by many news accounts as one of the heroes to take action during the Jan. 8 shooting of Rep. Gabrielle Giffords in Tucson. Hernandez, who was serving as an intern in Giffords’ Tucson office, rushed to her side and provided first aid that many have said saved the congresswoman’s life.

A number of Twitter messages from various people noted that Tuesday was also Hernandez’s 21st birthday. One Twitter message was from the account of Rep. Giffords, saying: “From the entire Giffords team: Happy 21st Birthday Daniel Hernandez! Sounds like you have fun plans tonight.”

CNN indicated it was the first Twitter message from Rep. Giffords’ account since she was critically injured in a shooting January 8. Giffords is still recovering from her wounds and is at a rehabilitation hospital in Houston.

Cameras scanning the gallery showed Hernandez early during the broadcast of the State of the Union. But Hernandez appeared to be standing near the back of the gallery, not seated near First Lady Michelle Obama, as expected.

In response to concerns about the hostile political environment, many members of Congress eschewed the usual seating arrangement of Republicans on one side and Democrats on the other, and sat together.

Three of the nine U.S. Supreme Court justices chose not to take seats at all and did not attend the State of the Union address. They were the three most conservative — Justices Antonin Scalia, Sam Alito, and Clarence Thomas.

© 2011 by Keen News Service. All rights reserved.

—  John Wright

What’s Brewing: Daniel Hernandez, Fort Worth Episcopal diocese; marriage battles intensify

1. In a victory for LGBT-affirming Episcopalians, a conservative Fort Worth group that left the church over its acceptance of gays has been ordered to surrender the property it tried to steal from the six-county diocese. A state district judge on Friday ordered the group to turn over the property — which includes 55 parishes and missions as well as several schools — within 60 days. The group says it plans to appeal the decision, but hopefully this ruling will mean schools like St. Vincent’s can no longer discriminate against 4-year-olds like Olivia Harrison (above) who happen to have lesbian parents.

2. Daniel Hernandez Jr., the gay intern credited with saving the life of Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords, will sit next to first lady Michelle Obama during Tuesday’s State of the Union address. Tuesday also happens to be Hernandez’s 21st birthday.

3. Battles over same-sex marriage are intensifying in Maryland, Wyoming and Iowa.

—  John Wright

If Obama fails to mention us in the SOTU, at least you can drown your sorrows at the Brick

President Barack Obama

Some LGBT advocates are calling on President Barack Obama to come out for marriage equality in his State of the Union address on Tuesday. Others, however, say Obama should talk about anti-gay bullying. Bullying certainly seems more likely, but would it be too much to ask for Obama to address marriage (DOMA), bullying AND workplace discrimination (ENDA)?

In any case, you can take in the SOTU and wash it down with a few $2 Skyy Vodkas at the Brick, where Stonewall Democrats is hosting a watch party. From Facebook:

Come join Stonewall Democrats of Dallas and hear President Obama give the State of the Union address.
Social hour 7pm to 8pm
State of the Union 8pm
The Brick will show the address on their super large screen and just for SDD $2 Skyy Vodka drinks!
Come one and bring a friend or 2 or 10!
For more info please contact:
Travis Gasper at travisgasper@gmail.com or
Omar Narvaez at omar@stonewalldemocratsofdallas.org

—  John Wright

4 good reasons to vote for Democrats

Dire warnings won’t mobilize LGBT voters, but signs of progress made, and progress yet to be made, should provide good reasons to bring the community out to the polls

Since the 1980 election, Democrats’ favorite voter mobilization tool when faced with a bad election year is to issue dire warnings of what might happen if “they” take over. Instead of repeating apocalyptic prophecies, I thought I would point out a few reasons why the

LGBT community here in Dallas should be enthusiastic about our Democratic ticket and go to polls this year with gusto!

It is certainly no secret that many in the gay community are disappointed by the frustratingly slow progress repealing “don’t ask, don’t tell” (DADT) or the Defense of Marriage Act. It is not unreasonable to believe that substantial Democratic majorities in both houses of congress should have resulted in immediate progress.

However, considering the year-long titanic struggle to pass a modest health care reform bill, passing legislation has proven to be enormously difficult.

Shortly after President Obama put repeal of DADT at the top of the nation’s agenda in his State of the Union Address last January, the House passed the Murphy amendment in May. The good news is that the Senate will be passing its own version in the next few months.

Our Democratic Congress is poised to finally eliminate the most insulting anti-gay policy on the books 58 years after it was first instituted. And for that, we can put aside any lingering cynicism and impatience and go to the polls knowing that the LGBT community’s support for the Democratic Party has been well worth the investment.

This year we can have our greatest impact on the future direction of Texas and Dallas County. I’ve identified just a few things the LGBT community has at stake and why it is more important than ever that we get out and vote.

1. We have the opportunity this year to elect and re-elect two capable, openly gay candidates. Electing supporters is great, but nothing beats electing your own.

As your Dallas County district clerk, my exemplary stewardship of the office is well known and a matter of public record. I have saved taxpayers millions in cost-saving initiatives, come under-budget every year since I took office, and initiated innovative new projects to bring Dallas County into the 21st century.

Of the 67 elected judges in Dallas County, not one is openly gay, in spite of the many LGBT members of the bar. This year we have the opportunity to change that by electing Tonya Parker to the 116th Civil District Court. Parker is a young, successful and energetic attorney who is already a rising star.

Parker has the kind of talent that leads to the federal bench, but she cannot get there without the enthusiastic support of this community both financially and on Election Day.

2. By electing Elba Garcia, we have the best chance in 16 years to unseat a county commissioner who has proven time and again that he is no friend to our community.

For those of us who live in North Oak Cliff, Dr. Garcia is a household name. We are proud of her outstanding leadership on the Dallas City Council, and I can think of no other candidate better suited for the Commissioners Court.

Of all the races on our ballot, this is the one where LGBT voters can have the greatest impact.

3. It is critically important for this community to stand up for its allies and friends. Judge Tena Callahan’s courageous ruling in a gay divorce case last October proves that judicial philosophy matters. Her integrity and courage is just the kind of thing we need to keep on the bench. Supporting Judge Callahan not only shows our gratitude, but also gives us the chance to stand with the litigants and their attorneys who rejected the prophets of pusilanimity and asserted their rights under the law regardless of the outcome.

4. The experience of the LGBT community since the beginning of the HIV epidemic in the 1980s has proven to us that government plays a vital role in ensuring the health and safety of citizens. Reps. Allen Vaught, Carol Kent and Robert Miklos are legislators the LGBT community can be proud of.

In District 105 in Irving, we have the opportunity to elect Loretta Haldenwang and replace an incumbent whose ethics are ill-suited for public office.

The Stonewall Democrats of Dallas, under the outstanding leadership of Erin Moore, have an aggressive plan to get-out-the-vote and communicate this message to voters. They need your financial support and your time now.

We Democrats have much to be proud of over the last two years. We have passed legislation that offers a real alternative to Republican politics of anger and ignorance. We have only just begun to set a new course for our future.

We here in Dallas live big and dream even bigger. Dallas never apologizes for success; we never hide it. LGBT voters are an important part of the Democratic Party’s success and we have good reason to be enthusiastic about our ticket.

Gary Fitzsimmons is openly gay and the district clerk for Dallas County. He is also a co-founder of Stonewall Democrats of Dallas.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition September 10, 2010.

—  Kevin Thomas