N.H. lawmakers seek to repeal gay marriage

Welcome to 2011, the year in which we’ll have to prove we still know how to play defense. Take, for example, New Hampshire, where state lawmakers have already filed four draft bills seeking to repeal same-sex marriage, which was legalized in 2008. It’s unclear how the bills would affect the 1,500 same-sex couples who married last year, but if you’ve always dreamed of tying the knot in the Granite State, you may want to hurry up and do it. The Telegraph reports:

While some House members work to craft the Fiscal Year 2012 budget, others could work through the spring to shape the repeal legislation, sending a bill to a vote by the end of the legislative session in July, said state Rep. Leo Pepino, a Manchester Republican, who introduced one of the proposals.

With a 297 to 103 advantage in the House, and a 19 to 5 divide in the Senate, Republicans could have the two-thirds majority necessary to override Gov. John Lynch, who has promised to veto any repeal bill.

In 2008, the Democratic-led legislature passed the marriage law with 198 votes in the House and 14 in the Senate, becoming the sixth state to legalize same-sex marriage.

“I think we have the votes (to repeal),” Pepino said last week. “We have a lot of really good conservatives and a good conservative doesn’t believe in gay marriage. … It’s a matter of ethics.”

—  John Wright

As Equality Texas unveils poll results on bullying, Rep. Anchia files gay adoption measure

State Rep. Rafael Anchia

Senior editor Tammye Nash is down in Austin this morning, where as we speak Equality Texas is holding a press conference to unveil poll results showing that 80 percent of Texans support anti-bullying legislation that protects gay teenagers and the children of gay parents. Fort Worth City Councilman Joel Burns is also there, and comments from former first lady Laura Bush will be shared. More on that here for now and later from Tammye.

But elsewhere on the legislative front this morning, it looks like State Rep. Rafael Anchia, D-Dallas, has again filed legislation that would allow same-sex adoptive parents to have both of their names listed on a child’s birth certificate. This issue has been the subject of litigation in Louisiana, where a federal appeals court recently ruled that the state must issue an amended birth certificate listing the names of both gay parents. The Louisiana attorney general is appealing the ruling, and the gay parents are represented by Ken Upton of Lambda Legal in Dallas, who tells us he’s also itching to challenge Texas’ statute if Anchia’s bill doesn’t pass.

Anchia’s HB 415, filed Friday and similar to a bill he filed last session, would strike language from the Health and Safety Code as shown below:

.

—  John Wright

Oklahoma lawmakers spar over how conservative to be

After sweeping into power in November’s election, state’s ultra-conservative Republicans take aim at moderate House leader

Sean Murphy  |  editor@dallasvoice.com

OKLAHOMA CITY — As Republicans in control of the Oklahoma House opened two days of meetings to set their 2011 agenda this week, their incoming leader was taking shots from the chamber’s ultra-conservative wing because he has put the state’s struggling economy at the top of his agenda rather than social issues.

KrisSteele
Oklahoma State Rep. Kris Steele

Members of the House GOP meet Monday and Tuesday, Dec. 6-7. in Bartlesville, and Kris Steele, who will be formally elected as House Speaker next month, believes the Legislature next year should concentrate on economic development and plugging holes in the state budget.

More-conservative Republicans want legislators to tighten access to abortion, relax regulations on firearms and attempt to restrict immigration.

“There’s going to be some fireworks within the caucus,” said state Rep. Mike Christian, R-Oklahoma City, who acknowledged some of his GOP colleagues have privately questioned whether Steele is too liberal to lead the House.

For the first time in state history, Republicans in Oklahoma will control the House, Senate and the governor’s mansion, after Oklahoma voters in November ushered in huge gains for the GOP, including all eight Democrat-held statewide seats on the ballot.

Steele, a soft-spoken minister from Shawnee, said House Republicans are still united — but cracks are obvious among the 70-member-strong Republican majority as they hammer out their agenda for the legislative session that begins in February.

This week’s meetings haven’t gone unnoticed by Oklahomans wanting action on social issues. But moderate House Republicans fear an inordinate amount of attention on social issues will create a House divided and divert attention from the budget and a struggling Oklahoma economy.

“I’m seeing people every day who are concerned because they don’t have a job or health insurance,” said Rep. Doug Cox, R-Grove, an emergency room physician in far northeast Oklahoma. “They could care less about right-to-carry [firearms]), abortion, gays. They’re worried about their health care and putting food on the table.”

State Rep. Richard Morrissette, D-Oklahoma City, agrees.

“I would ask my ultra-conservative friends — do they understand that we are in the bottom of median family income, that we lead the nation in incarceration of female prisoners, that some of our nonviolent, criminal statutes are some of the most oppressive in the nation?” he asked. “We have serious issues in the state that are challenging us, especially when the budget situation is as bleak as it’s been in the history of this state.”

For his part, Steele says he’s never wavered on his commitment to expanding gun rights, restricting abortion or targeting illegal immigration. He said he supports a measure to allow for open carrying of firearms that Democratic Gov. Brad Henry vetoed last year, and that he will not thwart legislative attempts to further restrict abortion or address illegal immigration.

“Just because I’d like to pursue initiatives to create a business-friendly environment in Oklahoma and give us the opportunity to foster job creation and job opportunities for Oklahomans does not mean I’m any less committed to my stance on pro-life issues or Second Amendment rights or states’ rights or any of those things,” Steele said. “I think we can take a balanced approach and pursue an agenda that ultimately accommodates both arenas.”

Republican Gov.-elect Mary Fallin said she agrees with Steele that the state’s budget and fostering a good business environment should be the top priority for lawmakers when they return to the state Capitol in February.

“We’ve got to focus on getting Oklahoma’s economy back on track, creating the very best business climate possible,” Fallin said. “We’ll certainly consider the other ideas that the Legislature has, and that’s not to take away from their ideas, but just says these are the important priorities I believe will get Oklahoma back on track.”

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

—  Kevin Thomas

Facebook backs Texas anti-bullying bill

The Star-Telegram reports that Facebook has endorsed an anti-bullying measure filed by State Rep. Mark Strama, D-Austin. The bill would require school districts to provide training for employees and educate students and parents about bullying and cyberbullying. It would also require school officials to immediately notify parents about incidents of bullying, and grant districts the authority to transfer bullies and victims:

“Facebook supports the bill and we are encouraged to see the Texas legislature take steps to keep our schools places where students can feel safe,” Corey Owens, a lobbyist for Facebook, wrote in a letter to Strama. “As a company with a significant presence in Texas – including employees who send their children to Texas public schools – we are committed to building an online platform that is safe for users of all ages.”

Strama’s bill, HB 224, would require school districts in Texas to track the number of incidents of bullying based on a number of factors, including sexual orientation. However, Strama’s bill doesn’t include gender identity/expression, meaning it’s unlikely to receive the backing of Equality Texas, at least in its current form.

State Sen. Wendy Davis, D-Fort Worth, has filed a bill that’s nearly identical to Strama’s in the Senate. But unlike Strama’s, Davis’ SB 245 does include gender identity/expression in the tracking requirement. Davis’ bill was inspired by and has the backing of Joel Burns, who replaced Davis on the Fort Worth City Council and has since become famous for his “It Gets Better” speech:

“I have focused the message on the responsibility of adults to end bullying by creating a culture of respect,” Burns said. “The reporting tools in Sen. Davis’ bill will give us the data we need to prioritize resources and understand how we can do better educating and supporting children to learn and be a success.”

The Star-Telegram explains the difference between the two bills as follows:

Strama’s and Davis’ bills differ in one area drawing the attention of some gay rights activists. Both bills require districts to annually report how many bullying incidents they faced, including how many incidents were based on race, ethnicity, religion or sexual orientation. Davis said she included “gender identity and expression” to her list of categories to make sure districts looked at bullying situations that arose due to “a perception of someone’s sexuality rather than the reality.” Strama said that phrase might be added to his bill as well.

Davis is correct in the sense that “gender identity/expression” includes some students who are perceived to be gay or lesbian. But these students are already covered because the bill clearly states, “actual or perceived sexual orientation.” The real difference between the bills — and the Star-Telegram should know this — is that Davis’ bill includes transgender students, whereas Strama’s bill does not.



—  John Wright

Sen. Wendy Davis, who brought us Joel Burns, now brings us a fully inclusive anti-bullying bill

State Sen. Wendy Davis

Sounds like State Sen. Wendy Davis, D-Fort Worth, has introduced a fully inclusive anti-bullying bill. If you’ll recall, State Rep. Mark Strama, D-Austin, filed an anti-bullying bill in the House that includes sexual orientation but NOT gender identity/expression. In response to Strama’s as-yet-still-unexplained omission, Equality Texas told us they were working to get a fully inclusive anti-bullying bill introduced on the Senate side. The text of Davis’ SB 245, filed earlier today, wasn’t immediately available on the Legislature’s website, but here’s what Equality Texas said on Twitter just now:

“SB245 filed today by Sen.Wendy Davis relating to bullying & cyberbullying is the #1 priority in @EqualityTexas 2011 Legislative Agenda.”

It’s safe to say that if Equality Texas is calling the bill its No. 1 priority, it includes both sexual orientation and gender identity/expression.

Davis, of course, is a former Fort Worth city councilwoman who handpicked the openly gay Joel Burns as her successor when she stepped down to run for Senate. Yes, that’s Joel Burns of “It Gets Better” fame.

More to come.

—  John Wright

This is what happens when people like State Rep. Sally Kern condone heterosexual bestiality

Believe it or not, anti-gay Oklahoma State Rep. Sally Kern once suggested that she believes bestiality is OK as long as it’s heterosexual. It’s true: She made the statement during an interview with Sirius XM Radio’s Michelangelo Signorile about Kern’s book-banning campaign way back in 2005 — long before she became such a famous bigot.

In a column published by The Windy City Times, Signorile wrote that he asked Kern whether she shouldn’t try to ban Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, since Snow White kisses a frog. “The difference there,” Kern responded, “is that that is still in the heterosexual lifestyle.”

Well, it appears as though five years later, one married heterosexual couple from Bethany, Okla. — which is in Kern’s district and backyard — may have taken her words to heart. The Oklahoman reports:

Edward James Double, 35, and his wife, Brandy Teresa Double, 35, were jailed Tuesday on complaints of bestiality, exhibition of obscene materials to minor children, maintaining a disorderly house, possession of illegal drugs and soliciting sexual conduct with a minor. Edward Double also faces a complaint of indecent exposure.

“We’ve recovered videotape of people having sex with animals,” Bethany Police Chief Phil Cole said. “It’s disgusting. And we pray that none of the kids have been molested.”

Cole said upon review of the video evidence, recordings were found of the Doubles having sexual relations with a canine. Investigators were able to determine the recordings were made in the master bedroom of the home. Investigators also found 6 grams of marijuana and paraphernalia in the home.

Three dogs were taken from the residence, Cole said.

The story doesn’t indicate the sex of the dogs, but as long as the marriage was between a man and a woman, right? Who knows, maybe Kern can try to get these fine upstanding heterosexuals a pardon.

—  John Wright

Ill. House OKs civil unions; Senate vote today

The Illinois House voted 61-52 on Tuesday to grant gay couples some of the same rights as married heterosexual spouses, including hospital visitation, health-care decision-making and the disposal of a loved one’s remains. From Fox Illinois:

House sponsor Rep. Greg Harris, D-Chicago, likened Senate Bill 1716 to past landmark fights for equality in granting women the right to vote and allowing interracial couples to marry.

We have a chance today to make Illinois a more fair state, a more just state and a state which treats all of its citizens equally under the law,” he said.

Harris and state Rep. Deb Mell, D-Chicago, are the only two openly gay lawmakers in the legislature. Earlier this year, Mell announced her engagement to her partner while on the House floor.

“After six years of building a life together, committing our lives to each other – we have a strong faith in God and family – and after all that we are still not considered family,” Mell said. “And I assure you we are a family, and we deserve the same rights that you enjoy.”

The bill is expected to win approval from the Senate today before being signed by Gov. Pat Quinn. It would take effect July 1, and Illinois would become the sixth state to offer civil unions or domestic partnerships.

—  John Wright

Gay Dallas couple’s Skype wedding goes viral

Mark Reed, left, and Dante Walkup

We spoke briefly this afternoon with Mark Reed, before he had to hang up because of a conference call with producers from CNN, which is set to interview Reed and his husband, Dante Walkup, on Tuesday.

Our story last week about Reed and Walkup’s Skype wedding has gone viral, getting picked up by media outlets from The Washington Post to Time magazine.

Reed said CNN’s interview — itself conducted via Skype — will air at 12:20 p.m. Tuesday Dallas time.

“It’s gotten wild,” Reed said. “I really didn’t think it would go this far. It’s good because the more times you can put real faces on stories about couples who are in love, it changes hearts and minds. It’s exciting.”

Despite all the national attention, one media outlet that hasn’t picked up the story is The Dallas Morning News, which is also refusing to publish their wedding announcement, Reed noted. (More on this later.)

Reed and Walkup attended a symposium on e-marriage this weekend at Michigan State University’s School of Law, where experts are pushing for state statutes to bolster the legality of e-marriage.

“The law school’s trying to find one state to introduce legislation and get it passed, and they feel like Vermont would be the best choice,” Reed said, adding that openly gay Vermont State Rep. Bill Lippert was on hand for the symposium. “He came to the symposium skeptical, but once he heard our story, it really touched him and he got really excited about it.”

—  John Wright

Rep. Marc Veasey again files bill seeking study of hate crimes act but says it’s ‘not going anywhere’

For the third consecutive legislative session, State Rep. Marc Veasey, D-Fort Worth, filed legislation last week calling for a study on the implementation of Texas’ hate crimes statute.

Veasey wants to know why, despite thousands of hate crimes reported to law enforcement since the statute was passed in 2001, only about a dozen cases have been prosecuted in court as hate crimes. If you’ll remember, the statute covers “sexual preference” but not gender identity.

In an interview the other day with KXAN (video above), Veasey cited homophobia as one of the reasons why the statute isn’t being used:

While Veasey understands that it’s hard to prosecute hate crimes he believes there’s another, underlying reason why prosecutors are rarely using the law.

“You have some people on the right that have said that it is a bill that protects gays and so they are against it for that reason,” Veasey said.

And Veasey told The Star-Telegram that the outcome of this year’s elections means the bill is likely doomed again in next year’s session, which begins in January.

“I’m going to try it, but quite frankly it’s not going anywhere,” Veasey said. “A lot of these folks that got elected were elected on opposition to the president and probably feel that being for anything pro-civil rights would hurt them in their political careers.”

Wait a second, is Veasey suggesting they’re going to completely ignore this memo?

—  John Wright

Not-so-gracious winner: Bigot Sally Kern blocks trans challenger Brittany Novotny on Twitter

Transgender candidate Brittany Novotny, who was defeated by bigoted Oklahoma State Rep. Sally Kern in last week’s election, reports this morning that she’s been blocked from Kern’s Twitter feed:


Remarkably, Kern has not yet blocked Instant Tea, which is probably a huge mistake.

—  John Wright