Get enlightened — or just lit up — with Dallas Stonewall Young Democrats at Dish tonight

Last month David Taffet reported on Dallas Stonewall Young Democrats’ “Light Up Oak Lawn” initiative, aimed at making the gayborhood safer by improving street lighting. Since then, of course, there’s been yet another violent attack against a gay bar patron in the area, and we’ll have an update on shooting victim Doug Tull’s condition in Friday’s Voice.

But first, on Thursday night, DSYD members will get an update on the lighting project, in addition to discussing the upcoming Red Party and the group’s Get Out The Vote efforts, according to a message from Vice President Brian Stout.

“Or just come for the cocktails,” Stout said.

The group’s monthly meeting is from 8 p.m. to 9 p.m. at Dish, 4123 Cedar Springs Road.

—  John Wright

The Plank-Wanker: Your daily Texas political platform update

Dallas gay Repulican leader Rob Schlein is getting some major love in the national queerosphere for the statement he issued Tuesday slamming the anti-gay Texas GOP platform. We’ve seen write-ups in places including The Advocate and GayPolitics.com, so no doubt there are others. Still, though, our favorite Log Cabin story of the day is this item from Minnesota’s CityPages, which picked up the condom shown here at an LCR table during Twin Cities Pride. As you can see, the wrapper says, “Drill, baby, drill!! … just don’t spill.” What?

Anyhow, in other platform news, turns out the Texas Democrats actually approved six pro-LGBT resolutions — not four, as we reported yesterday — during their convention last weekend in Corpus Christi.

Dan Graney, president of the Texas Stonewall Democratic Caucus, explains in an e-mail:

In addition to the four Equality Texas resolutions on nondiscrimination, safe schools, accurate birth certificates and competitive insurance benefits, there are two additional resolutions that passed on the floor. One supports LGBT foster and adoptive parents and the other calls for the repeal of the federal Defense of Marriage Act. The resolution calling for the repeal of the discriminatory Texas Constitutional Marriage Amendment is not among those that passed — don’t know if it did not pass enough senate district conventions or what.

Anyway, this is the first time ANY of our LGBT-related resolutions passed the floor of any State Convention and to have six of them pass in this convention is truly awesome! We have come a long ways, baby! Our Texas Stonewall members are to be credited for their hard work in turning this dream into a reality.

—  John Wright

Daniel Cates says there will in fact be another Stonewall march in Dallas this year

cates.kroger
Daniel Cates speaks in the parking lot of Kroger on Cedar Springs before last year’s Million Gay March.

Back in April I reported right here on Instant Tea that Equality March 2010, this year’s version of last year’s Million Gay March, had been moved to October to beat the June heat. But as it turns out, one of the organizers of last year’s event is now separately planning a march at the end of this month to commemmorate the anniversary of the Stonewall Rebellion. Daniel Cates, a co-chair of the committee that organized the Million Gay March, said this year’s Stonewall anniversary march will take place on the evening of June 27 in downtown Dallas:

“I am waiting on details to finalize before sending out official press releases and such, but this march is in fact going to happen on June 27,” Cates said. “This is not an Equality March Texas event, they do still plan to hold their march in October to celebrate National Coming Out Day. This march is being organized by independent activists including myself, Chastity Kirven, Nonnie Ouch (president of the Texas Tech GSA), Elizabeth Pax and a bunch of others. The idea [is] that there is still a need to remember the Stonewall Riots here in North Texas. As opposed to last year, we will kick things off in the evening to avoid the blistering heat, and the event will be taking place in downtown Dallas (exact march route is still in limbo as we are waiting on a meeting with DPD — this will also affect where we start and stop — hence us not quite sending out press releases just yet). Some confirmed speakers for the event are Dr. Stephen Sprinkle of Brite Divinity School, Chastity (CD) Kirven and more still to come.”

A Facebook event page for the march is here.

—  John Wright

DART accused of transphobia

Judge reversed order after transit agency fought longtime employee’s gender-marker change last year

John Wright | News Editor
wright@dallasvoice.com

TRANS FRIENDLY? | Judge Lynn Cherry, right, is shown alongside drag performer Chanel during Stonewall Democrats’ 2008 holiday party at the Round-Up Saloon. A few months later, Cherry ruled against a transgender DART employee and overturned a gender-marker change. (John Wright/Dallas Voice)

DART stands accused of bigotry and transphobia after attorneys for the local transit agency intervened in family court last year to challenge a gender-marker change granted to an employee.

According to court records, a transgender DART employee obtained a court order in February 2009 directing all state agencies to correct their records by changing her gender-marker from male to female, including on her birth certificate.

As Dallas Voice reported last week, many Dallas County judges have been routinely granting gender-marker changes to transgender people who meet set criteria — including documentation from licensed medical personnel — since the Democratic sweep of 2006.

The DART employee, who’s name is being withheld to protect her anonymity, later presented the court order to the transit agency’s human resources department and requested that her personnel records be changed to reflect her new gender.

But DART’s attorneys objected to the gender-marker change and responded by filing a motion seeking a rehearing in court. DART’s objections prompted 301st Family District Court Judge Lynn Cherry to reverse her order granting the gender-marker change.

“Where does this stop when an employer can start interfering with your personal life and family law decisions?” said longtime local transgender activist Pamela Curry, a friend of the DART employee who brought the case to the attention of Dallas Voice. “She was devastated. This should be a serious concern to a lot of people — everybody — and I just think this story needs to be told.”

Judge Cherry, who received Stonewall Democrats of Dallas’ Pink Pump Award for her support of the group last year, didn’t respond to messages seeking comment this week.

Morgan Lyons, a spokesman for DART, noted that Cherry reversed her order before the agency actually filed its motion for a rehearing. However, Curry alleges that DART’s attorneys met with Cherry privately and pressured her into reversing the order.

As is common with gender-marker changes, the case file has been sealed, but Dallas Voice obtained copies of some of the court documents from Curry.

In their motion for a rehearing, DART attorneys Harold R. McKeever and Hyattye Simmons argued that Texas law grants registrars, not judges, the authority to amend birth certificates. They also argued that birth certificates could be amended only if they were inaccurate at the time of birth.

“It’s not a DART issue, it’s a point of law,” Lyons told Dallas Voice this week, in response to the allegations of bigotry. “The lawyers concluded that the birth certificate could not be altered by law, unless there was a mistake made when the birth certificate was completed, and again, the judge changed the order before we even wound up going into court with it.”

Asked about DART’s LGBT-related employment policies, Lyons said the agency’s nondiscrimination policy includes sexual orientation but not gender identity/expression. The agency, which is governed by representatives from Dallas and numerous suburbs, also doesn’t offer benefits to the domestic partners of employees.

Lyons didn’t respond to other allegations made by Curry, including that the agency has fought the employee’s transition from male to female at every step of the way.

Curry, who helped the employee file her pro se petition for a gender-marker change, said the employee has worked for DART for more than 20 years and has an outstanding performance record.

The employee began to come out as transgender in 2003 and had gender reassignment surgery more than three years ago, Curry said. Curry said DART supervisors have at various times told the employee that she couldn’t have long hair, couldn’t wear skirts to work and couldn’t use women’s restrooms at work.

The employee has responded by showing up at work in her uniform so she doesn’t have to change and using public restrooms on her bus route, Curry said.

Supervisors have also told the employee she can’t talk to the media and can’t join political groups, such as Stonewall Democrats, Curry said.

“She’s intimidated and she’s scared,” Curry said. “One supervisor even suggested to her that if she doesn’t lay off it, they will mess up her retirement.”

Elaine Mosher, a Dallas attorney who’s familiar with the case, also questioned why DART intervened. Mosher didn’t represent the employee in the case but has handled gender-marker changes for other clients.

Mosher said the employee’s gender doesn’t have any bearing on her ability to do her job at DART.

“My argument in any gender marker matter is, the birth certificate was wrong, that’s why they had to go through the transition surgery, in essence to put them in the correct gender,” Mosher said. “All I can tell you is that it seems strange to me that DART would care one way or another what the gender marker of anybody that works for them is.”

Moster added that she believes someone at DART may have been “freaked out” by the employee’s transition from male to female and developed a “vendetta” against her.

“I wish I had a good explanation for why [DART got involved] other than the fact that I know there are people out there who are utterly blind and prejudiced for no other reason than they are,” Mosher said. “I compare it to some of the nonsense African-Americans had to live through in the ’60s.”

Mosher also said she’s “very surprised” that Cherry reversed the order granting the gender marker change.

Erin Moore, president of Stonewall Democrats, said she’s heard “bits and pieces” of the story but isn’t sure of all the facts.

Moore said in response to her questions about the case, Cherry told her she couldn’t talk about it because it’s still within the timeframe for a possible appeal.

“Lynn is a longtime supporter of Stonewall and I would think she would be fair in the case,” Moore said. “I’m confident she’s an ally to this community.”

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition February 19, 2010.

—  admin

Dallas could elect 1st gay judge

Judicial candidates John Loza, Tonya Parker among 4 LGBTs running in local races in 2010

By John Wright | News Editor wright@dallasvoice.com
IN THE RUNNING | Dallas County District Clerk Gary Fitzsimmons, clockwise from top left, County Judge Jim Foster, attorney Tonya Parker and former Councilman John Loza are LGBT candidates who plan to run in Dallas County elections in 2010. The filing period ends Jan. 4.

Dallas County has had its share of openly gay elected officials, from Sheriff Lupe Valdez to District Clerk Gary Fitzsimmons to County Judge Jim Foster.
But while Foster, who chairs the Commissioners Court, is called a “judge,” he’s not a member of the judiciary, to which the county’s voters have never elected an out LGBT person.

Two Democrats running in 2010 — John Loza and Tonya Parker — are hoping to change that.

“This is the first election cycle that I can remember where we’ve had openly gay candidates for the judiciary,” said Loza, a former Dallas City Councilman who’s been involved in local LGBT politics for decades. “It’s probably long overdue, to be honest with you.”

Dallas County’s Jerry Birdwell became the first openly gay judge in Texas when he was appointed by Gov. Ann Richards in 1992. But after coming under attack for his sexual orientation by the local Republican Party, Birdwell, a Democrat, lost his bid for re-election later that year.

Also in the November 1992 election, Democrat Barbara Rosenberg defeated anti-gay Republican Judge Jack Hampton.

But Rosenberg, who’s a lesbian, wasn’t out at the time and didn’t run as an openly LGBT candidate.

Loza, who’s been practicing criminal law in Dallas for the last 20 years, is running for the County Criminal Court No. 5 seat. Incumbent Tom Fuller is retiring. Loza said he expects to face three other Democrats in the March primary, meaning a runoff is likely. In addition to groups like Stonewall Democrats of Dallas, he said he’ll seek an endorsement from the Washington, D.C.-based Gay and Lesbian Victory Fund, which provides financial backing to LGBT candidates nationwide.

Parker, who’s running for the 116th Civil District Court seat, declined to be interviewed for this story. Incumbent Bruce Priddy isn’t expected to seek re-election, and Parker appears to be the favorite for the Democratic nomination.

If she wins in November, Parker would become the first LGBT African-American elected official in Dallas County.

Loza and Parker are among four known local LGBT candidates in 2010.
They join fellow Democrats Fitzsimmons and Foster, who are each seeking a second four-year term.

While Foster is vulnerable and faces two strong challengers in the primary, Fitzsimmons is extremely popular and said he’s confident he’ll be re-elected.

“I think pretty much everybody knows that the District Clerk’s Office is probably the best-run office in Dallas County government,” Fitzsimmons said. “I think this county is a Democratic County, and I think I’ve proved myself to be an outstanding county administrator, and I think the people will see that.”

Randall Terrell, political director for Equality Texas, said this week he wasn’t aware of any openly LGBT candidates who’ve filed to run in state races in 2010.

Although Texas made headlines recently for electing the nation’s first gay big-city mayor, the state remains one of 20 that lack an out legislator.

Denis Dison, a spokesman for the Victory Fund, said he’s hoping Annise Parker’s victory in Houston last week will inspire more qualified LGBT people to run for office.

“It gives other people permission really to think of themselves as leaders,” Dison said.

The filing period for March primaries ends Jan. 4.


This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition December 18, 2009.

—  admin

It's safe to say TABC will be avoiding gay bars at all costs on June 28 from now on

After the Rainbow Lounge raid, the reminder may not be needed for years to come — perhaps not until the 50th anniversary in 2019. But the Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission is now distributing a daily e-mail to supervisors that lists important dates in history, including the June 28 anniversary of the 1969 Stonewall Rebellion. TABC Administrator Alan Steen told Dallas Voice last week that he’s convinced neither his agents nor Fort Worth police officers knew it was the 40th anniversary of Stonewall when they went into the Rainbow Lounge on June 28.

“It’s embarrassing to say, but we had no clue, and I truly believe Fort Worth had no clue,” Steen said. “We do have a mechanism in place now to have a clue.”

TABC spokeswoman Carolyn Beck said this week the mechanism Steen was referring to is a Texas Homeland Security Briefing sent out by the Department of Public Safety’s Bureau of Information Analysis. It’s unclear whether DPS’s e-mail briefing already included the Stonewall anniversary or whether it was added following the Rainbow Lounge raid, but in any case the briefing wasn’t being used by TABC until now, Beck said.

There’s no word on whether the Fort Worth Police Department plans to implement a similar reminder.

—  John Wright