TX eyes another special right for straight folks

Texas Secretary of State Hope Andrade

This week, Secretary of State Hope Andrade certified 10 propositions will appear on the ballot in November to amend the Texas constitution. Among the proposals is another special right for straight people.

Most of the propositions deal with mundane governmental functions, but Proposition 1 would apply to heterosexual couples and exclude say and lesbian couples.

Proposition Number 1:

SJR 14 would amend the constitution to authorize the legislature to provide the surviving spouse of a 100 percent or totally disabled veteran with an exemption from ad valorem taxation of all or part of the market value of the surviving spouse’s residence homestead as long as the surviving spouse has not remarried, the property was the residence homestead of the surviving spouse when the qualifying veteran died, and the property remains the residence homestead of the surviving spouse.

The proposed amendment would appear on the ballot as follows: “The constitutional amendment authorizing the legislature to provide for an exemption from ad valorem taxation of all or part of the market value of the residence homestead of the surviving spouse of a 100 percent or totally disabled veteran.”

In other words the surviving spouse of a disabled veteran would be given a tax break as long as it’s a heterosexual couple. A same-sex spouse would not be entitled to that tax break because of the state’s discriminatory Defense of Marriage law and refusal to recognize all marriages performed in other states or countries.

The proposition will likely pass, but the LGBT community should not support a law that discriminates against them.

—  David Taffet

This is what I hate about the political right

Nobody is innocent. The Democrats have their talking points just like the GOP. Both use sleazy tactics and push-polling and have corrupt members of their caucuses. But I am not talking about every instance, just one from this morning.

I often receive press releases from Hamilton Strategies, a right-wing publicity organization that spews hateful e-mails attacking President Barack Obama and others in the Democratic Party on a regular basis. Today’s, though, was especially offensive. Here it is (bold mine):

President Obama’s visits to the countries of India and Indonesia have amplified the already existing controversy regarding the president’s Muslim loyalty. As America undergoes vital political changes, devastating unemployment, moral corruption, and economic decline, citizens show concern over the president’s prevailing desire to travel to express Muslim sympathy before attending to the blatant needs of his own country’s citizens.   In light of confusing policies and messages that seem to undermine our country’s Christian heritage, the intellectual exploration of apologetics is necessary to bring into focus the infallible truths of God’s Word, and for Christians in this society to know how to respond to and live out their faith in culturally shifting times.

OK, for a second let’s overlook the confounding grammar and poor sentence construction. (“[P]revailing desire to travel to express Muslim sympathy”? What does that even mean?) What this press release says is, “We still think Obama is a Muslim, and his going to Indonesia is a betrayal of good Americans, i.e., Christians.”

It’s well-established that Obama is not a Muslim, and the craven mention of “already existing controversy” over his “Muslim loyalty” merely intentionally stirs up falsehood as a means of race- or religion-baiting. Pretending that a settled fact remains an unknown factor in someone’s honesty is base, evil and a lie. (Don’t Christians believe in not telling lies?) Going further to act as if our country’s “Christian heritage” warrants attacks on anyone who is not Christian is not only anti-American, it’s untrue.

But what really bothers me is this: Where are the principled people on the right condemning these lies, this divisiveness, this cultivated animosity against other races, ethnicities and religions? Does Hamilton Strategies really speak to your beliefs, Newt? Or yours, Sarah? Do you, as leaders of your party, honestly agree that there is a “controversy” over Obama’s religion, or that visiting a country of another religion is a betrayal of our citizens? Do you, Mitt, think that only mainstream Christian thought can find a place in our nation’s governance and dealings with other countries — because your religion is hardly mainstream.

If you are not decrying such hate speech, such lies, such misinformation, which you know to be all these things, how can you claim to be leaders? How can you wonder why some Dems and moderates refuse to listen to any of your ideas because you cannot be trusted to stand up on principle? I’m no fan of Obama, but I don’t appreciate anyone who lies and uses religion as a cudgel to do it. Shame on Hamilton Strategies. Shame on Newt and Sarah and Mitt. And shame on anyone who would prefer to be on the right than in the right.

—  Arnold Wayne Jones

Shaking off those nasty midterm blues

It’s tempting to echo the ‘throw them out’ refrain, but compare the candidates and the political parties carefully, then go out and make your voice heard by voting

Democratic gubernatorial candidate Bill White
Democratic gubernatorial candidate Bill White

I suspect a lot of people right now are experiencing the same kind of feelings my grandfather used to have around election time: One of his favorite phrases was, “Throw the bastards out.”

Though it may make for a colorful epithet, it was not the way he voted. He once told me that if his hand ever touched the lever on the voting machine marked “Republican,” it would burn his fingers.

Though he was a feisty and almost illiterate blacksmith from Tennessee, he followed politics and he was a Roosevelt Democrat through-and-through.

That brings me back to the here and now and the current election, when a lot of new voters are frustrated by what they perceive as the lack of change since the last election.

I will admit I, too, am frustrated. I want things to change faster and to do that I agree that we need to throw a few folks out.

But I am selective in my tossing. I know that midterms are every bit as important as the years when the presidency is in play, and though they are not nearly as sexy, they deserve our attention.

I get a lot of questions from friends and acquaintances this time of year as well, and because of that I prepared a short list of “talking points,” just to remind myself — and them — what is at stake.

• “How come things haven’t changed?”

They have, and they can continue to change if we concentrate on keeping and increasing the Democratic majority in Congress.

For example, the Matthew Shepard and James Byrd Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act was passed during the last congressional session and signed into law by President Obama. Most importantly, the bill included crimes motivated by the victims “gender, sexual orientation, gender identity, or disability.”

That is a big step. Additionally, the president signed a bill giving benefits to same-sex spouses of federal employees.

• “Why should I bother to vote for local offices like judges?”

National politics is sexy, but the real actions that affect your life happen at the local level.

For example District Judge Ernest White presided over the gay-bashing trial of Bobby Singleton. He was one of two men who beat and disfigured Jimmie Dean in 2008 here in Oak Lawn.

Singleton was sentenced to 75 years in prison. Though the jury handed down the sentence, the judge has an influence over the trial.

Wouldn’t you want a sympathetic judge on the bench if you were the victim?

• “Are there any LGBT people running for local office?”

You betcha! Gary Fitsimmons, Dallas County district clerk, is seeking re-election. Not only has he been an outstanding public official for all of the county, his office was first in the county to add sexual orientation to its nondiscrimination policies. Fitzsimmons recently added gender identity to the policy as well.

• “Why is Bill White a better choice than Rick Perry?”

Here is a quote from Gov. Perry: “Would you rather live in a state like this, or in a state where a man can marry a man?”

He was addressing a group about jobs creation, but his subtext is clear: “If LGBT people don’t like it here, leave.”

Additionally, who walked with us down Cedar Springs for the Alan Ross Freedom Parade, Bill White or Rick Perry? Bill White.

• “What about ENDA, DOMA and DADT?”

It’s been only two years since the landslide victory for Democratic lawmakers; it took eight years of the disastrous Bush administration policies and six years with the Republicans in control of both houses of Congress to get us where we are today.

Yes, I am impatient as well, but we need to keep Democratic control over the Congress and elect even more progressive candidates to move the vital issues forward.

• “Both parties are the same; it’s all politics anyway.”

Take a look at the state party platforms and say that again.

The Republican platform is filled with vehement language demonizing LGBT Texans, like this plum: “We believe that the practice of homosexuality tears at the fabric of society, contributes to the breakdown of the family unit, and leads to the spread of dangerous, communicable diseases. … Homosexuality must not be presented as an acceptable ‘alternative’ lifestyle in our public education and policy, nor should ‘family’ be redefined to include homosexual couples.”
It is tempting to use my grandfather’s line, and just throw up my hands and say, “Throw all the bastards out.”

But once I get over my immediate frustration and look at the reality of where we are and where we have come from, I know things are getting better for LGBT folk in this country and this state.

If we fail to show up at the polls and support our allies, we will only hurt ourselves. It wouldn’t take much to turn back the clock, and rest assured the candidates who stand against us want to do just that.

Another bit of wisdom I gleaned from my grandfather was this: “If you are feeling down in the mouth, it’s probably because you’ve been standing around with it open. Now shut your trap and get off your rump and go out and do something!”

The best cure for the midterm blues is doing something — like voting!

Hardy Haberman is a longtime local LGBT activist and a member of Stonewall Democrats of Dallas. His blog is at http://dungeondiary.blogspot.com.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition October 15, 2010

—  Kevin Thomas

Oak Lawn Library Friends say budget cuts may lead to wait times of 8 years for some materials

Our old friend P D Sterling sends along word that the Oak Lawn Library Friends will host a town hall meeting this coming Thursday to discuss the potential impact of city budget cuts. According to the OLLF website, which lists Thursday’s meeting as a CALL TO ACTION, these potential impacts include:

• Branch hours will remain the staff but half the staff will lose their jobs
• Due to reduced staffing, programs such as story time, Summer Reading Program, and other planned outreach could be eliminated
• The overall budget vs. two years ago is reduced by 60 percent
• The cuts are so severe that the library will lose accreditation
• Loss of accreditation will make us lose state and federal funding
• The materials budget will be continue to be cut which will mean fewer new materials and longer wait times for materials you want.
• These wait times could be as long as 8 years!

OLLF is urging people to contact council members Pauline Medrano and Angela Hunt and to attend upcoming budget town hall meetings hosted by the city. Sterling summarized the situation as follows:

The proposed budget cuts may severely hamper the ability of our library to function; the staff may be reduced to the point that community programs will have to be withdrawn, just to provide core services of book- and media-lending.

Oak Lawn Library Friends have been a dynamic force in making Oak Lawn Library a vital community center, and we have grave concerns that extreme reductions will be short-sighted. If national accreditations are lost, outside grants will no longer be available.

We submit that the citizens of Dallas must call for basic services to be maintained, and talking points will be made available for further meetings held by the City during the next six weeks.

The town hall meeting will be at 6 p.m. in the auditorium of the library, 4100 Cedar Springs. For more info, go here.

—  John Wright

What's Brewing: 5/12/10

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1. Supreme Court nominee Elena Kagan (above) is straight, and disgraced former New York Gov. Eliot Spitzer actually might know, since he presumably tried to get in Kagan’s pants at some point when they were friends at Princeton. But are statements like the following enough to put to rest all the rumors about Kagan’s sexual orientation? “I’ve known her for most of her adult life and I know she’s straight,” said Sarah Walzer, Kagan’s roommate in law school and a close friend since then. “She dated men when we were in law school, we talked about men — who in our class was cute, who she would like to date, all of those things. She definitely dated when she was in D.C. after law school, when she was in Chicago – and she just didn’t find the right person.” More at Politico.

2. The effort to repeal “don’t ask don’t tell” in 2010 isn’t dead yet. Sen. Carl Levin, chairman of the Armed Services Committee, said yesterday he’ll include the repeal in this year’s Defense Authorization bill if there are enough votes to support it, regardless of opposition from Defense Secretary Robert Gates. Levin noted that if the legislative repeal goes forward this year, it wouldn’t take effect until after a Department of Defense review is finished in December. “What we ought to do is repeal it but make the effective date after the report,” Levin said. More at Talking Points.

3. The George “Rentboy” Rekers scandal keeps getting worse for Florida Attorney General Bill McCollum, who hired Rekers in 2007 as an expert witness to testify in support of the state’s gay adoption ban. The Miami Herald reports today that Rekers’ fee for testifying was actually doubled, meaning the state paid him a whopping total of $120,693 after he exceeded his contracted hours. Needless to say this left Rekers with plenty of cash for male prostitutes, and my only regret is that Texas AG Greg Abbott never hired him. Also yesterday, Rekers stepped down from the board of the ex-gay organization NARTH. More on that at Joe.My.God.

—  John Wright