The AFA isn’t happy with corporate America

The hate group American Family Association isn’t very happy with corporate America.

Not only did J.C. Penney feature a gay Dallas couple in a recent catalog, but the Plano-based company doesn’t seem to really care what the AFA has to say about it.

On its website, the AFA says JCP is now blocking emails from its alert system and advises members to send messages from their personal accounts instead.

And now the AFA is annoyed at Target, too. For Pride month, Target is selling several Pride items and is donating 100 percent of the proceeds to the Family Equality Council up to $120,000. The AFA doesn’t want you shopping there either.

And AFA announced that they sent petitions to Home Depot for “extensive support for homosexual activism and direct the company toward neutrality in the culture war.”

AFA doesn’t specify what the beef is, but apparently some lesbians work there. And they get equal benefits.

The group is asking people to boycott Home Depot and pray for Chairman Frank Blake, then print a copy of the petition and “distribute it at Sunday school and church,” because nothing says love your neighbor like distributing petitions at church calling for hardworking people to get fired.

And look out for that radical group AARP. They’re apparently using member resources to “advocate for immoral behavior.” The AFA claims that the AARP’s LGBT resources pages links to “articles on personal finance, travel and other issues of interest.” Shocking.

Of course, AFA would like us to get back to traditional marriage as it’s existed since biblical times … as depicted in this photo released by the Israeli Defense Forces this week in honor of Pride month:

—  David Taffet

Bleeding purple

Ex-TCU football star Vincent Pryor to accept award for courageously coming out to teammates in 1994

Vincent.Pryor1

GAME-CHANGER | Former TCU football player Vincent Pryor, left, said he had become suicidal by his junior year until his future partner Alan Detlaff, stood before their social work class one day and announced that he was gay and was beginning a group for LGBT students called TCU Triangle. They would later meet again at JR.’s in Dallas, and have been together ever since.

ANNA WAUGH  |  Staff Writer

Vincent Pryor will be in Austin on Wednesday, Feb. 29, to accept the Atticus Circle Award for his courage to come out to his football team his senior year at Texas Christian University in 1994.

Atticus Circle, a group that educates and rallies straight people to advocate for LGBT equality, selected Pryor for the award because “he showed an extraordinary amount of courage to come out as a gay athlete,” Executive Director Ruth Gardner-Loew said.

Pryor said the recognition for inspiring other youth athletes was an honor, but his journey to the confident, gay football player standing before a group of teammates and strangers and owning his sexuality was long and painful.

Vincent.Pryor4

FINDING HIS GROOVE | Pryor set the school’s single-game sack record against Texas Tech only a few weeks after coming out.

Knowing he was gay since about the third grade, Pryor said growing up Southern Baptist in San Antonio made him begin to constantly worry that school kids would eventually find out and pick on him.

Instead of being the inevitable target, he became the bully, picking on effeminate boys because he was “trying to destroy that thing that was inside of me.” But his façade was shattered one day in seventh grade when one of his victims confronted him in the bathroom about why he tormented people like himself.

“Then he kissed me on the lips,” Pryor recalls about the life-changing day. “And then I knew.”

Although the two of them became friends and Pryor ended his ridiculing days, the fear of people knowing he was gay stayed with him.

Then came days at TCU as a linebacker, where he would go on to set the record of 41⁄2 sacks in a single game against Texas Tech in 1994, only a few weeks after revealing his sexuality. His record still stands today and helped TCU earn a conference title and bowl game invitation at the time.

While the Texas school appealed to him for the access to family back in San Antonio, as well as the family atmosphere of the campus, Pryor worried that his closeted life would be revealed.

“The whole time what I was trying to do was basically hide in plain sight because I always knew

I was gay,” he said. “I just didn’t want anybody to know about it.”

His confidence in his closeted persona was shattered at the start of his sophomore year when a new defensive coach began a meeting by asking if anyone on the team was gay. Pryor said he remembers the coach asking the question repeatedly, and while questions of his sexuality had arisen with little interest in girlfriends, he worried the coach was singling him out.

“Each time that he said it his voice got angrier and his face turned red,” he said. “I was petrified.”

Depression consumed Pryor as the coach’s anger over possible gay players continued to seep into his thoughts throughout the season, leading him to eventually decide that he wouldn’t return to TCU the next year.

“When that coach did that, made that proclamation to the meeting room, it was pretty frustrating and I remember getting really, really depressed,” he said. “I don’t talk too much about it because it was such a dark time, but I actually thought about killing myself.”

Admitting that he actually had a plan to commit suicide by junior year, he said he found courage in the welcoming atmosphere at TCU to

Vincent.Pryor3

ROSY REUNION | Pryor, shown at the Rose Bowl with Super Frog in 2011, now hopes to tackle the stigma of being gay in sports. ROSY REUNION | Pryor, shown at the Rose Bowl with Super Frog in 2011, now hopes to tackle the stigma of being gay in sports.

push through to the fall of junior year, with the most inspirational event happening shortly after the semester began.

It was Pryor’s current partner Alan Detlaff that stood before their social work class one day and announced that he was gay and was beginning a group for LGBT students called TCU Triangle.

After class, Pryor expressed interest in Detlaff’s group, saying that he supported the LGBT community, and they discussed his sexuality on the phone that night.

Several years after the two graduated, they ran into each other at JR.’s in Dallas and began dating. They live together in Chicago now.
“We saw each other at the bar, and the rest is history,” Pryor said. “We started talking, and here we are 13 years later.”

Pryor’s time in the support group gave him strength, while the rumors of his sexuality started in the locker rooms and hallways, until he eventually agreed to be a speaker at a conference on campus about homosexuality. Many of his teammates were present, but Pryor said his worries about the ridicule he would face afterward never came true.

“I was concerned that I would not be accepted as one of the guys and that people would treat me differently, and none of that happened,” he said.

Even the same coach who once tried to call him out supported him after asking if the declaration was true, and later hugged him on the field after a game and told him he was proud of him, something that will always stay with Pryor.

“That was vindication enough for me, and I really felt like I could be 100 percent. I felt like I could be who I needed to be,” he said. “I’ll never forget that.”

The stigma of being openly gay in sports is false, Pryor said, adding that in his circumstances in 1994 of a gay football player at a Christian university coming out and still being successful on the field is an example that being truthful about sexuality will not hinder someone’s passion or achievements.

“What I can do is live my life out, loud and proud and serve as that beacon and I think the stereotypes will change,” he said.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition February 24, 2012.

—  Anna Waugh

Drawing Dallas • 02.10.12

JaQuanFNL_2Lanky dreamboat LaQuan Brown is the ideal Valentine

MARK STOKES  | Illustrator
mark@markdrawsfunny.com

Name and age: LaQuan Brown, 18

Occupation: Student

Spotted at: Target Cityplace

At 6-feet-5, slender, romantic dreamboat LaQuan catches eyes everywhere he goes. A creamy blend of two cultures — his mother is of Dutch descent, his father is African-American — LaQuan certainly stands out in any crowd. His exotic and handsome look recently captured the attention of a modeling scout for Krave magazine, a fashion, lifestyle and entertainment publication for men of color; he was recently selected to model for an upcoming issue.

This intelligent and contemplative Scorpio was born in Oak Cliff and raised throughout Dallas. He enjoys outdoor sports of all kinds, including (predictably) basketball, but also running and taking contemplative walks. He’s also talented at freestyling, and can rap about any subject on the spur of the moment.

LaQuan’s career goal is to obtain a doctorate in psychology, and eventually become a therapist/counselor for at-risk teens.

—  Kevin Thomas

HGG 2011 Gift-A-Day: Last minute gifts and stocking stuffer roundup

COUNTING IT DOWN

Whether you need to give to the coworkers, neighbors or just add to the gift stock pile by stuffing the stocking, these might help out on your decision making.

SPIRITS WE HAVE HEARD ON HIGH

Moon Mountain vodka makes this holiday season more “green” that is certified organic by the USDA. Made in America, the artisanally crafted vodka is made from Midwestern corn, but in small batches creating the right taste to make it the perfect spirit to toast the season. The vodka is priced at $19.99.

Available at major spirits retailers.

FORGET SANTA

These Biscoff cookies are a surprisingly addictive treat, that it may be hard to give away. The crispy biscuits with the caramel flavor are ideal with coffee or even on their own. And a welcome alternative to usual holiday sweets with their light touch. Made from Belgium, these treats are vegan and contain 0 grams trans fat and 0 cholesterol per serving. So your recipients will be quite happy about these. Coming in a variety of counts and packages, these Biscoff Cafe Totes house eight packages of two. So you can get one for yourself and then try to give the other one away. You could leave them out for Santa but try not to eat them before he does. Ten percent of the purchases of this item go toward Teach for America. A set of three is priced at $16.95.

Available through Biscoff.com.

MAY THE FORCE BE WITH YOU

For the Star Wars gamer geek — er, loved ones — comes this quirky stylus set. Made for Nintendo DS products, Star Wars fans can have their very own Clone Wars with these character-designed stylus lightsabers.  The stylus can be used for DS Lite, XL and 3DS and is for ages six and up. Priced at $9.99.

Available at Best Buy, Walmart, Target and other major video game retailers.

 

GAY FILM FEST

Breaking Glass Pictures has made gift giving for your LGBT movie fan rather enticing. The company that distributed the locally-made Ticked Off Trannies with Knives is offering a 30 percent off purchases made during the holiday season. Stack up on indie gay movie faves like Violet Tendencies, The Big Gay Musical and the 30th anniversary edition of the gay classic Taxi Zum Klo. Head to the site withthe promotion code “holiday” and snag a bargain on the films. Hey, you might even get one for yourself.

Available at BreakingGlassPictures.com.

 

 

 

BRUSH AWAY

Expect an eye roll if you give kids a toothbrush, but once they start handling his Arm & Ammer Spinbrush Proclean, they might get more on board. The battery-operated brush is a simple, but effective way to keep those pearly whites, um, white, with the appeal of being a whirring gadget. Don’t talk about how better it is than a manual toothbrush and dental health. Yawn for days. Hype up the dual action technology, the durable body style and what a grown-up “toy” it is. Because, of course, adults can use it to. Retails between $8–9.

Available at retailers nationwide.

 

—  Rich Lopez

HGG 2011 Gift-A-Day: The Gaydar Gun

RICK PERRY — YOU’D BETTER HOPE NO ONE AIMS AT YOU

“You have cocktail forks… and use them!” “You’d trade it all for a date with an ice skater.” These are just some of the assessments the Gaydar Gun can make when aimed at the people to detect the precise degree of their queerness (“No more guessing!” it promises) on the rainbow scale, from Rob Halford to Liberace’s poodles. A piece of novelty amusement, the Gaydar Gun is a great toy for parties, conversation starter while people watching and just a good source of bitchy comments.  (You can even switch the sex of the target to make sure the shade you’re throwing is gender-appropriate.)

Retails online at GaydarGun.com and other sites for $30.

—  Rich Lopez

HGG 2011 Gift-A-Day: AirDog toys by Kong

UP IN THE AIR

Kong’s Airdog line is for those dogs with an athletic bent. OK, they all can jump and run, but these toys will give them a good workout. The line is made from tennis ball material that doesn’t irritate a dog’s gums and teeth. For the dog who can’t help but likes to get wet, toss the Fetch Stick with rope that floats high on the water for Fido to fetch easily. The Squeaker Stick speaks for itself and is also made with the same materials, as are all the items in Kong’s AirDog line. The items in medium size are priced at $8.99–$9.99.

Available at PetSmart, PETCO and Target retailers.

—  Rich Lopez

The growing problem of workplace bullying

Phyllis Guest
Taking Notes

Bullying isn’t just confined to teens; adults in the workplace are targeted, too

I recently met a remarkable woman who has a lot to say about a kind of adult bullying that hits straights as well as LGBTS, that hurts men as well as women, that harms older and less connected workers the most, and that is so pervasive it’s called “The Silent Epidemic.”

Esque Walker, who lives in Corsicana and drove up to Dallas recently to give a Saturday morning presentation on workplace bullying, has an undergraduate degree in health information management, a masters in healthcare/health information management and a doctorate in public policy and administration.

She also has a score of certifications and areas of expertise.

She has been working diligently for the passage of the Texas Healthy Workplace Bill, authored by Dr. David Yamada of the Workplace Bullying Institute. It’s hard going, as you can imagine.

So far, Dr. Walker has been unable to even get a meeting with Gov. Rick Perry. Perhaps he is too busy campaigning. More likely, if his many aides have put her name and credentials before him, he has retreated into his good-hairyness.

Remember: He scraped through Texas A&M with Ds; she has a Ph.D.

But the governor is not the only impediment to getting this bill in place. So far, Dr. Walker and her associates have spoken with a great many Texas state senators and representatives. Not one has agreed to sponsor the bill.

Dr. Walker was herself the target of workplace bullying some years ago. But instead of simply taking the abuse — as most women and many men have done over the years — she aligned herself with others who understood the issues involved.

So, what are the issues?

To begin, Dr. Walker asserts that adult bullying is based on the bully’s need for power and control. It’s closely linked with competitiveness; the bully may resent the target’s appearance, education, personality or any number of facets of the other person’s being. He or she definitely does not want the target to advance.

So how do you know you are targeted, assuming the bully does not actually taunt or threaten you, as happens so often to children and teens?

You start with power disparity; the bully may have a higher status, longer tenure or perhaps corporate protectors to give him or her a sense of strength.

Then you look at four other criteria: repetition, duration, intensity and escalation.

Workplace bullying, says Dr. Walker, usually plays out in a predictable way. First, the bully criticizes you or gets someone above you in the pecking order to do so. Next, the bully involves others, usually four to six people who may see you as a threat or just want to curry favor with the boss.

Then, no matter what you do, it is not enough or not good enough, and coworkers are not allowed to “help” you. Eventually you are fired — after being told, “You are not a team player.”
Here’s how it looks by the numbers:

• 62 percent of bullies are men (who may bully other men, straight women or, of course, LGBTs).

• 58 percent of targets are women.

• 18 percent of adult suicides in the European Union are attributed to workplace bullying.

• An estimated 1 million Texans are bullied at work every year.

As the economy has worsened, pushing out older workers has become the norm; counselors report the escalation, although putting a number to the pain is virtually impossible.
So what to do if you are the target?

First, document everything, with specifics of person, time, place and comment or event. Second, do not go to your organization’s human resources person or department; HR works for the company and could care less about you.

The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission or your union representative — if applicable — can help; the latter may be especially important in education and medicine, where power disparities and bullying are common.

The Workplace Bullying Institute (WorkPlaceBullying.org) publishes a newsletter and other materials that can offer insight plus specifics. The Dallas Public Library has books by Gary Namie and Ruth Namie, Ph.D.’s known for their groundbreaking research and writing on workplace “jerks, weasels and snakes.”

And of course Out & Equal has done and continues doing great work on behalf of our community.

Final thoughts: The worst that can happen is that Texas will continue to allow vast amounts of cruelty in offices, factories, fields and stores. The best that could happen is that our next Legislature will pass the Healthy Workplace Bill, recognizing the problem, mandating anti-bullying education, and allowing victims to sue.

Meanwhile, if a workplace bully is making you frightened and depressed, find a counselor in whom you can confide. And don’t wait ’til tomorrow. Do it today.

Phyllis Guest is a longtime activist on political and LGBT issues and is a member of Stonewall Democrats of Dallas.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition November 18, 2011.

—  Michael Stephens

Investigation clears gay Fort Worth teacher

Kristopher Franks set to return to work Friday after 4-day leave stemming from allegations of improper behavior

FWISD School board member Carlos Vasquez

Tammye Nash  |  Senior Editor
nash@dallasvoice.com

FORT WORTH — Gay Western Hills High School teacher Kristopher Franks, put on paid administrative leave on Monday, Sept. 26, following allegations of improper behavior, has been cleared of all allegations and was set to return to work today (Friday, Sept. 30).

Franks is the teacher who  became the target of ire from the religious right after he sent a student in his German 1 class to the principal’s office for saying in class that as a Christian he believed “homosexuality is wrong.” The school’s assistance principal then suspended the student, setting off a controversy that made headlines around the country.

That student, freshman Dakota Ary, and his mother enlisted the assistance of Liberty Counsel attorney Matt Krause in fighting the suspension on the grounds that Franks and the school had violated Ary’s right to freedom of speech.

District officials quickly reversed their decision, lifting the suspension.

But Steven Poole, deputy executive director for the United Educators Association of Texas, a teachers union, said Tuesday, Sept. 27, that the allegations leading to Franks being put on leave were unrelated to the incident with Ary.

Franks, who had not spoken to the press previously on the advice of his union representative, said Thursday afternoon that he had just met with Fort Worth Independent School District administrators, who told him the nearly weeklong investigation had determined that the allegations against him were unfounded. He did not elaborate on the substance of those allegations.

Franks also said administrators had given him the option of returning to teach at Western Hills High or transferring to another school in the district.

“I haven’t made up my mind yet what I’m going to do,” Franks told Dallas Voice by phone Thursday afternoon. “I’m going to go back to work tomorrow, and I will talk to my boss [the district’s world languages supervisor], and see what she says and decide what’s the best thing to ­do from there.”

FWISD Board of Trustees member Dr. Carlos Vasquez told Dallas Voice in a phone call Wednesday afternoon, Sept. 28, that any time allegations are made against a teacher, those allegations have to be investigated, and it is routine for the teacher in question to be placed on paid administrative leave.

Franks said Thursday that he was pleased with the outcome of the investigation, carried out by an independent investigator, and that interim FWISD Supt. Walter Dansby was “very nice” when they spoke.

“I think they did the right thing,” Franks said. “I can go back to work, which is great. But now I just have to figure out how to fix the damage this whole thing has done to my personal life.”

Franks said since the investigation is closed, he is no longer being represented by a union attorney. He has, instead, retained the services of attorney Stephen Gordon to “represent me on any aspects of this whole thing going forward.”

He also indicated that he and Gordon would be discussing what possible actions he might take against “those people who have lied and made false allegations against me.”

While Franks had previously declined to speak to the media, Daokta Ary, his mother and Krause as their attorney went immediately to the press, telling their side of the story in several TV interviews and saying Franks and the school had violated the student’s right to freedom of speech. The case quickly became a rallying point for the religious right.

Krause this week told Dallas Voice that he and his clients are satisfied with school officials’ decision to rescind the unexcused absences the suspension left on Ary’s record, but “we would still like for them [school officials] to completely vindicate him and say that he did nothing wrong. He should never have been written up for an infraction. He should never have been sent to the office, and he should never have been suspended.”

Ary said in  media interviews that he made the comment quietly to a classmate sitting next to him in response to a discussion going on in the class at the time.

Dakota Ary

But Franks told friends shortly after the incident that there was no discussion involving homosexuality at the time, and that Ary made the comment loudly while looking directly at Franks.

Franks also told friends that the comment was only the latest in an ongoing series of incidents in which Ary and a group of three of his friends have made anti-gay comments to and about him.

Franks told friends that the harassment by Ary and his friends began several weeks ago after Franks, who also teaches sociology, posted on the “World Wall” in his classroom a photo, taken from the German news magazine Stern, of two men kissing. The photo was ripped off the wall and torn in two at some point during Ary’s class, and Franks told friends he believes that Ary or one of his friends tore up the photo.

During a later sociology class students upset that the photo had been torn up replaced it with a hand-drawn picture, and another student then covered that picture with a page bearing a hand-written biblical scripture from Leviticus calling sex between two men an abomination.

Franks told friends that since that incident, Ary and his friends had continued to make derogatory and harassing comments.

Franks’ friends also said that the teacher, a Fulbright scholar, has been the target of anti-gay harassment for at least the last two years, including having hateful messages left in his classroom and, in one case, having his car vandalized.

FWISD teacher Martin Vann, spokesman for the group LGBTQ S.A.V.E.S. that was formed about a year ago to help protect students and teachers in the district from anti-gay discrimination and bullying, said that Franks told his version of the incident last week, before the current investigation was launched and Franks was required to sign a statement saying he would not discuss the incident with other teachers, administrators, parents or students. Vann said Franks denied getting angry and yelling at Ary, as Ary had said, and reiterated that Ary’s comments were not pertinent to any discussion in the class at the time.

Vann said Franks told him that another student had asked him what the German word for “Christian” was, and how, if he moved to Germany, he could find an English translation of the Bible. That’s when, Franks told Vann, Ary looked directly at him and said loudly that as a Christian, he believes homosexuality is wrong.

It was not, Franks told Vann, a simple statement of belief or opinion but rather an intentional effort to insult and harass the teacher that Ary perceived to be gay.

Krause this week again said that Ary did not direct his remark in class that day at Franks, and that Ary had nothing to do with tearing down the photo of the men kissing.

The attorney also said that Ary told him he did not know to whom Franks was referring when he talked about Ary’s “three friends.”

The Franks case comes in the wake of months of scandal over allegations by teachers that administrators routinely allowed some teachers and administrators to harass and bully students and other teachers, and that teachers who complained often faced retaliation.

Vasquez, who is openly gay, said Wednesday that he believed the Franks investigation would be fair, that he would watch the situation closely “to make sure all the proper procedures are followed,” and that he believed Dansby would handle the situation fairly.

“Considering all the problems we’ve had, I know he [Dansby] will be watching this closely,” Vasquez said.

Vasquez said it is the school district’s responsibility to make sure there is “no harassment in our schools, whether it’s from the teacher to the student, or student to student or even student to teacher. I know that happens, sometimes, too.

“There should be no harassment whatsoever in our schools,” Vasquez , himself a former teacher, said.

Fort Worth ISD has been credited with having one of the most comprehensive anti-bullying and anti-harassment policies in the state, having adopted individual policies within the last year to include prohibitions against harassment and bullying, including that based on sexual orientation, gender identity and gender expression, for both teachers and students.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition September 30, 2011.

—  Michael Stephens

EurAsian excellence

Korean-born but European-bred, Kia’s Optima EX has luxury and speed at a bargain price

CASEY WILLIAMS  | Auto Reviewer
crwauto@aol.com

……………………….

’11 OPTIMA EX
Kia. 200 horsepower, 2.4 liter Inline-4 24/34-MPG city/hwy. As-tested price: $27,440

……………………….

The low point of Kia design was not the Sephia or Spectra — it was the Amati, which looked like some Saturday morning cartoon thought it would be cool to get a TownCar to cohabitate with an Accord and act out their affection upon America. It was a good car, but for prayer’s sake, somebody needed to get Kia’s design department drawing in the right direction.

That person turned out to be Peter Schreyer, who became chief design officer in 2006. Schreyer’s resume includes some stunners, including the 1996 Audi A3, the 1998 Audi TT, the 1998 Audi A6 and the 2006 VW Eos. That’s just what he gets credit for before landing at Kia. Since then, his team sculpted the beautiful 2010 Forte, 2010 Sportage, and this Optima. Who says good design has to be expensive? Like Michael Graves for Target, Schreyer graced masterful styling upon the masses while teaching Kia to speak with a European accent.

You can tell an expertly designed car by the attention to detail. The Optima’s design starts with a fairly conservative sedan with arched roofline, but designers spent considerable time sculpting the ridges on either side of the hood and fitting in a cool chrome band that runs from the base of the A-pillar, through the roof and into the top edge of the C-pillar.

INSIDE AND OUT | Kia’s signature pinched grille, top, remains intact, but the stylishly redesigned interior, above, harkens to the finest and most user-friendly of Euro roadsters, like the Saab.

Kia’s trademark pinched grille dominates the front, but makes friends with angled headlamps that give the car an aggressive face. A strong shoulderline anchors the bottom half of the car and helps break up the tall body. Tail lamps have dimension and resemble those on the new VW Passat.

I admire the exterior, but the inside is even better. A Saab-style wrap-around dashboard puts controls readily at hand and is enhanced with stitched sections on either side of the instrument cluster. No other mid-size sedan has a more perfectly-sized heated leather-wrapped steering wheel that also contains the Bluetooth phone controls. Heated and cooled leather front buckets are all-day comfortable; outboard rear passengers soak in the heat.

Nobody makes an easier-to-use touchscreen for the navigation, XM Satellite radio and USB-connected MP3 player. A panoramic sunroof only makes it easier to see the elegant bluish woodgrain on the doors and console. Schreyer apparently remembered the perfectly weighted gear selector from his Audi days, because the Optima gets its own.

So, what happens when an international designer meets world-class engineers? They create cars that not only look European, but drive that way, too. In fact, the front-drive Optima behaves like the last Saab 9-5, a personal favorite. Steering is nicely weighted and precise while the suspension is compliant, but firm. The chassis two-steps over rough pavement with nary a shudder, absorbing potholes without going weepy, while settling down for a long, quiet drive. You can feel the steering purring in your hands, telling you what the car’s thinking. Four-wheel anti-lock brakes, traction control, electronic stability control, and hill-start assist control aid the driver with his or her duties.

I thumped the Optima hard on a one-day road trip of more than 600 miles. Kia’s 200-HP 2.4-liter direct-injection four-cylinder engine, connected to a 6-speed Sportmatic transmission, is pretty sweet. The torquey little lump of motivation feels mightier than its sword suggests. Step on it at 80 mph, and the six-speed transmission clips down a couple of cogs, sending the car off to wherever you point it.

Running at least 10 mph over the legal limit most of the way, it returned nearly 33-MPG. (The EPA claims 24/34-MPG city/hwy.) There are some just re-designed competitors from big-name automakers that would die to have this powertrain. Kia owners will barely notice the fuel bill or any noise from under the hood.

It used to be that people bought Kias because they apparently liked being jokes of the neighborhood. Those days left to the heap of old school thinking like respect for Charlie Sheen. The Ashton Kutcher era brings us an entire line of Kias that you’ll choose because you fall in love with them, like Korean Volkswagens. This, come to think of it, might be exactly Schreyer’s point.

Not that the Optima needs it, but it comes standard with Kia’s 10-year/100,000-mile powertrain warranty. Sans NAV, panoramic roof, and all of the heating and cooling for seats and steering wheels, the Optima EX starts at just $22,495. As equipped as a Swedish treat, expect to pay $27,440 -— a freakin’ steal for this dreamy ride. You’ll just have to wrench the keys from my warm knurled fingers. Speaking European won’t help your cause.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition September 16, 2011.

—  Michael Stephens

What’s Brewing: Farmers Branch Mayor Timothy O’Hare rails against Gay Straight Alliance

Your weekday morning blend from Instant Tea:

1. Farmers Branch Mayor Timothy O’Hare, best known for his efforts to crack down on immigrants, recently used his Twitter account to rail against the formation of a Gay Straight Alliance at R.L. Turner High School in Carrollton (screen grabs above). O’Hare wrote on Twitter on March 23 that the GSA “promotes homosexuality and transgender lifestyles … to our children.” Then he asked children and parents in the Carrollton-Farmers Branch Independent School District, “what do you plan to do about it?” In addition to his immigration crackdowns, O’Hare has led a controversial campaign for Farmers Branch to start its own school district and secede from the Carrollton-Farmers Branch ISD, a proposal that will appear on the ballot in May. O’Hare is not seeking re-election. It’s unclear whether the GSA at R.L. Turner has been allowed to meet. Stay tuned to Instant Tea for more on this story.

2. A judge in California has ruled that Target can’t stop a grassroots group from circulating petitions in support of marriage equality outside its stores, according to the San Diego Gay & Lesbian News. Last Month the retail giant sought an injunction against Canvass for a Cause, saying the group was scaring away customers and creating the perception that the company supports marriage equality. Target is expected to appeal the judge’s decision.

3. The Delaware Senate approved a civil unions bill on Thursday by a vote of 13-6. The bill, which now goes to the House, would make Delaware the eighth state to legalize civil unions.

—  John Wright