Tarrant County lesbian couple files for divorce

FWdivorce

A lot has happened this week in Texas regarding same-sex marriage and divorce.

A Tarrant County couple came out as straight friends hoping to help win the marriage equality fight in the state. And a judge prevented Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott from interfering a San Antonio couple’s divorce proceedings.

Now a Tarrant County couple has filed for divorce. Brooke Powell and Cori Jo Long married in New Hampshire four years ago. Powell’s attorney filed a petition to declare the marriage void, like it never happened. But the couple wants a divorce.

Under Texas law, same-sex divorce is illegal just as much as same-sex marriage or recognizing same-sex unions. However, back in February, a U.S. district judge declared Texas marriage law unconstitutional. The Texas Supreme Court heard arguments in two same-sex divorce cases in November. A ruling is expected by summer.

“I feel like since I was legally married, then I should be entitled to a divorce,” Long told Fox 4 News.

Watch Fox 4’s report below.

—  Anna Waugh

21st annual Tarrant County AIDS Walk steps off Saturday at Trinity Park

Walk-picture-2011

AIDS Outreach Center hopes to earn $100,000 at the Tarrant County’s 21st annual AIDS Walk and Fun Run.

The event begins at 8 a.m. on March 30 at the northern end of Trinity Park at Stayton and 7th streets in Fort Worth with warm-up exercises, yoga, vendors and entertainment. Runners will begin at 9:30 a.m. and walkers at 9:45 a.m.

Registration is $30, which includes a commemorative T-shirt. Dog and pet registration is $10.

Donations may be made online or may be mailed to AIDS Outreach Center, 400 North Beach St., Ste. 100, Fort Worth, Texas, 76111.

AOC serves Tarrant County and seven surrounding counties with a nutrition center, dental clinic, counseling and case management. An AIDS Healthcare Foundation clinic is attached to its main office.

—  David Taffet

AOC kicks off 21st Tarrant County AIDS Walk with a casino party

AIDS Outreach Center‘s 21st annual Tarrant County AIDS Walk and Fun Run will be held Saturday, March 30, from 8 a.m. to noon in Trinity Park. Sign-in takes place at the Trinity Park Pavilion at 7th Street in Fort Worth.

A casino night kick-off party will be Feb. 8 at the Hilton Fort Worth, 815 Main Street, beginning at 7 p.m.

Volunteers for the walk and fun run are needed for set-up, water stations, path monitors, kids area, registration, food, vendor check-in and clean-up.

Anyone interested in volunteering should contact Mary Scales by email or at 817-296-0597.

In the eight counties served by AOC, more than 4,500 people are known to be living with HIV/AIDS. Estimates are that 20 percent more in the area are infected and do not know.

AOC was founded in 1986 by volunteers to help people with AIDS in Fort Worth deal with end-of-life issues. Today AOC stands as the largest AIDS social service organization in Tarrant County in the fight against AIDS.

Last year, the agency partnered with AIDS Healthcare Foundation to open a medical clinic at its facility.

—  David Taffet

SLIDESHOW: Fort Worth Pride parade is city’s largest

CLICK HERE TO VIEW MORE PHOTOS FROM TARRANT PRIDE

 

Participants say parade, in 2nd year on Main Street, presents positive image of LGBT community

LOGAN CARVER  |  Contributing Writer

FORT WORTH — Perry Anable wiped tears from his eyes Saturday as he watched throngs of gays, lesbians, allies and passersby mingle on Main Street in Fort Worth after the largest gay Pride parade in the city’s history.

Anable, brother of the late activist Thomas Anable — who was named grand marshal before his August death and who was honored during the parade with a riderless car — said the large turnout showed that gay people finally have a voice in the city of Fort Worth and are no longer afraid to live their lives openly.

Thomas Anable helped formed Fairness Fort Worth after the Rainbow Lounge raid and was instrumental in the parade’s move from Jennings Street to Downtown.

“That’s what I believe I fought for is this right here,” said Perry Anable, a Vietnam veteran. “Whether you agree with the choice isn’t important; it’s that you have the freedom to choose, and that’s what this is about.”

The first bite of autumn couldn’t chill the spirits of parade-goers as floats made their way from the Tarrant County Courthouse to the Fort Worth Convention Center.

And while there was no shortage of shirtless dancers gyrating to thumping bass, the Fort Worth parade was markedly different than its Dallas cousin.

If Dallas Pride is your flashiest pair of pumps, Fort Worth Pride is your favorite pair of Tom’s. It doesn’t have the glitz and the glamour, but it exudes a feeling of community that doesn’t go unnoticed.

The Fort Worth parade was started 31 years ago by a drag queen who wanted a place for gays to congregate that wasn’t between the four walls of a bar, said parade director Tina Harvey.

For nearly three decades, the parade took place on Jennings Street — celebrating gay Pride in front of nothing but bars, dilapidated storefronts and homeless people. Last year, with the help of Thomas Anable, the parade moved to downtown and marked a new era in the Fort Worth LGBT community.

Harvey said it gives credibility to people who have been treated as second-class citizens their entire lives; and the Main Street presence helps break down stereotypes.

“Other people can see our event going on and see ‘hey, they’re just a loving, tight-knit community and having a great time and this is a great thing,’” Harvey said. “If we’re down on Jennings, nobody comes except the gay community.”

Dana Curtis has participated in both the Dallas and Fort Worth parades and said the Fort Worth celebration is more personal.

“Everybody is on the same team in Fort Worth,” she said.

And for her, being able to ride a float down Main Street is liberating after years of oppression.

“(It’s an) absolute victory for those of us who have been marginalized for so long,” Curtis said. “We haven’t had a voice. Now we do.”

Craig McNeil, who marched with QCinema, said the parade’s downtown location — away from the bar district — makes families feel more comfortable.

“It’s good for them to see there aren’t naked people running around,” McNeil said. “It really is a great community event, and I think that’s great.”

On Saturday, the streets along the parade route were lined with elderly couples — gay and straight, families with children and allies who simply wanted to support equality in their community.

Sheldon Berry twirled a baton with the Fort Worth Pride Steppers and said it was important for non-gays in the city to see gay people who weren’t running around getting drunk.

“It’s not all like you see in the movies,” Berry said. “I just try to represent something really good and positive.”

Apparently Berry’s message was well received.

Kim Mixson was in town for a wedding, staying at a downtown hotel, and heard about the parade. She wore beads around her neck as she watched the floats roll down Main Street.

“I love it. I think it’s great. I see absolutely nothing wrong with it,” Mixson said. “People are people and to each their own.”

Rachel Tillay is a seminary student at Southern Methodist University and went to the Fort Worth parade to show support for the LGBT community and to serve as a counter balance to any anti-gay protestors.

To Tillay, anyone who claims to be Christian and uses scripture to support his or her hate speech doesn’t understand the Bible. She said the verses they take out of context and use to condemn homosexuality actually condemn a lack of hospitality, and when placed in the correct context have nothing to do with same-sex love.

“I’ve learned from my studies that we really need to be pro-gay if we want to be Christians,” Tillay said.

As expected, there were some purportedly Christian protestors quoting cherry-picked Bible verses in their vitriolic diatribe, but the Fort Worth Police Department kept them from interfering with parade viewers and participants and even straight people saw them as misguided afterthoughts.

“I think they should spend their time doing other positive things in the community instead of being out here worrying about how other people live,” said LeAnne Koonsman, who came to support the LGBT people she works with.

Fort Worth police said Monday that two anti-gay protesters were arrested. The arrested protesters are members of Kingdom Baptist Church in Johnson County, which has regularly staged anti-gay demonstrations in North Texas over the last few years. Joey Faust, 46, and Ramon Marroquin, 33, were charged with interfering with public duties, a class-B misdemeanor punishable by up to 180 days in jail and a maximum $2,000 fine. Faust is the pastor for Kingdom Baptist Church.

After the parade and the ensuing street festival, Harvey said this year’s event was a huge success.

“It was a beautiful day of celebration on Main Street,” she said.

—  John Wright

Celebration Community Church announces plans for new center

Members of Celebration Community Church’s Capital Campaign Committee and Building Committee gather around a sign announcing The Rev. Carol A. West Community Center. The church held a steak cookout on Sunday, Aug. 19, to view the footprint for the planned expansion.

The congregation at Celebration Community Church celebrated the church’s upcoming expansion Sunday when details of the new community center were announced.

A capital campaign kicked off last year for the $1.3 million building and is expected to be complete by the end of 2013. Construction will take about a year.

More plans of the building were released Sunday. The building will serve as a meeting place for about 400 people and will be built north of the church with a covered walkway linking it to the current sanctuary. It will be named The Rev. Carol A. West Community Center in honor of West, who marked her 14th year at the church Sunday.

West said the name was announced again Sunday with the new expansion details after the church’s Board of Directors voted to name it for her after last year.

“I was very honored,” West told Instant Tea. “It was a very sweet surprise.”

West has seen the church grow from 35 members when she started more than a decade ago to the roughly 600 members now. She said the expansion will help the church, which is the largest Tarrant County church with a primary LGBT outreach, offer more groups and organizations to use the church as a meeting place.

“We’ve forged ahead in the community and this expansion is part of reaching out to the community,” she said.

Tom Guerin of Jepsen Guerin Architects in Dallas will be the architect on the project. Nan Faith Arnold of Nan Faith Arnold Co. in Dallas will serve as project manager.

To learn how you can support the capital campaign, call 817-335-3222.

Read the press release below.

—  Anna Waugh

Tom Anable’s family, Fort Worth police chief release statements on his death

The family of Fairness Fort Worth President Thomas Anable reacted to his loss in a statement Monday through family spokesman Paul Valdez.

The statement mentions the shock of Anable’s sudden death after he took his own life this weekend, but focuses on the advocacy work that he’d held so dear since becoming an “accidental activist” after the Rainbow Lounge led him to pursue LGBT equality in Tarrant County and beyond.

“As we mourn his tragic death, we must always remember and celebrate what he accomplished, not only for Fort Worth and Dallas, but on a national stage for both advocacy and empowerment. He taught us about moving forward and making a difference,” the statement reads.

“Tom was a beautiful soul, with a heart of gold, and we are devastated by his loss. Though we may never fully understand his death, our family has chosen to celebrate his life and the amazing legacy he leaves to us all.”

Anable’s death has been ruled suicide by the Tarrant County Medical Examiner’s Office. He died from a gunshot wound to the head. He was 58.

Fort Worth Police Chief Jeff Halstead also released a statement Monday, saying he was “very saddened to hear the news about Tom.”

“Tom was a personal friend, a trusted colleague, and an inspiration. His advocacy for the LGBTQ community opened many eyes, including my own,” Halstead said. “Tom worked passionately to improve police department’s ‘hate crime’ policies and investigative protocols.”

Fairness Fort Worth, which Anable helped launch and has led since June 2010, played an integral role in mending the relationship between the police department and the LGBT community after the Rainbow Lounge raid.

“The Fort Worth Police Department is forever indebted to Tom for bridging the gap and strengthening our enduring commitment to work together for fairness and equality,” Halstead said in the statement.

A candlelight vigil honoring Anable will be held at the Rainbow Lounge at 7 p.m. Wednesday. A memorial service will then follow at 10:30 a.m. Saturday at Celebration Community Church in Fort Worth.

Read the full statements below.

—  Anna Waugh

Gay Republican wins Tarrant County precinct chair race

William Busby, a 20-year-old Republican active in Fort Worth politics, won his precinct race Tuesday night against a longtime chair.

Busby won in South Fort Worth’s precinct 4256. He said he decided to run because the current chair has served for more than a decade and has rarely attended important events and committee meetings in the past year.

While open about his sexuality, Busby said he won the race without his opponent running an anti-gay campaign, despite few gay Republicans being open in his political circles.

“I’m pretty much one of the few,” he said, adding that his stronger presence in the party will help change any anti-gay attitudes. “I think it helps to bring openness to the party.”

Busby is one the few openly gay Republicans elected in Tarrant County, if not the first. And while he won with seven votes in a race that garnered 17 total votes, he said the impact was still important.

Dallas GOP leader Rob Schlein won his North Dallas precinct chair race after beating Homer Adams by five votes.

Schlein said Tuesday night that he was the first openly gay Republican to win contested primary in Texas, but gay Dallsite Paul von Wupperfeld said about a dozen gay Republicans were elected in contested precinct chair races in the early 90s in Travis County.

Von Wupperfeld said he served as a precinct chair in Travis County in the 90s and served on the platform committee in Travis County in 1990 and 1992. He was also elected as a delegate to the GOP state conventions in 1990, 1992 and 1994 and served as the state chairman of Log Cabin Republicans.

Von Wupperfeld moved to Dallas 16 years ago and is now a Democrat. He said Schlein was not even he first openly gay Republican elected in the county, as three men in the 90s were elected in Dallas County – Stan Aten, Keith Pomykal and P.D. Sterling. And while Schlein is the first openly gay Republican elected in at least 10 years, von Wupperfeld said it doesn’t reflect a changing, more inclusive Republican Party.

“The GOP in Dallas County is gone,” he said. “When they take all the hate language out of the platform and stop running anti-gay candidates and campaigns, maybe there’s change. Just electing one gay candidate is nothing.”

—  Anna Waugh

Veasey touts vote against marriage amendment, says LGBT community is “galvanized” behind him

State Rep. Marc Veasey addresses the crowd at a Tarrant County Stonewall Democrats meeting July 9. (Anna Waugh/Dallas Voice)

With 13 days left until early voting for the runoff begins, it’s crunch time for both state Rep. Marc Veasey and former state Rep. Domingo Garcia to gain voters in the other’s county.

Both Veasey and Garcia were scheduled to speak at the Tarrant County Stonewall Democrats meeting Monday night, but Garcia was unable to attend at the last minute.

Instead, Bexar County Democratic Party Chair Choco Meza spoke briefly on his behalf.

Meza, who lives in San Antonio but was in the area visiting family, said she wanted to come speak on Garcia’s behalf because she’s known him most of her adult life. She said she wouldn’t give up time with her family to speak to strangers “if I didn’t believe so strongly like I do about Domingo.”

She reminded the audience that Garcia was “in the forefront in any legislation regarding LGBT issues when he served in the Legislature” from 1996 to 2002, where he voted for a hate crimes bill that includess sexual orientation in 2001.

State Rep. Marc Veasey then spoke to the large crowd of about 50 people amid cheers and applause. A large majority of the audience was sporting Veasey campaign stickers.

Veasey was the top vote-getter in the primary, winning Tarrant County and coming in second in Dallas County.

Veasey said he couldn’t have come so far without the help from supporters in Tarrant County and the LGBT supporters from the county.

“It’s because of you and your belief in me and you being willing to stand up for my record, and that’s why we ran such a good strong campaign the first round,” he said.

Highlighting that he won a precinct in Dallas with the most LGBT families, he said he was gaining momentum among Dallas County voters to secure a win on July 31.

“The LGBT community has really galvanized behind me and I’m really proud of that,” he said. “I want to know that not just because of that but because it’s the right thing to do, that when I go to Congress that you can always count on me to be a strong advocate on the issues that are important to your families and to your community.”

In closing, he reminded the audience of his freshman year in the state House in 2005, when he voted against an amendment to the Texas Constitution banning same-sex marriage and civil unions when others representatives walked out of the vote or voted with Republicans.

“I’ll never forget that day,” he said. “I saw people that quite frankly that shouldn’t have done it, but I saw people walk off the House floor because they didn’t want to take that vote.

“I never skip votes and I can promise you that when those votes that are important to the LGBT community come onto the United States House floor, that I will be there fighting for you.”

A debate between Veasey and Garcia will air tonight on KERA at 10 p.m. with encores played at 7:30 p.m. Friday and noon Sunday. It will also play on KERA 90.1 FM at 5 p.m. Sunday.

Watch the debate below.

Watch The Texas Debates: Congressional District 33 on PBS. See more from KERA Specials.

—  Anna Waugh

Fort Worth’s Betsy Price won’t sign marriage pledge; N. Texas still has no mayors on list

Fort Worth Mayor Betsy Price in the Tarrant County Pride Parade last year.

In case you missed it, Fort Worth Mayor Betsy Price issued a statement the other day saying she doesn’t plan to sign a pledge in support of same-sex marriage. Although Price is a Republican, she expressed support for the LGBT community during her campaign last year and served as grand marshal of the Tarrant County Gay Pride Parade in October. On the marriage pledge issue, however, Price is a taking similar tack to Dallas Mayor Mike Rawlings:

“I remain focused on the business of the City of Fort Worth,” Price said in a statement. “The issue of same sex marriage is one for the state, not local government.”

Six Texas mayors have now joined about 100 others from across the U.S. in signing the pledge in support of same-sex marriage, according to Freedom to Marry. But none of those six is from North Texas, which is kinda sad. After all, Dallas-Fort Worth is the fourth-largest metropolitan area in the U.S., so you’d think we’d have a least one name on the list. As it stands, Bexar County is leading the way in the Lone Star State with three mayors who’ve signed the pledge: Julian Castro of San Antonio, Bruce Smiley-Kalff of Castle Hills (pop. 4,202) and A. David Marne of Shavano Park (pop. 1,754). The other three mayors from Texas are Annise Parker of Houston, Joe Jaworski of Galveston and Lee Leffingwell of Austin.

Stay tuned to Instant Tea for coverage of tonight’s protest outside Dallas City Hall and Saturday’s meeting between Mayor Rawlings and LGBT leaders. I’ll also do my best to keep you updated on Twitter, where someday I hope to have 1,000 followers.

—  John Wright

Help Tarrant DA’s office help a family in need

The Castro-Martinez family: father Joel, mother Avigail, and sons Joel and Eliel

Just a little more than a year ago life changed irrevocably for Joel Castro-Mares, Avigail Martinez-Baez and their two sons, Joel and Eliel. Now, employees of the Tarrant County District Attorney’s Office want to do something to help  this family that can no longer help themselves. And you can help, too.

A little more than a year ago, Avigail was expecting her and Joel’s third child. Their daughter, who would be named Genesis, was going to be born any minute. About 2 a.m. on Nov. 21, 2010, in need of some last-minute supplies, Joel and Avigail put their sons into the family’s Chrysler Sebring, and the family headed to the store.

But as they passed through an intersection on McCart Avenue, on Fort Worth’s south side, a drunk driver in an SUV ran a red light and slammed broadside into the family’s car. The drunk driver then fled the scene, but a Fort Worth Police officer who saw the accident was able to give his fellow officers enough information about the SUV that they were able to track down the driver while the first officer stayed at the scene of the accident with the gravely injured family of four.

When officers found the drunken driver at his home, he first tried to run out the back door. When they caught him, he sang the theme song to the TV show COPS as they handcuffed him and put in the police car.

Meanwhile, the members of the Castro-Martinez family were clinging to life – except for Genesis, the family’s as-yet unborn daughter. Her life was ended before it even had a chance to begin. She was killed in the crash.

The two young boys suffered serious injuries. Joel had fractured ribs and several lacerations. Eliel suffered a laceration to his liver. Their father Joel was so severely injured that he was unable to work for six months after the accident.

But Avigail was the surviving family member with the most serious injuries. Not only did she lose her unborn daughter, she suffered bleeding in her brain and in her lungs, and spent six months on life support — unresponsive and unaware of anything going on around her. Now, Avigail remains confined to a wheelchair, and she will be for the rest of her life, unable to care for herself or her family.

So this year, the employees of the Tarrant County DA’s office are adopting the Castro-Martinez family in an effort to give them a special Christmas. A statement from the DA’s office explained: “We want to help make their life a little easier by taking care of some of their important necessities” like a new wheelchair for Avigail, making their house wheelchair accessible, installing a shower chair and railings for Avigail and helping out with groceries.

“We also want to give the Castro-Martinez family a special Christmas,” the statement continued. “Our plan includes putting up a Christmas tree and lights and buying gifts for the two boys.”

And here’s where the rest of us come in. The DA’s Office is looking for donations — donations of in-kind items, like a new wheelchair, shower chair and shower railings for Avigail; cash donations that can be used to purchase necessities for the family, and donations of time and effort from people willing to help repairs and upgrades to the family’s home. Here’s the list of needed items:

In addition to a wheelchair, shower chair and shower railings, Avigail needs adult diapers, size medium, and sweat pants and sweat shirts, size small. Joel the father needs pants in a size 34 waist, and XL shirts. The children, Joel and Eliel, need pants in children’s sizes 5 and 6, shoes in children’s sizes 10 and 12 and jackets in children’s sizes 5 and 7. The DA’s Office also wants to be able to donate toys for the two boys for Christmas. Joel, now 5, asked Santa for a Nintendo Wii or an Xbox game system. Eliel, who is 4, asked Santa for a bike. They both said they like playing with cars and trucks.

I know that we have plenty of people here in our own LGBT and HIV/AIDS communities that need our help this holiday season. I am not saying we should ignore them. But I just think we should remember that we don’t have to restrict ourselves to just helping our own. When you get right down to it, we’re all in this together, after all.

But in the end, I guess, it doesn’t matter WHO you help. What matters is THAT you helped. And if you want to help the Tarrant County DA’s Office in helping the Castro-Martinez family, you can do that by dropping off in-kind donations in the conference room of the DA’s office’s third floor misdemeanor section, 401 W. Belknap, or by contacting Ashlea Deener by email at abdeener@tarrantcounty.com or Bryan Hoeller by email at bphoeller@tarrantcounty.com to make a cash donation or to volunteer to help with repairs.

—  admin