What’s Brewing: TX Senate OKs anti-bullying bill; FW candidate calls LGBT protections ‘damnable’

District 7 Fort Worth council candidate Jack Ernest called the city’s LGBT-inclusive nondiscrimination ordinance “damnable” and “wrong” during a forum Tuesday.

Your weekday morning blend from Instant Tea:

1. A bill that would require school districts in Texas to enact anti-bullying policies cleared the Texas Senate in a 30-1 vote on Tuesday. Unbelievably, school districts in Texas aren’t currently required to have anti-bullying policies. The bill by Sen. John Whitmire, D-Houston, contains no specific references to LGBT youth — who do they think is getting bullied? — but it is backed by Equality Texas and it does now proceed to the House.

2. Also this week, the Texas Senate is working on the budget bill, HB 1, which currently contains an amendment from Rep. Wayne Christian, R-Center, that would require colleges and universities with LGBT resource centers to spend an equal amount on centers for “traditional and family values.” According to The American Independent, the amendment would have little practical impact because LGBT resource centers are funded mostly with student activity fees, and not with state dollars. Even so, we’d certainly rather not see the amendment included in the Senate version of the budget. To contact your senator and urge them to strip the Christian amendment from the Senate budget, go here.

3.  Fort Worth’s nondiscrimination ordinance, which has long included sexual orientation but was amended to include gender identity/expression in the wake of the Rainbow Lounge raid, has become an issue in city elections this year. At a forum on Tuesday night, District 7 council candidate Jack Ernest came out strongly against the LGBT protections in the ordinance, calling them “damnable” and “wrong.” Mayoral candidate Betsy Price also indicated that she is opposed to the ordinance, saying “I don’t like the idea that the city is in this business at all.” Listen to audio of the candidates’ remarks, via the Star-Telegram’s Bud Kennedy on Twitter, by going here and here. (Ernest is the third speaker in the first audio clip, and Price is the first speaker in the second one.)

—  John Wright

Discharged Marine is a Texas native, and his letter to Obama served as his big coming out

Marine Cpl. Danny Hernandez
Marine Cpl. Danny Hernandez

When I posted a letter here yesterday from Marine Lance Cpl. Danny Hernandez to President Barack Obama, I had no idea that Hernandez was a Texan.

Hernandez contacted me this morning to say, “Thanks for the post — and oh, by the way, I’m from Paradise (a town of 400 northwest of Fort Worth near Decatur).”

The 22-year-old Hernandez, discharged from the Marines nine weeks ago for being gay, graduated from Paradise High School and then from Texas A&M University last year. His letter was part of a Servicemembers Legal Defense Network campaign aimed at repealing DADT.

But here’s the kicker: Hernandez said the letter also served his big coming out.

—  John Wright

Lt. Dan Choi speaks at Texas A&M

Get Equal member Lt. Dan Choi spoke at Texas A&M on April 8. In this video, he talks about the consequences of the “Don’t ask, don’t tell” policy.

Choi was arrested outside the White House in March after being handcuffed to the fence. That same day, the ENDA 4 were arrested in House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s office. The ENDA 4 case was settled last week with each getting six months probation. Choi’s trial is set for April 26.

—  David Taffet

Lt. Dan Choi to speak at Texas A&M tonight

Lt. Dan Choi

Lt. Dan Choi

Lt. Dan Choi, who’s quickly become the face of the battle to repeal “don’t ask, don’t tell,” will speak tonight at Texas A&M University in College Station. From the student newspaper The Battalion:

Lowell Kane, program coordinator of the campus GLBT Resource Center, said each year they try to find a widely known keynote speaker to focus on a serious issue or hot topic.

“I can’t think of any hotter topic than the DADT [“Don’t ask, don’t tell”] policy,” Kane said. “We want to seek out the face, the person who really represents this conversation and there is no bigger, more famous activist today than Lt. Dan Choi.”

Choi graduated from West Point Military Academy as one of eight soldiers in his graduating class majoring in Arabic. He then served as an Arab linguist in the Iraq War.

On March 19, 2009 Choi announced he was gay on The Rachel Maddow Show, and discharge proceedings began within the month.

In his presentation, Choi will tell his personal story, discuss the effect of the policy on GLBT individuals in the military and answer questions from the audience.

“He has gone on the record saying he is willing to lose everything, the career he has built for himself, because he is not going to lie about who he is and everything he learned at West Point and through the military tells him he shouldn’t lie about who he is,” Kane said. “Given Texas A&M’s military history and our current status with the Corps, it’s a really interesting conversation to have here.”

Interestingly, the story about Choi’s visit isn’t the only gay-related item on the front page of today’s Battalion. A centerpiece under the headline “Broken Traditions” focuses on how LGBT students in “Closet Station” face discrimination and feel left out of Aggie rites like Midnight Yell. In hindsight, perhaps they could have combined the two articles under one headline: “Don’t ask, don’t yell.”

—  John Wright

Texas A&M student needs your help building an LGBT community center in College Station

Rachel Boenigk
Rachel Boenigk

Rachel Boenigk, a senior at Texas A&M University, wants to build an LGBT community center in College Station. She’s submitted the proposal as a “Good Idea” to the Pepsi Refresh Project, which awards grants each month to top online vote-getters. Boenigk’s idea is currently ranked 28th to receive a $50,000 grant in March, but only the top 10 projects will be funded. Here’s Boenigk’s description of the project, which you can vote for by going here:

This project will provide a meeting place for GLBT people of all ages, races, genders and sexualities. My community is 100 miles away from the nearest GLBT center and with a center in my area, we would be able to reach so many more people, especially those in cental Texas. The center would provide a home for GLBT organizations, an alternative to club nightlife, a home for GLBT families and a networking center for what is for the most part a closeted community. We hope to provide support groups, entertainment nights, the occasional home for disowned GLBT individuals and free tests for STI’s. With the $50,000 that have been requested, we will continue fundraising to ensure that the center has enough money to function. We hope to raise at least $25,000 more to bring the total to $75,000. Introducing a GLBT community center into our area will encourage a more open and understanding community overall and provide opportunities for us to give back as well.

—  John Wright

SMU lands at No. 14 on list of most homophobic colleges for 2nd straight year

Four Texas schools, including two in North Texas, made the Princeton Review’s list of the 20 most homophobic colleges in the nation this year.

The University of Dallas came in at No. 8, Baylor at No. 11, SMU at No. 14 and Texas A&M at No. 15 on the list titled, “Alternative Lifestyles Not an Alternative,” which is part of  The Princeton Review’s “The Best 371 Colleges — 2010 Edition.”

It marked the second straight year that SMU was named the 14th most homophobic school in the nation. Baylor was 8th last year and Texas A&M was 12th, while the University of Dallas wasn’t listed in the 2009 edition.

New York University was named the nation’s most gay-friendly school this year, with no Texas schools appearing in the Top 20.

Each of the four Texas schools that made the most homophobic list also appeared on other Top 20 lists. The University of Dallas made the top 20 for “Least Beautiful Campus” and “Most Conservative Students;” Baylor was in the top 20 for “Most Conservative Students” and “Most Religious Students;” SMU was in the top 20 for “Little Race/Class Interaction;” and Texas A&M was in the Top 20 for “Jock Schools” and “Most Conservative Students.”

Read more by going here.

—  John Wright