Guns, God and gays: first day of prefiling for upcoming Lege session

abaa8de7236b4022851ea2557e2d68b0dc212ddb6ea8b427616006bb297bd2cdToday is the first day for Texas legislators and members-elect to pre-file legislation for the 84th legislative session. This means you get to see just how crazy some of your newly and returning elected officials really are. Don’t worry everyone, the first day of pre-filing didn’t bring out the worst of your electeds just yet. Rep. Bill Zedler, R-Arlington, only filed a handful actually, so the worst is yet to come.

As of mid-afternoon, legislators have pre-filed 336 bills.

Rep. Walter “Four” Price, R-Amarillo, filed four bills commemorating the National Day of Prayer, Christmas, Easter and Thanksgiving. Rep. Jonathan Stickland, R-Bedford, filed HB 195, loosening restrictions on gun toting. Rep. Jeff Leach, R-Plano, is gonna keep abortionists out of the classroom with HB 205.

But wait! LGBT people were recognized by our allies!

Out Rep. Mary Gonzalez, D-El Paso, filed HB 70, an anti-bullying bill preventing discrimination against and harassment of students in public schools based on their sexual orientation and gender identity.

Rep. Garnet Coleman, D-Houston, filed HJR34, one of many bills targeting the repeal of Texas’ same-sex marriage ban. As the Voice reported, Rep. Rafael Anchia, D-Dallas, filed HB 130, repealing Texas’ same sex marriage ban. The identical SB 98, was filed by Sens. Juan Hinojosa, D-McAllen, and José Rodríguez, D-El Paso. Sen. Rodríguez also filed SB 148, repealing language condemning homosexuality in the state’s health and penal codes.

 

 

—  James Russell

Cocktail Friday: Election Day edition

BH_Election Day_BottleIf you’re gay, or just progressive, and you follow Texas politics, Election Day fills you with a sense of hope and dread. It’s enough to make you start drinkin’. Or just continue doing so. In recognition of that, we added an extra Cocktail Friday edition this week with a bourbon drink called the Swing Vote. Because we can use a good swing to the left today.

1.5 oz. Basil Hayden’s Bourbon

3/4 oz. Madeira

3/4 oz. honey syrup

1/2 oz. lemon juice

Grapefruit bitters, grapefruit slice, mint.

Making it: Combine all the liquid ingredients in a shaker and add ice. Add one dash of bitters. SHake. Strain into an old fashioned glass with ice. Garnish with a wheel of grapefruit and mint sprig.

—  Arnold Wayne Jones

Davis: Fort Worth is ground zero for my campaign

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Texas state Sen. Wendy Davis

A little over two months into her run for the Texas governor’s office, state Sen. Wendy Davis said on Saturday that Fort Worth is “ground zero” for her campaign.

Davis spoke to a packed-in crowd of supporters at 219 South Main St., enforcing the message that people from disadvantaged socioeconomic backgrounds can achieve educational and professional success. Davis has often told the story of her impoverished background and how she worked to overcome it. A single mother at 19, she earned a law degree from Harvard after attending community college and graduating from Texas Christian University.

Political watchers have said a gubernatorial race can’t succeed without an Austin-based campaign headquarters, but Davis said she has proven them wrong before.

“When I ran for the state Senate in 2008, pundits all across the state said there was no way we could win, and obviously we did,” Davis said.

Education reform and equality issues occupy much of Davis’ speeches. When asked, however, how far into her term as governor, if elected, would she address marriage equality in Texas and how, Davis replied, “I would rely on the Legislature to do that.”

—  Steve Ramos

If you liked Bush, you’ll love Perry

Gov. Rick Perry and President George W. Bush are shown together in Austin in 2008. (Associated Press)

Anti-gay governor’s presidential bid is a nightmare, but sadly some in LGBT community will support him

DAVID WEBB  |  The Rare Reporter

Someone please shake me awake, because this must be a nightmare. That’s what I was thinking last weekend as I watched Texas Gov. Rick Perry’s announcing that he’s seeking the Republican Party’s nomination for president in 2012. The most outrageously outspoken anti-gay governor in the history of Texas has decided that he wants to take his act to Washington.

More than anything else, I’ve wanted to see a conclusion to Perry’s seemingly unending, tyrannical reign over Texas politics, but this is not what I had in mind.

The scariest part is that I wouldn’t be surprised at all if Perry snatches the Republican nomination away from current GOP frontrunner Mitt Romney — and anyone else who is eyeing the spot. The only scenario that could make the situation any worse would be Perry naming his buddy Sarah Palin as a running mate.

My guess is that Perry and his team feel pretty confident.

This is a career politician who, in addition to being the longest-serving governor, has never lost an election since he entered politics as a state legislator in 1984.
During his announcement speech in South Carolina, Perry focused on economics and steered clear of social issues, but we all know where he stands on LGBT equality.

He is adamantly opposed to it, just as he is to a woman’s right to choose.

The week before his announcement, Perry held a rally in Houston to pray away the nation’s problems. As the poster boy for evangelical Christians, Perry has made it clear he’ll do that group’s bidding if he goes to Washington.

In his speech he only referred to overturning President Barack Obama’s health care plan, but anyone who thinks he wouldn’t target every other progressive measure approved in the last three years is in for a big shock. As a former Air Force pilot and Texas A&M cadet yell leader, he no doubt bristled when “don’t ask, don’t tell” was repealed.

What makes Perry particularly dangerous to the LGBT community is the rumor that he once was sexually involved with other men in Austin. The rumor has plagued his career, although he appears to have convinced his conservative religious base that it’s untrue. Perry may view anti-gay rhetoric as a way of combating the rumor.

Gay activists and journalists from the national media are combing through Perry’s past at this moment to determine if there is any truth to the rumor, but I suspect they are coming up empty-handed.

I recently wrote that I didn’t think there was any truth to the rumor, and I received quite a few
emails from gay Texans telling me I was wrong. I spoke with one of them on the phone who told me that a married, closeted male legislator had allegedly told several people that he had been involved sexually with Perry.

The biggest problem with the story is that the former legislator has credibility problems. On top of that, I understand that he now denies having ever been involved with Perry.

The only other incident possibly involving homosexuality is a story about Perry and another Boy Scout in Haskell County being caught in a sleeping bag together on a camping trip. That was when Perry, now 61, was about 10, and he reportedly got into the sleeping bag of a 12-year-old because he was cold. The two reportedly slept “back to back” during the night.

The Scoutmaster reportedly raised a fuss about the innocent incident when he discovered the two boys together the next morning, so that could possibly help explain some of Perry’s aversion to anything related to LGBT people. Such a scolding at that early of an age could have made a strong impression on our presidential hopeful.

I had also heard that Perry was seen in the late 1980s in an Austin gay disco called the Boat House, but I have a little trouble believing that as well.

Perry has clearly been motivated all of his life to succeed and overcome his humble beginnings, and that has involved a lot of macho posturing. In my opinion he would never have made an appearance at a gay bar, even if he was bi-curious and experimenting a little bit.

Unless someone has some compromising pictures of Perry or someone credible comes forward to acknowledge a same-sex relationship with the governor, I don’t think that story is going anywhere.

There are plenty of tales out there about Perry and wild youthful antics before he was married, but those are of no consequence in 2011, as a veteran politician
pointed out to me recently. Hypocrisy equals zilch in terms of derailing a presidential bid in today’s world.

In fact, I’m confident many LGBT voters will support Perry for president. It’s a curious phenomenon that I’ve seen time and time again. Politicians can spout anti-gay rhetoric from dawn to dusk, and many members of our community will still vote for them.

To those people I would say, if you liked having George W. Bush in the White House, you no doubt would love seeing James Richard “Rick” Perry in the Oval Office.

David Webb is a veteran journalist who has covered LGBT issues for the mainstream and alternative media for three decades. Email him at davidwaynewebb@yahoo.com.

—  John Wright

A good sign for Texas’ LGBT community

Log Cabin Dallas President Rob Schlein

Joe Straus’ re-election as speaker of the House proves that social conservatives no longer can control the Republican political agenda

ROB SCHLEIN  |  Special Contributor

Unless you’re “wired in” to the inside baseball of Texas politics, you may not know there was a cantankerous fight for the position of Texas House speaker.

House Speaker Joe Straus, a Republican from San Antonio, showed himself to be a moderate on social issues last session. Yet, after a momentous midterm election where a slight Republican majority turned into a Republican supermajority in the House, calls for a “true conservative” to be elected speaker started to ring louder and louder among social conservative activists who regularly attend GOP party functions.

Many of these people are the same individuals that helped create the Republican Party of Texas platform that we all know too well includes the language on “homosexuals” revealed and discussed right here in Dallas Voice every election season.

State representatives who had already pledged to support Straus were being lobbied hard to reverse their support, via a war of words on Facebook, by those who changed their profile pictures with logos that declared “Oust Straus,” with statewide e-mail campaigns, and large, organized visits to field offices.

Precinct chairs in Harris, Denton and Dallas counties — perhaps others — convened during the holidays to pass resolutions demanding the election of a “conservative speaker,” implying that Joe Straus wasn’t conservative enough because of his social views.

Activists made threats to “primary,” which means to find someone to run in the next election season primary, against any Republican representatives that didn’t go along with their desire for change in leadership. Their bullying was amplified when hundreds of them descended on Austin on Jan. 10 to observe a caucus gathering of Republican representatives.

The caucus was demanded by the activists as a strategy to replace Straus by forcing a unified Republican vote, because last session Straus took over from Tom Craddick as speaker when Straus garnered the votes of all Democrats and just a handful of Republicans.

What the activists didn’t know was that the caucus would vote solidly for Straus, and after 70 votes were cast (representing more than two-thirds of the caucus present), voting was suspended and the choice was clearly made.
The social conservatives didn’t like the outcome and contradicted themselves about the process, first calling for an open ballot so they could see who voted for whom, and then complaining later that it should have been done in secret because the outcome might have differed.

The social conservatives were perplexed when their chosen candidate, Rep. Ken Paxton of McKinney, dropped from the race after assurances he would stay in, and after the other candidate, Rep. Warren Chisum of Pampa, switched his support from Paxton to Straus.

On Jan. 11, when the formal selection of a House Speaker was concluded, calls for a recorded vote were made and approved, and more than 130 representatives voted for Joe Straus for speaker, with 15 “No” votes or abstentions — handing the social conservatives a serious defeat.

So, what does this mean for the LGBT community?

It means that there is a continual and growing disconnect between the hard-line social conservatives who are a part of the Republican Party of Texas, the average Republican voter and the actual Republican legislators who govern our state. This is good news for the LGBT community, which often fears possible legislation that could be put forward by the extreme elements of our party.

The selection of Joe Straus as speaker means that Republicans will focus most of their time and energy on balancing a state budget that is some $24 billion short over the next two years due to the slowdown of our economy, and will spend considerable effort reviewing programs that automatically sunset every session.

I would be quite surprised if the legislature spends much time on any social items.

Log Cabin Republican members spent considerable time getting to know their local state representatives. We offered direct support and encouragement for their initial pledges to Joe Straus, and were in continual contact by e-mail and very open in our Facebook rebuttals, asking them to stay loyal to their pledges.

Now our direct interaction with Republican elected officials is paying dividends in less anti-gay rhetoric in campaigns and no anti-gay legislation being proposed in this session that we are aware of.

The election of Joe Straus as speaker means that the impact of the Republican Party of Texas platform on legislation continues to be muted. Social conservative activists always complain that the legislators “never govern by the platform.”

So, when you ask gay Republicans about the platform, or if you point to the passages in the platform about “homosexuality,” understand that the re-election of Joe Straus confirms what we have been saying for some time now: The platform isn’t used as a legislative vehicle and only expresses the opinions of a small minority of people in the party who are loud, but not in the majority among everyday Republicans.

What matters to most Republican voters and legislators are the true principles of conservatism, meaning government stays out of our pockets and our bedrooms!

Rob Schlein is president of Log Cabin Republicans of Dallas.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition Jan. 21, 2011.

—  John Wright

Nutjob candidates in other states make Texas politics seem downright boring this year

New York gubernatorial candidate Kristin Davis

Texas has produced its share of crackpot politicians over the years. But compared to what’s going on across the country, the Lone Star State seems downright boring in 2010.

While Gov. Rick Perry said the Arizona anti-immigration law is not right for Texas, his counterpart in Arizona claimed the law is necessary because of decapitated bodies found in the desert. Jan Brewer, running for re-election as governor of Arizona, has not been able to produce evidence to back up her claim.

Meanwhile, Rand Paul, who’s running for the Senate in Kentucky, said he thinks restaurants should have the right to refuse service based on race. Not that he’d do that if he owned a restaurant, but they should have that right.

Sharron Angle, who’s running for Senate in Nevada, thinks alcohol should be illegal. Last time we looked, Las Vegas was in Nevada.

And after being criticized last week for running an ad showing a map of Mexico with stock photos of Latinos and talking about a stronger immigration law, Angle said she was talking about immigration from Canada and didn’t know if the people in the ad were Mexican. She’s ahead in the polls.

—  David Taffet

4th consecutive poll shows majority of Texans support either civil unions or gay marriage

The 2010 Texas Lyceum poll was released Tuesday, and for the second straight year, more than half of respondents said they support some form of legal relationship status for same-sex couples — whether it be civil unions or marriage.

According to the poll of 725 adult Texans from Sept. 22-30, 24 percent support civil unions, 28 percent support same-sex marriage, and 40 percent oppose both civil unions and gay marriage. That means a total of 52 percent support some form of relationship recognition, with 8 percent apparently not responding to the question.

This support for relationship recognition is actually down from the 2009 Lyceum poll, when 57 percent said they supported either marriage or civil unions, and only 36 percent opposed both.

But it marks the fourth consecutive statewide poll to show that a majority of Texans support either civil unions or marriage.

As Texas Politics Project Director Jim Henson put it in February: “This seems to be rapidly becoming not a question of what’s in public opinion. What’s in public opinion is becoming kind of a settled issue. Now the question is one of leadership and politics.”

—  John Wright

Lambda Legal’s Coleman named ED of Equality Texas

DAVID TAFFET | Staff Writer taffet@dallasvoice.com

Dennis Coleman

Dennis Coleman

Dennis Coleman will become executive director of Equality Texas and the Equality Texas Foundation on July 17.

Coleman will replace Paul Scott, who stepped down earlier this year to become executive director of AIDS Services of Austin.

For almost seven years, Coleman has served as regional director of Lambda Legal’s South Central office in Dallas. Much of his work built on the success the office had in June 2003 with the Lawrence v. Texas case, in which the U.S. Supreme Court overturned the state’s sodomy ban.

Coleman said he’ll get an apartment in Austin, but he and his partner Gregory Pynes will maintain their home in Dallas.

Chuck Smith, deputy director of Equality Texas, is based in Austin. He said the job of executive director entails travel throughout the state and can be done from Dallas as well as Austin.

Coleman said in his position with Lambda Legal, he covered eight states. He said his office manager kept day-to-day operations going while he was on the road. He foresees a similar relationship with Smith.

Although during the upcoming legislative session, Coleman said, “I’m fully committed to being in Austin.”

Equality Texas board chair Rob Scamardo said the search committee was looking for someone familiar with Texas, Texas politics and knew the challenges of advancing LGBT equality in the state.

Scamardo said he believes they found the perfect candidate in Coleman.

“He’s so well known and well respected throughout North Texas,” Scamardo said. “He can build that network in Houston. We would like to see our membership grow. He will be able to most immediately have an effect in North Texas.”
Coleman agreed that membership is a priority in his new position. “That runs parallel to what I was trying to do with Lambda Legal,” he said.

He also wants to raise the profile of Equality Texas, and change the perception of the group. He said many see it as an Austin organization. A third goal is to get activists motivated on statewide issues.

Coleman began his work in the LGBT community as a member of the Resource Center Dallas Speaker’s Bureau in the early 1990s. He joined the Black Tie Dinner committee. When hired by Lambda Legal, he was national chair of the Human Rights Campaign’s Board of Governors.

Scamardo said State Rep. Senfronia Thompson of Houston has talked to the organization about the importance of forging alliances with other minority groups. Scamardo said he looks forward to Coleman doing just that.

Toni Broaddus, executive director of the Equality Federation, made up of state equality organizations from around the country, agreed. Broaddus said she thinks that in addition to his experience, hiring an African-American executive director is a smart move for Equality Texas.

“The LGBT civil rights movement can’t succeed alone,” she said, “And part of the work we need to do is representing our entire community, and exploring the intersection between discrimination against LGBT people and discriminating against people of color.”

Coleman will not be the first person of color to lead the organization. Through the 1990s, Dianne Hardy Garcia, who is Hispanic, headed the Lesbian Gay Rights Lobby, which later changed its name to Equality Texas.

“Diversity is one of the things we struggle with in the leadership of our state equality organizations,” Broaddus said. “It’s a struggle to bring people of color and transgender people into leadership positions. It’s great news that we’re adding another person of color.”

But those who’ve worked with Coleman said he is simply the best choice for the job.

“I think that he brings a wealth of experience as a Texan,” Lambda Legal senior staff attorney Ken Upton said. “What makes him right for the job is he knows what works and what doesn’t work in Texas.”

Upton said he thinks Coleman’s Lambda Legal experience will give his advocacy a different tone. He said he expects Coleman will call when the legislative approach isn’t working and a legal approach might fare better.

Scamardo said two of the biggest challenges facing the new Legislature next year will be budget shortfalls and redistricting. The perennial challenge for the community is preventing anti-LGBT legislation from getting out of committee to a floor vote. But there’s also the hope of passing a pro-equality bill for the first time since 2001.

“Our hope is that we can push our key agenda item — the safe schools initiative — early in the session,” Scamardo said. He thinks the anti-bullying law has a good chance to pass before things get too contentious later in the session.

In the last session, the bill had enough votes to pass in the House and had Republican sponsorship. Working on this will be a natural fit.

“We’ve always had a collaborative relationship with Equality Texas, especially with the safe schools issue,” Coleman said.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition July 9, 2010.

—  Michael Stephens

A complete breakdown of those poll results on same-sex marriage in Texas

In today’s Voice I shared some results from a recent poll conducted by the University of Texas and The Texas Tribune, which asked respondents if they support marriage, civil unions or just nothing for same-sex couples. Some may be wondering where I got the “crosstabs,” which break down the numbers on the gay marriage question according to things like political party affiliation, race, age, ideology etc. Well they’re on the Texas Politics Web site, buried in a 200-page PDF document. But thanks to the prowess of DV production guru Kristina Walton, we’ve extracted the pertinent pages and posted them here. And as you can see, the breakdown of the gay marriage question starts at the bottom of Page 171 and ends on Page 177. Told you I’m not making this shit up!

—  John Wright