Sen. Carona among 1st Republican legislators in Texas to back gay rights

State Sen. John Carona, R-Dallas, addresses Metroplex Republicans Dallas on Monday.

In a rare if not unprecedented move for a Republican state legislator in Texas, Dallas Sen. John Carona expressed support for three key pieces of pro-equality legislation on Monday.

Carona told Instant Tea he would support bills in Texas to ban discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity in employment; offer domestic partner benefits to state university employees; and allow same-sex adoptive parents to have both names on birth certificates.

All three measures are expected to be priorities for Equality Texas, the statewide LGBT equality group, in the upcoming legislative session.

Carona also said he is “evolving” on same-sex marriage but added that he’s “not there yet.”

“I’m very undecided on the issue and I struggle with it,” Carona said of marriage equality. “I think the whole country is evolving, and I know for a fact that our young people are evolving including young Republicans.

“I can’t say that I’m there yet, that would be dishonest, but I can say that it’s a question that I find myself asking myself over and over,” Carona added. “What is the most conservative approach? Well, I’m always told less government, not more government, is better. What is the right thing? Well, I think anything that advances, encourages monogamy is a good thing. And frankly how could you be against people who want to get their affairs in order and have a loving household? So, yeah, I’m evolving, but admittedly I’m not there yet, nor do I believe the district is there yet, but times change and things may change.”

—  John Wright

Houston senator calls gay attack by Dallas Sen. John Carona ‘vicious,’ defends his marriage

Dan Patrick

State Sen. Dan Patrick, R-Houston, clarified Thursday that he and his wife are not having marital problems after rumors spread that he is gay.

Emails leaked earlier this week revealed that Patrick had emailed state Sen. John Carona, R-Dallas, about rumors he believed Carona was spreading.

In a response sent to multiple senators, Carona denied the rumors, writing that though he “heard rumors regarding [Patrick’s] marital status and sexual preferences for a while now,” he did not share rumors that Patrick was “separated, divorced, or gay.

Patrick’s response demanded an apology.

He told the Texas Tribune that his marriage of 37 years is not breaking up and confirmed notions that he and Carona were at odds over replacing Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst if he is elected to the U.S. Senate.

John Carona

“I love my wife and she loves me,” Patrick said, adding later that is mistake was thinking the emails would be kept private. “If I made a mistake in this, it was believing that emails between senators, which are almost always private, would have stayed private.”

He said he did not call Carona after the gay allegation because he didn’t want a confrontation, saying “his response was an admission of guilt” because he was not shy about sharing his comments.

“Suddenly he repeats them and he adds another vile comment. Vicious,” Patrick said of the gay reference.

Admitting that he and Carona have “competing visions,” Patrick said he wants conservative Republicans senators to have more of a say in Dewhurst’s replacement, denying that he wants the position. Carona has been called a possible favorite for the position.

Watch the video below.

—  Dallasvoice

State Sen. John Carona suggests colleague, likely opponent in lieutenant governor’s race is gay

John Carona

State Sen. John Carona, R-Dallas, has allegedly spread word throughout the Texas Senate that fellow Republican Sen. Dan Patrick of Houston is having marital problems.

Leaked emails published by political news website the Quorum Report reveal that Patrick was upset that Carona had allegedly told fellow senators that he and his wife Jan were separated and possibly divorcing, along with “a few other negative comments about me in an obvious attempt by him to discredit me,” the Houston Chronicle reports.

Carona’s emailed response to state senators mentions that while he “heard rumors regarding [Patrick’s] marital status and sexual preferences for a while now,” he did not share rumors that Patrick was “separated, divorced, or gay.

Dan Patrick

Patrick then responded to the gay remark by writing that Carona needed to apologize to his family for his initial comments and “owes me an apology for his latest smear, another fabrication by Senator Carona.”

The motive behind the emails could be the ambitions of both men to serve as lieutenant governor following the possible election of Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst to the U.S. Senate. Both Carona and Patrick are likely candidates for the election in 2014, with Carona the leading contender to be Dewhurst’s interim replacement.

Carona could not immediately be reached for comment.

From the Houston Chronicle:

The accusation from Patrick, in part, in an e-mail to fellow senators:

I was in Dallas last week and learned that Senator Carona has told people outside the Senate that Jan and I are separated and may get divorced. He added in a few other negative comments about me in an obvious attempt by him to discredit me for some reason. … There is no excuse or justification for his actions. He could have easily checked the story out to see if it was true. He didn’t care if it was true.

The response from Carona, in part, also in an e-mail to fellow senators:

The email which you blasted to our colleagues and then provided to the media is false and you would have known that had you called or emailed before sending it. …Though I have heard rumors regarding your marital status and sexual preferences for a while now, at no time have I told anyone that you are either separated, divorced, or gay.


—  Dallasvoice

Senate OKs 2 Equality Texas-backed bills targeting bullying, suicide in same day

Rep. Garnet Coleman

When was the last time the Senate passed two bills backed by Equality Texas in one day? Probably never.

Earlier we told you that the Senate voted unanimously this afternoon to approve HB 1942, an anti-bullying bill by Rep. Diane Howard, R-Arlington, that is Equality Texas’ top priority in this year’s session.

Tonight, the Senate voted 28-3 to pass a suicide prevention bill by Rep. Garnet Coleman, D-Houston.This is the bill that was originally called Asher’s Law in honor of Asher Brown, the 13-year gay youth from the Houston area who took his own life last year in response to bullying at school.

Neither bill in its final form contains specific references or protections for LGBT youth. But the fact is that if they did, they wouldn’t have had any chance of passing the Republican-dominated Legislature.

Daniel Williams at Legislative Queery reports on Coleman’s bill:

HB 1386, the teen suicide prevention bill by Garnet Coleman (D-Houston) has passed the Texas Senate on a 28 to 3 vote. The bill instructs the Texas Department of State Health Services to develop resources designed to prevent teen suicide, including mental health counseling, crisis prevention tools and suicide prevention eduction. Schools would then have the option of implementing those programs, but would not be required to do so.

The Senate Education Committee made some substantial changes to the bill the House sent over, most notably adding provisions that prohibit a child from seeking counseling without their parent’s knowledge. For queer teens who may not be out to their parents this is a particularly cruel change that may prevent some kids who need help from seeking it. Since the Senate version of the bill is different than the House version the House must concur with the changes. If they do not a “conference committee” of 5 House members (appointed by the Speaker of the House) and 5 Senators (appointed by the Lieutenant Governor) will be formed to to work out a comprimise between the two versions.

When he laid out the bill in the Senate Rodney Ellis (D-Houston), the bill’s Senate sponsor, made what he called a “suicide pact” with the rest of the Senate to oppose any attempt by the conference committee to allow students to receive anonymous counseling. By tradition the Senate sponsor of House bills is one of the chairs of the conference committee so Ellis will be in a position to keep his pact.

Considering Ellis’ commitment (however much his choice of words may be in poor taste) and the ticking clock of a session that has less than a week left in it Coleman may choose to simply concur with the changes the Senate made and send the bill to the Governor’s desk for signing.

—  John Wright

TX Senate unanimously OKs anti-bullying bill

Rep. Diane Patrick, R-Arlington

The Texas Senate voted 30-0 this afternoon to approve HB 1942, a bipartisan anti-bullying bill from Rep. Diane Patrick, R-Arlington, that has become Equality Texas’ top priority in this year’s legislative session. Because there was a technical correction to the bill in a Senate committee, it now goes back to the House, which has already approved it, for a concurrence vote. From there, it’s on to Gov. Rick Perry’s desk. Although the bill doesn’t provide specific protections for LGBT youth, Equality Texas says in its fact sheet on HB 1942 that it would do the following:

• Amends the Education Code to allow staff development to receive training in the prevention, identification and reporting of and response to bullying.

• Provides for the transfer of the bully to another classroom or campus upon the discretion of the board of trustees. Currently, if a student wants to get away from the person who bullied him or her, the victim has to move to another classroom or campus.

• Mandates that the State Board of Education, “in consultation with the Texas School Safety Center” amend the health curriculum to “include evidence-based practices that will effectively address awareness, prevention, identification and resolution of and intervention in bullying and harassment.”

• Includes the definition of bullying in Chapter 37 (Discipline) of the Texas Education Code for the first time.

• Definition of bullying includes an “expression through electronic means”.

• Definition of bullying applies to “conduct that occurs on school property, at a school-sponsored or school-related activity, or on a vehicle operated by the district […]”

• Expands the definition of bullying to include actions “Exploits an imbalance of power between the student perpetrator and the student victim through written or verbal expression or physical conduct[…]”

• Mandates that each board of trustees of each school district adopt an anti-bullying policy that:

1. prohibits retaliation against anyone “who in good faith provides information concerning an incident of bullying […]”;
2. establishes a procedure for notifying a parent or guardian of the victim and the bully;
3. “establishes the actions a student should take to obtain assistance and intervention in response to bullying […]”;
4. “sets out the available counseling options” for the victim, witness to an incident of bullying or the bully him/herself.
5. “establishes a procedure for reporting an incident of bullying, investigating a reported incident of bullying, and determining whether the incident of bullying occurred […]”

—  John Wright

What’s Brewing: Equality Texas issues action alert with time running out on anti-bullying bill

Your weekday morning blend from Instant Tea:

1. Time is running out on the anti-bullying bill that has become Equality Texas’ top priority in this year’s state legislative session. The Texas Senate must pass HB 1942 today if it is to become law this year, according to an action alert from Equality Texas this morning. The group is urging people to contact their senators immediately and urge them to bring the bill to the floor. For contact info and talking points, go here.

2. After six hours of debate, the Minnesota House voted 70-62 Saturday to place a constitutional amendment that would ban same-sex marriage on the 2012 ballot. Four Republicans voted against the amendment, and one of them was State Rep. John Kriesel, a veteran who lost both of his legs in the Iraq war. Watch Kriesel’s speech on the House floor below.

3. Several major corporations, including Dallas-based AT&T, have issued statements saying they don’t support a Tennessee bill aimed at stripping LGBT protections in Nashville and banning future civil rights laws for gay and transgender people. The corporations were accused of supporting the bill, which passed last week, because they have representatives on the board of the Tennessee chamber of commerce, which backed the measure. But some have issued statements clarifying their positions in response to a campaign by AMERICAblog. Below is AT&T’s statement. To sign a petition calling on the other corporations to withdraw their support for the bill, go here.

“AT&T does not support any laws or efforts that are discriminatory. AT&T does support the principals of ensuring that state and local laws are consistent, which is the stated purpose of HB 600/SB 632. However, the bill has become implicated in efforts to erode the rights of the gay community, which we do not support. AT&T has a long history and longstanding commitment to diversity and inclusion, and its policies address diversity in areas including race, creed, religion, sex, and particularly sexual orientation.”

—  John Wright

UPDATE: Amendments targeting LGBT resource centers blocked, but threat remains

Rep. Wayne Christian

After seven hours of debate the House passed Senate Bill 1811 just after 1 a.m. today. SB 1811 is part of a series of “fiscal matters” bills that compliment the state budget. On Friday, Instant Tea reported that Rep. Wayne Christian, R-Center, pre-filed two amendments to the bill designed to defund LGBT resource centers from Texas universities and prevent schools from housing them on campus. (Read the full text of Christian’s proposed amendments to SB 1811 by going here and here.)

Rep. Jim Pitts, R-Waxahachie, chairman of the powerful House Appropriations Committee, sponsored SB 1811 in the House. Before bringing the bill to the floor Pitts met with both the Republican and Democratic caucuses and explained that he would only support amendments that he deemed to be “perfecting” amendments. The sponsor of a bill can “accept” amendments, which usually means that they pass without a vote. The sponsor cannot block amendments, but other members often vote against amendments a sponsor opposes out of respect.

Pitts stuck by his guns, opposing all but 11 “perfecting” amendments. Although the House did pass some mostly Republican-sponsored amendments over his objections, for the most part they respected his opposition. Toward the end of the evening Pitts’ resolve began to fade and several amendments were allowed with the assumption that they would be removed later in the process.

While the House was considering SB 1811 the Senate passed Senate Bill 1581, another of the “fiscal matters” bills — this one dealing exclusively with education. Considering the late hour several of the members, including Christian, removed their proposed amendments to SB 1811 that dealt with education, assuming that the amendments could be offered to SB 1581, which is scheduled to be brought up in the House this weekend.

In addition to SB 1581, there are four additional fiscal matters bills still to be considered by the House: SB 7, SB 8, SB 22 and SB 23; any of which could be a vehicle for Christian’s amendments.

Students for Inclusive Resources is encouraging Texans to call their state representatives and ask them to oppose any attempt to defund or ban state universities’ LGBT resource centers. To look up contact info for your representative, go here.

—  admin

ACTION ALERT: Anti-bullying bill stalled in TX Senate committee — contact members now!!!

UPDATE, 7 p.m.: Equality Texas reports that the bill was voted favorably out of committee, 6-0.

From Equality Texas:


We are running out of time!

HB 1942 by Rep. Diane Patrick is pending in the Senate Education Committee. Unless the bill gets favorably reported out of committee by the end of this week, we will run out of time to get the bill passed by the full Senate, concurred in the House, and to the Governor for signature.

HB 1942 is the single best opportunity to pass meaningful anti-bullying legislation this session. Don’t let the clock run out!

The Senate Education Commission is scheduled to meet THIS EVENING (Thursday) at Senator Shapiro’s desk to address pending business.


Chair Senator Florence Shapiro at 512-463-0108
Vice-Chair Senator Dan Patrick at 512-463-0107
Senator John Carona at 512-463-0116
Senator Wendy Davis at 512-463-0110
Senator Mario Gallegos at 512-463-0106
Senator Steve Ogden at 512-463-0105
Senator Kel Seliger at 512-463-0131
Senator Leticia Van de Putte at 512-463-0126
Senator Royce West at 512-463-0123


—  John Wright

What’s Brewing: Pro basketball executive Rick Welts, CNN anchor Don Lemon come out

Don Lemon

Your weekday morning blend from Instant Tea:

1. An anti-transgender marriage bill is back on the Texas Senate’s Intent Calendar for today. That means if you haven’t already contacted your senator and urged them to vote against SB 723, by Sen. Tommy Williams, you should do so now by going here. If the bill doesn’t clear the Senate and a House committee by midnight Saturday, it will die.

2. The FBI has expanded its probe into a brutal beating outside a gay nightclub in downtown El Paso to include other recent possible hate crimes in the area, the El Paso Times reports. The victim, 22-year-old Lionel Martinez, remains in a coma more than a week after the attack, and LGBT advocates say El Paso police haven’t been taking anti-gay incidents near the Old Plantation nightclub seriously.

3. The weekend was marked by two pretty big coming-out stories: Rick Welts, president and chief executive officer of the NBA’s Phoenix Suns; and CNN anchor Don Lemon.

—  John Wright

Transgender marriage bill back on Texas Senate calendar for Monday; contact your senator now

Sen. Tommy Williams

Equality Texas reports that SB 723, the anti-transgender marriage bill from Sen. Tommy Williams, R-The Woodlands, has been placed back on the state Senate’s Intent Calendar for Monday. As we reported earlier, Williams’ bill is on life support at this late stage of the session, but it isn’t quite dead yet. Backed by anti-LGBT groups like the Plano-based Liberty Institute, who say they’re trying to preserve “traditional marriage,” the bill would remove an affidavit of sex change from the list of documents that can be used to obtain marriage licenses in Texas. A direct response to the case of widow Nikki Araguz,  the bill is designed to bar transgender people from marrying people of the opposite sex. To pass this year, the bill would have to clear the Senate as well as a House committee by midnight on Saturday, May 21. That means Williams and his cohorts have only one week left. Go here to contact your senator urge them to oppose this bill.

Above is video of Nikki Araguz confronting a staffer in Williams’ office about the bill. The video reportedly is also a trailer for a documentary about the Araguz case. Araguz’s husband, Thomas, was a volunteer firefighter who died in the line of duty last year. Thomas’ family is suing Nikki Araguz to prevent her from receiving death benefits, arguing that their marriage was not valid because she is transgender.

—  John Wright