Obama hasn’t replied to TX secession petition, but Rep. Garnet Coleman has

Garnet Coleman

State Rep. Garnet Coleman, D-Houston, a staunch LGBT ally who also happens to be African-American, sent out the below statement on Wednesday — complete with the image above — responding to a now-infamous petition we mentioned the other day calling for the White House to allow Texas to secede. Perhaps President Barack Obama should incorporate some of Coleman’s remarks into his own response to the petition. We’d especially recommend this paragraph:

The online petition, which currently has around 60,000 signatures and counting, is unfortunately not surprising. Ever since the election of this country’s first black president, there has been a surge of  rhetoric that had mostly lied dormant since the Civil War and subsequent Jim Crow era. After the election of President Obama, however, Governor Perry, whose hunting ranch was named “Niggerhead” until just recently, openly hinted at secession, and we spent much of last session talking about things like “states’ rights,” including a “Committee on State Sovereignty” and a House Resolution incorrectly asserting the state’s “rights under the Tenth Amendment.” This kind of rhetoric needs to end.

Read Coleman’s full statement below.

—  John Wright

Anti-gay state senator wants to outlaw domestic partner benefits in Texas

Dan Patrick

Here’s why you need to get out and vote on Tuesday if you haven’t already.

In the same week that Dallas County voted to offer health insurance vouchers to the domestic partners of employees, a tea party-backed state senator from Houston is seeking an opinion from the Texas attorney general about whether such benefits are legal under the state’s 2005 constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage.

Republican Sen. Dan Patrick’s office wrote in a press release on Friday:

In 2005, the Texas Constitution was amended to clearly define marriage as between one man and one woman. The “Marriage Amendment” went on to prohibit government entities from creating or recognizing anything identical or similar to marriage. The Marriage Amendment was passed by an overwhelming majority of the Texas legislature and ratified by more than 75 percent of Texas voters.

However, government entities across the state are gradually recognizing and extending benefits to domestic partners including the cities of El Paso, Austin and Fort Worth. Recently, Pflugerville I.S.D. became the first school district to extend benefits.

“I am submitting this request to the Attorney General in order to clarify whether or not these entities are violating the constitution and circumventing the will of the people,” said Senator Patrick.

Other entities in Texas that offer DP benefits include the city of Dallas, which has had them since 2004, and Dallas County, which as I mentioned added them this week.

Ken Upton, a senior staff attorney for the LGBT civil rights group Lambda Legal, told Instant Tea that Patrick’s letter seeking an opinion from the AG’s office doesn’t surprise him.

“I was wondering when someone would do that,” Upton said. “It was just a question of when. Texas is too big of a state, and there are too many people who hate us.”

Upton said there have been similar challenges to domestic partner benefits in other states with constitutional amendments banning same-sex marriage, including Ohio and Michigan, with mixed results. But he said the issue could be decided by the U.S. Supreme Court in an Arizona case that Lambda Legal is handling, Diaz v. Brewer. Both the district court and the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals have ruled in Lambda Legal’s favor, but Republican Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer, who wants to strip DP benefits from state employees, appealed.

“Our position is if you decide that a benefit of employment is insuring your spouse, and then you turn around and say as a gay person, you don’t get that benefit because you can’t have a spouse, then you violate equal protection,” Upton said.  “We’ll know in November whether [the Supreme Court is] going to take that case.”

Upton said any opinion Sen. Patrick receives from Republican Attorney General Greg Abbott’s office would be advisory in nature. However, Upton said he suspects that the AG’s office — which has intervened in recent years to block gay divorces — could find a way of bringing a legal challenge to DP benefits in Texas. Upton said he doesn’t like the LGBT community’s chances in front of the conservative Texas Supreme Court, which could ultimately be charged with interpreting whether the marriage amendment bans DP benefits. But Upton said that from a legal standpoint, he’s less worried about the issue than he once was.

“I think the [U.S.] Supreme Court in Diaz could decide it once and for all,” he said. “The bottom line is this whole thing is so much farther long than it was three or four or five years ago. Time is on our side.”

Read Patrick’s press release and his letter seeking an opinion from the AG’s office below.

—  John Wright

S. Texas lesbian reflects 3 months after shooting that killed her girlfriend

It’s been three months since Kristene Chapa, 18, and girlfriend Mollie Olgin, 19, were found shot in a park in Portland, Texas.

Olgin did not survive, but Chapa was found still breathing early the next morning and was rushed to the hospital. She eventually was able to communicate with police and helped them sketch a photo of the man responsible.

Chapa updated her Facebook status this weekend, reflecting on her recovery and life without Olgin.

“Today marks 3 months since my accident. I’ve learned life is so fragile and cherish the people you have in your life love them don’t take things for granted and buy pepper spray! they deserve it!” Chapa wrote, according to NBC News.

She also posted lyrics to the Kenny Chesney song “Who You’d Be Today,” a song about a person who died too young.

“I still need time but I am happy,” Chapa wrote. “I’m moving on.”

Moving on also includes dating again. Chapa noted in early September she was seeing someone else.

“I know people deal with things different and I’m not gonna sit in my room and cry over what happened,” she wrote. “I was heartbroken but I’m not gonna be single for the rest of my life … she’s in my heart but I needed something else. I wanted a girl to be there for me and understand what I’m going through.”

Chapa is still recovering in a rehabilitation facility while police await more leads that will provide more answers and justice for Chapa and her family. Dozens of leads were called in early on in the case but have since dwindled down to few.

“I love that people pray for me,” she wrote. “I really think that’s why I’m recovering so fast.”

Portland Police Chief Randy Wright has previously said that no evidence existed to lead police to believe the shooting was a hate crime.

The suspect is described as a white male in his 20s, 5 feet, 8 inches tall with a thin build, weighing 140 pounds, with brown hair and a scruffy beard.

North Texans have helped raise money for a reward for information.

Anyone with information should call the Portland Police Department at 361-777-4444. Reports may be made anonymously.

—  Anna Waugh

Students protest new Chick-fil-A on campus of UT-Pan American

Students protest the new on-campus Chick-fil-A at the University of Texas-Pan American on Monday, Aug. 27. (Action 4 News)

Students starting classes Monday at the University of Texas-Pan American protested the new on-campus Chick-fil-A.

The campus in Edinburg had several students holding signs explaining that the chicken chain controversy is about civil rights, not free speech.

UTPA’s Atheist Student Organization and the LGBT Alliance also had students sign their petition to ask the university to remove the restaurant, Action 4 News reports.

UTPA released a statement before school started that the university  “was surprised and disappointed by the comments made by Chick-fil-A’s president,” and that it opposes “discrimination in any form.”

Chick-fil-A is on five college campuses in North Texas. Both the University of North Texas and the University of Texas at Arlington have started online petitions. A UNT student petition on Change.org  had garnered 469 signatures and the one started by an alumnus has 44 signatures. The UTA petition has 155 signatures.

UTA spokeswoman Kristin Sullivan told Instant Tea that no one had submitted a petition or a formal request yet o replace the on-campus Chick-fil-A.

Alohi Valdez, president of UTA’s Gay Straight Alliance, said the group is working on a resolution to present to university officials alongside the petition. She said she wanted to present the petition to the administration soon.

—  Anna Waugh

Gay Dallas activist’s petition seeks apology from Lubbock County judge

Tom Head

Gay Dallasite Cannon Flowers has created a Change.org petition demanding an apology from Lubbock County Judge Tom Head.

Head set off a firestorm earlier this week when he went on the local Fox station and claimed he needed to raise taxes to protect Lubbock from civil war if Obama is re-elected. The Houston Chronicle declared “crazy county judge makes Lubbock a national laughingstock.”

Bloomberg quotes Lubbock County Democratic Party chair Kenny Ketner who said, “It’s not the first time he’s said something ridiculous.”

Lubbock Democrats are discussing removing Head from office. The Lubbock Avalanche has a picture of Head’s office door with these words scribbled on it: “Hide your kids. Hide your wife. They’re coming.”

Flower’s petition reads:

Lubbock County Judge Tom Head has used his office to issue a veiled threat of civil war in the United States if the current President Barack Obama is re-elected. … Judge Head said regarding a possible Obama re-election, “We are talking civil unrest, civil disobedience, possibly, possibly civil war, OK? Now what happens? What happens? Now I’m not talking just talking riots here and there. I’m talking Lexington, Concord, take up arms, get rid of the dictator. ..And in this political climate and financial climate, what is the very worst thing that can happen right now? Obama gets back in the White House. No. God forbid.”

These comments, spoken on behalf of the power of the office as County Judge of a major county in Texas, are seen to possibly incite violence and potentially cause great harm to the United States. Judge Head must be held accountable and the officials of Lubbock County must also be held accountable for any further actions occurring from these statements.

To sign the petition, go here.

—  David Taffet

Cruz declared winner in Republican Senate runoff

Ted Cruz, left, and David Dewhurst

Ted Cruz was declared the winner early in the evening in his race for the Republican nomination for Senator. Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst was expected to win until Cruz overtook him in the polls during the last week.

Cruz is the former Texas Solicitor General. He is expected to face Paul Sadler in the November election.

In other races, Tincy Miller won the Republican nomination for State Board of Education. She defeated incumbent George Clayton in the primary after he was outed last fall. Clayton plans a write-in candidacy.

For state railroad commissioner, Christi Craddick defeated Warren Chisum who made a name for himself in the legislature as one of the House’s most homophobic representatives.

—  David Taffet

YFTCC exceeds fundraising goal for reward in lesbian couple’s shooting

 More than 60 people laced up their bowling shoes Saturday to help Youth First Texas Collin County score almost $400 more than expected for its fundraiser.

The group raised $1,379.84 during the event in Plano, after planning the event a few weeks before to raise $1,000, YFTCC member Kris Wong said.

Wong wanted to help fund a Crime Stoppers reward to help find the shooter who shot lesbian couple Mollie Olgin and Kristene Chapa in Portland, Texas, in June.

The event was the biggest fundraiser YFTCC has ever organized and the first event Wong has headed up, she said.

“I was pretty ecstatic about it,” she said, adding that she was thrilled with the community’s support.

Wong teamed up with Dallas activist Cd Kirven at the Dallas vigil for the couple. Kirven had expressed a desire to raise a reward and Wong said the event was already planned as a social, so it was turned into a fundraiser.

The teen couple’s attack resonated with Wong, who said she couldn’t imagine if one of her friends was shot or killed.

“It’s sad because they’re my age and they’re too young for, we’re too young for that, because we just started getting out into the world for it to end so quickly,” she said. “It kind of hits home.”

While Wong hopes the money helps catch the shooter as an incentive for those with information to come forward, if the money doesn’t get used, she said it will be donated to YFTCC for future events and causes.

—  Anna Waugh

Marriage equality soars in popularity among African-Americans since Obama announcement

President Barack Obama

A new Washington Post/ABC News poll found that President Barack Obama’s announcement in support of same-sex marriage has had a major impact on African-Americans.

Before Obama made his statement, 41 percent of African-Americans said same-sex marriage should be legal. In a poll released today, 59 percent said they support marriage equality. Since Obama made his statement, the NAACP passed a resolution in favor of marriage equality and a number of hip-hop artists have announced their support.

Opposition to same-sex marriage also hit a new low, according to a related Washington Post/ABC News poll. Only 39 percent said same-sex marriage should be illegal.

Of those polled, 23 percent said Obama’s statement was a major reason to oppose his re-election, 20 percent said it was a major reason to support his re-election, and 55 percent said it was just not a major factor.

A University of Texas/Texas Tribune poll in February looked at how Texans view same-sex marriage. According to that poll, 51 percent of African-American Texans support some form relationship recognition — either marriage or civil unions. Relationship recognition is supported by 62 percent of whites and 65 percent of Hispanics.

The UT/Tribune poll found that the less religious Texans are, the more likely they are to support equality. Only 30 percent of those who go to church more than once a week support same-sex marriage or civil unions. That number increases to 44 percent among those who attend once a week to 77 percent support for those who never attend.

By party, 67 percent of those who lean Democratic support same-sex marriage and another 17 percent support civil unions. Only 7 percent of “strong Republicans” and 13 percent of those who lean Republican support marriage equality. But 40 percent of those labeled strong Republicans support civil unions.

Support also increases as the level of education increases. Only 21 percent of high school dropouts and those with a high school degree support marriage equality. Those with a two-year degree support marriage by 35 percent. Four-year college graduates support marriage by 38 percent and post-grads by 46 percent. Civil union support adds about 30 percent to each of those categories.

And support for some form of relationship recognition is more popular popular among Texas men than women by 2 percent.

—  David Taffet

Concert Notice: Out musician Ruthie Foster announced for 2012 State Fair concert series

I was excited to see that this year’s list of State Fair of Texas concerts on the main stage includes just a little bit of gay flair to it. In today’s announcement, they mention that out folk and blues musician Ruthie Foster will be among the line up. The Gause, Tex.-born musician returns home in support of her latest album Let It Burn released this past January.

Foster blends her folk, blues and gospel styles with fluid grace. She is set to perform after the Rebirth Brass Band on Oct. 6.  I do hope she’ll perform this gorgeous cover of Johnny Cash’s “Ring of Fire.” Watch the video of it after the jump.

Other shows for this year’s line up include Rebirth Brass Band, The Commodores and  Kevin Fowler.

“Although the entire lineup hasn’t been finalized, State Fair officials are providing a sneak peek at this year’s entertainment calendar,” the release mentioned.

The State Fair runs Sept. 28–Oct. 21.

—  Rich Lopez

Jack Black (maybe) goes gay in “Bernie”

This Friday, the uber-Texas comedy Bernie opens in Dallas, so we thought we’d give you a look-see with this interview by contributor Chris Azzopardi with the movie’s star, Jack Black, who shares his take on the character … and the pedicure he gave co-star Shirley MacLaine.

BLACK IN TEXAS

Is Bernie Jack Black’s first gay role? As a small-town Texan teddy bear who goes off the deep end, it might be. But because the real-life man he’s playing isn’t out, we may never truly know.

Bernie is an offbeat black comedy based on a true story of a flamboyant people-pleaser who befriends the local she-devil, and then turns on her. As the titular mortician who is, as one townie calls him, “light in the loafers,” Black — known for fun-loving roles in School of Rock and Tropic Thunder, and a hilarious kidnapping cameo in last year’s The Muppets — is totally non-Black, playing Bernie Tiede with understated finesse, an effeminate lisp and an endearing touch.

We got Black on the phone for an exclusive chat about his maybe-gay turn, what he has in common with Bernie and how LGBT rights is a “no-brainer” issue for him.

—  Arnold Wayne Jones