Dan Ramos to resign Thursday morning?

Dan Ramos

The mainstream media is finally starting to pick up on the story of Dan Ramos, the chairman of the Bexar County Democratic Party who thinks gays are like very sinister Nazi termites with polio legs who are not natural but can’t be swept under the rug — so you might as well seek their endorsement! (This whole thing just goes to show that mental illness is totally nonpartisan.) The ABC affiliate in San Antonio reports tonight that Ramos will hold a press conference at his office Thursday morning, but it’s unclear what for. We’re sure Democrats all over the state — and maybe even some Republicans — are hoping Ramos will come to his senses and heed the many calls for his resignation, but don’t bet the farm on it. A spokesman for the Bexar County Democratic Party’s steering committee said of Ramos, “He’s been in the trenches for a long time and he’s not going to go without a fight.”

 

—  John Wright

Snowpocalypse Part III arrives, but we’ll have sunny skies and highs near 70 this weekend

Schools will be closed today (Wednesday) in Dallas, Fort Worth and Arlington, as well as a number of other districts throughout North Texas (full list here). Freezing rain began to fall in Dallas at about 5:45 a.m., and forecasters expected it to change over to snow later this morning. Snow accumulations may be lower than expected at 1-2 inches, but ice will pose the biggest threat on roadways. TxDOT is running low on granular ice melt after last week’s storms, and loaner plows have mostly been returned. DART is already reporting delays, and ERCOT has issued a power watch — with the greatest likelihood of rolling blackouts coming Thursday morning, when we’ll see a low of 11 degrees. Trash is piling up, and pipes are again at risk. But now for the good news: The forecast calls for sunny skies and highs in the 60s Saturday through Tuesday. Welcome to Texas.

—  John Wright

City orders removal of Oak Lawn cross

The wooden cross at Atmosphere of Praise on Hall Street can be seen at left.

The city of Dallas wants a cross in the backyard of a property on Hall Street to come down. But apparently God doesn’t.

A cross standing for years in the backyard of the property at 3917 Hall is a city code violation and must be removed. The house is used by Atmosphere of Praise, a group founded by Pastor Linda Harris, who passed away on Jan. 5.

Local gay artist Robb Conover described Atmospere of Praise as “a meeting place for people in the community no one else will have anything to do with.”

He said that Byron Zealey lives at the property.

“Byron prepares lunch and invites people on the street to eat,” he said. “We don’t call it a church. We don’t have a parking problem. People walk there.”

Conover said it’s never a large group of people and not a daily occurrence. He said the house is not a shelter but has been used for meetings since 1999.

Councilwoman Angela Hunt’s office received a complaint from a local businesses. Hunt’s office didn’t say which businesses complained.

Hunt’s staff referred the complaint to city code enforcement. Code enforcement ordered the cross to be removed.

Conover thinks the timing is interesting coming just a week after Harris’ death — and after a notice in Dallas Voice included the address of Atmosphere of Praise.

To comply with the city order, the property owner hired someone to cut down the cross on Tuesday night. But as the workman began to cut it down, the chain on the chainsaw broke.

Zealey said he was consulting with an attorney. On Thursday morning, the cross was still standing.

—  David Taffet

Friends remember shooting victim as strong, generous

Police arrest homeless man for using Cheung’s debit card; no murder charges filed yet in gay man’s death

John Wright  |  Online Editor wright@dallasvoice.com

Aaron Cheung
Aaron Cheung

Aaron Cheung was remembered this week as a strong, outspoken, caring person who was living his dream of owning a restaurant.

Cheung, 27, was found shot to death in the backseat of his car outside a condo in northeast Dallas in the early morning hours of Sunday, Dec. 12.

Dallas police say the motive for the crime was robbery, and they have no reason to believe Cheung’s sexual orientation was a factor.

On Wednesday, DPD arrested a homeless man who they say used Cheung’s debit card at a downtown 7-Eleven after the murder

Charles Edward Freeman, 58, is charged with fraudulent use or possession of identifying information, a felony, and was being held on $50,000 bail. As of Thursday morning, Dec. 16, Freeman was considered a “person of interest” but had not been charged in Cheung’s robbery and murder.

Cheung was a founding member of Fuse, the LGBT young men’s group at Resource Center Dallas, according to his close friend Alex Ortega. Cheung also once served on the youth board at Youth First Texas.

But for the last few years, Ortega said, Cheung devoted most of his time to Bacon and Friends, his restaurant in Mesquite.

“That was his dream,” said Ortega, who worked at the restaurant last summer. “His passion was food. He was always talking about watching Food Network and then trying different things. He was just really creative and a real people person. He had so many regulars, and they all asked for him. … He was very meticulous about the food, and people just really gravitated to that, all the effort he put into everything. It was always busy.”

Cheung had just gotten home from work at about 3:30 a.m. on Sunday morning and was retrieving a box from the backseat of his car outside a condo he shared with his parents in the 8100 block of Skillman Road when he was shot, according to police. The suspect ambushed Cheung from behind and shot him once in the head before making off with his wallet and several hundred dollars in cash.

On Tuesday, Dec. 14, police released surveillance video from a 7-Eleven on Commerce Street, showing a short, older black man with a limp using Cheung’s debit card to purchase cigarettes and chicken wings.

Freeman was arrested at the Bridge, a homeless shelter, after people there recognized him from the surveillance video.

Police say Freeman fits the description of a man who was seen by a witness fleeing the area of Cheung’s murder.

“It’s going to take some forensic evidence before they can list him as a suspect,” DPD spokesman Sr. Cpl. Kevin Janse said Thursday morning.

“They’re still looking at him as a person of interest.”

Ortega said he was glad that police appeared close to solving the crime.

“He was the strong one of the people I knew and hung out with,” Ortega said of Cheung. “You’d never think anything would hurt him, so it was just a complete shock. He’s from the East Coast, originally from New York. He was really tough and outspoken.

“He had a lot of street smarts, and you would never think this would happen to him, ever.”

A memorial service for Cheung was held Thursday afternoon in Rowlett.

Ortega said Cheung was an only child and he hoped the service would help his parents cope.

“I think it’s a really good thing for his family to be able to see how many people he affected,” Ortega said. “He really did do a lot for people who were in his life. If he cared about you, he would give you the world.

“He would do just about anything to help you out.”

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition December 17, 2010.

—  Michael Stephens

UPDATED: DADT vote could come Thursday

UPDATE: We’ve posted a full story on today’s vote here.

The Defense Authorization Act containing a repeal of “don’t ask don’t tell” is one of three bills scheduled for a cloture vote in the Senate beginning at 11 a.m. Eastern time, or 10 a.m. Dallas time, on Thursday, according to a Senate calendar released Wednesday night. The first of the three bills scheduled for a cloture vote is the DREAM Act, which passed the House on Wednesday but is not believed to have enough votes to overcome a filibuster in the Senate. As for the Defense bill with DADT repeal attached, all eyes will be on Maine Republican Sen. Susan Collins, whose misgivings prompted Majority Leader Harry Reid to postpone a planned vote Wednesday evening. Read Collins’ statement from last night here. Below are the Senate orders for today via AmericaBlog:

∙The Senate will convene at 9:30am and proceed to consideration of the motion to proceed to the Development, Relief, and Education for Alien Minors (DREAM) Act of 2010 (S.3992), with ten minutes reserved for Senator Durbin, and the remaining time until 11:00am equally divided and controlled between the two Leaders, or their designees.

∙At 11:00am, the Senate will proceed to a series of up to three roll call votes on the following:

o The motion to invoke cloture on the motion to proceed to the Development, Relief, and Education for Alien Minors (DREAM) Act of 2010 (S.3992).

o The motion to invoke cloture on the motion to proceed to the James Zadroga 9/11 Health and Compensation Act of 2010 (H.R.847).

o Reconsideration of the motion to invoke cloture on the motion to proceed to Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2011 (S.3454).

UPDATE: As of 11:15 a.m. Dallas time, the Defense bill was on hold indefinitely as negotiations between Reid and Collins continued. However, the tax bill was expected to arrive on the Senate floor within an hour or so. The tax bill could delay consideration of the Defense bill, but it would also address one of Collins’ main concerns — that the tax bill be dealt with first.

—  John Wright

Gay man seeking to re-enlist in Navy says local recruiting office was told to suspend application

John James Coolidge III

The Pentagon has yet to announce that it has directed recruiting commanders to resume enforcement of “don’t ask don’t tell.”

However, a gay man from Plano who attempted to re-enlist in the Navy on Thursday morning said a local recruiting office was notified during his visit to suspend his application.

John James Coolidge III, who was discharged from the Navy under “don’t ask don’t tell” in 2007, said he spent three hours completing the necessary paperwork to re-enlist in the Reserves. However, about 15 minutes before he left the recruiting office, a call came in from a supervisor.

“Everything right now is on hold for my re-enlistment,” Coolidge told Instant Tea early Thursday afternoon. “Everything all depends on the court right now. … I’ll probably call him the first I hear of anything on Monday and figure out where to go from there.”

On Wednesday, a federal appeals court granted a temporary stay of a district judge’s order halting enforcement of DADT. That means the policy is legally enforceable again. But the Defense Department, which on Tuesday said it had notified recruiting commanders not to enforce the policy, hasn’t publicly announced any follow-up guidance.

The stay will remain in effect until sometime after Oct. 25, when the appeals court decides whether to leave it in place pending an appeal of the district judge’s decision declaring the policy unconstitutional. The appeal is expected to take at least several months.

Coolidge said he called the recruiting office before going there Thursday morning to find out whether Wednesday’s stay had changed anything.

“He said: ‘It’s up to you. As of this moment, we haven’t heard anything different, and we’re still going to process you,’” Coolidge said. “I’m glad that I started the process, and I’m hoping that the courts will side with the lawsuit and uphold the injunction and overturn the policy.”

—  John Wright

Gay Plano man who was discharged from Navy under ‘don’t ask don’t tell’ attempts to re-enlist

John James Coolidge III

John James Coolidge III, a 24-year-old gay man who was discharged from the Navy in 2007 under “don’t ask don’t tell,” says he walked into a recruiting station in Plano this morning and attempted to re-enlist — this time in the Reserves.

The Pentagon announced Tuesday that it had advised recruiting commanders they must accept gay applicants, after a federal district judge issued an order last week halting enforcement of DADT.

“I handed them every item I have from my military record,” Coolidge said of his visit to the recruiting station. “I said specifically, ‘I’ve been waiting three years and eight months to the day for this. I want this taken care of and changed, and I want to get back in.’”

Coolidge said he was directed to another recruiting office in Mesquite that handles re-enlistments. He said he plans to go there on Thursday morning. Meanwhile, the government has asked an appellate court for an emergency stay of the order halting enforcement of DADT.

“I know it’s kind of up in the air, but I’m hoping the courts side with the fact that it really is unconstitutional,” said Coolidge, adding that he’s a gay Republican and proudly noting that the lawsuit was brought by the Log Cabin Republicans.

Coolidge said he was a medic stationed at Camp Lejeune in North Carolina and had been the Navy for less than a year, when someone told his commander that he was dating a Marine sergeant — which wasn’t entirely true. “I just slept with him,” Coolidge said. “It wasn’t worth it either. He was slightly drunk and he had a really tacky red light in his room.”

Coolidge said he was discharged within a month, forcing him to come out to his Catholic parents. He contemplated suicide and checked himself into a psychiatric ward.

A Michigan native, Coolidge eventually moved to Texas and now lives in Plano. He said he’s currently unemployed but recently obtained his Certified Nursing Assistant license.

We’ll have an update on Coolidge after he visits the Mesquite recruiting office on Thursday.

UPDATE: Dave Guy-Gainer, a local board member for the Servicemembers Legal Defense Network, reported Wednesday afternoon that another gay veteran who was discharged under DADT, Michael Moore, re-enlisted today in Mesquite. Here’s what Gainer said:

“Airman Michael Moore went to the Mesquite Recruiting Station and started his re-enlistment processing today. Fox 4 News Dallas accompanied him. You may recognize  Michael who carried the Rainbow Flag in the color guard leading the Alan Ross parade the last two years. I am so very proud of these young men and women who, although aware of the potential consequences and the obstacles that may be in their way, simply stand back up, dust themselves off, and say – I just want to continue to serve. SLDN is still advising active duty personnel to not come out until DADT is fully repealed. The DOJ appeal to the 9th Circuit Court can still go either way.”

—  John Wright

What does Chris Heinbaugh think about Mayor Leppert’s decision to endorse Rick Perry?

Dallas Mayor Tom Leppert on Wednesday endorsed Republican Gov. Rick Perry for re-election.

The Dallas Morning News described it as a “rare display of public partisanship for Leppert,” and said it marked the first time he’s endorsed a candidate for major office. The DMN also noted that Leppert may run for U.S. Senate in 2012, when Perry presumably might return the favor.

Leppert has been generally supportive of the LGBT community and has an openly gay chief of staff, Chris Heinbaugh. However, Leppert is also a member of First Baptist Church of Dallas, which is led by anti-gay Senior Pastor Robert Jeffress.

Perry, meanwhile, is virulently anti-gay and spearheaded Texas’ 2005 constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage. Leppert says his decision to endorse Perry was based on their shared views about economic development and job creation.

Instant Tea asked Heinbaugh on Thursday what he thinks about the endorsement.

“I’m not going to comment on it,” Heinbaugh said. “It’s his business what he wants to do.”

—  John Wright

Dallas County health chief calls for replicating 1980s model to combat rising HIV infection rate

In the face of Dallas County’s steadily rising HIV infection rate, which is the highest in Texas, health authorities are eyeing new strategies for treatment and prevention of the disease, according to Zachary Thompson, director of Dallas County Health and Human Services.

The county health department, along with Resource Center Dallas and AIDS Arms Inc., have announced a joint press conference Thursday morning to unveil a new HIV/AIDS partnership, which will include two upcoming community forums and two new mobile testing sites.

Thompson said rising HIV infection rates are of particular concern in the 13-24 age group, in the American-American population and among men who have sex with men (MSM).

“I think when we saw what was going on in the Oak Lawn area back in the ’80s, there was a lot of information, there was a lot of education, there was a lot of discussion about testing,” Thompson told Instant Tea on Wednesday morning. “I think that’s the model we need to look at Dallas County-wide. It’s not just in one area. We need to take that same model and look at the fact that we’re seeing new HIV infection rates throughout Dallas County. … You’ve got a young population that may feel they’re invincible, and they may have missed the message altogether.”

A media alert announcing Thursday’s joint press conference between the three agencies states that, “By joining forces, they hope to bring progress in prevention, testing and education, as it pertains to HIV/AIDS.”

Thompson said health authorities believe there are many people in Dallas County who need HIV/AIDS services but don’t know how to access them.

“We need to really dialogue with the community on what are lessons learned, what are things we need to do,” he said. “Is it more testing? Is it more information? Is it more linkage to resources? We think the resources are out there. People just may not be aware of them.”

The two community forums in October will be at Resource Center Dallas, 2701 Reagan St., and at the Urban League on Lancaster Road, Thompson said. Additional community forums will be announced soon.

The new mobile testing sites will be in two areas that are seeing rising HIV infections rates — East Oak Cliff and a section of North Dallas near LBJ Freeway and Coit Road.

“We’re going to have to look at the fact that with the state of all budgets, federal and state, we’re going to have to really focus on what’s going on in our community and how we can utilize existing services right now,” Thompson said.

Thursday’s press conference will be at 10 a.m. in Room 627A on the 6th floor of the health department, 2377 North Stemmons Freeway in Dallas.

For coverage of the press conference, see Friday’s Dallas Voice.

—  John Wright

Police investigating anti-gay fliers in Ky.

COVINGTON, Ky. — Police in northern Kentucky are investigating who blanketed a neighborhood in anti-gay fliers two days after the Covington City Commission held a press conference reaffirming the city’s human rights ordinance.

The Kentucky Enquirer reported that fliers were posted on poles and placed on windshields throughout the MainStrasse neighborhood sometime Wednesday night, Aug. 25 or Thursday morning, Aug. 26.

The fliers come in the wake of a series of crimes that police and residents believe have targeted the city’s gay community.

The Covington Police are investigating who is responsible for the fliers, which contained anti-gay epithets and called homosexuality a perversion.

—  John Wright