Measure would ban anti-LGBT discrimination in Houston

Charter amendment could also allow DP benefits for city workers

DANIEL WILLIAMS  |  Contributing Writer

HOUSTON — Long-brewing plans to place a city-wide non-discrimination policy before Houston voters became public this week.

Since December a coalition of organizations and leaders have been working to draft a city charter amendment that would make it illegal to discriminate in housing, employment or public accommodations on the basis of  “age, race, color, creed, religion, national origin, ancestry, disability, marital status, gender, gender identity or expression, sexual orientation, or physical characteristic.”

The amendment would also remove anti-LGBT language added to the Houston city charter in 1985 and 2001 — which could allow the City Council to vote to offer health benefits to the domestic partners of municipal employees.

Houston Mayor Annise Parker, who famously became the only out LGBT person elected mayor of a major American city in 2009, has declined to comment on the proposed charter amendment until the language is finalized. She told the Houston Chronicle: “I believe it’s important for the city of Houston to send a signal to the world that we welcome everybody and that we treat everybody equally, and depending on the elements of what was actually in it, I might or might not support it,”

According to Equality Texas Executive Director Dennis Coleman, the prospect of Houston voters approving the non-discrimination amendment has ramifications for efforts to pass similar measures in the state Legislature.

“Nondiscrimination in Houston builds a better case for us when we go for nondiscrimination in Austin,” said Coleman. “To be able to tell representatives that they represent areas that already support these efforts is very helpful.”

The cities of Austin, Dallas and Fort Worth all already have similar nondiscrimination ordinances and offer DP benefits to employees.

But Houston’s form of governance makes this effort unique. While the City Council is empowered to pass city ordinances covering issues of discrimination, they can be overturned by popular vote if those opposing the ordinance collect 20,000 signatures to place the issue on the ballot.

That was the case in 1985 after Houston Mayor Kathy Whitmire pushed through the council the city’s first protections for gay and lesbian Houstonians (no protections were provided for the bisexual or transgender communities).

A coalition of right-wing voters led by Louie Welch, then president of the Houston Chamber of Commerce, was able to place the issue on a city-wide ballot, claiming the policy “promoted the homosexual lifestyle.” The group also recruited a “straight slate” of candidates to run against City Council members who had favored the protections, with Welch running against Whitmire.

The public vote on nondiscrimination was held in June 1985 and Welch’s forces prevailed, but the city’s temperament had changed by the time of the City Council and mayoral races in November. A comment of Welch’s that the solution to the AIDS crisis was to “shoot the queers” was aired on local TV and few in Houston wished to be associated with him after that. The “straight slate” failed to capture a single City Council seat and Whitmire remained mayor, but the defeat of the city’s nondiscrimination policy remained.

By 1998 Houston had changed: Annise Parker was serving as the city’s first out lesbian city council member and Houston boasted the state’s first out gay judge, John Paul Barnich. Mayor Lee Brown, sensing the change, issued an executive order protecting LGBT city employees from employment discrimination. But the city had not changed that much. Councilman Rob Todd led efforts to fight the order in court, arguing that since voters rejected city-wide protections from discrimination in 1985, it was inappropriate for the mayor to institute them without voter approval. The city spent the next three years defending the policy in court, finally emerging victorious.

The joy of that 2001 victory would be shortlived, however. That year Houston’s voters approved another amendment to the city charter, this time prohibiting the city from providing domestic partner benefits for city employees. In a narrow defeat, just over 51 percent of voters decided that the city should not offer competitive benefits.

The current proposed non-discrimination amendment would remove the language added in 1985 and 2001. While it would provide non-discrimination protections it would not require the city to offer benefits of any kind to the spouses of LGBT city employees, leaving that question back in the hands of the City Council.

The organizers of the current effort are confident that this year is the year for victory.

Noel Freeman, the president of the Houston GLBT Political Caucus, which is spearheading the effort, explains that the previous votes occurred in “non-presidential years,”when voter turnout in general is low, and conservative voters make up a larger percentage of the electorate.

Additionally, polling by Equality Texas in 2010 showed that 80 percent of Houstonians support employment protections for gay and lesbian people.

In order to place the non-discrimination amendment on the November ballot the coalition supporting it will need to collect 20,000 signatures of registered Houston voters and submit them to the city clerk. Freeman says that the final charter amendment language is still under consideration and that once it is finalized the group will begin collecting signatures.

Even former Councilman Todd, who once fought the city’s policy of non-discrimination for LGBT employees, supports the current effort.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition February 17, 2012.

—  Michael Stephens

Update on Ray Hill’s arrest

Ray Hill

Ray Hill

As previously reported by Houstini, longtime Houston LGBT activist Ray Hill was arrested last night after a confrontation with police outside Treasures, a gentlemen’s club on Westhiemer Rd. Hill has been released from jail and posted the following message to his Facebook page:

I was arrested trying to stop power arrogant cops from bullying frightened and vulnerable people (this is not my first rodeo) There will be a trial; they will lie under oath; I will show the video of the whole incident; I will win and then sue and win that case. The system works if you have the tools to use it properly. My lawyer and I will make money off the city in this process. The cycle will end when the City of Houston stops trying to treat adults like they were children…


—  admin

HISD trustee distributes anti-gay flier

Rodriquez Flier (excerpt)

Excerpt from the Rodriquez flier attacking Fonseco for his advocacy for LGBT people and his endorsement by the Houston GLBT Political Caucus (click to view full flier)

Houston Independent School District Trustee Manuel Rodriquez Jr. is under fire for an anti-gay flyer attacking his opponent, Ramiro Fonseca. Both seek the HISD District III seat held by Rodriquez. Rodriquez’s flyer attacks Fonseca for his history of advocating for LGBT people, and his endorsement by the Houston GLBT Political Caucus. The flyer also suggests that Fonseca being 52 and unmarried is a reason that Houstonians should not trust him to make decisions affecting children, and points out that he has a “male partner.”

The GLBT Political Caucus was quick to denounce the flyer, issuing a statement on Saturday. “Manuel Rodriguez is assuming the voters of District III share the same bigoted, hateful views he holds,” said Caucus president Noel Freeman. “Houstonians have proven time and time again that such views are not welcome in our City, and have consistently rejected candidates who espouse such hateful views. We urge the voters of District III to reject Manuel Rodriguez on election day.”

Other HISD Trustees have joined in the chorus of people speaking out against the mailer. “I denounce the reprehensible, mean-spirited, bigoted mailer that was sent out in the HISD, District III race,” Trustee Juliet Katherine Stipeche said via her Facebook wall. “I ask my colleagues to maintain and uphold HISD’s total non-discrimination policy and treat every person, including other candidates, with dignity and respect. Let us embrace diversity and equality and treat every person as we would like ourselves to be treated ” Stipeche is seeking re-election to her district VIII seat.

HISD District I member Anna Eastman echoed Stipeche’s comments. “My fifteen year old son could not comprehend why someone would think that distinction would change a vote for school board and would be used as such by a candidate.”

The GLBT caucus is urging people to contact the editorial board of the Houston Chronicle to encourage them to rescind their endorsement of Rodriquez in light of his campaign tactics.

HISD elections are part of the general elections taking place this Tuesday, Nov 8. Visit HarrisVotes.org to find your voting location and view a sample ballot.

—  admin

Starvoice • 09.09.11

By Jack Fertig

CELEBRITY BIRTHDAY

Jennifer Hudson turns 30 on Monday.
The Oscar winner has made headlines in the recent past mostly on her weight loss. She talks to Self magazine this month about losing over 80 pounds. This year, she returns to the big screen in Winnie, portraying Nelson Mandela’s wife, and in 2012’s The Three Stooges.

…………………..

THIS WEEK

Venus coming home to Libra normally helps us to be more gracious, social and polite. Opposing Uranus on the way in whips up some crazy ideas of what that might mean. Compassion and imagining yourself in the other’s position is usually the best way to start out.

…………………..

VIRGO Aug 23-Sep 22
You find amazing deals at estate sales, perhaps even your true love. If you already have one, bring him or her along and you find some treasure that will become an emblematic keepsake.

LIBRA Sep 23-Oct 22
You’re looking especially gorgeous. The attention you get will surprise you. Of course you’re not just a pretty face; a new contact could prove very helpful as a colleague.

SCORPIO Oct 23-Nov 21
Hiding out from the social whirl may give you peace, but doesn’t do much for your anxieties. Hum the first tune that comes to mind. That song will offer insights to face your worries.

SAGITTARIUS Nov 22-Dec 20
Party it up but don’t go overboard. Seek out new, interesting, unusual people at these events. Their perspectives can trigger new insights into your own roots.

CAPRICORN Dec 21-Jan 19
Career opportunities are looking good, but are you prepared? Know your strengths and the difference between reaching and overreaching. Work causes you to neglect issues at home.

AQUARIUS Jan 20-Feb 18
Think a little harder before opening your mouth. Does it really need to be said? Your words carry more weight than you realize. Treat them like currency and don’t waste them.

PISCES Feb 19-Mar 19
Opportunities abound as Venus is flashing her goodies in your house of illicit pleasures. She offers a deeper challenge to re-
examine your priorities and values.

ARIES Mar 20-Apr 19
You’re suddenly looking marriageable no matter what local laws allow. Let someone special see your inner wounds. Allowing yourself to be vulnerable shows confidence in both of you.

TAURUS Apr 20-May 20
A friend in need is a pain in the ass. You have your own problems. Even so, helping out your pal can not only get you out of your own problems for a bit, but help point you to a solution.

GEMINI May 21-Jun 20
Your idea of social outreach is a little outré. One on one is fine for scaring off people you don’t want to deal with, but if you’re working with a group, behave accordingly.

CANCER Jun 21-Jul 22
New recipes go better than you’d hoped for. Even if things screw up, you get points for trying. At work keep your boss up on any experiments, just in case.

LEO Jul 23-Aug 22
Advice is not necessarily appreciated, as you could find out the hard way. An earnest, soul-searching talk about sex can be more satisfying than actually doing it. Not that one rules out the other.

Jack Fertig can be reached at 415-864-8302 or Starjack.com

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition September 9, 2011.

—  Kevin Thomas

Starvoice • 04.29.11

By Jack Fertig

CELEBRITY BIRTHDAY

Lesley Gore turns 65 on Monday. Much has changed in music since singer Lesley Gore recorded her biggest hit “It’s My Party” back in 1963. But maybe it was Gore who “changed” the most. The iconic singer came out as lesbian in 2005 and stated she knew in her late teens that she was attracted to women. Now we have to go back and listen to all her lyrics again.

……………………………….

THIS WEEK

Uranus, newly in Aries, cranks up spontaneous individualism and assertion. The sun is in Taurus, semi-square to Uranus provoking a lot of stubbornness. Don’t challenge others with an uppity, obstinate attitude; look for creative new ways to show loyalty and resilience.

………………………………

TAURUS  Apr 20-May 20
Life’s tough blows have been piling up, but don’t let it give you piles. Much as people depend on the solid, reliable you, you need to be able to let it out and lean on someone else.

GEMINI  May 21-Jun 20
Your friends are only human. Don’t take disappointments to heart. Cutting off communications is a big mistake, but so is over-talking the problem. A short break may be best.

CANCER  Jun 21-Jul 22
Your friends’ ideas fare too much from the heart, not enough from the brains. Going along with them could hurt your rep and your wallet. Thank them for their ideas and change the subject.

LEO  Jul 23-Aug 22
In your ideal relationship you’re the star married to your agent or manager. That means you can’t always be the boss! Arguments are normal but listening remains more important than speaking.

VIRGO  Aug 23-Sep 22
Novel sex techniques are a blast but require some safety. They also open up a lot of suppressed feelings. How well do you know your partner? Just be sure that he or she can be trusted.

LIBRA  Sep 23-Oct 22
You and your mate have a great time exploring kinky new fun. Anything from silk scarf bondage to cattle prods is open to testing. Slow, careful and easy is the best approach, at first anyway.

SCORPIO  Oct 23-Nov 21
You are part of a team and everyone else is as important as you. As much as your special talents do contribute to the team, cultivate humility as one of those talents.

SAGITTARIUS  Nov 22-Dec 20
Argue about movie, art, sports, anything fun or creative; you’re sure to find amazing new ideas. Keep your mind and ears open and respectful of other notions. Be polite with the idiots.

CAPRICORN  Dec 21-Jan 19
Livening up your home life should be a fun creative challenge, not a painful economic one. Unleash your dark side in planning changes, but not in how you treat housemates.

AQUARIUS  Jan 20-Feb 18
Criticism of family, housemates or your community is surprising in its harshness. If you can’t be kind, give your loved ones a break and look for schmucks who deserve your wrath.

PISCES  Feb 19-Mar 19
Financial surprises work your nerves. You need a break. Try something new and different even if it’s just a quiet stroll in a park or country road you’ve never trod before.

ARIES  Mar 20-Apr 19
The cost of living force some choices in how you unwind. Look ahead 10 years and imagine what friendships, talents and skills you’d like to have developed through your hobbies.

Jack Fertig can be reached at 415-864-8302 or Starjack.com

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition April 29, 2011.

—  Michael Stephens

Court: Student Counselor Must Treat Gays

Julea Ward x390 (grab) | ADVOCATE.COMThe ACLU is supporting Eastern Michigan University in its dispute over kicking out an antigay graduate student
Advocate.com: Daily News

—  David Taffet

Sharron Angle Won’t Take Any Money From a Company That Dares Treat Gay Employees Equally

Read the updated story here.


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—  John Wright

Thanks for the cupcakes!

AWJ checks out the Creamy Dreamy Vanilla cupcake from Citizen Sweet
AWJ checks out the Creamy Dreamy Vanilla cupcake from Citizen Sweet

We here at Dallas Voice love getting goodies, and today we got some especially good goodies.

The folks at Citizen Sweet, a new company that specializes in delivering cupcakes, muffins and cookies, delivered a box containing a mouth-watering assortment of cupcakes, and let me tell you, they didn’t last long! We had dark chocolate, creamy dreamy vanilla, pumpkin chocolate chip, chocolate velvet and carrot cake. I had one of the carrot cake cupcakes, with that oh-so-yummy cream cheese icing, and it was DE-LISH-US!

Check out their Web site at CitizenSweet.com.

—  admin