“A Gathering” totals $60k in proceeds

From the rehearsal for "A Gathering."

So how many people does it take to make A Gathering? About a thousand, it seems. That’s about how many folks turned out for the Tuesday evening event,  raising an estimated $60,000 in the process (a full figure will be available after all the donations made that evening and still coming in by are tabulated). Organizers are even continuing to bargain over some of the hard costs, getting more donated or reduced to maximize the donations to the four AIDS beneficiaries.

That’s great, but what was really great was how the show came together, moving quickly and movingly with terrific performances from all involved. Keep it up, and this could (should) become a habit.

—  Arnold Wayne Jones

Gay bullying die-in planned at Texas Capitol on opening day of legislative session

The 82nd Texas Legislature gets under way next Tuesday, and in this Friday’s Voice, we’ll have a full preview of what to expect — and not to expect — on the LGBT front. But for now, we thought we mention that a group called Queer Texas United is planning a die-in Tuesday evening to support anti-bullying legislation. From the Facebook event page:

Let’s get out and show our support for the victims of bullying and tell our legislature to protect students from these cowardly thugs! We will be demonstrating by laying on the steps of the capitol building, each person representing a different LGBT person who has committed suicide as a result of bullying. We must send a clear message to our representatives that state-sanctioned discrimination, bigotry, and harassment is not acceptable!

The die-in will be from 6 to 6:30 p.m. Tuesday, and a planning meeting will be held at 7 p.m. this Thursday at Cheer Up Charlie’s, at 1104 E. 6th St. in Austin.

—  John Wright

Pentagon report sets up Senate showdown on ‘don’t ask don’t tell’

LISA KEEN  |  Keen News Service

Defense Secretary Robert Gates sent mixed signals Tuesday, Nov. 30 in releasing the Pentagon’s long-awaited study about how to implement repeal of “don’t ask don’t tell.”

Gates said repeal “can and should be done,” but he urged Congress to consider the views of all-male combat units who expressed concern about negative consequences. He said the concerns of those combat units were “not an insurmountable barrier” to repealing the ban on openly gay people in the military, but said the military should be given “sufficient time” to exercise “an abundance of care and preparation” in rolling out that repeal. And neither he nor any other top Pentagon official were willing to give even a vague estimate of how much time would be sufficient.

But in a statement released Tuesday evening, President Barack Obama urged the Senate to act “as soon as possible,” saying he is “absolutely confident” troops “will adapt to this change and remain the best led, best trained, best equipped fighting force the world has ever known.”

The president reportedly spoke to Republican and Democratic leaders about DADT during a meeting at the White House on Monday to discuss a number of issues. Details of those conversations were not available.

Gates’ remarks and the report released by the Pentagon on Tuesday on how best to implement repeal of DADT will provide both proponents and opponents of repeal plenty of political ammunition once the Senate takes up the issue sometime this month.

The 256-page study is called the Report of the Comprehensive Review of the Issues Associated with a Repeal of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.” The report includes 20 pages of recommendations, presented in essay form, and 112 pages discussing and illustrating the results of surveys conducted of servicemembers and their families. Most media reports focused on the survey results, but the recommendations have, perhaps, the greatest importance for the LGBT community. The most significant of the recommendations include:

• Issuing “an extensive set of new or revised standards of conduct” for servicemembers while in uniform, including for such matters as “public displays of affection,” dress and appearance, and harassment, and that those standards “apply to all Service members, regardless of sexual orientation”;

• That military law not add sexual orientation “alongside race, color, religion, sex, and national origin as a class eligible for various diversity programs or complaint resolution processes.” Instead, the report recommends DOD “make clear that sexual orientation may not, in and of itself, be a factor in accession, promotion, or other personnel decision-making.” Complaints regarding discrimination based on sexual orientation would be addressed through “mechanisms” available for complaints other than those involving race, color, sex, religion, or national origin — “namely, the chain of command … and other means as may be determined by the Services.”

• Repeal Article 125 of the Uniform Code of Military Justice to the extent it prohibits consensual sodomy, regardless of whether same-sex or heterosexual;

• Amend the code to “ensure sexual orientation-neutral application” with regards to sexual offenses. For instance, Article 134 prohibiting adultery, would be rewritten to include a married female servicemember having sex with another woman who was not her spouse;

•  No separate housing or bathroom facilities for gay or lesbian servicemembers and no assignments of sleeping or housing facilities based on sexual orientation “except that commanders should retain the authority to alter … assignments on an individualized, case-by-case basis, in the interest of maintaining morale, good order, and discipline, and consistent with performance of mission”;

• No revision “at this time” of regulations to add same-sex committed relationships to the current definition of “family members” or “dependents” in regards to military benefits, such as housing, but to revisit the issue at a later date;

• Review benefits “that may, where justified from a policy, fiscal, and feasibility standpoint,” be revised to enable a servicemember to designate “whomever he or she wants as a beneficiary”;

• Evaluate requests for re-entry into the military from those servicemembers discharged under DADT “according to the same criteria as other former Service members seeking re-entry”; and

• No release from obligations of service for military personnel who oppose serving alongside gay and lesbian service members.

The survey part of the report indicates:

• 69 percent of servicemembers believed they had already served with someone they knew to be gay;

• 70 percent to 76 percent said repeal would have “a positive, a mixed, or no effect” on task cohesion; and 67 percent to 78 percent said it would have positive, mixed or no effect on “social cohesion”;

• 92 percent of those servicemembers who said they served alongside a gay person said they did not consider the gay servicemember’s presence to have created any problems for unit cohesion; and

• 26 percent said they would take a shower at a different time than a gay servicemember.

The report noted that the responses of Marines Combat Arms units (fighting forces on the ground) were “more negative” than the forces overall concerning how gay servicemembers would affect unit cohesion. Overall, 21 percent said gays in the unit would negatively affect their unit’s readiness, but while 43.5 percent of Marine Combat Arms said so.

Both Gates and Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Admiral Mike Mullen also underscored a need to move slowly and carefully to implement repeal, should Congress approve it. In doing so, Gates highlighted a finding that between 40 percent and 60 percent of all-male combat arms and special operations units predicted a negative effect of repeal on unit cohesion. He said this finding was a concern for him and for the chiefs of the branches of service. And he urged Congress to consider this in its deliberations.

But Gates said he did not consider that finding to be an “insurmountable barrier” and said he does believe repeal “can and should be done without posing a serious threat to military readiness.”

Even before the report was officially released at 2:15 Eastern time on Tuesday, Servicemembers Legal Defense Network said it expected the report to be “overwhelmingly positive” and “one of the best tools that repeal advocates can use” in the lame duck Congress.

The report will be the subject of two days of hearings before the Senate Armed Services Committee on Thursday and Friday, Dec. 2 and 3. Republican opponents of repeal, led by Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., are expected to challenge the legitimacy of the study and to tweak out information within it to support their position against repealing the law.

Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., who had been considered a potential vote for repeal, surprised many over the weekend when he began to parrot a criticism of the study that McCain raised in recent days — that the Pentagon studied “how” to repeal DADT, not “whether” to repeal it.

Gates rebuffed this criticism previously and again during today’s press conference.

“This report does provide a sound basis for making decisions on this law,” said Gates. “It’s hard for me to imagine you could come up with a more comprehensive approach.” More than 400,000 servicemembers responded to a survey, as did thousands of family members. And Mullen said data “is very compelling.”

But Graham also told Fox News Sunday on Nov. 28 that he doesn’t believe there is “anywhere near the votes” to repeal DADT “on the Republican side.”

Democrats don’t really need Republican votes to repeal DADT; it takes only 51 and, with Independents, they have 58. But many took Graham’s remarks to suggest that Republicans would stand together as a party to block the Senate from even considering the Defense Authorization bill that contains the DADT repeal language.

“I think we’ll be united in the lame duck,” said Graham of Republican senators. “… So I think in a lame duck setting, ‘don’t ask don’t tell’ is not going anywhere.

And that’s where the uncertainty lies: Will Democrats have 60 votes to break a Republican filibuster in order to begin deliberation on the FY 2011 Defense Authorization bill?

Aubrey Sarvis, executive director of Servicemembers Legal Defense Network, said he expects McCain and others to try and thwart repeal. He said he was hopeful Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid would be able to reach an agreement with Minority Leader Mitch McConnell on some number of amendments either party could offer on the annual Defense Authorization bill which contains the repeal language. Among those amendments, said Sarvis, will almost certainly be one to strip the repeal language from the bill, but Sarvis said he does not believe there are enough votes to do that.

Sarvis also made clear during a telephone press conference with reporters Tuesday morning that his group is not going to put all its eggs in the lame duck basket.

Sarvis said his organization would — “early next week”— file at least one lawsuit in federal court in San Francisco to continue pressure for eliminating the ban on openly gay people in the military. He said the group would likely file two more lawsuits soon after that. Each lawsuit, he said, would represent the interests of different groups affected by the law — those on active duty, those who have been discharged and seek reinstatement, and those who would like to join the service.

Gates and Obama have both spoken out against lawsuits currently pending in the 9th Circuit seeking to challenge DADT — one from the Log Cabin Republicans (challenging the law on its face) and one from Air Force nurse Margaret Witt (challenging the law as applied). Both have been successful, thus far.

In an interview with ABC News, released Nov. 9, Gates said he thinks the end of DADT was “inevitable.”

“My hope, frankly,” he said, “is that … if we can make the case that having this struck down by the courts is the worst outcome, because it gives us no flexibility, that people will think I’m called a realist, a pragmatist. I’m looking at this realistically. This thing is gonna go, one way or the other.”

In the end, it may take more than just one showdown vote in the Senate. In addition to needing 60 votes to begin debate on the defense spending bill, SLDN’s Sarvis said Tuesday he expects Senate Democrats will need 60 votes to force a vote to end debate as well. Then a final version of the bill must be hammered out in a House-Senate conference committee and returned to both chambers for a final vote.

© 2010 Keen News Service

—  John Wright

Just in time for Texas-OU weekend, Norman passes resolution marking LGBT history month

The other day we mentioned that Equality Texas and The Equality Network of Oklahoma are hosting a joint fundraiser/watch party at the Brick in Dallas during Saturday’s Texas-Oklahoma football game. But regardless of whether the Sooners prevail on the gridiron, it looks like the Equality Network will be celebrating a victory (and no, we’re not referring to Thursday night’s dramatic comeback win by Oklahoma State over Texas A&M). On Tuesday, the city council in Norman, which is home to OU, voted 7-1 to declare October as GLBT history month in the city. It may not sound like a very big deal, but in a state that’s home to politicians like Sally Kern, it’s progress. According to The Oklahoman, one councilmember said he received messages on his answering machine that “threatened [his] livelihood” if he supported the proposal. And about 100 people attended Tuesday’s meeting, with about half supporting the proposal and half opposing it. Here’s a report from The Equality Network:

Norman City Council Makes Historic Vote

September 30, 2010 – Norman, Oklahoma – On Tuesday evening, after four hours of impassioned debate, the Norman City Council voted 7 to 1 to declare October LGBT history month.  The vote makes Norman the first municipality in the state to issue an offical proclamation honoring the historic contributions of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) people.

The vigorous discussion included citizens with wildly divergent opinions on LGBT equality.  When faced with the final vote, many councilors attested to the galvanizing effect that being bombarded by sometimes vitriolic anti-gay sentiment had upon them.  Doug Cubberley, the councilor representing Ward 7, expressed concern that while his district was evenly split on whether or not to support the declaration, he felt morally compelled to support it.  His colleague from Ward 6, James Griffith, asserted that while he had been intitially inclined to oppose the resolution, constituent feedback changed his mind.  Griffith admitted that he had not known that an Oklahoma citizen can still be legally fired from his or her job or evicted from a rented property solely on the basis of sexual orientation.  Mayor Cindy Rosenthal added her strong support for the LGBT History Month proclamation.  Councilor Dan Quinn, representing Ward 8, cast the lone dissenting vote.

“We are very inspired by tonight’s overwhelming recognition of the invaluable and vibrant role of LGBT people in our nation’s history.  With this vote, the Norman City Council honors that rich legacy and makes a powerful statement about inclusivity and fairness in our state.”  asserted Kathy L. Williams, Ph.D., president of The Equality Network.

A full text of the LGBT History Month proclamation can be found here.

—  John Wright

FW church leaves BGCT

Broadway Baptist wants to move beyond ‘distractions’ caused by denomination’s response to congregation’s welcome of gays

Tammye Nash and John Wright  |  Dallas Voice editor@dallasvoice.com

FORT WORTH — Saying that the church doesn’t want any further “distractions” over its position on homosexuality, Fort Worth’s Broadway Baptist has officially ended its 125-year affiliation with the Baptist General Convention of Texas.

Broadway Baptist officials on Monday, Sept. 13, hand-delivered a letter — written by Pastor Brent Beasley and approved by the congregation on Wednesday, Sept. 8 — to BGCT offices in Dallas, informing BGCT Executive Director Randel Everett that the congregation will no longer contribute or send messengers to the convention’s annual meeting or publicly claim affiliation with the state convention, according to a report published online by The Baptist Standard.

The move was the latest development in an ongoing battle between Broadway and the Southern Baptist denomination that began in 2008 when the Fort Worth congregation voted to include photos of its openly LGBT members in the directory commemorating the church’s 125th anniversary.

Scott Green, an openly gay member of Broadway Baptist, responded to the decision Tuesday evening, Sept. 14, in an e-mail sent exclusively to Dallas Voice.

“It is indeed unfortunate that Broadway has once again been put into the situation of having to make choices that, in the end, benefit no one,” Green said.

Green added that Broadway Baptist “has always stood as a beacon of hope for the entire community. We also stand firm in the knowledge that God is gracious and loving, welcoming all of us.

“Each and every week, I am surrounded by this marvelous community of believers,” he continued. “They seek God’s guidance for their individual lives, and corporately live out their faith. They wrap their arms around those who are in need. I challenge anyone to stand and say that Broadway Baptist should not be a vital part of Christ’s mission.”

Green also had praise for Broadway’s pastor, Brent Beasley, saying the minister has “led us mightily” since becoming pastor in July 2009.

“We have rebounded in every way imaginable. Whether or not we are part of the SBC [Southern Baptist Convention], the BGCT, or any other denominational entity, I am both humbled and honored to be a member of this fine church,” Green said.

According to the letter from Broadway Baptist to BGCT, the Fort Worth church is leaving because of “distracting complications we encountered in our attempt to participate in last year’s annual meeting and the prospect of future unwanted and unneeded discord.”

Those “complications” were threats by some representatives to the state convention in the fall of 2009 that they would challenge the seating of messengers from Broadway Baptist over the church’s policy of welcoming openly gay and lesbian members.

According to the Baptist Standard, the letter also said one of Broadway’s commitments is “welcoming all persons into our church, including the outcast, those on the margins of society, and those who have not found that welcome in many other places, including, unfortunately, many churches,” and that thanks to that policy, Broadway Baptist has “become a vital and diverse community of faith, coming from many different backgrounds and representing many different perspectives, but united in the love and grace of Jesus Christ.”

In 2008, an internal dispute broke out at Broadway Baptist over plans to include same-sex couples in the photo directory. That led to an effort by some of the congregation’s more conservative members to oust then-Pastor Brett Younger.

That effort eventually failed when the congregation voted to keep him on. But a month later, Younger announced he was leaving to take a teaching position at Mercer University in Georgia.

In June of 2009, the Southern Baptist Convention voted to sever its ties with Broadway Baptist because of the congregation’s policy of welcoming LGBT members.

Earlier this year, the Baptist General Convention of Texas voted to expel Royal Lane Baptist Church in Dallas over the congregation’s acceptance of gays.­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­

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

—  Michael Stephens