UPDATE: Questions continue in death of Benny Longoria

Benny Longoria

Benny Longoria

Dallas activist C.d. Kirven and Elvia Longoria, the sister of Benny Longoria who was found dead in his Tulsa apartment on June 20, said today that they still want Tulsa police to investigate Benny Longoria’s death, even though police say the man died of natural causes and no investigation is necessary.

Elvia Longoria said that she and her family didn’t find out until a month later that her brother had died. She said she and one of her sisters went to Tulsa in July after learning in a phone call that Benny had died the previous month. She said that she and her sister “got different stories” from the manager of the apartment complex where Benny lived and from police, and that police officers they talked to at the time were rude and disrespectful and refused to consider any further investigation.

Elvia Longoria said that her brother’s possessions were apparently destroyed by a cleaning crew brought in to clean the apartment, and that cellphone and wallet remain unaccounted for. She also said his body was cremated without the family’s permission, and that cremation goes against the family’s religious beliefs.

Elivia Longoria said she had contacted Dallas City Councilman Adam Medrano, a longtime family friend, for help in getting answers, and that Medrano had connected her with Kirven who agreed to help. Kirven gave Dallas Voice an account of the family’s efforts, which was posted on this blog on Tuesday, Aug. 5. That blog has been removed, at least temporarily, after Elvia Longoria said Thursday morning that information included in it indicating that a crew from the police department had cleaned out the apartment and destroyed her brother’s belongings was incorrect.

She said that the apartment manager said that a “crime scene cleaning crew” had cleaned the apartment and removed and destroyed the furnishings and other belongings, but that the apartment had been cleaned by a company, hired by the apartment complex, that specializes in cleaning up crime scenes, not by police personnel.

Kirven and Elvia Longoria have also said that the death certificate — of which Dallas Voice has a copy — was never signed by a doctor and that Benny Longoria’s attending physician, Dr. Frances Haas, told them on Wednesday that she had never signed a death certificate and “never would sign it.” The “draft” copy of the death certificate given to Elvia Longoria lists her brother’s cause of death as “complications from chronic ethanol abuse” with hypertension and HIV/AIDS as contributing factors.

Tulsa police have said that Kirven has lied about events that have happened, and have said they have a death certificate signed by Benny Longoria’s attending physician.

Medrano issued a written statement late Wednesday, Aug. 6, saying: “My thoughts and prayers are with the Longoria family as they say good-bye to Benny Longoria. … My heart is filled with sadness as the family struggles to find answers and grapple with the loss of their beloved brother … .”

Medrano’s statement also includes information on a memorial service that had been planned for Saturday, Aug. 9, at a Tulsa restaurant where Benny Longoria once worked. Elvia Longoria said Thursday morning, however, that the family will likely cancel the planned service.

Dallas Voice will continue to follow this story, and will update this post as more information becomes available.

—  Tammye Nash

WATCH: Tulsa man attacked in anti-gay hate crime

Cody Rogers

Cody Rogers, an 18-year-old Tulsa man, was attacked over the weekend at a party at a friend’s house because he’s gay, according to a report on Tulsa’s Fox 23.

Oklahoma doesn’t have a hate crimes law that includes sexual orientation. Tulsa police are investigating the attack, during which Rogers lost consciousness, as an assault.

“It’s got to be extremely frustrating when you feel like you’ve been chosen, picked,” the Tulsa Police Department’s Jason Willingham told the TV station on Tuesday.

But changing hate crimes laws can only be done on a state level, Willinghman added.

Oklahoma is one of 19 states without such protections. In Texas, Gov. Rick Perry signed a hate crimes bill that includes “sexual preference” into law his first year in office.

A Facebook page has been started to encourage Oklahoma to expand its hate crime law. Rogers said if that were to happen, that’s where his healing would begin.

The Fox 23 report follows after the jump:

—  David Taffet

Is Oklahoma outshining Texas on gay rights?

Tulsa's new city hall
Tulsa’s new city hall

While DART decides whether to gut LGBT protections, Oklahoma is surging ahead in gay rights.

According to Tulsa World, the Tulsa city council approved an ordinance prohibiting discrimination based on sexual orientation for city employees. The new law passed by a vote of 6-3.

One city council member pointed out that the ordinance protects everyone, according to a report by Tulsa’s CBS affiliate.

“The policy does not just apply to homosexuals; everybody has a sexual orientation,” said Councilor GT Bynum, who introduced the measure. “If a straight city employee has a gay supervisor, this would protect him just the same.”

And in the state’s other big city, Brittany Novotny, a transgender candidate for the Legislature, reports a record fundraising week for her campaign. There are also two openly gay candidates for the Oklahoma Legislature, Tom Kovach in Norman and incumbent Al McAffrey in Oklahoma City.

Meanwhile, Texas has no out members of its Legislature and only one openly LGBT candidate, Pete Schulte, running this year.

—  David Taffet

Tulsa weighs protections for gay workers

G. T. Bynum
G. T. Bynum

The Tulsa City Council this week will consider a proposal to ban employment discrimination based on sexual orientation for city workers.

According to Tulsa World, the measure will be introduced by G.T. Bynum, a young, conservative Republican member of the council who is a former aide to anti-gay Sen. Tom Coburn — the same Tom Coburn who once said: “The gay community has infiltrated the very centers of power in every area across this country, and they wield extreme power. … That agenda is the greatest threat to our freedom that we face today. Why do you think we see the rationalization for abortion and multiple sexual partners? That’s a gay agenda.”

The proposed ordinance doesn’t include gender identity. It also doesn’t include domestic partner benefits, and it would apply only to city employees and not to private businesses.

In other words, the ordinance is similar to the one passed by Dallas in the mid-90s.

But it’s a start. And it’s being introduced by a conservative councilmember who says he believes it “maximizes personal freedom up until it infringes on someone else’s freedom.” Bynum also says it was the right thing to do.

In Dallas, when conservative Mayor Steve Bartlett voted for employment non-discrimination in 1995, he said he didn’t discriminate in his own business and didn’t think the city should, either. Of course, Bartlett was about to leave office.

—  David Taffet