Alameel addresses Stonewall as LGBT equality advocate

Alameel.David

David Alameel

Democratic U.S. Senate candidate David Alameel attended the Stonewall Democrats of Dallas meeting Tuesday, the first time he has had contact with the state’s largest Democratic organization. He faces Kesha Rodgers in a runoff. The Texas Democratic Party has issued a warning against Rodgers whose main platform is impeaching President Obama.

While Stonewall usually packs the back room at Ojeda’s on Maple Avenue, attendance was sparse because gubernatorial candidate Wendy Davis was opening her Dallas headquarters on MLK Boulevard at the same time.

Alameel addressed not yet having visited the group. He said he’s tried to visit each of the 254 counties in Texas, but when he arrives he mostly hears complaints that he hadn’t been there yet.

He said he and his wife could retire to Hawaii and not have to work another day, but he said he remembers working minimum wage jobs. He wants to go to Washington, he said, to address the Republican war on women, war on the poor, war on the elderly and war on immigrants.

Alameel is an immigrant, himself. He was born in Haifa, Israel, and is Lebanese Christian. He’s lived in the U.S. more than 40 years.

He attacked Texas Sen. John Cornyn for voting against protecting women in the military from sexual assault. He said he opposed corporate greed that shipped jobs overseas and recent Supreme Court decisions giving corporations the same rights as people.

“I don’t remember where it said in the Bible God created Wall Street in His image,” Alameel said.

He also attacked what he called the Republican war on the gay and lesbian community.

“I’m a devout Christian who accepts equality,” he said.

He said if one of his kids told him he was gay, he knows how he’d want his child treated.

Early voting continues through Friday, May 23. 7 a.m.–7 p.m. Runoff day is Tuesday, May 27.

—  David Taffet

Former U.S. Senate candidate Craig James goes to work for hate group

Craig.James

Former U.S. Senate candidate Craig James

Former SMU football player and candidate for U.S. Senate Craig James has taken a job with Family Research Council, listed as a hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center. He will become assistant to the hate group’s President Tony Perkins.

In his Senate campaign, James was best known for his attacks on fellow candidate former Dallas Mayor Tom Leppert, who rode on a float with the Dallas City Council in the Alan Ross Texas Freedom Parade. Leppert participated in Pride until he decided to run for the Senate seat.

Leppert came in third in his Senate bid, ahead of James, who came in fourth. Sen. Ted Cruz won the election.

At a campaign debate at Dallas Country Club attended by Dallas Voice, James made this homophobic comment:

“You have to make that choice, absolutely. … Same-sex marriage, if someone chooses to do that, then that’s them, and God’s going to judge each one of us in this room for our actions, but in that case right there, they’re going to have to answer to the Lord for their actions. We should not give benefits to those civil unions. It should not occur. We have to stay strong on this. This is important, man. I tell you what, we have a fiscal issue in this county, but we also have a moral issue in this country, and as Christians we better stand up.”

After the campaign, Fox Sports hired James, but fired him a week later for comments made during the campaign.

“We just asked ourselves how Craig’s statements would play in our human resources department. He couldn’t say those things here,” Fox told Dallas Morning News at the time.

James is currently suing Fox for religious discrimination based on preserving his right to discriminate.

—  David Taffet

ENDA passes U.S. Senate

Screen shot 2013-11-07 at 1.20.25 PMThe Employment Non-Discrimination Act passed the Senate 64–32 Thursday afternoon. Four senators were absent.

Republicans Orrin Hatch and John McCain were among the Republicans who voted for the bill that would forbid discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity. Both Texas senators voted against the bill.

White House Senior Advisor Valerie Jarrett encouraged the Senate to vote for the bill.

“A majority of Americans assume there is a prohibition against discrimination based on sexual orientation in the workplace. There’s not, and that’s exactly why this is so important,” she wrote in a press release. “It’s not just civil rights advocates who support ENDA. Business leaders know that prohibiting employment discrimination is good for business. Inclusive workplaces attract the best and brightest employees, and improve their bottom line.”

GetEqual spokeswoman Heather Cronk wrote, “Today’s passage of ENDA is, indeed, a historic moment for our community and our allies.”

But she said the bill had flaws.

“The broad religious exemptions in the bill cemented into law the very biases that the legislation was intended to overcome,” she wrote.

The bill now moves to the U.S. House of Representatives. President Barack Obama has said he will sign the bill into law.

—  David Taffet

Libertarian Senate candidate from Dallas backs marriage equality

John Jay Myers

John Jay Myers appears on the Nov. 6 ballot as a Libertarian in the U.S. Senate race in Texas. In a new ad that has begun airing on cable around the state, Myers says he favors marriage equality.

His YouTube page says that a $5 donation allows the ad to run once in one to two zip codes on cable TV. He already has money to air it 575 times.

His platform is “End the wars. End corporate welfare. Live as you see fit.”

“It’s certainly not the government’s business to tell you who you can marry,” Myers says in the last line of the 30-second spot.

Myers owns The Free Man Cajun Cafe & Lounge in Deep Ellum.

Democratic Senate candidate Paul Sadler also supports marriage equality. Republican Ted Cruz, the heavy favorite to win the race, opposes marriage and civil unions.

Watch the ad below.

—  David Taffet

State Sen. John Carona suggests colleague, likely opponent in lieutenant governor’s race is gay

John Carona

State Sen. John Carona, R-Dallas, has allegedly spread word throughout the Texas Senate that fellow Republican Sen. Dan Patrick of Houston is having marital problems.

Leaked emails published by political news website the Quorum Report reveal that Patrick was upset that Carona had allegedly told fellow senators that he and his wife Jan were separated and possibly divorcing, along with “a few other negative comments about me in an obvious attempt by him to discredit me,” the Houston Chronicle reports.

Carona’s emailed response to state senators mentions that while he “heard rumors regarding [Patrick’s] marital status and sexual preferences for a while now,” he did not share rumors that Patrick was “separated, divorced, or gay.

Dan Patrick

Patrick then responded to the gay remark by writing that Carona needed to apologize to his family for his initial comments and “owes me an apology for his latest smear, another fabrication by Senator Carona.”

The motive behind the emails could be the ambitions of both men to serve as lieutenant governor following the possible election of Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst to the U.S. Senate. Both Carona and Patrick are likely candidates for the election in 2014, with Carona the leading contender to be Dewhurst’s interim replacement.

Carona could not immediately be reached for comment.

From the Houston Chronicle:

The accusation from Patrick, in part, in an e-mail to fellow senators:

I was in Dallas last week and learned that Senator Carona has told people outside the Senate that Jan and I are separated and may get divorced. He added in a few other negative comments about me in an obvious attempt by him to discredit me for some reason. … There is no excuse or justification for his actions. He could have easily checked the story out to see if it was true. He didn’t care if it was true.

The response from Carona, in part, also in an e-mail to fellow senators:

The email which you blasted to our colleagues and then provided to the media is false and you would have known that had you called or emailed before sending it. …Though I have heard rumors regarding your marital status and sexual preferences for a while now, at no time have I told anyone that you are either separated, divorced, or gay.

 

—  Dallasvoice

Craig James: I’m not a Nazi

Craig James

A while back Resource Center Dallas’ Rafael McDonnell pointed out that Republican U.S. Senate candidate Craig James had hired an openly gay campaign consultant, the legendary Arthur Finkelstein.

Finkelstein, who married his partner in Massachusetts in 2005, has worked for many virulently anti-gay politicians over the years, including his instrumental role in the rise of former Sen. Jesse Helms of North Carolina.

But James argues that his decision to hire Finkelstein, who’s also Jewish, somehow proves that he’s “tolerant” of both Jews and homosexuals, according to the Dallas Morning News.

From The DMN’s profile of James that ran Sunday (subscription only):

James says his Christian faith informs his fiscal conservatism. “God talks about not being irresponsible with money. He talks about debt not being a good thing. He talks about people going to work and being responsible.”

He believes homosexuality is a choice and opposes gay marriage and civil unions but said that doesn’t mean he’s intolerant. As evidence, he specifically singled out two top campaign advisers who he said are Jewish, one of them openly gay.

“My actions are solid proof that I’m not judgmental,” he said.

—  John Wright

WATCH: Craig James suggests his opposition to civil unions is rooted in the Ten Commandments

James.Craig

Craig James

U.S. Senate hopeful Craig James suggested during a televised debate Friday night that his opposition to legal benefits for same-sex couples, including civil unions, is rooted in the Ten Commandments.

During a debate sponsored by the Belo Corp. in Dallas, moderator Sarah Forgany of KENS-TV Channel 5 in San Antonio asked James how much his personal faith would affect his ability to represent all Texans.

A clip was then played from a recent interview James did with the Texas Tribune, in which James doubled down on his previous statements that gay people will have to “answer to the lord” for their actions, that being gay is a choice, and that same-sex couples shouldn’t be entitled to any legal benefits, including civil unions. James previously made those statements during a forum at the Dallas Country Club in February, as part of a group attack against candidate Tom Leppert for appearing at gay Pride while mayor of Dallas.

This time, Forgany pointed to recent polls showing that 61 percent of Texans support civil unions for same-sex couples. “In this case, would your personal religious faith be in the way of supporting that issue?” Forgany said. Here’s James’ response:

James: “You know, I have said also, as I start every speech that I’ve done now for four months, my goal in life is that when I meet my maker, he says, ‘Well done, my good and faithful servant, period.’ It’s not to become a United States senator. So whenever I make the decisions and the things that I just talked about there [in the clip], all of us are free to make decisions in this country, and all of us will be accountable to God for those, including me. I do support the marriage between a man and a woman, and my faith is my core, and anyone who doesn’t support their core and what they believe … This country was founded on the principles of Christianity, and I’m never gonna back away from that.”

Forgany: “So you’re saying that there are times when your personal religious faith will get in the way of that?”

James: “Never gets in the way. The moral fiber of this country is in trouble, and I will stand and honor the Ten Commandments, always will, and I’ll never be apologetic for that. I will always look and seek what the light put at my feet from the lord has provided for me, absolutely. In regard to being judgmental or discriminating, absolutely not. Everyone’s free to make their own decisions, and at the end of the day we all will be accountable to our lord and maker.”

None of the other candidates at the debate — Leppert, Ted Cruz and Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst — was asked to weigh in. However, all four major candidates in the Republican primary have indicated in the past that they oppose both same-sex marriage and civil unions. The exchange with James begins at about the 11:45 mark in the video below:

—  John Wright

Top 10: City elections proved groundbreaking for LGBT community

Rawlings

VOTERS LIKED MIKE  | Mike Rawlings defeated David Kunkle in a runoff for Dallas mayor in June. (John Wright/Dallas Voice)

No. 2

With former Dallas Mayor Tom Leppert announcing that he was stepping down early to run for the U.S. Senate, and longtime Fort Worth Mayor Mike Moncrief announcing he would not be running for re-election, candidates were lining up early this year for both offices. And the LGBT community on both sides of the Trinity River played a more visible and more vocal role than ever before in city elections.

In Dallas, businessman Mike Rawlings, former Dallas Chief of Police David Kunkle and City Councilman Ron Natinsky, who had reached his term limit representing District 12, quickly emerged as the frontrunners in the mayoral election. All three candidates came courting the LGBT community, participating in the North Texas

GLBT Chamber of Commerce’s mayoral debate and asking for endorsements from individuals in the community, as well as from the Dallas Gay and Lesbian Alliance and Stonewall Democrats of Dallas.

Kunkle’s involvement with the community during his days as police chief helped him win the Stonewall Democrats endorsement in the general election, while Natinsky withdrew his name from contention for the Stonewall endorsement after questions came up over whether his Republican voting record disqualified him.

DGLA threw its weight behind Natinsky, then went a step further to issue a warning against Rawlings, saying that based on his answer to a question during the confidential interview, they feared the candidate’s commitment to business interests might override his commitment to civil rights.

In the general election, Kunkle won in precincts considered to be heavily LGBT and came away with 32 percent of the vote overall to claim a place in the runoff against top-vote-getter Rawlings, who had 41 percent.

The two candidates continued to court the LGBT vote in the runoff, both participating in a second debate on LGBT issues, this one sponsored by Dallas Voice and partner organizations. Although DGLA had shifted its endorsement to Kunkle, Rawlings’ performance in the second debate seemed to win over some LGBT voters, and he won the runoff and the mayor’s seat, with 56 percent of the vote. Kunkle, however, again captured the most heavily LGBT precincts.

DGLA and Stonewall also split their endorsements in the District 14 City Council race, where longtime LGBT ally Angela Hunt faced three opponents, including one-time supporter James Nowlin, a gay man who filed in the race early when Hunt was still considering a run for the mayor’s seat. The race split the community, with Stonewall

Democrats endorsing Nowlin, who was a member of the organization, and DGLA backing Hunt. Hunt went on to win another term of the council without a runoff, taking 65 percent of the vote in the general election. Nowlin was second with 30 percent.

In Fort Worth, former City Councilman Jim Lane, who was on the council when the city became one of the first in the state to include protections for lesbians and gays in its nondiscrimination ordinance, and former Tarrant

County Tax Appraiser/Collector Betsy Price were the top two vote-getters in the general election, and during the runoff campaigns, the two met for the first-ever Fort Worth mayoral debate focusing on LGBT issues.

While Price had raised suspicion among some with a vague answer regarding her position on the city’s recent decision to include protections based on gender identity and gender expression in the nondiscrimination ordinance, both she and Lane pledged at the debate sponsored by the GLBT chamber and Fairness Fort Worth to support LGBT equality and to maintain an open door to the community.

Price went on to win the runoff, 56 percent to 44 percent, and in October became the first Fort Worth mayor to not only ride in, but also serve as grand marshal of, the Tarrant County Gay Pride Parade.

Also in Fort Worth, the city’s first and only openly gay councilmember, Joel Burns, still riding a wave of national popularity following his “It Gets Better” speech during a council meeting the previous October, didn’t even draw an opponent in his bid for a second full term on the council.

Down the road in Arlington, Chris Hightower became the first openly gay candidate to run for city council, tossing his hat into the ring along with three others challenging District 5 incumbent Lana Wolff. Hightower, who easily outpaced all the candidates in fundraising, came out on top of the heap in the general election. But he lost the runoff to Wolff by less than 100 votes, an outcome many of his supporters blamed on anti-gay robocalls describing him as a “weirdo,” a “convicted sex pervert” and a “sex creep” — even though Hightower has no criminal record.

— Tammye Nash

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition December 30, 2011.

—  Kevin Thomas

Judiciary committee passes measure to repeal DOMA

Sponsor acknowledges votes aren’t there yet to get Respect for Marriage Act approved by Senate

Feinstein.Diane

Sen. Dianne Feinstein

Lisa Keen  |  Keen News Service
lisakeen@me.com

The U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee on Thursday, Nov. 10, voted to recommend passage of a bill to repeal the Defense of Marriage Act.

The bill is the Respect for Marriage Act. Thursday’s 10-to-8 vote along partisan lines had been originally scheduled for Nov. 3 but was postponed a week at the request of Republicans on the committee.

Republican Charles Grassley criticized Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy, a Democrat, for putting the bill on the committee’s agenda, saying the committee should, instead, be taking up “bills that can pass” and which address the country’s financial problems.

Grassley said the measure “lacks the votes to pass the Senate” and that, even if it does pass the Senate, “it will not be taken up in the House,” which is controlled by Republicans.

Grassley repeatedly referred to the measure as the “Restoration of Marriage Act,” instead of the “Respect for Marriage,” and said it would not accomplish “restoration of any rights,” but rather create “new rights that same-sex couples have never had under federal law.

He also said there is a “universal religious view” that marriage is “about procreation and child-bearing.”

“To me, this debate is about stable families, good environments for raising children, and religious belief,” said Grassley. “It is not about discriminating against anyone. No society has limited marriage to heterosexual couples because of a desire to create second-class families.”

He rebuffed the argument of many, including the bill’s chief sponsor, Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., that the fight to repeal DOMA is reminiscent of the fight to repeal laws that barred interracial marriages. Quoting Wade Henderson, president of the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights, Grassley said such comparisons can be “deeply offensive” to African-Americans.

Log Cabin Republicans President R. Clarke Cooper offered some support for Grassley’s concerns about “priorities,” but said the committee debate was “a principled discussion about the meaning of federalism, the priorities of our nation in a challenging time, and what marriage means in America today.”

Feinstein noted in her remarks Thursday that a large group of corporations filed a legal brief recently highlighting the ways DOMA burdens them with red tape and requires they treat employees differently if they are gay.

Shin Inouye, a White House spokesman, issued a statement saying, “President Obama applauds today’s vote by the Senate Judiciary Committee to approve the Respect for Marriage Act, which would provide a legislative repeal of the so-called ‘Defense of Marriage Act.’ The president has long believed that DOMA is discriminatory and has called for its repeal.

“We should all work towards taking this law off the books. The federal government should not deny gay and lesbian couples the same rights and legal protections afforded to straight couples,” the statement said.

Evan Wolfson, head of the national Freedom to Marry group, noted that support for the Respect for Marriage Act has grown to 31 co-sponsors in the Senate and 133 in the House.

“The historic growth in support among lawmakers for repealing DOMA mirrors the growth in public support for the freedom to marry to what is now a solid majority nationwide,” said Wolfson.

Recent polling has begun to show a consistent trend in public opinion supporting the right of same-sex couples to get married. A survey of 1,001 adults nationwide by ABC and the Washington Post in July found 51 percent “think it should be legal for gay and lesbians couples to get married.”

Supporters of the legislation will need 60 votes to overcome what will almost certainly be a filibuster of the legislation should Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid bring it to the floor. Politico.com noted that Feinstein acknowledged to reporters after the hearing that the bill does not have those 60 votes and that she has not spoken to Reid about the bill.

© 2011 by Keen News Service. All rights reserved.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition November 11, 2011.

—  Kevin Thomas

Judiciary Committee considering gay nominee to federal court

Michael W. Fitzgerald

Republican senator labels Fitzgerald as an activist over his involvement in case involving FBI’s previous ban on gay agents

LISA KEEN | Keen News Service
lisakeen@me.com

A fourth openly gay nominee to the federal district court bench — one who has been fairly heavily involved in both gay and non-gay legal and political issues and who spent “hundreds of hours” doing pro bono work that led to the elimination of a gay ban on FBI agents — has gone before the U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee.

The nominee’s gay-related history prompted the only Republican in attendance on his confirmation hearing to label the nominee an “activist.”
President Obama nominated Michael W. Fitzgerald in July to sit on the U.S. District Court for Central California. The office of U.S. Sen. Barbara Boxer, D-Calif., who recommended him for the position, sent out a press release saying if he is confirmed by the Senate, “Fitzgerald would make history by becoming the first openly gay federal judge confirmed to serve in California.”

Fitzgerald, 52, was one of five nominees considered during the hearing Tuesday, Oct. 4. Boxer introduced him to the committee, noting that he had served as a federal prosecutor on the Organized Crime and Drug Enforcement Task Force with the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Los Angeles, “where he prosecuted international drug rings and money-laundering — including what was at that time the second largest cocaine seizure in California history.”

The American Bar Association, noted Boxer, had given Fitzgerald a rating of “well qualified” on a unanimous vote.
Acting Committee Chair Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Ill., noted that Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., had also submitted a “blue slip” in favor of Fitzgerald’s appointment.

Fitzgerald is a partner in Corbin, Fitzgerald & Athey, which bills itself as a “boutique litigation firm” specializing in white-collar crime and civil cases in his native Los Angeles.

The biographical information he sent to the committee lists his membership in four gay-related organizations: the Lesbian and Gay Lawyers Association of Los Angeles (no years of membership are identified), the Harvard-Radcliffe Gay and Lesbian Caucus (from 2006 to present), the Los Angeles Gay and Lesbian Center Leadership Task Force (from 2007-2008) and the Stonewall Democratic Club (“late-1990s”).

The biographical information also indicates Fitzgerald participated in the campaign to defeat California’s same-sex marriage ban, Proposition 8.
He also notes that he spoke at a press conference about a settlement in the case of Buttino v. FBI, in which — in 1993 — the Federal Bureau of Investigation agreed to stop banning openly gay people from serving as FBI agents.

Fitzgerald’s summary of the Buttino case, in response to the requisite Senate questionnaire, noted that Frank Buttino was an agent with the FBI who was “outed” by an anonymous source to Buttino’s supervisor. The supervisor stripped Buttino of his security clearance and, therefore, his ability to serve as an agent.

“At my request,” wrote Fitzgerald, one of his earlier law firms, “Heller Ehrman decided to represent Mr. Buttino at trial on a pro bono basis. I obtained class certification and then represented Mr. Buttino and the class [of all gay and lesbian FBI employees] at trial.”

After several days of trial, noted Fitzgerald, the FBI agreed to settle the case out of court. In doing so, the FBI, he said, “renounced its prior policy of viewing homosexuality as a ‘negative factor’ in regard to security clearance,” agreed to hire an openly gay agent, and restored Buttino’s pension.

Durbin asked Fitzgerald about the Buttino case. Sen. Mike Lee, R-Utah, described Fitzgerald as a “activist” but then quickly added that he does not “subscribe to the view that having been an activist in one area or another disqualifies anyone from ascending to the bench .…” But Lee said it was the committee’s duty to make sure nominees “know the difference between advocacy and jurisprudence” and will “not engage in any kind of political activism while on the bench.”

He asked how Fitzgerald’s prior advocacy would affect him on the bench.

“Sir, I don’t believe that it would have any influence on my service as a federal judge,” said Fitzgerald. “I would not bring any personal or political views to bear on any of the cases that I determined as a United States district judge.”

He also said he is aware of the necessity to recuse himself not only when he personally believed there might be a conflict of interest but also when a “reasonable onlooker” might think so.

Fitzgerald indicates that he did not serve in the military “because men born between March 29, 1957, and Dec. 31, 1959, were not required to register.”

He earned an A.B. magna cum laude from Harvard University in 1981 and graduated from the Berkeley School of Law in 1985. He clerked for 2nd Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals Judge Irving Kaufman and worked three years in the criminal division of the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Los Angeles.

The Senate Judiciary Committee’s ranking members, including the ranking member Charles Grassley, R-Iowa, were not present. Nor was ranking majority member Patrick Leahy, D-Vt.

Republican Sen. Lee noted 85 percent of President Obama’s judicial nominees have been approved and that was “comparatively generous treatment” of nominees by the Republican side.

Acting Chairman Durbin quickly noted that Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid had needed to call for a forced vote (cloture) to try and put the nominations of 25 of those nominees on the floor.

Senators on the committee have a week to submit additional questions to the nominees in writing. The committee could vote on Fitzgerald’s nomination within a few weeks.

© 2011 Keen News Service. All rights reserved.

—  John Wright