Facebook outs gay University of Texas students to their fundamentalist fathers

Taylor McCormick, a native of Blanco, Texas, is one of two gay UT students who were outed to their parents when they were added to the Queer Chorus’ discussion group. (Photo by Lance Rosenfield)

In case you missed it, and in what almost seemed like a sick nod to National Coming Out Day, The Wall Street Journal on Saturday published a harrowing tale about two University of Texas at Austin students who were outed as gay to their fundamentalist fathers as a result of a privacy loophole on Facebook.

Basically, both students had joined UT’s Queer Chorus, whose president added them to its Facebook discussion group, not knowing that it would bypass their individual privacy settings and share the information with their parents.

The disclosure prompted one of the student’s fathers to call her repeatedly, threatening to stop paying her car insurance and demanding that she go on Facebook and renounce both the chorus and homosexuality.

“To all you queers. Go back to your holes and wait for GOD,” the girl’s father wrote on his own Facebook page. “Hell awaits you pervert. Good luck singing there.”

The father of the other student, who’s from Blanco, Texas. didn’t talk to him for weeks. And his mother — although she already knew he was gay —  is worried about how the disclosure might affect her business selling insurance.

“Every kid in this town now knows,” the mother told The WSJ. “I am sure that I have lost clients, but they are not going to tell you why. That is living in a small town.”

Granted, these dads are douche bags, they were gonna find out eventually anyway, and the students were incredibly naive to trust Facebook with their private information.

But still, let’s face it, Facebook really sucks.

—  John Wright

UT finds no scientific misconduct in professor’s gay parenting study

Mark Regnerus

The University of Texas has completed its inquiry into the gay parenting study of professor Mark Regnerus, finding no grounds for a formal investigation.

The university released a statement Wednesday, explaining that the process included hiring a private consultant who is a former associate director of the Office of Research Integrity in the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. He found that the inquiry was “handled in a manner consistent with university policy” and adhered to federal requirements.

Regnerus of UT’s department of sociology and the Population Research Center conducted the study that was released in July. He examined children living in stable, two-parent heterosexual households for his control group and analyzed a mixture of children raised by gays and lesbians, including those who had a parent in a same-sex relationship but didn’t live with that parent.

His findings were that children of same-sex parents had more unstable lives, leading to an outrage in the LGBT community, many of whom called the study flawed because the study had set back years of positive research on LGBT families.

It was later revealed that The Witherspoon Institute and the Bradley Foundation funded the study. Both are known for their support of conservative causes.

The university launched an inquiry into possible scientific misconduct and to find if Regnerus had an inappropriate relationship with the foundations funding the study after The New Civil Rights Movement writer Scott Rose raised concerns. Rose published his analysis on the study’s corruption Wednesday.

The university’s statement mentioned Rose’s accusations but found them unwarranted for an investigation.

“As required by its Revised Handbook of Operating Procedures, the university conducted an inquiry to determine whether the accusations made by writer Scott Rose had merit and warranted a formal investigation. After consulting with a four-member advisory panel composed of senior university faculty members, the Office of the Vice President for Research concluded in a report on Aug. 24 that there is insufficient evidence to warrant an investigation.

“Provost and Executive Vice President Steven Leslie accepted the report on Tuesday and deemed the matter closed from an institutional perspective.”

Regnerus told the Austin American-Statesman that he was pleased with the inquiry’s findings.

“I think it’s a just and wise decision, and I’m certainly pleased with it,” Regnerus told the he told them in an email. “It was a thorough and fair process, and conducted professionally.”

—  Dallasvoice

Research publication refers gay UT parenting study to ethics committee for investigation

The controversial UT study about gay parenting that many LGBT groups have labeled as flawed has been referred to a publication ethics committee.

The study was published in the science journal Social Science Research in early June. The publisher of the journal, Elsevier, received a complaint from a person, who also emailed Instant Tea this week, stating “that Regnerus’s study does not make a valid comparison and therefore is not sociologically valid.” The study will be investigated by the Committee on Publication Ethics.

In addition, the University of Texas will look into the study to determine whether it lacked scientific integrity. However, it is not a formal investigation, but an inquiry to determine if an investigation should follow, Director of Public Affairs David Ochsner told Instant Tea.

Ochsner said the university “received an allegation of scientific misconduct.”

“It is our policy that any time a formal allegation of scientific misconduct is made, a process of inquiry is begun within the Office of the Vice President for Research,” he said. “An ‘inquiry’ is a preliminary fact-finding exercise to determine if there is a basis for an investigation. An inquiry in itself is only an acknowledgement that a formal allegation has been made and is not evidence of wrongdoing.”

Mark Regnerus of UT’s department of sociology and the Population Research Center conducted the study. Regnerus examined children living in stable, two-parent heterosexual households for his control group and analyzed a mixture of children raised by gays and lesbians, including those who had a parent in a same-sex relationship but didn’t live with that parent.

The Witherspoon Institute and the Bradley Foundation funded the study. Both are known for their support of conservative causes. The Witherspoon Institute has ties to the Family Research Council, the National Organization for Marriage and ultra-conservative Catholic groups like Opus Dei.

—  Dallasvoice

LGBT alumni network debuts at UT in Austin

The University of Texas at Austin’s LGBT alumni group celebrated its first large event for new graduates and alumni Wednesday, officially debuting the group at the university.

The Texas Exes LGBT Network formed last year, according to the university alumni website The Alcalde. But the first official gathering of LGBT alumni at UT was Wednesday after UT’s lavender graduation. The group is the first UT alumni network for LGBT grads since the school’s creation.

The network has only had mixers and gatherings before the graduation, welcoming about 100 LGBT alumni and students.

“Our primary goal is to come together to build community and advocate for UT,” network co-chair Ryan Miller told the website.

Miller said the LGBT network is working to create more ways to involve alumni and wants to establish a scholarship fund. While he wants LGBT members to join, he told the audience Wednesday that everyone is welcome.

“You don’t have to identify as LGBT to join us,” he said. “We really want to involve everyone.”

Gregory Vincent, UT’s vice president for diversity and community engagement, said the graduation reception was a historic event for the university, praising the alumni for their efforts on and off campus and encouraging them to do more in the future.

“UT has a proud tradition of LGBT student activism and we should take a moment to appreciate how far we’ve come,” he said. “Then we should get back to work, because there’s more to do.”

For more information about the Texas Exes LGBT Network, call or email Kara Florez with the Texas Exes at 512-471-8098 or our LGBT Network volunteers Ryan Miller or Angie Faye Brown at 512-471-7295.

—  Dallasvoice

Laster becomes first out gay man on Houston City Council

Mike Laster

Mike Laster

With 57% of precincts reporting Mike Laster is the presumptive victor in the Houston District J City Council race. Laster, an out gay candidate endorsed by the Victory Fund and the Houston GLBT Political Caucus, has a commanding lead with 67% of the vote. His nearest opponent Criselda Romero trails with 22%.

Laster is the first out gay man to be elected to the Houston City Council.

From the Victory Fund website:

A graduate of the University of Texas at Austin’s Plan II Honors Program, Mike earned his Juris Doctorate from the University of Houston Law Center. While at the Law Center, Mike distinguished himself as the National Vice Chair of the American Bar Association Law Student Division.

Today Mike is an attorney specializing in real estate with the firm of Williams, Birnberg & Andersen, L.L.P. in Houston, where he has practiced for the past thirteen years. From 1989 to 1995, Mike served as a Senior Assistant City Attorney in the Real Estate Division of the City Attorney’s Office, where he handled many aspects of a general real estate and development practice for the city.

—  admin

Teacher accuses TC College of discrimination

Gill says English Department chair at Northeast Campus told her the state and the school ‘do not like homosexuals’

Jacqueline “Jackie” Gill
Jacqueline “Jackie” Gill

TAMMYE NASH  |  Senior Editor

HURST — Jacqueline “Jackie” Gill filed suit Wednesday, Sept. 7, against a professor and a dean at Northeast Campus of Tarrant County College in Hurst, claiming that she was denied the opportunity to apply for a permanent, full- time teaching position there because of the English Department chair’s bias against what he perceived her sexual orientation to be.

Tarrant County College adopted a nondiscrimination policy prohibiting discrimination based on sexual orientation on March 9 of this year.

Frank Griffis, director of public relations and marketing for Tarrant County College, said it “would not be appropriate” for school officials to comment on pending litigation. He also said school officials had not yet been served with papers and therefore had not read the complaint.

Gill said she had worked as a full-time temporary English professor for about a year at the Northeast Campus. But when the position was to be made permanent, English Department Chair Eric Devlin refused to allow her to apply for the permanent position.

Gill said when she complained about Devlin to Northeast Campus Humanities Division Dean Antonio R. Howell, he initially seemed to side with her, but after speaking to Devlin, Howell refused to communicate further with her. Gill said although she is a lesbian and has never tried to hide that fact, she had never talked about her orientation with Devlin or anyone else at the school.

Both Devlin and Howell are named as co-defendants in the lawsuit.

Gill is represented in the lawsuit by Lambda Legal South Central Region staff attorney Ken Upton, joined by pro bono counsel Benjamin D. Williams from the law firm of Gibson, Dunn and Crutcher.

Gill and Upton held a press conference Wednesday to announce that the lawsuit had been filed earlier that morning in U.S. district court in Fort Worth. The press conference was held at a Hurst hotel located just a few blocks from the Tarrant County College campus where Gill had taught.

According to the complaint filed Wednesday, and statements Gill made during the press conference, Gill was first hired on a full time, temporary basis as an English professor on Aug. 21, 2009. A little more than a month later, at the end of October, a female “dual-enrollment” student — a high school student who was also taking college classes — in Gill’s distance learning class cheated by stealing an exam and skipped some classes.

The student’s high school counselor told Gill that the student has a history of disruptive behavior, and when the student dropped the class, Gill was told the situation was closed.

On Nov. 9, however, Devlin called Gill into his office and told her the student had accused Gill of “flirting” with female students. Gill denied the accusations, noting that there was always another teacher in the class at the same time.

That’s when Devlin responded with “a lengthy diatribe about homosexuals and how the Texas public views them,” according to the complaint. Gill said Devlin went on to say that Texas is a conservative state and TCC is a conservative school, and that “Texas and Tarrant County College do not like homosexuals.”

Gill continued to teach at TCC, receiving high praise and compliments from students and staff alike, including from Devlin. Then in May 2010, she and other full-time temporary professors were told by Howell that all seven temporary full- time positions were being made permanent, and that they were being re-designated as adjunct faculty until the permanent positions were filled.

Gill said Howell also encouraged her and the other temporary professors to apply for the permanent jobs. Gill applied for all seven but was the only one of the seven temporary professors not hired for the permanent positions. Gill said that she was, in fact, not even allowed to interview for any of the positions, even though her experience and credentials were as good as or better than those who were hired.

Gill said she met with Howell and told him about Devlin’s anti-gay comments and refusal to allow her to interview for the permanent positions. She said Howell promised her to discuss the situation with Devlin immediately, but that he never got back in touch with her.

She said she also got no response when she tried to discuss the situation with the vice president and president of Tarrant County College.

Gill continued to teach as an adjunct professor at the campus through December 2010, although, she said, Devlin’s attitude toward her became “even more hostile.”

And she said that although she was originally assigned classes for the 2011 spring term, as she was preparing for those classes she discovered she had been removed as the professor. When she inquired about the status of the class, Gill said, she was told that Devlin had specifically instructed that those classes be taken away from her.

Upton said that Devlin and Howell violated the equal protection clause of the U.S. Constitution by refusing to allow Gill to apply for the permanent teaching position. He said Gill’s suit is asking that she be allowed to complete the application process and that she be compensated for the time she has been unemployed.

Gill, who is a Ph.D. candidate at the University of Texas at Arlington, said she would love to get a teaching job with TCC, and while she would prefer to work at another campus, she is willing to go back to the Northeast Campus and work again in Devlin’s department.

“I worked hard. I earned it,” Gill said of the permanent position. “I have nothing to be ashamed of. If it [her working in Devlin’s department again] would be awkward for anyone, I think it would be awkward for him [Devlin] because he is the one who was in the wrong.”

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

—  Michael Stephens

DEATH: Paul David Tomko

Paul David Tomko, 41, of Dallas died on Aug. 19.

He was born in El Paso and graduated from Irvin High School and University of Texas in El Paso.

Tomko had lived in Dallas for the past 10 years. He worked as a senior IBM consultant, and previously had worked as a project manager at CPM, and before that worked at White Sands Missile Range.

Tomko was preceded in death by his mother, Dorothy Tomko.

He is survived by his father, Donald Tomko; brothers, Jackie Tomko, Donald Tomko Jr., DwayneTomko and Jammye Tomko; nieces, Megan Tomko and Samantha Tomko; and many aunts, uncles and friends.

A memorial service will be held Saturday, Aug. 27 at 11 a.m. at North Dallas Funeral Home, 2710 Valley View Lane.

Tomko was a frequent donor to AIDS Inerfaith Network, Resource Center Dallas and Genesis Women’s Shelter and donations in his memory can be made to any of these organizations.

—  John Wright

Is former Texas Longhorn Cedric Benson gay?

Cedric Benson, left, and alleged victim Charles Clavens

Mark S. King at the Bilerico Project wants to know after Benson, a running back who played at UT and is now in the NFL, was arrested this week for beating the crap out of his “roommate” in Austin. NBC Sports reports that Benson was charged with assault causing bodily injury to a family member:

“According to the affidavit, the roommate [Charles Clavens] was talking on a cell phone on a street corner at 5 a.m. when Benson approached him. Benson allegedly told him they ‘need to talk about their problems’ and then repeatedly hit him in the face. The police report said the roommate was bleeding from the mouth and possibly lost teeth.”

TMZ, for what it’s worth, adds: “Clavens claimed he and Benson began to talk and argue about their living arrangements when all of the sudden Clavens was struck on the left side of his face with a closed fist thrown by Benson. Clavens went on to say that Benson continued to strike him with several more closed fists all over Clavens face resulting in severe injury to his face. Clavens told police he was experiencing severe bleeding from the mouth, possible loss of teeth and massive swelling of the left cheek.”

Benson’s attorneys later alleged an extortion attempt, saying Clavens had threatened to go to the media (with what?) if Benson doesn’t settle.

The Daily Texan notes that this marks the sixth arrest for Benson, a running back who was the fourth overall pick in the 2005 draft and now plays for the Cincinnati Bengals. And the Bilerico Project’s King wonders why Benson can’t stay out of trouble:

Here we have a man in a heterosexual-dominated field, who has a long time male roommate, who has problems with drugs and alcohol, and real anger issues when it comes to “talking out his problems.” Things that make you go “hmm.”

Do we try to understand Cedric Benson, because he may be a panicked gay man trapped in a living lie, or blame this on a culture of homophobia (internalized and otherwise), or mind our own damn business?

—  John Wright

What’s Brewing: Yet another poll shows majority of Texans back gay marriage or civil unions

Your weekday morning blend from Instant Tea:

1. For at least the fifth time in the last two years, a poll has shown that a solid majority of Texans support legal recognition of same-sex relationships, whether it be marriage or civil unions. A University of Texas/Texas Tribune poll released Wednesday found that 61 percent of Texans support same-sex marriage or civil unions. The poll found that 30 percent support same-sex marriage, 31 percent support civil unions, and 33 percent oppose any form of relationship recognition, with 6 percent unsure. The poll of 800 registered voters was conducted earlier this month and has a margin of error of 3.5 percent. Previous polls dating back to 2009 have found similar support for legal recognition of same-sex relationships. Texas voters overwhelmingly approved a constitutional amendment in 2005 outlawing both same-sex marriage and civil unions.

2. El Paso’s decision to strip domestic partner benefits for city employees is a step backward and could hurt the city economically, according to a business expert and some city officials. A federal judge last week upheld the results of a November ballot initiative that will take away benefits for 19 gay and unmarried partners of city employees, as well as many others. One council member is proposing an ordinance to reinstate the benefits, while another says the city should put the issue back on the ballot this year. Read more from the El Paso Times.

3. The number of reported hate crimes in Texas increased 2.4 percent in 2010, according to KENS Channel 5 in San Antonio. The story doesn’t provide a breakdown of how many of the offenses were based on sexual orientation or other factors such as race, and hate crime statistics from 2010 haven’t been posted on the FBI website. KENS interviews the mother and sister of Troy Martinez Clattenburg, a gay man who was murdered last year after he allegedly made a pass at a straight acquaintance. Watch video below.

—  John Wright

Texas House OKs measure requiring schools with LGBT resource centers to spend equal amount on centers for ‘family and traditional values’

Wayne Christian

Public colleges and universities in Texas with LGBT resource centers would have to spend an equal amount on centers promoting “family and traditional values,” under a budget amendment approved by the House late Friday.

The amendment from State Rep. Wayne Christian, R-Center, passed by a vote of 110-24. From The Dallas Morning News:

While many members in the chamber cracked jokes and guffawed, the amendment’s author, Rep. Wayne Christian, said the University of Texas, Texas A&M and “some other schools” have centers promoting “alternative sexual practices.”

“I’m not treading on their rights to that, to teach alternative sexual behavior,” said Christian, R-Center. But he said they must match it, dollar for dollar, with advocating heterosexual, “traditional values.”

Meanwhile, the House defeated a proposed budget amendment that would have required school districts to report incidents of harassment and discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity. The amendment from Rep. Garnet Coleman, D-Houston, was defeated by a vote of 97-49.

—  John Wright