Remembering John Lawrence, the man behind Lawrence v. Texas

Lawrence

John Lawrence and Tyrone Gardner

Metro Weekly reports that one-time Houstonian John Geddes Lawrence, the “Lawrence” in Lawrence v. Texas, passed away last month at the age of 68:

“In the facts underlying the Supreme Court case, Lawrence v. Texas, Lawrence and Tyron Garner were arrested under Texas’s Homosexual Conduct Law after police entered Lawrence’s home on Sept. 17, 1998, and saw them “engaging in a sexual act.” The couple challenged the law as unconstitutional”

I was 22 and living in Dallas in 2003 when the Supreme Court issued its opinion in Lawrence declaring Texas’ law against “homosexual conduct” unconstitutional. A group of over 100 people gathered in the parking lot of the Resource Center of Dallas as Dennis Coleman, then with Lambda Legal, read excerpts of the decision. I remember the exuberant electricity in the air, the crowd bubbling with joy and the relief of centuries of official oppression finally coming to an end. Similar get-togethers took place across the state, as an entire community breathing a collective sigh of relief.

That relief has turn to frustration over the years. Although the Supreme Court decision rendered Penal Code Section 21.06 unconstitutional, the law remains on the books, and efforts to remove it have met with significant resistance. During a hearing this spring on finally removing the unconstitutional law, Rep. Jose Aliseda, R – Pleasanton, lamented that repeal of the law would entail removing portions of the Health Code requiring that HIV education efforts include information that “homosexual conduct is not an acceptable lifestyle and is a criminal offense under Section 21.06, Penal Code.”

Before Lawrence several attempts were made to remove the law against “homosexual conduct.” The Texas legislature voted to remove it from the penal code as part of a complete rewrite of the code in 1971, but the measure was vetoed by Gov. Preston Smith. In 1973 the Legislature again undertook a rewrite of the code, keeping “homosexual conduct” a crime but making it a class C misdemeanor. In 1981 a U.S. District Court ruled in Baker v. Wade that the law was unconstitutional, but as that case was winding its way through an unusually torturous appeals process the Supreme Court ruled in Bowers v. Hardwick that a similar law in Georgia was constitutional, making the questions in Baker moot. Similarly, in the 90′s there was hope that Texas v. Morales might finally prevail in defeating the “homosexual conduct” prohibition, but the Texas Supreme Court decided that since, in their opinion, the law was rarely enforced, there was no reason for them to rule in the matter.

Lawrence’s legacy lives on in a scholarship named after him and Garner administered by the Houston GLBT Community Center. The scholarship “recognizes outstanding leadership shown by gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender Texas high school seniors and college
students by contributing to the cost of their continuing education. Selection is based upon character and need.” Tim Brookover, president of the community center, expressed sorrow at Lawrence’s passing “John was a hero, the community owes a great debt of gratitude to John and Tyrone for taking the case all the way to the Supreme Court,” said Brookover. “They could have easily allowed it to slip away, but they decided to stay and fight and that makes them heroes and role models.”

The application deadline for the John Lawrence/Tyrone Gardner Scholarship is March 2, 2012.

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What’s Shakin’ – Wings of Desire at MFAH, IRS to allow deductions for gender transition

Wings of Desire1. If you’re a fan of German films that are partially in French, the film oeuvre of Peter Faulk and sexy trapeze artists with existential angst then “Wings of Desire” is your kind of flick.  The 1987 Wim Wenders masterpiece tells the story of an Angel (Bruno Ganz) who, after watching humanity since the dawn of time, desires to become human so he can be with the woman he loves. “Wings of Desire” screens tonight at 7 pm at the Museum of Fine Art Houston (1001 Bissonnet).

2. Transgender Americans who undergo hormone therapy or receive gender realignment surgery may now be able to deduct the costs of those treatments on their taxes. According to GLAD, the Gay and Lesbian Advocates and Defenders, the IRS has issued an “action on decision” statement saying that the agency will acquiesce to an appeals court ruling allowing the deductions. GLAD cautions that medical deductions can still be audited and encourages anyone planning to deduct cost of transition medical expenses to rigorously document the medical necessity of treatments and consult with a tax professional when preparing return

3. Election day is tomorrow. If you’re one of the 58,345 people in Harris County who voted early, then good for you.  If not, you’ll want to visit HarrisVotes.org and find out where to go to cast your ballot.  Polls open at 7 am on Tuesday and close at 7 pm sharp.

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What’s Shakin’ – Siriano at Galleria, Voter turnout continues to lag

Christian Siriano

Christian Siriano

1. As previously reported by Houstini, Project Runway Season 5 winner Christian Siriano’s coming to the Houston Galleria Payless Shoe store today to show off his expanded Payless collection, including an assortment of shoes and handbags. Siriano will be available for photos with his “fierce” -ly loyal fans. The posing and pouting kick off at 5 pm at the Galleria, 5061 Westheimer Road.

2. Voter turnout continues to be paltry. So far 40,189 people have voted, only 71% of the 55,152 who had voted by this point during the 2009 municipal elections.  Early voting continues through November 4.  Election day is Nov 8. A list of all early voting locations and sample ballots  are available at harrisvotes.org.

3. Yesterday Rep. Todd Akin, R – MO, who successfully introduced an amendment to the House version of the National Defense Authorization Act earlier this year which would prohibit same-sex marriages from being performed on U.S. military bases, delivered a letter to the Senate calling on them to pass similar legislation.  The letter was signed by 86 members of the 435 member House, including 7 Texans, all Republicans: Mike Conaway, Francisco Canseco, Louie Gohmert, Ralph Hall, Sam Johnson, Michael McCaul and Randy Nuegebauer.

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What’s Shakin – Houston Pride Band’s Guilty Pleasures, Haute Boys of fall

Artistic Director Skip Martin

Pride Band Artistic Director Skip Martin

1. The Houston Pride Band presents “Guilty Pleasures,” a concert featuring the favorite guilty pleasures of the Pride Band members, tonight at 7:30 at the Hobby Center.  The concert marks the premier of the Pride Band’s new artistic Director, Skip Martin.  Martin chose the feature favorite’s from the bands 30-year history. Tickets are $10 and may be purchased from the Hobby Center.
2. The “Haute Boys of Fall II” gather at James Craig Furniture (4500 Washington Avenue), since their founding in 2010 the Haute Boys (which includes quite a few girls) have raised over $15,000 for area AIDS charities.  Tonight’s event features complimentary signature cocktails by Harmonie, an array of neighborhood bites, elements of design and fashion, music and more. Admission is an unwrapped toy, gift card or $20 donation for Houstonians in need.
3.  Voter turnout held steady for the ninth day of early voting in Harris County.  So far 34,329 people have voted, only 80% of the 42,968 who had voted by this point during the 2009 municipal elections.  Montrose’s own Multi Service Center on West Gray broke 400 voters for the first time since voting began on Oct 24. Early voting continues through November 4.  Election day is Nov 8. A list of all early voting locations and sample ballots  are available at harrisvotes.org.

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What’s Shakin’ – Stone Soup at F Bar, Washtonians support marriage equality

Stone Soup1. For people living with AIDS proper nutrition is more than just healthy living, it’s a vital part of the regimen that keeps them alive. Unfortunately the struggling economy and cuts to government HIV/AIDS nutrition programs mean that, for some, eating right, or just eating, is a challenge.  That’s where the AIDS Foundation Houston Stone Soup Food Assistance Program steps in.  Kelly McCann, CEO of of AFH, says that the program has recently seen a 40% increase in request for assistance and needs an additional $25,000 a month to meet demand. F Bar (202 Tuam) is doing its part to help out tonight, collecting monetary and food donations from the community. Donors will receive a VIP invitation to an appreaciation party on Nov 22, and be entered in a raffle to win fabulous prizes.
2. Washington may soon become the seventh state to have full marriage equality, if a recent poll by the University of Washington, Institute for the Study of Ethnicity, Race & Sexualityis accurate.  The poll asked 938 registered voters in the evergreen state if they would support a same-sex marriage law were it to appear on the 2012 ballot: 47% responded that yes, they would strongly support it, only 32% said they would strongly oppose.
3. Voter turnout in Harris County is slowly catching up with the last municipal election cycle in 2009, but continues to lag.  So far 28,679 people have cast their ballots, 81% of the 34,485 who had voted at this point in the process the last go around.  Early voting continues through November 3.  Election day is Nov 8. A list of all early voting locations and sample ballots  are available at harrisvotes.org.

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What’s Brewing: Maryland Senate kills gender identity bill; anti-gay hate crime at UNC

Quinn Matney was attacked and severely burned in an anti-gay hate crime at the University of North Carolina.

Your weekday morning blend from Instant Tea:

1. For a third straight week, LGBT advocates plan to speak during the Dallas County Commissioners Court’s meeting today and call on commissioners to add transgender employees to the county’s nondiscrimination policy. Last month, commissioners voted to add sexual orientation but not gender identity to the policy. The Commissioners Court meets at 9 a.m. in the County Administration Building, 411 Elm St.

2. The Maryland Senate on Monday voted to kill a measure that would have protected transgender people from discrimination in housing, employment and credit — but not public accommodations. The vote marks the second major disappointment this year for LGBT advocates in Maryland, where the House thwarted a marriage equality bill last month.

3. A University of North Carolina freshman says he was attacked and severely burned in an anti-gay hate crime on the school’s campus last week. The UNC administration, which failed to notify students until a week after the attack occurred, now says it plans to report the incident as an anti-gay hate crime to the federal government.

—  John Wright

W.V. Sen. Would Have Voted Against Repeal

A Christmas party prevented it, but Democratic West Virginia senator Joe
Manchin says he would have voted against the repeal of “don’t ask,
don’t tell” had he been in Washington, D.C. this weekend.
Advocate.com: Daily News

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IL Sen. Rickey Hendon’s Awesome Bullshit Call On Every Anti-Gay Lawmaker Who Voted Against Civil Unions

One thing in this post is not like the other. Above, Illinois State Sen. Rickey Hendon, on the chamber's open floor, slamming his fellow lawmakers for refusing to support the state's civil unions bill, which passed today. "It's the right thing to do," says Hendon, who fingers his colleagues guilty of "hypocrisy" that's "dripping in this chamber right now" by adulterers and closeted gays. Below, State Sen. Rev. James Meeks, who's running for Chicago mayor, admitting he's among those deserving of such criticism. Asked whether he thinks his "no" vote on the bill will "hurt your run for mayor among gay and lesbian voters," Meeks responded, "I don't know." Uh, I DO.

CONTINUED »


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Queerty

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Constance McMillen On Teen Suicide And Bullying; Is Voted One Of Glamour Magazine’s ‘Women Of The Year’

Constance McMillen speaks to the AP about teen suicide and also reveals that she was never a victim of bullying until after she fought her school district's decision to prohibit her form bringing her girlfriend to the prom.

Cm McMillen, 18, said she became emotional after reading about the suicides of 13-year-old Seth Walsh, of California, who hanged himself outside his home after enduring taunts from classmates, and of Tyler Clementi, an 18-year-old Rutgers University freshman who killed himself after his sexual encounter was secretly streamed online.

"I read it on Facebook. I was so upset about this that I could not sleep," McMillen said. "I knew it had to be terrible for them to choose death as a way to escape what they were living in."

McMillen said she has had her own suicidal thoughts. "But I never really considered it to the point where I almost did it," she said. "Everybody thinks about it when times get hard."

Growing up in the small town of Fulton, Miss., McMillen said she wasn't bullied until school officials canceled the prom rather than allow McMillen and her girlfriend to attend as a couple. "I went through a lot of harassment and bullying after the lawsuit, and I realized how bad it felt being in that position," she said.

McMillen has also been named one of Glamour magazine's "Women of the Year" for 2010. In that article, Melissa Etheridge expressed her own pride for McMillen: “She stood up and said, ‘This is who I am.’ When someone does that, it changes the world. It gives hope.”


Towleroad News #gay

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Feeling Like I Voted For Those Who Will Contribute To My Peers & My Oppression

The oppressed are allowed once every few years to decide which particular representatives of the oppressing class are to represent and repress them.

~Karl Marx

This election more than ever, I felt as if I were voting for those who would repress my peers and me. It’s not that I didn’t vote for a few local candidates I was pleased to vote for, but I also felt there were Democratic candidates I voted for that I didn’t get my vote because I was happy to vote for them, but instead because I felt they would repress me less than the Republican candidate running against them.

Examples of candidates I was pleased to vote for were Toni Atkins for my State Assemblywoman, and Steven Whitburn as my local County Supervisor. Back in 2003, when Atkins was a City Councilwoman, she introduced the proposed ordinance that actually did change San Diego’s Human Dignity Ordinance to provide citywide employment protections based on gender identity. Whitburn was active in San Diego’s Democratic Club, working to see that ordinance passed into law.

I was less thrilled to vote for my Congresswoman, Susan A. Davis. It’s not that she isn’t strongly for civil rights for the lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) community — she gave a speech on the House for in support of transgender civil rights:

But that said, she belongs to the political party for the past two years — the 111th Congress — that had control of the House, but couldn’t seem to get a fully inclusive Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA) out of House committee.

The same with my Senator, Barbara Boxer. Her prior statements on marriage equality leave me believing LGBT civil rights aren’t something she embraces as a value, but embraces the freedom, equality, and justice for LGBT people to the extent she perceives donors and voters embrace these. And probably more importantly, Boxer belongs to the political party for the past two years had control of the Senate, but couldn’t seem to get a fully inclusive Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA) out of Senate committee.

Nationally, San Diego’s Democratic candidates for federal seats are good on the rhetoric on LGBT issues, but functionally, the Democratic Party they belong to has been ineffectual in turning rhetoric into law.

Of course, in the House, we’ll no longer have the problem of a Democratic majority that failed to live up to their 2008 campaign promises to the LGBT community made in their national platform. Thumbnail Link: 2008 Democratic Party PlatformAnd, we’ll have a Senate that still has a Democratic majority, but a much smaller majority — and with the current filibuster rules in place, we should have the continuation of total gridlock.

Oh. Back to local elections for the moment, when I voted for a candidate for San Diego’s County Recorder, either candidate I voted for is going to carry out the current court stay that still limits marriage in California to be “between one man and one woman.” I’m not planning to get married, but others in my LGBT community would like to get married and can’t, due to the Proposition 8, and stays of enforcing the ruling that said the law is unconstitutional. So whoever I voted for in that election, the candidate is going to be required by law and court ruling to be a representative of an oppressing class — an oppressing class member who’s going to both represent and repress my LGBT community peers.

Democracy gives every man the right to be his own oppressor.”

~James Russell Lowell

Yesterday, I voted — I voted as I feel an active and concerned American citizen should vote, but I’m feeling a bit melancholy about some of my votes. I feel that I had the opportunity to vote for some members of the oppressing class that are going to represent and repress my LGBT peers and me; I feel I was given the opportunity to be my own oppressor. Hoo-rah.

How about you?
Pam’s House Blend – Front Page

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