Measure would ban anti-LGBT discrimination in Houston

Charter amendment could also allow DP benefits for city workers

DANIEL WILLIAMS  |  Contributing Writer

HOUSTON — Long-brewing plans to place a city-wide non-discrimination policy before Houston voters became public this week.

Since December a coalition of organizations and leaders have been working to draft a city charter amendment that would make it illegal to discriminate in housing, employment or public accommodations on the basis of  “age, race, color, creed, religion, national origin, ancestry, disability, marital status, gender, gender identity or expression, sexual orientation, or physical characteristic.”

The amendment would also remove anti-LGBT language added to the Houston city charter in 1985 and 2001 — which could allow the City Council to vote to offer health benefits to the domestic partners of municipal employees.

Houston Mayor Annise Parker, who famously became the only out LGBT person elected mayor of a major American city in 2009, has declined to comment on the proposed charter amendment until the language is finalized. She told the Houston Chronicle: “I believe it’s important for the city of Houston to send a signal to the world that we welcome everybody and that we treat everybody equally, and depending on the elements of what was actually in it, I might or might not support it,”

According to Equality Texas Executive Director Dennis Coleman, the prospect of Houston voters approving the non-discrimination amendment has ramifications for efforts to pass similar measures in the state Legislature.

“Nondiscrimination in Houston builds a better case for us when we go for nondiscrimination in Austin,” said Coleman. “To be able to tell representatives that they represent areas that already support these efforts is very helpful.”

The cities of Austin, Dallas and Fort Worth all already have similar nondiscrimination ordinances and offer DP benefits to employees.

But Houston’s form of governance makes this effort unique. While the City Council is empowered to pass city ordinances covering issues of discrimination, they can be overturned by popular vote if those opposing the ordinance collect 20,000 signatures to place the issue on the ballot.

That was the case in 1985 after Houston Mayor Kathy Whitmire pushed through the council the city’s first protections for gay and lesbian Houstonians (no protections were provided for the bisexual or transgender communities).

A coalition of right-wing voters led by Louie Welch, then president of the Houston Chamber of Commerce, was able to place the issue on a city-wide ballot, claiming the policy “promoted the homosexual lifestyle.” The group also recruited a “straight slate” of candidates to run against City Council members who had favored the protections, with Welch running against Whitmire.

The public vote on nondiscrimination was held in June 1985 and Welch’s forces prevailed, but the city’s temperament had changed by the time of the City Council and mayoral races in November. A comment of Welch’s that the solution to the AIDS crisis was to “shoot the queers” was aired on local TV and few in Houston wished to be associated with him after that. The “straight slate” failed to capture a single City Council seat and Whitmire remained mayor, but the defeat of the city’s nondiscrimination policy remained.

By 1998 Houston had changed: Annise Parker was serving as the city’s first out lesbian city council member and Houston boasted the state’s first out gay judge, John Paul Barnich. Mayor Lee Brown, sensing the change, issued an executive order protecting LGBT city employees from employment discrimination. But the city had not changed that much. Councilman Rob Todd led efforts to fight the order in court, arguing that since voters rejected city-wide protections from discrimination in 1985, it was inappropriate for the mayor to institute them without voter approval. The city spent the next three years defending the policy in court, finally emerging victorious.

The joy of that 2001 victory would be shortlived, however. That year Houston’s voters approved another amendment to the city charter, this time prohibiting the city from providing domestic partner benefits for city employees. In a narrow defeat, just over 51 percent of voters decided that the city should not offer competitive benefits.

The current proposed non-discrimination amendment would remove the language added in 1985 and 2001. While it would provide non-discrimination protections it would not require the city to offer benefits of any kind to the spouses of LGBT city employees, leaving that question back in the hands of the City Council.

The organizers of the current effort are confident that this year is the year for victory.

Noel Freeman, the president of the Houston GLBT Political Caucus, which is spearheading the effort, explains that the previous votes occurred in “non-presidential years,”when voter turnout in general is low, and conservative voters make up a larger percentage of the electorate.

Additionally, polling by Equality Texas in 2010 showed that 80 percent of Houstonians support employment protections for gay and lesbian people.

In order to place the non-discrimination amendment on the November ballot the coalition supporting it will need to collect 20,000 signatures of registered Houston voters and submit them to the city clerk. Freeman says that the final charter amendment language is still under consideration and that once it is finalized the group will begin collecting signatures.

Even former Councilman Todd, who once fought the city’s policy of non-discrimination for LGBT employees, supports the current effort.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition February 17, 2012.

—  Michael Stephens

Incumbants fair poorly in runoff election

We now have results from all precincts:

District A
Helena Brown: 55%
Brenda Stardig: 45%

District B
Alvin Byrd: 49%
Jerry Davis: 51%

Place 2:
Kristi Thibaut 49.9%
Andrew Burks 50.2%

Place 5
Jack Christie  54%
Jo Jones  46%

Both incumbents, Jones and Stardig, seem to have lost their bid for re-election, Thibaut misses a council seat by only 212 votes and Davis becomes the only candidate endorsed by the Houston GLBT Political Caucus to win in the runoff.

—  admin

Updated Election Results, HISD III may be headed for recount (updated)

With 31.98% of Harris County precincts reporting, most races look much the same as they did at 7 pm when the Harris County Clerk published early voting totals.  The HISD district III race between Manuel Rodriguez and Ramiro Fonseca is turning into a nail bitter. With 58% of precincts reporting only 36 votes separate the two candidates. This race garnered national attention after Rodriquez mailed an anti-gay flier attacking Fonseca, and the Houston Chronicle subsequently pulled its endorsement of Rodriquez

UPDATED: with 94.74% of precincts reporting Rodriquez is now leading Fonseca by 3 votes.

Only candidates with more than 10% of the vote at current count are reflected.

City of Houston, MAYOR, 29% of precincts reporting
Dave Wilson  10.99%
Fernando Herrera  14.56%
Annise D. Parker  52.09%
Jack O’Connor 13.43%

City of Houston, COUNCIL MEMBER, AT-LARGE POSITION 1, 29% of precincts reporting
Stephen C. Costello 51.59%
Scott Boates 21.71%
Don Cook 18.31%

City of Houston, COUNCIL MEMBER, AT-LARGE POSITION 2, 29% of precincts reporting
Kristi Thibaut 16.29%
Elizabeth C. Pérez 12.40%
Andrew C. Burks, Jr. 19.08%
David W. Robinson 11.76%

City of Houston, COUNCIL MEMBER, AT-LARGE POSITION 3, 29% of precincts reporting
Melissa Noriega 56.88%
Chris Carmona 24.63%
J. Brad Batteau 18.49%

City of Houston, COUNCIL MEMBER, AT-LARGE POSITION 4, 29% of precincts reporting
Louis Molnar 10.93%
Amy Price 19.47%
C. O. “Brad” Bradford 69.59%

City of Houston, COUNCIL MEMBER, AT-LARGE POSITION 5, 29% of precincts reporting
Laurie Robinson 19.43%
Jolanda “Jo” Jones 41.03%
Jack Christie 31.31%

City of Houston, COUNCIL MEMBER, DISTRICT A, 19% of precincts reporting
Brenda Stardig 42.77%
Helena Brown 47.45%

City of Houston, COUNCIL MEMBER, DISTRICT B, 44% of precincts reporting
Kenneth Perkins 10.09%
Kathy Blueford-Daniels 17.49%
Alvin Byrd  26.86%
Jerry Davis  23.68%

City of Houston, COUNCIL MEMBER, DISTRICT C, 23% of precincts reporting.
Ellen Cohen  55.56%
Karen Derr 10.50%
Brian Cweren  27.86%

City of Houston, COUNCIL MEMBER, DISTRICT D, 35% of precincts reporting.
Larry L. McKinzie  16.44%
Wanda Adams  83.56%

City of Houston, COUNCIL MEMBER, DISTRICT E, 33% of precincts reporting.
Mike Sullivan 100%

City of Houston, COUNCIL MEMBER, DISTRICT F, 8% of precincts reporting.
Al Hoang  57.33%
Hoc Thai Nguyen (Nguyen Thai Hoc)  19.90%
Peter “Lyn” René  22.76%

City of Houston, COUNCIL MEMBER, DISTRICT G, 20% of precincts reporting.
Clyde Bryan 21.00%
Oliver Pennington 79.00%

City of Houston, COUNCIL MEMBER, DISTRICT H, 38% of precincts reporting.
Patricia Rodriguez 30.55%
Edward “Ed” Gonzalez 69.45%

City of Houston, COUNCIL MEMBER, DISTRICT I, 46% of precincts reporting.
Leticia Gutierrez Ablaza 33.96%
James Rodriguez 66.04%

City of Houston, COUNCIL MEMBER, DISTRICT J, 7% of precincts reporting.
Mike Laster 70.16%
Criselda Romero 19.86%

City of Houston, COUNCIL MEMBER, DISTRICT K, 19% of precincts reporting.
Pat Frazier 23.15%
Larry Green 68.40%

Houston I.S.D., Trustee, District III, 58% of precincts reporting.
Manuel Rodriguez  50.61%
Ramiro Fonseca 49.39%

Houston I.S.D., Trustee, District IV, 29% of precincts reporting.
Davetta Daniels 33.27%
Paula Harris 66.73%

Houston I.S.D., Trustee, District VIII, 26% of precincts reporting.
Dorothy Olmos 42.12%
Juliet Kathy Stipeche 57.88%

—  admin

Early voting results in Houston Races

At 7 pm the polls closed. The Harris County Clerk’s office must now count and tabulate the votes cast today in Houston’s 769 voting precincts. While we wait for the final results, let’s take a look at the numbers from early voting:

City of Houston, MAYOR, with 46,333 ballots counted:
Kevin Simms   7.55%
Amanda Ulman  1.60%
Dave Wilson  10.40%
Fernando Herrera  14.31%
Annise D. Parker  52.76%
Jack O’Connor  13.38%

Dave Wilson’s 10.4 percent is surprising, considering he’s been poling at less than 1%.  General wisdom is that conservatives are more likely to vote early than left-leaning voters. In my opinion his strong early showing is likely to dramatically decrease as the evening progresses.

City of Houston, COUNCIL MEMBER, AT-LARGE POSITION 1,
Stephen C. Costello 51.80%
James Partsch-Galvan  7.88%
Scott Boates  21.77%
Don Cook  18.54%

City of Houston, COUNCIL MEMBER, AT-LARGE POSITION 2,
Kristi Thibaut 16.75%
Elizabeth C. Pérez 10.41%
Andrew C. Burks, Jr. 20.69%
Gordon R. Goss 1.75%
Bolivar “Bo” Fraga 9.51%
Eric B. Dick  7.44%
Jenifer Rene Pool  7.55%
M. “Griff” Griffin 7.25%
David W. Robinson  11.84%
Roslyn “Rozzy” Shorter 6.81%

With such a crowded field this race is still anybody’s game, fewer than 6,000 votes separate the early leader Burks from ninth position shorter.

City of Houston, COUNCIL MEMBER, AT-LARGE POSITION 3,
Melissa Noriega 56.67%
Chris Carmona  24.19%
J. Brad Batteau  19.15%

City of Houston, COUNCIL MEMBER, AT-LARGE POSITION 4,
Louis Molnar 10.65%
Amy Price 18.43%
C. O. “Brad” Bradford 70.92%

City of Houston, COUNCIL MEMBER, AT-LARGE POSITION 5,
Laurie Robinson 18.43%
Jolanda “Jo” Jones  42.16%
Jack Christie 31.46%
Bob Ryan 7.94%

City of Houston, COUNCIL MEMBER, DISTRICT A, with 3,125 votes counted:
Brenda Stardig  43.06%
Helena Brown 47.01%
Bob Schoellkopf 9.93%

City of Houston, COUNCIL MEMBER, DISTRICT B, with 4,710 votes counted:
Kenneth Perkins  8.87%
James Joseph 4.04%
Kathy Blueford-Daniels16.98%
Phillip “Paul” Bryant 5.66%
Alvin Byrd  28.27%
Jerry Davis 26.22%
Charles A. Ingram  6.63%
Bryan Smart 3.33%

City of Houston, COUNCIL MEMBER, DISTRICT C, with 7,492 votes counted:
Randy Locke  3.88%
Josh Verde 17 2.47%
Ellen Cohen 55.28%
Karen Derr11.17%
Brian Cweren 27.20%

City of Houston, COUNCIL MEMBER, DISTRICT D, with 6,498 votes counted:
Larry L. McKinzie  14.60%
Wanda Adams 85.40%

City of Houston, COUNCIL MEMBER, DISTRICT E, with 4,283 votes counted
Mike Sullivan 100.00%

City of Houston, DISTRICT F, with 2,789 votes counted:
Al Hoang  56.72%
Hoc Thai Nguyen (Nguyen Thai Hoc) 20.84%
Peter “Lyn” René  22.45%

City of Houston, COUNCIL MEMBER, DISTRICT G, with 5,917 votes counted:
Clyde Bryan  19.60%
Oliver Pennington 80.40%

Houston, COUNCIL MEMBER, DISTRICT H, with 2,710 votes counted
Patricia Rodriguez 27.81%
Edward “Ed” Gonzalez  72.19%

Houston, COUNCIL MEMBER, DISTRICT I, with 2,694 votes counted
Leticia Gutierrez Ablaza 31.28%
James Rodriguez  68.72%

City of Houston, COUNCIL MEMBER, DISTRICT J, with 2,013 votes counted
Mike Laster 70.67%
Rodrigo Canedo 9.78%
Criselda Romero 19.56%

Out gay candidate Laster takes a commanding lead, but this heavily Hispanic district is likely to see significant election day voting, so this early number, based on so few votes, is likely very different than the final number we’ll wind up with.

City of Houston, COUNCIL MEMBER, DISTRICT K, with 4,102 votes counted:
Pat Frazier 22.68%
Larry Green 70.24%
Alex Gonik 7.08%

Houston I.S.D., Trustee, District III, with 1,981 votes counted
Manuel Rodriguez 52.95%
Ramiro Fonseca  47.05%

This race garnered national attention after Rodriquez mailed an anti-gay flier attacking Fonseca, and the Houston Chronicle subsequently pulled its endorsement of Rodriquez.  That information did not become public until after early voting closed on Friday, so any effect it had on the race would not be reflected in these numbers. Only 102 votes separate the candidates at this time.

Houston I.S.D., Trustee, District IV, with 5,881 votes counted:
Davetta Daniels 33.81%
Paula Harris 66.19%

Houston I.S.D., Trustee, District VIII, with 3,091 votes counted:
Dorothy Olmos 40.28%
Juliet Kathy Stipeche 59.72%

Remember that these are only the votes cast during early voting, the final numbers can, and often do differ dramatically from early voting totals.

—  admin

UPDATE: Mike Rawlings and David Kunkle appear headed to runoff for Dallas mayor

With 426 of 555 precincts reporting at 9:25 p.m., it sure looks like former Pizza Hut CEO Mike Rawlings and former Police Chief David Kunkle are headed to a June runoff.

Rawlings leads with 42 percent of the vote, and Kunkle is second with 32 percent. City Councilman Ron Natinsky is third with 24 percent, and he now trails Kunkle by more than 4,000 votes.

Rawlings has 25,245 votes to Kunkle’s 19,023 and Natinsky’s 14,683. Edward Okpa has 1,321 votes, or 2 percent.

 

—  John Wright

Update: Hightower apparently headed for runoff in Arlington

With 80 percent of the vote counted, gay candidate Chris Hightower appears to be headed into a runoff for the District 5 seat on the Arlington City Council with incumbent Lana Wolff.

Although only 112 votes separate the two, Hightower is leading by 7 percentage points.

Their closest competitor is Julie Douglas with 13 percent.

—  admin

Indiana House Votes 70-26 in Favor of Constitutionally Banning Same-Sex Marriage and Civil Unions

Indiana

The Indiana House of Representatives has approved a constitutional amendment that would ban both same-sex marriage and civil unions in the Hoosier State.

The amendment states: "Marriage. Provides that only marriage between one man and one woman shall be valid or recognized as a marriage in Indiana. Provides that a legal status identical or substantially similar to that of marriage for unmarried individuals shall not be valid or recognized. This proposed amendment has not been previously agreed to by a general assembly."

The Courier Press reports:

The House voted 70-26 for the ban, starting the clock on the long process of amending Indiana’s constitution.

It now moves to the Senate, where such a ban has passed with little trouble in recent years. If it clears the Senate, then a separately-elected House and Senate must once again approve the ban in either 2013 or 2014. Then, voters would have the final say in a November 2014 referendum.

A long and ugly road.

In related news, we'll likely get a final vote on civil unions in Hawaii tomorrow, and possibly a vote on marriage equality in Maryland by the end of the week. A lot happening. Stay tuned, folks…


Towleroad News #gay

—  David Taffet

UN Votes to Restore Sexual Orientation to Resolution Condemning Extrajudicial, Summary and Arbitrary Executions

Good news coming in from the UN, as member states have voted to restore sexual orientation to a resolution on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions. The body had voted 79 to 70 with 17 abstentions and 26 absences on November 16 to remove Sexual orientation from the resolution.

The AP reports:

Un

The removal of the reference, done at the committee level last month, alarmed human rights advocates who said gay people are among minority groups that need special protection from extrajudicial and other unjustified killings.

The assembly on Tuesday voted 93 in favor of the United States' proposal to restore the previous language, with 55 countries against and 27 abstaining. The assembly then approved the amended resolution 122 in favor, with 0 votes against, and 59 abstentions.

Ambassador Susan Rice led the efforts to reinsert the resolution, The New Civil Rights Movement reports:

Suggesting LGBT peoples are weak and invited discrimination, the United Arab Emirates spoke at length, and said it “rejects firmly” the “controversial” statement that has “no legal foundation.”

The African Group representative said they were “gravely alarmed” with the “undefined notion of sexual orientation,” and called the attempt to restore the term a “systematic attempt to create new rights,” and  said it would “jeopardize the entire human rights framework… to achieve narrow political gain.”

In a major switch, South Africa voted for the resolution, after having voted to remove sexual orientation from the resolution last month. Rowanda also spoke very eloquently. But Zimbabwe, calling the text “adventurism,” also likened homosexuality to bestiality and said “individual proclivities should be just that.”


Towleroad News #gay

—  admin

Joseph Rocha on the DADT votes: ‘It is time to take names.’

My good friend, Joseph Christopher Rocha, wrote a post with his reaction to the DADT votes yesterday. He’s taking names– the names of the 206 members of Congress who voted against equality last week:

It took 17 years for the United States Congress to decide that our gay and lesbian service-members are equal human beings to their straight counterparts. Yet, still 206 members of Congress voted against this.

It is time to take names.

Many of these 206 members of Congress who voted against valuing our gay troops blood and sacrifice as equal to their straight counterparts feared that repealing DADT would lead to an avalanche of gay rights across this Country. I expect nothing less.

It is veterans who won this battle. Many honorable organizations undoubtedly provided the outlet and tiresome behind-the-scenes work, but as we saw in 1993, that was not enough. I am confident that in the spirit of Harvey Milk’s cry of “you must come out,” it was our veterans’ willingness to brave the scrutiny of the media and the opposition that got us to this historic day. They selflessly lent their face to this movement.

No longer could the lies and hatred of Senator’s like McCain and Representatives like Duncan Jr. carry any weight against the courageous faces, stories, lives and sacrifice of this community’s veterans.

As the years go by and we see honorable gay men and women ascend the ranks of every branch of our Armed Forces, we will see the final deterioration of bigotry across this land. When someone dare say we are not equally entitled to marriage or job protection, a little girl or a little boy will one day soon stand up in protest and say “Gays are military Heroes!”




AMERICAblog Gay

—  admin

U.S. Senate Votes to End “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell”

Today the U.S. Senate voted on legislation that will allow for the repeal of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” (DADT).  This historic action comes on the heels of the passage of an identical bill Wednesday in the U.S. House of Representatives.  President Obama has said that he will sign DADT repeal into law.

“Today, America lived up to its highest ideals of freedom and equality. Congress recognized that all men and women have the right to openly serve their country,” said HRC President Joe Solmonese. “Plenty of people had already planned the funeral for this legislation. Today, we pulled out a victory from what was almost certain defeat just a few days ago. We are grateful to President Obama, Majority Leader Reid and Sens. Lieberman, Collins and countless others for their dogged determination to repeal DADT.”

Today’s vote caps off two weeks of frenetic, roller-coaster activity. Last week, the Senate voted for the second time against allowing debate to begin on the National Defense Authorization Act, to which DADT repeal was attached. As a result, Senators Joe Lieberman (I-CT) and Susan Collins (R-ME) introduced a stand-alone repeal bill in the Senate. This Wednesday, the U.S. House of Representatives overwhelmingly approved a DADT bill sponsored by Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-MD) and Representative Patrick Murphy (D-PA). That bill was advanced to the Senate and voted on today.

DADT was made a law seventeen years ago and is the only U.S. law that punishes people for simply telling the truth. Since the law went into effect, over 14,000 gay and lesbian service members have been discharged from our nation’s military simply because they were gay or lesbian. An estimated 66,000 gays and lesbians are currently on active-duty. Twenty-three studies over the past fifty years, including most recently a comprehensive study by the Pentagon, have concluded the same thing: that there would be no to minimal impact on force cohesion or unit readiness by allowing gays and lesbians to serve openly in the U.S. military. Thirty-countries currently allow gays and lesbians to serve in their nation’s armed forces. Over the past two years, HRC has worked steadily, including dedicating over million in financial resources, to bring about today’s successful outcome. Click here to see a summary of our work.

Senator Joe Lieberman, the sponsor of the Senate bill, added his perspective to this historic day. “This ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell Repeal Act of 2010’ removes a law that discriminates against military service members based solely on their sexual orientation and also harms our national security.   This historic day has been seventeen years in the making and would not have happened without the leadership of Joe Solmonese and the Human Rights Campaign.”

HRC President Joe Solmonese greets Senators Collins, Lieberman and Udall in the Senate reception area immediately following the successful vote to repeal "Don't Ask, Don't Tell".

“This is an historic moment.  Like our closest allies, the United States’ Armed Forces should welcome the service of any qualified individual who is willing and capable of serving our country,” said Senator Susan Collins (R-Maine).  “And, I agree with Defense Secretary Gates that it is critical that the issue is decided by Congress, not the courts.”

Following enactment of this legislation, the repeal of DADT will happen only after certification by the President, Secretary of Defense and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff that policies have been written to implement repeal and compliance with these polices is consistent with military readiness.  The Human Rights Campaign issues a critical warning to service members that repeal of DADT is not effective immediately and service members are still at risk of being discharged on the basis of their sexual orientation until certification occurs and an additional 60 days have passed.  Click here to see the Pathway to Final Repeal.

“This has been a long fought battle, but this failed and discriminatory law will now be history,” added Solmonese.  “Congress now joins the majority of our troops and the American public in the common sense belief that on the battlefield, it does not matter whether a service member is lesbian, gay or straight – what matters is that a service member gets the job done. The President can now fulfill his promise and sign this repeal legislation into law.  After signing this legislation, we call on the President and Secretary of Defense to act expeditiously to complete the steps necessary to implement final repeal.


Human Rights Campaign | HRC Back Story

—  admin