Yee, haw! Bull-riding for bucks (and bucks) is harder than it looks

Me before the fall (more pics after the jump)

Being atop of a mechanical bull in the middle of Cowboys Stadium is no place for a fat, middle-aged gay man to be on a Wednesday afternoon. But there I was yesterday, risking life and ego for eight seconds of possible glory.

The idea was a valid one: Raise money ($2,500 for first place; $1,000 for second) for my charity of choice. I chose two beneficiaries: Legal Hospice of Texas, for which I am committed to raising $500 by the middle of next month; and Mercy for Animals, because I thought it would be cool to give an animal rights group money for basically abusing a cow. (Since it was mechanical, it didn’t really count as animal exploitation, although Eddie Garza, MFA’s Texas coordinator, said he’d take the donation even if it were on a real bull — and he seemed unconcerned that my body would be the one taking the real beating.)

Cowboys Stadium is a charmless cavern when there are no events taking place other than something as small as this one, though admittedly, the lack of crowds was nice. On the huge screens play a continuous loop of Dallas Cowboys highlights, all of them winning plays — in other words, none from last season. Ten days earlier, the eyes of the world were focused on this billion-dollar temple to excess; today, the field looks like the parking lot of an abandoned strip mall. Gone is the Astroturf, revealing ugly concrete underneath where dirt is being shipped in. The rodeo will be there this weekend, and they need to dust it up.

That’s kinda what we’re all here for. Dickies is sponsoring, again, a media mechanical bull-riding challenge, where members of the press are invited to a bracketed elimination competition to see which pencil pusher can claim, briefly, some degree of athletic prowess. And they asked me to participate.

—  Arnold Wayne Jones

Here we go again: N. Texas under Winter Storm Watch for late Tuesday, early Wednesday


The above image was posted late Monday on the website for the Dallas-Fort Worth office of the National Weather Service. North Texas is now under a Winter Storm Watch for late Tuesday and early Wednesday. Here’s the full advisory:

A WINTER STORM WATCH FOR FREEZING RAIN…SLEET…AND SNOW REMAINS IN EFFECT FROM LATE TUESDAY NIGHT THROUGH WEDNESDAY AFTERNOON.

PRECIPITATION WILL BEGIN AS A RAIN…SLEET AND SNOW MIX IN NORTHWEST PARTS OF NORTH TEXAS EARLY WEDNESDAY MORNING AS PRECIPITATION OVERSPREADS THE AREA. AS TEMPERATURES FALL TO BELOW FREEZING WEDNESDAY MORNING…THE PRECIPITATION WILL TRANSITION TO A FREEZING RAIN AND SLEET MIXTURE BEFORE CHANGING TO ALL SNOW BY EARLY AFTERNOON.

TOTAL SLEET AND SNOW ACCUMULATIONS ARE EXPECTED TO RANGE FROM 2 TO 4 INCHES ACROSS THE AREA…WITH THE HIGHEST TOTALS EXPECTED NEAR THE RED RIVER. IN ADDITION…UP TO ONE TENTH INCH OF FREEZING RAIN COULD COAT ROADS AND EXPOSED OBJECTS BEFORE THE PRECIPITATION TRANSITIONS TO SLEET AND SNOW BY MIDDAY.

ALL WINTRY PRECIPITATION IS EXPECTED TO BE HEAVIEST IN THE MORNING HOURS AND TAPER OFF DURING THE AFTERNOON. FREEZING DRIZZLE OR SNOW FLURRIES MAY PERSIST INTO THE EVENING HOURS ON WEDNESDAY.

A WINTER STORM WATCH MEANS THERE IS A POTENTIAL FOR SIGNIFICANT SNOW…SLEET…OR ICE ACCUMULATIONS THAT MAY IMPACT TRAVEL. IF YOU MUST TRAVEL ACROSS NORTH TEXAS TUESDAY NIGHT OR WEDNESDAY… CARRY A WINTER WEATHER SURVIVAL KIT WITH YOU IN CASE YOU BECOME STRANDED.

—  John Wright

House OKs standalone bill to repeal DADT

Lisa Keen  |  Keen News Service

The U.S. House of Representatives voted Wednesday afternoon, Dec. 15 to approve a measure to repeal “don’t ask, don’t tell.” The vote was 250-175. It was the second time this year the House approved such a measure. In May, the vote was 232 to 180.

The measure will now go to the Senate where it is expected to reach the floor sometime next week.

“Today’s vote by the House of Representatives provides another resounding indication that Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell can and should be repealed legislatively this year,” said a statement issued by several pro-repeal groups. “With this second vote in favor of repeal, the House joins our top military leaders, a super-majority of Americans, the President, and a 60-vote majority in the Senate in agreeing that it is time to give the Pentagon the power to carry out its carefully crafted plans for ending Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell. With the Pentagon Working Group report in hand and the Secretary of Defense pleading for Congressional action, there is no more time for excuses — the Senate must follow the lead of the House and pass the bipartisan repeal legislation championed by Senators Lieberman and Collins before the end of the 111th Congress.”

Groups issuing the joint statement were the Center for American Progress Action Fund, the Human Rights Campaign, Log Cabin Republicans, Stonewall Democrats, the Servicemembers Legal Defense Network, Servicemembers United and Third Way.

The House vote may have confused someone just tuning in to the debate because it appeared, on the surface, to be a debate about a small business bill. But that bill, which has been approved by both houses but not sent to conference, was gutted and language from a DADT repeal bill was inserted. This new language was introduced by Rep. Patrick Murphy, D-Pa., as a standalone repeal bill Tuesday, as a way of encouraging and speeding up the passage of a similar standalone bill in the Senate.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi took to the floor early in the debate to urge passage of the measure and cite polling data released Wednesday showing 8 out of 10 Americans support repeal.

“It is my hope to encourage the Senate to take this long overdue action,” said Pelosi.

Rep. Murphy, urging support for repeal, said, “Enough of the games. Enough of the politics. … This vote is about whether we’re going to continue telling people willing to die for our freedoms that they need to lie in order to do so.”

Rep. Susan Davis, D-Calif., controlled debate for Democrats and led with remarks saying, “The time to act is here.” Davis is a member of the House Armed Services Committee.

“Change is never easy but it rarely is as necessary as it is today,” said Davis. “If we miss this opportunity to repeal this law, history will judge us poorly.”

Rep. Buck McKeon, R-Calif., who will be the chairman of the House Armed Services Committee beginning in January, expressed “strong opposition” to the repeal measure. He lamented the committee was not being given an opportunity to hold its own hearing on the Dec. 1 report submitted by the Pentagon. The Senate Armed Services Committee held such a hearing on Dec. 2 and 3.

Rep. Trent Franks, R-Ariz., urged voting against the repeal measure to provide the military with more time to “deal with this in their own way.”

Many of the Republicans who spoke lamented the fact that Congress has yet to pass the annual Defense Authorization bill, suggesting that debating the DADT repeal was somehow interfering with that bill. The irony, of course, was that Republicans in the Senate blocked consideration of the Defense Authorization bill, in large part because it included DADT repeal.

Rep. Barney Frank, D-Mass., called Republicans out on that, saying they’ve repeatedly blocked consideration of the defense bill. He also argued that it’s not servicemembers who are uneasy with the change, but Republican members of Congress.

Rep. Tammy Baldwin, D-Wisc., also spoke in favor of repeal, saying the current policy is un-American.

The Senate last week fell just three votes short of moving to consideration of the issue through the Defense Authorization bill, which includes repeal language. If Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid attempts to bring it to the floor of the Senate in the next few days, it will still need 60 votes.

West Virginia activists and the Servicemembers Legal Defense Network delivered 800 petitions to the offices of West Virginia’s new Democratic Senator, Joe Manchin, on Wednesday, hoping to reverse his recent vote against consideration of DADT repeal. Manchin, the only Democrat to vote with Republicans to keep a filibuster going last week, said he voted no because he hadn’t had enough time to review the issue.

Sen. Blanche Lincoln, D-Ark., said last week she would have voted for cloture on the defense bill had she been in the chamber during the vote. And Sen. Scott Brown. R-Mass., has said he would vote for cloture after the Senate completes passage of a bill to extend tax cuts. Sen. Olympia Snow, R-Maine, also announced her support for DADT repeal on Wednesday.

The Senate on Wednesday passed the tax cut extension bill and then moved immediately to consideration of a new arms control treaty (START). Some are predicting the House will soon pass the tax cut bill, too, fulfilling a Republican Party demand that has prevented consideration of DADT repeal and other issues.

One troubling development for repeal — though not one that is expected to deliver much punch — was a statement Tuesday from U.S. Marine Corps Commandant James Amos. Amos told reporters at a Pentagon briefing that he thinks repeal threatens the lives of Marines in combat because a soldier’s being gay presents a “distraction” to Marines and “distractions cost Marines’ lives.”

“I don’t want to lose any Marines to distraction,” said Amos. “I don’t want to have any Marines that I’m visiting at Bethesda [Army Hospital] with no legs.”

President Barack Obama issued a statement Wednesday night applauding the standalone repeal bill’s passage.

“Legislative repeal is supported by the Secretary of Defense and the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff,” Obama said. “The process contained in this legislation allows for a smooth and responsible repeal of ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’ in a way that maintains good order and discipline in our military ranks. Indeed, all of the Service Chiefs have said that when this law is changed , they will implement an orderly transition effectively and efficiently. As the comprehensive study by the Department of Defense clearly shows, we can move to a new policy in a responsible manner that ensures our military strength and our national security.”

© 2010 Keen News Service

—  John Wright

BREAKING: Re-hearing sought in gay divorce

Attorneys for a gay Dallas man who’s seeking a divorce from his husband have filed a motion requesting a re-hearing of the case by the full 5th District Court of Appeals.

An all-Republican, three-judge panel of the Dallas appeals court ruled in August that the man, identified in court documents as J.B., cannot obtain a divorce in Texas because the state doesn’t recognize same-sex marriage.

J.B. and his attorneys had the option of dropping the matter, appealing the decision to the Texas Supreme Court, or requesting a re-hearing by the 13-justice 5th District Court en banc.

“We believe adequate grounds exist for the entire Court of Appeals to reconsider the panel’s opinion, and we hope the entire Dallas court of appeals will do that,” said attorney James J. “Jody” Scheske of Akin Gump Strauss Hauer & Feld, the Austin firm representing J.B.

Scheske said for the request to be granted, a majority of the 13 justices would have to agree to rehear the case. There is no timeframe for the court to rule on the request, he said. Depending on the outcome, Scheske said he’s unsure whether his client will appeal the decision to the Texas Supreme Court.

“We’re taking it one step at a time,” Scheske said. “We’re hopeful the entire court of appeals will issue an opinion we can live with, in which case further appeal won’t be necessary.”

J.B. and his partner, H.B., were married in Massachusetts in 2006. After they moved to Dallas, J.B. filed for a divorce in 2008.

In October of last year, Democratic District Judge Tena Callahan ruled she had jurisdiction to hear J.B.’s divorce petition, saying Texas’ bans on same-sex marriage are unconstitutional.

Republican Attorney General Greg Abbott appealed Callahan’s decision, and the appeals court ruled on Aug. 31 in Abbott’s favor.

To read the full text of the motion seeking a re-hearing, go here.

—  John Wright

DPD, W hotel investigating gay man’s complaint against officer

GLBT Chamber chair says officer working security at hotel choked him in anti-gay incident after concert

John Wright  |  Online Editor wright@dallasvoice.com

Derrick Brown
Derrick Brown

The chair of the North Texas GLBT Chamber of Commerce filed a complaint this week against a Dallas police officer who allegedly choked him during a confrontation outside the W-Dallas Victory hotel following a Lady Gaga concert on Friday, July 23.

Derrick Brown filed the complaint on Wednesday, July 28, against Officer F. Phelps, who was off-duty and working security for the hotel at the time of the incident.

Phelps, who was in uniform, reportedly accused Brown of grabbing his buttocks as they crossed paths near the street entrance to Ghostbar, a business inside the hotel.

“A group of us were walking to Ghostbar after the concert,” Brown said in a message posted online Saturday, July 24. “The off-duty officer claimed that I grabbed him (which I did not). When trying to tell him so, he grabbed my neck, pushed and pinned me against the wall by my neck telling me to shut up. Needless to say, I am outraged and will ensure action is taken to prevent it happening to someone else in our community.”

Brown was traveling this week and couldn’t be reached for further comment. Another member of Brown’s group who witnessed the incident didn’t respond to a phone message.

Sr. Cpl. Kevin Janse, a spokesman for the Dallas Police Department, confirmed Wednesday afternoon that Brown had filed a complaint against Phelps.

“There has been a complaint filed with our internal affairs division and an investigation has begun into the allegations against the officer,” Janse said. “This process will take some time so that we can conduct a very thorough investigation.”

Janse would not provide a copy of Brown’s complaint, saying the newspaper would need to file a formal records request.

The confrontation with Brown was one of two separate incidents involving Phelps and gay hotel patrons that occurred just minutes apart after the concert at the nearby American Airlines Center.

Another gay leader, Malcolm Gage, alleges that Phelps threatened him with arrest after he tried to enter the hotel to visit a friend who was staying there.

Gage, director of finance at Park Place Volvo and a board member for the national Gay & Lesbian Victory Fund, said he also planned to file a complaint with DPD.

“I took issue with the attitude of the officer and the way he was treating us and what the W did, but with Derrick it’s considerably more serious because he [Phelps] attacked him,” Gage told Dallas Voice. “This guy screams at Derrick and says, ‘You grabbed my ass.’ Derrick’s issue is a much bigger issue.”

Gage said he and his roommate drove from the Lady Gaga concert and parked their vehicle using the hotel’s valet service. As they walked toward the main entrance of the hotel, they were stopped by a security guard who told them they needed a room key to come in.

When Gage explained that they were visiting a hotel guest, the security guard said they would need to call their friend and have him come down to meet them.

Gage, who says he visits the hotel frequently, questioned why this was necessary and said it was a major inconvenience because their friend was already entertaining other guests.

The security guard then summoned Phelps and another off-duty DPD officer. Phelps reportedly told Gage, “Look here man, if you don’t leave the property I’m going to arrest you for criminal trespassing.”

Words were exchanged between the parties before the second DPD officer pulled Gage aside and said, “If this were off [hotel] property then this probably would have been a little more physical removal, so I’m being nice right now by talking to you,” according to Gage.

The hotel’s night manager arrived and asked Gage and his roommate to leave. When Gage asked for a valid reason, Phelps said, “You need to do what I say.”

As Gage and his roommate left, Phelps said things like, “What you going to do now?” according to Gage.

“I would like to notify you that I plan to not only file formal complaints against the officers mentioned, but I will do everything in my legal rights to make sure that this does not happen to another member of the Dallas LGBT community,” Gage wrote in a letter to the general manager of the W hotel. “I feel that we were discriminated against because we were gay and the hotel staff was just as much at fault as the officers involved.”

The general manager, Thomas Caramucci, told Dallas Voice in a statement that the hotel is investigating.

“We are aware of the incident and are currently looking further into the details of the situation, in cooperation with the Dallas Police Department,” Caramucci said. “Please know that the safety and comfort of our guests is our top priority and any and all situations receive our utmost attention.  … As you are aware W Dallas-Victory and the W brand are a strong supporters of the LGBT community and we appreciate the opportunity to respond.”

The W Dallas-Victory is owned by Starwood Hotels & Resorts Worldwide, which maintains a perfect score of 100 on the Human Rights Campaign’s Corporate Equality Index.

“As previously stated, the safety and comfort of our guests is a top priority,” Caramucci said in a follow-up statement. “To meet that end, in instances where large crowds are involved (i.e. popular concerts, Victory Park events, New Year’s Eve, etc.) it is our policy to request that anyone entering the front lobby doors present a key card to gain entry after 9:00 PM. Extra security is also hired to help ensure the added safety and enjoyment of our patrons. Though no one involved in Friday’s incident was a hotel guest, we take any situation that occurs on our property very seriously and are continuing to investigate the matter.

“W Dallas-Victory and the W brand are strong supporters of the LGBT community, and the hotel values the relationship and rapport we have built,” Caramucci added. “We have and will continue to demonstrate our support by participating in the local pride parade, Pride in the Park, BubbleQ and other events and fundraisers. Additionally, we offer our Pride 365 Package year-round.”

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition July 30, 2010.

—  Kevin Thomas