Equality Texas Offices Vandalized
September 28th, 2009
Equality Texas’ offices in Austin were vandalized last weekend. A large pane glass window at the front of the building was broken out, but nothing inside the building was taken. There are no other reports of vandalism in the neighborhood, despite the fact that other businesses in the area are physically easier targets. The Equality Texas office window is several feet above ground. Executive Director Paul Scott suspects that EQTX may have been singled out, although he concedes that there’s no proof of that.
Judge Jerry Buchmeyer (1933-2009)
September 21st, 2009
The Dallas Voice is reporting that Federal district court Judge Jerry Buchmeyer has passed away. Judge Buchmeyer declared Texas’ anti-sodomy law unconstitutional in 1982, writing, “Homosexuals are not ill or mentally diseased… Homosexuality is not communicable… There is simply no rational connection between the acts proscribed by [the law] and the claimed interests of morality, decency, health, welfare, safety and procreation.” Judge Buchmeyer’s ruling in Baker v. Wade was later overturned by the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals. Texas’s anti-sodomy law remained on the books until 2003, when the U.S. Supreme Court overturned it in Lawrence v. Texas, a ruling that also swept away all other remaining anti-sodomy laws nationwide.
One of may notable points in Baker v. Wade is that Judge Buchmeyer had to deal with Paul Cameron, who was just starting out in his career as an “expert witness” on homosexuality. Let’s just say Judge Buchmeyer wasn’t impressed with Cameron’s professionalism. In his written opinion, Judge Buchmeyer condemned Cameron by name for having “himself made misrepresentations to this Court,” and called out two specific examples:
(i) his sworn statement that “homosexuals are approximately 43 times more apt to commit crimes than is the general population” is a total distortion of the Kinsey data upon which he relies–which, as is obvious to anyone who reads the report, concerns data from a non-representative sample of delinquent homosexuals (and Dr. Cameron compares this group to college and non-college heterosexuals);
(ii) his sworn statement that “homosexuals abuse children at a proportionately greater incident than do heterosexuals” is based upon the same distorted data–and, the Court notes, is directly contrary to other evidence presented at trial besides the testimony of Dr. Simon and Dr. Marmour. (553 F. Supp. 1121 at 1130 n.18.) n30
We have more details on those distortions here. Judge Buchmeyer’s smackdown stung Cameron, who is still complaining about it on his Family Research Institute web site nearly thirty years later.
Judge Buchmeyer was nominated by President Jimmy Carter as federal judge for the Northern District of Texas on August 3, 1979. He was confirmed by the U.S. Senate on October 4, and received his commission on October 5, 1979. He served as chief judge from 1995 until his retirement in 2002. According to Wikipedia, he was known around the courthouse as a Talking Heads fan, and after retirement he maintained a legal humor blog with the Texas Bar.
Conservative Christian Furious That God Loves Gays
September 10th, 2009
A coalition of churches in Dallas/Ft. Worth have gotten together and erected gay-affirming billboards along I-30, the heavily-traveled freeway which connects the two neighboring cities’ downtown:
Rev. Jon Haack, with Promise Metropolitan Community Church, said, “If we go back to the gospel readings, we don’t find anything within those texts that discriminate or exclude against gay and lesbian people. Gay and lesbian, bi-sexual and transgender people are part of God’s creation too.”
That’s not sitting well with conservative Christians in the area. They’re making their displeasure known in hateful emails being sent to the billboards sponsors. The gay affirming churches are up against a very entrenched culture. The only opposing pastor that Dallas’ CBS 11 interviewed responded by comparing LGBT people to adulterers, wife beaters and murderers:
Pastor Sam Dennis, of Parkway Hills Baptist Church in Plano, says Christians shouldn’t hate gays. He disagrees however with the billboards’ use of scripture to back a pro-gay message. “I’m hard pressed to find that scripture advocates that it’s alright to live in a gay lifestyle. Just like I’m hard pressed to find that scripture advocates that’s it’s alright to live in an adulterous relationship or as a wife abuser or as a murderer.”
How anyone can claim to not hate gays and in the same breath compare them to murderers is beyond me. Do they really hope to lure LGBT people to their way of thinking that way?
Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission Fires Three Over Rainbow Lounge Raid
August 28th, 2009
The Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission fired three agents who were involved in the June 28 raid on the Rainbow Lounge in Ft. Worth, Texas. That raid left bar patron Chad Gibson seriously injured with bleeding on the brain, following rough treatment by TABC and Ft. Worth police officers who slammed Gibson against the wall and onto a brick floor.
TABC announced that they fired Agent Christopher Aller, Agent Trainee Jason Chapman and Sgt. Terry Parsons this morning. Alan and Chapman accompanied Ft. Worth police officers on the night of the raid. Two others were disciplined. They were Capt. Robert “Charlie” Cloud, who oversaw the Dallas and Ft. Worth TABC offices, and Lt. Gene Anderson, who was Sgt. Parsons’ direct supervisor. Cloud received a written reprimand and Anderson was suspended without pay for three days and placed on six month’s probation.
TABC also made some administrative changes and instituted new training requirements beginning January 2010. A separate TABC investigation into the issue of the agents’ excessive use of force is still ongoing.
Last month, TABC administrator Alan Steen apologized for the agency’s role in the raid and blasted his agents for falling to “follow the damn policy.” Ft. Worth police have suspended joint operations with TABC and have announced policy changesto deal with bar checks in the future. FWPD’s internal investigation is continuing.
Ft. Worth Police Change “Failed” Policy In Response To Rainbow Lounge Raid
August 21st, 2009
Ft. Worth Police Chief Jeff Halstead blamed a “policy failure” for the June 28 raid on the Rainbow Lounge. That raid, conducted in conjunction with agents from the Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission, resulted in allegations of excessive force and landed one patron in the Intensive Care Unit of a local hospital with brain injuries.
Chief Halstead, in a brief to the city council earlier this week, said that an investigation into the raid is continuing, but he is already committed to making several policy changes without waiting for the investigation to finish:
“Under the new policy there will be three distinct differences between an actual bar check, bar inspection, and bar investigation,” he writes.
…Halstead told the council that bar checks will stay in place, but he described them as a low-key, communications point between officers and bar owners.
If bar checks find problems, he said, the department will progress to a bar inspection, which will be subject to two levels of supervisory review and documented problems.
The bar investigation will be the “strongest form” of policy, he said. Only then would other agencies be involved, and experts would be in charge, he told the council.
Halstead also said that joint operations between Ft. Worth police and TABC remain suspended.
James Stabile Update
August 18th, 2009
In December 2007, we presented a few commentaries about the 700 Club testimony of James Stabile about his miraculous cure from homosexuality – and his subsequent flight from ex-gay resident group Pure Life Ministries.
Dallas Voice has a follow up article providing more detail and discussing what James is doing today.
Along with 45 other men, Stabile says he spent more than three “horrible” months in the conversion therapy program at Pure Life, until they finally kicked him out for being an “unteachable spirit.”
“They teach you to hate yourself,“ Stabile recounts, “and you think everyone else must hate you, too. … I had turned my back on who I was.”
Stabile says he felt trapped at Pure Life, and that they would not let him leave. He says in order to get expelled from the program, he and another young man staged a kiss in their support group.
“We couldn’t leave, so we made out in our therapy session to get kicked out,” he says. “They held you there by force … in the middle of nowhere.”
But he came out of the experience as a stronger person. “I am a straight camp survivor,” he says, “and I’m proud to be gay now.”
Currently, James seems in a much happier place. He has “found salvation and God’s love” through his participation at Cathedral of Hope, a UCC mega-church with a primary outreach to gays and lesbians. Stablile wants to take his experience of recovery from Pure Life and use it to help others who may be disoriented and feel out of place when they leave. He is starting a new ex-ex-gay organization called Love Actually.
“I thought, there has to be a place you can go if you have been in straight camp,” he says. “Somewhere you can be brought back into who you are and feel loved.”
It was an experience he really needed because, although Stabile identifies as gay, he says he felt like he didn’t quite fit in with the community after his experiences in reparative therapy, and after announcing he was straight on the Christian Broadcasting Network’s “The 700 Club.”
“I didn’t feel like I fit in the gay community, but I was not straight,” he said.
He says he found an online home at BeyondExGay.com, where he first started to realize he was not alone, that there are many others like him who’ve been through the same process and “came out gay all over.”
“Love Actually is a place people can come to and know they are not alone, they are loved and loved by God,” Stabile says.
I wish James well on his venture and hope that he can be helpful to others who are seeking to find themselves again after their experiences in ex-gay ministries.
Rainbow Lounge Investigation Reveals 19 State Policy Violations
August 6th, 2009
The Texas Alcoholic Beverages Commission has released the results of its internal affairs investigaton on the June 28 Rainbow Lounge raid in Ft. Worth, Texas. That report finds that two TABC agents and their supervisor committed a total of 19 policy violations during that raid. The Dallas Voice has the details:
Violations committed by the two agents include participating in a joint operation with Fort Worth police without approval from a supervisor; failing to submit a complaint card against the Rainbow Lounge; conducting bar inspections in unapproved attire; failing to follow bar inspection procedures; failing to report the use of force and injuries involving Chad Gibson, a Rainbow Lounge patron who sustained serious head injuries; and disrupting business during a bar inspection.
The violations committed by [Sgt. Terry] Parsons, who was not at the scene of the raid and has since reportedly retired form the agency, involve failing to take appropriate action against Aller and Chapman; failing to ensure Aller and Chapman filed the necessary reports; and failing to notify the sergeant’s supervisors of the raid.
The Dallas Voice has the full TABC press release.
Ft. Worth Task Force Recommends Protections for Transgender People
July 31st, 2009
The Fort Worth Human Relations Commission this week voted unanimously in favor of a resolution calling for the city to amend its anti-discrimination policy to include protections for transgenders. The resolution now goes to the new City Manager’s Diversity Task Force, and then on to the City Council for final approval.
The City Manager’s Diversity Task force was established by the city in the wake of last month’s raid of the Rainbow Lounge by Ft. Worth police and agents from the Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission. But according to Human Rights Commission member Lisa Thomas, this particular police recommendation from the Commission was was the result of more than a year’s worth of work. Several transgender residents spoke before the commission last March to talk about the discrimination they face at work and elsewhere.
Meanwhile, that newly formed Diversity Task Force, which met for the first time on July 23, discussed providing partner benefits to city employees. They are also taking up issues surrounding diversity training and LGBT economic development (i.e. resources for businesses and tourism).
TABC Chief Apologizes For Rainbow Lounge Raid, Says Agents Failed To “Follow The Damn Policy”
July 16th, 2009
Update: The Dallas Voice has posted audio of the interview. Please go and listen. It’s a very rare and wonderful example of a public official having the cojones to step up and take responsibility.
In an exclusive phone interview with Dallas Voice on Wednesday, July 15, TABC Administrator Alan Steen also said the supervisor directly responsible for the two agents — a sergeant in TABC’s Fort Worth district office — announced his retirement last week in the wake of the raid and amid an ongoing internal investigation. Steen didn’t identify the sergeant or the agents by name.
“I don’t think you have to dig very deep to figure out that TABC has violated some of their policies,” Steen said. “We know that, and I apologize for that. …”
Steen told The Dallas Voice that he doesn’t believe there was sufficient cause for the “inspection”. He also said that the eight officers and a paddy wagon likely constituted an excessive show of force. With all that, he said that TABC had no business conducting an inspection at the Rainbow Lounge that night. Steen added in characteristically Texan fashion, “If our guys would have followed the damn policy, we wouldn’t even have been there.”
And those “State Police” uniforms that we asked about, knowing that there is no such thing as a “State Police” agency in Texas? It turns out that those are “special events uniforms” which TABC policy prohibits during bar inspections. Steen said that agents are typically in plain clothes during inspections.
Steen also suggested that the TABC was interested in appointing a liason to the LGBT community, similar to the position recently announced by the Ft. Worth Police Department.
You can read all the details of the interview with the TABC Administrator at The Dallas Voice.
Ft. Worth May Call For Expanded U.S Investigation Into Rainbow Lounge Raid
July 16th, 2009
The Ft. Worth Star-Telegram is reporting on more fallout from Tuesday’s city council meeting. Several members of the audience at that meeting demanded an independent investigation into the June 28 Rainbow Lounge raid that left one patron critically injured and in intensive care for a week. Two council members, Joel Burns and Kathleen Hicks, said they would support an independent investigation, but didn’t all for a vote on the issue. Now it looks like that idea is starting to gain momentum:
On Wednesday, Burns said “movement was afoot” to ask the U.S. attorney’s office to expand its role from just a review to a more active investigation. Burns said that based on conversations he’d had with the mayor’s office, “they are looking at expanding the scope of the U.S. attorney’s involvement.”
While he believes the Police Department’s internal-affairs unit is capable of an investigation that yields full and complete answers, Burns said, “there are people who don’t know our Police Department who may not be so assured.”
He said he believes that an expanded role by the U.S. attorney’s office, complete with its subpoena power and ability to use the FBI if needed, “reassures everyone watching that the answers are full and complete and accurate.”
They mayor’s office is reportedly working with the U.S. attorney’s office to determine the scope of a possible investigation. There may be a resolution calling for an investigation by next week’s council meeting.
Ft. Worth Spokesman Clarifies Mayor’s Apology
July 16th, 2009
Listen, if you want an apology from your mayor, I am sorry for what happened in Fort Worth, ” Moncrief said, drawing some applause. “I am sorry. I am sorry. I am sorry.”
But city spokesman Bill Begley has clarified the mayor’s remarks, saying that he didn’t apologize for the raid, just for the injuries sustained by Chad Gibson when he was slammed against the wall and thrown to the floor:
“The mayor and council are always sorry if anyone is hurt ever in our city,” Begley said Wednesday. “The mayor has asked for a thorough investigation of what happened in the Rainbow Lounge to the point that he’s asked for the U.S. attorney to get involved …They want to make sure that all voices are heard … but the apology is that anyone is ever hurt in any incident.”
Rainbow Lounge Raid Proves The Dangers Of A Kiss
July 16th, 2009
We’ve covered several examples before describing the provocative temerity of a kiss. It looks like that monstrously dangerous act also played a role in the June 28 raid on the Rainbow Lounge by Ft Worth Police and agents from the Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission. Dallas’ WFAA-TV reports:
A police radio recording revealed that an officer called for help after they went inside the Rainbow Lounge.
“I need help in here,” he could be heard saying. “I’m by the restroom.”
That call came when officers said a customer blew a kiss at the officer, and then struggled with police as they tried to arrest him. The customer told News 8 his arm was injured.
Ever since Chad Gibson was injured and others arrested in a raid at the gay bar, one of the biggest questions for many was why did officers target the Rainbow Lounge in the first place?
According to police records, a cruiser video showed a man arrested for public intoxication two days before the controversial raid. In a police report, officers said they saw the man leave the lounge very intoxicated earlier in the evening and told him to get a ride.
Ft. Worth Mayor Apologizes For Rainbow Lounge Raid; LGBT Police Liaison Announced
July 15th, 2009
About two dozen LGBT citizens and allies spoke before the Ft. Worth city council last night about the June 28 raid on the Rainbow Lounge by Ft. Worth police and agents from the Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission. They were there to ask city council members to apologize for what happen and ensure that such a raid will never happen again:
One woman said she had traveled some 1,500 miles from San Francisco to lend her support. A few speakers said they were not gay, but that they wanted the council to know that it was not just the gay community concerned about the actions of Fort Worth and TABC officers that night.
One woman described in detail what she saw during the inspection.
“That was the first time I was ever afraid of the police,” said Sarah Bryant, who had been at the bar with her boyfriend that night. “After that, I was overwhelmed with disappointment and I guess a little bit disturbed. … We just need your help to move on.”
The violent raid on the Rainbow Lounge took place on the 40th anniversary of the Stonewall Rebellion. Chad Gibson was severely injured with a head trauma which resulted in him being sent to intensive care with bleeding in his brain. His full recovery may take as long as two years. FWPD and TABC are both conducting separate internal investigations into the raid, and the acting U.S. Attorney James Jack will independently review those investigations when they are completed. Meanwhile FWPD has suspended all cooperative activities with the TABC pending the outcome of these investigations,
One woman in the audience asked Ft. Worth Mayor Mike Moncrief why he hasn’t apologized for Gibson having to be hospitalized, “If you want an apology from your mayor, I am sorry for what happened in Ft. Worth. I am sorry,” Moncrief replied. According to the Associated Press, the crowd stood and applaused. The Star-Telegram merely said the apology drew “some applause.”
More than 250 people packed city council chambers for the meeting, with another 150 people gathered outside watching it on television monitors.
The meeting got off to a bad start when seven Dallas-based protesters from Queer LiberAction tried to disrupt the meeting. Those protesters were angry because the Rainbow Lounge discussion was placed last on the open discussion portion of the city council agenda — a normal spot when a particular topic is known to be of high interest and will likely generate a lot of discussion. Putting it last ensures that the other topics are discussed and gotten out of the way before the big one begins. But I guess there are always some people who are more interested in theater than action, demanding that their oppressed voices be heard when the topic is already right there on the agenda. Fortunately, cooler heads prevailed:
While the outbursts from protesters brought a smattering of support, most at the meeting seemed bothered by the interruptions and broke out in applause when marshals escorted the men out and thanked Moncrief for working with the gay community.
DeeJay Johannessen approached the microphone and said he understood putting such speakers at the end of the meeting is a common practice.
“We are willing to wait. We’re going to be here. We look forward to talking to you. We looking forward to resolving this issue with you,” he said, prompting some to give him a standing ovation.
Real progress was made at the meeting. In addition to the Mayor’s apology, Ft. Worth Police Chief Jeffrey Halstead announced the appointment of Officer Sara Straten as liaison to the city’s LGBT community. Officer Straten is a 17-year veteran of the police force. Meanwhile, the internal investigations continue, with the FWPD considering theirs a high-priority investigation, and have so far interviewed 33 eyewitnesses since the start of the investigation. They expect to complete the investigation in 30 days.
Yelping Over Discrimination In El Paso
July 12th, 2009
Chico’s Tacos is a venerated institution in El Paso, Texas. It was founded in 1953 and is now the kind of place that locals take out of town visitors to visit, and former El Paso residents make a special point of stopping in whenever they’re in town. But that hasn’t prevented Chico’s Tacos’ Yelp ratings from plunging to 1½ stars over their discriminatory practices. They’ve been pummelled with 118 one-star ratings so far since July 10. That’s out of 153 reviews, most which had previously been very positive. It’ll take a very long time to recover from that. Not sure that this will have much of an impact with locals; they either love it or hate it. But it’s bound to deter some out-of-towners from stopping in.
El Paso Police Chief Disavows Prior Statements, Pledges To Enforce Anti-Discrimination Ordinance
July 12th, 2009
El Paso Police Chief Greg Allen has issued a statement “to correct and clarify prior statements” concerning the eviction of five men from an El Paso restaurant after two of them kissed. The new statement calls prior statements an “incorrect recitation of the law” and recognizes the police department’s responsibility to enforce the city’s anti-discrimination ordinance. That 2003 ordinance bans discrimination in public accommodations based on sexual orientation.
This statement is in response to public outcry over actions by police officers who were called to Chico’s Tacos restaurant after a security guard threatened to remove five male customers because two of them kissed. The guard told the group to leave, saying that “faggot stuff” wasn’t allowed. The men called police over their pending removal, but instead of enforcing the city’s anti-discrimination law, a responding officer threatened the cite the kissing couple for violating a nonexistent law against “homosexual conduct” — one that presumably would go so far as to ban something as radically “faggotty” as a kiss. Later, an EPPD spokesperson compounded the problem over the non-existent law by saying that the five men at Chico’s Tacos could have been charged with criminal trespass instead.
Chief Allen’s statement now recognizes the police department’s responsibility to ensure “the opportunity of each person to obtain goods and services in all process of public accommodation without fear of discrimination.” The new statement “recognizes the negative impact that discrimination can have on a community”and requires that all police personnel “be courteous and respectful in their official dealings with the public.” Chief Allen requires EPPD personnel to “maintain a level of competence” in enforcing the city’s anti-discrimination ordinance, and warns that failure to do so “will result in appropriate discipline.”