Washington Blade, SOVO Shut Down
November 16th, 2009
Word is spreading around the Internet that Windows Media, publisher of the Washington Blade, Houston Voice, Southern Voice, South Florida Blade and other LGBT news outlets, has gone out of business over the weekend in Chapter 7 bankruptcy liquidation. SOVO editor Laura Douglas-Brown posted a note on Southern VoiceFacebook page confirming the shutdown:
With deepest regret, as editor of SoVo, I have to tell you that we arrived at the office to learn that our parent company, Window Media, has shut down. While the 20 years of SoVo have come to an end, our civil rights movement is only beginning. I am personally grateful to all of the staff, and to all of you who have had the courage to share your stories. It has been the honor of my life to help you tell them.
Project Q Atlanta reports that Southern Voiceemployees showed up to find that the locks had been changed and a note taped to the door, asking employees to return on Wednesday to collect their personal belongings.
This is a horrendous loss to the LGBT community. The Washington Blade began just forty years ago as The Gay Blade, a free one-paged mimeograph newspaper. It grew to become one of the most powerful voices for LGBT issues in the nation, having broken many important stories over the year covering the political beat in the nation’s capital. The editorial and reporting talent at the Blade is one of the best in the industry, and not just the specialty niche LGBT news industry. Few reporters have a Rolodex like veteran reporter Lou Chibarro. (Even fewer are still using a genuine Rolodex as Lou reportedly does.) The talent at that small paper would be the envy of any other publication, LGBT or mainstream. It would be very difficult to overstate the magnitude of this loss.
Ft. Worth Adds Transgenders to Non-Discrimination Ordinance
November 11th, 2009
Ft. Worth City Council last night expanded the city’s non-discrimination ordinance to include transgender people by a 6-3 vote. City council also discussed a broader range of issues important to the LGBT community, including offering domestic-partner benefits and expanding the city health insurance plan to cover gender reassignment procedures, including sex changes. Discussions were contentious, both inside the packed hall and outside, where protesters from both sides had gathered. The Dallas Voice reports:
There were no arrests or major physical altercations, but there was plenty of taunting and some heated verbal exchanges. Participants from both sides later accused the other of elbowing and pushing, and one of the counterprotesters admitted to ripping a gay Pride flag.
The Day After Election Day
November 4th, 2009
Feelings will be running raw this morning. Having yet another state placing a portion of its own citizenry in the second-class column is never easy to take. There will be plenty of time for post-mortems; I guess you could say I’ve already gotten a jump on mine before the campaign was over.
But I think it’s very important to keep in mind what Protect Maine Equality has been able to do. They have put together one of the most outstanding grass-roots efforts I’ve ever seen in a political campaign, and for that they’ve provided a road map for future campaigns to follow. Nobody has done a better job at motivating thousands of individuals to give of their time, and nobody has put together a better get-out-the-vote effort. The fact that the vote was this close is a testament to those great accomplishments.
Meanwhile, we have an important victory in Kalamazoo, where the religious right pulled out all the scare tactics at their disposal to try to defeat a non-discrimination ordinance. It didn’t work. The ordinance was upheld by 7,671 to 4,731 — 62% voted for equality in Kalamazoo, which is now the sixteenth city in Michigan with a non-discrimination ordinance.
Meanwhile, Washington’s Referendum 71 is holding on by a razor-thin margin. The Seattle Times says that it looks promising, since most of the outstanding votes are in areas where the measure was passing. Washingtonians vote by mail, and since the law requires that ballot be postmarked by election day, they will continue to trickle in during the days to come.
In Houston, openly lesbian mayoral candidate Annise Parker will go up against Gene Lock for a December 12 runoff. Openly gay Mark Kleinschmidt was elected mayor of Chapel Hill, North Carolina, and Charles Pugh garnered the highest number of Detroit city council votes among all the city-wide at-large candidates to become that city’s first gay city council president. And in New Jersey, New York, and the District of Columbia, legislative battles are heating up for marriage equality.
There are steps forward and steps back. The struggle isn’t over. We lost this one, but we pick ourselves up and go on to the next one. Our community has forged a unique strength that way, and we’ve learned to do this in ways we didn’t want to, whether it was to respond to Governmental censorship, employment bans, Anita Bryant, the AIDS crisis when nobody else could be bothered, or these state-by-state ballot initiatives. They do wear us down, but they don’t wear us out. We pick each other up, dust ourselves off, and we go on to the next battle. It’s what we do.
Being Gay Grounds for Judicial Disqualification for Texas Republicans
November 3rd, 2009
Social conservatives will often tell you that they aren’t anti-gay, they just oppose the homosexual agenda. They don’t hate people, you see, just the sin they are committing.
Don’t believe them.
As an illustration, let’s look at what’s going on in Texas. There, Republicans are all up in arms about a judicial recommendation. (Dallas News)
Last month, Hutchison and fellow GOP Sen. John Cornyn endorsed two applicants for chief prosecutor in the Western District of Texas, which includes Austin, San Antonio and El Paso: Robert Pitman, a U.S. magistrate in Austin, and San Antonio criminal defense lawyer Michael McCrum.
Pitman is highly regarded in legal circles. In a recent bar poll, lawyers rated him the most competent judge in Travis County.
But Pitman is entirely unacceptable to socially conservative Republicans in Texas.
Tim Lambert, president of the Texas Home School Coalition, a former member of the Republican National Committee – and, like nearly all prominent social conservatives in Texas who have picked sides, a Perry supporter – called the recommendation “very unusual and disturbing.”
The “unusual and disturbing” thing? Pitman is gay.
That’s it. No scandal. No issue about qualification. No indication of judicial activism or unusual decisions. He’s just gay.
And in Texas, it may hurt Hutchinson’s campaign to replace Rick Perry as Governor. It has become a campaign issue.
Just to be clear, the sole motivation for conservative Texas Republicans opposing Pitman or criticizing Hutchinson’s endorsement of him is anti-gay bigotry. It is as simple as that.
Texas Judge Challenges Marriage Ban
October 2nd, 2009
From the Dallas News:
Dallas state District Judge Tena Callahan ruled that two men married out of state could divorce in Texas. She also stated that the Texas marriage ban violates the US Constitution.
Although the case is far from settled, and the state’s constitutional ban on gay marriage is a long way from being thrown out, Dallas state District Judge Tena Callahan’s ruling says the state prohibition of same-sex marriage violates the federal constitutional right to equal protection.
Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott had intervened in the two men’s divorce case, arguing that because a gay marriage isn’t recognized in Texas, a Texas court can’t dissolve one through divorce.
Callahan, a Democrat, denied the attorney general’s intervention and said her court “has jurisdiction to hear a suit for divorce filed by persons legally married in another jurisdiction.”
The political establishment in Texas will whip itself into a froth making sure that Callahan is reversed and gay people can return to being second class citizens, just as the Texas voters like it.
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.