Monday, March 29, 2010

Equality Texas's 'State of the State Conference"

From the Equality Texas Website:

The Equality Texas Foundation presents its biennial State of the State Public Policy Conference, a conference dedicated to educating and engaging the public about policy issues and their impact on the lives of Texans. The Conference will take place:

Saturday, April 17, 2010
8:30 am - 4:00 pm
Legislative Conference Center
Texas State Capitol Building
1100 Congress Avenue
Austin, TX 78701

The conference will include a full day of panel discussions, plus two plenary sessions for all attendees. Each panel focuses on a policy issue in Texas and integrates a variety of voices on each issue. The panels comprehensively address and educate on the impact of public policy on Texans and present approaches to public policy that render positive results.

The State of the State Public Policy Conference will directly impact attendees' ability to educate others on public policy as it relates to sexual orientation and gender identity/expression, and the effect of policy on the lives of Texans.

The conference is a natural precursor of the 2011 Legislative Session, offering perspective, education and opportunities across the state for successful policy work. After the conference, the Foundation's affiliate organization, Equality Texas, will utilize the information gained to focus on policy-shaping for the 2011 session.

The event is supported by the Harvey Milk Society at the Lyndon B. Johnson School of Public Affairs and the Gender and Sexuality Center at the University of Texas.

Attendance is free! Advance registration is required. Register here and participate in efforts to change Texas's public policies.

Saturday, March 27, 2010

David Dewhurst, Lieutenant Theater Critic

Lieutenant Governor David Dewhurst has weighed in on the controversial play “Corpus Christi” which was to be performed at Tarleton University today according to the Texas Tribune.

“Texans don’t deserve to see their hard-earned tax money used to debase their religion. This lewd display runs completely contrary to the standards of scholastic excellence and common decency that we demand in our publicly-funded institutions for higher learning.”

If you haven’t been following the story, a Tarleton State University (which is part of the Texas A&M system) theater major choose to produce the play, by Texas Native Terrence McNally, as part of a class assignment. Corpus Christi tells the story of a modern day gay man whose life closely parallels that of Jesus Christ.

In sensationalist fashion the press has described it as depicting a “Gay Jesus” which has gotten the right wing all aflutter, to the point that the school announced last night that the production would be halted for “security reasons”.

Which brings me to my point: As a public official Dewhurst took an oath to uphold the laws of Texas, one of which is a law against “Terroristic Threats”:

Penal Code Sec. 22.07. A person commits an offense if he threatens to commit any offense involving violence to any person or property with intent to… influence the conduct or activities of a branch or agency of the federal government, the state, or a political subdivision of the state.

In fact, it’s a third degree felony.

I have to believe that if the threats were severe enough to cause the cancelation of the play, that they are severe enough to investigate and prosecute.

I’m certain that what Lt. Gov. Dewhurst meant to say was that as he is sworn to uphold the laws of the State of Texas he is calling on the Stephenville Police to fully investigate the crime. I’m sure a corrected statement will be issued shortly.

By the way, the number for the Stephenville police department is 254-918-1200.

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Support pro-equality Texas Reps in this online poll!

In an effort to create a Democratic house majority in the Texas House state senator Kirk Watson has created an online poll which allows anyone to vote for their favorite democratic incumbent. The winner of the poll will have $10,000 donated to their re-election campaign.

The poll is here:

For those of us who care about equality in Texas this provides a unique opportunity to reward state reps who voted against the Texas version of the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) in 2005 (The bills number was HJR 6).

Of the 28 reps in competition:
5 voted against the Texas DOMA (These are the good guys!):
Lon Burnam
Jessica Farrar
Abel Herrero
Eddie Rodriguez
Senfronia Thompson

5 voted for the Texas DOMA:
Mark Homer
David Leibowitz
Jim McReynolds
Patrick Rose
Yvonne Gonzalez Toureilles

3 voted against the Texas DOMA, but for reasons other than supporting Marriage Equality (Texas allows reps to put their reasons for voting in the record, I’ve excerpted them here):

Jim Dunnam - “I fully agree that the institution of marriage should be limited to one man and one woman. I supported the Defense of Marriage Act, which is current Texas law. If that were the issue before us today, I would vote the same way again. However, in its continuing zeal to protect the institution of marriage, the legislature now infringes on the contractual rights of both men and women. For example, common-law marriages between men and women are in essence civil unions—but the Chisum Amendment bans civil unions between men and women—and not solely between individuals of the same sex. This is an unnecessary and improper governmental intrusion into the rights of individuals.”

Scott Hochberg - “[Texas DOMA] limits the rights of men and women to contract with each other if the agreement or agreements they sign are "similar" to marriage, even if the agreements are between one man and one woman. That provision goes well beyond the original proposal, which was simply to define marriage. There was no justification offered as to why we would want to limit agreements between a man and a woman in our Constitution.”

Hubert Vo – “I voted against HJR 6 because I believe the State of Texas already recognizes a marriage as only between a man and a woman. While children in hardworking Texas families are going without health insurance and the number of students who receive the Texas Grant—the real Texas Enterprise Fund—has been cut, the Texas House of Representatives should not waste valuable time and state resources to pointlessly change the Texas Constitution. When I ran for office I promised to focus on education, health care, and economic development. I will not vote for meaningless legislation while these truly important issues are not being given adequate consideration.”

1 was in the legislature in 2005, but did not vote on the Texas DOMA:

Veronica Gonzalez “I believe in marriage being between a man and a woman, and I would have preferred to have voted simply on that, especially since that is existing law. But Representative Chisum added a ban on civil unions—possibly even common law marriages—even though he denies that. I do not believe in banning civil unions. For that reason, I voted in favor of the amendments that would have protected these unions. Because HJR 6 was too vague and went too far, I could not, in good conscience, vote for it. Because I believe in marriage between a man and a woman, I didn t’ vote against it. Instead, I joined several of my colleagues in entering a vote of present, not voting.”

14 weren’t in the legislature in 2005:
Valinda Bolton,
Ellen Cohen
Roland Gutierrez
Joe Heflin
Donna Howard
Carol Kent
Diana Maldonado
Robert Miklos
Joe Moody
Solomon Ortiz
Paula Pierson
Kristi Thibaut
Chris Turner
Allen Vaught

You can read the record of the vote here: