Saturday, December 31, 2011

Ray Hill kicks off campaign for Texas House with YouTube videos

This post originally appeared on on December 30, 2011

Ray Hill
As previously reported by Houstini Ray Hill, the iconic and iconoclastic Houston LGBT activist, announced this year that he would challenge ten-term incumbent state representative Garnet Coleman in next spring's Democratic Primary. Hill is running what he calls an "unfunded campaign," relying on social media and support from community members to get his message out.

We haven't heard much about the campaign since Hill filed at the beginning of the month (perhaps he's been distracted by his recent arrest during an attempt to prevent the HPD vice squad from harassing strippers), but Hill seems to have gotten back into the campaign saddle, releasing two YouTube videos about his campaign and why he thinks he's the best choice to represent district 147. The audio's not the best (tip: taping next to a roaring waterfall does not produce the best sound), but in both videos Hill expresses his belief that the common people of the district will vote him into office. Judge for yourself:

Saturday, December 24, 2011

John Lawrence of Lawrence v. Texas Has Passed Away

This post originally appeared on on December 23, 2011

John Lawrence, left, and Tyrone Gardner
Metro Weekly reports that one-time Houstonian John Geddes Lawrence, the "Lawrence" in Lawrence v. Texas, passed away last month at the age of 68:
"In the facts underlying the Supreme Court case, Lawrence v. Texas, Lawrence and Tyron Garner were arrested under Texas's Homosexual Conduct Law after police entered Lawrence's home on Sept. 17, 1998, and saw them "engaging in a sexual act." The couple challenged the law as unconstitutional."
I was 22 and living in Dallas in 2003 when the Supreme Court issued its opinion in Lawrence declaring Texas' law against "homosexual conduct" unconstitutional. A group of more than 100 people gathered in the parking lot of Resource Center Dallas as Dennis Coleman, then with Lambda Legal and now executive director of Equality Texas, read excerpts of the decision. I remember the exuberant electricity in the air, the crowd bubbling with joy and the relief of centuries of official oppression finally coming to an end. Similar get-togethers took place across the state and nation, as an entire community breathed a collective sigh of relief.

That relief has turn to frustration over the years. Although the Supreme Court decision rendered Penal Code Section 21.06 unconstitutional, the law remains on the books, and efforts to remove it have met with significant resistance. During a hearing this spring on finally removing the unconstitutional law, Rep. Jose Aliseda, R-Pleasanton, lamented that repealing 21.06 would also entail removing portions of the Health Code requiring that HIV education efforts include information that "homosexual conduct is not an acceptable lifestyle and is a criminal offense under Section 21.06, Penal Code."

Before Lawrence several attempts were made to remove the law against "homosexual conduct." The Texas Legislature voted to remove it from the penal code as part of a complete rewrite of in 1971, but the measure was vetoed by Gov. Preston Smith. In 1973 the Legislature again undertook a rewrite of the code, keeping "homosexual conduct" a crime but making it a class-C misdemeanor. In 1981 a U.S. District Court ruled in Baker v. Wade that the law was unconstitutional, but as that case was winding its way through the appeals process, the Supreme Court ruled in Bowers v. Hardwick that a similar law in Georgia was constitutional, making the questions in Baker moot. Similarly, in the 90s there was hope that Texas v. Morales might finally prevail in defeating the "homosexual conduct" prohibition, but the Texas Supreme Court decided that since, in their opinion, the law was rarely enforced, there was no reason for them to rule in the matter.

John Lawrence's legacy lives on in a scholarship named after him and Garner that is administered by the Houston GLBT Community Center. The scholarship "recognizes outstanding leadership shown by gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender Texas high school seniors and college students by contributing to the cost of their continuing education. Selection is based upon character and need." Tim Brookover, president of the community center, expressed sorrow at Lawrence's passing.

"John was a hero. The community owes a great debt of gratitude to John and Tyrone for taking the case all the way to the Supreme Court," said Brookover. "They could have easily allowed it to slip away, but they decided to stay and fight and that makes them heroes and role models."

The application deadline for the John Lawrence/Tyrone Gardner Scholarship is March 2, 2012.

Friday, December 23, 2011

Former Houston GLBT Political Caucus President to lead Harris County Democratic Party

This post originally appeared on on December 22, 2011

Former Houston GLBT Political Caucus president and longtime Democratic party activist Lane Lewis was elected to serve as the Harris County Democratic Party interim chair by the County Executive Committee on Tuesday, December 20. Lewis will serve the remainder of outgoing chairman Gerry Birnburg term, which expires in April. Birnburg announced earlier this year that he would step down after the November general elections.Lewis has also completed his filing as a candidate for HCDP chair on the April 2012 primary ballot.
Lewis previously served as president of the Houston GLBT Political Caucus in 1997. He has a long history of advocacy on LGBT issues.

“Words cannot express the profound sense of responsibility I feel right now,” said Lewis moments after his election as HCDP Chair.  “I am grateful so many fellow Democrats have entrusted me to lead during such a pivotal time. We have much work to do over the next several months to get our county and our candidates ready for the November 2012 election.  This enormous task will take the work of current elected officials, precinct chairs and activists working in unison.  My job will be to foster a new vision for our party and work to keep us all focused on our common goal.”

During Lewis’ acceptance speech, he spoke briefly about the direction and his vision for the party.
“A unified effort from every Democrat is the key to winning elections,” Lewis said.  “It’s plain and simple.  The middle class is under attack; the work we do in 2012 will be key to protecting the future and the promise that the American Dream provides.”

Lane Lewis was elected by an overwhelming majority.  He will begin operating the HCDP immediately.

Thursday, December 22, 2011

HCC Board of Trustees unanimously approves trans protections

This post originally appeared on on December 21, 2011

The Houston Community College Board of Trustees unanimously approve trans protections during their regular meeting last week. The measure to include Gender Identity and Expression in the college's system-wide nondiscrimination policy was voted on as part of a group of noncontroversial actions considered by the board.
Lou Weaver, president of the Transgender Foundation of America, attended the board meeting and said the vote happened so quickly, and with so little discussion, that he almost missed it. "As an HCC alumn, I can't express how thankful I am to the HCC Board of Trustees for taking this step," said Weaver. "I look forward to working with the school to ensure that the new policy is fully implemented in a way that insures that members of the transgender community have the same educational opportunities as everyone else."

Saturday, December 17, 2011

"Head Figure Head" more about journalism than about Gov. Rick Perry's sex life

This post originally appeared on on December 16, 2011
Glen Maxey
Head Figure Head, the new e-book from Glen Maxey, details the author's arduous and frustrating six-month effort to investigate rumors of Gov. Rick Perry's gay sex life. Maxey served as executive director of the Lesbian/Gay Rights Lobby of Texas (now Equality Texas) during Perry's tenure as a state representative, later serving for 12 years as a state representative, spanning Perry's time as agricultural commissioner, lieutenant governor and governor. Of all the people who've attempted to look into the rumors of Perry's trysts with men, Maxey is perhaps best positioned to get to the truth, and takes great pains to ensure we are aware of that fact.
The book is the narrative of Maxey's research, assisted by a journalist from a national media outlet. Like almost every character in the book other than Maxey and Perry himself, "the Journalist" is referred to only as a pseudonym. Maxey and the Journalist begin their search for proof in June 2011 as rumors of Perry's impending presidential bid are widely circulating. Immediately the pair find that almost every gay man in Austin has a friend who has a friend who claims to have slept with Perry. For the next three months they track those leads and come excruciatingly close to breaking the story.

In their investigation Maxey and the Journalist meet:
• "James" - who claims to have answered a Craigslist "casual encounters" ad by Perry and come face to face with his armed Department of Public Service escort,
• A "Former Legislator" rumored to have had a sexual relationship with Perry who told a friend he knew for a fact Perry was gay,
• Multiple people who claimed detailed knowledge of Perry's alleged trysts with former Secretary of State Geoff Conner, none willing to go on the record. (The section where Maxey and the Journalist confront Conner at his Bastrop home is particularly thrilling),
• A gay Republican staffer who claims to have lost his job in the Governor's office after rumors of the Perry/Conner affair broke and the office was purged of anyone who was gay, or seemed to be,
• A jogger who claims that Perry hit on him,
• A New York political operative with stories of Perry "disappearing" with a New York City policeman during a reception, and
• "Joey the Hustler," who claims Perry hired him several times.
The story of Joey the Hustler takes up half the book, as Maxey alternates between an avuncular desire to protect Joey from the national spotlight telling his story will create and his thirst to get to the root of the Perry rumors.
Much of the book is direct transcripts of text messages, e-mails and Facebook messages between Maxey, the Journalist and their various contacts. Those who know Glen Maxey only as a venerable political figure may be surprised by the saucy language and frank sexuality of Head Figure Head's unvarnished conversations. In person Maxey comes across as comfortably frumpy, the human equivalent of a Snuggie (the blanket with arms!). In Head Figure Head Maxey emerges as a tireless gumshoe with a heart of gold, a modern day Sam Spade, torn between his quest for the truth and his concern for those involved, particularly Joey the Hustler, who Maxey describes as "shockingly naive."
What emerges is less the story of a hypocritical closeted politician and more a question of the role of the media and the ethics of "outing." Maxey eventually fails to persuade Joey the Hustler to go on the record and the Journalist's publisher will not print the article without Joey's affidavit. At the same time news of Perry's fellow Republican presidential hopeful Herman Cain's multiple alleged infidelities begins to break. The early Cain allegations were based solely on anonymous sources, leaving Maxey, and the reader, to wonder why the burden of proof for same-sex dalliances is higher than for opposite-sex.
Maxey hopes his book will encourage more investigation of Perry's life: "This was the teaser," says Maxey. "Someone in the lame stream media will maybe report now."
"Head Figure Head: The Search for the Hidden Life of Rick Perry" is available for the kindle through

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Book investigates Rick Perry gay rumors

Glen Maxey
This post originally appeared on on December 14, 2011

Glen Maxey, the only out LGBT person to serve in the Texas Legislature, has just released a new book, Head Figure Head: The Search for the Hidden Life of Rick Perry, investigating rumors that Texas governor and Republican presidential hopeful Rick Perry has a history of sexual trysts with men. Maxey used relationships built during his decades of experience in Austin as a legislative aide, state representative and lobbyist to track down firsthand accounts of men who have claimed sexual relationships with Perry contained in the book.
"Head Figure Head" is only available in e-book form via Amazon at this time. A quick e-flip through the pages promises an exciting read.

Friday, December 9, 2011

Iconic LGBT activist Ray Hill files for Texas House seat

This post originally appeared on on December 8, 2011

Ray Hill
Long time Houston LGBT activist Ray Hill filed paperwork this week to run for the 147th Texas House seat against incumbent Garnet Coleman, D - Houston. The iconic (and iconoclastic) Hill said that he and Coleman agree on many issues but that he had "some issues  that aren't on the table in Austin."

Specifically Hill has concerns with the legislature's approach to criminal justice issues. "The Texas legislature is a serial world class red-necking competition," says Hill. "What they are doing on criminal justice is wrong and it doesn't work... we need a serious rethink."

Coleman has a strong history of supporting LGBT legislation. For the last three sessions he has attempted to pass anti-bullying legislation that would require school districts to report instances of bullying using an enumerated list of motivating characteristics that include both sexual orientation and gender identity and expression, he has also filed legislation to remove the the crime of "homosexual conduct" from the Texas penal code (a law that has been declared unconstitutional by the Supreme Court), to equalize age of consent laws in Texas and to add gender identity and expression to the state's hate crime law. In the 82nd legislature earlier this year Coleman authored seven pieces of legislation designed to create greater equality for LGBT people, including the first ever filing of legislation to standardize change of gender marker procedures for the transgender community and the first effort to repeal the state's constitutional prohibition against marriage equality.

Hill recognizes Coleman's historic contributions, "The incumbent and I agree on a lot of issues," says Hill, "but we don't tell young gay people 'if you work real hard and go to school and do your best you can grow up to have straight friends in Austin who like you.' No, we tell them 'if you work hard they can grow up to be Mayor of Houston, or City Supervisor of San Francisco.'"

When asked why the community would be better served by him than Coleman, a 20 year legislative veteran, Hill replies "I understand how government works. A freshman legislator can't do anything more than irritate, but that's about all any member of the minority party can do. On that level the incumbent and I are on the same level... I think we need somebody obnoxious [in the legislature] who's going to purposefully rub the cat hair the wrong direction."

Since being elected to the legislature for the first time in 1992 Coleman has been unopposed in 5 of his 9 primary reelection bids. No primary challenger to Coleman has pulled more than 21% of the vote.

Texas A&M Student Senate passes resolution supporting trans inclusion in nondiscrimination policy

Andrew Jancaric
Andrew Jancaric
This post originally appeared on on December 8, 2011

The Texas A&M Student Senate recently passed a resolution supporting the addition of gender identity and expression to the attributes currently covered by that university system's nondiscrimination policy. The policy already includes sexual orientation.

The action by the Student Senate stands in stark contrast to a resolution passed by the same body last year supporting legislation in the Texas House to defund campus LGBT resource centers, that resolution was later vetoed by the student body president. The nondiscrimination resolution's author, Andrew Jancaric, says it's no coincidence that the student senate has done such an about face. "Certain members who supported resolution [to defund LGBT resource centers] are gone," says Jancaric. "I wasn't involved in student government until I saw what my representatives, the people who were supposed to be representing me, were trying to do." He adds that many students were spurred to action by what they saw as a misrepresentation of the Aggie spirit. "We saw what they were doing and thought 'this is a problem that we have, we need to get involved to change the dialogue.'" According to Jancaric over 90% of the student senators supported his nondiscrimination resolution.

Jancaric is working with allies in the Faculty Senate and Graduate Student Council to pass similar resolutions. He says the next step will be to begin a lobbying campaign with the A&M system Board of Regents and Chancellor, who oversee the statewide A&M university system and its 100,000 students.

Jancaric acknowledges that A&M is not the most LGBT friendly school (last year the Princeton Review ranked it the least friendly public university in the nation for GLBT students). "It's an institution that's steeped in it's traditions as an all male military school. There's a culture of masculinity. That has been an obstacle towards equality." At the same time he feels that fighting for LGBT equality at A&M is vital. "I believe that equality needs to happen everywhere," says Jancaric. "If we leave instiutions like A&M alone in the corner to fester we won't achieve it."

Thursday, December 1, 2011

25 ways to fight AIDS

This article originally appeared on the Dallas Voice's Houstini Blog.
Today, December 1, is World AIDS Day.

Wait! Before you click the ‘next’ button or scroll down your news feed hear me out: The LGBT community has been living with AIDS for three decades now. For people of my generation the message to get tested and use condoms has been stated and restated so many times that it has faded into the background with the result that, all too often, people do not take the steps they need to to protect themselves. Harris County is responsible for 30% of the new HIV/AIDS diagnosis in Texas and men who have sex with men account for 64% of newly diagnosed men statewide. The threat is not over, the fight is not over, AIDS still endanger the LGBT community.

But I don’t want to just talk about just condoms and testing (as important as they are). Fighting HIV/AIDS is easier than you might think. I present to you 25 ways, in no particular order, to fight AIDS in Houston.

25. If you’re over a certain age talk to a young LGBT person about how your life has been affected by HIV/AIDS. You might be surprised how eager we are to hear your stories.
24. If you’re under a certain age listen to an older LGBT person tell you how HIV/AIDS has affected their lives. I know you aren’t eager to hear their stories, but listen anyway. You may find that learning the history of your community is more empowering than you’d expect.
23. If you are a sexually active gay man or transgender woman participate in the Baylor College of Medicine’s HIV Vaccine Study.
22. Ask your local public or school library to put books about HIV/AIDS on the shelf, not just in the back room where they have to be requested. Access to accurate information is crucial in fighting the spread of the disease.
21. Post HIV/AIDS stories to facebook.
20. Ask your clergy person what your community of faith is doing to fight the pandemic.
19. Sign up for action alerts from the Texas HIV/AIDS Coalition at
18. Actually follow through when the action alerts from the Texas HIV/AIDS Coalition arrive in your in-box.
17. Volunteer for organizations that deal with communities at high risk for infection: high school dropouts, victims of sexual assault, the poor, the homeless and sex workers. Fighting AIDS means fighting the injustice in our society that all too often contributes to new infections.
16. Say AIDS out loud.
15. Ask political candidates what they will do to continue funding to fight HIV/AIDS.
14. Once they’re elected, ask those candidates why they aren’t doing more to continue funding to fight HIV/AIDS.
13. Remind yourself that it’s OK to be tired of hearing about HIV/AIDS.
12. Thank a person who volunteers their time to the fight.
11. Take a moment to remember the people we’ve lost.
10. Take a moment to think of the people we may loose if this pandemic isn’t stopped.
9. Take a HIV/AIDS healthcare worker to dinner.
8. Wear a red ribbon.
7. Recognize that wearing a red ribbon isn’t enough.
6. Work with communities other than your own. HIV/AIDS effects us all.
5. Get angry.
4. Get over your anger.
3. Donate to an HIV/AIDS Charity.
2. When you pass a mobile HIV testing center, thank the workers.
1. Don’t pretend the fight is over, and don’t let other people pretend it’s over either.

Saturday, November 19, 2011

'The Response' returns, but without Perry

This post originally appeared on on November 18, 2011.

Remember "The Response"? The amalgam of Republican Party politics and  right-wing anti-LGBT "Christianity" Gov. Rick Perry used to launch his presidential campaign is back, but this time without Perry. The event's organizers, including Southern Poverty Law Center recognized  hate group the American Family Association, have announced they plan to hold four more prayer rallies modeled on the August event in Houston, but are being careful to distance themselves from partisan politics in general and Perry's flagging presidential campaign specifically:
"Though Governor Rick Perry initiated The Response in Houston, these upcoming state-wide gatherings will not be affiliated with any particular presidential candidates. The Response is committed to prayer above politics, to seeing the church moved to stand for righteousness and to pray for God's mercy for America."
Perry continues to sag in the polls, and his recent gaffes and apparent lack of basic English language skills make him an increasingly unattractive candidate for Republican voters, so it's not surprising to see the Response scurry to flee the sinking Perry ship.
At the same time the locations of the four mini-Responses are interesting: Iowa, South Carolina, Florida and Arizona. All are key states during the Republican primary. So while The Response may have ditched Perry it's clear that at least one of the things they're praying for is a viable Republican presidential candidate.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Firefighter's Widow appeals ruling on Marriage

 This post originally appeared on on Nov. 15, 2011
Capt. & Mrs Araguz in happier times
The widow of a Wharton, TX firefighter killed in the line of duty has taken her fight to defend the validity of her marriage to a Houston court room. Nikki Araguz, whose husband Capt. Thomas Araguz died in a July 4, 2010 blaze, lost the first round of her legal battle earlier this year when Wharton Judge Randy Clapp ruled that Mrs. Araguz's marriage invalid because her original birth certificate identified her as male.

Last week Araguz appeared before Presiding Hearing Officer Jacquelyn Coleman in Houston in hopes of having Judge Clapp's ruling overturned. The pertinent question in the case is whether Araguz is female, as her current birth certificate, Texas issued driver's license and other legal identity documents identify her; or male as her now amended original birth certificate identified her. If the appeals court finds that Araguz is legally male then her marriage to Capt. Araguz is invalid under Texas' constitutional prohibition on marriage equality.

"At stake in this important case are the rights of transsexual people to be respected for who they are and to have their marriages recognized,” said Kent Rutter, the lead attorney for Araguz in the civil rights appeal.
Opposing Mrs. Araguz in court is Capt. Araguz's ex-wife, Heather Delgado. Delgado sued to have the Araguz's marriage declaired void so she would recieve widow's benefits available to surviving spouses of firefighters killed in the line of duty. Delgado claims that she needs the benefits to provide for her two children with Capt. Araguz. Children of fallen firefighters receive separate benefits from surviving spouses including financial support and tuition to Texas state schools. Capt. Araguz's children receive these benefits regardless of the outcome of Delgado's suit against Mrs. Araguz.

"I am pursuing this case to defend my marriage,” said Araguz.

The court's ruling is expected before the end of the year.

Friday, November 4, 2011

Chronicle blogger blames ‘It Gets Better” project for LGBT teen suicides

Kathleen McKinley
This post originally appeared on on November 3, 2011.

Kathy McKinley is a self-described “conservative activist” who blogs for the Houston Chronicle under the monicker “TexasSparkle.” In a recent post McKinley took the “It Gets Better” project to task for what she believes is their culpability in the suicides of LGBT teens:
“These kids were sold a bill of goods by people who thought they were being kind. The “It will get better” campaign just didn’t think it through. They didn’t think about the fact that kids are different from adults. They handle things differently. They react differently. Why? BECAUSE THEY ARE KIDS. You can grumble all day long how unfair it is that straight teens can be straight in high school, and gay kids can’t, but life is unfair. Isn’t the price they are paying too high?? Is it so much to ask them to stand at the door of adulthood before they “come out” publically? Because it may save their life.”
McKinnley’s primary confusion about the “It Gets Better” campaign (other than its name) is the assumption that the goal is to encourage teens to come out of the closet, or encourage them to become sexually active:
“Why in the world would you give teenagers a REASON to tease you? Oh, yes, because the adults tell you to embrace who you are, the only problem? Kids that age are just discovering who they are. They really have no idea yet. The adults tell you to “come out,” when what we should be telling them is that sex is for adults, and there is plenty of time for figuring out that later.”
I would like to encourage Ms. McKinley to watch the “It Gets Better” project’s founder Dan Savages’ video. Please, Ms. McKinley, listen, and tell me if you hear Savage or his partner Terry say anything about teens coming out or having sex. I think what you’ll hear them say is that all of the things that most kids, gay and straight, dream of (falling in love, starting a family, having the support of their parents, co-workers and friends) are possible for LGBT teens. I think you’ll hear them talk about how difficult their teen years were, and about the fears they had that their parents would reject them, that they’d never find success and that they’d always be alone.

Choosing to have sex is one of the most personal decision a person will ever make. For LGBT people, choosing to come out is another. I have not watched all of the thousands of videos from people who have participated in the “It Gets Better” project. It’s possible that there are a few that tell kids to come out right away, or to become sexually active, but I doubt it.

Every video in the project that I have seen has had the same simple message: that the person making it understands how tortuously awful the experience of being Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual or Transgender in Junior and High School can be, but there is a wonderful world of loving, vibrant, successful, engaged LGBT adults out there and if queer teens can just hang on, just for a few years, they can join it. I doubt that any of the contributors to the project think that hanging on for a few years will be easy. I suspect that most of them remember, with excruciating clarity, contemplating ending those temporary years of terror with a permanent solution and that is why they choose to reach out.

I grew up without role models, where people like Barbara Gittings, Bayard Rustin and Harvey Milk didn’t exist . I grew up in a small town where the two men with the pink house were talked about in hushed tones that immediately fell silent when I walked into the room, because it wasn’t appropriate for children’s ears. I grew up in a world where my mother wouldn’t tell me what “gay” meant, where the evening news was turned off if it reported on the AIDS crisis, where I wasn’t given words to describe who I was, and so the only word I could find was “alone.”

I was lucky. My suicide attempt failed.

I was lucky, I survived, and went to college, and found a church that embraced and loved LGBT people. That’s where I met doctors and lawyers and business owners and teachers who were like me. That’s where I met two wonderful women who had built a life together for over 50 years. That’s where I discovered I wasn’t alone and that being gay didn’t mean that i couldn’t have all of those things I’d dreamed of.
That is what McKinley missed in her blog post. In her haste to lay blame on anything other than the overwhelming prejudice perpetuated by schools, churches and governments against LGBT people McKinley missed the fact that kids need role models. In her rush to shove queer teens back into the closet she forgot that human beings need the hope of a better world, lest they give up in despair.

McKinley got one thing right in her post. She titled it “Are Adults Also To Blame For Gay Teen Suicides? Yes.” Adults are to blame for LGBT teen suicides. When adults hide the stunning diversity of God’s creation from their children they create a vision of reality that some of those children can’t see themselves in. When adults tell LGBT teens that they should be invisible then it is all too clear who is to blame when those teens believe them, and take steps to make themselves invisible permanently.

To all the LGBT kids out there: it does get better. There are adults who care about you and want all the wonderful things you dream of to come true, but you have to hang on. If you need to keep who are secret to remain safe then do so. If you need someone to talk to please call the Trevor Project at 866-4-U-Trevor (866-488-7386).

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

WATCH: Anti-gay pastor accuses Mayor Annise Parker of promoting 'GLBT agenda for Houston'

This post originally appeared on on Oct. 25, 2011
If LGBT Houstonians needed another reason to run, not walk to the polls, this video from mayoral candidate and Houston Area Pastor Council Executive Director Dave Welch should provide it:
The video, complete with soundtrack appropriate to the third act of a Lifetime original movie, attempts to suggest that Mayor Annise Parker, who is seeking re-election to a second term, has engaged in an insidious plot to advance the "gay agenda." As evidence Welch provides the mayor's executive order clarifying that the city's employee nondiscrimination policy covers gender expression and identity, an executive order policy prohibiting police or city employees from barring transgender people from use of gender appropriate restrooms, and the appointment of Texas' first out trans judge, Phyllis Frye (maybe Welch meant to say "trans agenda"). Welch also attacks Parker for the Greater Houston Convention & Visitors Bureau efforts to attract LGBT tourists, a tactic we've already seen in this race from candidate Fernando Herrera.

Welch's most damaging evidence, however, is the chaste, almost Victorian, peck on the check that Parker gave her partner of 20-some-odd years, first lady Cathy Hubbard, immediately after being sworn in. The horror of the kiss is repeated twice in the video, both times in slow motion so viewers can understand the true terror of two people in a loving mutual relationship. Welch closes by encouraging viewers to show the video at their churches.

Early voting in the Houston mayoral race started Monday. Early numbers show historically low voter turnout with only 2,557 people voting in person. That's down almost half from the 4,089 people who voted on the first day of early voting in 2009 when Parker was first elected.

Monday, October 24, 2011

From the people who brought you Legislative Queery, it's

Thank you so much to everyone who has made Legislative Queery such a success.  When I started this blog a year and a half ago I was unemployed and living in a new city. This website was started so that I could "keep my hand in" the goings on at the state capitol and, more or less, to keep myself busy.  I have been humbled by people's response to this project, and the opportunities it has created for me. 

One of those opportunities was writing a weekly column during the legislative session on LGBT legislative issues for the Dallas Voice's Instant Tea Blog. That relationship has developed into my latest project. I am very excited to announce the launch of my newest project,  The new site, produced in partnership with the Dallas Voice, will cover LGBT life, art and politics in Houston and around the state.

Legislative Queery still lives!  This site will continue to offer the same hyper-nerdy, detailed writing on goings-on under the pink dome, but I hope that you will also make a point of checking out Houstini, and following me on this journey. Become a fan of Houstini on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Thank you all for your support and encouragement.


Friday, September 30, 2011

GUEST BLOGGER, Lou Weaver: Let Your Voice be Heard

Lou Weaver, president of the
Transgender Foundationof America,
and Daniel Williams, the nerd who
Lou Weaver is the president of the Transgender Foundation of America, based in Houston, TX.  Lou expressed to me his amazement that any member of the transgender community would not vote, but explained that some felt their vote did not matter and others felt that as trans Texans they would not be welcomed at the polls.  I encouraged him to write an open letter to the community, which follows:

Dear friend,

I write in hope of encouraging you to vote this year.

At every level, Politicians need to hear from their constituents. They need to be aware that they have transgender people in their districts, and they need to be aware that those transgender people vote.

I used to think that my one vote couldn't make a difference. Through my service at Transgender Foundation of America, the Houston GLBT Political Caucus and with the friends I have made in the past couple of years I have come to realize that I can and do make a difference, but only if I work to make my voice heard.

Remember HB 723 this spring? The bill that would have endangered the marriage of every trans person in Texas? The bill that we kept from going to a vote by calling and visiting our State Legislators over and over again? I do. I will always remember the pride I felt knowing my community stood up for something they believed in. We won because we were able to show elected officials that we were paying attention, and that there would be consequences to their actions.

If you are worried about voting and showing id that might not match, try early voting at the West Gray location; that's what I did last time. No questions were asked.  I'm not trying to endorse any particular candidates or party. I want to encourage everyone to let their voice be heard because we can not afford to be silent and have others determine our future.

Thanks for your time,

Lou Weaver,
Board of Directors,
Transgender Foundation of America

Friday, September 23, 2011

A Moment of Silence for Asher

From Equality Texas:

Today, September 23, 2011, marks the one-year anniversary of the bullying-related suicide of Asher Brown, a 13-year-old who was bullied and harassed in the Cy-Fair ISD in Houston.
Marking the one-year anniversary of Asher's death, his parents, David and Amy Truong, invite people from around the world to join them in a moment of silence to honor and support every child who has been the victim of bullying and every child who continues to be the victim of bullying.

Before taking his life, Asher was a target of frequent bullying for being Buddhist, for his disabilities, for being perceived as gay, and for just not being "cool enough."

The family plans to spend the day in meditation and prayer in commemoration of their son's life and death.  They ask that you join them in a moment of silence at 8:00 p.m. in remembrance of all children who have lost their lives due to bullying, including Asher.  They also ask that you think about and pray for those who bully, as it is vital to our roles as parents, adults, and educators to teach them and to care for them as well.

In addition to honoring Asher's life, his family seeks to use this commemoration as an opportunity for healing - to come together as a unified community in an environment of understanding, compassion, love, support, and generosity of spirit.

Join us in a moment of silence to remember those we have lost because they were not safe, and to support those who still live in fear.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

GetEqual invites Texas Legislators to "Come Out for Marriage Equality"

Iana Di Bona and Isaac Brown from GetEQUAL TX take a trip to the State capitol to invite our State Representatives to "Coming Out for Marriage Equality" which will be happening statewide in a local city/town near you. Please take a stand and join us October the 15th 2011 for the repeal of DOMA, the repeal of 2005 Prop 2, and amending Texas Family Code to include marriage equality.
To find out more and which one is nearest to you go to

NSFW: Pool Campaign Sign Vandalized, Is Anti-Trans Bias to Blame?

Houston's historic "gayborhood" of Montrose is home to an active street art community that often sparks conversations about whether graffiti is art or a crime, but the recent vandalism of a Jenifer Rene Pool sign along the busy thoroughfare of Westheimer begs the question "is it art or a hate crime"?

Art, hate crime or overzealous supporters?
I've never been much good at art criticism, so it's hard (natch) for me to tell what the intended message of this graffiti is.  It's possible that the person who painted this is saying that all politicians are metaphoric "dicks," but it's difficult for me to view this and not think that the message is directed specifically at Pool, an out and proud transgender woman. The subtext would seem to be that any person who is presumed to have been born with a penis continues to be male regardless of surgical intervention or actual gender.  The choice to dress the penis in a business suit (traditional male attire) and to have him point at an euphemism for male genitalia suggest that the gender one is assigned at birth should be rigorously enforced.  The large red "X" through "At Large Position 2"conveys a message that it is inherently inappropriate for a transgender person to run for public office, regardless of their qualifications.

Overzealous Dick Supporters
Of course it's also possible that this is just another one of those "overzealous supporters" that Pool's opponent Eric Dick keeps blaming for his illegally placed signs on top of utility poles.  Maybe the warnings from the city and utility companies to the Dick campaign have persuaded them to take another tactic and simply re-purpose other candidate's signs, who knows?

I can't know what the intention of the person who vandalized Pool's sign was, but the message I received was that trans people should shut-up and stay out of public life.  Fortunately I know Jenifer Rene Pool well enough to know that some anonymous graffiti is not enough to send her running. Jenifer has diligently served this city for years: sitting on the Building and Standards Commission and the Mayor's Blue Ribbon Panel on Buildings and Standards, serving three terms as president of the Houston GLBT Political Caucus, and working as a board member for the Houston Transgender Unity Committee and the Diversity Committee of the Human Rights Campaign-Houston. She's encountered tougher obstacles than some punk with a can of spray paint... and won.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

"Equality Project" Returns to Houston

The Equality Project is coming to the University of Houston on Saturday, October 1st. The Equality Project is a public education program on policy issues and their effect on Texas citizens designed by Equality Texas. The Project also trains participants to establish relationships with their state representatives and senators, and to advocate for policy changes with their elected officials.

Learn more about employment nondiscrimination, relationship recognition, LGBT-parented families, hate crimes, bullying & harassment, gender marker changes, public accommodations, and other pertinent issues. Also learn how easy it is to have a one-on-one conversation with your elected officials and their staff. Discover how empowering it is to realize that, as a constituent, you have the right to be heard!

Attendance is free (lunch provided), however advance registration is required. You can register on-line HERE.

I am honored, once again, to be asked to lead this training, which is being presented by the LGBT Advocates at the University of Houston. The training begins at 10 am and runs til 4 pm.  Most of the day is spent with "hands-on" exercises and roll-playing designed to make people comfortable (and effective!) when communicating with elected officials.

Lou Weaver, president of the Transgender Foundation of America, attended the Equality Project Training last January when it was last offered in Houston and said that the experience was critical this last spring when the trans community was fighting SB 723, a bill that could have invalidated the marriages of trans Texans.  "I learned a ton about how the Texas legislative branches work," said Lou. "It made everything make sense, and taught me how to speak to Representatives."

The Equality Project is taught by a network of volunteer trainers around the State.  If your organization would like to host a training contact Equality Texas to find out how.

Shapiro Will Not Seek Re-election to Senate, Paxton To Seek Seat

Florence Shapiro
State Sen. Florence Shapiro (R-Plano) announced yesterday that she will not seek re-election to the Texas Senate.  Shapiro, who has served in the senate since 1993, told the Texas Tribune that she is in  final negotiations for a job with a Texas Based education company.

Shapiro currently serves as chair of the Senate Education committee, a crucial bottleneck for any legislation dealing with anti-bullying efforts in Texas.  Her support of both HB 1942 (the "super" anti-bullying bill) and HB 1386 (teen suicide prevention) during the 82nd regular legislative session last spring was crucial to both bills passing.  Shapiro also voted in favor of legislation by Rep. Garnet Coleman (D-Houston) that made the Texas HIV Medication Advisory Committee statutorily permanent.

Historically Shapiro's support of the LGBT community has been limited to bills which did not explicitly acknowledge the existence of Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual or Transgender people (for example the two anti-bullying bills mentioned above).  In 2001, when the James Byrd Hate Crimes Act was debated in the Texas Senate, Shapiro offered an amendment that would have completely rewritten the legislation to remove an enumerated list that included "sexual preference" as one of the characteristics bias against which would allow prosecutors to pursue tougher sentences.  The amendment failed.  When the Senate finally voted on the bill, with the enumerated list intact, Shapiro was one of 10 Senators who opposed it. Shapiro also supported both the 2003 "Texas Defense of Marriage Act" and the 2005 constitutional amendment prohibiting marriage equality in Texas

Rep. Ken Paxton (R-McKinney) has announced he will run to replace Shapiro. Paxton has served in the House since 2003. Since legislation in Texas must pass both the House and Senate in order to become law his long career creates an opportunity to compare his voting record directly against Shapiro's.  Like Shapiro, Paxton opposes marriage equality, but his opposition to LGBT equality extends further. In the 19 record votes on LGBT issues taken during Paxton's 8 year career he has consistently voted against the community on all but one vote. In 2007 Rep. Coleman attempted to amend the state budget to require schools receiving state funds to file reports documenting instances of harassment or discrimination on the basis of an enumerated list of characteristics that included sexual orientation and gender identity and expression.  Paxton was out of the room at the time the vote was taken, but his opposition to even reporting that LGBT students were being bullied (let alone doing anything to stop it) was so strong that he entered a note in the official House record explaining that, had he been in the room, he would have voted against Coleman's amendment.

Paxton's record reveals an elected official who will oppose any legislation that even hints at being good for LGBT people. While Shapiro is by no means a staunch ally of the community her potential replacement by Paxton would be disastrous for future attempts to achieve equality.

Author and former Air Force Pilot Scott O'Grady has also announced plans to run for Shapiro's seat. O'Grady is new to electoral politics but has been courting Tea Party support since last year, speaking at various DFW area events.  O'Grady's campaign has not made a public statement regarding his positions on LGBT issues.

Monday, September 12, 2011

Equality Texas Action Alert: Support Domestic Partner Benefits in San Antonio

An action alert for San Antonio residents has been issued by Equality Texas:

San Antonio City Manager Sheryl Sculley has included provision for domestic partner (DP) benefits in the City of San Antonio's operating budget. There really should be no controversy here. Unfortunately, there has been vocal opposition to the City Manager's proposal.  The San Antonio City Council will vote on the budget, and the provision for domestic partner benefits, this Thursday, September 15th.



Talking points and a link to an automatic e-mail generator on Equality Texas' website.

Christian Draws Primary Opponent

Wayne Christian
"I'm one fellow that was racially discriminated against. See back in the 70s I was on the first team in basketball at high school my sophomore and junior years. We integrated my senior year and I rode the bench because I couldn't play as good as they did."
-Wayne Christian (R-Center)

Rep. Wayne Christian (R-Center) has drawn an opponent in next spring's Republican Primary. Christian (who LQ ranked as one of the ten worst Texas house members on LGBT issues), has served as the Representative from House District 9 since 1997 (with a brief break in 05-06 to pursue a fruitless bid for Congress).  Christian has historically performed well in general elections (in 2010 more people in District 9 voted for him than for Gov. Perry or Lt. Gov. Dewhurst) and handily won contested primaries in '06, '08 and '10.

Chris Paddie
His newly declared challenger in the Republican primary, Chris Paddie, is a relative political newcomer.  The general manager of Marshall, TX radio station KMHT, Paddie was elected to the Marshall city council in 2010 and currently serves as Marshall's mayor.  'Mayor' is, perhaps, a bit of a misnomer however. Marshal elects its city council members from eight single-member districts.  Each member serves for two years with half of the members up for re-election each year.  The council then elects, from among its members, a mayor who presides over city council meetings.  The day-to-day business of the city of Marshall is handled by a City Manager who answers to the council.  So Paddie's previous election experience is running for city council in a small slice of a small town, a far cry from running in the six county District nine.

District nine is strongly Republican, and the winner of the Republican primary is all but certain to win the seat. So the primary race should be looked at the same way a general race would be considered in a competitive district. Burka has posted information from the Paddie campaign suggesting that the district, under its newly drawn lines may be primed for a challenge to continued Christian incumbency.

If anyone needs to be reminded why LQ ranked Wayne Christian one of the worst members of the Texas House on LGBT issues the quote at the top of the page should serve as a reminder.  Christian was the driving force behind efforts during the 82nd regular and special sessions to defund or ban from state college campuses resource centers that serve LGBT college students (the blindly racist quote was his response to charges that his legislation was discriminatory). Christian's seniority also provides him with an entrenched seat on the House Criminal Jurisprudence Committee, the committee through which any effort to repeal Texas' unconstitutional law against "homosexual conduct" must pass.  Christian, along with freshman Rep. Jose Aliseda (R-Beeville)  (who recently announced he would not seek re-election) were, thanks to their possitions on the committee, the most effective opponents of repeal in the 82nd legislature.  Both of these members being absent from the committee next session would dramatically improve the chances of repeal.

What of Paddie?  Is there anything to indicate that he would be any more supportive of the LGBT community than Christian?  It's difficult when dealing with such a political neophyte to draw conclusions.  Paddie describes himself as a "social conservative," which does not bode well.  His daily radio talk show backs up that assertion, although reviewing hours of tape from the show has yet to turn up anything overtly trans/homophobic.

The Texas House has an extremely steep learning curve.  Most freshman find themselves overwhelmed by the byzantine process and breakneck speed. It often takes new members four to six years in office before they are able to effectively navigate the system and successfully pursue their policy initiatives. Additionally seniority is incredibly important in the House, determining things as insignificant as seating arrangements in the chamber and as important as committee assignments. Even if Paddie is just as maleficent in his approach to LGBT issues as Christian (and it's hard to imagine anyone being more so) his inexperience and lack of seniority would make him a less effective foe than his predecessor.

Christian's departure from the legislature can only be a good thing for queer Texans.  This may be the one situation where the devil you don't know is better than the devil you do.

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Former Congressman, Gubernatorial Candidate, Joins Equality Texas Board

Equality Texas, the largest statewide organization working to advance LGBT equality in the Texas Legislature, has announced the appointment of three new board members, including former Congressman Chris Bell of Houston.

Chris Bell
Chris Bell previously served as the U.S. Congressmen from Texas' 25th district and a Houston City Council Member. In 2006 he was the Democratic candidate for Governor of Texas. While in Congress he co-sponsored the 'Permanent Partners Immigration Act' which sought to give bi-national same sex couples the same consideration in immigration issues that opposite-sex couples receive.

"I have always been an advocate for equality and I'm excited to join the organization doing the most to make it a reality in Texas," Chris said upon his appointment to the board.

Also appointed to the board are Gary Carter of San Antonio and Wade Hyde of Dallas. Carter and Hyde will also serve on the board of the Equality Texas Foundation. (The foundation is the 501(c)3 non-profit arm of Equality Texas; Equality Texas is an advocacy and lobbying organization organization, the Equality Texas Foundation does not engage in lobbying but educates and engages the public on policies and their effect on Texans of all sexual orientations and gender identities and expressions.)

Gary Carter
Gary Carter owns and operates the Castroville Cafe, and has served as President and Vice-President of the Castroville Area Chamber of Commerce. For the past several years, Gary has been one of the driving forces behind the success of Equality Texas' Spirit of Texas Brunch in San Antonio.

Gary said, "I am proud of our ongoing efforts to raise awareness in San Antonio of the important work being done by Equality Texas. I look forward to continuing those efforts as a board member."

Wade Hyde
Wade Hyde is a published writer and columnist, a member of the National Writers Union, and currently serves as an adjunct instructor of marketing at El Centro College in Dallas.

"There's no question that Equality Texas has accomplished some remarkable feats in our state over the past few years," Hyde said. "As a new board member, I'm excited to be able to help this great organization accomplish even more in the next few years."

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Is a Republican House Member Hosting a Fundraiser for Dallas' Pride Parade Grand Marshall?

Ben Cohen
Dallas' Pride Parade, The Alan Ross Freedom Parade, is September 18. The parade's "special VIP Guest" is English rugby star Ben Cohen, whose StandUp Foundation works to raise awareness of the long-term damaging effects of bullying. Cohen, who is straight, was inspired to create the foundation after hearing from LGBT friends about the difficulties they experienced. "I am passionate about standing up against bullying and homophobia in sports," says Cohen, "and feel compelled to take action. It is time we stand up for what is right and support people who are being harmed."

In honor of Cohen the week leading up to the parade, September 12-16, has been declared "Stand Up Against Bullying Week" in by Dallas Mayor Mike Rawlings. According to this Facebook event the week will culminate in a fundraiser for the StandUp Foundation on Friday night at the Highland Park Home of Jim Pitts.

Jim Pitts
Rep. Jim Pitts (R-Waxahachie), is chair of the powerful Appropriations Committee and a 20-year Republican member of the House... which begs the question of whether the Jim Pitts who is hosting Cohen's event is the same Jim Pitts who supported efforts this last session by Wayne Christian (R-Center) to ban LGBT resource centers from Texas College Campuses.

A search of the Dallas County Central Appraisal District's website indicates that the address given for the fundraiser is owned by Pitts 2007 Properties LTD, which is a subsidiary of Pitts Property Management LLC, which is owned by none other than Jim R. Pitts, the honorable representative from House District 10.

So it seems that Rep. Pitts is, indeed, hosting the event: for which I give him kudos. The StandUp Foundation does good work and Ben Cohen is, by all accounts, a fierce advocate for the LGBT community. Hosting the event is in keeping with Pitts' voting record this last session, he voted for both HB 1942 (the "super" anti-bullying bill) and HB 1386 (the teen suicide prevention bill).

I would ask, however, that Rep. Pitts consider his votes on other issues and how they effect bullying in Texas schools. It's not enough to say that LGBT kids shouldn't be bullied or harassed if your actions tell their tormentors that LGBT kids aren't as deserving of respect or resources as other people. There is a direct line running through Christian's statements on the House floor calling LGBT people disgusting and the middle school student who punches an effeminate child for being a "fag." When Pitts fails to stand up to the former he enables the later. This inconsistency, this willful refusal to see the systemic discrimination faced by LGBT adults as the license that allows the torture of LGBT children, is, in ways both figurative and literal, killing our children - and it has to end.

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Quintanilla's Departure May Create Opportunity for More LGBT Friendly House Democratic Caucus

Chente Quintanilla
Burnt Orange Report reports that five-term State Representative Chente Quintanilla (D-El Paso) will not run for reelection to his district 75 seat. Quinanilla has announced his intention to run for the El Paso County Commissioner's Court.

District 75 is in Eastern El Paso County. The district is strongly Democratic (during the 2010 election every democrat who ran for statewide office won House District 75). Quintanilla ran unopposed for the seat last year and has easily won re-election in the past (in 10 years in office his worst showing was in 2006, when he received a mere 66% of the vote). The changes to the district's borders made by the 82nd Legislature make it more rural, and slightly more Republican, but there is no reason that a Democrat shouldn't win HD 75 in 2012. Even under the new district lines gubernatorial candidate Bill White still won HD 75 in the 2010 elections (perhaps the most Republican-friendly election in Texas History).

Quintanilla's departure means that there will likely be a new Democrat in the 83rd Legislature. For LGBT Texans that may be a good thing. Quintanilla has a spotty record on LGBT issues. He supported both the statutory and constitutional provisions prohibiting marriage equality and in 2005 voted for an amendment that would have prohibited LGBT people from serving as foster parents. During the 82nd legislative session Quintanilla pointedly stayed out of the debate on efforts to defund or ban LGBT resource centers from Texas State Universities, choosing instead to be "present, not voting."

The only LGBT issue Quintanilla performs well on is anti-bullying efforts. He has historically supported Rep. Garnet Coleman's (D-Houston) efforts to require districts to report instances of harassment or discrimination using an enumerated list that includes sexual orientation and gender identity and expression and voted for both HB 1942 (the "super" anti-bullying bill) and HB 1386 (teen suicide prevention), although neither bill specifically recognized the existence of LGBT students or that they are particularly the targets of bullying.

Quintanilla's unwillingness to support LGBT-specific legislation, or to defend the community from direct attacks, earned him an F on Legislative Queery's 82nd House Scorecard. He actually scored lower than Houston Republican Sarah Davis.

To my knowledge no one has announced a bid to replace Quintanilla. With the district in flux the LGBT constituents of District 75 have a prime opportunity to seek out a friendly candidate and support their bid. The balance of the Texas House is at stake.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Race for Chisum's House Seat Heating Up

The Lubbock Avalanche-Journal reports that Canadian, TX School Board President Ken King has announced he will enter the Republican primary for Texas House district 88, currently represented by Warren Chisum (R-Pampa). During the closing hours of the 82nd Legislature's special session, Chisum announced he would be leaving the post, which he has held for 22 years, to run for Railroad Commissioner. You may remember Chisum as the architect of Texas' version of the so-called "Defense of Marriage Act" barring recognition of same-sex marriage in Texas.

King (not to be confused withe the Polyester actor of the same name), has a key ally in his fellow school board member, and successful commodities trader, Salem Abraham. Abraham, grandson of the late Rep. Malouf Abraham (R-Canadian), has already formed a political action committee to support King's candidacy. His considerable resources, both as a successful trader and as an heir to his grandfather's oil and natural gas fortune, and his prominence as a local philanthropist in Canadian make Abraham's support invaluable.

(Incidentally, The Canadian School District Student Code of Conduct expressly prohibits students from engaging in verbal abuse that involves "ethnic or racial slurs," but has no similar protections for abuse based on sexual orientation or gender identity and expression. It will be interesting to see whether the school board avails itself of the anti-bullying resources that will now be available to it under HB 1942 (82-R) - the "super" anti-bullying bill passed this spring.)

Jim Landtroop
King will face freshman Rep. Jim Landtroop (R-Plainview), who currently represents district 85. After the Legislature redrew the district borders this spring Landtroop's home county of Hale was moved to district 88, it is the only county from Landtroop's previous 16 county district in the new district 88. Landtroop is a proven fundraising powerhouse. He raised over 1 million dollars during the last election cycle in his successful bid to unseat Joe Heflin (R-Crosbyton).

As a member of the 82nd Texas Legislature Landtroop initially supported HB 1942 (the "super" anti-bullying bill) before switching his position on the bill's final House vote. He also supported HB 1386 the teen suicide prevention bill. Unfortunately Landtroop's limited support for anti-bullying efforts is strongly outweighed by his positions on overtly homophobic legislation. He was a co-author of HCR 110, Paul Workman's (R-Austin) ill conceived attempt to pressure the Obama administration to defend section 3 of the federal "Defense of Marriage Act" in court. (Section 3 of DOMA prohibits the federal government from recognizing same-sex marriages from jurisdictions that permits them.) He also consistently supported Wayne Christian's (R-Center) legislation to either defund or outright ban LGBT resource centers from Texas college campuses.

Gary Walker
Also in the race is former Representative Gary Walker (R-Plains) who represented district 80 from 1997 to 2003 before redistricting forced him to run in the primary against Delwin Jones (R-Lubbock), Walker lost the race. Walker was one of just 13 House Republicans (along with Chisum) who voted for the James Byrd Jr. Hate Crimes Act, which provides a mechanism for enhanced penalties for some crimes committed biased on a bias against the victims real or perceived "sexual preference."

District 88 is strongly Republican (since Chisum switched to the Republican Party in 1995 no Democrat has run in the district), so the winner of next spring's Republican primary is all but certain to win the seat. Under the new House maps District 88 cuts an enormous 17 county swath across the Texas panhandle. The three candidates: Landtroop, King and Walker, are distributed from one end of the district to the other. Between Landtroop's proven fundraising skills; King's backing by Abraham and the sheer challenges of campaigning over such vast geography, this could easily become the most expensive primary of the 2012 House election season.

The New District 88 with Candidate's Home Towns

View House District 88 in a larger map (locations are approximate)

Monday, August 22, 2011

Elections Matter: Family Court Judge Limits Rights of Gay Father

The Houston Chronicle reports that 309th Family Court Associate Judge Charley Prine has issued a custody order forbidding gay father William Flowers from leaving his children in the care of any male to whom his kids are not related by "blood or adoption." The order includes Flower's husband, Jim Evans.

From the Chronicle post:

"When William and his ex-wife divorced in 2004, they agreed that their three children would live with her. Wanting to change the arrangement, William recently filed for custody in Harris County. A jury found that she should keep the kids, though his regular visitations would continue. Neither William nor his ex-wife alleged that the children had been abused or were in any danger of being abused.

Following the trial, Harris County Associate Judge Charley E. Prine, Jr. issued a ruling which included an injunction applicable only to William. It prohibits him from leaving his children alone with any male to whom the kids are not related by “blood or adoption.” So if, for example, William wants to visit his mother in the hospital (where she’s been for several weeks), he can’t leave his kids at home with his husband. As written, the injunction also prohibits male doctors, teachers and pastors from being alone with the children.

Attorneys who practice family law in Texas point out that in cases of abuse, it is common for courts to prevent children from being alone with specific people. But those same lawyers say that they’ve never heard of a case in which a step-parent or long-term partner is permanently enjoined from being alone with his or her step-children when abuse is not even alleged, let alone proven. No lawyer consulted for this story has ever heard of an order which prohibits children from being left alone with an entire gender."

Texas Family Code Sec. 201.001 allows Family Court judges to appoint associate judges to assist them with their case load (this practice was started in 1986 to help address back-logs in child custody cases). Prine was appointed to his position last January by Family Court Judge Sheri Y. Dean who was elected as a Republican last November by the people of Harris County after originally being appointed to the post in 2010.

Dean beat her Democratic opponent, Bill Rice, by 78, 342 votes or 9.8% of the 798,995 people who voted in the election. But here's the deal, 1,917,534 people were eligible to vote in that election, and most of them didn't. Even more frightening 42,621 of the people who did vote in the election didn't bother to vote in Dean's race.

It can be easy to forget about all those names down at the bottom of the ballot, the family court judges and criminal court judges and justices of the peace, but it's those people who form the front line of our government. If we ignore that front line people like Judge Dean and Judge Prine can move in and take over- with disastrous results (as this case shows).

So how's the educated queer voter to know for which of the seemingly fungible bottom-of-the-ballot candidates to vote? Most major cities in Texas have nonpartisan LGBT groups like the Dallas Gay and Lesbian Alliance or the Houston GLBT Political Caucus (which endorsed Dean's 2010 opponent, Bill Rice). These groups
screen candidates' positions on LGBT issues and endorse accordingly. If your area doesn't have such an organization, or you don't trust the endorsement process of your local group, you have a responsibility, as a voter, to research each race and discover the candidates' positions. This is easier than you might think, any serious candidate will have a phone number or e-mail where they can be reached and should answer any questions you have.

What we, as LGBT Texans, cannot do is abandon these beachheads of democracy to people who either don't care about us, or (in the case of Prine) are openly hostile to our families and relationships. Every vote (and every election) matters.

Friday, August 5, 2011

Trailblazer Phyllis Frye is no Stranger to "Responding" to Out-Of-Town Bigots

The responses to "The Response" (Gov. Perry's rally at Reliant Stadium spearheaded by hate group the American Family Association) are already underway. The LGBT Texans Against Hate Rally in downtown Houston tonight was a rousing success and all over Houston people are buzzing about how they plan to welcome Perry and his extremist allies tomorrow.

One of the responses to "The Response" is the LGBT Trailblazers Luncheon hosted by the Democratic Party of Harris County. The Luncheon tomorrow morning will recognize Mayor Annise Parker, Houston City Council Member Sue Lovell, Judge Steven Kirkland, Judge John Paul Barnich, Judge Phyllis Frye, and Linda Morales for their contributions to the LGBT community and the world at large.

Frye, you may remember, became Texas' first out transgender judge (and only the third in the country) last November when she was appointed to the municipal bench by Mayor Parker, but her role as a prominent activist and community leader stretches back to the 1970s. Back then Houston had a "mask law" that allowed the police to arrest anyone whose attire didn't match the gender they were assigned at birth. The law was so strict that women were forbidden to wear pants that zipped up the front (which the police used to raid lesbian bars and round up patrons wearing blue jeans). Because of the mask law Frye risked arrest every time she left the house dressed as a woman.

Which makes this Jan 1978 from the now defunct Houston Post all the more amazing:
1977 Houston Post article
Provided courtesy of the Houston Transgender Archive, the article covers a rally held in response to Anita Bryant's appearance at the Farm Bureau Federation of America meeting in Houston. Bryant was a former beauty queen and singer who in 1977 formed the "Save Our Children" campaign in a successful effort to overturn a Boward County Florida ordinance prohibiting discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation.

The article reads "A surprise speaker was a transvestite [sic] named Phyllis who said he [sic] was braving arrest by appearing "cross-dressed" in public."

In 1981 Frye's efforts to repeal Houston's mask law paid off and the ordinance was taken off the books. Thirty years later the woman who risked arrest to speak against Anita Bryant's visit to Houston will be honored by the Democratic Party of Houston as a LGBT Trailblazer in an event specifically designed to rebuff another out-of-town visitor who has come to Houston to advocate for the oppression of the LGBT community: Rick Perry.

Tickets to the Trailblazers dinner are still available. More information is available HERE.