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The Texas Government’s Invasion of LGBT Citizens – A glance at #txlege in the wake of Jade Helm 15

May 19, 2015 By: jaysays Category: Discrimination, LGBT News

Interior view Texas Capital BuildingPerhaps there are a few people in the world who haven’t ridiculed the Texas Government for its antics at some point in time, but those people likely have no internet access or TV, and probably no interest in state government.  I dare not trace the long history of embarrassing political posturing by Texas lawmakers, but I can summarize in three words, Jade Helm 15.

Presently, the Texas legislature is comprised of a substantial Republican majority. IN the Texas Republican Party Platform, the party holds, in part:

“Homosexuality is a chosen behavior that is contrary to the fundamental unchanging truths that have been ordained by God in the Bible, recognized by our nation’s founders, and shared by the majority of Texans. Homosexuality must not be presented as an acceptable alternative lifestyle, in public policy, nor should family be redefined to include homosexual couples. We believe there should be no granting of special legal entitlements or creation of special status for homosexual behavior, regardless of state of origin. Additionally, we oppose any criminal or civil penalties against those who oppose homosexuality out of faith, conviction, or belief in traditional values.”

This legislative session, the Texas GOP has done its best to limit access to rights and benefits bestowed on other Texans.  To facilitate an understanding of the status of each of the below bills, and for the sake of simplicity, I’ll break the below down into the following bill stages used by Texas Legislature Online:

  • Stage 1: Filed
  • Stage 2: Out of Senate/House Committee
  • Stage 3: Voted on by Senate/House
  • Stage 4: Out of House/Senate Committee
  • Stage 5: Voted on by Senate/House
  • Stage 6: Governor Action
  • Stage 7: Bill is law

Below is a listing of proposed legislation that target LGB and/or T people in Texas, with very special thanks to the people of Equality Texas for their hard work, both in tracking the bills and in working on the ground to oppose them.  Frankly, there is no way I could have sorted through every bill introduced and compiled such an exhaustive list without the benefit of the resources and listings on their website and much of the information below has been consolidated from their pages.  Each bill number cited is a link to the history of the legislation. For convenience, I’ve included the present status next to each bill, however, the status may change after the date of this publication.  Once you follow the links, you can then click on the “Bill Stages” tab for additional information.

License to Discriminate Legislation – Constitutional

These bills would allow individuals and religious institutions to disregard laws based on religious belief

License to Discriminate Legislation – Statutory

Would create a right of refusal for any business to violate local non-discrimination laws if the business owner believes that serving a customer whose marriage the business owner dislikes would violate that business owners religious belief.

Would allow religious institutions that receive tax-payer dollars to use those funds to discriminate against the public and would allow clergy persons employed by the government or private employers to disregard non-discrimination policies if they claim that providing service to all members of the public equally violates their religious practice:

Would prevent churches or other religious institution, or clergy person acting in there official capacity as a religious leader, from celebrating, recognizing or serving a person that the institution or person’s religious belief calls on them to shun.

Would create a new class of law suits that may be brought against governments or employers that require work environments that do not discriminate on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity or expression.

Would allow a faith-based agency, or an employee at an agency, to sue a governmental entity that requires the tax-payer funding provided by that entity for child welfare to be distributed without bias based on sexual orientation or gender identity or expression.

Repeal of Local Non-Discrimination Ordinances

Would take away the ability of local governments (cities and counties) to pass or enforce non-discrimination ordinances.

Anti-Marriage Legislation

Would punish state employees who follow the law by issuing marriage licenses to loving couples.

Would remove the power from locally elected county clerks and places it with the secretary of State, who would be able to disallow the issuance of marriage licenses in counties whose clerks complied with court orders requiring the issuance of licenses.

Would exempt the State of Texas from U.S. Constitutional requirements, defying the nation’s supremacy clause.

  • HB 4105 – Stage 2 (failed to be voted on by House as time ran out)

In part, would refuse funding to maintain governmental offices that may be required by court order to recognize equal access to marriage.

No Need to Pee – Bathroom Use Criminalization

Would amend the definition of “disorderly conduct” to make it a crime for transgender Texans who have not been fortunate enough to correct their official gender markers to use public gender- segregated space appropriate to their gender identity or expression.

Would create two new offenses: making it a state jail felony for most business owners if they repeatedly allow a person who has at least one “Y” chromosome to enter a space designated for women, or a person with no “Y” chromosome to enter a space designated for men; and making it a Class “A” misdemeanor for a person with at least one “Y” chromosome to enter a space designated for women or a person without a “Y” chromosome to enter a space designated for men.

  • HB 2801 – Stage 1 (no committee action taken).

Would force school districts to assume student’s biological sex and restrict access to gender-segregated spaces based on that assumption.

Would amend the definition of “Class B misdemeanor” to make it a crime for transgender Texans who use the restroom or locker room that does not match their “biological sex” and creates civil liabilities for a business that permits transgender people to use their restrooms of up to $2000.

Retirement Benefits Refused for Same-Gender Spouses

Would attempt to supersede federal law at the state level and exempt Employee Retirement Income Security Act (ERISA)-governed pension plans administered by governmental entities in Texas from the requirement to recognize all legal marriages.

If you’re like most of us, you may be wondering what all that means to the state of LGBT affairs in defeating anti-LGBT legislation.  Let’s just say it’s been a bitter-sweet victory thus far.  Time is quickly running out for the Texas Legislature to enact more laws against LGBT Texans. The 84th Regular Texas Legislative Session ends on June 1, 2015, so time is running out, and has run out, for many of the above listed bills.

That doesn’t mean LGBT Texans can fully celebrate, but we can breathe a sigh of cautious relief.  Under Texas law, the Legislature can be reconvened for a Special Session called by the Governor at any time and for any reason.  In some cases, special sessions have been called the same day they occur, which if a special session is called to further attack LGBT Texans, we may have little, if any, notice.

North Carolina Pollsters Complete Ballots with “YES” on Amendment 1

May 08, 2012 By: jaysays Category: Headline, Marriage Equality

Huffington Post and others have been reporting possible voter fraud in North Carolina, including ballots that exclude Amendment 1, which bans same-sex marriage and domestic partnerships.  This, however, takes the cake when it comes to intimidating voters:

I was given a ballot that was already filled out for Amendment One.  I made them give me a new one. – N. King

"I was given a ballot that was already filled out for Amendment One.  I made them give me a new one."

The Facebook Photo that Will Break your Heart

April 25, 2012 By: jaysays Category: Discrimination, Headline

In spite of being legally married in the U.S. State of Iowa, Inger Knudson-Judd and Philippa Knudson-Judd don’t get to spend much time together or with their 12 year old daughter.  In fact, prior to this most recent 5 week visit, the couple hadn’t seen each other in 6 months.  Why?  The Defense of Marriage Act (“DOMA”) allows the Federal Government to refuse to recognize Inger and Philippa’s marriage and Philippa is not a U.S. citizen.  These stories are all too common.

In early April, 2012, five same-sex couples who are not able to obtain green cards for their foreign-born spouses filed a lawsuit challenging DOMA’s prohibitions against gay couples petitioning for legal status for their spouses.  Victoria Neilson, legal director for Immigration Equality who is leading the charge, stated that their group has asked that the Obama Administration to change these policies, or at least suspend green card applications rather than rejecting them until DOMA challenges can be resolved.  Neilson explained:

We have recently gotten a definitive no from the administration on that request, so we sort of feel like we’re at the end of the line on advocacy. Our next step is to take it to the courts.”

Which brings us to the photo.  Yesterday, Inger had to drive her wife to the airport after a five week visit and they don’t know when they will next see each other.  So when I opened my Facebook news feed, I saw this photo from Inger:

Inger and Phillippa say Goodbye

Inger and Philippa say Goodbye

And my heart broke.

Via Wipe Out Homophobia on Facebook, Inger released this response:

We have a 12 year old daughter and so are trying to do things the legal way…, but [we] have hit road blocks every step of the way. *** It is really hard to hold your family when their hearts are breaking, my arms just aren’t that long. After 4 1/2 years of trying to find a solution, nothing has changed.

Some say that DOMA protects families, but does this family look protected?  These are the faces of our families; this is the real suffering caused by discrimination.

How Dare You Protest A President During an Election Year – An Historical Perspective

April 23, 2012 By: jaysays Category: Discrimination, Featured, Thought of the Gay

Alice Paul - Mr. President How Long Must Women Wait for Liberty
“Mr. President How Long Must Women Wait for Liberty”

About a hundred years ago, then Governor of New Jersey, Woodrow Wilson remained *undecided* on the issue of women’s suffrage.  Although he was a dedicated progressive, taught at a women’s college and had two daughters who were suffragists, his opinions were still evolving on whether or not women should be allowed to vote. Giving women the right to vote, it was argued, would lead to federal interference in elections and, *GASP* voting rights for African Americans.  Thereafter, Wilson became President of the United States, and his position on women’s voting rights remained ambiguous during his first term.

A parallel can be drawn between then-President Wilson and now-President Obama.  Although President Obama’s stance on human rights (more particularly gay marriage) is evolving, one cannot truthfully say that President Obama supports full LGBT equality.  In fact, President Obama, in spite of stating during his 2008 campaign that he would sign an Executive Order prohibiting federal contractors from discriminating in employment based on sexual orientation and gender identity, has now refused to do so.  Further, even though he declared support for ENDA, he failed to fiercely demand it when the House and Senate had “hope” of passing the legislation.

The Suffragists of the Congressional Union (later known as the “National Woman’s Party” [NWP]) began staging petition drives and demonstrations to get President Wilson’s attention and demand he endorse the right of women to vote. At first, these demonstrations were largely met with bemusement and condemnation.  In spite of the demonstrations and petitions, Wilson failed to act.  The NWP stepped it up a notch and threatened to actively campaign against Wilson and the Democratic Party during the 1916 election.  But war broke out in Europe and the issue of peace became more important to many, but not all, of the suffragists, and they in turn supported the re-election of Wilson.

When the United States joined World War I, many thought the demonstrations by the suffragists would come to an end, believing that no one would dare protest a war-time President.  However, the NWP continued its demonstrations outside the White House, including chaining themselves to the White House fence. They were met with great hostility from both men and women, many of whom had also been and perhaps were still suffragists.  Banners were torn from their hands, they were spit on, insulted and demeaned all because they refused to bow to an establishment which ignored them – or worse, treated them with hostility.  They were arrested and often jailed for substantial lengths of time on trumped up charges, but their actions made headlines around the world giving momentum to their cause.  The suffragists who were more moderate took advantage of their more radical counterparts and presented themselves as a more obvious alternative.  This rebel/reformer approach is discussed in detail in Bill Moyer’s book Doing Democracy: The MAP Model for Organizing Social Movements.

Fast forward again to 2012: Many LGBTQ organizations have also stepped it up notch to demand President Obama take action to protect employees from discrimination.  Leading the way in this endeavor is the grassroots organization GetEQUAL, which is best known for protest actions that lead to arrest, including chaining members to the White House fence and blocking Las Vegas Boulevard. Like the suffragists, these more radical activists are facing severe criticism of their tactics from the “more moderate” human rights groups; however, the mantra is slightly changed. No longer is the criticism because of war-time, but because this is an election year for President Obama.

Like Wilson, Obama’s position on LGBT equality is ambiguous in many respects.  For example, Obama has clearly stated that he does not support marriage equality, but that he supports equal rights for LGBT people under the law.  Some LGBT advocates argue that this is his way of winning the upcoming election, at which point he will “evolve” on the subject of marriage equality, while others see it as mere subterfuge and the President putting his own safekeeping ahead of the safety of the people he represents.

Many LGBT bloggers have condemned the actions being taken by GetEQUAL and others as a childish, fame-seeking approach to activism that will result in the election of Mitt Romney.  Some have gone as to declare that our “real enemies” are out there and we should go after those “real enemies.”  This attitude assumes that a person who does not support marriage equality and who has failed to take action to protect workers from unfair discriminatory practices is not a “real enemy.”  But the assumption goes far further – it assumes that these activists are “going after Obama,” when they are clearly designed to defeat the injustice created when another campaign promise by the LGBT’s “fierce advocate” was broken.

While many remain content to be beaten as long as the blows don’t break the skin, I for one prefer not to be beaten at all.  That is not criticism of my reformer friends who are accepting of the blows of the President without question, but it is where I stand within this equation as a rebel.

“When you are right you cannot be too radical; when you are wrong, you cannot be too conservative.” – Martin Luther King Jr.

Bully Attacks Attendees at Anti-Bullying Rally

April 04, 2012 By: jaysays Category: Youth Issues

Flour Bluff School District came under fire last year when its Superintendent refused to allow a Gay Straight Alliance to form on campus. After significant pressure and national media attention, the District tentatively allowed the group to form.  This year, the failures of the administration are again coming into the spotlight.

Teddy Molina, a 16 year old student at Flour Bluff High School, took his own life this past weekend after enduring the wrath of a gang of football players known as “The Wolfpack.”   Although Flour Bluff administrators deny knowledge of The Wolfpack, students have indicated that teachers are certainly aware of the gang and have even asked them to remove their Wolfpack t-shirts in the past.

Teddy was familiar with the Wolfpack.  After being tormented by the group, Teddy turned to his parents.  They withdrew him from Flour Bluff High School shortly before his untimely death.  Some students have stated that the Wolfpack threatened to invade Teddy’s home and harm his mother and sister if “He didn’t do something about himself.”

Of course, none of the accusations can currently be proven, but there is one thing that is clear – Flour Bluff, like many school districts, has a bully problem.

In fact, at an anti-bullying rally this afternoon, things turned violent. One of the students, alleged to be  member of The Wolfpack gang, jumped from the SUV driven by his father and began attacking rally attendees, including family members of Teddy and other students. The gang member’s father, Tommy Martin, accused rally attendees of throwing rocks at them as they passed by.

Video of attack.

Koby Ozias, a District Lead for GetEQUAL TX,  was present. According to Koby, the rally had been going for approximately 2 hours prior to the attack. Several students had noted that members of The Wolfpack gang had been driving by and flipping off the crowd, but no other incidents had occurred.  When the attackers hit children, several rally attendees fought back, while others attempted to seperate the grieving family from the assailants.

After the attack, police demanded the rally attendees leave the site. Although attendees complied, they hope to plan another event for tomorrow.

Macy’s Store Fires Employee for “Religious Beliefs” – or Does It?

December 08, 2011 By: jaysays Category: Discrimination, Featured

The Macy’s store at Rivercenter Mall in San Antonio, Texas, recently came under fire for its termination of Natalie Johnson, who was employed by Macy’s until a few days before Thanksgiving. Ms. Johnson refused to allow a transgender woman to use the lady’s fitting room. According to the organization representing Ms. Johnson, Liberty Counsel, she was fired for her religious beliefs. To clarify, they argue she was fired for being Christian.

Blog posts and comments abound, telling the story of the oppressed Natalie. Most of the stories indicate that Liberty Counsel is a pro-Christian rights organization, a claim which is designed to sway the public to rally behind a suspect class: the religious. But Liberty Counsel is anything but pro-Christianity. Their purpose has not historically been to walk in the steps of Christ, but instead to demand our government provide them, as moral superiors, with the infinite power to bend others to their will.

In her recent address in honor of Human Rights Day, Secretary of Defense Hillary Clinton highlighted these sorts of religious justifications for discrimination noting:

The third, and perhaps most challenging, issue arises when people cite religious or cultural values as a reason to violate or not to protect the human rights of LGBT citizens. This is not unlike the justification offered for violent practices towards women like honor killings, widow burning, or female genital mutilation. Some people still defend those practices as part of a cultural tradition. But violence toward women isn’t cultural; it’s criminal.

But even though Liberty Counsel wants you to believe this is about Ms. Johnson’s religion, it is not. Liberty Counsel is not a “Christian rights group,” but rather an organization devoted to preventing the human rights of LGBT people. According to the Southern Poverty Law Center:

In 2009, J. Matt Barber, formerly with Concerned Women for America and Americans for Truth About Homosexuality…, joined Liberty Counsel as director of cultural affairs (also becoming Liberty University’s associate dean for career and professional development). A year earlier, Barber had argued that given “medical evidence about the dangers of homosexuality,” it should be considered “criminally reckless for educators to teach children that homosexual conduct is a normal, safe and perfectly acceptable alternative.”

The Counsel also has been active in battling same-sex marriage, saying it would destroy the “bedrock of society.” In 2005, the group’s blog said: “People who … support the radical homosexual agenda will not rest until marriage has become completely devalued. Children will suffer most from this debauchery.” A 2007 blog posting said same-sex marriage would “severely impact future generations.”

Like other anti-gay groups, Liberty Counsel argues that hate crime laws are “actually ‘thought crimes’ laws that violate the right to freedom and of conscience” — an opinion rejected by the Supreme Court.

The claims by Liberty Counsel are not a declaration of freedom, but instead further desperate attacks by a group of people protected by Federal Non-Discrimination Laws (religious people), on a group that is not (transgender people).  Freedom of religion is a protection from worshipping as one chooses, not from forcing your opinions on others.

Texas Democratic Executive Committee Gambles Away Human Rights

November 22, 2011 By: jaysays Category: Discrimination

David Trevino stifles his anger long enough to smile for the camera.

From protest of ousted Bexar County DP Chair, Dan Ramos.

The Texas State Democratic Party bowed to fear this past week when the Executive Committee met to vote on proposed primary ballot referendum.  In a move that silenced one of the most staunch populaces aligned with the Democratic Party, the LGBTQ community, Texas Democrats voted 33-22 to exclude a marriage equality referendum on the 2012 Democratic Primary ballot.  However, legalizing gambling will be on the ballot.

According to a press release received from Dan Graney, President of the Texas Stonewall Democrats, arguments against including the marriage equality measure were:

  1. The Republicans will go after us on this.
  2. This will negatively impact on our Democratic candidates.
  3. What if the measure should fail?

As to the first argument, the Republicans are going after the Democrats anyway.  All that was accomplished by excluding even a chance for marriage equality in Texas was that Democrats were silenced and we will now see Democrats going after Democrats in Texas for their blatant disregard for their own party platform, which states:

Democrats believe that we all have a part to play in promoting equality and protecting Americans against discrimination, and we continue to work vigorously toward greater freedom and equality in America.

Working vigorously toward greater freedom apparently means bowing to political pressure, fear and intimidation, as is noted by the second opposition view that supporting freedom and equality will negatively affect Democratic candidates.  In this instance, the lack of integrity and moxy will do more to negatively impact candidates than standing up for your party values EVER would have.

Perhaps the most disturbing argument presented in keeping marriage equality off of the primary ballot is the argument, “What if the measure should fail?”  For that, I turn to other thinkers and provide the following motivational quotes:

“The men who try to do something and fail are infinitely better than those who try nothing and succeed” – Lloyd Jones

“Every accomplishment starts with the decision to try.” – Unknown

“Courage doesn’t always roar. Sometimes courage is the quiet voice at the end of the day saying, “I will try again tomorrow.” – Mary Anne Radmacher

“Try and fail, but don’t fail to try.” Stephen Kaqqwa

“Most of the important things in the world have been accomplished by people who have kept on trying when there seemed to be no hope at all.” – Dale Carnegie

“The worst thing one can do is not to try, to be aware of what one wants and not give in to it, to spend years in silent hurt wondering if something could have materialized – and never knowing” – David Vicsott

“I am not judged by the number of times I fail, but by the number of times I succeed: and the number of times I succeed is in direct proportion to the number of times I fail and keep trying.” – Tom Hopkins

“You may be disappointed if you fail, but you are doomed if you don’t try.” – Beverly Sills

“There is no comparison between that which is lost by not succeeding and that lost by not trying.” – Francis Bacon, Sr.

Try as I might, I was unable to find any motivational quotes encouraging people not to try.  However, I was able to find a quote by an unknown person that sums up my feelings toward the Texas Democratic Party:

Fuck you for giving up on me.

Demand for Dan Ramos’ Resignation Escalating – Protestors Hit the Fund Raisers

March 18, 2011 By: jaysays Category: Discrimination, Headline

David Trevino stifles his anger long enough to smile for the camera.
David Trevino stifles his anger long enough to smile for the camera.

Yesterday evening, about 2 dozen lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people, along with their allies, stood in front of the Granada Homes building where the “Proud Democrats” were hosting a fund raiser for the Bexar County Democratic Party (“BCDP”).  Dan Ramos has previously announced that he would attend the event; however, he did not show up and organizers claim he was not invited.  It seems though, that in Bexar County, there is no reason to be proud of being a democrat under Ramos’ leadership.

The Chair of the BCDP, Dan Ramos, recently made numerous disparaging remarks about LGBT people, disabled people and the plight of the African American Community in their quest to obtain equal representation under the law.  Since that time, a vast majority of the BCDP’s Executive Committee and Steering Committee have been demanding his resignation as Chair claiming his comments violated the rules of the party and were outside the scope of the Democratic Platform, which states:

We believe in and support the repeal of discriminatory laws and policies against members of the gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender community.

But Dan Ramos isn’t listening to the Board or the people of Bexar County and beyond.  In a press conference early yesterday morning, he refused to resign and reiterated his position that gay people are like, “white termites who have infiltrated the party much like termites infiltrate your house.”

Last night’s protestors were met mostly with support by those attending the fund raiser; however, a few people stood up against our plea for Dan Ramos’ resignation.  In fact, the President of the organization, Jose “Joe” Gallagos, came out to tell the protestors that it was our fault so few people showed up at the fund raiser – (Hey Joe, it couldn’t possibly be because the people don’t want to give money to homophobia and racism, though, could it?

Perhaps most surprising was an accusation from an African American attendee.  She was furious with the protestors as she walked up claiming that those that want Dan Ramos removed are “the whites.”  Yet one of Dan Ramos’ choice comments in his tirade was, “I go back to an old very well-used slogan: blacks wanted to get their way because they were black.”  While I find the comment terribly offensive and degrading to the work of Martin Luther King, Jr., Malcolm X, Bayard Rustin, Rosa Parks, and many more heroes of the 1960’s Civil Rights Movement, the sentiment wasn’t echoed by this objector as one would expect.

Another objector was a resident of Granada Homes (which serves as a retirement community and Banquet Hall).  She wasn’t upset that we were calling for Dan Ramos’ resignation, but instead felt we were blocking the doorway (which we were not).  However, we started talking with the lady a bit about Mr. Ramos’ disparaging remarks against the disabled people – particularly kids born with Polio legs and not being able to kill them or sweep them under the rug.  This struck a chord with the lady and she told us her own story of being taunted for being Hispanic by a fellow resident who claimed, “You Hispanics are nothing but the dirt under my feet.”  We explained that we felt as angry as she does about the comments made by Dan Ramos and she departed with a bit more understanding of us.

One supporter immediately made me think of Will Phillips, who once said, “My generation is the change they fear the most.”  Bobby, who appeared to be no more than 14 years old, and his friend were walking by the protest and noted our signs.  They stopped, inquired and joined us for a short time.  Bobby, a resident of Ft. Worth, Texas, was in town with family and was offended when he learned of Dan Ramos’ comments.  I asked Bobby what made him stop and join us.  In his social studies class in school, Bobby had wanted to take a poll of students about how they felt about Gay Rights.  His teacher felt the subject would meet with parental disapproval and refused to allow Bobby to do the project.  Bobby noted how “upset” he was that he couldn’t even ask questions of his peers about the issue, and decided he should stand with us to denounce Dan Ramos.

Dan Ramos’ comments don’t just reflect on Dan Ramos (although that’s the message the BCDP is desperately trying to relay to the public).  Rather, they reflect on the BCDP as a whole.  The BCDP is desperately seeking money to pay off the near $200,000 debt owed to the county after a nasty embezzlement charge, yet their only official spokesperson is making horrible accusations and disparaging remarks against a large part of the democratic base.  So I ask you dear readers – would you give money to an organization that is spewing hate?  I believe the answer is no – and neither will I.

Speaker Boehner’s Office has Petitioners Arrested Violating 1st Amendment of Constitution

March 09, 2011 By: jaysays Category: LGBT News, Marriage Equality

Activists at John Boehner's OfficeToday, five activists from GetEQUAL Ohio, a direct action LGBT rights group associated with the national organization, GetEQUAL, were arrested while attempting to deliver a petition to Speaker of the House John Boehner at his office in Columbus.

The petition, which urged the Speaker to focus on job creation rather than using tax payer money to defend the unconstitutional Defense of Marriage Act (“DOMA”), contained over 33,000 signatures.

Upon arriving at the office, the group was locked out and denied their First Amendment right to petition the government.  Not to be deterred in their representation of those who should be treated equally under the law, five members of GetEQUAL OH began reading the names of the petition signers in front of the office while others participated in a demonstration on the sidewalks.  Shortly thereafter, they were arrested for “trespassing” and removed from the premises.

Speaker Boehner sent a clear message with these arrests: the U.S. Constitution has no value to him, his office or our government.  It is undeniable that citizens of the United States have a right to petition their government.  Such right falls squarely within the First Amendment and is a fundamental right enjoyed by all Americans.  The right can be simply defined as “the right to present requests to the government without punishment or reprisal.  This right is guaranteed in the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution” (History Central, 1).

If Speaker Boehner is willing to violate the rights afforded within the “Bill of Rights” there is no reason he will not continue to deny the rights provided by the 14th Amendment, which is the portion of the Constitution that deems DOMA unconstitutional.

Call, write, email or visit (at your own risk) Boehner’s office and demand an immediate apology for continually violating the rights of Americans.  Tell him to focus on creating jobs as the Republicans promised instead of using tax payer money to defend unconstitutional government policies.

Those arrested include: Sean Watkins, Morgan Bonney, Jesse Bonney, Liz Mills and Karay Miller (pictured).

Today, five activists from GetEQUAL Ohio, a direct action LGBT rights group associated with the national organization, GetEQUAL, were arrested while attempting to deliver a petition to Speaker of the House John Boehner at his office in Columbus.

 

The petition, which urged the Speaker to focus on job creation rather than using tax payer money to defend the unconstitutional Defense of Marriage Act (“DOMA”), contained over 33,000 signatures.

 

Upon arriving at the office, the group was locked out and denied their First Amendment right to petition the government. Not to be deterred in their representation of those who should be treated equally under the law, five members of GetEQUAL OH began reading the names of the petition signers in front of the office while others participated in a demonstration on the sidewalks. Shortly thereafter, they were arrested for “trespassing” and removed from the premises.

 

Speaker Boehner sent a clear message with these arrests: the U.S. Constitution has no value to him, his office or our government. It is undeniable that citizens of the United States have a right to petition their government. Such right falls squarely within the First Amendment and is a fundamental right enjoyed by all Americans. The right can be simply defined as “the right to present requests to the government without punishment or reprisal.  This right is guaranteed in the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution” (History Central, 1).

 

Today, five activists from GetEQUAL Ohio, a direct action LGBT rights group associated with the national organization, GetEQUAL, were arrested while attempting to deliver a petition to Speaker of the House John Boehner at his office in Columbus.

The petition, which urged the Speaker to focus on job creation rather than using tax payer money to defend the unconstitutional Defense of Marriage Act (“DOMA”), contained over 33,000 signatures.

Upon arriving at the office, the group was locked out and denied their First Amendment right to petition the government.  Not to be deterred in their representation of those who should be treated equally under the law, five members of GetEQUAL OH began reading the names of the petition signers in front of the office while others participated in a demonstration on the sidewalks.  Shortly thereafter, they were arrested for “trespassing” and removed from the premises.

 

Speaker Boehner sent a clear message with these arrests: the U.S. Constitution has no value to him, his office or our government.  It is undeniable that citizens of the United States have a right to petition their government.  Such right falls squarely within the First Amendment and is a fundamental right enjoyed by all Americans.  The right can be simply defined as “the right to present requests to the government without punishment or reprisal.  This right is guaranteed in the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution” (History Central, 1).

If Speaker Boehner is willing to violate the rights afforded within the “Bill of Rights” there is no reason he will not continue to deny the rights provided by the 14th Amendment, which is the portion of the Constitution that deems DOMA unconstitutional.

Call, write, email or visit (at your own risk) Boehner’s office and demand an immediate apology for continually violating the rights of Americans.  Tell him to focus on creating jobs as the Republicans promised instead of using tax payer money to defend unconstitutional government policies.

If Speaker Boehner is willing to violate the rights afforded within the “Bill of Rights” there is no reason he will not continue to deny the rights provided by the 14th Amendment, which is the portion of the Constitution that deems DOMA unconstitutional.

 

Call, write, email or visit (at your own risk) Boehner’s office and demand an immediate apology for continually violating the rights of Americans. Tell him to focus on creating jobs as the Republicans promised instead of using tax payer money to defend unconstitutional government policies.

HRC on the Record, Part 1: the Good, the Bad, and the Ugly – Diversity.

March 09, 2011 By: jaysays Category: Featured, Thought of the Gay, Youth Issues

Human Rights Campaign LogoIt’s no secret that I’ve been critical of some of the decisions made by the Human Rights Campaign (“HRC”) and comments made by their spokespeople, but what should also be apparent is, like any organization, the HRC was developed with people power.  Like me, all of those people are fallible.  Mistakes can and do happen.  It took me a long time to recognize that for myself.  Sometimes, I speak for me, sometimes I speak for an organization – at no time is my speech necessarily correct.

About two months ago, I had an interesting conversation with Darrell Parsons.  Mr. Parsons is a member of the Board of Governors for HRC and Chair of the San Antonio Gala Planning Committee.  He suggested that I come to the Gala Planning meetings as media, putting on the record “the good, the bad and the ugly.”  It was an offer that a queer blogger and grassroots activist like me could not pass up.  For one, it would allow me to grow my understanding of the motivations of those involved with the HRC.  It would also provide me with a method to hold the organizational process publicly accountable when I witnessed them going astray.  While I saw the opportunity as a way to prove me wrong about some of my perceptions of HRC, I did not fully consider the very real possibility that I could be right.  What could my “report” mean for the community?  Will it build it up or further tear it down?  Would an “ugly” moment divide us more than any “good” moment could possibly pull us together?

After two committee meetings and finding budding friendships with many of those participating, I now find myself reluctantly upholding my responsibility to report “the good, the bad and the ugly.”

The Good.

One of the most obvious “good” scores was discussed in the preceding paragraphs.  It’s the fact that I was even invited to attend these meetings on the record.  This shows a willingness on the part of our local HRC chapter to be transparent to the community and to be held accountable publicly should they go astray.

Another “good” score was obtained by the HRC Gala committee developing a “Diversity and Outreach” sub-committee.  As an enormous fan of radical inclusiveness, I would be candidate number one to be on such a committee; however, my purpose with the group is as a reporter, not as a committee chair.  That position was filled by Kevin, who is also the faculty advisor for a college LGBT organization, “OUT.” While diversity should be a key factor of any organization rather than a sub-committee, this development at least shows that there is a willingness to try to solve the overall exclusion problem within the larger HRC organization – even if it is an afterthought.

The good didn’t stop there.  This year, the committee decided to offer a significantly reduced student rate of $75.00.  To further that, they have offered to allow members of the community to purchase a student ticket at that rate and have the ticket later donated to a worthy student.  They’ve also allowed for payment plans – HRC Gala, on lay-a-way.  The reason I put this in the “good” category isn’t because a $75.00 meal is affordable, but it is certainly a step in the right direction to bring less affluent members of our community to the table.

A less substantial “good” that deserves a mention is the social aspect of volunteering with the HRC.  There are many wonderfully charming and intelligent people volunteering their time to promote the organization. When asked, many stated that they chose to work with the HRC because they believe that we are all deserving of equality.  Whether we agree or disagree on the methods and inclusiveness of various organizations, we can agree that at the finish line, we will all celebrate the victories.

The Bad.

In the “good” section, I discussed the fact that the committee had a sub-committee devoted to “Diversity and Outreach.”  A bad moment was when Mr. Parsons found himself stumbling for a way to explain the committee’s function, stating its purpose was to reach out to those that might not be familiar with HRC and try to get them to come to the Gala event.  Examples of this outreach included approaching the black and Latino communities.  This was “bad” to me as it seemed to solidify the perception of the organization as being a predominantly white, upper class group that is completely out of touch with the remainder of our community. It’s possible that it would make it into the “ugly” section as it seemed to focus more on race than full diversity; however, diversity is often difficult to explain and starting with race is often the easiest path for people to get to the whole picture.

Another bad revolves around the issue of giving credit where credit is due.  I mentioned the Target debacle to Darrell Parsons and the recent interview in Billboard Magazine with Lady Gaga.  I noted that it seems like the company may be making an effort in the near future to make amends with the LGBT community and Mr. Parsons quickly noted that HRC pressured them into it.  While I would concur that HRC contributed to the pressure on Target with their petition campaign and removal of the company from their buyer’s guide, credit should also be given to grassroots organizers who took actions against the store – including, but certainly not limited to, a PFLAG mom who, on her own volition, returned a basket full of items purchased from Target and explained the rationale behind her return to management, and the group Queer Rising, who invaded Target stores in their “Target Ain’t People” campaign declaring, “Attention Target Shoppers” – know when you shop at Target, your money is going to fuel hate. Pressure on the company came from many avenues within our community without one direct action being planned by HRC directly.  No one organization or group deserves full credit for any progress made.

This isn’t the first time HRC has ignored or outright taken credit for grassroots’ efforts.  In fact, immediately following the National Equality March, HRC declared the event “big” and responsible for a “burst of momentum” in a fundraising email.  At no point did they mention that they fought against the National Equality March tooth, nail, fist and high heel all the way to D.C.

The Ugly.

Perhaps the thing that makes the “ugly” so very “ugly” was the fact that it directly affected one of the “good” items on my list, the reduced rate for student tickets.  I heralded the more reasonable rate on Facebook, noting that San Antonio is trying to bring more people to the table.  However, when a “Table Captain” and active member of the Steering Committee for HRC was asked about purchasing an entire table for students, the inquirer was quickly told that the problem with donating a table to students is that students won’t pay attention, won’t “bring anything to the table, will be drunk and won’t purchase silent action items.”

While this is ugly on its face for the “drunk” comment if for none other, it’s also terribly wrong.  I have worked closely with the students and LGBT Youth organizations on many occasions as a volunteer to help them out and as an organizer looking for them to help me out.  Each time, the students have brought a lot to my table, including: passion, energy, intelligence and hard work.  While it may be this person’s experience that students aren’t worthy of a place at the HRC Gala, I wholeheartedly disagree and would like to refer this individual to their Diversity and Outreach committee for further training.

It isn’t the official policy of the Human Rights Campaign to disregard the value of students.   According to Mr. Parsons, “Students are our future and bring a great deal to the table; which is why we have focused on supporting the student organizations over the past few years.”  But actions speak louder than words.  The San Antonio chapter of HRC has taken pro-student actions in the past, including assisting St. Mary’s University students in getting recognition for their GSA and speaking to the Alamo Community College District Board in support of a fully inclusive anti-discrimination policy; however, it is still “ugly” to call the students drunks and dismiss them for choosing to have a meal the next day instead of buying silent auction items.

Righting the Wrong.

I’ve always believed it’s never too late to right a wrong.  Hopefully, the Gala planning committee, and more particularly the offending “Table Captain,” will make it up to the students by donating a table to the local student groups, free of charge as the benefactor had originally intended to do, and with no obligation for the purchase of a silent auction item.  Of course, they may have to lock up the liquor cabinet before inviting all those pesky alcoholic students.

HRC on the Record: the Good, the Bad, and the Ugly – Diversity, Part 1.