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News Briefs: July 2007

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Offensive restaurant? Dalton Dehart donates body of work. Annise Parker on Sudan. And more..

Compiled by Nancy Ford

LOCAL NEWS
Restaurant patrons offended by radio advertising
Photographer donates body of work to GLBT history archive
Runoff elections results in mixed emotions for GLBT Texans
City controller encourages divestment in the Sudan
Groups collaborate on post-Pride show

NATIONAL NEWS
Same-sex marriage ad campaign aims to prove point
AIDS Walk New York breaks records
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Restaurant patrons offended by radio advertising
A local restaurant that has for several years been a popular Friday night tradition for gay patrons has surprised some of that clientele with its choices of advertising venue

In May, Steve Watts, a former customer of Tony’s Mexican Restaurant, circulated an e-mail urging friends to reconsider their patronage of the establishment located at 2222 Ella Blvd. Watts had heard a commercial for the restaurant on a local Christian radio station, revealing Tony’s sponsorship of Dr. James Dobson’s show.  

“If you don’t know who Dobson is, he is a very powerful Christian leader with extreme homophobic ideas,” Watts’ e-mail stated. “Dobson heavily finances lobbyists to work against hate crimes laws, marriage for us, adoption by GLBT [people], and anything else that will benefit the GLBT community…. I consider Tony’s advertising with Dobson to be a slap in my face, as well as that of our entire community…. When Tony spends money on that sort of advertising he is directly fueling the fires of hatred, and putting direct pressure on lawmakers to keep our lives less than equal.”

In a June telephone interview with OutSmart, restaurant owner Tony Vega stated he advertises on Christian radio, but does not determine during which program commercials for his restaurant will air. Vega added that he was not aware that Dobson is antigay, and encouraged OutSmart to send him literature regarding Focus on the Family.

An organization founded by Dobson, the Colorado Springs-based Focus on the Family nationally produces the Love Won Out events, described on its website as “a dynamic one-day conference on homosexuality that balances truth-in-love with grace and compassion.”

Vega said he has noticed a decrease among the regular Friday-evening gay male crowd at his restaurant.

A self-described Christian, Vega said that his faith requires him to “love everybody,” adding that he has also advertised the restaurant in gay publications including OutSmart and has been a supporter of gay organizations including Houston Black Tie Dinner.  

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Photographer donates body of work to GLBT history archive

The Gulf Coast Archive & Museum of Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Transgender History recently received a cache of GLBT-related photos from community photographer Dalton DeHart.     

Judy Reeves, museum chairperson, is currently reviewing more than 35,000 photographic prints and 80 photo albums donated to the museum by DeHart, the longtime OutSmart photographer.

“If these photos were the only things GCAM had, not including the 30,000 other items, we’d still have a complete history of this community,” Reeves said. “Now we have both—one for the museum, and one for the computer.”

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Runoff elections results in mixed emotions for GLBT Texans

Runoff elections on June 16 in both Houston and Dallas yielded mixed results for supporters of GLBT equality in Texas.

In Houston, Melissa Noriega won the City Council At-Large Position 3 seat, defeating Roy Morales. Noriega had been endorsed by the Houston GLBT Political Caucus political-action committee to fill the seat vacated by Shelley Sekula-Gibbs.

“We congratulate newly elected city council member Melissa Noriega,” caucus president Jenifer Pool said in a statement posted on the website. “She is a friend and supporter of the GLBT community. We are proud of our endorsement of her and our efforts on behalf of her campaign.”

The caucus worked actively on behalf of Noriega during her campaign, beginning with her endorsement on March 7. This work by the caucus included sending out two mailings to 14,000 registered voters who had been identified as supportive of the GLBT community, block walking, and automated calling. “Clearly, all this work helped to assure Melissa a strong performance and guaranteed her appearance in the runoff,” caucus vice president Maria Gonzalez said.

The runoff result was less positive for GLBT activists in Dallas, where Ed Oakley, the first openly gay mayoral candidate in Texas, was defeated by conservative businessman Tom Leppert. Oakley had been endorsed by the Dallas Gay and Lesbian Alliance, the GLBT political organization in that city. Had he been victorious, Oakley would have been the first openly gay mayor elected to lead a major U.S. city.

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City controller encourages divestment in the Sudan

On May 25, Houston city controller Annise Parker sent a letter to mayor Bill White, City Council members, and city department directors regarding organizations supporting various City of Houston departments’ global investments.

Parker wrote that she had sent memos to the Houston Municipal Employees Pension system, the Houston Police Officers’ Pension System, and the Houston Firefighters’ Retirement and Relief Fund, urging leaders of those organizations “to review their investments and divest of anything in their portfolios with ties to Sudan.

“Several Houston City Councilmembers, mainly Ada Edwards, have asked about the City of Houston taking an official stance against the violence,” Parker continued in the letter. “While it is not my place to direct City Departments, perhaps City Council would want to follow the lead of others around the country and take official action to prohibit any City business with companies doing business in Sudan.”

According to the Washington, D.C.-based Genocide Intervention Network, the Sudanese government in Khartoum and the government-sponsored Janjaweed militia have used rape, displacement, organized starvation, and mass murder to kill more than 400,000 and displace 2.5 million since February 2003.

“While U.S. companies cannot directly do business with Sudan, some have large investments in foreign firms which do,” Parker further stated in the letter.

After reviewing the city’s investments, Parker said she found none with companies doing business in Sudan. “I intend to ensure that this remains the case as long as the killing continues in Darfur,” she concluded.

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Groups collaborate on post-Pride show

The Gulf Coast and Museum of GLBT History (GCAM) and Multicultural Education and Counseling Through the Arts (MECA) collaborate this month on an exhibition, When the Parade Was Over. The show of artwork and memorabilia “will chronicle the HGLBT community through the lens of past pride parades,” says Marc Garcia of MECA. The exhibition will be displayed July 5–August 3 at MECA (1900 Kane, 713/802-9370, www.meca-houston.org).

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BushandWife
Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush with his wife Columbia, who reside in Florida, where interracial marriage was illegal prior to 1967.

NATIONAL

Same-sex marriage ad campaign aims to prove point

WASHINGTON—Several of the nation’s leading civil rights organizations participated in a newspaper advertising campaign in June commemorating the 40th anniversary of Loving v. Virginia, the landmark Supreme Court case that struck down the bans against interracial marriage that still existed in 16 states at that time. The decision ended race discrimination in marriage in the United States. The “Freedom to Marry” campaign celebrates the Loving decision’s significance in American history and ongoing relevance to the struggle for marriage equality.

The campaign consisted of a series of six ads in Roll Call and other Washington, D.C., publications intended to spark a national dialogue about the current legal barriers to equality in America. The ads feature prominent interracial couples—among them, former U.S. Secretary of Defense William Cohen and his wife, Janet Langhart; former Florida governor Jeb Bush and his wife, Columba; Senator James Webb and his wife, Hong Le; and golfer Tiger Woods and his wife, Elin—as examples of couples who could not marry in many states prior to the 1967 Loving decision.

WebbHonLe
U.S. Senator Jim Webb and wife Hong Le, who have a daughter together and reside in Virginia, where interracial marriage was illegal prior to 1967.

The “Freedom to Marry” campaign hailed the Loving v. Virginia decision as a milestone in the fight for racial and marriage equality because it affirmed the freedom to marry as a “basic civil right” of every American. The campaign also highlighted the work of key civil rights organizations such as the NAACP Legal Defense and Education Fund and the American Civil Liberties Union, which had to fight to end discrimination in marriage.

Loving v. Virginia began when Richard Loving, a white man, and Mildred Loving, a woman of African American and Cherokee heritage, were arrested in Virginia after their Washington, D.C., wedding and sentenced to one year in prison. The Lovings appealed their conviction all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court, which struck down discriminatory restrictions on who could marry whom. On June 12, 1967, the courts ruled, “The freedom to marry has long been recognized as one of the vital personal rights essential to the orderly pursuit of happiness by free men.”     

At a press conference held June 12, celebrating the 40th anniversary of the ruling, Mildred Loving expressed her support of marriage equality for all.

“Not a day goes by that I don’t think of Richard and our love, and how much it meant to me to have that freedom to marry the person precious to me, even if others thought he was the ‘wrong kind of person’ for me to marry,” Loving said. “I believe all Americans, no matter their race, no matter their sex, no matter their sexual orientation, should have that same freedom to marry.”

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AIDS Walk New York breaks records

NEW YORK—The 22nd Annual AIDS Walk New York, held May 20, was the largest and most successful AIDS Walk ever held, setting records for both participation and fundraising. Organizers announced that 45,000 walkers helped to raise a grand total of $6,857,527.

“New York showed its strong support for Gay Men’s Health Crisis,” said AIDS Walk founder and producer, Craig R. Miller.

“We all took to the streets to raise a record-setting $6.8 million to support people living with HIV/AIDS in New York City and to fund the critical HIV prevention programs needed to stop new infections.”

The walk benefits GMHC and more than 50 New York-area AIDS organizations.

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