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News Briefs: May 2008

30th Pride, GLBT workplace summit, TG woman sues employer, and more.

• We are Family: Plans well under way for 30th anniversary of Pride in Montrose
• Houston attorney joins Equality Texas board
• Out Equal, Human Rights Campaign chapters present GLBT workplace equality summit
Transgender woman sues former employer
• Settlement reached in Lopez case
Oral gonorrhea treatment becomes available
Top 50 companies for diversity announced by DiversityInc
• Study: same–sex marriage would have positive impact on states’ income, tax revenue

Celebrating 30 years since Houston’s first Pride parade made its mark as the signature annual gathering of the local gay community, Pride Houston’s 2008 GLBT Pride Parade and Festival are scheduled June 28 in Montrose.

Following a couple of starts, including an informal gathering in June 1978, Houston’s first official Gay Pride Parade rolled down Westheimer Road in June 1979, led by grand marshal “Disco Gramma” Thelma Hansel. Themed “United We Stand,” the parade was followed by a rally at Spotts Park, where 5,000 community members enjoyed music, speeches, dancing, and fireworks.

“1978 was kind of this limbo year; there was a commemorative march,” explained Brad Odom, Pride Houston president. “It’s the year we count as Number One.”

Thirty years later, 2008’s colorful disco theme, “We Are Family,” intends to bring the celebration back to its united spirit.

Last year, a push to move the traditional June Pride festivities from its base in Montrose to a downtown location in September divided community members who eventually voted overwhelmingly to keep the celebration in Montrose, in June.

The 2007 controversy has continued into 2008. “Apparently an e-mail went out that said Pride isn’t going to happen,” Odom said. “There’s absolutely no question that we’re going to have a very nice, yet a very simple parade. We’re going back to basics.

“The reality is, it’s been a dire struggle to get money this year,” Odom continued. “But the fact is that we have pretty much our entire budget covered right now, so we’re way ahead of the game.”

Odom said nearly 60 parade entries were already confirmed and paid.

“Normally we don’t have that many this far out from the parade,” he said. “Most parade entries’ money comes in June. We have 100 percent of our funds identified, with more sponsors coming in every day. We’ve paid back all past debts, and are free and clear in rent and phone and everything through February of next year.”

Sponsors for this year’s celebration include KRBE radio, Clear Channel, Charles Armstrong Investments, Archstone Communities, Bud Light, Washington Mutual, Southwest Airlines, Ameriprise, and OutSmart.

A full weekend of official Pride events begins June 27 with a kickoff party at Meteor Lounge.

Beginning at 11 a.m. on June 28, the Pride Festival, located on Yoakum Street in the heart of Montrose, features local entertainers on two stages, commercial and nonprofit vendor booths, and the Pride Oasis where patrons may enjoy refreshments. As a special 30th birthday gift to the community, there is no charge to attend the festival.

Two popular mainstays return to the festival, including the popular GLBT history project, featuring historical memorabilia from RMCC’s archives and Gulf Coast Museum and Archives. Washington Mutual Bank (4313 Montrose Blvd.) displays the project throughout the month of June, prior to its moving to the festival site.

Additionally, the winner of “Pride Idol,” Pride Houston’s weekly, vocal talent competitions based on American Idol, is scheduled to entertain. “Pride Idol” begins May 14 at Guava Lamp.

Following a month-long round of community voting, Pride Houston announced the grand marshals elected to lead the 30th anniversary parade, which begins at 8:45 p.m. on June 28. AIDS Foundation Houston (AFH) chief executive officer Kelly McCann was elected as female grand marshal; photographer Dalton DeHart, serves as male grand marshal; AIDS Foundation Houston was tapped as organization grand marshal; and former AFH employee, Julie Eberly was elected honorary grand marshal.

Due to new city regulations, the parade route proceeds east on Westheimer to Crocker, and has been shortened. The parade now steps off at the intersection of Westheimer and Dunlavy at 8:45 p.m. instead of Woodhead as in previous years.

Immediately following the parade, the day concludes with an after-party at South Beach.

Pride Weekend’s finale is Sunday, June 29, at ROC Bar with the presentation of Broadway Bares, a musical burlesque fundraiser benefiting AIDS Foundation Houston and Pride Houston.

Odom said Pride Houston needs about 200 volunteers to help produce the festival and parade, which hosts more than 150,000 people. To volunteer, call 713/529-6979 or log on to www.pridehouston.org.

“I’m always amazed about the power of Pride,” Odom says. “As we get closer to parade day, more and more people give their energy over and step up to the plate, and there’s no doubt that it’s going to be a wonderful year.”

Be sure to pick up OutSmart’s June issue for complete coverage of events celebrating 30 years of Pride in Houston.

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Equality Texas, the state’s GLBT lobbying group, has announced the election of Rob Scamardo to its board of directors.

Scamardo is an attorney with the Houston-based Simoneaux and Frye, PLLC, law firm. Scamardo also serves as chairman of the board of the Houston Equal Rights Alliance and is responsible for facilitating the integration of the programs of HERA with Equality Texas to form Equality Texas-Houston.

“I have tremendous respect for the outstanding leadership that Equality Texas provides in our cause for equal rights for LGBT persons. This is an opportunity to strengthen and expand our efforts in the Houston metro area as we continue to build alliances through advocacy and education while supporting broader equality efforts across Texas,” stated Scamardo.

Paul Scott, executive director, praised Scamardo’s commitment to equality, stating, “I have had the fortunate experience of working with Rob Scamardo through our partnership with HERA, and I know that his expertise will greatly benefit our work in Houston and Texas.”

Details: www.equalitytexas.org.

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Out Equal, Human Rights Campaign Chapters Present GLBT Workplace Equality Summit

Representatives from Dallas/Ft. Worth and Houston Human Rights Campaign Steering Committees and the North Texas Chapter of Out Equal have announced Texas’ first statewide workplace equality summit. The summit is scheduled Wednesday, May 14, at Rice University’s Jesse H. Jones Graduate School of Management in Houston.

The GLBT summit precedes the fourth annual Diversity Leadership Conference   Exposition scheduled May 15 and 16 at the Westin Galleria Hotel in Houston.

“This summit is focused on people from corporate and private companies who are interested and involved with valuing and including the diversity of GLBT people,” said Paul Guillory, a conference organizer.

The half-day conference begins with a luncheon featuring Chastity Bono, two training tracks of six distinct workshops, and concludes with a reception and Equality Texas movie screening of For the Bible Tells Me So.

Also participating and leading workshops are Selisse Berry, executive director of Out Equal Workplace Advocates; Eric Bloem, deputy director of the Human Rights Campaign Workplace Project; and Paul Scott, executive director, Equality Texas.

Workshops are designed to address topics on activism and advocacy in the workplace, gender identity expression, employee network group strategies, and more.

Other conference organizers include Ron Ausemus, Vanessa Benavides, Janine Johnson, Jim Price, Robb Puckett, and Paul von Wupperfeld. Details: www.glbtsummit.com.

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Transgender Woman Sues Former Employer

A Jefferson County refinery worker is suing her former employer on grounds that the company discriminated against her because she is transgender.

According to the Southeast Texas Record legal journal, Gerald Jeanmard, a male-to-female transgendered woman, claims KT Maintenance Co. “refused to recognize his gender identity, engaged in sexual stereotyping, and refused to provide him with a bathroom at the job site.”

Jeanmard filed suit on April 10 in the Jefferson County District Court, claiming KT Maintenance was fully aware of her gender identity but chose to terminate her rather than accommodate additional restroom needs.

“Initially, Jeanmard was using the men’s bathroom at the refinery, but his presence was objected to by other male workers,” the suit states. “This prompted him to begin using the ladies’ bathroom, which was then objected to by the female workers.”

Jeanmard says the company ultimately instructed her to use neither restroom; she is also suing for past and future mental anguish and lost wages.

Jeanmard says the company ultimately instructed her to use neither restroom; she is also suing for past and future mental anguish and lost wages.

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Settlement reached in Lopez case

Following a court ruling that permitted Izza Lopez, a male-to-female transgendered woman, to proceed in a case against River Oaks Imaging for rescinding a job offer to her, a settlement has been reached between involved parties.

According to the Houston Chronicle, U.S. District Judge Nancy Atlas entered an order on April 22 dismissing the lawsuit following mediation.

In early April, the District Court for the Southern District of Texas denied motions for summary judgment from both sides in the case in which Lopez claimed her job offer from a Houston medical clinic was withdrawn after a background check disclosed her sex as male.

Both Lambda Legal, representing 27-year-old Izza Lopez, and attorneys for River Oaks Imaging and Diagnostic had asked the judge for summary judgment, a ruling issued without trial based on undisputed facts.

The court also rejected River Oaks’ claim that “any person who dresses in a manner inconsistent with traditional gender stereotypes is necessarily deceptive.”

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The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has informed health-care providers that cefixime in 400 milligram tablet-form is a viable, additional option for treatment of urogenital and rectal gonorrhea.

“The availability of cefixime tablets this month will have tremendous impact in fighting gonorrhea,” said Kevin Fenton, M.D., director of CDC’s National Center for HIV/AIDS, Viral Hepatitis, STD, and TB Prevention. “This oral option expands a physician’s arsenal to combat this serious disease, while giving patients a drug that is easier to take.”

Cefixime is the only CDC-recommended oral treatment for this disease, and since 2002, it has not been available in tablet form. Cefixime tablets are again being distributed in the United States and available to clinicians as of this month for prescribing to patients.

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Top 50 Companies for Diversity announced by DiversityInc

DiversityInc, a publication addressing corporate diversity, has announced its 2008 Top 50 Companies for Diversity.

The top-10 companies on the list are IBM, Johnson & Johnson, Wachovia, PepsiCo, Toyota Motor North America, Eastman Kodak Co., Deloitte, PricewaterhouseCoopers Merrill Lynch, and Ernst & Young.

Companies are chosen for the annual honor based on their demonstrated consistent strength in areas, including CEO commitment, human capital, corporate and organizational communications, and supplier diversity.

For a complete listing of this year’s Top 50 Companies for Diversity, please visit www.DiversityInc.com/top50.

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Proponents of same-sex marriage have a new tool to use in their quest for marriage equality.

According to a new research study conducted by Williams Institute at UCLA School of Law, same-sex marriage in Iowa, if permitted, would have a positive impact on the state budget of approximately $5.3 million annually. This net impact will be the result of an increase in state income and sales tax revenue as well as savings in expenditures on state means-tested public benefit programs.

“This study demonstrates that equal marriage rights for same-sex couples are not only good for those couples, but they’re good for the state budget,” noted co-author Lee Badgett, the research director of the Williams Institute. “Iowa’s policymakers do not need to worry about the impact of this policy change on the state’s fiscal health.”

In calculating the net benefit to the state, the study approximates that half of Iowa’s 5,833 same-sex couples, or 2,917 couples, would marry in the first three years of being able. The study estimates that the state would see an increase in income tax revenue of over $1.2 million per year, but a loss of approximately $1.4 million in inheritance tax revenue. The study also finds that same-sex weddings and associated tourism would generate $160 million in spending over three years, providing a boon to the state economy.

Further due to this spending, the state would see an increase in sales tax revenue of about $2.7 million per year.

In addition to overall increased tax revenue, the study finds that same-sex marriage in Iowa would result in a decrease in state expenditures on means-tested public benefits programs, saving the State at least $100,000 per year and as much as $2.8 million.

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