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News Briefs: June 2008

Lakewood Church’s Joel Osteen meets with Jay Bakker following American Family Outing.

By Nancy Ford

• Lakewood Church’s Joel Osteen meets with Jay Bakker following American Family Outing.
• First trans president of Houston Political Caucus named to City commission
HATCH finds new nest
Houston Black Tie dinner accepting beneficiary requests
Community center plans summer move
• UT’s Gender and Sexuality Center holds ‘lavender graduation’
• Equal rights groups applaud California marriage decision


Lakewood Church’s Joel Osteen meets with Jay Bakker following American Family Outing.

Steve Wright, a gay father involved in Soulforce’s American Family Outing greeted Lakewood pastor Joel Osteen May 11.

As reported in the May 2008 issue of OutSmart (“The Gay-Affirming Gospel According to Jay Bakker”), The American Family Outing, a collaboration between Soulforce, Children of Lesbians and Gays Everywhere (COLAGE), National Black Justice Coalition, and the Universal Fellowship of Metropolitan Community Churches, was formed to create dialogue between GLBT families and families at six American mega-churches.

Here in Houston, that effort was a success.

Led by evangelist Jay Bakker, son of Jim and Tammy Faye Bakker, a group of GLBT families worshipped at Houston’s Lakewood Church on Mother’s Day. Following the service, Bakker met privately with Lakewood’s pastor, Joel Osteen, and two senior Lakewood staff members.  

“Joel Osteen and his family were very kind and courteous,” Bakker said. “They reserved special seats for our group of families, and they spoke compassionately to me on the first Mother’s Day since my mom’s death. But our conversation indicated that they do not share our convictions and that Lakewood Church is not yet ready for an open dialogue with LGBT families.”

Jay Bakker and Steve Wright

Bakker said he believes it’s important for the church to have these conversations, “because we are all one body. Open dialogue can dispel the fearful misperceptions that keep us apart. In the end, it’s about communion and loving one another in spite of our differences.”

Earlier in the week, Lakewood officials had expressed an unwillingness to meet with Bakker and The American Family Outing. A tip from a Lakewood Church member led Bakker to seek out Osteen after the Saturday evening service, when the pastor greets new visitors to Lakewood. The two exchanged remembrances of Bakker’s late mother, Tammy Faye Bakker Messner, and arranged to meet privately the next day.

Soulforce ED Jeff Lutes (left), spouse Gary Stein, and their children Jole, Niko, and TreI.

On May 18, GLBT families attended worship and met with staff and families from The Potter’s House, a 35,000-member multiracial, nondenominational mega-church in Dallas, Texas, led by Bishop T.D. Jakes. The American Family Outing concludes on Father’s Day with a visit to Saddleback Church in Lake Forest, California.

Photo caption: Steve Wright, a gay father from Austin involved in the American Family Outing effort organized by Soulforce, greeted Lakewood Church pastor Joel Osteen after services on May 11.

Photo caption: On May 10, Soulforce hosted a picnic in a park located near Lakewood Church for participating families and friends. Guests included evangelist Jay Bakker and Austin gay dad Steve Wright, as well as (lower photo) Soulforce executive director Jeff Lutes with his spouse Gary Stein and their children Jole, Niko, and TreI. A group of Lakewood members also attended the picnic and expressed their appreciation for the effort to start a conversation about the status of GLBT worshippers at Lakewood.

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Jenifer Pool (r) is sworn in to the board of the City’s Building and Standards Commission by Louella Stanley.

First trans president of Houston Political Caucus named to City commission

The Houston GLBT Political Caucus has announced the April 27 appointment of Jenifer Rene Pool, the group’s first transgender president, to the City of Houston’s Building and Standards Commission.

Pool was appointed by Mayor Bill White and unanimously confirmed by City Council to serve on the commission. The first transgender person to serve in an appointed position in the City of Houston, Pool joins the board in hearing and determining cases concerning alleged violations of ordinances relating to dangerous buildings and vector conditions.

“To be nominated by the mayor and unanimously elected by city council shows the high regard they hold for Jenifer’s expertise and leadership skills in the caucus and the community,” said Maria C. Gonzalez, vice president of the Houston GLBT Political Caucus.

Pool’s term on the commission lasts two years.

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HATCH finds new nest

HATCH, the Houston organization dedicated to empowering gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender and questioning adolescents ages 13-20, has a new permanent home. Under the auspices of Montrose Counseling Center, the group now meets each Friday evening, 7 p.m., and Sunday evening, 6 p.m., at 401 Branard St.

Individuals and organizations interested in helping sponsor a HATCH meeting room are asked to log on to www.montrosecounselingcenter.org, and click the “Network for Good” link. Details: 713/529-0037.

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Houston Black Tie dinner accepting beneficiary requests

The 2008 Houston Black Tie Dinner has opened the beneficiary application process for groups hoping to be considered for financial support from the fundraising organization.

Official representatives of 501(c)(3) nonprofit organizations may download this year’s application from the group’s website at www.houstonblacktiedinner.org.

Completed applications must be postmarked by June 13, 2008, and mailed to Houston Black Tie Dinner, Inc., P.O. Box 131351, Houston, Texas 77219-1351. Com pleted applications must be postmarked by June 13. Details: Renee Tappe, 713/529-4523.

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Community center plans summer move

The Houston GLBT Community Center board of directors recently announced plans to move into the new Montrose Counseling Center building. The move is slated for later in the summer. The precise date has not been determined, community center president Christopher Bown says, and will depend on the timing of the build-out construction on the first floor of the building, located at 401 Branard.

The community center will occupy two offices on the first floor under a sublease agreement with the counseling center.   

“Our tenant partners, including PFLAG Houston, and the many organizations that now make use of the community center have agreed to move with us,” Bown says.

The community center currently occupies a suite of offices at 3400 Montrose Blvd. The first home of the nonprofit organization, which was founded in 1996, was a 1920s-era residence on Hawthorne.

With the move into its new space, the community center will present a series of grand-opening events, Bown says. These will include an exhibition of artwork by community artists organized by artist T.J. Kyle Fu.

In conjunction with its move, the community center board seeks to add members. “We want to increase the size of our board as we make plans for increasing activities in our new home,” Bown says.

Individuals who are interested in learning about potential board positions may con-
tact Bown at the community center, 713/524-3818 or [email protected] center.org. — Tim Brookover

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UT’s Gender and Sexuality Center holds ‘lavender graduation’

Last month, University of Texas at Austin’s Gender and Sexuality Center’s Advisory and Working Group hosted the school’s first annual Lavender Graduation, celebrating the accomplishments of graduating members of the Queer and Women’s communities.

So-named in her honor, Ixchel Rosal, Gender and Sexuality Center’s director, received the first Ana Ixchel Rosal Service Award. The award will be presented annually to an outstanding member of the University’s Queer and Women’s Communities, according to organizers.

“There was no question that we needed to honor Ixchel’s work,” said committee and university staff member Laura Luthy. “The Gender and Sexuality Center is what it is because of Ixchel’s strong yet modest leadership and her ability to advocate for the needs of the students the center serves.”

The May event was the first of its kind in the University of Texas system; the first Lavender Graduation was organized at the University of Michigan in 1995.

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Equal rights groups applaud California marriage decision

National equal rights groups are reacting with glee to the May 15 ruling by the California Supreme Court recognizing the freedom for all of that state’s couples, including same-sex couples, to marry.

“Today’s ruling marks an historic turning point for families in California and across our nation,” said Jody M. Huckaby, executive director of Parents, Families and Friends of Lesbians and Gays. “The California Supreme Court has taken an unmistakable stand in favor of ‘liberty and justice for all,’ and struck down any notion that some families are less worthy of full legal recognition than others.”

Challenging the constitutionality of the state’s marriage ban, 15 couples filed suit in California. The 4-3 majority opinion, authored by Chief Justice Ron George, concluded “that in view of the substance and significance of the fundamental constitutional right to form a family relationship, the California Constitution properly must be interpreted to guarantee this basic civil right to all Californians, whether gay or heterosexual, and to same-sex couples as well as to opposite-sex couples.”

“This is an extraordinary victory for Californians and all Americans who hold fairness and opportunity as fundamental American values,” said Rea Carey, acting executive director for the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force. “The high court’s decision comes down to this simple yet profound principle: all Californians should be treated equally under the law.”

California follows Massachusetts as only the second state to officially recognize marriage rights for same-sex couples. The decision overturns a July 2006 ruling, from the First District Court of Appeal, upholding the state’s marriage ban. The decision also follows two votes by the State Legislature legalizing such marriages.

A November 2008 ballot initiative is expected to be approved in the state, placing the issue of marriage before voters once more.

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Hired Laura Canning, as director of the Houston Grand Opera young artist development program, the Houston Grand Opera Studio, which prepares singers for professional careers. Canning, who has served 10 years as artistic administrator for Welsh National Opera, joins the Houston company on August 1.


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