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News Briefs: February 2007

Pride Houston postpones 2008 decision, plus more (including web exclusive items).

Pride Houston postpones 2008 decision

A Jan. 13 Pride Houston community feedback session.

More than 80 people gathered at Resurrection Metropolitan Community Church on January 13 for a town-hall meeting called by Pride Houston, the producers of the local GLBT Pride Parade and Festival. At the meeting, the last in a series of three, the Vision 2008 Task Force established by Pride Houston’s board of directors explained ideas for moving the annual celebration held each June in Montrose to a downtown location at the end of September.

Representing the task force, Lois Meyer and Tim Garippa began the meeting with a 20-minute Powerpoint presentation, outlining the proposed site to be used for the parade and festival, encompassing a three-block area surrounding City Hall in downtown Houston.

The meeting was then opened for questions and comments from the audience.

Representatives from Gulf Coast Archive and Museum, Imperial Court of Houston, Lesbian Health Initiative Houston, Houston Transgender Unity Committee, Houston GLBT Community Center, Houston GLBT Political Caucus, the office of Texas representative Garnet Coleman, Houston Equal Rights Alliance, Foundation for Family and Marriage Equality, the HATCH youth group, and many concerned individuals expressed opposition to the proposed changes.

Longtime activist Ray Hill opposed the proposed changes, calling them “a solution desperate for a problem.”

Christopher Bown, community center president, opposed the proposed changes, asking whether organizers of Cinco de Mayo or Fourth of July events would move their celebrations for the sake of a more temperate climate.

Attendees also questioned the methods used to gather community input as the task force and Pride Houston board of directors began considering these changes.

Lois Meyer and Tim Garippa with the Pride Vision 2008 Task Force.

Reacting to repeated statements made by Pride Houston and the task force that members of local organizations had not responded to its previous inquiries, AIDS Foundation Houston CEO Kelly McCann said that, despite AFH’s nearly 25-year participation in the Pride parade, her organization had received no notice of the proposed changes. McCann’s sentiments were echoed by members of several other organizations.

Community activist Ray Ramirez said he also had not been notified of the proposed changes despite his status as Grand Marshal-Male for the 2006 parade.

Jay Pressley, representing Bayou City Boys Club, said that his organization had been contacted, but he added that the membership had voted unanimously in disapproval of both the proposed location and date changes.

Only one individual in the audience unaffiliated with Pride Houston, its board of directors, or the task force expressed support for the proposed changes.

At the close of the meeting, Pride Houston board president Carol Wyatt said the board would take into consideration the opinions expressed at the town hall meeting at a meeting scheduled the following Monday and would postpone voting on the proposed changes.

Following a January 15 meeting, the Pride Houston board of directors released a statement on January 17 indicating that the Vision 2008 Task Force would reconvene in May to address the potential changes. The statement also called for broader community representation.

According to the statement, details of the task force membership and its charter will be discussed at the February and March meetings of Pride Houston board.

Further, the statement pledged that the task force “will be asked to work closely with Pride Houston in May and June to observe the pros and cons of producing the 2007 Parade and Festival in their current locations; create a mechanism for Parade and Festival Day participants to learn about the options under consideration (accepting all, some, or none of the Task Force recommendations) and to capture their opinions in a manner that all will consider to be impartial; and report the results to the Board of Directors in July.”

The statement said the Pride Houston board will conduct its binding vote at the August 2007 board meeting, with the date for the August board meeting to be determined and announced no later than July 15.

Members of a grassroots group of concerned individuals calling itself People Opposed to Moving the Parade Out of Montrose, or POM POM, chaired by attorney John Nechman, indicated that they were pleased with Pride Houston’s board of directors’ decision to delay the vote, and would monitor subsequent developments.


Caucus partners with Equality Texas to lobby in Austin

Randall Terrell, political director of Equality Texas.

Houston GLBT Political Caucus will serve as the local partner with Equality Texas for Lobby Day 2007, set for Monday, March 5. On that day, hundreds of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender Texans and their allies will gather at the Capitol in Austin to share concerns and personal experiences with their elected representatives.

Equality Texas, the Austin-based GLBT advocacy group sponsoring the event, calls Lobby Day 2007 GLBT Texans’ “single greatest opportunity” to advocate for equal rights and opportunity for GLBT Texans and their families.

Among the points Equality Texas intends to advocate to legislators include safe, loving, and caring homes for all children regardless of their parents’ sexual orientation or gender identity; safe learning environments for all Texas school students; the implementation of a statewide study to determine the incident rates and causes of bullying and harassment; training for Texas teachers and administrators to recognize, address, and stop acts of bullying and harassment; and recommending legislation which would add sexual orientation, gender identity and expression, and marital status to the definition of an unlawful employment practice in the Texas Labor Code.

Randall Terrell, the recently hired political director for Equality Texas, says the he hopes each of the 150 state representatives and the 31 state senators receives a visit from a constituent who has a personal and immediate stake in policy affecting GLBT Texans.

Lobby Day events begin on March 4 with a reception at the host hotel, the Wyndham Garden Hotel. Breakfast and training will kick off on Monday morning, followed by team lobbying visits in Capitol offices.

Individuals from the Houston area who are interested in participating should contact the caucus (713/521-1000,   www.hglbtpc.org).


Vandals damage cars at nightclub

Dozens of patrons of EJ’s, the gay nightclub located at 2517 Ralph in Montrose, were the victims of vandalism in the early morning hours of January 9. Local media reported that the patrons’ cars parked in the lot behind the bar had tires slashed, paint surfaces “keyed,” and windows smashed.

Anyone with information is asked to contact Crime Stoppers at 713-222-TIPS.

Following reports of the crimes, representatives from the Montrose Counseling Center hate/bias crimes program released information reminding the community that help is available through Gay & Lesbian Switchboard Houston. Advocates from the switchboard are prepared to assist survivors with completing a police report or accompany him or her to the hospital if medical treatment is needed to help assure that police and medical staff treat the survivor with dignity and respect. Details: 713/529-3211.


Houston Voice closes

Farewell, friend.

On January 18, Window Media, owner of the Houston Voice, announced that the local GLBT publication would cease publication. The Washington, D.C.-based Window Media chain had acquired the Voice, founded in 1974 as the Montrose Star, in 1998. The Voice converted from a weekly newspaper to a magazine-format monthly last fall.



Houston tourism group eyes GLBT dollars

Following the lead of other American cities, including Philadelphia and Dallas, the Greater Houston Convention and Visitor’s Bureau has spearheaded an initiative intended to help Houston to become a destination for gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender travelers. Philadelphia was the first major city to introduce this type of initiative, and other cities around the country have followed in an attempt to draw GLBT visitors to their cities.

The Houston bureau’s web site (www.visithoustontexas.com) now includes a listing of GLBT bars and events, events, and entertainment venues.


Montrose Counseling Center responds to male rapes with help for victims

A serial rapist has stalked, robbed, and sexually assaulted at least five men at gunpoint in 2006 in Baytown, law-enforcement sources have reported. The most recent attack occurred on November 30.

The victims appear to have been chosen at random and attacked near or inside their homes, according to police, as published in an Associated Press report.

A representative from the Baytown Police Department indicated there may be even more victims who are perhaps reluctant to come forward because of their ages and embarrassment.

In a joint statement released on January 25 by the Montrose Counseling Center and National Coalition of Anti-Violence Programs, the two groups questioned majority of articles covering this story that have made characterized this form of sexual assault (serial rapes of men) as an anomaly, countering that rape of men by men is neither rare or unique.

The statement read, in part:

“Although the U.S. Department of Justice estimates that one in 33 men are victims of sexual assault, many community-based organizations receive numerous reports from male victims of sexual abuse and assault. Other studies estimate that as many as one in six men are victims of sexual assault.

“Sexual assault is an under reported crime across all genders.  Thus, statements regarding the oddity of this particular situation are not accurate, as they are informed by a gender stereotype that states that men cannot be victims of sexual assault, only perpetrators.

“Reinforcing this misconception will not encourage men who have been victims to access services or speak out, and will do nothing to preserve public safety.”

NCAVP is a coalition of community-based organizations that works to end violence in all its forms within and against lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender communities. Montrose Counseling Center, an NCAVP member, offers help to victims of sexual assault. Details: 713/529-0037, www.montrosecounselingcenter.org.

Task Force director reacts to Bush speech

Following President George W. Bush’s sixth State of the Union Address, delivered to Congress on January 23, Matt Foreman, executive director of the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force (www.ngltf.org), expressed mixed feelings about the omission of references to the Federal Marriage Act.

“Perhaps the election results served to check the president’s use of dangerous wedge politics since he chose not to lobby for a federal constitutional amendment to ban marriage rights for same-sex couples,” Foreman said in a statement to the press. “While this is positive news, it hardly erases the last six years of legislative and policy attacks our community has suffered under this administration.”


‘Ex-gay reparative therapy’ billboards reappear near Galveston, throughout Texas

Waco-based Lighthouse Freedom Ministry (LFM) has erected billboards along Texas Interstate 35 that state “I questioned homosexuality. Change is possible. Discover how.”

LFM partners with Exodus International, a 30-year-old nonprofit, interdenominational Christian organization.

The LFM founder, 75-year-old B. Joe Cline formed the group approximately six years ago, according to a report in the Waco Tribune-Herald.

In February 2005, similar billboards appeared in the Galveston area, touting Love Won Out, a conference aimed at offering a Bible-based cure for homosexuality, although the American Psychiatric Association refutes claims that homosexuality is either a mental illness or a trait that can be cured. (Read a post-conference report in “Spies in the House of Love Won Out,” April 2005OutSmart.)

According to the American Psychiatric Association’s web site, “There is no published scientific evidence supporting the efficacy of ‘reparative therapy’ as a treatment to change one’s sexual orientation…. Clinical experience suggests that any person who seeks conversion therapy may be doing so because of social bias that has resulted in internalized homophobia, and that gay men and lesbians who have accepted their sexual orientation positively are better adjusted than those who have not done so.”


New show features live Q-and-A with ‘freaky’ guests
John Waters disciples Mink Stole and Steve Balderson are scheduled as guests on Ring My Bell, a show where viewers phone in and speak live with “celebrity guests, fabulous people, assorted commentators, artists and freaks.”

Scheduled to debut on Friday, February 2, 9-10 a.m., Balderson and Stole will field questions regarding his Hollywood, California, gallery installation for his show Phone Sex, her experience with director Waters, and more. Details:   http://www.myspace.com/ringmybelltv.

Houston Voice closes


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