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News Briefs: March 2007

Equality Day, Bayou City Performing Arts, Diana Foundation, and more—including items only available on the web. Plus Milestones.

Compiled by Nancy Ford


Equality Day lobbyists to face good news, bad news

When lobbyists and concerned citizens join together at the state capitol to engage Texas lawmakers for Lobby Day 2007 on March 5, they will have plenty to discuss.

In February, Rep. Garnet Coleman (D-Houston) filed a bill to amend the James Byrd Jr. Hate Crimes Act to include transgender Texans. Coleman’s House Bill 1289 specifically refers to personal or property damage incurred “because of the defendant’s bias or prejudice against a group identified by race, color, disability, religion, national origin or ancestry, age, gender, [or] sexual preference, or gender identity or expression.”

Rep. Mike Villarreal (D-San Antonio) has introduced HB 900, titled the “Freedom from Workplace and Housing Discrimination Act,” which seeks to prohibit discrimination against gays and lesbians in public accommodations, employment, and housing.

Paul Scott of Equality Texas

In less-inclusive news, on February 8, the Austin American-Statesman reported that Rep. Warren Chisum (R-Pampa), long an opponent of GLBT equality, has included in a list of his goals as chair of the House of Representatives appropriations committee, “tweaking state law to give heterosexuals preferred status as foster parents over gay parents.”

“Chisum is directly contradicting his own statements, made after the Proposition 2 marriage amendment passed, that he would no longer attack gay families. He is placing our state’s most vulnerable children at risk to the radical right’s continuing crusade against gay and lesbian parents,” said Paul E. Scott, executive director of Equality Texas, the GLBT lobbying group. “If Chisum’s true concern was for the well-being of Texas’ children, he would not damage their lives by ‘tweaking’ an already overburdened foster care system to potentially discourage the applications of capable, loving parents.”

Equality Texas, which sponsors Lobby Day 2007, calls the event the “single greatest opportunity” for GLBT Texans to advocate for equal rights and opportunity for themselves and their families.

Lobby Day events begin on Sunday, March 4, with a reception at the Wyndham Garden Hotel. Breakfast and training will kick off on the morning of March 5, followed by team lobbying visits in capitol offices. Houston Equal Rights Alliance serves as the local partner with Equality Texas for Lobby Day. More information: www.equalitytexas.org, www.houstonera.org.

Bayou City goes behind the music

Rev. Jeremy Rutledge of Covenant Church

Bayou City Performing Arts debuts a new Behind the Music series this month with a public discussion of faith-inspired music. The arts organization, which is the umbrella group for the Bayou City Women’s Chorus   and the Gay Men’s Chorus of Houston, presents the March 10 event “Reclaiming Faith: A Symposium on GLBT Spirituality,” in conjunction with the March 13 Gay Men’s Chorus concert, House of Hope. The panel for the 3-5 p.m. event at the Live Oaks Friends Meeting House, which is open to the public at no charge, includes representatives of several faith traditions, including Hiram Butler, who is a Quaker, Rev. Jeremy Rutledge of Covenant Church (American Baptist Church), and Rev. Dr. John Tolley of the Unitarian Universalist-affiliated Meadville Lombard Theological School in Chicago.

The House of Hope concert includes music from an international range of faiths. “I think it is going to be one of the most important concerts we have ever done,” artistic director James Knapp says. Selections include The Chichester Psalms (performed in Hebrew) by Leonard Bernstein, the traditional spiritual “Down by the Riverside,” the civil-rights anthem “We Shall Overcome,” Buddhist chants, and John Lennon’s “Imagine.” More information:   www.bayoucityperformingarts.org.

Diana Foundation tops $1.3 million this month

Hedda Layne

Over its 54-year history, the Diana Foundation—which began as an Academy Awards spoof party organized by some friends—has raised $1.3 million for local charities, including many of the HIV/AIDS service organization in Houston. After a hiatus of its annual spring fundraising event, the Dianas return this month with a performance by Austin-based chanteuse Hedda Layne—perhaps best known here for performing at Meteor before that club closed—on March 24, 7 p.m., at the Houston City Club. The black-tie event (tickets: $150) includes dinner and cocktails. Proceeds will support a community beneficiary, according to Diana Foundation president John Heinzerling, which will be announced after the event. Tickets: Mark Wade Brown, 713/299-1303.

Houstonian Lois Chiles remembers her famous Hollywood teacher

On March 26, movie actress and Houston native Lois Chiles (The Way We Were, The Great Gatsby, Moonraker) pays tribute to her well-known acting coach Roy London as part of a 7 p.m. screening of the documentary Special Thanks to Roy London—How to Act, How to Live. Chiles, who recently taught film acting at the University of Houston and now lives in New York, will join documentary director Christopher Monger in a post-film discussion about the coach, who taught a number of well-known stars, including Geena Davis, Sharon Stone, Jeff Goldblum, Garry Shandling, and another Houstonian, Patrick Swayze. London died of AIDS complications in 1993. More information: www.mfah.org.

Houston hip-hop star J Xavier leads AIDS Walk

J Xavier

Fourteen-year-old Houston native J Xavier, who recently released his debut CD, Young Prince of tha South, and 21-year-old AIDS activist Hydeia Broadbent serve as grand marshals for the 18th annual AIDS Walk Houston on March 11. Read AIDS Foundation Houston CEO Kelly McCann’s new column, “AIDS Watch” (page 28) for more information on HIV/AIDS service organizations that benefit from the annual event. More information: www.aidswalkhouston.org.


Police arrest man believed to be ‘Baytown rapist’ Police have identified a 19-year-old man as the suspect in the rape of another man and said they were “optimistic” more charges would be filed involving assaults on four other men.

As OutSmart went to press, Keith Chester Hill was being held on $60,000 bail on two charges of aggravated robbery and one charge of aggravated sexual assault.

The Associated Press reported that Hill was arrested on February 6 at his parents’ Baytown home after DNA testing connected him to a May attack.

“We’re optimistic that additional charges will be filed on our four remaining cases,” Capt. Roger Clifford of the Baytown Police Department said. “We’ve got lots of evidence that we’ll have to sift through—good, solid evidence.”

The attacks occurred in Baytown and Houston throughout 2006.

Local groups help AIDS Foundation Houston break toy drive record AIDS Foundation Houston’s 12th annual Red Ribbon Toy Drive broke records by collecting 6,000 toys and delivering them to more than 1,100 children over the December 2006 holiday season, the AIDS service organization has announced.

The toy drive benefits local children infected with and/or affected by HIV/AIDS.

“The Houston community has once again demonstrated their willingness to help those in need. We are extremely grateful for everyone’s support,” said Kelly McCann, AFH chief executive officer. “Thanks to the generosity of the citizens of Houston, these children did not go without this holiday season.”

In a statement to the press, AFH specifically thanked local businesses and organizations for their help with the toy drive, including Alley Theatre, Resurrection Metropolitan Community Church, Bayou City Boys Club, Partridge Properties, and The Lovett Inn & Art Gallery and others.

Equality organizations condemn Bush’s budget plan

President George W. Bush’s budget plan, submitted to Congress on February 5, was not met with approval by two of the nation’s largest GLBT rights organizations. Specifically, the groups questioned the under-funding of the Ryan White CARE Act and other critical domestic HIV/AIDS priorities.

The president’s budget request proposes largely flat-funding the Ryan White CARE Act over the funding levels included in the continuing resolution for fiscal year 2007 that was put forth by the Democratic leadership and approved by the House in January. The proposed budget did contain a small, but insufficient, increase of $25 million for the AIDS Drug Assistance Program while keeping most of the CARE Act at level funding, according to representatives of the GLBT groups.

Matt Foreman, executive director of the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force, called the plan “a perversion of American values.”

“This budget hurts all Americans, including lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender Americans. Billions more will be squandered on his failed and senseless war in Iraq while critical American priorities are on the chopping block,” Foreman said in a statement. “In all, it is an immoral attempt to finance the war on the backs of America’s most vulnerable people. We look forward to working with Congress to restore some of the drastic cuts that have been made in the past few years in social service programs and support a budget that reflects the true needs of America.”

Human Rights Campaign president Joe Solmonese agrees.

“Barely two months after the president signed a bill to reauthorize the Ryan White CARE Act, his new budget request short-changes this vital program,” Solmonese said in a statement. “The president has paid much rhetoric to the problem of HIV/AIDS among minority communities in the United States. It’s time for the president to put his money where his mouth is and request funding for domestic HIV/AIDS programs that keeps pace with the real need.”

The president’s request also included an increase of $28 million for unproven abstinence-only-until-marriage programs that discriminate against GLBT youth and fail to give young people the information and resources to protect themselves from HIV and other sexually transmitted diseases.

“With the Centers for Disease Control reporting that 46 percent of African-American men who have sex with men in five major U.S. cities are already HIV-positive, it is simply unacceptable that the president can find more money for anti-gay abstinence-until-marriage programs and neglect so many other domestic HIV/AIDS priorities,” Solmonese said.


Jessica L. Frinsco
(left) and Hillary J. Woest were formally joined in love in a commitment ceremony held on January21 in the Historic Magnolia Ballroom. The ceremony themed “Live. Laugh. Love.” was officiated by close friend Nancy Ford. Following a brief honeymoon in San Francisco, California, Frinsco and Woest returned to their careers in the Pasadena Independent School District. They will continue living in the Heights, where they have resided together for more than two years.


Ann Reed
has joined Bering Omega Community Services as vice president of operations. Reed previously served as executive vice president and chief operating officer for DePelchin Children’s Center.


Christopher Bown
has been re-elected president of the Houston GLBT Community Center board of directors. Fran Vaughan was elected treasurer of the organization at the January board meeting. They join vice president Nelvin Esquillo and secretary April Ayers as officers.


Opthalmologist Scott Sawyer, M.D., is now on staff at Legacy Community Health Services. Barry Mandel joined Legacy last month as chief operating officer. Mandel was previously president and CEO of the Houston Downtown Alliance. Sawyer and Mandel are partners.

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