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News Briefs: April 2008

Presidential Candidate Endorsements, Equality Texas, Equality Texas Names New Officers to Prepare for 2009, Swoopes Leaves Houston Comets, Hollyfield Foundation, GLSEN’s National Day of Silence, Governor Slams Gay Scouts and more…

Texas Equality's new chair, Martha L. Oestreich

GLBT Political Organizations Split on Presidential Candidate Endorsements

Houston Equal Rights Alliance Teams Up with Equality Texas

Equality Texas Names New Officers to Prepare for 2009 Legislative Session

GLBT Political Caucus Endorses Two in April Runoff

Galveston Mayor Assured Reelection in November

Local Log Cabin Republican Leader Leaves GOP

Immigration Lawyers Present ‘Citizenship Day’

Swoopes Leaves Houston Comets, Signs With Seattle Storm

Hollyfield Foundation Opens Grant Applications, Announces Officers

Local High Schools Participate in GLSEN’s National Day of Silence

Texas Governor Slams Gay Scouts

GLAAD Congratulates Oscar Winner for Film Documenting Lesbian Couple

Ford Motor Company Denies Success of Antigay Boycott


Prior to Texas’ March 4 Democratic presidential primary, Houston Area Stonewall Democrats announced the GLBT political group’s endorsement of Senator Hillary Clinton in the Democratic presidential primary.

Representing five of the region’s counties, Houston Area Stonewall Democrats is the largest GLBT Democratic organization in southeast Texas. The vote of HASD’s executive board was decisive with four members voting for Sen. Clinton and one member abstaining.

“For us, the choice was clear, “ said Teresa Herrin, Stonewall Democrats president. “Hillary Clinton is the candidate best qualified and most prepared to bring about the changes sought by our community. We knew Sen. Clinton has been our ally in the fight for our equal rights, but we were genuinely surprised by her passion about us becoming full American citizens under the law,” continued Herrin.

During a pre-primary, 20-minute phone conversation with representatives from Houston Stonewall Democrats, Sen. Clinton committed to making immediate priorities of her administration on such key issues as passing a completely inclusive ENDA, passing a completely inclusive Hate Crimes bill, and eliminating “Don’t Ask, Don’t’ Tell.”

“Instead of marginalizing us, Sen. Clinton actually asked us to help her create the solutions our country needs. To a 76-year-old lesbian in Houston, that is very, very powerful,” said Pat Gandy, Stonewall Democrats’ treasurer.

Senator Barack Obama received the endorsement from the Houston’s GLBT Political Caucus after conferring with its representatives, though he chose not to interact with the Stonewall group. The caucus board’s vote was close, with three members supporting Sen. Obama, two members supporting Sen. Clinton, and one member abstaining.

“When we invited the two senators to seek our endorsement, we never truly believed we would be forced to make such a difficult decision,” said Jenifer Pool, president of the caucus, which held interviews with both candidates in late February. “After historic conversations with both Sen. Clinton and Sen. Obama, the caucus board engaged in thoughtful deliberations and were proud to get behind Sen. Obama.”

Ultimately, Sen. Clinton won Texas’ democratic presidential primary’s popular vote, with Sen. Obama receiving the majority of Texas’ Democratic Party’s super delegates.

Houston Vice Mayor Pro Tem Sue Lovell, who supports Hillary Clinton, is a super delegate and the only Texas GLBT member on the Democratic National Committee.

Details: www.HoustonAreaStonewallDemocrats.comwww.thecaucus.org.


In its goal to build alliances with other GLBT and progressive organizations, the Houston Equal Rights Alliance and Equality Texas have announced that the two organizations have integrated.

“Equality Texas’ programmatic and advocacy work across the state has mirrored HERA’s in the greater Houston metropolitan area,” observed HERA vice-chair, Tammi Wallace. “Equality Texas has been a longtime alliance partner of the Houston Equal Rights Alliance and we are proud of our collaborative and successful efforts.”

HERA’s board of directors began a dialogue in 2007 with Equality Texas about how the two organizations could best achieve common goals and objectives in the Houston metro area. Following positive feedback from supporters of both, the partnership was approved.

“This is a ‘win-win’ situation, because Equality Texas will benefit from the infrastructure that HERA has developed through the years,” said HERA president, Rob Scamado, “and the Houston community wins because we will have a larger presence with our statewide organization.

“We need Equality Texas to be successful, not just for Houston but for the place we all call home: Texas,” Scamado continued. “The HERA board is working to make this integration successful, and we will continue to work with and support Equality Texas until the day when the gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender community is no longer treated as second-class citizens.”

Details: www.equalitytexas.org.

Equality Texas Names New Officers to Prepare for 2009 Legislative Session

The boards of directors of Equality Texas and Equality Texas Foundation have announced they have elected officers to lead the organizations through a comprehensive strategic planning process and to prepare for the 2009 legislative session.

Vice-chair of the lobbying group in 2007, Martha L. Oestreich of Kyle, Texas, was elected as chair. Chair of the Collin County Gay & Lesbian Alliance’s Victory Committee, Dawnetta Miller of Plano, was elected as vice-chair. Recipient of numerous awards promoting GLBT equality, Marsha Warren of San Antonio, was elected as treasurer. Equality Texas board member, Reed Bogle of Dallas, was re-elected as secretary.

Details: www.equalitytexas.org.


Houston’s Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, and Transgender Political Caucus Political Action Committee has announced endorsement for the April 8 runoff election in Houston. The PAC endorsed railroad commissioner candidate, Dale Henry, based on his pledge to protect Texas’ environment, develop Texas’ alternative energy sources, and include the GLBT community in his office.

Larry Weiman, returning candidate for civil judge in District 80, has proven “excellent on GLBT issues,” according to the HGLBTPC PAC.

Early voting for the runoff ends Friday, April 4; the election itself is Tuesday, April 8.

Details: www.theCaucus.org.


Voters in the March 4 primary election decided that Galveston Mayor Lyda Ann Thomas will run unopposed for the island’s highest office in the November election.

Mayor Thomas, whom Galveston’s OutSmart readers voted as their “favorite politician,” told the Galveston Daily News that she considers having no opponent in the mayor’s race “a vote of confidence” by her constituents.

“I do want to be the best mayor,” she told the News, “and I want to do what I can for the city I love and the citizens I hold in such high regard.”

Thomas has been Galveston’s mayor since the 2004 general election.


The most recent president of Log Cabin Republicans-Houston, Noel Freeman, has announced his resignation from that office.

“I can assure you this decision did not come easily,” Freeman said in a pubic statement. Freeman said his decision was based in part on local GOP and Republican leaders’ disinterest in dialoguing with LCR.

“County Judge Ed Emmett showed some promise when he expressed interest in meeting with LCR, but my requests to take him up on his offer were ignored,” Freeman continued in the statement.

According to Freeman, none of 42 questionnaires sent to Republican candidates inviting them to screen with LCR-Houston for the March 4 primary were returned. “Likewise, invitations were extended to numerous prominent Republican leaders and candidates to speak to LCR. All were similarly ignored.”

Freeman concluded his statement by asking local GLBT Republicans “to continue to be passionate and continue to make your case to the GOP that there is much more to being Republican than being straight.”

Freeman, who made an unsuccessful bid for a seat on Houston’s city council in 2007, said he is supporting Barack Obama in the 2008 presidential election.


In collaboration with Congressman Al Green and Bank of America, the American Immigration Lawyers Association Texas Chapter presents Citizenship Day for persons seeking to apply for U.S. citizenship.

Among the basic requirements for naturalization, the applicant must be a lawful, permanent resident (or a green-card holder) of the U.S., be at least 18 years old, possess good moral character, pass English and U.S. history and civics exams, and take a loyalty oath.

“Those who are not U.S. citizens and eligible for naturalization…may be able to receive free help in applying for naturalization,” said John Nechman, a partner with Katine & Nechman L.L.P.   “You will likely have to pay U.S. CIS filing fees and biometrics costs of $675, but you will save attorney fees.”

The forum is set for Saturday, April 19, 9 a.m. ‘til 2 p.m. at Fondren Middle School, 6333 South Braeswood Blvd. Details: Rosa Cruz, 713/333-3333, ext. 218.


Houston Comets star player, Sheryl Swoopes, announced in early March that she is leaving the team to join the Seattle Storm.

Swoopes wore a Comets jersey from 1997 through 2007, though she sat out the 2001 season with a knee injury. A consistent scorer, she helped the Comets snare the WNBA’s first four championships.

A strained lower back caused the three-time WNBA Most Valuable Player to miss all but three games in the Comets’ 2007 season.

Following a high-profile announcement that she is a lesbian, Swoopes signed on as a spokeswoman for Olivia, which produces lesbian-themed cruises and events.


In keeping with its mission to help fund organizations that support GLBT equality and healthcare, the Hollyfield Foundation is now accepting grant proposals from GLBT and HIV/AIDS organizations, with all requests for funding due April 30.

Reviewing the applications are grants committee co-chairs for 2008, directors Mary Ann McBee and Coy Tow. Additional recently elected officers for the foundation are Mark Wood, chair; Todd G. Amdor, vice-chair; Kerri J. Dorman, secretary; and Mary Ann McBee, treasurer.

Applications for grants are available at the foundation’s website. Details: 713/523-6900 • www.hollyfield.org.


Sponsored annually by the Gay, Lesbian and Straight Educators Network (GLSEN), the National Day of Silence brings attention to anti-LGBT name-calling, bullying, and harassment in schools.

This year’s event was held April 25 in high schools throughout the U.S. in memory of Lawrence King. King, a California eighth-grader, was shot and killed Feb. 12 by a classmate because of his sexual orientation and gender expression.

Students from approximately 12 Houston-area high schools participated in the observance, including Bellaire, Cypress Springs, Episcopal, Furr, Hightower, Kempner, Kingwood, Northbrook, Sharpstown, and Westside high schools, as well as The High School for Health Professionals, and The Kinkaid School.

GLSEN’s 2003 National School Climate Survey found that more than four out of five GLBT students report verbal, sexual, or physical harassment at school, and 29 percent report missing at least a day of school per month, fearing for their personal safety.

Details: www.glsen.org.


In February 24’s The New York Times Magazine, Texas Governor Rick Perry stated that allowing gay members and leaders to participate in the Boy Scouts of America would subject boys to “a crash course in sexual orientation.”

“Scouting ought to be about building character, not about sex. Period,” Gov. Perry told the magazine. “Precious few parents enroll their boys in the Scouts to get a crash course in sexual orientation.”

When asked whether he believed that gay youth might also be interested in the character-building aspects of scouting, Perry replied, “The argument that gets made is that homosexuality is about sex.”

Paul Scott, executive director of Equality Texas agreed with Gov. Perry in that the focus for Boy Scouts of America is building character.

“But Governor Perry seems to be the one confused that being gay is just about sex. He fails to realize that the characteristics of being a Scout — trustworthy, loyal, helpful, friendly, courteous, kind, obedient, cheerful, thrifty, brave, clean, and reverent — are all characteristics that can define a gay Scout member or a gay Scout leader.”

Scott stressed that discrimination based on sexual orientation is not character-building, adding that implying that being gay is a defect in character is inaccurate and offensive.

“Governor Perry’s perpetuation of stereotypes and falsehoods is the complete antithesis of good character,” he said.

Jodie Eldridge, executive director of Atticus Circle, agreed. “In our country, there are millions of gay folks who are excellent parents, teachers, and caregivers for our kids,” Eldridge said. “I am sure they would also make excellent Scoutmasters, if only given the chance.”

Equality Texas and Atticus Circle representatives hoped to demonstrate to the governor that the principles of scouting are beneficial to heterosexual and homosexual Texans by inviting current and former gay Boy Scouts to attend bookstore readings of Governor Perry’s new book, On My Honor: Why The American Values of the Boy Scouts Are Worth Fighting For.


The Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation has officially congratulated director-producer Cynthia Wade on her Oscar win for her short documentary, Freeheld . The award was presented at the 80th Annual Academy Awards , held February 24 at the Kodak Theater in Los Angeles.

Freeheld documents the 2006 struggle of New Jersey Detective Lt. Laurel Hester in her effort to transfer her pension to her domestic partner, Stacie Andree, in the months leading up to Hester’s death.

“We are thrilled that this powerful film, one that has the potential to change hearts and minds concerning fairness for gay couples, has been honored tonight with a well-deserved Academy Award,” said GLAAD President Neil G. Giuliano.


Despite a claim of victory by the American Family Association, the Ford Motor Company has denied a boycott of Ford products by the AFA has proven successful.

Ford spokesman Jim Cain said “financial difficulties” were to blame for a system-wide scaling-back of Ford’s philanthropic donations. “We’ve been in real financial difficulties,” Cain told Portfolio.com. “There’s been reduced spending in lots of areas.”

“I have some good news for you!” AFA chairman Donald E. Wildmon wrote in an early-March message to members. “AFA is suspending its two-year boycott of Ford Motor Company. The conditions of the original agreement presented in fall 2005 have been met.”

Wildmon and AFA had demanded that Ford stop advertising in gay-focused media outlets and stop donating to organizations that support gay equality.

Cain added that no settlement had been reached with AFA. “I can tell you there was not a negotiated settlement to this boycott.” Ford continues to support GLBT-affirmative groups, including PFLAG and Human Rights Campaign.


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