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News Briefs: September 2008

Legacy community health services, Mangum life sentence, Fox news network, ‘US Magazine’ apologize for trans slams, and more.

By Nancy Ford

Legacy Community Health Services Receives Grant From Comcast, Cable Positive

Legacy receives Comcast grant.

Comcast television cable service provider and Legacy Community Health Services have announced that they have partnered to secure a $5,000 grant from the Cable Positive Tony Cox Community Fund to be used toward free HIV testing.

“HIV and AIDS continue to be a health crisis for many Houstonians, some of who don’t know they have been infected,” said Katy Caldwell, executive director for Legacy Community Health Services. “It is very important that we continue to raise awareness and encourage people to get tested. The sooner someone knows they’ve become infected and the sooner they seek treatment, the greater the chances are that they can remain healthy.”

Comcast also committed to produce and air public service announcements to promote a free-testing initiative and other health-care assistance and programs Legacy Community Health Services provides to uninsured or underinsured Houstonians. The public service announcements began airing on Comcast’s Houston system in August.

Since its inception, Cable Positive has awarded more than $1.1 million to more than 230 AIDS service organizations in 35 states.

Photo caption: The $5,000 grant was presented at a ceremony held at the Legacy’s Westheimer location with representatives from Legacy and Comcast in attendance, including Judi McNall (l), chief financial officer at Legacy Community Healthcare Services; Texas State Representative Garnet Coleman; Chree Boydstun, chief development officer at Legacy; Comcast vice president of public relations, Ray Purser; Texas State Representative Jessica Farrar; and Legacy’s chief operating officer, Barry Mandel.


Mangum Receives Life Sentence For 2007 Slaying Of Kenneth Cummings Jr.

Last month, Terry Mark Mangum was convicted of killing Kenneth Cummings Jr., a Pearland gay man, on June 4, 2007. Immediately following the verdict, the jury sentenced the 27-year-old Cypress man to life in prison.

Following his arrest on June 12, 2007, Mangum claimed to be the Old Testament prophet Elijah, sent to carry out God’s judgment against homosexuality. The men had met at a Montrose bar and later proceeded to Cummings’ home in Pearland. After stabbing Cummings in the head on June 4, Magnum transported the body to a family ranch in Poteet, Texas.

It took the six-man, six-woman jury less than an hour to find Mangum guilty. “It’s the only verdict they could have reached based on the evidence,” lead prosecutor Jeremy Warren said after Mangum was ordered to begin serving the sentence immediately. “That’s exactly what Mangum deserved for what he did.”

Mangum had pleaded not guilty by reason of insanity, but jurors determined the crime was hate-driven, believing testimony that Mangum killed Cummings because the victim was gay. Mangum is eligible for parole in 2038.


Houston Black Tie Dinner Drops November Gala For Year-end Ball

Committee members for the Houston Black Tie Dinner, a formal event for gay and lesbian Houstonians held each November since 1988, have announced they are implementing significant changes this year, starting with getting rid of the signature November dinner. In its place, Houston Black Tie’s 2008 Black Ties and Big Hearts Charity Ball, scheduled on New Year’s Eve, is a reinvention of the group’s traditional November gala. “We want to do something better and more profitable,” said event co-chair, Mark Chupik. “All of our past events have been successful, but the dollars to beneficiaries weren’t large enough for all the work that we as an organization were putting into it.”

Rather than focusing around a celebrity entertainer following a seated dinner, the New Year’s Eve event offers live music and a world-class DJ to keep the crowd energized and the evening flowing toward the big countdown at midnight.

Black Ties and Big Hearts attendees are limited to 480, considerably downsizing the number of the November dinner’s patrons.

“We’ve decreased the number of tickets available this year so we would have more options on locations to hold the event,” said Chupik, who co-chairs the event with Stephen Walker.

The event takes place at Hotel ZaZa, formerly The Warwick, the home of previous GLBT New Year’s Eve events.

“New Year’s Eve is a night that people usually look for something to do and don’t mind spending money, so why not combine our event with the holiday creating something to do for New Year’s Eve and an opportunity to donate to charity all in one?” Walker said.

Beneficiaries of the gala are AssistHers, Bering Omega Community Services, Bayou City Performing Arts, Center for AIDS, Houston Buyer’s Club, Lazarus House, Legacy Community Health Services, Lesbian Health Initiative, Montrose Counseling Center, Pet Patrol, and PFLAG/HATCH Youth Scholarship Fund.

Individual tickets to Black Ties and Big Hearts start at $300 and are available at a kick-off party scheduled September 7, 3 p.m., at South Beach nightclub.

Walker says the evening will be exciting sensory celebration, “from the eclectic visual environment of Hotel ZaZa, the amazing non-stop music, fabulous food and drink, it will be the ultimate New Year’s Eve party.

“And most importantly, it will be a benefit to our community.”

Details: www.blacktiesbighearts.org.


Networking Program Aims to Connect Young GLBT Leaders

HATCH is the sponsor of the first meeting of the “New Leaders’ Network: Meeting the future of the GLBTQ community.” Organizers hope the meeting grows into an annual event, offering networking opportunities for young adults ages 16–24 to make connections with one another.

Pamela Paige Palmer, the organizer of the New Leaders’ Network, says one of her goals is for her peers to share information to strengthen their high school or college GLBT student organizations, as well as build relationships with community organizations.

The meeting is for scheduled Saturday, October 4, 2–5 p.m., at Montrose Counseling Center, 401 Branard Street, Room 101.



Attorney and transgender equality activist Phyllis Randolph Frye is scheduled as a featured speaker at the 25th Annual Lavender Law Conference, September 3–6 in San Francisco. Lavender Law is the annual conference sponsored by the National Lesbian and Gay Law Association. Frye is a former director of NLGLA and was awarded its highest honor, The Dan Bradley Award, in 2001. She will speak at the Friday morning plenary session on the topic of “The Way We Were: Legal Issues of Our Community, A History,” along with Abby Rubenfeld, Bridgett Wilson, and William Eskridge.

Frye later presents at the 30th Anniversary Conference of SAGE (Services and Advocacy for GLBT Elders), scheduled October 12–14 in Brooklyn, New York. She will be a part of a session entitled “Transgender Concerns in the 21st Century.”


Fox news network, ‘US Magazine’ apologize for trans slams

On August 15, Fox News anchor Gregg Jarrett, host of America’s Newsroom, apologized on the air for comments made about a transgender contestant on the upcoming season of America’s Next Top Model: “This time yesterday we aired a segment about a transgender by the name of Isis, who will compete in the upcoming season of the television show America’s Next Top Model . The group GLAAD, Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation, sent us an e-mail saying it was offensive. That was not our intention. We apologize.”

On August 14, Fox News Channel aired a crude and obnoxious segment concerning the recent announcement of America’s Next Top Model’s first-ever transgender contestant. During the segment, Jarrett and Us Weekly editor-at-large Ian Drew gratuitously insulted Isis, using dehumanizing terminology, inaccurate and inappropriate pronouns and offensive references to her anatomy.

While laughing, Jarrett mocked Isis’ description of herself as a woman whose “cards were dealt differently,” adding, “That’s an understatement!”

Drew referred to recent instances of transgender visibility on reality television as “The Crying Game ’08,” going on to call the show “America’s Next Top Tranny.” Drew then said that she doesn’t look any different from other contestants, because “they are not exactly the most high-class group of women.”

Throughout the segment, Jarrett switched back and forth between male and female pronouns, and both Jarrett and Drew suggested that Isis “fooled” people by “blending in.” They went on to make crude remarks about her genitalia and the pitch of her voice.

After also being contacted by GLAAD, Us Weekly issued the following statement: “We apologize if any group was offended by our editor’s comments as it was by no means his intention.”



Following the matrimonial example set by fellow out comedian Ellen DeGeneres and spouse, Portia DiRossi, Suzanne Westenhoefer has announced that she and her partner, Jennifer Houston, plan to make it official. Westenhoefer says she plans to marry her longtime partner, at the Hollywood Chapel in Los Angeles on September 6.

Westenhoefer and Houston are planning a small private ceremony followed by a party for friends and family and a short honeymoon at the Beverly Hilton.

“We had a ceremony for our families back in November 2006,” said Westenhoefer, “but they make gay people get married again and again and again. I guess we have to prove we really mean it.”

Westenhoefer adds the couple wants to “make sure we could get married before November.”

In June, California became the second state in the nation to allow same-sex couples to legally marry. Although a ballot measure to overturn the ruling will be put to voters during the November election, most experts agree that same-sex marriages that happen before November will remain valid regardless of the election’s outcome.

The first openly gay comedian on national television in the United States, Westenhoefer has been delivering gay material to straight audiences in mainstream comedy clubs since the early 1990s.


California state supreme court says docs must treat gays and lesbians

Doctors in California must treat gays and lesbians the same as any other patient, regardless of religious objections, the state’s Supreme Court ruled August 18.

According to a report in the San Francisco Chronicle, the court unanimously rejected a San Diego County fertility clinic’s attempt to use its physicians’ religious beliefs as a justification for their refusal to provide artificial insemination for a lesbian couple.

Guadalupe Benitez sued North Coast Women’s Care in Vista and two of its doctors, saying they told her in 2000 that their Christian beliefs prohibited them from performing intrauterine insemination for her because she is a lesbian.

The ruling, which was handed down three months after the court turned California’s ban on same-sex marriage, strengthened the state’s law that prohibits businesses, including medical clinics, from discriminating against customers because of their sexual orientation, as well as their race, sex, or religion. The court said religious beliefs do not excuse discrimination.

The court also rejected the doctors’ claim that their freedom of speech was being violated, saying they remain free to criticize the anti-discrimination law as long as they comply with it.


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