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LGBT News Sites Publish Unsubstantiated Allegations About Gay Man's Funeral In Arkansas

Jay

On Monday, a Dallas LGBT newspaper published a post online alleging that churches and ministers in Arkansas had refused to conduct a funeral service for a gay Texas man who died last month.

The Dallas Voice's post also alleged that a local volunteer fire department had refused to allow the family of 32-year-old suicide victim James Stone (above left) to hold a meal at the station after the service, which the department traditionally has done for other families. 

As you might expect, the post quickly went viral on social media, and it was even picked up by Raw Story and The Bilerico Project. But as it turns out, the story isn't accurate.  

The story was based on allegations from Jay Hoskins (above right), Stone's widower. Haskins retracted his allegations about the fire department when it became clear that a family member, not the department, had canceled the meal following the service. Now, pastors at two churches deny Hoskins' claims that he called them to see if they would conduct Stone's funeral. 

The local Gannett-owned newspaper, The Baxter Bulletin, reports:

The circumstances surrounding Stone's funeral on Saturday in Clarkridge have created a hailstorm of controversy, with Hoskins claiming bigotry and hatred on the part of many in the northern Baxter County community, including church and volunteer fire department officials.

Church officials say they never were asked to perform a service for Stone, as Hoskins claims. Fire officials say Stone's relatives canceled a reservation for use of the VFD's building for a fellowship gathering following the funeral. ...

A post on dallasvoice.com began the controversial debate, opening with the headline: "Churches in Mountain Home, Ark. refuse funeral for gay man."

Some things, though, have become clear. Only two churches were involved, and neither are in Mountain Home. Stone's father, Wallace, didn't "build" the fire station in Clarkridge, and Stone didn't die of Sjogren's Syndrome. All are assertions made in the post.

Church1Representatives from both Clarkridge Baptist Church and Clarkridge Church of Christ denied ever being contacted by Hoskins. The pastor at Clarkridge Baptist Church told the Bulletin that if he had been contacted, he would have conducted the funeral. The pastor at Clarkridge Church of Christ, however, said if he had been contacted, he would not have conducted the funeral. 

The only aspect of the story that appears to be true is that two citizens who attended Stone's funeral handed packets containing sympathy cards to Hoskins and others that also contained literature against same-sex marriage:  

The packets also contained more than a dozen pages of religious teachings and biblical verses. In one place, an article entitled "Foundational truths regarding marriage" asserts any marriage other than one between a man and woman is wrong. The article questions if some sexual deviants may petition for human-animal marriages. ... 

Vicki Oels confirmed attending the graveside service with her husband, plus delivering the packets.

Oels said a great deal of thought went into what information was included, and that the reason they were delivered was "to teach them the truth about God's word."

"I don't know if it was the right time and location to do it. It was the only time I figured I would have," she said. "My husband and I discussed it, and we thought this is the only opportunity we're going to have to reach those people."

As a journalist covering LGBT issues in Texas, I personally began looking into this story Sunday, when I had a long conversation with Hoskins. However, after quickly determining that his allegations about the fire department were false, I backed off. Not only did it call into question Hoskins' entire account, but to me it would have been the real news, since the fire department is publicly funded. As awful as it may be, churches and ministers have a right to decline to conduct funerals, even though in this case they claim they didn't. At that point, I requested the anti-gay literature Hoskins said he received at the funeral, which he never provided to me. 

Notably, it's not the first time in recent memory that the Dallas Voice has published a story that went viral but turned out to be inaccurate. Last year, the newspaper accused the Tulsa Police Department of failing to investigate the death of a gay man. Tulsa's Channel 9 reported in August: 

The Tulsa Police says a story posted by the Dallas Voice on August 5, 2014 about the death of a gay man in Tulsa contains "false information."

The Dallas Voice calls itself "The Premier Media Source for LGBT Texas." On Tuesday, in a post attributed to Dallas activist C.D. Kirven, it accused the Tulsa Police Department of failing to investigate the death of Benny Longoria, 40. ... 

The Tulsa Police Department released a statement about the case, saying the Dallas Voice never contacted anyone with the department, including Sergeant Dave Walker who was mentioned in the story. 


Arkansas' Appeal of Pro-Gay Marriage Ruling In Jeopardy Over An Unpaid $505 Legal Fee

6a00d8341c730253ef01bb07b5002e970d-800wiThe state of Arkansas found itself in the hot-seat on Monday with the 8th Circuit Court of Appeals over its failure to pay a $505 docket fee required for its appeal of a federal judge's November 2014 ruling striking down the state's ban on same-sex marriage to move forward. As the AP reports, the 8th Circuit threatened to dismiss the state's appeal but ultimately gave the state two additional weeks to "demonstrate why its appeal shouldn't be dropped":

The appeals court notified the state Jan. 7 that the money was due last Wednesday. Attorney General Leslie Rutledge replaced Dustin McDaniel on Jan. 13. Her office blamed clerical errors made before she took over and said that the appeal would proceed.

"It's not in jeopardy," Rutledge spokesman Judd Deere said. "The fee will be paid."

McDaniel said Monday evening that he was not aware the state had missed the payment. He said the docketing fee wasn't among topics he and Rutledge discussed during the transition. He said that fee payments would have been a routine task handled by other attorneys in the office.

Advocates for same-sex couples seeking the freedom to marry in Arkansas are not discounting the technicality:

Jack Wagoner, an attorney representing same-sex couples, said that the state's appeal is a waste of taxpayers' money — but that he would take any form of victory.

"A win is a win," Wagoner said. "I don't care if it's on technicality or in a close opinion or whatever."


States Defending Gay Marriage Bans Costing Taxpayers Millions In Attorney Fees

MarriageGraphic

Plaintiffs in successful same-sex marriage lawsuits have been awarded more than $800,000 in attorneys fees' from states that defended the bans, with another $2.6 million in requests pending, according to a new report from The National Law Journal: 

Federal district judges across the country have issued nearly three dozen rulings since late 2013 declaring state same-sex marriage bans unconstitutional. Attorney fee petitions haven't been filed yet in the majority of those cases as they go before circuit courts and the U.S. Supreme Court. The fee awards, agreements and requests to date offer an early snapshot of what these landmark civil rights cases could cost taxpayers. ... 

Plaintiffs who prevail in federal civil rights cases can collect legal fees from the losing side. Congress set up the fee-shifting rule as an incentive for lawyers to take on time-consuming and expensive civil rights litigation, said Deborah Ferguson, lead counsel for the couples who fought Idaho's gay marriage ban.

In Idaho, the plaintiffs' attorneys were awarded a whopping $410,663 — the most in any state thus far. But that hasn't stopped Republican Gov. Butch Otter from continuing his futile defense of the state's marriage ban in court. The other states where plaintiffs' attorneys fees have been awarded or agreed to in same-sex marriage cases are Kentucky, Missouri, Oregon and Virginia. Requests are pending in Alaska, Arkansas, Ohio, Oklahoma, South Carolina, West Virginia and Wisconsin. 

Of course, the plaintiffs' attorneys fees don't include the cost to taxpayers of states paying their lawyers or hiring outside counsel to defend the bans — or, for that matter, lost revenue from wedding-related spending where same-sex marriage is still not legal. 

All told, it seems that defending discrimination isn't cheap, and states that continue to fight same-sex marriage better be prepared to pay up. And the irony is, many of the same folks who advocate lower taxes are the same ones fighting hardest to deprive same-sex couples of the freedom to marry.  


Gordon Klingenschmitt Applauds Fayetteville, Arkansas For Voting 'Against the Devil' By Repealing LGBT Protections: VIDEO

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Noted religious zealot, homophobic demagogue, and member-elect to the Colorado House of Representatives  Gordon Klingenschmitt took to his YouTube program “Pray In Jesus Name” to applaud residents living in Fayetteville, Arkansas for repealing a local non-discrimination ordinance last month. The ordinance would have ensured equal access to housing and employment for LGBT individuals and criminalized discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity.

19 Kids and Counting's Michelle Duggar and other noted conservatives actively campaigned against the ordinance with a series of robocalls characterizing the law as a protection for sexual predators and molesters. The people of Fayetteville, Klingenschmitt described, had struck a blow for Jesus, stood up, and “voted 52-48 against the Devil.”

Watch, AFTER THE JUMP...

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Apple CEO Tim Cook Makes 'Substantial' Contribution To HRC Campaign Targeting His Home State Of Alabama

Six weeks after coming out publicly, Apple CEO Tim Cook has made a "substantial" contribution to a campaign aimed at bringing LGBT equality to his home state of Alabama. 

Cook.TimThe Human Rights Campaign announced Cook's contribution Thursday to its Project One America, an $8.5 million, three-year effort targeting Alabama, Arkansas and Mississippi. Cook grew up in South Alabama and attended Auburn University. 

The Associated Press reports: 

The amount of Cook's contribution to the Washington-based Human Rights Campaign wasn't disclosed, but the advocacy organization called it "substantial." ... 

The campaign includes advertising on TV and elsewhere, direct-mail fliers and staff members hired in each state.

"We hope Tim Cook's substantial personal investment inspires others to support this vital and historic project," Jason Rahlan, a spokesman for Human Rights Campaign, said in an email.

President Chad Griffin wrote on HRC's blog

When Tim first learned about HRC's Project One America – our bold, comprehensive campaign to dramatically advance equality for LGBT Americans in Alabama, Arkansas and Mississippi – he said, “I'm in.” Thanks to his generous personal financial investment in the program, together we will move the needle forward at the local and state level, tearing down misperceptions and providing concrete protections for those who need it most.

Shortly before coming out, Cook delivered a speech in Montgomery in which he said Alabama was moving "too slow on equality for the LGBT community." The state's only openly gay lawmaker recently announced she plans to name a nondiscrimination bill after Cook in the upcoming legislative session. 

Cook, who heads the world's largest corporation, is the only openly gay CEO of a Fortune 500 company. 

RedIn related news, Cook announced in an email to employees that Apple's Product (RED) holiday campaign raised over $20 million for AIDS research, Business Insider reports: 

"I’m thrilled to announce that our total donation for this quarter will be more than $20 million — our biggest ever — bringing the total amount Apple has raised for (PRODUCT) RED to over $100 million. The money we’ve raised is saving lives and bringing hope to people in need. It’s a cause we can all be proud to support," Cook wrote. 

Watch a video for HRC's Project America campaign in Alabama, AFTER THE JUMP...

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Voters In Fayetteville, Arkansas, Repeal LGBT Protections, But Mayor Says 'It Won't Be The Last Round': VIDEO

Arkansas

Voters in Fayetteville, Arkansas, narrowly repealed an ordinance banning anti-LGBT discrimination on Tuesday.  

The final tally was 7,523 votes in favor of repealing the ordinance, or 52 percent, to 7,040 votes against repeal, or 48 percent. 

Turnout was high for a special election, at 29 percent or 14,600 votes. That's compared to 21,457 Fayetteville residents who cast ballots in the Nov. 4 general election. 

The City Council approved the ordinance in August after 10 hours of debate, but opponents gathered enough signatures to place it on the ballot. Fayetteville would have been the first city in Arkansas to ban anti-LGBT discrimination. 

NWA Online reports: 

Alderman Matthew Petty, the ordinance's sponsor, said he was disappointed but not discouraged after results were announced at Fresco Cafe & Pub, where supporters of the group Keep Fayetteville Fair gathered.

"We believe that we were on the right side of history," Petty said. "And if we're going to win the hearts and minds of people on the other side of this issue, we need to remember that and remember that they're brothers and sisters of Fayetteville, too." ... 

Petty said Tuesday night it's too soon to tell if the City Council will consider a revised version of a similar ordinance.

"We're going to consider all options," he said.

"This is the first round, but it won't be the last round," said Mayor Lioneld Jordan, who has publicly endorsed the ordinance. "I would have liked to have seen it go differently, but that doesn't mean we can't go back and try something again eventually."

Despite the setback, there were signs of progress in the results. Sixteen years ago, when Fayetteville voters repealed an ordinance protecting only gay city employees — the margin was 58 percent to 42 percent. The ordinance voted on Tuesday was much broader in its scope, applying citywide and including transgender protections.  

Kendra Johnson, a representative from the Human Rights Campaign in Arkansas, issued the following statement:  

"Tonight's vote is a deeply disappointing reminder that equality doesn't always move forward in a straight line. Make no mistake about it, tonight's election results—and the repeal of this ordinance — will inflict direct harm on LGBT Arkansans, their families and their friends. But we remain convinced that the progress of fairness will continue despite this result. All Arkansans should have the legal right to live safely within their communities, homes and workplaces, and the day will come soon when LGBT young people will wake up in this state and enjoy true equality under the law. We'll keep up the fight until that dream is achieved.”

Opposition to the ordinance was led by the likes of reality TV star Josh Duggar, as well as several Republican members of the Arkansas Legislature, who threatened to overturn the measure anyway if it was upheld by voters. 

Here's how they reacted on Twitter:

Watch KFSM-TV's report on the results, AFTER THE JUMP...

Continue reading "Voters In Fayetteville, Arkansas, Repeal LGBT Protections, But Mayor Says 'It Won't Be The Last Round': VIDEO" »


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