Austin Hub




Army Vet Gets 10 Years Probation For Brutal Attack On Two Gay Men In Downtown Austin: VIDEO

Austin

An Army veteran will serve 10 years of probation for brutally assaulting two gay men on Pride weekend in downtown Austin in 2012. 

Lambert Borgardt (right), who pleaded guilty Wednesday to aggravated assault, must also complete 200 hours of community service. Borgardt faces trial on a second count of assault in connection with the attack next year. 

Andrew Oppleman (above) and his friend, Nick Soret, were in line at a pizza truck near Austin's gay entertainment district on Sept. 21, 2012, when Borgadt reportedly thought Soret was checking him out. Borgardt became enraged and punched both men in the face. 

BorgadtOppleman lost nine teeth in the attack, which was captured on surveillance video, and Soret suffered a broken nose. Oppleman and Soret told police they felt they were targeted due to their sexual orientation, but the case wasn't prosecuted as an anti-gay hate crime.  

In court on Wednesday, Borgardt apologized for the attack, according to a report from KXAN-TV

“I apologize from the bottom of my heart, and I’ll do whatever it takes, whatever I can, whatever can work to pay you guys back for that,” said Borgardt.

However, Oppleman told KVUE-TV he doesn't believe Borgardt's apology was sincere: 

"The only part of closure I feel may not be complete is the perpetrator, Lambert Bogardt, his lack of showing true remorse for what he did, but more remorse for the predicament and the situation he's in," said Oppleman.

Borgardt's attorney, Bill Hines, said post-traumatic stress disorder could have been a factor in the attack:

“We’re pleased that the judge did the difficult work of balancing the really serious injuries with the incredible lifetime of honor and service [Borgardt] had in the military,” said Hines.

The Austin LGBT community held a march against hate crimes in response to the attack, and a local dentist provided Oppelman with free reconstructive surgery. 

Watch the reports from KVUE-TV and KXAN-TV (which includes the surveillance video), AFTER THE JUMP ...

Continue reading "Army Vet Gets 10 Years Probation For Brutal Attack On Two Gay Men In Downtown Austin: VIDEO" »


Texas Teen With Two Moms Delivers Rousing Speech In Support Of Marriage Equality: VIDEO

Mason3

Freedom To Marry President Evan Wolfson was joined by Texas same-sex plaintiff couples for a marriage town hall at the LBJ Presidential Library in Austin on Monday night.  

But Mason Marriott-Voss, a 16-year-old from Austin with two moms, stole the show with a rousing two-minute speech about the importance of bringing marriage equality to the Lone Star State.  

Marriott-Voss (shown with his family above) said when his two moms had him, same-sex marriage wasn't legal anywhere in the US, adding that a lot has changed, "but not here in Texas." 

"There are still people who stubbornly refuse to recognize family even when it's right in front of them," he said. "Some people are still genuinely concerned that my parents' love could harm tradition or erode society, maybe even threaten existing marriages."

Marriott-Voss talked about how ordinary his family is — his stepsister is a straight-A student who likes Harry Potter and his younger brother is wearing a Yoda-Santa hat every day in December in hopes that it will bring a white Christmas to Austin.  

"We share the same values and beliefs as everyone else, the same normal struggles and triumphs, except we are denied the basic dignity of being officially respected as the family that we are," Marriott-Voss said. "These anti-family laws create a raw deal for kids like me. Marriage is supposed to be a very important issue, but these laws cause children to be raised across the country in homes without it. The most important thing I want you to take away from me today, is that it's not our families that need to change, it's Texas." 

Freedom To Marry's Wolfson said people like Marriott-Voss continuing to tell their families' stories will be key to bringing same-sex marriage to Texas and the other 14 states where it's still banned.

A federal district judge struck down Texas' marriage bans in February, but Republican Attorney General Greg Abbott has appealed the decision to the 5th U.S. Circuit Court. The 5th Circuit will hear oral arguments in the Texas case Jan. 9 — around the same time the U.S. Supreme Court meets to decide whether to hear appeals of a 6th Circuit ruling upholding marriage bans in four states.

But Wolfson's message to the more than 100 who attended Monday's town hall was that it's critical for people in Texas to remain engaged rather than sitting back and watching because they think victory is inevitable. 

"Clearly we are winning and there's tremendous reason for hope and optimism and excitement, but winning is not won, and the way we're winning is by getting out there and talking and telling our stories and building support, and showing the country and courts that America is ready and they (the courts) can do this, and that there's real urgency and they need to do it," Wolfson said. "So why would we stop doing what's working when we're on the verge of winning?" 

Watch Marriott-Voss' speech, and check out a few more photos from the event, AFTER THE JUMP... 

Continue reading "Texas Teen With Two Moms Delivers Rousing Speech In Support Of Marriage Equality: VIDEO" »


Austin Takes Major Steps Forward On Transgender Rights

Stabler

Austin on Thursday became the first city in Texas — and the 43rd in the nation — to add transgender-inclusive health benefits for employees.

The City Council unanimously approved a resolution adding trans-inclusive benefits — including primary care, hormone therapy, mental health care and surgical care — beginning in 2015. 

The council also voted to require business owners to install signage indicating that single-stall restrooms are gender-neutral, and approved a resolution on pregnancy guidelines that specifically includes transmen.

From trans activist and HRC board member Meghan Stabler (above), who lives in Austin: 

BREAKING: Today, the Austin City Council unanimously approved a resolution directing the City Manager to incorporate transgender-inclusive benefits as part of the City employee benefits package in the Fiscal Year 2015-2016 proposed budget. Specifically the City Council approved three trans* friendly items:

Ordinance — single occupancy gender neutral restroom signage now required.

Resolutions:
— Directs city manager to incorporate Trans-inclusive health benefits for city employees as part of Fiscal year 2015-16 proposed budget
— Directs city manager to examine workforce practices in other cities regarding personnel policies for **pregnancy-capable** employees & develop recommendations for implementation to council May 1st 2015. – note that the resolution specifically includes transmen.

Express thanks go out to CCM Mike Martinez and Chris Riley for steering this through for the vote. There were several local advocates involved in this for months, well done.

The trans-inclusive benefits were opposed by the Travis County Taxpayers Association, and gender-neutral restrooms faced opposition from the anti-LGBT group Texas Values and its President Jonathan Saenz, according to a recent report from KTBC-TV

“Legally, politically and financially, this is not a smart move by the city of Austin,” Saenz said. "There are major privacy issues and safety issues when we deal with these type of transgender bathroom issues and we’ve seen them come up in Houston and San Antonio, where women are concerned about sharing or having to use a restroom where maybe a man’s gonna come in before or after them, you have small children and little girls.”

Jimmy Flannigan, an openly gay City Council candidate, has also come under attack from his opponent for supporting the gender-neutral restroom proposal. 

But Thursday's actions by the City Council only further solidify Austin's reputation as the queerest city in Texas. 

Next up? Rainbow crosswalks

Crosswalks


Gay-Friendly Corporations Refuse To Come Out Against 'License To Discriminate' Bills In Texas

LTD

Eight companies with perfect scores on the Human Rights Campaign's Corporate Equality Index have contributed money to the campaign of Texas Republican Sen. Donna Campbell (above right), the author of legislation that seeks to enshrine a "license to discriminate" in the state Constituion. 

But none of these otherwise gay-friendly companies have come out in opposition to SJR 10, which Campbell filed early last month.

The Texas Observer reports: 

“SJR 10 is one of thousands of bills filed, we will weigh in and comment on bills when and if they are scheduled for hearing,” said Mona Taylor, a spokeswoman for Dallas-based AT&T Inc., which contributed $5,000 to Campbell’s campaign through its PAC this year.

Other companies with perfect HRC scores that have contributed to Campbell’s campaign in the last year include General Motors Co. ($2,500), Citigroup Inc. ($1,500), UnitedHealth Group Inc. ($,1000), the Raytheon Co. ($1,000), Merck & Co. ($1,000), Genentech Inc. ($750) and Astellas Pharma Inc. ($500).

On Monday, Plano added itself to the list of cities in Texas that have passed ordinances banning anti-LGBT discrimination. Two days later, state Rep. Jason Villalba, R-Dallas (above left), filed a House version of Campbell's "license to discriminate" bill — and another lawmaker is threatening to introduce a similar measure, The Observer reports. 
 
Experts say the legislation would severely limit cities' ability to enforce nondiscrimination ordinances, since any business owner could claim an exemption if they have "a sincerely held religious belief." But the unintended consequences of the constitutional amendment could be far worse, according to Equality Texas' Daniel Williams.
 
Texas already has a statute, known as the Religious Freedom Restoration Act, that provides strong protections for religious freedom. But the proposed amendments would supplant the RFRA and go much further, overriding the statute's exceptions for things like zoning regulations and civil rights laws, according to The Observer
 

“A church or a synagogue or a mosque could conceivably be built anywhere with no concern to traffic flow or how much parking is available or building codes,” Williams said. “There are butchers that butcher in accordance with very specific religious laws, and they’re able to do that, but the city and the state enforce environmental protections that ensure we don’t wind up with giant ponds of blood in residential neighborhoods. If you take away the ability of cities to enforce those, it’s going to have an enormous negative impact on the quality of life for everyone in that area.”

Williams said Campbell has introduced similar measures in three previous legislative sessions. Given the senator's penchant for seeking to enshrine a "license to discriminate" in the state Constitution, the companies' campaign contributions could reasonably be interpreted as an endorsement of the legislation — at least until they publicly state otherwise. 


Out Austin City Council Candidate Targeted By Anti-gay Opponent Who Linked Homosexuality To Pedophilia

Flannigan

 

An openly gay Austin City Council candidate is under attack for supporting marriage equality and a recently passed ordinance requiring single-stall bathrooms to be gender-neutral. 

Flannigan.JimmyJimmy Flannigan (above right), former president of the Austin Gay & Lesbian Chamber of Commerce, is in a runoff for the District 6 Austin City Council seat on Dec. 16. 

Flannigan's opponent, Don Zimmerman (below right), is a tea party candidate and an anti-gay extremist who has compared homosexuality to pedophilia and incest. 

Stonewall Democrats of Austin provided Towleroad with a copy of the mailer sent by the anti-gay group Texas Values Action. (Texas Values Action is led by Jonathan Saenz, whose wife famously left him for a woman.)

The mailer, shown above, highlights the fact that Zimmerman opposes both same-sex marriage and the "Transgender Bathroom Ordinance," while Flannigan supports them. 

Stonewall Democrats of Austin issued the following statement in response to the mailer: 

“Now that the finish line to the City Council run-off is in sight, its ‘here we go again’ with inflammatory and divisive rhetoric intended to suggest that LGBTQ people are anti-family. Nothing could be further from the truth. So, wake up Mr. Saenz, you are in Austin and its 2014.

"Rather, anybody who has heard Jimmy Flannigan knows that he talks about the real family values that are important to Austin and District 6.  In Jimmy Flannigan’s Real Solutions for District 6, he has ideas for fighting traffic, tax relief, affordability, improving public safety, smart growth and streamlining city government.

"Jimmy Flannigan cares about and will work for all families, regardless of their composition or political affiliation. Flannigan’s ability to unify and lead is exactly what our community needs as we address the challenges that face our city. The Austin Chronicle, the Austin American Statesman and over 20 community organizations have endorsed Jimmy Flannigan as the best choice for District 6. We are proud to be among them.”

Zimmerman.DonIt's not the first time Flannigan, who's vying to become Austin's first gay council member since 2011, has been the target of anti-gay attacks. In the general election, another candidate sent a mailer highlighting the fact that Flannigan is single and once led the gay chamber. 

Zimmerman, meanwhile, wrote a column oppopsing same-sex marriage for Texas Insider last year. In the column, Zimmerman traced homosexuality to the Cretans who lived circa 1650 B.C. and "celebrated the practice of harpagmos – the ritual kidnapping of a noble boy by an adult male of the aristocratic class":

Unlike some of Jerry Sandusky’s victims, the Cretan boys were believed to be pubescent (teenage), having a father’s consent, and having some conditions for refusing the adult male’s advances.  In any case, cultural and legislative acceptance of homosexual partnerships isn’t recent – it’s ancient!

Todays’ Democrats should at least privately admit such harpagmos as progressive, since it would end another discriminatory barrier to “having sex with the one you love” – a barrier the rest of us call the “age of consent”.  Today’s Republicans might also consider – as GOP Senators newly consent to SSM, that ancient homosexual practices could be couched as conserving tradition. ... 

If the SSM principle really is discrimination, progressives should battle against opposite sex marriage discrimination – but in fact we hear no objection to laws prohibiting brother and sister, or mother and son, from being married to have a “stable, loving family." 

Read Zimmerman's full column here


Austin Police Department Welcomes First Openly Transgender Officer: VIDEO

Picture 3Austin Police Department's Senior Officer Greg Abbink introduced himself as the first openly transgender man on the Austin police force during his Transgender Day of Remembrance speech outside of Austin's city hall on Thursday reports KXAN News. Officer Abbink, who joined the force a decade ago as Emily, officially changed his name this past spring. This year also marks the first time a transgender officer was chosen from APD's Lesbian and Gay Police Officers Association to deliver the speech.

Said Abbink:

“I was honored when I was asked to speak,” said Abbink. “I can’t imagine the city of Austin or the Austin Police Department, for that matter, being any more supportive than they are. I consider APD my family. They are truly my brothers and sisters.”

Officer Abbink says coming out as transgender comes with its own challenges, but recognizes there are certain rewards that come with it as well.

Added Abbink:

“I didn’t do this for anyone other than me, and I don’t mean to sound selfish, but I had to do this to be the best person that I can be, so that I can serve the public — the city of Austin — to the best of my ability.

"I'd like to be a role model if I can."

Watch Officer Abbink's interview with KNAX, AFTER THE JUMP...

Continue reading "Austin Police Department Welcomes First Openly Transgender Officer: VIDEO" »


Trending



Towleroad - Blogged