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Dallas To Recognize Same-Sex Marriages

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After three hours of debate, a Dallas pension board voted Tuesday to recognize the same-sex marriages of city employees — contingent on approval from the City Council and the city attorney. 

Despite a lack of leadership on the issue from Mayor Mike Rawlings, the board voted 6-0 to approve the compromise between members who wanted to recognize out-of-state same-sex marriages, and those who felt the decision should be left up to voters. 

The city attorney and City Council are expected to sign off, paving the way for Dallas to join Austin, Fort Worth, Houston and Plano in recognizing same-sex marriages and providing equal retirement benefits to the spouses of gay employees. 

The Dallas Morning News reports: 

Again and again, different variations of the effort to include same-sex marriages in spousal benefits failed in deadlocked votes. Then, after three hours of discussion and some harsh words, a deal was struck. ... 

Dallas’ two pension boards — the Employees’ Retirement Fund and the Police and Fire Pension Board — have been among the last city entities to extend same-sex benefits, after the City Council passed a resolution nearly a year ago calling for LGBT equality in all city operations. ... 

The pension boards have grappled with what they say is a legal gray area between a Texas ban on gay marriage and a 2013 U.S. Supreme Court ruling requiring the Internal Revenue Service to recognize same-sex marriages from any state, regardless of where the couple lives.

A federal district judge struck down Texas' marriage ban last year, but stayed his decision pending the state's appeal to the 5th Circuit, which heard oral arguments last month. 

In Houston, anti-LGBT activists sued the city and Mayor Annise Parker over her decision to recognize employees' out-of-state same-sex marriages. But that lawsuit is on hold pending the outcome of the Texas marriage case. 

Tuesday's vote would provide equal pension benefits to gay civilian employees in Dallas, but not police or firefighters. The city's Police and Fire Pension Board is scheduled to discuss the issue Thursday. 


3 Years After Mayor Refused To Sign Marriage Pledge, Dallas Drags Feet On Equal Benefits For Gay Employees

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Back in 2012, Dallas Mayor Mike Rawlings declined to join a coalition of mayors who support same-sex marriage.  

And in 2013, Rawlings refused to allow a City Council vote on a resolution in support of marriage equality.

All along, Rawlings' position has been that although he personally supports same-sex marriage, he doesn't think it should be a city issue.  

Now, though, it has clearly become a city issue, and Rawlings' lack of leadership may be coming back to haunt Dallas' gay employees. 

The Dallas Morning News reports that the city's pension boards are divided on whether to recognize out-of-state same-sex marriages for the purposes of providing equal retirement benefits: 

This week, two Dallas boards — the Police and Fire Pension Board and the Employees’ Retirement Fund board — will consider actions that could put Dallas in line with Fort Worth. But the city officials say they are facing reluctance from lawyers who fear legal consequences from the state law and would rather wait on the Supreme Court to provide more guidance.

City Council member Lee Kleinman, who serves on both boards, called the lack of action in Dallas “extremely frustrating.” He said the pension board “has been resistant and the staff has been resistant.” ...

The city’s Employee Retirement Fund has been equally difficult, he said.

“Over there I faced the exact same resistance and the same ‘Let’s wait and see’ and the same B.S. line of ‘Oh, it’s the right thing to do, but let’s not do it now,’” Kleinman said.

The Morning News reports that while the Police and Fire Pension Board would have to put the change to a vote of its members, the Employee Retirement Fund Board, which covers the rest of the city's workers, could fix the problem by simply changing its interpretation of "spouse" to include married same-sex partners. 

Noticeably absent from the story is Rawlings, who's up for re-election this year. 


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

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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. 


Hunky Theatre Arts Teacher Inspires Entire High School To Show Off Their 'Uptown Funk': VIDEO

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Whether you're in Harlem, Hollywood or Jackson, Mississippi this performance of Mark Ronson and Bruno Mars' "Uptown Funk" is sure to rouse you. The video comes from Dallas' A. Maceo Smith New Tech High School and the school's theatre arts teacher Scot Pankey. Said one student who participated in making the video, "This is a great example of how a bunch of technology students let go of their fears, trusted their teacher and got down to Uptown Funk!!!"

Let Mr. Pankey and the students of A. Maceo New Tech High uptown funk you up, AFTER THE JUMP...

Continue reading "Hunky Theatre Arts Teacher Inspires Entire High School To Show Off Their 'Uptown Funk': VIDEO " »


HRC Likely Won't Defend Plano, Texas Equal Rights Ordinance, Calls It 'Transphobic'

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Things are not looking good for Plano, Texas' recently passed Equal Rights Ordinance. 

As we reported earlier this week, opponents of the ordinance turned in over 7,000 signatures on petitions to repeal it — more than double the number needed to put it on the ballot. 

Granted, these folks may be prone to fraud and forgery, but still, given that the evangelical megachurch serving as their base of operations has almost 40,000 members, you'd think they'd be able to gather enough valid signatures. So chances are there's gonna be a ballot measure in May.

Ballot measures on nondiscrimination ordinances haven't gone well for LGBT people in conservative Southern cities of late, even when the community is united. But that won't be the case in Plano, because the Human Rights Campaign says it's probably not going to help defend the ordinance, according to a report from The Texas Observer.  

HRC, which has poured hundreds of thousands into similar fights in some other cities, called the Plano ordinance "transphobic" because of an exemption that would bar people from using restrooms, locker rooms and similar facilities according to their gender identity. 

The exemption apparently was included to pre-empt attacks over transgender bathroom use. But here's the thing: Anti-LGBT groups are making those attacks anway, and the strategy has backfired by dividing the community. 

Equality Texas and a local LGBT group say they'll defend the ordinance despite the exemption because it's a step in the right direction. But HRC's Cathryn Oakley told the Observer:

“The language in Plano is very problematic and in terms of investing a lot of resources in an ordinance that has a lot of problems, it’s difficult to see why that’s necessarily the best use of resources. If we had been consulted in the drafting of this bill, we would have withdrawn our support, and given that, it’s hard to justify defending it as valid. .. 

"I think the story coming out of Plano is about a city that really wanted to do the right thing, and I wish that this had unfolded differently, because I think that there were good intentions, but things fell apart. I think incremental process is important, I think municipal work is incredibly important, but incremental doesn't mean leaving part of the community behind. That's not an acceptable version of incremental."

Somewhere, the haters are sitting aroud licking their chops, because we've just played right into their strategy: Divide and conquer. 

Watch a report on the petition to repeal the ordinance from Fox 4, AFTER THE JUMP ...

Continue reading "HRC Likely Won't Defend Plano, Texas Equal Rights Ordinance, Calls It 'Transphobic'" »


Company To Take Down Ex-Gay Therapy Billboard In Dallas, Says It Was Misled By Advertiser

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The president of the advertising company that's hosting an "ex-gay" therapy billboard in Dallas says the company was misled about the nature of the sign or he wouldn't have allowed it to go up.  

Yesterday Towleroad broke the story about the billboard ad paid for by David Pickup, a well-known practitioner of ex-gay therapy in Dallas — and one of the authors of a plank endorsing reparative therapy in the Texas GOP platform. 

Terry Kafka, president of Impact Outdoor Advertising, told Towleroad on Wednesday that Pickup led the company's sales manager to believe the billboard was an advertisement for couples therapy. Kafka said he hadn't even heard of reparative therapy until he began getting complaints about the billboard on Wednesday. 

"We were misinformed," Kafka said. "I'm not a proponent of it. I'm not on that bandwagon. When we have a controversial advertisement, we always discuss it internally, and we didn't even discuss it because our sales person was under the impression it was for couples therapy." 

Kafka said the sign has been up for two-and-a-half weeks and was scheduled to come down Jan. 26 anyway. 

"We're going to attempt to get it down sooner but that's the worse-case scenario," Kafka said, adding that he will not renew the contract or lease billboard space to Pickup again. 

"I have no interest in promoting that," Kafka said. "I have no interest in doing business with him." 

Pickup refused to address Kafka's allegations.  

"I can't comment on that, because nobody contacted me from the company," Pickup said. "I thought that the main thing this sign would do was raise awareness for those people who really want and need this therapy." 

Pickup would not say whether the billboard has generated new business. Asked whether he expected it to be controversial, he said, "I wasn't certain what would happen." 

If you'd like to thank Kafka for his decision, send them an email through the form here.  


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