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Fort Worth Will Recognize Same-Sex Marriages, Causing Gay Officer To Choke Up On Camera: VIDEO

Knight

Fort Worth will begin recognizing same-sex marriages on Feb. 1. The city announced Wednesday it is extending spousal benefits to same-sex couples who are legally married in other states. 

The city already offers health insurance to same-sex partners, but the decision to begin treating them as spouses will extend equal benefits to other areas, including pension plans. It will also bring the city into line with IRS rules issued in the wake of the U.S. Supreme Court's decision in Windsor v. United States.

From the city's employee newsletter

The City of Fort Worth will be extending spousal benefits to same-sex couples beginning Feb. 1, 2015.

This change will allow the city to follow the IRS's definition of "spouse" as defined for federal income taxes in the granting of survivor benefits.

Since the city's retirement ordinance does not specifically define "spouse," surviving spouses in a same-sex marriage will be eligible for survivor benefits if the survivor can prove, through documentation, that they were legally married to the employee/retiree in a state where same-sex marriage is legally recognized.

The news drew an emotional reaction from out lesbian police Cpl. Tracey Knight. From WFAA-TV

"When I got the news last night," she said, pausing, tears in her eyes... "When I got the news last night, it was very emotional. ...

"I told my wife and we burst into tears," said Knight, who serves as the department's LGBT liaison. "We're like any other family. And God forbid if I'm ever killed in the line of duty, I want her and our child to be taken care of."

The WFAA report goes on to mention that Fort Worth has made great strides on LGBT equality since the police department's infamous raid of the Rainbow Lounge gay bar in 2009. The department is also actively recruiting gay officers, and several employees recently appeared in a TV ad supporting marriage equality. 

While numerous other cities in Texas offer benefits to same-sex partners, it is believed that only one — Houston — has done so by recognizing out-of-state same-sex marriages.

That decision from out lesbian Houston Mayor Annise Parker, which was designed to get around a city charter amendment prohibiting domestic partner benefits, prompted a lawsuit from anti-gay Republican activists. 

The lawsuit alleges that Parker's decision violated Texas' ban on same-sex marriage. The lawsuit is on hold, and the Houston same-sex benefits remain in effect, pending the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals' ruling in a federal lawsuit challenging the the marriage ban. 

However, it wouldn't be the least bit surprising to see anti-gay activists — or perhaps the Republican attorney general's office — similarly challenge Fort Worth's decision. 

Watch WFAA-TV's report, AFTER THE JUMP ... 

Continue reading "Fort Worth Will Recognize Same-Sex Marriages, Causing Gay Officer To Choke Up On Camera: VIDEO" »


Passenger Gets Slap On Wrist For Drunken, Anti-Gay Assault Caught On Video At Dallas Airport

Benham2

The passenger who went on a drunken, violent, anti-gay rampage that was caught on video at DFW International Airport in October will pay $474 in fines for the incident, according to a court spokeswoman. 

BenhamMcCleish Christmas Benham (right), now 28, of Shelbyville, Tennessee, assaulted two people while yelling anti-gay epithets, before other passengers tackled him to the ground and he was arrested on Oct. 23. 

A bystander captured the incident on video and posted it on YouTube, where it's been viewed more than 5 million times.

Benham was charged with public intoxication and simple assault, both class-C misdemeanors each punishable by a maximum $500 fine, but no jail time. The case was referred to the Municipal Court in the city of Grapevine, Texas. 

Cindy Eteaki, court manager for the city of Grapevine, told Towleroad on Wednesday that Benham posted a cash bond to get out of jail and entered a conditional plea of no contest at the time. Because Benham failed to appear in court, his bond will be forfeited and he will be convicted on both counts, Eteaki said. Benham's bond was $262 dollars on the assault charge and $212 on the public intoxication, for a total of $474.

The FBI has declined to comment on whether it is investigating the incident as an anti-gay hate crime under the federal Matthew Shepard and James Byrd Jr. Hate Crimes Act of 2009. 

Expert Pete Schulte, an openly gay criminal defense attorney and former police officer from Dallas, has said he believes authorities mishandled the case — and Benham should have been charged with class-A misdemeanor assault, punishable by up to one year in jail: 

“I’m sure the individual who was punched felt a little pain based on the video,” Schulte said. “Class-C assault is offensive contact without any pain.

“He could be charged with resisting arrest if they decide the person who broke his ankle was attempting to arrest him,” Schulte added. “It appears that DFW airport police may have not done a great job in this case.”

Benham had previously been in trouble for theft and animal abuse.  

Watch video of the attack, AFTER THE JUMP ... 

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Continue reading "Passenger Gets Slap On Wrist For Drunken, Anti-Gay Assault Caught On Video At Dallas Airport" »


Gay-Rights Rivalry: As Dallas Celebrates Higher HRC Score, Fort Worth Aims To Get Back On Top

RainbowLounge

Anyone who's lived in the D-FW Metroplex knows there's sometimes a fierce rivalry between Dallas and Fort Worth — and in recent years this has extended to the realm of LGBT equality. 

Following the infamous police raid on the Rainbow Lounge gay bar in 2009 (above), Fort Worth advanced several LGBT initiatives that resulted in the smaller, more conservative city receiving a higher score than Dallas on the Human Rights Campaign's first two editions of the Municipal Equality Index. 

But this year, Dallas jumped back on top, receiving a 91 on the MEI compared to Fort Worth's 83.  

One thing that hurt Fort Worth's score this year was the unexplained disappearance of LGBT issues from the city's official federal legislative agenda, even though they'd been included following the Rainbow Lounge raid. 

HendersonOn Tuesday night, the Fort Worth City Council rectified that problem, unanimously approving a resolution placing support for the Employment Non-Discrimination Act on its legislative agenda for this year. Given that ENDA seems largely dead, we're assuming the resolution will mean support for a comprehensive federal civil rights bill — which would roughly mirror Fort Worth's existing nondiscrimination ordinance. 

From The Fort Worth Star-Telegram

The federal legislative agenda came up for a council vote on Dec. 9, but [City Councilwoman Ann] Zadeh made the motion to delay approving it after David Mack Henderson (right), president of Fairness Fort Worth, told her that legislation seeking nondiscrimination laws for the LGBT community was not on the agenda.

“We are just asking for what we already had,” Henderson said.

“We had been frustrated that it fell of the radar, though I’m told that it wasn’t intentional. Still, any constituency wants to know that they matter, and we do. Fort Worth and other major cities in Texas are best represented with legislative packets that put our best foot forward and are progressive both for our citizens and for economic development.”

Zadeh said she would like to see the nondiscrimination legislation added the city’s agenda for the Texas legislative session, which begins next week.

KingstonMeanwhile, on the other side of the Metroplex, Dallas was celebrating a 10-point increase in its MEI score this week, which allowed it to jump both Fort Worth and San Antonio and put Big D second behind only Austin (100) in Texas. 
 

In March, the City Council passed a resolution supporting equal rights for city employees, citizens and visitors and committing to address any unequal treatment of LGBT people. The city’s Human Resources department updated its plan to play for transgender psychotherapy and hormone replacement.

In May, the city updated its Family Medical Leave Act ordinance to allow care of a “designated care recipient” as a reason to utilize it. In June, the Dallas Public Library sponsored LGBT programs and a designated book section, which brought the city points for the “visibility” of its LGBT efforts.

City Council members on the Budget, Finance and Audit Committee Monday praised city employees for prioritizing the work.

“Staff has taken the ball and run with it so well,” Philip Kingston (right) said. “When you see an outstanding effort like this, you can tell people really bought into the idea.” 


Freedom To Marry Launches TV Ads In Texas In Advance of 5th Circuit Hearing: VIDEO

Gorrie

In a new TV ad from Freedom To Marry, Fort Worth Police Detective Chris Gorrie is flanked by three of his colleagues (below right) at a restaurant table.  

"Chris makes a sacrifice every day along with the rest of us," FWPD Detective Monica Jackson says. 

"He puts his life on the line just like I do," FWPD Officer Jay Doshi says. 

Gorrie explains that he and his partner, Justin (shown above), live together and would like to get married someday. 

Gorrie2"Texans believe in freedom and liberty, and part of that is to be able to marry whoever you love, so Chris should be able to marry whoever he loves," Doshi says. 

The ad is airing across Texas this week in advance of a key federal appeals court hearing Friday, according to The Houston Chronicle

The $100,000 TV buy will air Sunday and Monday, just days before the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals in New Orleans is slated to hear arguments in a case challenging Texas’ constitutional ban on gay marriage.

The ads, which feature gay and lesbian Texans talking about their desire to marry, will air in eight of Texas’ 20 markets including Houston, San Antonio, Dallas, Austin, Beaumont, Corpus Christi, El Paso, Laredo, the Rio Grande Valley, Waco and Wichita Falls. ... 

“The aim is to show gay Americans are really completely integrated into the fabric of our society,” said Mark McKinnon, a former advisor to President George W. Bush and Texas chair of Southerners for the Freedom to Marry. He called the ads an “electronic blanket” to reinforce a recent wave court cases validating LGBT Americans right to marry in other states.

The ad is part of Freedom To Marry's newly launched Texas For Marriage campaign. The campaign included a town hall earlier this month in Austin where 16-year-old Mason Marriot-Voss, who has two moms, delivered a rousing speech in support of marriage equality

More on Texas For Marriage from Lone Star Q

The campaign will be led by Ward Curtin, three-time deputy campaign manager to Houston Mayor Annise Parker, and Mark McKinnon, a former advisor to President George W. Bush.

“Nearly every state and federal court from last year on, more than 50 – with judges appointed by Republican and Democratic presidents and governors – has ruled in favor of the freedom to marry and moving the country forward,” Freedom to Marry President Evan Wolfson said. “Texas families should not be left behind. Government has no business interfering in important freedoms like who Texans marry, and no business putting obstacles in the path of families and employers trying to do the right thing. Our new campaign will show that Texans are ready for the freedom to marry, and so is America.”

In addition to a website unveiled Tuesday, TxForMarriage.org, the campaign will feature statewide TV ads, townhall meetings and a Republican-led effort by young conservatives.

“Gay marriage was barely a blip on the radar this past election cycle in Texas, as it was in the rest of the country,” McKinnon said. “That’s because discrimination doesn’t sell like it used to — and because Texans from all walks of life, from big cities to small towns, believe strongly in freedom and family. Supporting gay couples marrying is squarely in line with these Texas values.”

As we reported last week, even though the 5th Circuit Court is among the most conservative in the nation, there is hope for a favorable ruling. In addition to the Texas case, the 5th Circuit will hear oral arguments Friday in marriage cases from Louisiana and Mississippi. 

Watch Freedom To Marry's Texas ad, AFTER THE JUMP ...

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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. 


Pastor Steve Anderson's Disciple Says Gays Should Be Killed Because They're 'Filthy Faggots' Who Snatch And Rape Children: VIDEO

Romero

Pastor Steven L. Anderson (above right), of Faithful Word Baptist Church in Arizona, made headlines earlier this month when he said the world would be AIDS-free by Christmas if we simply stoned all gay people to death. 

Anderson has also said that gays are "basically rapists" and compared them to ax murderers and Hitler.

Now, it appears Anderson has a disciple who is every bit as hateful as he is.

Right Wing Watch reports that earlier this year, Anderson ordained Pastor Donnie Romero (above left), who now leads Stedfast Baptist Church in Fort Worth, Texas. 

Last Sunday, Romero delivered a sermon called "Public Example" in which he also called for gays to be put to death: 

"I'm going to explain to you why God wants these people to be put to death. ... The word of God is very clear that God is against the sodomites, that they're filthy and it says they're an abomination to God. … I love that part of the Bible, and I'm going to preach that part of the Bible until the day I die, and if I ever stop preaching that part of the Bible, I hope my kids tell me, 'Dad, you're going soft on sin, you need to get up there and rip on these queers, because it's only getting worse and worse.' 

"And amen to what Pastor Anderson said — I'm not going to let any of these dirty faggots inside of my church. They are all pedophiles. ... They're always trying to rape and hurt other people. They're relentless. They are relentless. They are predators and given an opportunity to snatch one of your children, they would do it in a heartbeat." 

Watch the clip as well as Romero's full sermon, AFTER THE JUMP ... 

Continue reading "Pastor Steve Anderson's Disciple Says Gays Should Be Killed Because They're 'Filthy Faggots' Who Snatch And Rape Children: VIDEO" »


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