Houston Hub

Houston Gay Activist Shot In Apparent Hate Crime


Between events like this one and this one, Houston has seen its share of anti-LGBT hatred in recent months. So it's hardly surprising to see some of that hatred filtering down onto the streets. 

In fact, Houston has experienced a rash of anti-LGBT hate crimes of late. And amid all the rhetoric from opponents of the city's Equal Rights Ordinance, is anyone really surprised? 

In the latest incident, Houston gay activist John Gaspari (shown above with Mayor Annise Parker) is recovering after being shot in the stomach in an apparent hate crime in the city's Montrose gayborhood, Project Q Houston reports:

A gay Houston man was beaten, shot, robbed and called an anti-gay slur as he was attacked by three men while walking home from a Montrose gay bar.

John Gaspari was attacked near the intersection of Genesee and Cleveland – less than a half-mile from Meteor – as he walked from the bar about 3:30 a.m. on Feb. 15, according to KHOU and About Magazine. The robbers took his wallet, jewelry and cell phone, beat him and shot him in the stomach. Gaspari said the assailants yelled, "Get the fag."

More from KHOU-TV

"I'm just really grateful to be alive," said Gaspari, who spent nearly 2 weeks in the hospital. "My last memory was of them tackling me." ... 

"I probably won't walk down the street alone anymore, I will wait for an Uber or drive," he says.

According to About Magazine, a witness called police and reported Gaspari lying on the ground as the three suspects kicked him. The witness was able to get the license number from the suspects' vehicle, which turned out to be stolen. Not surprisingly, police insist the incident was a random robbery, not a hate crime. 

Gaspari had recently lost his job, and supporters launched an Indiegogo fundraiser to help with expenses during his recovery, which could last 6-8 months. The fundraiser, which expired last week, raised $3,446: 

John has been so generous with his time and his money since moving to Houston several years ago. He has supported so many LGBT causes, organizations and events. Now its time for our community to rally in support of John.

As many of you know, John has had a string of bad luck since moving here. He faced constant gay-oriented discrimination and harassment at this job. And the Friday before the attack, he was laid off. But through it all, John has kept his sweet good humor and has been such an asset to our community.

It's been 24 years since gay banker Paul Broussard was murdered on the streets of Houston, in one of the earliest and most notorious anti-gay hate crimes in US history. When will it end? 

Saks Fifth Avenue Settles Suit In Which Retailer Defended Right To Discriminate Against Trans Employees


Saks Fifth Avenue has settled a lawsuit in which it initially claimed it had a right to discriminate against transgender employees. 

Transgender woman Leyth Jamal (above), a former sales associate for Saks Fifth Avenue at Houston's Galleria mall, brought a lawsuit last September against the company, alleging wrongful termination based on sex in violation of Title VII of the federal Civil Rights Act of 1964, in addition to a hostile work environment, retaliation and breach of contract.

In court filings responding to Jamal's lawsuit, attorneys for Saks shockingly alleged that Jamal wasn't protected against discrimination under Title VII. The company's court filings also misgendered Jamal and argued that Saks wasn't bound by the nondiscrimination policy in its employee handbook, which includes gender identity. 

WeissIn a landmark 2012 ruling, the federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission found that job bias against transgender workers qualifies as sex discrimination under Title VII. And in 2014, Attorney General Eric Holder announced the U.S. Justice Department was taking the position that transgender employees are protected under Title VII. 

Saks' anti-trans arguments prompted the Human Rights Campaign to suspend the company's score of 90 on the Corporate Equality Index. HRC later joined the National Center for Lesbian Rights in filing a brief in the case. 

Also getting involved were New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman and the Department of Justice. Finally, Saks relented and withdrew the motion in which it had argued transgender workers aren't protected under Title VII, saying the company would instead fight Jamal's lawsuit on the merits. 

Six weeks later, Fortune Magazine reports that the case has settled: 

On Wednesday, Jamal’s lawyers Jillian Weiss (above right) and Mitchell Katine filed a stipulation of dismissal of the case with prejudice. When asked about the terms of the settlement, Weiss told Fortune that the parties had amicably settled the lawsuit and they will have no further comments regarding the suit. Saks’ lawyer Michael Mitchell did not immediately return a request for comment.

Texas Lawmaker's Gay Son Responds To Father's Arkansas-Style Anti-LGBT Bill


The other day we told you about an Arkansas-style anti-LGBT bill that's been introduced in the Texas Legislature. 

The proposal from GOP Rep. Rick Miller (above left) would prohibit cities from adopting or enforcing nondiscrimination ordinances protecting LGBT people. The proposal is nearly identical to Arkansas' Senate Bill 202, which became law last month. But the Texas bill would have a far more sweeping effect, undoing LGBT protections that have passed in cities with a combined population of more than 7.5 million, including Austin, Dallas, El Paso, Fort Worth, Houston, Plano and San Antonio. 

As it turns out, Texas' Rep. Miller has a gay son, Beau Miller (above right). 

From The Texas Observer

Rep. Miller’s son, Beau Miller, an openly gay 41-year-old Houston attorney, is an HIV and LGBT activist.  Miller said he was “extremely disappointed” to learn about his father’s bill.

“If the bill progresses through the Legislature, I’m sure there will be a robust conversation about the impact not only on minority communities, such as the LGBT community, but also on local rule in Texas,” Beau Miller said.

Meanwhile, Rep. Miller provided this explanation for his proposal, according to the Observer:

“HB 1556 will prevent local governments from expanding business regulations beyond limitations established in state law,” Miller told the Observer. “Competing and inconsistent local ordinances interfere with economic liberty and discourage business expansion. By promoting instead of restricting business growth, this bill is about job creation and an improved state economy, both of which have a direct, positive impact on Texas citizens."

Beau Miller later posted the following Facebook:

As many of you know by now, my dad has authored and submitted a bill in the Texas House of Representatives that, if signed into law, would prevent municipalities in Texas from maintaining sexual orientation anti-discrimination laws. While I love my dad very much, I am extremely disappointed by his actions and will do everything I can to prevent that bill, or any such legislation, from becoming law.

I have been in fairly intense talks with my dad and his office about this issue. Although I am hopeful that I can persuade him to agree to not pursue this bill’s advancement, that outcome is far from certain. If anyone would like to help in this effort, I suggest writing to him about yours or a friend’s experience with discrimination and how it felt. To that end, and with full recognition of the deep emotions at play, please do not match hate with hate, or engage in name calling or insults. It does not help. Those type of communications tend to do more harm than good.

This is also a time to reflect on the fact that while marriage equality is in sight, the fight for justice and civil rights for all is far from over. It is at these times we should all remember Martin Niemöller’s poem: First they came for the Socialists, and I did not speak out—Because I was not a Socialist. Then they came for the Trade Unionists, and I did not speak out—Because I was not a Trade Unionist. Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out—Because I was not a Jew. Then they came for me—and there was no one left to speak for me.

On an even more personal note, I would like to thank my amazing partner and friends for your unconditional love and support. This would be so much tougher without you.


You can contact Rep. Miller at 512-463-0710 or Rick.Miller@house.state.tx.us.



Family Research Council Plans Another Anti-Gay Hatefest In Houston Next Week


For the second time in four months, the Family Research Council will host an anti-gay hatefest at a Houston megachurch next week. 

Back in November, FRC staged an "I Stand Sunday" rally in response to the city of Houston's decision to subpoena the sermons of pastors as part of its defense of an Equal Rights Ordinance. 

SummitNext week's two-day event, the "National Stand Summit," reportedly is designed exclusively for pastors and will be held at the same venue, Grace Community Church. Speakers at the National Stand Summit will include GOP presidential candidates Rick Santorum and Mike Huckabee, reality TV star Josh Duggar, Fox News commentator Todd Starnes, FRC President Tony Perkins, FRC radio host Craig James and fired Atlanta Fire Chief Kelvin Cochran, among others.  

The event is being promoted by the US Pastor Council, which led opposition to Equal Rights Ordinances in Houston and Plano. In both cases, the cities rejected the Pastor Council's petitions seeking to overturn the ordinances. In Houston, the Pastor Council filed suit, and that case is pending. 


Texas Lawmaker Wants To Throw Transgender People in Jail for Using Public Restrooms


A Texas state legislator has filed a bill that would make it a crime for transgender people to use public restrooms according to their gender identity. 

The proposal from GOP Rep. Debbie Riddle (above) would make it a class-A misdemeanor — punishable by up to one year in jail and a maximum $4,000 fine — for transgender people to use "a locker room, shower facility, or toilet facility designated for use by persons of a gender that is not the same gender as the individual’s gender."

Riddle's HB 1748 would also make it a state jail felony — punishable by up to two years in prison and a maximum $10,000 fine — for a building manager to "repeatedly allow" a transgender person to use such a facility according to their gender identity. 

Here's how the bill defines gender: 


Riddle's bill is similar to one filed earlier this month in Florida. 

In Texas, anti-LGBT groups have recently used the issue of transgender restroom use to attack Equal Rights Ordinances in Houston and Plano

Read the full text of Riddle's bill, AFTER THE JUMP ... 

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Both Sides Claim Victory In Trial Over Houston LGBT Protections: VIDEO


Both sides are claiming victory after the jury reached a mixed verdict Friday in the trial over a petition to repeal Houston's Equal Rights Ordinance. 

But we won't know which side is right until the judge issues a final ruling about how many valid signatures are on the petition. And even then, the decision is likely to be appealed. 

The Houston Chronicle reports: 

The ruling is not final, and a judge will now consider the jury's findings about the work of more than 100 circulators of the petition that the city rejected last summer, citing overwhelming notary and signature-gatherer errors.

District Judge Robert Schaffer was not present for Friday's ruling after nearly six days of jury deliberation. Attorneys on both sides said he will now begin counting which signatures are valid to see if opponents have reached the needed 17,269-signature threshold. Schaffer retains wide legal discretion in what he deems valid.

The jury's ruling Friday will trigger a series of legal dominoes that, eventually, will yield a definitive answer: The judge will count the signatures, issue a decision on whether the petition is valid and then the case will almost certainly go to the appellate courts

Jurors determined there was widespread forgery on petition pages they reviewed, but no fraud. They also found that in many cases circulators failed to properly sign and subscribe petition pages.  

Geoffrey Harrison, the lead attorney for the city, told the Chronicle that supporters of the Equal Rights Ordinance should "be thrilled and dancing in their kitchen" about the verdict. Mayor Annise Parker, who authored the ordinance, issued this statement:  

Parker"I am very pleased with the jury’s verdict, and I expect the court will apply the law to the verdict and issue a final judgment confirming that the petition failed.  The City of Houston has had in place for over 100 years the same rules and legal requirements governing the referendum process to ensure fairness and avoid fraud, and the jury’s verdict confirms that the petitions did not meet the legal requirements. The plaintiffs are expected to appeal any outcome that is not in their favor.  That would be unfortunate for the City.  I believe that the majority of Houston wants this divisive fight to be over so that we are able to provide equal rights protections for all of our residents. The City is confident it will prevail."

But opponents of the ordinance were also claiming victory. Plaintiff Jared Woodfill, the former chair of the local GOP, sent out a press release under the headline, "Favorable Jury Verdict Should Result in Victory for Voters and Religious Liberty!"

Woodfill"Great news...the jury returned a verdict that should allow the people to vote on Mayor Parker's Unequal Rights Ordinance," Woodfill wrote. "Judge Robert Schaffer will now apply the ruling to the almost 55,000 individuals who signed the petition. I am confident he will conclude we had the requisite 17,269 signatures necessary for the people to vote on this issue."

The Texas Pastor Council, the anti-LGBT group that led the petition drive, also said it's confident the judge will determine there are enough valid signatures: 

The coalition of pastors and community leaders behind the historic referendum effort to repeal Mayor Annise Parker’s pro-LGBT so-called “Equal Rights Ordinance” and the corresponding lawsuit after Parker and her legal team invalidated the petitions, responded with faith, confidence and optimism to today’s jury verdict that was nearly a fifty/fifty split on questions they considered.

“The Mayor’s lawyers went to extraordinary lengths to discredit, demean, denigrate and disqualify as many petitions and signatures as possible. Thankfully, in spite of an incredible amount of detail presented and even oft repeated by the city’s attack team, our God has again raised His standard of justice,” stated Dr. F.N. Williams, lead plaintiff for the pastors of the No UNequal Rights Coalition and Senior Pastor of Antioch Missionary Baptist Church as well as President of Houston Ministers Against Crime. ...

“We are thankful that the God of justice stood with this David again against the Goliath of the machinery of city government in the hands of those like Annise Parker intent on serving her personal agenda even at the cost of voting rights of the people,” added Pastor Hernan Castano, an influential Hispanic pastor and network leader as well as one of the “Houston Five” subpoenaed by the Mayor.

Watch a report from KTRK-TV, AFTER THE JUMP ... 

Continue reading "Both Sides Claim Victory In Trial Over Houston LGBT Protections: VIDEO" »


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