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Houston Hate Crime Victim Suing Former Employer For Alleged Anti-Gay Discrimination: VIDEO


Earlier this month we told you how Houston gay activist John Gaspari was shot in the stomach in an apparent hate crime in the city's Montrose gayborhood. 

Gaspari was leaving a gay bar in the early morning hours of Feb. 15 when he was jumped by three men who robbed him, beat him and shot him while yelling, "Get the fag." The incident was among several recent anti-LGBT attacks in Montrose.  

We also mentioned that Gaspari had recently lost his job after suffering anti-gay discrimination. And as it turns out, Gaspari is suing his former employer, FMC Technologies Inc.

Gaspari said the anti-gay discrimination and harassment began immediately after he moved from Chicago to work at FMC Technologies' headquarters in Houston in 2012. Fox 26 reports:  

Gaspari says he thought he would be an employee of FMC Technologies until he retired.

“I was excited to come here,” says Gaspari.

But now he's suing and based on the claims of his lawsuit his time there as a global supplier development engineer was fraught with gay slurs and mocking limp wrist gestures.

“Actually would come up to me and call me a fashionista he would flick his wrist at me make other comments that weren't appropriate,“ Gaspari said. “Telling me I should live in the Montrose area by my kind.”

According to Fox 26, FMC Technologies denies the allegations in Gaspari's lawsuit, which was filed back in 2013. FMC Technologies provides equipment and services to oil and gas companies and employs nearly 20,000 people worldwide. 

In an email, Gaspari noted that the case is before U.S. District Judge Lynn Hughes, who has a history of discriminatory comments: 

"Once they discovered my sexuality, I have been discriminated, harassed, retaliated against, ostracized in a hostile work environment. I have been punched by my boss, slapped, called a Fag, Girl, Sister, Fashonista to name a few. It is the worst experience to have to go through and still go into work to try and perform your job and it was all reported to management, sr management and HR and it did not stop. They just turned their head."

FMC Technologies received a score of 15 out of 100 on the Human Rights Campaign's most recent Corporate Equality Index. According to HRC, the company has a policy in its employee handbook prohibiting discrimination based on sexual orientation — which accounts for the 15 points. 

Texas has no statewide LGBT employment protections, so Gaspari is pursuing a claim of sex discrimination under Title VII of the federal Civil Rights Act. He is joined in his lawsuit by two co-plaintiffs who allege sexual harassment and racial discrimination by the company.  

The Houston City Council passed an LGBT-inclusive Equal Rights Ordinance last year, but Mayor Annise Parker has suspended its implementation pending the outcome of a lawsuit aimed at repealing it

Watch Fox 26's report on Gaspari's lawsuit, AFTER THE JUMP ...

Continue reading "Houston Hate Crime Victim Suing Former Employer For Alleged Anti-Gay Discrimination: VIDEO" »

Could Repealing LGBT Protections Cost Houston The 2016 Final Four, 2017 Super Bowl?


Since Indiana Gov. Mike Pence signed an anti-LGBT religious freedom bill this week, the backlash has been enormous. 

Celebrities, corporationschurches and even the White House have come out against the discriminatory law — with some announcing boycotts of the Hoosier State. They include the NCAA, which issued a statement saying it's concerned about how the law will affect its student-athletes and employees during the men's basketball Final Four in Indianapolis next weekend. There's also a petition calling for the Big 10 Conference to move its football championship out of Indianapolis.

Meanwhile, in Houston — which is scheduled to host the 2016 Final Four and the 2017 Super Bowl — anti-LGBT groups continue their efforts repeal an Equal Rights Ordinance passed by the City Council last year. 

Super-Bowl-Houston-BannerAfter Houston became the last major city in the US to add LGBT protections in May, opponents launched a petition drive to repeal them. The city eventually rejected the petition, saying it didn't have enough valid signatures to qualify for the ballot.  

Anti-LGBT groups filed a lawsuit, and last month a jury determined that among other things, the petition contains widespread forgery. Based on the jury's determinations about which signatures should be considered valid, Judge Robert Schaffer began a final count. More than a month later, Schaffer revealed this week that opponents of the ordinance are roughly 3,000 signatures short of the 17,269 needed to qualify for the ballot. However, approximately 8,500 signatures remain in question because they appear on pages circulated by people whose names aren't legible. 

The Houston Chronicle reports: 

The plaintiffs argue that legibility should not be a factor.

"We can't empower the government with the right to be the judge, jury and executioner on whether somebody has a right to vote based on penmanship," said Andy Taylor, attorney for the plaintiffs.

The city, however, contends that if they can't determine who a circulator is based on their signature or printed name, all the other signatures collected on that page should be discarded, per city charter and the judge's ruling.

"The plaintiffs are mounting every desperate challenge they possibly can to try to overcome the effect of the jury's verdict and the effect of the judge's post-verdict rulings," said Geoffrey Harrison, lead attorney for the city. "The plaintiffs lost at trial. They lose on the law. They lose on the facts. But they are prolonging this process by refusing to accept reality."

Judge Schaffer is expected to rule in early April on the final signature count. If he determines the petition has enough valid signatures, the ordinance likely would appear on the November ballot. If he determines the petition doesn't have enough valid signatures, the plaintiffs are expected to appeal.  

Either way, perhaps opponents of the ordinance and other citizens of Houston should take note of what's happening in Indiana. If Houston repeals LGBT protections and again becomes the only major US city without them, it's hard to imagine there wouldn't be a push to get the NCAA to move the 2016 Final Four and to get the NFL to move the 2017 Super Bowl — among other things. 

Texas lawmakers might also want to take note, as several measures similar to the Indiana bill have been introduced in the current session of the state Legislature.

Houston and Texas have a reputation as business-friendly places, but judging by what's happened in Indiana, that could easily and very quickly change. 

Dallas Mayoral Candidate, Anti-LGBT Activist Arrested For Spray-Painting '666' On Gay Landmarks: VIDEO


A mayoral candidate and longtime anti-LGBT activist has been arrested and charged with spray-painting "666" on two gay landmarks in Dallas

Richard Sheridan (below), 66, who is running for mayor in May, is charged with vandalizing the Legacy of Love Monument (above) and the Cathedral of Hope (below) last June. 

The monument, in the heart of Dallas' gayborhood, and the church — known as the world's largest LGBT congregation — were among 12 sites in the city vandalized with "the number of the beast" in red paint. 

However, Sheridan thus far is charged in only two of the incidents. A grand jury indicted Sheridan for a state jail felony, punishable by up to two years behind bars. If prosecutors treat the case as an anti-gay hate crime, the charges could be enhanced to a third-degree felony, punishable by up to 10 years in prison. 

The Dallas Morning News reports: 

SheridanIn August, police told The Dallas Morning News that Sheridan was the only person who’d been questioned in the case. Sheridan maintained he didn’t do it: “I’m not guilty, I’m not guilty, I’m not guilty,” he told our Tristan Hallman on August 14 in the lobby of Dallas police headquarters. But Sheridan said he knew who did — and that he agreed with the tags. He also said that despite what police were saying, the tags were “not a hate crime [but] an act of love — and a warning.”

Sheridan, who frequently distributes anti-gay leaflets around Dallas City Hall and has been escorted out of council chambers more than once, took to his Facebook page last summer to admit to having been interviewed twice. He insisted he was merely “representing the person who did it.” In an open letter to Dallas police on August 2, Sheridan claimed that the person who actually tagged the locations “recognizes that there are some in the Gay community, the rabid faction, that wants vengence [sic], wants a ‘scalp’, wants to hang him out to dry, wants to send a message across Dallas and the Nation that (if they get their way) this is what will happen to anyone who dares to call out the immorality of the Gay lifestyle, to reference the Bible in saying that the Gay community is violating Gods laws.”

More from NBCDFW.com

“At no time did he admit to being the person that committed these offenses, but he also did not deny that to be the case either,” said assistant chief Randy Blankenberger. ... 

"We also believe that it is likely that Mr. Sheridan selected these locations due to their connection or significant to the LGBT community," Blankenberger said. ...

"These types of crime, that appear to be targeting people based on their sexual orientation or because of their race or religion, those types of crimes are important to the police department to solve," Blankenberger said. "So we can send a message that everyone is inclusive in the police community."

Watch NBCDFW.com's report, AFTER THE JUMP...

Continue reading "Dallas Mayoral Candidate, Anti-LGBT Activist Arrested For Spray-Painting '666' On Gay Landmarks: VIDEO" »

Texas School Bars Lesbian Student From Making Adorable 'Promposal' To Another Girl: VIDEO

Screen shot 2015-03-27 at 12.52

A lesbian teenager in Texas says her high school refused to allow her to make a "promposal" to another girl.

Promposals, apparently a tradition at Timber Creek High School in Keller, near Fort Worth, are dramatic, public invitations to prom between students. 

BoxCasey Akers (above), 16, planned to jump out of a box with flowers on it (right) holding cookies and a sign that said, "Out of all these cookies, you're my favorite one. Prom?" The name of the girl Akers planned to invite to the prom is Cookie. 

Akers said she got approval for the promposal from school administrators — until they found out she was inviting another girl. NBCDFW.com reports: 

"I gave them all the details before. They say it’s fine. They find out who I am asking, then say it’s not fine," Akers said.

Akers sent a direct message about what happened to a friend on Twitter. Akers' friend who tweeted a screenshot of the message — with Casey’s permission — and it didn’t take long for the hash-tag campaign #LetCaseyPromposal to take off. 

“People are tweeting me from all over the U.S.," Akers said. "I had someone tweet from Toronto, Canada. This is spreading like crazy, and all I want to do is get the word out.”

TextsIn the message to her friend, Akers said she was walking into lunch when administrators pulled her aside and said her promposal was not appropriate. When she asked why, they said, "You know why. It's just not appropriate." 

Akers still plans to attend the prom with Cookie. 

"This is spreading like crazy and all I want to do is get the word out," she told NBCDFW.com. "I just want equality for everyone." 

The Keller Independent School District later issued a statement alleging that all promposals are prohibited, not just same-sex ones: 

"In response to recent social media posts regarding “promposals” at our high school campuses, Keller ISD does not grant permission for any student, regardless of gender, to conduct public prom invitations, or promposals, on campus during the school day. Any previous promposals that have occurred have done so without District approval. Promposals, and other similar public displays, may create a disruption to the academic setting, therefore they are not allowed for any student."

The district's statement may reflect a realization that under Title IX, administrators cannot discriminate based on sex. Therefore, the school could be in violation of federal law if they allowed straight promposals but not gay ones.

Watch NBCDFW.com's report, AFTER THE JUMP ...

Continue reading "Texas School Bars Lesbian Student From Making Adorable 'Promposal' To Another Girl: VIDEO" »

5 Things You Can't Miss In Dallas, Texas

Dallas Linda tanner https---www.flickr.com-photos-goingslo-9887346254

This weekly travel column is brought to you by ManAboutWorld, an immersive digital premium gay travel magazine from Billy KolberEd SalvatoKenny Porpora, and nearly 75 Global Correspondents.

We’re not really sure why rodeos are assumed to be a straight man’s sport. Think about it: a sexy guy in skin-tight jeans hanging on for dear life while a wild, bucking horse or bull tosses him around like a rag doll sounds like a typical Saturday night in West Hollywood to us. But never mind all that. The good news is, we don’t need those hetero rodeos because we have our own; and the now legendary Texas Tradition (gay) Rodeo in Dallas, Texas is the best one on the circuit for visitors.

From May 1-3, the rodeo will celebrate 31 years and more than $3 million raised for Texas charities. Whether you’re going to enjoy the gay rodeo antics, or protest animal cruelty, it’s a great time to visit Dallas and ride a cowboy. Speaking of cruelty, the Park Inn by Radisson is the official host hotel for the event, but our sources tell us it’s dingy, dated, and smells like pool hall. Don’t despair, we have plenty of incredible hotel recommendations for you including our top pick below. For the event itself, check the rodeo’s website for ticket and registration information and a list of events and entertainment as it becomes available. Grab your cowboy hats, boy (and our top 5 list below): You're heading to Texas!  

1. Warwick Melrose Hotel, Dallas: For distinctly classic luxury — and the bill that comes with it — the Warwick remains an outstanding choice for accommodations. The spacious rooms, elegant decor, and location smack dab in the Oak Lawn gay neighborhood make The Warwick a hard splurge to deny. Just be sure to wipe off your cowboy boots before you set foot in this classy joint.

2. The Pecan Lodge: Despite its name, this spot  is a restaurant, which has been voted Best BBQ in Dallas — no easy feat in this carnivorous state — making this a must-do for meat-lovers. Ask for the burnt ends —  a secret treat not on the menu.

3. The Dallas Museum of Art: Dallas offers a treasure trove of cultural assets, including the DMA with a robust permanent DFW7 http---www.flickr.com-photos-iain-4089452083- collection (including an important riches of Islamic art), intriguing temporary exhibits and robust programming including live musical performances.

4. FT33: FT33 is a design district favorite that serves modern, farm-to-table Southwestern cuisine in a beautiful setting with an open kitchen. Don’t miss the smoked potatoes and kale salad starters, though pork is the real star on the menu, especially during the new Tuesday night Swine & Wine happy hour, 4:30-6:30pm.

5. The Round-Up Saloon and Dance Hall: The Round-Up is easily the friendliest of Dallas’ gay bars — and one of the most fun. Warm, welcoming and a stop on just about everyone’s weekend circuit, The Round-Up is a great place to meet locals and show off that two-step (or learn). The bartenders are also generally quite happy to make introductions to any regulars they think you might like, especially if it’s a bit quiet.

For more opinionated travel information and inspiration, get ManAboutWorld Magazine on iTunes (iOS) or Google Play (Android). 

Image credits: Top: Linda Tanner; Right: Iain Farrell; Bottom: Doug Wertman

DFW1 http---www.flickr.com-photos-nanoprobe67-5948041661-

Federal Judge Blocks Gay Workers in Four States From Taking Unpaid Leave To Care For Sick Spouses


Republican Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton has been in office less than three months, but he's already making a name for himself as one of the nation's biggest anti-gay bigots. 

Last month, Paxton (above with Sen. Ted Cruz) sought to void the marriage of a 30-year lesbian couple, even though one of the women has ovarian cancer. And last week, he filed a lawsuit against the Obama administration over a new labor department rule extending benefits under the Family & Medical Leave Act to same-sex couples who live in states that don't recognize their marriages. 

On Thursday, Paxton — a "tea partier" who admitted to securities fraud last year — won a small, temporary victory in his ongoing war against LGBT people. 

U.S. District Judge Reed O’Connor, a President George W. Bush appointee, issued an order blocking the new FMLA rule from taking effect as scheduled on Friday in Texas and three other states that joined Paxton's lawsuit — Arkansas, Louisiana and Nebraska.  

“The Obama Administration’s attempt to force employers to recognize same-sex marriages would have put state agencies in the position of either violating Texas law or federal regulations,” Paxton said in a statement. “We are pleased that the Department of Labor’s effort to override our laws via federal rulemaking has been halted, and we will continue to defend our sovereignty in this case.”

Reed-OConnor_bigJudge O'Connor (right) presides over the Northern District of Texas in Wichita Falls, an extremely conservative area that has brought us, among others, the Rev. Robert Jeffress. In his 24-page decision, O'Connor wrote that if the new FMLA rule was allowed to take effect, "irreparable injury would occur." From the decision: 

“The Full Faith and Credit Statute affirms Congress’ intention to reserve the power to define marriage and accompanying rights and benefits to the states, and Windsor cabins Congress’ authority to aggrandize that power. Congress could not have delegated to the Department the power to define marriage in a way as to override the laws of states prohibiting same-sex marriages.”

The Human Rights Campaign issued this statement in response to O'Connor's ruling: 

“No legally married same-sex couple should be denied family leave simply because they happen to live in a state that fails to respect their marriage,” said HRC Legal Director Sarah Warbelow. “Because of Judge O’Connor’s decision, countless legally married same-sex couples in Texas are now unable to access to their federal FMLA benefits. With a pending Supreme Court decision on nationwide marriage equality this summer, we are confident that justice will ultimately prevail.”

In other words, if the U.S. Supreme Court issues a nationwide decision in favor of marriage equality in June, Paxton's lawsuit will quickly go away. 

Therefore, it's quite possible that the only thing Paxton has really accomplished, aside from pandering to the GOP base, is wasting taxpayer dollars on a frivolous lawsuit, which would seem contrary to the avowed principles of the tea party. Of course, Paxton has also ensured that he will go down in history as someone who sought to preserve the right of employers to legally fire gay people who want to take unpaid leave to care for ailing loved ones. Truly, this lawsuit is one of the more disgusting displays of anti-gay bigotry from any elected official in recent memory. 

View some of the responses Paxton has received on Twitter, AFTER THE JUMP ...

Continue reading "Federal Judge Blocks Gay Workers in Four States From Taking Unpaid Leave To Care For Sick Spouses" »


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