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Anti-Gay Group That Botched Houston Petition Aims To Put Plano LGBT Protections On Ballot: VIDEO


The anti-gay group that led a botched petition drive against Houston's Equal Rights Ordinance now plans a similar effort in Plano, Texas — where the City Council passed LGBT protections this week. 

The Houston Pastor Council's petition to repeal the Houston ordinance was rejected by the city due to invalid signatures, prompting a lawsuit

Plano is more than 250 miles from Houston, but that's not stopping the Pastor Council, according to Houston Public Media:  

Director Dave Welch (above) says the group will work with pastors in the area to try to repeal the ordinance. He says law places unnecessary restrictions on businesses.

“There’s no evidence of any discrimination at all,” Welch says. “These categories are vague and undefined and place criminal penalties on something [businesses] can’t even defend themselves over.” ... 

The Pastor Council plans to place a referendum on the ballot to overturn Plano’s new law. A similar move in Houston has led to an ongoing legal battle over the Equal Rights Ordinance, which has yet to be enforced. 

To put the Plano ordinance on the ballot, the group would need to gather approximately 3,800 signatures before Jan. 17, city spokesman Scott Stoler told Towleroad. 

"We have not heard anything specific about an organized effort to repeal the ordinance," Stoler said Friday. 

Jmateer_webMeanwhile, state legislators have introduced "license to discriminate" bills to undermine local nondiscrimination ordinances in Texas, and the anti-gay Liberty Institute, based in Plano, reportedly is trolling for plaintiffs to challenge the ordinance. 

The Liberty Institute's Jeff Mateer (right) appeared on the Family Research Council's Washington Watch radio program on Friday. 

"In order to bring a legal challenge, you need a plaintiff, and so we're looking for people who are impacted by it," Mateer said. "And these would be, for instance, small business, folks who are bakers and photographers and florists, who this law now tells them you have to violate your religious beliefs. If someone wants to have a same-sex commitment ceremony in your facility, then the law says you're compelled to host them, you're compelled to bake their cake, you're compelled to provide their flowers, you're compelled to be their photographer." 

Note that the FRC and other hate groups are still referring to the Plano law as a "Bathroom Ordinance," even though it specifically exempts restrooms and similar facilities from its public accommodations provision. 

The restroom exemption has drawn criticism from transgender advocates, so it'll be interesting to see whether LGBT groups can unite in defense of the ordinance given its obvious flaws. 

In any case, Stoler also confirmed that the city will begin offering benefits to the same-sex partners of employees in January. In fact, Plano has even put together an informational video about the benefits. Watch it and weep below, Houston Pastor Council and Liberty Institute.

Also, listen to Mateer's interview with FRC, and watch his nauseating testimony against the ordinance, AFTER THE JUMP ... 

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Homeless Shelter For LGBT Youth To Open In San Antonio: VIDEO


Growing up in a small town in the Texas Panhandle, Sandra Whitley says she knew she was gay from the age of 13 — in 1975.

“I thought I was the only person in the world that had these feelings,” Whitley writes. “As much as I tried to keep it a secret, it was not long until my classmates, the town, and my parents knew. The parents of my classmates would not let their children associate with a homosexual. I no longer had friends. I was the talk of the town and my parents were not pleased. The school board tried to expel me from school. I was very lost and had no one to talk to.”

Whitley (below right) said she considered running away but ended up in a mental hospital.

“As horrible as that place was and as angry as I was when I got out (and for years to come), I did not end up on the streets,” Whitley writes. “As my life continued, I was always in trouble for being gay.  My relationship with my parents suffered for 20 years. I often said my only crime has been being gay.”

Whitley moved away from Texas for two decades before returning to San Antonio, where she’s owned a business for the last 20 years.

Now, Whitley plans to open a homeless shelter in San Antonio exclusively for LGBT youth, one of the few of its kind in the nation. Whitley will serve as executive director of the Thrive Youth Center, and initially, is underwriting many of the shelter’s expenses.

“I want these kids to know there is hope and they are not alone,” Whitley writes. “They can lead happy and productive lives. We are here to help them discover their dreams and fulfill them!”

WhitleyThe Thrive Youth Center was initially scheduled to open at Travis Park United Methodist Church downtown in November, but the opening has been delayed until at least January due to a zoning problem, KENS-TV reports.  

Whitley told Towleroad the city notified her the day the shelter was scheduled to open — after a report appeared in the LGBT publication Out In SA — that the site needed to be rezoned. The application to rezone the site will be heard by the city's Zoning Commission next week. Whitley said even if the rezoning application is rejected, she'll find another site. 

"I might have to jump throughout five hoops instead of two, but it's going to happen," she said. 

Whitley said she thinks opposition to the shelter is based on the fact that the city is trying to keep homeless people out of dowtown, rather than anti-LGBT sentiment. 

About 40 percent of homeless youth identify as LGBT, according to a 2012 study by UCLA’s Williams Institute. Of those, 46 percent said they ran away because of family rejection, while another 43 percent said they were forced out by their parents. According to Thrive Youth’s website, the rate in San Antonio is even higher, with as many as 50 percent of homeless youth in the Alamo City identifying as LGBT.

Whitley and the shelter’s assistant director, Joshua Lee Yurcheshen, said they visited The Ali Forney Center in New York City and the Los Angeles LGBT Community Center — two of the only other shelters exclusively for homeless LGBT youth. 

Initially, Thrive will provide emergency shelter for up to eight youth, two nights a week, and offer breakfast packs and bus passes. But Thrive’s founders say the shelter will eventually be open every night in addition to offering a daytime Drop in Center and a Transitional Housing Program.

“This is the first critical step for our organization,” they wrote on Thrive’s website. “As we gain strength and momentum, we will attain our goal of being able to provide a safe haven every night of the week for homeless and at-risk youth. It is the first step in breaking the cycle of homelessness.”

For more info on the Thrive Youth Center, or to donate or volunteer, visit the website.

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

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Federal Judge Declines To Allow Gay Marriages In Texas Pending Appeal


A federal district judge on Friday declined to lift his stay of a ruling striking down Texas' same-sex marriage bans

The decision from Judge Orlando L. Garcia means same-sex marriages won't be allowed pending an appeal of the decision to the 5th U.S. Circuit Court. 

Last month, plaintiff same-sex couples asked Garcia to lift the stay since the U.S. Supreme Court declined to hear appeals of decisions overturning marriage bans from other federal appeals courts. Republican Attorney General Greg Abbott, who is defending the marriage bans, responded that lifting the stay would be "deeply offensive." 

In rejecting the motion to lift the stay, Garcia noted that the Supreme Court has never declined to impose a stay on same-sex marriages in a state where a circuit court hasn't resolved the issue. He also noted that the 5th Circuit recently granted a stay of a ruling striking down Missisippi's same-sex marriage ban: 

"Lifting the stay would not bring finality to this Fourtenth Amendment claim. To the contrary, such action would only be temporary, with confusion and doubto folow. The day for finality and legal certainty in the long and dificult journey for equality is closer than ever before. Ultimately, as mentioned in the February 12, 2014 hearing, this Court believes the isue wil ultimately be resolved by the United States Supreme Court and 'a group of five people will decide this case.' Acordingly, Plaintiffs' motion is DENIED."

The 5th Circuit is scheduled to hear oral arguments in the Texas and Mississippi cases — as well as one from Louisiana — on Jan. 9. 

Read Garcia's full order denying the motion to lift the stay, AFTER THE JUMP ... 

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Austin Takes Major Steps Forward On Transgender Rights


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.

— 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


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


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


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 ... 

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