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Airbnb Removes User Who Evicted Gay Couple From Home in Galveston, Texas: VIDEO


A same-sex couple was kicked out of a home they rented in Galveston, Texas, on Airbnb after the owner discovered they were gay, according to a report from KTRK-TV

Airbnb has responded by removing the owner from the popular home-sharing site, saying it has a zero tolerance policy for discrimination. 

HouseJonathan Wang and his partner, Brent, booked two nights in the home for a weekend getaway to Galveston for a friend's wedding. After returning from a reception on Friday night, they encountered the owner, identified only as Heather. From KTRK: 

"Heather asked me, where my wife was. Who is this person? I said it was my significant other Brent. She said I thought you were bringing a wife. I said I didn't say that specifically. I said is that going to be OK? She said. It's not," said Wang.

Wang said the hosts told them to get out. He said he began packing his things.

"She also commented while we were going upstairs that was their bedroom upstairs so they were even more uncomfortable with it," said Wang.

Wang and has partner had nowhere else to go but were eventually able to find a hotel room. As it turns out, there was a disclaimer on the bottom of the Airbnb listing that said the hosts are "straight friendly":

"I'm completely of my legal realms and morals," said host Heather via phone Wednesday.

We asked if she rents to gay couples. Heather responded, "That's none of your business. That's my private home." 

AirbnbIn addition to removing Heather from the site, Airbnb gave Wang and his partner a refund: 

"We have a zero tolerance policy for discrimination on Airbnb. The host in question has been removed from the site. Airbnb has clear guidelines that a host or a guest may not promote hate or bigotry."

Neither Texas nor federal law prohibits discrimination based on sexual orientation in public accommodations. Galveston, despite its reputation as a gay-friendly travel destination, also lacks local LGBT protections. But who knows, perhaps this incident will serve as the impetus for changing that. 

Watch KTRK's report, AFTER THE JUMP ...

Continue reading "Airbnb Removes User Who Evicted Gay Couple From Home in Galveston, Texas: VIDEO" »

Texas Marriage Plaintiffs Make Wedding Plans, But GOP State Lawmakers Have Other Ideas


Vic Holmes and Mark Phariss are so confident the U.S. Supreme Court will rule in favor of nationwide marriage equality in June that they've already made their wedding plans. 

Phariss and Holmes, one of two couples challenging Texas' bans on same-sex marriage in federal court, were in Washington on Tuesday for oral arguments. 

The Houston Chronicle reports: 

"We put our money where our mouth is," Phariss told the Chronicle on Monday. "We have booked a site for a wedding. We have put down a deposit. We have hired a videographer. We have hired a photographer. We have the 'save the day cards' printed -- all for a November wedding near Frisco." ... 

Phariss and Holmes arrived in Washington early on Saturday. Phariss said his favorite part of the trip so far was a dinner hosted Monday night by gay rights group Freedom to Marry, to which hundreds of other gay marriage plaintiffs and their advocates from 30 states attended.

"We all have such similar stories. We've all been there in the trenches. We've all fought for marriage equality," said Phariss. "We all feel like we're all in the same boat and I mean - we feel like a little fraternity."

The Dallas Morning News reports Holmes and Phariss almost didn't get in to the courthouse on Tuesday, after someone cut in front of them in line:

Holmes was No. 49 in the line, Phariss No. 50. And yet, when the courthouse doors opened Tuesday morning, somehow they’d been pushed back one spot, leaving Phariss outside. Once inside, other members of the group figured out there had been one line-cutter and shamed her into giving up her seat to Phariss.

Meanwhile, Republican lawmakers in Texas are also trying to spoil things for Holmes and Phariss. And unlike the line-cutter, they don't appear to have any shame.

Bell.CecilLast week, a Texas House committee advanced a bill by GOP Rep. Cecil Bell (right), which would prohibit state or local funds from being used to license or recognize same-sex marriages. LGBT advocates say the bill is blatantly unconstitutional, but BuzzFeed News warns that even after a high court ruling, such legislation could be "litigated almost interminably, possibly leaving certain rights for same-sex couples in limbo":

In this context, it’s impossible to ignore the Supreme Court’s 1973 Roe v. Wade decision, which found abortion was a constitutional right, but a right that must be balanced with each state’s interest in regulating those abortions. Particularly in Texas, the legislature has pushed the regulatory envelope on Roe v. Wade and the laws that have followed have led to new lawsuits — with several rulings saying the state was too restrictive while several even more restrictive measures were left in place.

“We know from cases like Roe v. Wade that the power of the purse hasn’t been challenged,” said Rep. Bell, adding that the bill he is pushing will “set up an additional legal challenge.”

Dan Quinn, a spokesman for the pro-LGBT Texas Freedom Network, compared GOP Texas lawmakers' resistance to marriage equality to their fight against desegregation: 

“Ultimately the result will be almost endless litigation that will be very expensive to taxpayers and plaintiffs, and ultimately Texas will lose, just like when it tried to block desegregation,” Quinn said. “The question is: How much pain and heartburn are the state lawmakers willing to put the state through to get there?”

Both Republican Gov. Greg Abbott and Attorney General Ken Paxton issued statements Tuesday to mark oral arguments at the Supreme Court. But even Paxton, who's fought bitterly to deny rights to same-sex couples, appeared to acknowledged that the high court will have the final say: 

"At stake in this case is whether the people of the State of Texas—and people in the states across the nation—can make their own laws defining marriage," he said. 


Texas Republican Lawmaker Removes LGBT Protections From Bill Regulating Uber, Lyft


Following Oklahoma's lead, a Texas Republican lawmaker has removed LGBT protections from a bill regulating vehicle-for-hire services like Uber and Lyft. 

The nondiscrimination provision in the original version of House Bill 2440, by GOP Rep. Chris Paddie (above), read as follows: 


During a committee hearing last week, Paddie introduced a substitute version of the bill with this nondiscrimination provision: 



Of course, neither Texas nor federal law includes LGBT protections. Paddie's office didn't respond to phone calls and emails seeking comment.

"That the non-discrimination provision was included in the draft is a sign of the changing landscape in Texas," Equality Texas legislative specialist Daniel Williams told Towleroad. "We're not there yet, but the fact that the bill was introduced with inclusive non-discrimination protections shows the increasing bipartisan support for equality."

Debbee Hancock, a spokeswoman for Uber in Texas, pointed us to the nondiscrimination policy in the company's Code of Conduct, on which the original version of the bill apparently was based.

"It is unacceptable to refuse to provide or accept services based on a person’s race, religion, national origin, disability, sexual orientation, sex, marital status, gender identity, age or any other characteristic protected under applicable federal or state law," the policy states. "This type of behavior can result in permanent loss of access to the Uber platform."

'Ex-Gay' Republican Deceives Texas Lawmakers, Testifies In Support Of Anti-LGBT Bill


Earlier this week, a Texas House committee held a hearing on a so-called religious freedom bill that purportedly aims to prevent pastors from being forced to perform same-sex marriages. 

Critics of the bill say it's written so broadly that it could allow any religiously affiliated organization — from hospitals and universities to homeless shelters — to discriminate against gay couples. 

Most of those who testified in support of the bill were pastors brought in by the anti-LGBT Texas Pastor Council. But then there was also Jason Vaughn (shown above left, with Republican Attorney General Ken Paxton), who told the committee he's gay but supports the bill.

Here's part of Vaughn's testimony, from a transcript he later posted on a Texas GOP website:  

"I stand before you as a gay man in support of this bill, but the truth is that my sexuality shouldn't matter. Nor should anything else other than the fact that I'm a proud Texan with inalienable rights.

"Inalienable rights to live my life as I wish as long as I do not hinder the rights of others. That's what the gay rights movement has been about, at least until recently. Now it seems that folks are more interested in forcing others to take part in our lives. The actions of my community that have too often made up the news cycle are nothing more than hypocrisy. To say that we want the right to live as we wish while harassing companies like Chick-Fil-A, attacking Brendan Eich in California until he could not work, and even demanding that HGTV fire the Benham Brothers for their views on abortion and gay marriage is beyond the pale. ... 

"I'm sickened that we are at the point that pastors feel the need for this bill, but I urge you to support it."

One member of the committee, GOP Rep. Patricia Harless, asked Vaughn whether he agreed with one of the pastors who testified that disagreement is not the same as hatred or discrimination.

“I have friends from Jonathan Saenz to a gay communist stripper," Vaughn responded, referring to the leader of the anti-LGBT hate group Texas Values

Vaughn's line got a lot of laughs, and his testimony was apparently persuasive in the mind of at least one legislator. However, it was predicated on a complete lie.

As Vaughn himself admitted in another post on the same website earlier this month, he's not really gay. Rather, he's a self-described "celibate Christian homosexual" — which apparently is just another term for "ex-gay." From Vaughn's post titled, "As a Gay Man, The Hypocrisy of the LGBT Community Really Ticks Me Off":

For those that don’t know me, my name is Jason Vaughn and I am a celibate Christian homosexual. I don’t really know how to describe it as some say I shouldn’t associate myself as a gay man. I use it that way instead of “reformed homosexual” or “former homosexual” because I want to be clear that it is still a temptation I have to fight regularly and one I have failed at many times. ... 

Since coming out [as ex-gay] I’ve made a lot of friends that are either openly gay, secretly tempted with same sex attraction, or fighting for celibacy like me. Several young people have come to me and asked for advice on dealing with this. It’s not easy. I’m still tempted with same sex attraction and probably always will be. It doesn't get easier and the last year has been the hardest and most confusing. I’ve made plenty of mistakes sexually. I just continue to look to Christ daily and trust Him to keep me.

OK, here's the deal: If you want to futily attempt to repress your sexuality because you hate yourself, that's your call. But you don't get to ruin it for the rest of us by holding yourself out publicly as a member of the LGBT community. 

Given that Vaughn is living a lie, it isn't terribly surprising that he has no qualms about deceiving lawmakers into thinking he's an openly gay man. Wait, isn't there something in the Bible about bearing false witness?   

HRC Warns 12 States ‘Don’t Repeat The Mistakes Of Indiana' In New Media Campaign

Screen Shot 2015-04-24 at 1.42.53 PM

The Human Rights Coalition launched a new ad campaign asking 12 state governors to reject bills that target LGBT people like the one Gov. Mike Pence passed in Indiana. HRC's new campaign comes after a study conducted by the organization yielded results stating that a majority of Hoosiers believe Pence’s bill is damaging Indiana’s economy. JoDee Winterhof, HRC's vice president for policy and political affairs, warned of the repercussions states could endure if they follow Pence’s example.

Said Winterhof:

"Gov. Mike Pence found that experimenting with anti-LGBT bills that allow businesses to discriminate killed his approval ratings and damaged the Hoosier economy. Governors who go down the same path as Mike Pence and put their state economy at risk in an attempt to further discrimination are going to find themselves at risk of being rejected by the voters."

The results of HRC's study reflects Winterhof's warning as a majority of voters (70% to 24%) believe that businesses should not discriminate against people based on sexual orientation or identity. Surprisingly a majority of Republican voters (58% to 36%) concur. Pence’s approval ratings have since plummeted, allowing for a potential Democratic challenger to make gains in the state. HRC's media campaign officially began today on social media in Alabama, Indiana, Louisiana, Florida, New Hampshire, Michigan, Missouri, North Dakota, North Carolina, South Carolina, Ohio and Texas. Although Pence attempted to clarify that official language in the new law would prevent LGBT discrimination, HRC isn’t buying it, noting that the state’s laws are still devoid of any clear LGBT anti-discrimination laws that would grant full protections to LGBT people in the state.

HRC Rejects San Antonio Mayor Ivy Taylor's 'Non-Apology' After She Called LGBT Protections 'Waste Of Time'


Earlier this week we told you how San Antonio Mayor Ivy Taylor had called the city's LGBT-inclusive nondiscrimination ordinance "a waste of time" during a candidate forum at anti-gay Pastor John Hagee's Cornerstone Church.

According to the San Antonio Express-News, Taylor's comments received "raucous applause" during the "faith forum," but thanks in part to Towleroad readers, they didn't go over so well on social media

The Human Rights Campaign also joined the fray, issuing a statement under the headline "San Antonio Shame" saying Taylor has "no business serving the people of San Antonio—as mayor, as a city council member, even as dog catcher."

The criticism reportedly prompted Taylor to meet with her LGBT advisory committee for the first time in six months and later issue a so-called apology, in which she said "it was never my intent to insult or demean you [the LGBT community] and I am sorry for the pain and confusion my words have caused."

But neither local LGBT advocates nor HRC were satisfied. The latter issued another statement calling Taylor's response "incredibly weak" and labeling it a "‘Sorry How It Made You Feel’ Non-Apology." And despite meeting with her LGBT advisory committee, the mayor still hasn't revealed a plan for implementing the nondiscrimination ordinance, which she voted against when it was passed by the council some 18 months ago. 

“While Mayor Taylor may have issued something intended to be an apology, her actions speak far louder than words,” said HRC National Field Director Marty Rouse. “If she truly supports the LGBT community in San Antonio, she should not only fully-implement the current law, but urge the City Council to expand the law to protect all LGBT San Antonians from employment discrimination, not just city employees and those doing business with the city. HRC joins Equality Texas in calling for better enforcement of the NDO and the creation of a mechanism for receiving and handling complaints."

At this point, it seems unlikely the NDO will be properly implemented during Taylor's tenure. Appointed as mayor after LGBT ally Julian Castro stepped down to become HUD secretary, Taylor is up for election in May. But she faces two formidable opponents and LGBT allies in former state Sen. Leticia Van de Putte and Rep. Mike Villarreal. Assuming either Van de Putte or Villarreal wins, let's hope the incoming mayor will make it a priority to clean up the NDO mess left by Taylor. 


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