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World's First Magnetic 4-D Roller Coaster 'BATMAN: The Ride' Debuts at Six Flags Fiesta Texas: VIDEO

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The world's highly-anticipated first 4-D free-fly roller coaster BATMAN: The Ride made its terrifying debut at Six Flags Fiesta Texas on Wednesday, San Antonio's KSAT reports:

Not only does it flip head over heels, but you're actually seated on the side of the track with nothing above you and nothing below you," said Jeffrey Siebert, director of marketing for Six Flags Fiesta Texas.

Riders are propelled straight up a 120-foot elevator-style lift before being flipped head-over-heels at least six times. The ride also has a pair of 90-degree drops.

Six Flags officials say the ride features one-of-a-kind onboard magnetic technology and is as close as you can get to flying without being Batman.

"You're completely in the blind, so you really do need Batman-style bravery -- not necessarily a Batman suit -- but bravery to come and challenge this crazy ride," Siebert said.

Watch the new coaster in action, AFTER THE JUMP...

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Texas Anti-Gay Marriage Bill On Life Support

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Democrats in the Texas House are confident they can run out the clock on a bill aimed at undermining a U.S. Supreme Court ruling in favor of same-sex marriage. 

The deadline for the bill to be considered by the House is midnight Thursday, and it remains buried beneath other business on the chamber's calendar. But the author of the measure, GOP Rep. Cecil Bell, says he still thinks it will come up for a vote. The Austin American Statesman reports: 

Bell said he expects Democratic efforts to derail his bill to fail. “We are cognizant of the things you can do to move it along” to a vote, he said. “I’m highly confident that we will get there.”

But Rep. Terry Canales, D-Edinburg, said Democrats are energized to deny HB 4105 a vote before Thursday’s midnight deadline, which would kill all bills that haven’t received an initial vote on the House floor.

“We’re not going to see a vote,” Canales said. “If we do, I would be pretty amazed.”

On Wednesday, two major corporations — Celanese and Dell — came out against Bell's House Bill 4105, which would prohibit state and local employees from issuing or recognizing marriage licenses, regardless of any court order. 

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The House convenes at 9 a.m. Central this morning and likely will go until midnight. You can watch the proceedings here

Previously, "Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton Defends Disgusting Anti-Marriage Equality Bills on CNN" [tlrd]


Texas Atty General Ken Paxton Defends Disgusting Anti-Marriage Equality Bills on CNN: VIDEO

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Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton appeared on CNN's New Day yesterday to defend a number of anti-marriage equality bills pending in his state legislature. One bill, the "Pastor Protection Act", would prevent churches and pastors from being forced to participate in gay weddings. The other, more dangerous bill, says "the state may not issue, enforce, or recognize a marriage license or a declaration of an informal marriage for a union other than a union between one man and one woman."

Paxton defended both bills and was asked how Texas would behave when the SCOTUS ruling comes down.

Asked anchor Alisyn Camerota: "Texas would have to conform to the federal law, yes?"

Paxton: "If the Supreme Court is making the ruling on marriage, we deal with that all the time."

Camerota: "Meaning what? Meaning that you would, that Texas would have to conform to the Supreme Court.

Paxton: "Again, we would have to see how it worked. We would have to see exactly how that opinion is written, versus how this law is passed....I don't know how those two are going to fit together or if somehow they'll be in direct opposition."

There is a bit of hope, however, the Austin Statesman reports:

Democrats became increasingly confident Wednesday that they can run out the legislative clock, killing a bill designed to make it difficult, if not impossible, for same-sex Texans to wed — even if the U.S. Supreme Court rules otherwise.

If Democrats can keep House Bill 4105 from receiving a floor vote before a midnight Thursday deadline, the anti-gay-marriage legislation would die — along with about 200 other bills scheduled for action behind it.

Watch, AFTER THE JUMP...

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Number Of Anti-LGBT Hate Groups Increases 10 Percent

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Anti-LGBT hate appears to be on the rise, according to the Southern Poverty Law Center. 

The overall number of hate groups of all types dropped 17 percent last year, from 939 to 784. But the number of anti-LGBT hate groups increased 10 percent, from 40 to 44, according to a report in The Texas Observer.  

Heidi Beirich, director of SPLC’s Intelligence Project, said she's unsure whether anti-LGBT hate is actually increasing or SPLC is simply doing a better job of tracking it.

“The rhetoric is becoming much harsher for sure,” Beirich told the Observer. “I think some of the groups are becoming harder-line, whether we’ve listed them or not, because they’re losing on a lot of fronts.”

The four anti-LGBT hate groups added to SPLC's list in 2014 were ATLAH World Missionary Church, Jewish Political Action Committee, Probe Ministries and Stedfast Baptist Church. 

Stedfast Baptist Church, of Fort Worth, was added based on a sermon by Pastor Donnie Romero (above), a disciple of Arizona Pastor Steven Andersen. Romero called for gays to be put to death in a clip from the sermon posted online by Right Wing Watch in December.

More from the Observer:  

Beirich said SPLC maintains a high bar for the hate list. It’s not enough to oppose same-sex marriage or espouse Bible-based views about homosexuality. Rather, groups must use slurs or engage in demonization and propaganda, tactics that make the LGBT community more vulnerable to hate crimes.

“We don’t want to just list everybody in the world,” she said. “We want to point out what is particularly damaging.”

Here's SPLC's summary of anti-LGBT hate groups in its 2015 Intelligence Report

It was another bad year for anti-LGBT groups, as a series of court decisions made same-sex marriage legal in 36 states, up from 18 a year before. At the same time, the Supreme Court was expected to rule on the issue by mid-summer, and most analysts expected the justices to come down on the side of national legalization.

Many of these groups turned their energies abroad, seeking to criminalize homosexuality in other countries after failing in this one. At home, meanwhile, the groups worked to get "religious liberty" laws passed in a dozen states that would allow some businesses to discriminate against certain people if they have religious objections. Although most did not explicitly say so, they were aimed at allowing businesses not to service same-sex weddings. But despite these efforts, only Mississippi saw the proposal actually become law.

The National Organization for Marriage illustrates the dilemma of many of these groups as they lose support in an increasingly uphill battle. The group's 2013 tax returns showed it had fallen $2.5 million into debt after raising only $5.1 million (a 50% drop from 2012), with two donors accounting for half that amount.

Early this year, the American Family Association, listed by the SPLC as an anti-gay hate group, was the prime sponsor of an all-expenses-paid trip to Israel for an estimated 60 members of the Republican National Committee. But the group came under fire by the SPLC and others for its history of extremist remarks, to the point that, two days before the trip, it repudiated its best-known spokesman, Bryan Fischer, and a whole series of his comments. In response to a letter from the AFA, SPLC President Richard Cohen wrote that "it’s difficult to see the AFA's disavowal as anything other than an effort to quell the negative press attention you're receiving in connection with your sponsorship" of the trip for RNC members.

View SPLC's full list of active anti-LGBT hate groups here


LGBT Advocates Call On IRS To Investigate Anti-Gay Megachurch In Plano, Texas: VIDEO

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LGBT advocates are calling on the IRS to investigate a Southern Baptist megachurch in Plano, Texas, over a clergy member's involvement in last week's City Council elections. 

Mike Buster, executive pastor at Prestonwood Baptist Church — also known as "Six Flags Over Jesus" — reportedly sent an email to 2,500 church members endorsing candidates who oppose the city's Equal Rights Ordinance, which was approved by the council in December. 

Prestonwood Baptist, with tens of thousands of members, was ground zero for organizers of an unsuccessful petition aimed at repealing the Equal Rights Ordinance. Two candidates endorsed by Buster who oppose the ordinance won contested races on Saturday. 

Prestonwood“It is the responsibility of the IRS to investigate any potential wrongdoings and violations and we believe the executive pastor’s endorsement ... is a clear and blatant violation," said LGBT activist Sean Sala, who launched a Change.org petition. "The IRS needs to investigate this fully."

One of the Plano candidates who won Saturday's election, Ron Kelley, runs a nonprofit ministry at Prestonwood Baptist. Both Kelley and Tom Harrison, who also won a seat on the council, decided to run in response to the ordinance. From The Dallas Morning News:  

Kelley and Harrison say they would be independent voices and were galvanized to enter local politics because of the Equal Rights Ordinance that was approved in December. Petitions to have an election on the measure were deemed invalid by the city.

“That issue should have been put on the ballot,” said Kelley, who runs a nonprofit ministry at Prestonwood Baptist Church. “The citizens of Plano should have had a right to decide.”

Harrison agrees, saying the measure was passed without adequate notice to citizens. “They ignored the people,” Harrison said. “It’s a transparency issue.”

In February, Buster called the ordinance a "travesty" and suggested businesses should be free to discriminate against LGBT people, according reports from Fox 4:   

"Anytime you criminalize people of faith in the workplace by handcuffing them and not allowing them to make decisions and to serve the people that they want to serve and to hire the people they want to hire, you are stripping them of religious freedom,” said Rev. Mike Buster.

WFAA-TV investigated Buster's email last week: 

Referring to Kelley, Pastor Buster writes in the e-mail:

"We need to make sure we are electing local leaders who support our Christian values and who stand for the people."

Kelley is with Prestonwoood's ministerial staff and is director of the Prestonwood Foundation. Pastor Buster ends the e-mail writing:

"Let's send a statement that it is time for 'We the People' to take back our city!"

Experts said although Buster's email raises red flags, it's unlikely the IRS will get involved. 

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

Continue reading "LGBT Advocates Call On IRS To Investigate Anti-Gay Megachurch In Plano, Texas: VIDEO" »


Texas Lawmakers To Consider Anti-Gay, 'License To Discriminate' Adoption Amendment

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On Monday we told you how the Texas House is about to vote on a bill seeking to undermine a U.S. Supreme Court ruling in favor of same-sex marriage. The vote on the anti-gay marriage bill is now expected to take place Wednesday or Thursday. 

Meanwhile, the House is also now scheduled to consider an anti-LGBT, "license to discriminate" adoption amendment. The amendment is designed to allow taxpayer-funded, faith-based adoption agencies such as Catholic Charities to turn away gay couples based on their religious beliefs. It is similar to a bill that was defeated in Florida last month

Texas GOP state Rep. Scott Sanford (above), executive pastor of a large Southern Baptist congregation, introduced the anti-gay adoption amendment after his identical bill — which we reported on last month — failed to be scheduled for a House floor vote. The amendment is scheduled to be considered by the House on Wednesday.   

The Texas Freedom Network, Equality Texas and the ACLU of Texas said in a release Tuesday: 

If enacted into law, Rep. Sanford’s amendment would allow child welfare providers to discriminate against not just gay and transgender families seeking to provide loving homes for children who need them, but also against people of other faiths, interfaith couples and anyone else to whom a provider objects for religious reasons. This would seriously weaken the state’s child welfare system by further shrinking the pool of qualified parents who can provide a safe, loving home for children.

Moreover, the amendment would expose minors to potential harm, even allowing child welfare service providers to force gay and transgender minors into abusive and discredited reparative “therapy” programs to change their sexual orientation or gender identity. In fact, the state would potentially have no recourse to act to protect such children from that harm.

Let’s be clear: this amendment puts a political agenda and personal beliefs ahead of the interests of children in the state’s welfare system, many of whom have come into that system because of abuse and neglect. Decisions about the placement of those children in safe, loving homes should be based on their needs and on the ability of families to meet those needs, not the religious or moral objections of the agencies with which the state has contracted to provide those services.

Earlier this month, the Human Rights Campaign issued a release in which major child advocacy groups came out against Sanford's adoption bill: 

In a letter to Texas lawmakers, the Donaldson Adoption Institute (DAI), Voice for Adoption (VFA), and North American Council on Adoptable Children (NACAC) blasted the legislation that would empower adoption agencies to discriminate against eligible parents and guardians. If passed, the discriminatory bill would deny countless children access to caring homes. It could also prevent eligible interfaith couples, same-sex couples, and couples where one individual was previously divorced, the opportunity to care for a child in need.

“We urge you to examine the research that demonstrates if we truly wish to act in good conscience towards children waiting for permanent families, we must not exclude qualified and eager prospective foster and adoptive parents,” the letter states. “Foster and adoptive parent applicants should be judged based on their qualifications, not their sexual orientation or gender identity. Enshrining discrimination into law, on the other hand, will undermine the safety and well-being of Texas’ children.”

“This is tantamount to taxpayer-funded discrimination, as many of the state’s private adoption agencies have large public contracts,” said Ellen Kahn, director of HRC’s Children, Youth and Families Program. “We call on Texas legislators to choose the best interests of the child over discrimination, and abandon this bill aimed at hurting Texans who wish to provide caring homes for children.”


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