Friday, June 29, 2007

Patriotic Party with the Next Mayor of Houston

I know... She hasn't officially announced anything, but the Houston GLBT Political Caucus is so proud of City Controller Annise Parker, so excited that she may be the first openly homosexual mayor of a major American city, that we just have to celebrate. This year's annual July 4th fundraiser will be held at the home of Annise Parker.

Over the last several elections, the caucus has achieved some historic victories. Our organization is healthy and growing. We have ambitious goals and a clear vision for the future of Houston - Houston led by Annise Parker. Annise Parker has proven herself over many years of service to our city, and we at the Caucus have been dreaming about her mayoral election for a long, long time. Rest assured, we're going to work harder than we've ever worked to get her elected, but...

Like you need equality,

Here are all the details:

Wednsday, July 4th, 3:00 - 6:00
The home of the Honorable Annise Parker
1942 West Lamar, Houston, TX

Delicious BBQ!

Tickets are $50


Thursday, June 28, 2007

Annise Parker and Sue Lovell Join the Clinton Campaign

Houston may proudly count itself among the few American cities that have openly gay leaders in their municipal governments. City Controller Annise Parker and City Council Member Sue lovell have offered Houstonians great leadership, and those of us in the caucus can proudly say "we knew them when." Both are past presidents of our organization, and today both have placed themselves in Hillary Clinton's corner, as she competes for to be first women President of the United States.

In a press release commemorating the stonewall riots, Clinton announced yesterday the formation of a 65 member LGBT campaign steering committee. All members of the committee have individually endorsed Clinton, and Parker and Lovell are included in the list. They're in good company too, as the committee is comprised of many of our nation's most prominent LGBT elected officials and community activists. You can view the complete list here.

The list of supporters on the steering committee demonstrates the history of friendship that Hillary Clinton has had with this community and the depth of her support among LGBT leaders. It includes people like former U.S. Assistant Attorney General Eldie Acheson, who went to college with Hillary Clinton, and Neel Lattimore who worked for her as First Lady as well as film/TV writer and producer Greg Berlanti who met her last week and signed on as a supporter immediately. The list also includes prominent LGBT activists who have been leaders on issues important to the community, including three retired members of the military who have worked to overturn the Don't Ask, Don't Tell policy, advocates in the fight against HIV/AIDS, and the attorney who argued and won the landmark Supreme Court case, Lawrence v. Texas.

Last week I posted that John Edwards had announced a second list of LGBT backers and the endorsement of Garnet Coleman. Yesterday, Edwards campaigned in Houston with Coleman and Chris Bell, another caucus candidate. As Pride month comes to a close, nearly all of the democratic presidential candidates have released some sort of statement demonstrating their LGBT support. You can read Barack Obama's statement here and Bill Richardson's statement here. In this race, the Democrats are embracing our community like they never have before. Elizabeth Edwards even campaigned at the San Francisco Pride parade, becoming the most prominent candidate or spouse to ever participate in the festivities. As far as I can tell, none of the Republicans have mentioned us, except to affirm their belief in heterosexual marriage.

Of course, the Houston GLBT Political Caucus has no official position and will have official position on the presidential race. We're exclusively focused on cultivating equality in Houston and across the state Texas, but this blog was created to be forum for our community to discuss politics at all levels. When local leaders from our community, like Annise Parker, Sue Lovell, or Garnet Coleman, make an endorsement, I think that we should talk about it here.

Now that we're in the summer lull, before the city races get going full throttle, I'd love to get a discussion going about all this. What do y'all think about the race so far?

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

This is How Equality Happens

This is how equality happens: one race at a time. Listen to this NPR piece from this morning's All Things Considered. GLBT activists are making the difference in key local and state races all over America. This quote sums up our growing influence in Houston and nationally:

A new force is emerging in American politics: gay political donors who target state-level races. Last year, they funneled millions of dollars into dozens of carefully selected campaigns. Their goal: to elect gay-friendly governors and state lawmakers.

Congratulations! Today, Melissa Noriega has been sworn in as a Houston City Council member! After working tirelessly throughout the spring, the GLBT community can celebrate the inauguration of a new friend on council, and we can also celebrate the end of the hateful, anti-equality tenure of Shelly Sekula-Gibbs and Tom Delay. Noriega has gained broad support across the city, but no community campaigned more diligently than ours. I don't think any knowledgeable observer would deny that.

We're changing Houston, and we're changing this country. In our fight for equality, we're fulfilling the American promise.

Another Encouraging Public Opinion Poll

CNN/Opinion Research Corporation just released this amazing new poll:

A majority of Americans believe that gays and lesbians could not change their sexual orientation even if they wanted to, according to results of a CNN/Opinion Research Corporation poll released Wednesday.

It's the first time in a CNN poll the majority has held that belief regarding homosexuality.

Fifty-six percent of about 515 poll respondents said they do not believe sexual orientation can be changed. In 2001, 45 percent of those responding to a CNN/USA Today/Gallup poll held that belief. In 1998, according to a CNN/Time poll, the number was 36 percent.

With this report, like many of the others I cited here, I'm most impressed by the quick pace of change. In just ten years, 20% of Americans have come to understand that sexual orientation is not a choice. That's truly amazing. We've made such incredible progress. Just imagine... in ten years, its possible that three quarters of our country will understand the truth about sexual orientation.

We can even accelerate the pace of progress. This poll shows that the tipping point has been reached. Our community needs to be out spoken, direct and honest about our goals and our need for equality. That's what the caucus' political activism is all about. In the upcoming city election, we should campaign like we've never campaigned before. We have the momentum, and we have a platform.

Join the caucus. Contribute. Help us make Houston a welcoming home for everyone.

Friday, June 15, 2007

Proud Edwards

You might be wondering why John Edwards has been getting more coverage on this blog than any other candidate. I regularly check the websites of all presidential candidates, both Democrat and Republican. I've signed up to receive almost everyones e-mails, and, up to now, John Edwards is the only candidate that headlines his LGBT support. I don't imagine that too many of us in the Caucus have decided who we're supporting in the primary, but Edwards is obviously proud to have LGBT backers, and that means a lot to me. I assume that the other Democrats are receiving endorsements from our community as well, but they aren't publicizing them, and I find that a little troubling.

Just this week, Edwards announced yet another impresive list of LGBT endorsers:

Kevin Jennings, New York LGBT Community Activist

Jeffrey Davis, New York LGBT Community Activist, Managing Director of Lehman Brothers

Gregory G. Simoncini, Commissioner of Illinois Human Rights Commission, former Board Member of National Gay and Lesbian Victory Fund, former Board Member of Lambda Legal

Stephen Handwerk, Board Member of National Stonewall Democrats and Co-Chair of Louisiana Stonewall Democrats.

Jeff Anderson, former Co-Chair of John Kerry for President National LGBT Finance Committee

Jeff Soukup, Board Member of Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation, former President and COO, PlanetOut Inc., and former Co-Chair National Gay and Lesbian Victory Fund

Pam Cooke, Board Member of National Stonewall Democrats

Also, on the same day that he posted the list above, John Edwards was in Austin. While visiting our state he announced that several prominent Texas Democrats have gotten behind him. Most importantly to us, State Representative Garnet Coleman, the featured speaker at our last meeting, has formally endorsed John Edwards for president. That really impresses me.
Here's what Coleman had to say:

"We need a Democrat in the White House in 2008 to fix the damage done by the Bush Administration and put our country back on track," said state Representative Garnet Coleman. "John Edwards is the best Democrat to take back the White House and restore America to its place of leadership."

Here's the complete list of Texas endorsers:
Current Elected Officials

Dallas Mayor Laura Miller - Dallas
State Senator Kirk Watson - Austin
State House Democratic Leader Jim Dunnam - Waco
State Representative Trey Martinez-Fischer, Vice Chair of the Mexican American Legislative Caucus - San Antonio
State Representative Garnet Coleman, Immediate Past Chair of the Texas Legislative Black Caucus & Chair of the Texas Legislative Study Group - Houston
State Representative Joe Farias - San Antonio
State Representative Stephen Frost - New Boston
State Representative Mark Homer - Paris
State Representative Paula Pierson - Arlington
State Representative Craig Eiland - Galveston

Former Elected Officials:

Former U.S. Representative Max Sandlin - Marshall
State Senator Babe Schwartz - Galveston

Other Prominent Texans for John Edwards:

Charles Soechting - Former Texas Democratic Party Chairman - San Marcos
Hank Gilbert - 2006 Commissioner of Agriculture Democratic Nominee - Tyler
Jim Marston - Director, Environmental Defense Texas * - Austin
Enrique Moreno - El Paso
Frank Herrera - Former Chair, Mexican American Legal Defense and Education Fund * - San Antonio
Mikal Watts - Possible 2008 Democratic Candidate for U.S. Senate - San Antonio
Liz Carpenter - Austin
Karen Dulaney Smith, Austin Independent School District Board of Trustees - Austin*

* For Identification Purposes Only

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

GLBTube #6

The good, the bad, and the ugly… You figure which is which.

Thursday, June 07, 2007

Overview of GLBT Issues from the 80th Legislature

Last night's Caucus general meeting was really excellent. Members had the great pleasure of hearing presentations from three of our champions in the state house, Garnet Coleman, Ellen Cohen, and Hubert Vo.

Representative Coleman has put together a thorough summary of GLBT related activity from this year's session. This was just one of many excellent messages that Coleman has sent out this spring through his GLBT e-mail blast. I thought everyone would appreciate finding out what happened, and, more importantly, what didn't happen up in Austin this year.

Dear Friend,

Through a lot of hard work, the GLBT community has made tremendous strides over just the past few years in educating the public about equality and fairness for GLBT people, and that showed in the 80th Texas Legislature. Fourteen pro-GLBT issues were filed this session, compared to just one anti-GLBT bill. In contrast to last session, action on the House floor, while rare, was generally positive for GLBT-related legislation. There are still a number of narrow-minded members hostile to GLBT issues, but many members, particularly freshmen, have voted for positive GLBT-related legislation when it's had a chance to get to the floor.

The 'Dignity for All Students' Budget Amendment by Coleman Late this March, I authored an amendment to the budget that required all schools to report data on incidents of bullying and harassment against GLBT students in Texas. Every student in Texas has the right to a quality education without fear of harassment or bullying at school. My amendment simply would have required schools to report on incidents of harassment at schools, because knowing what kind of harassment is going on at school would even further clarify the need for the legislature to do something to stop it.

The Coleman "Dignity for All Students" data collection amendment passed the House, with nine Republicans joining sixty-seven Democrats in voting for the amendment, although it was ultimately stripped in conference committee and did not become law.

Legislative Intent on the rights of residential tenants I was proud to establish legislative intent on a piece of legislation this session with Rep. Rafael Anchia to expand housing protections for GLBT Texans. Rep. Anchia authored HB 3101, which expanded rights and remedies for residential tenants in Texas. Rep. Anchia and I had an exchange read into the record for legislative intent establishing that if a landlord refuses to rent to a person for a particular reason (including the person's orientation) without including that reason in a list of eligibility criteria for renting, then the landlord would have to return any deposit that person put down on the apartment.

GLBT Texans should not have the rug pulled out from underneath them and lose their deposit on an apartment if a landlord decides not to rent to them without informing them of their renting criteria, and this legislative intent I established will ensure no Texans have to face that circumstance.

Rep. Hochberg's Juvenile Hate Crimes Legislation This session I joint-authored H.B. 1078 with Representative Scott Hochberg, which allowed for a finding of conduct constituting a hate crime in a juvenile proceeding. Texas' current law defines hate crimes for crimes committed by adults, including crimes motivated on the basis of a person's sexual orientation. However, the law does not define hate crimes committed by juveniles, even though nearly one-third of all hate crime offenders are juveniles. The tragic attack on David Ritcheson in Spring last year only emphasizes the need for such legislation.

H.B. 1078 passed out of committee on a unanimous vote in April, although it was never set for debate on the House floor.

Unequal Legal Treatment under 'Romeo & Juliet' statute Texas law regarding statutory rape currently unfairly discriminates against GLBT young people. Texas law allows for a three-year overlapping time frame between two young persons who have sexual relations, to prevent cases in which an eighteen year old senior is charged with statutory rape for dating a seventeen year old junior (this is often referred to as a "Romeo" exception). But that exception only applies when the two young people are of the opposite sex, so GLBT young people don't get the exception.

This February I authored an amendment to repeal that unfair treatment in the law. The amendment was defeated, but I promise to remain vigilant on this issue through the interim and next session as well.

Montrose Management District While GLBT Houstonians live all over the city, Montrose has long been a cultural and social home to Houston's GLBT community. Along with Representative Ellen Cohen and Senator Rodney Ellis, this session I passed HB 4091, which expanded the East Montrose Management District to include West Montrose and added additional members to the board.

The Montrose Management District invests in neighborhood improvements and infrastructure projects to improve quality of life and spur economic development in Montrose, and I was proud to author and pass HB 4091 this session.

Stopping Prison Sexual Assault Sexual assault against prisoners is a problem in Texas; at least 36% of all instances of sexual assault against prisoners in the United States occurred in Texas, not including the countless number of cases which go unreported. Sexual assault in prison can lead to increased cases of HIV, increases in long-term health care costs both within and outside of prison, and can have terrible physical and psychological effects on victims of sexual assault. Unfortunately, GLBT prisoners are often singled out more than others as victims of sexual assault in prison.

HB 1944, which I authored and passed this session along with Senator Rodney Ellis, creates an ombudsperson in the Texas Department of Criminal Justice Office of Inspector General to ensure impartial resolution of instances of sexual assault.

Health care for children in foster care Current law in Texas allows children in college to remain on their parents' health insurance until age 24, but for foster children, the State of Texas serves as their parents. I passed an amendment this session to allow foster children who are attending college to remain on Medicaid until age 23. Certainly this amendment benefits all children in foster care, but now GLBT youth who have "aged out" of the foster care system can have health coverage until they leave school.

The Davis Amendment to Rep. Charlie Howard's "Religious Viewpoints" bill The far-right still has a strong grip on state government, and this session we faced Rep. Charlie Howard's "religious viewpoints" bill, which was meant to codify religious freedoms in schools. The bill required every event at which students assemble for school administrators to provide a "limited public forum" for students to express their religious viewpoints. I strongly believe in respecting students' rights of speech, but Rep. Howard's bill essentially would require schools to let students proselytize at any student assembly at which attendance was mandatory.

Rep. Yvonne Davis of
Dallas had a very simple amendment to Rep. Charlie Howard's bill. It stated that a student's speech at one of these "limited public forums" could not discriminate against other students on the basis of their "sex, race, age, sexual preference, or religious beliefs." Rep. Davis' amendment was a good attempt to ensure that these "limited public forums" did not turn into platforms for bigotry or hatred against other students. Twenty-three Republicans and sixty-five Democrats voted for the Davis amendment, although it was ultimately stripped in conference committee and did not become law.

Anti-GLBT Legislation The sole anti-GLBT billfiled this session, HB 1017 by Rep. William Zedler was aimed at banning gay-straight alliances (GSAs) in our public schools. GSAs provide a strong support network for GLBT youth in what may be a difficult time in their lives. Fortunately, HB 1017 never even received a hearing from the Public Education committee, and I would thank both the GLBT community and my colleague on the committee, Representative Scott Hochberg, for their hard work in helping to kill this bad piece of public policy.

Fortunately, not a single anti-GLBT amendment made it to the floor this session. Last session the House passed an amendment banning gays and lesbians from being foster parents in
Texas. Despite ample opportunities to do so, no amendment like that hit the floor this session. Changing hearts and minds isn't inevitable; it's happened
because the GLBT community has worked so hard to educate people about ending discrimination and bigotry in our state. I believe that hard work translated this session into the inaction on legislation that would diminish the rights of GLBT Texans. (In particular, Equality Texas, the Houston GLBT Political Caucus and Randall Ellis at Legacy Community Health Services have done excellent political and advocacy work to advance GLBT issues this session).

Tom Craddick's grip on the flow of legislation Despite the change in membership that has made the Legislature a less intolerant place for GLBT issues, Speaker Tom Craddick and his leadership team stifled or stopped many of the positive changes members voted for this session. My amendment and the Davis amendment were stripped from their respective bills in conference committee, and Rep. Hochberg's juvenile hate crimes bill was never set for debate on the floor. Additionally, many of the pro-GLBT bills filed this session never received hearings from the committees to which they were referred.

Speaker Tom Craddick has shown his hostility to GLBT issues as speaker, allowing measures to come to the floor like a constitutional ban on gay marriage and a ban on gays and lesbians serving as foster parents. More generally, Tom Craddick has shown hostility to individual rights and freedoms in his three terms as speaker. Recently, he declared he has "absolute power" over all motions on the floor of the house and refused to recognize motions to let the members vote on whether he should remain speaker. Contravening the wishes of the majority of the House through declarations of absolute power is one of many reasons why I believe the Texas House needs a new speaker.

Conclusion I hope this information is helpful to you in covering how the 80th Texas Legislature treated GLBT legislation session. If you have any questions, please do not hesitate to respond to this e-mail or call my district office at 713-520-5355. I promise to you that I will continue fighting for equal rights for GLBT Texans in the legislature and providing leadership without fear.


Garnet Coleman

Tuesday, June 05, 2007

An interesting Metric for Growing Tolerance

According to Prime Access Inc., an marketing agency that produces an annual report on advertisement revenues in the gay and lesbian press, corporate America recognizes that tolerance for GLBT in is surging significantly.

Here are some of the report's key findings. You may read the entire report here.

  • Compared to a decade ago, advertising growth in gay and lesbian press continues to out pace advertising growth in consumer magazines as a whole. For the gay and lesbian press, 2006 advertising spending is up an impressive 205% since 1996, compared to an increase of 47% for all consumer magazines during the same ten year period.
  • Over 183 Fortune 500(registered trade mark) brands were active in gay consumer markets as of 2006, up from 150 in 2004. There were only 19 such brands in 1994
  • The combined circulation of all publications constituting the gay and lesbian press is now 3,777,488, an increase of 10.4 % versus a year ago.

I think those findings are pretty amazing. Prime Access president Howard Buford gave Market Watch the following statement regarding the report:
"This year's report confirms how, in just one decade, gay and lesbian consumers have gone from an overlooked niche to an audience that Fortune 500 companies are working overtime to reach," said Howard Buford, president of Prime Access, in a release accompanying the report. "The numbers make it clear that corporate America recognizes and values both the spending power and influence of gay consumers."

Monday, June 04, 2007

GLBTube #5


This clip, from last night’s debate (6/3/07), features Hillary Clinton and Joe Biden. Beyond their discussion, by show-of-hands, every Democratic presidential candidate indicated their desire to get rid of “don’t ask don’t tell.” Good for them! Later in the debate, John Edwards and Bill Richardson both spoke eloquently in support of same sex civil unions and the repeal of DOMA. Of the all candidates running for president, only Dennis Kucinich supports gay “marriage.” Every other democrat supports civil unions.

In this clip, members of the Minnesota House of Representatives Finance Committee debate the inclusion of domestic partnership benefits is the omnibus budget bill. Karen Clark has proudly served as an open lesbian in Minnesota’s State House since 1980.

Angie Paccione is a candidate for Colorado’s 4th Congressional district. She currently serves in the Colorado House of Representatives. This is clip is from a 2006 debate between Paccione and Congresswomen Marilyn Musgrave. Paccione ended up losing the election in 2006, but she’s running again. She obviously supports us; maybe we should send her some support.

Vote Early for Melissa Noriega


The upcoming June 16 run- off election to fill the City Council seat vacated by Shelley Sekula-Gibbs is expected to be a low-key affair. So your vote is very important.

  • Main Office: Harris County Administration Building, 1001 Preston, 1st Floor
  • Montrose: Metropolitan Mutli-Service Center, 1475 W. Gray
Early Voting Hours of Operation
  • Monday to Friday: June 4 to 8 - 8:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m.
  • Saturday, June 9 - 7:00 a.m. to 7 p.m.
  • Sunday, June 10 - 1:00 p.m. to 6 p.m.
  • Monday to Tuesday: June 11 to 12- 7:00 a.m. - 7:00 p.m.
Regular Voting Hours of Operation
  • Saturday: June 16 - 7:00 a.m. - 7:00 p.m.