Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Farrar backs marriage equality on Facebook

This post originally appeared on Houstini.com on February 27, 2012

Rep. Jessica Farrar
A couple of weeks ago Houstini reported that State Rep. Garnet Coleman, D-Houston, had blogged his support for marriage equality in Texas. A couple of eagle-eyed Houstini readers wanted to know why Rep. Jessica Farrar, D-Houston, who made a similar statement via Facebook last week, didn't get the same attention. Farrar took to the social media site to express her approval of the passage of marriage equality legislation in Washington state:
"I am excited that Washington can now be added to the list of marriage equality states! With Valentine's Day approaching, I vow to continue working with advocates to fight for marriage equality, same-sex partner benefits, and laws that protect all of my constituents regardless of sexual orientation." (Screen grab below)

Farrar and Coleman have long histories of supporting the LGBT community (both were among the group of only 25 Texas House members who unequivocally opposed the 2005 legislation that led to the passage of Texas' constitutional amendment banning marriage equality.) Even with that history there is a difference between opposing discriminatory legislation and publicly supporting marriage equality, and it's heartening to see both House members express their support in such a public venue.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

A conservative radio host walks into a gay bar ...

Michael Berry
This post first appeared on Houstini.com on February 21, 2012.

Stop me if you've heard this one before. Conservative talk radio host and former city council member Michael Berry has been implicated in a hit-and-run accident outside of T.C.'s show bar last month. Berry has not been charged with a crime. In Texas leaving the scene of an accident is a misdemeanor.

KPRC reports that a bouncer for the gay bar witnessed a hit-and-run collision on Jan. 31. The bouncer, Tuderia Bennett, wrote down the license plate of the vehicle and later identified Berry, the owner of the vehicle, as the man he had seen driving. Since then video of Berry inside the bar has been released.
And then the blogosphere exploded:

Houston Chronicle Newswatch blog: Michael Berry accused of ramming vehicle at gay club
Perez Hilton: Um, Oops? Conservative Radio Host Accused Of Hit-And-Run After Visiting Gay Bar
Texas Observer: Homophobic Radio Host Busted at Gay Bar
Towleroad: Conservative Talk Radio Host Michael Berry Was Definitely At That Gay Bar In Houston ...

The site GayHomophobe.com even added Berry to their listing of famous homophobes later caught up in gay sex scandals.

The only issue with all this schadenfreude is that, as far as I can tell, Michael Berry isn't particularly homophobic. The radio host has criticized other right-wing personalities for their homophobia. I've spent a considerable amount of time listening to old episodes of Berry's show over the last few days (a painful experience) and I've yet to find anything hateful toward the LGBT community (please correct me if I've missed something).

Controversial black-face drag character Shirley Q. Liquor is a regular guest on Berry's program, which would seem to indicate that Berry at least has no issue with drag queens (nor, would it seem, does Berry have any issues with astoundingly racially insensitive performances that rely on the most vulgar of African-American stereotypes).

I'm not saying that Michael Berry's good guy (he once advocating bombing a proposed mosque in lower Manhattan), but I have to question why the media in general, and the LGBT media in particular, have been so quick to paint him as a homophobe caught with his pants down.

Perhaps after decades of Sen. Larry "wide stance" Craig and George "luggage lifter" Rekers it's an easy narrative to latch on to. But it's concerning that this story has become about Michael Berry being the sort of person who (allegedly) visits gay bars instead of being about Michael Berry being the sort of jerk who (allegedly) hits a parked car and then drives off.

A conservative radio host walks into a gay bar, walks out, gets into his car, hits another car, and drives off ... and what we find shocking isn't the crime, but that he was in a gay bar.
What a joke.

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Houston Area Pastor Council accuses Mayor Parker of violating oath of office

This post originally appeared on Houstini.com on February, 15, 2011

Annise Parker
Mayor Annise Parker has been quite vocal on the issue of marriage equality lately. Last month she co-chaired the bi-partisan "Mayors for the Freedom to Marry." This last Valentine's Day she greeted marriage equality activists in front of city hall, declaring it "Freedom to Marry Day" in Houston (an action that carried no legal weight).

Of Course the Houston Area Pastor Council is riled up about all this talk of "freedom" and "equality." In a statement released today HAPC characterized Parker's actions as a “declaration of war on the traditional family.” Former mayoral candidate and HAPC president Dave Welch said "“The battle lines are drawn again as [Mayor Parker] proves her contempt for the churches of the city, the traditional family and our state Constitution."

The statement from HAPC also claims Parker "violated her oath of office to uphold and defend the Constitution of the State of Texas" by advocating for the legal recognition of same-sex couples, which is prohibited under the Texas Constitution. HAPC may want to check out the Houston Mayoral Oath of Office before making such accusations, because this is the oath Parker took when she assumed office:

"I, Annise Parker, do solemnly swear that I will faithfully execute the duties of the office of mayor of the city of Houston of the State of Texas, so help me God."
Absolutely nothing about upholding or defending the Constitution of the State of Texas, just a promise to execute her duties and a prayer for God's assistance. The city charter says nothing about the mayor having a duty to uphold the Texas Constitution. So, considering that the mayor's oath was to execute her duties, and the charter doesn't say that she has a duty to not criticize the state, it's hard to imagine how advocating for marriage equality would violate her oath of office.

But let's assume that Parker had sworn to uphold the state constitution. Members of the state legislature and statewide elected officials like the governor do take that oath. If we follow the logic of the HAPC, those individuals would be violating their oaths of office if they publicly advocated changing what the Texas Constitution has to say about marriage. Which is interesting because in 2005 a majority of state legislators and Gov. Rick Perry did just that when they pushed through the constitutional amendment that currently prohibits marriage equality. By the arguments of Dave Welch and the HAPC all of those individuals should be removed from office for violating their oath.

I'm starting to like where this is going...

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Houston's State Rep. Garnet Coleman applauds Prop. 8 decision

This post originally appeared on Houstini.com on February 8, 2011

Rep. Garnet Coleman
Rep. Garnet Coleman, D-Houston, took to his blog today to applaud yesterday's decision by the United States Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals declaring Proposition 8  unconstitutional (Prop. 8, passed in 2008, prohibited marriage equality in California):
"Yesterday's 9th Circuit decision, just like the decision in Lawrence v. Texas, is a stepping stone on the path to marriage equality for all. As Judge Stephen R. Reinhardt of the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals wrote in the opinion, 'Proposition 8 serves no purpose, and has no effect, other than to lessen the status and human dignity of gay men and lesbians in California, and to officially reclassify their relationships and families as inferior to those of opposite-sex couples.' The same holds true for the marriage equality ban in Texas. That is why I continue to fight for marriage equality and continue to file the repeal of the ban of same sex marriage. Denying gay couples the right to marry is unconstitutional and a blatant denial of human rights. "
Coleman has a long history of filing pro-LGBT legislation in the Texas House. Last year he introduced historic legislation that, had it passed, would have called for a state-wide vote to repeal the section of Texas' constitution prohibiting same-sex marriage, so he's no stranger to the battle for marriage equality.
Coleman is seeking re-election to his District 147 seat. He will face long-time local LGBT activist Ray Hill in the Democratic Primary. No republican candidate has filed for the seat.
Read Coleman's full statement on his blog.