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May 21st, 2014:

TransGriot on the current status of the NDO

Monica Roberts wants to set the record straight about Mayor Parker and the latest version of the Houston Equal Rights Ordinance that will (eventually, we swear) be voted on by Council.

Mayor Annise Parker

Mayor Annise Parker

The local trans community asked for Section 17-51 (b) to be pulled from the proposed ordinance. I’ve written and testified it needed to go. Lou, Dee Dee, and other Houston trans leaders have also been unanimous in our dislike of it.

What we’re pissed off about inside Beltway 8 is you peeps blasting Mayor Parker based on Frontiers LA writing a story and only posting a snippet of Section 17-51 (b) prior to their conclusion jump. Neither did any of you outside of Houston critics know at the time because you weren’t privy to it, we were working with council to get amendments done to clean up that problematic language in a way that would be satisfying to our community.

FYI, here’s the full text of Section 17-51 (b)

(b) It shall be unlawful for any place of public accommodation or any employee or agent thereof to deny any person entry to any restroom, shower room, or similar facility if that facility is consistent with and appropriate to that person’s expression of gender identity. It shall be a defense to prosecution for discrimination on the basis of gender identity under this article, however, if the defendant had a good faith belief that the gender or gender identity of the person discriminated against was not consistent with the gender designation of the facility. For purposes of this section, a defendant has a good faith belief if the manner in which the person represented or expressed gender to others (e.g. behavior, clothing, hairstyles, activities, voice or mannerisms) is not consistent with the gender designation of the facility the person attempted to access. Nothing in this section shall require construction of a new bathroom, shower room, or similar facility.

The problematic section I underlined and put in bold print is why the Houston transgender community and our allies after consulting with us asked to have it pulled. Leaving that as is would have allowed transphobes to engage in gender policing and we would have no recourse to it.

So did you stop to think before you knee-jerk conclusion jumped to ask me or any other transperson in Houston working to pass the HERO what was going on? Did you peeps outside Loop 610 honestly think after I wrote this post that I or any other Houston trans leaders would support ANY HERO that didn’t FIX the problems that ail the Houston trans community?

This is the post Roberts is referring to, and despite her post from Sunday and a couple of comments on the offending piece by the likes of Daniel Williams, there’s been no correction or followup from Frontiers LA that I can see. I consider this yet another example of a non-Texas-based writer getting the basic facts about a story here – usually a political story – all wrong, presumably from some combination of laziness, misunderstanding, and the long-outdated perception of the state as a monochromatic sea of red outside of Austin. Whatever the cause, it’s annoying as hell, and I share Roberts’ frustration and desire to get the facts out. If you see any misinformation out there about the status of the HERO, keep that link handy to point people back in the right direction.

And on an unfortunate related note, Texas Leftist has an update on how one Council member will apparently be voting.

When one visits the website for Grace Community Church, a mega-church in Southeast Houston, it’s easy to form an initial impression that it is a community which is welcoming and loving to all. They proudly proclaim the slogan “Everybody needs a little grace!”

But those impressions couldn’t be further from the truth, as there is lots of ugliness going on within the walls of this congregation. Local political activist Kris Banks decided to attend a rally at Grace for those against the Houston Equal Rights Ordinance, and what he found there was pretty awful. Banks says many in the crowd openly laughed when transgender people were mentioned, and some even called the community an “abomination”.

Even after his 2 hour town hall with members of the LGBT community and supposed friendship with Jenifer Rene Pool, Council Member Michael Kubosh was at this rally clapping right along to the hate speech against the transgender community. Kubosh even says to the crowd that “God put him on Council to fight this ordinance.”

Well clearly after statements like the one above, there’s no further mystery about how Kubosh plans to vote. On a personal note, I never voted for Kubosh or supported his campaign, but was willing to attend the town hall and hope that he would be open-minded on these issues. I was dead wrong.

(Emphasis in the original.) Me too, I’m afraid. CM Kubosh’s vote isn’t needed to pass the NDO, but it’s unfortunate to see him line up against it, and against many residents of the city he was elected to represent. You can be sure people will remember this in 2015.

Time for the debate about debates to begin

It’s getting to be debating season.

Sen. Wendy Davis

Sen. Wendy Davis

Democratic Sen. Wendy Davis on Tuesday proposed a series of six debates with Republican Attorney General Greg Abbott in their race for governor.

Her proposal came after Abbott earlier said he had accepted two invitations for debates in McAllen in September and in Dallas in October.

Davis envisions a series of debates from July through October in the Rio Grande Valley, Dallas-Fort Worth, San Antonio, El Paso, Houston and Lubbock.

In a letter to Abbott dated Tuesday, she said she would like at least two of them to be issue-specific debates focused on education and economic opportunity.

Davis proposed at least two 90-minute town-hall formats “with a technology partner and social media engagement;” at least one community college with a local media partner “on a weekend so parents can attend;” and at least one English-Spanish simulcast.

I’ve got Davis’ letter to Abbott beneath the fold. It’s interesting to me that Abbott made the first move by accepting the media-sponsored debates in McAllen and Dallas. I suspect that’s one part confidence in his oratorial skills, one part bravado about “competing” for the Latino vote, and one part recognition that maybe he can’t hope to hide in a corner like Rick Perry did. Davis had already come under some questioning for not immediately jumping to accept the two debates on offer, but she apparently had bigger things in mind. Let’s see how Abbott plays it from here. The Austin Chronicle and the Monitor have more.

(more…)

Dewhurst admits he has no control over his campaign

I can’t think of any other way to characterize this.

So very sad

Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst said Monday he was “appalled” by Land Commissioner Jerry Patterson’s decision to publicize court filings detailing Dan Patrick’s past mental health issues and that he tried to put a stop to the initial document release as far back as two weeks ago.

In his first public comments since Patterson released documents to state media showing that Patrick was hospitalized and treated for severe depression and a suicide attempt in the 1980s, Dewhurst reiterated in an interview that his campaign had nothing to do with the attack.

Dewhurst, an 11-year incumbent reduced to the role of underdog heading into the May 27 runoff against Patrick, attempted to distance his campaign from the fallout that ensued following the release, saying he strongly advised Patterson against the dissemination of the court records weeks ago.

The rationale: Releasing sensitive documents aimed at damaging Patrick’s campaign could backfire and damage his own chances of winning re-election.

“Whatever you do could have some reflection on me,” Dewhurst said he told Patterson at the time, noting that he was not privy to the details of the documents. “I don’t want anything to do with it.”

Patterson, who initially said he could not recall the conversation with Dewhurst from two weeks ago, had a “memory recovery” later Monday that the incumbent was “unimpressed” when the two first talked about possible court documents earlier this month. He ended up bucking Dewhurst anyway, releasing hundreds of pages of documents to reporters late Thursday.

He followed with another document dump Friday, ignoring a second personal appeal from Dewhurst to refrain from releasing documents and even emailing reporters to say he “didn’t give a damn” about the lieutenant governor’s opinion.

“He was not happy about it,” Patterson said of his Friday conversation with Dewhurst.

See here for the background. All I can say is “seriously?” Dewhurst couldn’t get Patterson, who really wants him to win, to respect his opinion that this was a bad idea, and he didn’t have the cojones to make Patterson listen to him? Who’s in charge over there, anyway? All this assumes that you buy Dewhurst’s explanation that he was totally in the dark as to what Patterson had to leak out, a story that the Observer finds difficult to believe. Whatever it was that this was supposed to accomplish, it didn’t.

I shouldn’t be too surprised that this was the path taken, whether Dewhurst was directly involved or not. The problem, as I’ve noted before, is that most of the things that David Dewhurst could say about Dan Patrick that most normal people would think of as negatives, the people that will actually be voting in this runoff consider to be badges of honor. Calling someone a scum-sucking bottom feeder isn’t very effective as a line of attack if it’s what the voters want to vote for.

The editorial pages have been busy clucking their tongues over this, not that they really want to since they don’t much like Dan Patrick, either, but the DMN’s Rodger Jones raises an interesting point: Would news organizations have printed this information if they had dug it up for themselves? Almost certainly they would have. He puts it all in the context of nuance and big-picture-ness, but to me it’s simply a matter of stigmatization. Reporting that a candidate for political office had spent time in a mental health facility if that information had been part of a public record (as was the case here, since it came from a deposition in a lawsuit) is one thing. Painting it as something shameful is another. The shame belongs to Patterson and Dewhurst for their attempt to demonize Dan Patrick for one of the few things that aren’t unlovely about him. PDiddie, the Trib, and Campos have more.

The stars at night could use a little less competition

The stars at night may indeed be big and bright, but too much brightness here on earth makes them harder to see in the sky.

A West Texas astronomical observatory known for discovering the largest supermassive black hole is facing the threat of growing cities and increased oil and gas play lighting up the horizon.

McDonald Observatory celebrates 75 years of research and public outreach this year with a $30 million upgrade to its Hobby-Eberly Telescope.

“There will be discoveries coming out of this project we can’t even conceive of today,” said William Wren, special assistant to the observatory’s superintendent, noting the mountain of data will be publicly available.

But with West Texas cities booming – and drilling rigs lining the horizon of once desolate places – astronomers are worried about the impact of light on their research.

Even though it’s the farthest city, El Paso once had the biggest impact on the observatory.

“That was the brightest thing in our sky up until a few years ago,” Wren said. “Now the Permian Basin is lighting up our horizon.”

[…]

Oil and gas activity in the Wolfcamp-Spraberry play and Eagle Ford Shale now light up once dark areas of Texas. But Wren said the observatory isn’t pushing for nearby communities or oil and gas operations to “go dark” – just adopt better lightning practices.

“Light that is going up to the sky – it’s a waste. There’s no reason for it at all,” Wren said.

Good, safe outdoor lighting is possible, he said, pointing to Tucson, Arizona, and gas stations and convenience stores that have found success in switching to focused lighting or LEDs.

“Oftentimes it’s more cost efficient, reduces flare and increases visibility at night while keeping skies dark,” he said.

McDonald Observatory is also working with Pioneer Energy Services, a San Antonio company with a West Texas presence, to create a “dark-sky friendly” drilling rig.

See also this Observer story for more on the plight of West Texas’ not-so-dark-anymore skies. BeyondBones, the blog of the Houston Museum of Natural Science, recently provided five simple ways to cut down on light pollution. I’m a born-and-bred city boy, so I’m used to only seeing a few stars at night. I’ve never forgotten the time I traveled with the Trinity University baseball team to Kerrville for an afternoon-evening doubleheader, and being absolutely astounded at how full of stars the sky was 60 miles west of San Antonio. There’s getting to be fewer places in Texas where one can experience that, and it would be a shame for it to happen to the Observatory. The story mentioned the existence of a bill from the last Legislature that would have required seven counties to adopt ordinances that would help keep the Observatory in the dark, but there wasn’t enough information to go looking for it. I have no idea if such a bill might have a chance in 2015, but I’ll try to keep a lookout for it.