HOUSTON VOICE www.houstonvoice.com
APRIL 29,2005 3
local news briefs
State Senate rejects legislation that bans gay foster parents
A Texas House amendment to a seriate foster
from serving in that capacity hit a snag
when the legislation went back to the State
Senate for approval. Senators rejected the
measure as it was amended by the House
and named a conference committee to
hammer out a final bill. Senate Bill 6 was
introduced as an overhaul to the state's foster care system by Sen. Jane Nelson (R-
Lewisville). The bill was approved by the
Senate and went to the House where Texas
Rep. Robert Talton (R-Pasadena) tacked on
an amendment that would ban gay and lesbian foster parents. Nelson is one of five
senators who will join five House members
on the conference committee. A
spokesman in her office said Tuesday she
would "argue vehemently" to cull the gay
and lesbian foster care amendment from a
final bill. "We cannot allow, this reform
bill to be tied up in the courts for years
over an issue that was never part of our
review," Nelson said. She pointed out that
a similar ban in Arkansas was overturned
by a judge there. When the bill emerges .
from conference committee, it will go back
to both houses for a final vote.
care bill that would ban gays and lesbians
Republican State Senator Jane Neison will argue to
have the amendment prohibiting gay and lesbian
foster parents removed from Senate Bill 6.
Houston forum will address
reported new HIV strain
The hottest topic currently being discussed by gay men these days - a super
strain of HIV recently reported by Dr.
David Ho and others at the Aaron
Diamond Research Center in New York,
will be addressed at a forum in
Houston. Ho's disclosure of the case to
the New York Department of Health
and Mental Hygiene prompted a
firestorm of criticism aimed at HIV-
positive gay men and has prompted
enormous controversy among
researchers, medical professionals and
public health experts across the nation.
At the recent 12th Conference on
Retroviruses and Opportunistic
Infections, the international conclave
for professionals working in HIV/AIDS,
a special session was devoted to
whether or' not the new strain really
exists. During that session, HIV
researcher Ho defended his actions. In
an effort to get to the facts at hand, The
Advances in Treatment and
Medications Committee, the arm of the
Ryan White Planning Council that
addresses how the latest advances in
treatment impact those diagnosed with
HIV, will conduct a community forum to
educate the public and answer questions regarding the medical, behavioral, and epidemiological aspects surrounding the existence of a multi-drug
resistant HIV. The forum is scheduled
from 6-8 p.m. Thursday at the United
Way Community Resource Center at 50
Waugh Drive. The forum will feature a
panel of local experts including Dr.
William A. O'Brien, Professor of.
Internal Medicine and nationally recognized expert on research regarding
HIV-specific resistant viruses; Dr.
Michel Ross, Professor at the
University of Texas School of Public
Health and a leading researcher in HIV,
sexually transmitted infections and
human sexuality; and Dena Gray,
Community Liaison. Houston. City
Council District D. The forum is spwi
sored by the Center For AIDS and the
Houston-area Ryan White Planning
Council. For more information or to
RSVP, call 713-527-8219.
Houston GLBT Political Caucus
speaker talks about HJR 6
Elizabeth McLane, a native Texan who
has taught political science and criminal justice and worked on a number of
political campaigns, will be the featured speaker at the Wednesday meeting of the Houston GLBT Political
Causus (PAC) that will focus on House
Joint Resolution 6. McLane will compare the proposed constitutional
amendment that would ban same-sex
marriage as well as civil unions to legislation that has been introduced or
adopted in states around the country.
McLane, who has served as a city commissioner and taught at the University
of Houston downtown campus and at
Houston Community College, has entitled her address, "Compared to
Counterparts: A Review of Texas and
HJR 6." Her talk will be followed by a
discussion of strategies that could be
used to combat HJR 6 and other anti-
gay legislation. HJR 6 was passed by
the Texas House on Monday. If the
measure finds a two-thirds majority in
the Senate, it will go on the statewide
ballot in November. The meeting gets
underway at 7 p.m. at the Houston
GLBT Community Center, 3400
Montrose Blvd., Suite 207.
From staff and wire reports
Texas House approves ban on
gay marriage and civil unions
senate to get civil
unions removed from
By BINNIE FISHER
One week after passing legislation
that would prohibit gays, lesbians and
bisexuals from serving as foster parents,
the Texas House of Representatives
approved a proposed constitutional
amendment that would not only ban
same-sex marriage but would also limit
The tally was 101-29, with eight members declining to cast votes on the measure.
As originally introduced by Texas
Rep. Warren Chisum (R-Pampa), House
Joint Resolution 6 would have prevented
only gay marriage. Chisum later added
language to also prohibit anyone in the
state from entering into a civil union.
In debate on the resolution, some legislators questioned whether the ban on civil
unions would interfere with the right of
individuals to name insurance beneficiaries and heirs to whom they are not legally
married. Chisum said his measure allows
for private contractual agreements
between unmarried partners.
Questioned by Rep. Sylvester Turner
(D-Houston) on the House floor regarding whether the measure would also
exclude civil unions for heterosexual
couples, Chusum said, "I'm excluding
any contract that would allow the same
status as marriage."
Rep. Elliott Naishtat (D-Austin) asked
Chisum whether he thought HJR 6 was
discriminatory; and Chisum replied, "I
know I'm not discriminating because
there is no person in Texas that does not
fit under that one man, one woman."
Among the handful of House members
who argued passionately against the measure, were Reps. Jessica Farrar. Garnet
Coleman and Senfronia Thompson, all
Houston Democrats, and Rep. Paul
Moreno, a Democrat from El Paso.
Thompson, a black woman elected to
the Texas House in 1973, said, "I've been
a member of this body for three decades,
and I believe we're going in the wrong
direction here, the direction of hate and
fear and discrimination."
Thompson said she remembers that
when she was a child, there was talk of
protecting marriage then. "What they
meant was if people of my color tried to
marry people of Mr. Chisum's color,
you'd often find people of my color hanging from a tree."
'Compassion over discrimination'
After the vote, Coleman said, "Today
the House passed a constitutional amend-
Texas Rep. Warren Chisum (R-Pampa) is the
author of House Joint Resolution 6 that bans not
only same-sex marriage but also civil unions.
ment that would deny basic contractual
rights to thousands of families across the
state. It's time to stop piling on and to start
putting compassion over discrimination."
In addition to Farrar. Coleman.
Thompson, Moreno and Naishtat, other
House members voting against the resolution included, from Houston, Reps. Alma
Allen, Harold Durton, Scott Hochberg, Joe
Moreno, Rick Noriega, and Hubert Vo.
The resolution goes to the Texas
Senate next, and activists in the state are
urging action on the issue. The
Lesbian/Gay Rights Lobby of Texas
(LGRL) issued an action alert asking
anyone who does not agree with the vote
to contact his or her senator.
"For the first time in our history, the
Texas Legislature is choosing to write
discrimination into the very document
that should protect all Texans," said
Randall Ellis, LGRL's executive director.
"The Texas Legislature continues to
push policies that hurt real Texas families. Enough is enough. These lawmakers need to focus on the work of making
Texas a better place for all Texans."
If they're not able to turn the Senate
around on the marriage resolution,
activists hope they can at least get the civil
union provision stricken. Some lawmakers
who agree with the marriage amendment
have said they approve of civil unions.
Reps. Martha Wong (R-Houston) and
Sylvester Turner (D-Houston) were
among eight House members who
abstained from voting on HJR 6.
Wong said, "I believe the institution
of marriage should be maintained only
between one man and one woman. But I
cannot allow us to write blatant misunderstanding and discrimination into the
Texas Constitution by banning civil
unions as well."
ft MORE INFO
Lesbian/Gay Rights Lobby of Texas