June 12,1981 / Montrose voice 3
aid to help
The governments of several Texas
Gulf Coast counties have been
reported to be making financial
contributions to Harris County in its
attempt to fight back a lawsuit
ordering it to reinstate gay activist
Gay Van Ooteghem.
A report in a recent edition of the
Beaumont daily newspaper said the
Jefferson County commissioners there
were among those making contributions.
It's being done in a "sneaky,
secretive way," said Houston Gay
Political Caucus member Pam Jones,
who appeared along with GPC
president Lee Harrington June 6 on a
Beaumont radio talk show to discuss
Van Ooteghem, who had been on the
job six months in July 1975 as
assistant treasurer, returned from
vacation, told county treasurer
Hartsell Gray he was homosexual, and
would be appearing at a public session
of Commissioner's Court to urge the
county commissioners to adopt
regulations protecting the civil rights
Gray instructed Van Ooteghem that,
no, he would not be allowed to conduct
political activity on "county time,"
which he defined as the regular work
hours of 8:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m.
Gray demanded that Van Ooteghem
sign a letter to that effect. Van
Ooteghem refused and was fired.
The U.S. Supreme Court dismissed
an appeal from Harris County in April
that was trying to overturn a lower
court decision ordering it to reinstate
Van Ooteghem with back pay.
Gray's successor, Henry E. Kriegel,
carried his appeal to the Supreme
Court, which refused to review it, but
did so "without prejudice," which
meant the county was being allowed to
have another hearing on its appeal
before the lower appeals court in New
In appealing the case to the Supreme
Court, Harris County officials claimed
it did not present an issue of
"censorship of speech," but only a
question of whether an employer may
fix hours and place of work and fire an
employee who would not comply.
The courts had no evidence to find
Van Ooteghem was discharged for any
reason other than refusing to work his
assigned hours, county officials
They also said the suit was between
Gray and Van Ooteghem, and the
county itself should not be required to
come up with money for the back pay
The US. Fifth Circuit Court of
Appeals in New Orleans had agreed
that the firing violated Van Ooteghem's free speech rights.
However, the Fifth Circuit Court of
Appeals had decided in early March on
its own motion to rehear the case en
banc or before the full body of federal
circuit judges. This was very unusual,
County Attorney Mike Driscoli was
reported as saying, adding that a
decision more favorable to the county
was being made possible.
Originally, U.S. District Judge Ross
N. Sterling in Houston had ruled in
Van Ooteghem's favor and ordered
him reinstated with $56,046.92 in back
pay plus attorney's fees.
The Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals
affirmed the ruling, noting that a new
work schedule for Van Ooteghem, who
had previously set his own hours,
could not be justified for any reason
"other than the desire to thwart Van
Ooteghem's lobbying on behalf of
Since Van Ooteghem was hardworking and intelligent, the appeals
court said, there could be no other
reason for his discharge.
Houston vice squad police began a
roundup of male prostitutes and others
June 3 in the lower Westheimer and
Avondale area known as "the circuit."
At least 40 people were arrested in
the first few days.
They were charged with prostitution
and solicitation of prostitution, all
Several civic leaders in Montrose
had recently come out strongly urging
Houston Police to take action;
Among them was city councilman
Lance Lalor, who was reported to have
relayed letters from Montrose citizens
to the police about the issue.
The Houston Post reported Lalor
also included his own letter, which
complained the area was crowded with
"pimp, drug peddlers, hustlers and
Vice Capt. Tommy Shane said
arresting male hustlers was unlike
arresting female prostitutes. "Most of
them, we've never arrested before. It's
not like female prostitutes. We arrest
the same girls day after day after day,"
the Houston Post quoted Shane.
The quote by Shane went on to claim
that because of the amount of hustlers
in the area, Houston had acquired the
title of "homosexual capital of the
Shane said he had shifted many
officers into the area and said they
would remain there until prostitution
became less of a problem.
Houston's oldest gay rights organization voted June 4 to change its name to
avoid confusion with a gay religious
group that was using a similar name.
Integrity/Houston, which is not a
religious-affiliated group, voted to
A national organization of gay
Episcopalians is known as Integrity.
Integrity-now-Interact was using
the name Integrity four years before
the gay Episcopalian group was
started in Georgia and spread
nationwide. The Houston chapter of
the group, to try to avoid confusion,
was calling itself "Episcopal
Integrity." In other cities, ironically,
chapters were being referred to by
"Integrity," followed by a slash and
the city's name.
Ned Parker, president of Interact/
Houston, said in a press release, "It
was obvious that most gays related the
name with religion. With our new
name, we hope to bring more of the
community into contact with the
purpose of our organization, which is
"In the past, many people avoided
our activities because of their
mistaken idea that we were a church
group," he said.
The group was founded in 1970 as a
Last year they received incorporation
papers defining themselves as an
educational corporation known
technically as I/H Incorporated.
I/H Incorporated was granted
tax-exempt status by the IRS this year.
Interact/Houston holds business
meetings at 7:30 p.m. on the first
Thursday of each month and
educational forums at 7:30 p.m. on the
third Thursday of each month at 3405
Parker said the membership is open
Among the organization's projects
are a Friday night "Community
Coffeehouse" each week at the same
address from 7:30 p.m. to midnight.
The Gay Archives of Texas, also a
project of Interact/Houston,
announced last month that Jim
Kepner, longtime California gay
activist and founder of the National
Gay Archives, would be giving a
presentation in Houston on Monday,
June 29, at 7:00 p.m. at 3405 Mulberry
"He is probably the most notable
authority on gay history in the United.
States, and we know that Houston will
be very interested in his presentation,"
said Richard Burkhart, director of the
Gay Archives of Texas.