Houston Extremist Pastors Find Fame, Cause Célèbre In Fight Against Equality

For most politically-engaged Houstonians, the first week of November was focused primarily on the big 2014 election held on Tuesday the 4th.  That is when we got to decide the future of the state by electing a Governor, Senator, Lieutenant Governor and legislature.  It was a pivotal day for state of Texas, including Houston.

However, few may guess the political importance that happened just days before that big election… events which start in the Bayou City, but could end up proving significant at the national level.  November 2nd, now known as I Stand Sunday, marks a very important turning point for the Houston Area Pastor Council. Houstonians probably know this group as those who stood in staunch opposition to the Houston Equal Rights Ordinance, passed earlier this year.  The core of the group consisted of 5 area pastors, among them Dave Welch- Executive Director of the council, and Steve Riggle of Grace Community Church.  Both especially significant for their long-held opposition to the Parker administration and full-on assault of  the LGBT equality movement in any form.

It was in Riggle’s sanctuary of Grace Community Church where the I Stand Sunday rally was held.  But this rally was far more than a gathering of a few in the house of worship.  With powerful co-sponsors like the Family Research Council and American Family Association, coverage of I Stand Sunday was viewed by an estimated 1 million people all across the country.  It has literally elevated the Houston Pastors and their cause to national prominence.  The full I Stand Sunday event can be viewed here.

So much so that the Houston Area Pastor Council has now branched out to become the U.S. Pastor Council… a national organization intent on defeating the equality agenda, and upholding their said religious beliefs.  Aided by the likes of Tony Perkins, Phil Robertson, Mike Huckabee and others, what was once little more than a dream by Welch and his close confidants has now become a reality.  In 2014, the organization has expanded to a membership of over 700 pastors across the nation, with ready access to the financial and voting power of their congregants.  Indeed, the U.S. Pastor Council is well on it’s way to becoming the nation’s most powerful hate group.  

Texas Leftist has not chosen to post things like the I Stand Sunday video for promotional purposes. However, it is critically important for those that support the equality movement in Houston and beyond to know what we are up against.  If the Houston Equal Rights Ordinance is forced to a ballot, the full weight of the U.S. Pastor Council, FRC and other anti-equality groups will turn their focus to the Bayou City at a level none of us could anticipate.  After I Stand Sunday, this is not the same fight that H.E.R.O. proponents faced back in May to get the law passed.

HCDP Chair Lane Lewis To Run For Houston City Council

In the realm of partisan politics, Harris County Democratic Party Chairman Lane Lewis has proven himself one of the most influential and effective Democrats in the state of Texas.  Under his leadership, the state’s largest county voted majority Democratic in 3 straight electoral cycles.

But this week, Houstonians have learned that Lewis will turn his attention to the non-partisan arena in 2014.  Here’s the story directly from the Houston Chronicle

Harris County Democratic Party chair Lane Lewis will run for an at-large city council position, he told Democratic activists Wednesday evening.

Lewis, who has led the county’s party operation since 2011, is running to succeed Stephen Costello in At-Large Position 1, one of two open-seat at-large races next year. Lewis will remain party chair during his campaign.

Several other candidates already have appointed campaign treasurers in advance of runs for at-large positions, though only Philippe Nassif, a local Democratic activist, has specified that he will run for Position 1.

The announcement will almost certainly cause some significant changes to dynamics in the City Council races.  Like fellow bloggers Texpatriate, Dos Centavos and Off the Kuff, I too am left to wonder why so many candidates are leaning towards the At-Large 1 seat as opposed to At-Large 4.  Both seats will be open for the 2015 election cycle.  But with Lewis in the hunt for AL-1, there is no doubt that many Democrats will steer towards AL-4 to avoid potential conflicts.

As for Lewis himself, he benefits from a strong record of accomplishments, city-wide name ID and a massive infrastructure that would readily support his campaign.  Indeed a world of difference from 2009 when he last ran for the District A seat and was beaten by current Council Member Brenda Stardig.  Of course anything can happen in the next eleven months, but at this point, chances look good for Lane Lewis’ run at City Council.

Texoblogosphere: Week of December 15th

The Texas Progressive Alliance is dusting off its recipes for wassail and figgy pudding as it brings you this week’s roundup.

Off the Kuff says that the actual election results do not support exit polls that claim Greg Abbott received 44% of the Latino vote.

Libby Shaw writing for Texas Kaos and Daily Kos is not the least bit surprised to learn that two Texas Regulators Get Fired for Doing Their Jobs.

CouldBeTrue of South Texas Chisme is calling for Nora Longoria to resign. How can she be a judge when she got very special treatment?

The Bible verses that contain the words “the poor will be with you always” do not mean what Rick Perry thinks they mean, says PDiddie at Brains and Eggs. And not what many other Christians think they mean, either.

============================

And here are some posts of interest from other Texas blogs.

Texans Together considers the way forward on campaign finance reform.

Candice Bernd feels railroaded by the Railroad Commission in Denton.

The TSTA Blog reminds us that education is only a priority if it is funded like one.

Natalie San Luis offers a lesson in how not to do PR.

SciGuy laments the budget cuts that will make it that much harder to get to Mars.

The Lunch Tray explains what the “cromnibus” spending bill means for school lunches.

Concerned Citizens bemoans the process that San Antonio’s City Council followed in passing restrictive regulations on transit network companies.

Honorary Texan The Slacktivist chides Rick Perry for his deep ignorance of what the Bible actually says.

 

Wishing all who celebrate a very Happy Hanukkah!!  

Hanukkah

 

 

 

(PEC Lights Display in Johnson City, Texas.  Photo Credit:  Dave Wilson on Flickr)

Music Musings: Taylor Swift Gets Real About the Music Business

Check out Taylor Swift’s incredible speech at the Billboard Women in Music Awards.

The music superstar made the state while accepting the award for Billboard’s Woman of the Year.  Swift, a seven-time Grammy Award winner and twelve-time Billboard Music Award winner, had the year’s highest selling album by a single artist with 1989 (only Disney’s smash hit Frozen has sold more as of now).  Swift is one of the most powerful voices in all of the music industry right now.

So her choice to get right to the problem at hand was heard loud and clear by fellow artists, writers and producers in the room.  For music to continue to truly be an industry, some serious changes need to take place.

Here’s what she had to say…

…I am very well aware that the music industry is changing, and it will continue to change.  I am open to that change.  I’m open to progress.  I am not open to the financial model that is currently in place.  I really believe that we in the music industry can work together to find a way to bond technology with integrity.  And I just really hope we can teach a younger generation the value of investment in music rather than just the ephemeral consumption of it.

There has to be a way for streaming, or any future ways that we access music to fairly compensate the writers, musicians and producers of that music.

If any of this sounds familiar, then you probably caught my earlier post taking a look at the issues surrounding dismal album sales.

When people say that the music business is in crisis over sales, it’s not joke either. Just how much does a hit song actually make from streaming services?  Fusion online has the answer…

Through the first three months of 2014, “Happy” was streamed 43 million times on Pandora, while “All Of Me” was played 55 million times on the service.

But how much money did all those streams make for the artists involved in creating the tracks?

According to an email from Sony/ATV head Martin Bandier obtained by Digital Music News’ Paul Resnikoff, “Happy” brought in just $2,700 in publisher and songwriter royalties in the first quarter of this year, while “All Of Me” yielded just $3,400.

At current rates, Bandier said, one million plays of a song on Pandora typically translates to only approximately $60 in royalties, which then gets shared between the songwriters and publishers.

“This is a totally unacceptable situation and one that cannot be allowed to continue,” he wrote.

When contrasted to the early 2000s (when most people It’s one thing for industry professionals to share their private fears and frustrations over the future of music sales.  But when icons like Taylor Swift speak up, the greater community is sure to listen as well.

Cheers to Taylor for her commitment and bravery.  This speech itself is yet another indicator for why she is indeed Artist of the Year.

Texas Judge Declines To Lift Stay Preventing Marriage Equality

After several days of hopeful anticipation, it appears that LGBT couples hoping to marry in Texas will once again have their dreams deferred.  Here’s the story by Guillermo Contreras of the San Antonio Express-News (via the Houston Chronicle website)…

A San Antonio-based federal judge declined on Friday to allow gay marriages to take place in Texas while the state awaits a ruling from the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals.

In February, U.S. District Judge Orlando Garciaruled Texas’ same-sex marriage ban unconstitutional, but — knowing his ruling would be appealed — imposed a hold that prevented gays from immediately getting married. The state did appeal, and the U.S. 5th Circuit Court of Appeals in New Orleans has scheduled oral arguments for Jan. 9.

In early October, the U.S. Supreme Court declined to review same-sex marriage cases from five other states, effectively legalizing gay marriage in Utah, Oklahoma, Virginia, Indiana and Wisconsin. Since then, federal courts in five additional states have overturned their bans, bringing the total number of states with legalized same-sex marriage to 35. It also is legal in Washington, D.C., and St. Louis.

Noting the legal landscape has changed, the two couples who challenged Texas’ ban, Nicole Dimetman andCleopatra De Leon and Mark Phariss and Victor Holmes, requested last month that Garcia lift the stay.

In his latest order, Garcia said he was not persuaded that the actions by the Supreme Court supported lifting his stay. He also denied the state’s claim that he had no jurisdiction in the case anymore.

However, his order shows he appeared on the brink of lifting the stay.

Garcia seemed to anticipate that the 5th Circuit would put the stay back in place in the Texas case if he lifted it. If lifted, he wrote, it would create a rush to courthouses of same-sex couples seeking to get married, only to see themselves in legal limbo should the stay be reimposed by the appeals court.

“Lifting the stay would not bring finality to this Fourteenth Amendment claim,” Garcia wrote. “To the contrary, such action would only be temporary, with confusion and doubt to follow. The day for finality and legal certainty in the long and difficult journey for equality is closer than ever before.”

So in Garcia’s opinion, he wants to avoid the ‘legal limbo’ that would be caused by allowing a brief window for marriage equality in Texas, preferring that couples simply continue to wait until the issue is settled by the Supreme Court.

But many of the couples see things differently, as legal limbo was exactly what they were seeking to create for the state.  As laws stand, Texas is currently able to deny LGBT couples because they do not have official state documentation of their marriages, even in the case that they are legally married from another state.  Like Katy resident Connie Wilson, who was initially denied access to a Texas Driver License because the state didn’t recognize her California marriage certificate, the Texas government is currently using the fact that couples cannot legally marry in the state as an excuse to discriminate.

However, this sanctioned discrimination becomes much tougher to accomplish when the documentation is from Texas itself.  That is why even the small window of time that would allow a few couples to marry could prove critically important once cases do reach the Supreme Court.  Lifting the stay would be far from a final solution, but it could serve to strengthen the overall case for marriage equality in Texas.  But that is not the direction Judge Garcia has chosen.

 

PETITION: Raise Houston’s Minimum Wage

If you are a regular Texas Leftist reader, then you have probably come across some posts regarding the Minimum Wage.  This blog was even mentioned on the Forbes.com website over the issue.

It’s important to blog about why an increase in the minimum wage is needed.  But along with the blogging, I am exploring some options for how to take more substantive actions within the city of Houston.  We all know that there is not much hope for a statewide wage increase after the results of this year’s election, but individual municipalities may be able to make more progress.

May is the operative term there, as just this week, we are seeing more disturbing news from the office of Governor-Elect Greg Abbott.  For all of the talk he preaches about “small government” local control, he sure is swiping the hand of big government against Dallas County by trying to prevent Commissioners there from raising the minimum wage for their employees and contractors.  It’s a preview for what may happen if other counties and cities tried to raise wages as well.

As it stands, current Texas state law prohibits cities from raising the minimum wage via ordinance or charter provision.

But Abbott’s convoluted ethics shouldn’t prevent Dallas County, or anyone else from trying to do what is right.  In the interest of this goal, I decided to create a petition on Change.org calling for a ballot initiative to raise the minimum wage to $15 per hour in the city of Houston.  Here is the text of the petition…

We the citizens respectfully call for a ballot initiative which mandates that the City of Houston enact a raise of the minimum wage to $15 per hour over a series of reasonable increments.  This measure should be taken up by Houston City Council without delay.

The current minimum wage throughout the state of Texas is the federally mandated $7.25 per hour, including Houston, Texas.  But for residents in the city of Houston, this wage is not enough for a full-time working individual to support themselves, especially if they would seek to do so without government assistance. The city has experienced astronomical increases in property taxes, which then get passed on to renters, and the entire consumer population.  Houstonians deserve to be paid a living wage.

We can’t survive on $7.25!

If you support the cause, please sign the petition, and share it with your friends.  With enough interest, we can make this happen for the City of Houston, and hopefully other Texas cities will follow suit.

Texoblogosphere: Week of December 8th

The Texas Progressive Alliance stands with the Garner and Brown families in the quest for equal justice for all as it brings you this week’s roundup.

Guest blogger Kris Banks at Off the Kuff provided a visual guide to turnout comparisons in Harris County.

Libby Shaw writing at Texas Kaos and Daily Kos believes Greg Abbott’s recent lawsuit against the President’s action on immigration is not only lame, it is yet one more example of conservative racist disrespect for the duly elected President. Ease up on the hate, please, TX Gov. Elect.

CouldBeTrue of South Texas Chisme calls out Republicans for cutting public works while spending money on racist, empty gestures.

Texas atheists are blessed to be able to run for public office in Texas, reports PDiddie at Brains and Eggs.

Neil at All People Have Value said that he is very white, male and European. APHV is part of NeilAquino.com.

======================

And here are some posts of interest from other Texas blogs.

Grits for Breakfast celebrates an ruling from the Court of Criminal Appeals that allows for a wider use of Texas’s so-called “junk science writ”.

The Texas Election Law Blog pushes back on the argument that voter ID laws had little effect in 2014.

The Lunch Tray offers thoughts on a national food policy.

Offcite analyzes the case for a swimming hole in Houston.

Texans Together will take a “Texas way” forward on Medicaid expansion if one is there to be taken.

Alan Bean asks what Jesus would do with the current immigration debate.

Raise Your Hand Texas released a report showing how Texas falls short of best practices with its pre-k program.

Texas Clean Air Matters explains the new ozone standard.

Gray Matters bids farewell to Houston Chronicle employees as they prepare to leave their downtown building for the old Houston Post location.

 

(Photo credit: Glenn Stuart on Flickr)

Riverwalk Christmas

A Voice for the Rest of Texas