by Thomas R. Anable, President, Fairness Fort Worth, Inc., December 2011
On June 28, 2009 the Ft. Worth police (FWPD) conducted a bar inspection of the Rainbow Lounge, a gay bar in south Ft. Worth that had been opened 8 days earlier. FWPD invited 2 agents from the Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission to join the operation. Eight officers entered the bar at 1:20am and immediately began to arrest patrons for public intoxication. After 30 minutes and 19 arrests, one of the TABC agents severely injured a patron during a needless arrest. The date is significant as it was the 40th anniversary of the raid on the Stonewall Inn in New York City.
The GLBT community organized within hours and had two protest marches the next afternoon after the raid. All media were contacted and a new GLBT civil rights group called Fairness Fort Worth, Inc. (FFW) formed two nights later. FFW initially organized an effort to locate witnesses and assist in the investigation of both agencies.
FFW then went before the Ft. Worth city council and demanded an outside investigation. The council voted unanimously to ask the U.S. Justice Dept. to conduct a civil rights Investigation of the FWPD. The media pressure was so great that the Ft. Worth city council created an GLBT Diversity Task Force to address the issues.
The task force made 20 recommendations to improve the city’s relationship with the GLBT community. As a direct result, Ft. Worth city employees received domestic partner health insurance benefits and all city employees are required to take a four hour GLBT Diversity training class taught by GLBT community members. The depth and breadth of the positive changes were unprecedented for any city in the U.S. The City and TABC settled financially with the two injured patrons without a federal civil rights lawsuit being filed. The TABC fired 3 officers and FWPD suspended three officers without pay for a total of 4 days.