Who knew that cutting healthcare could affect health?

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Texas Capitol

Obviously not the Texas legislature. A new study shows its pro-life policies actually killed people.

According to the journal Obstetrics & Gynecology, the mortality rate related to pregnancy doubled between 2010 and 2014 in Texas. At the same time, budget cuts by the Texas Legislature to family planning clinics led to the shut down of 80 of them, many in places with no alternative care for poor women. While the target was clinics providing abortions, most of those 80 clinics didn’t perform abortion.

The report says, “in the absence of war, natural disaster, or severe economic upheaval,” but cutting off funds to clinics with little other source of income IS economic upheaval. Even with some funds restored in 2013, clinics had trouble restoring services to pre-cut levels. Planned Parenthood saw its funding from the state eliminated but survived the cuts, affecting its ability to provide mammograms and other screenings.

The new rate of maternal deaths — 23.8 per 100,000 births — is the highest of all 50 states (YAY! We’re No. 1) and the highest in the industrialized world. According to the CIA World Fact Book, that puts Texas on a par with Saudi Arabia. Take that Estonia with your 2 deaths per 100,000. However if we truly want to achieve Third World status in healthcare, we have some work to do to achieve South Sudan’s 2,054 maternal deaths per 100,000 births.

California, the only state with a larger population than Texas, saw a steady decline in its maternal mortality rate over the past decade. Maine and Vermont had the lowest rates of maternal deaths at 1.2 and 2.6 per 100,000 respectively.

Thanks, in large part to the hard work of Texas legislators, the U.S. is only one of eight countries whose maternal mortality rate is rising.

According to one report, one part of the problem is obesity. While those of us who avoid all things Walmart and take special medication before traveling outside I-635 might not notice that trend, Texas is pretty fat.

On June 27, the U.S. Supreme Court struck down the ill-intentioned law that cut funding to abortion facilities, but mostly affected women’s healthcare.

—  David Taffet

LULAC and friends collect thousands of dollars in school supplies

LULAC and Congregation Beth El Binah collected thousands of dollars in school supplies along with the offices of Councilman Adam Medrano and Justice of the Peace Sara Martinez. The collection party was held at Havana on Thursday, Aug. 18. The supplies will be distributed to Rusk, Sam Houston and Maple Lawn elementary schools.

—  David Taffet

Rachel Tiven takes the reins at Lambda Legal

New CEO doesn’t want her organization to take every case, but to empower others to take cases

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Lambda Legal’s new CEO, Rachel Tiven, speaks at the Landmark Dinner at the Adolphus Hotel in Dallas on Aug. 13. (Photo courtesy Barb Nunn/2nd2Nunn Photography)

 

DAVID TAFFET  |  Senior Staff Writer

Lambda Legal’s new CEO Rachel Tiven, in Dallas last weekend for the organization’s Landmark Dinner, sees a continued role for impact litigation after last year’s marriage equality decision.

In Texas, within a few months of the U.S. Supreme Court’s Ogergefell ruling, questions about adoption and birth certificates were settled. But other states are still fighting second-parent adoptions and other family issues. Lambda Legal recently filed a case in Florida on behalf of two widowers to obtain correct death certificates listing them as the spouses.

While cases like those involve enforcement of a U.S. Supreme Court ruling in favor of LGBT people, Tiven sees other issues that haven’t been resolved.

“We’re seeing courts struggle with employment issues,” she said. “What is discrimination based on sexual orientation and what is based on sex and sex stereotyping?”

Lambda Legal recently lost a case in the Seventh Circuit involving a woman in South Bend, Ind., who was passed over for a promotion and then fired.

The court agreed she was fired for being lesbian. Although that’s not a fair reason to be fired in today’s world, it is legal in many places. If the woman have been more butch, Tiven said, she’d be covered by Title VII.

“Animus for being lesbian is clearly present,” Tiven said, explaining the court’s decision, “but we’re not persuaded.”

Transgender issues are another topic at the top of Lambda Legal’s list.

“Nationally, there’s an animus towards transgender people,” Tiven said.

And those legislating against the trans community are trying to drive a wedge between them and the LGB part of the community.

She said they’d like gays and lesbians to feel like, “I’m different, but not as different as you,” and not take up the trans cause.

Legislation such as HB2 in North Carolina and a long list of proposed bills that will be filed in the Texas Legislature this fall and winter affect young people terribly, Tiven said.

“They have a chilling affect on queer kids,” she said. “They send a message differences are not tolerated.”

She said the attacks on trans people “particularly on whether they can pee,” mean they can’t participate in public life. If a person can’t use a public restroom, he or she can’t work, shop, go to restaurants or lead any sort of life in public. She called the sudden interest in anti-trans legislation a backlash against the marriage-equality victory.

Tiven said a lawsuit recently filed in Illinois on behalf of a lesbian living in assisted living could be a milestone in protecting LGBT elders.

In that case, Marsha Wetzel claims administrators of Glen St. Andrew Living Community failed to protect her from harassment, discrimination and violence she has endured at the hands of other residents because of her sex and sexual orientation. Some residents began calling her names like “fucking dyke,” “fucking faggot” and “homosexual bitch.” Others physically attacked her and staff did nothing to stop the harassment.

“What happens to people at the end of their lives,” Tiven said, is a focus of new litigation that she sees growing as the baby boom generation ages and seeks assisted living, nursing and memory care.

Tiven would like to expand the capacity of Lambda Legal’s help desk.

“Lambda Legal needs to be a household name so LGBT and HIV-positive people know to call us when they have a problem,” she said.
That doesn’t mean she wants Lambda Legal to take every discrimination case. She’d like Lambda Legal to be the starting point to discuss what the next steps can be and point people in the right direction.

Tiven succeeds Kevin Cathcart, who has led Lambda Legal since 1992. Under his leadership, the organization scored victories such as Lawrence v. Texas in 2003, which declared sodomy laws unconstitutional and paved the way for the Windsor decision, which declared parts of the Defense of Marriage Act unconstitutional, and the Obergefell marriage equality decision.

Inclusion in the Boy Scouts, employment and housing protection and access to healthcare for people with HIV are additional legal milestones achieved under Cathcart’s leadership.

Lambda Legal focuses on impact litigation, meaning cases that can make a difference nationally by breaking new legal ground.

“We don’t want to take every case,” Tiven said. “We want to empower others to take cases.”

Tiven may be just the right person to keep Lambda Legal on course. The Harvard College and Columbia Law School grad was executive director of Immigration Equality for eight years.

That organization saw tremendous growth under her leadership. She built a pro bono legal program that serves more than 5,000 people a year that’s worth $17 million annually and helped change the immigration system for LGBT and HIV-positive people.

Cannon Flowers, who currently chairs the local Coalition for Aging LGBT, served on her board of directors. He said Tiven had a special ability to turn those pro bono attorneys into activists.

“Her tenacity of getting us into the White House to discuss a topic they’d rather not talk about,” was among the qualities that impressed Flowers.

But it was because of her passion that Flowers said he holds a place in his heart for her. Flowers and his husband, who is from Singapore, spent two decades fighting for the right to stay together in Dallas.

“She told us, ‘We’re not going to stop fighting until you two are safe,’” he said.

Lambda Legal Regional Director Roger Poindexter called Tiven a strong leader with a vision.

“She’s passionate about the LGBT community,” he said. “After 24 successful years under Kevin, she’s looking at things with a new set of eyes and will continue the legacy Kevin created.”

Tiven lives with her wife Sally Gottesman and their three children in New York City.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition August 19, 2016.

 

—  David Taffet

On-the-job bullying

Male guard in private prison charges employer with sexual harassment

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Isaiah Smith

 

DAVID TAFFET  |  Senior Staff Writer

Isaiah Smith is suing his former employer, Management & Training Corporation, for sex discrimination.

MTC is a Utah-based corporation that operates for-profit prisons, including one in Bridgeport, northwest of Fort Worth, where Smith was employed.
Smith said the bullying began from the day he started the job. Although he never told anyone he was gay, he said they assumed it from his mannerisms but he described the harassment as “non-stop.”

“It was like hell,” he said.

In June 2014, Smith began his on-the-job training where he was paired for training with Blake Wortman.

According to the lawsuit filed in U.S. District Court in Fort Worth, Wortman “routinely and habitually inquired about Plaintiff Smith’s homosexual lifestyle, inquired and speculated about his sexual activities aloud, and compared [and] contrasted their own sexual activities with those which they imagined Plaintiff Smith might engage in as a homosexual male.”

Smith was 19 years old at the time.

Smith complained about the harassment to Wortman’s supervisor, Pamela Galloway. Her advice was to “man up” and “act like a man.”

A female nurse at the facility witnessed Wortman’s behavior and reported that she was being subjected to a sexually hostile work environment as well. Her complaint was promptly investigated and action taken.

Both Smith and Wortman were called into the supervisor’s office. Wortman took full responsibility for it, admitting he had engaged in inappropriate behavior toward the nurse and that Smith hadn’t used any inappropriate language. However, both Wortman and Smith were warned against such behavior.

Smith’s attorney, Michael Hindman, described him as baffled that a complaint by a female employee of sexually hostile work environment was handled immediately while his repeated complaints were ignored. When he requested to be paired with someone other than Wortman, he was told further complaints would result in his termination.

Through the end of his training, Smith was tormented. Officers joked he walked “in a feminine way,” that he was flirting with inmates and was going to raped.

When he completed his training, he was assigned to “D Card,” where the harassment continued. Fellow employees said he was not man enough to do his job because he is gay.

His supervisor responded to complaints by preventing Smith from doing certain duties. Among them were strip searches, because that would make the inmates uncomfortable.

His attorney said that if he was unable to perform certain duties, there’s no chance for advancement.

“He’ll be relegated to the bottom of the barrel,” Hindman said.

When he complained, the response was that being gay was the problem, not the sexual harassment.

Smith was threatened that he would be terminated if an inmate complained he witnessed Smith “licking his lips.” Smith assumed that meant his supervisor thought he couldn’t do his job because he is gay and would automatically be attracted to every inmate in prison.

When his supervisor refused to put an end to the harassment, Smith requested a meeting with the warden, Robert Treon. Instead of taking any action, Treon dismissed the complaint as “guy talk.”

Smith decided at this point he could no longer work under these conditions. He told his supervisor he wouldn’t return to work until he could be assured the verbal harassment and retaliation for making complaints stopped.

He requested a transfer and was denied. Instead, he was placed on unpaid leave.

After several weeks, MTC contacted Smith that they determined he had been subjected to a hostile work environment under Wortman, but that issue was resolved and they didn’t believe the current complaints.

Since he couldn’t agree with the conclusion, Smith was discharged.

The case is very similar to that of Derek Boyd, a Collin County prison guard whose story appeared in last week’s Dallas Voice. Smith was harassed to the point of his life being put in danger when other guards wouldn’t respond to Boyd’s calls for backup help after months of harassment based on his sexual orientation.

One difference in the case is that Boyd worked for a public employer, while Smith worked for a private company. That shouldn’t make a difference in eligibility for damages under Title VII.

“In creating and/or allowing a sexually hostile work environment to go without remedy in spite of repeated complaints by Plaintiff, Defendant MTC’s conduct constitutes discrimination because of sex in violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964,” Hindman wrote in Smith’s lawsuit.

Both suits quote the U.S. Supreme Court case Oncale v. Sundowner Offshore Services, a unanimous opinion written by Justice Antonin Scalia that concludes that sex discrimination consisting of same-sex sexual harassment, while not the original intent of legislators who wrote the law, is actionable under Title VII.

In the case Price Waterhouse v. Hopkins, held that discriminatory employment practices that are based on gender-stereotyping is discrimination “because of . . . sex,” and covered by Title VII.

Smith is requesting reinstatement, back pay, compensation for lost benefits, emotional distress, pain and suffering, exemplary damages, attorney’s fees, costs including expert witness fees and “Such other and further relief to which Plaintiff may be entitled.”

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition August 19, 2016.

 

—  David Taffet

Clinton meets with Sheriff Valdez and others in law enforcement officials

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Sheriff Lupe Valdez

Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton met in New York today with eight law enforcement leaders today, Aug. 18, including Dallas County Sheriff Lupe Valdez.

The officials represent a group called Law Enforcement Leaders to Reduce Crime and Incarceration. On Tuesday this week, Valdez spoke to Stonewall Democrats about reducing rates of incarceration.

“It’s obvious that recent events — from Dallas and Baton Rouge to Milwaukee and across the country — underscore how difficult and important the work is ahead of us to repair the bonds of trust and respect between our police officers and our communities,” Clinton said, according to the Washington Post.

In addition to Valdez, the group meeting with Clinton included New York’s commissioner and chief, chiefs from Camden County, N.J., Los Angeles, Seattle, Tucson and the former Philadelphia commissioner.

In a story about the meeting, The Dallas Morning News referred to Valdez as “one of the most popular Democrats in North Texas. When she appeared onstage, Texas delegates in Philadelphia chanted her name.” Valdez spoke at the Democratic National Convention in Philadelphia.

—  David Taffet

Federal Carswell prisoner allowed to transition

mariusIn a decision by administrators at Federal Medical Center, Carswell, a federal correctional institution in Fort Worth for female inmates of all security levels with special medical and mental health needs, Marius Mason has been approved to begin hormone treatment for medical gender transition.

Mason, who was assigned female at birth, is an environmental activist, sentenced in 2009 to 22 years in federal prison for the 1999 sabotage of a Monsanto laboratory on the Michigan State University campus. He was diagnosed with Gender Identity Dysphoria around 2013, and came out as trans to friends, family and supporters in 2014. Since then he has been seeking gender-affirming health care, including hormone treatment, or “T” that will cause him to develop male secondary sex characteristics.

It is believed Mason will be the first FTM person to obtain transition-related health care after coming into federal custody.

Although he uses masculine pronouns and the name Marius, the state of Texas forbids name changes for incarcerated people. Experts in the treatment of trans people, however, insist that respect for a patient’s identity, including a gender-appropriate name and pronouns, constitute medically necessary care. Prisons are required to provide medically necessary care.

The Federal Bureau of Prisons has had a policy on the care of individuals with GID since at least 2011, but despite Mason’s 2013 GID diagnosis, it was not until an independent expert review medical records that administrators and staff at FMC Carswell agreed to administer hormone treatment. The facility is now much closer to compliance with federal policy on gender-affirming care, and it is hoped that they will acknowledge the use of gender-affirming names and pronouns as a medical necessity.

The decision of FMC Carswell to come into compliance with the Bureau of Prisons directive on GID promises to have positive effects for many other incarcerated trans persons.

—  David Taffet

Sheriff addresses Stonewall on mental health programs in Dallas County jail

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Sheriff Lupe Valdez at Stonewall Democrats meeting

Suicide is the No. 1 cause of death in jail. Since becoming sheriff, the suicide rate in the Dallas County jail, the seventh largest jail in the U.S., has been reduced by 92 percent.

Valdez spoke at the monthly meeting of Stonewall Democrats on Tuesday, Aug. 16, fresh off her nationally televised appearance at the Democratic National Convention. Her topic was mental health programs in the Dallas County jail.

Valdez’s goal is to reduce the jail population and serving those with mental illness is the area she’d like to reduce the most.

“The mentally ill do not belong in jail,” Valdez said.

The current jail population is 5,300 people. When she took office in 2004, about 350 people per day were processed into custody. Today the number is about 250. Of those, about 67 per day are referred to the psychiatric unit. More than half of those are homeless. About 1,100 of the the jail’s inmates are on some sort of psychotropic medication.

“The majority can be in programs other than jail,” Valdez said. “We need to get them out of the cycle of incarceration.”

She said people go to jail to learn to become better criminals.

Valdez said one reason so many with psychological problems are placed in jail rather than other programs is a lack of space elsewhere. Parkland’s psyche unit was full, Valdez said, and another facility was closing. When there are no alternatives, she said, people end up in jail where they don’t belong.

She said the jail’s programs for those with psychiatric problems have been recognized by the U.S. Department of Justice.

—  David Taffet

Australian Opals lose to Serbia in quarter finals

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Dallas Wings guard Erin Phillips scored 10 points in Wednesday’s quarter finals game against Serbia. But her strong contribution wasn’t enough to score a win.

Phillips is competing in the Olympics as part of the Australian Opals basketball team. In the first week of play, the Opals were undefeated. Serbia, competing for the first time in Olympics competition, beat Australia 73-71.

This is the first time since the 1992 games in Barcelona that the Opals didn’t win a medal in women’s basketball.

—  David Taffet

North Texas GLBT Chamber awards $14,500 in scholarships

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The North Texas GLBT Chamber of Commerce announced winners of its GLBT LEAP — GLBT Leadership Education & Advocacy Program — scholarships. LEAP scholarships are awarded to residents of Texas who self-identified LGBT, members of LGBT families or allies who have been strongly supportive of the LGBT community.

Thanks to a generous donation by Texas Instruments, this year’s scholars include two recipients of the Steve Lyle Educational Scholarship — $2,500 was awarded to Judith Velazquez, of Schulenburg, Tex., who is pursuing a Master of Public Health degree at the University of Texas, and Melvin Rodriguez, of Houston, who is pursuing a Master of International Affairs/International Politics degree at University of California – La Jolla. Lyle served on the first board of the North Texas GLBT Chamber of Commerce who retired from Texas Instruments in 2015.

The $2,000 Rob Ruhlin Memorial Law Scholarship was awarded o Adam Greenup, of Arlington. He is attending UNT Dallas College of Law. The scholarship was established by the North Texas GLBT Chamber of Commerce to honor the late Rob Ruhlin, a Chamber board member who lost his life in 2014.

Derek Miller of Fair Oaks Ranch, Tex., was awarded the $1,500 LEAP Film & Television Scholarship. Miller is pursuing a Bachelors of Fine Arts degree at Texas State University.

Three additional scholarships in the amount of $2,000 each were awarded to Margaret Neuner of San Rafael, Calif. (John F. Kennedy University, Calif.); Jordan Richardson of Lufkin (University of Texas); Matthew Chester of Austin (University of Texas).

Founded in 2009 by the North Texas GLBT Chamber of Commerce, GLBT LEAP has awarded 33 scholarships valued at $55,000.

“Scholarships are at the core of the GLBT LEAP mission to support young adults and nurture leaders in the Gay Lesbian Bisexual Transgender community,”said Candy Marcum, GLBT LEAP Board Chair. This year’s cohort of scholars reinforces our mission and demonstrate the breadth of disciplines being pursued by our future leaders.”

—  David Taffet

Woman fatally shot at Love Field motel

LoveFieldInnA woman was found shot to death in a car this morning at Love Field Inn on Mockingbird Lane off Cedar Springs Road across from the entrance to Love Field.

According to a police report, “officers responded to a shooting call” at 12:05 a.m.

Dallas Fire Rescue found the woman in the driver’s seat with the motor running. She had a gunshot wound to the upper body and pronounced her dead.

Police canvassed the area and learned “the victim had driven to the location earlier in the day, between noon and 1 p.m.” and had not left the vehicle.

“One witnesses observed an individual exit the vehicle from the passenger side, but could give no description,” according to a police report. “One witness heard a ‘bang’ shortly after the victim’s vehicle arrived and parked.”

A police spokesman said the woman has still not been identified.

—  David Taffet