Justice Department rules transgender is included under Title VII

Posted on 18 Dec 2014 at 2:35pm
eric holder.small

Atty. Gen. Eric Holder

Attorney General Eric Holder said sex discrimination listed in Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 should be interpreted to include transgender.

“I have determined that the best reading of Title VII’s prohibition of sex discrimination is that it encompasses discrimination based on gender identity, including transgender status,” Holder wrote in his letter.

He said the most straightforward reading of discrimination “because of sex” includes whether a person is a member of a particular sex or is transitioning or has transitioned to another sex.

“For these reasons, the Department will no longer assert that Title VII’s prohibition against discrimination based on sex does not encompass gender identity per se,” Holder wrote.

He wrote that he was not encouraging any course of litigation, but that gender identity is part of sex discrimination.


Tarrant for Hillary hosts Ready for Hillary bus and rally

Posted on 18 Dec 2014 at 12:34pm

Tarrant for Hillary, a group of Tarrant County residents urging former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton to run for president in 2016, hosted the touring Ready for Hillary bus yesterday (Wednesday, Dec. 17) at Cowtown Diner, 305 Main Street, in Fort Worth. Local elected officials including Rep. Marc Veasey, D-Fort Worth, Justice of the Peace Sergio de Leon, Fort Worth City Councilman Sal Espino and Haltom City Councilwoman Stephanie Davenport, spoke in support of a potential Clinton run.


Legislators file joint adoption bills for LGBT parents

Posted on 17 Dec 2014 at 11:10am

Anchia.RafaelRep. Rafael Anchia, D-Dallas, and Sen. Sylvia Garcia, D-Houston, filed companion bills today (Wednesday, Dec. 17) that would allow adopted children in Texas to have the names of both parents listed on their supplemental birth certificates, regardless of the parents’ gender.

HB 537 and SB 250 would amend the Texas Health and Safety Code, which requires the supplemental birth certificate of an adopted child be in the names of the adoptive parents, one female and the other male.

“Texas families come in all shapes and sizes, including those formed by adoption. An adopted child needs to have a birth certificate that accurately reflects the child’s family,“  said Anchia.  “Texas laws should protect and support the rights of children and families — not hinder them.”

Under the current law, adopted children of same-gender couples are denied accurate birth certificates, which can cause difficulty in obtaining a passport or Social Security card or in registering for school.

“This bill removes an unreasonable obstacle to some children getting the important legal documentation they need,“  Garcia said.  “A birth certificate is vital and should accurately reflect both parents.  Neither these children nor their parents should be burdened with an incomplete birth certificate that omits a loving parent.”

As it stands, the requirement compels same-gender parents to carry and present documentation proving their legal parentage for medical care, school enrollment and international travel. Without a birth certificate, the child is left in legal limbo and can never have the same recognition of family status that is afforded other adopted children.

This will be the fourth consecutive legislative session that Anchia has filed this legislation. This is the first time the bill has been filed in the Senate.


BREAKING: Senate confirms first openly gay man as federal district judge in Texas

Posted on 16 Dec 2014 at 11:58pm
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U.S. District Judge Robert Pitman

The U.S. Senate has confirmed Robert Pitman to the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Texas, making him the first openly gay federal district court judge in Texas, according to reports by LGBTQNation.com.

The Western District court had been vacant for six years. The vote to confirm Pitman came late Tuesday evening, Dec. 16.

U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz, a Texas Republican who has never been a friend of the LGBT community, is getting credit for Pitman being confirmed — but not because Cruz suddenly had a change of heart on LGBT issues.

In an effort to force a vote on what he called President Obama’s “illegal executive amnesty” for immigrants, Cruz and Sen. Mike Lee, R-Utah, on Friday, Dec. 12,  scuttled a bipartisan agreement that would have prevented weekend votes in the Senate. The ban on weekend votes would have meant the Senate would have run out of time before being able to vote on confirming more than a dozen of the president’s judicial and executive nominees, including Pitman, who likely would not have been confirmed if they had been forced to wait until next year when the GOP will control the Senate.

But when Cruz and Lee sidelined the agreement, that opened the door for current Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., to call the Senate back into session on Saturday and get those votes through.

Pitman, a former magistrate judge in Austin, had led the San Antonio-based federal prosecuting office since 2011 when he became the first openly gay U.S. attorney in Texas. He had also served as an assistant U.S. attorney in the same district from 1990 to 2003.


Beware the ID thieves’ new scam

Posted on 16 Dec 2014 at 4:49pm

The Texas Attorney General’s Office today issued a warning about a new scam through which thieves are not only scamming money from their marks but stealing their identities as well.Screen shot 2014-12-16 at 4.37.57 PM

The OAG has opened a criminal investigation into the identity theft ring that rattles its victims by claiming to be either a governmental or debt collection agency and threatening the victims with arrest if they don’t pay up.

(Yeah, yeah, I know. This is not a specifically LGBT thing. But LGBT people are targeted by scammers like this, just like anybody else.  So pay attention.)

According to the OAG press released, “dozens of Texas residents” in recent months have reported getting phone calls from someone claiming to be collecting overdue payments — often overdue child support payments — on behalf of the Texas OAG. The scammers tell the victims they owe funds to the OAG and warn that an arrest warrant has been issued because of the past-due payments.

Naturally, the victims become alarmed at the prospect of pending arrest, and once that happens, the thieves move to the next step: asking the victim to “confirm” their Social Security number and other vital personal information.

Once the victim offers up the personal information, the thieves say the victim can fix the problem by “paying the debt” through a bank draft: The scammers instruct their victims to go to a nearby convenience story, buy a pre-paid debit card, load it with cash and then call the number they are given to relay the number on the back of the card.

Once the scammers have the number off the back of the prepaid debit card, they can drain off the cash the victim has loaded onto it AND they already have the personal data they need to steal the victim’s identity.

Over the past couple of years, while working at the Cleburne Times-Review, I heard numerous reports from folks who were targeted in a scams that used the pre-paid debit card model. In many of those, however, the scammers tended to target older individuals, often calling up and claiming to be a grandchild, telling Grammy or Grampy they had been arrested in Mexico because of something someone else did. They would beg the grandparents, “Don’t tell anybody, like my parents or sibling, because I am embarrassed for them to find out.”

As the OAH noted, the “we’ve issued a warrant for your arrest” ploy is especially effective because it encourages victims to act quickly out of fear, without stopping to question the flimsy premise (just like a grandparent would jump to help a stranded grandchild). Remember, OAG officials said, “The OAG typically only pursues arrest warrants against individuals who are wanted for contempt of court because of their failure to make regular child support payments.”

The lesson here, really, is DON’T GIVE YOUR PERSONAL INFORMATION OUT TO SOMEONE YOU DON’T KNOW — not over the phone, not in an email, not ever.

The OAG offered this advice:

• Stop to verify the request. Do that by directly contacting the governmental agency allegedly seeking to collect the funds through a telephone number you find on your own, not by calling the phone number the called has provided.

• Take proactive steps to prevent ID theft. If you believe you have been a victim of this scam — or any scam — file a consumer complaint with the OAH online at TexasAttorneyGeneral.gov. If you believe you are at risk for identity theft because you have been targeted by scammers, visit TexasFightsIDTheft.gov to get a copy of the OAG’s Identity Theft Kit AND file a complaint with the Federal Trade Commision.

• Pay attention to the red flags. Pre-paid debit cards are the scammers payment form of choice because they are more convenient than a wire transfer and just as untraceable.

You can go to the FBI website for information on other common fraud schemes and more information on identity theft.

And above all else people, USE SOME COMMON SENSE, dammit! I mean, your mother probably didn’t got to Madrid without telling you, so that email from her claiming someone stole her wallet while she was there probably isn’t authentic. And as much as you want it to be true, you don’t have some long-lost relative in Nigeria who just died and left you millions, if you will just send their “lawyer” $1,500 to send the millions to you.


First Circuit denies gender reassignment surgery to transgender inmate

Posted on 16 Dec 2014 at 3:17pm

michelle-kosilek1The full First Circuit Court of Appeals today (Tuesday, Dec. 16) reversed an earlier ruling that Massachusetts must provide Michelle Kosilek, an incarcerated transgender woman, medically-necessary gender reassignment surgery.

Jennifer Levi, director of the Transgender Rights Project of Gay & Lesbian Advocates & Defenders, said, “I am appalled by this decision, which means that Michelle Kosilek will continue to be denied the life-saving medical care she needs and has been seeking for years.  It is difficult or impossible to imagine a decision like this one – that second-guesses every factual determination made by the trial court – in the context of any other prisoner health care case.  This decision is a testament to how much work remains to be done to get transgender people’s health care needs on par with others in the general public. ”

A three-judge panel of the Court of Appeals issued an initial ruling Jan. 17, upholding the finding of District Court Judge Mark L. Wolf that the Massachusetts Department of Corrections engaged in a pattern of “pretense, pretext and prevarication” to deny Kosilek treatment, in violation of her 8th Amendment right to freedom from cruel and unusual punishment. The commonwealth requested and was granted a rehearing of the case before the full bench. Oral arguments took place on May 8.

Kosilek was denied gender reassignment surgery by the department against the recommendations of multiple doctors.

“There is no scientific or medical basis for denying transgender people their health care needs,” Levi said. “The consensus position of the medical community is that surgery may sometimes be essential treatment.”

Kosilek is serving a lifetime sentence for the 1990 murder of her wife, Cheryl McCaul.


Jeb Bush considering presidential run because the world needs more shrubs in office

Posted on 16 Dec 2014 at 11:52am

Former Florida Governor Jeb Bush, son of a former president, brother to a war criminal who lied about torturing people another and father to my neighbor who never welcomed me to the neighborhood Land Commissioner-elect George P. Bush of Fort Worth, announced this morning (Tuesday, Dec. 16) he’s exploring a run for president on the Republican ticket.

He announced his plans in a Facebook post.

Here are my feelings (h/t BuzzFeed):


This Week in Marriage Equality

Posted on 16 Dec 2014 at 11:51am


Tennessee, a state where first cousins can marry, filed a brief asking the Supreme Court not to take a case filed by plaintiffs challenging that state’s marriage law.

The 6th Circuit was the first appeals court to support a state’s right to discriminate against gay and lesbian couples in offering marriage and the benefits it provides. Other states in the 6th Circuit — Michigan, Ohio and Kentucky — have asked the Supreme Court to hear their cases.


Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi, who believes in traditional marriage so much she’s been married three times, filed a 40-page emergency petition with the U.S. Supreme Court asking for a stay to prevent same-sex couples from marrying. Clarence Thomas, who is in charge of the 11th Circuit, is likely to stay the decisions that declared the state’s marriage law unconstitutional. The current stay expires in January and the lower court said it will not renew.


Ten months after the Scottish Parliament approved marriage equality, the law has come into effect. Couples may file a “notice of intention” and then hold marriage ceremonies 15 days later. Those who already have civil partnerships may upgrade to marriage without the wait time.

Northern Ireland is now the only part of the United Kingdom without marriage equality.


Marriage but not marriage equality has come to Kansas. Counties are issuing marriage licenses, but the state is not recognizing them. A recent report from TV station KAKE in Wichita says:

“They’re trying to get on their husbands’ or wives’ insurance. They’re trying to update their drivers’ licenses,” said Thomas Witt, the executive director of LGBT advocate group Equality Kansas. “There is one couple that applied for a mortgage. The mortgage was approved but the mortgage company would not allow them to apply as married, even though they had a valid, legal marriage license from the state of Kansas.”


The Finnish Parliament voted in favor of marriage equality on Monday, Dec. 15. The proposal went to the country’s president for signature.

Finland is the last remaining Scandinavian country without marriage equality.


Changing hearts and minds

Posted on 16 Dec 2014 at 12:35am

Freedom to Marry Town Hall features couples challenging Texas marriage equality ban


Mark Phariss and Victor Holmes, Nicole Dimetman and Cleo DeLeon

Tammye Nash  |  Managing Editor

In less than a month, a three-judge panel of the 5th Circuit Court will hear arguments in three marriage equality cases, including one from Texas — DeLeon v. Perry. And the plaintiffs in the Texas case said Monday night, Dec. 15, that they are optimistic the 5th Circuit will rule in their favor.


Evan Wolfson

The 5th Circuit, considered one of the most conservative of the 13 U.S. circuit courts, is set to hear arguments in the three cases on Jan. 9 in New Orleans.

“Maybe it will be 2-1, but I think they will rule in our favor,” said Mark Phariss of Plano, who with his partner, Victor Holmes, and Austin lesbian couple Cleopatra DeLeon and Nicole Dimetman challenged Texas’ ban on same-sex marriage. The two couples were part of the Freedom to Marry Town Hall held Monday night in Austin.

Evan Wolfson, president of the national Freedom to Marry organization, also participated in the town hall forum, along with Mark McKinnon, a former advisor to President George W. Bush.

The forum also celebrated the launch of Texas for Marriage (TexasForMarriage.com), a new organization dedicated to changing people’s minds in Texas on the subject of marriage equality.

“It’s really inspiring when you meet these families,” said Texas for Marriage Campaign Manager Ward Curtin, adding that his organization’s goal is to share the “stories of the hundreds of thousands” of same-sex families in Texas.


Mark McKinnon

“A panel of three judges will essentially decide on our rights,” Phariss said. “Our rights shouldn’t be up for a vote. Our rights shouldn’t be up to a judge to decide.” But, he added, he and Holmes are hopeful the 5th Circuit judges will make the right decision.

But if the 5th Circuit rules in favor of discrimination, Phariss said he and Holmes are “absolutely determined that we’re in this for the long haul,” and that they would appeal an adverse ruling to the U.S. Supreme Court.

DeLeon said she and Dimetman are also optimistic, and that they too are willing to take the case all the way to the Supreme Court if necessary.

Wolfson said at least 60 federal and state court rulings on marriage equality have been issued in the last two years, “virtually all of those courts” have ruled in favor of marriage equality. Today, he said, 35 states have marriage equality, “up from zero just a little more than a decade ago.”

Wolfson, an attorney, worked with Lambda Legal Defense and Education Network from 1988 until April 2001 when he left to form Freedom to Marry, and was involved in lawsuits challenging marriage discrimination in Hawaii and Vermont. He said Monday that while legal cases have changed laws, those cases could not have succeeded if same-sex couples had not done the groundwork by sharing their stories.


Mason Marriott-Voss

“Hearts have opened; minds have changed,” Wolfson said, because same-sex couples and families have come forward to tell their stories to their families, their friends, their neighbors and more. Because of those conversations, he said, “people understand now who gay people are and why marriage matters.”

The battle for marriage equality has reached a tipping point, but it isn’t won yet, Wolfson continued. “We’re not there yet,” he said, adding that “the way we will get there is by engaging our neighbors, our families, our coworkers.”

Same-sex couples have created an atmosphere where change can happen by sharing their stories, and now “the courts can finish the job, sooner rather than later.”

Dimetman said that she and DeLeon had their “flashbulb moment” when DeLeon was pregnant with their first child. There were problems with the pregnancy and realizing that Dimetman would have no legal connections to the child should something happen to DeLeon during the birth. Now that Dimetman is pregnant with their second child, the couple really want the protections a legal marriage would provide.


Ward Curtin

Phariss and Holmes said that they love each and simply want to legally protect their relationship. Phariss, saying that he fell in love with Holmes the first time he saw him, noted that Holmes served 23 years in the U.S. Air Force and had earned the right to marry the person he loves.

“The rest of us may not have earned it the same way Vic has, bit we all deserve that right,” he said.

Mason Marriott-Voss, a 16-year-old with two moms, was on hand, with his step-sister and brother, to tell the story of his family. Saying that his parents are “too busy helping us with finals to erode society,” he said that “anti-family” laws “create a raw deal for kids like me” who whose families are targeted by them.

“It’s not our families that need to change,” the teen said. “It’s Texas.”

The Republican Party has, traditionally, been opposed to LGBT rights in general and especially to marriage equality. But McKinnon, who was chief media advisor for George W. Bush in both his presidential campaigns, said that is changing, too.

In the most recently election, McKinnon said, Republican candidates shied away from the issue of same-sex marriage. “That dog didn’t bark,” he said. “It didn’t even whimper. The Republicans are not going to be out in the street tomorrow marching [in support of gay marriage]. But they are not using it as a wedge issue like that once did.”

There are still some candidates and officeholders who are out there “throwing elbows” to fight against marriage equality, including former U.S. Sen. Rick Santorum and Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas, McKinnon said. But most either support marriage equality or don’t want to discuss it at all.




Mississippi pastor wants to marry his horse

Posted on 15 Dec 2014 at 11:22am

A picture of the pastor and his fiance via Twitter.

A Mississippi pastor trotted out his horse in a wedding dress to protest the marriage equality ruling in that state proving some pastors are simply horses asses.

Edward James of Bertha Chapel Missionary Baptist Church in Jackson dressed a horse named Charlotte in a wedding dress and brought her to the federal courthouse in the state capital. He held a sign that read: “The next unnatural law … Do you take this horse to be your unnatural wedded spouse to have and to hold?”

Of course, no one, except this presumed heterosexual pastor, wants to marry a horse. No one in the Jackson media asked the pastor if he had already consummated his relationship with Charlotte.

While the pastor protested, Charlotte grazed on grass on the median in front of the courthouse. The Jackson Clarion-Ledger didn’t report if James was cited for allowing his fiance to eat public property or if animal control took Charlotte into custody to investigate James for abuse.

What’s disturbing is this horse’s ass of a pastor equates gays and lesbians with animals. He doesn’t understand the difference between a consenting relationship between two adults and marrying a horse.

He also refuses to understand that no one requires any minister to perform a wedding between any two people and ministers refuse to wed some couples for any number of reasons all the time. Any legitimate member of the clergy fully understands this.

“Next, they’ll want to marry their horse” is a disingenuous argument used as a last gasp by bigots in churches who are not promoting freedom of religion. Many faiths recognize and embrace same-sex marriage. Rather than promoting freedom of religion, pastors like James are religious Nazis who want to impose their own faith on everyone else.

Or they’re just horses asses.

And one final thought. Judging by the picture, Charlotte’s dress is on upside down. Obviously this couple would benefit from a gay wedding planner.