Join the discussion, join the battle to end discrimination

Posted on 26 Jan 2015 at 4:59pm

Marriage equality efforts are getting the lion’s share of the headlines these days: Texans wait on the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals to rule on marriage equality in The Lone Star State (and Louisiana and Mississippi), and the nation waits for the U.S. Supreme Court to settle the question once and for all.

But as the LGBT community makes great strides toward marriage equality, hundreds of thousands of LGBT people in the U.S. daily face the very real threat of discrimination in housing, employment, public accommodations and more.

Today (Monday, Jan. 26), LGBT equality groups nationwide began holding public awareness events, including launching an online discussion using #discriminationexists, to shine a light on the fact that so many hardworking people still do not have basic legal protections from discrimination.

(You can follow the discussion at DiscriminationExists.org.)

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Here in North Texas, and across the state, community leaders took the chance today to speak out against discrimination, issuing a call to action to LGBTs and their supporters in all areas and in all walks of life to join the fight for real equality,

Chuck Smith, executive director of Equality Texas: “The Texas I believe in is a land of opportunity and freedom, where people who work hard and meet their responsibilities have a chance to get ahead. Clear protections from discrimination would help ensure that all Texans, including those who are gay or transgender, have a fair opportunity to earn a living, meet their obligations, provide for themselves and their families and build a better life. Changing the law won’t end all unfair treatment overnight. But it provides one more tool to ensure that all Texans are treated fairly and equally.”

Cece Cox, chief executive officer at Resource Center: “Discrimination exists against LGBTQ people at many levels. We have no statewide protections in areas like employment and public accommodations, and even in those few cities where protections exist, some state lawmakers want to see those protections removed. Texans overwhelmingly support fairness and equal opportunity for all people.”

Lou Weaver, trans outreach specialist for Texas Wins: “We have been talking about same-sex marriage for a long time in the U.S. We need to also think about basic rights for everyone: ‘Can I get a job? Can I find a place to live?’ Transgender people are still facing discrimination at high rates, and we need to take an honest look at our policies. We need access to basic fairness and equality in order to survive. That is what this is about, living our lives and having access to the same opportunities as everyone else.”

The Rev. Steve Sprinkle, professor of practical theology at Brite Divinity School: “Faith leaders of every background believe that everyone is created with God-given dignity. Our faith calls upon us to speak out for everyone’s dignity and security in the work they do, and for full access to housing. No one in our country should live in fear of losing their job or being denied fair housing just because of who they are.”

Todd Whitley, board chair for Hope for Peace & Justice: “It is hard to imagine any person being able to enjoy a sense of peace on their job or entering a public accommodation if that person has no assurance they won’t legally be discriminated against because of who they are. Sadly, this is exactly the reality for gay and transgender people in our state, -a grave injustice that must be resolved so that we can all enjoy the same opportunities without fear of legalized discrimination.”

A recent poll found that 9 of out 10 voters think that a federal law is already in place protecting LGBT people from workplace discrimination. Unfortunate, that is not true. There is no federal nondiscrimination law, and here in Texas, there is no state law either. We remain vulnerable in so many areas.

But Equality Texas officials say their organization is working to change that, partnering with business leaders, faith leaders and community members to put the necessary protections in place.

Toward that end, Equality Texas is holding three advocacy days, beginning Feb. 17 with Faith Advocacy Day in Austin. More than 225 faith leaders and members of clergy and 65 first responders in Texas have signed on to publicly demonstrate their support for nondiscrimination already.

Visit EqualityTexas.org to find out what you can do to help.

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GOP presidential candidates run toward 2016

Posted on 26 Jan 2015 at 3:15pm
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Former Texas Gov. Rick Perry

This past weekend, potential 2016 Republican presidential contenders spoke to the grassroots. They’re gearing up for what’s expected to be a blood bath, pitting establishment Republicans against those more aligned with the Tea Party.

Up in Des Moines, Iowa, 20 presidential contenders spoke at the inaugural Iowa Freedom Summit, hosted by the hard right Rep. Steve King and conservative advocacy group Citizens United. Among the speakers were broke straight boy and former Texas Gov. Rick Perry, Texas Sen. Ted Cruz, former Arkansas Gov. and failed presidential candidate Mike Huckabee, business mogul Donald Trump and New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie.

The goal of the summit, according to its website, was to “bring grassroots activists from across Iowa to hear directly from conservative leaders on how we can get America back on track by focusing on our core principles of pro-growth economics, social conservatism, and a strong national defense.”

The perceived “establishment” — perennial candidate Mitt Romney and former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush — were not in attendance. But another establishment contender, New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, braved the event and bellowed to the crowd.

The Huffington Post reported that, fortunately for us, same-sex marriage and other LGBT issues were not high on the agenda. In fact, the only mention of same-sex marriage was when King, introducing Christie, mentioned his veto of a bill that would have legalized same-sex marriage in his state. But these potential candidates’ agendas speak far louder than their words. Cruz, for instance, needn’t worry about his conservative bonafides. He has announced plans to introduce an amendment allowing states to ban same-sex marriage anyway even if the Supreme Court makes marriage equality legal nationwide.

Fortunately Republican Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal, another 2016 contender, filled the hate gap. Speaking at the “The Response: Louisiana,” a prayer rally sponsored by the staunchly anti-LGBT American Family Association on the Louisiana State University in Baton Rouge, Jindal spoke for 15 minutes about God, himself, moral decay and the United States. He insisted it wasn’t a chance to score political points with social conservatives.

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Saks backs down from claim on trans people and Title VII

Posted on 26 Jan 2015 at 3:07pm
Leyth Jamal

Leyth Jamal

The National Center for Lesbian Rights reported today (Monday, Jan. 26), that Saks Fifth Avenue has withdrawn a motion to dismiss a discrimination lawsuit filed by a former employee on the grounds that Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 does not protect transgender workers. In addition, an NCLR spokesman noted, the U.S. Department of Justice has filed an historic statement in that same case declaring that Title VII does, indeed, protect trans people.

This is the first time the DOJ has stated without a doubt that Title VII prohibits any time of discrimination against transgender people, not just discrimination based on gender stereotypes.

Saks’ action and the statement from the DOJ are both connected to the lawsuit filed by Leyth Jamal, a trans woman, who claims that she faced extensive discrimination and was eventually fired from Saks in Houston because of her gender identity. NCLR and the Human Rights Campaign became involved in the case after Saks filed its brief saying trans worker are not covered under Title VII.

In a statement announcing that the company was withdrawing the motion to dismiss, Saks officials again denied having discriminated against Jamal:

“We have decided to withdraw our motion to dismiss because important concerns about transgender rights under the current law are overshadowing a clear case of employee misconduct. Our position is, and always has been, that it is unacceptable to discriminate against transgender individuals.  Saks does not, and will not, tolerate discrimination and legal strategy should not obscure that bedrock commitment.  We did not discriminate against this former Associate. And we want to see all individuals protected under the law.”

Saks said Jamal and another former associate were fired for using “inappropriate and offensive language on the selling floor” in front of a customer. The other person fired does not identify as LGBT, the Saks statement said.

Sarah Warbelow, legal director for HRC, said, “We are pleased that the case can now be resolved on the merits of the claims and not a sweeping negation of basic Title VII protections.” And NCLR Legal Director Shannon Minter credited Saks with “correcting its position and recognizing that it has a legal obligation to treat transgender workers equally.”

The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission in 2012 ruled in Macy v Holder that discrimination based on an individual’s gender identity is sex discrimination and so constituents a violation of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. The EEOC filed complaints in federal courts in Florida and Michigan in 2014 against two separate companies accused of discriminating against trans employees (Aimee Stephens and Brandi Branson). And last December, U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder announced that the DOJ will no longer assert that Title VII’s prohibition against discrimination based on sex “does not encompass gender identity per se (including transgender discrimination).”

 

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Judge rules Alabama’s same-sex marriage ban is unconstitutional

Posted on 23 Jan 2015 at 7:43pm

EqualityA federal judge ruled Alabama’s sane-sex marriage ban is unconstitutional

According to the Huffington Post, “U.S. District Judge Callie Granade ruled that Alabama’s constitutional amendment banning gay marriage, known as the Sanctity of Marriage Amendment, violates the 14th Amendment’s due process and equal protection clauses.”

“If anything, Alabama’s prohibition of same-sex marriage detracts from its goal of promoting optimal environments for children,” Granade writes. “Those children currently being raised by same-sex parents in Alabama are just as worthy of protection and recognition by the State as are the children being raised by opposite-sex parents. Yet Alabama’s Sanctity laws harms the children of same-sex couples for the same reasons that the Supreme Court found that the Defense of Marriage Act harmed the children of same-sex couples.”

 

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BREAKING: Valdez running for re-election

Posted on 23 Jan 2015 at 11:04am
Sheriff Lupe Valdez

Sheriff Lupe Valdez

Sheriff Lupe Valdez’s office contacted Dallas Voice today (Friday, Jan. 23) to say she WILL be running for re-election in 2016.

A story ran in Instant Tea Jan. 13 in which Pete Schulte announced he would run for the office of Dallas County Sheriff if Valdez decided to not seek re-election as many had expected. Schulte said he had met with Valdez to ask for her support and letting her know he would not run against her should she decide to run.

Raul Reyna, sheriff’s department public information officer, said today, Valdez “will definitely be seeking re-election.”

“Until Sheriff Valdez retires, I will not seek the nomination for Dallas County Sheriff,” Schulte said by phone this morning. “I’m confident Sheriff Valdez will seek re-election, so I will not be doing anything political regarding the sheriff’s race in 2016. Lupe’s doing a great job.”

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Sally Kern targets LGBTs with 3 despicable bills

Posted on 23 Jan 2015 at 11:00am
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Oklahoma state Rep. Sally Kern

Good ol’ Sally Kern is at it again, filing no less than three pieces of legislation directly targeting LGBT Oklahomans, according to the Tulsa World. And with one of the three, she appears to be borrowing a page from Texas Rep. Cecil Bell Jr.

Kern’s House Bill 1599 says that no taxpayer funds or governmental salaries can be used for the licensing or support of same-sex marriage:

“No employee of this state and no employee of any local governmental entity shall officially recognize, grant or enforce a same-sex marriage license and continue to receive a salary, pension or other employee benefit at the expense of taxpayers of this state. No taxes or public funds of this state shall be spent enforcing any court order requiring the issuance or recognition of a same-sex marriage license.”

Kern’s bill also directs state courts to dismiss any challenge to the measure and award costs and attorney fees to the defendant. A judge who violates the act would be removed from office, according to the bill.

Bell’s HB 623, which he pre-filed in early January and titled “The Preservation of Sovereignty and Marriage Act,” says basically the same thing.

Trial courts in both Texas and Oklahoma have already ruled against same-sex marriage bans, and while Texas is still waiting for a ruling from the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals, Oklahoma became a marriage equality state last October when the U.S. Supreme Court refused to hear an appeal of the 10th Circuit Court’s ruling in favor of equality in the case Bishop v Smith. U.S. District Court Judge Terrance Kern issued the trial court ruling that initially overturned the ban in Oklahoma, and Rep. Sally Kern has been sure to mention more than once that Judge Kern is no relation to her.

Toby Jenkins, executive director of Oklahomans for Equality, has issued a statement saying his organization” condemns this all-out assault on the LGBT citizens of Oklahoma. The courts have already ruled on the legality of same-sex marriages. To take our state backward a decade is obviously what our legislators are trying to accomplish.”

Kern — who made her first big splash in the LGBT news pond in 2008 when she declared that gays and lesbians are worse than terrorists — has also filed the “Freedom to Obtain Conversion Therapy Act,” which would guarantee parents the right to subject their children to so-called therapy to change them from being gay (a practice condemned by all reputable mental health associations), and House Bill 1597, would make it legal for businesses to refuse service “to any lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender person, group or association” without fear of civil liability or penalty.

In her 2011 book, Kern called Dallas Voice a “source of evil.”

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Daily Juice closes while Quesa readies to open

Posted on 23 Jan 2015 at 10:53am

quesaDaily Juice, which opened last summer on Cedar Springs Road in the old Buli space, closed this week. The owners are revamping the format rather than abandoning the space. Two doors down, Quesa is set to open.

According to a sign in the Daily Juice window, the shop will reopen in early February as Winslow’s, “a new restaurant featuring wine, craft cocktails and eats.”

No word on how the space will get its liquor license so quickly. That process takes months or longer.

Quesa, a new Mexican restaurant on the corner of Reagan Street and Cedar Springs Road, is readying to open. That space, empty since Nuvo moved to Oak Lawn Avenue, has had zoning and parking problems to overcome before receiving its building permits.

Restaurants must provide twice as many parking spaces as retail stores and the space was zoned for offices rather than restaurant and retail. When Nuvo opened in the early 1980s, no one in the city cared what the zoning was on Cedar Springs Road, so stores were allowed to open despite the zoning.

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The Dallas Way: Outrageous Oral January 2015

Posted on 23 Jan 2015 at 9:37am

Former City Councilwoman Veletta Lill, Barbara Rosenberg, Leza Mesiah and Buddy Mullino spoke at the January Outrageous Oral presentation in the Rose Room.

Lill spoke about path to becoming an honorary lesbian who represented District 14, which includes part of Oak Lawn.

Rosenberg talked about how her successful campaign against the notorious Judge Jack Hampton made national news. Hampton was known for sentencing a murderer to a lesser sentence because he equated gays with prostitutes, something he repeated to several news outlets at the time.

“I was there,” is what Leza Mesiah titled her presentation. One of the originators of the NPR show All Things Considered, Mesiah mentioned the many historic events in the LGBT community that she witnessed first hand.

Outgoing The Dallas Way president Buddy Mullino talked about Howie Daire and the beginning of the AIDS crisis. Mullino was a longtime board member of Oak Lawn Community Services.

Robert Emery, a founding board member of The Dallas Way, hosted. He quipped about the amount of information available in the room. He said coming to Outrageous Oral is just like going to the library where you sit quietly get lots of information and then go to the back of the room for a drink.

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Konni Burton and other legislators attend energy briefing with quacks

Posted on 22 Jan 2015 at 5:36pm

10922581_215067605334889_3678561947259798580_oThere’s no need to bring your pitchforks and white hoods when you become a freshman in the Texas Lege. There are other people you meet down there who will bring all that — and a tin foil hat too.

Take, for instance, the photo to the right. It was posted on Senator Konni Burton’s Facebook page, from which I haven’t been blocked yet.

Yesterday morning (Wednesday, Jan. 21) she and other legislators attended an Energy Infrastructure Security Breakfast Briefing sponsored by fellow North Texas Republican legislators Rep. Tan Parker and Sen. Kelly Hancock. The guests of honor were, as you see, Frank Gaffney and Dr. Peter Vincent Fry.

Gaffney and Fry make Ted Cruz look like a kind and gentle grandmother.

Gaffney’s one helluva sweetheart. He’s a border-closing, right-wing warmongering Islamophobe who clings to his Bullion as much as his convictions. A champion of our 2003 march into Iraq (get the energy connection now?), he later threw around accusations that everybody and anybody was a member of the Muslim Brotherhood. Most notably he alleged former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s aide, Huma Abedin was a conspirator in the Brotherhood, a claim also supported by former Rep. Michele Bachmann.

Gaffney set up a legitimate-sounding front shop for his whackodom called the Center for Security Policy. You can read more about him here.

Fry is concerned about the nuclear arsenal as executive director of the Task Force on National and Homeland Security and director of the U.S. Nuclear Strategy Forum, according to his Family Security Matters profile. He predicts the world is going to end a lot. He’s so concerned about our families’ security matters he formed The Noah Project, which is “dedicated to the civil defense and survival of American families and their communities in the event of a nuclear or solar EMP or any other catastrophic event that would affect societal change in America.”

They’ve formed two compounds — one already sold out — where you can live off their products and proven method. Funny enough, the website didn’t even mention the word “militia.”

Later that day, Sen. Burton voted with 19 other senators (including one Democrat) to gut the Senate’s two-thirds rule, which required 21 senators to even debate legislation. Lt. Gov Dan Patrick actively campaigned against the rule on the campaign trail.

He got what he asked for. The chamber voted to replace it with a three-fifths rule, requiring only 19 senators instead. Many observers say the two-thirds rule worked in the Democrats’ favor, and propelled Burton’s predecessor Wendy Davis to international fame by allowing her to filibuster legislation. (Incidentally, the rule propelled Burton into her current career as well.)

Folks, these are the people who represent you, whether you voted for them or not. They are taking advice from folks like Gaffney and Fry. They listen to the Eagle Forum’s virulently anti-LGBT Cathie Adams and take big checks from archconservative Republican millionaires. They are recruited and polished by fringe groups like Gaffney’s. And they run Texas.

After the briefing, legislators could ask questions. I wonder what they asked.

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Somebody tell Mike Huckabee how the court system works, please

Posted on 21 Jan 2015 at 5:00pm
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Mike Huckabee

Former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee, a once and likely future presidential candidate, went on Hugh Hewitt’s radio show Tuesday, Jan. 20, to explain how just because federal courts — and eventually probably even the U.S. Supreme Court — issue rulings saying that laws banning same-sex marriage are unconstitutional, that doesn’t mean that the president or Congress or state governors and legislatures don’t have to abide by those rulings.

As reported by TheNewCivilRightsMovement.com, Huckabee said:

“If the federal Supreme Court rules that same sex marriage is protected under the 14th Amendment, you still have to have Congress and the president act to agree with it, because one branch of government does not overrule the other two. This idea that a judge makes a ruling on Friday afternoon, and Saturday morning same-sex marriage licenses are being given out, that’s utter nonsense, because there’s not been any agreement with the other two branches of government.

“One thing I am angry about, though, Hugh, is this notion of judicial supremacy, where if the courts make a decision, I hear governors and even some aspirants to the presidency say well, that’s settled, and it’s the law of the land. No, it isn’t the law of the land. Constitutionally, the courts cannot make a law. They can interpret one. And then the legislature has to create enabling legislation, and the executive has to sign it, and has to enforce it.

Ummmm, I’m no constitutional legal scholar by any stretch. But I am pretty sure that good ol’ Mike hasn’t got the first clue about how our judicial system works and how the courts actually interact with the other two branches of the federal government (and with state governments).

From what I recall from those long-ago days when I was in school, Congress and state legislatures can make laws, and it is precisely the duty of the courts — all the way up to and including the Supreme Court — to make sure that those laws do not violate the rules of the Constitution. And when the courts decide that a law is unconstitutional — as is happening over and over again with marriage equality bans — those laws don’t get to stay in effect.

Even when Hewitt, a conservative himself who happens to be a professor of law (at the same school where the head of the right-wing National Organization for Marriage teaches), reminds Huckabee about the Supremacy Clause (Article VI, Paragraph 2 of the U.S. Constitution, which establishes that the federal constitution, and federal law generally, take precedence over state laws, and even state constitution), Huckabee refused to be swayed. He promised that even if he were the only one, he would insist on standing firm against all the courts in all the land because “because I believe it is the right position, it’s the Biblical position, it’s the historical position.”

You can listen to Huckabee here.

 

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