Sen. Rodney Ellis asks DOJ to monitor Texas marriage equality

Posted on 01 Jul 2015 at 6:55am

EllisTexas state Sen. Rodney Ellis, D-Houston,  wrote a letter to Attorney General Loretta Lynch and asked her to monitor implementation of marriage equality in the state.

Ellis cited state Attorney General Ken Paxton’s guidance to county clerks, justices of the peace and judges “advising them that they can refuse to follow the recent Supreme Court decision in Obergefell v. Hodge.”

He requested the Department of Justice prevent civil rights violations to “ensure loving, committed couples are able to formally celebrate their union.”

He said religion must not be used as an excuse to discriminate.


BREAKING: Hood County Clerk reverses decision on marriage licenses

Posted on 30 Jun 2015 at 7:28pm

Hood County Clerk Katie LangHood County Clerk Katie Lang has reversed her previous decision to not allow anyone in her office issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples, although she is claiming that we all just simply misconstrued what she said earlier about not allowing anyone in her office to issue those licenses.

I am pretty sure I did not “misconstrue” what the woman in Lang’s office told me earlier today when she said NO ONE in that office would issue a marriage license to a same-sex couple. I called and asked specifically.

This is the statement now posted on Lang’s Hood County Clerk website:

“The religious doctrines to which I adhere compel me to personally refrain from issuing same-sex marriage licenses. Nonetheless, in addition to the county clerk offices in the several surrounding counties, as soon as the appropriate forms have been printed and supplied to my office, the County Clerk’s Office of Hood County will have staff available and ready to issue same-sex marriage licenses.

“Because some have misreported and misconstrued my prior statements, I want to make clear that the County Clerk’s Office of Hood County will comply with the recent decision of the Supreme Court of the United States.

“I am grateful that the First Amendment continues to protect the sincerely held religious beliefs of public servants like me. That has not changed since last Friday. As Justice Kennedy stated, ‘it must be emphasized that religions, and those who adhere to religious doctrines, may continue to advocate with utmost, sincere conviction that, by divine precepts, same-sex marriage should not be condoned.’”


What the hell is going on in Mississippi? Marriage

Posted on 30 Jun 2015 at 4:17pm

Haven’t heard much about what’s going on in Mississippi? That’s because nothing much is going on in Mississippi, except marriage.


Marriage equality plaintiff Jim Obergefell

Mississippi Attorney General Jim Hood ordered licenses to be issued on Monday, June 29, and clerks around the state began issuing licenses.

WAPT, a Jackson TV station, held a poll: “Do you support same-sex marriage in Mississippi.” The result? 57 percent are in favor… Of same-sex marriage… In Mississippi!

The state waited until Monday, because the stay issued by the district judge in the Mississippi marriage case had not been lifted. On Monday, the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals lifted the stay and the attorney general issued his orders to begin issuing licenses.

In Texas, the district judge in San Antonio that ruled on the case stayed his own ruling. He lifted that stay on Friday, June 26, immediately after the U.S. Supreme Court ruled.

Unlike Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton, Hood didn’t encourage clerks to invoke religious beliefs and promise to find them pro bono counsel, according to the Jackson Clarion Ledger.

Instead, in his opinion, Hood wrote, “a clerk who refuses to issue a marriage license to a same-sex couple could be sued by the denied couple and may face liability.”

And what did the governor have to say about same-sex marriage?

“I think this matter has been settled by the Supreme Court,” Mississippi Gov. Phil Bryant said.

New Dallas Voice poll: Is this the first time you’ve ever said, “I wish we had Mississippi’s governor.”


The radical wisdom of Rep. David Simpson, the evangelical Christian from Longview

Posted on 30 Jun 2015 at 4:15pm
Screen shot 2015-06-30 at 4.04.27 PM

Rep. David Simpson

Rep. David Simpson, R-Longview, yesterday (Monday, June 29) called for a special legislative session “in light of the Supreme Court’s lawless and unconstitutional redefinition of marriage,” according to a statement released by his state senate campaign.

“I cannot and I will not sit idly by while unelected judges redefine the sacred institution of marriage and force our county and state officials to violate their most cherished beliefs,” he said. (No matter the decision was 5-4.)

But unlike Texas Eagle Forum’s Cathie Adams and other belligerently anti-LGBT crusaders who called for a special session this month barring recognition of same-sex unions, Simpson took a different approach. He wants government out of the equation.

“In its place, the process of issuing a certificate of marriage will be performed by any willing clergy member consistent with their conscience and in respect for our culture and our heritage,” he said, sticking to his deeply held conservative Christian convictions. But your marriage isn’t his issue: because if a couple doesn’t want to have a religious ceremony, a notary just needs to sign a certificate authorizing their marriage.

“Marriage is a divinely instituted tradition as old as humanity. Government marriage is just another government program and a modern failure. Government has cheapened it, redefined it, and parceled it out for profit,” he said. “As a Christian, I call on every Texan to reject this aberration and contact the governor to take swift action to end it.”

(His statement on the ruling itself, however, can be found here.)

I realize many of my colleagues may disagree with me on this, but it’s not that bad of an idea. I recognize Simpson’s ideology – very, very libertarian – and its flaws – libertarian Republicans oppose government regulation, including government-recognized employment protections. (Notice, however, that doesn’t mean opposition to private policies.)

However, I want to strictly speak in terms of marriage here, and the representative’s wisdom.

Of course, with marriage brings benefits (and federal tax incentives). And counties would lose some serious revenue if they no longer issued licenses, which mean a decline in services.

But to me, Simpson seems to be saying this: should the government capitalize upon our unions, or should they be cherished and sacred, free from interference? (Alternatively, and no disrespect to the representative’s faith, he’s saying “this is noneofya damned business!”)

Bucking the trend

You may have heard of Simpson this past session for making a similar argument on a different topic: weed.

“I don’t believe when God made marijuana he made a mistake that government needs to fix,” he wrote in op-ed in the Texas Tribune in March. “In the name of protecting the public, certain substances have been declared evil and contraband.”

In early May, seemingly out of nowhere, his bill decriminalizing marijuana statewide passed in committee. It was surprising that legislation by Simpson, who has bucked his party’s leadership even before he entered the Capitol in 2011.

First elected in 2010 in an upset over long time Rep. Tommy Merritt, an ally of Speaker Joe Straus, he has vocally opposed the speaker, who is disliked by numerous Tea Party Republicans. Simpson last cycle was one of the “Turner 19” who voted for Rep. Scott Turner, R-Frisco, for speaker over Straus. During the 83rd legislative session, Simpson even ran against Straus, though he ultimately withdrew his candidacy before the vote.

But over time, like some of his other rebellious but conscientious fellow Tea Party, he has gained his colleagues’ respect for being so gosh darn nice.

To be fair, Simpson has never been a LGBT ally. He won’t politically be on the front lines in the battle for legal recognition. He’s consistently been a darling of the religious right restricting women’s reproductive freedoms (which is none too surprising) but he wasn’t the face of the movement this session.

The government may mean different things to us, and Simpson and I likely disagree on the government’s role in addressing various inequities. In his genuine pursuit of individual freedom, the guy also makes a compelling point – even if you don’t agree with it. And that seems to be his point.


Hood County Clerk refuses to talk to CNN reporter

Posted on 30 Jun 2015 at 3:57pm
Screen shot 2015-06-30 at 3.54.46 PM

Hood County Clerk Katie Lang

We told you earlier today about Hood County Clerk Katie Lang making a public statement that her office would not be issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples, based on her personal religious objections to same-sex marriage and Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton’s “legal opinion” that she didn’t have to issue those licenses if she didn’t want to.

Since that post, someone has shared the video below, from Anderson Cooper’s show on CNN, of a reporter trying to get Ms. Lang, an elected official, to explain her decision. As you can see, she refuses to answer questions and rather than defend her decision and/or her religious beliefs, she runs for the car.

She mentions posting an explanation on her website. Check it out.


Military vet expects marriage license request to be denied

Posted on 30 Jun 2015 at 3:15pm

We have received word from OutServe-SLDN, an advocacy organization for active service and retired LGBT people in the U.S. military, that a Bronze Star recipient will be requesting a marriage license from the San Saba County Clerk — and expects to be denied.

Screen shot 2015-06-30 at 3.12.15 PM

Jason White and Jonathan Means

Jason White and his fiancée, Jonathan Means, were planning to request the license today (Tuesday, June 30), according to a statement released this afternoon  by OutServe-SLDN Interim Executive Director Matt Thorn. Thorn also noted that San Saba County Clerk Kim Wells has indicated she will deny the request based on Attorney General Ken Paxton’s “legal opinion” regarding the validity of the U.S. Supreme Court’s June 26 ruling on marriage equality.

Paxton has said that county clerks and their employees are free to refuse to grant marriage licenses to same-sex couples if doing so would violate their religious beliefs. He has added basic CYA language noting that someone in the clerk’s office has to issue such licenses when they are required and those who refuse to do so are personally liable and can be sued.

Smith County Clerk Karen Phillips initially refused to issue same-sex marriage licenses, but then changed her mind when she was sued by private counsel. Hood County Clerk Katie Lang has refused to issue licenses to same-sex couples, but hasn’t been sued yet, as far as we know.

Thorn’s statement noted that the Texas Department of Vital Statistics has updated the forms necessary to issue marriage licenses to same-sex partners and “therefore there is no justifiable basis for the denial of marriage licenses to same-sex couples.”

Thorn said White is a 10-year, 6-combat-tour, Marine. who was awarded the Bronze Star for Valor and two additional medals in the Marine Corps in Afghanistan and Iraq.

White and Means were engaged Monday, June 29, and were planning to go to the clerk’s office at 2 p.m. today to obtain a marriage license. We will update when we hear what happened.

White is also owner of the Brass House, a restaurant and bar in Austin.

In a letter to Wells, Thorn urged, “We strongly request that you follow the ruling of the Supreme Court and issue Jason and Jonathan their marriage license. Furthermore, we will assist Jason and Jonathan in all recourse with San Saba County should there be a continual denial of their license. … Jason has given this country his service, risked his life and took an oath to uphold our fundamental beliefs as a nation. He and his fiancée deserve the respect and dignity of being able to publicly pronounce their love to one another through marriage and should not be discriminated against because you are choosing to ignore the oath in which you took and the law.”


T.D. Jakes on the marriage equality decision: You may be surprised

Posted on 30 Jun 2015 at 2:12pm
Screen shot 2015-06-30 at 2.08.18 PM

The Rev. T.D. Jakes

I have never considered the Rev. T.D. Jakes to be a big supporter of LGBT rights. I am not saying that this speech indicates he is. But I applaud him for preaching on the necessity of separating church and state, and the fact that the U.S. Supreme Court makes its rulings, as it should, based on civil law, not biblical scripture.

“The world is gonna be the world, and the church is gonna be the church and you have to understand the difference. The Supreme Court is there to make a decision based on constitutional rights and legalities that fit all Americans. They are not debating Scripture.”


NC man charged with assault after anti-gay rant in gay bar

Posted on 30 Jun 2015 at 1:48pm
Screen shot 2015-06-30 at 12.39.09 PM

Lucas Dylan Wilhelmson

Some folks have predicted that the historic Supreme Court ruling upholding marriage equality will spark an uptick in anti-LGBT hate crimes. Let’s all hope this is as bad as it gets.

Lucas Dylan Wilhelmson, 21, of Holly Springs in Wake County in North Carolina, is facing charges of simple assault and communicating threats following an incident early Sunday morning, June 28, at a Charlotte bar catering to the LGBT community.

According to the Charlotte, Fox news station, Channel 8, Wilhelmson walked into The Bar 316 and began a loud rant filled with anti-gay slurs and and complaints and denoucements of the Supreme Court’s ruling in Obergefell v Hodges in favor of marriage equality. The TV station reports that the bar owner escorted Wilhelmson to the door and, believing him to be drunk, offered to call him a cab. Wilhelmson instead slapped the bar owner “at least 15 times” and threatened to come back and kill him.

While LGBT advocates are calling this a hate crime, North Carolina’s hate crimes law offers no protections based on sexual orientation or gender identity.

WTVD Channel 11 out of Raleigh/Durham reports that Wilhelmson is a student at NC State. The station also notes that the bar says no one was injured and promised to continue providing “a safe space” for LGBT people and their allies.

Fox 8 reports Wilhelmson has been released on a $3,000 bond.


Hood County Clerk refuses to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples

Posted on 30 Jun 2015 at 11:46am

Screen shot 2015-06-30 at 11.09.30 AM

Hood County Clerk Katie Lang is refusing to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples, citing Attorney General Ken Paxton’s “legal opinion” saying that clerk’s can refuse to issue those licenses based on their own personal religious beliefs. She has even included a post on the county clerk website, under “Services,” noting that she will not issue the licenses and explaining why.

Paxton’s opinion does include some basic CYA language noting that while individual clerks and assistant clerks can refuse to issue the licenses, county clerk offices as a whole have to follow the law and those clerks who do not allow someone in the office to issue the licenses those clerks can be held personally liable and sued. And that the county nor the state will pay for their defense.

A quick call to the Hood County Clerk’s office this morning (Tuesday, June 30), confirmed that the office as a whole WILL NOT issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples. That, of course, opens County Clerk Katie Lang up to lawsuits. Kelly Shackleford of the far-right-wing Liberty Institute has reportedly said he will represent Lang in any legal action against her.

Personally, I am wondering if Katie Lang is TRYING to get sued, so that she can become a “Christian martyr,” victimized by all those horrible heathen gays, and then use that “martyrdom” as a springboard for a bid for higher political office.

Here’s another personal opinion for you: I respect the fact that some people have religious beliefs that would prevent them for issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples. I don’t agree with those beliefs, but I respect your right to believe that, and I will defend your right to your beliefs. But when you hold a public office or work for the government, then you also have a civil duty to serve all people. If your deeply held religious beliefs keep you from serving all people, then you need to find another job.

Dana Guffey, county clerk for Cleburne County in Arkansas (and no, that’s not Johnson County Clerk in Cleburne, Texas), understands that. She has held that office for 24 years but yesterday announced she is resigning because her religious beliefs prevent her from issuing marriage licenses but the duties of that office require it. I respect Ms. Guffey’s beliefs. I respect her decision. I wish her the best.


Jim Obergefell in Dallas

Posted on 30 Jun 2015 at 10:31am

Chad Griffin, left, and Jim Obergefell

Jim Obergefell, the named plaintiff in the marriage equality case decided by the U.S. Supreme Court on June 26, was in Dallas on Monday, June 29, with Human Rights Campaign President Chad Griffin.

At a press conference in downtown Dallas, Griffin said they had come to Texas to protest Attorney General Ken Paxton “encouraging obstruction and delay.”

Obergefell told his story of having to fly to Maryland from Ohio in order to marry his husband who was dying from ALS. After a ceremony in the plane, parked on the tarmac at a Baltimore airport, they were married for three months and 11 days. But they were together 20 years.

While Griffin thanked Obergefell for putting his life on hold for two years to fight the case that won marriage equality for the country, Obergefell said he was fighting to make sure his husband’s life was respected.

He repeated the story at a reception later that evening at the Round-Up Saloon.

“When John died, he deserved to have his last record say I was his surviving spouse,” Obergefell told a packed house at the Round-Up. “What better way to love him and respect him than to stand up to that bully attorney general.”

He was referring to Ohio’s attorney general but then called Paxton the same sort of bully.

“I didn’t put my life on hold for two years,” he said. “My life began as I fought for my husband and my community.”

He said that today his life is filled with family and friends from coast to coast and said his husband would be proud of him.

“Keep being pissed off and make your attorney general represent all of us,” he said.