BREAKING: SCOTUS to rule on marriage equality

Posted on 16 Jan 2015 at 2:58pm
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Plaintiffs in the Texas marriage equality case listen as their attorney, Neel Lane, center, speaks at a press conference outside the courthouse in New Orleans after the 5th Circuit court hearing on Jan. 9. Plaintiffs are Nicole Dimetman and Cleo DeLeon of Austin and Victor Holmes and Mark Phariss of Plano. (Photo by Erin Moore)

The U.S. Supreme Court decided today (Friday, Jan. 16) to hear arguments in four cases challenging marriage equality. The justices are expected to hear arguments in the cases in April and issue a ruling by June, according to reports by CNN and others.

The court will hear appeals from Ohio, Tennessee, Kentucky and Michigan — all four of which are in the 6th Circuit Court of Appeals, the only federal appellate court to have ruled against marriage equality since SCOTUS’ landmark U.S. v Windsor decision in June 2013.

In the first week of 2015, Florida became the 36th marriage equality state. The District of Columbia also recognizes same-sex marriages

The Supreme Court last October declined to hear appeals in several cases challenging same-sex marriage bans, all of which had been decided by federal appellate courts in favor of equality.The decision by the court launched a wave of new marriage equality states and appeared to indicate that the court stands in favor of marriage equality.

The court also declined in December to extend a stay on the federal trial court ruling striking down the same-sex marriage ban in Florida.

A three-judge panel of the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals heard oral arguments last Friday, Jan. 9, in marriage equality cases from Texas, Louisiana and Mississippi. Although there is no word yet when the 5th Circuit court might issue a decision in those cases, marriage equality supporters feel the decision will come down in their favor.

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Bought and sold: Lt. Gov-elect Patrick packs advisory boards with donors

Posted on 16 Jan 2015 at 11:31am

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Republican Lt. Gov.-elect Dan Patrick announced yesterday (Thursday, Jan. 15) he has appointed 56 state business leaders to six new citizen advisory panels who will advise him on a variety of policy areas, including water, taxes, economic development and forecasting, transportation and energy.

Texans for Public Justice, a liberal ethics watchdog group, noted 77 percent of the advisory members financially backed his campaign for lieutenant governor. Other members have backed Patrick since his first campaign for state senate in 2006, a position he held until his election as lieutenant governor this past November.

Nearly half of the advisory members live in the Dallas/Fort Worth region. Many are also among the Patrick campaign’s donors.

Dallas’ Roy Bailey will chair the advisory board’s committees.

Advisory group meetings would not be open to the public but Patrick said he will acknowledge legislation brought by the groups, according to the Austin American-Statesman. He also anticipates advisory board members to testify before committees.

“Endowing a handful of corporate titans with the power to write laws behind closed doors is the ultimate form of government privatization,” said Craig McDonald, the group’s director. “If you thought cronyism and corruption were out of hand under the [outgoing Gov.] Perry regime, just hang on!  The worst is yet to come.”

Major Patrick contributors and advisory board members:

Asterisk indicates Dallas/Fort Worth area resident 

*Roy Bailey, Chairman of Advisory Committees

Economic & Workforce Development:

Gene Powell, Chairman

*Barry Andrews

*Monty Bennett

Alonzo Cantu

*Dick Collins

*Doug Deason

Windi Grimes

*Mike Gruber

Bill Holmes

Michael Plank

Kyle Stallings

Massey Villareal

Economic Forecast:

Hon. Kent Hance

Tilman Fertitta

*Gerald Ford

Woody Hunt

Jodie L. Jiles

*Bob Rowling

Paul Sarvadi

*Shelly Stein

*Ardon Moore

Energy/Oil and Gas:

*T. Boone Pickens, Chairman

S. Javaid Anwar

John Connally

Tim Dunn

Kirk Edwards

Wil VanLoh, Jr.

John Walker

*Kelcy Warren

Tax Policy:

*Brint Ryan

Nelda Blair

Alan Hassenflu

*Marcus Hiles

Victor Leal

Steve Mach

*Bob McNutt

Mike Reitmeier

Ben Streusand

Sherry Sylvester

Transportation:

Ned Holmes, Chairman

*Bob Albritton

Steve Alvis

Arch “Beaver”  Aplin

*Pamela Bailey-Campbell

*Carter Pate

*Brenda Pejovich

*Jere Thompson, Jr.

John Weisman

Water:

Jack Wood, Chairman

*Joe Colonnetta

*Ralph Ellis, Jr.

Joseph Fitzsimons

*Kenn George

Gaylord Hughey

Kevin Sparks

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Texas labor leader Linda Bridges funeral to live stream at 1 pm CST

Posted on 16 Jan 2015 at 11:30am

LindaReclaimThe American Federation of Teacher’s Texas chapter will live stream funeral services for President Linda Bridges at 1 p.m. today (Friday, Jan. 16).

The labor giant died suddenly this week.

An obituary was published earlier this week on Instant Tea.

 

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Plano group releases flier supporting equal rights ordinance

Posted on 15 Jan 2015 at 5:34pm

A new group called People in Support of the Equal Rights Policy of Plano TX created a flier to debunk myths about the city’s new equal rights ordinance.

Plano Flyer

The opposition group needs to collect fewer than 3,900 signatures, or 10 percent of the number of people who voted in the last election, to force a recall vote on the ordinance.

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Prestonwood church, which has a history of sex abuse, is opposing Plano ordinance

Posted on 15 Jan 2015 at 5:07pm
prestonwood

Prestonwood Baptist Church, competing with First Baptist Church of Dallas for the title of area’s most homophobic

Prestonwood Baptist Church has become the center of activity when it comes to collecting signatures to repeal the new Plano nondiscrimination ordinance and capture the title of most homophobic church in the Metroplex from First Baptist Church of Dallas.

That defender of religious freedom may also be remembered as the church where a pastor had to resign in 2008 because he was caught soliciting sex from a minor.

Sr. Pastor Jack Graham, who is spearheading the signature collection effort for the Plano recall, accepted the resignation of Pastor Joe Barron after a 2008 sex sting.

“Barron was charged … with online solicitation of a minor,” according to an AP story from the time. “Undercover officers posing as a 13-year-old girl communicated with the 52-year-old minister for about two weeks. The online conversations were sexual in nature, police said.”

After connecting with “her” online, the Prestonwood minister drove 200 miles to meet her in Bryan. He was arrested and released on $7,000 bail.

In 2009, he was sentenced to seven years in prison after reaching a plea deal. He had to serve a quarter of the sentence before becoming eligible for parole and then had to register as a sex offender for 10 years.

While that was the most famous case of child abuse, there have been other allegations.

In the late 1980s, minister John Langworthy was dismissed after charges of child abuse. Langworthy moved to Clinton, Miss. where he served at Morrison Heights Southern Baptist for two decades

“There, he recently received a 50-year suspended sentence for molesting multiple boys as young as 6,” according to Baptist News Global. “But Langworthy avoided prison time because, in the plea bargain process, prosecutors were concerned about the statute of limitations.”

A Facebook group has formed called People Against Prestonwood’s Silence on Allegations of Sexual Abuse.

In December, referring to Langworthy, they posted:

“It still seems unbelievable that Jack Graham was a 2-term President of the Southern Baptist Convention and has been given a complete pass (so far) for his role in allowing a predator to go on a multi-decade rampage raping children across Mississippi. Truly jaw dropping when you think about it.”

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Michigan must recognize ‘window marriages’

Posted on 15 Jan 2015 at 3:04pm

Marriage_Equality_Map_FL_01-12-2015A federal judge ruled Michigan must recognize its “window marriages” performed last year after the state’s marriage law was struck down and before a stay was placed on the ruling.

After Michigan’s marriage law was declared unconstitutional, about 300 couples married in the state before a higher court judge placed a stay on the ruling. Michigan is in the 6th Circuit, which later upheld the state’s right to discriminate.

Now Federal District Judge Mark Goldsmith says the state must recognize those marriage licenses it issued.

“Even though the court decision that required Michigan to allow same-sex couples to marry has now been reversed on appeal, the same-sex couples who married in Michigan during the brief period when such marriages were authorized acquired a status that state officials may not ignore absent some compelling interest — a constitutional hurdle that the defense does not even attempt to surmount,” Goldsmith wrote in the introduction to his opinion.

The “window” lasted only a few hours on March 22, 2014. Goldsmith was not the judge in original decision.

In an interesting note, Goldsmith writes in his opinion that no Supreme Court case addresses the right to maintain a marriage but it’s assumed that when the vows are spoken, “the lifetime of committed intimacy that couples expect will follow.”

He calls Michigan’s refusal to recognize marriages it licenses “entirely unprecedented.”

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Church halts funeral over photo of 2 women kissing

Posted on 14 Jan 2015 at 11:42am
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This photo of protestors gathered outside New Hope Ministries on Tuesday was provided by protest organizer Jose Silva to ABC News

As we here at Dallas Voice are getting ready to publish on Friday, Jan. 16, the first of what is intended to become the annual Dallas Voice Lesbian Issue, we were horrified to come across this story about a Colorado lesbian whose funeral was halted midstream and forced to move to another location because of a homophobic pastor:

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Vanessa Collier

Friends of Vanessa Collier this week protested outside a Lakewood, Colo., church Tuesday afternoon, Jan. 13, after the pastor of New Hope Ministries church stopped their friend’s funeral on Jan. 10 because of a video showing Collier kissing her wife.

Collier, 33, died Dec. 30. She is survived by her wife, Christina Higley, and their two children, among other family members. Jessica Maestas, Collier’s cousin who helped Collier’s mother arrange the funeral, told ABC News that New Hope Ministries was aware that Collier was a lesbian because they told the church about her sexual orientation while they were making funeral arrangements. Maestas also said they told the church that they would be playing a video at the service, and that they had complied with the church’s rule that the video be submitted two days prior to the funeral so church officials could review it.

“I provided the video, and got the okay from the funeral home that we would be able to show it,” Maestas told ABC News.

But last Saturday, about 15 minutes into the funeral, New Hope Pastor Ray Chavez stopped the funeral and told family and friends they would have to remove a video that included photos of Collier kissing Higley, and photos of the two women together with their children. Irate mourners instead gathered up the flowers, the programs for the service and eventually Collier’s casket and moved to a new location. Fortunately, Newcomer Funeral Home, across the street from New Hope Ministries, was able to accommodate the funeral, although the crowd of about 180 had to pack into a room intended for about half that many.

Collier’s longtime friend Victoria Quintana told the Denver Post that the whole incident was “humiliating [and] devastating.”

The Post reported that about four dozen people gathered outside New Hope Ministries on Tuesday afternoon, waving signs saying “Shame on Pastor Ray” and demanding an apology for what happened, as security guards posted around the church made sure none of the protesters moved onto church property.

ABC News also notes that Collier’s relatives say they have received no refund on the money they paid New Hope Ministries to host the funeral.

Both ABC News and the Denver Post said that no one at New Hope Ministries would comment on the situation.

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Swearing in the new Texas House

Posted on 14 Jan 2015 at 11:02am

Yesterday, I went to Austin in a bus chartered by Rep. Eric Johnson with about 50 of his constituents and supporters. Thousands of people filled the Capitol building to watch the swearing in of the 84th Texas Senate and House of Representatives. Johnson reserved a committee room from which his group could watch the ceremony.

Secretary of State Nandita Berry presided over the House session through the election of Rep. Joe Strauss as Speaker. She began with a very partisan speech about the diversity of the state, mentioning representatives and what they represent — like the San Antonio district where Toyota Tundras are manufactured and the Plano district where Toyota is moving its U.S. headquarters. Quite noticeably, she omitted any mention of Democratic Dallas while managing to mention every other major city in the state.

The Plano delegation and a few of its supporters, like Tarrant County Rep. Matt Krauss, may have effectively ended any power the Tea Party will have in this session by supporting Rep. Scott Turner of Frisco in the election for Speaker. After Turner lost, getting just 19 votes, Turner spent 25 minutes delivering a concession speech in which he berated the other members of the House for not voting for him.

My favorite part of the day: We were in and out of the Capitol several times during the day. Each time anyone enters the building, they pass through security. You can bypass security if you have a concealed weapon permit or when accompanied by a member of the Legislature. Well, you have to show the permit. All I had to do to get in was point to Johnson and say, “I’m with him.” I told Johnson that he’s much better than a concealed weapon permit.

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Vile anti-gay law up for a vote in Virginia

Posted on 13 Jan 2015 at 4:59pm
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Anti-gay Virginia lawmaker Bob Marshall

Legislation has been introduced in Virginia that would allow anyone seeking or holding a business license from the state of Virginia to refuse service or entry to gay people, on the grounds it “would violate the religious or moral convictions of such person with respect to same-sex “marriage” or homosexual behavior,” according to this report by Addicting Info.

House Bill 1414, pre-filed Jan. 14 in the Virginia General Assembly, is being spear-headed by anti-gay lawmaker Bob Marshall. Marshall is notorious for his unsuccessful effort to exclude gays from the Virginia National Guard and for his attempt in 2012 to block the appointment of  a judge on the grounds that the nominee was gay, saying that “sodomy is not a civil right.”

Luckily, Virginia’s governor is Democrat Terry McAuliffe, who has a “track record of expanding protections for LGBT people,” said Christy Mallory, senior counsel at the Williams Institute, who has been tracking nondiscrimination protections for LGBT people across the country. If the Virginia Legislature were to pass the bill, McAuliffe could veto it to keep it from becoming law.

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Texas AFT President and labor giant Linda Bridges has died

Posted on 13 Jan 2015 at 4:11pm

LindaReclaimLinda Bridges, president of the the American Federation of Teachers’ Texas chapter, educator and labor leader, died at her home in Austin today (Jan. 13). She was 65.

In a statement provided by AFT, Bridge was remembered as a passionate fighter for teachers and students.

“Linda was a true legend, a giant of the Texas labor movement,” said John Patrick, Texas AFL-CIO secretary-treasurer.

“Our union has lost a great leader, and I’ve lost a true friend,” said Randi Weingarten, American Federation of Teachers president. “Linda was a beloved member of the AFT family. She woke up every morning with one goal on her mind: To make sure educators had a voice—a crucial element in helping all kids succeed. There was never a mountain too high, an obstacle too great or an opponent too fierce to derail her from that goal. She’s one of a kind. We will so miss her, but I know we will all try to emulate her kind spirit, strong leadership and tireless advocacy for students, parents and communities. Our prayers are with Linda’s family today. Please know that her legacy will continue on.”

Bridges started her career in education as an elementary special education teacher in the Corpus Christi Independent School District.  She was a charter member of the Corpus Christi American Federation of Teachers and served as president of the local union for 24 years. She became president of Texas AFT in 2005. Under her leadership, membership grew from some 48,000 members to more than 65,000.

According to a statement released by AFT-Texas, Bridges is credited for pioneering “elected consultation” method for organizing workers in “right-to-work” states. The designation allows the organization, usually formed in an election process, to formally negotiate with a district on employee wages, benefits and working conditions.

She is survived by her partner, Kay Lee.

Services are pending at this time and will be announced on the Texas AFT Web site at www.texasaft.org.

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