Austin, Dallas, Fort Worth top Texas cities in HRC Municipal Equality Index

Posted on 12 Nov 2014 at 10:00am

MEI-2014-map-650x375The Human Rights Campaign released its third annual Municipal Equality Index today (Wednesday, Nov. 12) assessing LGBT equality in 353 cities across the nation, including 22 in Texas, according to a press release from HRC.

The MEI, the only nationwide rating system of LGBT inclusion in municipal law and policy, assesses cities on a one to 100 scale.

The average score for the 22 Texas cities is 28 out of 100 points, far below the national average of 59. Only Austin achieved a perfect 100 score. Dallas came in second with 91 points and Fort Worth third with 83 points.

San Antonio, El Paso and Houston earned scores of 72, 52 and 54 respectively, the only other cities to score more than 50 points.

Other surveyed Texas cities included Amarillo: 14,  Brownsville: 20, Corpus Christi: 16, Killeen: 10, Laredo: 2, Lubbock: 0, McAllen: 0, Pasadena: 10, Waco: 24.

The MEI rates cities based on 47 criteria falling under six broad categories: Non-discrimination laws, relationship recognition, employment policies, including transgender-inclusive insurance coverage, contracting non-discrimination requirements, and other policies relating to equal treatment of LGBT city employees, inclusiveness of city services, fair law enforcement practices and leadership on matters of equality.

Check out the full list here and this week’s edition of the Voice for comments from local leaders.

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South Carolina judge rules marriage ban unconstitutional

Posted on 12 Nov 2014 at 9:47am

PrintA U.S. District judge in South Carolina has ruled the state’s ban on same-sex marriage is unconstitutional based on a ruling by the 4th Circuit in Virginia.

South Carolina refused to begin issuing marriage licenses in October when the U.S. Supreme Court decided not to hear the Virginia case — a decision that was binding throughout the circuit. West Virginia and North Carolina became marriage equality states. South Carolina has resisted.

After the 6th Circuit ruled last week that it is legal to discriminate against gay couples in marriage laws, South Carolina pointed to that decision to continue refusing to issue marriage licenses. But U.S. District Judge Richard Mark Gergel ruled South Carolina must follow the 4th Circuit ruling.

No word on if the state will comply or if it will appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court.

And as we write this, a U.S. district court in Mississippi is hearing arguments in a case challenging the marriage ban there.

 

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Sotomayor puts Kansas marriage on hold

Posted on 11 Nov 2014 at 9:53am

PrintU.S. Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor extended a stay on marriage equality in Kansas. She gave supporters of equality until 5 p.m. Tuesday, Nov. 11 to file briefs.

On Friday, the Supreme Court may take up the issue and decide to hear the case or dismiss it, as it has with cases from Oklahoma and Utah, also in the 10th Circuit.

Currently, 32 states and D.C. allow same-sex marriage. Kansas is among three states whose appeals courts have ruled in favor of marriage equality and are not in compliance with their circuits.

Five states are awaiting a hearing or ruling from their circuits and four states in the 6th Circuit have a ruling favoring discrimination and are appealing to the U.S. Supreme Court. The remaining six states have had no case heard in court yet. Of those, a Mississippi case is due to be heard Nov. 12.

 

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AMPA issues Veteran’s Day challenge to VA’s discrimination against LGBT vets

Posted on 11 Nov 2014 at 7:00am

AMPAFor Veteran’s Day, The American Military Partner Association, the nation’s largest organization for the partners, spouses, families, and allies of America’s LGBT service members and veterans, once again called on the Department of Veterans Affairs to grant full and equal benefits to legally married LGBT veterans and their spouses.

“This is completely unacceptable and must be fixed now,” said Gene Silvestri, a U.S. Army veteran and AMPA’s Veterans Affairs Coordinator. “It’s unconscionable that legally married LGBT veterans are still being denied their full veterans benefits if they happen to live in a state that doesn’t respect their marriage. These are earned federal benefits, not benefits from the state.”

“How much longer do these families have to wait for the benefits they’ve sacrificed for and earned serving our nation?” asked Ashley Broadway, spouse of a U.S. Army officer and AMPA’s Director of Family Readiness. “More importantly, why does no one seem to care that these families are being treated differently? Where are the members of Congress who are supposedly champions of our veterans and their families?”

Even after the fall of the Defense of Marriage Act that prevented the federal government’s recognition of same-sex marriages, the Department of Veterans Affairs continues to follow discriminatory language in Title 38 section 103c when determining the validity of marriages for veteran benefits purposes. As service members transition from active duty, same-sex couples in non-marriage equality states are denied full and equal access to many earned veterans’ benefits from the VA. Legally married active duty service members living in non-marriage equality states are also denied access to the full backing of VA home loans.

In August, AMPA filed a lawsuit against the Secretary of the VA challenging the VA’s regulations.

“Having weathered the federal government’s past, longstanding discrimination against them, lesbian and gay veterans and their families find themselves once again deprived of equal rights and earned benefits by the government they served and the nation for which they sacrificed.”

The challenge is now pending in the United States Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit [AMPA v. McDonald, No. 14-7121 (Fed. Cir. 2014)].

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BREAKING: Fort Worth Police Chief Jeff Halstead to resign

Posted on 10 Nov 2014 at 3:59pm

Halstead.JeffFort Worth Police Chief Jeffrey Halstead is expected to step down tomorrow, Tuesday, Nov. 11, after eight years heading the department, according to NBC 5.

His resignation is not effective immediately. He has not yet named an interim replacement.

Check back here with more information.

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Guns, God and gays: first day of prefiling for upcoming Lege session

Posted on 10 Nov 2014 at 3:51pm

abaa8de7236b4022851ea2557e2d68b0dc212ddb6ea8b427616006bb297bd2cdToday is the first day for Texas legislators and members-elect to pre-file legislation for the 84th legislative session. This means you get to see just how crazy some of your newly and returning elected officials really are. Don’t worry everyone, the first day of pre-filing didn’t bring out the worst of your electeds just yet. Rep. Bill Zedler, R-Arlington, only filed a handful actually, so the worst is yet to come.

As of mid-afternoon, legislators have pre-filed 336 bills.

Rep. Walter “Four” Price, R-Amarillo, filed four bills commemorating the National Day of Prayer, Christmas, Easter and Thanksgiving. Rep. Jonathan Stickland, R-Bedford, filed HB 195, loosening restrictions on gun toting. Rep. Jeff Leach, R-Plano, is gonna keep abortionists out of the classroom with HB 205.

But wait! LGBT people were recognized by our allies!

Out Rep. Mary Gonzalez, D-El Paso, filed HB 70, an anti-bullying bill preventing discrimination against and harassment of students in public schools based on their sexual orientation and gender identity.

Rep. Garnet Coleman, D-Houston, filed HJR34, one of many bills targeting the repeal of Texas’ same-sex marriage ban. As the Voice reported, Rep. Rafael Anchia, D-Dallas, filed HB 130, repealing Texas’ same sex marriage ban. The identical SB 98, was filed by Sens. Juan Hinojosa, D-McAllen, and José Rodríguez, D-El Paso. Sen. Rodríguez also filed SB 148, repealing language condemning homosexuality in the state’s health and penal codes.

 

 

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Memorial set for man found in Turtle Creek

Posted on 10 Nov 2014 at 3:20pm
Screen shot 2014-11-10 at 3.16.11 PM

Robert Letbetter

An obituary was posted and memorial service planned for the man found dead in Turtle Creek on Nov. 3.

While cause of death was not listed for Robert Letbetter, the obituary notes, “Although his struggles were long and difficult, his death came unexpectedly.” Dallas police only said they were waiting for toxicology test results before listing cause of death.

More than 50 pictures are posted along with the obituary.

The memorial service will be held on Nov. 14 in Conroe, where he was born.

 

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This Week in Marriage Equality: Kansas poised to become No. 33

Posted on 10 Nov 2014 at 1:35pm

PrintKansas

Kansas officials asked the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals to place a stay on marriage equality while its case works its way through the courts. Either Kansas officials are just dumb or they’re looking for ways to delay equality.

The 10th Circuit already ruled that marriage bans in Oklahoma and Utah violate due process and were created out of animus toward gays and lesbians. Why Kansas officials think that same court would rule the Kansas law doesn’t violate due process and there’s no animus there because, well, Dorothy is from Kansas, is anyone’s guess.

The court gave the state a one-week stay. That stay ends on Tuesday, Nov. 11, unless Justice Sonia Sotomayor grants a stay. However, even though the U.S. Supreme Court stayed the 8th Circuit’s Utah and Oklahoma rulings, they’ve already said they didn’t want to hear those cases. There’s no reason to stay the Oklahoma and Utah rulings for Kansas.

Mississippi

U.S. District Judge Carlton Reeves will hear a challenge to Mississippi’s marriage ban on Wednesday, Nov. 12. Reeves was nominated to the court by President Barack Obama. Bye bye Mississippi marriage ban.

A decision would be appealed to the 5th Circuit, which also includes Texas and Louisiana and which has not yet weighed in on marriage equality. That court is considered among the most conservative and could come down on the side of discrimination. The 5th Circuit will hear the Louisiana and Texas appeals in January.

Michigan, Ohio, Tennessee, Kentucky

Plaintiffs in the cases in the four states in the 6th Circuit — Michigan, Ohio, Tennessee and Kentucky — whose marriage bans were upheld last week will all appeal directly to the U.S. Supreme Court.

In any of the cases, plaintiffs could have asked for an en banc hearing in which all of the 6th Circuit judges would have heard the case. Instead, rather than delaying the case and hoping for a nationwide resolution of the issue by the end of June 2015, they each decided for a direct appeal.

Because of the split among circuits, the U.S. Supreme Court is compelled to take a marriage case, but could delay hearing a case until next session. Since the 6th Circuit issued just one decision for all four states, the court could decide to hear from all states or could choose just one appeal.

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Burglars break into Flower Reign on Cedar Springs

Posted on 10 Nov 2014 at 11:24am
Flower Reign

Shane Walker, left, and Bill Fulmer, in Flower Reigh soon after their opening earlier this year

One or more burglars broke the front door lock to enter Flower Reign by Shane Walker on Cedar Springs Road at 4:09 a.m. on Friday Nov. 7.

Computers, phones and a cash box were taken.

Owners Shane Walker and Bill Fulmer said they’re looking forward to the restaurant opening next door and Liquid Zoo, a new bar, opening across the street. Both will have later hours and bring more activity to that end of the street.

If anyone saw any activity in the store around that hour, please contact Dallas police detectives in the Northwest Division at 214-670-6179 and reference case #267612-2014.

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Only 8 precincts in Dallas voted against nondiscrimination

Posted on 10 Nov 2014 at 9:42am

nondiscrimination mapThanks to Andrew Fisher who made this map of how Dallas voters approved a Dallas city charter amendment on nondiscrimination. Only eight precincts voted against the proposal and were located in southwest Dallas at Dallas Baptist University, in Oak Cliff at the junction of I-35 and 67 better known as Christ for the Nations Institute and in a high concentration of trailer parks in southeast Dallas.

That means all precincts in north Dallas, far north Dallas and far far north Dallas, where the concentration of Republican voters are and where most of Governor-elect Greg Abbott’s votes came from, voted for the proposal.

“Feels pretty good to live in Dallas today, guys,” Fisher wrote on his Facebook page.

The proposal places sexual orientation and gender identity as protected classes in city employment into the Dallas city charter. Both have been protected by city ordinance since 1995. This overwhelming approval contrasts sharply with the protests going on in Houston against a city nondiscrimination ordinance that passed earlier this year.

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