Lambda Legal pledges to fight Texas Supreme Court ruling while Paxton cheers the bigots on

Posted on 30 Jun 2017 at 1:09pm

Kenneth D. Upton Jr.

Officials with Lambda Legal have pledged that their organization will “work with Houston attorneys to defend marriage” in response to the Texas Supreme Court ruling issued today claiming that legally-married same-sex couples do not have the right to marriage benefits.

In a statement released shortly after the Supreme Court ruling was announced, Lambda Legal accused the Texas Supreme court of defying the U.S. Supreme Court’s marriage equality ruling in Obergefell v. Hodges, and pledged to help lead the fight to fully secure endangered marriage equality rights.

The Texas Supreme Court’s ruling came in the case Pidgeon v. Turner, originally filed in late 2013 as Pidgeon v. Parker, challenging then-Houston Mayor Annise Parker’s announcement that the city would begin offering health insurance and other benefits to the same-sex spouses of city employees.

Kenneth D. Upton Jr., senior counsel in Lambda Legal’s South Central Regional Office in Dallas, declared, “This absurd contortion of the Obergefell ruling defies all logic and reason, especially in light of the Supreme Court’s explicit ruling on Monday (June 26) that marriage is marriage and equal is equal. We will take steps to protect these families. The Court was very clear in the majority opinion about the scope of what marriage entails.”

Eric Lesh, director of Lambda Legal’s Fair Courts Projects, added that the Texas court ruling “is political and is an example of why elected judges are bad for LGBT people and bad for judicial independence.”

Saying that today’s ruling in Pidgeon v. Turner “revives a case that was dead and sends it back to the trial court to give the parties another chance to attack the marriage of same-sex couples,” the Lambda Legal statement points that that the ruling also “flies in the face of the Supreme Court’s summary reversal on Monday of an Arkansas Supreme Court ruling, in Pavan v. Smith, stating explicitly that states may not treat same-sex married couples differently than other married couples.”

The Lambda Legal statement called the Texas Supreme Court’s reading of SCOTUS’ Obergefell and Pavan decisions “clearly erroneous,” pointing that the Obergefell ruling plainly states that while states are free to vary the benefits they confer on all married couples, “There is no difference between same- and opposite-sex couples with respect to this principle. Yet by virtue of their exclusion from that institution, same-sex couples are denied the constellation of benefits that the states have linked to marriage.”

And in the Pavan decision issued just this week, SCOTUS reiterated the earlier ruling’s breadth: “As we explained [in Obergefell], a state may not ‘exclude same-sex couples from civil marriage on the same terms and conditions as opposite-sex couples.’ Indeed, in listing those terms and conditions — the ‘rights, benefits, and responsibilities’ to which same-sex couples, no less than opposite-sex couples, must have access — we expressly identified ‘birth and death certificates.’ That was no accident…”

Upton added that the Obergefell decision “similarly … listed health insurance.”

Paxton panders

Meanwhile, back at the homophobic ranch, Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton was busy issuing his own statement heaping praise on the bigots of the Texas Supreme Court.

“I’m extremely pleased that the Texas Supreme Court recognized that Texas law is still important when it comes to marriage,” Paxton said. “While the U.S. Supreme Court declared a right to same-sex marriage, that ruling did not resolve all legal issues related to marriage.”

Paxton’s statement also pointed out that he and Gov. Greg Abbott and Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick — both also homophobes on par with Paxton — had filed an amicus brief in the Pidgeon case urging the Texas Supreme Court to allow the lawsuit to continue, and noting that Paxton’s case had defended Texas’ unconstitutional anti-marriage-equality laws before the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals.

Paxton’s statement today did not, however, point out that immediately following the Obergefell ruling Paxton encouraged Texas county clerks to defy the federal court and refuse to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples.


BREAKING: Texas Supreme Court rules same-sex couples have no right to equal benefits

Posted on 30 Jun 2017 at 10:05am

Former Houston Mayor Annise Parker

The Texas Supreme Court ruled this morning that same-sex couples have no right to equal benefits, contradicting the Obergefell decision that spread marriage equality nationwide. The decision was unanimous.

The Obergefell decision states that marriage “safeguards children and families and thus draws meaning from related rights of childrearing, procreation, and education.” That indicates that not only do same-sex couples have the right to marry, but a right to the benefits that flow from marriage, especially to protect children of same-sex couples who are married.

Former Houston Mayor Annise Parker extended city benefits such as insurance coverage to all city employees who were married. Previously, they were granted only to opposite-sex couples.

The Texas Supreme Court ruled that the Obergefell decision didn’t relate to all marriage matters, only the right to marry, and states had a right to regulate how the decision was implemented.

An interesting piece of Texas history came up in the trial record. Technically, same-sex marriage has only been illegal in Texas since the early 1970s:

“In the early 1970s, for example, two men obtained a Texas marriage license when one of them appeared before the county clerk dressed as a woman. … In response, the Texas Legislature amended the Texas Family Code to expressly provide that a marriage license ‘may not be issued for the marriage of persons of the same sex.’”

The city of Houston, the defendant in the case, is expected appeal the ruling.

In its wisdom, the Texas Supreme Court didn’t mention whether interracial couples could receive equal benefits.


Handel’s depressing win in Georgia

Posted on 30 Jun 2017 at 7:20am

Despite the creeping anti-LGBT scum covering D.C., love will eventually win



D’Anne WitkowskiAnother day, another truly terrible person elected to Congress. America is on a roll when it comes to voting for people who are the worst.

As I write this, I’m in Chicago with my family during Pride. The Navy Pier Ferris wheel is lit up in rainbow colors. In fact, when my 7-year-old son saw it he cried, “Look! A gay Ferris wheel!”

We also saw cars with rainbow flags waving out their windows as I drove down the freeway. It’s a happy time.

Or at least it should be.

Sadly, I can’t help thinking about Georgia’s newly elected Republican congresswoman Karen Handel. She beat the much better human being Jon Ossoff, a Democrat, but not by much.

Some are pointing at Ossoff’s defeat and saying it’s proof the Democratic Party is dead and that Nancy Pelosi should be buried along with it. But that’s stupid and short sighted. America deserves better than that.

Okay, but why am I thinking of Handel as I gaze upon the gay Ferris wheel?

Back in 2003, according to Think Progress, Handel was a little more gay friendly — or at least, she appeared so. The Log Cabin Republicans threw their support behind her because she appeared to think domestic partner benefits were not the work of Satan (LCR’s standards are not high).

But no more!

In 2010 she told a local Georgia news station that she not only didn’t know any gay couples with children, but that she said that a same-sex couple raising a kid “is not the best household for a child.” When asked why she thought “gay parents aren’t as legitimate as heterosexual parents” she answered, “Because I don’t.”

Well, then.

But that was seven years ago! Surely she’s come around since then, right? Ha. No.

In June, she was again asked about same-sex couples adopting, and she said she still opposed it because of “her faith.”

“My faith at the same time calls me to be compassionate and what I have always believed is that what has to be paramount is what is the best interest of the child,” she told The Reporter Newspapers.

But what does that mean, “best interest of the child”? Surely Handel can be more specific?

“The best interest of the child. Period, end of paragraph,” she said. “That’s not for you to decide. That’s not for me to decide. It’s for the child advocates to decide, whether that be the court or the child’s guardian. The child’s best interest must be paramount.”

Got it. The best interest of the child is some impossible-to-define thing that only “The Child Advocates” (which sounds like a group from The Handmaid’s Tale) can dictate.

Well, I’ll tell you what. I sure as hell am an advocate for my child, and I don’t take kindly to anyone claiming that my wife and I are unfit parents. I especially loathe the fact that Handel is joining the anti-LGBT scum that is creeping across D.C.

It’s hard not to feel hopeless, to look at the anti-LGBT backlash across the country and feel exhausted and want to give up. Or just ignore the news and watch nothing but RuPaul’s Drag Race (everything in moderation, dears).

But then I look up and see a gay Ferris wheel shining in the night sky, and hear my son in the back seat declaring that “Today was one of the funnest days of my life.” And I know that love will win.

It’s going to be a bumpy ride, and oh, it’s going to hurt sometimes. But love will win.

D’Anne Witkowski is a poet, writer and comedian living in Michigan with her wife and son. She has been writing about LGBT politics for over a decade. Follow her on Twitter @MamaDWitkowski.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition June 30, 2017.


ACLU slams Trump’s pick to head Civil Rights Division

Posted on 29 Jun 2017 at 4:02pm

Eric Dreiband

President Donald Trump announced today (Thursday, June 29) that he is nominating Eric Dreiband to serve as the head of the Civil Rights Division in the Department of Justice. Civil rights advocates with the ACLU were not amused.

Jesselyn McCurdy, deputy director of the American Civil Liberties Union Washington Legislative Office, said: “Dreiband has made a career going against women and LGBT rights. As a lawyer for the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission under President George W. Bush, Dreiband testified before Congress against legislation that would prevent wage discrimination. As a private attorney, Dreiband represented organizations seeking religious exemptions to avoid providing contraceptive coverage for women in the workplace. He also argued on behalf of the University of North Carolina in support of a law that discriminates against trans people.

“With a history of restricting civil rights,” McCurdy continued, “Drieband’s record must be thoroughly examined and weighed for his fitness to serve in the position that is supposed to advocate for the rights of all Americans, regardless of their background. We will watch Dreiband closely, and urge senators to ask the tough questions during his confirmation process.”



World AIDS Day moves to the Bush Presidential Library — no really

Posted on 29 Jun 2017 at 3:02pm

A whole bunch of people who hated almost everything President George W. Bush ever did will gather at the George Bush Presidential Library and Museum in Dallas on Nov. 30 to celebrate World AIDS Day.

Well, times have changed.

Trump makes Bush look like an elder statesman, and the one thing Bush did right was create the PEPFAR program — the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief. More money was sent to Africa for AIDS relief under the Bush administration than was spent on AIDS during all three administrations just prior to his.

World AIDS Day in Dallas is presented by C.U.R.E., the Collin County-based AIDS agency. This year’s new Silver Sponsor is AIDS Services Dallas. ASD’s CEO is Don Maison who is especially excited about getting together with his old buddy George again, so they can yuk it up about the good ol’ days when we thought tearing up the Geneva Convention and starting a conventional war based on lies was bad, when no one even dreamed a nuclear war could be started with a tweet or the most important thing on a president’s mind was his ratings and how mean the press was being to him.

But this is about AIDS. And that’s all anyone will be thinking about when they’re visiting the Bush Liberry. The facility is located on the SMU campus just off the George W. Bush Expressway — really. That’s what that portion of Central Expressway is officially called.


Celebrating Pride and peeing in Austin

Posted on 29 Jun 2017 at 1:36pm

Austin Pride celebrated the 48th anniversary of the Stonewall Riots on Wednesday, June 28, with this lovely display on the steps of the Texas Capitol. The art installation takes a very colorful jab at some lawmakers — Gov. Greg Abbott, Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick — who seem hell-bent on ruining our state’s economy and its reputation by passing an anti-trans bathroom bill. I found the photo on the Facebook page of Sister Lawn Joqui with the DFW Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence. Her sentiments: “Happy Pride and Happy 48th Stonewall anniversary, you bathroom bill pushing motherf*¢kers!”


Texas Latino Pride to announce beneficiary at unveiling party

Posted on 29 Jun 2017 at 11:17am

Texas Latino Pride kicks off its 2017 festivities The Unveiling, a party tonight (June 29) at TK Dallas @ Spaces, 1919 McKinney Ave. from 6-9 p.m. where it will announce this year’s beneficiary. Each year, TLP chooses a beneficiary that has made contributions to the Latino community to receive a portion of the profits made throughout the year.

The Unveiling is the first official event of the year. A pool party is scheduled for July 29, followed by the annual TLP Festival taking place on Saturday, October 14 at Reverchon Park in Oak Lawn.

The Unveiling is free, with a $10 suggested donation at the door. Cocktail attire is recommended.


Red, White & Boom on the Bridge

Posted on 29 Jun 2017 at 10:33am

Councilman Omar Narvaez, whose district includes the Continental Street Ron Kirk Bridge, CBS Radio, Mrs. Baird’s (I didn’t know there even was still a Mrs. Baird’s) and the city of Dallas (I DID know there was still a city of Dallas) present “Red, White & Boom on the Bridge,” an early 4th of July celebration.

The public will be able to take a stroll across the Angela Hunt Hill Bridge — the Calatrava bridge that is the largest cable-stayed bridge built to cross the narrowest body of water in the world, aka Margaret Hunt Hill Bridge. The event is free and open to the public 6-10 p.m. on Monday, July 3. Most of the parking available is on the West Dallas side, so good luck getting over there with Continental Street no longer a car traffic bridge and the new bridge closed. Cross the river on the Sylvan Avenue Bridge or the Commerce Street Bridge. Or try finding parking on the Commerce Street side. Or take DART to Union Station and walk across to the downtown entrance to the Commerce Street crossing.



Turtle Creek Chorale leaders address the FBI

Posted on 28 Jun 2017 at 3:38pm

Turtle Creek Chorale Artistic Director Sean Baugh

Turtle Creek Chorale leadership spoke this week to a room full of agents at the FBI’s Dallas office. The invitation to speak came from a special agent with the FBI office, an ally who programs an LGBT special emphasis project each year.

The FBI, by the way, is the agency that investigates civil rights violations, including those against LGBT people.

TCC’s Executive Director Bruce Jaster, Artistic Director Sean Baugh and Board Chair John Reiger made the presentation. Baugh called it a remarkable morning, noting, “Overwhelming actually.”

Jaster said agents want enforcement of civil rights laws to be from a positive not punitive standpoint. He said he was told, “I’d rather know about things and talk with people about something that occurred, than have a violation occur and not know about it.”

Their desire is to be more a part of the LGBT community and all communities. They want to enforce the law, not intimidate, is something Jaster said he took from the meeting.

“The new special agent in charge of the Dallas region is concerned with their equanimity,” he said.

Jaster said they brought clips of chorale performances. They discussed how the chorus was founded and the challenges the organization has faced since it began in 1980 — from the AIDS crisis to meth addiction — and how the chorale has collaborated with other groups through the years.

Among the questions from the agents was what was what their perception of the FBI was. Baugh said he really didn’t have one. Jaster said his was mostly positive because he had a cousin who ran the Birmingham office.

But, they admitted, the community’s perception was probably tied more to its attitude toward law enforcement. Jaster outlined a brief history of the local LGBT community’s relationship to the police has evolved over the years from police raids on the bars to the Mica England case that finally opened employment to the LGBT community but took a toll on England herself, to the raid on the Rainbow Lounge.

The chorale, he said, worked to build bridges. At its June concert, a piece was commissioned by the chorale based on a photo former Dallas Voice publisher Robert Moore took during the police shootings last summer and Moore attended the concert with the officer who protected him for more than three hours during the siege.

“I was very impressed with the comfortable efficiency, warmth and friendliness of the Dallas office,” Jaster said.

“Honestly it was a remarkable morning,” Baugh said. “All I could think of — this wouldn’t even have been anywhere close to doable just 10 years ago — and they were REALLY interested in our community.”

He said the FBI wants to know about civil rights violations and if someone feels their rights have been violated, they can call the main number: 972-559-5000. However, even if you believe your civil rights were violated and a crime like a robbery or assault were committed, call the police.

Baugh said the head of the Dallas FBI would like to continue the conversation and is reaching out to other groups interested in discussing the varied parts of our community.


BREAKING: Dallas City Council decides not to appoint bigot

Posted on 28 Jun 2017 at 10:10am

Hill.Vonceil.JonesFormer Dallas City Council member Vonciel Jones Hill was not chosen to serve on the board of Dallas Area Rapid Transit. When the city council voted, she received no votes.

Hill spent her eight years on Dallas City Council opposing anything and everything the LGBT community did:

She complained about HIV billboards in her district. She was the only council member to refuse to sign a letter welcoming people to Dallas for Pride weekend. She voted against updating wording on city ordinances that were more inclusive of the trans community.

But, during her tenure, she did chair the transportation committee, which led to her nomination for the DART Board.