Voter ID law ruling overturned, photo ID required for 2014 elections

Posted on 15 Oct 2014 at 11:51am

voteThe 5th Circuit of Appeals yesterday, Oct. 14, overturned a Friday, Oct. 11 ruling by U.S. District Judge Nelva Ramos declaring the Texas voter ID law unconstitutional.

The appeals court ruling stated that Ramos’ decision “substantially disturbs the election process of the State of Texas just nine days before early voting begins. Thus, the value of preserving the status quo here is much higher than in most other contexts.”

Ramos, who was appointed by President Obama to the court, in her ruling called the law a “poll tax” and “discriminatory toward African-Americans and Hispanics.” Her ruling called for the 2014 elections to proceed without the strict voter ID law, which requires voters present one of seven forms of photo identification.

Opponents argued the law was intended to squash the voting rights of minorities and college students, many of whom traditionally vote Democratic.

Plaintiffs, including Rep. Marc Veasey, D-Fort Worth, the NAACP Legal Defense Fund and Campaign Legal Center plan to appeal to U.S. Supreme court to overturn the ruling, reports the Texas Tribune.

Texas Secretary of State Nandita Berry, the state’s top elections administrator, said the court’s stay ”means photo ID requirements will continue to be in effect for the November 4 Election, just as they have been for the last three statewide elections. Voters should prepare, as many already have, to show one of seven approved forms of photo ID if they plan to vote in person.”

There is still time to get one of the seven qualifying photo identification cards before early voting begins on Monday, Oct. 20. You may obtain a photo ID any time before the Nov. 4 election. More information is available here.

The deadline to register to vote — not obtain a photo ID — was Oct. 6.


Six reasons Shmini Atzeret is my favoritest holiday

Posted on 15 Oct 2014 at 9:00am

We have no idea if this is an appropriate Shmini Atzeret greeting or not. For all we know about the holiday, the right greeting may be have a stinkin day.

Happy Shmini Atzeret, my absolute favoritest Jewish holiday.

Shmini Atzeret begins tonight and what a wonderful celebration. Or sad day. Or day of … well, we don’t have any idea what the hell Shmini Atzeret celebrates. We just know it’s a holiday that shares the same day as another holiday, but stands as a holiday on its own. You gotta love it.

I’ve talked about why I hate Channukah here and here and here. But I’ve never talked about Shmini Atzeret, the greatest Jewish holiday of them all.

We really, really don’t know what Shmini Atzeret celebrates. Shmini means eighth in Hebrew. Atzeret is gathering or assembly. So it’s celebrated as the eighth day of assembly or the holiday of Sukkot, the harvest festival or Jewish Thanksgiving, which began this year on Oct. 8 and ends this evening as Simchat Torah begins. Simchat Torah is when Jews finish reading the last verses of the Torah for the year and begin over again with the first lines of Genesis.

Here are my reasons I love Shmini Atzeret:

Reason 1:  Shmini, as I like to call it for short, doesn’t get its own day. It shares a holiday. That’s kind of like last year when we celebrated Thankgivikuh, when Hannukah fell on Thanksgiving. So Shmini is an underdog holiday that doesn’t get its own day. Poor Shmini. I love you though.

Reason 2: Leviticus and Numbers command that Shmini is its own separate holiday and should be celebrated. What neither book tells us is what we’re celebrating. That’s kind of like Christmas where everyone buys presents and if you say Happy Holidays, you’re fighting a war on poor Christmas, because you have no idea why you’re bankrupting yourself with shopping. You just do it, because otherwise you’re discriminating against Christians. So I love a holiday that celebrates nothing other than because I said so.

Reason 3: There’s no special food for Shmini. Do you know how greasy my kitchen gets every Hanukah making latkas — potato pancakes — the official food of the Chanukkuh season? You know what a pain in the ass it is to change all the dishes for Passover and then use only products made by Manischewitz, a division of Bain Capital? And blintzes for Shavuot? Yuk. I can’t stand blintzes. And the Biblical mandate to go out for Chinese food on Christmas? Um, OK, well, I like that one.

But Shmini is the no fuss, no muss holiday. Eat whatever the hell you want. This holiday doesn’t even rate its own food. I think I’ll go out for Italian. Maybe a good Shmini lasagne.

Reason 4: On Sukkot, there are prayers everyday. On the eighth day, you don’t have to say them, not all of them anyway. What a fucking great holiday. On Yom Kippur, the damn prayers go on all day. I’m talking start early morning and don’t stop until sunset. Shmini is really the holiday all us lazy Jews really have to love, because it requires even less than Chanuka.

Reason 5: There’s no dreadful Shmini Atzeret music to sing. For some reason, Jews are really good at writing Christmas carols but really bad at writing music for Jewish holidays. “White Christmas.” “Rudolph the Red Nose Reindeer” “Have a Holly Jolly Christmas.” “Chestnuts Roasting on an Open Fire.” Jews wrote ‘em. For the Jewish holidays, what have we got? That damn dreidl song for Chanukah and for Passover, “Dayenu,” a song that’s as repetitive and annoying as “99 Bottles of Beer on the Wall.”

Reason 6: Stupid name. OK, let’s face it. The name sounds more like Shmini Mouse than a serious Jewish holiday. S-H-M. MMMM it’s Shmini Atzeret. I-N-I. I really love Shmini. M-O-U-S-E.


Del Shores set to make ‘Sordid Lives’ sequel, shoot it in Dallas

Posted on 14 Oct 2014 at 3:08pm

0600 flashDel Shores is finally following up his hit play/movie/TV series Sordid Lives with an official sequel. His next feature film will be A Very Sordid Wedding, picking up 16 years after the original. Castmembers Leslie Jordan, Bonnie Bedelia and Caroline Rhea are set to reprise their roles, and as the title suggests, there’ll be a wedding … and a same-sex one, at that.

And the above-named folks won’t be the only familiar names in the cast — one of the scenes will take place in the Rose Room, and Shores has even written parts for some of the ladies there.

“I never felt, like much of the Sordid Lives fan base, that I was done with the denizens of Winters, Texas,” Shores says.

The film will be produced by Shores’ business partner (and Dallas Voice contributor) Emerson Collins, and there’s even a IndieGoGo website if you want to contribute to the making of it. Click here for that.

Shores was just in North Texas for the screening at Q Cinema of Southern Baptist Sissies, another of his Texas-based riffs on conservative, religion and homosexuality.

Here’s a video of Shores talking about the project filming in Dallas.


Abbott wants to reduce out-of-wedlock births so he’s against same-sex marriage

Posted on 14 Oct 2014 at 2:23pm

Texas AG Greg AbbottAtty. Gen. Greg Abbott filed a new brief in the Texas marriage case that the Fifth Circuit decided to fast-track. His main argument is that the state doesn’t have to prove same-sex marriage will hurt opposite-sex marriage, just that opposite-sex marriage is better.

“Second, Texas’s marriage laws are rationally related to the State’s interest in reducing unplanned out-of-wedlock births. By channeling procreative heterosexual intercourse into marriage, Texas’s marriage laws reduce unplanned out-of-wedlock births and the costs that those births impose on society.”

So how’s that channeling going for you Greg?

Here are some stats from the Centers for Disease Control website for teen births, ages 15 to 19 in 2010, the latest year for which I found a state-by-state comparison.

The overall U.S. birth rate is 34.3 per 1,000 teens ages 15–19 in 2010, the latest year available on the Centers for Disease Control website.

But that number is not equally distributed across the country.

In Massachusetts, the rate is 17.1 per thousand and in Texas it’s 52.2 per thousand. That’s more than three times the teen pregnancy rate in traditional values Texas than in marriage-equality Massachusetts.

Massachusetts, the first marriage-equality state, legalized same-sex marriage in 2003.

In his fight against marriage equality, Abbott said the State is interested in “reducing unplanned out-of-wedlock births.” That hasn’t happened.

Let’s compare a few other states to Texas. In civil union state No. 1 that became marriage equality state No. 2, the Vermont teen birth rate is 17.9 per thousand.

Another early marriage equality adopter was Iowa. That’s state’s teen birth rate is 28.6 per thousand, still below the national average.

Comparing Texas to other large states, New York has a rate of 22.6 per thousand and California has a rate of 31.5 per thousand. Both now have marriage equality but didn’t in 2010, the year of these stats.

Texas isn’t in last place, however. Once again, Texans can proudly say “Thank God for Mississippi,” with its 55.0 rate. Arkansas and New Mexico teens are both breeding at faster rates than Texas teens as well.

These are just teen birth rates and marriage equality may have absolutely nothing to do with it. So either Abbott’s argument collapses because marriage equality is irrelevant to unwed teen birth rates or marriage equality actually encourages teens not to get pregnant.


Texas marriage case fast-tracked by 5th Circuit

Posted on 14 Oct 2014 at 12:01pm

Cleopatra De Leon and Nicole Dimetman

The 5th Circuit Court of Appeals has agreed to fast-track its review of two  lawsuits challenging bans on legally recognizing same-sex marriages in Texas and Louisiana, according to numerous reports, including this one at

Cleopatra De Leon and Nicole Dimetman of Austin, one of two gay couples challenging the ban in Texas, asked Monday that the appellate court expedite the cases because Dimetman is pregnant with the couple’s second child and they want their marriage legally recognized before the child — due next March — is born. De Leon gave birth to their first child and Dimetman had to complete a second-parent adoption to be legally recognized as that child’s parent. Unless the couple’s 2009 Massachusetts wedding is recognized in Texas before the second child is born, only Dimetman will be automatically recognized as the child’s legal parent, forcing De Leon to go through the lengthy and expensive second-parent adoption process.

De Leon and Dimetman along with Victor Holmes and Mark Phariss of Plano are the second couple in the Texas case. The two have been together for about 14 years but are waiting for Texas to legally recognize same-sex marriage before tying the knot. U.S. District Court Judge Orlando Garcia ruled in February that the Texas gay marriage ban is unconstitutional.

In the second case being reviewed by the 5th Circuit, Robicheaux v. Caldwell, U.S. District Judge Martin Feldman on Sept. 3 upheld the Louisiana ban on same-sex marriage, the first federal judge to rule against marriage equality since the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision striking down portions of the federal Defense of Marriage Act in 2013.

Lambda Legal joined the case as council on Oct. 7.

Just three weeks after Feldman’s ruling, Judge Edward Rubin in Louisiana’s 15th Judicial District Court ruled, in the case Constanza and Brewer v. Caldwell, that the Louisiana marriage ban is unconstitutional.

So far, since the Windsor ruling last year, no federal appellate court has ruled in favor of same-sex marriage bans. On Monday, Oct. 6, the U.S. Supreme Court rejected appeals on seven cases from five states, leaving appellate decisions striking down bans from the 4th, 7th and 10th Circuit Courts in place. The 9th Circuit Court struck down bans in Idaho and Nevada the next day, and on Sunday, a federal judge in Alaska — which is part of the 9th Circuit — struck down that state’s same-sex marriage ban.

Appeals are also pending in the 6th and 11th Circuit Courts. Those two and the 5th Circuit are considered the most conservative in the country and the ones most likely to rule in favor of marriage bans.


Jennings Street Fall Festival

Posted on 14 Oct 2014 at 11:01am

The weather has finally cooled down enough to make it seem like fall in North Texas, and the folks on Jennings Street in Fort Worth celebrated last weekend with the 2014 Jennings Street Fall Festival. Dallas Voice staff writer James Russell was on hand to get a few photos of the fun.


NBC News ‘doctor’ violated quarantine

Posted on 14 Oct 2014 at 10:45am

Nancy Snyderman broke voluntary quarantine and endangered lives of others

I have no idea if NBC’s “Dr.” Nancy Snyderman or ABC’s “Dr.” Richard Besser have medical degrees. What I do know is they are part of the media hysteria about Ebola and — like the rest of our local and national media — are providing little valid information to the public. In Snyderman’s case, she endangered the lives of others.

After returning from a trip to Liberia, Snyderman and her team from NBC were placed under voluntary quarantine. Snyderman violated the quarantine and is now under mandatory quarantine.

There is absolutely nothing heroic about what she has done. She’s apologized for her reckless behavior, hoping to keep her broadcast job. After all, why should the public trust this “doctor” who endangered the lives of others.

You know who has behaved heroically? The family of Ebola victim Thomas Duncan. They were placed under orders, according to Dallas Health and Human Services Director Zach Thompson. Orders is a step below quarantine.

You know what this family did? They voluntarily complied with anything and everything the county has asked them to do. Yes, a 13-year-old has acted more maturely and responsibly during a period of great personal loss than NBC’s “doctor.”

While the Dallas family remains in isolation, they’ve passed a big hurdle. The incubation period for Ebola is two to 21 days, but the illness usually manifests itself in eight to 10 days of contact with the virus, according to several infectious disease specialists I’ve spoken to. They’ve made it past 10 days and hopefully will make through the full 21 days.

Meanwhile, Nina Pham, a nurse that tended to Duncan at Presbyterian Hospital and became infected, has received a transfusion from Dr. Kent Brantly, the Fort Worth doctor who recovered from Ebola. The hope is that antibodies from his blood will prevent severe illness and even provide a cure.

That treatment seemed to have worked in two other Ebola cases. Brantly was not a blood type match for Duncan, so his blood could not be used.


Texas Voter ID law ruled unconstitutional. Here’s a breakdown on its impact.

Posted on 13 Oct 2014 at 11:35am

vote-buttonA federal district judge on Friday, Oct. 10, struck down Texas’ voter photo identification law, just 10 days before early voting in the state is to begin.

In her 140-plus-page decision, federal Judge Nelva Gonzales Ramos called the law “a poll tax” and “discriminatory”  against African-Americans and Hispanics.

Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott immediately appealed the decision, urging the Fifth Circuit to “resolve this matter quickly to avoid voter confusion in the upcoming election,” said Lauren Bean, a spokeswoman for the AG’s office.

Explaining his appeal, Abbott said he believed the sudden ruling could confuse voters and burden election administrators. “Voters need certainty when they go to the polls and having this decision come out just 10 days before early voting begins injects uncertainty so I’m asking a court of appeals to decide this before early voting begins a week from Monday,” he told KXAN.

In the meantime, the law’s opponents praised the decision.

“Now we must redouble our efforts to restore the Voting Rights Act and to ensure that every LGBTQ voter gets the opportunity to vote at the upcoming election,” said the Rev. Darlene Nipper, deputy executive director of National LGBTQ Task Force.

Texas state. Sen. Wendy Davis, who is running against Abbott for governor, blasted Abbott’s appeal. “This is great news for democracy. I call on Attorney General Greg Abbott to drop his defense of a law that a court has now called a ‘poll tax’ and ‘discriminatory’ against African-Americans and Hispanics.”

U.S. Rep. Marc Veasey, D-Fort Worth and a plaintiff in the lawsuit, agreed. “Abbott should do what’s best for all Texans instead of pushing his discriminatory political agenda that would disenfranchise eligible voters.”

While the judge believes the law discriminates against African-Americans and Hispanics, the ruling impacts the transgender community as well.

According to the Williams Institute, a LGBT policy think tank, of the 25,000 eligible transgender voters in Texas, around 6,800, or 27%, do not have updated voter ID records.

Should the ruling be upheld, said Nell Gaither of the Trans Pride Initiative, “It makes it easier for transpeople to vote.” But she added that the transgender community still faces barriers most other voters do not.

Texas does not have a statewide law accommodating people who have transitioned from one gender to another; voters or would-be voters must rely on their county laws.

Chad Dunn, an attorney who represented the plaintiffs, told the Lone Star Project he believes Abbott will appeal to the Fifth Circuit and likely ask for the U.S. Supreme Court’s final say.

“To my knowledge, a law found to be intentionally discriminatory, after a full trial on the merits, has never been allowed to remain in effect,” Dunn said.


Marriage begins in Idaho, NC and judge throws out Alaska law

Posted on 13 Oct 2014 at 11:32am

Marriage-Equality-Bumper-Sticker-(7423)Marriage equality began Friday, Oct. 10, in Idaho and North Carolina and on Sunday, Oct. 12, a federal judge in Alaska threw out that state’s marriage discrimination law.

The U.S. Supreme Court declined to place a permanent injunction on the Ninth Circuit’s decision that Idaho’s marriage law is discriminatory. Earlier in the week, the court place a temporary stay, but on Friday decided not to extend it. A county clerk in one county began issuing marriage licenses on Friday. The governor said counties should wait for an order from the Ninth Circuit.

A U.S. district judge in North Carolina ruled on Friday that marriage equality is neither a political nor moral issue, but a legal one and is a matter of settled law. At least one county clerk in that state  began issuing licenses on Friday. More are expected to begin issuing licenses this week.

The lawsuit was brought by United Church of Christ and Union for Reform Judaism. Both denominations believe in marriage equality and claimed religious discrimination because they can’t perform marriages.

On Sunday, an Alaska judge threw out that state’s marriage ban after hearing a marriage case on Friday.

In 1998, Alaska became the first state to put a ban on same-sex marriage into its constitution when the state came close to passing marriage equality. The governor said the state will appeal. No word yet on a stay or whether marriages can begin.

The decision puts Alaska in line with last week’s Ninth Circuit ruling on Nevada and Idaho throwing out the marriage bans in those states. Other states in the circuit include California, Oregon and Washington that already have marriage equality. Arizona and Montana, also in the circuit, have yet to be heard from.Nevada began issuing licenses on Thursday, Oct. 9. While prostitution has been legal in Nevada for years, marriage hasn’t been, so moral arguments against marriage from that state’s officials have been particularly ironic.If Kansas, Wyoming, West Virgina and South Carolina fall into line with their circuit courts, 35 states will have marriage equality. Meanwhile, Texas and Mississippi are battling to be last.


Judge rules Alaska marriage ban unconstitutional

Posted on 12 Oct 2014 at 6:36pm
Screen Shot 2014-10-12 at 6.33.01 PM

Matt Hamby, left, and Chris Shelden, one of the five plaintiff couples in the lawsuit that has successfully challenged Alaska’s ban on same-sex marriage

U.S. District Judge Timothy Burgess has overturned Alaska’s ban on legal recognition of same-sex marriage. Burgess’ order, issued today (Sunday, Oct. 12) in the case Hamby v. Parnell, would allow same-sex couples to begin marrying for the first time in Alaska.

Burgess’ ruling comes less than a week after the Ninth Circuit Court upheld lower court rulings striking down same-sex marriage bans in Nevada and Idaho. Nevada state officials have chosen not to appeal the circuit court ruling, allowing couples to begin marrying there immediately. But U.S. Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy issued a stay of the ruling, affecting Idaho only, after Idaho state officials asked for the stay.

The Ninth Circuit Court’s jurisdiction encompasses Alaska, as well.

Burgess said that Alaska law banning same-sex marriages there and refusing to recognize same-sex marriages from jurisdictions that do recognize them is “unconstitutional as a deprivation of basic due process and equal protection principles under the Fourteenth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution,” according to a report in the Alaska Dispatch News.

Read Burgess’ ruling in its entirety here.