Marriage ban in WV struck down weeks after marriage equality began

Posted on 07 Nov 2014 at 3:40pm

PrintAlthough West Virginia became a marriage equality state several weeks ago when the state’s attorney general conceded, the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of West Virginia made it official today, ruling in favor of Lambda Legal’s plaintiffs and striking down the discriminatory marriage ban as mandated by the U.S. Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals earlier ruling striking down a similar ban in Virginia.

In his ruling, Judge Chambers critiqued the 6th Circuit’s Nov. 6 ruling. That opinion that upheld the marriage bans in Michigan, Ohio, Kentucky and Tennesse said that marriage rights should be decided through the democratic process. Chambers criticized the ruling saying the 6th Circuit failed “to recognize the role of courts in the democratic process. It is the duty of the judiciary to examine government action through the lens of the Constitution’s protection of individual freedom. Courts cannot avoid or deny this duty just because it arises during the contentious public debate that often accompanies the evolution of policy making throughout the states. Judges may not simultaneously find a right violated yet defer to an uncertain future remedy voluntarily undertaken by the violators.”

“We are grateful to Judge Chambers for this ruling that officially puts an end to the long fight for marriage equality for West Virginia’s same-sex couples and their families. This decision clears away the last obstacle to marriage equality in the state,” said Beth Littrell, Lambda Legal Senior Attorney. “Even though the Fourth Circuit’s decision had already cleared a path for West Virginia to issue marriage licenses, this is still a great day for equality. The state is indeed stronger today after the Court’s ruling confirming that all loving West Virginia couples and their families now have equal access to the privileges and protections of marriage.”

Lambda Legal filed this lawsuit in October 2013 on behalf of three same-sex couples and the child of one couple, arguing that West Virginia’s marriage ban unfairly discriminates against same-sex couples and sends a purposeful message that lesbians, gay men, and their children are undeserving of the legal sanction, respect, protections, and support that different-sex couples and their families are able to enjoy through marriage.


Dallas Police ask for help in identifying suspect in Oak Lawn burglary

Posted on 07 Nov 2014 at 1:42pm
Screen shot 2014-11-07 at 1.39.13 PM

Suspect in Oak Lawn-area burglary


Dallas Police have asked for the public’s help in identifying a suspect that may have been involved in a Nov. 1 burglary in the 4000 block of Bowser Ave., in Oak Lawn.

The suspect is a black male, about 20 years old, 5-11, 180 pounds. Police said he was seen at the location of the residential burglary on Bowser and was then seen fleeing the scene in a green, 1997-99 Buick LeSabre with damage to the front end and driver’s side. Within 45 minutes of the burglary, the suspect used a credit card stolen in the Oak Lawn-area burglary at a store in the 9700 block of Webb Chapel.

The video below shows the suspect using the stolen credit card.

Anyone with information is asked to call Detective Philip Strodtman at 214-670-6047.


Cocktail Friday: Big Ginger

Posted on 07 Nov 2014 at 1:09pm

2 GINGERS_BIG GINGER 2014With fall upon us, a liquor I begin to enjoy more and more as the weather chills is whiskey. Here’s a simple colder-clime drink to swig with a dog in your lap and a sweater on your back.

2 parts 2 Gingers Irish Whiskey

Ginger ale

Lemon and lime wedges

Making it: Simplicity is key here — add the whiskey to a pint glass with ice, top with ginger ale (to taste), garnish with a squeeze of lime and lemon.


Missouri ruling is stayed pending appeal

Posted on 07 Nov 2014 at 12:55pm

PrintSome couples in St. Louis married after a judge struck down the state’s marriage discrimination law today, Nov. 7, before the state obtained an injunction stopping marriage equality. Marriages performed in other states are still recognized.

The ruling can be found here.

This marriage equality ruling comes just a day after the 6th Circuit upheld discrimination in Michigan, Ohio, Tennessee and Kentucky. Those cases, that were decided in one ruling, are being appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court.


Body found in Turtle Creek identified

Posted on 07 Nov 2014 at 12:13pm

CrimeTapeSmallPolice released the identity of a white male found dead in Turtle Creek on Monday, Nov. 3, as Robert Neal Letbetter. He was born Jan. 25, 1978. Next of kin has been notified.

Cause of death is still listed as unexplained and is still being investigated.


Judge Affirms the Freedom to Marry in Missouri

Posted on 07 Nov 2014 at 11:13am


Couples in St. Louis began getting married after U.S. District Judge Ortrie D. Smith ruled this morning, Nov. 7, that denying marriage for same-sex couples in Missouri is unconstitutional. County clerks in other counties are refusing to issue marriage licenses claiming the ruling applies only to St. Louis.

The ruling comes just two days after St. Louis Circuit Judge Rex Burlison also declared Missouri’s ban unconstitutional, and a month after a state ruling which found that Missouri must respect the legal marriages of same-sex couples performed elsewhere.

Marc Solomon, national campaign director of Freedom to Marry and Kansas City native, released the following statement:

“Today’s victory in Missouri marks the third consecutive win in the ‘Show Me’ state in just over a month, with all three judges affirming that marriage discrimination is unconstitutional. We encourage Attorney General Chris Koster not to appeal the ruling so that Missouri becomes the next state where loving and committed couples can share in the joy and dignity of marriage. Today’s ruling adds to the powerful momentum of victories from a bipartisan array of federal and state judges as we work to secure the freedom to marry nationwide.”

As of last month, a majority of Americans now live in a freedom to marry state. Once the pro-marriage rulings from the 4th, 7th, 9th, and 10th Circuits are fully implemented, same-sex couples will have the freedom to marry in 35 states plus the District of Columbia, representing nearly two-thirds of the American people.

In Kansas, a marriage ruling has been stayed until Monday to allow the state to file its appeal. Montana and South Carolina are the only states in their circuits that have not enacted marriage equality but are expected to comply with court rulings soon.


Advocate names Putin its Person of the Year

Posted on 07 Nov 2014 at 11:02am

December 2014 - Vladimir Putin LOIt’s just the first week in November, but The Advocate magazine — the long-standing publication about gay issues — has just released its December/January edition, in which it picks its Person of the Year, and this time out, it’s Russian strongman Vladimir Putin.

Not exactly a powerhouse in favor of gay rights, but that’s not the point.

Like Time magazine, The Advocate selects its winner based on his or her influence in gay life and newsworthiness … for good or bad. Time famously selected Adolf Hitler its Man of the Year in 1938, to great controversy. This fact isn’t lost on The Advocate, which placed its title over Putin’s face … in a way intentionally reminiscent of a Hitler moustache. (You can read the story here.)

While I respect the boldness of the choice, Dallas Voice tends to be more positive (and more local). We will select our LGBT Texan of the Year based on the out Texan who has made a positive impact on gay issues. The winner will be revealed on Dec. 12.


Latvian foreign minister comes out

Posted on 07 Nov 2014 at 10:44am

Edgars Rinkevics

For the first time, an official of a former Soviet republic has come out as gay.

In a tweet, Latvian Foreign Minister Edgars Rinkevics wrote, “I Proudly Announce I Am Gay.”

Latvia held parliamentary elections in October and Rinkevics was the subject of a whispering campaign about his sexuality. Despite that, he easily won re-election.

In Latvia, as in most of Eastern Europe, marriage equality remains illegal.

Rinkevics’ announcement was “historic for the whole post-Soviet bloc because its quite homophobic,” said Kristine Garina, head of a Latvian LGBT rights group. “He’s the first such high politician in the post-Soviet space that has come out.”


Elton John AIDS Foundation funds transgender HIV project

Posted on 07 Nov 2014 at 10:34am

AIDS ribbonElton John AIDS Foundation and Transgender Law Center will partner for a one year pilot program to identify the structural inequities that drive high rates of HIV incidents in transgender communities.

The Transgender Law Center will use the funds to form a national advisory board of eight to ten trans people living with HIV, with a strong focus on trans women of color. The advisory board will assist in a systems gap assessment, identify best and promising practices in community response to HIV and issue recommendations.

“With the support of the advisory board, Transgender Law Center will engage the community meaningfully in the examination of how systemic barriers and social conditions  (such as discrimination, transphobia, criminalization and violence) drive the HIV epidemic and negatively impact health outcomes.” said Cecilia Chung, Senior Strategist of Transgender Law Center. “This will also give us an opportunity to support and strengthen the leadership of some of the most vulnerable members in the transgender community.”


Witness to change

Posted on 07 Nov 2014 at 8:15am

Aged faces of those in All Saints memorial program offer hope that the depths of the epidemic have passed

Haberman-Hardy-It’s rare that a PowerPoint presentation makes me cry. It happened last Sunday.

Every year, our church celebrates All Saints Day with a service dedicated to all the congregation and family members we lost during the past year. It is always a moving moment, even if it does remind me of the Academy Awards tribute video.
Seeing the faces and names of those people — who may not have been important to me, but certainly were to people in my church and the community — always gives me pause. It not only reminds me of the gifts these people were to our community and their families, but it confronts me with my own mortality. Death is inevitable and because of that most people, myself included, don’t like to be reminded of it.

So while trying to hold back tears when familiar faces appeared as the presentation played, and trying to stuff down those fears about death and dying that everyone gets, I noticed something strange. The pictures seemed odd.

As I watched the faces move and dissolve, one into one another, and the choir sang a moving song, I was struck by how odd the faces looked: These people had grey hair, weathered faces, drooping eyes — all the signs of old age!

To people who are not part of the LGBT community, or those born after 1985, this might seem perfectly normal. But to me, a gay man who lived through the darkest depths of the HIV/AIDS epidemic years, it was odd.

As little as 15 years ago, most of the faces of those we were mourning would have been young. They would have been mostly men, smiling and in the prime of their lives, or sometimes forcing a grin through the weakness and pain.

They would have been men whose names were almost all familiar to me.

Yet today, here were gay men and lesbians who, in some cases, I watched grow old and fall prey to the kinds of illnesses that affect an aging population — people whose lives had been lived fully, who reached a point where their demise was not surprising, but the natural order of things.

So why do I bring up this morose subject?  Because it actually is something I find encouraging.

It lifts my spirits to see people whose lives were full and rich and long. It makes me feel happy to have known so many of them for years, and to have been part of their lives and families.

With only a couple of exceptions, I did not see any faces that were young or even middle aged. I think that is a sign of something greater happening, the reality of an epidemic that may be coming to a close.

To not have to sit through a parade of images that elicit the words, “He was so young” and, “Gone too soon” gives me hope — hope that the next generation of LGBT youth will never have to experience that shock of seeing someone who you had lost track of, and suddenly they were gone. Youth who will never have the experience of hearing the name of a lover or a close friend read in a wavering voice and added to a list of those that fell ill and wasted away, who do not to have to attend a funeral every couple of weeks or sew those tear-stained panels for the NAMES Quilt.

The advancements in treatment for HIV are astounding, and though much marketing hoopla is made of HIV being a “manageable disease,” I was loath to consider it so.  My experience with AIDS has been straightforward and fatal.

But I now believe that future generations will find that hard to understand, and that also gives me hope.

I say all this not to trivialize the passing of anyone, nor to wallow in the maudlin nostalgia that can be so tempting when you have lived through the kinds of trauma LGBT people of my generation did.

I say all this as something uplifting that can come of this changing demographic.  LGBT people are growing old! Some of us never thought we would, and that makes the All Saints Day PowerPoint memorial a testament to resilience and the future.

“Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us.”  Hebrews 12:1

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition November 7, 2014.