Dimetman, DeLeon welcome second child

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Nicole Dimetman DeLeon, left, and her wife, Cleo DeLeon, with co-plaintiffs Vic Holmes, second from right, and Mark Phariss, after oral arguments before the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals in January.

Dallas Voice sends congratulations to Nicole Dimetman DeLeon and her wife Cleo DeLeon on the birth of their second child, a baby girl born over the weekend. The women, who already have a son, are one of two plaintiff couples in the lawsuit in which a federal judge in San Antonio has already ruled Texas’ ban on marriage equality unconstitutional.

The case, in which Mark Phariss and Vic Holmes of Plano are also plaintiffs, has  been heard by the U.S. 5th Circuit Court of Appeals.

Nicole and Cleo said in a written statement released Monday that they are not releasing their new daughter’s name, but that they “want Texans to know the difficulties they face as Texas parents because their marriage is not recognized in Texas.”

In the statement, Nicole said: “Labor is scary and anything can happen. I had an infection as a complication of labor that led to an emergency C-section. A day that should have been one of the happiest of our life was terrifying for Cleo. If I had not made it through the childbirth, Cleo would not have been our daughter’s legal mother because her name is not allowed on the birth certificate in Texas.”

Cleo gave birth to the couple’s son and Nicole had to go through the second-parent adoption process to legalize her ties to the boy. The couple had hope to have a ruling from the 5th Circuit court before their daughter was born that would have forced the state to legally recognize their marriage — performed in Massachusetts. Now Cleo will have to go through the courts for a second-parent adoption to legalize her ties to their daughter.

In the statement released Monday, Cleo said: “We are overjoyed with the birth of our new baby girl, but disappointed bans on same-sex marriage harm children, like our daughter and our son. It is unfair to deny loving parents like us the basic legal protections that provide stability and security so critical to child rearing. We pray for the day when all Texans are treated equally under the law and we do not have to live in fear that something bad could happen in childbirth and I would not be considered the child’s parent by law. We hope the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals and the United States Supreme Court make all marriages legal in Texas and across the nation.”

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Nicole Dimetman DeLeon and her newly-born daughter, from The San Antonio Current

Despite their joy at the birth of their child, the day was also “a sad one because, in the eyes of Texas, Nicole is an unwed mother,” noted Neel Lane, attorney for both plaintiffs in the Texas marriage case. “Her valid marriage to Cleo is declared void by a Texas law that U.S. District Judge Orlando Garcia declared unconstitutional more than a year ago. Court after court has agreed with him, and no one doubts the U.S. Supreme Court will do the same. We are disappointed that the 5th Circuit still has yet to rule, now months since the appeal was fully briefed and argued.”

Mark Phariss offered his and his partner’s congratulations to their co-plaintiffs, but added that it is unfortunate that the women will have to spend money on a second-parent adoption that could instead have been “saved for their daughter’s future education, health care and welfare.”

Mark declared: “The time has now come for marriage equality to be recognized in Texas, for the sake of Nicole and Cleo and their daughter and for the sake of all gays and lesbians in Texas, including Vic and me, who after 18 years together, desperately want to marry the person we love in the state we love.”

 

—  Tammye Nash

Day of Decision rallies planned in Dallas, FW, around the state

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Texas marriage equality lawsuit plaintiffs, from left, Nicole Dimetman, Cleo DeLeon, Vic Holmes and Mark Phariss

If and when the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals hands down a ruling in the three marriage equality cases — including a case from Texas — in which the court heard oral arguments on Jan. 9, Day of Decision rallies will be in Dallas, Fort Worth, Austin, Houston and San Antonio — whichever way the court rules.

The rallies will begin at 6 p.m. the day the ruling is issued.

The Dallas rally will be held at Cathedral of Hope-UCC church, 5710 Cedar Springs Road. Plano couple Mark Phariss and Victor Holmes, one of the two plaintiff couples in the Texas marriage equality case, are expected to be at the Dallas rally, along with Resource Center Communications and Advocacy Manager Rafael McDonnell.

The Fort Worth event will be held at Celebration Community Church, 908 Pennsylvannia Ave.

—  Tammye Nash

Lane: 5th Circuit court should still rule

Neel Lane

Neel Lane (photo by Erin Moore)

Neel Lane, attorney the plaintiffs in the Texas marriage equality case recently heard by the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals says that even though the U.S. Supreme Court has announced it will hear marriage equality cases in April to decide the issue nationwide, he and his clients still want a ruling from the 5th Circuit court.

In an statement issued this afternoon (Friday, Jan. 16), shortly after the SCOTUS decision was announced, Lane said:

“It is clear now that the Supreme Court is poised to answer the great civil rights question of our generation: Does every citizen have the right to marry the person they love, irrespective of that person’s gender? We believe that the Fifth Circuit should still answer this question independently — and in the affirmative — because our clients have already waited too long for equality and justice.”

Evan Wolfson, founder and president of Freedom to Marry, said of the announcement:

“The Supreme Court’s decision today begins what we hope will be the last chapter in our campaign to win marriage nationwide — and it’s time. Freedom to Marry’s national strategy has been to build a critical mass of marriage states and critical mass of support for ending marriage discrimination, and after a long journey and much debate, America is ready for the freedom to marry.

“But couples are still discriminated against in 14 states, and the patchwork of discrimination harms families and businesses throughout the country. We will keep working hard to underscore the urgency of the Supreme Court’s bringing the country to national resolution, so that by June, all Americans share in the freedom to marry and our country stands on the right side of history.”

According to a commenter on the Freedom to Marry website, this is the schedule for the cases:

“The cases are consolidated and the petitions for writs of certiorari are granted limited to the following questions: 1) Does the Fourteenth Amendment require a state to license a marriage between two people of the same sex? 2) Does the Fourteenth Amendment require a state to recognize a marriage between two people of the same sex when their marriage was lawfully licensed and performed out-of-state? A total of ninety minutes is allotted for oral argument on Question 1. A total of one hour is allotted for oral argument on Question 2. The parties are limited to filing briefs on the merits and presenting oral argument on the questions presented in their respective petitions. The briefs of petitioners are to be filed on or before 2 p.m., Friday, February 27, 2015. The briefs of respondents are to be filed on or before 2 p.m., Friday, March 27, 2015. The reply briefs are to be filed on or before 2 p.m., Friday, April 17, 2015.”

—  Tammye Nash

New Texas AG Paxton not happy with how things went in New Orleans

Rep. Ken Paxton

Atty. Gen. Ken Paxton

As one of his first acts as Texas’ new attorney general, Ken Paxton weighed in on the 5th Circuit oral arguments on marriage equality heard on Friday, Jan. 9, in New Orleans. Apparently, he wasn’t happy with how things went.

“In 2005, Texans overwhelmingly supported a constitutional amendment defining marriage as the union of one man and one woman. I am committed to defending the Texas Constitution, the will of our citizens and this sacred institution,” Paxton wrote.

While the 5th Circuit was hearing appeals on marriage cases from Texas, Louisiana and Mississippi, the Supreme Court was holding a conference to decide which additional cases it may hear this session.

The court may announce as soon as Monday, Jan. 12, if it will hear a marriage equality case. If so, Paxton can defend the Texas constitution all he wants, but the Supreme Court ruling will take precedence.

—  David Taffet

Oak Lawn rally after 5th Circuit

About 150 people braved sub-freezing temperatures to demand the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals, which heard an appeal of the Texas marriage-equality case on Friday, Jan. 9, strike down discriminatory marriage laws.

—  David Taffet

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

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.

—  James Russell

Texas marriage case fast-tracked by 5th Circuit

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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 Bilerico.com.

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.

—  Tammye Nash

Kilgore ISD settles outing case

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Skye Wyatt

Five years after two coaches outed a Kilgore ISD student to her mother, the school district decided to settle the case.

In 2009, Skye Wyatt’s softball coaches outed her to her mother. She was 16 at the time. The coaches locked her in a locker room where they threatened and interrogated her.

Wyatt claimed outing her violated her right to privacy under the U.S. and Texas constitutions.

The trial court found in her favor, but the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals overturned the decision. That gave Texas schools the right to out students to their parents and reveal any information they might have about sexual activity, even if it would endanger the life or well-being of the student.

In addition to paying Wyatt $77,500 to settle the suit, the school district added sexual orientation to its nondiscrimination policy and will have all staff attend a 30-minute in-service training on the subject that will be repeated annually.

—  David Taffet

BREAKING: Texas appeals court upholds gay divorce, rules against AG’s office in Austin case

Angelique Naylor

A state appeals court has upheld a divorce that was granted to a lesbian couple in Austin last year, saying Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott lacks standing to appeal the divorce because he intervened in the case too late.

“Because the State lacks standing to appeal, we dismiss this appeal for want of jurisdiction,” a three-judge panel of Texas’ 3rd District Court of Appeals wrote in its decision posted earlier today.

Travis County District Judge Scott Jenkins granted a divorce to lesbian couple Angelique Naylor and Sabina Daly last February. Naylor and Daly married in Massachusetts in 2004 before returning to Texas and adopting a child. Abbott’s office appealed Jenkins’ decision, arguing that judges in Texas cannot grant same-sex divorces because the state doesn’t recognize same-sex marriage.

Abbott’s office won an appeal last year of a same-sex divorce in Dallas, where the 5th District Court of Appeals ruled in his favor.

Jennifer Cochran, an attorney who represented Naylor, explains on her blog that the Austin appeals court’s decision doesn’t address the constitutional issues related to gay divorce:

The Appellate Court dismissed the appeal for “want of jurisdiction” finding that the State was not a party of record and thus lacked standing to appeal.

So what’s this mean? Well this particular divorce was granted and upheld by the appellate court because the AG intervened after the divorce was granted orally by Judge Jenkins and because neither party raised constitutional challenges to the Family Code or the Texas Constitution.  If either party had, the appellate court would have most likely found that the AG did have standing and would have addressed the constitutional arguments in addition to the procedural ones.  So, we will leave the constitutional challenge for another day (or case).

Abbott’s office could now drop its appeal, request that the entire 3rd District Court of Appeals hear the case, or appeal the three-judge panel’s ruling to the Texas Supreme Court.

According to the Texas Tribune, Lauren Bean, a spokeswoman for Abbott’s office, said the decision “undermines unambiguous Texas law.”

“The Texas Constitution and statutes are clear: only the union of a man and a woman can be treated as a marriage in Texas,” she said, adding, “The Office of the Attorney General will weigh all options to ensure that the will of Texas voters and their elected representatives is upheld.”

More to come …

—  John Wright