Andrew Shirvell is an assistant attorney general who helped run Cox’s last re-election campaign. But on his own time, he’s the author of a blog he started last spring targeting Chris Armstrong, the openly gay president of the University of Michigan’s student assembly.
With 27 postings to date, Shivell’s blog is filled with language you’ll never hear him use in a court room, calling Armstrong “nazi like,” a recruiter for “the cult that is homosexuality,” and a proponent of a “racist, anti-Christian agenda.”
In other internet postings, Shirvell’s language has been even stronger: calling Armstrong “Satan’s representative on the Student Assembly,” even posting a photograph with a swastika attached to his face.
“How under any circumstance, regardless of whether or not you agree with somebody’s lifestyle, is something like that defensible,” asked Jones.
“Well, he is promoting a satanic lifestyle, and he is a fierce advocate for it,” said Shirvell.
“By being openly gay,” asked Jones.
“No,” said Shirvell. “By being somebody that’s there to promote special rights for homosexuals at the cost of heterosexual students.”
And get this from the AG:
Attorney General Mike Cox refused our repeated requests for an on-camera interview. Instead, issuing a two-line statement which reads, in part: “I don’t agree with Mr. Shirvell’s tactics, his judgment, or his word choice but nonetheless I recognize his non-work related blog is protected by our Constitution.”
Then, late tonight amidst growing scrutiny, Cox issued a second statement, saying, “…Mr. Shirvell’s immaturity and lack of judgment outside the office are clear.”
Try “creepy.” This doesn’t sound like some guy simply voicing his opinions on a blog. It sounds like someone obsessed. It’s creepy as hell. And really weird behavior for someone working for the state, in the attorney general’s office.
It was inside that Bahrain kennel in July 2005 that Petty Officer Joseph Christopher Rocha, then 19 years old, says he was being terrorized by other members of his own division. “I was hog-tied to a chair, rolled around the base, left in a dog kennel that had feces spread in it.”
Rocha says that beginning six weeks into his deployment, he was singled out for abuse by his chief master-at-arms, Michael Toussaint, and others on the base, once Rocha made it clear he was not interested in prostitutes. “I was in a very small testosterone-driven unit of men,” Rocha says. “I think that’s what began the questioning-you know-’Why don’t you want to have sex with her? Are you a faggot?’”
“Petty Officer Rocha and another junior sailor…were instructed to go into a classroom by Chief Michael Toussaint, who orchestrated the entire training. And Chief Toussaint asked them to simulate homosexual sex on a couch,” Hogan says.
In an update by Youth Radio , it appears that Toussaint has been allowed to get away with this behavior with a full pension and a censure.
Since it was announced last October, the terms of Michael Toussaint’s retirement have come under scrutiny that is unprecedented for an enlisted sailor. The senior chief petty officer, who from 2005 to 2006 led a Bahrain-based canine unit that was plagued by widespread documented abuse, denied much of his alleged misconduct in February during a retirement board hearing, a proceeding normally reserved for commissioned officers.
The case will soon go to the desk of an assistant secretary of the Navy, who faces a choice: to approve the unanimous recommendation of the three board members who said Toussaint deserves to retire with a senior chief’s pension; or to take a harder line and reduce him to a lower pay grade, as government lawyers had sought to do during the hearing.
Deciding against the retirement board’s recommendation would be rare.
“I’ve never yet seen one (a board recommendation) that was overturned by a higher authority,” said Eugene Fidell, a professor at Yale University and President of the National Institute of Military Justice.
And in what is another case of Lucy yanking the football away from Charlie Brown, those who sought harsher treatment are left flat on the ground with zero hope of seeing justice for those harassed, or even to see the assailant receive more than a wrist slap.
But advocates for the sailors who were abused under Toussaint’s leadership said Navy officials had led them to expect a harsher judgment from the board hearing, which according to Navy guidelines determines the highest rank at which a sailor or officer has served honorably.
“I was surprised,” said Aaron Tax, legal director of the Servicemembers Legal Defense Network, “because we thought that the Navy believed this was someone who engaged in outrageous behavior.” Tax said despite the board’s recommendation, the Navy should lower Toussaint’s pension to that of a first class petty officer, the rank he held before becoming chief of the Bahrain unit.
Richard Stephson, 55, is in jail and facing multiple charges after what investigators describe as years of abuse. Authorities said the incident started in the mid 80s when Stephson began sexually assaulting a 14-year-old girl who was staying with him at his Springfield home. Soon, police learned that the teen was pregnant with his child.
Now, 10 years after his daughter was born, authorities said Stephson offered her money to have sex with him and molested her during family visits.
He has pleaded not guilty, but has confessed to committing the acts in an interview.
When Donal Óg Cusack, the Irish hurling goalkeeper, came out in his autobiography in October, it meant the end of his own mother attending his games, because she couldn't stand all the slurs aimed at her son. Now some 10 months after the Cork player in print went after the Kilkenny team's fans, for being the most homophobic in the league, the team is finally responding.
TRANS FRIENDLY? | Judge Lynn Cherry, right, is shown alongside drag performer Chanel during Stonewall Democrats’ 2008 holiday party at the Round-Up Saloon. A few months later, Cherry ruled against a transgender DART employee and overturned a gender-marker change. (John Wright/Dallas Voice)
DART stands accused of bigotry and transphobia after attorneys for the local transit agency intervened in family court last year to challenge a gender-marker change granted to an employee.
According to court records, a transgender DART employee obtained a court order in February 2009 directing all state agencies to correct their records by changing her gender-marker from male to female, including on her birth certificate.
As Dallas Voice reported last week, many Dallas County judges have been routinely granting gender-marker changes to transgender people who meet set criteria — including documentation from licensed medical personnel — since the Democratic sweep of 2006.
The DART employee, who’s name is being withheld to protect her anonymity, later presented the court order to the transit agency’s human resources department and requested that her personnel records be changed to reflect her new gender.
But DART’s attorneys objected to the gender-marker change and responded by filing a motion seeking a rehearing in court. DART’s objections prompted 301st Family District Court Judge Lynn Cherry to reverse her order granting the gender-marker change.
“Where does this stop when an employer can start interfering with your personal life and family law decisions?” said longtime local transgender activist Pamela Curry, a friend of the DART employee who brought the case to the attention of Dallas Voice. “She was devastated. This should be a serious concern to a lot of people — everybody — and I just think this story needs to be told.”
Judge Cherry, who received Stonewall Democrats of Dallas’ Pink Pump Award for her support of the group last year, didn’t respond to messages seeking comment this week.
Morgan Lyons, a spokesman for DART, noted that Cherry reversed her order before the agency actually filed its motion for a rehearing. However, Curry alleges that DART’s attorneys met with Cherry privately and pressured her into reversing the order.
As is common with gender-marker changes, the case file has been sealed, but Dallas Voice obtained copies of some of the court documents from Curry.
In their motion for a rehearing, DART attorneys Harold R. McKeever and Hyattye Simmons argued that Texas law grants registrars, not judges, the authority to amend birth certificates. They also argued that birth certificates could be amended only if they were inaccurate at the time of birth.
“It’s not a DART issue, it’s a point of law,” Lyons told Dallas Voice this week, in response to the allegations of bigotry. “The lawyers concluded that the birth certificate could not be altered by law, unless there was a mistake made when the birth certificate was completed, and again, the judge changed the order before we even wound up going into court with it.”
Asked about DART’s LGBT-related employment policies, Lyons said the agency’s nondiscrimination policy includes sexual orientation but not gender identity/expression. The agency, which is governed by representatives from Dallas and numerous suburbs, also doesn’t offer benefits to the domestic partners of employees.
Lyons didn’t respond to other allegations made by Curry, including that the agency has fought the employee’s transition from male to female at every step of the way.
Curry, who helped the employee file her pro se petition for a gender-marker change, said the employee has worked for DART for more than 20 years and has an outstanding performance record.
The employee began to come out as transgender in 2003 and had gender reassignment surgery more than three years ago, Curry said. Curry said DART supervisors have at various times told the employee that she couldn’t have long hair, couldn’t wear skirts to work and couldn’t use women’s restrooms at work.
The employee has responded by showing up at work in her uniform so she doesn’t have to change and using public restrooms on her bus route, Curry said.
Supervisors have also told the employee she can’t talk to the media and can’t join political groups, such as Stonewall Democrats, Curry said.
“She’s intimidated and she’s scared,” Curry said. “One supervisor even suggested to her that if she doesn’t lay off it, they will mess up her retirement.”
Elaine Mosher, a Dallas attorney who’s familiar with the case, also questioned why DART intervened. Mosher didn’t represent the employee in the case but has handled gender-marker changes for other clients.
Mosher said the employee’s gender doesn’t have any bearing on her ability to do her job at DART.
“My argument in any gender marker matter is, the birth certificate was wrong, that’s why they had to go through the transition surgery, in essence to put them in the correct gender,” Mosher said. “All I can tell you is that it seems strange to me that DART would care one way or another what the gender marker of anybody that works for them is.”
Moster added that she believes someone at DART may have been “freaked out” by the employee’s transition from male to female and developed a “vendetta” against her.
“I wish I had a good explanation for why [DART got involved] other than the fact that I know there are people out there who are utterly blind and prejudiced for no other reason than they are,” Mosher said. “I compare it to some of the nonsense African-Americans had to live through in the ’60s.”
Mosher also said she’s “very surprised” that Cherry reversed the order granting the gender marker change.
Erin Moore, president of Stonewall Democrats, said she’s heard “bits and pieces” of the story but isn’t sure of all the facts.
Moore said in response to her questions about the case, Cherry told her she couldn’t talk about it because it’s still within the timeframe for a possible appeal.
“Lynn is a longtime supporter of Stonewall and I would think she would be fair in the case,” Moore said. “I’m confident she’s an ally to this community.”
This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition February 19, 2010.