2 TX lawmakers join call for executive order protecting LGBT workers

Rep. Eddie Bernice Johnson

Rep. Eddie Bernice Johnson

On Wednesday, 110 members of Congress — including Reps. Eddie Bernice Johnson of Dallas and Al Green of Houston — sent a letter to President Barack Obama urging him to sign an executive order requiring federal contractors to include sexual orientation and gender identity in their nondiscrimination policies.

Johnson and Green were the only Texas representatives who signed the letter.

A spokeswoman for Rep. Marc Veasey of Fort Worth said the letter had not gotten to their office or the congressman would have added his name. She added that when ENDA is introduced this session, his name will be on it as a co-sponsor.

The letter indicates that 43 percent of gays and lesbians and 90 percent of transgender people have experienced workplace discrimination.

“Our request begins with a simple premise,” the letter said. “It is unacceptable that it remains legal to fire or refuse to hire someone based on his or her sexual orientation or gender identity.”

In February, 37 senators sent Obama a similar letter.

The executive order would expand one signed by President Lyndon Johnson in 1965, which has been expanded several times to include contractors and subcontractors doing more than $10,000 in business with the federal government. Categories currently covered are race, color, religion, sex or national origin.

While an executive order does not replace a comprehensive Employment Non-Discrimination Act, it would cover everyone but it would extend nondiscrimination protections to more than 16 million workers.

Some states have enacted workplace protections, but it remains legal to fire employees for their sexual orientation in 29 states and for their gender identity in 34 states including Texas.

During his 2008 campaign, Obama said he would sign such an order. Since then he has backed off that pledge saying he would prefer the legislative solution of ENDA.

—  David Taffet

3 TX Dems want to screw 83-year-old lesbian out of 40-year partner’s estate

Thea Spyer and Edith Windsor

Back in July we reported that a majority of House Democrats from Texas had declined to sign a brief opposing the anti-gay Defense of Marriage Act — despite the fact that the Texas Democratic Party had recently added marriage equality to its platform. The brief filed in July was signed by 132 House Democrats, including four of the nine from Texas.

Two months later, Democratic House Leader Nancy Pelosi and 144 other House Democrats filed a similar brief today in another case challenging the constitutionality of DOMA, and this time two more Democrats from Texas have signed on, bringing the total from the Lone Star State to six of nine. It’s worth nothing that today’s brief was filed on the heels of a convention at which Democrats added marriage equality — including opposition to DOMA — to their national platform.

The two Democrats from Texas who did not sign the July brief but signed today’s brief are Reps. Al Green and Silvestre Reyes. The four Texas Democrats who signed both briefs are Reps. Lloyd Doggett, Charlie Gonzalez, Sheila Jackson Lee and Eddie Bernice Johnson. The three Texas Democrats who signed neither brief are Reps. Henry Cuellar, Gene Green and Rubén Hinojosa.

Metro Weekly reports the brief filed today is in the case of Edith Windsor, an 83-year-old lesbian widow who sued the government after she was taxed more than $363,000 on assets that passed to her after the death of her wife in 2009 because the government did not recognize their marriage. The two women first met in 1963 and were married in New York in 2007 after a more than 40-year engagement.

We just wonder if Cuellar, Gene Green and Hinojosa have watched the below video about Windsor’s case.

—  John Wright

Majority of House Democrats from Texas decline to sign brief opposing Defense of Marriage Act

Dallas Congresswoman Eddie Bernice Johnson was among four Democrats from Texas who signed the brief opposing DOMA. Five House Democrats from Texas declined to sign the brief.

With friends like these, who need enemies?

The Texas Democratic Party may have recently added marriage equality to its platform, but obviously that doesn’t mean all or even most Democratic elected officials in the Lone Star State support the plank — or have the guts to stand up for it.

In fact, a majority of U.S. House Democrats from Texas have declined to sign a court brief opposing the anti-gay Defense of Marriage Act.

Five of the nine House Democrats from Texas — the most from any state — are among 60 from across the country who declined to sign the friend-of-the-court brief filed Tuesday before the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals. (BuzzFeed has a list of all 60 representatives who declined to sign the brief.)

The Washington Blade reports that 132 House Democrats signed the brief, which urges the federal appeals court to strike down as unconstitutional the the 1996 law prohibiting federal recognition of same-sex marriage. The brief was filed in Golinski v. Office of Personnel Management, in which federal employee Karen Golinski is seeking benefits for her partner.

Shelbi Day, a staff attorney for Lambda Legal, which represents Golinski, told the Blade that the brief filed by House Democrats “sends a powerful message” and “underscores just how problematic and unconstitutional DOMA is.”

“As the brief points out, DOMA is not the rational result of impartial lawmaking but rather was enacted in haste with no legitimate government purpose,” Day said. “We welcome this brief and applaud the members of Congress who have signed it.”

The four Democrats from Texas who signed the brief opposing DOMA are Reps. Lloyd Doggett, Charlie Gonzalez, Sheila Jackson Lee and Eddie Bernice Johnson.

The five U.S. House members from Texas who declined to sign the brief are Reps. Henry Cuellar, Al Green, Gene Green, Rubén Hinojosa and  Silvestre Reyes. (To his credit Al Green is a co-sponsor of the Respect for Marriage Act, which would repeal DOMA.)

In case you’re wondering, contact info for these five — and the rest of Texas’ congressional delegation — can be found here.

Read the full brief here.

—  John Wright