Texas’ Three Amigos of the Apocalypse still fighting marriage equality

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In Texas, AG Ken Paxton, left, Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick, center, and Gov. Greg Abbott took time off from trying to deny equality to transgender people to once again take up the banner against marriage equality.

It’s been almost a year and a half since the U.S. Supreme Court ruled, in Obergefell v. Hodges, that is violates the U.S. Constitution to deny equal marriage rights to same-sex couples. This week, Texas’ top elected officials took time out from their ongoing battle to deny equal rights to transgender Texans and keep trans people from using the appropriate public restroom facilities (see here and here), to go back and once again take up the fight against marriage equality.

Ummm, Greg, Dan and Ken, hello! The Dark Ages called; they want their assholes back.

Seriously.

Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton sent out a press release today announcing that he, Gov. Greg Abbott and Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick have filed a joint amicus brief with the Texas Supreme Court “urging the court to recognize that the U.S. Supreme Court’s announcement of a right to same-sex marriage in Obergefell v. Hodges does not resolve all constitutional issues relating same-sex marriage.”

They filed their brief in connection with a case now before the Texas Supreme Court, Jack Pidgeon and Larry Hicks v. Mayor Sylvester Turner and the City of Houston, in which Pidgeon and Hicks, Houston taxpayers, sued the city of Houston claiming then-Mayor Annise Parker broke Texas law and violated the Texas Constitution — which was amended in 2005 to specifically ban legal recognition of same-sex marriage — when she extended spousal benefits to the same-sex partners of city employees who had gotten married in jurisdictions that did legally recognize same-sex marriage.

The case when to trial and the district court issued an injunction preventing the city from extending those benefits until the case was ultimately decided. But then the U.S. Supreme Court — which, for those of you who might have spent too much time around Ken and Greg and Dan and don’t remember, still does trump the Texas Supreme Court — came out with the Obergefell decision. And the Pidgeon case became a moot point. Right?

Well, Ken and company don’t agree. They are saying, basically, that while they have to let the homos get married, they don’t have to actually treat them like straight married couples (you know, “real” married people). In essence, the Three Amigos of the Apocalypse are claiming that the city of Houston — and any other Texas city/town/whatever — cannot legally extend spousal benefits to the legal same-sex spouses of their employees because the Texas Constitution bans same-sex marriage, regardless of what the U.S. Supreme Court and Constitution say,

Really. That’s what they are saying (from the “Summary of Argument” in the Three Amigos amicus brief): “By issuing its judgment in Obergefell, the Supreme Court effectively has required all States to grant same-sex marriages and recognize same-sex marriages from other states, and the purpose of this brief is not to contest or circumvent that requirement. But the existence of a federal court judgment obligating States to grant and recognize same-sex marriages does not automatically dictate the outcome of a case like this one, which raises a related but different constitutional question involving municipal employee benefits. … While the judgment in Obergefell is authoritative, Justice Kennedy’s lengthy opinion explaining that judgment is not an addendum to the federal constitution and should not be treated by state courts as if every word of it is the preemptive law of the United States.”

(You can read the whole brief here.)

The press release quotes Paxton as saying, “My office had the privilege of defending Texas’ marriage laws in Fifth Circuit. While the U.S. Supreme Court did recognize a right to same-sex marriage, there are a host of issues in that area of the law that remain unresolved. I applaud Governor Abbott and Lieutenant Governor Patrick for their leadership in asking that state courts give serious consideration to these weighty, unresolved questions.”

I should stop here to point out that the Texas Supreme Court has already refused to hear the plaintiffs’ appeal in this case. But the plaintiffs — and the Amigos — are demanding a rehearing. Obviously, Paxton and company have not yet spent enough taxpayer money on lawsuits endeavoring to deny civil rights to LGBT Texans.

Perhaps this is just another ploy by Paxton to try and distract people from the fact that he STILL FACES criminal charges of securities fraud and that his buddies on the Collin County Commissioners Court and in the Texas Legislature are trying to torpedo the prosecution in that case by getting the Commissioners Court to refuse to pay the special prosecutors that had to be hired. A judge had dismissed a federal civil lawsuit against Paxton for securities fraud, but the SEC has refilled those charges.

—  Tammye Nash

Annise Parker to dedicate marker at Gittings’ home in Philly

Houston Mayor Annise Parker

Former Houston Mayor Annise Parker

Former Houston Mayor Annise Parker, the first openly LGBT mayor of a major U.S. city, will be keynote speaker at a ceremony in Philadelphia later this month unveiling a historic marker at the home of the late Barbara Gittings, a leading LGBT rights activist from the early days of the movement until her death in 2007.

Gittings.Barbara

Barbara Gittings

The Barbara Gittings Residence Historic Marker Dedication ceremony is set for Tuesday, July 26, from 11-11:30 a.m. at the home Gittings shared with her partner, Kay Lahusen. The ceremony, taking place as part of the 2016 Equality Forum in Philadelphia, will also feature Equality Forum founder and Executive Director Malcolm Lazin and a special performance by the Anna Crusis Women’s Choir, the oldest existing feminist choir in the U.S.. Gittings was a member of the choir.

Lazin said that as the first openly LGBT mayor of a major U.S. city, Parker is “the right person to be dedicating this historic marker to the ‘mother of the LGBT civil rights movement.'”

Gittings, born in 1932, lived in Philadelphia with Lahusen. She was the editor of the first lesbian publication in the country, and with Frank Kameny, helped organize the “Annual Reminders” at Independence Hall and at the Liberty Bell, marches commemorating the 1965 march for gay rights at Independence Hall. The Annual Reminders happened before the Stonewall Rebellion in New York, in 1969.

Gittings also spearheaded the successful effort to have the American Library Association include gay and lesbian books in the nation’s card catalogs and libraries. And teaming again with Kameny, Gittings helped push the American Psychiatric Association to remove homosexuality from its list of mental illnesses.

The purpose of Equality Forum, according to its website is to “convene elected officials, newsmakers, activists, and opinion leaders to discuss the state and future of the LGBT movement during the Democratic National Convention.” For information check the website here.

—  Tammye Nash

Former Houston Mayor Annise Parker named co-chair of DNC’s LGBT Advisory Board

Houston-Mayor-Annise-ParkerThe Democratic National Committee has appointed former Houston Mayor Annise Parker and HIV/AIDS and LGBT activist the Rev. José M. Román co-chairs of the party’s new LGBT Advisory Board.

The board, which is open to LGBT Democrats from all states, will work to advance LGBT equality by prioritizing community concerns and electing LGBT and ally Democrats across the country.

“The LGBT community has made huge strides the past 7 years under Democratic leadership, but with few exceptions the Republican Party continues to fight against equality at every turn,” Parker said in a statement.

In 2009, Parker became the first out LGBT person elected mayor of a major American city. She served for three terms until being term-limited. She was previously a city council member and city controller.

It’s crucial that LGBT voters elect Democrats, Parker said in a statement.

“During the fight to pass the Houston Equal Rights Ordinance in my own city, the despicable depiction of transgender people showed us how far our opponents will go to stop progress on protecting the rights of LGBT Americans,” Parker said.

HERO, the city’s comprehensive nondiscrimination ordinance, was repealed last November after a yearlong battle with its opponents, who include many Republican lawmakers.

“The DNC’s LGBT Advisory Board will give us new opportunities to elevate local battles like HERO and to share strategies across communities about way to organize and win. I look forward to using the lessons learned in Houston to help lead this effort,” Parker added.

Her co-chair, the Rev. José Miguel Románis, is a prominent LGBT and HIV/AIDS activist based in New York City who is credited for advocating for needle exchange programs in New York City and securing funding for HIV/AIDS research. He also served on the Board of Directors of Gay Men’s Health Crisis and the International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission.

“The diverse voices of the LGBT community have not always been represented in the national LGBT movement,” Román said. “This Advisory Board will help those voices be heard in the Party’s continuing efforts to advance LGBT rights. It will also help shine a light on LGBT Democratic candidates and the efforts of elected Democrats fighting for our community. I look forward to helping lead and shape this diverse body so that we can continue to fight for and protect the progress we have made.”

Board applications are still being accepted. Apply here.

—  James Russell

Black Tie Dinner: The Evening in Photos, Part 2

This is the second of two posts of photos from the 2015 Black Tie Dinner, held Saturday night, Nov. 14, at Sheraton Dallas Hotel. The fundraiser featured speeches by Dallas Mayor Mike Rawlings, Houston Mayor Annise Parker, Kuchling Award winner Melissa Grove, marriage plaintiff Jim Obergefell, E! Entertainment Vice President Jim Olde, a representative of The Trevor Project, HRC President Chad Griffin and more.

Dana Goldberg emceed the evening, with entertainment by Well Strung, Ty Herndon and Betty Who.

This is the second of two photo slideshow posts. See the first one here. Photos by Tammye Nash

—  Tammye Nash

Black Tie Dinner confirms Annise Parker as speaker

Black Tie Dinner officials confirmed today (Wednesday, Nov. 11) that Houston Mayor Annise Parker will be a featured guest speaker at the 2015 fundraising dinner on Saturday, Nov. 14.

Houston-Mayor-Annise-Parker

Houston Mayor Annise Parker

Parker is completing her third and final term as mayor of Houston, and is one of only two women to have held Houston’s highest elected office.  When she was first elected mayor in 2009, Parker made headlines around the world as the first openly gay mayor of a major U.S. city, and Houston became the most populous U.S. city to have elected a lesbian to its top public office.

As she finishes her third term — the Houston mayor’s office has a three-term limit — Parker saw the city’s equal rights ordinance, adopted by the council, forced into a referendum where it was voted down by city residents last week following a vitriolic anti-transgender campaign by opponents, who claimed the ordinance would allow men to harass and attack women and girls in public restrooms.

“This was a campaign of fear-mongering and deliberate lies. No one’s rights should be subject to a popular vote,” Parker said following the vote. “This will have stained Houston’s reputation as a tolerant, welcoming global city. I absolutely fear there will be a direct economic backlash.”

Dallas Black Tie officials noted that Parker and her wife, Kathy Hubbard, will be joined at the event by Dallas Mayor Mike Rawlins.

In a statement issued today, Black Tie Co-Chair Mitzi Lemons said, “We are excited and honored to have both Dallas Mayor Mike Rawlins and Houston Mayor Annise Parker and her wife attend this year’s event”. Support from city leaders is vital to our community.”

Black Tie Dinner co-chair John Lawrimore added, “Mayor Parker’s message, especially in light of the results from last week’s election results in Houston, we know will help further ignite the passion in all of us to continue our fight for equality.”

The 2015 Black Tie Dinner, with a theme of Ignite The Night, happens Saturday night, Nov. 14, at the Sheraton Dallas Hotel. A limited number of individual tickets are still available through the Black Tie Dinner website, but no additional tickets will be sold after midnight Friday, Nov. 13.

The Black Tie Dinner Preview Party takes place Friday, 8-10 p.m.. at the hotel, and is open to the public. Those attending have a chance to see silent auction items and place bids on those items.

—  Tammye Nash

HERO opponents air first ad, citing trans bathroom panic

Anti-HERO groups anti trans ad

A campaign image released by opponents of Houston’s Equal Rights Ordinance reveals the group’s strategy for successful repeal.

Opponents of Houston’s Equal Rights Ordinance aired their first radio ad yesterday, the first of what they promise to be a barrage of ads ahead of the Nov. 3 ballot referendum that will decide the ordinance’s fate.

According to the Houston Chronicle, the Campaign for Houston‘s one-minute ad features a young woman concerned for her safety. She wants to get pregnant, she says, but is afraid because the ordinance “will allow men to freely go into women’s bathrooms, locker rooms and showers.

“That is filthy, that is disgusting and that is unsafe,” she states.

The nondiscrimination ordinance, which passed city council last year and has been mired in legal battles initiated by opponents since, includes protections for LGBT people, as well as other federally protected classes including sex, race, color, ethnicity, national origin, age, religion, disability, pregnancy, genetic information, family, marital or military status. Violators could be fined up to $5,000.

Opponents, including conservative Christian leaders, immediately gathered signatures for a ballot referendum. The city ultimately threw the petitions out, but opponents scored a victory earlier this month when the Texas Supreme Court forced the council to either repeal the ordinance or put it before voters on the Nov. 3 ballot.

City council members voted to put it before the voters on 12-5 vote.

Richard Carlbom, campaign manager for Houston Unites, which supports the ordinance, blasted the ad in a statement.

“The ad is grossly inaccurate. Nothing in the equal rights ordinance changes the fact that it is — and always will be — illegal to enter a restroom to harm or harass other people. The ad leaves out the fact that the law protects tens of thousands of Houstonians from job discrimination based upon their race, age, religion, sexual orientation, gender identity and disability,” he said.

Houston Unites also plans to also broadcast media in support of the ordinance. But the campaign has not made any media buys yet, he told the Chronicle.

—  James Russell

BREAKING: Texas Supreme Court halts enforcement of Houston ERO

Houston-Mayor-Annise-Parker

Houston Mayor Annise Parker

The Texas Supreme Court released an opinion today (Friday, July 24) halting enforcement of the Houston Equal Rights Ordinance.

The court stated the city council overstepped its boundaries when it invalidated a petition to repeal the ordinance via ballot referendum. The city ruled petitioners did not gather enough signatures to put it on the ballot.

“Any enforcement of the ordinance shall be suspended, and the City Council shall reconsider the ordinance. If the City Council does not repeal the ordinance by Aug. 24, 2015, then by that date the City Council must order that the ordinance be put to popular vote during the Nov. 2015 election,” according to the decision.

The opinion additionally faulted city staff for not verifying differing signatories not having an appeal process when a petition is rejected.

The measure bans discrimination based not just on sexual orientation and gender identity but also numerous other classes currently protected at the state and federal levels.

The ordinance applies to businesses that serve the public, private employers, housing, city employment and city contracting. Religious institutions would be exempt. Violators could be fined up to $5,000.

The decision is just the latest hurdle facing the embattled ordinance. The Houston ordinance passed in May of last year by an 11-6 vote. After its passage opponents halted the law’s enforcement through lawsuits and appeals. It has been in a legal tug of war ever since.

You can read the full decision here.

Last year, Dallas voters added sexual orientation and gender identity and expression to the nondiscrimination clause of the city charter with 77 percent of the vote.

—  James Russell

Annise Parker to be honored by Family Equality Council

Houston-Mayor-Annise-Parker

Houston Mayor Annise Parker

Houston Mayor Annise Parker will be honored Saturday, Feb. 28 by the Family Equality Council in Los Angeles for her trailblazing career in public service.

Family Equality Council’s Los Angeles Awards Dinner honors distinguished individuals in the worlds of arts, entertainment, politics and the LGBT movement for their efforts to advance equality for all families.

According to a press release, “Mayor Parker has embodied our values and has been a powerful voice in her community and now on the national stage. She and her family have continued to work toward a world where all families are respected, celebrated, and loved.​”

Parker, who is term limited and unable to run for re-election this year, was recently the only mayor in the country included in the City Mayors Foundation’s bi-annual top mayors list. Parker came in seventh overall according to the international think tank dedicated to urban affairs. Last year, she married her longtime partner.

Also being honored are two television shows and a snack brand. The television shows — Modern Family and Glee — for portraying complex and realistic LGBTQ characters and celebrating LGBTQ individuals and families.

Honey Maid will be honored for its #thisiswholesome campaign in 2014, which featured families who fall outside of traditional definitions of family. Matt Bomer and others will also be present at the event.

—  James Russell

BREAKING: Restraining order bars Houston from offering equal benefits

Houston-Mayor-Annise-Parker

Houston Mayor Annise Parker

A district judge has ordered Houston to stop offering same-sex benefits to its employees. The order, found here, states that the city cannot issue benefits under the city’s charter and Family Penal Code because same-sex couples are not formally recognized by Texas.

“The city is preparing an immediate appeal.  Once that appeal is filed, today’s ruling will be stayed and a previous order issued at the federal court level allowing the city to implement same sex spousal benefits will continue in effect.  As a result, today’s action will have no impact on the status quo,” city spokeswoman Janice Evans said in a statement.

Follow the Voice for more information.

—  James Russell

BREAKING: Houston Mayor Annise Parker withdraws sermon subpoenas

Annise ParkerHouston Mayor Annise Parker announced this morning, Oct. 29, that Houston will withdraw subpoenas of five pastors in the lawsuit over the Houston Equal Rights Ordinance, the Houston Chronicle reports.

Parker and the city came under national scrutiny when lawyers representing the city subpoenaed five pastors’ sermons in the lawsuit brought by pastors opposed to the ordinance. The request resulted in a national outcry. A  group of religious leaders sponsored by the Family Research Council plans to descend on Houston this coming Sunday, Nov. 2, to protest against the subpoenas.

Parker said at a press conference she met with national and Houston clergy members yesterday, Oct. 27, to “hear their concerns about religious liberties,” the Chronicle reports. But she did not indicate then whether or not she would withdraw the subpoenas.

“What is best for the city of Houston, not what is best for the litigation,” she said, but adding “I don’t want to have a national debate about freedom of religion” while trying to defend HERO.”

 

—  James Russell