Phyllis Frye becomes Texas’ 1st trans judge

Phyllis Frye

It’s been a historic couple of weeks for the transgender legal community.

On Nov. 2, Victoria Kolakowski became the first transgender trial judge in the nation when she won a seat on the Alameda County (Calif.) Superior Court.

Then, just this morning, longtime Houston activist Phyllis Randolph Frye became the first trans judge in Texas, when Mayor Annise Parker appointed her as an associate municipal judge.

Daniel Williams at Legislative Queery reports:

Phyllis Randolph Frye, longtime legal advocate for the transgender community, was sworn in this morning as the state’s first transgender judge. Frye was appointed by Houston Mayor Annise Parker as an Associate Municipal Judge. The city council unanimously approved her appointment, along with a couple dozen other appointments, with little fanfare and no dissent.

The significance of the moment was not lost on Mayor Parker who fought back tears as she welcomed the appointees to the council dais. Council member Sue Lovell who, along with Parker and Frye, fought for years as a citizen to improve the lives of queer Houstonians, beamed as she spoke of how far the three of them have come. Several council members specifically thanked Frye for her willingness to serve.

It was only 30 years ago that Frye risked arrest every time she entered City Hall. At that time the City of Houston and most American cities had ordinances criminalizing cross dressing. Frye defied the law to fight for it’s repeal, which finally happened in 1980.

UPDATE: Here’s an e-mail that came across this afternoon from Frye:

Dear Friends, Family and Neighbors,

With humility, I wish to share that this morning, October 17, 2010, I was sworn to be an Associate Judge for the City of Houston Municipal Courts.  Considering the many and varied discriminations I have borne over the past four decades, this is an honor that has great significance both for me and for the OUT-Transgender community.

For those of you who are not familiar, let me assure you of what this means and what it does not mean.

It means that I an assistant judge for the city courthouse.  I will be scheduled to do night court dockets and weekend probable cause dockets in rotation with other Associate Judges.  And from time to time I will sit as Judge in a trial, substituting for an ill or vacationing Judge.  The types of cases heard in Municipal Court are offenses that can be ticketed in this, the 4th largest city in the nation.  This is a great honor.  I thank Mayor Parker for nominating me and the City Council for unanimously  confirming me through a scheduled Council vote.

(NOTE: Mine is the second position where an OUT-TG has been appointed to a City of Houston position.  The first was Jenifer Rene Pool on the city’s Buildings and Inspections Oversight Commission.  Jenifer has recently announced that she is running for City Council At-Large #2 — the incumbent will be term-limited — in November 2011.  If you desire to wish her well or to send her a contribution, she is at jrpcom@aol.com <mailto:jrpcom@aol.com> .)

(NOTE: Mine is not the first OUT-TG Judgeship.  I think there are a few other  appointed OUT-TG municipal judges across the country.  Last month in California, Vicki Kolakowski was elected to a Judgeship, and I think that she will be sworn in January.  Congratulations to Vicki.)

My being Associate Municipal Judge DOES NOT MEAN that I will give up my “day-job.”

I WILL REMAIN as senior partner of Frye and Associates at www.liberatinglaw.com <http://www.liberatinglaw.com/> .

Our firm will continue to provide a variety of legal services for the LGBT and Straight-Allies community.  And our firm will continue to fight the Nikki Araguz case, of which many of you have followed.

I hope that my appointment and Vicki’s election encourage more Mayors or other appointive bodies to give OUT-TG lawyers a chance to be appointed to various judicial posts across the nation.  I hope that my appointment and Vicki’s election encourage more OUT-TG lawyers will run for elected Judgeships.

NEVER GIVE UP!

For more go to http://www.legislativequeery.com/2010/11/trans-pioneer-phyllis-frye-becomes.html
Phyllis Randolph Frye
THE PHYLLABUSTER  <http://www.liberatinglaw.com/>
www.liberatinglaw.com  <http://www.tglegal.com/>
www.tglegal.com
prfrye@aol.com

—  John Wright

Election 2010 • Republican gains could cause Dems redistricting woes

Dallas County stays blue despite a wave of Republican red sweeping across the rest of the state, nation

DAVID TAFFET  |  Staff Writer taffet@dallasvoice.com

U.S. Rep. Eddie Bernice Johnson
ANOTHER TERM | U.S. Rep. Eddie Bernice Johnson makes an appearance at the county Democratic Election Night party. Johnson, the only Dallas-area Democrat in Congress, easily defeated Tea Party favorite Steve Broden on Tuesday. (David Taffet/Dallas Voice)

Although statewide results favored Republicans, Democrats swept all countywide races in Dallas County. The larger majority of Republicans in the legislature, however, will affect redistricting and could embolden some to file anti-gay legislation.

“Dallas County will still be a Democratic County,” said State Rep. Royce West at the election watch party at the American Airlines Arena on Nov. 2.

While pleased with the results throughout the county, Dallas County Democratic Party chair Darlene Ewing said her worry was redistricting.

New census figures will be reported in December. Then the newly elected legislature will redistrict state and federal legislative seats based on the new figures. She expects the state Democratic Party to file a challenge to the new boundaries should they be drawn to heavily favor Republicans.

In the U.S. House of Representatives, Texas should gain a seat. Eddie Bernice Johnson’s district is packed with a large number of the county’s Democrats, contributing to her 50-point margin of victory. Should the new district be carved partially from that area, the next congress might include a second Democrat from North Texas.

Should her district remain untouched, the area will likely elect another Republican.

Texas state House and Senate districts will also be reapportioned. Current district lines kept six districts safely in Democratic hands. Those races were unchallenged by the Republicans but made the rest of the area’s races remained uncompetitive for Democrats.

Ewing said that in 2000, the Justice Department appointees who reviewed redistricting plans were Republican. But no longer.

“This time they’re on our side,” Ewing said.

“We have more recourse with a Democrat in the White House,” said Stonewall Democrats of Dallas President Erin Moore.

Moore believes the Justice Department will look at the new map more critically than they had in the past. Redistricting should reflect neighborhoods, and that gerrymandering is done to get one party or the other elected, she said.

“With Republicans winning, we know they’ll draw some really squiggly lines to get what they need to win again,” said Moore.

Moore also worried about anti-LGBT bills that would become more likely to pass with a larger Republican majority. She said anti-adoption bills could be filed and anti-bullying laws would be less likely to pass.

“Numbers bring strength and confidence,” she said. “And they’ve been emboldened.

Within the Democratic Party, the number of delegates each state sends to the national convention is determined, in part, by the number of votes cast for the Democrat in the most recent gubernatorial race. She said more ballots were cast for Bill White this year than for Chris Bell in 2006.

In this election, White and other Democrats did much better in Dallas than across most of the rest of the state.

Of the straight party ballots cast, 53 percent went to the Democratic Party. By contrast, almost twice as many Republican straight party ballots were cast in Tarrant County than Democratic ballots.

In statewide races, White received 55 percent of the vote in the governor’s race in Dallas County. Across the state, Rick Perry won the election with 55 percent. The vote in Tarrant County reflected the statewide vote.

Dr. Elba Garcia and a supporter.
Dr. Elba Garcia and a supporter.

Other statewide races were all won by Republicans but were fairly evenly split in Dallas County. Republican Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst held a 2,000-vote edge over Democrat Linda Chavez-Thompson in Dallas. In other races, the Democratic challengers held a slight edge over the Republican incumbents across the county.

All contested Dallas County judgeships were won by Democrats. Winners took nothing for granted in their races, however.

“Somebody once told me there are two ways to run for office,” said Judge Carl Ginsberg. “Unopposed or scared.”

He said he got his message out and won with more than 52 percent of the vote, higher than most of the other winners. A number of Republican voters told him that they crossed over to vote for him.

Democrats also retained district attorney, county clerk, district clerk, and county judge and picked up a county commissioner’s seat.

However, in state House of Representatives races, Democrats lost all contested races in Dallas County. Two out of three Democratic incumbents also lost in Tarrant County. None of those races is a countywide contest.

Those losing their elections in Dallas included Carol Kent, Robert Miklos, Kirk England and Allen Vaught. In Tarrant County, Paula Pierson and Chris Turner lost their seats while LGBT community ally Lon Burnham retained his. Burnham has co-authored anti-bullying legislation.

“I think it was the national sentiment that hurt,” said Pete Schulte who challenged Republican incumbent Dan Branch for the House seat that includes parts of Oak Lawn and East Dallas.

“We lost a lot of good reps tonight,” Schulte said. “We fought a good campaign, but when federal politics takes center stage, it’s an uphill battle to combat that locally.”

Moore credits the Democratic win in Dallas County on the coordinated campaign of the county party, the get out the vote effort and a massive calling operation. But she called the results, “too close for comfort.”

Weather affected the outcome, Moore said. Traditionally, Republicans make up a majority of the early vote and Democrats are more likely to cast their ballots on Election Day. Rain affects turnout and more than three inches fell on Tuesday.

Elba Garcia was more upbeat in her assessment of the outcome. She beat 16-year incumbent Ken Mayfield by 5 percent.

She said voters spoke loudly about the change they want.

“We need this county to move forward,” she said. “Voters are tired of the finger pointing.”

Garcia said her experience in city government will benefit the county as she helps find ways for different entities together. Once elected, it doesn’t matter what party she ran on, she said, reflecting her experience as a city council member. The city council is elected in non-partisan elections.

Everyone on the Commissioners Court needs to work together on healthcare, public safety, education and economic development, Garcia said.
“Government is not exactly a business,” she said. “But it needs to be run professionally.”

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition November 5, 2010.

—  Michael Stephens

No judge left behind: Even deeply GOP Bush appointees earn ‘activist’ ire

Screen Shot 2010-08-25 At 11.49.24 AmFACT: James Randal Hall served as a Republican state senator in Georgia’s 22nd district.

FACT: James Randal Hall was appointed to a federal judgeship by George W. Bush.

FACT: Senators as conservative as Saxby Chambliss and Johnny Isakson spoke in support of Hall’s U.S. District Judge appointment.

FACT: Judge Randal Hall recently defended Augusta State University’s decision to requite a graduate student to follow certain guidelines on homosexuality if she hopes to remain in the school’s counseling program. And in his ruling, Hall was careful to say his decision was not about “pitting Christianity against homosexuality,” but instead was about the constitution and its application to the school’s requirements.

FACT: Social conservatives like Janie Shaw Crouse don’t typically care about the facts at hand, preferring to instead undermine the role of the independent judiciary by claiming that any judge who rules in a way they dislike is nothing more than a liberal, gay-sympathizing activist:

Dr. Janice Crouse of Concerned Women for America sees judicial activism in action.

“The really horrendous part is that one single judge is able to make a decision that influences so many different aspects of our culture. And we’re seeing it over and over again where that judge is imposing his own personal views — which is such a contradiction and is so ironic when this young woman’s rights are being taken away from her.”

Judge says ‘remediation’ lawful, student appeals [ONN]

You know, because when is Saxby Chambliss not taking to the Senate floor to speak in support of a judge who’s motivated by his own personal gay agenda? [::liberal eye roll, activist head shake::]

FACT: Judge Vaughn Walker was first nominated by Reagan, then ultimately Confirmed under H.W. Bush (amid liberal dissent). The justice who authored the Iowa Supreme Court’s Varnum opinion, Mark S. Cady, was appointed by conservative Republican governor (and current gubernatorial candidate) Terry Branstad, as was the chief justice of the court, Marsha Ternus. Judge Ronald George, who wrote the California Supreme Court’s 2008 that gave that state marriage equality, describes himself as a lifelong Republican. And so on and so on.



FACT: If these social conservatives are going to keep insisting on GOP elected officials, then they are going to have to start taking responsibility for whatever legal opinions these same elected Republicans hath wrought!




Good As You

—  John Wright