Attorney General Mike Cox: Michigan’s Top Anti-Gay Bully

Back in April, Andrew Shirvell, an assistant attorney general in Michigan, started a blog called “Chris Armstrong Watch”.  You may have seen him boasting about it last night on CNN’s AC360.  The blog is a cyber-bullying attack on Chris Armstrong, student body president at University of Michigan.  Armstrong is under attack simply because he is gay.  The inaugural blog post starts out like this:

Welcome to “Chris Armstrong Watch.” This is a site for concerned University of Michigan alumni, students, and others who oppose the recent election of Chris Armstrong – a RADICAL HOMOSEXUAL ACTIVIST, RACIST, ELITIST, & LIAR – as the new head of student government.

Michigan is a state where you can be fired for being gay or transgender, or for being perceived to be gay or transgender.  And although Michigan’s Attorney General Mike Cox has been championing an anti-cyberbullying campaign, there are no protections for students in Michigan who are bullied because they are or are precieved to be gay or transgender.  

Then along comes Andrew Shervill, a cyberbully who works for the Attorney General as an official representative of the law.  Any attorney general worth their salt would recognize a huge problem in the making — the perception that the Office of the Attorney General is biased against gays — and act swiftly and decisively to rectify the situation.

Michigan Attorney General Mike Cox

Any attorney general truly concerned with cyberbullying and truly concerned that Michigan residents maintain faith in the fairness and impartiality of the office of the state’s top lawyer would have something more solid to say than this:

Cox [initially] defended Shirvell’s “non-work related private blog.” Cox took later released a more strongly-worded statement, saying Shirvell’s “immaturity and lack of judgment outside the office are clear.”

Thumbnail Link: Amicus Brief Of Ten Attorneys General In Perry v. SchwarzeneggerThe writing is on the wall: Attorney General Mike Cox has no interest in cracking down on anti-gay cyberbullies in his own department, and he is unconcerned about maintaining the public’s trust in the fairness and impartiality of his office because Cox is himself an anti-gay bully.  

In his capacity as Attorney General of Michigan, last week Cox joined twelve other state attorneys general in filing an amicus brief in the Perry v. Schwarzenegger Proposition 8 case.  The brief supports California’s discriminatory anti-equality marriage amendment that in November, 2008 striped loving gay and lesbian couples of their right to marry.  

In signing onto this brief, Cox is bullying the entire gay population of the states of California and Michigan.  His signature on that brief sends the strongest signal possible gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender people in Michigan that their top lawyer, the Attorney General, thinks their marriages would denigrate civil marriage.

Call Michigan’s Governor Jennifer Granholm and Attorney General Mike Cox and demand they show their commitment to the protection of all of Michigan’s residents from bullying by investigating, reprimanding or firing Andrew Shirvell.

Gov office: (517) 335-7858

AG Office: (517) 373-1110

Keep an eye on Equality Michigan‘s Facebook page for further action opportunities.  Below the fold, Julielyn Gibbons describes in depth Andrew Shervill’s anyi-gay cyberbullying crusade.  You may wish to sign her Change.org petition “MI Attorney General: Fire anti-gay cyber-bully Andrew Shirvell“.

Related:

* State AGs: Sexless Marriage is Counterfeit, Same-Sex Version Would Destroy Marriage
Julielyn Gibbons describes the depth of the problem at the Change.org petition “MI Attorney General: Fire anti-gay cyber-bully Andrew Shirvell

Targeting: Mike Cox (Michigan Attorney General)

Started by: Julielyn Gibbons

Andrew Shirvell, an assistant attorney general in Michigan, started a website to attack Chris Armstrong, the President of the University of Michigan student body.

At that site, Armstrong, a college student who happens to be gay, has been subjected by Mr. Shirvell to a barrage of insults and attacks unworthy of the office of Attorney General.

He has doctored photos to show Mr. Armstrong emblazoned with a Nazi swastika surrounded by a rainbow flag.

He has referred to Mr. Armstrong as “Satan’s representative on the Student Assembly.”

And he has described Mr. Armstrong as a “Nazi-like” recruiter for “the cult that is homosexuality.”

These actions would be troubling enough coming from a private citizen. Taken as the work of an Assistant Attorney General – someone sworn to uphold the law – they amount to not only an affront to all Michiganders, but an affront to the basic notion of equal justice.

But the hard truth is that Mr. Shirvell’s activity is not an isolated incident, only the most recent in a history of repeated attacks on Michigan’s gay community.

He has described gay Americans as belonging to a “Culture-of-Death.”

He wrote that one gay rights activist was “indoctrinating children with his perversity.”

All of this coming from a man who has sworn to uphold the rights for all citizens of Michigan.

Petition Michigan Attorney General Mike Cox to fire Andrew Shirvell and show that his office will not tolerate harassment and bullying by one of their own.

Watch: Andrew Shirvell with CNN’s Anderson Cooper on AC360

Pam’s House Blend – Front Page

—  John Wright

Asst. attorney general accused of cyber-stalking openly gay college student

The article starts off kind of tame, then boy oh boy does it pick up. Beyond weird. How the state attorney general can keep someone like this on staff…

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.




AMERICAblog Gay

—  John Wright

Capitol Resource Institute Urged Phone Calls To Cali Gov & Attorney General To “Do Their Jobs”

Sometimes it’s hard not to recognize that the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer (LGBTQ) community, as well as our friends, family, and allies, don’t seem as good at organizing as those on the religious right — as least with regards to phone and letter campaigns.

California’s Capitol Resource Institute (CRI) sent out an email blast yesterday, entitled “Defend Prop. 8!” It’s a call to their conservative, religious base to call the Gov. Schwarzenegger and Attorney General Jerry Brown to get on their phones and start calling. How CRI framed the issue in their e-blast:

Jerry Brown is not appealing.  Put another way, Jerry Brown has refused to file the appeal of the recent federal trial court decision declaring Proposition 8 unconstitutional.  Yes, it is his responsibility as the Attorney General (AG) to defend voter-approved measures, but he does not agree with Proposition 8.  

And his failure to do his duty may end this battle right here.

As John Eastman points out in the Flashreport, unless the official government defendants file a notice of appeal the issue may end with the decision of one judge in San Francisco.   The proponents of the measure may not have standing to file the appeal.

Thumbnail Link To The Capital Resource Institute's E-Blast, Entitled 'Defend Prop 8!'But, as Eastman also points out, the Governor can file this appeal.  While the Governor also opposes Proposition 8, we hope that he is fair minded enough to realize that the people of California deserve a full hearing in the courts on this important measure.

Governor Schwarzenegger, under Government Code (GC) Section 12013 has the authority to direct AG Jerry Brown to appear on behalf of the State.  If the Attorney General refuses, then the Governor has the right to and should file the notice of appeal.  He may also employ additional counsel, as he deems expedient.  The lawsuit against Proposition 8, Perry v Schwarzenegger, even includes the Governor’s name because the lawsuit is against the State.  GC Section 12013 further reads that the Governor has the right to demand the AG’s appearance and supply additional counsel when suit or legal proceeding is pending against the State.  

We join John Eastman and the 7 million Californians who voted in favor of marriage in 2008 in strongly urging the Governor to file the notice of appeal and allow committed counsel to continue to defend Proposition 8.

Their call to action:

we need your help to pressure Governor Schwarzenegger and Attorney General Brown to do their jobs;  We have created a website asking them to defend Prop. 8.

Please sign our online petition, call and fax the Governor and Attorney General, and join our Facebook page. And forward this e-mail alert to family and friends and ask them to do the same.  

We need to flood the phones/faxes all day long.  

It is time we stand up and tell those who represent us to do their job and defend Prop 8

Call the Governor!

Phone: 916-445-2841

Fax: 916-558-3160

Talking Points When You Call the Governor:

• You were elected by the same people who amended our State Constitution to define and recognize marriage between one man and one woman.  Please represent us by defending Proposition 8.

• If you are not going to enthusiastically defend Proposition 8 in the courtroom then file the appeal so the supporters of Proposition 8 can do so.

• Even though you don’t agree with Proposition 8, it is only fair that you give the 7 million Californians who voted for this measure an opportunity to defend marriage in the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals.

Call the Attorney General

Phone: 916-324-5437

Fax: 916-445-6749

Talking Points When You Call the Attorney General:

• It is your Constitutional duty to defend Proposition 8.  Please do you job as California’s top law enforcer.

• If you choose not defend the Constitutionality of Proposition 8, then at least file an appeal and move out of the way.

• You are running for governor.  How can voters expect you to do your job as governor if you do not even do your job as attorney general?

In all the calls and faxes that went to California’s Governor and Attorney General’s offices yesterday, I know I asked myself “How many calls went to these offices in support of California’s stand not to appeal Prop 8?”

Well, I was in communication with a staffer from Equality California yesterday. That staffer informed me that when someone from their organization asked the Governor’s office that question regarding calls there, the answer to how many who called the Governor’s office California’s Governor and Attorney General’s position on not challenging the Prop 8 ruling made by Judge Walker, the answer was one…one phone call.

Yee-ouch. Maybe we all need to make some calls too.
Pam’s House Blend – Front Page

—  John Wright

DART accused of transphobia

Judge reversed order after transit agency fought longtime employee’s gender-marker change last year

John Wright | News Editor
wright@dallasvoice.com

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.

—  admin

Dallas could elect 1st gay judge

Judicial candidates John Loza, Tonya Parker among 4 LGBTs running in local races in 2010

By John Wright | News Editor wright@dallasvoice.com
IN THE RUNNING | Dallas County District Clerk Gary Fitzsimmons, clockwise from top left, County Judge Jim Foster, attorney Tonya Parker and former Councilman John Loza are LGBT candidates who plan to run in Dallas County elections in 2010. The filing period ends Jan. 4.

Dallas County has had its share of openly gay elected officials, from Sheriff Lupe Valdez to District Clerk Gary Fitzsimmons to County Judge Jim Foster.
But while Foster, who chairs the Commissioners Court, is called a “judge,” he’s not a member of the judiciary, to which the county’s voters have never elected an out LGBT person.

Two Democrats running in 2010 — John Loza and Tonya Parker — are hoping to change that.

“This is the first election cycle that I can remember where we’ve had openly gay candidates for the judiciary,” said Loza, a former Dallas City Councilman who’s been involved in local LGBT politics for decades. “It’s probably long overdue, to be honest with you.”

Dallas County’s Jerry Birdwell became the first openly gay judge in Texas when he was appointed by Gov. Ann Richards in 1992. But after coming under attack for his sexual orientation by the local Republican Party, Birdwell, a Democrat, lost his bid for re-election later that year.

Also in the November 1992 election, Democrat Barbara Rosenberg defeated anti-gay Republican Judge Jack Hampton.

But Rosenberg, who’s a lesbian, wasn’t out at the time and didn’t run as an openly LGBT candidate.

Loza, who’s been practicing criminal law in Dallas for the last 20 years, is running for the County Criminal Court No. 5 seat. Incumbent Tom Fuller is retiring. Loza said he expects to face three other Democrats in the March primary, meaning a runoff is likely. In addition to groups like Stonewall Democrats of Dallas, he said he’ll seek an endorsement from the Washington, D.C.-based Gay and Lesbian Victory Fund, which provides financial backing to LGBT candidates nationwide.

Parker, who’s running for the 116th Civil District Court seat, declined to be interviewed for this story. Incumbent Bruce Priddy isn’t expected to seek re-election, and Parker appears to be the favorite for the Democratic nomination.

If she wins in November, Parker would become the first LGBT African-American elected official in Dallas County.

Loza and Parker are among four known local LGBT candidates in 2010.
They join fellow Democrats Fitzsimmons and Foster, who are each seeking a second four-year term.

While Foster is vulnerable and faces two strong challengers in the primary, Fitzsimmons is extremely popular and said he’s confident he’ll be re-elected.

“I think pretty much everybody knows that the District Clerk’s Office is probably the best-run office in Dallas County government,” Fitzsimmons said. “I think this county is a Democratic County, and I think I’ve proved myself to be an outstanding county administrator, and I think the people will see that.”

Randall Terrell, political director for Equality Texas, said this week he wasn’t aware of any openly LGBT candidates who’ve filed to run in state races in 2010.

Although Texas made headlines recently for electing the nation’s first gay big-city mayor, the state remains one of 20 that lack an out legislator.

Denis Dison, a spokesman for the Victory Fund, said he’s hoping Annise Parker’s victory in Houston last week will inspire more qualified LGBT people to run for office.

“It gives other people permission really to think of themselves as leaders,” Dison said.

The filing period for March primaries ends Jan. 4.


This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition December 18, 2009.

—  admin