Annise Parker now co-chair of “Mayors for the Freedom to Marry,” Austin’s Leffingwell joins

Lee Leffingwell

Austin's Mayor Lee Leffingwell

Houstini reported yesterday that Houston’s Mayor Annise Parker was scheduled to appear at the “Mayors for the Freedom to Marry” press conference in Washington D.C., and that she was the only Texas mayor to participate. This morning we found out that Parker, along with New York’s Michael Bloomberg and L.A.’s Antonio Villaraigosa, is serving as co-chair for the effort. Additionally Austin’s Mayor Lee Leffingwell has joined the effort.

So that makes 2 of Texas’ 1,215 mayors with the bravery to stand up for what’s right, leaving the citizens of 1,213 citizens with the task of persuading their mayors. In Dallas Daniel Cates of GetEqual has started an online petition encouraging Mayor Mike Rawlings to sign on which currently has 216 signatories. The Dallas Voice reports that Rawlings claims to personally support marriage equality, despite his unwillingness to join “Mayors for the Freedom to Marry:”

“This one obviously was very difficult for me, because I personally believe in the rights of the gay community to marry,” Rawlings said Thursday… “I think this [same-sex marriage] is way overdue and we need to get on with it, but that’s my personal belief, and when I start to speak on behalf of the city of Dallas … I’ve got to be thoughtful about how I use that office and what I want to impact, and that’s why I decided to stay away from endorsing and signing letters like that.”

Rawlings’ chief of staff, Paula Blackmon, told the Voice “the mayor does not plan to publicly support any social issues but would rather focus on the policy issues that impact Dallas,” adding “we have not signed onto other similar requests.”

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East coast victories for LGBT candidates

While we’re waiting here in Houston for the results of today’s municipal elections the Victory Fund reports of victories for LGBT candidates on the East coast where polls closed an hour earlier than Texas.

State Del. Adam Ebbin (D-District 30) was elected to Virginia’s state Senate today, making him the Commonwealth’s first openly gay senator.

“I am honored by the trust the voters have showed in me,”  Ebbin said in a statement. “During the campaign, I listened to the voters’ concerns and will work on behalf of the values we all share: improving our public schools, expanding our transit system and cleaning up Virginia’s environment. I will make sure their voices are heard…”

“Alex Morse, a 22-year-old graduate of Brown University, has just been elected mayor of Holyoke, Mass., a city of nearly 40,000 residents near Springfield…”

“Zach Adamson has won his race for city council in Indianapolis, giving the city its first openly LGBT city council member.”

“An incumbent on the Largo, Fla., City Commission who attacked her openly gay opponent over his sexual orientation has lost her reelection bid to him tonight. Michael Smith defeated Mary Gray Black, who has a history of anti-gay and anti-trans activism on the commission.”

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Complaint: LGBT immigrants abused, neglected at detention centers run by Homeland Security

The National Immigration Justice Center has filed civil rights complaints on behalf of 13 LGBT immigrants who were allegedly abused and neglected at detention centers run by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security in nine states, including one in Houston. The Heartland Alliance’s NIJC filed the complaints today in a letter addressed to Homeland Security’s Office for Civil Rights and Civil Liberties, calling on the department to investigate and implement new policies.

The group has also launched a petition calling on the DHS and President Barack Obama to end the abuse of LGBT immigrants in detention.

The 13 complaints include allegations of sexual assault, denial of adequate medical care, long-term solitary confinement, discrimination and abuse, and ineffective complaints and appeals process. Below are a few examples from the letter, which you can download in its entirety here:

• [Juan] was sexually assaulted by two other detainees. Despite repeated requests for a transfer to another facility because he feared for his safety [Juan] was not transferred until three months after the incident, when ICE Headquarters intervened. In the meantime, the only “protection” that the Otero County Detention Center offered was placement in the “hole.” (Otero County Detention Center, New Mexico)

• [Delfino] was held in segregation for four months, justifying their decision on the basis that [Delfino] presented “effeminately.” Facility staff refused to provide [Delfino] a Bible and permitted him only one hour of recreation – in a cold nine- by-thirteen-foot cell – per day. (Houston Processing Center, Texas)

• [Monica] continues to be denied hormone therapy, despite her use of hormones for ten years prior to immigration detention, and her physical and psychological reliance on them. [Monica], now detained for over five months, told NIJC staff, “I can’t even look at myself in the mirror anymore,” due to returning facial and body hair and other distressing changes. [Monica], an asylum seeker who has suffered grave past abuse in Mexico, also received no treatment for her trauma- related depression. She attempted suicide in February 2011 – the facility put her in solitary confinement as punishment. (Santa Ana City Jail, California)

• [Alexis] was repeatedly called a “faggot” by guards, who also made jokes about her dying of AIDS. They singled her out for public searches in which they forced her to remove her outer clothing and mocked her exposed breasts. (Theo Lacy Facility, California)

—  John Wright

ACLU Challenges State of Missouri on Behalf of Dead Trooper’s Husband

The American Civil Liberties Union has filed a lawsuit challenging the state of Missouri’s Missouri Department of Transportation and Highway Patrol Employees’ Retirement System on behalf of a surviving same-sex partner of a highway trooper killed on the job.

From the ACLU:

Kelly Glossip and Dennis Engelhard had been committed domestic partners for 15 years when Dennis, a Missouri State Trooper, was killed while responding to an accident on Christmas Day, 2009. Missouri offers survivor benefits to spouses of state troopers who are killed in the line of duty, but excludes committed same-sex partners from receiving those benefits.

If Kelly and Dennis had been a heterosexual married couple, Kelly would be entitled to an annuity of 50 percent of Dennis’ average salary-support that would help Kelly pay the mortgage on the home that he and Dennis jointly owned.

The Officer Down Memorial Page has information on Edward Englehard here. It makes mention of his life partner and step-son. Press release after the fold.

JEFFERSON CITY, MO – The American Civil Liberties Union, the ACLU of Eastern Missouri and the ACLU of Kansas & Western Missouri filed a lawsuit today on behalf of Kelly Glossip, whose partner, Dennis Engelhard, was a state trooper killed in the line of duty while responding to an accident on Christmas Day of last year. Missouri offers survivor benefits to spouses of state troopers who are killed in the line of duty, but excludes committed same-sex partners from receiving those benefits. Glossip is seeking the same survivor benefits provided to opposite-sex partners.

“Dennis and I loved each other and lived in a committed relationship for 15 years. We depended on each other emotionally and financially in our life together like any other committed couple. We exchanged rings and would have married in Missouri if the state didn’t exclude us from marriage,” said Glossip. “I’m just seeking the same financial protections the state provides to heterosexual couples. It is hard enough coping with the grief of losing Dennis. It is even more painful to have the state treat Dennis and me as though we were total strangers.”

Spouses of Missouri State Highway Patrol employees are entitled to an annuity of 50 percent of the employee’s average salary if the employee is killed on duty. Since Engelhard’s death, Glossip has struggled with paying the mortgage on the home they both owned. While Glossip is not challenging the definition of marriage under Missouri law, he is challenging the benefits policy as a violation of his rights under the Missouri Constitution.

“Dennis and Kelly were a family in every sense of the word,” said John Knight, staff attorney with the ACLU Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Project. “They owned a home together, shared cars and bank accounts, and Dennis even helped Kelly care for his child from a former marriage. They vowed to take care of each other in good times and in bad. As a matter of basic fairness, Kelly should be entitled to the same security as other bereaved partners of troopers killed in the line of duty.”

Engelhard was struck by a vehicle while responding to an accident on Christmas Day, 2009. Following his death, the governor ordered all U.S. and Missouri flags to be flown at half-staff. Kelly attended a ceremony in Washington, D.C. in May 2010 commemorating the loss of police officers nationwide, and was recognized with a medallion as Engelhard’s surviving partner.

“Kelly is merely seeking the same treatment he would have received if his partner had been a woman, rather than a man,” said Anthony Rothert, Legal Director of the ACLU of Eastern Missouri. “Kelly may not have been able to marry the person of his choice under Missouri state law, but he is still entitled to equal protection and the fundamental right to the family relationship he formed with Dennis Engelhard. He is seeking the same dignity and security for his family that is granted to other state troopers’ families.”

Attorneys on the case include Rothert and Grant R. Doty of the ACLU of Eastern Missouri, Stephen Douglas Bonney of the ACLU of Kansas and Western Missouri, Knight and Joshua Block of the ACLU LGBT Project and Roger K. Heidenreich of SNR Denton.

From local news coverage of this story:

Glossip said his relationship with Engelhard was no secret at the Highway Patrol. Glossip was listed as Engelhard’s emergency contact. They showed up together at a Fourth of July party attended by several other troopers. A room full of troopers mourned with Glossip at the hospital where Engelhard was pronounced dead.


“I’d take 100 Dennis Engelhards. He was an outstanding trooper,”
said Capt. Ronald Johnson, head of the Highway Patrol troop that covers St. Louis and surrounding counties. “His lifestyle had no bearing on his career.”

People who deliver first-class service to the country, do not deserve second-class rewards in return. Our families deserve better from our country.

Thanks to ACLU for stepping up yet again and making the case. Our future may indeed lie in the courts. Particularly when you contrast this action with the reaction of our elected leaders, as quote din the article linked above:

“The partner, plain and simple, is out of luck,” said state Rep. Mike Colona, D-St. Louis, one of a few openly gay Missouri state legislators. “I’m outraged that that’s the situation, but it’s the status of the law.”

ACLU is fast-becoming the most aggressive gay rights organization on the block, after challenges to DOMA, the Department of Defense compensation policy and DADT. You might consider becoming a card-carrying member of the ACLU.
Pam’s House Blend – Front Page

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