Araguz booking raises questions about Harris County jail’s treatment of transgender inmates

Judge Vanessa Valasquez

Judge Vanessa Valasquez

According to the Houston Chronicle, Nikki Araguz has been booked into the Harris County Jain after arriving 40 minutes late for a scheduled court appearance on Friday. The court date was to allow Araguz to plead guilty to charges that she stole a watch from an acquaintance last year. Under the proposed plea bargain Araguz would have paid $2,600 in restitution and served 15 days in county jail. State District Judge Vanessa Velasquez, a Republican first appointed to the bench by Gov. Rick Perry, responded to Araguz’ apologies for her tardiness with “It’s too late for sorry,” ordering bailiffs to escort her to a hold cell next to the courtroom.

Araguz is the widow of firefighter Capt. Thomas Araguz who died in the line of duty last year. Capt. Araguz’s ex-wife and mother have sued to claim the portion of his survivor’s benefits reserved for the spouses of slain firefighters, claiming that since Nikki Araguz was identified as male at birth the marriage was invalid under Texas’ laws prohibiting the recognition of same-sex marriage. Mrs. Araguz’s birth certificate identifies her as female, as does her state issued identification.

Araguz’s booking has raised questions about the Harris County’s treatment of transgender detainees. The Sheriff Department’s Public Information Inquiry System listed Araguz using her male birth name on Friday. They have since removed the name from the site’s searchable database but have retained the record, listing it under the department’s “special person number” (SPN) filing system. The SPN record includes Araguz’s birth name. The Sheriff’s office has not returned calls from Houstini asking why the department is not using Araguz’s legal name and if this is common practice.

According to a friend who has visited Araguz at the jail her identity bracelet correctly identifies her gender as “F” – but reflects Araguz’s birth name, not her legal name. Araguz is segregated from the general jail population, but can receive visitors during regular visiting hours.

Araguz will remain in the Harris County Jail until Jan 25 when she is scheduled to appear again before Judge Velasquez.

—  admin

Legislating from the bench? Try benching from the legislature

It’s one thing to rally troops with misinformation in an already scheduled referendum so that they unfairly vote to remove the three judges up for retention (see our complete Iowa For Freedom Archive for that). But now Iowa’s anti-equality movement is taking it all a step further. Three state lawmakers are hoping to use their legislative power to remove the remaining members of the unanimous panel that enacted same-sex marriage in the state, simply because said lawmakers don’t agree with the fair-minded decision:

State representatives Tom Shaw, Glen Massie, and Kim Pearson, all freshmen politicians, are pushing for the removal of four judges. Their effort was bolstered by Republican speaker-elect of the state house, Kraig Paulson, who said he would not stand in the way of the effort. If successful, judges Mark Cady, David Wiggins, Daryl Hecht, and Brent Appel would be removed.

Impeachment for Iowa Judges? [Advocate]

201012171614Co-equal branch of government? Why that’s just crazy talk!

Judicial independence? Well not if it’s too independent from the religious right’s agenda!

Equal protection under the law, as prescribed by the state and federal constitution? But, but, but — Leviticus. Or at least the parts not pertaining to shrimp or certain garments.

Acknowledgement of the fact that civil rights battles have always played out in the courts? Uh, yea, well — Bob Vander Plaats told me that gays are hijacking the civil rights movement, so I don’t need to hear any more!

A concession that same-sex marriage has led to no negatives for the state? Not true! I could swear my gold ring looks less lustrous than it did a year ago!

Belief that judges should be judge on careers and not one opinion one might not personally enjoy? Wait — actually care about courts when there’s no political issue at stank? As in read all those decisions. BO-RING! I have Christmas shopping to do!

Basic respect for the LGBT neighbor? Oh please. What in my life tells me that I should refrain from casting stones or judging? Pscha!

Acknowledgement that gay people have families too? But I don’t have to spend time with them Hey, does anyone know what time “Modern Family” comes on?

A desire to end this ridiculous, contrived “culture war” over far-right drummed-up issues so that maybe we can come together as a nation and conquer actual problems? But then whatever will we use to fundraise, rally, and turn out the vote?

A unified Iowa in 2011? It’s off to a very frustrating start!




Good As You

—  admin

Washington Supreme Court bans Gary Randall’s judicial pick from the bench

It is Primary season in Washington state, which means the retired homophobic televangelist “of questionable ethicsGary Randall is again endorsing judicial candidates for his neighboring state of Washington.  No surprise he’s endorsed the two-fer pack of homophobes for the Supreme Court; he has a habit of identifying the dregs and foisting them on too-trusting Washingtonians.  

Gary Randall’s judicial recommendation: Convicted felon Michael Hecht

Take for example one Michael Hecht, Randall’s 2008 judicial recommendation for Pierce County (WA) Superior Court.  Of Judge Hecht the Washington State Commission on Judicial Conduct recently said he brought “great dishonor” to the state courts.  Then they censured him and recommended to the Supreme Court that he be barred from ever serving as a judge in Washington again.  It is a severe penalty, but after all Hecht was found guilty of felony harassment and patronizing a prostitute.

A Pierce County jury found him guilty of threatening to kill a man who claimed he sold sex to Hecht and of buying sex from another young man.

Just the kind of judge you’re likely to end up with if you vote for candidates recommended by a preacher from another state.

In an uncanny happenstance of timing, the Washington State Supreme Court has just announced that they have permanently barred Hecht from the bench.  It’s almost as if the Lord were trying to send Randall a message.  Can you hear the clarion call, Pastor Randall?  ”And why recommend thou the felonious scum to thy brother’s court, but considerest not the same for thine own court?”

I can’t wait to see who else Randall endorses this election.  But I do hope we’re in for a less disturbing disappointment this year.  Maybe a stealth graffiti artist or doorknob thief.  Please Pastor Randall, no more bilious homophobes or murderous felons.  It makes us doubt your direct line to God.

Related:

* Judicial Commission censures Gary Randall’s Pierce County judicial pick

* Gary Randall’s judicial pick convicted of felony

* Oregonian Gary Randall’s History of Manipulating Washington State Voters
Pam’s House Blend – Front Page

—  John Wright

Kagan Confirmed; Historic Number of Women Now Seated on the Bench

Only moments ago, Solicitor General Elena Kagan was confirmed as the newest Associate Justice of the United States Supreme Court. The Senate voted 63-37 with five Republicans voting in favor of her confirmation and one Democrat voting against it.

HRC President Joe Solomonese released the following statement: “We commend the Senate for confirming Solicitor General Elena Kagan to the Supreme Court. She has demonstrated an understanding of the need for equality for all Americans and her record indicates she may be more familiar with how laws and policies affect the LGBT community than any previously confirmed Justice.”

On July 1, after thoroughly reviewing her record and her responses to questions posed by the Senate Judiciary Committee, HRC formally announced its endorsement of Kagan. In her testimony before the Committee, she indicated an understanding of the important issues facing many Americans, including those who are LGBT. Her opening statement pointed out what she saw as the command to every justice – the pursuit of Equal Justice Under Law – and argued for a “fair shake for every American.” She also took the opportunity to clarify a statement from her Solicitor General confirmation regarding the lack of a constitutional right to marry for same-sex couples as simply an assessment of where the law currently stands.

Kagan’s record shows she has worked on LGBT issues during many phases of her career. While in the Clinton White House, she was involved in LGBT issues ranging from expanding hate crimes legislation to preventing employment discrimination to increasing funding for HIV and AIDS prevention and treatment. As Dean of Harvard Law School, Kagan supported the LGBT community and passionately defended the school’s sexual orientation anti-discrimination policy when it conflicted with the discriminatory “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” law – a law she called “a profound wrong – a moral injustice of the first order.”

Kagan will be the fourth woman to serve on our nation’s highest court and the third woman sitting on the current Supreme Court, marking the highest representation of women on the Court in its history. In addition, she will be the only member of the current Court to have not previously served as a judge – which ends the recent historical anomaly of having a Court comprised entirely of justices that entered the Court from the bench. This increased diversity will help provide greater perspectives to the Court, particularly regarding how the law affects everyday people, including LGBT Americans.

Learn more about federal judicial nominations and follow our work on these crucial issues on HRC’s Equality in the Courts by visiting: www.HRC.org/EqualityInTheCourts.


Human Rights Campaign | HRC Back Story

—  John Wright