Houston’s State Rep. Garnet Coleman applauds Prop. 8 decision

State Rep. Garnet Coleman

Rep. Garnet Coleman, D-Houston, took to his blog today to applaud yesterday’s decision by the United States Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals declaring Proposition 8  unconstitutional (Prop. 8, passed in 2008, prohibited marriage equality in California):

“Yesterday’s 9th Circuit decision, just like the decision in Lawrence v. Texas, is a stepping stone on the path to marriage equality for all. As Judge Stephen R. Reinhardt of the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals wrote in the opinion, ‘Proposition 8 serves no purpose, and has no effect, other than to lessen the status and human dignity of gay men and lesbians in California, and to officially reclassify their relationships and families as inferior to those of opposite-sex couples.’ The same holds true for the marriage equality ban in Texas. That is why I continue to fight for marriage equality and continue to file the repeal of the ban of same sex marriage. Denying gay couples the right to marry is unconstitutional and a blatant denial of human rights. “

Coleman has a long history of filing pro-LGBT legislation in the Texas House. Last year he introduced historic legislation that, had it passed, would have called for a state-wide vote to repeal the section of Texas’ constitution prohibiting same-sex marriage, so he’s no stranger to the battle for marriage equality.

Coleman is seeking re-election to his District 147 seat. He will face long-time local LGBT activist Ray Hill in the Democratic Primary. No republican candidate has filed for the seat.

Read Coleman’s full statement on his blog.

—  admin

Teacher accuses TC College of discrimination

Gill says English Department chair at Northeast Campus told her the state and the school ‘do not like homosexuals’

Jacqueline “Jackie” Gill
Jacqueline “Jackie” Gill

TAMMYE NASH  |  Senior Editor
nash@dallasvoice.com

HURST — Jacqueline “Jackie” Gill filed suit Wednesday, Sept. 7, against a professor and a dean at Northeast Campus of Tarrant County College in Hurst, claiming that she was denied the opportunity to apply for a permanent, full- time teaching position there because of the English Department chair’s bias against what he perceived her sexual orientation to be.

Tarrant County College adopted a nondiscrimination policy prohibiting discrimination based on sexual orientation on March 9 of this year.

Frank Griffis, director of public relations and marketing for Tarrant County College, said it “would not be appropriate” for school officials to comment on pending litigation. He also said school officials had not yet been served with papers and therefore had not read the complaint.

Gill said she had worked as a full-time temporary English professor for about a year at the Northeast Campus. But when the position was to be made permanent, English Department Chair Eric Devlin refused to allow her to apply for the permanent position.

Gill said when she complained about Devlin to Northeast Campus Humanities Division Dean Antonio R. Howell, he initially seemed to side with her, but after speaking to Devlin, Howell refused to communicate further with her. Gill said although she is a lesbian and has never tried to hide that fact, she had never talked about her orientation with Devlin or anyone else at the school.

Both Devlin and Howell are named as co-defendants in the lawsuit.

Gill is represented in the lawsuit by Lambda Legal South Central Region staff attorney Ken Upton, joined by pro bono counsel Benjamin D. Williams from the law firm of Gibson, Dunn and Crutcher.

Gill and Upton held a press conference Wednesday to announce that the lawsuit had been filed earlier that morning in U.S. district court in Fort Worth. The press conference was held at a Hurst hotel located just a few blocks from the Tarrant County College campus where Gill had taught.

According to the complaint filed Wednesday, and statements Gill made during the press conference, Gill was first hired on a full time, temporary basis as an English professor on Aug. 21, 2009. A little more than a month later, at the end of October, a female “dual-enrollment” student — a high school student who was also taking college classes — in Gill’s distance learning class cheated by stealing an exam and skipped some classes.

The student’s high school counselor told Gill that the student has a history of disruptive behavior, and when the student dropped the class, Gill was told the situation was closed.

On Nov. 9, however, Devlin called Gill into his office and told her the student had accused Gill of “flirting” with female students. Gill denied the accusations, noting that there was always another teacher in the class at the same time.

That’s when Devlin responded with “a lengthy diatribe about homosexuals and how the Texas public views them,” according to the complaint. Gill said Devlin went on to say that Texas is a conservative state and TCC is a conservative school, and that “Texas and Tarrant County College do not like homosexuals.”

Gill continued to teach at TCC, receiving high praise and compliments from students and staff alike, including from Devlin. Then in May 2010, she and other full-time temporary professors were told by Howell that all seven temporary full- time positions were being made permanent, and that they were being re-designated as adjunct faculty until the permanent positions were filled.

Gill said Howell also encouraged her and the other temporary professors to apply for the permanent jobs. Gill applied for all seven but was the only one of the seven temporary professors not hired for the permanent positions. Gill said that she was, in fact, not even allowed to interview for any of the positions, even though her experience and credentials were as good as or better than those who were hired.

Gill said she met with Howell and told him about Devlin’s anti-gay comments and refusal to allow her to interview for the permanent positions. She said Howell promised her to discuss the situation with Devlin immediately, but that he never got back in touch with her.

She said she also got no response when she tried to discuss the situation with the vice president and president of Tarrant County College.

Gill continued to teach as an adjunct professor at the campus through December 2010, although, she said, Devlin’s attitude toward her became “even more hostile.”

And she said that although she was originally assigned classes for the 2011 spring term, as she was preparing for those classes she discovered she had been removed as the professor. When she inquired about the status of the class, Gill said, she was told that Devlin had specifically instructed that those classes be taken away from her.

Upton said that Devlin and Howell violated the equal protection clause of the U.S. Constitution by refusing to allow Gill to apply for the permanent teaching position. He said Gill’s suit is asking that she be allowed to complete the application process and that she be compensated for the time she has been unemployed.

Gill, who is a Ph.D. candidate at the University of Texas at Arlington, said she would love to get a teaching job with TCC, and while she would prefer to work at another campus, she is willing to go back to the Northeast Campus and work again in Devlin’s department.

“I worked hard. I earned it,” Gill said of the permanent position. “I have nothing to be ashamed of. If it [her working in Devlin’s department again] would be awkward for anyone, I think it would be awkward for him [Devlin] because he is the one who was in the wrong.”

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition September 9, 2011.

—  Michael Stephens

Texas: A not-so-great state

As Perry eyes the presidency and Dewhurst makes a bid for the Senate, let’s look at the story the numbers really tell

Phyllis Guest | Taking NoteGuest.Phyllis.2

It seems that while David Dewhurst is running for the U.S. Senate, Rick Perry — otherwise known as Gov. Goodhair — is planning to run for president. I wonder what numbers they will use to show how well they have run Texas.

Could they cite $16 million? That’s the sum Perry distributed from our state’s Emerging Technology Fund to his campaign contributors.

Or maybe it is $4.1 billion. That’s the best estimate of the fees and taxes our state collects for dedicated purposes — but diverts to other uses.

Then again, it could be $28 billion. That’s the last published number for the state’s budget deficit, although Perry denied any deficit during his last campaign.

But let’s not get bogged down with dollar amounts. Let’s consider some of the state’s other numbers.

There’s the fact that Texas ranks worst in at least three key measures:

We are the most illiterate, with more than 10 percent of our state’s population unable to read a word. LIFT — Literacy Instruction for Texas — recently reported that half of Dallas residents cannot read a newspaper.

We also have the lowest percentage of persons covered by health insurance and the highest number of teenage repeat pregnancies.

Not to mention that 12,000 children have spent at least three years in the state welfare system, waiting for a foster parent. That’s the number reported in the Texas-loving Dallas Morning News.

Meanwhile, the Legislature has agreed to put several amendments to the Texas Constitution before the voters. HJR 63, HJR 109 plus SJR 4, SJR 16, and SJR 50 all appear to either authorize the shifting of discretionary funds or the issuance of bonds to cover expenses.

Duh. As if we did not know that bonds represent debt, and that we will be paying interest on those bonds long after Dewhurst and Perry leave office.

Further, this spring, the Lege decided that all voters — except, I believe, the elderly — must show proof of citizenship to obtain a state ID or to get or renew a driver’s license. As they did not provide any funds for the issuance of those ID cards or for updating computer systems to accommodate the new requirement, it seems those IDs will be far from free.

Also far from free is Perry’s travel. The Lege decided that the governor does not have to report what he and his entourage spend on travel, which is convenient for him because we taxpayers foot the bill for his security — even when he is making obviously political trips. Or taking along his wife and his golf clubs.

And surely neither Rick Perry nor David Dewhurst will mention the fact that a big portion of our state’s money comes from the federal government. One report I saw stated that our state received $17 billion in stimulus money, although the gov and his lieutenant berated the Democratic president for providing the stimulus.

And the gov turned down $6 billion in education funds, then accepted the funds but did not use them to educate Texans.

The whole thing — Dewhurst’s campaign and Perry’s possible campaign, the 2012-2013 budget, the recent biannual session of the Texas Legislature — seems like something Mark Twain might have written at his tongue-in-cheek best.

We have huge problems in public school education, higher education, health care, air pollution and water resources, to mention just a few of our more notable failures.

Yet our elected officials are defunding public education and thus punishing children, parents, and teachers. They are limiting women’s health care so drastically that our own Parkland Hospital will be unable to provide appropriate care to 30,000 women.

They are seeking a Medicaid “pilot program” that will pave the way for privatized medical services, which will erode health care for all but the wealthiest among us. They are fighting tooth and nail to keep the EPA from dealing with our polluted environment. They are doing absolutely nothing to ensure that Texas continues to have plenty of safe drinking water.

They are most certainly not creating good jobs.

So David Dewhurst and his wife Tricia prayed together and apparently learned that he should run for Kay Bailey Hutchison’s Senate seat. Now Rick Perry is planning a huge prayer rally Saturday, Aug. 6, at Houston’s Reliant Stadium.

God help us.

Phyllis Guest is a longtime activist on political and LGBT issues and a member of Stonewall Democrats of Dallas.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition August 9, 2011.

—  Kevin Thomas

Hundreds rally against Ind. marriage amendment

DEANNA MARTIN | Associated Press

INDIANAPOLIS — Several hundred people gathered Monday at the Indiana Statehouse to rally against a proposed constitutional amendment banning gay marriage and civil unions.

The “Equality for All Hoosiers” rally Monday came two days before a Senate committee meeting that will take up the issue. The Republican-controlled House already has approved the proposal, and the Republican-led Senate also is expected to pass it.

But those at the rally said the amendment would write discrimination into Indiana’s constitution. They’re urging lawmakers to vote against the proposal and voters to pay attention to those votes during the next election cycle.

If the General Assembly approves the proposed amendment this year, it would have to pass again in 2013 or 2014 to be on the ballot in 2014.

—  John Wright

Boehner says House will defend DOMA

Speaker John Boehner

Republican Speaker John Boehner says House leaders will appoint a lawyer to defend the Defense of Marriage Act in court, in the wake of President Barack Obama’s decision to no longer do so.

“It is regrettable that the Obama administration has opened this divisive issue at a time when Americans want their leaders to focus on jobs and the challenges facing our economy,” Boehner said in a statement. “The constitutionality of this law should be determined by the courts — not by the president unilaterally — and this action by the House will ensure the matter is addressed in a manner consistent with our Constitution.”

House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi promptly issued a statement responding to Boehner’s decision.

“Aside from standing up for a discriminatory law and failing to focus on jobs and the economy, this action places Republicans squarely on the wrong side of history and progress,” Pelosi said in her statement. “In addition, this decision will burden the staff and monetary resources of the Office of the General Counsel, and given the complexity of these cases and the number of courts involved, it is likely this will cost the House hundreds of thousands of taxpayer dollars.

“This is nothing more than a distraction from our most pressing challenges, and Speaker Boehner should follow his own advice and work with Democrats to create jobs, strengthen the middle class, and responsibly reduce the deficit,” Pelosi said.

 

—  John Wright

Dallas’ Pete Sessions violates Constitution on same day it’s read from House podium

Pete Sessions

Anti-gay Dallas Republican Congressman Pete Sessions reportedly violated the Constitution on the same day it was read from the House podium.

The Huffington Post reports that Sessions, along with freshman Rep. Mike Fitzpatrick, R-Pa., missed Wednesday’s swearing-in ceremony because they were at a private fundraiser. They watched the ceremony on TV with their hands raised, but there’s no provision in the Constitution for a remote swearing-in. The Rules Committee was forced to adjourn Thursday because Sessions made a motion to take up a repeal of health care reform without having been sworn in as a member of Congress:

Emily Davis, a spokeswoman for Sessions, said that Sessions rectified the situation Thursday afternoon, after it came to his attention that he had not been properly sworn in. “During the swearing in of the 112th Congress, Congressman Sessions stated the oath publicly in the Capitol but was not on the House floor. To ensure that all constitutional and House requirements are fulfilled, Congressman Sessions officially took the oath of office this afternoon from the House floor. Public records and votes will be adjusted accordingly,” she said.

UPDATE: To make matters worse, Sessions reports on Twitter that he’s on the radio this afternoon with bigot Chris Krok, who famously mocked Joel Burns’ “Its Gets Better” speech:


—  John Wright

The Nooner: Chick-fil-A goes anti-gay; Frisco man imprisoned for spreading HIV loses appeal

Your midday news roundup from Instant Tea:

• Frisco man convicted of aggravated assault with a deadly weapon for spreading HIV loses appeal.

• Chick-fil-A partners with rabidly anti-gay group in Pennsylvania.

• Poll results suggest LGBT community never lost faith in Obama.

More gay characters on TV shows geared toward teens.

• Justice Scalia says Constitution doesn’t protect women, gays from discrimination.

—  John Wright

Video: Antonin Scalia to teach Michele Bachmann’s Constitution class

Thank Right Wing Watch for this Looney World offering…would you like to be a fly on this wingnut wall? Watch Minnesota’s gift to the U.S. House tell Lou Dobbs about her guest lecturer…

Dobbs: You’ve got a terrific idea that you’re going to implement with the new Congress: a course on the Constitution for incoming Congressmen and women. Tell us about that.

Bachmann: We’re going to do what the NFL does and what the baseball teams do: we’re going to practice every week, if you will, our craft, which is studying and learning the Declaration, the Constitution, and the Bill of Rights.

Justice Scalia has graciously agreed to kick off our class. The hour before we cast our first vote in congress, we’ll meet in the Capitol, we’ll have a seminar on some segment of the Constitution, we’ll have a speaker, we’ll have questions and answers, we’ll wrap our minds around this magnificent document [and] that’ll set the tone for the week while we’re in Washington.

I think it’s great and I’m hoping all the members of Congress will partake; it’s bipartisan.

Pam’s House Blend – Front Page

—  admin

Editorial Board: Don’t Change Iowa Constitution

test marriage in Iowa x 390The Dubuque Telegraph Herald urges Iowans to vote no on
whether to convene a new constitutional convention, which could
facilitate an amendment rescinding marriage equality in the state.
Advocate.com: Daily News

—  John Wright

Family Policy Councils to the Court: Just Ignore the U.S. Constitution, Mkay?

Cross-posted at Prop 8 Trial Tracker.

As if we needed more confirmation that the anti-equality crowd is bereft of logical arguments and grasping at straws, a group of about 30 of Family Research Council’s state affiliates, called Family Policy Councils, have filed an amicus brief with the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals in the Perry v. Schwarzenegger Proposition 8 case.  They’re asking the Court to overturn Judge Vaughn Walker’s well-reasoned ruling that Prop 8, which stripped gay and lesbian couples of their right to marry in California, is unconstitutional.  You know that the amicus brief is a terrifically embarrassing document when a non-lawyer like me can look into it and see whole schools of red herring.  Here are just a few of the keepers.  From the very first sentence of the Summary of the Argument section on page 2:

The United States’ government consists of checks and balances designed to limit the power of the various parts of the government, ensuring it follows the will of the people.

Our federal government, as set out in the U.S. Constitution, uses the separation of powers principle to enforce power sharing among the three co-equal branches of government (executive, legislative and judicial).  The purpose of this system of checks and balances is to prevent any one branch of government from gaining too much power, not to the protect “the will of the people”.

Apparently angling for any bottom-feeders on the Court, the FPCs actually mash these moldy old dough balls onto the hook.  From page 9:

Through the initiative process, the people of California have made their will known. In their state, they want marriage to remain as it has for thousands of years. They spoke twice in eight years, and their will should not be subverted by one judge of one branch of the federal government’s redefining core institutions like marriage to follow the whims of the elite.

The FPCs are hoping you’ll buy into the notion that “the people” of California have unlimited power in the state.  They don’t.  The U.S. Constitution is the supreme law of the land, and while it establishes the federal judiciary as a co-equal arm of government, it makes no explicit provision for citizens’ initiatives.  If a majority of voters passes a state constitutional amendment that violates the U.S. Constitution as Prop 8 does, the fact that those voters were in the majority is irrelevant.  The FPCs don’t want you to consider the fact that a voting majority can act unconstitutionally, and that the federal judiciary has the power to strike down any unconstitutional measure they may pass.

Since when does the 52% of California voters who voted for Prop 8 represent “the people of California”?  Almost half, 48%, voted against the discriminatory measure.  As for marriage as it’s been “for thousands of years”, that would include plural marriage, concubinage and a prohibition on remarriage after divorce.  The FPCs not only want us to ignore the U.S. Constitution, they want to create a new math (52% = 100%) and whistle past their own “Judeo-Christian” history as set down in the Holy Bible.

There’s enough red herring here for a Friday dinner fry-up.  If you want seconds, there’s plenty more in the brief.
FYI here are the names of Family Policy Councils that signed onto the brief.  They’re represented by Liberty Institute of Plano, TX:

Association of Maryland Families,

California Family Council,

Center for Arizona Policy,

Citizens for Community Values,

Cornerstone Action,

Cornerstone Family Council,

Delaware Family Policy Council,

Family Action Council of Tennessee,

The Family Foundation,

The Family Policy Council of West Virginia,

Family Policy Institute of Washington,

Florida Family Policy Council,

Georgia Family Council,

Illinois Family Institute,

Independence Law Center,

Iowa Family Policy Center,

Louisiana Family Forum Action,

Massachusetts Family Institute,

Michigan Family Forum,

Minnesota Family Council,

Missouri Family Policy Council,

Montana Family Foundation,

New Jersey Family First,

New Jersey Family Policy Council,

North Carolina Family Policy Council,

Oklahoma Family Policy Council,

Oregon Family Council,

Palmetto Family Council,

Pennsylvania Family Institute,

Wisconsin Family Action, and

WyWatch Family Action
Pam’s House Blend – Front Page

—  John Wright