Iconic LGBT activist Ray Hill files for Texas House seat

Ray Hill

Ray Hill

Long time Houston LGBT activist Ray Hill filed paperwork this week to run for the 147th Texas House seat against incumbent Garnet Coleman, D – Houston. The iconic (and iconoclastic) Hill said that he and Coleman agree on many issues but that he had “some issues  that aren’t on the table in Austin.”

Specifically Hill has concerns with the legislature’s approach to criminal justice issues. “The Texas legislature is a serial world class red-necking competition,” says Hill. “What they are doing on criminal justice is wrong and it doesn’t work… we need a serious rethink.”

Coleman has a strong history of supporting LGBT legislation. For the last three sessions he has attempted to pass anti-bullying legislation that would require school districts to report instances of bullying using an enumerated list of motivating characteristics that include both sexual orientation and gender identity and expression, he has also filed legislation to remove the the crime of “homosexual conduct” from the Texas penal code (a law that has been declared unconstitutional by the Supreme Court), to equalize age of consent laws in Texas and to add gender identity and expression to the state’s hate crime law. In the 82nd legislature earlier this year Coleman authored seven pieces of legislation designed to create greater equality for LGBT people, including the first ever filing of legislation to standardize change of gender marker procedures for the transgender community and the first effort to repeal the state’s constitutional prohibition against marriage equality.

Hill recognizes Coleman’s historic contributions, “The incumbent and I agree on a lot of issues,” says Hill, “but we don’t tell young gay people ‘if you work real hard and go to school and do your best you can grow up to have straight friends in Austin who like you.’ No, we tell them ‘if you work hard they can grow up to be Mayor of Houston, or City Supervisor of San Francisco.'”

When asked why the community would be better served by him than Coleman, a 20 year legislative veteran, Hill replies “I understand how government works. A freshman legislator can’t do anything more than irritate, but that’s about all any member of the minority party can do. On that level the incumbent and I are on the same level… I think we need somebody obnoxious [in the legislature] who’s going to purposefully rub the cat hair the wrong direction.”

Since being elected to the legislature for the first time in 1992 Coleman has been unopposed in 5 of his 9 primary reelection bids. No primary challenger to Coleman has pulled more than 21% of the vote.

—  admin

President Obama issues memorandum on protecting LGBTs abroad

President Barack Obama and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton

Four days in advance of  Human Rights Day on Saturday, Dec. 10,  President Barack Obama today issued a presidential memorandum “to ensure that U.S. diplomacy and foreign assistance promote and protect the human rights of LGBT persons,” according to a statement just released by the White House press office.

The statement sent out by the White House includes these comments by the president:

“The struggle to end discrimination against lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) persons is a global challenge, and one that is central to the United States commitment to promoting human rights.  I am deeply concerned by the violence and discrimination targeting LGBT persons around the world — whether it is passing laws that criminalize LGBT status, beating citizens simply for joining peaceful LGBT pride celebrations, or killing men, women, and children for their perceived sexual orientation.  That is why I declared before heads of state gathered at the United Nations, “no country should deny people their rights because of who they love, which is why we must stand up for the rights of gays and lesbians everywhere.”  Under my Administration, agencies engaged abroad have already begun taking action to promote the fundamental human rights of LGBT persons everywhere.  Our deep commitment to advancing the human rights of all people is strengthened when we as the United States bring our tools to bear to vigorously advance this goal.”

The memorandum from Obama directs agencies to combat the criminalization of LGBT status or conduct abroad; protect vulnerable LGBT refugees and asylum seekers; leverage foreign assistance to protect human rights and advance nondiscrimination; ensure swift and meaningful U.S. responses to human rights abuses of LGBT persons abroad; engage international organizations in the fight against LGBT discrimination, and report on progress.

I give the president credit for issuing the memorandum at the same time he’s gearing up for what will likely be a tough re-election campaign during which opponents will no doubt use his stance and actions on LGBT issues against him. But I still have to point out that we as LGBT people still face discrimination and inequality right here in the good old U.S.-of-A:

• Our marriages are legally recognized at the federal level and they aren’t recognized in the VAST majority of state and local jurisdictions. We want the Defense of Marriage Act repealed and local and state ordinances and constitutional amendments prohibiting recognition of our relationships need to be overturned.

• There is still no federal protection against workplace discrimination based on sexual orientation and/gender expression and gender identity. Congress needs to pass — the president needs to sign — the Employment Non-Discrimination Act.

• Even though there is now a federal hate crimes law that includes LGBT people, as well as similar laws at many state and local levels, those laws are not well enforced.

Anti-LGBT bullying remains a deadly problem in our schools and our workplaces and on the Internet. We’ve made progress in combating such bullying, but not nearly enough. Dedicate the resources necessary to address the issue effectively.

So let’s applaud our president for the steps he has — and is — taking. There’s no doubt Obama has been more open than any other president about addressing LGBT issues and we have seen great strides forward toward equality during his administration. But there’s a long way to go yet, and we need to make sure that the president — and all our elected officials — know they can’t just rest on their laurels.

—  admin

Focus now on Indiana Senate after House passed anti-gay constitutional amendment

While Hawaii moves forward in attempting to be more fair to its LGBT citizens, Indiana remains firmly entrenched in the past.

Yesterday, the Indiana House took the first step towards putting an anti-gay amendment into the state’s constitution. Hoosier Bil Browning reports:

The bipartisan vote of 70-26 took marriage equality supporters by surprise – especially with the defection of Minority Leader Pat Bauer.

Evan Wolfson, founder and president of Freedom to Marry, called on the Indiana Senate to rise above the actions of the House and to “reject House Joint Resolution 6, a constitutional amendment that would ban not only marriage, but any measure of protections or support for same-sex couples and their families in Indiana.”

“Freedom to Marry calls on the Indiana Senate to reject this punitive amendment, which would write discrimination into the state constitution. Government should be on the side of all families, not putting barriers in their paths as they seek to care for their loved ones,” Wolfson said.

The resolution would have to be approved by two consecutive legislatures and then go to the voters, so it would take three years. Unfortunately, this is the kind of legislative circus most states can ill afford when so many remain unemployed.

Indiana obviously doesn’t have enough on its plate with the state’s joblessness? Then again, maybe that is the motivation. Keep your eye on all the bills enacted to punish the gay scapegoats, and you won’t notice the fact you can’t afford to feed your kids.


—  David Taffet

Indiana House Says YES To Constitutional Marriage Ban. But This Fight Ain’t Over

In a 70-26 vote, the Indiana State House has approved an amendment to the state constitution that would allow voters to ban recognition of same-sex marriage and civil unions. Sponsored by Republican Rep. Eric Turner, who believes "marriage is, and should be, the union of one man and one woman," the bill supposedly won't impact domestic partnerships or gay adoption. There's still time to fix things: The bill heads to the Senate, and even if it passes there, both chambers would have to approve the bill once more in a successive legislative session before going in front of voters in a statewide referendum.

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—  David Taffet

SCOTUS Caveman alert – Scalia: Women don’t have constitutional protection against discrimination

What’s next in the intellectual bloviating of conservative activist SCOTUS Justice Antonin Scalia – is slavery OK? We already know he doesn’t believe in the right for two consenting adults to engage in anything other than PIV sex.

He was interviewed recently and let loose this flaming pile of horseshite:

In 1868, when the 39th Congress was debating and ultimately proposing the 14th Amendment, I don’t think anybody would have thought that equal protection applied to sex discrimination, or certainly not to sexual orientation. So does that mean that we’ve gone off in error by applying the 14th Amendment to both?

Yes, yes. Sorry, to tell you that. … But, you know, if indeed the current society has come to different views, that’s fine. You do not need the Constitution to reflect the wishes of the current society. Certainly the Constitution does not require discrimination on the basis of sex. The only issue is whether it prohibits it. It doesn’t. Nobody ever thought that that’s what it meant. Nobody ever voted for that. If the current society wants to outlaw discrimination by sex, hey we have things called legislatures, and they enact things called laws. You don’t need a constitution to keep things up-to-date. All you need is a legislature and a ballot box. You don’t like the death penalty anymore, that’s fine. You want a right to abortion? There’s nothing in the Constitution about that. But that doesn’t mean you cannot prohibit it. Persuade your fellow citizens it’s a good idea and pass a law. That’s what democracy is all about. It’s not about nine superannuated judges who have been there too long, imposing these demands on society.

What do you do when the original meaning of a constitutional provision is either in doubt or is unknown?

I do not pretend that originalism is perfect. There are some questions you have no easy answer to, and you have to take your best shot. … We don’t have the answer to everything, but by God we have an answer to a lot of stuff … especially the most controversial: whether the death penalty is unconstitutional, whether there’s a constitutional right to abortion, to suicide, and I could go on. All the most controversial stuff. … I don’t even have to read the briefs, for Pete’s sake.

Amanda Terkel at Huff Post covered the reaction to “Little Tony’s” latest belching of retrograde thinking.

For the record, the 14th Amendment’s equal protection clause states: “No State shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States; nor shall any State deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws.” That would seem to include protection against exactly the kind of discrimination to which Scalia referred.

Marcia Greenberger, founder and co-president of the National Women’s Law Center, called the justice’s comments “shocking” and said he was essentially saying that if the government sanctions discrimination against women, the judiciary offers no recourse.

“In these comments, Justice Scalia says if Congress wants to protect laws that prohibit sex discrimination, that’s up to them,” she said. “But what if they want to pass laws that discriminate? Then he says that there’s nothing the court will do to protect women from government-sanctioned discrimination against them. And that’s a pretty shocking position to take in 2011. It’s especially shocking in light of the decades of precedents and the numbers of justices who have agreed that there is protection in the 14th Amendment against sex discrimination, and struck down many, many laws in many, many areas on the basis of that protection.”

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—  admin

More grilling of Gibbs on DADT and he was clearly annoyed by the constitutional question

This is really interesting. The White House press corps has really honed in on the DADT issue. Gibbs got many questions on the subject today. And, Mediaite posted the video.

I’m most intrigued by the interaction between Gibbs and Kerry Eleveld on whether or not the President thinks DADT is unconstitutional. That exchange begins around the 4:30 mark and concludes with this. You have to see the video to see how curt and annoyed Gibbs get here:

Kerry Eleveld: Since the Justice Department is, you know, officially appealing the case, is it necessarily true that the President believes that Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell is a constitutional law?

Gibbs: Again, I have enumerated for you the belief, the President’s belief that it’s unjust, it’s discriminatory and that it harms our national security.

Kerry Eleveld: You have never enumerated for us his belief on the constitutionality?

Gibbs: I haven’t.

That response is classic. The transcript doesn’t do it justice. Watch how Gibbs reacts.

And, no, he hasn’t answered whether the President, a Constitutional Law professor, thinks DADT is unconstitutional. And, no one at the White House or DOJ will answer it either.

Yep, Gibbs throwing attitude at Kerry Eleveld for asking a very basic question. Classy.


—  John Wright

Video: Iowa For [Partisan Fervor Based on Personal Whims Rather than Constitutional Fairness]

The seven justices of the Iowa Supreme Court, after years of education and training which provided the sort of legal expertise that qualified each member for his or her esteemed position on the state’s high court, listened to arguments and then wrote a unanimous decision that removed gender discrimination from the state’s marriage laws. But don’t listen to them or actually see the reasoning of the ruling even if you personally don’t like it. No, no — instead, listen to the following six attendees at the state GOP’s Ronald Reagan Dinner who the Sandra Day O’Connor-misrepresenting group “Iowa For Mob Rule” “Iowa For Freedom” found to speak out against the “run amok” “oligarchy” that is one of our three co-equal branches of government:

An independent judiciary controlled by citizens’ partisan talking points? [::sigh::] Come back to us, civics — all is forgiven!


**Oh, and for a continuing glimpse into just how partisan and far-reaching this “Iowa For Freedom” group really is, check out this other Reagan Dinner void that they uploaded along with the above six clips. It has nothing to do with their one supposed cause, instead featuring far-right congressman Steve King talking all about “Obamacare”:

Good As You

—  John Wright

Crist supports his state’s constitutional ban on marriage and civil unions

Yesterday, Charlie Crist announced on CNN that he supports a constitutional ban on same-sex marriage. My post is on that news is here.

Last night, Crist’s campaign clarified those remarks, kinda. See, Charlie thought CNN’s Ed Henry was only asking him about Florida’s constitutional ban on marriage, not the amendment to ban same-sex marriage in the U.S. constitution. Charlie wanted us all to know he supports the state ban, not the federal ban. Now, why would Ed Henry ask a candidate for U.S. Senate a question about a federal ban? I mean, the Senate’s only voted on that very issue twice. Not buying it.

Plus, we already knew Crist supported a state ban, because he was vocal about that support in 2008 when Florida’s ban, Amendment 2, passed. Here’s what Crist said then:

Gov. Charlie Crist voted yes Tuesday on Amendment 2, which seeks to define marriage in the Florida’s Constitution as a union between a man and a woman. “I voted for it,” Crist said outside the polling place. “It’s what I believe in.”

It’s what he believes in.

Equality Florida has Crist’s statement after the CNN interview:

In an interview that aired today, I was not discussing an amendment to the U.S. Constitution banning same-sex marriage, which I do not support, but rather reaffirming my position regarding Florida’s constitutional ban that I articulated while running for Governor. In fact, the interviewer’s question reflected just that. I am fully supportive of civil unions and will continue to be as a United States Senator, but believe marriage is a sacred institution between a man and a woman.”

That’s ridiculous. Apparently, Crist believes it acceptable to enshrine bigotry in constitutions at the state level. And, as for that support of civil unions, well, here’s the language of Florida’s Amendment 2:

Inasmuch as marriage is the legal union of only one man and one woman as husband and wife, no other legal union that is treated as marriage or the substantial equivalent thereof shall be valid or recognized.

To be clear, “no other legal union” means civil unions. That’s what Crist voted for in November of 2008. So, Crist now says he supports civil unions, but supported his own’s state’s constitutional ban on civil unions.

Crist is a hypocrite. A big hypocrite. And, he’s opened himself up to the kind of media scrutiny that’s he been able to avoid for all these years. It’s time for the corporate media to apply the same standards they used to talk about Judge Vaughn Walker’s sexual orientation to Charlie Crist.


—  John Wright

Charlie Crist supports constitutional amendment to ban same-sex marriage. Yes, Charlie Crist.

Today, on CNN, the independent candidate for Senate in Florida, Charlie Crist, maintained his support for a constitutional amendment to ban same-sex marriage. Here’s the transcript:

HENRY: Another big issue, same-sex marriage. Many conservatives like Marco Rubio support a constitutional ban on same-sex marriage. But this week, the former Republican Party Chairman Ken Mehlman came out and said he’s gay and he called on conservatives to kind of move to the political center and be more tolerant on this issue. You have previously said in your gubernatorial campaign, you supported a constitutional ban on same-sex marriage. Now that you’re trying to occupy the political center, are you still in favor of a constitutional ban on same-sex marriage?

CRIST: I feel the same way, yes, because I feel that marriage is a sacred institution, if you will. But I do believe in tolerance. I’m a live and let live kind of guy, and while I feel that way about marriage, I think if partners want to have the opportunity to live together, I don’t have a problem with that.

And I think that’s where most of America is. So I think that you know, you have to speak from the heart about these issues. They are very personal. They have a significant impact on an awful lot of people and the less the government is telling people what to do, the better off we’re all going to be. But when it comes to marriage, I think it is a sacred institution. I believe it is between a man and woman, but partners living together, I don’t have a problem with.

HENRY: But governor, doesn’t it sounds like you having it both ways by saying live and let live, but I also support a constitutional ban on same-sex marriage. If it’s live and let live, why would you ban same-sex marriage?

CRIST: Well, everything is in a matter of degree, Ed, and when it becomes to the institution of marriage, I believe that it is between a man and a woman, it’s just how I feel.

Where to begin?

How about here, here, here and here. And, there’s also our post on Mike Signorile’s recent post at Huffington pointing out the “outrageous hypocrisy” of corporate media when it comes to naming who is gay:

Yet, there are many “open secrets” about gay politicians, many of whom are conservative and anti-gay. But, for some reason, that’s off-limits:

But the outrageous hypocrisy here on the part of the corporate media — and one that shows how they are manipulated by the right — is the fact that, even with proof and evidence, news organizations refuse to report on the secretly gay sexual orientation of conservative, anti-gay politicians and public figures when the argument for their exposure is made from the left. When Kirby Dick’s much-discussed documentary Outrage hit theaters in 2009, and later premiered on HBO (for which the film has now been nominated for an Emmy), many media organizations wouldn’t report on the conservative Republican politicians who were claimed to be gay in the film, like Florida Governor Charlie Crist or California Congressman David Dreier, though there was a plethora of sources and witnesses in the film — far beyond just “open secret” reporting.

I think Charlie Crist should be the new poster boy for the sacred institution of marriage between a man and a woman.


—  John Wright

Constitutional Tyranny

In the wake of the Prop 8 decision, many people are talking about judicial tyranny and the will of the people. Since there appears to be a general lack of understanding about how our system of government actually works, consider the subject from a different direction: guns.

I hate the fact that private citizens in this country are legally entitled to own firearms.  As part of a frequently murdered minority group, gun ownership terrifies me.  I consider guns a serious threat to my personal safety and to the safety of my family.  I suppose I could tolerate gun ownership if people kept their guns at home behind closed doors, but I shouldn't have to be near them in public, and I certainly don't want schools teaching my children that having a gun is acceptable.

I would be perfectly happy if the right to private gun ownership was completely eliminated, but that won't happen.  No matter how repulsive I find the idea of gun ownership, no matter how many of my neighbors agree with me and no matter how many of us vote to ban them, any attempt to make gun ownership illegal will be overturned faster thanyou can pull a trigger.

That is the power of the United States Constitution.
We the people have the right to make a dizzying array of decisions (wise or foolish) about our government, but the document that spells out that right – the very foundation of our nation – says that there are a few things we simply cannot do.  We cannot deny people the right to bear arms.  We cannot prohibit people from speaking their mind, no matter how hateful their words may be.  We cannot dictate people's religious beliefs, nor may we pass laws that deny rights to women, ethnic groups, veterans, the elderly or any minority group that happens to be unpopular at the moment.

There has been much hue and cry lately about alleged tyranny from the judicial bench, and gnashing of teeth over how one man can override the will of 7 million people.  But as anyone who took US Government in high school should know, federal judges have one job: enforcing the Constitution.  If there is a tyrant in our government, you won't find it in the federal judiciary, but rather in the National Archives in Washington, D.C.

That tyrannical document ensures that 7 million Californians can't make gun ownership illegal in our state.  It viciously ensures that women get to vote, and don't become disenfranchised chattel if they marry men.  It even has the nerve to prohibit home sellers from discriminating against potential buyers based on their race (which is another little “will of the people” gem that a majority of Californians tried to make legal).

The Constitution provides all sorts of guarantees, and any given individual is likely to find at least one of them distasteful, if not downright repulsive.  For me, that happens to be gun ownership.  For others, it might be marriage equality for same-sex couples.  But no matter how much we may dislike those things, and no matter how vigorously we may seek to keep them outside of our homes and our families, we cannot prohibit them in the law.  Our tyrannical Constitution forbids it.

If you believe legal marriage equality violates your religious freedom, consider this: the Constitution that says people around me can own guns also ensures that you have a right to your religious beliefs.   Just like a gun, however, you can't point them at me and pull the trigger.  Your religious freedom applies only to your own life, and cannot be used to deprive me of the pursuit of happiness and freedom from government intrusion in mine.

Unlike another well-known piece of literature, the Constitution is an all-or-nothing deal.  Unless you can get it amended, you must either live by the entire document – including the parts you dislike – or find a new country to call home.

Tyranny, indeed.
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—  John Wright