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

Woman pleads guilty in case of videotaped beating of trans woman at McDonald’s

Teona Brown, 19, has pled guilty Thursday, Aug. 4, to first degree assault charges and a hate crime charge in connection with the beating of transgender woman Chrissy Polis last April in Towson,

Chrissy Polis

Md. The attack was captured on video by a McDonald’s employee — who filmed the assault rather than step in and try to stop it — last April. The video went viral online and was used, along with new footage from a surveillance camera, in court hearings this week. CBS Baltimore has this report on the plea.

Conviction on a first degree assault charge carries a maximum sentence of 25 years, and a hate crime conviction could add another 10 years. Because Brown pled guilty to the attack, prosecutors are recommending that the judge sentence her to five years in prison. A sentencing hearing has been set for next month.

Polis was present in court on Thursday, but told reporters she was nervous about being there and had no comment. “I just want to lay low and keep my life as normal as possible,” she said.

A second person charged in the attack was 14 at the time and has been charged with assault as a juvenile. Because she is a minor, her identity has not been released.

Below is a video of a news report aired on the Washington, D.C., Fox news program when the attack happened. It includes video of the attack and, as State’s Attorney Scott Shellenberger said this week, “The severity of the beating is much easier to understand when you see a video. They say a picture’s worth a thousand words. Well, a video’s worth a million.”

—  admin

DOMA ruled unconstitutional by bankruptcy court

A federal bankruptcy court in California on Monday ruled that Section 3 of the Defense of Marriage Act is unconstitutional.

The U.S. Bankruptcy Court for the Central District of California in Los Angeles ruled that it is discriminatory to prevent a legally married same-sex couple from filing for joint bankruptcy.

The couple, Gene Balas and Carlos Morales, filed a joint chapter 13 petition. They were married in 2008 in California and remain legally married.

In his ruling, the judge wrote: “This case is about equality, regardless of gender or sexual orientation, for two people who filed for protection under Title 11 of the United States Code (Bankruptcy Code).”

It is “undisputed that the Debtors are a lawfully married California couple,” the judge wrote, adding that the couple came to the court to restructure and repay their debt following extended illnesses and long periods of unemployment.

The U.S. trustee for the case filed a motion to dismiss on the grounds that two men cannot file jointly for bankruptcy. The judge ruled the trustee did not ask for dismissal based on one of the 11 causes listed in bankruptcy law to dismiss, but simply because the couple are two men.

The judge said the trustee filed no relevant case law supporting his position and said the couple should not be singled out for discriminatory treatment. He cited the Obama administration’s position that DOMA is unconstitutional and ruled that, indeed it is.

—  David Taffet

Judge to rule this week in Nikki Araguz case

Nikki Araguz

Transgender widow vows appeal if she loses case

JUAN A. LOZANO  |  Associated Press

WHARTON, Texas — The transgender widow of a Texas firefighter will likely learn next week whether his family’s request to nullify their marriage and strip her of any death benefits will be granted, a judge said Friday.

State District Judge Randy Clapp made the announcement after hearing arguments in a lawsuit filed by the family of firefighter Thomas Araguz III, who was killed while battling a blaze last year. The suit argues that his widow shouldn’t get any benefits because she was born a man and Texas doesn’t recognize same-sex marriage.

The widow, Nikki Araguz, said she had done everything medically and legally possible to show that she is female and was legally married under Texas law. She believes that she’s entitled to widow’s benefits.

“I believe the judge is going to rule in my favor,” Araguz said after the court hearing.

The lawsuit seeks control over death benefits and assets totaling more than $600,000, which the firefighter’s family wants to go to his two sons from a previous marriage. Voiding the marriage would prevent Nikki Araguz from receiving any insurance or death benefits or property the couple had together.

Thomas Araguz died while fighting a fire at an egg farm near Wharton, about 60 miles southwest of Houston, in July 2010. He was 30.

His mother, Simona Longoria, filed a lawsuit asking that her son’s marriage be voided. She and her family have said he learned of his wife’s gender history just prior to his death, and after he found out, he moved out of their home and planned to end the marriage.

But Nikki Araguz, 35, has insisted that her husband was aware she was born a man and that he fully supported her through the surgical process to become a woman. She underwent surgery two months after they were married in 2008.

Longoria’s attorney, Chad Ellis, argued that Texas law — specifically a 1999 appeals court ruling that stated chromosomes, not genitals, determine gender — supports his client’s efforts to void the marriage.

The ruling upheld a lower court’s decision that threw out a wrongful death lawsuit filed by a San Antonio woman, Christie Lee Cavazos Littleton, after her husband’s death. The court said that although Littleton had undergone a sex-change operation, she was actually a man, based on her original birth certificate, and therefore her marriage and wrongful death claim were invalid.

Ellis presented medical and school records that he said showed Nikki Araguz was born without female reproductive organs and that she presented herself as a male while growing up and going to school. He also said her birth certificate at the time of her marriage indicated she was a man.

“By law, two males cannot be married in this state,” Ellis told the judge.

Nikki Araguz, who was born in California, did not change her birth certificate to reflect she had become a female until after her husband’s death, said Edward Burwell, one of the attorneys for Thomas Araguz’s ex-wife, Heather Delgado, the mother of his two children.

But one of Nikki Araguz’s attorneys, Darrell Steidley, said that when his client got her marriage license, she presented the necessary legal documents to show she was a female. He also noted changes made in 2009 to the Texas Family Code that allowed people to present numerous alternatives to a birth certificate as the proof of identity needed to get a marriage license. That was an example, he argued, of the state trying to move away from the 1999 appeals court ruling.

The changes in 2009 allowed transgendered people to use proof of their sex change to get a marriage license. The Texas Legislature is currently considering a bill that would prohibit county and district clerks from using a court order recognizing a sex change as documentation to get married.

After the hearing, the firefighter’s family and attorneys for his ex-wife criticized plans by Nikki Araguz to star in a reality television dating show and implied she was only interested in money and fame that the case would bring her.

“That is absurd,” Nikki Araguz said in response. “I’m after my civil equality and the rights that I deserve as the wife of a fallen firefighter.”

If the judge rules against the firefighter’s family in their motion for a summary judgment, the case would then proceed to trial. Araguz said if the judge rules against her, she would appeal, all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court if necessary.

—  John Wright

What’s Brewing: Maryland Senate kills gender identity bill; anti-gay hate crime at UNC

Quinn Matney was attacked and severely burned in an anti-gay hate crime at the University of North Carolina.

Your weekday morning blend from Instant Tea:

1. For a third straight week, LGBT advocates plan to speak during the Dallas County Commissioners Court’s meeting today and call on commissioners to add transgender employees to the county’s nondiscrimination policy. Last month, commissioners voted to add sexual orientation but not gender identity to the policy. The Commissioners Court meets at 9 a.m. in the County Administration Building, 411 Elm St.

2. The Maryland Senate on Monday voted to kill a measure that would have protected transgender people from discrimination in housing, employment and credit — but not public accommodations. The vote marks the second major disappointment this year for LGBT advocates in Maryland, where the House thwarted a marriage equality bill last month.

3. A University of North Carolina freshman says he was attacked and severely burned in an anti-gay hate crime on the school’s campus last week. The UNC administration, which failed to notify students until a week after the attack occurred, now says it plans to report the incident as an anti-gay hate crime to the federal government.

—  John Wright

California Supreme Court Accepts Prop 8 Question

The California Supreme Court has decided to accept the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals request to decide whether the Defendant-Intervenor’s in Perry v Schwarzenegger (the Proposition 8 case) have standing under California law to act as defendants in the case.

As the notice says, oral arguments are estimated to be heard sometime in September of 2011. That would mean a decision would not be likely until some time in 2012 December, 2011 (California law gives appellate courts three months to decide a case after oral arguments). That would mean the case would not get back to the Ninth Circuit until some time after that, probably in 2012. When they would issue an opinion on standing and/or an opinion of the actual case (whether Proposition 8 violates the US Constitution) is anyone’s guess.

In any case any decision is likely to be appealed to the US Supreme Court, which would not likely hear the case until late 2012 or 2013.

One thing is clear: Marriage equality (or denial of marriage equality) in California via the courts is a long, long way off.

The request, pursuant to California Rules of Court, rule 8.548, that this court decide a question of California law presented in a matter pending in the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit, is granted. For the purposes of briefing and oral argument, defendant-intervenors Dennis Hollingsworth, Gail J. Knight, Martin F. Gutierrez, Mark A. Jansson, and ProtectMarriage.com (collectively “Proponents”) are deemed the petitioners in this court. (Cal. Rules of Court, rule 8.520(a)(6).) In order to facilitate expedited consideration and resolution of the issues presented, and to accommodate oral argument in this matter as early as September, 2011, the normal briefing schedule is shortened, pursuant to California Rules of Court, rule 8.68, as follows: The opening brief on the merits is to be served and filed on or before Monday, March 14, 2011. The answer brief on the merits is to be served and filed on or before Monday, April 4. A reply brief may be served and filed on or before Monday, April 18. Any person or entity wishing to file an amicus curiae brief must file an application for permission to file such brief, accompanied by the proposed brief, on or before Monday, May 2, 2011. Any party may serve and file an omnibus reply to any or all amicus curiae briefs on or before Monday, May 9, 2011. The court does not contemplate any extension of the above deadlines. Votes: Cantil-Sakauye, C.J., Kennard, Baxter, Werdegar, Chin, Moreno, and Corrigan, JJ.

Perry v Schwarzenegger

Pam’s House Blend – Front Page

—  David Taffet

Hawaii Senate Confirms Out Lesbian as Supreme Court Justice

Today was an amazing day for equality in the Aloha State.  Not only did the civil unions legislation pass the legislature and head to Gov. Abercrombie for his signature, but openly gay judge Sabrina Shizue McKenna was confirmed as an Associate Justice to the state’s highest court.  She becomes the first openly gay member of the Hawaii Supreme Court and the second out lesbian supreme court justice in the U.S.  The appointment to the position spans 10 years and will give McKenna the opportunity to make her mark on the bench.

Gov. Neil Abercrombie called the appointment the most important decision in his career, and said the “appointment sets the course for the state and its legal direction for the next several years.  I’m completely confident that Judge McKenna’s appointment will be something I’m proud of for the rest of my life.”  Judiciary Chair Clayton Hee, gave impassioned remarks on the floor of the Senate and his colleagues confirmed McKenna unanimously, including the sole Republican in the chamber, Sam Slom, who also spoke well of the nominee.

I was honored to be in the chamber for both the civil unions vote and Judge McKenna’s confirmation, and to share such a momentous day with my friends and colleagues here in Hawaii.  It’s been a long time on this road to equality, but we’re finally making substantial gains in the state where the marriage battle began nearly two decades ago.

Judge Sabrina McKenna, 53, the senior judge of Oahu’s Family Court at the Kapolei courthouse, was a state judge in circuit and district courts for 17 years.  She is partnered to Denise Yamashiro and has three children between the ages of 8-14.  McKenna, born and raised in Japan, attended the University of Hawaii-Manoa for undergraduate studies and law school.


Human Rights Campaign | HRC Back Story

—  David Taffet

Do We Want The CA Supreme Court To Say ProtectMarriage.com Has Standing To Appeal Perry?

To the disgust of plenty, the California Supreme Court has agreed to look into whether ProtectMarriage.com has standing in Perry v. Schwarzenegger to appeal the case in federal court. The Ninth Circuit asked the Supremes to interpret their own state law, which plenty of opponents to Prop 8 will tell you is a flawed legal theory, since it's not the job of a state court to tell a federal court whether a party to their case is in the right. Oral arguments on the matter will be "expedited," which for the court system means they could begin "as early as" September. At issue is Article II, Section 8 of the California Constitution, which states "the official proponents of an initiative measure possess either a particularized interest in the initiative's validity or the authority to assert the state's interest in the initiative's validity, which would enable them to defend the constitutionality of the initiative upon its adoption or appeal a judgment invalidating the initiative, when the public officials charged with that duty refuse to do so." And while, in public, the American Foundation for Equal Rights and other gay advocates want the Supremes to deny standing, and thus have the Ninth Circuit kill the appeal, doing so would inhibit Perry's chances of reaching the federal Supreme Court, which is where plenty want to see this go.


Permalink | 2 comments | Add to , , , ,

Queerty

—  David Taffet

California Supreme Court will hold hearing on standing issue in Prop. 8 case

Twitter is abuzz with the news that the California Supreme Court will hold a hearing on the standing issue in the Prop. 8 case.

From AFER:

BREAKING: Calif. Supreme Court to hear #Prop8 case with expedited schedule. Oral arguments as soon as Sept 2011.

One thing is clear: this case about marriage equality will be front and center during the 2012 presidential campaign. Background on what all of this means here. And, we’ll post more as we get more info. I expect we’ll see a statement from AFER — and that’s the one that matters.

UPDATE @ 6:16 PM: And, here’s that statement from AFER:

Statement by the American Foundation for Equal Rights on California Supreme Court Response to Ninth Circuit

Los Angeles, CA – American Foundation for Equal Rights Board President Chad Griffin issued the following statement regarding the California Supreme Court’s response to the question from the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit in the Perry v. Schwarzenegger case:

“More than six months ago, the federal district court declared unequivocally that Prop. 8 is unconstitutional and that it causes grave harm to gay and lesbian couples and their families each day that it is in effect. We look forward to assisting the California Supreme Court reach an answer to the question before them as soon as possible so that the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals can affirm the district court’s ruling and end the state-sanctioned discrimination of Prop. 8. We are hopeful that the California Supreme Court will also consider further expediting this matter so that it could be argued before the summer.

“The American Foundation for Equal Rights is committed to achieving the freedom to marry for all Americans. We look forward to taking this case to the U.S. Supreme Court, which 14 times before has declared that marriage is a fundamental right for every American.”




AMERICAblog Gay

—  David Taffet

Court: Student Counselor Must Treat Gays

Julea Ward x390 (grab) | ADVOCATE.COMThe ACLU is supporting Eastern Michigan University in its dispute over kicking out an antigay graduate student
Advocate.com: Daily News

—  David Taffet