District 14: Attorney Jim Rogers files to run but says he’ll withdraw if Hunt seeks re-election

Jim Rodgers

DAVID TAFFET  |  Staff Writer
taffet@dallasvoice.com

Jim Rogers, a Dallas attorney and accountant, filed information on his campaign treasurer on Jan. 18 to begin his run for the Dallas City Council District 14, the seat now held by Angela Hunt. But at that evening’s Stonewall Democrats meeting, he said that if Hunt decides run for her council seat again rather than for mayor, he would withdraw.

Rogers said he only decided to get into the race two days earlier, after a meeting with friends.

“This isn’t a Jim Rogers decision,” he said. “It’s a neighborhood decision.”

One of those in the neighborhood who supports that decision is Neal Emmons, a Hunt appointee to the City Plan Commission.

Emmons cited Rogers’ years of experience working on neighborhood issues as his greatest strength, noting that Rogers has been active in Democratic politics in the city for years and has become a member of Stonewall Democrats.

Rogers has lived in Oak Lawn and East Dallas for 30 years and served on the Urban Rehabilitation Standards Board. He was one of the original Bryan Place homeowners.

When Bryan Place was built just outside of Downtown Dallas in the early 1980s, it was the first residential development built so close to the city center in decades and its residents were considered urban pioneers.

Rogers said developer Dave Fox told him, “Bryan Place wouldn’t have the atmosphere it has if it wasn’t for Jim Rogers.”

“We didn’t do what I wanted to do,” he said. “We found out what the neighborhood wanted to do.”

He said he went door to door to find out what his new neighbors thought would make this a better place to live. The neighborhood had no amenities and people wanted a swimming pool. They created a $300,000 budget that would include a clubhouse.

Developer Fox & Jacobs pledged $200,000 to the project if Rogers could raise $100,000 never believing they’d have to make good on their promise.

Rogers delivered his portion from money raised from the new homeowners. The developers pitched in their pledge and built the pool.

He said that story illustrates how he would approach his job on the City Council.

“I want to involve as many people from the district as possible,” he said.

He said he would listen and learn what issues are not being addressed. But he did have a three-point plan — smoother streets, safer neighborhoods and lower taxes.

While he followed and understood the budgeting problems that the council faced last year, Rogers said he wondered why Dallas has the highest tax rate of any major city in the state.

He said he wasn’t looking to slash services, “But more analysis needs to be done.”

He said he was driving near Northwest Highway and LBJ Freeway and he suddenly noticed a difference in the road.

“Then I realized I was in Garland,” he said. “Garland shouldn’t have smoother streets than we do.

Rogers promised to be an advocate for the LGBT community, just as Hunt has been. Although same-sex marriage is not an issue that faces a city council, he offered his opinion on it.

“Why not?” Rogers asked. “How’s it going to affect my marriage?”

He said he supports policies already in place in Dallas such as domestic partnership benefits for city employees and the nondiscrimination ordinance. On new issues that might come before the council, he said his door would be open for members of the community to come and educate him so he could support equality.

“I will always fight for the guy who is not being treated right,” he said.

He called the LGBT community “The most active political community on the face of the earth.”

“I want the support of that community,” he said. “It’s amazing how much work goes on there.”

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition Jan. 21, 2011.

—  John Wright

BREAKING: Re-hearing sought in gay divorce

Attorneys for a gay Dallas man who’s seeking a divorce from his husband have filed a motion requesting a re-hearing of the case by the full 5th District Court of Appeals.

An all-Republican, three-judge panel of the Dallas appeals court ruled in August that the man, identified in court documents as J.B., cannot obtain a divorce in Texas because the state doesn’t recognize same-sex marriage.

J.B. and his attorneys had the option of dropping the matter, appealing the decision to the Texas Supreme Court, or requesting a re-hearing by the 13-justice 5th District Court en banc.

“We believe adequate grounds exist for the entire Court of Appeals to reconsider the panel’s opinion, and we hope the entire Dallas court of appeals will do that,” said attorney James J. “Jody” Scheske of Akin Gump Strauss Hauer & Feld, the Austin firm representing J.B.

Scheske said for the request to be granted, a majority of the 13 justices would have to agree to rehear the case. There is no timeframe for the court to rule on the request, he said. Depending on the outcome, Scheske said he’s unsure whether his client will appeal the decision to the Texas Supreme Court.

“We’re taking it one step at a time,” Scheske said. “We’re hopeful the entire court of appeals will issue an opinion we can live with, in which case further appeal won’t be necessary.”

J.B. and his partner, H.B., were married in Massachusetts in 2006. After they moved to Dallas, J.B. filed for a divorce in 2008.

In October of last year, Democratic District Judge Tena Callahan ruled she had jurisdiction to hear J.B.’s divorce petition, saying Texas’ bans on same-sex marriage are unconstitutional.

Republican Attorney General Greg Abbott appealed Callahan’s decision, and the appeals court ruled on Aug. 31 in Abbott’s favor.

To read the full text of the motion seeking a re-hearing, go here.

—  John Wright

DART accused of transphobia

Judge reversed order after transit agency fought longtime employee’s gender-marker change last year

John Wright | News Editor
wright@dallasvoice.com

TRANS FRIENDLY? | Judge Lynn Cherry, right, is shown alongside drag performer Chanel during Stonewall Democrats’ 2008 holiday party at the Round-Up Saloon. A few months later, Cherry ruled against a transgender DART employee and overturned a gender-marker change. (John Wright/Dallas Voice)

DART stands accused of bigotry and transphobia after attorneys for the local transit agency intervened in family court last year to challenge a gender-marker change granted to an employee.

According to court records, a transgender DART employee obtained a court order in February 2009 directing all state agencies to correct their records by changing her gender-marker from male to female, including on her birth certificate.

As Dallas Voice reported last week, many Dallas County judges have been routinely granting gender-marker changes to transgender people who meet set criteria — including documentation from licensed medical personnel — since the Democratic sweep of 2006.

The DART employee, who’s name is being withheld to protect her anonymity, later presented the court order to the transit agency’s human resources department and requested that her personnel records be changed to reflect her new gender.

But DART’s attorneys objected to the gender-marker change and responded by filing a motion seeking a rehearing in court. DART’s objections prompted 301st Family District Court Judge Lynn Cherry to reverse her order granting the gender-marker change.

“Where does this stop when an employer can start interfering with your personal life and family law decisions?” said longtime local transgender activist Pamela Curry, a friend of the DART employee who brought the case to the attention of Dallas Voice. “She was devastated. This should be a serious concern to a lot of people — everybody — and I just think this story needs to be told.”

Judge Cherry, who received Stonewall Democrats of Dallas’ Pink Pump Award for her support of the group last year, didn’t respond to messages seeking comment this week.

Morgan Lyons, a spokesman for DART, noted that Cherry reversed her order before the agency actually filed its motion for a rehearing. However, Curry alleges that DART’s attorneys met with Cherry privately and pressured her into reversing the order.

As is common with gender-marker changes, the case file has been sealed, but Dallas Voice obtained copies of some of the court documents from Curry.

In their motion for a rehearing, DART attorneys Harold R. McKeever and Hyattye Simmons argued that Texas law grants registrars, not judges, the authority to amend birth certificates. They also argued that birth certificates could be amended only if they were inaccurate at the time of birth.

“It’s not a DART issue, it’s a point of law,” Lyons told Dallas Voice this week, in response to the allegations of bigotry. “The lawyers concluded that the birth certificate could not be altered by law, unless there was a mistake made when the birth certificate was completed, and again, the judge changed the order before we even wound up going into court with it.”

Asked about DART’s LGBT-related employment policies, Lyons said the agency’s nondiscrimination policy includes sexual orientation but not gender identity/expression. The agency, which is governed by representatives from Dallas and numerous suburbs, also doesn’t offer benefits to the domestic partners of employees.

Lyons didn’t respond to other allegations made by Curry, including that the agency has fought the employee’s transition from male to female at every step of the way.

Curry, who helped the employee file her pro se petition for a gender-marker change, said the employee has worked for DART for more than 20 years and has an outstanding performance record.

The employee began to come out as transgender in 2003 and had gender reassignment surgery more than three years ago, Curry said. Curry said DART supervisors have at various times told the employee that she couldn’t have long hair, couldn’t wear skirts to work and couldn’t use women’s restrooms at work.

The employee has responded by showing up at work in her uniform so she doesn’t have to change and using public restrooms on her bus route, Curry said.

Supervisors have also told the employee she can’t talk to the media and can’t join political groups, such as Stonewall Democrats, Curry said.

“She’s intimidated and she’s scared,” Curry said. “One supervisor even suggested to her that if she doesn’t lay off it, they will mess up her retirement.”

Elaine Mosher, a Dallas attorney who’s familiar with the case, also questioned why DART intervened. Mosher didn’t represent the employee in the case but has handled gender-marker changes for other clients.

Mosher said the employee’s gender doesn’t have any bearing on her ability to do her job at DART.

“My argument in any gender marker matter is, the birth certificate was wrong, that’s why they had to go through the transition surgery, in essence to put them in the correct gender,” Mosher said. “All I can tell you is that it seems strange to me that DART would care one way or another what the gender marker of anybody that works for them is.”

Moster added that she believes someone at DART may have been “freaked out” by the employee’s transition from male to female and developed a “vendetta” against her.

“I wish I had a good explanation for why [DART got involved] other than the fact that I know there are people out there who are utterly blind and prejudiced for no other reason than they are,” Mosher said. “I compare it to some of the nonsense African-Americans had to live through in the ’60s.”

Mosher also said she’s “very surprised” that Cherry reversed the order granting the gender marker change.

Erin Moore, president of Stonewall Democrats, said she’s heard “bits and pieces” of the story but isn’t sure of all the facts.

Moore said in response to her questions about the case, Cherry told her she couldn’t talk about it because it’s still within the timeframe for a possible appeal.

“Lynn is a longtime supporter of Stonewall and I would think she would be fair in the case,” Moore said. “I’m confident she’s an ally to this community.”

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition February 19, 2010.

—  admin