Hood County Clerk refuses to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples

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Hood County Clerk Katie Lang is refusing to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples, citing Attorney General Ken Paxton’s “legal opinion” saying that clerk’s can refuse to issue those licenses based on their own personal religious beliefs. She has even included a post on the county clerk website, under “Services,” noting that she will not issue the licenses and explaining why.

Paxton’s opinion does include some basic CYA language noting that while individual clerks and assistant clerks can refuse to issue the licenses, county clerk offices as a whole have to follow the law and those clerks who do not allow someone in the office to issue the licenses those clerks can be held personally liable and sued. And that the county nor the state will pay for their defense.

A quick call to the Hood County Clerk’s office this morning (Tuesday, June 30), confirmed that the office as a whole WILL NOT issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples. That, of course, opens County Clerk Katie Lang up to lawsuits. Kelly Shackleford of the far-right-wing Liberty Institute has reportedly said he will represent Lang in any legal action against her.

Personally, I am wondering if Katie Lang is TRYING to get sued, so that she can become a “Christian martyr,” victimized by all those horrible heathen gays, and then use that “martyrdom” as a springboard for a bid for higher political office.

Here’s another personal opinion for you: I respect the fact that some people have religious beliefs that would prevent them for issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples. I don’t agree with those beliefs, but I respect your right to believe that, and I will defend your right to your beliefs. But when you hold a public office or work for the government, then you also have a civil duty to serve all people. If your deeply held religious beliefs keep you from serving all people, then you need to find another job.

Dana Guffey, county clerk for Cleburne County in Arkansas (and no, that’s not Johnson County Clerk in Cleburne, Texas), understands that. She has held that office for 24 years but yesterday announced she is resigning because her religious beliefs prevent her from issuing marriage licenses but the duties of that office require it. I respect Ms. Guffey’s beliefs. I respect her decision. I wish her the best.

—  Tammye Nash

Supreme Court rulings benefit the LGBT community

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Outside the U.S. Supreme Court on June 25. (Courtesy Dreanna Belden)

The U.S. Supreme Court today (Thursday, June 25) decided two major cases — one on housing and one healthcare — that affect members of the LGBT community. The housing case originated in Dallas.

King v. Burwell (Affordable Care Act subsidies)

While acknowledging in the majority opinion supporting the Affordable Care Act that many passages are poorly written, the decision upholds the subsidies that have allowed millions of people to obtain health insurance. The ruling particularly affects Texas because the suit took aim at states — like Texas — that didn’t create their own health insurance exchanges.

For people with HIV, that coverage has meant being able to see a private doctor and go to a hospital other than Parkland. For AIDS agencies providing direct healthcare, it’s meant a new revenue source and the ability to help more people without insurance.

AIDS Arms, with two medical clinics, has seen an increase in the number of its patients with insurance. Services provided to those same clients previously would have been covered by grants.

Not everyone is happy with the Supreme Court’s rulings.

“This is unfortunate news for the millions of Americans who have experienced first-hand the devastating effects Obamacare has had on their families and businesses,” Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton said. “While today’s ruling is disappointing, Obamacare remains one of the broadest overreaches of federal authority in our nation’s history and we must continue to call on our leaders in Washington to step up and put an end to this job-killing law.”

The job-killing Paxton was referring to is that 2014, the first year of implementation of the ACA was the strongest year for job-creation since the 1990s.

State Rep. Chris Turner, D-Arlington, said, “The impact of a different decision would have been devastating” and would have affected insurance for about 830,000 Texans.

Rep. Marc Veasey, D-Fort Worth, said, “Now that this ruling has been cemented in stone by the highest court of the land, it is my hope that House Republicans can finally move past their partisan obsession with obstructing and dismantling the Affordable Care Act and begin to work with House Democrats on responsible and bipartisan efforts to lower health care costs, create jobs, and strengthen our economy.”

Republican presidential candidate Rick Santorum weighed in as well.

“Today’s ruling by the Supreme Court is yet another reminder that if we are to rid our nation Obamacare once and for all, we need to elected [sic] a conservative President prepared to lead on day one.”

Texas Department of Housing and Community Affairs v. The Inclusive Communities Project (disparate impact and the Fair Housing Act)

The second case upheld the Fair Housing Act of 1968. Attorney Mike Daniel, former husband of County Commissioner Theresa Daniel, represented Dallas’ Inclusive Communities Project, and prevailed in the U.S. Supreme Court.

The decision allows the Dallas nonprofit to sue for discrimination, even if the bias wasn’t intentional. Money for housing projects usually went to Dallas’ poorest neighborhoods rather than placing low-income housing throughout the city. That could affect plans for Dallas Housing Authority’s largest project slated for Kings Road between Maple Avenue and Cedar Springs Road.

However, the decision affects housing across the country.

“Disparate impact claims under the Fair Housing Act are key to addressing systemic housing discrimination and segregation in the United States, including against LGBT people,” said Human Rights Campaign Legal Director Sarah Warbelow. “As the LGBT community seeks to gain explicit protections from discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity in housing, this decision from the court is welcome news and reinforces this important tool for addressing housing discrimination.”

“We are elated that the U.S. Supreme Court protected health insurance for millions and reinforced the importance of rooting out discrimination in housing,” said Kate Kendall, National Center for Lesbian Rights executive director. “These two rulings reaffirm the most basic principles of equality, access, and fair dealing.”

—  David Taffet

District judge orders Arkansas to recognize 500 marriages performed last year

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Judge Wendell Griffen

Pulaski County Circuit Judge Wendell Griffen in Arkansas validated the marriage licenses issued in 2014 to 500 couples.

The licenses were issued after another judge struck down the state’s marriage ban. Arkansas was a marriage equality state for one week until the state Supreme Court halted marriage equality in the state. Unlike bans in a number of other states, including Oklahoma, the stay didn’t go to the U.S. Supreme Court and Arkansas remains one of 13 marriage-discrimination states, like Texas.

However, after this ruling, Arkansas has 500 couples married in the state. Texas only has one. That could change later this month when the U.S. Supreme Court rules on Obergefell v. Hodges.

—  David Taffet

Geller accuses media of enforcing Sharia Law

pamelagellerPamela Geller is back in the news.

She announced on her blog she’s going to publish the winning cartoon from her Garland hatefest in ads on buses and trains in D.C.

She complains the media is enforcing Sharia Law and freedom of speech is under attack.

Here’s what she doesn’t understand. Freedom of the press means we have the right to print what we like and don’t have to print what we don’t want. Most media outlets haven’t found any reason to print her winning cartoon, because the only reason it was created was to insult and to incite violence. Had two gunmen not attacked her Garland Klan rally, media would have paid no attention to her event.

Freedom of speech doesn’t entitle her to newspaper coverage. She can print whatever she likes in her blog. She can say whatever she likes, wherever she likes.

Most people believe freedom of speech comes with responsibility. Just because you can say something doesn’t mean you should say something. An example is how Westboro Baptist Church pickets military funerals. The U.S. Supreme Court ruled the Phelps clan has the right to picket, but no one really believes they should.

Freedom of the press comes with responsibilities as well.  An example is when police have asked us not to print information we had because it would jeopardize an investigation. The Constitution says we could print it. Responsible use of freedom of the press told us not to.

Most people understand the concept of respecting other people with different beliefs.

Most people understand that if the only reason to say something is to anger someone else, you might be better off keeping your damn mouth shut.

Geller doesn’t care to take that advice. Her cartoon serves no purpose other than to irritate people, but no one’s stopping her from saying anything. Because I choose not to print her vile cartoon isn’t because this Jewish guy is enforcing Sharia Law. It’s because I see no reason to print something whose sole purpose is to insult Muslim friends of mine.

—  David Taffet

Jindal’s end run around fairness and equality

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Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal

Just hours after a so-called “religious freedom” bill died in the Louisiana Legislature on Tuesday, May 19, Gov. Bobby Jindal had issued an executive order allowing businesses to discriminate based on owners’/operators’ religious beliefs on marriage.

“We are disappointed by the committee’s action to return the Louisiana Marriage and Conscience Act to the calendar,” Jindal said in a statement Tuesday afternoon, according to a New Orleans Times-Picayune report. “We will be issuing an Executive Order shortly that will … prevent the state from discriminating against persons or entities with deeply held religious beliefs that marriage is between one man and one woman.”

The Times-Picayune notes Jindal told reporters the order was issued Tuesday afternoon and went into effect immediately. The order will remain in effect until 60 days after the end of the next legislative session. The next governor, however, can repeal it upon entering office in January, if he or she chooses.

The New Orleans newspaper also quoted state Sen. Karen Carter Peterson, D-New Orleans, who criticized the timing of the order, as well as Jindal’s decision to buck the will of the Legislature.

“It’s a sinful attempt to deflect from the failures of what should be the top legislative priority, what we’re dealing with every day, which is a bogus state budget,” she said from the Senate floor Tuesday afternoon.

The Washington Post today (Wednesday, May 20), noted that Jindal’s executive order nearly mirrors the content and intent of the failed “Marriage and Conscience Act,” which itself closely resembles Religious Freedom Restoration Acts like the one that was vetoed by Gov. Asa Hutchinson after an outcry from businesses, led by Wal-Mart, and the one recently enacted in Indiana, throwing that whole state into an uproar and hitting the Hoosier pocketbook hard and fast.

A similar measure died last week in the Texas Legislature.

The Post notes that one of the main reasons the Marriage and Conscience Act died in the Louisiana Legislature is because lawmakers feared it would impact the state’s economy, and would be especially harmful to tourism in a state that thrives on its visitors:

New Orleans Convention and Visitors Bureau Chief Executive Stephen Perry called the bill “a radioactive, poisonous message,” saying it could cost the state $65 million per year.

But Jindal, in New York Times op-ed last month, said money doesn’t matter: “As the fight for religious liberty moves to Louisiana, I have a clear message for any corporation that contemplates bullying our state: Save your breath,” he wrote.

Louisiana Democratic Party Executive Director Stephen Handwerk predicted that the executive order will substantially harm the tourism industry in the state. “Gov. Jindal’s stunt today once again underlines his disregard for Louisiana families, his disdain for the state legislature and his apparent contempt for the state’s tourism industry — the only segment of our economy his failed policies haven’t crippled,” Handwerk said.

The Post also pointed out that Jindal’s decision to stage an end run around the Legislature seems especially hypocritical, considering his attacks on President Barack Obama’s use of executive orders in connection with immigration reform.

—  Tammye Nash

Let the bigots show themselves: the case of a Michigan mechanic

KlawiterPersonally, if you don’t want to do business with me, I’d rather you let me know than let me inadvertently buy a product or service from you.

Now most business owners aren’t going to say anything, because they understand that bigotry isn’t good for business. But the ones that will go on Facebook or directly to the media to air their prejudices and stupidity, like the pizza place in Walkerton, Ind., are just so special.

Take Brian Klawiter. He’s a mechanic in Grandville, Mich., and owner of Dieseltec, who said he’d refuse service to gay people and if anyone argued gay rights with him, he’d fix the car with nuts and not bolts.

First, this guy is delusional. When was the last time you went to your mechanic and argued gay rights with them?

Oh, did I say mechanic. Unlicensed mechanic. It seems like getting that license goes against Klawiter’s civil rights and his religious beliefs, so Michigan is trying to get him to renew or put him out of business. So he does understand civil rights, just not for other people. And the state wouldn’t have gotten wind of this had he not made a media spectacle.

Several of his suppliers have insisted he remove their logos from his shop. They don’t want to be affiliated with that kind of hate. Seems auto parts suppliers have this funny idea that gays and lesbians and even transgender people use the exact same kinds of carburetors, alternators and other widgets that straight people put in their cars. They also pay the exact same money for them.

Also turns out that repairing a car improperly to cause injury can be considered murder or attempted murder. Michigan’s watching for faulty repairs and may charge him if found to have happened.

Of course if charged, it wouldn’t be Klawiter’s first brush with the law. He was convicted of assault in 1999 and then in 2001 for a parole violation. Serving gay people violates his “Christian” faith. Assault doesn’t.

And what do you do when you’re discriminated against for trying to discriminate against other people? You start a GoFundMe campaign. Seems Go Fund Me didn’t think it was such a hot idea to be associated with this campaign so after he raised $0, they pulled the page.

As a result of Klawiter’s tirade, Grandville is considering enacting a human rights ordinance. And now, not only the LGBT community in that part of Michigan knows where they probably shouldn’t get their cars repaired, but so do all of their friends, relatives and co-workers. Even “Christian” co-workers. What would happen if it came up in a conversation that you work with one of — them, you know, a gay.

See? Sometimes good things happen when we let the bigots show themselves.

—  David Taffet

Gay Uber drivers in Oklahoma will be able to kick straight people out of their cars

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Sen. Jason Smalley who isn’t gay. Really.

The Oklahoma Senate passed the “Oklahoma Transportation Network Company Services Act” that removed protection for passengers based on sexual orientation.

That will allow LGBT Uber drivers in the state to protect themselves from having to drive straight people to their destinations or take their money.

The House version of the bill prevented discrimination based on sexual orientation.

“I believe if a private business owner wants to serve or not serve an individual, they have that purview right now,” said Sen. Jason Smalley, the bill’s Senate sponsor, according to ABC News.

However, if Uber or Lyft drivers decided to take Oklahoma up on its generous offer to discriminate, they could lose their affiliation with those companies since both have nondiscrimination policies that include sexual orientation.

—  David Taffet

The Memories Pizza story: Doesn’t add up and isn’t the problem

MemoriesThe whole Memories Pizza “won’t cater a gay wedding story” just doesn’t add up.

First, as has been pointed out all over social media, no gay couple ever called out for pizza for their wedding. But that’s just pointing out the obvious.

We’re to believe a small-town Indiana pizza shop is suddenly the flashpoint for anti-Christian discrimination by the LGBT community and in one day they’re out of business?!

Sorry. Don’t believe it.

This became a story when a South Bend TV station told a reporter to travel about 30 minutes to the town of Walkerton and get reactions to the “religious freedom” bill that just passed. The owner of the pizza shop — or maybe she’s the owner’s daughter? — said she’s in favor of the law and then added that they wouldn’t cater a same-sex wedding.

A day later, the business was closed.

Sorry. There’s something wrong with this story.

First of all, media reporting the story should point out that the TV station had to travel half an hour from its studio to even find a business that supported the law. They must have looked locally and found nothing.

Memories Pizza hadn’t issued a press release or gone on social media to go out of its way to bash the LGBT community. The owner/owner’s daughter made an off-handed remark, while on camera, just repeating the nonsense she’d heard all over media before about all the bakers and photographers who have been “forced” to cater same-sex weddings.

Then the next day her business is closed.

So let’s assume as a result of her TV appearance, there was a sudden boycott of her business. In one day, she was forced to close. What would happen if it snowed in her Indiana town and she was forced to shut down for one day? Would she also be out of business?

More likely than not, her friends and neighbors who saw her on TV the day before stopped by just to say they saw her and while they were there they bought something. I’m sure business was just fine at Memories yesterday.

Maybe she closed because of phone threats?

Let me tell you something about phone threats. Doing an LGBT radio show, I’ve gotten death threats, bomb threats and just plain harassing calls. Lots of them. A few weeks ago, I was substituting on KNON’s Jewish Music Hour and I got an anti-semitic call. Wow. Hadn’t heard that kind of stupidity in awhile.

Here’s what you do when you get threatening phone calls. You take the call seriously and call the police.

I can assure you here in Dallas, threats like that are taken seriously. Very seriously. I’m sure in Walkerton, Ind., the police know their downtown businesses and take those kinds of threats personally as well as seriously.

If Memories Pizza really is out of business, the business was failing already. If she’s closed because she’s overwhelmed by the response, fine, take a vacation. Everyone’s entitled to one.

Here’s how I see this case. A small town business was put in front of city media, said something stupid and panicked. If anyone is calling and harassing her, stop it. Really. Stop it now.

Memories Pizza isn’t the problem. Gov. Mike Pence who wants to fix the law but is against LGBT protections is the problem.

—  David Taffet

Clerk in Denison shop berates mother for letting daughter choose boy clothes

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Maddie in her Easter suit

A clerk at a children’s clothing store in Denison reportedly accused a mother of child abuse for allowing her 5-year-old daughter to choose a boy’s suit and tie as her Easter outfit.

Rachel Giordano told K-TEN television station that her daughter Maddie is a tomboy who has “preferred to dress in boys clothes since she was about three-years-old.” Rachel said she doesn’t mind a bit if Maddie likes wearing boy clothes, but a clerk in Martha’s Miniatures in Denison did mind. A lot.

Rachel Giordano told the TV station that she and Maddie were hanging out at Denison’s Art Walk last Saturday, March 28, when she decided to take her daughter into Martha’s to shop for an Easter outfit. But when the store clerk saw the little girl, she was outraged.

Rachel Giordano told K-TEN, “The woman’s face was just a face of disgust. She told me that I was promoting wrong behavior. That parent’s should not let their children choose the way that they dress if it’s cross-gendered.”

She said the incident made Maddie start crying, and after they left the store, she put a post on her Facebook page recounting the incident.

When the store started getting blowback over what happened, the clerk decided to explain her side of the story. In posts on the Martha’s Miniatures FB page the clerk said, “I was so shocked she asked for a boys suit for the child. I asked her why she was encouraging this.” And in another post, “This is child abuse from the mother.”

The Martha’s Miniatures FB page has since been removed, K-TEN notes.

And just so you know, Rachel Giordano ended up taking Maddie to JCPenney’s, where the little girl got her Easter suit.

KTEN.com – No One Gets You Closer

—  Tammye Nash

The WWE smack down you may have missed: Rafael McDonnell v. Matt Krause

—  James Russell