Mississippi passes anti-gay hate law

mississippi-flag-e1387132309472The Mississippi Legislature passed an anti-gay “religious freedom” bill on Tuesday  similar to the one vetoed in Arizona. The law legalizes anti-gay discrimination as long as it’s done in the name of religion.

The bill that passed was rewritten after the Arizona bill was vetoed. The blatant anti-gay animus was removed. The new bill is simply written ambiguously so that there’s nothing unconstitutional about its wording. However, if anyone tries to use the law to justify discrimination, courts could strike it down as written only because of extreme animus against the LGBT community.

“The language still exposes virtually every branch, office and agency of the government to litigation, which will require taxpayer funds to defend,” the American Civil Liberties Union’s Eunice Rho told MSNBC.

Wording of the bill is modeled after the Religious Freedom Restoration Act signed into law by President Bill Clinton. That law, though, passed by a bipartisan coalition, was not intended to encourage discrimination or limit anyone’s civil rights.

The bill awaits the governor’s signature.

—  David Taffet

Mary Cheney to lead fundraiser against Indiana gay marriage ban


Mary Cheney

INDIANAPOLIS — A daughter of former vice president Dick Cheney is joining the fight against a proposed constitutional amendment in Indiana to ban same-sex marriage, The Indianapolis Star reported.

Mary Cheney, a lesbian who was legally married in the District of Columbia, will host a reception Dec. 11 for Freedom Indiana, a bipartisan coalition aimed at defeating the proposed amendment.

“Freedom means freedom for everyone,” Cheney wrote in an e-mail sent to Freedom Indiana supporters and posted Tuesday on the group’s website. “For me, that’s not just another saying. It’s who I am — the core of what I believe. No one should be denied the fundamental liberties we all deserve.”

Cheney’s participation in the Indiana campaign comes as she and her sister, GOP Senate candidate Liz Cheney, fight over gay marriage. The Cheney sisters’ feudspilled out in the open on TV and Facebook last week.

Liz Cheney, who is challenging Wyoming Sen. Mike Enzi in a GOP primary, has said she believes in a “traditional definition of marriage.” Mary Cheney’s wife, Heather Poe, said on Facebook that recent comments by Liz Cheney on Fox News Sunday were “offensive.”

Mary Cheney’s pitch to help Freedom Indiana seems to echo a sentiment expressed by Poe in her Facebook post that gay couples and their families should feel protected regardless of their state of residence.

“Speaking out against HJR-6 isn’t a matter of politics,” Mary Cheney said in her Freedom Indiana e-mail. “It’s about family. It’s about everyone feeling welcome in the state they call home.”

Indiana’s House Joint Resolution 6 first passed the state’s General Assembly in 2011. Indiana Gov. Mike Pence, a Republican, and other lawmakers support legislative action that would put a proposed constitutional amendment on the ballot in 2014.

—  Steve Ramos

Parker’s opponent was for equality before he was against it

ben hall

Ben Hall

HOUSTON — While none of Mayor Annise Parker’s opponents expected much support from the LGBT community, her main opponent, Ben Hall, has been going out of his way to alienate any support he might have received. His strategy might be to solidify his support among those who dislike her for no other reason than she is lesbian. Parker has run always been honest with voters about her sexual orientation and has won eight previous citywide elections.

Out Smart magazine said Hall was for equality before he was against it.

Here’s what the Houston GLBT Political Caucus said about him on their Facebook page.

Houston mayoral candidate Ben Hall, during an interview on KUHF today, came out fully against equality for the LGBT community. He stated his opposition to an inclusive non-discrimination ordinance, and vowed to deny members of the transgender community the ability to use restrooms in public buildings. This is a substantial departure from positions Hall took earlier this year in discussions with Caucus president Noel Freeman, when he offered his support for enacting an inclusive non-discrimination ordinance, and also with the Harris County Democratic Party on whose candidate questionnaire he also offered support for such an ordinance. Simply put, Ben Hall is a liar who will say anything to get elected.

Parker has hammered Hall on paying his taxes late. He has incurred more than $100,000 in penalties and interest.

Parker is running for her third and final term as mayor of Houston. The election is Nov. 5.

—  David Taffet

HUD files lawsuit on behalf of Seven Points trans woman and partner


Darlina Anthony, left, and Roxanne Joganik

The Department of Housing and Urban Development has filed a lawsuit on behalf of Roxanne Joganik and Darlina Anthony against George Toone, the owner of an RV park in Athens.

The couple said they were advised not to comment but confirmed that the suit had been filed.

Dallas Voice reported in August about the case that could be a landmark in establishing discrimination based on gender identity, which is already covered under U.S. law as sex discrimination.

HUD gives these reasons as the legal basis for the suit in the court document:

1. It is unlawful to discriminate against any person in the terms, conditions, or privileges of sale or rental of a dwelling, or in the provision of services or facilities in connection therewith, because of sex.

2. It is unlawful to coerce, intimidate, threaten, or interfere with any person in the exercise or enjoyment of, or on account of his having exercised or enjoyed, or on account of his having aided or encouraged any other person in the exercise or enjoyment of, any right granted or protected by section 804 of the Act.

HUD alleges a number of housing discrimination charges but some are specific to the transgender community:

• prohibiting someone from dressing as a female in the park violates federal fair housing laws.

• requests that the park rules be amended to include protections against sex discrimination were denied.

• park rules included a rule that “Management reserves the right to refuse entrance to the R.V. park to any person for any reason other than for reasons based on race, religion, handicapped, color or national origin.” This rule should include sex or familial status, protected classes under the Fair Housing Act.

• park owner did not want complainant to wear female clothing in the park because there are children around the pool and it is “not the type of atmosphere we want to promote on private property.” Mr. Toone would rather not have transgender persons in the common areas of the park.

—  David Taffet

UPDATE: Abbott changes mind, unlikely to sue for right to discriminate in San Antonio

Texas AG Greg Abbott

Greg Abbott

UPDATE: Here is the response that came from the Attorney General’s office:

We will continue to review and monitor the ordinance.  I’ve attached the letter sent to Mayor Castro before the vote was taken.  The final ordinance did not include the most problematic language, which led to our response:

“We are pleased the city council heeded our advice and deleted this provision, which surely would have been grounds for a constitutional challenge to the ordinance.  We will continue to review the ordinance and monitor the situation.”

I have requested information on what will be monitored, how the AG views this ordinance differently than the Dallas, Fort Worth and Austin ordinances and why he threatened to sue after the ordinance passed without the offending language.

ORIGINAL POST: Attorney General Greg Abbott now says it is unlikely he will file suit against the San Antonio nondiscrimination ordinance. As reported in Dallas Voice when the ordinance passed, the issues Abbott had with the law were removed before the final version went before the council.

Abbott’s office has not returned a call from Dallas Voice but a spokesman told Texas Tribune and other news outlets that the AG is unlikely to sue.

“We are pleased the city council heeded our advice and deleted this provision, which surely would have been grounds for a constitutional challenge to the ordinance,” Jerry Strickland, a spokesman for the AG’s office, said in a statement.

Except the threat of a lawsuit came after the provisions preventing someone accused of discrimination from holding office or sitting on a board or commission were removed.

“We will continue to review the ordinance and monitor the situation,” Strickland said.

It’s unclear what the spokesman meant by continuing to “monitor the situation.” There’s no situation and once passed, ordinances don’t freely change, requiring constant monitoring.

What bothers Abbott is that in San Antonio, as in Dallas, Fort Worth, Austin and El Paso, discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity is now illegal. The only thing to monitor is that this sort of discrimination doesn’t happen. Anywhere. But that’s probably not what Abbott’s office will be doing.

—  David Taffet

Texarkana paper refuses to print gay couple’s wedding announcement

This is the photo Michelle Cooks and Patricia Wrightner  wanted the Texarkana Gazette to run with their wedding announcement.

This is the photo Michelle Cooks and Patricia Wrightner wanted the Texarkana Gazette to run with their wedding announcement.

Texarkana couple Michelle Cooks and Patricia Wrightner plan to marry next weekend in Mexico and want their friends in the area to know about their upcoming union.

They tried to have a wedding announcement printed in the Texarkana Gazette, but the paper refused to run it because they are a same-sex couple.

“They refused us because we are a gay couple,” Cooks told KSLA News 12. “We were discriminated against. There’s no other reason not to have our picture in the paper.”

The couple has been together for more than a year and plans to marry in Mexico this coming Friday.

The Texarkana Gazette’s editor released a statement, explaining that it only publishes announcements for weddings that will be recognized in the state.

—  Dallasvoice

New group defending Scouts’ gay ban, On My Honor, lies on its website

Greg Bourke

Greg Bourke

In advance of a meeting of 1,400 Boy Scout leaders in May, hundreds of leaders met in Orlando to oppose any change to the organization’s ban on gays. They’ve formed a new group called On My Honor.

The website’s three main sections are Impact on Scouts, Email the BSA and Local Efforts. The “impact” section begins with the inaccurate statement, “Current BSA policy is time-tested and fair, allowing anyone to participate regardless of sexual orientation.”

Any Scout or Scout leader that is found to be gay is dismissed from the organization. An example is Ryan Andresen, a California teen who was denied his Eagle Scout award after Scout leaders learned his sexual orientation last year. Jen  Tyrell is a den mother who was dismissed when her sexual orientation became known.

On My Honor makes clear elsewhere on its site that its goal is to continue opposition to any gay participation in the organization.

“OnMyHonor.net is the official coalition of concerned parents, Scout Leaders, Scouting Donors, Eagle Scouts and others affiliated with the Boy Scouts of America who are united in their support of Scouting’s timeless values and their opposition to open homosexuality in the Scouts,” it says.

The “Local Efforts” section is looking for volunteers.

“Volunteer to become a local leader or state spokesperson in your area and help protect 103 years of tradition,” it says.

The 103-year tradition of discrimination? Or the 103-year tradition of being honest, which they violate in the previous statement about allowing anyone to participate regardless of sexual orientation?

The Scouts meet in Grapevine in May to discuss and vote on changing the policy to local option. And the policy the organization describes as “historic” dates to 1991. Interesting that a new group had to form because the Scouts aren’t doing enough to preserve their exclusionary policies.

—  David Taffet

BSA’s community relations director all but comes out against group’s gay ban


Willie Iles Jr.

Willie Iles Jr., national director of government and community relations for the Boy Scouts, can’t officially give his opinion on the BSA’s ban on gays — even though community relations are apparently not going too well for the organization.

So at a dinner to raise money for three inner-city troops in Fort Worth, Iles didn’t give his opinion. But he came pretty close.

Columnist Bob Ray Sanders reported on the speech in the Fort Worth Star-Telegram. He said that Iles framed his speech in historical and biblical terms.

Iles said the Scouts were supposed to be “open to all boys” from the beginning but never were. Until desegregation, the BSA left it up to local councils whether troops would be integrated or separate.

Iles said that 1.4 million nonprofit, non-religious groups directly affect young people and only the Boy Scouts have a written policy that discriminates.

And he pointed out that 16,000 public school systems in the U.S. have lots of gay teachers, but parents don’t pull their children out of school. From the Star-Telegram:

Pointing out that there were 40 words in the Boy Scout Oath, Iles dramatically stopped after reciting only the first 14: “On my honor I will do my best to do my duty to God. …”

He asked rhetorically, “What if I have four sons — Matthew, Mark, Luke and John? And Matthew is gay?” …

In an appeal to the faith-based community, he said Boy Scouts is the country’s largest outreach organization, adding, “We’re in the outreach industry, not a Bible study class.”

In February, the board of the Boy Scouts decided not to vote on changing the policy to allow local councils to decide whether to allow gays, just as the organization had done with racial discrimination. The board is made up largely of corporate executives who have LGBT-inclusive nondiscrimination policies in their own companies.

The issue will be taken up in May and voted on by the BSA’s local councils. Only a small number of councils currently have nondiscrimination policies in defiance of the national organization.

—  David Taffet

Gay man’s EEOC complaint against Granbury bank heads to mediation


Marty Edwards

Although local attorneys declined to take the case of an area bank executive fired for his sexual orientation, the ACLU has stepped in to help after seeing the story in Dallas Voice, and the case is now headed to mediation.

Amanda Goad, an ACLU attorney with the LGBT and AIDS Project based in New York, who covers a number of states including Texas, contacted Marty Edwards after our story ran. She believed Edwards, who was fired last year from First National Bank of Granbury, could file an Equal Employment Opportunity Commission complaint under the category of sexual discrimination.

She cited an EEOC policy relating to discrimination based on marital status, political affiliation, status as a parent, sexual orientation or gender identity status in federal employment.

“The Commission has also found that claims by lesbian, gay, and bisexual individuals alleging sex-stereotyping state a sex discrimination claim under Title VII. See Veretto v. U.S. Postal Service,” the EEOC policy states.

She wrote to Edwards in an email that the decision equates sexual orientation discrimination with sexual discrimination based on the perception of the assumptions of the roles of men.

“Favoring a straight man who has a wife and kids, over a gay man who doesn’t, sounds like a strong example of what they’re talking about,” Goad wrote.

Edwards was fired during a meeting with two other bank executives. One told him, “I don’t care if you are seeing Billy Graham as your counselor,” and the other said, “You obviously have some things messed up in your head.”

“They said it was not my work because I did a great job,” Edwards told Dallas Voice. “I was told that one guy who has three kids, a wife and white picket fence home was a better fit for the image we are looking for.”

Following our article that appeared in January, Edwards filed an EEOC claim based on his firing after seeking counseling. After speaking to Goad, Edwards amended the claim to include sexual discrimination.

He couldn’t file a claim simply on sexual orientation discrimination, because it is legal to fire someone based on sexual orientation under both Texas and federal law.

The bank has agreed to mediation on the counseling claim and they will meet on March 27.

—  David Taffet

Round-Up Saloon patron accuses club of anti-Hispanic discrimination

A Round-Up Saloon patron says he fears the bar is discriminating against Hispanic clubgoers who have permanent resident visas, but management says it accepts them.

Eddie Munoz said he and a friend visiting from out of town went to the Round-Up on Tuesday night after the Lady Gaga concert. Gaga was expected to appear at the club after her Dallas performance.

But when Munoz’s friend presented his permanent resident visa — commonly called a “green card” — the doorman told him that management had changed the policy to no longer accept them as valid IDs. When Munoz and his friend asked to speak to a manager, Munoz said they were rudely told to wait outside.

“It was a perfectly legitimate ID. We never had issues before,” Munoz said. “I was infuriated.”

While waiting, Munoz said he saw a group of women who looked Hispanic being turned away with their IDs in their hands.

Munoz ended up texting a friend already inside the club to seek out a manager to address the issue. His friend spoke to a manager who then approved the ID and let them in.

But Munoz said his friend, who is from Mexico but lives in South Texas, had been admitted to the club last Saturday and Sunday using the same ID, so he wanted to know why the policy had suddenly changed, but he said they were never given an answer Tuesday night.

—  Dallasvoice