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.

—  Anna Waugh

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

willieiles

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

Edwards.Marty2

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.

—  Anna Waugh

UPS cuts funds to Boy Scouts

UPS announced Monday that it will no longer make donations to the Boy Scouts of America because the organization discriminates.

On its community-giving website, UPS wrote:

The UPS Foundation seeks to support organizations that are in alignment with our focus areas, guidelines, and non-discrimination policy. UPS and The UPS Foundation do not discriminate against any person or organization with regard to categories protected by applicable law, as well as other categories protected by UPS and The UPS Foundation in our own policies. These include, but are not limited to race, gender, national origin, disability, sexual orientation, gender identity, veteran or military status, pregnancy, age and religion.

In October, the Boy Scouts lost its largest donor, Intel, when the group Scouts for Equality convinced the corporation it shouldn’t fund organizations whose nondiscrimination policies contradict its own. Scouts for Equality founder Zach Wahls next targeted UPS because of its 100 percent rating on HRC’s Corporate Equality Index and for its high visibility. Wahls also told Dallas Voice that the timing coincided with the upcoming Christmas package delivery season.

“As one of more than 2,000 Eagle Scouts who are part of Scouts for Equality, it pains me to watch the Boy Scouts of America undermine all of the incredible work it has done to build America’s future leaders,” Wahls said in a press release Monday. “We join UPS in encouraging the BSA to adopt an inclusive membership policy and look forward to the full restoration of corporate support as soon as this policy is over.”

The BSA stands to lose $700,000 from Intel. Now the organization will lose another $167,000.

In its statement, UPS wrote that diversity drives the company’s business success. The company’s foundation makes donations under five categories — diversity, community safety, nonprofit effectiveness, environment, and economic and global literacy. According to the UPS Foundation’s 2009 annual report, the donation to the Boy Scouts was listed under its diversity category.

—  David Taffet

Former employee petitions DART to offer domestic partner benefits

Andrew Moss

A former Dallas Area Rapid Transit employee is petitioning the company to add domestic partner benefits after health issues have forced him to stop working.

Andrew Moss worked as a DART police officer for five years until 2008. He then worked for the city of Fort Worth until his health prevented him from working. He’s now on COBRA but that will expire in December, he said.

Moss legally married his husband in California in 2008, but Texas doesn’t recognize the marriage. He said his husband still works as a police officer for DART and could add Moss to his health insurance plan as early as January if DART offered DP benefits.

“My husband goes to work and risks his life for DART and should get the same benefits that his counterparts of a different sexual orientation get,” Moss said.

Moss has started a Change.org petition called “Urge Dallas Area Rapid Transit DART to Offer Domestic Partner Benefits” to persuade DART President Gary Thomas and Deputy Executive Director Jesse Oliver to add the benefits.

As of Thursday afternoon, 36 people had signed it.

“In my discussion with Dallas Area Rapid Transit, I was advised by their Human Resources Managers that DART ‘Prefers not to get into the choices of their employees,’” Moss mentions in the petition letter. “I wasn’t aware my husband and I and countless others woke up one day and decided to be LGBT. DART appears to be less than willing to even attempt to assist their LGBT population in obtaining benefits or other effective workplace protections.”

—  Anna Waugh

TCC settles lesbian former professor’s discrimination suit for $160K

Jacqueline “Jackie” Gill

Jacqueline “Jackie” Gill

Tarrant County College administrators agreed to pay a former lesbian professor more than $160,000 as part of a settlement in a federal discrimination lawsuit.

Jacqueline “Jackie” Gill filed a complaint in September 2011 stating she was unable to interview for a permanent position in the English department at the Northeast Campus of Tarrant County College in Hurst after her yearlong temporary position had expired.

Gill sought compensation for the time she was unemployed, as well as the opportunity to complete the application process at TCC, her attorney Ken Upton, senior staff attorney for Lambda Legal’s Dallas office, previously told Instant Tea.

Although the settlement doesn’t accept liability, Lambda Legal announced that TCC agreed to pay Gill more than $160,000 and to provide her with a positive letter of recommendation.

TCC, which adopted a nondiscrimination policy that prohibited discrimination based on sexual orientation last March, added a written policy prohibiting employment discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity. The new policy was not part of the settlement, according to the statement.

“Jackie’s fight resulted in a published decision by the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Texas that makes it clear that public employers can no longer claim ignorance about whether discriminating against employees based on their sexual orientation violates the U.S. Constitution,” Upton said in a statement.

—  Anna Waugh

Congressman Lamar Smith doesn’t think LGBT people should be allowed to serve on juries

Lamar Smith

Anti-gay Texas Republican Congressman Lamar Smith is chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, which is reviewing a bill to ban discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity for jurors.

Attorneys are not prohibited from discriminating based on sexual orientation and gender identity during jury selection by federal courts. The U.S. Department of Justice declined to take a position last year on whether Supreme Court rulings that prohibit removal based on race or sex should include sexual orientation.

A spokesman for Smith told the Colorado Independent that he has “no plans to move the bill at this time.”

The bill was introduced last month by Rep. Steve Rothman, D- New Jersey, and is co-sponsored by Rep. Susan Davis, D-California, and Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton, a Democrat from the District of Columbia.

But Smith’s opposition to the bill means it is unlikely to get a hearing.

—  Anna Waugh