Araguz booking raises questions about Harris County jail’s treatment of transgender inmates

Judge Vanessa Valasquez

Judge Vanessa Valasquez

According to the Houston Chronicle, Nikki Araguz has been booked into the Harris County Jain after arriving 40 minutes late for a scheduled court appearance on Friday. The court date was to allow Araguz to plead guilty to charges that she stole a watch from an acquaintance last year. Under the proposed plea bargain Araguz would have paid $2,600 in restitution and served 15 days in county jail. State District Judge Vanessa Velasquez, a Republican first appointed to the bench by Gov. Rick Perry, responded to Araguz’ apologies for her tardiness with “It’s too late for sorry,” ordering bailiffs to escort her to a hold cell next to the courtroom.

Araguz is the widow of firefighter Capt. Thomas Araguz who died in the line of duty last year. Capt. Araguz’s ex-wife and mother have sued to claim the portion of his survivor’s benefits reserved for the spouses of slain firefighters, claiming that since Nikki Araguz was identified as male at birth the marriage was invalid under Texas’ laws prohibiting the recognition of same-sex marriage. Mrs. Araguz’s birth certificate identifies her as female, as does her state issued identification.

Araguz’s booking has raised questions about the Harris County’s treatment of transgender detainees. The Sheriff Department’s Public Information Inquiry System listed Araguz using her male birth name on Friday. They have since removed the name from the site’s searchable database but have retained the record, listing it under the department’s “special person number” (SPN) filing system. The SPN record includes Araguz’s birth name. The Sheriff’s office has not returned calls from Houstini asking why the department is not using Araguz’s legal name and if this is common practice.

According to a friend who has visited Araguz at the jail her identity bracelet correctly identifies her gender as “F” – but reflects Araguz’s birth name, not her legal name. Araguz is segregated from the general jail population, but can receive visitors during regular visiting hours.

Araguz will remain in the Harris County Jail until Jan 25 when she is scheduled to appear again before Judge Velasquez.

—  admin

‘Perform or provide’

DADT repeal gives progressive chaplains a chance to counter evangelical clergy in the military

IMG_5132

CATCH-ALL CHAPLAIN | Chaplain Chris Antal (Lt.) attended the meeting of the Forum on Military Chaplaincy at Cathedral of Hope in October. (David Taffet/Dallas Voice)

DAVID TAFFET  |  Staff Writer
taffet@dallasvoice.com
When a soldier recently came to Chaplain Chris Antal, a lieutenant in the Army National Guard in New York and a Unitarian Universalist minister, and asked if he’d pray with her even though she was a pagan, he said he replied, “Of course I will, but you’ll have to show me how.”

Several weeks later, when he saw her again, she told him that the day she had come to visit him, she had hit rock bottom. He had, she told him, saved her life that day.

But Antal said he was only doing his job — helping any soldier who comes to him.

“I’ve earned the nickname, the Catch-all Chaplain,” he said, explaining that it means he takes everyone the other chaplains don’t want to deal with.

Carpenter.Dodd

Capt. Tom Carpenter (ret.) and Col. Paul Dodd (ret.)

Being there to help a soldier in need is what it’s all about for a military chaplain, said Col. Paul Dodd, a retired chaplain who now lives in Austin.

“The duty of a military chaplain is to perform or provide,” said Dodd, adding that he once sponsored an Islamic conference.

Dodd said that no chaplain can perform every service needed by every member of the military. But if a chaplain can’t perform the service requested, he or she must provide that soldier with a referral to someone else who can.

Antal said that chaplains who enlisted knew what they were getting into — to some extent. But none of them really expected the repeal of the military’s anti-gay “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy. And for many, that repeal was a game changer.

In October, a group of active and retired chaplains and military personnel and other people of faith, such as the Rev. Steve Sprinkle from Brite Divinity

School in Fort Worth, met at the Interfaith Peace Chapel at Cathedral of Hope to begin looking at ways of addressing the issues that arose for military chaplains around DADT repeal.

Dave Guy Gainer said The Forum on Military Chaplaincy is not exactly new. It formed in 2005 as a project of Servicemembers Legal Defense Network and worked under the radar until DADT was repealed.

Sprinkle said people in the Pentagon, up through Secretary of Defense Robert Gates, knew about their work and considered their statements throughout the DADT repeal process.

And now, with repeal complete, the group met to “come out.” At their meeting in Dallas, forum members considered ways to become an independent organization helping to ensure newly out service members receive the pastoral care they need while serving in the military.

Susan Gore, principle of The Mentor Group and editor of the book Coming Out In Faith, moderated the Dallas conference. She said the group started with several retired military officers “who wanted to push back against the far-right skew.”

Sprinkle has been part of the forum for four years and said he was recruited to participate because of his work on hate crimes.
Since the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, Sprinkle said, more and more members of the Chaplain Corps have come from just one school — Liberty

University, founded by far-right evangelical Jerry Falwell. Today, Sprinkle estimated, one-third of military chaplains come from Liberty University.

“They instituted a program that barely meets minimum requirements,” he said of the evangelical school. “It’s an online course.”

And, Sprinkle said, Liberty University’s goal is to take control of the Chaplain Corps and use the military as a pool for religious recruits.

“This is fertile ground to bring people to Jesus at taxpayer expense,” said Tom Carpenter, a retired Marine captain and one of the forum’s founders.

“I’ve heard stories of them holding the hand of someone who’s dying and trying to bring them to Jesus.”

And although such actions contradict military policy, no one in the corps has been disciplined or dismissed for it.

“They give chaplains a lot of leeway,” Carpenter said.

Gainer said the military is looking for well-rounded ministers who bring experience with them to the military.

According to the U.S. Army Chaplain Center and School in Fort Jackson, S.C., candidates must be endorsed by their denomination or faith group and be “sensitive to religious pluralism and able to provide for the free exercise of religion by all military personnel, their family members and civilians who work for the Army.”

But Sprinkle said that Liberty University is transparent about its goals, and those goals do not line up.

“They’re not committed to pluralism or serving all the troops,” he said.

Gainer said that the greatest opposition to repealing DADT came from the Chaplain Corps because military chaplains answer to two groups — the military and their denomination. Those chaplains that didn’t adhere to a strict stance of maintaining the ban on gays and lesbians were threatened with losing their accreditation from their endorsing religious body — and with it their livelihood and their pensions.

But that contradicts the stated goals of the Chaplain Corps.

“Someone has to say, ‘Either you comply and serve all the troops all the time or get out,’” Sprinkle said.

Gore said that one of the goals of the newly public forum is to “rebalance the Chaplain Corps by bringing in more mainstream faiths.” She said that for many who come from more liberal traditions, questions of what’s a just war make it hard to serve in the military. Antal, for example, is one of just four Unitarian Universalists in the Chaplain Corps.

During its push for repeal of DADT, members
said, the forum had several successes working behind the scenes.

Despite the assumption of confidentiality between parishioner and clergy, that wasn’t always the case between gay soldier and chaplain. Dodd said that a number of discharges under DADT occurred after a soldier talked to a chaplain and the chaplain turned them in.

In fact, he wrote a white paper on the practice. After he submitted it, the military tightened up on chaplain confidentiality, Dodd said.

Carpenter, an attorney, wrote an amicus brief for the Log Cabin Republicans’ lawsuit against DADT. The court found in favor of declaring DADT unconstitutional, but Congress repealed the law before the decision could be enforced.

Carpenter said that the repeal allows gays and lesbians to serve with no protection. The legal decision, had it not been vacated upon repeal, would have allowed gays and lesbians to serve equally.

Now that DADT is gone, the forum is examining how to ensure LGB personnel receive the same services as other troops from chaplains.

Dodd said that right-wing chaplains charge that allowing gays and lesbians to serve in the military will force them to act in ways that go against their beliefs. Some have said they would be required to perform same-sex weddings.

Dodd called that ridiculous. Chaplains are never asked to perform duties that go against their religious beliefs, he said.

“I turned down weddings,” he said. “An officer came to me who wasn’t divorced.”

He said the officer tried to pull strings and force the issue, but Dodd wasn’t going to discuss marrying someone who was still married to someone else.

“But we’re insisting chaplains have the authority, if it’s in keeping with their faith, to marry same-sex couples,” he said.

Because of the Defense of Marriage Act, the repeal provides no family benefits. For some issues, Dodd and Carpenter suggested work-arounds.

Issuing ID cards would be extremely helpful, especially to same-sex couples with children, Carpenter said, noting that “That way either parent could get on base to get a child to the hospital.”

In another example, joint assignments can be offered at the discretion of a commanding officer, and married couples are often assigned together when they both qualify for positions that are available at the same base. Same-sex couples could be given the same priority.

As the forum looks ahead, rebalancing the Chaplain Corps with members from a more diverse background to reflect the membership of the military is a priority.

“And we need to take care of our trans brothers and sisters,” Carpenter said.

The repeal of DADT did not address any transgender issues and does not allow transgender men or women to serve in the military.

Gainer believes representatives of the forum need to sit down with far-right members of the Chaplain Corps and agree to disagree. He said that before the repeal of DADT, they talked to people at Veterans of Foreign Wars and the American Legion. While both groups testified against the repeal, they met with some success.

“The president of the VFW in Pflugerville said it was the right thing to do,” Gainer said.

That dialogue, he believed, would help chaplains perform or at least provide a useful referral, rather than doing more damage to a soldier seeking help.

Gore thought that the focus of discussion should be with the majority of chaplains “who want to do a good job and are part of the moveable middle.”

“We have to convince administrators and educators in divinity schools to encourage some of their best and brightest to serve,” Sprinkle said. “So many schools dropped what they were doing during the Vietnam era.”

Antal thinks that gays and lesbians will gain more acceptance as they tell their stories in non-confrontational settings and others see “their identity as professional service members is primary.”

While the work of the forum will concentrate on helping LGB military personnel, creating a more diverse Chaplain Corps may help a majority of service members. Recent polls show that a majority of troops find the chaplaincy irrelevant.

Sprinkle called the work of the forum a gift from the LGBT community to the nation.

“You wouldn’t think we’d be the ones opening the doors so that all troops will be served with dignity, integrity and respect,” he said.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition November 4, 2011.

 

—  Kevin Thomas

Spin 4 a Cause benefits The Humane Society tonight at Axiom

Dogs and DJs

Hey, DJs love animals too. In tonight’s Spin 4 a Cause, the bi-monthly DJ event benefits The Humane Society. With DJs Joshua Welch and S.O.U.L.Jah on turntable duty and Jeff Roose hosting, music, food and good will all comes together. The best part? Pets are welcome to join the event in the patio. Just be careful with Fluffy around all that sushi.

DEETS: Axiom Sushi Lounge,4123 Cedar Springs Road. 6 p.m.

—  Rich Lopez

White House’s ‘duty to defend the law’ argument comes crashing down

Even the National Law Journal is now beating up on the Obama administration, and saying that the White House’s talking point about having no choice but to defend DADT in court is utter bull. I hope someone sends all of these articles to Valerie Jarrett so she can see why everyone is eviscerating her for alleging, repeatedly, that DOJ simply must defend all laws. It’s flat out untrue, as we’ve been saying for well over a year.  Unfortunately, this article is behind a firewall, but the summary tells you all you need to know.

DUTY TO DEFEND?:
The Obama administration opposes “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,” but it’s still poised to defend the law all the way to the Supreme Court. Justice Department officials say they are duty-bound to defend an act of Congress. Yet history shows that this argument doesn’t always apply. During the last six years, according to records maintained by the Senate, the Bush and Obama administrations told Congress 13 times that they were not defending a federal law in court.

And a reader sent me the article.  Here’s a small excerpt:

In 1992, back when Congress could occasionally agree on something, there was bipartisan anger over a beverage called Crazy Horse Malt Liquor because it insulted the memory of a Native American chief who happened to frown on alcohol.

Congress quickly passed a law barring federal approval of any beer label that displayed the words “Crazy Horse.” The brewer promptly sued, and not surprisingly a federal judge found the law unconstitutional under the First Amendment.

When the question of whether to appeal the ruling in Hornell Brewing Co. v. Brady arose, then-Solicitor General Drew Days III decided it would be futile; the law was beyond rescue. “Congress seemed to accept the decision not to go forward,” Days wrote later.

So much for the vaunted governmental “duty to defend” acts of Congress, which has been invoked often in recent weeks in connection with the “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” law barring gays from the military — a law that the Obama administration opposes but still is poised to defend. In cases much bigger than Crazy Horse — think Buckley v. Valeo and INS v. Chadha — SGs have been throwing provisions of federal laws under the bus for decades. And Senate records show that, 13 times in the past six years, during both the Bush and Obama administrations, the Justice Department has told Congress it is not defending an act of Congress.




AMERICAblog Gay

—  admin

SU Action Fund’s latest ad features Active Duty Marine

Here’s the latest ad from the Servicemembers United Action Fund. It’s powerful.

No servicemember should have to obscure his or her face in order to serve this nation.




AMERICAblog Gay

—  John Wright

More Than Linguists: Servicemembers United Repeal Ad 3 – active duty

So we have our first active duty webad.  The fact that we're using someone still in is compelling – as it's meant to be – but only as a means to gain attention.  The deeper talking point here is how comprehensive the affects of DADT really are.

Take a gander:


The focus on linguists discharged under DADT began with a story broke by the Center for the Study of Sexual Minorities in the Military (CSSMM, now the Palm Center) in November of 2002, when 7 Arabic linguists were discharged under DADT.  Their respective discharges did not only affect them in various and horrendous fashion, but the entire morale of the unit, both gay and straight folks. 

The gay service members – mostly open – began to suffer paranoia that they would be next, while the straight janes and joes lost respect for the institution of the military over such a ridiculous and unecessary law.  None were happy to see their friends go through this process.  I remember – I was there.  This was my unit. 

In later assignments, the one complaint I heard from Arabic linguist friends returning from overseas was that there was not enough of them.  Intelligence was backlogged, missions had insufficiant linguistic support, and existing linguists were overworked beyond what would be reasonable in a position that demands precision and accuracy.  I asked my friend John if it would it have helped his unit out if soldiers like Alastair Gamble were still in the service.  "That would have divided my workload in half," he sighed.  Responsible for translating Arabic for an entire Brigade, John couldn't give two shits that Gamble was gay.

When a service member is discharged from the military, it's not just them that is affected, but their entire unit, and every future unit in which they could have served.  Each service member discharged represents years of contributions to the military that are incredibly useful, particularly in these critical fields. 

But it is the unit that is missing those contributions, and it is the unit that would benefit from repeal. 

We're working hard at SU to raise the funds to put these ads on the air.  Stop by www.militaryreadiness.org to find out how you can help us educate the American pubic in this critical time before the September vote, as well as keep the momentum going.

Pam’s House Blend – Front Page

—  John Wright

Partners of active duty gay and lesbian troops will meet with Pentagon Working Group

We’ve seen the derogatory surveys. We just heard the derisive comments from a top Pentagon official about separate facilities. But, there’s finally a bit of welcome news coming from the Pentagon Working Group. Partners of active duty troops will get to provide some input on September 16th.

Via press release from Servicemembers United:

Servicemembers United, the nation’s largest organization of gay and lesbian troops and veterans, announced today that the leadership and staff of the Pentagon’s Comprehensive Review Working Group on “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” will meet with a group of lesbian and gay military partners during Servicemembers United’s Military Partners Forum on September 16, 2010. The meeting will be a first of its kind for both the Pentagon and for the military partner community.

“We are honored to be able to facilitate this meeting between the partners of active duty lesbian and gay troops and the leadership and staff of the Comprehensive Review Working Group,” said Alexander Nicholson, Executive Director of Servicemembers United. “The plight of military partners is something that Servicemembers United has led the way on with our Campaign for Military Partners, and we have been pushing for partner input into the review process for quite some time. We are glad that the Pentagon recognizes the value of input from these silent heroes.”

The Campaign for Military Partners was launched by Servicemembers United in 2009 to reach out to, recognize, connect, and support the partners of LGBT military personnel. The online hub for this initiative, www.MilitaryPartners.org, was launched in the spring of 2010.




AMERICAblog Gay

—  John Wright

Focus on the waffle: Same date, opposite elected duty

Focus on the Family, today:

California gubernatorial candidate Meg Whitman is making news because she said that, if elected governor, she will uphold the law. This is a headline in California.

I wonder if it’s also shocking that she will uphold the law even if it means that she will not have the support of major Hollywood stars. Shocking.

Weirdly, upholding the law is a crazy tangent from the what California voters have come to expect of current Governor Schwarzenegger and Attorney General Brown—at least as it concerns Prop. 8.



Even if a person disagrees with a law, there’s something amiss in America when elected leaders refuse to uphold the law and the will of the people. This should concern every American, not just those who support Proposition 8.

Candidate makes news with promise to uphold the law [FOtF Citizenlink]

Focus on the Family, in a piece posted a year ago to the date:

A decision not to defend a bad law is good news for marriage supporters in Wisconsin.

Attorney General J.B. Van Hollen — who ordinarily would defend a duly-enacted law — announced Friday he will not defend the state’s domestic-partner law from a legal challenge brought by a pro-family group.

Under that law, which passed the Legislature and was signed by Gov. Jim Doyle earlier this year, same-sex couples began applying for domestic-partnership recognition this month. Wisconsin Family Action has asked that the registry be declared unconstitutional under the 2006 amendment that defined marriage as the union of one man and one woman.



Jim Campbell, legal counsel for ADF, said he hopes the Wisconsin Supreme Court takes note of Van Hollen’s position.

“We believe that it’s very clear here. The people of Wisconsin said that they do not want the government creating anything that is substantially similar to marriage, and that is exactly what they’ve done here,” he said.

Campbell would like to see the state’s high court strike down the law.

“It would set good precedent for other states,” he said.

Wisconsin Attorney General Will Not Defend Domestic Partnerships [FOtF Citizenlink]

So on August 24, 2009, it’s totally awesome when an elected official decides to not defend a law that he finds out of line. But on August 24, 2010, there’s apparently “something amiss in America when elected leaders refuse to uphold the law and the will of the people.” Interesting how that works.

Now, FOtF would surely argue that the only “will of the people” rests with a direct vote (as in Prop 8), and that WI voters are the ones being undermined because the legislatively-enacted DP system supposedly trumps the marriage ban they enacted at the polls. But this is of course hogwash. “The people” elect their representatives and their governor. This is how it works in America. And both that state’s legislature and that state’s governor put Wisconsin DPs into law, knowing that domestic partnerships are a separate system from marriage that do not, in any way, fool anyone into believing the two institutions are one and the same. AG Van Hollen is failing to defend the DP system because he personally thinks it’s unconstitutional, just like Jerry Brown and Gov. Schwarzenegger think Prop 8 fails the legal smell test.

Regardless of where anyone stands on the principles and facts behind the individual refusals, it’s completely errant to condemn one elected official’s right as unconscionable, while calling the other “good news” and “good precedent.” And it’s equally disingenuous to act like Meg Whitman is the calm, cool head because she sees a responsibility to defend a law as dependent more on the bare majority number that put it into place rather than the merits of the law itself.




Good As You

—  John Wright

8PM ET: PHB/Servicemembers United liveblog w/active duty Marine officer who took the DADT survey

Be there or be square, peeps. We’ve landed, with the help of Servicemembers United, an active duty Marine who had the “pleasure” of taking the biased, freep-able Pentagon study designed to get the “input” of service members regarding implementation of changes after DADT is repealed.

The Marine officer, “Gordon,” is a 16-year Marine field grade officer currently assigned within the greater DC Beltway. Alex Nicholson of SU says:

He’s a VERY opinionated striaght-talker (no pun intended), so it should be quite a lively chat this evening – feel free to ask him anything!! If you’re around a computer, please do join us. And for those with blogs, twitter accounts, and hoards of FB followers, please also consider promoting it to your loyal readers and fans.

This is a CoverItLive blog event, so you will be able to see it on the front page of the Blend once it begins, and there is a separate link to a standalone window with the liveblog:

http://tinyurl.com/phbsuliveblog

Joining me in the chat room tonight with “Gordon” will be my project partners from SU:

 

Alex Nicholson, Executive Director; Jarrod Chlapowski, Co-Founder.

The infamous survey is below the fold.
The Pentagon commissioned Westat to do the survey, which was distributed to 400,000 active duty and reserve members of the armed forces. The survey is part of the Pentagon Working Group’s 10-month study of the potential impact of repeal of DADT on the force.

Servicemembers United had this reaction to the survey language when it was leaked:

Servicemembers United, the nation’s largest organization of gay and lesbian troops and veterans, today strongly condemned the biased and derogatory design of the long-awaited Defense Department survey on issues related to the repeal of the “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” law. The survey, which was created and administered by the research firm Westat in conjunction with the Comprehensive Review Working Group, was sent out to 400,000 non-deployed active duty troops at a cost to taxpayers of .4 million.

While it remains safe for gay and lesbian troops to participate in this survey, it is simply impossible to imagine a survey with such derogatory and insulting wording, assumptions, and insinuations going out about any other minority group in the military,” said Alexander Nicholson, Executive Director of Servicemembers United and a former U.S. Army interrogator who was discharged under “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.” “Unfortunately, this expensive survey stokes the fires of homophobia by its very design and will only make the Pentagon’s responsibility to subdue homophobia as part of this inevitable policy change even harder. The Defense Department just shot itself in the foot by releasing such a flawed survey to 400,000 servicemembers, and it did so at an outrageous cost to taxpayers.”

Nicholson added, “Flawed aspects of the survey include the unnecessary use of terms that are known to be inflammatory and bias-inducing in social science research, such as the clinical term ‘homosexual;’ an overwhelming focus on the potential negative aspects of repeal and little or no inclusion of the potential positive aspects of repeal or the negative aspects of the current policy; the repeated and unusual suggestion that a co-worker or leader might need to ‘discuss’ appropriate behavior and conduct with gay and lesbian troops; and more.”

Related:

* DADT is Not Repealed Yet, Folks. No, Seriously.

* Blockbuster Disclosure: DOD Can’t Protect DADT Survey From being “Freeped”

* Pentagon Sustains Heavy Fire Over DADT Survey

* Servicemembers United petition: Refund our .4 million spent on the Pentagon’s survey
Pam’s House Blend – Front Page

—  John Wright

How These 2 Gay Active Duty Marines Keep Their Engagement a Secret

We met online, we met up at Starbucks and really just hit it off from the beginning. We started hanging out on the weekends, then after work off base. The more time we spent together, the more we realized that we couldn’t be apart. It is really risky to be in a homosexual relationship and be in the military. But once you have found that special someone you realize what really matters in life. There is a great risk, and we both realize that, but the love that we have for each other outweighs that risk. We are stationed at the same place. While I am deployed we try and keep in contact as much as possible. While talking on the phone, we have to speak in code to make sure that no one finds out. We never know who is listening. We mainly connect through personal e-mail.

—Kevin, an active duty Marine and member of OutServe, explaining how he keeps his engagement to another active duty solder under wraps [via]


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Queerty

—  John Wright