DADT advocate Justin Elzie speaks at RCD

Being all he can be

Justin Elzie may be a happy man right now. As “don’t ask, don’t tell” comes to an end, his work wasn’t in vain. Named Marine of the Year in ‘93, he was discharged for coming out on national TV. He sued, won and has been advocating for LGBT rights in the military. He comes to Dallas to discuss his work in fighting for DADT’s repeal.

DEETS: Resource Center Dallas, 2701 Reagan 2 p.m. RCDallas.org.

—  Rich Lopez

Final bets at the finale of Team DV’s P-P-P-Poker Tourney

Ante up to the table

Team Dallas Voice and Pocket Rockets Dallas are raising money for the Lone Star Ride Fighting AIDS by holding a P-P-P-Poker Tournament at clubs across town. After three weeks, the event has come to the grand prize final.

Because this is Dallas, not Vegas, the game play is free, so if you want to contribute to the LSR cause, bring cash to enter the raffle. Among the prizes available or that have been won are tickets to see Dolly Parton (we’ll resist the urge to call this one a “booby prize”), Ke$ha and Chelsea Handler,  tickets to the Texas Rangers and Lone Star Park horse races, Starbucks coffee, a set of poker chips, books, grooming supplies and much more … and the final grand prize: Two tickets on American Airlines anywhere in the contiguous U.S.

DEETS: Check out the Facebook event page here for details.

—  Rich Lopez

Judge to rule this week in Nikki Araguz case

Nikki Araguz

Transgender widow vows appeal if she loses case

JUAN A. LOZANO  |  Associated Press

WHARTON, Texas — The transgender widow of a Texas firefighter will likely learn next week whether his family’s request to nullify their marriage and strip her of any death benefits will be granted, a judge said Friday.

State District Judge Randy Clapp made the announcement after hearing arguments in a lawsuit filed by the family of firefighter Thomas Araguz III, who was killed while battling a blaze last year. The suit argues that his widow shouldn’t get any benefits because she was born a man and Texas doesn’t recognize same-sex marriage.

The widow, Nikki Araguz, said she had done everything medically and legally possible to show that she is female and was legally married under Texas law. She believes that she’s entitled to widow’s benefits.

“I believe the judge is going to rule in my favor,” Araguz said after the court hearing.

The lawsuit seeks control over death benefits and assets totaling more than $600,000, which the firefighter’s family wants to go to his two sons from a previous marriage. Voiding the marriage would prevent Nikki Araguz from receiving any insurance or death benefits or property the couple had together.

Thomas Araguz died while fighting a fire at an egg farm near Wharton, about 60 miles southwest of Houston, in July 2010. He was 30.

His mother, Simona Longoria, filed a lawsuit asking that her son’s marriage be voided. She and her family have said he learned of his wife’s gender history just prior to his death, and after he found out, he moved out of their home and planned to end the marriage.

But Nikki Araguz, 35, has insisted that her husband was aware she was born a man and that he fully supported her through the surgical process to become a woman. She underwent surgery two months after they were married in 2008.

Longoria’s attorney, Chad Ellis, argued that Texas law — specifically a 1999 appeals court ruling that stated chromosomes, not genitals, determine gender — supports his client’s efforts to void the marriage.

The ruling upheld a lower court’s decision that threw out a wrongful death lawsuit filed by a San Antonio woman, Christie Lee Cavazos Littleton, after her husband’s death. The court said that although Littleton had undergone a sex-change operation, she was actually a man, based on her original birth certificate, and therefore her marriage and wrongful death claim were invalid.

Ellis presented medical and school records that he said showed Nikki Araguz was born without female reproductive organs and that she presented herself as a male while growing up and going to school. He also said her birth certificate at the time of her marriage indicated she was a man.

“By law, two males cannot be married in this state,” Ellis told the judge.

Nikki Araguz, who was born in California, did not change her birth certificate to reflect she had become a female until after her husband’s death, said Edward Burwell, one of the attorneys for Thomas Araguz’s ex-wife, Heather Delgado, the mother of his two children.

But one of Nikki Araguz’s attorneys, Darrell Steidley, said that when his client got her marriage license, she presented the necessary legal documents to show she was a female. He also noted changes made in 2009 to the Texas Family Code that allowed people to present numerous alternatives to a birth certificate as the proof of identity needed to get a marriage license. That was an example, he argued, of the state trying to move away from the 1999 appeals court ruling.

The changes in 2009 allowed transgendered people to use proof of their sex change to get a marriage license. The Texas Legislature is currently considering a bill that would prohibit county and district clerks from using a court order recognizing a sex change as documentation to get married.

After the hearing, the firefighter’s family and attorneys for his ex-wife criticized plans by Nikki Araguz to star in a reality television dating show and implied she was only interested in money and fame that the case would bring her.

“That is absurd,” Nikki Araguz said in response. “I’m after my civil equality and the rights that I deserve as the wife of a fallen firefighter.”

If the judge rules against the firefighter’s family in their motion for a summary judgment, the case would then proceed to trial. Araguz said if the judge rules against her, she would appeal, all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court if necessary.

—  John Wright

Marriage Opponents to Keep Fighting Against Equality in D.C.

Opponents of marriage equality are readying themselves once again for an attempt to strip the right to marry from same-sex couples in the nation’s capital. Rep. Jim Jordan of Ohio, who chairs the Republican Study Committee, recently told beltway newspaper The Hill that he supports legislation to repeal marriage equality in D.C. Our own Michael Cole-Schwartz sounded off on the issue today in Metro Weekly

Jordan expressed that the he believes that the 175 member committee will push for a vote during the 112th Congress, and that he was “100 percent for it.”

Same-sex couples began seeing marriage equality in the district last year and recently won a struggle against outside groups like Alliance Defense Fund and the National Organization for Marriage trying to put citizens’ right to marry up for a public vote.

Attempts to place marriage equality on the ballot in D.C. have been rejected by the D.C. Board of Elections and Ethics after having been determined to violate D.C. Human Rights Act. Most recently, the Supreme Court refused to weigh in on the issue, initiating a shift in the tactics of marriage equality opponents in the district from judicial to legislative.

Brian Brown, NOM’s Executive Director, recently commented on congressional action, stating that he will “look at what the best route is” to have Congress intervene.


Human Rights Campaign | HRC Back Story

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By Banning Freshman From Wearing Pink, Is This Principal Preemptively Fighting Bullying? Or Overreacting?

Massachusetts' Whitman Hanson Regional High School, about 25 miles south of Boston and home to 1,250 students, has banned the custom of freshman wearing pink shirts at the annual Thanksgiving football game — where seniors wear black, juniors red, sophomores white — because, according to new Principal Jeffrey Szymaniak, the color encourages excessive teasing. Instead, he wants all students wearing Whitman Hanson's school colors (red and black). Okay, but can they read "marriage is so gay"?

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BREAKING: 3 generations of advocates, vets fighting for repeal of DADT facing arrest at WH

They’ve done it again – including baristas Autumn Sandeen and Scott Wooledge, as well as Blender Michael Bedwell. NOTE: Talk About Equality has coverage and photos. One WH shot:


Washington, DC – This afternoon, three generations of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender veterans and advocates went back to the White House fence to call for the U.S. Senate, Majority Leader Harry Reid, and President Obama to make good on their promises to secure the repeal of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” during the abbreviated, lame-duck session of Congress that started today.

During the direct action organized by GetEQUAL – a national lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) civil rights organization – and local activists, 13 veterans and advocates handcuffed themselves to the White House fence in an act of non-violent, civil disobedience protesting the un-American, discriminatory law yet to be repealed by Congress — regardless of the numerous promises by President Obama, Congressional leaders and national LGBT leaders that they would do so by the end of this year.

Photos and video of the three generations of veterans and repeal advocates taking part in an act of civil disobedience today at the White House will soon be available online at www.getequal.org. Also, you can visit GetEQUAL’s Facebook page (www.facebook.com/getequal) to stay up-to-date regarding the well-being and release of the 13 veterans and advocates arrested today.

The 13 veterans and repeal advocates arrested today include:

  • Five veterans (Lt. Dan Choi, Petty Officer Autumn Sandeen, Cpl. Evelyn Thomas, and Cadet Mara Boyd) who were arrested back in March during the GetEQUAL organized “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” act of civil disobedience at the White House fence demanding President Obama show leadership on repeal.
  • Robin McGehee, co-founder and director of GetEQUAL, and Dan Fotou, action strategist for GetEQUAL.
  • Former U.S. Army Staff Sergeant Miriam Ben-Shalom, who was discharged in 1976 for declaring and admitting she was a lesbian. She became the first-ever LGBT servicemember reinstated to her position in the U.S. Military, by a U.S. Federal District Court. On July 30th, 1993, Miriam and 26 other protesters were arrested at the White House fence for protesting then-President Bill Clinton’s broken promise to repeal the gay ban – instead signing the “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” bill into law.
  • Former U.S. Marine Corps Sergeant Justin Elzie who, in 1993, became the first Marine ever investigated and discharged under the “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” law. Elzie was also the first soldier to be discharged under “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” to fight his discharge and win – resulting in his service as a Marine for four years as an openly gay man.
  • Former U.S. Army Arabic Linguist Ian Finkenbinder, who was discharged from the Army in December 2004 after announcing to his superiors that he was gay. Finkenbinder is an Iraq war veteran and was about to return for a second tour of duty when he was discharged.
  • U.S. Army Veteran and Repeal Advocate Rob Smith, who was deployed to both Iraq and Kuwait before being honorably discharged after deciding not to re-enlist in the U.S. Army due to the added pressure of living under the “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” law.
  • Father Geoff Farrow, a Catholic priest who spoke out against the church’s official stance in support of California’s Proposition 8, removing the rights of same-sex couples to marry. Because of his courageous stance against Prop 8, Father Geoff Farrow was removed as pastor of St. Paul’s by his bishop and suspended as a priest.
  • Scott Wooledge, a New York-based LGBT civil rights advocate and blogger who has written extensively on the movement to repeal “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” at Daily Kos and Pam’s House Blend.
  • Michael Bedwell, long-time LGBT civil rights advocate, close friend of Leonard Matlovich, and administrator of the site www.leonardmatlovich.com.

“On the White House fence today, and in a jail cell this evening, are thirteen American patriots,” said Robin McGehee, co-founder and director of GetEQUAL. “Included in the thirteen arrested are veterans and advocates spanning three generations of brave and courageous Americans, who sacrificed their careers and lives to see the day this discriminatory ban on openly gay and lesbian service in the military finally goes into the history books. Today, we have sent a loud and clear message to the U.S. Senate and President Obama that we expect them to make good on their promises to end this inhumane law this year, during the lame-duck session of Congress.”

“Today, I stand again at the White House fence – 17 years later – still protesting the injustice and hypocrisy of a failed law,” said former U.S. Army Staff Sergeant Miriam Ben-Shalom. “And with us today is not only the spirit of Lieutenant Enslin, the first to be discharged from the U.S. Military for being gay, but also standing here in spirit are every young woman and man awaiting discharge under the shameful ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’ law.  They are here and we are here, all together still America’s daughters and sons, still willing to serve and protect this country. I sincerely pray our country’s elected leaders in Congress and the White House will have the courage to repeal this law and make this the last time I have to come back to this fence and be arrested in protest of a law in direct contrast with our values and beliefs as Americans.

Pam’s House Blend – Front Page

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Fighting for DADT Repeal with West Virginia Veterans

It is 11 a.m. on Veteran’s Day, and I just got off the phone with former U.S. Army Sergeant Pepe Johnson. We’ve spent the four days since I returned to West Virginia strategizing and reaching out to West Virginia veterans who favor repeal of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” (DADT).  Seven years ago, despite an excellent record and the award of Soldier of the Year at Fort Sill, Pepe was discharged under the discriminatory DADT law.

We have less than 2 weeks to make sure that Senator-elect Manchin hears about DADT. Ask Senator-elect Manchin to honor Senator Robert Byrd’s legacy by supporting the repeal of DADT. Can you write a letter? Make a call? If you’re in West Virginia, e-mail me right now to find out the best way to make your voice heard.

There’s no time to lose. Pepe and I are making sure the Senator-elect Manchin hears the voices of fair-minded West Virginians.  That’s why we’ve teamed up once again with Servicemembers Legal Defense Network (SLDN) and Fairness West Virginia to write letters, make calls and even videotape the stories of real Mountaineers who have been affected by DADT.

Can you help us send a message to Senator-elect Manchin before the Senate reconvenes next week? If you are a West Virginian with a story about how DADT has affected you or a loved one and you’d like to share it, contact me TODAY at Christine.sloane@hrc.org.

If you’re not in West Virginia, send a message to your senators today by visiting hrc.org/repealDADT.


Human Rights Campaign | HRC Back Story

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Fighting Off His Sister’s Rapist Is Getting Antoine Dodson Into The Hottest Nightclubs

Well I'm sure he means other doors are opening for him too, but Antoine Dodson tells George Lopez his music career is moving along. His new single is called "Stupid, You So Dumb," basically a follow up anthem aimed at the perpetrator. No wonder he's fighting off both men and women with a stick.

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Fighting Off HIV—Without Meds

HIV-infected T-cells X390 (NIAID) | ADVOCATE.COMScientists are getting closer to figuring out why some people are
able to keep HIV at bay without the aid of antiretroviral drugs.
Advocate.com: Daily News

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An Exciting Week of Fighting in Minnesota

The following post comes from HRC’s Public Policy Advocate, Josh King. Josh is just one of 30 HRC staff that are on the ground in key races, working with HRC-endorsed candidates and engaging our membership about today’s elections:

Election day is here.

I have been working with Tarryl Clark’s campaign for over a week now, and it has been quite an exciting time. She is running an aggressive campaign against Michelle Bachmann who has been a staunch opponent of LGBT equality in Minnesota and nationwide. I have been making calls to members around the state who are very engaged in the upcoming election. People in the 6th Congressional District are tired of Bachmann and want someone like Clark who will represent the needs of all of the constituents of the district.

There have been some amazing events this past week including an event with President Clinton last Sunday, along with Senators Amy Klobuchar and Al Franken.  A week ago, Clark participated in a debate that we recruited volunteers for; there was a overwhelming number of Clark supporters in the audience and a small rally inside prior to the debate.

I’ve had great conversations with our members in the district and they are very engaged to vote and make sure their family and friends know that Senator Clark is a pro-equality candidate. It’s going to take everyone’s help to send Bachmann out of office. Visit Tarryl’s website throughout the day for updates on the race.

Paid for by Human Rights Campaign PAC and authorized by Friends of Tarryl Clark


Human Rights Campaign | HRC Back Story

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