Tarrant County lesbian couple files for divorce

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A lot has happened this week in Texas regarding same-sex marriage and divorce.

A Tarrant County couple came out as straight friends hoping to help win the marriage equality fight in the state. And a judge prevented Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott from interfering a San Antonio couple’s divorce proceedings.

Now a Tarrant County couple has filed for divorce. Brooke Powell and Cori Jo Long married in New Hampshire four years ago. Powell’s attorney filed a petition to declare the marriage void, like it never happened. But the couple wants a divorce.

Under Texas law, same-sex divorce is illegal just as much as same-sex marriage or recognizing same-sex unions. However, back in February, a U.S. district judge declared Texas marriage law unconstitutional. The Texas Supreme Court heard arguments in two same-sex divorce cases in November. A ruling is expected by summer.

“I feel like since I was legally married, then I should be entitled to a divorce,” Long told Fox 4 News.

Watch Fox 4’s report below.

—  Anna Waugh

Gay Realtor calls out Texas PAC for backing anti-gay candidates

Bob.McCranie

Bob McCranie

The Texas Association of Realtors and its funding arm, the Texas Real Estate Political Action Committee, have long endorsed and funded anti-LGBT candidates. But one Realtor is hoping to change that in the coming years, if not sooner.

Bob McCranie, owner of Plano-based Texas Pride Realty, has grown tired of the Texas organizations endorsing and funding anti-gay candidates, including the four at the top of the ticket this year who oppose marriage equality: Greg Abbott for governor, David Dewhurst for lieutenant governor, Glenn Hegar for Texas comptroller of public accounts and George P. Bush for Texas land commissioner.

McCranie isn’t on the endorsement board but has donated to the PAC in the past. He said marriage equality is a Realtor issue because marriage involves property rights, but when he’s brought up his objections to the endorsements in the past, he’s told  Texas is a red state so not many candidates support LGBT equality. The endorsement board even has openly gay members.

“What I’m told is ‘You won’t change Texas’ Texas is a very red meat state,’ but I want my associations of realtors on the local, state and national level to let their candidates know that this is an important topic for us,” he said. “I want them to be aware that they are standing beside candidates that are adamantly homophobic who ring the fire alarm of homophobia to get their voters out. And we just blindly endorse them.”

The endorsement for attorney general hasn’t been announced yet, likely pending the runoff between state Sen. Ken Paxton, R-McKinney, and state Rep. Dan Branch, R-Dallas.

Branch, who represents Oak Lawn, co-authored Texas’ 2005 constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage, and he filed a brief in a gay divorce case before the Texas Supreme Court last year defending the state’s amendment and requesting the court to overturn a lesbian couple’s divorce.

Paxton, along with anti-gay state Sen. Donna Campbell, R-New Braunfels, filed a bill last year to put the Texas Religious Freedom Restoration Act in the state Constitution. The act, which the Legislature passed in 1999, prohibits local or state agencies form allowing people to express their religious beliefs, including discriminating against LGBT people. The recent bill never made it to the floor for a vote.

Campbell, who filed an anti-transgender marriage bill last year, also was endorsed. But out state Rep. Mary Gonzalez, D-El Paso, was also endorsed this cycle.

McCranie said the recent bill by Paxton and Campbell goes against the National Association of Realtors Code of Ethics, which requires that everyone be treated equally. And he hopes the Texas PAC doesn’t endorse Paxton or anymore anti-gay candidates in the future.

“These laws break the code of ethics,” he said. “Why are we endorsing candidates who support this? No matter what the party is.”

The Realtors Political Action Committee funded Mississippi legislators who authored the state’s Religious Liberty Bill, which RPAC-endorsed Gov. Phil Bryant later signed. RPAC is the National Association of Realtors’ PAC.

NAR President Steve Brown, who’s openly gay, recently called McCranie to discuss his concerns and gave him a statement on religious freedom bills.

“Attempts to authorize and encourage discrimination in housing or real estate services under any banner are ethically wrong and wholly inconsistent with the fundamental principles of the REALTORS® Code of Ethics,” the statement reads in part. “It’s unquestioned that where the Code of Ethics and the law conflict, the Code must give way to the law. But we will continue to tell the public, and legislators should be on notice, that the Code’s duties, which often set a higher bar than law or regulation, do and will continue to prohibit discrimination in providing real estate services despite what the law may permit.”

The statement pleased McCranie, who said he’d continue to advocate for more inclusive candidates in the future and encourage others in the real estate industry to do the same.

“My perspective is LGBT Realtors and real estate professionals are hounded all the time to donate to the industry PAC,” McCranie said. “And the industry PAC doesn’t seem to consider LGBT property rights and discrimination to be an issue, and so I’m really trying to raise the conversation in the industry about this.”

—  Steve Ramos

Employees’ Retirement Fund board takes up city of Dallas pensions

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The board of trustees for the city’s Employees’ Retirement Fund brainstormed ideas Tuesday morning about the best approach to make the pension plan equal for LGBT retirees.

The Dallas City Council passed a comprehensive equality resolution last month directing the city manager to evaluate areas in city employment where disparities for LGBT employees exist. Among them, were the pension plans.

Under the current plan, opposite-sex spouses receive lifetime benefits when their spouses die, but same-sex spouses are treated as designees, and their benefits run out after 10 years.

The ERF board spent half an hour discussing the resolution, as well as the state’s constitutional marriage amendment and the Texas Family Code, both of which prevent the state from recognizing same-sex marriages.

—  Anna Waugh

Greg Abbott comes out for same-sex marriage in April Fool’s news story

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Greg Abbott

As if anyone would believe the Texas Attorney General and GOP gubernatorial candidate Greg Abbott would back same-sex marriage, some Texans may have thought he had done just that on Tuesday.

In a post by the Burnt Orange Report, Abbott is quoted as saying he’s decided to support his old friend Mark Phariss and partner Victor Holmes. The couple is suing the state of Texas for the right to marry in the Lone Star State along with a lesbian couple form Austin.

“I had an epiphany this morning when I looked at myself in the mirror,” Abbott told The Associated Press, according to the story. “I thought, ‘Gosh, Mark (Phariss) and Victor (Holmes) make such a cute couple. They’ve been happily in love for over 16 years now. It’d be such a shame if I were the person standing between their love and the true happiness of all other LGBT couples in Texas.’

“Look, this whole governor gig thing may not play out as smoothly as I thought it would, with me seriously offending someone new every week. I just don’t want to be forever known as that guy who stood against the love of his long-time friend and the rest of the thousands of LGBT couples in Texas simply looking to be treated like everyone else. That sounds like the bad guy in a James Cameron movie.”

Abbott’s support would indeed be a surprise to say the least. He’s been a staunch defender of the state’s 2005 a same-sex marriage amendment and intervened in the divorce case of a Dallas couple, preventing them from receiving a divorce. The case, and one of a lesbian couple in which Abbott’s office intervened in after the divorce was granted, is pending a decision at the Texas Supreme Court.

Perhaps a more believable April Fool’s story would be that Gov. Rick Perry came out. But then that’s already true, according to a book by former out state Rep. Glen Maxey.

—  Anna Waugh

Wendy Davis wins Texas Democratic gubernatorial bid, will face Greg Abbott

wendy-davis-hrc-blog450As expected, Fort Worth state Sen. Wendy Davis secured the Democratic nomination for Texas governor Tuesday night.

“I am proud to be your candidate for governor,” Davis told a crowd of supporters at her campaign headquarters in Fort Worth. “And I’m ready to fight for you and all hardworking Texans. Now is the time to fight for our future.  This is not the time to stand still.”

Davis, who’s endorsed by the Human Rights Campaign and Equality Texas, is a longtime LGBT ally, having supported Fort Worth’s nondiscrimination ordinance during her time on the Fort Worth City Council to sponsoring LGBT-inclusive anti-bullying legislation and co-authoring an LGBT-inclusive nondiscrimination legislation.

She came out for marriage equality weeks before a federal judge found the state’s ban on same-sex marriage unconstitutional. After the ruling last week, she released a statement commending the judge, saying “I believe that all Texans who love one another and are committed to spending their lives together should be allowed to marry.”

Davis won the nomination with 77 percent of the vote. She’ll go on to face Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott in November. Abbott won the Republican nomination with 92 percent of the vote.

And Tuesday night, while Davis didn’t specifically mention LGBT Texans, she promised to fight for the freedoms for every Texan.

“I will be a governor who fights for all freedoms — not certain freedoms for certain people,” Davis said. “Greg Abbott wants to dictate for all women, including victims of rape or incest, what decisions they should make. I will be a governor who fights for Texas’ future.  Greg Abbott? He’s just a defender of the status quo.”

—  Anna Waugh

‘That was the day I withdrew’

Jim-Lovell

With the federal judge striking down the Texas Constitutional Amendment prohibiting gay marriage and civil unions, hopefully this is the beginning of the end of a sorry, hateful chapter in Texas history.

Who did this amendment help? You? Please tell me how. Didn’t your life continue as always? OK, so it helped politicians get money and votes, which was really the purpose of it and which adds to the sleaziness of it. They played the people of Texas like a violin and got more power as a result.

Who did this amendment hurt? Well, ME, for starters, and the hurt went way beyond the rights and protections denied to Bill and me. The day I went to vote against this amendment, my life changed profoundly.

I went to vote early, as I usually do. Normally, for a vote on constitution propositions, I am one of maybe five or 10 people to vote on that particular day. Not this day.

People were lined up out the door and around the corner — to vote against me. To make sure that I could not even have a civil union.

Please try to imagine the feeling, seeing such a line to vote against you, and knowing that many of your “friends” are in that line, people who trust you to teach their children are, nevertheless, in that line to make sure that you cannot have what they take for granted.

Worse yet — the many friends who were silent. I don’t know how they voted, and therefore, I didn’t know who my friends were.

That was the day I withdrew. I started eating lunch alone. I didn’t stay around and chat after meetings. Conversations became superficial. Fortunately, I had the support at home from a loving life partner, and I had an abundance of love and support from the amazing people of my church, Northaven United Methodist in Dallas. They helped me to learn to forgive, to see the people in that line as victims manipulated by greedy power seekers, manipulating them by stirring up fear. But it has been a years-long, unfinished process.

I am doing fine, but I wonder about those who did not have the support I had, especially the young ones. How many of them decided to just end it all? If they were in the same dark place as me, undoubtedly it happened. And listening to the debate still going on, I’m sure it is still happening.

So, I celebrate this judge’s decision. I hope it speeds the day when we can throw this hateful amendment in the trash heap of history, right along with Jim Crow and the Salem witch hunts, etc. etc. etc. (That heap is pretty big, isn’t it?) I hope it speeds the day when we become a society who cares for and values one another rather than beating down and stigmatizing one another.

— Jim Lovell on Facebook

Jim Lovell retired from the Plano ISD, and lives in France with his husband, Bill Stoner. They will be in Dallas this weekend to attend the marriage ceremony of Jack Evans and George Harris.

Related stories:

Texas ban on same-sex marriage ruled unconstitutional

By God, that’s where we’re going to get married

Marriage equality is fixin’ to come to Texas

It’s nice to hear someone say our marriage is valid

 

—  Steve Ramos

Davis calls on Abbott to stop defending same-sex marriage ban

Democratic Senators Wendy Davis and Royce West at a protest before the start of a special session of the Texas legislature in Austin, TexasSAN ANTONIO — Sen. Wendy Davis said Thursday  she supports same-sex marriage and that Attorney General Greg Abbott, her presumed general-election opponent in the race for governor, should stop defending the state’s ban, the Houston Chronicle reported.

“It’s my strong belief that when people love each other and are desirous of creating a committed relationship with each other that they should be allowed to marry, regardless of their sexual orientation,” Davis told the Express-News editorial board.

Davis, D-Fort Worth, said she is “pleased” that the state’s constitutional definition of marriage, as being between a man and a woman, is under challenge in federal court.

“I think that what we see happening at the federal level in terms of constitutional interpretations on that provide some hope that it may be found unconstitutional,” she said.

The Republican attorney general’s office is defending the constitutional provision.

Asked if she would call on him to stop doing so — as she earlier called on Abbott this week to reach a settlement in a state school funding lawsuit — Davis said that “makes perfect sense. We’ve seen that happen.”

She cited such decisions by Virginia and Nevada.

“Obviously our AG has the capacity to do the same if he chooses to do so,” she said. Asked if she would call on him to do so, she said yes.

Abbott spokesman Matt Hirsch scoffed at Davis’ urging.

“Unlike Senator Davis’ positions on the issues, the Texas constitution is not subject to change on the latest whims of the day. Senator Davis’ comment suggesting the Attorney General not enforce the Constitution mimics an Obama-style approach to government, and Texans deserve better,” Hirsch said.

Davis, asked if she would push to repeal the state constitutional provision on gay marriage if elected governor, said, “I would certainly open up that conversation with the Legislature.

“I think it’s important, and I think that people across this country are evolving on that issue and moving in a direction that demonstrates support for it, so I think it is time to re-open that conversation and ask Texans where they are on it to see if that’s something that we might change legislatively if it doesn’t happen constitutionally,” she said.

—  Steve Ramos

Judge denied Abbott’s request to consolidate marriage equality cases

Texas AG Greg Abbott

Attorney General Greg Abbott

U.S. District Judge Orlando Garcia denied Attorney General Greg Abbott’s request to move the Texas marriage-equality case DeLeon v. Perry out of San Antonio and consolidate several cases in Austin.

The judge found that, while the two cases “share a common issue with the present lawsuit in that all Plaintiffs challenge the constitutionality of Defendants’ refusal to let them marry their same-sex partners, the three lawsuits differ in important respects.”

While some defendants want to marry in Texas, others want the state to recognize their out-of-state marriages.

Earlier this month, the Austin court hearing one of the cases also denied Abbott’s request to consolidate the cases.

“Furthermore, the Court finds Defendants have failed to establish that Austin is a more convenient venue for this case,” Garcia wrote.

He said that when the venue where the case would be transferred is not shown to be more convenient than that chosen by the plaintiff, the plaintiff’s choice of venue should be respected.

“The Plaintiffs in this case all reside in Texas, and can travel as easily to hearings in either Austin or San Antonio,” Garcia ruled. “Furthermore, the issues to be tried in this case are not unique to one locality. In fact, the statutory and constitutional provisions at issue in this case apply equally across the State of Texas, and the resolution of this case will have state-wide, not localized significance. Accordingly, there are no ‘localized interests’ served by transferring venue to Austin.”

Read full decision here.

—  David Taffet

Judge sets Feb. date to hear motion blocking Texas’ marriage amendment

Vic Holmes and Mark Phariss

Vic Holmes and Mark Phariss

A date has been set for two Texas couples challenging the state’s marriage amendment to appear in court to argue that a temporary injunction should be ordered, preventing state officials from enforcing the law.

Federal District Judge Orlando Garcia is set to hear arguments on Feb. 12.

Mark Phariss and Victor Holmes of Plano, joined by Austin couple Cleopatra DeLeon and Nicole Dimetman, are the plaintiffs in the case. Both couples met in San Antonio years ago, but while the lesbian couple later married out of state, they want their union recognized here, and Phariss and Holmes want to marry in Texas.

The attorney for the couples filed the motion last month and said they expect a favorable ruling regarding the injunction, but Gov. Rick Perry and Attorney General Greg Abbott, listed as defendants in the case, could request proof that the law harms same-sex couples, delaying a ruling on the motion for a year or more.

—  Anna Waugh

Davis endorses SA nondiscrimination ordinance, gets Castro’s support

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Sen. Wendy Davis announcing her bid for governor

State. Sen. Wendy Davis appeared in San Antonio on Monday for a campaign stop, during which she endorsed the city’s new nondiscrimination ordinance and was endorsed by Mayor Julian Castro.

Davis said she hoped the new ordinance in San Antonio would become commonplace throughout Texas. Fort Worth has a similar ordinance, which Davis voted for when she sat on the City Council.

“I hope that it becomes something that is commonplace,” Davis said. “I look forward to a Texas where we see that in every city in the state.”

Davis later told reporters that it’s “important that people be treated equally in the workplace, plain and simple.”

Her position is the opposite of Attorney General Greg Abbott, the frontrunner for the Republican nomination. He threatened to file suit against the ordinance, claiming it violated freedom of religion. He dropped the suit when he couldn’t find any way discriminating against people was a religious right.

An Abbott spokesman reiterated his opposition to the nondiscrimination ordinance but also indicated opposition to some private companies adopting those policies.

“Both the U.S. and Texas Constitutions protect faith-based organizations from being coerced into employing persons in a way that would require them to violate their faith,” the spokesman told Texas Tribune.

Davis announced she was running for governor last week at a rally in Haltom City.

Filing for the primaries begins Nov. 9. The primary will be held in March.

—  David Taffet