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

Wendy Davis: I’m running!

Screen shot 2013-10-03 at 5.04.30 PMBefore speaking to hundreds of supporters Thursday afternoon, state Sen. Wendy Davis announced her intentions to run for governor in an email to media.

The Fort Worth Democrat later addressed the large group at Wiley G. Thomas Coliseum in Haltom City, where she graduated from high school.

“We’re here because we believe it’s time to give all Texans a voice in their future and in a place in Texas’ future,” Davis said amid chants of “Wendy, Wendy” from the crowd.

“We are all here because we love Texas and we it’s time for a leader who will put Texans first,” Davis said.

She touched on her education filibuster in 2011 that restored millions to public education and said every Texan deserves “the promise of a better tomorrow.”

“Texans deserve a leader who will protect this promise,” Davis said. “Texans deserve a leader who will keep it.”

While Democrats are eager for Davis to turn Texas blue, a new poll by Texas Lyceum, a nonpartisan, nonprofit group, shows half of voters haven’t decided whether to support her or Attorney General Greg Abbott, who’s the favorite for the GOP nomination.

Of the voters who’ve made up their minds, Abbott leads Davis by 29 percent to 21 percent.

The poll surveyed 800 registered voters from Sept. 6-20. It has a plus or minus 3.47 percentage points.

Davis has been a longtime supporter of the LGBT community.

After her announcement, Abbott released a statement:

“Once again, Texas Democrats are attempting to conjure support for California-style candidates that try to sell Obama’s liberal agenda and go against what makes Texas great. Nonetheless, we welcome Senator Davis to the race, and look forward to presenting the clear differences and debating the important issues that will preserve the economic miracle in Texas.”

For more on the race, see Friday’s Dallas Voice.

—  Anna Waugh

Wendy Davis to return to roots to announce her governor bid

State Sen. Wendy Davis addresses the crowd at the Tarrant County Stonewall Democrats Spring Fundraising Kick-off Party in Fort Worth Wednesday, May 23. (Anna Waugh/Dallas Voice)

Sen. Wendy Davis

State Sen. Wendy Davis plans to announce her future political plans next Thursday at Wiley G. Thomas Coliseum in Haltom City, where she graduated from high school.

Davis made the plans public in a media advisory Thursday evening, but didn’t say which office she’ll be running for — either her Senate District 10 seat or governor. But there was no need. Sources have been saying she’d run for the Democratic nomination since before she postponed an announcement when her father became ill.

And sources are again confirming that the senator, who shot to stardom after an 13-hour marathon filibuster this summer to block an abortion bill, will indeed run for governor.

The race, with Attorney General Greg Abbott running as the Republican favorite, is sure to be an ugly fight. Abbott has tirelessly fought against the LGBT community in situations like the two gay divorce cases now at the Texas Supreme Court and issued an opinion earlier this year that said he thought domestic partner benefits violated the state’s marriage amendment.

Davis, on the other hand, has been an LGBT champion, from voting for Fort Worth’s nondiscrimination ordinance when she served on the City Council to fighting for LGBT-specific protections in the state’s anti-bullying law in 2011.

Fort Worth Councilman Joel Burns, who’s openly gay and took Davis’ council seat when she ran for the Senate, is a favorite to replace her again in the Senate.

Burns has said he will not comment on the race until Davis makes her plans official.

—  Anna Waugh

Texas Republican candidates give odd answers to prove they oppose the gays

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Attorney General Greg Abbott

A poll of top Republican candidates for statewide office in Texas found that all oppose LGBT rights. But their answers — and lack of answers in some areas — shows they might not really believe what they’re saying.

Gubernatorial candidate Greg Abbott was the only one to answer all of the questions, according to the Associated Press. All made it clear they oppose marriage equality, but many didn’t answer questions about employment nondiscrimination. Those that did said nondiscrimination infringes on religious freedom.

Abbott provided some of the more bizarre answers. Although he opposes employment nondiscrimination because of religious concerns, his answer reflected that religious groups are protected.

“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,” he wrote.

So an employer like Cathedral of Hope is not required to hire someone who believes in discrimination against gay or transgender people, because that would conflict with their faith.

Another question showed that Abbott either has wrong information or actually doesn’t believe any of the crap that’s been coming out of his mouth.

“Do you believe that homosexuality is a disorder that requires treatment?” AP asked.

“I am not a doctor, a scientist or God,” Abbott wrote. “I cannot render judgment on a person’s sexuality. I can, however, refer you to the American Psychological Association on the matter.”

The APA hasn’t considered homosexuality a disorder since 1975 and more recently has issued a statement in favor of marriage equality. So either Abbott’s answer is that homosexuality is not a disorder or he thinks it is and thinks the APA supports his position. Or more likely, he knows what the APA says and knows most religious bigots don’t.

In some cases, candidates answered the question they wanted to answer without answering the question they were asked.

“Do you support equal civil rights for lesbian, gay and bisexual citizens?” AP asked.

“Current statutes adequately address the issue of equality before the law and I would oppose laws that provide preferential treatments based on lifestyle choices,” Tom Pauken, candidate for governor wrote.

But he was asked about “equal civil rights.” He was not asked about “preferential treatments.” He’s right, of course, that those who choose a heterosexual lifestyle should not be given preferential treatments.

—  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

AG Greg Abbott to challenge San Antonio nondiscrimination ordinance

Attorney General Greg Abbott

Attorney General Greg Abbott

Attorney General Greg Abbott told a San Antonio radio station he plans to file a federal lawsuit against the newly passed San Antonio nondiscrimination ordinance. Abbott announced last month he is running for governor.

The ordinance adding veteran’s status, sexual orientation and gender identity to other protected categories passed Thursday.

It’s not clear how a lawsuit against the San Antonio ordinance will affect Dallas and Fort Worth. Both have ordinances banning discrimination based on gender identity and sexual orientation.

Abbott claims Texas has a Supremacy Law that says cities can’t override the state.

The federal government also has a Supremacy Law that the state can’t override the federal government. But that doesn’t seem to phase the Texas National Guard, which is refusing to process applications for married same-sex members of the Guard.

And the commander of the National Guard has asked Abbott for a legal opinion: Is Texas Military Forces, which is over the guard, a state agency bound by state law or does the order from the military to recognize same-sex marriages apply to Texas?

Texas is the only state to completely defy the order. Mississippi is not taking applications at state offices but is taking them on National Guard bases. Louisiana followed Mississippi late last week.

The National Guard reports to both the governor and the president and receives money for training and maintaining its forces as well as equipment from the federal government.

—  David Taffet

Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott endorses anti-LGBT discrimination

Texas AG Greg Abbott

Greg Abbott

Greg Abbott is at least 13 years behind Wendy Davis on gay rights.

In a move that highlights his differences on LGBT issues with his potential Democratic opponent in the 2014 Texas governor’s race, Abbott on Monday came out against a proposed ordinance that would ban anti-LGBT discrimination in San Antonio.

Thirteen years ago next month, state Sen. Davis, who was then a member of the Fort Worth City Council, voted in favor of an ordinance banning discrimination based on sexual orientation in employment, housing and public accommodations. (The Fort Worth ordinance was amended to include transgender protections in 2009, following the Rainbow Lounge raid.)

Austin and Dallas have also had similar ordinances for years, but a proposal to be voted on next month in San Antonio has generated plenty of controversy. According to The Dallas Morning News, Abbott believes the San Antonio ordinance “would run afoul of the Texas Constitution, which was amended in 2005 to define marriage as between a man and a woman.”

“Religious expression is guaranteed by the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution, and this ordinance is also contrary to the clearly expressed will of the Texas Legislature,” Abbott said. “Although the proposal has been couched in terms of liberty and equality, it would have the effect of inhibiting the liberty of expression and equality of opportunity for San Antonians.”

Abbott joins three Republicans who are vying to replace him as attorney general in coming out against the ordinance, and his position is hardly surprising. As AG he’s intervened in court to block gay couples from divorcing in Texas, and earlier this year he issued an advisory opinion saying he believes domestic partner benefits offered by local government entities are illegal.

Davis has said she’ll decide whether to run for governor in 2014 or seek re-election to her Senate seat sometime after Labor Day.

—  John Wright

Is the Texas Supreme Court about to legalize same-sex marriage?

Rep. Dan Branch

Rep. Dan Branch

State Rep. Dan Branch is asking the Texas Supreme Court to block same-sex couples legally married in other states from obtaining divorces in the Lone State State. Meanwhile, attorneys for two same-sex couples seeking divorces in Texas are arguing that under the U.S. Supreme Court’s recent decision striking down part of the federal Defense of Marriage Act, Texas’ bans on same-sex marriage are also unconstitutional.

Branch, a Republican who’s running for attorney general in 2014, filed a friend-of-the-court brief Tuesday calling for the Texas Supreme Court to overturn the 3rd Circuit appeals court’s decision upholding a divorce granted to lesbian couple Angelique Naylor and Sabina Daly in Austin in 2010. Current AG Greg Abbott intervened to challenge the divorce after it was granted, but the appeals court ruled in 2011 that Abbott did not have standing. Abbott appealed the decision to the Texas Supreme Court.

In his brief, Branch notes that he was a co-author of Texas’ 2005 constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage. He also says he authored unsuccessful legislation in 2009 seeking to guarantee that the AG’s office’s would be permitted to defend Texas’ bans on same-sex marriage in court.

“Opponents of traditional marriage know that Texans believe strongly in the traditional institution of marriage — so Respondents cannot achieve their goals at the ballot box. They also know that they are wrong as a matter of constitutional law — so Respondents also cannot achieve their goals in this Court,” Branch writes in the brief. “Accordingly, the only way that Respondents can try to impose their vision upon the people of Texas is to trample upon both the legislative process by which Texas laws are supposed to be written, and the adversarial judicial process by which constitutional disputes are supposed to be resolved. Put simply, this lawsuit demonstrates that opponents of traditional marriage want to exclude the people of Texas from the legislative process — and then they want to exclude the legal representative of the people of Texas, the Attorney General of Texas, from the judicial process.”

—  John Wright

Appeals court dismisses suit accusing AG’s office of anti-gay discrimination

Texas AG Greg Abbott

Greg Abbott

A state appeals court on Thursday dismissed a lawsuit accusing Republican Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott’s office of anti-gay employment discrimination.

In February 2009, Vic Gardner resigned from his job at a Tyler call center run by the AG’s office, where he’d worked for about three years, alleging a hostile work environment.

Gardner received excellent performance reviews until an office costume party, where his supervisor concluded he was gay, according to his lawsuit. Once the supervisor determined Gardner was gay, he was repeatedly disciplined until he resigned.

In dismissing Gardner’s case, the 3rd Circuit Court of Appeals said Gardner presented no evidence he was dismissed from the job and not enough evidence of a hostile work environment. The court said Gardner presented no evidence he was demoted, lost job responsibilities or was given a choice of being fired or quitting.

—  David Taffet

Greg Abbott argues DOMA decision doesn’t allow gay divorce in TX

Texas AG Greg Abbott

Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott

Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott, a Republican who announced this week that he’s running for governor in 2014, argued in a brief filed Thursday that the U.S. Supreme Court’s recent decision striking down a section of the Defense of Marriage Act doesn’t allow same-sex couples to divorce in Texas.

Abbott has intervened to block two same-sex couples who were legally married in Massachusetts from obtaining divorces. Appeals in both cases are now before the Texas Supreme Court, which requested a new round of briefs in the wake of the high court’s ruling in Windsor v. United States, which struck down Section 3 of DOMA as unconstitutional.

Abbott’s office filed its brief Thursday in State of Texas v. Angelique Naylor and Sabina Daly, a case involving a lesbian couple that was granted a divorce by a Travis County district judge.

“Windsor does not empower one State to force every other State to recognize the marriage licenses it chooses to issue,” Abbott’s office wrote. “Only by ignoring Windsor’s extensive reliance on the States’ primary authority over marriage could Windsor be employed to attack Texas’s longstanding marriage policy.”

—  John Wright