BREAKING: Restraining order bars Houston from offering equal benefits

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Houston Mayor Annise Parker

A district judge has ordered Houston to stop offering same-sex benefits to its employees. The order, found here, states that the city cannot issue benefits under the city’s charter and Family Penal Code because same-sex couples are not formally recognized by Texas.

“The city is preparing an immediate appeal.  Once that appeal is filed, today’s ruling will be stayed and a previous order issued at the federal court level allowing the city to implement same sex spousal benefits will continue in effect.  As a result, today’s action will have no impact on the status quo,” city spokeswoman Janice Evans said in a statement.

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—  James Russell

Classic Chassis Car Club of Dallas brings home awards from Golden Girls show

Classic Chassis Car Club of Dallas members recently returned with several awards from Golden Girls 2014, the annual car show organized by Classic Chassis Car Clubs of Texas hosted this year by CCCC Houston in Galveston. Classic Chassis Car Clubs of Texas is a division of Lambda Car Club International.

The show was held on Galveston’s Pier 21, with the backdrop of water and ship, and those attending said even the sudden cloudburst couldn’t spoil the day. The show was followed by an evening of entertainment, food, prizes and awards hosted at the Lone Star Flight Museum.

Golden Girl winners from Dallas this year are:

• Russ Johnson, “Best Truck” for his 2013 Ford F150 Lariat.

• Michael Smith, first place in the 1990s Open Division with his 1991 Figaro.

• David and Tom, second place in the 1980s Closed Division with their Pontiac Fiero.

• Robert Gamble, first place in the 1970s Open Division with his 1971 Olds Cutlass.

• James Gudat, first place in the 1970s Closed Division with his 1974 AMC Matador.

• Bill Allen, first place in the 1960s Open Division with his 1961 Olds Starfire. Allen also received the award for “Longest Distance Travelled.”

• Steve Slaughter, “Best in Show” and first place in the Pre-1949 Division with his 1938 Packard Six.

Next year’s Golden Girls show will be hosted by the Austin CCCC Chapter and will be on the Grand National Circuit of events for Lambda Car Club International. It will be only the second time in GG history a Texas club has hosted a Grand National; Dallas was the first to do so in 2004.

—  Tammye Nash

BREAKING: Houston Mayor Annise Parker withdraws sermon subpoenas

Annise ParkerHouston Mayor Annise Parker announced this morning, Oct. 29, that Houston will withdraw subpoenas of five pastors in the lawsuit over the Houston Equal Rights Ordinance, the Houston Chronicle reports.

Parker and the city came under national scrutiny when lawyers representing the city subpoenaed five pastors’ sermons in the lawsuit brought by pastors opposed to the ordinance. The request resulted in a national outcry. A  group of religious leaders sponsored by the Family Research Council plans to descend on Houston this coming Sunday, Nov. 2, to protest against the subpoenas.

Parker said at a press conference she met with national and Houston clergy members yesterday, Oct. 27, to “hear their concerns about religious liberties,” the Chronicle reports. But she did not indicate then whether or not she would withdraw the subpoenas.

“What is best for the city of Houston, not what is best for the litigation,” she said, but adding “I don’t want to have a national debate about freedom of religion” while trying to defend HERO.”

 

—  James Russell

Jon Buice again denied parole in 1991 gay bashing murder

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Jon Christopher Buice

The Texas Board of Pardons and Paroles voted today, Tuesday, Oct. 21, to once again deny convicted killer Jon Christopher Buice’s request for parole.Buice, now 40 years old, was one of 10 men — ranging in age at the time from 16 to 22 — convicted of the 1991 murder of Paul Broussard, a Houston gay man who was beaten and stabbed to death after leaving a gay bar in the Montrose neighborhood on July 4.

It was Broussard’s murder that prompted then-Texas Gov. Ann Richards to call a special session of the Texas Legislature to pass the state’s first hate crimes law in 1993.

Andy Kahan, a victim advocate for the city of Houson, said Tuesday, “Since Jon made the deliberate conscious effort to deprive Paul of his life, all we can do in return is to deprive him of his liberty and today we at least accomplished that for another year.”

Dallas Voice is waiting for comments from Broussard’s mother, Nancy Rodriguez, who was worked diligently since her son’s death to see his killers convicted, and to keep Buice in jail.

Buice, who admitted at trial that he was the one that inflicted the stab wound that actually killed Broussard, was sentenced to 45 years in prison. He was denied parole in 2007 and in 2009. In 2011, the Board of Pardons and Parole initially granted Buice’s request for parole but then reversed its decision following an outcry by the LGBT community and Rodriguez.

Buice’s was denied parole again in 2012, 2013 and today. Raymond Estrada, spokesman for the Board of Pardons and Paroles, said the reason given for denying parole was “the nature of the offense.” He said Buice is up for review again on Oct. 1, 2015.

—  Tammye Nash

HERO opponents granted temporary restraining order

Houston-Mayor-Annise-ParkerOpponents of the Houston Equal Rights Ordinance won a small victory in a district court yesterday evening when a district judge granted them a temporary restraining order delaying implementation of the ordinance.

“[U.S. District Judge Gray Miller's] ruling was evidence of the abject lack of any credible legal basis for City Attorney David Feldman’s motion, leaving it clear that it was indeed just a delay tactic that did not work,” said the opposition group No UNEqual Rights Houston in a statement.

Mayor Annise Parker  previously announced that the city would delay the ordinance’s implementation.

Woodfill v. Parker was filed in the 152nd District Court shortly after the city rejected the opponents petitions calling for a November ballot referendum. Attorneys with the city of Houston must appear before the court on August 15 and make their case for why the order should be vacated.

The Equal Rights Houston campaign in a statement denounced the ruling. “It is unfortunate that the opponents of equal rights have taken this issue to the courts after first losing at City Council … [we are] confident the court will uphold the city of Houston’s decision that the repeal signatures were not collected in the clearly defined process.  The bottom line is that this state court decision is still just a TRO, and not a final ruling on the merits.”

 

—  James Russell

BREAKING NEWS: HERO petition rejected but city will delay implementation

Parker.AnniseThe Houston Equal Rights Ordinance will not appear on the November ballot, Mayor Annise Parker announced at a press conference today.

“The petition is simply invalid,” said David Feldman, the city’s attorney.

Officials said there were too many irregularities in the petition. Some of the pages weren’t notarized, and too many of the signatures were not registered voters, they said. Feldman said, essentially, that there were so many problems with the petition as it was submitted that the city couldn’t accept it.

Mayor Annise Parker predicted that opponents will take legal action. Because of expected legal action, she will then delay implementation of the ordinance.

The petition was submitted by opponents of the ordinance, which added protections for the LGBT and other communities.

The decision came as proponents of the ordinance questioned the legitimacy and tactics of the petition drive lead by opponents, putting in to doubt whether or not the drive would succeed.

Late last week, an anonymous group published the names of the signatories, calling for transparency and independent reviews of each signature. Among the names found by this reporter are State Rep. Dwayne Bohac and Ryan Patrick, the son of Republican lieutenant governor nominee and state Senator Dan Patrick.

Under state law, petitions submitted to government agencies are public record.

—  James Russell

Anti-gay factions challenge Houston equal rights ordinance

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Mayor Annise Parker during the HERO debate

Opponents of the Houston Equal Rights Ordinance turned in 50,000 signatures to get the issue on the November ballot. Only 17, 269 are needed. The city secretary’s office has 30 days to validate the signatures.

The ordinance passed on May 28. The Houston city charter allows a recall election on an issue if 10 percent of voters in the last election sign a petition. A recall against a mayor or council member requires 25 percent of voters in that election to sign a petition.

Until HERO was passed, Houston was the only major city in the United States without an equal rights ordinance of any sort. In addition to protecting the LGBT community, the ordinance puts into place protections based on sex, race, color, ethnicity, national origin, age, familial status, marital status, military status, religion, disability, genetic information or pregnancy. None of these categories were protected by the city before the ordinance was enacted.

The anti-HERO forces have claimed the law allows men to dress as women so they may enter women’s restroom and attack little girls. There is no mention of bathrooms in the ordinance.

The city plans to defend the ordinance.

“The Houston I know does not discriminate, treats everyone equally and allows full participation by everyone in civic and business life,” said Mayor Annise Parker. “We don’t care where you come from, the color of your skin, your age, gender, what physical limitations you may have or whom you choose to love. I am confident voters will soundly defeat any challenge to the ordinance.”

—  David Taffet

Opponents threaten Parker with recall

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Houston City Council. Mayor Annise Parker in red front, center.

The debate on the proposed nondiscrimination ordinance in Houston just got nasty.

Mayor Annise Parker’s perennial adversary Dave Wilson said he’s planning a recall vote against the mayor and several council members, according to CBS affiliate KHOU.

Recall in Houston isn’t easy. Signatures of 25 percent of voters who voted for the official must be collected in 30 days. Reasons allowed for recall in the city charter are incompetence, misconduct, malfeasance or unfitness for office. Wilson claims passing an ordinance that contradicts state law amounts to incompetence.

Houston is the only major city in Texas with no nondiscrimination ordinance and the only major city in the U.S. without one.

According to KHOU, more than 42,000 signatures would have to be collected to a recall of Parker up for a vote. Some council members could face recall with less than 2,500 signatures.

Wilson was elected to the Houston Community College District Board of Trustees in a majority black district by insinuating he was black in his campaign literature.

Former Dallas City Councilwoman Veletta Lill who served when Dallas passed its nondiscrimination ordinance more than a decade ago commented on the controversies in San Antonio and Houston during her appearance on LGBT talk show Lambda Weekly last week. She said when Dallas debated its ordinance, several people did voice opposition and concerns. She said those concerns were taken into consideration and addressed and the ordinance passed without controversy.

—  David Taffet

Houston pastor pleas for right to discriminate … against Jews

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Houston Councilwoman Ellen Cohen

Pastor Becky Riggle of Grace Community Church in Houston stood before Houston City Council this week to give her opinion on HERO, the Houston Equal Rights Ordinance.

Pastor Riggle thinks it’s OK to discriminate, as long as you’re doing it in the name of religion. Let’s be clear, when Pastor Riggle suggests a need for a religious exemption, she’s not just talking about discriminating against gays, lesbians and transgenders.

City Councilwoman Ellen Cohen asked the good pastor if it was OK to discriminate against her since she’s Jewish. Cohen had to ask several times and Pastor Riggle said yes, but that’s not the issue.

The good pastor didn’t explain why it wasn’t the issue since the ordinance protects people from discrimination based on a list of categories, sexual orientation, gender identity and religion among them.

Bigots like Riggle weren’t the majority of people who came to City Hall and the proceedings weren’t as contentious as those in San Antonio last year.

Equality Texas Field Organizer Daniel Williams was at Houston City Hall.

“Fortunately Pastor Riggle does not represent the vast majority of Houston clergy,” Williams said. “In public testimony supportive clergy have outnumbered those in opposition two to one and more than 70 faith leaders in Houston have signed a letter in support of the HERO.”

The vast majority of clergy understand that all forms of discrimination are wrong. They understand they could be the next target. Perfect example: Pastor Riggle thinks she has the right to discriminate against Councilwoman Cohen because the councilwoman is Jewish.

A vote on HERO is delayed two weeks and in the mean time, I think good Houstonians should demonstrate to the pastor just what discrimination looks like. The checker at the supermarket should tell her he’s not going to ring up her groceries. The dry cleaner should refuse to take her clothes. The waitress at her favorite restaurant should refuse her service. Each should explain they’re religion requires them to refuse service to bigots.

Here’s the video of the good pastor’s ugly comments:

—  David Taffet

Houston couple wins ACLU same-sex wedding contest

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A Texas couple is among the five winners of the national American Civil Liberties Union’s Big Gay (Il)legal Wedding contest.

Jeff Robertson and Jeremiah Pyant of Houston were one of 23 same-sex couples from the Lone Star State vying for the chance to win $5,000 toward their dream wedding. Contestants had to live in state like Texas where same-sex marriage is prohibited to be eligible to enter.

Pyant, a flight attendant, and Robertson, an ad executive, met four years ago aboard a plane that Pyant was working on. They got engaged in December and want to marry aboard a hot air balloon taking off from Texas and flying over New Mexico, where the marriage will be legal.

Winners were chosen out of the top 25 couples that received the most votes. ACLU told The Associated Press nearly 200,000 votes were cast for the 400 entries since the contest’s December launch.

After the contest began, more court rulings in favor of same-sex marriage started coming out of states, including a decision in Texas back in February.

“As soon as we entered the contest, the court decisions started coming out,” said Jeff Robertson. “We’re living a civil rights movement right before our eyes.”

James Esseks, director of the ACLU’s Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Project, said the wedding contest highlights the type of problems faced by gay couples in the nearly 30 states where marriage-equality lawsuits have been filed.

“We live in this crazy time, with a patchwork of protections, where you can go across the border and get married,” he said. “The problem is that when you turn around and go back, you’re not going to be considered married by your home states. That’s not the way it should work in America.”

—  Dallasvoice