Houston’s State Rep. Garnet Coleman applauds Prop. 8 decision

State Rep. Garnet Coleman

Rep. Garnet Coleman, D-Houston, took to his blog today to applaud yesterday’s decision by the United States Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals declaring Proposition 8  unconstitutional (Prop. 8, passed in 2008, prohibited marriage equality in California):

“Yesterday’s 9th Circuit decision, just like the decision in Lawrence v. Texas, is a stepping stone on the path to marriage equality for all. As Judge Stephen R. Reinhardt of the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals wrote in the opinion, ‘Proposition 8 serves no purpose, and has no effect, other than to lessen the status and human dignity of gay men and lesbians in California, and to officially reclassify their relationships and families as inferior to those of opposite-sex couples.’ The same holds true for the marriage equality ban in Texas. That is why I continue to fight for marriage equality and continue to file the repeal of the ban of same sex marriage. Denying gay couples the right to marry is unconstitutional and a blatant denial of human rights. “

Coleman has a long history of filing pro-LGBT legislation in the Texas House. Last year he introduced historic legislation that, had it passed, would have called for a state-wide vote to repeal the section of Texas’ constitution prohibiting same-sex marriage, so he’s no stranger to the battle for marriage equality.

Coleman is seeking re-election to his District 147 seat. He will face long-time local LGBT activist Ray Hill in the Democratic Primary. No republican candidate has filed for the seat.

Read Coleman’s full statement on his blog.

—  admin

Agree with the pope? Nope!

Pontiff once again speaks out against LGBT equality, saying same-sex marriage is a threat to ‘the future of humanity’

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Hardy Haberman
Flagging Left

When you hear someone with as powerful a voice as the pope say something is a threat to “the future of humanity itself,” you take notice. Pope Benedict uttered these weighty words this week, and what was he talking about? Nuclear capabilities in Iran? Global warming? Famine? Drought?
Nope.

The Holy Father was speaking about marriage equality. Apparently in the rarified air of the Vatican, allowing LGBT people to affirm their relationships and have the same legal rights as heterosexual couples would have apocalyptic results.

In his statement to a gathering of diplomats from 180 countries, the pope said that children need the proper settings in which to grow, and that “pride of place goes to the family based on the marriage of a man and a woman.”

He went on to assert that, “This is not a simple social convention, but rather the fundamental cell of every society. Consequently, policies which undermine the family threaten human dignity and the future of humanity itself.”

This little gem was part of his yearly address to the diplomatic corps accredited to the Vatican. Unlike with any other religion in the world, the U.S. actually has an ambassador to the Vatican, representing the Catholic Church, as do many other countries.

It is a mystery I fail to understand, but it is what it is.

This statement comes on the heels of the elevation of New York Archbishop Timothy Dolan to the status of cardinal. Not surprisingly, Dolan is one of the leading anti-LGBT voices in the Catholic Church.

And Pope Benedict himself is certainly no friend of LGBT folk either. In a 1986 pastoral letter he wrote before becoming pontiff, then-Cardinal Ratzinger said that homosexuality was “an intrinsic moral evil” and “an objective disorder.”

Now to put this in perspective, the Catholic Church claims 1.3 billion adherents worldwide. This is why what the pope says is news.

But I fail to see this statement coming from the voice of the moral high ground.

The Vatican has been implicated in numerous scandals in recent years, and most of them involve inappropriate sexual behavior with minors. Many of these same scandals not only involve priests, but the systematic coverup of the crimes.

The courts of the U.S. and Europe have been busy prosecuting these cases, and the new media has covered them ad nauseam.

For me, the big question is this: In a world with so many social and humanitarian problems, why is preventing LGBT people from marrying worthy of such hyperbole?

Will allowing my partner and me to marry for the purposes of gaining the 1,000-plus legal benefits awarded to straight couples in the U.S. going to shake the foundations of our country? Is a gay marriage going to cause straight people to throw up their hands saying, “Well there goes the neighborhood” and divorce?
Nonsense.

This all has to do with control — and few people understand control as well as the current pope. Cardinal Ratzinger was the “enforcer” for the Vatican before his elevation to pontiff. His office was the Supreme Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, a group previously known as (until 1965) Supreme Sacred Congregation of the Roman and Universal Inquisition.  You remember them and their always “unexpected” counterpart, the Spanish Inquisition?

The pope will continue to demonize LGBT people and oppose our relationships as long as it serves to increase his control. Much like right-wing politicians, the pope can use this issue as a wedge issue, prying the faithful away from any attempt at social justice in the matter of LGBT rights.

Moreover, this is also designed to bolster the argument that “hate speech” should be protected as a freedom of religion issue, a recent tactic being used by the far-right to oppose LGBT rights and anti-bullying efforts.

Am I suggesting that the pope is colluding with politicians to deny LGBT people their rights? Perhaps not. But his statements will surely be used by the right wing to bolster their arguments.

I just find it sad that the man who has assumed the mantle of the vicar of Christ can so conveniently ignore that Jesus said nothing about LGBT people in any recorded documents. He did, however, say something to the effect of, “Feed the hungry, clothe the naked, heal the sick and visit the prisoner.”
Hardy Haberman is a longtime local LGBT activist and a board member of the Woodhull Freedom Alliance. His blog is at DungeonDiary.blogspot.com.

—  Kevin Thomas

‘An affront to human dignity’: Gay UT employee denied bereavement leave to mourn partner

The Daily Texan has an update on the push to add domestic partner benefits for employees at the University of Texas at Austin. University President William Powers Jr. has established a working group to look at implementing soft benefits, which include sick, bereavement and parental leave for faculty and staff, as well as housing for hall coordinators and graduate students:

“The fact that we don’t have domestic partner benefits puts us at a competitive disadvantage in recruiting students and staff, and that’s an issue that we need to get solved,” Powers said. “It’s still a work in progress, and there are a lot of players involved. The University would be better if we make substantial progress in treating people equally, regardless of sexual orientation.”

But right now, the University has little in its official policy to account for the needs of GLBT employees and their partners, and the resources they receive are not comparable to heterosexual staff members. Last week, a Pride and Equity Faculty Staff Association board member’s partner died of pancreatic cancer, said Lindsey Schell, the chair of the Domestic Partner Benefits committee for PEFSA. Not only could the staff member not insure her partner while she was alive, UT’s current bereavement leave policy prevented the staff member from taking paid leave to mourn. The incident was “an affront to human dignity,” Schell said.

She said PEFSA and other stakeholders are working with the president’s office and human resources to determine the most effective way to incorporate soft benefits into existing UT policy without violating state codes and laws. All Ivy League universities offer benefits, as do peer institutions such as the University of Michigan and Ohio State University. Many of these institutions are in states with insurance codes and Defense of Marriage Act laws similar to those in Texas.

For more on DP benefits at UT, including what you can do to help, check out the Pride and Equity Faculty Staff Association’s website.

—  John Wright