BREAKING: Tenth Circuit upholds marriage equality in Utah

10th CircuitThe Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals has upheld the lower court ruling in the Utah marriage discrimination case — Kitchen v. Herbert — that the U.S. Constitution guarantees same-sex couples due process and equal protection.

This is the first ruling by an appellate court since the landmark U.S. v. Windsor case was decided last June, striking down part of the Defense of Marriage Act and instructing the federal government to recognize marriages of same-sex couples.

“Today’s decision by the Tenth Circuit affirms the fundamental principles of equality and fairness and the common humanity of gay and lesbian people,” said Peggy Tomsic, one of the attorneys in the case. “As the Court recognized, these families are part of Utah’s community, and equal protection requires that they be given the same legal protections and respect as other families in this state.  The Court’s ruling is a victory not only for the courageous couples who brought this case, but for our entire state and every state within the Tenth Circuit.”

The 10th Circuit also heard the Oklahoma marriage discrimination case the same day, and is expected to hand down its ruling in the case any time now.

—  David Taffet

Defining Homes • cougar’s DEN

‘Big Rich Texas’ star Leslie Birkland found house shopping in Dallas easy — with some high-end help, of course

Cameras follow Leslie Birkland, right, and goddaughter Kalyn Braun in ‘Big Rich Texas’ which also features Birkland’s new Dallas-area estate.

By Rich Lopez


Being blonde and beautiful never hurts — especially in Dallas. Blonde, beautiful and rich is even better. Leslie Birkland dealt with some hefty drama in the just-finished season of Big Rich Texas, but maybe the biggest drama was finding a new home in the area to partake in Dallas society, men and the pageant scene. Birkland calls Big D home, for now, and becoming a denizen wasn’t so difficult.

“My house was pretty easy to find and prices are just right now,” Birkland says. “I kept hearing Dallas hadn’t been hit really in the [economic] crisis.”

She was a bit overwhelmed upon coming to the city to join her cousin (and castmate) Connie and to oversee her goddaughter Kalyn’s pageant career.

Thinking the idea was to settle in Dallas proper, she found that wasn’t reasonable to live a certain lifestyle and be comfortable. She found she didn’t have to live in Highland Park.

“Everyone was so willing and a lot of Realtors were coming out of the woodwork quickly to help out,” she says. “But it was Connie’s husband John that pointed me elsewhere to look.”

For anyone looking to buy another home, she says once you’ve done it, you know how to negotiate what you need and it goes far easier the second time. Although she won’t divulge exactly where she lives, she describes it as about 45 minutes northwest of Dallas. As for the house — well let’s just say she’s kept up with the Joneses just fine, if not blowing them out of the water.

“It’s about the same 6,000 square feet as my house in Washington with eight bedrooms and three kitchens,” she says. “It’s pretty grand! It’s so elegant and beautiful with these big columns. That’s new to me. And sometimes when you want a bit more land, you have to go out to where it’s spread out. I love it.”

But Birkland’s celebrity going to be an issue with the neighborhood? She says no. As the cameras are rolling for Big Rich Texas, the Style Network has stayed out of sight of the neighbors or respected their privacy as well. In turn, Birkland says the people around her seem not to care all that much about the little piece of TV reality happening right next door.

“They see what’s going on and they may ask, but it’s no thing for them,” she laughs.

For the average person, that amount of square feet seems like a daunting task to move in to. But rich folks do it differently. Birkland has no projects for the house per se. Updating a room with paint or doling pieces of furniture among eight rooms isn’t necessary. Higher end homes with specific interiors come as an entire package. Basically, this is not a fixer-upper.

“Yeah, I’m not doing anything,” she chuckles. “With homes like these, there are furnishings specifically designed for the house, so there’s nothing I’m doing in that regard.”

As for getting used to Dallas, Birkland is dealing with learning a new city, navigating high society and handling some real-life drama all in front of a camera. Before she moved here, she researched maps, but found it difficult to gauge distance from the heart of the city.  Initially, she leased a house just a couple of miles from her cousin in Highland Park.

“People would ask me where I lived and I didn’t know,” she says. “Then I’d just say Highland Park, but where I was wasn’t Highland Park and that was a whole thing!”

She takes it all with a sense of humor. Especially since she’s been labeled the cougar of the show. Romancing the likes of Anthony Dorsett Jr. (son of the former Dallas Cowboy) and a young golf pro known only as A.J., she’s definitely a connoisseur of the younger man, but for her cougar-dom, she seems to roll her eyes at her cougar-dom.

“I do like men that are younger. but I didn’t realize I was a cougar,” she says. “It’s funny, but definitely not icky. There’s a line not to cross. I never want to be old enough to be their mother. I already have three sons! But the men I date are just about 10 years younger. If it was 15 or 20 years difference, then I could see that.”

The next season hasn’t started filming yet and Birkland is just fine with that right now. She has enough on her plate to keep her busy supporting her lavish lifestyle, whether it’s business or fun.

“Through my property investments and CDs, I have a comfortable lifestyle,” she says. “Plus, I’m very conservative with money and do some modeling on the side. As for being here, well, it’s only been six months and I’m not used to the roads, but I’m learning the neighborhoods and getting familiar with them.” DH

For more about the show, visit

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition October 7, 2011.

—  Kevin Thomas

Great Spaces: Kitchen possible

Mary Kathryn Reese, below, and her partner Jennifer Sherrill founded Snappy Kitchens which helps clients pick materials and looks for their kitchen including backsplash and countertops. (Photos courtesy Ruda Photography)

One local couple can take the nightmare out of revitalizing your kitchen into a dream

By Rich Lopez

When you cook that extra special dinner for your loved one or family, you want to feel inspired as you go through the recipe. But you need much more than the pretty picture in that magazine and those drab cabinets aren’t helping. The kitchen is the heart of the home but if it’s causing heartache, well, something must be done — and it may not be as daunting as you think.

“Before people think about remodeling their entire kitchen, they should consider a facelift,” Mary Kathryn Reese says. “What we’re doing is basically that, an aesthetic update, but we also try to enable the consumer to define for themselves what they like to do with their kitchen.”

Reese and Jennifer Sherrill, her partner in both business and life are founders of the seven year-old Dallas-based company Kitchen Design Concepts which focuses on full-scale higher-end redos. That comes with more involvement and process. But the ladies discovered a niche market where people were interested in updating their kitchen without breaking ground or the bank. Some touch-ups here and there or maybe a new sink and they would have been happy. This became an aha moment for the team and Snappy Kitchens was born.

“What we’ve learned is that people are interested in doing some of it themselves,” she says.

They just need that push to get them going and that’s where Snappy Kitchens comes in. The couple created an online portal where people can design their new look all on the web with a wizard model and get an estimate of the cost. Once the client is happy with the results of both the selections and the prices, an appointment is set with the company to verify measurements and costs and begin the journey to a brand new kitchen.

“It’s basically a do-it-yourself redesign,” she says. “People can do it at their own time and pace and there’s no cost for the estimate. Plus, this gives clients all the power in their own hands and they can edit the cost. Sometimes people are embarrassed to say ‘I can’t afford this.’ This model lets them narrow down the cost.”

The company has two designers on staff who then help the customer streamline their facelift.

“People want some confirmation that what they selected looks good,” Reese says.

Reese and Sherrill debuted Snappy Kitchens in March, but have been at work on it since lasy July. The service opened to a warm reception at the Home and Garden Show in Dallas and even in its infancy, business is buzzing.

“The response has been fabulous and we’re doing about a proposal a week,” she says.

She says they are working out some kinks and doing all the web tools to maximize visitors to the site. However, the site runs smooth enough and easy to follow. By clicking the “Estimate My Kitchen,” button, the Snappy Kitchen Wizard appears and you’re on your way to that kitchen facelift. First the kitchen shape is determined followed by cabinetry, countertop measurements and options and then sink, faucet and backsplash. Since cabinets make up a big design element of most kitchens, you’d think that would be the most popular of the selections. Wrong.

“The most common request people want for their kitchen is a new countertop and then new appliances” she confirms. “Backsplash and then painting cabinetry and replacing hardware.”

You are in good hands with this team. With their primary company, the couple has realized their dream. But Sherrill is also one of 31 women in the industry to have certified remodelr designation from the National Association of the Remodeling Industry or NARI and that’s huge. Reese is also a hobby chef and Cook’s Illustrated recipe tester, so her knowledge of the kitchen adds a perspective to the redesigning beyond just looks.

And although Snappy Kitchens is their new baby, as any proud parent, they got big plans for it.

“Of course, KDC is our first business there is a different approach to services, different level of intimacy,” Reese says, “but even though Snappy Kitchens costs less for the customer, the quality is the same. We’re going full throttle with this and because it’s web-based, we even hope to franchise it.”

Likely everyone else does to, so make it snappy.

For more information or to begin your kitchen’s facelift, visit

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition April 15, 2011.

—  John Wright