The Sheraton Dallas hotel was wall-to-wall Saturday night for the 33rd annual Black Tie Dinner, which raised funds for local beneficiaries and the Human Rights Campaign.
The event featured the presentation of the Kuchling Humanitarian Award to Mike Anglin, the Black Tie Media Award to Dale Hansen and the Elizabeth Birch Equality Award to attorneys Ted Olson and David Boies, along with special appearances by NBA star Jason Collins and the Prop 8 plaintiffs.
Comedienne Dana Goldberg emcees the evening, which also featured entertainment by Alex Newell and Steve Grand.
Dallas Voice photographer Cassie Quinn captured the evening in photos:
Lambda Legal filed a federal lawsuit today (Thursday, Oct. 23), on behalf of Passion Star, a trans woman being housed with male prisoners in the Texas prison system. The lawsuit claims that officials with the Texas Department of Criminal Justice have “displayed deliberate indifference to threats of sexual assault and violence against Ms. Star in TDCJ’s male facilities,” according to a statement released this afternoon.
“Ms. Star has been pleading for protection from rapes, beatings, knifings and threats to her life since she entered TDCJ custody as a teenager, but instead of separating her from aggressors, Texas prison officials have forced her to remain in the general population in male prisons, even though the risk that she would be seriously harmed was obvious,” said Lambda Legal staff attorney Jael Humphrey.
“It is absolutely appalling how TDCJ officials, following the clear lead of Gov. Rick Perry, callously ignore the desperate pleas of Ms. Star and other LGBT people in custody asking to be protected from sexual abuse,” Humphrey added.
Star, now 30, was still a teenager when she pled guilty to charges of aggravated kidnapping, charges that were based on allegations that Star’s boyfriend refused to return to the dealership a used car they were test driving, instead driving around for several hours with the car salesman as an unwilling passenger in the front seat. Star herself was in the back seat.
Star was sentenced to 20 years and transferred into TDCJ custody, and has been housed with male inmates since.
Humphrey said Star has been housed in six different male prison facilities, and that inmates at all six have identified her as feminine. She has been raped, forced to submit to unwanted sexual acts to avoid physical violence and threatened with sexual assault.
Attorneys say Star has filed numerous grievances, complaints and requests asking to be placed in safekeeping. But instead of taking measures to protect her, prison officials have instead told Star to “suck dick,” fight or “stop acting gay” if she wants to keep from being assaulted.
Lambda Legal alleges that on Nov. 19, 2013, Star asked TDCJ officials to protect her from a gang member who had told her that he “owned her.” But instead of protecting her, prison officials actually moved her closer to the person who was threatening her. The next morning, the gang member attacked Star, calling her a “snitching faggot” and slashing her face eight times with a razor.
Still, prison officials refused to move Star to protect her.
Humphrey noted that the Prison Rape Elimination Act, passed by a unanimous vote of Congress, requires states to take measures to eliminate sexual abuse of those in custody and provides guidelines on how to do that — including screening and separating particularly vulnerable people, like trans women, from the general population. Gov. Perry, however, has dismissed the PREA standards as “ill-conceived” and chose to pass up federal funds earmarked by the Department of Justice for the prevention of sexual abuse in detention facilities.
In a written statement released by Lambda Legal, Star said, “Somebody, somehow, needs to shed light on what is taking place here in Texas prisons. TDCJ officials get away with so much and disregard so many legitimate threats to people’s safety. It needs to stop somewhere. I fight for my life every day in here. Safety from rape and assault is not a privilege; it’s a right. I hope this lawsuit will help make sure this doesn’t happen to anyone else.”
The case has been filed in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Texas. Kenneth Upton and Paul Castillo are handling the case, joined by co-counsel Christina N. Goodrich, Christopher J. Kondon and Saman M. Rejali with K&L Gates LLP.
Lambda Legal filed a lawsuit today (Wednesday, Oct. 22) against the Social Security Administration on behalf of Kathy Murphy of Austin and the National Committee to Preserve Social Security and Medicare, claiming that the SSA’s decision to deny spousal benefits to Murphy after the death of her wife violates the U.S. Constitution. Following the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision last year in United States v. Windsor, in which the court struck down portions of the federal Defense of Marriage Act that denied federal recognition to legally married same-sex couples, Lambda Legal attorneys argue that “SSA cannot perpetuate the same kind of discrimination now and leave lesbian and gay spouses without the financial protections of social security as they age,” according to a press statement the organization released this afternoon.
Murphy, 62, and Sara Barker had been together 30 years when they were legally married in Massachusetts in 2010, although they lived in Texas, a non-marriage-equality state. Barker died of cancer in March, 2012 at age 62. But because they lived in Texas, which does not legally recognize their marriage, SSA has refused to legally recognize their marriage, denying Murphy the spousal survivor benefits Barker had earned during her lifetime of work.
Following the SCOTUS ruling in the Windsor case last year, President Obama ordered the U.S. Attorney General’s office to work with other federal agencies and officials to implement the Windsor decision. In implementing that decision, the Department of Justice and most federal agencies depended on the law where a couple’s marriage took place — the “place of celebration” to determine whether the marriage was legal, rather then place where they lived. Under that standard, Murphy’s and Barker’s marriage should be legally recognized by the federal government.
Murphy applied to the SSA for surviving spouse benefits last year after the Windsor decision. But in June of this year, with Murphy’s application for benefits still pending, the Department of Justice announced that the SSA and the Department of Veterans Affairs viewed themselves as being prohibited by statute from using the “place of celebration” rule for certain programs, including the surviving spouse benefits program.
“SSA should not be telling widowed lesbians and gay men already grieving the loss of a spouse, ‘You live in the wrong state so you don’t get Social Security spousal benefits,’” said Susan Sommer, director of constitutional litigation for Lambda Legal. Sommer noted that the SSA is “relying on discriminatory state marriage bans declared unconstitutional by an avalanche of courts around the country” in denying spousal benefits to gay and lesbian widows and widowers.
Murphy noted that she and Barker “were blessed with nearly 32 years together,” and that they had taken care of each other “in all the ways any committed couple does — physically, emotionally and financially.”
“Sara wouldn’t have wanted me to be in a position like this. We promised to support each other as a couple and if one of us should pass away,” Murphy said. “We worked hard to close all the gaps before she died and now the federal government won’t do its part.”
The National Committee to Preserve Social Security and Medicare is a Washington, D.C.-based advocacy organization dedicated to protecting Social Security for all generations and communities. Murphy is a member.
Max Richtman, the National Committee’s president and CEO, said, “There is no rational reason why a couple living in Texas or any other state should continue to face this type of discrimination, including the denial of Social Security spousal benefits they have earned through their working lifetimes. It’s past time to right this wrong.”
Organization calls for release of trans woman raped in ICE custody
PHOENIX, Az. — Trans and queer undocumented immigrants from the Arcoiris Liberation Team and the Arizona Queer Undocumented Immigrant Project are demanding that Arizona Congresswoman Kyrsten Sinema and the LGBT Equality Caucus to join in calls for the release of a trans woman who was raped more than a month ago while in the custody of the U.S. Immigrations and Customs Enforcement agency.
Marichuy Leal Gamino, whose legal name is Jesus Leal Gamino, 23, has been housed with male inmates for more than a year in the Eloy Detention Center in Eloy, Az. She was allegedly raped by her cellmate in late July. According to the Transgender Law Center, she experienced weeks of “bullying, lewd comments, and threats of rape” from her cellmate, all of which she reported to detention officers, who told her to “deal with it.” After she was raped, she was not only pressured to admit that she consented to it, but she “has still been offered no real recourse or assurance that her safety will be protected,” TLC reports.
Activists with the Arcoiris Liberation Team, AZQUIP, the National Day Laborer Organizing Network and Familia: Trans Queer Liberation Movement say that after being raped, Leal Gamino was put in solitary confinement and denied basic hygiene, and that she has gotten death threats from the man accused of raping her.
Although born a Mexican citizen, Leal Gamino grew up in Arizona and has spent most of her life there.
Lambda Legal HIV Project director appointed to Presidential Advisory Council on HIV/AIDS
Scott Schoettes, director of Lambda Legal’s HIV Project, has been appointed to serve on the Presidential Advisory Council on HIV/AIDS. The 25-member council provides advice, information and recommendations to the secretary of Health and Human Services regarding programs and policies to promote effective prevention of HIV disease and to advance research on HIV disease and AIDS.
Schoettes was sworn in for a three-year term on Thursday, Sept. 4.
“I am honored to have been selected to serve in this capacity, and I look forward to working with other members of the council to promote sound federal policies with respect to HIV,” Schoettes said.
Lambda Legal files emergency papers seeking accurate death certificate for gay man’s husband
Attorneys with Lambda Legal on Wednesday, Sept. 3, filed emergency papers asking a U.S. District Court in Arizona to order the state to provide an accurate death certificate to Fred McQuire for his husband, George Martinez, who died Aug. 28.
Without an accurate death certificate naming McQuire as Martinez’s surviving husband, McQuire could face difficulties in handling his late husband’s affairs and in filing for the benefits generally available to a surviving spouse, Lambda Legal attorneys said.
McQuire, 69, and Martinez, 62, lived in Green Valley, and both were U.S. military veterans. Martinez served in the U.S. Air Force in Vietnam, and McQuire served in both the Air Force and the Army, and was stationed in Guam. After leaving the military, Martinez joined the staff of Arizona’s Court of Appeals in Tucson, becoming the court’s first deputy clerk, holding that office for 30 years.
The two men first met in 1969 and were a couple for 45 years. In recent years, both men battled life-threatening illnesses. McQuire has pulmonary disease and Parkinson’s. Martinez was diagnosed three years ago with prostate cancer, a result of having been exposed to Agent Orange while he was in Vietnam. Although the prostate cancer was in remission, in June he was diagnosed with terminal pancreatic cancer.
Officials with Dallas County Schools have announced that DCS revised its policies today (Thursday, Aug. 29) to include protections for LGBT employees and students in its nondiscrimination policy.
The new rules apply to both DCS’ 3000 employees and to the 440,000-plus students it serves, officials said.
DCS is a pupil transportation provider that also provides student safety programs, technology solutions, online instructional services, psychology services and risk management solutions to schools throughout Texas.
Officials said the new policy takes “the broadest comprehensive approach” nu prohibiting “all discrimination, including harassment, on the basis of race, religion, color, national origin, sex, age, military status, disability, sexual orientation, gender identity, gender expression, genetic information or on any other basis that is prohibited by applicable law and these policies.”
The policy also expressly prohibits retaliation against anyone who complains that they have suffered such discrimination.
DCS officials acknowledged that the policy is “not enforceable on employee health care and retirement benefits because DCS is bound by Texas law to the state Teachers Retirement System for both.”
DCS Board President Larry Duncan said, “We are committed to dealing with all our employees and students on a fair and equal basis. There are no excuses.”
DCS Trustee Omar Narvaez said that DCS had asked Lambda Legal to review its policies and procedures and make recommendations, and that all of Lambda Legal’s recommendations are included in the policy revisions.
“Today, we took a vital step forward in our continued commitment to creating an inclusive, safe and respectful workplace,” Narvaez said.
Duncan and Narvaez noted that DCS has had an anti-bullying policy on the same comprehensive basis since 2011.
Greg Nevins, a Lambda Legal counsel and Workplace Fairness Project strategist based in the agency’s Atlanta office. said that workplace issues continue to be a major concern among those who call Lambda Legal’s Legal Help Desk. The new Know Your Rights Workplace site “will help people advocate for themselves as well as assist them if issues arise,” Nivens said.
He said the hub will soon be mobile-friendly and translated into Spanish. It includes legal and advocacy guidance on a wide array of issues, including what to do if you experience discrimination, what laws protect you, HIV discrimination in the workplace, what to do if you are fired, gender identity discrimination. job searches, immigrant rights, good company policies, how unions can help and same-sex spousal and partner benefits.
The Alaska Supreme Court, issuing its decision today in the case of Harris V. Millenium Hotel, ruled unanimously that the same-sex partner of a person killed on the job should have access to the protection of the state’s workers’ compensation law.
Lambda Legal filed the lawsuit on behalf of Deborah Harris, whose wife, Kerry Fadely, worked at the Millenium Hotel in Anchorage and who was shot and killed by a disgruntled former employee in 2011. Fadely was employed as the food and beverage manager at the Millennium Hotel in Anchorage, Alaska. An employee who had been fired days earlier returned to the hotel with a pistol, asked for Fadely, and shot her multiple times.
Alaska’s workers’ compensation law requires employers — or their insurance companies — to pay survivor benefits to the surviving spouses of workers who died from work-related injuries. Before today’s ruling, same-sex couples were categorically denied survivor benefits because Alaska does not legally recognize same-sex marriages.
Five national LGBT legal organizations issued a joint statement today withdrawing their support for the current version of the Employment Non-Discrimination Act — ENDA — because it would allow religious organizations to discriminate based on sexual orientation and gender identity.
“The provision in the current version of the Employment Non-Discrimination Act that allows religious organizations to discriminate based on sexual orientation and gender identity has long been a source of significant concern to us. Given the types of workplace discrimination we see increasingly against LGBT people, together with the calls for greater permission to discriminate on religious grounds that followed immediately upon the Supreme Court’s decision last week in Burwell v. Hobby Lobby, it has become clear that the inclusion of this provision is no longer tenable. It would prevent ENDA from providing protections that LGBT people desperately need and would make very bad law with potential further negative effects. Therefore, we are announcing our withdrawal of support for the current version of ENDA.
“For decades, our organizations have challenged anti-LGBT workplace discrimination in the courts and worked for the passage of inclusive non-discrimination laws at the local, state and federal level. We do this work because of the devastating toll workplace discrimination has had, and continues to have, on the lives of LGBT people. It is unacceptable that in the year 2014, men and women are forced to hide who they are or whom they love when they go to work.
“The current patchwork of legal protections at the state and local level has left LGBT people vulnerable to discrimination. For this reason, we have supported federal legislation to explicitly protect LGBT people from discrimination in the workplace, and have urged President Obama to sign an executive order banning federal contractors from discriminating on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity or expression.
“ENDA’s discriminatory provision, unprecedented in federal laws prohibiting employment discrimination, could provide religiously affiliated organizations — including hospitals, nursing homes and universities — a blank check to engage in workplace discrimination against LGBT people. The provision essentially says that anti-LGBT discrimination is different — more acceptable and legitimate — than discrimination against individuals based on their race or sex. If ENDA were to pass and be signed into law with this provision, the most important federal law for the LGBT community in American history would leave too many jobs and too many LGBT workers, without protection. Moreover, it actually might lessen non-discrimination protections now provided for LGBT people by Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and very likely would generate confusion rather than clarity in federal law. Finally, such a discrimination provision in federal law likely would invite states and municipalities to follow the unequal federal lead. All of this is unacceptable.
“The Supreme Court’s decision in Hobby Lobby has made it all the more important that we not accept this inappropriate provision. Because opponents of LGBT equality are already misreading that decision as having broadly endorsed rights to discriminate against others, we cannot accept a bill that sanctions discrimination and declares that discrimination against LGBT people is more acceptable than other kinds of discrimination.
“Our ask is a simple one: Do not give religiously affiliated employers a license to discriminate against LGBT people when they have no such right to discriminate based on race, sex, national origin, age, disability or genetic information. Religiously affiliated organizations are allowed to make hiring decisions based on their religion, but nothing in federal law authorizes discrimination by those organizations based on any other protected characteristic, and the rule should be the same for sexual orientation and gender identity or expression. Religious organizations are free to choose their ministers or faith leaders, and adding protections for sexual orientation and gender identity or expression will not change that.
“These concerns are not hypothetical. Increasingly, this is what employment discrimination against LGBT people looks like. Take the example of Matthew Barrett. In July 2013, Matthew was offered a job as food services director at Fontbonne Academy, a college prep high school in Milton, Massachusetts that is affiliated with the Roman Catholic Sisters of St. Joseph of Boston. Fontbonne Academy has employees and admits students of various faiths. Yet, two days after Matthew listed his husband as his emergency contact on the standard employment paperwork, and despite twenty years of work in the food services industry, his job offer was rescinded. Although nothing about the food services job involved religious rituals or teaching, Matthew was told by an administrator that the school was unable to hire him because “the Catholic religion doesn’t recognize same-sex marriage.” The current version of ENDA would authorize this sexual orientation discrimination.
“As the national outcry against SB 1062 in Arizona (and similar proposals in numerous other states) demonstrates, the American people oppose efforts to misuse religious liberty as an excuse to discriminate against LGBT people. It is time for ENDA (and the LGBT non-discrimination executive order for federal contractors) to reflect this reality. Until the discriminatory exemption is removed so that anti-LGBT discrimination is treated the same as race, sex, national origin, age, disability, or genetic information under federal workplace laws, we think ENDA should not move forward in Congress. In addition, we will oppose any similar provisions at the state and local level. We are hopeful that the many members of Congress who support this historic, critically important legislation will agree that singling out LGBT people for an unequal and unfair exemption from basic workplace protection falls unacceptably short of the civil rights standards that have served our nation well against other types of discrimination for fifty years. We stand ready and eager to work with them to achieve the long-sought goal of explicit, effective federal non-discrimination protections for LGBT people.”
The 7th Circuit Court of Appeals issued an order today compelling the state of Indiana to recognize the marriage of Amy Sandler and Niki Quasney, even though the federal district judge that struck down the state’s same-sex marriage ban last week stayed his ruling, leaving the ban in effect while the case makes its way through the appeals process. The 7th Circuit Court issued its ruling after Lambda Legal filed an emergency motion asking that the stay be lifted for Sandler and Quasney because Quasney is battling stage 4 ovarian cancer and “the family needs the dignity, comfort and protections of marriage as they fight to be together,” according to a statement just released by Lambda Legal.
The 7th Circuit Court also set an expedited briefing schedule in the base, Baskin v. Bogan, with all briefs in the case due by Aug. 5. Arguments in the case could come as early as the end of the summer, Lambda Legal officials said.
Paul D. Castillo, staff attorney with Lambda Legal, said: “It is time for the state of Indiana to leave Niki and Amy in peace and not subject them and their marriage to any more stress and uncertainty as this case proceeds. We are thrilled that the court ruled in favor of this family … . We will continue to fight until no family in Indiana needs to worry about their marriage being stripped away from them and all Hoosiers have the freedom to marry.”
The couple filed suit challenging Indiana’s same-sex marriage ban in March in the U.S. District Court in the Southern District of Indiana, and Lambda Legal later filed a motion seeking immediate relief for the two women and their two children, ages 3 and 1.
Quasney was diagnosed with stage 4 ovarian cancer nearly five years ago in 2009, when she had more than 100 tumors surgically removed. Since then she has gone through years of chemotherapy to battle the disease. Quasney and Baskin have a civil union in Illinois and were married in Massachusetts last year. But they need to have their marriage recognized in Indiana, where they live, to “receive the full protections that every other married family in Indiana receives,” according to Lambda Legal representatives.
Click here to read the 7th Circuit Court’s order lifting the stay for Baskin and Quasney. Click here to see Lambda Legal’s request for an emergency order. Click here to sign the petition urging the Indiana attorney general to abandon the appeals, and click here to read more about the families and the entire case.