Lambda Legal holds victory celebration tonight at Hotel Palomar

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Every year about this time, Lambda Legal’s Dallas office holds a summer kickoff party. But there’s rarely been a season worth partying it up more than this one. With the recent triumphs in the U.S. Supreme Court, the gay rights group has a lot to celebrate — no wonder the theme is “Victory!”

You can be part of the festivities at Hotel Palomar’s Central 214, where cocktails and bites will be served while you learn about the details of the upcoming Landmark Dinner. It’s all taking place starting at 5:30 p.m.; you can get more information on their Facebook page.

—  Arnold Wayne Jones

Napolitano directs INS to process green card applications for gay couples

Homeland Security Chief Janet Napolitano

Homeland Security Chief Janet Napolitano

Binational couples may officially begin applying for green cards for the non-citizen spouse.

“After last week’s decision by the Supreme Court holding that Section 3 of the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) is unconstitutional, President Obama directed federal departments to ensure the decision and its implication for federal benefits for same-sex legally married couples are implemented swiftly and smoothly,” Secretary of Homeland Security Janet Napolitano said in a statement Monday.

“To that end, effective immediately, I have directed U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) to review immigration visa petitions filed on behalf of a same-sex spouse in the same manner as those filed on behalf of an opposite-sex spouse,” she said.

—  David Taffet

PHOTOS: About 500 attend Day of Decision rally on Cedar Springs

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By the time Dallas’ Day of Decision rally began at 7 p.m. at the Legacy of Love Monument, more than 300 people had gathered. As the crowd grew to close to 500, police closed a lane of Oak Lawn Avenue and two lanes of Cedar Springs Road.

GetEQUAL TX organizer Daniel Cates began the rally with chants of, “Right here, right now, I deserve full equality!”

Before the scheduled speakers, people from the crowd spoke in an open-megaphone session. One who claimed to be an “ex-lesbian” was countered with a chant of “No more hate” until the mic was taken from her and she left the steps of the monument.

Some of the speakers discussed the implications of the Supreme Court’s marriage equality decisions. Lambda Legal’s Ken Upton called the DOMA ruling a broad decision. He said it would take awhile to sort out the full implications.

“The ruling benefits the whole LGBT spectrum,” trans activist Oliver Blumer said. “It breaks down barriers.”

—  David Taffet

Lambda Legal presents The Landmark Dinner

The Landmark Dinner celebrates the Lawrence v. Texas decision that declared sodomy laws unconstitutional in 2003 and has been the basis for many legal gains made by the LGBT community in the last decade.

The Dallas office of Lambda Legal opened in August 2002, and the Lawrence decision was handed down in June 2003. To celebrate the 10th anniversary of the opening of the South Central office in Dallas, the Landmark Dinner takes place on Aug. 10 at the Hotel Palomar followed by the White Party Gala.

Chad West, chair of the Leadership Committee, said that the dinner is the largest annual fundraiser for the regional Lambda Legal office.

“This year’s Landmark Dinner is particularly important because it will celebrate the 10-year anniversary of our regional office,” West said. “The event will feature great speakers Jenny and Jessica Buntemeyer, a married Iowa couple who sought an accurate death certificate for their stillborn child, Brayden. Despite the fact that they were married, the Iowa Department of Public Health erased Jenny’s name on the death certificate.”

Former American Airlines corporate secretary Charles MarLett and the law firm of Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher will be recipients of the 2012 Partners for Equality Award. The award recognizes an individual, law firm and corporation in the Dallas area for their commitment and dedication to Lambda Legal’s mission to achieve equality for lesbians, gay men, bisexuals, transgender people living with HIV.

Charles MarLett will be the recipient of the individual Partners for Equality award. MarLett served on Lambda Legal’s National Board of Directors from 2002 to 2008 and was a member of the Executive Committee for five years, including a two-year term as board co-chair. He also served as the interim regional director of the South Central Regional Office.

Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher will be the recipient of the law firm Partners for Equality award. The firm has been a long time National Supporter of Lambda Legal. They are currently providing pro-bono co-counsel services in Gill v. Devlin and Howell, Lambda Legal’s lawsuit claiming Tarrant County College officials violated the U.S. Constitution by preventing a qualified candidate from interviewing for full-time teaching positions because of their belief that she is a lesbian.

The corporate recipient will be Carol Meyer and her local Merrill Lynch group, the Meyer Group, who will be recognized as doing outstanding work in the LGBT community through investing.

Saturday, Aug. 11. Dinner from 6 to 10 p.m. White Party Gala immediately following until 2 a.m. Tickets are available online and are $200 for the dinner and White Party. Purchase tickets for the White Party only for $30 until Thursday. After that, tickets for the White Party are $40.

—  David Taffet

TCC settles lesbian former professor’s discrimination suit for $160K

Jacqueline “Jackie” Gill

Jacqueline “Jackie” Gill

Tarrant County College administrators agreed to pay a former lesbian professor more than $160,000 as part of a settlement in a federal discrimination lawsuit.

Jacqueline “Jackie” Gill filed a complaint in September 2011 stating she was unable to interview for a permanent position in the English department at the Northeast Campus of Tarrant County College in Hurst after her yearlong temporary position had expired.

Gill sought compensation for the time she was unemployed, as well as the opportunity to complete the application process at TCC, her attorney Ken Upton, senior staff attorney for Lambda Legal’s Dallas office, previously told Instant Tea.

Although the settlement doesn’t accept liability, Lambda Legal announced that TCC agreed to pay Gill more than $160,000 and to provide her with a positive letter of recommendation.

TCC, which adopted a nondiscrimination policy that prohibited discrimination based on sexual orientation last March, added a written policy prohibiting employment discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity. The new policy was not part of the settlement, according to the statement.

“Jackie’s fight resulted in a published decision by the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Texas that makes it clear that public employers can no longer claim ignorance about whether discriminating against employees based on their sexual orientation violates the U.S. Constitution,” Upton said in a statement.

—  Anna Waugh

Dallas wraps up June Pride series

The panel, from left: Roger Poindexter, Lorie Burch, Scott Whittall, the Rev. Dawson Taylor, Harold Steward, Cece Cox, Pastor Jon Haack and David Fisher. (John Wright/Dallas Voice)

The city of Dallas wrapped up its LGBT Pride Month celebration Wednesday with a discussion of how the LGBT community has enriched the city.

A seven-member panel moderated by Fahari Arts Institute founder Harold Steward discussed the contributions their LGBT organizations have made to Dallas over the years and where they envision Dallas in the future. They then took questions from the handful of people in attendance.

The event in the City Hall Flag Room was the last event in the city’s Pride series “Honor, Educate and Celebrate.”

Panelists included Resource Center Dallas CEO and Executive Director Cece Cox, Cedar Springs Merchants Association Executive Director Scott Whittall, Turtle Creek Chorale Executive Director David Fisher, GBLT Chamber of Commerce board member Lorie Burch, Lambda Legal South Central Region Executive Director Roger Poindexter, Cathedral of Hope Executive Minister the Rev. Dawson Taylor and Promise Metropolitan Community Church senior Pastor Jon Haack.

City Council was in executive session so members could not attend, but Councilwoman Delia Jasso stepped out to speak briefly about her pride in the LGBT Task Force for planning great events over the last four weeks. Councilman Scott Griggs also stopped by the Flag Room and spoke briefly. The series began with a kickoff followed by conversations about city services and out officials. Jasso expressed a desire to have another celebration next June and promised it would be “bigger and better.”

While many of the organizations began as a way of welcoming the LGBT community with safe havens to worship, gain access to HIV/AIDS care and enjoy a safe evening out or unbiased legal council, the panel focused on how far Dallas has grown over the decades and how spread out the LGBT community has become. The days have passed where members of the LGBT community only live near Cedar Springs and the only bar patrons along the entertainment strip are gay.

Instead, the LGBT community and its businesses have integrated into Dallas while still maintaining a focus on their original customers, Whittall said. Even religious organizations have grown in attendance with allies who no longer find a barrier between spirituality and sexuality, but Taylor added that the next step is working from being a community that is tolerated to one that is accepted and celebrated.

Task Force member Pam Gerber closed the event by expressing how proud she was to have a June Pride celebration and welcomed input for next year’s events. She said that while the community is working toward acceptance, she “just wants to be.”

“I want to be nothing extraordinary, nothing out of the ordinary,” she said. “I just want to be.”

Suggestions for next year’s Pride can be made to Councilwoman Delia Jasso at 214-670-4052.

—  Anna Waugh

LGBT groups respond to immigration decision

LGBT leaders said they were encouraged by parts of today’s Supreme Court decision striking much of the Arizona immigration law but leaving the “papers please” provision intact. Cases working their way through the courts challenge the remaining part of the law.

Rea Carey, executive director of National Gay and Lesbian Task Force, called the law “draconian,” making more people vulnerable to abuse. She called it an “infringement of civil rights, and harassment and violence against those seen as different.”

“The bottom line is that Arizona’s anti-immigrant law is a license to discriminate,” Carey said in a statement. “Lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people know all too well how easily those who are perceived to ‘look different’ or ‘act different’ can be singled out for persecution.

She said the ruling “spotlights the critical need for comprehensive immigration reform.”

Portions of the Arizona law that were struck down include making it a crime for an immigrant not to carry proof of status and making it a crime for undocumented immigrants to work or apply for work. Also unconstitutional is allowing police to arrest anyone they believe doesn’t have legal status, the court said.

Left in place is the “papers please” provision, which requires police to verify the immigration status of people stopped or arrested.

Ken Upton, senior staff attorney in Lambda Legal’s Dallas office, said that his organization filed a brief in conjunction with the lawsuit, although he was not involved in preparing the brief.

“But anything giving the government a chance to do racial profiling is problematic,” he said.

Additional lawsuits related to the surviving part of the law are still working their way through the courts, Upton said.

Lambda Legal released a statement signed by 30 other organizations.

“LGBT immigrants and LGBT people of color remain particularly vulnerable because this provision in SB 1070 requires police to stop and question people based on their appearance,” the release said.

According to the statement, the law also “exacerbate[s] the fear and distrust that dissuade[s] many LGBT immigrants and LGBT people of color from seeking protection from — or offering to assist — law-enforcement officials.”

Campaigning in Arizona, Mitt Romney had little to say about the decision other than states have a right to secure their borders, according to Associated Press.

President Barack Obama, whose administration brought the legal challenge against the Arizona law, said: “I agree with the court that individuals cannot be detained solely to verify their immigration status. No American should ever live under a cloud of suspicion just because of what they look like.”

The decision comes just two weeks after Obama directed Homeland Security to redirect immigration enforcement away from those undocumented residents who entered the country as a child.

A decision that affects many people with HIV is expected sometime this week when the court rules on key provisions of the Affordable Care Act.

The full statement made by a coalition of LGBT and HIV organizations follows the jump:

—  David Taffet

Advocating for LGBT youth in foster care will be topic of CLE panel discussion Wednesday

Mark Niermann

Dallas CASA and the Gay & Lesbian Fund for Dallas are collaborating with Lambda Legal to present a program for continuing legal education credit. “Legal and Ethical Issues Regarding Representation of Children in CPS Care Who Are Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgendered or Questioning” offers 1.5 CLE credits.

GLFD co-founder and board member Mark Niermann said his group has maintained a strong relationship with Dallas CASA since raising more than $50,000 for the group that advocates for more than 2,000 abused and neglected children that live in foster care in Dallas on any given day. CASA, which stands for Court Appointed Special Advocates, works with many LGBT children who’ve survived abusive family environments.

“There’s little support for people advocating for gay kids,” Niermann said.

Among the topics covered at the forum will be a general discussion of the importance of understanding LGBTQ youth issues, an overview of relevant statutory and other legal authority, and of available resources for additional guidance. A panel will discuss attorney ethical responsibilities.

Panelists include:

• David Chard, Ph.D., Dean, Annette Caldwell Simmons School of Education and Human Development, Southern Methodist University
• Carolyn Hill, J.D., Private Law Practice
• Julie Johnson, J.D., CASA Supervisor, Dallas CASA
• Edward J. (Ted) Keating, J.D., Former Managing Attorney, TDFPS
• Cheri Whiteside, J.D., CASA Supervisor, Dallas CASA
• Ken Upton, J.D., Supervising Senior Staff Attorney, Lambda Legal, South Central Regional Office

The CLE takes place on Wednesday at the Rees-Jones Training Center for Dallas CASA, 2715 Swiss Ave. from 4:30 to 7 p.m. The program is $20 but free for GLFD members and for attorneys who have represented a party within the last 12 months in a suit affecting the parent‐child relationship filed by Child Protective Services. Non-attorneys may attend.

—  David Taffet

Transgender woman ticketed for using women’s restroom at Parkland hospital has criminal record

Paula Witherspoon

A transgender woman who was ticketed for using a women’s restroom at Parkland hospital last week has a criminal background and is a registered sex offender, Instant Tea has learned.

On Tuesday, we reported that 56-year-old Paula Witherspoon, of Dallas, was cited for disorderly conduct on April 25 after using a women’s restroom at Parkland, Dallas County’s public hospital.

According to the Texas Department of Public Safety, Witherspoon was convicted of sexual assault of a child involving a 14-year-old girl in 1990 and sentenced to 16 years in prison. That same year, Witherspoon was also convicted of indecency with a child by sexual contact, involving a 15-year-old girl, and sentenced to six years in prison. According to DPS, Witherspoon remains on parole for the indecency conviction.

“Yes, I have a criminal record,” Witherspoon said Wednesday. “I can’t hide that. It’s public record. I made a mistake 22 years ago that has nothing to do with this.”

Ken Upton, supervising senior staff attorney in Lambda Legal’s Dallas office, agreed.

“That may be relevant in other settings,” Upton said, “and it paints a bad picture.”

But he said there’s no evidence that in this instance, Witherspoon did anything other than use a bathroom.

“Transgender people have a right to use a bathroom,” he said.

—  David Taffet

EXCLUSIVE: Transgender woman ticketed for using women’s restroom at Parkland hospital

Paula Witherspoon

Police cited a transgender woman for disorderly conduct on April 25 for using a women’s restroom at Parkland hospital.

An officer with the hospital’s police force wrote the citation for a class-C misdemeanor after a complaint was lodged by someone who saw the transgender woman, Paula Witherspoon, leaving the bathroom.

Witherspoon said she was at the hospital with her husband, who had a follow-up appointment after suffering a heart attack.

“I live full time as a woman,” Witherspoon said.

She said hospital police told her they weren’t there to decide whether she was guilty.

“Then they wrote me a ticket,” she said.

The ticket lists Witherspoon as a man and her name as Paul. But Witherspoon provided a copy of a letter from her clinical psychologist at the Dallas VA Medical Center, Gloria J. Emmert.

“As a frequent visitor to the Dallas VA Hospital, she is expected to use facilities consistent with her external presentation, which is female,” Emmert wrote. “Please assist this Veteran by supporting the application of this ethical approach in all Dallas settings.”

Ken Upton, a supervising attorney in the Dallas office of Lambda Legal, said lewd conduct is the closest thing he could find in Section 4201 of the Texas Penal Code, the statute listed on the ticket.

For that portion of the code to apply, Upton said, Witherspoon would have had to have acted “intentionally or knowingly for a lewd purpose.” But since she went into a private stall, that’s unlikely, he said.

Witherspoon said she didn’t even know whether there was anyone else in the restroom.

“I went in, did my business, washed my hands and left,” she said.

And the letter from the psychologist indicates she was following doctor’s orders rather than acting out of lewd intent. Upton said Parkland will have trouble defending the case.

“The officer doesn’t know if anyone else was in there,” Upton said, so his testimony would be hearsay. And if the complainant wasn’t in the restroom, that person was not a witness to any lewd behavior.

Upton said the officer probably figures Witherspoon will either pay the fine or it’ll be dismissed.

“And he doesn’t care,” Upton said, adding that the officer couldn’t have written a ticket for simply using the wrong bathroom.

“That’s not a crime in Dallas,” he said.

Officials at Parkland, Dallas County’s public hospital, are looking into the incident.

“We have verified that on April, 25, 2012, Parkland Police responded to a complaint from a concerned female patient regarding her allegation that there was a male in the female restroom,” Parkland spokeswoman Charise Thomason wrote. “Because of the complexity of the issue, the incident is currently under review. Parkland strives to treat patients, visitors and staff with dignity and respect, as well as provide a safe environment at all times.”

Roberto de la Cruz, an openly gay member of Parkland’s Board of Managers, said he plans to meet with Witherspoon on Wednesday at her home. He said his concern is that transgender people are welcome at Parkland and will be treated with dignity.

After the jump is a copy of the letter from Dr. Emmert, as well as Witherspoon’s ticket.

—  David Taffet