La. sheriff apologizes for arresting gay men on sodomy charges

Baton Rouge Sheriff

East Baton Rouge Sheriff Sid Gautreaux

The East Baton Rouge Parish sheriff’s office has apologized on its Facebook page for arresting 12 gay men under the state’s unconstitutional sodomy law.

Gay men were approached in a park by deputies working undercover. The deputies invited the men to come to their houses where they were arrested under the state’s sodomy law. That law was declared unconstitutional in the Supreme Court’s 2003 Lawrence v. Texas decision.

The meetings were between consenting adults and no sex or exposure took place in the parks.

But Louisiana, like Texas, has refused to remove the law from the books. The El Paso police department  tried to enforce the Texas sodomy law. The city ended up settling with a five men who were harassed in a fast food restaurant.

The Facebook apology from the office of East Baton Rouge Sheriff Sid Gautreaux states:

“The Sheriff’s office apologizes that the way these investigations were handled made it appear that we were targeting the gay community. That was not our intent. The Sheriff’s Office also apologizes to anyone that was unintentionally harmed or offended by the actions of our investigations. While sections of La. R.S. 14:89, Crimes Against Nature, have not been removed from the Louisiana law code, they have been deemed unenforceable and unconstitutional. The Sheriff’s Office will not use these unconstitutional sections of the law in future cases. We are committed to working with all branches of our government, as well as the LGBT community, to find acceptable ways to keep our community safe.”

Judging by dozens of comments following the apology, no one is buying the statement as anything more than damage control by the sheriff’s department.

—  David Taffet

U.S. Supreme Court to issue rulings in marriage equality cases Wednesday

Dallas LGBT advocates march for marriage equality in a Love is Stronger rally on June 8, 2013. (David Taffet/ Dallas Voice)

Dallas LGBT advocates march for marriage equality in a Love is Stronger rally on June 8, 2013. (David Taffet/ Dallas Voice)

The U.S. Supreme Court will issue  rulings Wednesday in two marriage equality cases, California’s Proposition 8 and the Defense of Marriage Act.

Chief Justice John Roberts announced after three rulings Tuesday morning that the court would meet for its final day Wednesday at 9 a.m. CST to read its last three decisions. Wednesday is the 10th anniversary of when the court ruled that sodomy laws nationwide were unconstitutional in Lawrence v. Texas.

Dallas’ LGBT community and allies will celebrate the marriage rulings at a Day of Decision rally Wednesday night at 7 p.m. at the Legacy of Love monument.

Roberts read the court’s ruling Tuesday in the Voting Rights Act case, Shelby County v. Holder, striking down a central part of the act, which LGBT advocates say is a step backwards in eliminating  discrimination at the polls. The decision reduces the federal government’s role in overseeing voting laws in areas with a history of racial discrimination.

“These varied and powerful voices attest to the self-evident reality that racial protections are still needed in voting in this country. As recently as last year’s elections, political partisans resorted to voter suppression laws and tactics aimed at reducing the votes of people of color,” read a joint statement from numerous LGBT groups, including the Human Rights Campaign and Lambda Legal.

“Voting rights protections, which have long served our nation’s commitment to equality and justice, should not be cast aside now. The court has done America a grave disservice, and we will work with our coalition partners to undo the damage inflicted by this retrogressive ruling.”

As for the marriage cases, justices are expected to rule narrowly. In Hollingsworth v. Perry’s challenge of California’s constitutional marriage amendment, the ruling could just affect that state, greatly increasing the number of the country’s population that lives in marriage-equality states. Most legal experts don’t expect the court to strike Prop 8 and find all marriage amendments unconstitutional in the 37 states that have such bans, as it did with sodomy laws in Lawrence.

—  Dallasvoice

Republican strategist encourages repeal of Texas’ sodomy law

Neil.Dan

Dan Neil

Republican strategist Dan Neil told Fox News in Austin that it’s time to take §21.06, the homosexual conduct law, off the books in Texas. That provision of the Texas Penal Code was declared unconstitutional in 2003 in the Lawrence v. Texas case.

Last week, state Rep. Jessica Farrar of Houston filed a repeal bill in the Texas House. State Sen. Jose Rodriguez filed a companion bill in the Senate.

“If it’s unconstitutional, they should take the measures and time to get it off the books,” Neil said. “It makes fiscal sense to get it off the books so that there is not another situation as in El Paso where there’s a lawsuit and the city pays out for something that it shouldn’t pay out for just because a legislator didn’t take the time to get it off the books.”

Equality Texas Executive Director Chuck Smith told Fox, “It’s there for no other reason than to denigrate and demean lesbian and gay Texans.”

The El Paso case referred to a couple kicked out of a restaurant for kissing and threatened by a police officer who said he would arrest them under the statute. Kissing was never included as illegal conduct under the law.

The question is whether Neil’s support will translate into Republican votes needed for the measure to pass.

Watch the video below.

—  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

Are political leaders really paying any attention?

Sen. John Cornyn

Spend just a little time paying attention to the news coming out of Washington, D.C. — or any state capitol, or any city hall — and you’ll probably wonder, as I do, if anyone in the “halls of power” actually pays any attention to anything their constituents says — outside, of course, of the polls that tell them what they need to say to get re-elected.

Yesterday, Dallas Voice reader Ron Heath of Fort Worth reinforced my belief that the “leaders” don’t pay any attention when he forwarded to me an email he had received in response after writing to U.S. Sen. John Cornyn, one of two Republicans that represent Texas in Congress.

Heath had written to his senator about DOMA — the Defense of Marriage Act. Numerous lawsuits have been filed against DOMA, which prohibits the federal government from recognizing same-sex marriages in any way, including those same-sex marriages conducted in jurisdictions where they legally recognized. Earlier this year, President Barack Obama instructed the Department of Justice not to continue to defend portions of DOMA in court, after which Republicans in the House of Representatives promptly decided to hire their own lawyers and pay them to defend DOMA.

Also, the Senate Judiciary Committee is expected to vote today on the Respect for Marriage Act, which would effectively repeal DOMA and give legally married same-sex couples the federal benefits, privileges and responsibilities they have so far been denied.

Ron Heath was encouraging Sen. Cornyn to vote in favor of repealing DOMA. Sen. Cornyn, or whoever reads his correspondence, apparently wasn’t paying any attention. Read Cornyn’s response to Heath after the jump:

—  admin

Queer Bingo at GLBT Community Center

Tanya Hyde

The fabulous Ms. Tanya Hyde

The Houston GLBT Community Center hosts its Queer Bingo on the first Saturday of each month. Hosting this month’s festivities is self proclaimed living legend, and queen of all Montrose, drag performer Tanya Hyde. Queer Bingo benefits the Center’s John Lawrence and Tyrone Garner Scholarship Fund (that’s John Lawrence, of Lawrence v. Texas fame) and other center programs.

Doors open at 4 pm, with games kicking off at 4:30.  In addition to cash prizes for Bingo, the event features fabulous door prizes,  a raffle, and bar service courtesy of Capital Beverage.

“We invite all our community friends to join us for First Saturday Queer Bingo, have fun playing games with their friends, and support scholarships for gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender scholars,” Center president Tim Brookover says.  “We have a great time every month as we benefit our scholarship fund and other Center programs.”

Queer Bingo takes place at the GLBT Community Center’s headquarters at the historic Dow School (1900 Kane).

—  admin

Houston GLBT Center extends deadline to apply for Lawrence-Garner Scholarship

Community Center logoThe Houston GLBT Community Center has announced an extension of the deadline for the John Lawrence and Tyrone Garner Scholarship Fund. The new deadline is Friday, June 11. For 2010, the Center has also opened the application process to all gay, lesbian, bisexual,and transgender students pursuing higher education in Texas, not just high school seniors.

The Center established the John Lawrence and Tyrone Garner Scholarship Fund of the Houston GLBT Community Center in honor of the two Houston men who were co-petitioners in the landmark Lawrence v. Texas case, which overturned anti-gay sodomy laws in the U.S.

The scholarship will be awarded to a gay, lesbian, bisexual, or transgender student attending or planning to attend an accredited institution of higher learning who has

  1. demonstrated a commitment to public service;
  2. demonstrated leadership in the fight for equality for GLBT people;
  3. engaged in significant extra-curricular activities;
  4. a record of service in community organizations; and
  5. a demonstrated financial need.  The recipient will be selected by a committee.

Details and the application are available on the Center website.

The Center will present the first John Lawrence and Tyrone Garner Scholarship at its annual Pride month event commemorating the 2003 Supreme Court decision in the case. The Lawrence v. Texas Commemoration will be  at the Center on Thursday, June 24, at 7 p.m.

—  David Taffet

Houston GLBT Community Center offers scholarship

The Houston GLBT Community is now accepting applications for its new John Lawrence and Tyrone Garner Scholarship, LGBT students from across Texas can apply.

The scholarship is named for the two men who were plaintiffs in the lawsuit Lawrence v. Texas, which ended with a 2003 Supreme Court ruling that abolished the Texas sodomy law.

Burton Bagby-Grose, treasurer for the Houston GLBT Community Center board, said applicants should have already demonstrated a commitment to public service, already demonstrated leadership in the fight for equality for LGBT people, engaged in significant extra-curricular activities, have a record of service in community organizations and have demonstrated a financial need.

Application deadline is May 14. The inaugural scholarship will be awarded in June during the community center’s annual commemoration of the Lawrence v. Texas Supreme Court ruling, which was handed down in June 2003.

To download an application and get more information about applying go to the Houston GLBT Community Center Web site.

—  admin

Federal judge: Sodomy ruling doesn't protect gays from 'hatred, contempt or ridicule'

Over at Unfair Park, Robert Wilonsky gives us an update on a lawsuit brought by a former Love Field security guard who claims he lost his job after Dallas radio host Rickey Smiley accused him of being gay on the air last year. Plaintiff Henry Robinson says he’s straight, and as such, he claims Smiley’s statements were defamatory. Last Friday, U.S. District Judge Reed O’Connor denied Smiley’s motion to dismiss Robinson’s lawsuit, and in doing so the judge raised an interesting question.

In his ruling, O’Connor notes that in Texas, “the imputation of homosexuality has historically been defamatory per se as it imputes the crime of sodomy.” However, he adds that, “No case appears to address whether imputation of homosexuality continues to be defamatory as a matter of law in the wake of Lawrence (the U.S. Supreme’s Court’s 2003 ruling overturning the state’s sodomy statute].” But O’Connor concludes that, “At a minimum, though, judicial caution requires the court to acknowledge that the imputation of homosexuality might as a matter of fact expose a person to public hatred, contempt or ridicule.”

So, in other words, even conservative judges like O’Connor (a George W. Bush appointee) acknowledge that being gay exposes people to hatred and discrimination. But why is this fact only brought up in the context of a straight person suing someone for accusing them of being gay? Shouldn’t this be grounds for equal rights and protections under the law? Or, as “John M.” puts it in the comments to Wilonsky’s post, “If we are going to acknowledge that homosexuality expose(s) a person to public hatred, contempt or ridicule, it seems kind of hard to defend the idea that things like marriage equality are only a matter of tradition and not the result of said hatred, contempt and ridicule.”

—  John Wright

Judge Jerry Buchmeyer has died

I don’t have any details, but Rebecca Covell just sent an e-mail telling me that Judge Jerry Buchmeyer has died.

For this who don’t know, Judge Buchmeyer, back in the 1980s, was the judge who first ruled that Texas sodomy law prohibiting consensual sexual contact between adults was unconstitutional. It was in honor of his ruling (and to escape the oppressive heat of June in Texas) that the Dallas Pride parade was first moved to September.

Unfortunately, Judge Buchmeyer’s ruling was later overturned by the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals, and it wasn’t until the U.S. Supreme Court in Lawrence v. Texas in 2003 that we finally got rid of the sodomy law.

According to Rebecca’se-mail, a private memorial service is being held in Austin. A public memorial service is being planned for Dallas. More details when I know them.

(Thanks for the heads up Rebecca)

—  admin