AG Ken Paxton: wait for my blessing before you issue marriage licenses


Attorney General Ken Paxton

Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton released a statement today (Thursday, June 25)  ahead of a pending Supreme Court decision on marriage equality urging county officials to wait for a legal decision from his office before issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples.

Citing the state’s law banning same-sex marriage, Paxton recommends “that all County Clerks and Justices of the Peace wait for direction and clarity from this office about the meaning of the Court’s opinion and the rights of Texans under the law. If the Court [disagrees with the state], prudence dictates we reflect on precisely what the Court says, what it means, and how to proceed consistent with the rule of law.”

The Supreme Court’s decision is widely anticipated to come down tomorrow (Friday, June 26), the anniversary of the Lawrence and Windsor decisions. If not tomorrow, the decision will be handed down Monday, June 29.

For the record: Paxton has no real say in this, per state code. And legal experts have told Dallas Voice that public officials who defy a Supreme Court ruling in favor of marriage equality can be held personally liable for doing so.

And while we’re on the subject of flouting the law, the state’s top law enforcement officer has admitted to and been fined for violating state securities law. He is now under investigation by a Collin County grand jury.

Laws be damned.

—  James Russell

Local attorney comments on Supreme Court hearing he attended


Steve Rudner outside the U.S. Supreme Court

Steve Rudner, a local attorney and president of the Equality Texas Foundation board, was in the Supreme Court this morning (Tuesday, April 28) during oral arguments on marriage equality. He was admitted as a Supreme Court bar member, rather than having to stand in line as a member of the general public.

Rudner said watching Justice Anthony Kennedy was fascinating. Kennedy, who wrote the Windsor v. U.S. and Lawrence v. Texas opinions for the court, is widely expected to write the decision in this case as well.

Kennedy began his questioning by asking about changing the constitutional definition of marriage as a right two people have. He was worried about how fast change is made in social issues in the country.

Rudner said his believes the turning point was when Kennedy said the amount of time between Brown v. Board of Education case and Loving v. Virginia was the same amount of time as between Lawrence and this case. He said he thinks Kennedy answered his own question and he believes the right amount of time has passed.

Chief Justice Roberts may vote along with the majority, Rudner said, although the chief justice didn’t ask enough questions for Rudner to get a good sense of where he stood.

He thought one of the best comments was made by Justice Kagan who said the court defines constitutional rights and doesn’t decide who gets to exercise those rights.

Rudner said he despite the protesters outside the court, about 90 percent of those at the court building favored same-sex marriage and as many as 95 percent inside the court were on the side of equality.

—  David Taffet

Rep. James White’s legal logic on gay sex


State Rep. James White, R-Hillister.

Over the weekend, the Houston Chronicle reported that Rep. James White, R-Hillister, thinks Texas’ anti-sodomy language is just fine where it is.

When asked about how it’s different from his proposal to erase language about the state’s hair-braiding rules, recently ruled unconstitutional by the state Supreme Court, he said, quite contrary there is a difference.

“Absolutely, there is a difference,” he said. While the braiding regulation “was a way of disenfranchising them out of the marketplace. I don’t necessarily think this was the case with sodomy.”

But there’s one slight problem: the law was ruled unconstitutional in the Supreme Court’s 2003 Lawrence v. Texas decision.

“By leaving this provision in the law it’s insulting to Texans in the (lesbian, bisexual, gay and transgender) community. It’s inconsistent, bordering on hypocritical to say one should remove something that’s been struck down … and not remove other statutes and language that has been struck down,” Rep. Garnet Coleman, D-Houston, told the Chronicle.

But sodomy doesn’t end with an ass crack. Indeed, that ass crack’s only a gateway to bestiality. “Sodomy covers a lot of instances. It can even cover bestiality and there are a lot of public health standards and even decency standards,” White said.

Lest you forget, however, facts do not matter in Legeland.

—  James Russell

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


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 тиц

—  David Taffet