Araguz booking raises questions about Harris County jail’s treatment of transgender inmates

Judge Vanessa Valasquez

Judge Vanessa Valasquez

According to the Houston Chronicle, Nikki Araguz has been booked into the Harris County Jain after arriving 40 minutes late for a scheduled court appearance on Friday. The court date was to allow Araguz to plead guilty to charges that she stole a watch from an acquaintance last year. Under the proposed plea bargain Araguz would have paid $2,600 in restitution and served 15 days in county jail. State District Judge Vanessa Velasquez, a Republican first appointed to the bench by Gov. Rick Perry, responded to Araguz’ apologies for her tardiness with “It’s too late for sorry,” ordering bailiffs to escort her to a hold cell next to the courtroom.

Araguz is the widow of firefighter Capt. Thomas Araguz who died in the line of duty last year. Capt. Araguz’s ex-wife and mother have sued to claim the portion of his survivor’s benefits reserved for the spouses of slain firefighters, claiming that since Nikki Araguz was identified as male at birth the marriage was invalid under Texas’ laws prohibiting the recognition of same-sex marriage. Mrs. Araguz’s birth certificate identifies her as female, as does her state issued identification.

Araguz’s booking has raised questions about the Harris County’s treatment of transgender detainees. The Sheriff Department’s Public Information Inquiry System listed Araguz using her male birth name on Friday. They have since removed the name from the site’s searchable database but have retained the record, listing it under the department’s “special person number” (SPN) filing system. The SPN record includes Araguz’s birth name. The Sheriff’s office has not returned calls from Houstini asking why the department is not using Araguz’s legal name and if this is common practice.

According to a friend who has visited Araguz at the jail her identity bracelet correctly identifies her gender as “F” – but reflects Araguz’s birth name, not her legal name. Araguz is segregated from the general jail population, but can receive visitors during regular visiting hours.

Araguz will remain in the Harris County Jail until Jan 25 when she is scheduled to appear again before Judge Velasquez.

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A beer by any other name…

On the long list of ridiculous Texas laws the alcoholic beverage code would have to take up about half the space (although that whole “no marriage equality” thing is pretty far up there), but it seems like at least a part of our antiquated system of booze laws is getting an update. Under current state law “beer” can contain no more than 4% alcohol by volume, anything greater and it must be labeled as “ale” or “malt liquor.” If a recent ruling by US District Court Judge Sam Sparks holds that’s about to change.

A group of brewers sued the state arguing that the current restrictions violated their free speech. The judge agreed, and in a hilarious ruling poked fun at the Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission for thinking they can redefine words by legislative fiat, and gave a shout-out to Austin’s annual bat festival.  From Austin360.com:

“TABC’s argument, combined with artful legislative drafting, could be used to justify any restrictions on commercial speech. For instance, Texas would likely face no (legal) obstacle if it wished to pass a law defining the word ‘milk’ to mean ‘a nocturnal flying mammal that eats insects and employs echolocation.’ Under TABC’s logic, Texas would then be authorized to prohibit use of the word ‘milk’ by producers of a certain liquid dairy product, but also to require Austin promoters to advertise the famous annual ‘Milk Festival’ on the Congress Avenue Bridge.”

 

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Iconic LGBT activist Ray Hill files for Texas House seat

Ray Hill

Ray Hill

Long time Houston LGBT activist Ray Hill filed paperwork this week to run for the 147th Texas House seat against incumbent Garnet Coleman, D – Houston. The iconic (and iconoclastic) Hill said that he and Coleman agree on many issues but that he had “some issues  that aren’t on the table in Austin.”

Specifically Hill has concerns with the legislature’s approach to criminal justice issues. “The Texas legislature is a serial world class red-necking competition,” says Hill. “What they are doing on criminal justice is wrong and it doesn’t work… we need a serious rethink.”

Coleman has a strong history of supporting LGBT legislation. For the last three sessions he has attempted to pass anti-bullying legislation that would require school districts to report instances of bullying using an enumerated list of motivating characteristics that include both sexual orientation and gender identity and expression, he has also filed legislation to remove the the crime of “homosexual conduct” from the Texas penal code (a law that has been declared unconstitutional by the Supreme Court), to equalize age of consent laws in Texas and to add gender identity and expression to the state’s hate crime law. In the 82nd legislature earlier this year Coleman authored seven pieces of legislation designed to create greater equality for LGBT people, including the first ever filing of legislation to standardize change of gender marker procedures for the transgender community and the first effort to repeal the state’s constitutional prohibition against marriage equality.

Hill recognizes Coleman’s historic contributions, “The incumbent and I agree on a lot of issues,” says Hill, “but we don’t tell young gay people ‘if you work real hard and go to school and do your best you can grow up to have straight friends in Austin who like you.’ No, we tell them ‘if you work hard they can grow up to be Mayor of Houston, or City Supervisor of San Francisco.’”

When asked why the community would be better served by him than Coleman, a 20 year legislative veteran, Hill replies “I understand how government works. A freshman legislator can’t do anything more than irritate, but that’s about all any member of the minority party can do. On that level the incumbent and I are on the same level… I think we need somebody obnoxious [in the legislature] who’s going to purposefully rub the cat hair the wrong direction.”

Since being elected to the legislature for the first time in 1992 Coleman has been unopposed in 5 of his 9 primary reelection bids. No primary challenger to Coleman has pulled more than 21% of the vote.

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President Obama issues memorandum on protecting LGBTs abroad

President Barack Obama and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton

Four days in advance of  Human Rights Day on Saturday, Dec. 10,  President Barack Obama today issued a presidential memorandum “to ensure that U.S. diplomacy and foreign assistance promote and protect the human rights of LGBT persons,” according to a statement just released by the White House press office.

The statement sent out by the White House includes these comments by the president:

“The struggle to end discrimination against lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) persons is a global challenge, and one that is central to the United States commitment to promoting human rights.  I am deeply concerned by the violence and discrimination targeting LGBT persons around the world — whether it is passing laws that criminalize LGBT status, beating citizens simply for joining peaceful LGBT pride celebrations, or killing men, women, and children for their perceived sexual orientation.  That is why I declared before heads of state gathered at the United Nations, “no country should deny people their rights because of who they love, which is why we must stand up for the rights of gays and lesbians everywhere.”  Under my Administration, agencies engaged abroad have already begun taking action to promote the fundamental human rights of LGBT persons everywhere.  Our deep commitment to advancing the human rights of all people is strengthened when we as the United States bring our tools to bear to vigorously advance this goal.”

The memorandum from Obama directs agencies to combat the criminalization of LGBT status or conduct abroad; protect vulnerable LGBT refugees and asylum seekers; leverage foreign assistance to protect human rights and advance nondiscrimination; ensure swift and meaningful U.S. responses to human rights abuses of LGBT persons abroad; engage international organizations in the fight against LGBT discrimination, and report on progress.

I give the president credit for issuing the memorandum at the same time he’s gearing up for what will likely be a tough re-election campaign during which opponents will no doubt use his stance and actions on LGBT issues against him. But I still have to point out that we as LGBT people still face discrimination and inequality right here in the good old U.S.-of-A:

• Our marriages are legally recognized at the federal level and they aren’t recognized in the VAST majority of state and local jurisdictions. We want the Defense of Marriage Act repealed and local and state ordinances and constitutional amendments prohibiting recognition of our relationships need to be overturned.

• There is still no federal protection against workplace discrimination based on sexual orientation and/gender expression and gender identity. Congress needs to pass — the president needs to sign — the Employment Non-Discrimination Act.

• Even though there is now a federal hate crimes law that includes LGBT people, as well as similar laws at many state and local levels, those laws are not well enforced.

Anti-LGBT bullying remains a deadly problem in our schools and our workplaces and on the Internet. We’ve made progress in combating such bullying, but not nearly enough. Dedicate the resources necessary to address the issue effectively.

So let’s applaud our president for the steps he has — and is — taking. There’s no doubt Obama has been more open than any other president about addressing LGBT issues and we have seen great strides forward toward equality during his administration. But there’s a long way to go yet, and we need to make sure that the president — and all our elected officials — know they can’t just rest on their laurels.

—  admin

Starvoice • 09.09.11

By Jack Fertig

CELEBRITY BIRTHDAY

Jennifer Hudson turns 30 on Monday.
The Oscar winner has made headlines in the recent past mostly on her weight loss. She talks to Self magazine this month about losing over 80 pounds. This year, she returns to the big screen in Winnie, portraying Nelson Mandela’s wife, and in 2012’s The Three Stooges.

…………………..

THIS WEEK

Venus coming home to Libra normally helps us to be more gracious, social and polite. Opposing Uranus on the way in whips up some crazy ideas of what that might mean. Compassion and imagining yourself in the other’s position is usually the best way to start out.

…………………..

VIRGO Aug 23-Sep 22
You find amazing deals at estate sales, perhaps even your true love. If you already have one, bring him or her along and you find some treasure that will become an emblematic keepsake.

LIBRA Sep 23-Oct 22
You’re looking especially gorgeous. The attention you get will surprise you. Of course you’re not just a pretty face; a new contact could prove very helpful as a colleague.

SCORPIO Oct 23-Nov 21
Hiding out from the social whirl may give you peace, but doesn’t do much for your anxieties. Hum the first tune that comes to mind. That song will offer insights to face your worries.

SAGITTARIUS Nov 22-Dec 20
Party it up but don’t go overboard. Seek out new, interesting, unusual people at these events. Their perspectives can trigger new insights into your own roots.

CAPRICORN Dec 21-Jan 19
Career opportunities are looking good, but are you prepared? Know your strengths and the difference between reaching and overreaching. Work causes you to neglect issues at home.

AQUARIUS Jan 20-Feb 18
Think a little harder before opening your mouth. Does it really need to be said? Your words carry more weight than you realize. Treat them like currency and don’t waste them.

PISCES Feb 19-Mar 19
Opportunities abound as Venus is flashing her goodies in your house of illicit pleasures. She offers a deeper challenge to re-
examine your priorities and values.

ARIES Mar 20-Apr 19
You’re suddenly looking marriageable no matter what local laws allow. Let someone special see your inner wounds. Allowing yourself to be vulnerable shows confidence in both of you.

TAURUS Apr 20-May 20
A friend in need is a pain in the ass. You have your own problems. Even so, helping out your pal can not only get you out of your own problems for a bit, but help point you to a solution.

GEMINI May 21-Jun 20
Your idea of social outreach is a little outré. One on one is fine for scaring off people you don’t want to deal with, but if you’re working with a group, behave accordingly.

CANCER Jun 21-Jul 22
New recipes go better than you’d hoped for. Even if things screw up, you get points for trying. At work keep your boss up on any experiments, just in case.

LEO Jul 23-Aug 22
Advice is not necessarily appreciated, as you could find out the hard way. An earnest, soul-searching talk about sex can be more satisfying than actually doing it. Not that one rules out the other.

Jack Fertig can be reached at 415-864-8302 or Starjack.com

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition September 9, 2011.

—  Kevin Thomas

Check out this butt sex travel reference guide

Following up on the magazine’s insightful story about efforts to remove Texas’ “homosexual conduct” law from the books, Mother Jones put together this handy-dandy map that can easily be printed out and used as a reference source as you travel around the country.

It turns out that a total of 14 states still have sodomy statutes on the books, despite the fact that these laws can’t be enforced because they were declared unconstitutional by the Supreme Court in Lawrence v. Texas:

Since Lawrence, efforts to formally repeal laws in Montana, Kansas, Utah, Louisiana, North Carolina, and, most notably, Texas have all faced resistance before fizzling out in their respective state legislatures. Conservatives in those states know they can’t enforce the laws, but by keeping them in the code, they can send a message that homosexuality is officially condemned by the government.

As you can see, most of the 14 states with statutes still on the books — 10 to be exact — ban sodomy regardless of whether it’s homosexual or heterosexual. In other words, before Lawrence, butt sex was illegal in these states for mom and dad, too!

Texas, meanwhile, is one of only four states where sodomy is illegal — or was illegal — only for gay people. The others are Oklahoma, Kansas and Montana. Which is strange because if there’s any place where cornholeing should be legal, if not encouraged, it’s Kansas.

—  John Wright

TENTHER: Sen. Mike Lee (R-UT) Says Child Labor Laws Are Unconstitutional

Newly elected GOP Sen. Mike Lee (UT) says that federal child labor laws are unconstitutional because as per the Tenth Amendment, only laws expressly laid out in the Constitution are legal. Lee is part of the new class of “states rights” Congress members intent on overturning all federal legislation not mentioned in the Constitution.

Joe. My. God.

—  admin

Utah: mean-ass state senator Chris Buttars seeks repeal of school anti-bullying laws

How petty, small, mean, and bigoted does someone have to be to want to roll back protections for children in schools? Look no further than Turd Extraordinaire Chris Buttars. (Pride in Utah):

Senator “black babies are dark and ugly things” Chris Buttars was recently named as chair of the State Public Education committee, despite his call in 2010 to eliminate the 12th grade as “unnecessary.” It appears he plans to use his latest position of power as much possible in his war against civil rights. His proposed resolution, SJR 1, strips the State School Board of the power to make changes to their policies unless they are already provided by statute. In other words, take away the protections for straight and LGBT kids from bullying, and the non-discrimination rules for district employees.

And here is the money quote from Buttars, who seems to have difficulty with church/state separation:

“We’re in big trouble in our public education system. I didn’t realize how much until a month ago when I was asked to chair public education appropriations,” said Buttars. “We met and when we got done we were all so terrified we couldn’t believe it. This was right under our nose.”

“By accepting that, there’s no God because he deals in absolutes,” said Buttars. “This is an entire program to bring America down and I want to tell you right now it’s well entrenched in Utah.”

You can read his bill here.

NOTE: PRIDEinUtah will hold a rally on the opening day of the Utah Legislative session –January 24th, at 5:30pm in the rotunda of the Utah State Capitol Building.
Pam’s House Blend – Front Page

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NOM nostalgic for ’90s, for the discriminatory laws if not the Doc Martens

NOM has never met a body of lawmakers whose pro-marriage equality law they will not overturn. But when it comes to Republican-controlled Congress of 1996 and their (unconstitutional) Defense of Marriage Act, the flawed procreation arguments were apparently infallible. And of course those dang activist judges and dirty progressives are being somehow out-of-line when further tests and reconsiderations are put into modern-day effect:

“The DOJ brief amounts to collusive litigation, failing to even offer to the court, much less vigorously defend, the reasons Congress laid out in the statute when it passed DOMA—especially responsible procreation. This is an attack not only on marriage, but on the prerogatives of Congress. The Executive branch should not attempt to exercise this kind of retroactive line-item veto over a bill passed by Congress,” said Brian Brown, president of NOM.

DOMA, which was passed by bipartisan majorities in 1996, defines marriage for the purpose of federal law as the union of one man and one woman. In the statute, Congress laid out four reasons justifying this definition of marriage including “responsible procreation.” Courts in New York, Maryland and elsewhere have accepted this reason as the rational basis for marriage’s definition. The DOJ brief formally defending DOMA, pointedly and explicitly repudiates the idea that responsible procreation is a purpose of DOMA, significantly undercutting the efforts of the Congress.

“All the parties to this litigation want the court to strike down DOMA; this is clear from their behavior, no matter what President Obama and his politicized DOJ pretend to convey to the public,” said Brown, “If Obama’s DOJ had merely honestly refused to defend the law, the court would likely have permitted another party to intervene to defend the law. Obama’s DOJ is trying to retain control so it can lose this case.”

NOM Responds to Obama Administration’s Failure to Defend DOMA and Congress [NOM]

Well look, we’re not going to really defend the DOJ’s actions here. If the administration, through its reasoned read, sees DOMA as unconstitutional, then it’s certainly odd that they have to defend it. It’s annoying that we even have to unpack this cognitive dissonance.

But the bottom line here in terms of Brian and NOM is not the DOJ’s defense or lack thereof, but the merits of this flawed law. Once again we see Brian trying to hold on to the ridiculous procreation basis, an argument that might have flown back when this nation’s marriage equality conversation was in its widely unrealized infancy, but one that fails every fair test put upon it here in 2011 America (where gays in five states and D.C. are marrying without incident). Brian and NOM keep working this procreation argument because they know its the best “logic” they have, playing to the same sort of kid-based fears that have reduced this national dialogue in ways immeasurable. But fortunately for us, this “best argument” is still quite bad. At some point NOM staffers are going to have to come up with something, anything else if they want to be seen as a stable of political tiger rather than one of political dodos.




Good As You

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FLASHBACK… Newsweek says Obama doesn’t have to defend unjust laws

Newsweek was writing about the administration’s defense of DADT, but the arguments from various legal scholars are general, and apply to the defense of DOMA as well. It’s worth a re-read for anyone asking whether the administration HAS to defend bigoted laws.

There are two different arguments for why Obama could choose not to enforce the law. The first one: he could say it was unconstitutional.

Obama’s other option: simply using his executive power to decide how the laws will be, or won’t be, executed. So Obama could simply order the military to stop applying the law, or to use it much more narrowly and infrequently. “There are a lot of laws on the books he doesn’t rigorously enforce,” notes Geoffrey Corn, a military law expert who teaches at South Texas College of Law. “The courts have recognized that while Congress has full authority to pass laws, the president has authority over when to enforce laws,” says Turley. Many criminal statutes, for example, are often unenforced and prosecutors have a lot of discretion on when to bring charges and what sentence to seek.

Some experts wonder why the administration even chose to defend the law in the first place. Turley maintains that they didn’t have to: “The president has a duty to separate his administration from an unconstitutional statute. If a statute required racial discrimination, would the president seriously be arguing that he and his administration would have to defend the statute all the way to the Supreme Court?” Many liberals feel betrayed by a president who they see as having chosen to enforce and defend a discriminatory law.

As Joe has noted before, the White House outright refuses to answer the question of whether President Obama believes DADT and DOMA are constitutional. More White House obfuscation here.




AMERICAblog Gay

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