Judge to rule this week in Nikki Araguz case

Nikki Araguz

Transgender widow vows appeal if she loses case

JUAN A. LOZANO  |  Associated Press

WHARTON, Texas — The transgender widow of a Texas firefighter will likely learn next week whether his family’s request to nullify their marriage and strip her of any death benefits will be granted, a judge said Friday.

State District Judge Randy Clapp made the announcement after hearing arguments in a lawsuit filed by the family of firefighter Thomas Araguz III, who was killed while battling a blaze last year. The suit argues that his widow shouldn’t get any benefits because she was born a man and Texas doesn’t recognize same-sex marriage.

The widow, Nikki Araguz, said she had done everything medically and legally possible to show that she is female and was legally married under Texas law. She believes that she’s entitled to widow’s benefits.

“I believe the judge is going to rule in my favor,” Araguz said after the court hearing.

The lawsuit seeks control over death benefits and assets totaling more than $600,000, which the firefighter’s family wants to go to his two sons from a previous marriage. Voiding the marriage would prevent Nikki Araguz from receiving any insurance or death benefits or property the couple had together.

Thomas Araguz died while fighting a fire at an egg farm near Wharton, about 60 miles southwest of Houston, in July 2010. He was 30.

His mother, Simona Longoria, filed a lawsuit asking that her son’s marriage be voided. She and her family have said he learned of his wife’s gender history just prior to his death, and after he found out, he moved out of their home and planned to end the marriage.

But Nikki Araguz, 35, has insisted that her husband was aware she was born a man and that he fully supported her through the surgical process to become a woman. She underwent surgery two months after they were married in 2008.

Longoria’s attorney, Chad Ellis, argued that Texas law — specifically a 1999 appeals court ruling that stated chromosomes, not genitals, determine gender — supports his client’s efforts to void the marriage.

The ruling upheld a lower court’s decision that threw out a wrongful death lawsuit filed by a San Antonio woman, Christie Lee Cavazos Littleton, after her husband’s death. The court said that although Littleton had undergone a sex-change operation, she was actually a man, based on her original birth certificate, and therefore her marriage and wrongful death claim were invalid.

Ellis presented medical and school records that he said showed Nikki Araguz was born without female reproductive organs and that she presented herself as a male while growing up and going to school. He also said her birth certificate at the time of her marriage indicated she was a man.

“By law, two males cannot be married in this state,” Ellis told the judge.

Nikki Araguz, who was born in California, did not change her birth certificate to reflect she had become a female until after her husband’s death, said Edward Burwell, one of the attorneys for Thomas Araguz’s ex-wife, Heather Delgado, the mother of his two children.

But one of Nikki Araguz’s attorneys, Darrell Steidley, said that when his client got her marriage license, she presented the necessary legal documents to show she was a female. He also noted changes made in 2009 to the Texas Family Code that allowed people to present numerous alternatives to a birth certificate as the proof of identity needed to get a marriage license. That was an example, he argued, of the state trying to move away from the 1999 appeals court ruling.

The changes in 2009 allowed transgendered people to use proof of their sex change to get a marriage license. The Texas Legislature is currently considering a bill that would prohibit county and district clerks from using a court order recognizing a sex change as documentation to get married.

After the hearing, the firefighter’s family and attorneys for his ex-wife criticized plans by Nikki Araguz to star in a reality television dating show and implied she was only interested in money and fame that the case would bring her.

“That is absurd,” Nikki Araguz said in response. “I’m after my civil equality and the rights that I deserve as the wife of a fallen firefighter.”

If the judge rules against the firefighter’s family in their motion for a summary judgment, the case would then proceed to trial. Araguz said if the judge rules against her, she would appeal, all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court if necessary.

—  John Wright

Bullying victim’s family sues Joshua schools

Jon Carmichael

The family of 13-year-old Jon Carmichael filed suit yesterday in federal court against the Joshua Independent School District, claiming that school officials ignored and even covered up the months of cruel harassment and bullying that drive Jon to suicide in March of last year.

The lawsuit was filed Monday, March 28, in federal district court in Dallas, exactly one year after Jon hung himself in his family’s barn. Joshua is located just outside of Cleburne, south of Fort Worth in Johnson County.

Reports at the time of his death indicated that Jon was bullied because he was smaller than his classmates at Loflin Middle School.

A report in today’s Fort Worth Star-Telegram says that among the bullying Jon endured was being thrown into a trash dumpster and having his head held down in a toilet while it was flushed. Just before Jon hanged himself, the lawsuit alleges, he was stripped naked and put in a trash can. This time the attack was videotaped and posted on YouTube. It was removed at the direction of a school staff member, but that staff member did not report the incident, the lawsuit says.

The lawsuit also claims that on the day Jon died, he told a girl he was going to commit suicide and she told him to go ahead because no one cared if he lived or died.

School superintendent Ray Dane said he has not seen the lawsuit and had no comment.

Jon’s mother and sister were among those who went to Austin on Tuesday, March 22, to testify in favor of comprehensive anti-bullying legislation being considered by Texas lawmakers.

—  admin

Lawsuit Charges Rampant Sexual Abuse in Military

DADT PENTAGON X390 (PHOTOS.COM) | ADVOCATE.COMA lawsuit filed Tuesday charges the Pentagon with perpetuating a culture of sexual abuse and failing to do enough to address complaints.
Advocate.com: Daily News

—  David Taffet

Govt. Seeks to Suspend DADT Lawsuit Appeal

DADT UPDATE X390 (THINKSTOCK) | ADVOCATE.COMThe Justice Department argues that the “orderly process” set forth by
the DADT repeal law likely renders its appeal in the Log Cabin
Republicans federal case moot. But LCR says its lawsuit continues as
long as military personnel face potential discharge.
Advocate.com: Daily News

—  admin

Montana Attorney General Requests Dismissal of Gay Rights Lawsuit

Montana Back in July I posted about a lawsuit brought by the ACLU and seven same-sex couples in Montana, seeking the same rights as heterosexual married couples in the state. 

The state's attorney general today filed a motion for dismissal:

"Spousal benefits are limited by definition to married couples, and the Montana constitution defines marriage as being between a man and a woman, Attorney General Steve Bullock said. The court does not have the jurisdiction to require the state to extend spousal benefits beyond that definition, Bullock said in a motion to dismiss the case. "Courts may not exercise the power to enact laws and revise, alter or amend the constitution," Bullock said. Such policymaking power belongs to the Legislature and the people of the state, he added. District Judge Jeffrey Sherlock has set a Jan. 25 hearing on Bullock's motion to dismiss the case."

Towleroad News #gay

—  admin

Bishop Long Stepping Down In Wake Of Fourth Lawsuit?


Homophobic Pastor Eddie Long's problems grow by the day.

Various sites, including AOL's Black Voices, are reporting that Long, who has already been accused of severely inappropriate contact with three male congregants, will be stepping down from the pulpit at New Birth Missionary Baptist Church after Sunday's sermon.

The news comes after a fourth young man leveled still more allegations against Long. The Atlanta Journal-Constitution provides the details of this latest lawsuit.

"Spencer LeGrande, named in a civil lawsuit filed Friday, claims he
was 17 the first time the two had a sexual relationship while
vacationing in Nairobi, Kenya.

LeGrande, of Charlotte, N.C., alleges that the New Birth Missionary
Baptist Church pastor  gave him an Ambien, a popular prescription sleep
aid, followed by a "prolonged hug," kissing and rubbing, according to
the suit.

The suit claims the two shared a bed for the remainder of their trip."

Long and his attorneys continue to deny the numerous claims, and his defense today declared, "We believe that it is unfortunate the young men have chosen to take this course of action. The defense team will review the complaints and respond accordingly at the appropriate time and in the appropriate forum."

Even if he's not stepping down, this weekend won't be very relaxing for Long.

Towleroad News #gay

—  John Wright

NOM Files Yet Another Lawsuit Challenging Disclosure Laws

As part of its radical nationwide efforts to dismantle state laws that provide transparency about who is funding political campaigns, the National Organization for Marriage this week filed suit in Rhode Island seeking to have their disclosure laws ruled unconstitutional.  The suit comes the same week as NOM lost in federal court in Minnesota on a similar case.

The case – National Organization for Marriage v. John Daluz – was filed in U.S. District Court in Rhode Island on September 21.  Daluz is the named defendant in his official capacity as Vice Chairman of the state board of elections.

This new lawsuit brought by NOM’s lawyers is similar to other public disclosure challenges they have made across the country including in Minnesota and New York.  In Maine NOM remains under investigation by the Maine Ethics Commission for failing to register with the state as a ballot question committee and disclose the donors to its campaign to overturn Maine’s marriage equality law in 2009.  In Washington State, NOM’s lawyers fought the state’s public records law all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court – and lost.  A federal court in California has similarly rejected NOM’s efforts to hide its donors in the wake of Proposition 8.

Human Rights Campaign Vice President of Communications and Marketing Fred Sainz remarked in a release: “One thing’s for sure – NOM feels like they have something to hide. In yet another state, NOM is trying to eviscerate the fair and open process that governs election spending in this country.  What lengths won’t they go to in order to shield themselves from public scrutiny?”

Human Rights Campaign | HRC Back Story

—  John Wright

Antigay Speech Lawsuit Dismissed

LA CITY COLLEGE X390A lawsuit filed by a L.A. City College student who claimed his professor
violated his free speech rights by interrupting his speech against gay
marriage was dismissed Friday.
Advocate.com: Daily News

—  John Wright

Second ‘I don’t want to counsel gays’ lawsuit struck down by the courts

crossposted on Holy Bullies and Headless Monsters


keeton How did I miss this one:


Augusta State University's requirement that a graduate student read material about counseling gays and increase her exposure to that community after she objected to counseling homosexual clients was “academically legitimate,” a federal court judge ruled Friday.

U.S. District Judge Randal Hall's decision enables university officials to expel Jennifer Keeton if she does not follow the remediation plan, which professors designed to “address issues of multicultural competence and develop understanding and empathy.”

Hall said the case is not about “pitting Christianity against homosexuality,” but rather the constitutionality of the school's requirement.

This denunciation comes at the heels of another case in which a student claimed that she was “forced” to choose between her religious beliefs and her vocation. Last month, the courts ruled against Julea Ward, a student at Eastern Michigan University who claimed that she was removed from the school's counseling program because of her strong religious views against homosexuality.


Ward has refused to counsel lgbt clients because of her beliefs. In the ruling, U.S. District Judge George Caram Steeh said:

” . . .the university had a rational basis for requiring its students to counsel clients without imposing their personal values.

In the case of Ms. Ward, the university determined that she would never change her behavior and would consistently refuse to counsel clients on matters with which she was personally opposed due to her religious beliefs — including homosexual relationships.”

Keeton and Ward were both made as cause celebres by the religious right as victims of a so-called “gay agenda” which would punish Christians for expressing their beliefs.

However many others, myself included, disagree.

My feeling is that if you can't do the job completely and for everyone then we have a serious problem, especially if you are seeking to be a healthcare worker.

And those who seek to make Keeton and Ward into martyrs would be advised to remember that this sort of thing has a habit of coming back in a nasty way.

If people are allowed exemptions in the counseling of the lgbt community today, who's to say that tomorrow exemptions won't be given in the counseling of the African-American or Latino communities?

Or even the Christian community?

UDPATE:  The article also going on to say something which should be remembered should Keeton's name come up in religious right talking points (and it will) – the university presented three professors as witnesses but Keeton presented no witnesses. And she didn't even testify.

Hat tip to Daily Kos.

Related post:

Court knocks down latest religious right cause celebre
Pam’s House Blend – Front Page

—  John Wright

NOM Fails in Lawsuit to Hide Maine Election Activities

Yesterday, a federal judge in Portland, Maine ruled against NOM by upholding laws requiring organizations engaged in Maine elections to register as political action committees, disclose their independent expenditures and provide disclaimers on campaign advertisements. The court found two lesser legal provisions defective but noted that they could likely be cured by new legislation. 

In rejecting most of NOM’s lawsuit, Judge D. Brock Hornby ruled that “Maine… has a compelling reason for compiling information about PACs – the goal of providing information to Maine voters about the interest groups that spend money referring to candidates in an election – and indeed Maine has polling data demonstrating the public’s interest in such information.” The judge found that “NOM’s desire to limit campaign finance disclosures … would yield perverse results, totally at odds with the interest in ‘transparency’ recognized in Citizens United,” the recent Supreme Court decision that allowed for unlimited corporate spending in elections but accepted the government’s compelling interest in requiring public disclosure.

NOM’s lawsuit is part of escalating tensions between the group and ethics officials in Maine. NOM remains under investigation by the Maine Ethics Commission for failing to register with the state as a ballot question committee and disclose the donors to its campaign to overturn Maine’s marriage equality law in 2009. NOM provided more than .9 million of the million spent by opponents of marriage equality to pass Question 1 – but it failed to disclose where the money came from. The organization has stonewalled the ethics investigation over its Question 1 involvement, which is the subject of a separate ongoing lawsuit. 

Today’s decision follows similar defeats in Washington state, where NOM’s lawyers fought the state’s public records law all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court – and lost. A federal court in California similarly rejected NOM’s efforts to hide its donors in the wake of Proposition 8.

HRC called on the National Organization for Marriage to stop its radical national strategy of hiding its election activities and eviscerating public disclosure laws.  HRC Vice President of Communication & Marketing Fred Sainz said:

“Time and again NOM has tried to evade or eviscerate popular disclosure laws that provide the public with critical information about who spends money on campaigns, and as usual they’ve come up short. It begs the questions: what does NOM want to hide about their efforts to strip millions of Americans of their basic civil rights, and why are they fighting so hard to hide it?

“NOM’s agenda of hiding their political activities from legitimate scrutiny and accountability has gone on long enough. The public has a right to know who is behind their efforts to take away the fundamental rights of people living in Maine, California, Washington and elsewhere across the country. It’s time for NOM to own up and play by rules that serve the public interest.”

Human Rights Campaign | HRC Back Story

—  John Wright