Ellis County Observer publisher Joey Dauben finally gets a court-appointed attorney

Joey Dauben

Joey Dauben, the publisher of the now-defunct Ellis County Observer, finally got to see a court-appointed lawyer this week to help him fight the three felony counts of child sexual abuse that have kept him in the Navarro County Jail without legal advice for almost two months now.

Edward Jendrzey, whose office is in Waxahachie in Ellis County, received the court-ordered appointment Thursday, Feb. 16. Jendrzey accepted the case after Steve Keathley, a Corsicana attorney whose wife is the president of the Navarro County Bar Association, declined an appointment by District Court Judge James Lagomarsino to represent the journalist.

In a telephone interview today, Jendrzey said, “Yes, he knows I’m representing him,” when asked whether he had met with his new client, who reached out for help from the media this week in a handwritten letter from jail. When a defendant declares himself to be indigent and asks for a court-appointed attorney, that is supposed to occur within 72 hours. In the letter, Dauben also again claimed he is innocent of the charges.

Jendrzey said his first step in Dauben’s representation will be to conduct an independent investigation of the case to learn the circumstances and to attempt to get Dauben’s $200,000 bond set by Lagomarsino lowered. “I’ll be meeting with the prosecutor about that,” Jendrzey said. Dauben’s family and friends have been unable to raise the 10 percent (or $20,000) payment bond agencies typically charge to get a defendant released from jail.

—  admin

It’s finally official

Reed, Walkup travel to D.C. for 2nd wedding after officials invalidate October Skype ceremony

John Wright  |  wright@dallasvoice.com

Thomas-Mark-Reed-and-Dante-Karl-Walkup
NEWLYWEDS AGAIN | Mark Reed-Walkup, right, and his husband, Dante Walkup, were married a second time in Washington, D.C., on Dec. 10. (Photo courtesy Mark Reed-Walkup)

A gay Dallas couple who made headlines last year with a Skype wedding — only to have it later declared invalid — have since remarried and refiled a discrimination complaint against The Dallas Morning News for refusing to publish their wedding announcement.

Mark Reed-Walkup said Thursday, Jan. 6, that he and his partner, Dante Walkup, traveled to Washington, D.C., and were married in a ceremony inside the Jefferson Memorial on Dec. 10. (Watch video from the ceremony at DallasVoice.com).

The couple had been married Oct. 10 at the W Dallas hotel, in a ceremony officiated via Skype from the nation’s capital, where same-sex marriage is legal. However, after their “e-marriage” made international news, D.C. court officials notified the couple that the marriage was invalid because they hadn’t been physically present in the district for the ceremony.

“We’re officially, legally married in D.C. and recognized in five states and several countries,” Reed-Walkup said Thursday, adding the couple chose not to challenge D.C. officials’ decision to declare the Skype marriage invalid.

“We had sought legal counsel, and they felt like we didn’t have a real strong case because the intent of the law was physical presence,” Reed-Walkup said. “Unless we felt like we had a strong case, we weren’t going to waste any time or resources on it.

“We think one of the objects of the Skype wedding was to help educate and hopefully change minds and hearts across the country, as they saw the effort that two men would go through to try to have a legal wedding in their hometown in front of friends and family,”

Reed-Walkup said. “In our hearts and minds, we believe that we were legally married during our [Oct. 10] ceremony, and it was a beautiful wedding. Having to go back and have the vows on D.C. soil was pretty much taking care of a technicality.”

After the Skype wedding, the couple also filed a discrimination complaint with the city of Dallas against The Dallas Morning News for refusing to publish their wedding announcement, but they withdrew the complaint after the marriage was declared invalid.

They’ve since re-filed the discrimination complaint and are waiting to hear back from the city.

A representative from the city’s Fair Housing Office, which handles discrimination complaints, couldn’t immediately be reached for comment.

A Dallas ordinance passed in 2002 prohibits discrimination based on sexual orientation in employment, housing and public accommodations. The couple maintains that wedding announcements are a public accommodation.

The Dallas Morning News publishes same-sex announcements under “Commitments” instead of “Weddings.”

James M. Moroney III, publisher and CEO of The Dallas Morning News, has said the newspaper’s policy is based on Texas law banning same-sex marriage and the recognition of same-sex marriages from other states.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition January 7, 2011.

—  Kevin Thomas

WATCH: Gay Dallas couple re-marries at Jefferson Memorial after Skype wedding declared invalid

Mark Reed-Walkup and Dante Walkup
Mark Reed-Walkup, left, and Dante Walkup.

A gay Dallas couple who made headlines last year with a Skype wedding — only to have it later declared invalid — have since re-married and re-filed a discrimination complaint against The Dallas Morning News for refusing to publish their wedding announcement.

Mark Reed-Walkup said today that he and his partner, Dante Walkup, traveled to Washington, D.C., and were married in a ceremony inside the Jefferson Memorial on Dec. 10. (Watch video from the ceremony below).

The couple had been married Oct. 10 at the W-Dallas hotel, in a ceremony officiated via Skype from the nation’s capital, where same-sex marriage is legal. However, after their “e-marriage” went viral, D.C. court officials notified the couple that the marriage was invalid because they hadn’t been physically present in the district for the ceremony.

“We’re officially, legally married in D.C. and recognized in five states and several countries,” Reed-Walkup said today, adding the couple chose not to challenge D.C. officials’ decision to declare the Skype wedding invalid.

“We had sought legal counsel, and they felt like we didn’t have a real strong case because the intent of the law was physical presence,” Reed-Walkup said. “Unless we felt like we had a strong case, we weren’t going to waste any time or resources on it. We think one of the objects of the Skype wedding was to help educate and hopefully change minds and hearts across the country, as they saw the effort that two men would go through to try to have a legal wedding in their hometown in front of friends and family. In our hearts and minds, we believe that we were legally married during our [Oct. 10] ceremony, and it was a beautiful wedding. Having to go back and have the vows on D.C. soil was pretty much taking care of a technicality.”

After the Skype wedding, the couple also filed a discrimination complaint with the city of Dallas against The Dallas Morning News for refusing to publish their wedding announcement, but they withdrew the complaint after the marriage was declared invalid. They’ve since re-filed the discrimination complaint and are waiting to hear back from the city, Reed-Walkup said.

A representative from the city’s Fair Housing Office, which handles discrimination complaints, couldn’t immediately be reached for comment.

A 2002 Dallas ordinance prohibits discrimination based on sexual orientation in employment, housing and public accommodations. The couple maintains that wedding announcements are a public accommodation.

The Dallas Morning News publishes same-sex announcements under “Commitments” but not “Weddings.”

James M. Moroney III, publisher and CEO of The Dallas Morning News, has said the newspaper’s policy is based on Texas law banning both same-sex marriage and the recognition of same-sex marriages from other states.

—  John Wright

Gold’s Gym franchises respond to Bob Rowling’s donations to group backing anti-gay candidates

Earlier we told you about the LGBT community’s apparent outrage over Highland Park billionaire Robert Rowling’s contributions totaling $2 million to the Karl Rove co-founded American Crossroads, which is working to help elect several anti-gay candidates this election cycle. Well, the reaction has been swift from four Gold’s Gym franchises in the San Francisco area, which announced today that they’re severing ties with the brand over the contributions. Via The Huffington Post, here’s a statement from Don Dickerson, director of operations for Gold’s Gym Bay Area:

We were as surprised by [CEO] Mr. [Robert] Rowling’s action as anyone but because our company believes in and lives up to the ideals of equality for all we are going to take the following actions:

1: Our contractual obligation with Gold’s Gym expires on September 15th, 2012 and on or prior to that date (our legal counsel is reviewing our options) we will leave the Gold’s Gym brand. It is a major initiative to create a new brand and leave Gold’s Gym which has been our identity for over 20 years but we will begin that process today.

2: For every dollar we pay Gold’s Gym in franchise fees we will donate an equal or greater amount to LGBT charities. While we donate much more than this to charities and community groups that support the LGBT community we want to make a commitment to match or exceed this amount until our relationship with Gold’s Gym can be severed.

3: Our management and staff will continue to support LGBT causes in every way possible and we will use our business as a platform to fight for change and equality for everyone. We have always taken great pride in being a leader in the LGBT community and we will continue to.

Also, Gold’s Gym International released a statement to The Huff Po saying Rowling’s contributions were totally independent from the company. Rowling serves as CEO of the ownership group for Gold’s Gym, TRT Holdings, which also, as we noted before, owns Omni Hotels. Below is an excerpt from the Gold’s Gym International statement, which you can read in its entirety here:

Gold’s Gym did not make a donation to American Crossroads (or any other political organization) and in no way supports anti-gay causes. Quite the contrary, the Gold’s Gym family has been strong supporters of the LGBT community over the years. This includes supporting PRIDE events, sponsoring LGBT media outlets and donating to various LGBT charities in the communities we serve.

Clearly these folks recognize that their customer base is heavily LGBT, and they’re worried about the response to Rowling’s donations. Stay tuned. On Tuesday, we’ll see if we can talk to some representatives from Gold’s Gym locations in North Texas. Who ever said boycotts, or at least the threat of them, doesn’t work? Are you listening, Mr. Rowling?

—  John Wright

Texas Republican seeking to intervene in marriage cases

Lamar Smith claims a ‘protectable interest’ in defending DOMA in Massachusetts lawsuits

Lisa Keen  |  Keen News Service lisakeen@mac.com

Claiming that the Obama Department of Justice is not doing enough to defend the federal Defense of Marriage Act, U.S. Rep. Lamar Smith, the Republican who represents Texas’ 21st district, has asked a federal court for permission to serve as an intervenor-defendant in two cases expected to come before the First Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals.

The Alliance Defense Fund announced Tuesday, Oct. 5,  that it had filed motions on behalf of Smith in the U.S. District Court for Boston, where Judge Joseph Tauro had ruled — in two cases — that one part of the federal Defense of Marriage Act is unconstitutional.

The Department of Justice still has until Oct. 12 and Health and Human Services has until Oct. 18 to give the court notice of whether the federal government intends to appeal those decisions.

In its Oct. 5 motions to intervene, the ADF claims the Department of Justice is mounting “no defense at all” for DOMA. The lawsuits in question challenge only DOMA Section 3, the section that limits the interpretation of “marriage” for any federal purpose to heterosexual couples.

“We should be strengthening and protecting marriage, not subjecting it to a hostile takeover through the courts,” said Dale Schowengerdt, legal counsel for the Alliance Defense Fund, in a press release. “If the Obama administration won’t defend marriage, we are ready and willing to do so.”

ADF claims the DOJ has failed to raise certain crucial arguments in defense of DOMA. For instance, it argues that DOJ should have noted that the U.S. Supreme Court’s “decision” in the 1972 Baker v. Nelson “was binding precedent that DOMA is constitutional.”

“Under the new administration, which strongly supports DOMA’s repeal, the DOJ traded these winning rationales for anemic arguments never recognized by any court in a challenge to DOMA or a similar state marriage definition,” states the ADF’s motion to intervene.

Actually, the Supreme Court did not issue a “decision” in Baker; it dismissed the appeal of a gay couple who had sought a marriage license in Minnesota.

Dismissing an appeal has more significance than simply refusing to hear the appeal. But, in dismissing the Baker appeal, the high court explained it was doing so because there was no “substantial federal question” presented by the case.

There is dispute within legal circles as to whether that dismissal means anything today.

And Mary Bonauto, civil rights director for Gay & Lesbian Advocates & Defenders that brought one of the DOMA lawsuits, said the lawsuits here are not — like Baker — about marriage.

Bonauto also said she wasn’t surprised to learn of ADF’s motion to intervene.

“The ADF tries to intervene in everything,” said Bonauto. “We’re just surprised it took this long.”

Bonauto said her organization would oppose Smith’s motion to intervene “on multiple grounds.”

The motions to intervene will be decided by Judge Tauro sometime during the next few weeks or so. Bonauto said she doesn’t imagine the motions will be granted if the federal government decides to appeal the two cases.
The ADF motion claims that Rep. Smith has a “protectable interest” in the outcome of these lawsuits because, as ranking minority member of the House Judiciary Committee, he has a duty to see that federal laws “are fully defended and that adverse decisions are appealed.”

The motion says Smith asked Attorney General Eric Holder, by letter, on Aug. 9, whether DOJ intends to appeal the DOMA cases. DOJ had not yet made a decision, notes ADF.

“[I]t is difficult to understand to DOJ’s indecision,” says ADF’s brief.

Attorneys for the HHS have until Tuesday, Oct. 12, to file notice that they intend to appeal the decision in the state’s case, Massachusetts v. HHS. DOJ attorneys have until Oct. 18 to file notice of appeal in GLAD’s case, Gill v. Office of Personnel Management. GLAD’s Bonauto said it is common for the appealing party to give the court notice of its appeal in the last couple of days remaining to do so.

Thus, the timing of ADF’s motion could have the political benefit of appearing to prod DOJ and HHS to file notice. But Arthur Leonard, a long-time legal scholar on LGBT cases, says it’s also not unusual for Smith to file the intervenor motion.

“There have been occasions in the past where members of Congress have sought to intervene in order to present what they think would be stronger arguments than the Justice Department is likely to present, especially when the administration that is defending the statute is different from the administration that signed it into law,” said Leonard.

“But,” he added, “to the extent this is about getting particular arguments before the court of appeals, I can’t imagine that an appeal of the DOMA case won’t attract plenty of amicus briefs that would make all the arguments that Rep. Smith would want to make.”

© 2010 Keen News Service

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition October 08, 2010.

—  Kevin Thomas

Lesbian mother wins first fight in custody battle

Judge’s ruling gives Debie Hackett standing to fight for visitation with son from previous relationship

DAVID TAFFET  |  Staff Writer taffet@dallasvoice.com

Dallas District Judge David Hanschen ruled in June that a non-biological mother could assert her right to pursue visitation with and access to a child she raised since birth.

Kim Ferris, the biological mother, argued that Texas law prohibits the non-biological parent from seeking the right of visitation.
She and former partner Debie Hackett decided together to conceive a child with donated sperm and raised and cared for the child together.

Hanschen’s ruling was one simple sentence.

“After reviewing the pleadings of counsel, relevant case law, and my own hearing notes, the court denies Kimberley Ferris’ plea to jurisdiction in the above referenced cause,” he wrote to the three attorneys involved.

The ruling did not grant visitation, but denied Ferris’ move to dismiss the case and allowed Hackett to continue her pursuit of parental rights.

Hackett said she knew Ferris for 10 years and they had been in a relationship since 2007. They discussed having children early in their relationship and decided Ferris would have a child first, based on her age, Hackett said.

Ferris conceived with sperm donated by Carlos Rojas, a gay man who both women had known for seven years.

The women’s relationship ended in November 2009. “When Oliver was 11 months old, she asked me to leave,” Hackett said. Hackett moved out of the house and said she gave Ferris 30 days “to come to her senses.” After the women broke up, Ferris filed to change the child’s name from Hackett-Ferris.

After reading a story in Dallas Voice in December about a court decision in favor of Kristie Vowels, a non-biological mother, Hackett retained legal counsel.

Attorney Jonathan Winacour, who represents Hackett, said Texas law gives a non-custodial parent that has cared for a child for at least six months just 90 days to file a motion.

Ferris and Rojas retained separate attorneys in the case, but neither returned calls from Dallas Voice.

Before the child’s birth, Ferris wrote that she wanted Hackett to have “all the rights and responsibilities available in the state of Texas as a parent.”

The hearing established that Hackett shared full duties as a parent. To prove her involvement, she produced records that showed she paid for clothing, food, diapers, development classes and health care.

Their pediatrician testified that she understood that Hackett had medical decision-making power.

Winocour emphasizes that this case is not about establishing same-sex marriage, but simply about what is best for the child.

In his arguments, Winocour made the case that the father is not a legal resident and is less likely to be able to maintain a residence within 100 miles. The father’s paternity was not established for a year and was not on the birth certificate until after Hackett and Ferris broke up.

Winocour said that waiting a year is grounds for establishing abandonment in Texas.

Hackett said she is not trying to prevent Rojas from participating in raising the child. She simply wants standard visitation rights. She said she is in the best position to provide health insurance and has a stable home and income to benefit her son.

“The three of us made a contract to bring a child into this world. I’m not going away. This is my son,” Hackett said.

On Wednesday, July 14, Winocour filed a motion seeking an order compelling mediation in advance of a hearing on temporary orders. All sides would be required to appear before a mediator.

If mediation were successful, Hanschen’s court would presumably instate those orders. If not, the case would return to his court for further hearing.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition July 16, 2010.

—  Kevin Thomas