Alabama Supreme Court chief justice pledges to refuse the tyranny of SCOTUS

Alabama Supreme Court Chief Justice Roy Moore this week issued a declaration pledging to ignore any federal court rulings on marriage equality — including rulings by the U.S. Supreme Court — that he doesn’t like. The statement came after U.S. District Judge Callie Granade (appointed by President George W. Bush, by the way), ruled in favor of marriage equality in two separate cases since last Friday, Jan. 23.

Alabama Chief Justice Roy MooreMoore calls such rulings “tyranny.”

TheNewCivilRightsMovement.com reports that in a letter addressed to Alabama Republican Gov. Robert Bently, Moore wrote: “As Chief Justice of the Alabama Supreme Court, I will continue to recognize the Alabama Constitution and the will of the people overwhelmingly expressed in the Sanctity of Marriage Amendment. If we are to preserve that ‘reverent morality which is our source of all beneficent progress in social and political improvement,’ then we must act to oppose such tyranny!”

Moore claimed that the institution of marriage is being destroyed by “federal courts using specious pretexts based on the Equal Protection, Due Process and Full Faith and Credit Clauses of the United States Constitution.” He also advised the governor that issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples “would be in defiance of the laws and Constitution of Alabama,” and claimed that Alabama is not bound by decisions of federal district or appellate courts.

Sounds like Chief Justice Moore attended the Mike Huckabee School of Law. But the Alabama Republican might want to take a refresher course on exactly how this whole state/federal/constitution/supreme court thing actually works, focusing especially on the U.S. Constitution’s Supremacy Clause.

But then, I guess we really can’t expect all that much from Republican Chief Justice Moore. After all, he is the same man who was removed by the Alabama Court of the Judiciary from his seat as Alabama’s chief justice in 2003 when he refused to remove a stone monument of the 10 Commandments from the Alabama judicial building. The fine people of the state re-elected him chief justice in 2012, bless their hearts.

Last year, Moore went on a cross-country speaking tour to warn folks that same-sex marriage a devilish plot to destroy to America. Also last year, Moore went to Mississippi to speak to the anti-choice group Pastors For Life where he attacked marriage equality and declared that the First Amendment applies only to Christians. And in 2012, Moore told everybody who would listen during his campaign for chief justice that same-sex marriage is not about equality for lesbians and gays but an evil plan to destroy the God-ordained institution of marriage.

—  Tammye Nash

‘A landmark moment’ for trans Americans, but there’s so far left to go

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President Barack Obama

President Barack Obama made history Tuesday night (Jan. 20), when he actually said the words “lesbian,” “bisexual” and “transgender” during the his State of the Union speech. It was the first time those words had ever been uttered in a SOTU address.

President Obama said: “As Americans, we respect human dignity. … That’s why we defend free speech, and advocate for political prisoners, and condemn the persecution of women, or religious minorities, or people who are lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender. We do these things not only because they are the right thing to do, but because ultimately they will make us safer.”

It was, I think, an especially sweet moment for the thousands and thousands of transgender Americans. We are making progress toward full equality every day, but still, our trans brothers and sisters are the ones still being left behind. So hearing the president of the United States truly acknowledge them had to be a great moment.

The press releases and written statements I found flooding my email inbox this morning reinforced what I already believed:

Mara Keisling, executive director of the National Center for Transgender Equality, said: “What President Obama said about trans people last night … he actually said it. …. His mention of us [last night] let’s us know that whenever he’s spoken of children, he has meant transgender children too. Or when he’s spoken out about immigrants, he’s meant transgender immigrants too. And when he’s talked about service members and veterans, he meant transgender service members too.”

A statement from the Transgender Legal Defense and Education Fund called the mention “a landmark moment,” adding: “This is a moment of promise for transgender people, who before now, had never been mentioned in a State of the Union address. We are grateful to President Obama for including our entire community in his speech, and for highlighting and condemning the persecution of LGBT people. Through his stirring and heartfelt words, the president has again demonstrated his commitment to creating a world where people are treated equally regardless of who we are or who we love.”

As uplifting and empowering as that moment was, though, my email inbox also provided ample proof that we still have a very long way to go, especially in protecting transgender Americans — their rights, their freedoms and their very lives.

A press release from the National Center for Lesbian Rights notes that NCLR and the Human Rights Campaign on Tuesday filed a joint friend of the court brief in the United States District Court for the Southern District of Texas, supporting a former Saks Fifth Avenue employee, Leyth Jamal, who says the company discriminated against her because she is trans.

Saks attorneys have asked the court to dismiss the lawsuit because Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 does not protect transgender workers.

I also had an email from a group called Care2, “a community of 27 million standing together for good,” taking to task InTouch Weekly for its horrendous cover story speculating on the gender identity of Olympic champion Bruce Jenner.

I saw that cover while standing in the check-out line at the grocery store; it made me sick, and it made me angry. It depicts a heavily altered photo of Jenner to show what he would look like as a woman. I didn’t read the article — although Care2’s statement says it was full of speculation and nothing else. Us Magazine reports Jenner himself is “upset” with the cover and story.

According to the press release, there is a new Care2 petition by Julie Mastrine demanding that “David Perel, editorial director of InTouch Weekly, be more sensitive to the struggles that actual transgender people face and refrain from gossipy speculation about someone’s gender identity.”

Mastrine said: “Publicly speculating as to whether or not someone will be coming out as transgender illustrates a flippant lack of empathy toward people who actually struggle with making a gender transition. It robs Jenner of his right to identify as he wishes.”

BuzzFeed says the magazine likely imposed Jenner’s face over British actress Stephanie Beacham’s body, and even comedian/actor Russell Brand condemned InTouch, calling it “bullying.”

 

—  Tammye Nash

Obama uses ‘lesbian,’ ‘bisexual,’ ‘transgender’ in SOTU for the first time ever

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President Barack Obama

Tonight wasn’t the first time that President Barack Obama has mentioned LGBT rights in his State of the Union Address; last year he took a brief moment to reiterate his commitment to LGBT rights around the world. He was the first to use the word “gay” in a State of the Union Address in 2010 when he talked about Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.

But the 2015 State of the Union Address on Tuesday night, Jan. 20 did mark an historic event for the LGBT community: For the first time ever in a State of the Union Address, a U.S. president used the words “bisexual” and “transgender.” UPDATE: I just discovered this is apparently the first time the word “lesbian” has been used in a State of the Union speech, too.

The historic moment came near the end of the president’s speech, when he said that Americans “condemn the persecution of women, or religious minorities, or people who are lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender.”

The president on Tuesday also called the ongoing battle for marriage equality “a story of freedom across our country” and “a civil right.” And he said that Americans now “value the dignity and worth” of gay people.

—  Tammye Nash

Church halts funeral over photo of 2 women kissing

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This photo of protestors gathered outside New Hope Ministries on Tuesday was provided by protest organizer Jose Silva to ABC News

As we here at Dallas Voice are getting ready to publish on Friday, Jan. 16, the first of what is intended to become the annual Dallas Voice Lesbian Issue, we were horrified to come across this story about a Colorado lesbian whose funeral was halted midstream and forced to move to another location because of a homophobic pastor:

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Vanessa Collier

Friends of Vanessa Collier this week protested outside a Lakewood, Colo., church Tuesday afternoon, Jan. 13, after the pastor of New Hope Ministries church stopped their friend’s funeral on Jan. 10 because of a video showing Collier kissing her wife.

Collier, 33, died Dec. 30. She is survived by her wife, Christina Higley, and their two children, among other family members. Jessica Maestas, Collier’s cousin who helped Collier’s mother arrange the funeral, told ABC News that New Hope Ministries was aware that Collier was a lesbian because they told the church about her sexual orientation while they were making funeral arrangements. Maestas also said they told the church that they would be playing a video at the service, and that they had complied with the church’s rule that the video be submitted two days prior to the funeral so church officials could review it.

“I provided the video, and got the okay from the funeral home that we would be able to show it,” Maestas told ABC News.

But last Saturday, about 15 minutes into the funeral, New Hope Pastor Ray Chavez stopped the funeral and told family and friends they would have to remove a video that included photos of Collier kissing Higley, and photos of the two women together with their children. Irate mourners instead gathered up the flowers, the programs for the service and eventually Collier’s casket and moved to a new location. Fortunately, Newcomer Funeral Home, across the street from New Hope Ministries, was able to accommodate the funeral, although the crowd of about 180 had to pack into a room intended for about half that many.

Collier’s longtime friend Victoria Quintana told the Denver Post that the whole incident was “humiliating [and] devastating.”

The Post reported that about four dozen people gathered outside New Hope Ministries on Tuesday afternoon, waving signs saying “Shame on Pastor Ray” and demanding an apology for what happened, as security guards posted around the church made sure none of the protesters moved onto church property.

ABC News also notes that Collier’s relatives say they have received no refund on the money they paid New Hope Ministries to host the funeral.

Both ABC News and the Denver Post said that no one at New Hope Ministries would comment on the situation.

—  Tammye Nash

Congrats to Amy and Kelly — and all the other Florida newlyweds

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Florida newlyweds Amy and Kelly

My friends Amy and Kelly were among the 30 Florida couples tapped to receive their marriage license immediately after midnight Jan. 5 — so, on Jan. 6 — when the stay expired on Judge Robert Hinkle’s ruling declaring the Florida marriage equality ban unconstitutional. Because of legal wrangling over to whom Hinkle’s order applied, the Orlando county clerk guaranteed only 30 marriage licenses at first.

As it turned out, the stay on a second pro-marriage-equality ruling was lifted on Jan. 5, and Hinkle issued an order making it clear that his ruling applied to everyone in every Florida county. So Amy and Kelly and the other 29 couples were not the first to get their licenses and exchange vows. But that didn’t make their ceremony any less touching and wonderful.

The CENTER — LGBT Community Center of Central Florida hosted a wedding for the 30 couples getting their licenses Jan. 6 in Orlando, and as Amy said on Facebook, she and Kelly never expected to be able to get married in such style. She has given me permission to share this photo of them, above, and this video, below, of the mass wedding. In the video, Amy and Kelly are the first couple in the procession, and they are both wearing white.

So congrats, Amy and Kelly, and all the other happy couples in Florida. I can’t wait til Texas gets on the bandwagon and my spouse and I get to make it legal.

—  Tammye Nash

Cowtown Pride: Annual TCGPWA Parade held Saturday in downtown Fort Worth

Tarrant County Gay Pride Week Association staged its annual Pride Parade Saturday in downtown Fort Worth, featuring entries ranging from LGBT bars to LGBT churches, LGBT employee affinity groups from major corporations to gay-straight alliances to Metroplex Atheists. The festival followed on Main Street in front of the FW Convention Center.Here are just a few photos from the parade and festival.

Watch for a second slide show of photos from the TCGPWA Picnic, held Sunday at Trinity Park.

Parade photos by Tammye Nash

—  Tammye Nash

Vulture.com: Before visiting Texas, read this book

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If you’ve ever wondered what to read before visiting a state, Vulture.com, the online entertainment portal owned by New York Magazine, just made the list for you. In choosing 50 nonfiction books to read about 50 states, the website includes both national treasures like James Agee and Walker Evans’ Let Us Now Praise Famous Men (Alabama), Zora Neale Hurston’s Dust Tracks on the Road (Florida) as well as some kitschier choices like Vice President Joe Biden’s Promises to Keep: On Life and Politics (Delaware).

Before even scrolling down, I assumed their choice would be kitschier, if not dismissive. (Think Rick Perry’s presidential manifesto Fed Up.)

Nope.

If you want to learn about Texas, Vulture.com suggests the groundbreaking Borderlands/La Frontera: The New Mestiza by the late Gloria Evangelina Anzaldua, a well-known Chicana lesbian activist and writer born in the Rio Grande Valley. Released in 1987, the semi-autobiographical book challenges and explores, through poems and prose, concepts like borders and identity.

If you’re interested, the book is available at Amazon.com and if you’re lucky, your neighborhood library.

—  James Russell

LGBT legal organizations withdraw support for ENDA

Five national LGBT legal organizations issued a joint statement today withdrawing their support for the current version of the Employment Non-Discrimination Act — ENDA — because it would allow religious organizations to discriminate based on sexual orientation and gender identity.ENDA

Organizations signing onto the statement are: American Civil Liberties Union, Gay & Lesbian Advocates & Defenders, Lambda Legal, National Center for Lesbian Rights and Transgender Law Center.

The statement reads:

“The provision in the current version of the Employment Non-Discrimination Act that allows religious organizations to discriminate based on sexual orientation and gender identity has long been a source of significant concern to us.  Given the types of workplace discrimination we see increasingly against LGBT people, together with the calls for greater permission to discriminate on religious grounds that followed immediately upon the Supreme Court’s decision last week in Burwell v. Hobby Lobby, it has become clear that the inclusion of this provision is no longer tenable.  It would prevent ENDA from providing protections that LGBT people desperately need and would make very bad law with potential further negative effects.  Therefore, we are announcing our withdrawal of support for the current version of ENDA.

“For decades, our organizations have challenged anti-LGBT workplace discrimination in the courts and worked for the passage of inclusive non-discrimination laws at the local, state and federal level.  We do this work because of the devastating toll workplace discrimination has had, and continues to have, on the lives of LGBT people.  It is unacceptable that in the year 2014, men and women are forced to hide who they are or whom they love when they go to work.

“The current patchwork of legal protections at the state and local level has left LGBT people vulnerable to discrimination. For this reason, we have supported federal legislation to explicitly protect LGBT people from discrimination in the workplace, and have urged President Obama to sign an executive order banning federal contractors from discriminating on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity or expression.

“ENDA’s discriminatory provision, unprecedented in federal laws prohibiting employment discrimination, could provide religiously affiliated organizations — including hospitals, nursing homes and universities — a blank check to engage in workplace discrimination against LGBT people.  The provision essentially says that anti-LGBT discrimination is different — more acceptable and legitimate — than discrimination against individuals based on their race or sex. If ENDA were to pass and be signed into law with this provision, the most important federal law for the LGBT community in American history would leave too many jobs and too many LGBT workers, without protection. Moreover, it actually might lessen non-discrimination protections now provided for LGBT people by Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and very likely would generate confusion rather than clarity in federal law. Finally, such a discrimination provision in federal law likely would invite states and municipalities to follow the unequal federal lead.  All of this is unacceptable.

“The Supreme Court’s decision in Hobby Lobby has made it all the more important that we not accept this inappropriate provision. Because opponents of LGBT equality are already misreading that decision as having broadly endorsed rights to discriminate against others, we cannot accept a bill that sanctions discrimination and declares that discrimination against LGBT people is more acceptable than other kinds of discrimination.

“Our ask is a simple one: Do not give religiously affiliated employers a license to discriminate against LGBT people when they have no such right to discriminate based on race, sex, national origin, age, disability or genetic information. Religiously affiliated organizations are allowed to make hiring decisions based on their religion, but nothing in federal law authorizes discrimination by those organizations based on any other protected characteristic, and the rule should be the same for sexual orientation and gender identity or expression. Religious organizations are free to choose their ministers or faith leaders, and adding protections for sexual orientation and gender identity or expression will not change that.

“These concerns are not hypothetical. Increasingly, this is what employment discrimination against LGBT people looks like. Take the example of Matthew Barrett.  In July 2013, Matthew was offered a job as food services director at Fontbonne Academy, a college prep high school in Milton, Massachusetts that is affiliated with the Roman Catholic Sisters of St. Joseph of Boston. Fontbonne Academy has employees and admits students of various faiths. Yet, two days after Matthew listed his husband as his emergency contact on the standard employment paperwork, and despite twenty years of work in the food services industry, his job offer was rescinded. Although nothing about the food services job involved religious rituals or teaching, Matthew was told by an administrator that the school was unable to hire him because “the Catholic religion doesn’t recognize same-sex marriage.” The current version of ENDA would authorize this sexual orientation discrimination.

“As the national outcry against SB 1062 in Arizona (and similar proposals in numerous other states) demonstrates, the American people oppose efforts to misuse religious liberty as an excuse to discriminate against LGBT people.  It is time for ENDA (and the LGBT non-discrimination executive order for federal contractors) to reflect this reality. Until the discriminatory exemption is removed so that anti-LGBT discrimination is treated the same as race, sex, national origin, age, disability, or genetic information under federal workplace laws, we think ENDA should not move forward in Congress. In addition, we will oppose any similar provisions at the state and local level. We are hopeful that the many members of Congress who support this historic, critically important legislation will agree that singling out LGBT people for an unequal and unfair exemption from basic workplace protection falls unacceptably short of the civil rights standards that have served our nation well against other types of discrimination for fifty years. We stand ready and eager to work with them to achieve the long-sought goal of explicit, effective federal non-discrimination protections for LGBT people.”

 

—  Tammye Nash

Crystal Moore: Back in uniform and back on the job

Crystal Moore

Crystal Moore

Crystal Moore, the lesbian who said she was fired from her job as chief of police in Latta, S.C., in April, is back in uniform and back on the job today, despite Mayor Earl Bullard’s best effort to keep her away.

Bullard fired Moore in April, claiming she failed to maintain order on the force and questioned authority. But Moore said Bullard is a homophobe who fired her because she is gay, a claim backed up by a homophobic tirade Bullard launched into during a phone conversation that was recorded and released to the public.

The rest of the Latta Town Council put a hiring freeze in place to keep Bullard from hiring anyone else for Moore’s job until an election could be held on June 23 in which residents of Latta voted to replace the town’s “strong mayor” form of government with a “strong council” government, clearing the way for the rest of the council members to reinstate Moore. Bullard temporarily stymied that plan by announcing that he had already hired someone named Frankie Davis as the town’s new police chief, getting the action in just after the hiring freeze expired and just before the town’s residents voted to change the power structure in the town government.

But the council met Friday, June 27 — a meeting at which Bullard was eligible to vote but which he did not attend — the council voted to invalidate the two-year contract Bullard had signed with Davis and then voted 6-0 to reinstate Moore. Moore took the oath of office at that meeting and then was greeted by about 15 residents on Monday morning who showed up to welcome her back.

—  Tammye Nash

Mayor blocks lesbian police chief’s reinstatment

Crystal Moore

Crystal Moore

Residents of Latta, S.C., thought they had made their wishes clear on Tuesday when they voted to change the city’s government from a “strong mayor” format to a “strong council format,” stripping Mayor Earl Bullard of most of his power in doing so. And former Latta Police Chief Crystal Moore, an out lesbian, thought she was on her way to being reinstated to that job.

But Bullard pulled a fast one on Wednesday, announcing that he had used the power he was set to lose today to hire a new police chief on Monday to keep Moore from being reinstated, according to reports on Huffington Post.

Tuesday’s vote came after residents of the town of about 1,400 rallied behind Moore, fired by Bullard in April over allegations of insubordination even though the chief had  a spotless 20-year record with the Latta PD. Moore and her supporters claimed Bullard fired her because she is gay and he is a homophobe — charges he denied, despite the recent release of an audio recording of the mayor going off on an anti-gay rant.

Bullard announced he had hired someone named Freddie Davis as chief and signed Davis to a two-year contract, timing his move to fall just outside a 60-day waiting period the council imposed in April to specify when another police chief could be hired.

Crystal told TV news station WPDE NewsChannel 15 she was devastated and felt has if had been fired all over again.

—  Tammye Nash