U.S. prisons officials OK hormone treatments for trans inmates

Jennifer Levi

Memo says ‘current, accepted standards of care’ must be applied

LISA LEFF | Associated Press
editor@dallasvoice.com

SAN FRANCISCO — Transgender inmates who did not begin treatment prior to entering federal custody can now receive hormones, specialized mental health counseling and possibly gender reassignment surgery while they are in prison, according to new rules adopted by the U.S. Bureau of Prisons as part of a court settlement.

A May 31 memo issued to wardens at the nation’s 116 federal prisons and made public by gay rights groups in announcing the settlement on Sept. 30 states, “current, accepted standards of care” will be applied to inmates who believe they are the wrong gender.

Under the bureau’s previous policy, issued in 2005, only federal inmates with a pre-existing diagnosis were eligible for transgender-related care, which was limited to treatments that would maintain them “only at the level of change which existed when they were incarcerated.”

The new guidelines mean prisoners who were previously disqualified from treatment because they had not received any on the outside will now be eligible to begin hormone therapy to feminize or masculinize their features and to dress and live accordingly as part of individualized treatment plans.

“The treatment plan may include elements or services that were, or were not, provided prior to incarceration, including, but not limited to: those elements of real life experience consistent with the prison environment, hormone therapy and counseling,” the memo from bureau medical director Newton Kendig states.

The policy memo does not mention surgical intervention, but National Center for Lesbian Rights Legal Director Shannon Minter said the agreement would permit surgery as a treatment option if prison doctors agree it is necessary for individual inmates.

The May guidance specifically advises wardens that “treatment options will not be precluded solely due to level of services received, or lack of services, prior to incarceration.”

That language, as well as the reference to accepted standards of care is significant since the World Professional Association for Transgender Health, the professional organization that issues guidelines for treating gender identity disorders, considers genital reconstruction surgery “essential and medically necessary” for some patients suffering from “gender dysphoria.”

Jennifer Levi, director of the Transgender Rights Project at Gay & Lesbian Advocates and Defenders, said that because the memo does not prohibit surgery, “It leaves open the possibility that the full range of appropriate medical care must be considered in adopting an individual treatment plan.”

“There is no reason why an incarcerated person should be excluded from receiving surgery if it turned out to be medically necessary for that individual,” Levi said.

Bureau spokesman Ed Ross said there are currently 48 federal inmates who have been diagnosed with gender identity disorders. Ross did not respond to attempts by The Associated Press on Friday and Monday to clarify other aspects of the policy, including confirmation that inmates could be eligible for sex reassignment surgery that would necessitate their move to a new prison. All state and federal prisons in the United States assign inmates to men’s or women’s prisons based on their genitalia.

The policy shift resulted from a two-and-a-half-year-old lawsuit seeking hormone therapy for Vanessa Adams, who began serving a 20-year sentence as Nicholas Adams and was diagnosed with gender identity disorder in 2005 by doctors at the U.S. Medical Center for Federal Prisoners in Springfield, Mo.

After she was denied treatment because of the rule requiring previous care for gender identity disorder, Adams, 41, tried to castrate herself with a razor and attempted to and ultimately succeeded in amputating her penis, according to court papers.

Prison officials agreed to put Adams on a course of hormones in August 2009 after a federal judge in Massachusetts, where Adams briefly was imprisoned and her lawsuit was filed, agreed that her lawyers could retain an independent expert to evaluate her. The same judge refused almost a year later to dismiss Adams’ claim that the Bureau of Prisons’ policy on transgender health care constituted cruel and unusual punishment, a decision that paved the way for the settlement.

The agreement also calls for transgender inmates to be notified of the new policies and for prison doctors to be trained to identify and treat gender identity disorders.

Levi said prison officials have typically been hostile to transgender inmates and that she anticipates more legal action to ensure the bureau’s policy is put into practice.

“This should have a very significant effect on the lives of trans inmates. It means people will be receiving appropriate medical care,” Levi said.

Online: http://bit.ly/pAnaog

—  John Wright

NATIONAL BRIEFS: Officer who produced anti-gay videos can stay in the Navy

Officer who produced anti-gay videos can stay in the Navy

NORFOLK, Virginia — A Navy panel says the former commander of a nuclear-powered aircraft carrier who produced raunchy videos aboard the ship can remain in the service.

The board of inquiry issued its recommendation Wednesday, Aug. 24. It had been looking at whether to dismiss Capt. Owen P. Honors from the Navy.

Honors was relieved of command in January after media reports about the videos surfaced. The videos included simulated same-sex shower scenes, anti-gay slurs and references to prostitution in foreign ports.

Honors says the videos were made to improve morale while teaching important shipboard lessons. He helped produce and appeared in the videos that aired on the ship between 2005 and 2007, when he was the ship’s executive office.

Both sides satisfied in talks over school district policy

ST. PAUL, Minn. — Both sides say they held productive talks toward settling two lawsuits against Minnesota’s largest school district challenging its policy requiring staff to remain neutral when sexual orientation is discussed in the classroom.
The plaintiffs say the policy prevents the Anoka-Hennepin School District from protecting kids perceived as gay from bullying and harassment.

Both sides issued a statement Tuesday night, Aug. 23, after talks mediated by U.S. Magistrate Judge Steven Rau in St. Paul saying they “look forward to future constructive dialogue.” They also say they’ve agreed not to comment further on the settlement process.
No new talks are scheduled.

The lawsuits were filed this summer on behalf of six former and current students by the Southern Poverty Law Center and the National Center for Lesbian Rights after previous settlement efforts failed.

Gay council candidate says he is target of anti-gay messages

CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. — A gym owner who says he’s the first openly gay candidate to run for Charlottesville City Council says he’s been receiving anti-gay messages.

James Halfaday told the Daily Progress one of his fliers was returned Aug. 7 with a disparaging message and his face crossed out. He said he sought legal advice but was told the defaced flier didn’t constitute a threat, so there was little he could do.

Halfaday said the flier is the latest in a string of attacks, including a July 31 email accusing him of “promoting perversion” and an insulting Facebook message in May. The Facebook message was configured to make it look like it was sent by Kathy Galvin, one of Halfaday’s six opponents in the Democratic primary, but both campaigns and party officials say Galvin had nothing to do with it.

A letter to Halfaday and Galvin from Charlottesville Democratic Committee co-chairs Tom Vandever and Jim Nix says the message was likely generated “by an unknown third party” with the goal of damaging the campaigns of both candidates.
Nix and Vandever urged both campaigns to keep the incident quiet to lessen its impact.

Halfaday said he originally wanted to keep the hate mails quiet because he assumed they would die down and he didn’t want to start an “uproar” in the gay and lesbian community.

He said he chose to come forward now because he’s run a successful campaign despite the negatives, adding that he’s not going to be intimidated.

Jonathan Stevens, a Galvin campaign adviser, said he thought the Facebook issue was a “dead letter” a long time ago.

“It was put aside as one of those nasty little things that can happen on the Internet,” Stevens said.

Nix said that, to his knowledge, Halfaday is indeed the first openly gay person to run for City Council.

“This is 2011, it’s not 1970 or something like that,” Nix said. “Sadly, we do still live in an age where some people just don’t accept that and do mean things.”

Philadelphia trans inmate being moved to men’s prison

PHILADELPHIA — A transgender woman who has been incarcerated at Riverside Correctional Facility, the city’s only prison for women, for the past 14 months is being moved to a facility for male prisoners after complaining that a corrections officer had forced her to perform oral sex on him, according to reports by The Advocate.

Jovanie Saldana, 23, who has been living as a female since she was 12, was charged in June 2010 with felonies including armed robbery. Prison officials reportedly did not know Saldana was transgender until they recorded a telephone conversation between her and her mother while investigating Saldana’s allegations against the corrections officer.

The Advocate reports that Saldana, who has not had gender-reassignment surgery, should have undergone a cavity search when she was first incarcerated in the prison, and then again each time she returned following outings for court appearances.

Lorenzo North, president of the union representing corrections officers, has said that the error in searching Saldana is proof that the officer Saldana accused of sexual abuse is innocent, according to the Advocate.

Teacher didn’t violate policy with anti-gay Facebook post, officials say

Lake County School District Superintendent Susan Moxley has reinstated Mount Dora High School social studies teacher Jerry Buell, suspended after making anti-gay posts to his Facebook page, saying the posts did not violate the school district’s code of conduct, WFTV.com has reported. Mount Dora is in Florida.

Buell, the district’s former teacher of the year, was transferred to an administrative position while district officials investigated complaints over his Facebook page. Buell allegedly posted on Facebook that same-sex unions are a “cesspool” that make him want to throw up. The posts reportedly angered a number of his Facebook “friends,” including current and former students.

Mount Dora High School graduated Brett Winters filed the complaint against Buell, saying that his Facebook posts indicated he was “dangerous to
gay students.”

Buell insisted he was “exercising my [free speech] rights as a citizen of this country.”

The district is still investigating comments Buell made on a school web page and a class syllabus, and the teacher has been given a list of directives to follow, although that list has not been made public.

Fred Karger invited to California GOP’s convention

Openly gay Republican presidential candidate Fred Karger has been invited to speak at the upcoming California GOP convention, according to reports by On Top Magazine. The invitation came within an hour of the publication of an article in the San Francisco Chronicle in which Karger accused the party of giving him “the cold shoulder.”

Karger has said that his 2 percent showing in several recent polls marks him as a legitimate candidate, and State GOP Communications Director Mark Standriff said Karger has always been welcome in the California GOP.

But Jimmy LaSalvia, executive director of the gay Republican group GOProud said Karger is not a credible candidate.

“Unfortunately, Fred Karger is playing a stunt, and his stunt has run its course,” LaSalvia told On Top.

Voluntary manslaughter conviction an option in McInerney trial

LOS ANGELES — A California judge has decided jurors may consider voluntary manslaughter in the trial of a teen accused of murdering a gay classmate at school.

Ventura County Superior Court Judge Charles Campbell decided Tuesday, Aug. 23, the panel could opt for the lesser charge rather than first-degree murder if they find Brandon McInerney guilty of killing 15-year-old Larry King.

The Ventura County Star reports Campbell felt that not allowing jurors to consider voluntary manslaughter would be problematic if there is an appeal.

The shooting occurred in February 2008 at E.O. Green Junior High School in Oxnard. McInerney, who is now 17, did not testify.

Closing arguments were expected to begin Thursday, Aug. 25.

The trial was moved to Los Angeles because of pretrial publicity.

—  John Wright

Bisexuals work for recognition in LGBT rainbow

LISA LEFF | Associated Press

SAN FRANCISCO — For the last 13 years, Lindasusan Ulrich has been in a committed relationship with the same woman. The couple have married three times, twice before it was legal in California and once while it briefly was. But if acquaintances were to assume Ulrich and her wife, Emily Drennen, are lesbians, they would be wrong. They identify as bisexuals and are proud of it.

This doesn’t mean their sexual orientation hasn’t presented challenges. Even in a do-as-you-like city such as San Francisco, the women have found bisexuals to be a misunderstood and often overlooked minority. During the state’s 2008 campaign to ban same-sex marriages, they forcefully reminded gay rights leaders — in the form of a cake decorated with the words “Having Our Cake and Eating It Too! Bisexuals Exist!” — that political advertising and fundraising appeals referring only to gay and lesbian couples did not encompass their imperiled union.

“It’s a unique identity as opposed to half one and half the other,” said Ulrich, a 41-year-old writer and musician who recently authored a report on “bisexual invisibility” for the San Francisco Human Rights Commission.

The commission unanimously adopted the report, and that could prove a significant step, said Denise Penn, director of the American Institute of Bisexuality.

Because San Francisco takes its commitment to gay and lesbian rights so seriously, shining a spotlight on the hostility bisexuals sometimes encounter from gay men and lesbians could help ease one of the most painful aspects of having a bisexual identity, Penn said.

“People don’t trust bisexuals, and I’ve heard some really, really nasty stuff,” Penn said. ” ‘Oh, you are going to just go back and hide in your straight world.’ Bisexuals are (seen as) tourists in the community, opportunists.”

As gay, lesbian and transgender people have succeeded in putting their fight for equality front and center in American politics, bisexuals — the often forgotten “B” in the LGBT rainbow — have been waging their own fight for recognition. From adopting a bisexual pride flag and commemorating Sept. 23 as bisexual pride day to urging researchers and government agencies to treat bisexuality as a distinct category, activists who acknowledge their attractions to both men and women say they want to assert their existence.

In promoting their not-insignificant ranks, activists point out that a UCLA demographer estimated last month that slightly more Americans self-identify as bisexual than as gay or lesbian. But the activist argue their task is complicated by stereotypes of bisexuals as fickle sex fiends, the difficulty in pinning down who counts as bisexual, and discrimination from both the straight and gay communities.

“Even people who would not feel comfortable saying bad things about gay or lesbian people still feel comfortable trashing bi people,” said Robyn Ochs, a veteran bisexual activist in Boston.

Johnny Fesenko, 42, a computer programmer in San Francisco, said that contrary to popular belief and jokes about male fantasies involving threesomes, living as a bisexual can sometimes feel like the worst of all worlds instead of the best of both. Gay friends and potential partners tell him his interest in women is just a phase. He’s had straight women refuse to date him because he’s not “a real man.” He once was punched in the face while walking with a boyfriend in Manhattan, he said.

“It’s almost like being called an atheist — you would rather call yourself agnostic because there is such a stigma associated with it,” Fesenko said.

Despite the inherent obstacles, activists point to signs of progress. The National Gay and Lesbian Task Force, one of the nation’s largest gay rights groups, a few years ago started holding bisexual-specific meetings and panels. Students at Ohio State University, the University of Michigan, the University of Minnesota have established groups for bisexuals. Out & Equal, a San Francisco-based organization that advocates for workplace rights for gays, last year sponsored an international survey aimed at uncovering on-the-job issues that bisexuals face.

“People really believe that bisexuality is covered by either gay issues or straight issues, so… you don’t need to worry about the whole middle thing,” said Heidi Green, a diversity trainer who co-conducted the survey. “Yet there are huge issues for bisexuals. When I ask people if they are out at work, the answer is almost universally ‘no.’ And because we don’t have really strong community, there is a tendency to believe the issues you have in your life are unique to you, there is something wrong with you.”

Chicago resident Adrienne Williams, a web content producer, launched the online Bisexual Social Network in late 2008 to fill what she considered a shameful absence of bisexual celebrities and entertainment in gay media. She still likes playing watchdog. One of her recent pet peeves is that gay publications celebrated the coming out of singer Ricky Martin, who was long rumored to be gay, but gave short shrift to Anna Paquin’s announcement, while she was engaged to a man, that she is bisexual.

Kate Kendall, executive director of the National Center for Lesbian Rights, acknowledges that gay and lesbian leaders have not always made their bisexual comrades feel appreciated. Within the LGBT movement, bridging internal divisions of race, class, gender and sexual orientation can take a back seat to combating bias on the outside, she said.

“What the movement must always be doing is looking around for whose issues are being ignored, whose issues are being left behind, who is not with us as we see gains being made,” Kendall said. “Certainly bisexual folks have a legitimate beef when they say that they have felt by turns disrespected and by turns ignored.”

Kendall’s advocacy organization last year sued the North American Gay Amateur Athletic Association on behalf of three bisexual men disqualified from playing in the 2008 Gay Softball World Series in Seattle. Their team’s eligibility had been challenged based on a rule limiting each squad to including no more than two straight players. During a hearing, the three players were asked whether they were predominantly attracted to men or women and other questions about their sexual orientations. A panel then voted on whether they were “gay” or “non-gay,” according to the still pending complaint.

“I thought we were going to get more resistance from lesbian and gay folks in the community, not only for representing these men, but suing a gay softball association,” Kendall said. “With a few exceptions, we have had overwhelming support, which I take as an indication that we as a movement overall have matured on this issue.”

—  John Wright

What now with Prop 8?

Appeals court has stayed Walker’s ruling, but the case has been fasttracked as appeals over standing, merits work through the system

DAVID TAFFET  |  Staff Writer  taffet@dallasvoice.com

Chris Stoll
Chris Stoll

The three-judge panel of the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals in California that stayed the lower court’s decision this week ordered the Proposition 8 supporters to defend their standing in the case as it moves up on appeal.

Attorneys following the case closely all called the stay disappointing but were encouraged by the court questioning the standing of the defendants and the fast track timetable.

Chris Stoll is senior staff attorney for National Center for Lesbian Rights, a San Francisco-based organization that filed a brief in the Prop 8 case. He said that although it was disappointed that same-sex couples could not start getting married immediately, he was encouraged that the court fast-tracked the hearing to December and asked both sides to address standing.

Jennifer Pizer, National Marriage Project director for Lambda Legal, said she, too, was not surprised by the stay.

“It’s common for judges to maintain a status quo,” Pizer said.

She said that the stay does not indicate the merits of the case.

In fact, it is quite the opposite, she said, as indicated by the court directing the defendants to justify their standing in the case.

Ken Upton, senior staff attorney for Lambda Legal’s South Central Regional office in Dallas, said that the stay “probably isn’t going to matter much” in the long run because the court put the case “on a really short docket.”

Upton said he liked the schedule.

The court will hear the case after the election, but before a new governor takes office in California.

A different governor could decide to defend the case, Upton noted.

Federal District Judge Vaughn Walker ruled last week that there was no basis to continue a stay of his Aug. 4 ruling declaring Prop 8 unconstitutional. But he declined to lift his stay early, instead saying that it would expire Aug. 15 at 5 p.m., as he had originally ordered.
That gave the 9th Circuit court time to consider issuing a its own stay.

Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger and Attorney General Jerry Brown had agreed to abide by the lower court’s ruling and said the case should not be appealed.

Since the state was the defendant in the case, the standing of the interveners, the Yes on 8 group that had campaigned for the amendment’s passage and that actually defended the case in court, is now in question.

Stoll explained that in a normal schedule for the 9th Circuit, final briefs might have been filed in December with oral arguments heard in February or later.

With extensions, the case might not have come before the appellate court until well into the spring.

While many cases are decided within weeks, the court is on no deadline. In a more complicated case like this, the decision could take months, Stoll said.

Two cases involving standing will be heard as well as the appeal of the actual ruling.

Officials with Imperial County in southeastern California have filed to defend Proposition 8 on behalf of the state.

And the Yes on 8 group, also known as the interveners, who defended the lower court case are appealing the judge’s decision. But their standing is also being questioned.

Stoll said that traditionally conservatives in the higher courts take a narrower view of standing than liberals.

Jenny Pizer
Jenny Pizer

“In general, they don’t want to be giving opinions that would be advisory and don’t have an impact on real people,” he said. “If the state is willing to abide by the trial court’s opinion, should the courts hear the case?”

When the court rules, presumably it will address standing first. If they find that the interveners and Imperial County officials do not have standing, Stoll said he didn’t expect any further discussion of the case by the court.

If they rule that either of the interveners have standing, then they will rule on the constitutional question.

To show that they have standing to appeal, the interveners “need to show they’ve been harmed to make a federal case out of it,” Pizer said.

“When a law is challenged as being unconstitutional, they can’t just stand up and say, ‘But we really, really want it.’ That works on Fox TV, but not in court.”

However, if the appeals court rules the interveners do not have standing, they can appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court. If that court finds that they do have standing, the case would return to the Circuit Court for a ruling on the legal issues.

If the appellate court finds that the interveners do have standing, then that court will rule on the merits of the case, deciding whether Judge Walker’s interpretation of law was correct and if Proposition 8 is illegal under California’s constitution.

When the three-judge panel that will hear the case makes that decision, either side can petition for the case to be heard “en banc,” which means by the full court. But in the 9th Circuit court, it means a panel of 11 judges chosen randomly from among the 29 on the court.

The ruling by the 11-member panel could then be appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court.

Pizer sees the expedited hearing schedule and the court’s decision to issue the stay as a compromise made by the court.

“The stay keeps things simpler,” she said.

Pizer said that until the hearing, both sides would be writing briefs. The defense will be arguing that they have standing in the case and that in his decision Judge Walker misread the law.

Ted Olson and David Boies, the two high-profile attorneys representing the plaintiffs in the case, will argue that the interveners have no standing since they are not the ones issuing marriage licenses. Their briefs will argue that the defendants presented no credible witnesses or evidence and the only ones harmed by Proposition 8 are same-sex couples waiting to get married.

Pizer said that the LGBT community should use this time wisely until the case is heard.

“We need to be educating our neighbors about why Judge Walker is correct,” she said.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition August 20, 2010.

—  Michael Stephens

BREAKING: Appeals court grants stay of Prop 8 ruling; gay marriages won’t resume Wednesday

A federal appeals court reportedly has granted a stay of Judge Vaughn Walker’s ruling declaring Proposition 8 unconstitutional. This means same-sex marriages will not resume in California on Wednesday, the deadline for Walker’s previous stay to expire. From the National Center for Lesbian Rights at about 6 p.m. Dallas time on Twitter: “BREAKING: 9th Cir grants stay but puts case on expedited schedule & orders parties to address whether #Prop8 proponents have standing.”

This is a developing story. Stay tuned to Instant Tea for updates.

UPDATE: Some early analysis of the appeals court’s decision courtesy of the Courage Campaign:

Three things:

First, and drastically most importantly, the Court granted the stay. Consequently the thousands of couples who were waiting for the day of equality will have to wait at least a few more months until December.

Second, the Court wants this case to be resolved quickly. Appellants’ opening brief is due in just a month and the hearing will happen on December 6th. This is lightning quick for a Federal Court of Appeals, and it’s a very good sign. The Court understands that this case is important, and it doesn’t want it to linger.

Third, the Court specifically orders the Prop 8 proponents to show why this case should not be dismissed for lack of standing. Here’s a discussion of the standing issue. This is very good news for us. It shows that the Court has serious doubts about whether the Appellants have standing. Even better, the Court is expressing an opinion that its inclination is that the case should be dismissed. That being said, the panel that issued this Order (the motions panel) is not the same panel that will hear that case on the merits. The merits panel will be selected shortly before December 6th and we don’t know the three judges who will be on the merits panel. But this is a very good sign that the appeal could be dismissed on the ground of standing alone.

UPDATE NO. 2: Here’s a statement from the American Foundation for Equal Rights, which is representing the same-sex couples challenging Prop 8:

Today the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit set a highly expedited schedule for briefing and argument of proponents’ appeal from the district court’s August 4, 2010 decision striking down California’s Proposition 8 as an unconstitutional violation of the rights of gay and lesbian citizens to due process and equal protection of the law under the Fourteenth Amendment, and it granted proponents’ request to stay the judgment of the district court’s order while the appeal is decided. This means that although Californians who were denied equality by Proposition 8 cannot marry immediately, the Ninth Circuit, like the district court, will move swiftly to address and decide the merits of Plaintiffs’ claims on their merits. Today’s order can be found here:  http://www.equalrightsfoundation.org/legal-filings/9th-circuit-ruling-on-motion-for-stay-pending-appeal/

“We are very gratified that the Ninth Circuit has recognized the importance and pressing nature of this case and the need to resolve it as quickly as possible by issuing this extremely expedited briefing schedule. As Chief Judge Walker found, Proposition 8 harms gay and lesbian citizens each day it remains on the books.   We look forward to moving to the next stage of this case,” said Attorney Theodore B. Olson.

“Today’s order from the Ninth Circuit for an expedited hearing schedule ensures that we will triumph over Prop. 8 as quickly as possible. This case is about fundamental constitutional rights and we at the American Foundation for Equal Rights, our Plaintiffs and our attorneys are ready to take this case all the way through the appeals court and to the United States Supreme Court,” said Chad Griffin, Board President, American Foundation for Equal Rights.

UPDATE NO. 3: We’ve posted a full story here.

—  John Wright

Opposition is apoplectic over Prop 8 ruling

U.S. District Judge Vaughn Walker

Sometimes it’s fun to see what the opposition is saying, especially when they lose.

Tim Wildmon is one of the most vociferous anti-gay crusaders in the country as president of the American Family Association. He wrote a letter to the Los Angeles Times about the Prop 8 case in that state.

The argument in his letter is that U.S. District Judge Vaughn Walker nullified the vote of the people and that the judge imposed his personal opinions.

Here’s the problem with Wildmon’s position. Judge Walker ruled based on the evidence presented at trial. The defense of Prop 8 presented only two witnesses who were completely discredited. Wildmon, himself, would have been a better witness.

One defense witness admitted that the information he gave in testimony was given to him by the attorneys and said that the facts he presented he found on the Internet. The other even admitted under oath that same-sex couples were indeed being discriminated against.

The problem with Wildmon’s argument about the will of the people is that the defense never presented that as an argument in the case. They presented false studies, hearsay and Bible quotes as evidence that same-sex couples should not be treated equally under the law.

Wildmon also argues that the judge is rumored to be gay and so should not have been allowed to hear the case. I’m not sure if that means that heteroseuxal judges should be disqualified in all cases affecting other heterosexuals.

Under his ruling, however, the LGBT community will not have standing to put a proposition on the ballot to invalidate straight marriages either. His ruling protects everyone.

The judge could have ruled that despite all evidence in the trial, the voters do, indeed, have a right to vote on this issue and that they have a right to impose laws that are discriminatory. And the higher courts may rule exactly that way.

Talking to attorneys from Lambda Legal and National Center for Lesbian Rights, two organizations that filed briefs in the case, an evidentiary ruling such as this, is harder to overturn than one based principally on law. In other words, the higher courts will not hear any new evidence and no evidence in the trial supported Prop 8. But the higher courts could rule that despite all the evidence, states have the right to discriminate against same-sex couples and voters have the right to deny equality.

—  David Taffet

Gramick and DeBernardo to speak at Resource Center tonight

Francis DeBernardo and Sr. Jeannine Gramick

Sister Jeannine Gramick and Francis DeBernardo with New Ways Ministries will speak at Resource Center Dallas tonight at 7:30 p.m.

Gramick is a co-founder of New Ways Ministries, a Catholic organization which has focused on supporting gay and lesbian rights since the 1970s. DeBernardo has worked with New Ways for about 15 years.

They’re warm, entertaining, supportive allies. They will discuss the movement for equality for LGBT people in society and the Catholic Church.

In an interview with Dallas Voice that will appear in this week’s paper, Gramick said she began her work on behalf of the gay and lesbian community in 1971 after befriending a gay man. Despite orders from the Vatican to end her work and not speak publicly about gay and lesbian issues, she continues working tirelessly on behalf of the community.

Resource Center Dallas is located at 2701 Reagan St.

—  David Taffet