Texas Voter ID law ruled unconstitutional. Here’s a breakdown on its impact.

vote-buttonA federal district judge on Friday, Oct. 10, struck down Texas’ voter photo identification law, just 10 days before early voting in the state is to begin.

In her 140-plus-page decision, federal Judge Nelva Gonzales Ramos called the law “a poll tax” and “discriminatory”  against African-Americans and Hispanics.

Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott immediately appealed the decision, urging the Fifth Circuit to “resolve this matter quickly to avoid voter confusion in the upcoming election,” said Lauren Bean, a spokeswoman for the AG’s office.

Explaining his appeal, Abbott said he believed the sudden ruling could confuse voters and burden election administrators. “Voters need certainty when they go to the polls and having this decision come out just 10 days before early voting begins injects uncertainty so I’m asking a court of appeals to decide this before early voting begins a week from Monday,” he told KXAN.

In the meantime, the law’s opponents praised the decision.

“Now we must redouble our efforts to restore the Voting Rights Act and to ensure that every LGBTQ voter gets the opportunity to vote at the upcoming election,” said the Rev. Darlene Nipper, deputy executive director of National LGBTQ Task Force.

Texas state. Sen. Wendy Davis, who is running against Abbott for governor, blasted Abbott’s appeal. “This is great news for democracy. I call on Attorney General Greg Abbott to drop his defense of a law that a court has now called a ‘poll tax’ and ‘discriminatory’ against African-Americans and Hispanics.”

U.S. Rep. Marc Veasey, D-Fort Worth and a plaintiff in the lawsuit, agreed. “Abbott should do what’s best for all Texans instead of pushing his discriminatory political agenda that would disenfranchise eligible voters.”

While the judge believes the law discriminates against African-Americans and Hispanics, the ruling impacts the transgender community as well.

According to the Williams Institute, a LGBT policy think tank, of the 25,000 eligible transgender voters in Texas, around 6,800, or 27%, do not have updated voter ID records.

Should the ruling be upheld, said Nell Gaither of the Trans Pride Initiative, “It makes it easier for transpeople to vote.” But she added that the transgender community still faces barriers most other voters do not.

Texas does not have a statewide law accommodating people who have transitioned from one gender to another; voters or would-be voters must rely on their county laws.

Chad Dunn, an attorney who represented the plaintiffs, told the Lone Star Project he believes Abbott will appeal to the Fifth Circuit and likely ask for the U.S. Supreme Court’s final say.

“To my knowledge, a law found to be intentionally discriminatory, after a full trial on the merits, has never been allowed to remain in effect,” Dunn said.

—  James Russell

Only seven Texans receive perfect score in HRC Congressional scorecard

TexasThe Human Rights Campaign today, Oct. 9 released its Congressional Scorecard measuring support for LGBT equality in the 113th Congress. Only seven of Texas’ 38-member delegation received perfect scores, even as results show record gains in support for LGBT equality.

Members of Congress were scored based on their votes and co-sponsorships of pieces of legislation that are key indicators of support for LGBT equality, and for the first time ever, their public support for marriage equality, according to a statement provided by HRC.

“We stand at a critical juncture in our fight for full LGBT equality,” said Chad Griffin, president of HRC. “While we’ve made tremendous progress in gaining support from our elected officials in Congress, we certainly still have much to accomplish.”

His statement could not be more true, especially within the Texas delegation.

Of Texas’ 36 House representatives and two senators, only seven House Democrats received a 100 percent score. They are Reps. Al Green, Beto O’Rourke, Sheila Jackson Lee, Joaquin Castro and Lloyd Doggett, along with Eddie Bernice Johnson of Dallas and Marc Veasey of Fort Worth.

Other Texas Democrats had mixed scores: Rubén Hinojosa, 89 percent; Pete Gallego, Henry Cuellar and Gene Green, 68 percent; Filemon Vela, 84 percent. Gallego represents the only congressional swing district in Texas.

In the Republican camp, five Republicans received 30 percent: Louie Gohmert (no, really), Ted Poe, John Culberson, Pete Olson and Steve Stockman, who lost a primary challenge to Sen. John Cornyn earlier this year. Cornyn, by the way, scored zero while his colleague in the Senate, Sen. Ted Cruz, scored 20 percent.

To the North Texans looking at this list, unless you live in Johnson or Veasey’s district, your congressperson scored zero. A difference of 100 percent — 100 percent.

No other member of the local delegation even got brownie points for saying “gay.” That includes: Reps. Joe Barton, Michael Burgess, Kay Granger, Ralph Hall, Jeb Hensarling, Sam Johnson, Kenny Marchant, Pete Sessions and Roger Williams.

(Don’t know who represents you? Click here and type in your info.)

Want to change that? Early voting begins Monday, Oct. 20 and runs through Friday, Oct. 31. Election Day is Tuesday, Nov. 4.

—  James Russell

NOH8 Campaign comes to Dallas for Wednesday photo shoot

 

VeaseyThe NOH8 Campaign is coming to Dallas on Wednesday to photograph the LGBT community and its allies.

The last photo shoot in Dallas in October 2011 holds the record for the largest NOH8 photo shoot to date with over 840 participants, NOH8 organizers state on the Facebook event page. So far, more than 1,000 people have indicated via the page that they plan to attend.

People planning on attending should wear white and come camera ready. Solo photos are $40, with couple and group shots costing $25 per person. Fees cover processing fees and one retouched digital print on NOH8Campaign.com, available about eight weeks after shoots.

Funds raised by the NOH8 Campaign are used to promote marriage equality and antidiscrimination efforts for the LGBT community.

Many famous people have had NOH8 photos taken, including those from Texas like Houston Mayor Annise Parker and U.S. Rep. Marc Veasey, D-Fort Worth, pictured, who both participated in NOH8 photo shoots last year.

The event is 5:30-8:30 p.m. Wednesday at the Episcopal Church of the Transfiguration, located at 14115 Hillcrest Road.

People in line by the end of the photo shoot are expected to have their photo taken.

—  Anna Waugh

Local members of Congress sign letter opposing anti-LGBT Russian law

Official Photo_Rep Marc Veasey

Rep. Marc Veasey

North Texas Reps. Eddie Bernice Johnson and Marc Veasey are among 83 members of Congress who’ve signed a letter to Secretary of State John Kerry urging him to ensure the safety of LGBT athletes, coaches, staff, fans and reporters attending the 2014 Winter Olympics and Paralympics in Sochi, Russia.

The letter refers to a law by signed by President Vladimir Putin on June 30 under which public acknowledgement of one’s sexual orientation or support for LGBT rights, including displays of symbols such as a rainbow flag or HRC logo, can result in arrest and 15 days in jail.

The concern is over an announcement the law would be enforced during the Olympics.

Two other Texas congressmen also signed the letter — Rep. Lloyd Doggett, D-Austin, and Rep. Al Green, D-Houston.

Noticeably absent from the list were Houston’s Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee, who always scores high on HRC Congressional rankings and newcomers Rep. Beto O’Rourke, who worked for partner benefits while serving on the El Paso City Council, and Rep. Joaquin Castro, who won his seat with strong LGBT support in San Antonio.

The members of Congress are concerned with the rising wave of anti-gay activity in Russia including violent hate crimes and laws banning Pride parades for 100 years and limiting adoption of Russian children by people from countries that allow same-sex marriage.

Kerry has a long record of supporting the LGBT community. He was one of just 14 Senators who voted against the Defense of Marriage Act. Last week, in a speech at the embassy in London, he announced the U.S. would treat visa applications from married same-sex couples the same as opposite-sex couples.

Other signs of international protest of the new anti-gay law include a boycott of Russian alcohol. The New York City United Restaurant and Tavern Owners Association called on all bars, cafes, taverns and restaurants to ban all Russian-made food and alcohol. Locally, some bars have joined in a boycott of Stoli vodka.

The Canadian government issued a travel advisory on travel to Russia. Over the weekend, two Canadian Olympic athletes marched in Vancouver’s Pride parade to show support for the LGBT community in opposition to the law.

The Sochi games are seven months away.

Below is the full text of the letter:

—  David Taffet

#StandwithWendy at Tarrant County Stonewall’s Saturday extravaganza

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Supporters of LGBT ally state Sen. Wendy Davis can stand with her this weekend at Tarrant County Stonewall Democrats’ Spring Extravaganza.

Davis is among the guests for the Saturday event, as well as U.S. Congressman Marc Veasey and state Rep. Chris Turner, who are also LGBT allies.

The event is 7 p.m. Saturday at the City Club in The Oak Room, 301 Commerce St. in Fort Worth. Tickets are $100 and can be purchased here. Sponsorships are also available for $500 and sponsors are invited to a VIP reception with guests before the event at 6 p.m.

For more information, go here.

—  Anna Waugh

Veasey does NOH8 shoot; Hall mistakenly attends gay event

Rep. Marc Veasey, left

Rep. Marc Veasey, left

While one North Texas congressman participated in a photo shoot supporting marriage equality last week, another recently attended a reception for an LGBT group — by mistake.

“This morning, I participated in a NOH8 Campaign photo shoot with over 60 members of Congress,” Rep. Marc Veasey, D-Fort Worth, wrote on his Facebook page on June 13. “As a member of the House LGBT Equality Caucus, I am proud to stand in support of marriage equality and equal rights for all Americans.”

He posted the photo above from tho shoot.

“Stay tuned for the official portrait,” he said.

—  David Taffet

LGBT advocates say federal ENDA to be introduced in Congress on Thursday

ENDA Houston 4The Employment Non-Discrimination Act is expected to be reintroduced in both chambers of Congress on Thursday.

The bill would prohibit workplace discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity. LGBT advocates have been reviewing the legislation the past few months to revise language for small companies and religious entities that would be exempt. However, the changes are not expected to be in the introduced bill, the Washington Blade reports.

In the last session, 40 senators and 171 representatives signed as co-sponsors to the bill. More are expected this session, especially since an increasing number of senators have come out for marriage equality. Dallas Democrat Eddie Bernice Johnson was a co-sponsor last session, and freshman Reps. Marc Veasey and Beto O’Rourke are expected to support the legislation.

Tico Almeida, president of Freedom to Work, told the Blade the organization wanted the legislation advanced quickly and hoped to time a vote in the Senate with the U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling in two marriage equality cases.

“After the Supreme Court rules in the Windsor marriage case, many right-wingers are going to denounce marriage equality for same-sex couples, but claim that they don’t believe in discrimination against LGBT Americans,” Almeida said. “That’s the time when we should call some of those bluffs by putting ENDA on the Senate floor and letting all 100 senators go on the record about whether hardworking Americans should get fired just because of who they are or who they love.”

In Texas, a bill to prohibit statewide job discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender expression had a hearing in the Senate, but was left pending in committee.

The House versions of the bill, HB 238 by San Antonio Rep. Mike Villarreal and HB 1146 Dallas Democrat Eric Johnson, have hearings scheduled Wednesday in the Economic and Small Business Development Committee.

—  Anna Waugh

Congressman Marc Veasey issues statement on Prop 8, DOMA cases

Official Photo_Rep Marc Veasey

Rep. Marc Veasey

Freshman Congressman Marc Veasey, D-Fort Worth, reminded his North Texas constituents Tuesday that he is committed to fighting for full equality for LGBT citizens.

Veasey released the following statement today following the opening arguments in the Proposition 8 case before the U.S. Supreme Court.

“As the Supreme Court considers the constitutionality of Proposition 8 and the Defense of Marriage Act, I would like to reaffirm my commitment to the LGBT community,” the statement reads.

“It is my hope that the justices of the nation’s highest court rule that committed same-sex couples have civil and constitutional rights. The struggle for equality has taken us from Stonewall to the Supreme Court.

“As decades of progress have changed attitudes and opened hearts, I will continue to fight for members of the LGBT community until they have full equality under the law.”

—  Anna Waugh

WATCH: Congressman Marc Veasey calls for LGBT immigration equality

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Democratic Congressman Marc Veasey addresses Stonewall Democrats at Ojeda’s on Tuesday night. (John Wright/Dallas Voice)

Comprehensive immigration reform must include equal rights for same-sex binational couples, Congressman Marc Veasey told Stonewall Democrats of Dallas on Tuesday night.

“Any bill we pass does not go far enough if same-sex language is not included,” Veasey said. “It absolutely has to be necessary.”

President Barack Obama also supports including a provision in immigration reform to allow gay Americans to sponsor their immigrant partners for legal residency. However, key House Republicans are opposed to the idea, setting up a potential showdown over the issue.

Veasey, a freshman Democrat who represents North Texas’ newest congressional district, pointed out that he became the first member of Congress to bring a DREAMer to the State of the Union last week.

“I support the president 100 percent on the principles that he’s laid out,” Veasey said, referring to Obama’s immigration reform proposals.

—  John Wright

Dallas, Tarrant County Stonewall Dems endorse in general election

Marc Veasey

Stonewall Democrats of Dallas members voted unanimously Tuesday to endorse state Rep. Marc Veasey for Congress and municipal court Judge Phyllis Lister Brown for district judge in the general election.

Stonewall had endorsed other candidates in the primary, but Veasey and Brown won their runoffs. Veasey is running for the new Congressional District 33 and Brown is seeking election to become judge of the 162nd civil district court.

At last week’s Tarrant County Stonewall Democrats meeting, the group voted on a slate endorsement of the Democratic ticket in Tarrant County with a special mention of Veasey, state Sen. Wendy Davis, Nicole Collier in House District 95, Lon Burnam in House District 90 and Chris Turner in House District 101.

Tarrant Stonewall doesn’t endorse in primaries, so President Felipe Guttierez said the special mention just highlights the group’s strategic plan to get those Tarrant County candidates elected.

—  Anna Waugh