Alas, poor Roy! Alabama Supreme Court upholds his removal from the bench

Alabama Chief Justice Roy Moore

Alabama’s former Supreme Court Homophobe in Chief Roy Moore.

Former Alabama State Supreme Court Chief Justice Roy Moore got a big diss from seven retired Alabama Supreme Court justices this week when they upheld a decision by the state’s Judicial Inquiry Commission removing him from the bench. The seven were chosen to form a special Supreme Court to hear Moore’s appeal of the commission’s ruling.

The retired justices wrote in their decision, “We have previously determined that the charges were proven by clear and convincing evidence … we shall not disturb the sanction imposed.” The decision was issued Wednesday, April 19.

The commission removed Moore from office last year after he instructed the state’s probate judges — the officeholders tasked with issuing marriage licenses in that state — to ignore the June 26, 2015 U.S. Supreme Court decision that overturned bans on same-sex marriage nationwide. Despite federal court rulings, Moore insisted that the SCOTUS ruling didn’t count in Alabama, and that his state’s marriage equality ban still ruled supreme there.

The Judicial Inquiry Commission was neither amused nor convinced and charged Moore with having “flagrantly disregarded and abused his authority.” Moore continued to argue, but he was still removed from the bench.

This special supreme court decision effectively ends Moore’s career as a judge. He was suspended from his current term, which would not have expired until 2019, and because of his age — 69 — running for re-election then is not possible. And as the Alabama Media Group reported, “Moore can’t appeal the ruling to the federal courts because there are no federal issues.”

In a press conference after the ruling was announced, Moore insisted that he has “done my duty under the laws of this state to stand for the undeniable truth that God ordained marriage as the union of one man and one woman.” He also said that his prosecution, based on an ethics complaint filed by Southern Poverty Law Center, was politically motivated and insisted that he remains Chief Justice despite the suspension.

Richard Cohen, president of SPLC (which is based in Alabama), told Alabama Media Group that Moore “got what he deserved. We’ll all be better off without the Ayatollah of Alabama as our chief justice.”

Moore has threatened — I mean, suggested — that he might run for the U.S. Senate now.

—  Tammye Nash

Marriage equality plaintiffs file amicus brief in Houston benefits case

Mark Phariss and Vic Holmes

Texas marriage equality plaintiffs Mark Phariss, Vic Holmes, Cleopatra DeLeon and Nicole Dimetman filed an amicus brief in Pidgeon v. Harris, a case before the Texas Supreme Court concerning Houston’s ability to provide equal benefits to married same-sex couples. A hearing in that case is scheduled for March 1. Jason Steed, a partner with the law firm of Bell Nunnally, filed the brief on behalf of the couples who won their case in federal court.

Holmes, a veteran who retired from the U.S. Air Force after almost 23 years of service, and Phariss, a corporate attorney in Plano, will celebrate their 20th anniversary in August and their second wedding anniversary in November. Because Holmes is a professor at the University of North Texas Health Sciences Center in Fort Worth and Phariss, as Holmes’ spouse, is covered by the university’s state-sponsored health care plan, Phariss and Holmes could be directly and significantly impacted by an adverse decision by the Texas Supreme Court.

Phariss and Holmes released a statement that said, “It really is unbelievable that full marriage equality is again being challenged in Texas.  It is particularly unbelievable because it is being challenged less than two years after the U.S. Supreme Court recognized same-sex couples’ constitutional right to marry.   More unbelievable is that Texas’ Governor, Lt. Governor and Attorney General support that challenge, notwithstanding the fact that Texas consented to the filing of a judgment and a permanent injunction in our case, DeLeon v. Abbott.

“What is being litigated is whether Texas can impose second-class status on our marriage and the marriages of thousands of other LGBT Texans.  This position is wrong on the law and an affront to equality and personal freedom, not to mention a waste of taxpayer money.”

 

—  David Taffet

Same-sex marriage reduces adolescent suicide

A new study released by the Juvenile American Medical Association indicates that legalization of same-sex marriage has reduced adolescent suicide attempts.

Using information from 47 states, same-sex marriage policies were associated with a 7 percent reduction in the proportion of all high school students reporting a suicide attempt over the past year. Suicide is the second leading cause of death among 15-to-24-year-olds.

The report concludes that some of the reasons for reduction in suicide include policies preventing same-sex marriage constitute social stigma and increased media attention that accompanies legalization includes increased social support.

“For each of these reasons, same-sex marriage policies may reduce the stigma experienced by adolescents who are sexual minorities,” the report concludes.

Prior research suggests an association between same-sex marriage policies and mental health.

This trend has been noticed for awhile. After Massachusetts legalized same-sex marriage in 2004, “expenditures on mental health care significantly decreased among men who have sex with men in the year following legalization of same-sex marriage relative to the year prior.”

—  David Taffet

Texas’ Three Amigos of the Apocalypse still fighting marriage equality

composite

In Texas, AG Ken Paxton, left, Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick, center, and Gov. Greg Abbott took time off from trying to deny equality to transgender people to once again take up the banner against marriage equality.

It’s been almost a year and a half since the U.S. Supreme Court ruled, in Obergefell v. Hodges, that is violates the U.S. Constitution to deny equal marriage rights to same-sex couples. This week, Texas’ top elected officials took time out from their ongoing battle to deny equal rights to transgender Texans and keep trans people from using the appropriate public restroom facilities (see here and here), to go back and once again take up the fight against marriage equality.

Ummm, Greg, Dan and Ken, hello! The Dark Ages called; they want their assholes back.

Seriously.

Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton sent out a press release today announcing that he, Gov. Greg Abbott and Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick have filed a joint amicus brief with the Texas Supreme Court “urging the court to recognize that the U.S. Supreme Court’s announcement of a right to same-sex marriage in Obergefell v. Hodges does not resolve all constitutional issues relating same-sex marriage.”

They filed their brief in connection with a case now before the Texas Supreme Court, Jack Pidgeon and Larry Hicks v. Mayor Sylvester Turner and the City of Houston, in which Pidgeon and Hicks, Houston taxpayers, sued the city of Houston claiming then-Mayor Annise Parker broke Texas law and violated the Texas Constitution — which was amended in 2005 to specifically ban legal recognition of same-sex marriage — when she extended spousal benefits to the same-sex partners of city employees who had gotten married in jurisdictions that did legally recognize same-sex marriage.

The case when to trial and the district court issued an injunction preventing the city from extending those benefits until the case was ultimately decided. But then the U.S. Supreme Court — which, for those of you who might have spent too much time around Ken and Greg and Dan and don’t remember, still does trump the Texas Supreme Court — came out with the Obergefell decision. And the Pidgeon case became a moot point. Right?

Well, Ken and company don’t agree. They are saying, basically, that while they have to let the homos get married, they don’t have to actually treat them like straight married couples (you know, “real” married people). In essence, the Three Amigos of the Apocalypse are claiming that the city of Houston — and any other Texas city/town/whatever — cannot legally extend spousal benefits to the legal same-sex spouses of their employees because the Texas Constitution bans same-sex marriage, regardless of what the U.S. Supreme Court and Constitution say,

Really. That’s what they are saying (from the “Summary of Argument” in the Three Amigos amicus brief): “By issuing its judgment in Obergefell, the Supreme Court effectively has required all States to grant same-sex marriages and recognize same-sex marriages from other states, and the purpose of this brief is not to contest or circumvent that requirement. But the existence of a federal court judgment obligating States to grant and recognize same-sex marriages does not automatically dictate the outcome of a case like this one, which raises a related but different constitutional question involving municipal employee benefits. … While the judgment in Obergefell is authoritative, Justice Kennedy’s lengthy opinion explaining that judgment is not an addendum to the federal constitution and should not be treated by state courts as if every word of it is the preemptive law of the United States.”

(You can read the whole brief here.)

The press release quotes Paxton as saying, “My office had the privilege of defending Texas’ marriage laws in Fifth Circuit. While the U.S. Supreme Court did recognize a right to same-sex marriage, there are a host of issues in that area of the law that remain unresolved. I applaud Governor Abbott and Lieutenant Governor Patrick for their leadership in asking that state courts give serious consideration to these weighty, unresolved questions.”

I should stop here to point out that the Texas Supreme Court has already refused to hear the plaintiffs’ appeal in this case. But the plaintiffs — and the Amigos — are demanding a rehearing. Obviously, Paxton and company have not yet spent enough taxpayer money on lawsuits endeavoring to deny civil rights to LGBT Texans.

Perhaps this is just another ploy by Paxton to try and distract people from the fact that he STILL FACES criminal charges of securities fraud and that his buddies on the Collin County Commissioners Court and in the Texas Legislature are trying to torpedo the prosecution in that case by getting the Commissioners Court to refuse to pay the special prosecutors that had to be hired. A judge had dismissed a federal civil lawsuit against Paxton for securities fraud, but the SEC has refilled those charges.

—  Tammye Nash

Texas Bar won’t sanction Paxton for telling county clerks to ignore Obergefell ruling

Ken Paxton

Texas AG Ken Paxton

Even though he told county clerks across the state of Texas that they could ignore a ruling by the U.S. Supreme Court and refuse to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples, the State Bar of Texas won’t be sanctioning Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton.

The Texas Tribune reports that the state bar has dismissed a complaint filed against Paxton by more than 200 Texas attorneys, who said the AG “violated his own official oath of office” in June 2015 when he issued a written opinion telling county clerk’s they could ignore the high court’s ruling in Obergefell v. Hodges, which established marriage equality as the law of the land, if same-sex marriage goes against their personal religious beliefs.

Paxton originally promised to back up any county clerks who were sued for refusing to issue licenses, but as it turned out, he didn’t mention that if they were sued it would be them, personally, paying the costs of defending themselves and paying any settlements that might be awarded.

In an Aug. 3 notice obtained by the Tribune, “The Chief Disciplinary Counsel has determined that there is no just cause to believe that [Paxton] has committed professional misconduct.” At least, not in connection with that opinion regarding marriage licenses. As a report by the Austin American-Statesman notes, Paxton still has plenty of legal woes to contend with.

On Tuesday, Aug. 9, prosecutors in the felony case charging Paxton with securities fraud and failing to register with state securities regulators urged the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals, the state’s highest criminal appeals court, not to dismiss the charges, as Paxton has asked.

Paxton also faces a separate lawsuit filed by the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission accusing him on federal fraud violations. He has also moved that those charges be dismissed, and a hearing on that motion has been rescheduled for Sept. 2 in the Sherman federal courthouse

—  Tammye Nash

A little inspiration for a Monday morning

HeatherMae

Heather Mae

Folk singer-songwriter Heather Mae released a new album in June called “I Am Enough,” a collection of five songs produced by Mark Williams of Sucker Punch Recording Co.

According to her website, HeatherMae.net, “The title track to her new album, ‘I Am Enough’ is an ode to body positivity and breaking away from self-imposed affliction to fit into what society defines as beautiful. “I see this record as a platform for change. Pop music with a mission.” says Heather, I am inspired by artists who are able to combine both.” ‘Wanderer’ and ‘No Poor Soul’ are reflections of Mae’s own experience of publicly coming out and the relief associated with finding love that accepts you just as you are — externally and internally. ‘Stand Up’ wraps up the entire record with its challenge to listeners to fight against intolerances that so many of us face, such as racism, sexism and other prejudices. Mae also includes references to the Black Lives Matter movement and the June [2015] SCOTUS ruling on gay marriage which destroyed DOMA.”

Here’s the video for “Stand Up.” It’s a good way to start your week. (And thanks to my friend Liz Reddick for sharing the vide on Facebook, where I saw it.)

—  Tammye Nash

VP conducts his first marriage ceremony, for two gay WH staffers

VP Biden wedding tweet

Vice President Joe Biden has conducted his first wedding ceremony, and it was for a gay male couple, both of whom are longtime White House staffers.

BuzzFeed reports that Biden obtained a temporary certification from the District of Columbia so that he could perform the wedding ceremony for Brian Mosteller and Joe Mahshie. The ceremony took place Monday afternoon at Biden’s home.

The vice president then tweeted out a photo of himself performing the ceremony for Mosteller and Mahshie, saying, “Proud to marry Brian and Joe at my house. Couldn’t be happier, two longtime White House staffers, two great guys.”

His wife, Dr. Jill Biden, then retweeted the post, saying, “Love is love! — Jill.”

Buzz Feed notes that Mosteller is the director of Oval Office operations and Mahshie is a trip coordinator for First Lady Michelle Obama.

—  Tammye Nash

Defining moments

Leo-CusimanoIt was 1992 and I had just moved to Dallas from a small college town in Florida. HIV/AIDS was a growing issue in my experience, but it had already taken many people in Dallas, including leaders in our LGBT community. I was too young to understand the power of the Stonewall Riots in 1969, so my personal experience with HIV/AIDS was my first defining moment to get involved in the community.

The mind-set in our community was different then. We had lost so many, and ACT-UP was in the streets and angry. Our community was under attack.

I remember making signs for protests and joining the board of DGLA. Lesbians fought to help save the lives of their gay brothers and in the process galvanized our community. Drag queens and transgender people were at the heart of many community actions. The sense of LGBT community was very strong.

Today, HIV/AIDS is still a devastating diagnosis for anyone, but is viewed by some in our younger community to be a manageable illness. These millennials have not experienced the struggles and death at the same scale. Our sense of community has waned over the years.

But then ….

It’s 2 in the morning in Los Angeles, where I have traveled for work, and the phone rings. Fifty people lay dead in a Florida gay bar, and more than 50 others are injured.

This is the start of another heart-wrenching, defining moment that unfortunately will make history and play out as Pride celebrations prepare to march.

The morning stretches on and I find myself sitting in a hotel room in West Hollywood preparing for LA Pride. I feel sick as the stress rises in my body, watching the reports from Florida, then the vibration of my cell phone makes me jump. A text message about an arrest near L.A. that has foiled another attempted attack on our community illuminates the room. My heart drops.

What is next?

We have come so far as a community, and each positive or negative defining moment presents an opportunity for us to come together in a way that makes our community stronger.

My husband Tony and I had been living in Dallas for several years when the Supreme Court invalidated sodomy laws with the Lawrence vs. Texas ruling in 2003. This was a positive defining moment for us that provided hope for our community and empowered our movement.

We experienced a setback in 2008 when California passed Prop 8, but our commitment to stand up and fight just made us stronger. Last year, the Supreme Court’s marriage equality ruling legalized our marriages, and as a community we have seen growing acceptance as Love Wins.

But now, once again our community is under attack. We are devastated by this senseless act of violence. As we mourn the victims in Florida, we also march on in solidarity and in honor of those we lost.

This is another defining moment for me. I feel like our community has a renewed fight. Once again, arm-in-arm we march. We stick together and support each other. My hope is that we find renewed strength in this tragedy and we once again become galvanized and strengthened as the LGBT community.

Our life experiences and defining moments influence our choices and how we choose to show up in the world. What is your defining moment? How will you make a difference?

Leo Cusimano is co-owner and publisher of Dallas Voice and Voice Publishing Co

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition June 17, 2016.

—  Dallasvoice

Government finally recognizes 1975 marriage

Anthony Sullivan

Anthony Sullivan, in his home in Los Angeles (Photo for The Pride LA by Jon Viscott)

It was almost a year ago — 347 days, to be exact — that the United States Supreme Court made history with its ruling declaring marriage equality to be the law of the land. We spent a lot of time in the weeks after that ruling talking about the future, talking about how our lives were changing, about how the lives of our LGBT children would be so different, so much better.

We looked backwards, a little, too. We talked about all the hard work by so many people — our pioneers in LGBT equality — and how it was finally paying off. We talked about how their past work made our present and our future possible.

Now, Troy Masters with The Pride LAx, Los Angeles’ LGBT newspaper, brings us the story of Richard Adams and Anthony Sullivan, and how last year’s marriage equality ruling changed — in a way — their past.

Adams and Sullivan were married in Boulder, Colo., in April 1975. Thanks to a loophole in the law and a fair-minded country clerk, they were able to get a marriage license, and they got married. Then Adams applied for a green card for his husband, Sullivan, who was an Australian citizen. The application was, of course, denied by immigration authorities who declared that the men had “failed to establish that a bona fide marital relationship can exist between two faggots.”

But their marriage remained on the record and was never invalidated.

The two men fought for 10 years, becoming in the process the first same-sex couple to sue the U.S. government to have their marriage legally recognized. But they lost at every turn, finally being forced to leave the country in 1985. They came back to the U.S. the next year, but had to live under the radar, always in fear that Sullivan would be deported.

Finally in 2012, President Obama offered some relief in the form of a memo to protect low-risk family members of U.S. citizens from deportation, including same-sex partners of American citizens. Sadly, Adams died a year later. But this year, 41 years after they were married, the White House has instructed the director of U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services to issue a written apology directly to Adams and Sullivan, and the same L.A. immigration office that denied their application for a green card with such insulting language in 1975 has recognized their marriage as legal and determined that Sullivan deserves the same treatment as all other surviving spouses under immigration law.

Read Masters’ full story here.

—  Tammye Nash

Brian and David are getting hitched and we have the license to prove it

In 1991, activists celebrated National Coming Out Day by staging a “kiss-in” in the Dallas County Clerk’s office to protest for marriage equality.

1991 kiss-in

Gary Bellomy, left, and Bill Hunt were among the protesters. The accompanying article didn’t identify who else was there and I can’t make it our from the picture. Mary Franklin, John Thomas and others held a sit-in in the County Clerk’s office on Valentine’s Day sometime in the 1980s.

In 2012, it took four sheriff’s deputies to arrest Major when he and Beau applied for their marriage license and handcuffed themselves to the stanchion in the marriage bureau office when they were turned down.

Major arrested

And that was followed by protesters outside the county courthouse during their court appearances for trying to get a marriage license.

Protests

On June 26, 2015, the U.S. Supreme Court declared marriage equality law and this happened in Dallas County:

June 26

And today, Brian and I did this. No sheriff’s deputies were called. No arrests were made. No one had to handcuff themselves to anything. No offices were taken over.

The clerk smiled, said congratulations and handed us our license. Someone who works in the building downstairs saw us trying to take a selfie and asked if she could take it for us. That idiot clerk up in Kentucky keeps making news, but thank you Dallas County for making marriage equality so, well, routine.

David and Brian

And thank you Gary and Bill, Beau and Major and everyone else who protested for years to make marriage equality a reality.

And if you’d like to see our wedding in person, everyone’s welcome.

We’re getting married on stage during the second act of Heartstrings, the Turtle Creek Chorale concert on Thursday, June 9 at 7:30 p.m. Beth El Binah’s Rabbi Steve Fisch is officiating. Brian’s mother will walk him across the stage to the chuppa and my Aunt Rhoda is flying in from New York to walk me. And our flower girl? Well, let’s just say she’s a big girl.

After the Chorale performance, we’ll have a reception in the lobby with the biggest damn cake for everyone to share. (The main cake is sour cream champagne with blueberry and key lime layers all covered in a chocolate icing).

OK, so for our bizarre wedding, you need tickets, because it is in the middle of a Turtle Creek Chorale concert. Tickets are available here. And if you’ve never seen a Chorale concert or haven’t been to one in awhile, here’s a good excuse to do it. Cake comes with your ticket. And the bar will be open til midnight.

—  David Taffet