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

PHOTOS: Patti and Erin get hitched

Longtime Dallas LGBT activists Patti Fink and Erin Moore were married on April 1 by Judge Teena Callahan in her courtroom. They held a politically-themed “wedding convention” at the Round-Up Saloon on Saturday afternoon, with the event chaired by former state Rep. Glen Maxey.

Resolutions were introduced and overwhelmingly approved to recognize the couple as married.

—  David Taffet

County Clerk Kim Davis obeying judge’s orders

Davis.Kim

Rowan County Clerk Kim Davis

U.S. District Judge David Bunning ruled that since the five days she spent in jail, Rowan County, Ky., County Clerk Kim Davis has upheld his orders to issue marriage licenses.

The ACLU had filed suit to have Davis reissue licenses after Davis removed her name from the county’s marriage licenses. The ACLU wants the county clerk’s name added to those licenses issued since September.

NBC News reports that Bunning ruled the licenses, as issued by Davis, are probably valid under Kentucky law. In December, the state’s Republican governor signed an executive order removing county clerk names from marriage licenses.

 

—  David Taffet

Judge: Non-bio mom in lesbian divorce is child’s legal parent

Lauren Poole

Lauren Poole

Virginia Beach, Va. Circuit Judge Steven Frucci has ruled in a lesbian divorce case there involving custody of a child that even though she contributed no DNA, the non-biological mom is a legal parent of the child to whom her now-former wife gave birth.

To rule otherwise, Frucci said, would make “every child born in a same-sex marriage a bastard, and I’m not about to do that,” according to The Virginian-Pilot.

Lauren Poole, 29, and Karen Poole, 31, both of Virginia Beach, were married in Maryland in August 2013, before same-sex marriage was legally recognized in Virginia. They used sperm donated by a male friend to impregnate Karen, using the at-home “turkey baster” method. Lauren, Karen and the sperm donor signed an agreement before the baby — a boy — was born that released the sperm donor from any responsibility and named Lauren as the child’s second parent.

The baby was born in July 2014, but six months later — as their relationship began to fail — Laurent moved out of the family’s home. She visited the baby several times a week until she and Karen got into an altercation, after which Karen took out a protective order against Lauren that prevented her from seeing the baby.

Lauren Poole then filed for divorce, leading to the just-settled battle in Frucci’s court.

Wanting children, they enlisted a male friend to act as a sperm donor, impregnating Karen Poole with an at-home artificial insemination technique commonly known as the “turkey baster” method, according to written arguments filed by both sides.

After the pregnancy was confirmed, the three signed an agreement to release the donor from parental responsibility and name Lauren Poole as the child’s second parent.

The baby – a boy – was born in July 2014 at Sentara Princess Anne Hospital.

Six months later, the couple’s marriage was unraveling and Lauren Poole moved out of the family’s home. For the next few months, she visited the baby several times a week until an altercation led Karen Poole to take out a protective order that stopped all contact.

Lauren Poole filed for divorce and a fight for custody began. As the battle over custody continues, Frucci says one question is definitely settled: From here on out, Lauren Pool will be treated as the legal parent of a legitimate child.

—  Tammye Nash

Obergefell to be seated in the First Lady’s box seats at the State of the Union

Obergefell.Jim

Jim Obergefell

When President Barack Obama delivers his final State of the Union speech tomorrow night (Tuesday, June 12), the man whose name has become synonymous with marriage equality in the U.S. will be watching from the First Lady’s box seats.

Jim Obergefell was the lead plaintiff in the historic U.S. Supreme Court case that the court decided last June 26 in favor of equality. Oregon Sen. Jeff Merkley — lead Senate sponsor of the Equality Act — invited Obergefell to attend the State of the Union address as his guest. And this morning (Monday, Jan. 15), the White House announced that Obergefel will sit in the First Lady’s box for the event.

The Equality Act is comprehensive LGBT non-discrimination legislation that would extend federal non-discriminaion protections to LGBT people in key areas, including employment, housing, public accommodations, jury service, credit and education.

Merkley said his is “honored” to have Obergefell attend the State of Union address as his guest, adding that “Jim’s love and commitment to his husband and his pursuit of justice should serve as an inspiration to us all. Now, we must finish the work that we have started and ensure that LGBT Americans have full equality in all aspects of their lives.

“It’s incomprehensibly wrong that in many states, a couple could marry in the morning and legally be evicted from their apartment or kicked out of a restaurant in the afternoon,” Merkley continued. “No one knows better than Jim that we have come a long way, but as we have seen with the recent attack on marriage equality in Alabama, it’s more important than ever to keep pushing for full equality. I’m pleased to have Jim with me this week to highlight both the tremendous progress we’ve made and the important work that’s left to be done.”

The Equality Act is cosponsored by more than 200 members of Congress, and was recently endorsed by President Obama.

—  Tammye Nash