Eddie Bernice Johnson congratulates the community on marriage equality

Rep. Eddie Bernice Johnson

Rep. Eddie Bernice Johnson

Rep. Eddie Bernice Johnson, who represents most of Oak Lawn, sent the following statement in recognition of the recent ruling by the Supreme Court of the United States regarding marriage equality:

Equality for all Americans is of the utmost importance, and after a long fought battle across the nation and throughout the federal judicial system, the Supreme Court of the United States has affirmed that committed couples, regardless of sexual orientation, have a Constitutional right to marry.

As we celebrate this great victory during LGBT Pride Month, we also remember that LGBT Americans have fought for the equality of all Americans, and each year during the month of June, we recognize their contributions and accomplishments in the fight for full equality.

On Friday, our nation made history with this ruling. But, there is still much to be done as we continue the fight for the extension of full protection under the law to every American, including those in the LGBT community. Moving forward, I will continue my commitment to fight against discriminatory laws and practices that impede an individual’s freedom.

—  David Taffet

Sen. Rodney Ellis asks DOJ to monitor Texas marriage equality

EllisTexas state Sen. Rodney Ellis, D-Houston,  wrote a letter to Attorney General Loretta Lynch and asked her to monitor implementation of marriage equality in the state.

Ellis cited state Attorney General Ken Paxton’s guidance to county clerks, justices of the peace and judges “advising them that they can refuse to follow the recent Supreme Court decision in Obergefell v. Hodge.”

He requested the Department of Justice prevent civil rights violations to “ensure loving, committed couples are able to formally celebrate their union.”

He said religion must not be used as an excuse to discriminate.

—  David Taffet

BREAKING: Hood County Clerk reverses decision on marriage licenses

Hood County Clerk Katie LangHood County Clerk Katie Lang has reversed her previous decision to not allow anyone in her office issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples, although she is claiming that we all just simply misconstrued what she said earlier about not allowing anyone in her office to issue those licenses.

I am pretty sure I did not “misconstrue” what the woman in Lang’s office told me earlier today when she said NO ONE in that office would issue a marriage license to a same-sex couple. I called and asked specifically.

This is the statement now posted on Lang’s Hood County Clerk website:

“The religious doctrines to which I adhere compel me to personally refrain from issuing same-sex marriage licenses. Nonetheless, in addition to the county clerk offices in the several surrounding counties, as soon as the appropriate forms have been printed and supplied to my office, the County Clerk’s Office of Hood County will have staff available and ready to issue same-sex marriage licenses.

“Because some have misreported and misconstrued my prior statements, I want to make clear that the County Clerk’s Office of Hood County will comply with the recent decision of the Supreme Court of the United States.

“I am grateful that the First Amendment continues to protect the sincerely held religious beliefs of public servants like me. That has not changed since last Friday. As Justice Kennedy stated, ‘it must be emphasized that religions, and those who adhere to religious doctrines, may continue to advocate with utmost, sincere conviction that, by divine precepts, same-sex marriage should not be condoned.’”

—  Tammye Nash

Hood County Clerk refuses to talk to CNN reporter

Screen shot 2015-06-30 at 3.54.46 PM

Hood County Clerk Katie Lang

We told you earlier today about Hood County Clerk Katie Lang making a public statement that her office would not be issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples, based on her personal religious objections to same-sex marriage and Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton’s “legal opinion” that she didn’t have to issue those licenses if she didn’t want to.

Since that post, someone has shared the video below, from Anderson Cooper’s show on CNN, of a reporter trying to get Ms. Lang, an elected official, to explain her decision. As you can see, she refuses to answer questions and rather than defend her decision and/or her religious beliefs, she runs for the car.

She mentions posting an explanation on her website. Check it out.

—  Tammye Nash

Military vet expects marriage license request to be denied

We have received word from OutServe-SLDN, an advocacy organization for active service and retired LGBT people in the U.S. military, that a Bronze Star recipient will be requesting a marriage license from the San Saba County Clerk — and expects to be denied.

Screen shot 2015-06-30 at 3.12.15 PM

Jason White and Jonathan Means

Jason White and his fiancée, Jonathan Means, were planning to request the license today (Tuesday, June 30), according to a statement released this afternoon  by OutServe-SLDN Interim Executive Director Matt Thorn. Thorn also noted that San Saba County Clerk Kim Wells has indicated she will deny the request based on Attorney General Ken Paxton’s “legal opinion” regarding the validity of the U.S. Supreme Court’s June 26 ruling on marriage equality.

Paxton has said that county clerks and their employees are free to refuse to grant marriage licenses to same-sex couples if doing so would violate their religious beliefs. He has added basic CYA language noting that someone in the clerk’s office has to issue such licenses when they are required and those who refuse to do so are personally liable and can be sued.

Smith County Clerk Karen Phillips initially refused to issue same-sex marriage licenses, but then changed her mind when she was sued by private counsel. Hood County Clerk Katie Lang has refused to issue licenses to same-sex couples, but hasn’t been sued yet, as far as we know.

Thorn’s statement noted that the Texas Department of Vital Statistics has updated the forms necessary to issue marriage licenses to same-sex partners and “therefore there is no justifiable basis for the denial of marriage licenses to same-sex couples.”

Thorn said White is a 10-year, 6-combat-tour, Marine. who was awarded the Bronze Star for Valor and two additional medals in the Marine Corps in Afghanistan and Iraq.

White and Means were engaged Monday, June 29, and were planning to go to the clerk’s office at 2 p.m. today to obtain a marriage license. We will update when we hear what happened.

White is also owner of the Brass House, a restaurant and bar in Austin.

In a letter to Wells, Thorn urged, “We strongly request that you follow the ruling of the Supreme Court and issue Jason and Jonathan their marriage license. Furthermore, we will assist Jason and Jonathan in all recourse with San Saba County should there be a continual denial of their license. … Jason has given this country his service, risked his life and took an oath to uphold our fundamental beliefs as a nation. He and his fiancée deserve the respect and dignity of being able to publicly pronounce their love to one another through marriage and should not be discriminated against because you are choosing to ignore the oath in which you took and the law.”

—  Tammye Nash

T.D. Jakes on the marriage equality decision: You may be surprised

Screen shot 2015-06-30 at 2.08.18 PM

The Rev. T.D. Jakes

I have never considered the Rev. T.D. Jakes to be a big supporter of LGBT rights. I am not saying that this speech indicates he is. But I applaud him for preaching on the necessity of separating church and state, and the fact that the U.S. Supreme Court makes its rulings, as it should, based on civil law, not biblical scripture.

“The world is gonna be the world, and the church is gonna be the church and you have to understand the difference. The Supreme Court is there to make a decision based on constitutional rights and legalities that fit all Americans. They are not debating Scripture.”

—  Tammye Nash

NC man charged with assault after anti-gay rant in gay bar

Screen shot 2015-06-30 at 12.39.09 PM

Lucas Dylan Wilhelmson

Some folks have predicted that the historic Supreme Court ruling upholding marriage equality will spark an uptick in anti-LGBT hate crimes. Let’s all hope this is as bad as it gets.

Lucas Dylan Wilhelmson, 21, of Holly Springs in Wake County in North Carolina, is facing charges of simple assault and communicating threats following an incident early Sunday morning, June 28, at a Charlotte bar catering to the LGBT community.

According to the Charlotte, Fox news station, Channel 8, Wilhelmson walked into The Bar 316 and began a loud rant filled with anti-gay slurs and and complaints and denoucements of the Supreme Court’s ruling in Obergefell v Hodges in favor of marriage equality. The TV station reports that the bar owner escorted Wilhelmson to the door and, believing him to be drunk, offered to call him a cab. Wilhelmson instead slapped the bar owner “at least 15 times” and threatened to come back and kill him.

While LGBT advocates are calling this a hate crime, North Carolina’s hate crimes law offers no protections based on sexual orientation or gender identity.

WTVD Channel 11 out of Raleigh/Durham reports that Wilhelmson is a student at NC State. The station also notes that the bar says no one was injured and promised to continue providing “a safe space” for LGBT people and their allies.

Fox 8 reports Wilhelmson has been released on a $3,000 bond.

—  Tammye Nash

Hood County Clerk refuses to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples

Screen shot 2015-06-30 at 11.09.30 AM

Hood County Clerk Katie Lang is refusing to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples, citing Attorney General Ken Paxton’s “legal opinion” saying that clerk’s can refuse to issue those licenses based on their own personal religious beliefs. She has even included a post on the county clerk website, under “Services,” noting that she will not issue the licenses and explaining why.

Paxton’s opinion does include some basic CYA language noting that while individual clerks and assistant clerks can refuse to issue the licenses, county clerk offices as a whole have to follow the law and those clerks who do not allow someone in the office to issue the licenses those clerks can be held personally liable and sued. And that the county nor the state will pay for their defense.

A quick call to the Hood County Clerk’s office this morning (Tuesday, June 30), confirmed that the office as a whole WILL NOT issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples. That, of course, opens County Clerk Katie Lang up to lawsuits. Kelly Shackleford of the far-right-wing Liberty Institute has reportedly said he will represent Lang in any legal action against her.

Personally, I am wondering if Katie Lang is TRYING to get sued, so that she can become a “Christian martyr,” victimized by all those horrible heathen gays, and then use that “martyrdom” as a springboard for a bid for higher political office.

Here’s another personal opinion for you: I respect the fact that some people have religious beliefs that would prevent them for issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples. I don’t agree with those beliefs, but I respect your right to believe that, and I will defend your right to your beliefs. But when you hold a public office or work for the government, then you also have a civil duty to serve all people. If your deeply held religious beliefs keep you from serving all people, then you need to find another job.

Dana Guffey, county clerk for Cleburne County in Arkansas (and no, that’s not Johnson County Clerk in Cleburne, Texas), understands that. She has held that office for 24 years but yesterday announced she is resigning because her religious beliefs prevent her from issuing marriage licenses but the duties of that office require it. I respect Ms. Guffey’s beliefs. I respect her decision. I wish her the best.

—  Tammye Nash

Jim Obergefell in Dallas

IMG_0826

Chad Griffin, left, and Jim Obergefell

Jim Obergefell, the named plaintiff in the marriage equality case decided by the U.S. Supreme Court on June 26, was in Dallas on Monday, June 29, with Human Rights Campaign President Chad Griffin.

At a press conference in downtown Dallas, Griffin said they had come to Texas to protest Attorney General Ken Paxton “encouraging obstruction and delay.”

Obergefell told his story of having to fly to Maryland from Ohio in order to marry his husband who was dying from ALS. After a ceremony in the plane, parked on the tarmac at a Baltimore airport, they were married for three months and 11 days. But they were together 20 years.

While Griffin thanked Obergefell for putting his life on hold for two years to fight the case that won marriage equality for the country, Obergefell said he was fighting to make sure his husband’s life was respected.

He repeated the story at a reception later that evening at the Round-Up Saloon.

“When John died, he deserved to have his last record say I was his surviving spouse,” Obergefell told a packed house at the Round-Up. “What better way to love him and respect him than to stand up to that bully attorney general.”

He was referring to Ohio’s attorney general but then called Paxton the same sort of bully.

“I didn’t put my life on hold for two years,” he said. “My life began as I fought for my husband and my community.”

He said that today his life is filled with family and friends from coast to coast and said his husband would be proud of him.

“Keep being pissed off and make your attorney general represent all of us,” he said.

 

 

—  David Taffet

I was not attacking a protester

David attacks protester

This morning (Tuesday, June 30), I saw my picture in the Dallas Morning News. The caption read: “An unidentified woman (right) who heckled the news conference was chased away.”

Here’s the rest of the story:

The woman in the photo did “heckle” the speakers at the press conference. After some of us got her to calm her down and move her to where we could talk, I asked the woman what the problem was. She said she wasn’t protesting LGBT rights. She just needed some access to social services and had been turned away everywhere she went. She didn’t know how else to get some attention and some help.

I assured her she had my attention. I got her contact info and passed it along to County Commissioner Theresa Daniel’s office (thank you Erin Moore).

I alkso gave her my contact information and told her to let me know if she didn’t get the help she needs, assuring her that everyone at the press conference knows I can be a pain in the ass, and I will be a pain in the ass if that’s what it takes to get her some help.

—  David Taffet