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BE MY VALENTINE  | 
Paula Blackmon, right, chief of staff for Dallas Mayor Mike Rawlings, accepts a bag containing more than 400 Valentine’s Day cards addressed to Rawlings from Daniel Cates, left, North Texas regional coordinator for GetEQUAL. Cates delivered the cards written by community members to Rawlings, who has refused to sign a pledge in support of same-sex marriage, as part of GetEQUAL’s Valentine’s Day actions, which also included  same-sex couples requesting marriage licenses at clerk’s offices in Dallas and Fort Worth. For more coverage, go to DallasVoice.com/Category/Instant-Tea. (David Taffet/Dallas Voice)

 

—  Michael Stephens

WATCH: Activists across Texas stage marriage equality demonstrations on Valentine’s Day

In his post about Tuesday’s Valentine’s Day marriage equality demonstration in Dallas, David Taffet mentioned that three activists were arrested Tuesday during a similar action in Austin. Daniel Cates, a GetEQUAL organizer from Dallas, sent over the below video of the Austin activists singing a rousing rendition of “I’m gonna stand at the marriage counter …” while seated on the floor of the clerk’s office prior to their arrests. Raw Story has a full report.

In Fort Worth, WFAA reports that a lesbian couple was denied a marriage license on Tuesday afternoon.

In San Antonio, same -sex couples participated in a midnight mass wedding conducted annually by Baptist minister Joe Sullivan at the Bexar County Courthouse, despite Sullivan’s warning that they would face “acts of vengeance.” QSanAntonio quotes activist Julie Pousson, who attended the event: “Minister Joe Sullivan said that our couples were there ‘solely to be repulsive,’ and he threatened them with acts of vengeance on the part of God if they did not leave the courthouse steps. Our beautiful couples stood their ground for more than five minutes of hate speech and contradictory logic from the good minister before he finally relented and performed the wedding.”

And in Houston, after being denied marriage licenses at the clerk’s office, a group of roughly 30 activists marched to City Hall, where openly gay Mayor Annise Parker delivered a proclamation honoring Freedom to Marry Day. KPRC has video, and the Houston Chronicle reports:

—  John Wright

Dallas County Clerk John Warren says he won’t issue any same-sex marriage licenses tomorrow

Dallas County Clerk John Warren, right, greeted Blake Wilkinson of Queer LiberAction when same-sex couples requested marriage licenses in 2009. (John Wright/Dallas Voice)

In Friday’s Voice we mentioned that same-sex couples will be requesting marriage licenses at the Dallas County Clerk’s Office on Tuesday in a Valentine’s Day demonstration organized by GetEQUAL TX and other groups. But don’t expect County Clerk John Warren to issue the licenses. Warren told Instant Tea today that issuing one to a same-sex couple would likely result in a petition to have him removed from the office he’s held since 2006.

“When I took my oath, I raised my hand to uphold the law,” Warren said. “Regardless of what John Warren’s feelings are, that’s what I have to do, because that’s what my position requires.

“If the law changes that I can issue same-sex marriage licenses, I will issue same-sex marriage licenses,” Warren added. “More than any other cause, my main cause is my 13-year-old son and providing for him and my wife — and my dog.”

Asked about his personal position on the issue, Warren said his religious beliefs dictate that he opposes same-sex marriage. Warren is a deacon in his Baptist church, which he said teaches what the Bible teaches, which is “to love everybody.”

“I don’t see an issue with civil unions,” Warren said, adding that he also strongly supported the repeal of “don’t ask, don’t tell.”

Warren is close friends with fellow Democrat and openly gay District Clerk Gary Fitzsimmons. The pair has worked closely on a digital courts initiative among other projects, and they refer to themselves as “running mates” during election season.

“I love Gary like a brother,” Warren said.

Asked whether he would support Fitzsimmons’ right to get married, Warren said he was unaware that Fitzsimmons has any desire to do so but would be open to discussing the issue with him. Warren added that he may or may not greet the protesters on Tuesday — as he has in previous years — because Commissioners Court will be in session.

Read GetEQUAL TX’s full press release about Tuesday’s demonstration — which begins at 10 a.m. and is one of many across the state and nation — after the jump.

—  John Wright

With friends like Mike, who needs enemies?

As Rawlings continues to dig in his heels on marriage pledge, Prop 8 ruling serves as reminder of the impact one mayor can have

Viewpoints-1

NOT GOING AWAY | LGBT protesters gathered outiside Dallas City Hall on Jan. 27 to call on Dallas Mayor Mike Rawlings to sign a pledge in support of same-sex marriage. This week LGBT advocates went inside City Hall, with five people speaking during public comments at the council's regular meeting. (John Wright/Dallas Voice)

 

With all the jubilation this week surrounding the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals decision to strike down Proposition 8, I couldn’t help but take a look back at how far things have progressed in California.

Given recent events in Dallas, my thoughts tend to settle on a moment four years before Prop 8 made its way to the ballot. I think of the moment the marriage battle in California began to make national headlines.

It was 2004 when a mayor, realizing that tens of thousands of his citizens were officially discriminated against under California law, ordered the San Francisco County Clerk’s Office to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples.

While Mayor Gavin Newsom had no means to directly influence the law and while these marriages were eventually annulled by the state, his bold action created the environment necessary for real dialogue about equality.

What’s more, it taught our community the difference between elected leaders saying they support us and showing us their support.

Perhaps that is why Dallas’ Mike Rawlings’ refusal to join the mayors of almost every major U.S. city in signing a pledge in support of marriage equality, despite claiming to personally support it, continues to go over like a fart in a space suit.

If Rawlings were a Rick “Frothy Mix” Santorum or of similar ilk, his not signing the pledge would come as no surprise and we would have long since moved on.

But, this is a man who is supposed to be our friend. This is a man who campaigned hard for the Dallas LGBT vote. This is a man who has hosted a Pride reception at City Hall and tossed beads like an overgrown flower girl at last year’s Pride parade. For a man who claims to be so focused on making Dallas a “world class city,” signing the pledge just seems like a no-brainer.

Even more puzzling has been the way Rawlings has continued to defend his position — at first explaining that civil rights were a “partisan issue” that didn’t matter to the “lion’s share” of Dallas citizens, until that backfired magnificently, and now claiming that maintaining a position of neutrality has transformed him into some kind of weird ambassador for the queer community to the conservative religious communities of Dallas.

Apparently no one ever told Mayor Rawlings that when it comes to issues of civil rights, there is no such thing as a neutral position. To quote the Archbishop Desmond Tutu, “If you remain neutral in situations of injustice, you have chosen the side of the oppressor.”

This is where our true frustration is coming from. Mayor Rawlings claims to understand marriage as a civil rights issue. He claims to understand that our community is discriminated against in thousands of state and federal laws, creating economic, educational, familial and health hardships for thousands of people in his city. Yet he chooses a position that serves only to validate those who would strip us of our humanity.

Perhaps he could have gotten away with this a few years ago, but in today’s world the majority of Americans now support equality and the LGBT community is no longer satisfied with neutrality, compromises or indefinite waiting. We are seeing evidence of this at every level of government, from City Hall to the White House where President Barack Obama stands to lose a significant percentage of the LGBT vote amid his prolonged “evolution” on marriage equality.

We understand that there is still much work to be done before full recognition of our equality becomes a reality. We know it will take time, resources and leadership to get us there. We don’t need our mayor to be as controversial as Gavin Newsom, but there is a way he can take a simple and powerful stand starting today.

It won’t cost the taxpayers a single penny. It won’t disrupt the business of the city for even a moment. It won’t even force people to change what they believe. It will, however, send a message to our state Legislature and to Congress that the people who live and work in Dallas, Texas, deserve equal treatment under the law.

It will tell 17,440 children in the state of Texas that their mommies and daddies are the same as the mommies and daddies of their peers. It will tell more than 14,000 individuals in our city who live in committed loving relationships that they will grow old with their partners in a city that respects them and values their contributions.

All our mayor has to do is pick up a pen and sign the pledge.

Daniel Cates is North Texas regional coordinator for GetEQUAL.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition February 10, 2012.

—  Kevin Thomas

Gay marriage rights group forms in N.C.

FIGHTING EQUALITY | A crowd gathers for a rally in support of a state constitutional amendment recognizing marriage between a man and a woman as the only domestic legal union, on Halifax Mall behind the Legislative Building in Raleigh, N.C., on Sept. 12. LGBT activists in the state have announced a new effort to fight the amendment and existing anti-gay-marriage laws. (Ted Richardson/Associated Press)

‘We Do’ will go beyond fighting anti-gay-marriage amendment to target state law already banning gay marriage

TOM BREEN | Associated Press
editor@dallasvoice.com

RALEIGH, N.C. — A gay rights group launched a campaign Monday, Oct. 3 in Asheville that seeks to go beyond opposition to a May referendum question on constitutionally barring same-sex marriage by targeting current state law that already forbids such unions.

The Campaign for Southern Equality kicked off its “We Do” effort by having three same-sex couples unsuccessfully attempt to obtain marriage licenses from the Buncombe County Register of Deeds. Organizers and participants knew they’d be denied the licenses, since North Carolina state law already forbids same-sex couples from marrying.

The point, they say, is to draw attention to the human consequences of the law and, as with the civil rights movement, create a situation where the federal government intervenes to change state laws.

“What we’re calling for is full federal equality and we’re sending a very consistent message that these laws are on the books right now and they’re immoral,” said Jasmine Beach-Ferrara, executive director of the group, which plans to expand their efforts across North Carolina and the South in 2012.

The Asheville campaign includes plans for over a dozen couples to repeatedly apply for marriage licenses until Oct. 14, accompanied in trips to the register of deeds by politicians, members of the clergy and other supporters.

“We can’t go to our state legislature right now because our legislators are very hostile to LGBT rights,” Beach-Ferrara said.

State courts are similarly unlikely to support their aims, she said, adding, “We don’t have much recourse besides planned actions designed to resist these laws.”

Beach-Ferrara said the campaign has been in the planning stages since long before the current debate over a constitutional amendment, but the debate provides a charged backdrop for the “We Do” efforts. Last month, the General Assembly voted to put a question on the May primary ballot that would prohibit same-sex marriage in the North Carolina Constitution, which would make it the last such state in the Southeast to adopt such a provision. Those on both sides of the question are preparing for a hard-fought campaign in the run-up to the vote.

Tami Fitzgerald, executive director of the North Carolina Values Coalition, supports the referendum question and called the “We Do” campaign “a strategic mistake” on the part of those who support gay marriage.

Fitzgerald thinks the effort might help secure the amendment’s passage by convincing undecided voters that the possibility of same-sex marriage in North Carolina is real despite current state law prohibiting it.

“I think it makes our case why we need an amendment,” she said. “When people see that, they’re going to be concerned and they’re going to take it as a sign of aggression on the part of people who advocate for same-sex marriage.”

—  John Wright

NY town clerk may lose job for refusing to issue marriage license to same-sex couple

Town Clerk Rose Marie Belforti

People for the American Way has called for the resignation of a town clerk in Upstate New York because she has refused to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples.

On Aug. 30, Ledyard Town Clerk Rose Marie Belforti refused to issue a license to a lesbian couple. Ledyard is southwest of Syracuse in the Finger Lakes Region of the state.

Because of her opposition to marriage equality, Belforti delegated the job of issuing all marriage licenses to a subordinate. She turned the couple away and said they’d have to return another day.

In an interview with the right-wing Christian website CitizenLink, which is affiliated with Focus on the Family. Belforti said she objects to same-sex marriage because it could lead to bestiality. Ironically, the site used a picture of the clerk with her cow.

The women turned to PFAW.

—  David Taffet

NY MARRIAGE UPDATE: T-Minus 56 hours

As the number of people living in jurisdictions with marriage equality doubles this weekend, here are some of the things going on around New York to celebrate — and protest that state’s new law:

Niagara Falls will be lit in rainbow colors on Sunday.

• To avoid delays and confusion, New York City will limit the number of marriages on Sunday to 764. Licenses will be distributed through lotteries for specific slots in each of the five NYC boroughs. The lottery opened on Tuesday and closed today at noon. Winners will be announced Friday. A lottery — what a great way to ensure the sanctity of marriage.

• Sunday will be a record day for marriages in New York City. The previous record was set on Valentine’s Day in 2003, when 621 opposite-sex couples wed.

• Rod and Ricky, the same-sex puppets who meet and fall in love in Avenue Q, plan to be among those in line for marriage licenses at City Hall.

• In Albany, Mayor Jerry Jennings will marry up to 10 couples at city hall right after midnight. A state Supreme Court judge will be at the Common Council chambers to waive the 24-hour waiting period.

• Mayor Bloomberg said he doesn’t expect people to be camping out in line waiting for marriage licenses. He says it’s not like buying an iPad 2. Right. Priorities. After all, which is more important?

—  David Taffet

What’s Brewing: Hunter takes aim at DADT repeal; A&M’s GLBT resource center under fire again

Rep. Duncan Hunter, R-Calif.

Your weekday morning blend from Instant Tea:

1. Rep. Duncan Hunter, R-Calif., plans to introduce an amendment this week aimed at derailing the repeal of “don’t ask, don’t tell.” Hunter’s amendment to the National Defense Authorization Act would require all four service chiefs to certify that DADT repeal won’t hurt the military’s readiness before it can be implemented. Under the DADT repeal bill passed by Congress last December, only President Barack Obama, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and the Defense secretary must certify DADT repeal. The Washington Blade reports that Hunter’s amendment is one of several anti-gay measures that could be introduced. Hunter may also introduce an amendment to overturn DADT repeal completely, and Rep. Todd Akin, R-Mo., plans a measure that would reverse guidance allowing chaplains to perform same-sex weddings in Navy chapels, which we reported on Monday.

2. A bill that would bar transgender people from marrying people of the opposite sex is back on the Texas Senate’s intent calendar for today. The Senate needs 20 votes to take up SB 723 by Sen. Tommy Williams, R-The Woodlands, meaning Republicans need at least one Democrat to break ranks and support the measure, which would remove a court-ordered change of sex from the list of documents that can be used to obtain marriage licenses. The bill is a direct response to the Nikki Araguz case and could lead to the state not recognizing the transitioned status of transgender people for any purpose. Equality Texas and other groups have been urging folks to contact their senators and ask them to oppose SB 723.  To send an email to your senator, go here. To call your senator, go here. Daniel Williams at Legislative Queery reports that the most likely source for the 20th vote is Sen. Carlos Uresti, D-San Antonio. Uresti’s Capitol office number is (512) 463-0119.

3. The Texas Aggie Conservatives’ assault on Texas A&M’s GLBT resource center continues. The Aggie Conservatives were behind the Student Senate bill backing a state budget amendment that would require schools with GLBT resource centers to equally fund centers for “family and traditional values.” Now, the Aggie Conservatives are taking issue with a recent safe-sex seminar hosted by the GLBT resource center. The group apparently sent one of its members to the seminar undercover, and he reports that it included “pornographic videos and new sex acts.” First of all, so what? Did anyone who was at the seminar for its intended purpose actually complain? Besides, why are the Aggie Conservatives so obsessed with the GLBT resource center? Something tells me their interest in these alleged pornographic videos goes a little beyond politics, if you know what I mean. Watch a report on the “controversy” from KHOU.com below.

—  John Wright

ACTION ALERT: Transgender marriage ban back on Texas Senate calendar for Tuesday

Equality Texas sends along word that SB 723, by Sen. Tommy Williams, R-The Woodlands, has been placed back on the Texas Senate’s intent calendar for Tuesday. SB 723 would remove a court order of sex change from the list of documents that can be used to obtain marriage licenses. A response to the Nikki Araguz case, the bill would effectively bar transgender people from marrying people of the opposite sex in Texas. To contact your state senator and urge them to oppose SB 723, go here.

—  John Wright

IRONY: Texas lawmakers cite support for man-woman marriage as reason for banning it

Gov. Rick Perry

The mainstream media is finally picking up on efforts by the Texas Legislature to bar transgender people from marrying people of the opposite sex.

The Associated Press has a story today about SB 723 by Sen. Tommy Williams, R-The Woodlands, which would remove a court order of sex change from the list of documents that can be used to obtain marriage licenses. As we’ve reported, the bill was on the Senate’s intent calendar last week but has yet to be called up for a vote.

The irony of Williams’ bill, of course, is that if it becomes law, it will indicate that the Texas Legislature thinks it’s perfectly fine for transgender people to marry people of the same sex. And yet, Williams and others are citing their opposition to same-sex marriage as the reason for supporting the bill.

“The Texas Constitution,” Sen. Williams said told the AP, “clearly defines marriage between one man and one woman.”

“The governor has always believed and advocated that marriage is between a man and a woman,” said Mark Miner, a spokesman for Gov. Rick Perry.

As the story notes, most states allow transgender people to marry people of the opposite sex if they have a court order of sex change.

But you can’t have it both ways, which appears to be what conservative lawmakers in Texas want.

—  John Wright