Texas Dems add marriage equality to platform

Erin-Moore3668

Erin Moore

A marriage equality plank was added to the Texas Democratic Party’s platform during this weekend’s state convention in Houston. QSanAntonio has the full text of the marriage equality plank:

“Texas Democrats join President Barack Obama and Vice President Joe Biden in calling for and affirming equal rights including marriage equality for all Americans. We, along with our President and Vice President, recognize that same sex marriages should be valid and legal in America.

“Texas Democrats support President Obama and the United States Justice Department in recognizing that the Federal Defense of Marriage Act is unconstitutional and in refusing to defend DOMA in any Federal Court proceeding. We call for the total repeal of DOMA.

“Eight states and the District of Columbia have now recognized marriage equality and have legalized same sex marriages.

“Texas Democrats support the full inclusion of all families in the life of our state, with equal respect, responsibility, and protection under law, including the freedom to marry. Government has no business putting barriers in the path of people seeking to care for their family members, particularly in challenging economic times. We support the repeal of the Federal Defense of Marriage Act, the Texas Defense of Marriage Act and the Texas Constitutional Marriage Amendment and oppose other attempts to deny the freedom to marry to loving same sex couples.”

Erin Moore of Dallas, outgoing vice president of the Texas Stonewall Democratic Caucus, reportedly was instrumental in getting the marriage equality plank added as a member of the platform committee. The party also reported added a plank to the platform on adoption which states, “We support adoption of children by loving, qualified parents regardless of marital status, sexual orientation, gender identity, or expression, and the rights of families created by those adoptions.”

—  John Wright

Judge denies transgender widow Nikki Araguz’s motion for a new trial — after finally reading it

Judge Randy M. Clapp

Meghan Stabler reports that Wharton County District Judge Randy M. Clapp has denied transgender widow Nikki Araguz’s motion for a new trial.

Stabler, a board member for the Human Rights Campaign who’s been monitoring the case, said even though the motion was filed 10 days ago, Clapp hadn’t read it when he arrived in court for a hearing this morning. Clapp called for a recess so he could read the motion, then returned and promptly dismissed it, Stabler said.

In May, Clapp issued a summary judgment saying Araguz isn’t entitled to death benefits from her husband, fallen volunteer firefighter Thomas Araguz III. Clapp ruled the Araguzes’ marriage was invalid since she was born male.

In light of today’s decision, Araguz’s legal team plans to appeal Clapp’s decision to Texas’ 13th circuit court in Corpus Christ, Stabler said.

Araguz is now being represented jointly by Haynes & Boone, Katine & Nechman, and Frye & Associates.

—  John Wright

What’s Brewing: Houston schools add LGBT protections; marriage vote still pending in NY

Asher Brown
Asher Brown

Your weekday morning blend from Instant Tea:

1. The Houston school board on Thursday night unanimously approved a new policy prohibiting discrimination and harassment based on sexual orientation and gender identity/expression, according to a report from Meghan Stabler, a board member for the Human Rights Campaign. Houston ISD is the seventh-largest district in the nation, and the new policy protects both students and employees, Stabler reports. It comes eight months after the suicide of gay youth Asher Brown, who took his own life in response to anti-gay bullying in the nearby Cypress-Fairbanks ISD, which has not yet updated its policies to protect LGBT youth.

2. Despite rumors of an all-night session that would finally include a vote on marriage equality, the New York Senate abruptly shut down at 11 p.m. local time on Thursday and will reconvene this morning. Towleroad has a summary of where things stand.

3. As the wait continued in Albany, President Barack Obama addressed an LGBT fundraiser Thursday night in Manhattan, where he said he believes that “gay couples deserve the same legal rights as every other couple in this country” but added that marriage should be left up to the states. Watch video of Obama’s remarks and the protest outside below.

—  John Wright

UPDATE: Austin’s KLRU adds ‘Out in America’

Meghan Stabler

On Tuesday we told you that Austin’s PBS station, KLRU, had no plans to air Out in America, a major new documentary about the American LGBT experience that reportedly will be shown by 80 percent of affiliates nationwide during Pride month. KLRU’s decision not to air the program raised the ire of LGBT advocates and led to a petition calling for the station to reconsider. Meghan Stabler, a board member for the Human Rights Campaign who lives in Round Rock and first raised the issue, reports today on Facebook that KLRU has now agreed to air Out In America:

Some good news. Last night I attended KLRU Austin’s airing of ‘Two Spirits’. This was a showing ahead of the on-air date of the documentary and whilst there I had the chance to meet with a number of KLRU executives regarding ‘OUT in America’. The conversations were cordial and I detailed the new documentary and its importance in sharing the personal stories.

Following those conversations I received the following email regarding OUT in America:

Meghan,

Wanted to formally introduce myself via email. I really enjoyed meeting and talking with you last night at the Community Cinema screening of Two Spirits.

I wanted to let you know that I emailed several of my colleagues last night asking them to reconsider airing Out in America this month.  I am happy to tell you that we are going to change our schedule and air the program this Sunday.  I  am still waiting for the time/tune-in information.   But wanted to let you know.

Will email again when I have the times.

Thanks again for watching KLRU and being such an engaged viewer!

best,

Maury

Maury Sullivan

Sr. VP – Community Engagement

KLRU-TV

Stabler later said that Out in America is now scheduled to air at 7 p.m. Sunday on KLRU. The documentary aired on Dallas’ PBS station, KERA, on Monday night. It will re-air at 3 a.m. Sunday on KERA.

—  John Wright

Austin PBS affiliate won’t air ‘Out in America’

Meghan Stabler

Did anyone catch Out in America on KERA on Monday night? As we dutifully informed you, the major new documentary from PBS about the American LGBT experience, which has gotten rave reviews from advocates, aired in Dallas two days before it is scheduled to air on most PBS stations around the country — at 7 p.m. Central time on Wednesday. A KERA rep explained to Instant Tea that the station had a timeslot open Monday night to air the documentary as part of its pledge drive, but won’t be showing it again Wednesday, which is a live night. Out in America is scheduled to re-air at 3 a.m. Sunday on KERA. Depending on how many pledges it generates, Out in America could also re-air on KERA later in the month, the representative told us.

Meanwhile, down in Austin, controversy is brewing over Out In America. Meghan Stabler, a board member for the Human Rights Campaign who lives in Round Rock, reports that the PBS affiliate in the capital, KLRU, has no plans to air Out in America during Pride month:

A major documentary about the American LGBT experience (“OUT in America”) will premiere nationally this week. Unfortunately here in Austin, the most liberal of cities in Texas, maybe the only liberal city in Texas, the local PBS station, KLRU,  is not scheduled to air it. …

After researching the monthly schedule for KLRU I noticed that while over 80 percent of the national PBS Stations are planning to run the documentary, KLRU has no plans,” Stabler writes. “The majority of airings will take place to coincide with Pride month, June. I contacted the programming department and received the following reply, “thanks … for inquiring about OUT in America. Currently our programming department said it’s not scheduled but they are considering it. Here’s a list of other programs this month to celebrate Gay and Lesbian Pride Month.” …

I talked further with the programming department of KLRU. There answer was that this is a “pledge drive” program and they will not be running it. They have recorded it for potential future use, but as this was a pledge program they would not be running it in the near term. I wasn’t satisfied and neither should you be.

So I then talked with Maria Rodriguez, Sr. VP – Broadcasting at KLRU-TV (Beyondmrodriguez@klru.org or 512-475-9029). She confirmed what I had been told earlier that “OUT in America” had been offered by PBS National as a documentary for use during pledge drives, and that due to a shorter than normal pledge drive in June, KLRU had decided not to air the program. She could not confirm a date or a month that the documentary would be aired but assured me that some time in the year it would be. I informed her that the content of this documentary was about the lives and personal stories as told by our voices vs. a historical narrative on topics like Stonewall. But she said they were airing Stonewall Uprising and two others for the GLBT community and that KLRU felt that was all that would be done.

Unfortunately a new documentary that does a beautiful job of capturing the richness and complexity of what it means to be LGBT at this particular moment in American history, and does so in an warm, humorous and genuine way, fails to get air time in Austin. That doesn’t cut it for me. “OUT in America” is a collection of our voices airing the struggle for equality in love, relationships, work and transition. The other programming, while offering a repeat documentary on the history of Stonewall and a new documentary called “Two Spirits” about the Navajo Indian traditions and the brutal slaying of Fred Martinez a Navaho “two-spirit” transgender youth, could still be bolstered by the scheduling of “Out in America.”

A petition has been launched at Change.org calling for Austin’s KLRU to air Out In America. If you’d like to encourage KERA to re-air the program in Dallas later this month, the station’s representative said to call 800-456-5372, mention Out in America, and make a contribution.

 

—  John Wright

Transsexual widow Nikki Araguz to appeal Texas judge’s decision declaring her marriage invalid

Nikki Araguz

Transsexual widow Nikki Araguz plans to appeal a state district judge’s ruling last week declaring her marriage invalid and denying her death benefits from her husband.

Judge Randy Clapp, of the 329th Judicial District Court in Wharton County, ruled May 24 that Nikki Araguz is not entitled to death benefits from Thomas Araguz, a volunteer firefighter who was killed in the line of duty last year.

Clapp declared the Araguzes’ marriage invalid because he said Nikki Araguz was born male and Texas law prohibits same-sex marriage.

In a press release sent out this afternoon, Nikki Araguz’s attorneys, Frye and Associates, announced that they plan to appeal Clapp’s decision to the 13th Court of Appeals in Corpus Christi “in a timely manner.”

Nikki Araguz also issued her own press release, saying she is “completely devastated” by Clapp’s ruling and providing background about her marriage and the court case.

We’ve posted both press releases in their entirety after the jump.

—  John Wright

What’s Brewing: Judge orders El Paso to rescind DP benefits; ruling today in Nikki Araguz case

dead firefighter's transgender wife
Nikki Araguz

Your weekday morning blend from Instant Tea:

1. The partners of gay city employees in El Paso — along with retired municipal workers and elected officials — are slated to lose their health insurance Aug. 1 under a decision handed down by a federal judge on Friday. U.S. District Judge Frank Montalvo’s ruling upholds a ballot measure approved by El Paso voters in November calling for the city to support “traditional family values” by limiting health benefits to current city employees, their legal spouses and their dependent children. The ballot measure, sponsored by conservative religious groups, was aimed at rescinding domestic partner benefits for gay employees, which the City Council approved in 2009. However, because the measure was so vaguely worded, it also threatened benefits for retirees and elected officials. Affected parties filed a federal lawsuit alleging that the ballot measure violated their right to equal protection as well as their contract with the city’s insurance company, but Montalvo ruled against them. “This is an example of how direct democracy can have unexpected consequences,” Montalvo wrote. Read Montalvo’s full ruling by going here. Montalvo ordered the benefits to cease on Aug. 1, to give the affected parties time to purchase other health insurance. The ruling won’t apply to retired police officers and firefighters until the judge determines whether it would violate their collective bargaining agreement.

2. A state district judge in Wharton, Texas, is expected to rule this morning in the case of transgender widow Nikki Araguz, who’s fighting to receive death benefits from her husband, a volunteer firefighter killed in the line of duty last  year. Meghan Stabler, a transgender board member for the Human Rights Campaign who’s been monitoring the Araguz case, said the following in an email late Monday: “We just received word this evening that Wharton Judge Randy Clapp will issue summary ruling Tuesday morning. On hearing this news Nikki commented that she was, ‘now reliving those traumatic first hours following her husband firefighter Captain Thomas Araguz’s death.’ She is hoping and praying for a positive ruling in her favor so she can finally grieve in peace. Will pass on more details when I can. Obviously Nikki is emotionally distraught right now and we are trying to calm her.” Stay tuned to Instant Tea for updates.

3. Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam signed a bill Monday overturning Nashville’s nondiscrimination ordinance, which bars city contractors from discriminating against LGBT people. Incidentally, Dallas has had a similar ordinance since 2002, but apparently it hasn’t been enforced because city officials and LGBT advocates weren’t aware of it until recently.

—  John Wright