WATCH: HISD Board gets earful on anti-gay flier

Manuel Rodriguez

Trustee Manuel Rodriguez in the hot seat as public condemns his homophobia

A standing-room-only crowd greeted the Houston Independent School Board last night. While the board’s monthly meetings often attract an assortment of parents, community members and gadflies many in the crowd were there with a decidedly non-educational issue on their minds: the anti-gay flier distributed by Trustee Manuel Rodriguez during his recent reelection campaign. As previously reported by Houstini, the flier encouraged Houstonians to vote against Rodriquez’s opponent, Ramiro Fonseca. because of his sexual orientation.

The first to address the issue were Rodriquez’s fellow trustees, Anna Eastman and Juliet Stipeche. Eastman spoke passionately of the importance of HISD’s anti-bullying policy which “protects people from harassment and bullying based on attributes we all have,” and said that she felt Rodriguez’s actions violated the spirit of that policy. Stipeche, near tears, read the names of teens who had committed suicide after enduring anti-LGBT bullying.

The board had planned to vote on a new ethics policy at the meeting that covered behavior by trustees. At the encouragement of two speakers, and the motion of Eastman, the board decided to delay that vote until December so that a policy stating that encouraging discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity and expression could be added.

After three and a half hours the crowd in the board’s chambers had dwindled, with most of those who had come to confront Rodriquez still waiting. When Board President Paula Harris finally opened the floor for public comment the first person to step up was Houston GLBT Political Caucus President Noel Freeman. Freeman told the board that the extant of Rodriquez’s homophobic campaigning was far greater than the flier which had drawn so much media attention. “What you all might not know is that he also went on television and said that he just couldn’t understand why a 54 year old unmarried man would want, quote ‘access to children,’” said Freeman. “That statement in and of itself, and the implications made therein is reprehensible and simply disgusting.”

Freeman asked that the Board remove Rodriquez as their representative on the Texas Council of School Boards, and as the board’s vice president. He went on to criticize the apology issued by Rodriquez after the election, saying that it did not address the concerns of the GLBT community, nor was it delivered to the community but rather to the press. “You cannot simply say ‘oops, I’m sorry’ and this all goes away,” said Freeman. “We will never forget what you did!”

Board President Harris had made frequent reference throughout the meeting to a group of students from HISD’s Milby High School, letting them know that their time to speak would come. As the students’ designated speaker stepped to the podium his hands visibly shook in nervousness. “When I first heard about [Rodriquez's flier] I did not agree with it because I believe that the message was that a gay person could not be as successful as a straight person and that really hurt me,” said the student. “My question to you is are you going to help us stop the bullying, or are you going to be a bully yourself?”

Perhaps the strongest response from the board was garnered by Paul Gonzales, who choked back tears as he described the challenges he faces as a gay man and parent of an HISD student. “I have a kid, and I have a kid that I have enrolled in HISD, and I love her. Me and my partner every single day are trying to show her that there’s nothing wrong, there’s nothing wrong with our family. So for a board member to say that my family is reprehensible to him… I have to explain [to her] that there are still people who consider us not the kind of family that deserve respect,” said Paul to the board, who were fighting back tears of their own. “GLBT parents like myself trust HISD to give us that haven for our children, that they’re not going to be looked at any differently. But the words that we saw on this flier just made me cringe to think that this isn’t the place that I thought that it was.”

After the jump, watch some of the eighteen people who spoke to the board.

—  admin

DOMA ruled unconstitutional by bankruptcy court

A federal bankruptcy court in California on Monday ruled that Section 3 of the Defense of Marriage Act is unconstitutional.

The U.S. Bankruptcy Court for the Central District of California in Los Angeles ruled that it is discriminatory to prevent a legally married same-sex couple from filing for joint bankruptcy.

The couple, Gene Balas and Carlos Morales, filed a joint chapter 13 petition. They were married in 2008 in California and remain legally married.

In his ruling, the judge wrote: “This case is about equality, regardless of gender or sexual orientation, for two people who filed for protection under Title 11 of the United States Code (Bankruptcy Code).”

It is “undisputed that the Debtors are a lawfully married California couple,” the judge wrote, adding that the couple came to the court to restructure and repay their debt following extended illnesses and long periods of unemployment.

The U.S. trustee for the case filed a motion to dismiss on the grounds that two men cannot file jointly for bankruptcy. The judge ruled the trustee did not ask for dismissal based on one of the 11 causes listed in bankruptcy law to dismiss, but simply because the couple are two men.

The judge said the trustee filed no relevant case law supporting his position and said the couple should not be singled out for discriminatory treatment. He cited the Obama administration’s position that DOMA is unconstitutional and ruled that, indeed it is.

—  David Taffet

Judge to rule this week in Nikki Araguz case

Nikki Araguz

Transgender widow vows appeal if she loses case

JUAN A. LOZANO  |  Associated Press

WHARTON, Texas — The transgender widow of a Texas firefighter will likely learn next week whether his family’s request to nullify their marriage and strip her of any death benefits will be granted, a judge said Friday.

State District Judge Randy Clapp made the announcement after hearing arguments in a lawsuit filed by the family of firefighter Thomas Araguz III, who was killed while battling a blaze last year. The suit argues that his widow shouldn’t get any benefits because she was born a man and Texas doesn’t recognize same-sex marriage.

The widow, Nikki Araguz, said she had done everything medically and legally possible to show that she is female and was legally married under Texas law. She believes that she’s entitled to widow’s benefits.

“I believe the judge is going to rule in my favor,” Araguz said after the court hearing.

The lawsuit seeks control over death benefits and assets totaling more than $600,000, which the firefighter’s family wants to go to his two sons from a previous marriage. Voiding the marriage would prevent Nikki Araguz from receiving any insurance or death benefits or property the couple had together.

Thomas Araguz died while fighting a fire at an egg farm near Wharton, about 60 miles southwest of Houston, in July 2010. He was 30.

His mother, Simona Longoria, filed a lawsuit asking that her son’s marriage be voided. She and her family have said he learned of his wife’s gender history just prior to his death, and after he found out, he moved out of their home and planned to end the marriage.

But Nikki Araguz, 35, has insisted that her husband was aware she was born a man and that he fully supported her through the surgical process to become a woman. She underwent surgery two months after they were married in 2008.

Longoria’s attorney, Chad Ellis, argued that Texas law — specifically a 1999 appeals court ruling that stated chromosomes, not genitals, determine gender — supports his client’s efforts to void the marriage.

The ruling upheld a lower court’s decision that threw out a wrongful death lawsuit filed by a San Antonio woman, Christie Lee Cavazos Littleton, after her husband’s death. The court said that although Littleton had undergone a sex-change operation, she was actually a man, based on her original birth certificate, and therefore her marriage and wrongful death claim were invalid.

Ellis presented medical and school records that he said showed Nikki Araguz was born without female reproductive organs and that she presented herself as a male while growing up and going to school. He also said her birth certificate at the time of her marriage indicated she was a man.

“By law, two males cannot be married in this state,” Ellis told the judge.

Nikki Araguz, who was born in California, did not change her birth certificate to reflect she had become a female until after her husband’s death, said Edward Burwell, one of the attorneys for Thomas Araguz’s ex-wife, Heather Delgado, the mother of his two children.

But one of Nikki Araguz’s attorneys, Darrell Steidley, said that when his client got her marriage license, she presented the necessary legal documents to show she was a female. He also noted changes made in 2009 to the Texas Family Code that allowed people to present numerous alternatives to a birth certificate as the proof of identity needed to get a marriage license. That was an example, he argued, of the state trying to move away from the 1999 appeals court ruling.

The changes in 2009 allowed transgendered people to use proof of their sex change to get a marriage license. The Texas Legislature is currently considering a bill that would prohibit county and district clerks from using a court order recognizing a sex change as documentation to get married.

After the hearing, the firefighter’s family and attorneys for his ex-wife criticized plans by Nikki Araguz to star in a reality television dating show and implied she was only interested in money and fame that the case would bring her.

“That is absurd,” Nikki Araguz said in response. “I’m after my civil equality and the rights that I deserve as the wife of a fallen firefighter.”

If the judge rules against the firefighter’s family in their motion for a summary judgment, the case would then proceed to trial. Araguz said if the judge rules against her, she would appeal, all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court if necessary.

—  John Wright

LCR’s response to Motion to Hold Appeals in Abeyance re: DADT

The Log Cabin Republicans have issued a response to “Motion to Hold Appeals in Abeyance.”

ARGUMENT

Although a bill to repeal the “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” statute, 10 U.S.C. §654, has been passed and signed by the President, this legislative “repeal” is not yet effective. It is undisputed, and the government’s motion acknowledges, that repeal will not take effect for 60 days following certification by three officials that several requirements have been met – a certification for which there is no deadline or expected timetable. The repeal also may not take effect at all if threatened Congressional action to “repeal the repeal” proceeds. In the meantime, Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell continues in full force. Homosexual Americans who wish to enlist in the armed forces may not do so openly; current homosexual servicemembers must continue to lie about their identity and serve under ongoing threat of investigation; and servicemembers identified as homosexual continue to be subject to discharge.

More good stuff in there, but touché, LCR, touché.




AMERICAblog Gay

—  admin

Obama admin. asks Supreme Court to deny LCR’s motion to end the DADT stay

The Acting Solicitor General, Neal Kumar Katyal, has asked the U.S. Supreme Court to deny the Log Cabin Republican’s motion to vacate the stay of the DADT injunction:

Government lawyers asked the U.S. Supreme Court Wednesday to deny a request by the Log Cabin Republicans that the court lift a stay of the worldwide injunction a federal judge placed on the “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy in September after she rule the law unconstitutional.

The motion includes with a Declaration from Clifford Stanley, the Under Secretary of Defense for Personnel and Readiness who tells the Court:

I submit this declaration to make the following point: the Government intends to appeal the Court’s decision. During the pendency of that appeal, the military should not be required to suddenly and immediately restructure a major personnel policy that has been in place for years, particularly during a time when the Nation is involved in combat operations overseas. The magnitude of repealing the DADT law and policy is demonstrated by the Department’s ongoing efforts to study the implications of repealing DADT, which I outline in detail below.

According to Stanley, the injunction would adversely impact “military readiness”:

As demonstrated below, in the event DADT is no longer in effect, an injunction with immediate and worldwide effect will have adverse effects on both military readiness and the Department’s ability to effect a smooth and lasting transition to a policy that accommodates the presence of openly gay and lesbian servicemembers. The stakes here are so high, and the potential harm so great, that caution is in order.

There’s has been an abundance of caution. Too much caution. DADT should be long gone by now.

Could this be a bigger mess for the Obama administration? They’ve so lost control of this process – and I don’t really think there is a strategy to fix it. That’s why this Log Cabin lawsuit keeps causing more and more problems for the administration.

Log Cabin’s Executive Director and the group’s attorney have issued statements.

First, really interesting background from R. Clarke Cooper, the Executive Director of Log Cabin Republicans:

“It is unfortunate the Obama Justice Department has forced the Log Cabin Republicans to go to the Supreme Court to halt this failed policy. At the same time, President Obama remains far from the front lines of the fight for legislative repeal while commanding his lawyers to zealously defend ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’ in court. This week Log Cabin Republicans have conducted meetings with numerous Republican senators potentially in favor of repeal, all of whom are waiting for the President’s call. The White House has been missing in action on Capitol Hill, undermining efforts to repeal ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’ in the final session of this Congress, potentially leaving the judiciary as the only solution for our brave men and women in uniform.”

The White House was also missing in action in September, when the Defense bill hit the Senate floor.

And, here’s the statement from Dan Woods, the lead attorney from White & Case:

“We have reviewed the government’s opposition to Log Cabin’s application to vacate the stay of Judge Phillips’s injunction by the Ninth Circuit. In our view, the government’s lengthy, detailed, 29-page brief does not address the two key arguments we presented to the Supreme Court. First, we argued that the premise of the government’s position–that it needs time to conduct an orderly process of repealing DADT–is entirely speculative because Congress has not and very well may never repeal DADT; the government’s filing today does not address that issue. Second, we argued that the Ninth Circuit order did not take into account the harm to servicemembers and potential enlistees resulting from the stay; the government’s filing today does not respond to that point either. At this point, all we can do is to look forward to a favorable ruling from the Supreme Court.”

A favorable ruling from the Supreme Court would be a very good thing.

Solicitor General’s Opposition to LCR’s Supreme Ct. Motion to Vacate DADT Stay




AMERICAblog Gay

—  admin

Ninth Circuit Responds To Stay Motion

Things are moving VERY quickly. Brian Devine reports at Courage Campaign:

The Ninth Circuit just issued an Order stating that the Plaintiffs’ response to the Motion to Stay is due by 11:00 p.m. tonight. The Prop 8 supporters’ reply, not to exceed 15 pages, is due by 9:00 a.m. on Monday, August 16, 2010. This suggests that the Ninth Circuit is preparing to rule on the Motion to Stay before Judge Walker’s temporary stay expires on August 18th at 5:00 p.m. It’s surprising that the Court only gave the Plaintiffs about 9 hours to file their brief, and gave the Appellants until Monday to Reply. But I wouldn’t read too much into this. They know that everyone anticipated the Motion and that everyone’s briefs are essentially written already.

Sounds like everybody wants to get to Hawaii.

Joe. My. God.

—  John Wright

In CA, anti-marriage side filed emergency motion for stay

At the Prop. 8 Trial Tracker, Brian Devine reports on the emergency stay filed by the Prop. 8 supporters and explains what will happen moving forward:

As for their arguments on the merits of the stay, there does not seem to be any new arguments that Judge Walker has not already rejected.

This Emergency Motion will be referred to the lead judge of the Motions Panel. If the lead judge is unavailable, the Emergency Motion is referred to the second judge and then the third judge of the Motions Panel. The judge to whom it is referred may either grant temporary relief or convene the Motions Panel (usually by telephone) to decide the motion. My guess is that in a case as newsworthy as this, the lead judge would prefer to convene the entire panel rather than make the decision himself. In any event, there could be a decision on the Emergency Motion within hours after the motion is filed, but it’s more likely that it will take a day or two for the Judge(s) to rule.

And, you have to love this. In its motion, the haters cited this article from GLTNN.com: Advisory: If Judge Walker Says It’s OK to Get Married. Not kidding.

And, it’s still unclear if these Prop. 8 proponents can even appeal.




AMERICAblog Gay

—  John Wright

Protect Marriage Files 95-Page Emergency Motion For Stay Pending Appeal

Note that the first citation is an article from San Diego’s Gay & Lesbian Times.
Protect Marriage Appeal

Joe. My. God.

—  John Wright

Prop 8 Plaintiffs File Motion Opposing Judge Walker’s Stay

The American Foundation for Equal Rights, who represented the plaintiffs in the Prop 8 trial, filed the motion yesterday, the day it was due.

Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger and attorney general Jerry Brown filed their own motions yesterday as well.

Ob AFER issued the following statement calling for same-sex marriages in California to resume at once.

“The unconstitutionality of Proposition 8 has been proven beyond a doubt. Extending Prop. 8’s denial of fundamental constitutional rights represents a grave injustice. The time for the court’s ruling to go into effect is now. We welcome Governor Schwarzenegger’s and Attorney General Brown’s opposition of a stay after their thoughtful analysis of the evidence, the court’s ruling and the law.”

Read the full motion here.

The National Center for Lesbian Rights has published an explanation on the possible ways the stay could potentially play out:

"Judge Walker can decide whether to stay the decision for longer at any time. If he grants the motion to stay, same-sex couples will not be able to marry in California until after the appeal is finished. The Judge can also delay the decision for a short time until the Ninth Circuit appeals court decides whether they will order a stay. If Judge Walker denies the stay and permits his decision to take immediate effect, the Yes on 8 proponents can ask the Ninth Circuit appeals court to order an emergency stay. Several counties have announced that, if Judge Walker lifts the stay, they are ready to begin issuing licenses and performing civil ceremonies for same-sex couples."

Meanwhile, David Boies, one half of the team who repped the prop 8 plaintiffs, told a large crowd in San Francisco that he believes it is a "dead certainty" the case will end up in the hands of the US Supreme Court. Watch a clip of him speak, AFTER THE JUMP.

Finally, Equality California is calling on everyone to sign their electronic petition that urges Meg Whitman and Steve Cooley, who are running for the CA governorship and AG positions respectively, to state that they will refuse to defend Prop 8 in court if they are ever elected.

Sign it here.


Towleroad News #gay

—  John Wright