Remembering John Lawrence, the man behind Lawrence v. Texas

Lawrence

John Lawrence and Tyrone Gardner

Metro Weekly reports that one-time Houstonian John Geddes Lawrence, the “Lawrence” in Lawrence v. Texas, passed away last month at the age of 68:

“In the facts underlying the Supreme Court case, Lawrence v. Texas, Lawrence and Tyron Garner were arrested under Texas’s Homosexual Conduct Law after police entered Lawrence’s home on Sept. 17, 1998, and saw them “engaging in a sexual act.” The couple challenged the law as unconstitutional”

I was 22 and living in Dallas in 2003 when the Supreme Court issued its opinion in Lawrence declaring Texas’ law against “homosexual conduct” unconstitutional. A group of over 100 people gathered in the parking lot of the Resource Center of Dallas as Dennis Coleman, then with Lambda Legal, read excerpts of the decision. I remember the exuberant electricity in the air, the crowd bubbling with joy and the relief of centuries of official oppression finally coming to an end. Similar get-togethers took place across the state, as an entire community breathing a collective sigh of relief.

That relief has turn to frustration over the years. Although the Supreme Court decision rendered Penal Code Section 21.06 unconstitutional, the law remains on the books, and efforts to remove it have met with significant resistance. During a hearing this spring on finally removing the unconstitutional law, Rep. Jose Aliseda, R – Pleasanton, lamented that repeal of the law would entail removing portions of the Health Code requiring that HIV education efforts include information that “homosexual conduct is not an acceptable lifestyle and is a criminal offense under Section 21.06, Penal Code.”

Before Lawrence several attempts were made to remove the law against “homosexual conduct.” The Texas legislature voted to remove it from the penal code as part of a complete rewrite of the code in 1971, but the measure was vetoed by Gov. Preston Smith. In 1973 the Legislature again undertook a rewrite of the code, keeping “homosexual conduct” a crime but making it a class C misdemeanor. In 1981 a U.S. District Court ruled in Baker v. Wade that the law was unconstitutional, but as that case was winding its way through an unusually torturous appeals process the Supreme Court ruled in Bowers v. Hardwick that a similar law in Georgia was constitutional, making the questions in Baker moot. Similarly, in the 90′s there was hope that Texas v. Morales might finally prevail in defeating the “homosexual conduct” prohibition, but the Texas Supreme Court decided that since, in their opinion, the law was rarely enforced, there was no reason for them to rule in the matter.

Lawrence’s legacy lives on in a scholarship named after him and Garner administered by the Houston GLBT Community Center. The scholarship “recognizes outstanding leadership shown by gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender Texas high school seniors and college
students by contributing to the cost of their continuing education. Selection is based upon character and need.” Tim Brookover, president of the community center, expressed sorrow at Lawrence’s passing “John was a hero, the community owes a great debt of gratitude to John and Tyrone for taking the case all the way to the Supreme Court,” said Brookover. “They could have easily allowed it to slip away, but they decided to stay and fight and that makes them heroes and role models.”

The application deadline for the John Lawrence/Tyrone Gardner Scholarship is March 2, 2012.

—  admin

Dobbs resigns 7 Points mayoral post After being indicted on assault charge

His partner claims charges stem from anti-gay bias, say indictment has left Dobbs ‘disgraced’ and ‘financially destroyed’

HAPPIER TIMES | Joe Dobbs, left, and his partner, Michael Tayem, right, celebrate with a supporter after Dobbs was elected in a landslide as mayor of Seven Points.

David Webb  |  Contributing Writer
davidwaynewebb@yahoo.com

SEVEN POINTS — The pending prosecution of gay former Mayor Joe Dobbs by the Henderson County District Attorney has left the official disgraced and financially destroyed, according to his life partner, Michael Tayem.

Dobbs submitted a letter of resignation to the Seven Points City Council late last week, relinquishing his duties as both mayor and chief of the city’s volunteer fire department. According to Joey Dauben, publisher of the EllisCountyObserver.com, some sources are saying that Dobbs was forced out of the volunteer fire department after news broke about the indictments.

Tayem, a former Seven Points police officer who has lived with Dobbs in a committed relationship for several years, said Dobbs was fired from his job as a juvenile probation officer with the Texas Youth Commission in Rockwall after he was indicted on Aug. 19 by a Henderson County grand jury.

Dobbs was indicted on a felony charge of assault on a public servant and misdemeanor charges of official oppression and interference with public duties.

“It’s been horrible,” Tayem said. “It’s left us in ruin and struggling to make ends meet. He was the primary source of income for us.”

Tayem was also indicted on a misdemeanor charge of interference with public duties in connection with the same alleged incident on Aug. 16.

The district attorney reportedly told the grand jury that Dobbs and Tayem had interfered with an investigator from his office who was attempting to serve a subpoena at Seven Points City Hall in connection with an ongoing investigation of Dobbs’ administration as mayor.

Tayem had been on suspension from the Seven Points Police Department since May when a citizen filed a complaint with the Henderson County District Attorney alleging that he was the victim of police brutality at Tayem’s hands.

Through Tayem, Dobbs has declined to be interviewed in connection with the charges pending against him until his attorney advises him to do so.

In a statement relayed through Tayem, Dobbs said he believes the indictments were an act of retaliation because of his complaint to the district attorney three weeks ago that the same investigator had engaged in official oppression against a member of the Seven Points City Council. That council member submitted a written statement detailing what the investigator had said to her, Tayem said.

Dobbs said in the statement he also believes the initial investigation of his administration and the indictments were motivated by anti-gay bias.

“We can’t think of any other reason for it,” Tayem said.

In a telephone interview this week, Henderson County District Attorney Scott McKee denied that his office was motivated by anti-gay bias or retaliation.

He noted his office continues to investigate the city of Seven Points in connection with another law enforcement agency, but he declined to identify the agency, which is widely believed to be the FBI because of the federal agency’s presence in the city during a previous mayoral administration.

“That is a patently false statement by him,” said McKee in regard to Dobbs’ claim. “His sexuality has absolutely nothing to do with the investigation.”

McKee said he believes that the evidence in connection with the alleged incident on Aug. 16 merits the indictments.

City Secretary Dru Haynes said in an interview this week that the City Council had called a meeting for Sept. 2 to accept Dobbs’ resignation and to decide what to do next.

“The day-to-day business of the city is going on without interruption,” Haynes said.

Dobbs’ resignation marks the conclusion of his tumultuous tenure as mayor. Controversy began immediately after he was elected in a landslide  more than a year ago.

For almost a year, three members of the City Council who had supported Dobbs’ opponent in the election boycotted council meetings and refused to resign.

With a failure to establish a quorum each month for the City Council to conduct business, Dobbs said he was forced to run the city on his own with the advice of the city attorney. That apparently led to the investigation of his administration by other law enforcement agencies.

After city elections this past spring, the City Council had begun establishing quorums again and meeting regularly.

Dobbs had ran on a campaign of restoring integrity to the city after the former mayor, a municipal judge and a council member were indicted on corruption charges following an FBI investigation of the city.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition September 2, 2011.

—  Michael Stephens

UPDATE: Gay Seven Points mayor resigns, says his indictment stems from anti-gay bias

Seven Points Mayor Joe Dobbs, left, and his partner Michael Tayem with one of Dobbs’ supporters following his election last year.

Gay Seven Points Mayor Joe Dobbs has submitted a letter of resignation after being indicted on criminal charges in connection with an alleged incident at the Cedar Creek Lake city’s municipal building on Aug. 16, according to a statement released to Dallas Voice.

Dobbs’ life partner, suspended Seven Points police officer Michael Tayem, relayed a prepared statement from the mayor during a brief telephone interview Friday afternoon. Tayem, who also was indicted in connection with the alleged incident, said the mayor could not provide any additional information until he consults with his attorney.

In the statement, Dobbs attributes his legal problems to “retaliation” and anti-gay discrimination.

“The charges appear to be retaliation in response to a criminal offense I reported,” Dobbs said in the statement. “We think a lot of it is also related to my being gay. We can’t think of any other reason.”

Tayem said Dobbs resigned because he could no longer justify the stress.

“Joe put in a letter of resignation because it is not worth the stress anymore,” Tayem said. “After everything we’ve done, it’s just not worth it anymore.”

—  admin

What’s Brewing: Dad says gay teen’s death not suicide; ex-cop gets jail in rape of transsexual

Lance Lundsten

1. Gay Minnesota teen Lance Lundsten was laid to rest Tuesday night, but questions remain about what caused his death. Some news reports have suggested that Lundsten, 18, took his own life in response to anti-gay bullying at school. However, Lundsten’s father maintains that he died from coronary edema, a condition caused by an enlarged heart. Autopsy results will take several weeks.

2. A former San Antonio police officer accused of raping a transsexual prostitute was sentenced to one year in jail on Tuesday. The former officer, Craig Nash, pleaded guilty to official oppression after prosecutors agreed in exchange not to charge him with sexual assault by a police officer, which carries a life sentence. Prosecutors also agreed not to pursue an allegation by a man who said Nash raped him a few years earlier.

3. A federal appeals court in Louisiana today will hear a case involving two gay dads who simply want both of their names listed on their adopted child’s birth certificate. A federal district judge and a three-judge panel of the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals have already ruled in the gay couple’s favor, but the bigoted state attorney general is appealing the decision. The couple is represented by Lambda Legal’s Ken Upton of Dallas, who warns of a “gaping loophole” in the doctrine of full faith and credit if the decision is overturned: “An exception that permits states arbitrarily to ignore legal parent-child relationships as families travel throughout the United States would create unprecedented chaos and harm.”

—  John Wright

Jury deadlocked in trial of state trooper accused of slamming woman into concrete wall

UPDATE: Perez was found guilty of misdemeanor assault.

Back in October, John Wright posted this item here on Instant Tea about Texas State Trooper Arturo Perez who faced criminal charges after video taken during a traffic stop for suspected drunk driving surfaced of him slamming 23-year-old Whitney Fox face first into a concrete retaining wall on the Dallas North Tollway after finding out that Fox and her friends in the car with her were on their way home from a gay bar in Oak Lawn.

The Dallas Morning News has reported that jurors hearing the misdemeanor assault case against Perez in Judge Jane Roden’s court are deadlocked and unable to return a verdict. The jurors had been deliberating for about five hours total when, at noon Friday, they send the judge a note saying they were at an impasse.

DMN reports that Judge Roden was expected to tell the jurors to keep deliberating.

The incident in questioned happened in October 2009 after Perez stopped Fox on suspicion of drunk driving. He had cuffed the young woman’s wrists behind her and was patting her down when she began arguing with him about the way he was touching her. Perez told Fox several times as she argued with him that she was “fixing to get yourself hurt.”

Then Perez began leading Fox to his squad car, holding her left arm. When she tried to jerk away from him, Perez  jerked Fox’s arm in return, swinging her around and into the concrete.

Fox — who in the video is visibly stunned by the impact — was left with a large gash in her chin. As she collapsed to the ground, Perez walked away, leaving a second trooper to attend to Fox.

John’s post in October examined allegations  Fox’s attorney, Randy Isenberg, made to Fox 4 News in Dallas that Perez began handling Fox more roughly and slammed her into the wall after another young woman in Fox’s car said something about having left a gay bar in Oak Lawn. The implication, of course, was that Perez is homophobic and deliberately hurt Fox because he thought she is gay.

The incident was captured on video, posted below, by the dashcam in Perez’s squad car.

The Dallas County District Attorney initially charged Perez with official oppression in the case, but a grand jury refused to issue an indictment on the charge. The DA’s office then charged Perez with misdemeanor assault. Perez’s attorney, John Haring, told Fox 4 News this past October that the Texas Ranger had reviewed the video and concluded that Fox was resisting arrest and Perez was not at fault.

Perez retired shortly after the incident occurred, just before the Department of Public Safety could fire him. The DWI charges against Fox were dropped.

—  admin