Paxton gets injunction allowing medical professionals to discriminate against transgender people

Texas AG Ken Paxton

Well, Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton started off the new year in the same old homophobic vein, issuing a Jan. 1 press release crowing over a federal district court’s decision to issue an injunction against portions of the Affordable Care Act that prohibited health care professionals from discriminating against transgender people.

The regulation was set to go into effect on Sunday, Jan. 1.

Paxton filed suit against the regulation prohibiting discrimination against transgender individuals in some health programs back in August on behalf of Texas, two other states and the Franiciscan Alliance, a religious hospital network. The suit claims that the regulation redefines term “sex” to “thwart decades of settled precedent” and impose “massive new obligations” on health care providers.

Paxton and his cohorts argued that the rule violates the federal Religious Freedom Restoration Act because by compelling religiously-affiliated health organizations to violate their sincerely held religious beliefs by “forcing them to choose between federal funding and their livelihood as healthcare providers and their exercise of religion.”

Of course, folks who aren’t right-wing homo/transphobes have a different view of the regulation. As Human Rights Campaign Legal Director Sarah Warbelow told the Texas Tribune back in August, the regulation “doesn’t force an individual to do anything in particular” but instead clarifies that health care providers can’t deny services or insurance to someone because they’re transgender.

“The example unfortunately used by individuals who oppose this is that this is going to force doctors to provide transition surgeries to children [but] this doesn’t take away a doctor’s ability to make informed decisions in the best interest of their patients. What the doctor can’t do is say, ‘I won’t treat you because you’re transgender.’”

Paxton’s Jan. 1 press release announcing the injunction, claims that “Not only does it require taxpayers to fund all treatments designed to transition to a different sex, it also forces health care workers, including physicians, to provide controversial services. Under the new rule, a physician that believes that certain treatments are not in a patient’s best interests may be in violation of federal law. And a physician that, for religious or conscientious reasons cannot perform a particular procedure, chooses to instead refer a patient to another health care provider may also be determined to be in violation of this new rule.

The press release quotes Paxton as saying, “This striking example of federal overreach under Obamacare would force many doctors, hospitals and other health care providers in Texas to participate in sex-reassignment surgeries and treatments, even if it violates their best medical judgment or their religious beliefs. I will always fight to protect the constitutional rights of Texans.”

Unless, of course, it’s a constitutional right or a doctor’s “best medical judgment” he doesn’t agree with, like the right to marriage equality or reproductive decisions. And Kenny-boy is always going to fight “federal overreach,” but that doesn’t mean that he and Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick can’t reach out and tell local school districts how to handle their business.

The injunction came from U.S. District Court Judge Reed O’Connor of the Northern District of Texas, in Fort Worth. This is the same judge who issued the injunction against the U.S. Department of Education’s guidance on how school districts should treat transgender students (you know, not discriminate against them).

We’re not saying that Paxton and his cronies hand-picked O’Connor to hear these two cases regarding regulations banning discrimination against transgender people because they know he’s a right-winger who would rule in their favor — but then, we don’t need to say that because said it for us.

—  Tammye Nash

Poll watchers: There are some rules (and the DOJ will be watching, too)

Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton — who, with his fellow Texas Republicans, has tried continually to suppress voter turnout among groups the GOP thinks will vote against them — on Monday issued an opinion warning election officials that “poll watchers” have certain rights and that if an election official tries to interfere with those rights, that official can face Class A misdemeanor charges, punishable by up to one year in jail and a $4,000 fine.

Election officials cannot block official poll watchers from observing and inspecting voting equipment or the interaction between voters and poll workers. Poll watchers also may accompany election officials as they deliver records to vote counters.

But as the Austin American-Stateman points out, those poll watchers have some very strict rules governing what they CAN’T do, too:

“State law also forbids poll watchers from speaking to voters.
“To serve, poll watchers must be assigned to a specific precinct and must present a certificate signed by the campaign or party official who appointed them. No more than two watchers can represent each political party or candidate at a polling site, and observers can serve only in the county in which they are registered to vote.
“The Texas Secretary of State’s office also warns poll watchers that they must stay silent on issues of voter identification.
“Under an order by a federal judge, Texans who do not have a government-issued photo ID can show other documents Tuesday — such as a bank statement or utility bill — if they fill out and sign a declaration indicating why they couldn’t acquire a government ID, such as a lack of transportation, disability or theft. Poll watchers and election workers cannot question the truthfulness of the declaration, the agency said.”

Paxton’s opinion came in response to a request filed back in September by Llano County D.A. Wiley McAfee, and amid expectations that there will certainly be “poll watchers” at some polling places following Donald Trump’s repeated claims that the election is rigged and urging his followers to “monitor” polling places to guard against voter fraud. Many non-Trumpettes, of course, understand that the Widespread Voter Fraud Boogeyman is about as real as aliens and Bigfoot, and believe that a more likely scenario is that alt-right white supremacist Trumpettes are going to show up to try and intimidate certain voters into not casting their ballots.

With all the accusations flying back and forth, U.S. Attorney General Loretta Lynch announced Monday that the U.S. Department of Justice will be deploying more than 500 people to 67 different jurisdictions in 28 states today to monitor polls during the general election, CBS News reports. Those 67 jurisdictions include Dallas County, Harris County and Waller County in Texas.

—  Tammye Nash

Now Paxton is suing to deny trans people proper health care


Ken Paxton

Less than two days after a federal judge in Fort Worth issued an injunction halting enforcement the Obama administration’s guidelines for school districts on transgender students and issues, in a lawsuit filed by 13 states led by Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton, Paxton announced today (Tuesday, Aug. 23), that his has filed yet another lawsuit against the federal government, this time targeting proper health care for transgender people.

In July, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services implemented a new regulation intended to protect transgender people from discrimination in the provision of healthcare, The new regulation notes that the term “sex” in the Affordable Healthcare Act includes gender identity, when it comes to prohibiting discrimination.

According to the HHS website, the new regulations require that women have equal access to the health care they receive and the insurance they obtain, and make clear that sex discrimination includes discrimination based on gender identity. That means individuals cannot be denied health care or health coverage based on their sex, including their gender identity; that individuals must be treated consistent with their gender identity, including in access to facilities; that sex-specific health care cannot be denied or limited just because the person seeking such services identifies as belonging to another gender (For example, a provider may not deny an individual treatment for ovarian cancer, based on the individual’s identification as a transgender man, where the treatment is medically indicated), and that “explicit categorical exclusions in coverage for all health care services related to gender transition are facially discriminatory. Other exclusions for gender transition care will be evaluated on a case-by-case basis.”

Ken Paxton, however, sees things a bit differently. In a press release announcing his newest lawsuit against the Obama administration, he claims to be battling “against yet another Obama Administration regulatory overreach that is invading the coffers of Texas, as well as violating the medical judgment and conscience rights of doctors and health care professionals across the country.”

Paxton claims that when enacting the Affordable Health Care Act, Congress intended the term “sex” to denote a biological category.  And now, “The Obama Administration [is trying] to redefine the law so that the term ‘sex’ means ones’ ‘internal sense of gender, which may be male, female, neither or a combination of male and female.’ But the President does not have the power to rewrite the law.”

Paxton’s press release says the new rules could have significant impact on Texas and health care workers because it requires taxpayers to fund “all treatments designed to transition to a different sex,” and it “forces health care workers, including physicians, to provide controversial services.”

The press release continues, “Under the new rule, a physician that believes that certain treatments are not in a patient’s best medical interests may be in violation of federal law. And a physician that, for religious or conscientious reasons cannot perform a particular procedure, chooses to instead refer a patient to another health care provider may be determined to be in violation of this new rule.”

Directly quoting Paxton, the press release says, “This is the thirteenth lawsuit I have been forced to bring against the Obama Administration’s continued threats on constitutional rights of Texans. The federal government has no right to force Texans to pay for medical procedures designed to change a person’s sex. I am disappointed in the Obama Administration’s lack of consideration for medical professionals who believe that engaging in such procedures or treatment violates their Hippocratic Oath, their conscience or their personal religious beliefs, which are protected by the Constitution and federal law.”

Paxton made no mention, however, of his and other Republicans’ efforts to interfere with the doctor/patient relationship when it comes to abortion and other medical treatments/issues affecting women. He also made no mention of the fact that while he continues to waste taxpayer money by filing politically-motivated lawsuits against the federal government, specifically targeting LGBT people in many cases, he has been soliciting donations from individuals and corporations to pay his own legal bills associated with the state and federal securities fraud charges against him. That includes, by the way, a $100,000 donation from the CEO of a company that was under investigation by the AG’s Office.

Rebecca L. Robertson, legal and policy director for the ACLU of Texas, issued a statement today about Paxton’s latest lawsuit, noting that, “Yesterday Texas’ leaders patted themselves on the back for convincing a federal court that transgender schoolchildren should be excluded from the protections of Title IX. Today, the state filed another suit in the same court, this time challenging federal protections intended to shield transgender people from discrimination in healthcare services. We don’t know what else the state has in store, but the people of Texas will not stand idly by and let the state make transgender Texans into second-class citizens with no legal recourse when they face stigma and bias.

“Texas is better than this. This is not who we are,” Robertson said.

—  Tammye Nash

Texas sues federal government because protecting all children is unconstitutional


Attorney General Ken Paxton

Texas today joined 10 other states in a lawsuit against the federal government to stop an Obama administration directive that requires all students — including transgender students — be protected and treated equally.

Not to be outdone by Texas Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick who got all the attention a couple of weeks ago for defending public bathrooms everywhere, Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton, in a press conference announcing that Texas is joining the plaintiffs in the suit, called the order from the administration “outside the bounds of the Constitution.”

“Our schools are now in the crosshairs of the Obama Administration, which maintains it will punish those schools who do not comply with its orders,” Paxton said in a written statement. “These schools are facing the potential loss of school funding simply for following common sense policies that protect their students.

“This represents just the latest example of the current administration’s attempts to accomplish by executive fiat what they couldn’t accomplish through the democratic process in Congress,” Paxton added. “By forcing his policies by executive action, President Obama excluded the voice of the people. We stand today to ensure those voices are heard.”

Paxton, who is facing federal civil charges and state criminal charges related to securities fraud, between the time he took office in January 2015 and November 2015, sued the federal government six times at a cost of nearly a quarter of a million (taxpayer) dollars. The first time he sued the feds was over the administration’s policy of extending spousal benefits to married same-sex federal employees.

And by the way, since President Obama was first elected in 2008, Paxton and his predecessor — now-Gov. Greg Abbott — have spent more than $5 million suing the federal government more than 39 times.

Resource Center issued this response to Texas participating in the lawsuit against the federal government:

Today’s lawsuit from Attorney General Paxton is a failure of Texas leadership on multiple levels. Rather than deal with the real problems the state faces and his ongoing legal woes, the attorney general is choosing to score political points by attacking and bullying the transgender children of Texas with the full backing of Governor Abbott and Lieutenant Governor Patrick.

The U.S.Department of Education guidelines — based in sound legal precedent — are meant to protect all students across the nation, including those who are transgender, and to provide clarity for thousands of school districts who are seeking guidance. The Center worked with Dallas ISD to develop similar effective transgender protections approved by the DISD board in 2011.

According to the 2013 GLSEN National School Climate Survey of Texas schools, nearly six in ten LGBT students in Texas regularly heard negative remarks about their gender identity and more than one in ten were physically assaulted based on the way they expressed their gender. More than half of the students did not report the incidents to school personnel or family members. Does the leadership of Texas think transgender youth are unworthy of protections? The attorney general went to great lengths in his news conference to not answer that question.

Equality Texas also condemned the lawsuit. The statewide LGBT advocacy organization criticized Paxton and Patrick for having “already wasted millions of taxpayer dollars” and for discriminating “against their fellow Texans with taxpayer money and [depriving] thousands of Texans their dignity and respect in a losing effort opposing the freedom to marry. … Now in another lawsuit the attorney general has determined to waste millions more in an obviously futile attempt to prevent our transgender citizens, and in particular transgender kids, from being the most basic dignity in regard to basic bodily functions, despite the fact that the Fourth Circuit and various government agencies have made the law clear.”

Through this lawsuit, the Equality Texas statement said, “the attorney general will waste precious time and resources and millions of dollars to harm Texans who have done nothing wrong.” The statement also warned that Paxton and Patrick, with this “shameful animus towards the transgender community,” are “putting our economy at risk for personal political gain.”

James Esseks, director of the ACLU Lesbian Gay Bisexual Transgender and HIV Project, said the lawsuit is “an attack on transgender Americans, plain and simple. … The Supreme Court has made clear that one cannot sue an agency just because they disagree with the agency’s guidance. If these attorneys general disagree with the agency’s interpretation of what the federal ban on sex discrimination means, they can make that argument to the court when it arises in a real case. This lawsuit is a political stunt.”

Failed president candidate and Texas Sen. Ted Cruz also weighed in on the lawsuit, siding — not surprisingly — with Paxton. Decrying the Obama Administration’s “unlawful transgender bathroom agenda,” Cruz said the guidance “has no basis in federal law, and it once again demonstrates that Obama is more devoted to radical social engineering than to the democratic process and the separation of powers.”

—  David Taffet

AG Paxton issues yet another statement on Department of Education’s guidance on trans issues

Ken Paxton

Texas AG Ken Paxton

In his latest effort to protect the innocent, helpless women and children of Texas and the rest of the U.S., Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton has issued yet another statement condemning the U.S. Department of Education and the U.S. Department of Justice’s letter — issued last week to in response to requests from school officials around the country for such guidance on how to deal with transgender students — after having joined two other equally concerned and protective state AGs in sending a letter to the Obama administration.

The other two officials signing the letter to the administration are Oklahoma AG Scott Pruitt, and West Virginia AG Patrick Morrissey.

Paxton said, in part:

“The so-called ‘significant guidance’ issued by the Obama Administrations raises more questions than it answers, just as it creates concerns among anyone who believes sex is a biological fact and not a personal preference. As billions of dollars appear to be at stake based upon schools’ compliance with this guidance, the Obama Administration must be extremely clear about what is and isn’t allowed, and explain how their actions do not add requirements to the law, as their letter claims.”

Read the full text of their letter to the administration here.

—  Tammye Nash

Indicted AG sides with banning sex from the Kay

Ken Paxton

Indicted AG Ken Paxton

Indicted Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton has joined the forces of truth, goodness and the American way to encourage Dallas to continue pissing away money to fight eXXXotica, the love and sex expo, from coming to the Kay Bailey Hutchison Convention Center.

Paxton filed an amicus brief in the suit eXXXotica filed against the city. By my reading, he argues that in order for Dallas business to flourish, we must tell business not to do business in the city.

The city is currently spending $4,000 a day in legal fees to prevent the expo from renting space on a weekend when the Kay has no other business booked. That’s just legal fees and doesn’t include the money the city will be paying to eXXXotica when it loses its First amendment free speech case.

Paxton, who had new federal civil charges filed against him this week, kept focused on what was important — sex — and sent Dallas Voice the following:

Paxton sex letter

And the amicus brief is available here.


—  David Taffet

Judge declares lesbian relationship a ‘common-law marriage’


Sonemaly Phrasavath, right, and her wife, Stella Powell

A Travis County probate judge has ended a year-long battle between an Austin woman and the family of her late partner by accepting a settlement agreement yesterday — Tuesday, Sept. 15 — acknowledging that Sonemaly Phrasavath and Stella Powell were in a common-law marriage, according to an article in the Austin American-Statesman.

Phrasavath and Powell had been together for eight years and had had a union ceremony — not legally recognized as marriage at the time — when Powell died of Cancer in June 2014. A hearing has been set for Oct. 5 to formally declare Phravasath to be Powell’s heir due to marriage. It is the first time in Texas history, lawyers said, that a same-sex couple has been deemed to have a common-law marriage.

Probate Judge Guy Herman accepted the settlement —  which divides Powell’s estate roughly in half between Phravasath and Powell’s other family members and which establishes the two women’s relationship as a common-law marriage — over the objections of Texas’ anti-gay Attorney General Ken Paxton, the same guy who promised Texas county clerks that they wouldn’t have to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples if they had personal religious objections to marriage equality.

Lawyers representing Paxton and the AG’s office had argued in Herman’s court that the settlement assets was a done deal and negated the need to recognize the two women’s relationship as a common-law marriage. But Phrasavath’s attorney, Brian Thompson, told Judge Herman that his client would settle for nothing less that recognition of their relationship as a marriage.

The Austin newspaper, in an article by Chuck Lindell, quoted Thompson as saying, “How many more courts have to tell Ken Paxton that these statutes [banning recognition of marriage equality] are unconstitutional?” He then answered his own question: “One more.”

Herman also granted Thompson’s motion to remove Paxton from the lawsuit. In making the motion, Thompson said, “The denial of my client’s fundamental right to marry needs to end today, and Ken Paxton’s groundless, harassing and mean-spirited attacks on same-sex couples needs to end today. The only reason the state is attempting to continue to interfere in this case is because Som and Stella were a same-sex couple, and Ken Paxton can’t live with the fact.”

A spokeswoman in Paxton’s office said the AG is evaluation its options to challenge Herman’s ruling, which, she said, could create confusion by potentially reopening already finalized probate cases.

—  Tammye Nash

Paxton court appearance delayed 4 weeks, not canceled

Ken Paxton

Ken Paxton (photo courtesy Collin County)

While no deadline has been set for Attorney General Ken Paxton to issue new guidelines to state employees about amending birth and death certificates, U.S. District Judge Orlando Garcia set a hearing for Sept. 10, meaning a contempt citation is still a possibility against the embattled politician.

Attorney Neel Lane said he expects to see something before then. Lane is the attorney for the two Texas marriage-equality-case couples. Earlier this month, he filed a motion in the case to force Texas to recognize a marriage for the purposes of a death certificate.

Texas had refused to issue the amended death certificate that would recognize the marriage of James and John Stone-Hoskins, so that John could inherit his husband’s estate. James died in January 2015. The couple was married in New Mexico a year ago.

Lane said John Stone-Hoskins asked for one amended death certificate, but when the state refused, he ended up winning that right for all same-sex couples in Texas who were married before the Obergefell marriage-equality decision as well as amended birth certificates that could affect thousands of couples and their children in Texas.

During the hearing, Garcia asked if there were any other departments that had not complied with his marriage-equality ruling. He said Garcia seemed anxious to make sure the state was complying in all areas.

Lane said that despite Paxton’s initial bluster encouraging county clerks with deeply held religious beliefs not to comply with Obergefell, the attorney general agreed to issue new guidelines pretty quickly when facing his own contempt of court hearing.

Once the guidelines are written, Lane said he’ll consult with a number of family law attorneys and Lambda Legal’s Ken Upton to make sure same-sex couples are treated the same as opposite-sex couples for purposes of issuing birth and death certificates.

“Under Texas law, the spouse is the presumed parent,” he said.

He said he presumed the guidelines will require the parents to be married at the time of the birth or adoption of the child to be considered the legal parent for purposes of the birth certificate, but he’ll make sure all married couples are treated equally.

—  David Taffet

Karma’s a bitch, Ken Paxton

Rep. Ken PaxtonA special prosecutor is asking for first degree felony charges to be filed against Attorney General Ken Paxton, according to a story in The Dallas Morning News.

Earlier this week, Paxton assured county clerks who didn’t want to issue same-sex wedding licenses that he’d help them seek pro bono legal representation when personal damage lawsuits are filed against them. County clerks shouldn’t count on his help because he’ll apparently need all that legal help himself.

Before being elected to office, Paxton admitted he broke state securities laws and was fined $1,000. Without being a registered with the state, he solicited investment clients for a friend while serving as a state representative from Collin County. That led Collin County prosecutors to continue the investigation.

Two grand juries will be seated in Collin County next week. Charges could be considered at that time. If charged and convicted of a first degree felony, he would be sentenced to 5 to 99 years in prison and could receive a $10,000 fine.

—  David Taffet

AG Paxton sues Department of Labor over FMLA definition of ‘spouse’


Texas AG Ken Paxton

Following in the footsteps of his predecessor Greg Abbott, who sued the federal government over President Obama’s immigration policies, newly-minted Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton announced today (Wednesday, March 18) that he has filed suit against the U.S. Department of Labor over the revised definition of “spouse in the Family and Medical Leave Act.

Paxton is also taking a page from Alabama state Supreme Court Chief Justice Roy Moore’s book and “advising state agencies to follow state law, not the federal rule.”

State law prohibits recognition of same-sex marriage, whereas the Department of Labor’s rule, scheduled to take effect on March 27, revises the definition of “spouse” to recognize marriage equality and therefore grant family and medical leave benefits to same-sex spouses.

According to a statement released Wednesday afternoon by Paxton’s office, “This action is a violation of federal statute, attempts to abrogate Texas’ sovereign immunity, and runs afoul of the principles of federalism recognized by the U.S. Supreme Court.”

The new rule, however, is based on the U.S. Supreme Court’s July 2013 ruling in United States v Windsor, striking down that portion of the federal Defense of Marriage Act that prohibited the federal government from giving legal recognition to same-sex marriages performed in jurisdictions that legally recognize such marriages.

Paxton’s suit also fails to consider U.S. District Judge Orlando Garcia’s February 2014 ruling declaring Texas’ anti-marriage equality constitutional amendment and laws to be in violation of the U.S. Constitution. Paxton also apparently has never heard of the “supremacy clause” in U.S. Constitution, which says that when state and federal laws clash, federal laws win.

—  Tammye Nash