BREAKING: Lambda Legal sues TDCJ on behalf of trans inmate

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Jael Humphrey

Lambda Legal filed a federal lawsuit today (Thursday, Oct. 23), on behalf of Passion Star, a trans woman being housed with male prisoners in the Texas prison system. The lawsuit claims that officials with the Texas Department of Criminal Justice have “displayed deliberate indifference to threats of sexual assault and violence against Ms. Star in TDCJ’s male facilities,” according to a statement released this afternoon.

“Ms. Star has been pleading for protection from rapes, beatings, knifings and threats to her life since she entered TDCJ custody as a teenager, but instead of separating her from aggressors, Texas prison officials have forced her to remain in the general population in male prisons, even though the risk that she would be seriously harmed was obvious,” said Lambda Legal staff attorney Jael Humphrey.

“It is absolutely appalling how TDCJ officials, following the clear lead of Gov. Rick Perry, callously ignore the desperate pleas of Ms. Star and other LGBT people in custody asking to be protected from sexual abuse,” Humphrey added.

Star, now 30, was still a teenager when she pled guilty to charges of aggravated kidnapping, charges that were based on allegations that Star’s boyfriend refused to return to the dealership a used car they were test driving, instead driving around for several hours with the car salesman as an unwilling passenger in the front seat. Star herself was in the back seat.

Star was sentenced to 20 years and transferred into TDCJ custody, and has been housed with male inmates since.

Humphrey said Star has been housed in six different male prison facilities, and that inmates at all six have identified her as feminine. She has been raped, forced to submit to unwanted sexual acts to avoid physical violence and threatened with sexual assault.

Attorneys say Star has filed numerous grievances, complaints and requests asking to be placed in safekeeping. But instead of taking measures to protect her, prison officials have instead told Star to “suck dick,” fight or “stop acting gay” if she wants to keep from being assaulted.

Lambda Legal alleges that on Nov. 19, 2013, Star asked TDCJ officials to protect her from a gang member who had told her that he “owned her.” But instead of protecting her, prison officials actually moved her closer to the person who was threatening her. The next morning, the gang member attacked Star, calling her a “snitching faggot” and slashing her face eight times with a razor.

Still, prison officials refused to move Star to protect her.

Humphrey noted that the Prison Rape Elimination Act, passed by a unanimous vote of Congress, requires states to take measures to eliminate sexual abuse of those in custody and provides guidelines on how to do that — including screening and separating particularly vulnerable people, like trans women, from the general population. Gov. Perry, however, has dismissed the PREA standards as “ill-conceived” and chose to pass up federal funds earmarked by the Department of Justice for the prevention of sexual abuse in detention facilities.

In a written statement released by Lambda Legal, Star said, “Somebody, somehow, needs to shed light on what is taking place here in Texas prisons. TDCJ officials get away with so much and disregard so many legitimate threats to people’s safety. It needs to stop somewhere. I fight for my life every day in here. Safety from rape and assault is not a privilege; it’s a right. I hope this lawsuit will help make sure this doesn’t happen to anyone else.”

The case has been filed in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Texas. Kenneth Upton and Paul Castillo are handling the case, joined by co-counsel Christina N. Goodrich, Christopher J. Kondon and Saman M. Rejali with K&L Gates LLP.

—  Tammye Nash

Abbott a no-show at petition drop

AG delivery2Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott, the Republican nominee for Texas governor, was a no-show Monday when Equality Texas dropped off nearly 5,200 petitions demanding Gov. Rick Perry and Abbott drop their defense of the state’s same-sex marriage ban.

“Despite the plans prearranged last week in which a staff member would meet us in the lobby and take possession of the petitions, the Attorney General’s office said they would only accept the petitions if they were mailed via an acceptable ground carrier,” wrote Chuck Smith in an e-mail.

Instead of giving up, the group headed to the nearby UPS store and mailed them. They’re expected to arrive today.

The action comes after the Feb.26 ruling earlier this year finding Texas’ ban on same-sex marriage to be unconstitutional. Despite growing support for same-sex marriage both in Texas and nationwide, Abbott and Perry appealed the ruling to the 5th Circuit of Appeals.

Abbott filed that appeal Monday, arguing that Texas was within its constitutional right to ban same-sex marriage.”Because same-sex relationships do not naturally produce children, recognizing same-sex marriage does not further these goals to the same extent that recognizing opposite-sex marriage does,” the brief reads. “That is enough to supply a rational basis for Texas’s marriage laws.”

Birds of a feather stick together.

—  James Russell

When Gov. Perry makes homophobic comments, it’s not news

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Gov. Rick Perry has oral sex with a corny dog

I’ve had a number of people send me copies of articles about Gov. Rick Perry making homophobic comments in San Francisco this week. They wondered: Did I miss it?

Nope. Didn’t miss it. Just didn’t think Perry making stupid comments rated as news anymore.

We’ve covered Perry’s self-hating homophobia. Former state Rep. Glen Maxey, who served in the Texas House of Representatives with Perry, even wrote a book about Perry’s closet. For anyone interested, the book’s still available on Amazon.

So when Perry equates homosexuality to alcoholism, we have to wonder. He was in San Francisco. Was he once again that tempted? Overwhelmed? Unable to control either his drinking or his libido?

But is Perry’s stupidity news? No. But we are excited about another Rick Perry run for president. Please run. Please. It’ll be so much fun. Even if you don’t run, could you please, please at least have a debate with Hillary?

Perry

Gov. Rick Perry’s Brokeback Mountain ad from his last presidential bid

—  David Taffet

Greg Abbott comes out for same-sex marriage in April Fool’s news story

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Greg Abbott

As if anyone would believe the Texas Attorney General and GOP gubernatorial candidate Greg Abbott would back same-sex marriage, some Texans may have thought he had done just that on Tuesday.

In a post by the Burnt Orange Report, Abbott is quoted as saying he’s decided to support his old friend Mark Phariss and partner Victor Holmes. The couple is suing the state of Texas for the right to marry in the Lone Star State along with a lesbian couple form Austin.

“I had an epiphany this morning when I looked at myself in the mirror,” Abbott told The Associated Press, according to the story. “I thought, ‘Gosh, Mark (Phariss) and Victor (Holmes) make such a cute couple. They’ve been happily in love for over 16 years now. It’d be such a shame if I were the person standing between their love and the true happiness of all other LGBT couples in Texas.’

“Look, this whole governor gig thing may not play out as smoothly as I thought it would, with me seriously offending someone new every week. I just don’t want to be forever known as that guy who stood against the love of his long-time friend and the rest of the thousands of LGBT couples in Texas simply looking to be treated like everyone else. That sounds like the bad guy in a James Cameron movie.”

Abbott’s support would indeed be a surprise to say the least. He’s been a staunch defender of the state’s 2005 a same-sex marriage amendment and intervened in the divorce case of a Dallas couple, preventing them from receiving a divorce. The case, and one of a lesbian couple in which Abbott’s office intervened in after the divorce was granted, is pending a decision at the Texas Supreme Court.

Perhaps a more believable April Fool’s story would be that Gov. Rick Perry came out. But then that’s already true, according to a book by former out state Rep. Glen Maxey.

—  Dallasvoice

‘That was the day I withdrew’

Jim-Lovell

With the federal judge striking down the Texas Constitutional Amendment prohibiting gay marriage and civil unions, hopefully this is the beginning of the end of a sorry, hateful chapter in Texas history.

Who did this amendment help? You? Please tell me how. Didn’t your life continue as always? OK, so it helped politicians get money and votes, which was really the purpose of it and which adds to the sleaziness of it. They played the people of Texas like a violin and got more power as a result.

Who did this amendment hurt? Well, ME, for starters, and the hurt went way beyond the rights and protections denied to Bill and me. The day I went to vote against this amendment, my life changed profoundly.

I went to vote early, as I usually do. Normally, for a vote on constitution propositions, I am one of maybe five or 10 people to vote on that particular day. Not this day.

People were lined up out the door and around the corner — to vote against me. To make sure that I could not even have a civil union.

Please try to imagine the feeling, seeing such a line to vote against you, and knowing that many of your “friends” are in that line, people who trust you to teach their children are, nevertheless, in that line to make sure that you cannot have what they take for granted.

Worse yet — the many friends who were silent. I don’t know how they voted, and therefore, I didn’t know who my friends were.

That was the day I withdrew. I started eating lunch alone. I didn’t stay around and chat after meetings. Conversations became superficial. Fortunately, I had the support at home from a loving life partner, and I had an abundance of love and support from the amazing people of my church, Northaven United Methodist in Dallas. They helped me to learn to forgive, to see the people in that line as victims manipulated by greedy power seekers, manipulating them by stirring up fear. But it has been a years-long, unfinished process.

I am doing fine, but I wonder about those who did not have the support I had, especially the young ones. How many of them decided to just end it all? If they were in the same dark place as me, undoubtedly it happened. And listening to the debate still going on, I’m sure it is still happening.

So, I celebrate this judge’s decision. I hope it speeds the day when we can throw this hateful amendment in the trash heap of history, right along with Jim Crow and the Salem witch hunts, etc. etc. etc. (That heap is pretty big, isn’t it?) I hope it speeds the day when we become a society who cares for and values one another rather than beating down and stigmatizing one another.

— Jim Lovell on Facebook

Jim Lovell retired from the Plano ISD, and lives in France with his husband, Bill Stoner. They will be in Dallas this weekend to attend the marriage ceremony of Jack Evans and George Harris.

Related stories:

Texas ban on same-sex marriage ruled unconstitutional

By God, that’s where we’re going to get married

Marriage equality is fixin’ to come to Texas

It’s nice to hear someone say our marriage is valid

 

—  Steve Ramos

Judge sets Feb. date to hear motion blocking Texas’ marriage amendment

Vic Holmes and Mark Phariss

Vic Holmes and Mark Phariss

A date has been set for two Texas couples challenging the state’s marriage amendment to appear in court to argue that a temporary injunction should be ordered, preventing state officials from enforcing the law.

Federal District Judge Orlando Garcia is set to hear arguments on Feb. 12.

Mark Phariss and Victor Holmes of Plano, joined by Austin couple Cleopatra DeLeon and Nicole Dimetman, are the plaintiffs in the case. Both couples met in San Antonio years ago, but while the lesbian couple later married out of state, they want their union recognized here, and Phariss and Holmes want to marry in Texas.

The attorney for the couples filed the motion last month and said they expect a favorable ruling regarding the injunction, but Gov. Rick Perry and Attorney General Greg Abbott, listed as defendants in the case, could request proof that the law harms same-sex couples, delaying a ruling on the motion for a year or more.

—  Dallasvoice

New Mexico: We won’t let the Rio Grande River flow into Texas anymore

rio-grandeSANTA FE — No water for you. That’s the message the state of New Mexico delivered to Texas in a statement Friday, saying it will no longer allow the Rio Grande River to continue its course into the Lone Star State.

“We were just sitting around, wishing we had something to do when we came up with this idea,” said New Mexico Gov. Susana Martinez. “We’ve never liked Texans anyway, so we always think it’s fun to come up with ways to tick them off. They come over here to our ski resorts, flashing their big money and ordering us around. Well, we’ll see how they like this.”

Engineers for the state say they will change the river’s course, diverting it to California instead. Why California?

“They’ve been really good to us, what with them making movies here and all,” Martinez said. “We thought this would be a nice way to say ‘thanks for your business.’”

Texas Gov. Rick Perry appeared perplexed when aides told him of New Mexico’s plans.

“Isn’t that a federal issue?” Perry asked. “New Mexico is a foreign country, isn’t it? That’s where all those illegals are coming from.”

After his staff schooled the governor on basic geography and history, Perry reportedly slammed his fist on the table and screamed, “Dagnabit.”

Without water from the Rio Grande, Texas would suffer severe economic, political and social hardships, officials say. The river supplies water to dozens of Texas cities, irrigates millions of acres and forms the border with Mexico.

“Not like it does us any good,” weighed in Sarah Palin, who drove her bus into Austin to console Perry. “Those Mexicans just traipse across the border like it’s not even there.”

Palin took a few days off from her “No Ambition” tour to assist Perry in devising a plan to combat New Mexico’s actions, telling Perry she was “locked and loaded.”

“We’re not gonna put up with this from those people,” Perry said. “Sarah told me I should move Texas National Guard troops to the New Mexico border to show ‘em we’re ready to march into their capital at Mexico City.”

At that point, Palin whispered into Perry’s ear.

“Oh, my bad,” Perry said. “I mean their capital at El Paso.”

—  Steve Ramos

Abbott mentions God, guns but not gays in announcing gubernatorial bid

Attorney General Greg Abbott

Greg Abbott supports government displays of the Ten Commandments.

In case you missed it, Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott formally announced his campaign for governor in San Antonio on Sunday.

As we mentioned last week, Abbott’s record on LGBT issues is pretty awful. In fact, some would argue he’d be worse than Gov. Rick Perry on LGBT and other social issues.

Not only does Abbott adamantly oppose same-sex marriage, but he doesn’t think gay couples who’ve entered into legally recognized relationships in other states should be allowed to dissolve them in Texas. And he doesn’t think the same-sex domestic partners of government employees should be eligible for health benefits. His office has also been sued for alleged anti-gay employment discrimination.

Abbott intervened to stop a gay couple from dissolving a Vermont civil union in 2003. He would later intervene in an attempt to block two same-sex couples from obtaining divorces from their Massachusetts marriages. The divorce cases are still pending before the Texas Supreme Court.

“Marriage is not man-made law,” Abbott said, referring to the gay divorce cases in 2010 as he accepted the “Texas Guardian of the Family Award” from Vision America. “It’s man’s decision to adopt God’s law. Man cannot redefine God’s law, and yet they still try.”

Last year, Abbott issued an opinion saying he believes domestic partner benefits offered by local government entities violate the state’s 2005 constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage. It’s an amendment Abbott has been criticized for allowing to pass because as worded it appears to outlaw heterosexual marriages, too. “This state or a political subdivision of this state may not create or recognize any legal status identical or similar to marriage,” the amendment reads.

Also last year, Abbott signed a brief calling for the U.S. Supreme Court to uphold the Defense of Marriage Act.

Of course, the high court went in the opposite direction, and polls show the majority of Americans agree with their decision. Which could help explain why there was no mention of same-sex marriage in Abbott’s announcement speech on Sunday — even as he touched on other Republican primary red meat wedge issues like God, guns and abortion.

—  John Wright