Alas, poor Roy! Alabama Supreme Court upholds his removal from the bench

Alabama Chief Justice Roy Moore

Alabama’s former Supreme Court Homophobe in Chief Roy Moore.

Former Alabama State Supreme Court Chief Justice Roy Moore got a big diss from seven retired Alabama Supreme Court justices this week when they upheld a decision by the state’s Judicial Inquiry Commission removing him from the bench. The seven were chosen to form a special Supreme Court to hear Moore’s appeal of the commission’s ruling.

The retired justices wrote in their decision, “We have previously determined that the charges were proven by clear and convincing evidence … we shall not disturb the sanction imposed.” The decision was issued Wednesday, April 19.

The commission removed Moore from office last year after he instructed the state’s probate judges — the officeholders tasked with issuing marriage licenses in that state — to ignore the June 26, 2015 U.S. Supreme Court decision that overturned bans on same-sex marriage nationwide. Despite federal court rulings, Moore insisted that the SCOTUS ruling didn’t count in Alabama, and that his state’s marriage equality ban still ruled supreme there.

The Judicial Inquiry Commission was neither amused nor convinced and charged Moore with having “flagrantly disregarded and abused his authority.” Moore continued to argue, but he was still removed from the bench.

This special supreme court decision effectively ends Moore’s career as a judge. He was suspended from his current term, which would not have expired until 2019, and because of his age — 69 — running for re-election then is not possible. And as the Alabama Media Group reported, “Moore can’t appeal the ruling to the federal courts because there are no federal issues.”

In a press conference after the ruling was announced, Moore insisted that he has “done my duty under the laws of this state to stand for the undeniable truth that God ordained marriage as the union of one man and one woman.” He also said that his prosecution, based on an ethics complaint filed by Southern Poverty Law Center, was politically motivated and insisted that he remains Chief Justice despite the suspension.

Richard Cohen, president of SPLC (which is based in Alabama), told Alabama Media Group that Moore “got what he deserved. We’ll all be better off without the Ayatollah of Alabama as our chief justice.”

Moore has threatened — I mean, suggested — that he might run for the U.S. Senate now.

—  Tammye Nash

Marriage equality plaintiffs file amicus brief in Houston benefits case

Mark Phariss and Vic Holmes

Texas marriage equality plaintiffs Mark Phariss, Vic Holmes, Cleopatra DeLeon and Nicole Dimetman filed an amicus brief in Pidgeon v. Harris, a case before the Texas Supreme Court concerning Houston’s ability to provide equal benefits to married same-sex couples. A hearing in that case is scheduled for March 1. Jason Steed, a partner with the law firm of Bell Nunnally, filed the brief on behalf of the couples who won their case in federal court.

Holmes, a veteran who retired from the U.S. Air Force after almost 23 years of service, and Phariss, a corporate attorney in Plano, will celebrate their 20th anniversary in August and their second wedding anniversary in November. Because Holmes is a professor at the University of North Texas Health Sciences Center in Fort Worth and Phariss, as Holmes’ spouse, is covered by the university’s state-sponsored health care plan, Phariss and Holmes could be directly and significantly impacted by an adverse decision by the Texas Supreme Court.

Phariss and Holmes released a statement that said, “It really is unbelievable that full marriage equality is again being challenged in Texas.  It is particularly unbelievable because it is being challenged less than two years after the U.S. Supreme Court recognized same-sex couples’ constitutional right to marry.   More unbelievable is that Texas’ Governor, Lt. Governor and Attorney General support that challenge, notwithstanding the fact that Texas consented to the filing of a judgment and a permanent injunction in our case, DeLeon v. Abbott.

“What is being litigated is whether Texas can impose second-class status on our marriage and the marriages of thousands of other LGBT Texans.  This position is wrong on the law and an affront to equality and personal freedom, not to mention a waste of taxpayer money.”

 

—  David Taffet

Second North Texas UMC church votes for same-sex marriage

 

eston_williams

Rev. Eston Williams

A second North Texas conference Methodist Church has voted for same-sex weddings, according to the United Methodist Church website.

The article doesn’t refer to the first — Northaven UMC in North Dallas — and expresses some surprise that the second was rural Aley UMC, located outside Seven Points.

Seven Points is on Cedar Creek Lake, which has a large LGBT weekend and retirement community. Celebration Church on the Lake in neighboring Mabank was established with an outreach to the LGBT community, with help from the Rev. Carol West of Celebration Church in Fort Worth.

About 80 percent of Aley’s congregation voted to support its pastor, the Rev. Eston Williams, in his intention to conduct same-sex weddings, including Jim Braswell, mayor of nearby Gun Barrel City.

Williams, 67, who has been with the church 18 years, said he has opposed the Methodist position that homosexuality is incompatible with Christianity for years, but was persuaded to ask for a vote when his two daughters said they didn’t want to be affiliated with “a denomination that isn’t fully inclusive.”

The resolution voted on by the congregation ends with the statement, “We support our pastor to hold same-gender weddings in the sanctuary of Aley United Methodist Church.”

Aley, which rhymes with “daily,” is an unincorporated area of Henderson County west of Seven Points. The city of Seven Points has annexed West Cedar Creek Parkway for several miles west of town into the area known as Aley. Aley UMC is at 1215 W. Cedar Creek Parkway.

—  David Taffet

Northaven UMC votes to perform all legal weddings

Northaven UMC’s retired pastor, the Rev. Bill McIlveney, center, was brought up on charges by the denomination after performing a wedding for George Harris and Jack Evans at Midway Hills Christian Church in February 2014.

Northaven United Methodist Church has voted 270-5 to perform same-sex marriages.

The vote was “to support and honor marriages of couples licensed to be married on an equal basis.”

In a public statement, the representatives of the church wrote, “The decision by the Northaven congregation is in full alignment with the ministry of the church, its mission field, its commitment to social justice and inclusion, and to the core precepts of the United Methodist Church. The Northaven vote empowers the church to extend pastoral care to all of its members in the important area of marriage.”

At its recent meeting, the United Methodist Church made some movement on same-sex marriage, but delayed any change in policy by appointing a committee to study the issue.

In its statement, Northaven made clear it was not making a political statement. No same-sex marriages were scheduled and no public announcement, other than usual wedding announcements, would be made.

Announcement of the vote came a day after the death of Jack Evans. Evans married George Harris in a religious ceremony after a 53-year engagement at a service held at Midway Hills Christian Church. The Rev. Bill McElvaney, retired pastor of Northaven UMC presided. McElvaney was brought up on charges after the wedding. Northaven’s senior pastor, the Rev. Eric Folkerth, attended along with dozens of other Methodist ministers from around the state.

Evans and Harris were legally married a year ago today (June 26, 2015) in the first civil ceremony for a same-sex couple held in Dallas County. Again, Folkerth didn’t preside, but attended. Instead, his wife, Judge Dennise Garcia, performed the wedding.

Northaven’s statement concludes by saying marriage is “an intensely personal and pastoral event.”

—  David Taffet

Kim Davis in the news one last time, hopefully

kim-davis-barsA federal appeals court has dismissed a lawsuit brought by County Clerk Kim Davis against the state of Kentucky for forcing her to issue marriage licenses with her name on them. Davis made the news when she refused to issue licenses to same-sex couples despite the Supreme Court ruling in favor of marriage equality last summer.

Names of county clerks were removed from Kentucky marriage licenses by executive order when Republican Gov. Matt Bevin replaced his Democratic predecessor in December. Davis was horrified her name would be required to go on documents issued by an office she presumably wasn’t forced to run for.

In dismissing the suit, the court ruled Davis has not suffered irreparable harm.

No irreparable harm? She’s been forced to do her job against her will!

The ACLU filed suit on behalf of four couples — two gay and two straight — to whom Davis refused to issued licenses. So actually, she’ll be in the news once more when that lawsuit is settled.

—  David Taffet

Colombia’s highest court paves the way for same-sex marriage

Juan Manuel Santos

Colombian president Juan Manuel Santos

Colombia’s Constitutional Court paved the way for marriage equality yesterday (Thursday, April 7).

By a 6-3 vote justices on Colombia’s highest court ruled that notaries must certify same-sex civil unions.

Same-sex civil unions were already legal in the South American country, but couples were not allowed to use the term “marriage.”

While the ruling does not legalize same-sex marriage, it is believed to be the final step before marriage equality is legal.

LGBT advocates, including president Juan Manuel Santos, hailed the decision, joining other activists by declaring victory.

According to The New York Times, congresswoman Angelica Lozano said the LGBT community must focus on ending discrimination.

“Today we’ve won our constitutional rights, now we need to fight on the streets and inside people’s homes,” she said.

Half of South American countries recognize some form of same-sex union. Colombia joins Argentina, Brazil, French Guiana and Uruguay in recognizing same-sex marriage. Chile and Ecuador only recognize same-sex partnerships. Only Bolivia and Paraguay have no relationship recognition.

—  James Russell

PHOTOS: Patti and Erin get hitched

Longtime Dallas LGBT activists Patti Fink and Erin Moore were married on April 1 by Judge Teena Callahan in her courtroom. They held a politically-themed “wedding convention” at the Round-Up Saloon on Saturday afternoon, with the event chaired by former state Rep. Glen Maxey.

Resolutions were introduced and overwhelmingly approved to recognize the couple as married.

—  David Taffet

Wedding workshop guides same-sex couples through the planning process

Wedding-Expo-WorkshopGetting married is something many of us, until recently, never thought about. So we might have some questions about just how to put a wedding together. We may not want to do it like everyone else anyhow. Or we may want our weddings to be as traditional as possible.

This weekend, Dallas Voice presents a wedding workshop and expo on Sunday, March 20 at the Renaissance Hotel, 2222 N. Stemmons Freeway. The morning workshop guides same-sex couples through the planning process. The afternoon expo offers a variety of wedding vendors.

The wedding workshop will be lead by experts discussing budgeting, timelines and establishing new traditions: Who proposes? When do invitations go out? Do you hold two bachelor/bachelorette parties, one joint party or is that a tradition that needs to go? For the ceremony, who stands where? We know it’s bad luck for the groom to see the bride before the wedding, but can the groom see the groom?

These and other topics will be addressed by LGBT wedding expert Donnie Brown and Kimberley Vaughan of LGBTweddings.com. Brown starred in the Style Network’s series, Whose Wedding is it Anyway? Vaughan was Associate Publisher for Beautiful Bride Magazine and has been involved in the wedding industry for 15 years.

The wedding workshop begins at 9:30 a.m. and runs three hours. Parking and admission for both the workshop and expo are free.

—  David Taffet

Alabama attorney sues Supreme Court

Dumb ass attorney

Austin Burdick

Dumb ass attorney or next Chief Justice of the Alabama Supreme Court?

Alabama attorney Austin Burdick has sued Justices Anthony M. Kennedy, Stephen Breyer, Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Sonia Sotomayor and Elena Kagan for $6 million to cover his mental anguish since the Obergefell marriage equality ruling.

Burdick is suing the justices for violating the Fifth Amendment, breach of contract (really? He had a contract with them?) and breach of fiduciary duty. He seeks compensatory, punitive and mental anguish damages plus attorney’s fees, according to Alabama.com.

Hmmm … so let’s say this goes to court and whatever the results, it gets appealed. Let’s say the U.S. Supreme Court takes up this case. Would the five justices have to recuse themselves? Even if they did, the remaining three rule that they can get sued for their rulings? If so, there’s lots of people who think their decision on Citizens United and other cases was wrong. So we just sue.

Seems as though this qualifies for dumb-ass lawsuit of the year. Unfortunately, it probably only qualifies Mr. Burdick to succeed Roy Moore as the next chief justice of the Alabama Supreme Court.

—  David Taffet

Does Metzger also discriminate at DCCCD?

Dallas County JP Bill Metzger

Dallas County JP Bill Metzger

Dallas County Justice of the Peace Bill Metzger, who is refusing to perform same-sex marriages, is also a Dallas County Community College District trustee. Metzger made news a week ago by suddenly deciding his religion prevents him from performing same-sex marriages but allows him to continue to perform opposite-sex marriages.

A judge or justice of the peace in Texas may perform marriages, but is not required to do so. However, a judge that performs weddings may not discriminate against certain couples. Either that judge performs a wedding for any couple who presents themselves in the court with a valid marriage license or for no couple.

Most judges have no problem with that, but it presents a special problem for a justice of the peace. The fee paid to a JP goes right into that official’s pocket. The money JPs make doing weddings on top of their salary paid by the county makes some of them the highest-paid judges in Texas.

So Metzger doesn’t want to give up his extra income, but he wants to retain the right to discriminate.

Metzger is also a DCCCD trustee, as we noted above. As a DCCCD trustee, does he feel he has the right to discriminate against LGBT students, faculty and staff, as well? That’s an important question because DCCCD is the largest college in Texas.

Before a complaint can be filed against JP Metzger for his refusal to perform weddings for same-sex couples, there has to be a couple who has gone to Metzger for a wedding ceremony and been turned away and that has not since been married elsewhere, according to one attorney who asked his name be left off this story. In other words, if you go to Metzger to get married and he says no, then you go to another JP or someone else and get married, then you can’t file a complaint against him. Got it?

If you’re a couple planning to get married, but not in any rush, and if you are willing to go to Metzger for the wedding and, when rejected, follow through by filing a complaint, please contact Dallas Voice first. We’ll refer you to counsel to walk you through the process from marriage license to complaint.

—  David Taffet