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



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 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

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

Love and (gay) marriage

The history of same-sex marriage is longer than you think; also, YA romance with a trans twist


The Wedding Heard ‘Round the World by Michael McConnell with Jack Baker (as told to Gail Langer Karwoski) (University of Minnesota Press 2016) $22.95; 200 pp.

As a child playing with neighborhood girls, Michael McConnell remembers wanting the same thing they wanted: to grow up and marry a handsome man. Their crushes were his crushes, but in the 1950s, that kind of thing wasn’t discussed.

By the time he entered college at the University of Oklahoma in the mid-’60s, however, McConnell had come out to his family and was comfortable with his sexuality. He met other gay men and enjoyed an active social life on campus. Then, on Oct. 29, 1966, he met Jack Baker.

For the first minutes of their get-to-know-you, McConnell thought Baker was much older, or perhaps straight. Baker’s demeanor was businesslike, almost military; McConnell had recently had his heart broken, and was guarded. Still, by the end of the evening, they were lovers; soon after, they were a couple.

Wedding-Heard-'Round-the-WorldBy the early ‘70s, though their relationship had to be kept quiet, McConnell and Baker were “out” enough to want to make real change. Baker, a Minneapolis law student, filed suit against the U.S. Department of Defense over an unfair downgrade in his discharge status. After following Baker north, McConnell fought job discrimination. And then there was the wedding Baker promised McConnell on Baker’s 25th birthday. It would happen — they just had to figure out how.

That would take some time, but Baker was on it. His legal training tickled his methodical mind, until he discovered two loopholes the state of Minnesota hadn’t closed. One led to the next, and both led to their history-making wedding in 1971.

That, of course, isn’t the end of the story. McConnell and Baker continued their activism but their nuptials — the first in America for same-sex celebrants — are the real focus in The Wedding Heard ‘Round the World. That’s a good thing, too, because the love story in this book is what makes it so readable. McConnell’s account is mostly what’s here, and it’s the quintessential romance: boy meets boy, boy marries boy, they live happily (almost) ever after.

Conversely, it’s the almost that makes this book so important: the battles the authors accepted caused emotional hardship in many ways and that almost caused a breakup.
And yet, for the sake of others that came after them, they continued to take on gay rights issues — stories of which are told humbly, yet proudly.

Overall, this is a sweet story wrapped inside a righteous fight, told with charm and grace. It’s deep, yet lighthearted and definitely worth a look. Start The Wedding Heard ‘Round the World — and you’ll have no defense.

What We Left Behind by Robin Talley (Harlequin Teen 2015) $18.99; 416 pp.

Years from now, it’ll all seem so sweet. There’ll always be a soft place in your heart for your first kiss, your first I-love-you, and for the person who gave them to you. You’ll never forget the electricity of holding hands or the rush of being together even after, as for instance in the novel What We Left Behind, you start to pull apart.

Gretchen Daniels wasn’t sure why she didn’t tell her girlfriend, Toni, that they’d be attending college in different cities. Last spring, Toni applied to Harvard and Gretchen applied to Boston University — same city, opposite ends — both reasoning that they could at least spend weekends together. At the last minute, though, Gretchen decided to attend NYU.

What-We-Left-BehindShe didn’t tell Toni until the night before she left. They were juniors in their all-girl high school when Toni first saw Gretchen at a dance and was instantly in love. Everybody thought they were the cutest couple: Gretchen conferred upon Toni a new-found popularity. Toni taught Gretchen what it was like to be genderqueer — or at least she tried.

But the secret that Gretchen held all summer bugged Toni, and she was rightfully upset. She really didn’t have much to say to Gretchen, a silence complicated by Toni’s immersion into a campus group she joined. Freshmen weren’t allowed to be officers of the Undergraduate BGLTQIA Association but upperclassmen let her hang out with them and, under their tutelage, she began to explore labels for herself. She began to think about gender fluidity, and transitioning.

Toni’s lack of communication baffled Gretchen, and she discussed it at length with her new BFF, Carroll, a gay man who loved New York as much as Gretchen did. He was just one of the new friends she’d acquired, but she missed Toni and the closeness they had. She didn’t quite understand why Toni was questioning so much about herself, and she wasn’t sure how she’d fit in her girlfriend’s life if Toni became Tony. Would that change everything?

Better question: by the end of this book, will you care? I have my doubts.

What We Left Behind is very, very slow; in fact, it sometimes seemed to me that it was twice as long as its 416 pages of overly-detailed, same-old dialogue and young adults who were way too angst-y for my tastes. Yes, these kids do things that only increase the melodrama amongst themselves, which is ultimately not all that interesting but which creates an uneasiness in plot, making most of Talley’s characters mighty unlikeable.

And yet, I persevered. I was hoping to learn something from Toni’s gender-questioning. What I got instead was an abundance of language that seemed rather clinical and not always clear. Was that the point?  Shrug.

Romance readers may find a tiny smidge of amour here, if they’ve the time to look for it, but I really wasn’t a big fan of this book. For the most part, best you just heed the title and leave this behind.

And West is West
by Ron Childress (Algonquin Books of Chapel Hill 2015) $26.95; 320 pp.

Six degrees of separation. That, supposedly, is the difference between you and any given person on the planet. Your dentist, for example, knows somebody who knows someone who… and pretty soon, you’re linked to a famous scientist or Hollywood star. It’s a fun pastime, that Six Degrees thing, and surprisingly easy to do but in the novel And West is West, it could also be a deadly game.

Living with Zoe wasn’t originally Ethan’s desire. She’d stayed at his Manhattan condo many times — they were a couple, after all — but he was still surprised when he heard himself ask her to move in, and equally surprised that she agreed. Yes, he loved her, which was something he only truly realized just before she left for a job in D.C.

3-And-West-is-West-edHeartbroken, Ethan turned to his other love: coding for United Imperial Bank. For him, it was the perfect job. UIB gave him an office and freedom to write algorithms to follow terrorists in order to follow the markets, creating serious money for Ethan and for his employers. That, plus Zoe, could’ve made him happy.

Except Zoe was gone, then someone set Ethan up to fail at work and his job was gone, too. And just as he thought things were looking up, Zoe was dead and Ethan was left holding the secrets of her life that her parents couldn’t tell her.

It always seemed as though Jessica Aldridge was running. She ran away from her mother’s alcoholism as a child. She ran away from family as a teen. She ran to the Air Force, where she became a highly-trained drone pilot but, since a remote strike had gone horribly wrong and someone had to take the fall for it, she ran from that, too.

But Jessica had just been following orders then. Her real mistake, she understood, was confiding her misgivings to the wrong person: her imprisoned father, whom she barely knew. She also understood that the government wasn’t going to take a breach of security lightly — and with the FBI on her tail, Jessica had to run again…

I have to admit that I was no big fan of And West is West when I started it. Its first few pages were more techy than I expected, and I wasn’t in the mood for that. Whoa, was I glad I stayed.

Once you get past the prologue, author Ron Childress takes readers in a whole different, unexpected direction with what seems like a profile of a psychologically flawed man. Ethan, in fact, is driven, indecisive, and so very imperfect — which makes him the perfect distraction from the page-ripping thriller that is Jessica. It seems unlikely, then, that the two are connected, but you’ll recall that six degrees stuff? Yep, and it doesn’t even take that many steps.

This is one of those keeps-you-up-at-night, miss-your-subway-stop kinds of books that you’ll pass around to friends. It’s one to take to your book club. For sure, And West is West is a solid 10.

Gay & Lesbian History for Kids
by Jerome Pohlen (‘Chicago Review Press 2016) $17.95; 180 pp.

Knowing someone who’s gay, lesbian, or transgender is nothing new; in fact, history indicates that our earliest ancestors acknowledged and were comfortable with people we now call LGBT. Homosexuality appears in mythology, royalty, battlefields, art (Michelangelo and Leonardo da Vinci were said to be gay) and in some religions. In North America, many beloved 19th-century authors, poets and songwriters were gay or lesbian, and Native American culture embraced people who were of “two-spirits.”  Transgender individuals fought in the Civil War or were pioneers or settlers. We know that LGBT individuals existed elsewhere and at other times, too, because laws were made against them.

That was especially true through the early 1900s. Though we entered “the Progressive Era” in the beginning of the century, it was anything but progressive for people who were gay. When the country was stricken by the Great Depression in the 1930s, things got even worse for the LGBT community and many people had to hide their lives from mainstream society.

In some ways, things got better during World War II. The government needed military personnel and LGBT individuals, like everyone else, needed jobs, so they signed up in droves to fight for their country. Very few were denied a chance to serve but, sadly, after the war was over, many gay and lesbian personnel received “blue discharges,” and were denied veteran’s benefits. Once again, LGBT individuals needed to closet themselves and their lifestyles. Not doing so could mean arrest or worse.

Finally things started to turn around. Activism in the 1960s and ‘70s helped the LGBT community to gain rights and support on other issues, unfair laws were changed, and many people helped make things “get better.” All of which is fascinating information.

However I struggled with Gay & Lesbian History for Kids … though not for the reasons you might think. My biggest issue comes with its potential audience, vis-à-vis the content: mainly, that it contains either a lot of very advanced information for kids who are young enough to be excited about the “21 Activities” here; or a lot of silly, juvenile “activities” for kids who are old enough to handle very advanced information.  Then, too, the presence of said activities may be moot, since they mostly had little to do with LGBT history.

To the positive, I appreciated the pre-20th-century info that author Jerome Pohlen offers; it was interesting, but is it enough to save this book?  I don’t know: the target audience here is 9-and-up, which I think is way too young for the content. Fresh-eyed 12-to-15-year-olds may appreciate what’s inside, but hand it to a reader over 16, and the news probably wouldn’t be all that informative.

— Terri Schlichenmeyer

—  Dallasvoice