Jack and George make it legal after 54-plus years

Jack and George.lores

Judge Dennise Garcia looks on as Jack Evans and George Harris wipe tears of joy from their eyes after becoming the first same-sex couple legally married in Dallas County.

Jack Evans and George Harris today (Friday, June 26) became the first same-sex couple to receive a marriage license in Dallas County, and just minutes later, the first same-sex couple to legally wed in Dallas County.

After County Clerk John Warren and his head assistant clerk issued the license to the couple, they walked down the hall to a justice of the peace courtroom where Judge Dennise Garcia, who attends their church, was waiting to first waive the 72-hour waiting period and then perform their wedding ceremony as the crowd packing the courtroom cheered.

Here is a video — somewhat shaky, I admit — of their wedding.

—  Tammye Nash

BREAKING: SCOTUS rules for marriage equality

DV Cover 03-15-13DThe Supreme Court ruled in favor of marriage equality by a 5-4 vote with Justice Anthony Kennedy writing for the majority.

You can read the 5-4 majority opinion here.

Check the Dallas Voice for more information as more details. come in.

—  James Russell

AG Ken Paxton: wait for my blessing before you issue marriage licenses


Attorney General Ken Paxton

Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton released a statement today (Thursday, June 25)  ahead of a pending Supreme Court decision on marriage equality urging county officials to wait for a legal decision from his office before issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples.

Citing the state’s law banning same-sex marriage, Paxton recommends “that all County Clerks and Justices of the Peace wait for direction and clarity from this office about the meaning of the Court’s opinion and the rights of Texans under the law. If the Court [disagrees with the state], prudence dictates we reflect on precisely what the Court says, what it means, and how to proceed consistent with the rule of law.”

The Supreme Court’s decision is widely anticipated to come down tomorrow (Friday, June 26), the anniversary of the Lawrence and Windsor decisions. If not tomorrow, the decision will be handed down Monday, June 29.

For the record: Paxton has no real say in this, per state code. And legal experts have told Dallas Voice that public officials who defy a Supreme Court ruling in favor of marriage equality can be held personally liable for doing so.

And while we’re on the subject of flouting the law, the state’s top law enforcement officer has admitted to and been fined for violating state securities law. He is now under investigation by a Collin County grand jury.

Laws be damned.

—  James Russell

Texas Supreme Court rules against state in same sex divorce case; Abbott “disappointed”

Angelique Naylor

Angelique Naylor

In a 5-3 decision released this morning (Friday, June 19) the Texas Supreme Court agreed with an appeals court the state had no vested interest in a case affecting an Austin lesbian couple seeking divorce.

Angelique Naylor and Sabina Daly wed in 2004. Naylor, who had a child and ran a business with Daly, filed for divorce in Travis County in 2010. The couple had already settled many issues out of court. But to address remaining legal issues, they sought an appeals court judgment addressing various under their divorce.

However Gov. Greg Abbott, then state attorney general, argued because Texas not acknowledge same-sex marriages, the divorce was therefore nullified. Despite the last ditch efforts, the court declined to acknowledge the state’s appeal.

Abbott, in a statement called the ruling disappointing and even a mistake.

“The Court mistakenly relied on a technicality to allow this divorce to proceed. Importantly, the Court did not address the Texas Constitution’s definition of marriage,” he said. “The Texas Constitution continues to stand as the governing law for marriage in the State of Texas. The State and all political subdivisions in Texas remain prohibited by the Texas Constitution from giving effect to a same-sex marriage or any document recognizing one—including the divorce decree in this case.”

The ruling has no impact on the state’s same-sex marriage ban, which was ruled unconstitutional by a federal judge. That decision was stayed and that case is awaiting an opinion before the federal Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals.

—  James Russell

North Carolina legislature overrides veto for LGBT discrimination bill


Gov. Pat McCrory

The North Carolina Legislature overrode a veto by North Carolina’s Republican Gov. Pat McCrory today (Thursday, June 11) of a so-called religious freedom bill that allows discrimination against gays and lesbians in the state.

The law will allow state officials opt out of doing their jobs by signing a statement about their “deeply held religious beliefs.”

While the governor expressed his opposition to same-sex marriage, he said, “we are a nation and a state of laws.”

The law will cause delays for same-sex couples trying to get married, especially in rural areas.

North Carolina became a marriage equality state with other 4th Circuit states West Virginia and South Carolina on Oct. 8, 2014.

—  David Taffet

Cathie cried: Abbott will not convene special session on marriage


Clearly Texas Eagle Forum’s Cathie Adams needs a good gay hair dresser.

Put the flaming chariots back in the barn: Gov. Greg Abbott told a radio show today he will not convene a special session on same-sex marriage.

“I do not anticipate any special session,” the Republican told News Radio 1200 WOAI.  “They got their job done on time, and don’t require any overtime.”

That’s despite the calls from numerous social conservatives to do just that in a letter delivered to the governor last week. The signatories – including Texas Eagle Forum’s Cathie Adams, Conservative Republicans of Texas’ Steve Hotze, Texas Values’ Jonathan Saenz and others – requested the governor call the session ahead of a Supreme Court ruling on same-sex marriage. Legal observers anticipate the decision would either legalize it nationwide or require states to recognize marriages performed out-of-state.

“Throughout his career, Governor Abbott has been a strong advocate for pro-family and pro-life issues.  We are confident that he will work to protect the choice of 76 percent of Texans who voted for the Marriage Amendment in the Texas Constitution,” Hotze said in a statement.

They were motivated to call the session following the House’s failure to pass HB 4105, The Preservation of State Sovereignty and Marriage Act, by Rep. Cecil Bell, R-Magnolia. Despite having the support of the majority of House Republicans, the bill died after failing to receive a floor vote.

Under Texas law only the governor may call a special session. But opponents to same-sex marriage aren’t done yet.

Think of the children should two loving individuals be allowed to marry:

“This issue is not about equality, it is about redefining marriage which would lead to individuals, families, churches, schools and businesses being forced to accept, affirm and celebrate those who practice homosexuality.  It would be mandated that children be taught in the schools that homosexuality is normal and healthy.  They would be encouraged to experiment with homosexuality, so that they could be easily recruited into the homosexual lifestyle. The homosexuals are intent on creating a sexual revolution that will bring moral anarchy to our society,” Hotze said.

Judging by the vitriol, it’s widely anticipated the right-wingnuts will bring out their pitchforks and burning effigies following the Supreme Court’s ruling; that is if the burning chariots of the Apocalypse don’t beat them to it.

—  James Russell

Texas Lege ends, now the fun begins; “bought and sold” series returns


The Texas Capitol, site of a future “American Horror Story” season.

After staving off the threats of ISIS at the border, struggling with the godlessness of pre-kindergarten education and failing to save the evil Speaker Who Doesn’t Believe in the Messiah, the 84th legislature’s snake charmers finally went back home yesterday.

On the bright side: Per the state’s Constitution, they passed a budget. And their mighty efforts to slash taxes resulted in successfully saving the average homeowner…$200-something in property taxes.

Just as important, they’ve stopped screwing with your lives! Any legislation harmful to the LGBT community was thwarted!

The bad part: They’re now back home. They’re among us.

In the 84th tussle to burn the biggest effigy, LGBT advocates can happily claim a number of wins. The Romeo and Juliet bill made it to the floor for a vote after receiving bipartisan support in committee; religious discrimination language targeting LGBT children and families was defeated; and county clerks will not be barred from issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples.

But your valiant warriors worked to assure us they did indeed accomplish something. Enough, in fact, that those accomplishments won’t fit on a post card: the Senate passed a last-ditch resolution re-asserting their support for “traditional marriage” (as in, between a man and a woman, at least in the daylight); they found more ways to regulate uteri; and of course they gutted serious ethics reform legislation.

With such great accomplishments, now it’s time to watch the little substance of this past session turn into campaign fodder — or for many Republican incumbents who’ve earned the tea Party’s ire, liabilities.

I can’t wait to write about upcoming election cycle. I’ll continue to follow the money, reviving my “Bought and sold” series on dark money, campaign finances and right-wing boogeymen.

Bring it, 2016.

Or, if strictly speaking in presidential elections, 1992.

—  James Russell

Alabama probate judges ordered to issue marriage licenses once the Supreme Court rules

U.S. District Judge Callie V.S. Granade

U.S. District Judge Callie V.S. Granade

A federal district judge ordered all probate judges to comply with the U.S. Cconstitution and issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples — but the order doesn’t go into effect until after the U.S. Supreme Court rules on marriage equality cases it heard in April.

The judge ruled after four civil rights organizations asked the judge to expand her earlier ruling.

Most Alabama probate judges started issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples in February after U.S. District Judge Callie V. S. Granade declared an Alabama law and an Alabama constitutional provision banning same-sex marriages unconstitutional. The 11th Circuit Court of Appeals and the U.S. Supreme Court then declined to stay Granade’s ruling.

On March 3, the Alabama Supreme Court halted same-sex marriages throughout the state by ordering probate judges to stop issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples.

Granade’s latest order overrides the Alabama Supreme Court’s order.

The American Civil Liberties Union of Alabama, Americans United for Separation of Church and State, the National Center for Lesbian Rights and the Southern Poverty Law Center jointly filed the motion March 6 asking Granade to expand her ruling to apply to all same-sex couples and all probate judges throughout the state.
 The original order only applied to Mobile County.

The district court’s order will take effect when the United States Supreme Court issues its decision in several pending cases seeking the freedom to marry in four states.


—  David Taffet

BREAKING: Bell’s HB 4105 resurrected as an amendment, to be voted on as soon as tomorrow


Rep. Cecil Bell, R-Magnolia.

Texas state Rep. Cecil Bell, R-Magnolia, intends to attach an amendment similar to his previous bill barring the issuance of marriage licenses to same-sex couples to a bill protecting clergy from being forced to perform same-sex marriages during a House floor vote on Thursday, May 21.

Bell filed HB 4105, also known as “The Preservation and Sovereignty of Marriage Act,”  ahead of an anticipated summer Supreme Court ruling legalizing marriage equality. It would have withheld pay from county clerks issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples. After its defeat last week, Bell told reporters he wasn’t giving up on it.

Though an amendment must be considered germane to a bill, Equality Texas reports that Bell intends to attach HB 4105 to SB 2065, which passed the Senate last week on a 21-10 vote with all Republicans and one Democrat voting for it.

While HB 4105 died before it could get a vote, it garnered  support from the majority of the House HOP caucus.

During the debate over SB 2065, the ACLU, Equality Texas and Texas Freedom Network advocated for language that a clergy member may only refuse to officiate marriages that violate their conscience “in that official capacity.” Despite their efforts Estes refused in both the State Affairs Committee hearing and on the Senate floor to add the language.

Without the four words, opponents argued, faith leaders may be able to refuse to perform same-sex marriage if they serve in a secular capacity, such as justice of the peace or county clerk.

Proponents, including numerous conservative faith leaders, argued the bill was necessary to protect their right to deny performing a same-sex marriage.

—  James Russell

BREAKING: Child welfare religious discrimination amendment killed


Rep. Scott Sanford, R-McKinney.

An amendment considered harmful by various LGBT advocacy groups was killed by one of its opponents today (Monday, May 18).

Rep. Scott Sanford, R-McKinney, attached the amendment to SB 206, a sunset review bill of the state’s Department of Family and Protective Services. The amendment was killed after Rep. Joe Moody, D-El Paso, raised a point of order.

Similar to his HB 3864, it would have allowed child welfare providers to discriminate against LGBT people as well as those of other faiths, interfaith couples and anyone else to whom a provider objects for religious reasons.

Though Sanford’s bill died last Thursday, May 14, he said he planned to attach it as an amendment to the sunset bill. An amendments may attach to a bills if it is ruled germane to the bill, per House rules.

Legislators had been looking to derail the amendment since Sanford first pulled it from consideration last week. Attempts to kill the amendment consistently failed.

—  James Russell