BREAKING: Child welfare religious discrimination amendment killed

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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

Rep. Linda Koop alienates some LGBT supporters and constituents

KoopMembers of the LGBT community in Dallas were outraged this weekend when they discovered freshman Rep. Linda Koop signed a letter supporting HB 4105. She is one of 93 out of 98 House Republicans who signed the letter.

“This is a woman who has been to our house numerous times, has attended Richard’s birthday parties, and has a GAY BROTHER,” wrote Jeff Henderson on his Facebook page. His partner is Richard Shampain. “So disappointed in her and her lack of leadership.”

Henderson’s post on her campaign Facebook page was immediately removed. He got a screen shot of his post before it was deleted.

Koop is a former Dallas City Councilwoman who regularly supported the LGBT community during her time on the council. Her brother is former City Councilman Paul Fielding, who is gay.

DGLA President Patti Fink said her message to Koop was promptly deleted as well.

Koop represents a North Dallas district. In the November election that added sexual orientation and gender identity to the Dallas City Charter’s nondiscrimination policy, every precinct in Koop’s district voted for the measure. That measure passed with 77 percent of the vote, getting more votes of support than any of the 11 measures on the November 2014 ballot.

Rep. Jason Villalba, a Republican who represents Northeast Dallas, was one of five House Republicans who did not sign the letter. Every precinct in his district voted for the measure also.

—  David Taffet

Luxembourg’s prime minister marries

Luxembourg’s Prime Minister Xavier Bettel married Gauthier Destenay today (Friday, May 15).

Bettel announced earlier this week that Destanay proposed and he accepted.He said they would have a low-key ceremony.

The ceremony was held at City Hall in Luxembourg City and was attended by the Belgian and Estonian prime ministers, who are straight.

Luxembourg became a marriage-equality country in January.

Bettel has been Prime Minister for 18 months.

Here’s a report from Wochit News:

—  David Taffet

Luxembourg’s gay prime minister to marry

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Prime Minister Xavier Bettel, left, and partner Gauthier Destenay (photo from Facebook)

Luxembourg Prime Minister Xavier Bettel will marry his partner, Gauthier Destenay, later this week. The couple has been in a civil union since 2010.

Luxembourg became a marriage equality country earlier this year.

Destenay proposed, according to the Prime Minister. He told the Los Angeles Times, “He asked and I said yes.”

They plan a private wedding and Bettel told the newspaper Luxembourger Wort they have no time for a honeymoon.

Luxembourg is one of the smallest countries in Europe. The population is less than 550,000 and it is 998 square miles. To compare, Dallas County is 908 square miles with a population of 2.48 million.

The country’s deputy prime minister Etienne Schneider is also gay.

—  David Taffet

UPDATE: 90 of 98 House GOP support bill against issuance of same sex marriage licenses

Capitol

This post has been updated throughout to reflect additional co-authors.

Ninety of the 98 members of the House GOP have signed onto a bill that would bar the issuance of same-sex marriage licenses, more than any other piece of legislation explicitly targeting the LGBT community.

A vote is scheduled today (Tuesday, May 12) for HB 4105, known as “The Preservation and Sovereignty of Marriage Act,” by Rep. Cecil Bell, R-Magnolia. It would preempt an anticipated summer Supreme Court ruling legalizing marriage equality.

37 co-authors and a joint author have signed on since Monday, April 27. Recent coauthors include last minute hold outs Reps. Rodney Anderson of Irving, a co-author as of yesterday (Monday, May 11) and J.D. Sheffield of Gatesville, a co-author as of Friday, May 8. Additionally Reps. Giovanni Capriglione of Southlake, Byron Cook of Corsicana, Charlie Geren of Fort Worth and Brooks Landgraf of Odessa, who have earned the ire of arch-conservative groups, have signed onto the bill.

University of North Texas Associate Professor of Political Science Matthew Eshbaugh–Soha said legislators could have any number of reasons to sign onto the bill.

In general, “I suspect this was a deal, either pushed by the sponsors of the bill (please support this and I will support you later) or interest groups (who have found the time and resources to attract support),” he wrote via e-mail. “Knowing the facts behind which bills can help to tell which particular story is the right one.”

Of the eight remaining Republican legislators whose names are absent, there is no single ideological reason; they range from Tea Party Republicans to the more traditional business-friendly Republicans – the latter of whom are more likely to steer clear of discriminatory legislation.

For instance, Empower Texans and others back Rep. Craig Goldman of Fort Worth, while other legislators have earned their ire. They include Dallas County Reps. Jason Villalba and Linda Koop, both of Dallas, and Morgan Meyer of Highland Park. Other missing signatories include Reps. Sarah Davis of West University Place, Todd Hunter of Corpus Christi and John Smithee of Amarillo. The final Republican, House Speaker Joe Straus, neither authors nor sponsors legislation and also abstains from voting.

HB 3567 by Rep. Scott Sanford comes in a near second with 83 signatories, including three Democrats. That bill is also scheduled for a vote today. Reps. Goldman and Smithee are among its co-authors.

Its companion SB 2065 by Sen. Craig Estes, R-Wichita Falls, reasserts a clergy member’s right to refuse to perform a marriage that is against their religious beliefs.  It passed the Senate yesterday, on a 21-10 vote with Sen. Eddie Lucio, D-Brownsville, joining all Republicans. It is scheduled for a final procedural vote today.

—  James Russell

Dallas Voice signed amicus brief

Editor’s note: This is a repost because Facebook glitch blocked our earlier post.

amicus briefEven though the hearing is over and an expected two month wait has begun, I just learned Dallas Voice signed an amicus brief to Obergefell v. Ohio, the marriage equality case.

The brief was signed by 379 business across the country. Dallas Voice is the only LGBT publication among the signers.

Major North Texas-based businesses on the list are American Airlines, AT&T and Kimberley-Clark. No, ExxonMobil, surprisingly, isn’t there.

Several other small businesses from the area are also among the signers including Law Office of Lorie L. Burch PC, David Mack Henderson Income Tax Preparation, Steve Graves Insurance Agency, Stonewall Behavioral Health and Uptown Physicians Group.

The North Texas GLBT Chamber of Commerce and the Austin Gay and Lesbian Chamber of Commerce are two of several local LGBT chambers to sign.

No Texas sports franchises are includes. The New England Patriots is the only professional sports team listed.

The brief’s theme is business benefits from diversity.

“To reap the rewards of diversity, employers need to be able to recruit and retain top talent, in part though equitable and competitive benefits packages,” the brief states.

“Employees in same-sex relationships receive varying, if any, access to the rights, benefits and privileges that different-sex couples enjoy,” it says.

The brief concludes, “marriage discrimination injures amici’s [signers] businesses.

—  David Taffet

Dallas Voice signed amicus brief

amicus briefEven though the hearing is over and an expected two month wait has begun, I just learned Dallas Voice signed an amicus brief to Obergefell v. Ohio, the marriage equality case.

The brief was signed by 379 business across the country. Dallas Voice is the only LGBT publication among the signers.

Major North Texas-based businesses on the list are American Airlines, AT&T and Kimberley-Clark. No, ExxonMobil, surprisingly, isn’t there.

Several other small businesses from the area are also among the signers including Law Office of Lorie L. Burch PC, David Mack Henderson Income Tax Preparation, Steve Graves Insurance Agency, Stonewall Behavioral Health and Uptown Physicians Group.

The North Texas GLBT Chamber of Commerce and the Austin Gay and Lesbian Chamber of Commerce are two of several local LGBT chambers to sign.

No Texas sports franchises are includes. The New England Patriots is the only professional sports team listed.

The brief’s theme is business benefits from diversity.

“To reap the rewards of diversity, employers need to be able to recruit and retain top talent, in part though equitable and competitive benefits packages,” the brief states.

“Employees in same-sex relationships receive varying, if any, access to the rights, benefits and privileges that different-sex couples enjoy,” it says.

The brief concludes, “marriage discrimination injures amici’s [signers] businesses.”

—  David Taffet

Phariss and Holmes get Capitol flag

Mark Phariss, left, and Vic Holmes

Mark Phariss, left, and Vic Holmes

How cool is this.

Mark Phariss and Vic Holmes, the Texas marriage equality plaintiffs from Plano, met with Tyler Moran, an aide to Sen. Harry Reid.  Phariss asked Moran if they could get the flag that would fly over the Capitol today, the day of the SCOTUS hearing.

Each day different flags are flown over the Capitol and they’re given to people to commemorate special events.

Phariss and Holmes just got word they’re getting the flag.

They’re flying back to Dallas tonight and they’ll be our guests on Lambda Weekly at 1 p.m. on Sunday on 89.3 KNON-fm.

—  David Taffet

Local attorney comments on Supreme Court hearing he attended

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Steve Rudner outside the U.S. Supreme Court

Steve Rudner, a local attorney and president of the Equality Texas Foundation board, was in the Supreme Court this morning (Tuesday, April 28) during oral arguments on marriage equality. He was admitted as a Supreme Court bar member, rather than having to stand in line as a member of the general public.

Rudner said watching Justice Anthony Kennedy was fascinating. Kennedy, who wrote the Windsor v. U.S. and Lawrence v. Texas opinions for the court, is widely expected to write the decision in this case as well.

Kennedy began his questioning by asking about changing the constitutional definition of marriage as a right two people have. He was worried about how fast change is made in social issues in the country.

Rudner said his believes the turning point was when Kennedy said the amount of time between Brown v. Board of Education case and Loving v. Virginia was the same amount of time as between Lawrence and this case. He said he thinks Kennedy answered his own question and he believes the right amount of time has passed.

Chief Justice Roberts may vote along with the majority, Rudner said, although the chief justice didn’t ask enough questions for Rudner to get a good sense of where he stood.

He thought one of the best comments was made by Justice Kagan who said the court defines constitutional rights and doesn’t decide who gets to exercise those rights.

Rudner said he despite the protesters outside the court, about 90 percent of those at the court building favored same-sex marriage and as many as 95 percent inside the court were on the side of equality.

—  David Taffet

Texas marriage equality plaintiffs witness Supreme Court hearing

Mark Phariss, left, and Vic Holmes

Mark Phariss, left, and Vic Holmes this morning in front of the Supreme Court in Washington, D.C.

Mark Phariss and Vic Holmes, the Texas marriage equality case plaintiffs from Plano, attended the Supreme Court hearing today (Tuesday, April 28). Holmes was dressed in his Air Force uniform.

According to Phariss, he barely got into the courtroom. Lined up since the weekend, they were No. 49 and 50 to get in. This morning, someone from a group called Faith in Action cut in the line and so Phariss wasn’t allowed into the building at first. Others, who had been in line with them, shamed the Faith in Action line-cutter into giving up her seat.

“Does your religion teach you to steal?” others asked her.

At the end of the first round of arguments in favor of marriage equality, a protestor who had been in the courtroom began shouting. Phariss said it took four people to escort him out of the court and he could still be heard when he was down the hall.

One of the arguments was that the gay and lesbian community is subject to animus. He said the protester seemed to make that case for the attorneys arguing for equality.

After watching the arguments, Phariss said he expects a 5-4 decision in favor of equality. While the court said it would decide two issues — whether states must recognize marriages performed elsewhere and whether states must offer same-sex marriage — he called the recognition issue a sideshow.

“I don’t think that mattered or will be relevant to what will happen,” he said.

During arguments, Justice Antonin Scalia tried to push the idea that if marriage is made a constitutional right, clergy will be forced to marry same-sex couples. Justice Kagan, who is Jewish, had the clearest rebuttal, saying most rabbis don’t perform interfaith marriages and have never been forced to. No clergy will be forced to marry anyone, she said.

Justice Ginsburg offered one of the clearest arguments against the anti-equality arguments.

“We’re not taking anything away from heterosexuals,” she said in response to the idea that so-called traditional marriage loses something if any two people can marry.

—  David Taffet