Araguz booking raises questions about Harris County jail’s treatment of transgender inmates

Judge Vanessa Valasquez

Judge Vanessa Valasquez

According to the Houston Chronicle, Nikki Araguz has been booked into the Harris County Jain after arriving 40 minutes late for a scheduled court appearance on Friday. The court date was to allow Araguz to plead guilty to charges that she stole a watch from an acquaintance last year. Under the proposed plea bargain Araguz would have paid $2,600 in restitution and served 15 days in county jail. State District Judge Vanessa Velasquez, a Republican first appointed to the bench by Gov. Rick Perry, responded to Araguz’ apologies for her tardiness with “It’s too late for sorry,” ordering bailiffs to escort her to a hold cell next to the courtroom.

Araguz is the widow of firefighter Capt. Thomas Araguz who died in the line of duty last year. Capt. Araguz’s ex-wife and mother have sued to claim the portion of his survivor’s benefits reserved for the spouses of slain firefighters, claiming that since Nikki Araguz was identified as male at birth the marriage was invalid under Texas’ laws prohibiting the recognition of same-sex marriage. Mrs. Araguz’s birth certificate identifies her as female, as does her state issued identification.

Araguz’s booking has raised questions about the Harris County’s treatment of transgender detainees. The Sheriff Department’s Public Information Inquiry System listed Araguz using her male birth name on Friday. They have since removed the name from the site’s searchable database but have retained the record, listing it under the department’s “special person number” (SPN) filing system. The SPN record includes Araguz’s birth name. The Sheriff’s office has not returned calls from Houstini asking why the department is not using Araguz’s legal name and if this is common practice.

According to a friend who has visited Araguz at the jail her identity bracelet correctly identifies her gender as “F” – but reflects Araguz’s birth name, not her legal name. Araguz is segregated from the general jail population, but can receive visitors during regular visiting hours.

Araguz will remain in the Harris County Jail until Jan 25 when she is scheduled to appear again before Judge Velasquez.

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Mississippi Sheriff’s Department Fired Corrections Officer For Being Gay. And It Finds Nothing Illegal About It

Because there is no federal or state law barring the firing of gays for being gay, the Forrest County Sheriff's Department in Mississippi believes it's perfectly in the clear for removing juvenile corrections officer Andre D. Cooley, who is suing the department with the ACLU's help, saying he was ousted in June when his supervisor found out he was in a relationship with another man after a domestic violence incident drew attention. Retorts the defendants, which include Sheriff Billy McGee, in a court filing that asks for a non-jury trial: Yeah, so?


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Queerty

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MISSISSIPPI: Sheriff’s Department Sued By ACLU Over Officer Fired For Being Gay

The ACLU is suing Mississippi’s Forrest County Sheriff’s Department for firing a corrections officer after learning he is gay.

On June 14, while at home and off-duty, Cooley called 911 after his boyfriend became physically violent. Among the officers who responded to the call was Chief of Corrections Charles Bolton, one of Cooley’s supervisors. After Cooley’s boyfriend told Bolton that he and Cooley were in a relationship, Bolton told Cooley not to return to work before speaking with his immediate supervisor. The next day, Staff Sergeant of Jail Operations Donnell Brannon informed Cooley that he was being permanently terminated. Cooley asked Brannon if he was being fired because he was gay, and Brannon responded, “Yes.” Cooley has never received a written explanation for his firing. He has never been charged or disciplined in connection with the domestic violence precipitated by his former boyfriend the day before he was fired. The official police report of the incident identifies Cooley as the victim. After firing Cooley, the sheriff’s department attempted to deny him unemployment benefits by alleging that Cooley had engaged in unspecified “inappropriate conduct and behavior while off duty, unacceptable for an officer.” But after a hearing, an administrative law judge concluded that the sheriff’s department failed to show that Cooley committed misconduct of any kind.

Another prime example of why we need ENDA.

Joe. My. God.

—  John Wright