UPDATE: Ex-Texas prison official acquitted of charges he sexually abused young male inmates

John Paul Hernandez

John Paul Hernandez, the former Texas youth prison official whose trial we told you about last week, was acquitted of all charges late Monday. The Austin American-Statesman reports:

John Paul Hernandez was found not guilty on 14 counts alleging he molested five boys in 2004 and 2005 after a jury deliberated for six hours, following two weeks of testimony. Prosecutors declined to comment.

A second defendant accused of molesting boys at the West Texas State School in Pyote, former assistant superintendent Ray Brookins, was convicted and sentenced to 10 years in prison last year.

“Six years I’ve been waiting to hear those words,” Hernandez was quoted by The Associated Press in a story filed early this morning. “I’ve already served a six-year punishment and finally a weight has been lifted.”

—  John Wright

Ill. House OKs civil unions; Senate vote today

The Illinois House voted 61-52 on Tuesday to grant gay couples some of the same rights as married heterosexual spouses, including hospital visitation, health-care decision-making and the disposal of a loved one’s remains. From Fox Illinois:

House sponsor Rep. Greg Harris, D-Chicago, likened Senate Bill 1716 to past landmark fights for equality in granting women the right to vote and allowing interracial couples to marry.

We have a chance today to make Illinois a more fair state, a more just state and a state which treats all of its citizens equally under the law,” he said.

Harris and state Rep. Deb Mell, D-Chicago, are the only two openly gay lawmakers in the legislature. Earlier this year, Mell announced her engagement to her partner while on the House floor.

“After six years of building a life together, committing our lives to each other – we have a strong faith in God and family – and after all that we are still not considered family,” Mell said. “And I assure you we are a family, and we deserve the same rights that you enjoy.”

The bill is expected to win approval from the Senate today before being signed by Gov. Pat Quinn. It would take effect July 1, and Illinois would become the sixth state to offer civil unions or domestic partnerships.

—  John Wright

Art Conspiracy marks six years tonight

These are the good kind of Con men

The Art Conspiracy people call what they do street-level philanthropy. We call it greatness. This year’s lineup was filled in 13 minutes. That may be a record. The annual event raises money for nonprofits with this year’s proceeds going to Today Marks the Beginning which educates children on non-violence through art. If that’s not enough, then the reasonably priced art and local live bands will make the night more worthwhile. Local gay artist Robb Conover, pictured, is among the artists featuring work.

DEETS: Art Con Warehouse, 511 W. Commerce St. 7 p.m. $10. ArtConspiracy.org.

—  Rich Lopez

School official loses job after marrying partner

Associated Press

SPRINGFIELD, Mass. — A top administrator at a Springfield Catholic school says she was forced out of her job after marrying her female partner last month.

Christine Judd, who served as dean of students and athletic director at Cathedral High School, tells The Republican newspaper that she met with school officials on Wednesday, Sept. 1 and was given the choice of resigning or getting fired.

Judd said she was “hurt,” and is exploring her legal options. Although gay marriage is legal in Massachusetts, it is against church policy.

Judd worked at the school for 12 years, beginning as a science teacher in 1998. She became dean of students six years ago and athletic director three years ago.

A spokesman for the Springfield Diocese said Judd resigned, but would not discuss the reasons for her resignation.

—  John Wright