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.

—  admin

Hundreds Gather in NY to Remember Slain Ugandan Activist David Kato

 

The following comes from HRC Greater New York Steering Committee Diversity Co-Chair Pete Webb:

I represented the Human Rights Campaign yesterday at the New York City Memorial Service to honor the Ugandan LGBT Activist, David Kato.  Kato was the advocacy officer of Sexual Minorities Uganda (SMUG).  Only a few short months after his picture was published in a national magazine outing LGBT Ugandans under the headline “hang them,” someone broke into Kato’s house on January 26, 2011 and beat him to death with a hammer.  Right-wing U.S. extremists have fueld a climate of hatred in Uganda.  Click here to learn more and send a message to the most outspoken extremists whose words may have led to Kato’s death.  

A moving memorial service, alive with soul and spirit, was held for Kato in the historic setting of Abyssinian Baptist Church.  Over 225 people attended to mourn David’s murder and show their solidarity with LGBT Ugandans.  Various dignitaries participated in the service including a UN Senior Adviser to the High Commissioner, New York City Councilmember, and clergy from various faith communities. Frank Mugisha, Executive Director of SMUG, also shared his testimony and friendship with David Kato.

The Rev. Joseph Tolton, who was the lead organizer of the vigil, talked about racism, homophobia, hatred and bigotry within society and the church. He passionately extolled everyone to “do justice, love mercy and walk humbly with your god.” He challenged the church to welcome all of god’s children including the LGBT community. The Rev. Calvin Butts of Abyssinian Baptist Church continued this theme declaring that we must open our hearts and minds to erase hate and affirm human dignity.

It is my hope and prayer that David Kato’s legacy will birth a movement of understanding; empowerment and liberation.


Human Rights Campaign | HRC Back Story

—  David Taffet

Gay Partner of Slain Trooper Sues for Survivor’s Benefit

GAVEL SCALES JUSTICE LAW LEGAL JUDGEMENT X390 (PHOTOS.COM) | ADVOCATE.COMA gay Missouri man sued the state to obtain the survivor’s benefit from his partner, a state trooper killed in the line of duty.
Advocate.com: Daily News

—  admin