More bad news from Election Night: 3 Iowa judges who backed marriage equality are defeated

Tena Callahan

Among the Democrats in Dallas County who hung on to their seats on Tuesday was State District Family Court Judge Tena Callahan, who in 2009 boldly declared Texas’ bans on same-sex marriage unconstitutional. Callahan defeated Republican opponent Julie Reedy by a margin of 52 percent to 48 percent, and her landmark decision didn’t appear to have hurt her at all at the polls.

However, the news was not so good for three Supreme Court judges in Iowa who ruled in favor of marriage equality in 2009. The three were all defeated in retention elections on Tuesday, after being targeted by the anti-gay National Organization for Marriage.

NOM spent $600,000 on TV ads and a 45-county bus tour targeting the Iowa justices. Despite their defeat, though, LGBT groups noted that same-sex marriage remains legal in Iowa.

“By their own admission, NOM’s Iowa strategy was about sending a warning shot to judges nationwide,” Human Rights Campaign President Joe Solmonese said in a statement. “NOM and its secret donors will continue to target judges around the country if they rule in favor of marriage equality and will foster an anti-gay, hostile environment in the process.”

Lambda Legal, which brought the lawsuit that resulted in the Supreme Court ruling legalizing same-sex marriage, had this to say about the result:

“Let’s be clear about what happened in Iowa and what didn’t happen: Three skilled jurists lost their jobs, but the Court’s ruling in the case allowing same-sex couples to marry is still the law of the land, enshrined in the Iowa Constitution. Same-sex couples continue to marry in Iowa. Antigay groups have lost on the big issue — equality — and they are attacking our courts for protecting it.

“This spiteful campaign is a wake-up call to future voters who must resist attempts to politicize the courts. It is the responsibility of us all to protect the system of checks and balances that defines our democracy, and it continues to be our responsibility at Lambda Legal to make our case for equality, not just before judges, but in the court of public opinion.

“We are angry, but we also take the long view: The Iowa Supreme Court delivered justice that will outlast this political fight by upholding the Iowa Constitution’s guarantee of equality for all Iowans. Seven jurists were posed a question by people who had been denied basic fairness guaranteed by the state constitution. The judges did their jobs with integrity – as they must.

“But the result in Iowa shines a light on a dangerous agenda to undermine the democratic system of checks and balances that has served us well for over 200 years. If an embattled judiciary were to lose its ability to protect our laws and constitution with impartiality, that would be a tragic loss for our country. We can’t let that happen.”

—  John Wright

MSNBC rejects anti-Target ad from liberal group

Associated Press

ST. PAUL, Minn. — MSNBC rejected a TV ad calling for a boycott of Target Corp. after the retail giant made a political donation in Minnesota, continuing the controversy over corporate involvement in elections.

MSNBC spokeswoman Alana Russo said Thursday, Aug. 19 that the commercial submitted by the liberal advocacy group MoveOn.org violates its advertising policy by attacking an individual business directly. The ad features Target’s bullseye logo and accuses the chain of trying to buy elections.

MoveOn executive director Justin Ruben said the rejection was “the height of hypocrisy” and accused MSNBC and its corporate parent, General Electric Co., of trying to protect Target from consumer anger.

MoveOn spokeswoman Ilyse Hogue said the ad began running Thursday on ABC, CBS and NBC affiliates in the Twin Cities. The affiliates, KSTP, WCCO and KARE, confirmed that the ad was airing.

MoveOn originally planned to spend $35,000 on the ad, including national air time on MSNBC. Hogue said the group hasn’t decided what to do with the money it planned to spend on the MSNBC slots.

Minneapolis-based Target triggered a national backlash by giving $150,000 last month to a business-oriented political fund supporting conservative Minnesota GOP gubernatorial candidate Tom Emmer, who opposes gay marriage and other rights for same-sex couples.

Gay rights groups and liberals have protested at Target’s stores and headquarters. The flap showed the risks for businesses that take advantage of new freedom to spend company money directly on political campaigns after a recent U.S. Supreme Court ruling.

—  John Wright

Mexico City mayor sues cardinal who suggested lawmakers bribed courts

Comment comes after Supreme Court upholds laws allowing gay marriage, adoption by gay couples

From staff and wire ReportS editor@dallasvoice.com

Cardinal Juan Sandoval Iniguez
Cardinal Juan Sandoval Iniguez

MEXICO CITY — Mexico City’s leftist mayor has filed suit against a Roman Catholic cardinal who suggested he bribed the Supreme Court to uphold a city law allowing adoptions by same-sex couples, according to reports by the Spanish news agency EFE.

Mayor Marcelo Ebrard is charging Cardinal Juan Sandoval Iniguez with slander after Iniquez said in a sermon on Sunday, Aug. 15, that same-sex marriages are an “abberration,” and asked his congregation, “Would you want to be adopted by a pair of faggots or lesbians?”

He then accused Ebrard of having bribed the Mexico Supreme Court justices to get them to uphold laws allowing same-sex couples to marry and to adopt, as well as ordering that same-sex marriages performed legally in Mexico City must be legally recognized throughout the country.

Iguinez said Monday, Aug. 16, that his archdiocese in Guadalajara has proof of his claims of bribery.

The court has denied and condemned the accusation. But the church is backing Iguinez.

In a statement, the Mexican Council of Bishops expressed its “solidarity and regards” for Sandoval Iniguez.

The council also stressed its continuing opposition to the adoption law and said “we regret that when these opinions are expressed, there are those who rebuke them and threaten to sound the alarm about intolerance.”

“We spoke out, as part of the freedom of expression guaranteed by our democratic system, in opposition to the Supreme Court ruling,without implying any disrespect for the institutions of the Mexican government.”

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition August 20, 2010.

—  Michael Stephens

Gay rights group: Target won’t offer olive branch

STEVE KARNOWSKI  |  Associated Press

MINNEAPOLIS — Target Corp. has decided against giving money to gay-friendly causes to quiet the uproar over a $150,000 donation that helped support a Minnesota governor candidate who opposes gay marriage, a national gay rights group said Monday, Aug. 16.

In response, the Human Rights Campaign said it will contribute the same amount of its own money to political candidates in Minnesota who support gay marriage, including Democratic gubernatorial candidate Mark Dayton.

A Target spokeswoman did not immediately return phone calls seeking comment. Target has been under pressure for three weeks for contributing $150,000 to MN Forward, a group that has run ads supporting Republican Minnesota gubernatorial candidate Tom Emmer.

Fred Sainz, an HRC spokesman, said Target and his group had reached two tentative agreements over the last couple weeks for the discount retail giant to give money to various
gay-lesbian-bisexual-transgender causes in Minnesota.

“Then when we were ready to pull the trigger, literally at the 11th hour on two occasions, they pulled back and said they were not ready to proceed,” Sainz said. “They said no deal. They said it was over.”

Target didn’t say why, he said.

“They were very diplomatic. They simply said they were going to take no corrective action,” he said.

Minneapolis-based Target has cultivated a good relationship with the gay community and its image as an inclusive employer. The company has been a sponsor of the annual Twin Cities Gay Pride Festival. On Aug. 5, CEO Gregg Steinhafel wrote employees to say he was sorry for the hurt feelings over the donation, which he said was motivated by Emmer’s stance on business issues, not social issues.

Liberal groups reacted to news of Target’s donation angrily. Their calls for a boycott and several scattered protests outside Target stores highlighted the risks companies face if they take advantage of their new freedom under a recent U.S. Supreme Court ruling that allows them to spend company funds directly on political campaigns.

A Boycott Target page on Facebook had over 62,000 fans as of Monday. But conservatives also threatened a backlash from the right, and an anti-boycott page on Facebook had over 17,500 fans as of Monday.

Sainz said the HRC has not decided how it will allocate the $150,000 it plans to spend on Minnesota campaigns.

“But at the top of our agenda is the next governor of Minnesota will hopefully be in a position to sign a quality-of-marriage bill,” Sainz said. “Obviously, that is a priority for our community and having a Legislature that will pass that bill is equally important.”

—  John Wright

Vowels custody case returned to trial court for hearing

Supreme Court refuses to hear appeal; appellate court ruled that non-bio mother has standing to sue

DAVID TAFFET  |  Staff Writer taffet@dallasvoice.com

Kristie Vowels
Kristie Vowels

The Texas Supreme Court has refused to hear an appeal by a lesbian mother seeking to block her former partner from seeing their daughter. The case now returns to District Judge Teena Callahan’s court for trial.

Kristie Vowels and Tracy Scourfield were partners for four years. Together they had a daughter, with Scourfield as the birth mother. After they split up, Vowels saw the child on a regular visitation schedule for about a year, but then Scourfield cut off contact between Vowels and the child.

Vowels sued for visitation rights based on Texas law that allows someone who provided six months of care, control and possession ending within the last 90 days to file for custody.

Callahan originally ruled that Vowels did not meet legal standing to sue. Michelle May O’Neil, Vowels attorney, said Callahan gave no reason for her ruling.
Vowels appealed that ruling. The appeals court initially sided with Scourfield but later reversed itself to side with Vowels.

The Supreme Court returned the case to the appeals court, which then returned the case to district court.

O’Neil explained that non-biological parents in custody and visitation cases have to meet what is called the Troxel standard, named after a U.S. Supreme Court ruling in a child custody case.

“The presumption is that parents act in the best interest of their children,” O’Neil said.

Vowels said her former partner is a good mother. But whether or not Vowels gains custody could revolve on whether she and her attorneys can show any flawed decision-making on the part of her former partner.

“The flaw is that she unilaterally ripped the child from someone the child called mom,” O’Neil said.

O’Neil said that the case is being cited around the state and will affect heterosexual stepparents, grandparents and other caregivers as well.
“It’s legally the same question,” O’Neil said.

Callahan is the same judge who later ruled in a same-sex divorce case last October that the Defense of Marriage Act unconstitutionally denies equal protection to same-sex partners.

O’Neil said she knows the judge will approach the case without some of the prejudices others might have, but the ruling in the divorce case won’t change her approach to the Vowels trial.

Vowels said her commitment to her daughter is unwavering.

Although she has had no access to the child for the last three years, she said her daughter has a college account that she has continued to fund.

“That’s my daughter and I’m going to do what I can to fully support her,” Vowels said.

A hearing is scheduled for September. At that time a trial date could be set and O’Neil said she will ask for a temporary visitation order.

O’Neil said that Vowels and Scourfield had talked about completing adoption papers before they split up. She said that had the adoption been completed, this would have been a very different case.

Once an adoption is completed, there is no question of parental rights. The burden of proof would have been on the biological mother to show some cause to prevent the adoptive parent from seeing the child.

“Headline to parents out there,” O’Neil said, “Get the adoption done.”

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition August 6, 2010.

—  Michael Stephens

Will Day of Decision turnout rival 2009?

We hear there’s going to be a Prop 8 “Day of Decision” rally at 6 p.m. Wednesday at the Legacy of Love Monument, but thus far we’ve been unable to get in touch with the organizers. The Facebook event page lists Daniel Cates as the contact person. The Equality Across Texas website lists Cd Kirven. We’ve got e-mails and phone messages in to both of them. Here’s the bulk message we received from Cates on Facebook this morning:

The ruling on the Prop 8 case will be issued today.. most likely between 1-3pm.. WIN OR LOSE the Dallas/ Fort Worth LGBT Community will gather at the Legacy of Love Monument at Cedar Springs and Oaklawn to either celebrate a historic victory for our community or protest another defeat! Please make plans to attend, bring signs, bull horns, flags and loud loud voices!

And from the Facebook page for the event:

Whether we celebrate or protest, we will stand together in solidarity with our brothers and sisters in California, and with hope for a future that includes equal protection in all matters governed by civil law in all fifty states. Hope will never be silent.

In November 2008, Proposition 8 was passed in California, overturning the state’s Supreme Court ruling that it was unconstitutional to deny same-sex couples the right to marry. Effectively, this is the first time in our great nation’s history that a right was taken away from a select portion of our demographic make up.

The fight for equal rights under the law has been a long, hard struggle the GLBT community has faced for years. This ruling has the potential to be the platform for the national legalization of same-sex marriage. Whether we are celebrating a victory or protesting another loss, our voices WILL be heard.

In May 2009, the Day of Decision rally seemed a little better organized. Of course back then Queer LiberAction was in its heyday. After gathering around the Legacy of Love Monument, a crowd of hundreds marched down Cedar Springs Road to the TMC patio, blocking traffic in what was a pretty compelling display (shown above). This was followed on the jam-packed patio by a series of speakers, many of whom called out President Barack Obama.

We’re sure there’s going to be a rally this evening, but it’s a little unclear how it will play out. Who will be the speakers? Will there be a march? What will be the message? I guess we’ll find out soon enough.

—  John Wright

Tennessee DMV refuses to give woman a driver’s license with new last name after her legal same-sex marriage in D.C.

The full faith and credit clause of the U.S. Constitution says that each state has to respect the “public acts, records and judicial proceedings” of the other states in this country. Traditionally, that has been understood to include legally contracted marriages. But, of course, Congress in 1996 passed the Defense of Marriage Act — or DOMA — which says the federal government will not recognize legal same-sex marriages and which allows individual states to refuse to  recognize legal same-sex marriages from other jurisdictions.

So, we get situations like this, documented by WUSA9.com in in Washington, D.C.:

Gay and Lesbian Advocates and Defenders (GLAD) has challenged that portion of DOMA that prohibits federal recognition of legal same-sex marriages, and a decision is pending in a Massachusetts court in that case. And of course, a decision is also pending in a California federal court in the lawsuit challenging the constitutionality of the California constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage.

There are other arguments for giving federal recognition to same-sex marriages and for requiring all states to recognize a legally contracted same-sex marriage from any state. Some arguments are based on the Constitution’s equal protection clause; some involve separation of church and state. And of course, there’s the basic idea of fairness — you know, that whole “liberty and justice for all” thing?

Who knows how it’s all going to wind up. But I am pretty sure it is going to take a U.S. Supreme Court ruling to settle it one way or another. And even that might not be the final word. One thing I do know, until it is settled, we’re going to keep hearing stories like Traci Turpin’s. And that is not fair.

—  admin