BREAKING: Bell’s HB 4105 resurrected as an amendment, to be voted on as soon as tomorrow

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Rep. Cecil Bell, R-Magnolia.

Texas state Rep. Cecil Bell, R-Magnolia, intends to attach an amendment similar to his previous bill barring the issuance of marriage licenses to same-sex couples to a bill protecting clergy from being forced to perform same-sex marriages during a House floor vote on Thursday, May 21.

Bell filed HB 4105, also known as “The Preservation and Sovereignty of Marriage Act,”  ahead of an anticipated summer Supreme Court ruling legalizing marriage equality. It would have withheld pay from county clerks issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples. After its defeat last week, Bell told reporters he wasn’t giving up on it.

Though an amendment must be considered germane to a bill, Equality Texas reports that Bell intends to attach HB 4105 to SB 2065, which passed the Senate last week on a 21-10 vote with all Republicans and one Democrat voting for it.

While HB 4105 died before it could get a vote, it garnered  support from the majority of the House HOP caucus.

During the debate over SB 2065, the ACLU, Equality Texas and Texas Freedom Network advocated for language that a clergy member may only refuse to officiate marriages that violate their conscience “in that official capacity.” Despite their efforts Estes refused in both the State Affairs Committee hearing and on the Senate floor to add the language.

Without the four words, opponents argued, faith leaders may be able to refuse to perform same-sex marriage if they serve in a secular capacity, such as justice of the peace or county clerk.

Proponents, including numerous conservative faith leaders, argued the bill was necessary to protect their right to deny performing a same-sex marriage.

—  James Russell

Rick Perry to New Hampshire audience: Keep on farmin’ in the free world

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Freedom fighter and former Texas Gov. Rick Perry.

Do you remember the good old days? When government didn’t get in the way of good ol’ Texas wheat farmers selling their product to Soviet Russia? Before the era of big government was over — unless you were in the banking industry? Before that closeted Communist President Jimmy Carter lead a boycott against the 1980 Moscow Olympics over its invasion of Afghanistan?

No?

The half-dozen young people listening to former Texas Gov. Rick Perry talk yesterday (Thursday, April 16) in rural New Hampshire probably don’t either.

Thankfully for Perry, who is mulling his second presidential bid, most of the attendees at his “youth summit” were geriatric.

At Milford High School, Perry said that former President Jimmy Carter’s boycott of the 1980 Olympics was devastating for business if you were a wheat farmer, like Perry was – and for the kids.

“Remember 1979?” Mr. Perry asked the audience. “Remember where we were in 1979? No. 1, we were at 20 percent interest rates. Our kids were boycotted from going to the Olympics. President Carter made that decision. He didn’t let our wheat to be sold to Russia. I know. I was a wheat farmer.”

But Carter just didn’t kill business. As an advocate for youth around the world, Perry said he’s mad because the 1980 boycott killed so many young athletes’ dreams.

“These are kids who in some cases had spent their entire lives working to go represent America,” he said. “To use them as a tool, I think was in particular bad judgment, and I don’t think it had a bit of influence.”

After addressing the Most Pressing Issue of the Day, Perry bounced back from his 2012 campaign blunder. This time he remembered all three of the government projects he’d abolish: Common Core, No Child Left Behind and, of course, Obama’s ruthless reign of healthcare terror.

Since Texas can’t secede from America, he told the crowd, let’s make America become Texas. Perry touted his economic record in the state, dubbed the “Texas [$7.25 an hour] Miracle.” Watch me make the Texas Miracle into the American Miracle, he declared. Under President Perry, you too will be able to sell your wheat and take your ice skates to Russia.

Evoking a song by that other famous Canadian (the one not running for president), President Perry basically told the crowd: under me, you’ll be farmin’ in the free world.

—  James Russell

Study shows support growing for marriage equality, especially in marriage equality states

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Evan Wolfson

A new study by UCLA’s Williams Institute shows that fears that eliminating state bans on same-sex marriage will create a backlash against marriage equality and LGBT people are in accurate. In fact, the study indicates, getting rid of those bans usually accelerates acceptance of marriage equality.

Evan Wolfson, president of the national marriage equality advocacy organization Freedom to Marry, said the study “confirms that marriage wins are a self-fulfilling engine of support. Once  the freedom to marry comes to a state, people see families helped and no one hurt, and support surges.”

Wolfson added that the study results “solidly debunk opponents’ desperate efforts to conjure up the specter of an impending ‘backlash,’ and undersore the unfairness of depriving people in the remaining 13 states” — including Texas — “of the informed choice that the end to discrimination provides. Once the Supreme Court brings an end to the exclusion from marriage in the states still left out, we can expect support to grow rapidly there as well — a true win-win.”

The U.S. Supreme Court will hear oral arguments April 28 in marriage equality cases from four states in the 6th Circuit — the only federal circuit appeals court to rule against marriage equality since the SCOTUS ruling in U.S. v Windsor in June 2013, in which the court struck down portions of the Defense of Marriage Act.

The Supreme Court last fall refused to hear appeals of circuit court rulings in favor of marriage equality, creating an immediate jump in marriage equality states from 19 to more than 30.

The study shows that since 2004, public support for marriage equality has increased in every state in the U.S., with an average increase of 2.6 percent per year. Public support for marriage equality has increased more rapidly since 2012, jumping up to an average of about 6.2 percent per year. But in the last year, the most rapid rate of increase in support happened in states that already legally recognize same-sex marriage.

“Indeed, legal recognition of marriage for same-sex couples has been followed by more rapid increases in public support,” the study notes.

If current trends continue, by 2016 public support for marriage equality will be at least 40 percent in every state, with six states above 45 percent and the remaining states at between 50 percent and 85 percent in terms of support.

“America is ready for the freedom to marry,” Wolfson said. “The Supreme Court can now do the right thing, knowing that not only history, but the public today, will vindicate a ruling to end marriage discrimination leaving no state and no family behind.”

—  Tammye Nash

Indiana Repubs admit anti-LGBT discrimination is legal


Despite Gov. Mike Pence’s insistence that Indiana’s Religious Freedom Restoration Act is all about protecting religious freedom and not about discriminating against folks, two Indiana lawmakers have admitted that even without the RFRA, businesses in their state can legally post “no gays allowed” signs.

Raw Story reports that Indiana Senate President Pro Tem David Long, R-Fort Wayne, and House Speaker Brian Bosma, R-Indianapolis, acknowledged that because the state has no law prohibiting discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity, such discrimination is legal in most parts of the state.

The admission came during the two lawmakers’ press conference  during which they said they plan to “clarify” that the RFRA doesn’t allow businesses and individuals to deny service to LGBT people on religious grounds. But one reporter pointed out glaring lack of protections:

“You guys have said repeatedly that we shouldn’t be able to discriminate against anyone, but if you just ignore the existence of this law, can’t we already do that now? Can’t so-and-so in Richmond put a sign up and say ‘No Gays Allowed?’” the reporter asked. “That’s not against the law, correct?”

Bosma admitted that unless the local community has a local ordinance protecting LGBTs such discrimination would, indeed, be allowed, and when pressed further by the reporter, he admitted that most areas of the state have no such ordinances.

The fact of the matter is, the same is true in Texas. Unless you are lucky enough to live in a town or county that has passed a non-discrimination ordinance prohibiting anti-LGBT discrimination, if you are LGBT, you have no protections because there is no statewide nondiscrimination law that includes LGBTs. AND, even worse, Republicans have introduced bills in this current legislative session to negate such local ordinances that already exist and prohibit the passage of any such local ordinances in the future.

Maybe folks need to boycott our state, too. Maybe then the Republicans will pull their heads out of their asses.

Watch the Raw Story video above.

And in more Indiana RFRA news, Duke University — whose men’s basketball team is headed to Indianapolis for the Final Four — has joined the NCAA in speaking out against the law, according to Human Rights Campaign.

Duke, the University of Kentucky, Michigan State University and the University of Wisconsin are headed to Indianapolis this weekend for the final three March Madness tournament games, including the championship game. Wisconsin and Michigan State both released statements relating to the passage of the bill but Duke is the only Final Four contender to publicly come out against RFRA.

Michael Schoenfeld , Duke’s vice president for public affairs and government relations said in a statement issued Monday (March 30), that “Duke University continues to stand alongside the LGBT community in seeking a more equal and inclusive world, and we deplore any effort to legislate bias and discrimination. We share the NCAA’s concern about the potential impact of the new law, and will be vigilant to ensure that our student-athletes, supporters, and indeed all citizens and visitors are treated fairly and with respect.”

 

—  Tammye Nash

Twitter joins rising chorus of business voices against RFRA, other anti-gay legislation

In an “@Policy” Tweet today (Monday, March 30) hailed by Human Rights Campaign as a “bold move,” Twitter today declared its disappointment not just with Indiana’s newly-passed Religious Freedom Restoration Act, but Screen Shot 2015-03-30 at 9.21.42 PMwith the flood of similar bills and other anti-LGBT legislation being considered across the country.

The Tweet read: “We’re disappointed to see state bills that enshrine discrimination. These bills are unjust and bad for business. We support #EqualityForAll.”

Indiana Gov. Mike Pence’s decision to sign into law last week his state’s RFRA was the spark that lit a flame of outrage among some of the country’s leading businesses, including Apple, PayPal, Wal Mart, Yelp, Salesforce and Indiana’s own Angie’s List, officials of which last Friday (March 27) — the day after Pence signed the RFRA — announced they had decided to at least delay, if not cancel, plans for a $40 million expansion of its Indianapolis headquarters.

But in applauding Twitter’s tweeted statement today, HRC pointed out that Indiana’s RFRA is just one of more than 85 anti-LGBT bills under consideration in 28 legislatures, including Texas’, and in Arkansas a measure very similar to Indiana’s awaits Gov. Asa Hutchinson’s signature.

To see HRC’s list of pending LGBT legislation, go here. The bills fall largely into four categories: religious refusal bills, bills promoting conversion therapy, anti-transgender bills and bills nullifying local nondiscrimination statutes.

Texas lawmakers have introduced bills in three of those four categories: religious refusal bills, anti-transgender bills and bills to nullify local nondiscrimination ordinances. To see Equality Texas’ list of legislative alerts, go here.

—  Tammye Nash

Putting a price on equality

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A new report released today (Wednesday, March 25) by Equality Means Business, a coalition of major employers in Florida, claims that anti-LGBT policies and laws costs employers in the state more than $362 million a year.

The report includes interviews with a number of top executives from national companies based in Florida and it links business leaders’ concerns over the state’s ability to compete with hard dollar losses in productivity and employee turnover, according to a statement from Equality Florida.

Other key findings include:

• Business executives cite Florida’s reputation as being hostile to diversity among their chief challenges in attracting and retaining talent.

• More than 60 percent of lesbian, gay and bisexual employees and more than 80 percent of transgender employees in Florida report having experienced discrimination in the workplace.

• Top executives recognize that the top talent among the Millenials generation values diversity and inclusion, making nondiscrimination protections a must-have.

Many of the business executives intervewed said they believe their businesses actually suffered because of Florida’s reputation for being hostile to LGBTs and others. And most of those participating said they see non-discrimination protections as non-negotiable, common sense practices critical to attracting and attaining the best and the brightest employees.

Nadine Smith, co-founder and CEO of Equality Florida, which convened the Equality Means Business coalition, said the report shows that it is “clearly in the state’s interest to provide equal protection for all employees.”

There is a new, similar organization getting off the ground here in the Lone Star State, called Texas Competes, a “partnership of business leaders committed to a Texas that is economically vibrant and welcoming of all people, including lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender people.”

The purpose of Texas Competes is to prove that “fair treatment for gay and transgender people isn’t just the right thing to do, it’s good for businesses, too.”

That’s a very important lesson that the Texas Legislature needs to learn, considering all the truly nasty anti-LGBT bills lawmakers are currently considering in Austin.

—  Tammye Nash

Dimetman, DeLeon welcome second child

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Nicole Dimetman DeLeon, left, and her wife, Cleo DeLeon, with co-plaintiffs Vic Holmes, second from right, and Mark Phariss, after oral arguments before the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals in January.

Dallas Voice sends congratulations to Nicole Dimetman DeLeon and her wife Cleo DeLeon on the birth of their second child, a baby girl born over the weekend. The women, who already have a son, are one of two plaintiff couples in the lawsuit in which a federal judge in San Antonio has already ruled Texas’ ban on marriage equality unconstitutional.

The case, in which Mark Phariss and Vic Holmes of Plano are also plaintiffs, has  been heard by the U.S. 5th Circuit Court of Appeals.

Nicole and Cleo said in a written statement released Monday that they are not releasing their new daughter’s name, but that they “want Texans to know the difficulties they face as Texas parents because their marriage is not recognized in Texas.”

In the statement, Nicole said: “Labor is scary and anything can happen. I had an infection as a complication of labor that led to an emergency C-section. A day that should have been one of the happiest of our life was terrifying for Cleo. If I had not made it through the childbirth, Cleo would not have been our daughter’s legal mother because her name is not allowed on the birth certificate in Texas.”

Cleo gave birth to the couple’s son and Nicole had to go through the second-parent adoption process to legalize her ties to the boy. The couple had hope to have a ruling from the 5th Circuit court before their daughter was born that would have forced the state to legally recognize their marriage — performed in Massachusetts. Now Cleo will have to go through the courts for a second-parent adoption to legalize her ties to their daughter.

In the statement released Monday, Cleo said: “We are overjoyed with the birth of our new baby girl, but disappointed bans on same-sex marriage harm children, like our daughter and our son. It is unfair to deny loving parents like us the basic legal protections that provide stability and security so critical to child rearing. We pray for the day when all Texans are treated equally under the law and we do not have to live in fear that something bad could happen in childbirth and I would not be considered the child’s parent by law. We hope the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals and the United States Supreme Court make all marriages legal in Texas and across the nation.”

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Nicole Dimetman DeLeon and her newly-born daughter, from The San Antonio Current

Despite their joy at the birth of their child, the day was also “a sad one because, in the eyes of Texas, Nicole is an unwed mother,” noted Neel Lane, attorney for both plaintiffs in the Texas marriage case. “Her valid marriage to Cleo is declared void by a Texas law that U.S. District Judge Orlando Garcia declared unconstitutional more than a year ago. Court after court has agreed with him, and no one doubts the U.S. Supreme Court will do the same. We are disappointed that the 5th Circuit still has yet to rule, now months since the appeal was fully briefed and argued.”

Mark Phariss offered his and his partner’s congratulations to their co-plaintiffs, but added that it is unfortunate that the women will have to spend money on a second-parent adoption that could instead have been “saved for their daughter’s future education, health care and welfare.”

Mark declared: “The time has now come for marriage equality to be recognized in Texas, for the sake of Nicole and Cleo and their daughter and for the sake of all gays and lesbians in Texas, including Vic and me, who after 18 years together, desperately want to marry the person we love in the state we love.”

 

—  Tammye Nash

Ted Cruz’s Presidential Campaign’s No Good, Very Bad First Day

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Sen. Ted Cruz, R-A Cave.

I wrote earlier today how, after his presidential campaign announcement, Sen. Cruz failed to buy TedCruz.com and TedCruzforAmerica.com. Though he snatched up TedCruz.org, the guy’s team can’t even get the donor link together.

According to The Hill, the donor link did “not offer encryption for online transactions, the level of security illustrated by a padlock next to the URL on most common browsers.” Meaning someone could steal your credit card number.

Which is funny since, after that was resolved, the security certificate revealed the alternative site domain was “Nigerian-prince.com.” That site parodies those spam e-mails you get from long lost “beloved relatives” who want to give you a billion dollars in exchange for your Social Security number.

Birds of a feather stick together, y’all.

As if it didn’t get any worse, the Liberty University crooners surrounding him were so *not* into it. Though Liberty, an evangelical Christian university, attracts a certain type, that doesn’t mean they fit neatly into Cruz’s 1984-esque wet dream of an America where everyone received the Most Likely to be Ted Cruz honor in their yearbook. (Qualifications: Beating Commies with Bibles.)

Yeah even some of those freethinking Communists dissed the dude.

Look I know running for president is pretty much the epitome of #YOLO but Christ almighty, Ted Cruz, get your shit together.

 

—  James Russell

AG Ken Paxton: ‘Marriage has been clearly defined by Texas voters’

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Texas AG Ken Paxton.

Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton reassured a crowd outside the Texas State Capitol today (Monday, March 23) about his opposition to his same-sex marriage.

Speaking before a group of prominent social conservatives, including Alabama Supreme Court Justice Roy Moore, Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick and state lawmakers, Paxton told the crowd that the voter-approved ban on same-sex marriage was a mandate not to be messed with.

“In Texas, marriage has been clearly defined by our elected representatives and by a vote of the people, and more than three out of every four Texas voters defined marriage as between one man and one woman. The people of our state could not have spoken more clearly on this issue,” Paxton said.

Last week Paxton filed suit to stop new rules issued by the Department of Labor to state agencies mandating they extend Family Medical Leave benefits to same-sex couples who were married in another state.

The Department of Labor’s rule, scheduled to take effect on March 27, revises the definition of “spouse” to recognize marriage equality and therefore grant family and medical leave benefits to same-sex spouses.

“This was a direct assault on the rule of law in Texas, and a broadside against the values that Texas voters have stood for, time and time again,” Paxton said of the federal rule. “I will continue to lead the fight against the sort of ‘executive office activism’ that is becoming the trademark of the Obama Administration.”

—  James Russell

AG Paxton sues Department of Labor over FMLA definition of ‘spouse’

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Texas AG Ken Paxton

Following in the footsteps of his predecessor Greg Abbott, who sued the federal government over President Obama’s immigration policies, newly-minted Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton announced today (Wednesday, March 18) that he has filed suit against the U.S. Department of Labor over the revised definition of “spouse in the Family and Medical Leave Act.

Paxton is also taking a page from Alabama state Supreme Court Chief Justice Roy Moore’s book and “advising state agencies to follow state law, not the federal rule.”

State law prohibits recognition of same-sex marriage, whereas the Department of Labor’s rule, scheduled to take effect on March 27, revises the definition of “spouse” to recognize marriage equality and therefore grant family and medical leave benefits to same-sex spouses.

According to a statement released Wednesday afternoon by Paxton’s office, “This action is a violation of federal statute, attempts to abrogate Texas’ sovereign immunity, and runs afoul of the principles of federalism recognized by the U.S. Supreme Court.”

The new rule, however, is based on the U.S. Supreme Court’s July 2013 ruling in United States v Windsor, striking down that portion of the federal Defense of Marriage Act that prohibited the federal government from giving legal recognition to same-sex marriages performed in jurisdictions that legally recognize such marriages.

Paxton’s suit also fails to consider U.S. District Judge Orlando Garcia’s February 2014 ruling declaring Texas’ anti-marriage equality constitutional amendment and laws to be in violation of the U.S. Constitution. Paxton also apparently has never heard of the “supremacy clause” in U.S. Constitution, which says that when state and federal laws clash, federal laws win.

—  Tammye Nash