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

Stay on Travis County marriage may continue until Supreme Court ruling

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Suzanne Bryant and Sarah Goodfriend show off their marriage license

A spokesperson for the Texas Supreme Court said its stay on a same-sex marriage ban will likely be in place until a United State Supreme Court ruling this summer.

“Somebody is going to rule on this, and it’s the U.S. Supreme Court, definitively, in three months,” Osler McCarthy, staff attorney for public information at the Texas Supreme Court told The Daily Texan, the student newspaper of the university of Texas at Austin. “So what the court has done is say, ‘Stop. Nobody move.’”

Last Wednesday, Feb. 18, a Travis County probate judge ruled the state’s same-sex marriage ban unconstitutional. Then last Thursday, Feb. 19, Suzanne Bryant and Sarah Goodfriend received a one-time marriage license from Travis County Judge David Wahlberg, citing the probate judge’s decision.

Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton, a Republican, asked for an emergency stay, which was ultimately granted by the court. He also asked the court to overturn the couple’s marriage. But that doesn’t seem likely.

What remains to be seen is if the stay will be lifted pending a 5th Circuit decision on the state’s same-sex marriage ban, which could come any day now.

—  James Russell

Arkansas bans anti-discrimination laws; is Texas next?

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Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson, right, allowed legislation prohibiting cities and counties from enacting anti-discrimination laws protecting LGBT people to pass into law without his signature. Texas Sen. Don Huffines, R-Dallas, left, has introduced a similar bill in the Texas Legislature.

Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson on Monday allowed legislation prohibiting cities and counties in his state from passing statutes and ordinances protecting LGBT people from discrimination to become law without his signature. The law, SB 202, goes into effect 90 days after the legislative session ends this summer.

Hutchinson said earlier this month that he had “reservations” about the legislation, but not enough to actually veto it. He chose instead to demonstrate those reservations by letting the bill become law without his signature. He did so despite what The Washington Post called mounting pressure from civil rights advocates nationwide.

A press release issued by a coalition of groups including the National Center for Lesbian Rights, Lambda Legal and the ACLU declared, “There is nothing but discriminatory intent here. And no valid public interest can possibly be served by allowing private businesses to discriminate based on sexual orientation, gender identity or other characteristics that might be covered by local ordinances.” Even Cher skewered Hutchinson in a Tweet, accusing him of “hanging [the] LGBT community out the dry.”

But before all you Texans start looking down your noses at those ridiculous rednecks in Arkansas, be warned: The same kind of bill has been in the Texas Legislature this session. Sen. Don Huffines, R-Dallas.

According to Equality Texas, “SB 343 would restrict the ability of local elected officials to pass or enforce ordinances, rules or regulations that are not identical to state protections, restricting local governments to only protecting the attributes covered under state law: race, color, religion, sex, familial status, or national origin.”

That means that ordinances in Fort Worth and Dallas and Houston and even in Plano that protect LGBT people from discrimination would be, in effect, rendered useless. Of course, it also means that ordinances in Houston, San Antonio and, again, Plano that protect U.S. military veterans from discrimination in housing, employment and public accommodations would also be effectively overturned. But hey, the vets have already sacrificed for their country one time; surely they’ll be willing to sacrifice their right not to be discriminated against to make sure all us evil LGBTs don’t get any protections. I mean, we are a huge threat to the American way of life, after all.

As I said, Huffines’ bill, if it becomes law, would nullify the amendment adding LGBT protections to the Dallas city charter, an amendment approved last November by 76 percent of Dallas voters. I guess overturning measures overwhelmingly approved by voters — you know, like the amendment to the Texas Constitution banning legal recognition of same-sex marriage, approved by 76 percent of Texas voters in 2005 — is ok as long as you are only overturning things that Republicans don’t like.

—  Tammye Nash

Equality Texas celebrates couple’s wedding, urges 5th Circuit to lift stay

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Suzanne Bryant, left, and Sarah Goodfriend with their Texas marriage license

Equality Texas has issued a statement on the marriage this morning in Travis County of Sarah Goodfriend and Suzanne Bryant, congratulating the couple, but noting that the Travis County Clerk issued the license only under court order, and that other same-sex couples are not able to get licenses in Travis County — or elsewhere in Texas — without a similar court order.

Equality Texas also called on the federal Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals to lift the stay put on U.S. District Court Judge Orlando Garcia’s February 2014 ruling striking down Texas’ ban on marriage equality. If the Fifth Circuit lifts the stay, that would clear the way for same-sex couples across Texas to begin getting their marriage licenses and having weddings.

Equality Texas’ statement read: “While we join with Sarah, Suzanne, and their children in celebration of their wedding, we recognize that other couples are still denied the freedom to marry the person they love. We urge the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals to quickly issue a ruling affirming the freedom to marry for all loving couples in Texas.”

—  Tammye Nash

TEXAS MARRIAGE UPDATE: Equality Texas calls on DeBeauvoir to start issuing marriage licenses

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Travis County Clerk Dana DeBeauvoir

A day after a Travis County probate judge issued a ruling striking down Texas’ ban on legal recognition of same-sex marriages, Equality Texas today (Wednesday, Feb. 18) is calling on Travis County Clerk Dana DeBeauvoir to begin issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples immediately.

But according to a spokeswoman in DeBeauvoir’s office, the county clerk will not issue those marriage licenses until she gets the go-ahead from the federal courts.

DeBeauvoir had previously said she was ready to begin issuing marriage licenses to gay and lesbian couples as soon as the courts would allow. After Judge Guy Herman issued his ruling Tuesday, DeBeauvoir said she needed to meet with Herman and county lawyers to “find out if there is anything I can do [in terms of issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples]. Right now, I think it’s no, but we are checking.”

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Equality Texas Executive Director Chuck Smith

But Equality Texas Executive Director Chuck Smith said today that Herman’s ruling makes marriage equality the law in Travis County. “The law in Travis County now allows for marriage equality. Equality Texas calls upon the county clerk to stand with us — on the right side of history,” Smith said.

The written statement issued by Equality Texas also noted: “Just as the Supreme Court may issue a marriage ruling this summer that applies to all 50 states, and just as the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals may issue a marriage ruling any day now that applies to the 5th Circuit, Judge Herman has issued a ruling that has the effect of law in Travis County.”

The spokeswoman in DeBeauvoir’s office, who identified herself as Angela Vallejo, said today that “nothing has changed” since the county clerk’s statement yesterday. “We have to wait for the federal courts” to settle the question, she said. “As soon as they approve it, I am sure we will begin issuing the licenses.”

Getting a license in Travis County

If — or rather, let’s say when — DeBeauvoir’s office begins issuing licenses to same-sex couples, here are a few rules you need to know:

• The Travis County Clerk’s Office is located at 5501 Airport Blvd. in Austin.

• The cost to get a marriage license is $81 if you pay cash, $84 if you pay with a credit card. Checks are not accepted.

• Both parties have to present a valid ID; both parties have to know their Social Security numbers, and both parties must be at least 18 years old. (Those under 18 must have a parent or guardian with them to give permission.)

• Marriage licenses expire 90 days after they are issued.

• Those obtaining marriage licenses have to wait 72 hours to get married, unless they have a waiver from the court.

The status of marriage equality in the courts

Herman’s ruling came as part of an estate fight in which Austin resident Sonemaly Phrasavath is seeking to have her eight-year relationship to Stella Powell designated as a common-law marriage. Powell died last summer of colon cancer, and after her death, her siblings attempted to step in to claim her estate.

According to the Equality Texas statement issued today, Herman’s ruling finds “that the restrictions on marriage in the Texas Family Code and in the Texas Constitution that restrict marriage to the union of a man and a woman and prohibit marriage for same-sex couples are unconstitutional because the restrictions violate the Due Process Clause and the Equal Protection Clause of the 14th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.

“Contrary to [DeBeauvoir’s] position previously stated in the media, this ruling in fact allows her to immediately issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples in Travis County,” the statement declares.

“Travis County Clerk Dana DeBeauvoir previously stated she would be happy to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples once the law allows for it.” Equality Texas Executive Director Chuck Smith said.

Herman’s ruling yesterday came a year, to the month, after U.S. District Judge Orlando Garcia ruled in federal court that the Texas same-sex marriage ban violates the U.S. Constitution. Garcia declined plaintiffs’ request late last year to lift the stay on that order and allow same-sex marriages to begin in Texas. The 5th Circuit Court of Appeals heard oral arguments on that case and two others — one from Louisiana and one from Mississippi — on Jan. 9, and could rule in that case any day. Plaintiffs in the Texas case last week asked the Fifth Circuit to lift the stay allow gay and lesbian couples to begin marrying in Texas right away.

The U.S. Supreme Court is expected to hear oral arguments on four marriage equality cases out of the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals in April, and to issue a ruling in June. The court is widely expected, as this time, to strike down all same-sex marriage bans in the U.S.

 

 

—  Tammye Nash

Texas won’t issue driver’s license to gay man because he’s married

Screen shot 2014-12-08 at 1.11.38 PMAccording to a report in the Des Moines Register, an Iowa gay couple who moved to an Austin suburb can’t get Texas drivers license because of their marriage.

Michael Miller Gribble changed his name on all legal documents after he and his husband married. When they moved to Texas, he brought his marriage license and birth certificate to apply for his new driver’s license. He was turned away because Texas won’t recognize a marriage license from a same-sex couple as proof of a name change.

He was told he could either get a divorce or a legal name change. Opposite-sex couples do not need a court-order to change last names. A marriage license is proof of the change.

The newspaper reports that couples from Iowa have had similar problems in Nebraska, Florida and South Dakota. Iowa has been a marriage-equality state since 2009.

Gribble applied for a passport that will reflect his new name. He can use that as proof of who he is rather than a marriage license and birth certificate.

He pointed out the extra cost and inconvenience involved and pointed out the unfair financial penalties of being gay or lesbian that goes against the constitutional guarantee of equal protection.

This isn’t the first time that the state of Texas has refused to issue a driver’s license because of a same-sex-marriage-related name change. It happened earlier this year to a lesbian who legally married her female partner in California and then moved with her wife to Texas. And in October, Houston Mayor Annise Parker announced on Twitter that the state refused to give her 16-year-old daughter a driver’s license because the girl’s birth certificate listed two moms.

—  David Taffet