Wendy Davis delays announcement on whether she’ll run to focus on family

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State Sen. Wendy Davis

It’s no secret that state Sen. Wendy Davis is the favorite candidate among Democrats for governor in 2014, but the public will have to wait a little longer for an announcement on whether she’ll run.

Davis was expected to announce her future plans after Labor Day on whether she was going to run for her Senate seat again or for governor, but her father’s health has made her delay the decision until at least the end of next month.

Davis’ father, Jerry Russell, has been in critical condition at Fort Worth’s Harris Methodist Hospital after complications from recent abdominal surgery that turned into pneumonia. In light of this, David told the Texas Tribune she was postponing an announcement to focus on her family.

“I had hoped to make public my decision about that next week, but with everything that’s going on with my dad, I won’t be doing that,” she said. “It’s likely it will be late September before I do.”

A longtime LGBT ally, Davis’ decision will have a great impact on the LGBT community. If she runs for governor, openly gay Fort Worth City Councilman Joel Burns would be the likely Democratic challenger to the many Republican candidates who have announced they plan to challenge Davis for her District 10 Senate seat.

—  Dallasvoice

Joel Burns may seek Wendy Davis’ Senate seat if she runs for governor

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Last week we mentioned that if state Sen. Wendy Davis decides to run for governor, one of the possible candidates to replace her in the Senate would be openly gay Fort Worth City Councilman Joel Burns. At the time, however, Burns wasn’t commenting on a a possible bid for Davis’ District 10 seat in Tarrant County.

But this week, Burns told The Dallas Morning News (subscription required) “that he’s been approached by operatives about a possible campaign to replace Davis.”

“It’s something that I have thought about,” Burns said. “But until she decides what she wants to do, I can’t give it more than that.”

—  John Wright

Wendy Davis honored by Stonewall Dems before heading back to Austin

State Sen. Wendy Davis addreses protesters at a rally in Austin Monday. (Texas Democratic Party via Facebook)

State Sen. Wendy Davis addreses protesters at a rally in Austin on Monday. (Texas Democratic Party via Facebook)

Thousands of opponents of anti-abortion legislation stormed the state Capitol Monday to protest Republican-backed legislation reintroduced during the Legislature’s second special session.

The legislation would ban abortions after 20 weeks and close the majority of abortion clinics in the state that provide women with other services.

State Sen. Wendy Davis, D-Fort Worth, has led the charge against the legislation since her 13-hour filibuster last week killed the legislation. Gov. Rick Perry then called a second special session to address abortion and transportation that started Monday.

Davis, who has been a champion for LGBT rights, was recognized for her hard work in Austin over the weekend at Tarrant County Stonewall Democrats’ Spring Extravaganza. About 150 people attended to hear Congressman Marc Veasey and state Rep. Chris Turner address key issues facing the state and nation.

Davis spoke briefly about her determination last week and the need to continue to fight in the weeks to come in the special session after she was presented with Tarrant Stonewall’s Hero Award.

Stonewall President Felipe Guttierez said the group voted on award recipients before Davis’ filibuster but said it demonstrated her commitment to her constituents and to Texas.

“I think it only added more to why she’s a champion for Senate District 10 and for women and our community,” he said.

Former Tarrant County Democratic Party Chairman Steve Maxwell received the Lifetime Achievement Award and Lisa Thomas received the Member of the Year Award.

—  Dallasvoice

WATCH: Texas’ ‘Governor for a Day’ delivers emotional pro-LGBT speech

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Sen. Leticia Van de Putte is sworn in as ‘governor for a day’ on Saturday.

The governor of Texas delivered impassioned remarks in support of LGBT equality on Saturday.

Unfortunately, San Antonio Democratic Sen. Leticia Van de Putte was only “governor for a day” — a ceremonial honor bestowed upon the president pro tempore of the Texas Senate for one day each legislative session.

After returning to his pulpit on Sunday, Gov. Rick Perry would inanely compare his opposition to gays in the Boy Scouts to Gov. Sam Houston’s opposition to slavery. But on Saturday, Van de Putte choked back tears as she compared her support for LGBT equailty to Gov. Houston’s support for American Indians.

“A few minutes ago I swore on Sam Houston’s Bible to uphold the oath,” Van de Putte told those gathered at the Capitol for her address. “Sam Houston stood proud and he stood up for our Native Americans, our first nation, who at that time were considered savages, and he said, ‘I am aware that presenting myself as an advocate for the Indians and their rights, I shall stand very much alone.’ But Sam Houston stood up, and he did because it was the right thing to do, and I so I will stand because it’s the right thing to do.”

Van de Putte, the author of a bill to ban anti-LGBT job discrimination in Texas, talked about meeting Staff Sgt. Eric Alva, the openly gay Marine from San Antonio who lost his leg when he stepped on a landmine in Iraq in 2003.

“He fought for us. He fought for you,” she said. “He nearly died for our country, and he still suffers for it every day, and yet, here in his home state, he can be denied or fired from a job, not because he’s Hispanic, and not because he has a disability, but because he is gay. A man who protects our country is not protected at home. A man who loves his country is denied and is discriminated against because of who he loves, and Texans, that has to change.”

Van De Putte concluded by referencing portraits of people like Barbara Jordan and Henry B. Gonzalez hanging in the state Capitol.

“At one time it would have been unthinkable to think that an African-American woman and a Mexican-American man, that their portraits would hang, would be adorned on these hallowed walls,” she said. “Someday on these walls there will be a portrait of a Texas hero who just happens to be gay, and it won’t matter, because they’re a Texas hero.”

Watch Van de Putte’s historic remarks below.

—  John Wright

UPDATED: Sen. John Carona backs 2nd pro-LGBT bill, repeal of sodomy law

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Sen. John Carona, R-Dallas

UPDATE, 2:35 p.m.: Jamie McCormick, a spokeswoman for Carona, said in an email, “Senator Carona is supportive of SB 538.”

ORIGINAL POST:

State Sen. John Carona, R-Dallas, who made history last week when he stood up to anti-gay bigots and bucked the GOP line by voting in favor of a pro-LGBT bill, may get a chance to do it again this Wednesday.

Equality Texas issued an Action Alert moments ago urging constituents to call Carona’s office and express their support for SB 538, which would repeal Texas’ unconstitutional homosexual conduct law and which is scheduled to be heard Wednesday by the Senate Criminal Justice Committee, on which Carona serves as part of a 4-3 Republican majority.

Last week, the committee voted 4-1 to advance SB 1316, which would extend legal protections to sexually active gay and lesbian teens. SB 1316 was the first pro-LGBT bill to clear a committee in the Texas Legislature in 12 years. Carona joined three Democrats in voting to advance the bill. One Republican voted against it, while the other two were absent.

—  John Wright

TX legislative panel advances pro-LGBT bill for 1st time in 12 years

John Carona

Sen. John Carona, R-Dallas, voted in favor of the pro-LGBT bill.

Even in Texas, LGBT equality is inching forward.

For the first time in 12 years, a state legislative committee advanced a specifically pro-LGBT bill on Tuesday.

The Senate Committee on Criminal Justice voted 4-1 to advance SB 1316 — which would provide legal protections for sexually active gay and lesbian teens.

Sen. John Carona, a Republican from Dallas who made news by waffling on LGBT issues last year, joined three Democrats in voting to advance the bill. The Democrats who voted for the bill were author John Whitmire of Houston, Juan Hinojosa of McAllen and Jose Rodriguez of El Paso. Sen. Charles Schwertner, R-Georgetown, voted against the advancing the bill. The other two Republican members of the criminal justice committee were absent from the hearing.

The committee heard testimony from the parents of gay teens before voting to advance the bill, which is backed by Equality Texas. No one testified against the bill, although the anti-gay group Texas Values issued statements to media outlets saying it amounts to “promoting sexual behavior.”

Under Texas law, sexual contact with minors under the age of 17 is a crime of indecency. But a “Romeo and Juliet” defense protects teen couples from prosecution as long as they are in a consensual relationship, both over 14 and within three years of age of each other. However,  the law specifically states that this protection is available only to couples of the opposite sex. SB 1316 would give same-sex teen couples the same protection as their heterosexual peers.

A House version of the bill, HB 2403, was also heard by a committee today but did not receive a vote. Despite clearing the Senate committee, the measure still faces long odds. It would need a two-thirds majority vote from the full Senate before it can be considered on the floor.

The last pro-LGBT bill to clear a Texas legislative committee was the James Byrd Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act, which includes protections based on “sexual preference” and was signed into law by Republican Gov. Rick Perry in 2001.

Four anti-bullying bills passed the Legislature and were signed by Perry in 2011, but none contained specific protections for LGBT youth.

 

—  John Wright

Texas Senate hears testimony on bill to ban anti-LGBT job discrimination

Leticia Van de Putte

State Sen. Leticia Van de Putte

For the first time in history, Texas senators considered a bill this morning that would prohibit employment discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity in the Lone Star State.

The Senate Economic Development Committee heard testimony on SB 237, filed by state Sen. Leticia Van de Putte, D-San Antonio.

Equality Texas Executive Director Chuck Smith said he and six other people testified about the personal impact and and positive effect on economic development the bill would have. Among the speakers were gay former state Rep. Glen Maxey and retired Staff Sgt. Eric Alva, who was the first Purple Heart recipient in the Iraq War.

Smith said Alva gave a “very compelling testimony” that spoke about his experience and support for the bill.

In addition, Craig Briscoe, vice president of human resources for Dell Inc., sent in a written testimony in support of the bill (read it here).

Jonathan Saenz with anti-gay Texas Values and three business organizations submitted written opposition but did not testify in person, Smith said.

Smith said overall he was impressed with the hearing and thought it went well. Concerns about an increase in lawsuits were brought up, but Smith said the bill doesn’t change the procedure for discrimination complaints. Instead, it adds sexual orientation and gender identity to the state’s list of protected categories and complaints would be investigated like those based on race or religion.

Smith said Equality Texas and other advocates for the bill will work with lawmakers to dispel myths that businesses would be at a higher risk for lawsuits if the legislation is passed. He hopes to have enough votes to get the bill out of committee.

The committee’s seven members are: Chairman Bob Deuell, R-Greenville, Vice Chairman Kelly Hancock, R-North Richland Hills, Brian Birdwell, R-Granbury, Wendy Davis, D-Fort Worth, Kevin Eltife, R-Tyler, Troy Fraser, R-Horseshoe Bay, and Kirk Watson, D-Austin.

Watch today’s committee hearing here.

—  Dallasvoice

State Sen. Chuy Hinojosa files bill to legalize civil unions in Texas

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Sen. Chuy Hinojosa

State Sen. Chuy Hinojosa, D-McAllen, has filed a bill to legalize civil unions in Texas if the state’s 2005 constitutional amendment prohibiting both same-sex marriage and civil unions is first repealed.

Hinojosa’s SB 480 would take effect in 2014, but only if the 2005 amendment is overturned under resolutions filed last week by Sen. Jose Rodriguez, D-El Paso, and Reps. Rafael Anchia, D-Dallas, and Garnet Coleman, D-Houston. To pass, those resolutions would need a two-thirds majority in both chambers to be placed on the ballot, then support from a majority of voters in November.

Hinojosa’s bill would repeal a portion of Texas’ 2003 Defense of Marriage Act (not to be confused with the federal version), which is part of the Family Code and states that Texas and its political subdivisions are prohibited from recognizing same-sex marriages or civil unions from here or elsewhere. The 2003 DOMA was passed in response to the legalization of civil unions in places like Vermont, as well as a Beaumont couple’s attempt to obtain a divorce from their civil union in Texas.

According to a press release from Equality Texas (the bill text was not yet available on the Legislature’s site), Hinojosa’s bill would remove the prohibition on civil unions and provide for the establishment of civil unions for same-gender couples, granting them “the same rights, benefits, protections, and responsibilities under the law as are granted to spouses in a marriage.”

Executive Director Chuck Smith said while Equality Texas supports marriage equality, civil unions would be a step in the right direction.

“We believe that every Texas family should be able to take care of those they love. Today’s action by Senator Hinojosa is a landmark first step in the process of dismantling Texas’ discriminatory ‘Defense of Marriage Act’ and charting us on a path toward full equality,” Smith said. “Equality Texas supports full equality and the freedom to marry. Our work for equal recognition of all Texas families will not be complete until the discriminatory Texas Marriage Amendment is repealed from the State Constitution and DOMA is fully repealed from the State Family Code, thus allowing committed same-gender couples the freedom to marry. Until then, this legislation would provide committed couples with some of the important protections they need in order to take care of their families.”

Read Equality Texas’ full press release below.

—  John Wright

Sen. Carona among 1st Republican legislators in Texas to back gay rights

State Sen. John Carona, R-Dallas, addresses Metroplex Republicans Dallas on Monday.

In a rare if not unprecedented move for a Republican state legislator in Texas, Dallas Sen. John Carona expressed support for three key pieces of pro-equality legislation on Monday.

Carona told Instant Tea he would support bills in Texas to ban discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity in employment; offer domestic partner benefits to state university employees; and allow same-sex adoptive parents to have both names on birth certificates.

All three measures are expected to be priorities for Equality Texas, the statewide LGBT equality group, in the upcoming legislative session.

Carona also said he is “evolving” on same-sex marriage but added that he’s “not there yet.”

“I’m very undecided on the issue and I struggle with it,” Carona said of marriage equality. “I think the whole country is evolving, and I know for a fact that our young people are evolving including young Republicans.

“I can’t say that I’m there yet, that would be dishonest, but I can say that it’s a question that I find myself asking myself over and over,” Carona added. “What is the most conservative approach? Well, I’m always told less government, not more government, is better. What is the right thing? Well, I think anything that advances, encourages monogamy is a good thing. And frankly how could you be against people who want to get their affairs in order and have a loving household? So, yeah, I’m evolving, but admittedly I’m not there yet, nor do I believe the district is there yet, but times change and things may change.”

—  John Wright

Houston senator calls gay attack by Dallas Sen. John Carona ‘vicious,’ defends his marriage

Dan Patrick

State Sen. Dan Patrick, R-Houston, clarified Thursday that he and his wife are not having marital problems after rumors spread that he is gay.

Emails leaked earlier this week revealed that Patrick had emailed state Sen. John Carona, R-Dallas, about rumors he believed Carona was spreading.

In a response sent to multiple senators, Carona denied the rumors, writing that though he “heard rumors regarding [Patrick’s] marital status and sexual preferences for a while now,” he did not share rumors that Patrick was “separated, divorced, or gay.

Patrick’s response demanded an apology.

He told the Texas Tribune that his marriage of 37 years is not breaking up and confirmed notions that he and Carona were at odds over replacing Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst if he is elected to the U.S. Senate.

John Carona

“I love my wife and she loves me,” Patrick said, adding later that is mistake was thinking the emails would be kept private. “If I made a mistake in this, it was believing that emails between senators, which are almost always private, would have stayed private.”

He said he did not call Carona after the gay allegation because he didn’t want a confrontation, saying “his response was an admission of guilt” because he was not shy about sharing his comments.

“Suddenly he repeats them and he adds another vile comment. Vicious,” Patrick said of the gay reference.

Admitting that he and Carona have “competing visions,” Patrick said he wants conservative Republicans senators to have more of a say in Dewhurst’s replacement, denying that he wants the position. Carona has been called a possible favorite for the position.

Watch the video below.

—  Dallasvoice