STUDY: Texas among 10 states with lowest support for marriage equality

States and the District of Columbia ranked from lowest to highest support for marriage equality in 2012, right column, compared to 2004 numbers on the left.

States and the District of Columbia ranked from lowest to highest in support of marriage equality in 2012, right column, compared to 2004 numbers on the left.

A new study by the Williams Institute at UCLA found that Texas is among the 10 states with the lowest level of support for marriage equality, at less than 35 percent.

Polls show Texas has gained support for marriage equality and civil unions steadily over the years, and the study shows a 9 percent jump in same-sex marriage approval in the past eight years in the Lone Star State. (A majority of Texas voters support some form of relationship recognition for same-sex couples — either marriage or civil unions.)

Texas grew from 24 percent in favor of marriage equality in 2004 to 33 percent in 2012, according to the study. Only Kentucky, Tennessee, West Virginia, Alabama, Arkansas and Louisiana had less support than Texas last year.

The study found that the country’s overall support for marriage quality had an average increase of 13.6 percent, with more than 50 percent of citizens in 12 states and the District of Columbia supporting it.

Based on the current trend, the study estimates that 20 states and the District of Columbia will support same-sex marriage at or more than 50 percent by the end of 2014.

—  Anna Waugh

Memo to Gov. Perry: ‘You’re done here’

On the same day the U.S. Supreme Court took up California’s ban on same-sex marriage, Texas Gov. Rick Perry told the Dallas Morning News on Tuesday that both he and the state of Texas still oppose marriage equality:

“In Texas, it is fairly clear about where this state stands on that issue,” Perry said when asked by reporters about the Supreme Court cases.

“As recently as a constitutional amendment that passed – I believe, with 76 percent of the vote. The people of the state of Texas, myself included, believe marriage is between one man and one woman,” Perry said.

Unfortunately for Perry, and as Mother Jones aptly notes, Texas’ marriage amendment passed eight years ago in an off-year election, and it banned not only same-sex marriage, but also civil unions.

Of course, what Perry really means is that a majority of Republican Primary voters in Texas still oppose same-sex marriage, because that’s his political base.

A majority of Americans, however, now support marriage equality, which helps explain why Perry’s anti-gay tactics helped doom his presidential campaign last year.

Furthermore, as the chart above shows, his statements about Texas are rapidly becoming false if not so already.

Numerous polls over the last few years have shown that roughly two-thirds of Texas voters now support either marriage or civil unions for same-sex couples — meaning if it were on the ballot today, the amendment would fail.

So, in the words of the heckler who interrupted Perry during “Texas Faith and Family Day” at the Capitol on Tuesday: “You don’t represent me. 2016 — no way! You’re done here!”

—  John Wright

Marriage equality rallies planned across TX before high court takes up issue

Rallypic

Several marriage equality rallies will take place in Texas next week before the U.S. Supreme Court hears oral arguments in the Proposition 8 and Defense of Marriage Act.

The court will hear arguments March 26 and 27, and events across the country have been planned for the beginning of the week in what’s being called the “United For Marriage: Light the way to Justice” campaign.

Cowtowns’s LGBT community will gather bright and early at the Rainbow Lounge — on March 25 beginning at 6 a.m. — for a rally to celebrate the arguments and Fort Worth state Rep. Lon Burnam’s HB 1300, which calls for marriage equality after the state’s marriage amendment is repealed. The rally is scheduled to last until noon.

Dallas’ GetEQUAL TX rally is at the Legacy of Love monument that night, starting at 7 p.m. And in Denton, a 6 p.m. rally will be at the Denton Courthouse Square, 110 W. Hickory St. in Denton, on Monday.

In Waco on Monday night, a marriage equality forum will take place instead of a rally. Planned by the social action team at the Unitarian Universalist Fellowship of Waco, it begins at 6:30 p.m. and will feature speakers and same-sex couples sharing disparities they face because they are same-sex couples.

Rallies have been planned for Tuesday in Houston at City Hall at 7 p.m. and in Austin at the state Capitol at 7 p.m. And San Antonio LGBT advocates will meet at Milam Park at 7:30 p.m. that night to demonstrate a need for marriage equality.

To view events nationwide, go here.

—  Anna Waugh

Queer rappers God-Des & She drop new CD at Sue Ellen’s Friday

Frank Ocean is a pioneer, Frank Ocean is great, but he’s not the only — or first — hip-hop star to come out. Ever since Austin-based rappers God-Des & She burst onto the music scene following a featured track on The L Word, the lesbian duo has had a following, both in the lesbian and hip-hop communities.

It’s no wonder why: With their sexually explicit lyrics (c’mon — when lesbians sing a song called “Lick It,” you don’t have to wonder what they are referring to) and in-your-face boldness, these Texas tornadoes give an urban, edgy profile. Add to that some gender-bending (for the record: The hardcore butch rapper is God-Des; the zaftig lipstick-and-dress-wearer is She), good airplay on MTV and Logo, and a campaign to get them on Ellen DeGeneres’ talk show, and you understand why they have a fan-base.

Their fourth album, United States of God-Des & She, is set to drop Feb. 5, but you can get a preview of it when the duo take to the stage at the Vixin Lounge inside Sue Ellen’s for a CD release party Friday. Doors open at 9 p.m., and God-Des & She will mount the stage at 11. And when we say mount … well, let’s just say you never know what to expect from those two.

Tickets available at SueEllensDallas.com and God-DesandShe.com.

—  Arnold Wayne Jones

Obama hasn’t replied to TX secession petition, but Rep. Garnet Coleman has

Garnet Coleman

State Rep. Garnet Coleman, D-Houston, a staunch LGBT ally who also happens to be African-American, sent out the below statement on Wednesday — complete with the image above — responding to a now-infamous petition we mentioned the other day calling for the White House to allow Texas to secede. Perhaps President Barack Obama should incorporate some of Coleman’s remarks into his own response to the petition. We’d especially recommend this paragraph:

The online petition, which currently has around 60,000 signatures and counting, is unfortunately not surprising. Ever since the election of this country’s first black president, there has been a surge of  rhetoric that had mostly lied dormant since the Civil War and subsequent Jim Crow era. After the election of President Obama, however, Governor Perry, whose hunting ranch was named “Niggerhead” until just recently, openly hinted at secession, and we spent much of last session talking about things like “states’ rights,” including a “Committee on State Sovereignty” and a House Resolution incorrectly asserting the state’s “rights under the Tenth Amendment.” This kind of rhetoric needs to end.

Read Coleman’s full statement below.

—  John Wright

Anti-gay state senator wants to outlaw domestic partner benefits in Texas

Dan Patrick

Here’s why you need to get out and vote on Tuesday if you haven’t already.

In the same week that Dallas County voted to offer health insurance vouchers to the domestic partners of employees, a tea party-backed state senator from Houston is seeking an opinion from the Texas attorney general about whether such benefits are legal under the state’s 2005 constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage.

Republican Sen. Dan Patrick’s office wrote in a press release on Friday:

In 2005, the Texas Constitution was amended to clearly define marriage as between one man and one woman. The “Marriage Amendment” went on to prohibit government entities from creating or recognizing anything identical or similar to marriage. The Marriage Amendment was passed by an overwhelming majority of the Texas legislature and ratified by more than 75 percent of Texas voters.

However, government entities across the state are gradually recognizing and extending benefits to domestic partners including the cities of El Paso, Austin and Fort Worth. Recently, Pflugerville I.S.D. became the first school district to extend benefits.

“I am submitting this request to the Attorney General in order to clarify whether or not these entities are violating the constitution and circumventing the will of the people,” said Senator Patrick.

Other entities in Texas that offer DP benefits include the city of Dallas, which has had them since 2004, and Dallas County, which as I mentioned added them this week.

Ken Upton, a senior staff attorney for the LGBT civil rights group Lambda Legal, told Instant Tea that Patrick’s letter seeking an opinion from the AG’s office doesn’t surprise him.

“I was wondering when someone would do that,” Upton said. “It was just a question of when. Texas is too big of a state, and there are too many people who hate us.”

Upton said there have been similar challenges to domestic partner benefits in other states with constitutional amendments banning same-sex marriage, including Ohio and Michigan, with mixed results. But he said the issue could be decided by the U.S. Supreme Court in an Arizona case that Lambda Legal is handling, Diaz v. Brewer. Both the district court and the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals have ruled in Lambda Legal’s favor, but Republican Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer, who wants to strip DP benefits from state employees, appealed.

“Our position is if you decide that a benefit of employment is insuring your spouse, and then you turn around and say as a gay person, you don’t get that benefit because you can’t have a spouse, then you violate equal protection,” Upton said.  “We’ll know in November whether [the Supreme Court is] going to take that case.”

Upton said any opinion Sen. Patrick receives from Republican Attorney General Greg Abbott’s office would be advisory in nature. However, Upton said he suspects that the AG’s office — which has intervened in recent years to block gay divorces — could find a way of bringing a legal challenge to DP benefits in Texas. Upton said he doesn’t like the LGBT community’s chances in front of the conservative Texas Supreme Court, which could ultimately be charged with interpreting whether the marriage amendment bans DP benefits. But Upton said that from a legal standpoint, he’s less worried about the issue than he once was.

“I think the [U.S.] Supreme Court in Diaz could decide it once and for all,” he said. “The bottom line is this whole thing is so much farther long than it was three or four or five years ago. Time is on our side.”

Read Patrick’s press release and his letter seeking an opinion from the AG’s office below.

—  John Wright

S. Texas lesbian reflects 3 months after shooting that killed her girlfriend

It’s been three months since Kristene Chapa, 18, and girlfriend Mollie Olgin, 19, were found shot in a park in Portland, Texas.

Olgin did not survive, but Chapa was found still breathing early the next morning and was rushed to the hospital. She eventually was able to communicate with police and helped them sketch a photo of the man responsible.

Chapa updated her Facebook status this weekend, reflecting on her recovery and life without Olgin.

“Today marks 3 months since my accident. I’ve learned life is so fragile and cherish the people you have in your life love them don’t take things for granted and buy pepper spray! they deserve it!” Chapa wrote, according to NBC News.

She also posted lyrics to the Kenny Chesney song “Who You’d Be Today,” a song about a person who died too young.

“I still need time but I am happy,” Chapa wrote. “I’m moving on.”

Moving on also includes dating again. Chapa noted in early September she was seeing someone else.

“I know people deal with things different and I’m not gonna sit in my room and cry over what happened,” she wrote. “I was heartbroken but I’m not gonna be single for the rest of my life … she’s in my heart but I needed something else. I wanted a girl to be there for me and understand what I’m going through.”

Chapa is still recovering in a rehabilitation facility while police await more leads that will provide more answers and justice for Chapa and her family. Dozens of leads were called in early on in the case but have since dwindled down to few.

“I love that people pray for me,” she wrote. “I really think that’s why I’m recovering so fast.”

Portland Police Chief Randy Wright has previously said that no evidence existed to lead police to believe the shooting was a hate crime.

The suspect is described as a white male in his 20s, 5 feet, 8 inches tall with a thin build, weighing 140 pounds, with brown hair and a scruffy beard.

North Texans have helped raise money for a reward for information.

Anyone with information should call the Portland Police Department at 361-777-4444. Reports may be made anonymously.

—  Anna Waugh

Students protest new Chick-fil-A on campus of UT-Pan American

Students protest the new on-campus Chick-fil-A at the University of Texas-Pan American on Monday, Aug. 27. (Action 4 News)

Students starting classes Monday at the University of Texas-Pan American protested the new on-campus Chick-fil-A.

The campus in Edinburg had several students holding signs explaining that the chicken chain controversy is about civil rights, not free speech.

UTPA’s Atheist Student Organization and the LGBT Alliance also had students sign their petition to ask the university to remove the restaurant, Action 4 News reports.

UTPA released a statement before school started that the university  “was surprised and disappointed by the comments made by Chick-fil-A’s president,” and that it opposes “discrimination in any form.”

Chick-fil-A is on five college campuses in North Texas. Both the University of North Texas and the University of Texas at Arlington have started online petitions. A UNT student petition on Change.org  had garnered 469 signatures and the one started by an alumnus has 44 signatures. The UTA petition has 155 signatures.

UTA spokeswoman Kristin Sullivan told Instant Tea that no one had submitted a petition or a formal request yet o replace the on-campus Chick-fil-A.

Alohi Valdez, president of UTA’s Gay Straight Alliance, said the group is working on a resolution to present to university officials alongside the petition. She said she wanted to present the petition to the administration soon.

—  Anna Waugh

Gay Dallas activist’s petition seeks apology from Lubbock County judge

Tom Head

Gay Dallasite Cannon Flowers has created a Change.org petition demanding an apology from Lubbock County Judge Tom Head.

Head set off a firestorm earlier this week when he went on the local Fox station and claimed he needed to raise taxes to protect Lubbock from civil war if Obama is re-elected. The Houston Chronicle declared “crazy county judge makes Lubbock a national laughingstock.”

Bloomberg quotes Lubbock County Democratic Party chair Kenny Ketner who said, “It’s not the first time he’s said something ridiculous.”

Lubbock Democrats are discussing removing Head from office. The Lubbock Avalanche has a picture of Head’s office door with these words scribbled on it: “Hide your kids. Hide your wife. They’re coming.”

Flower’s petition reads:

Lubbock County Judge Tom Head has used his office to issue a veiled threat of civil war in the United States if the current President Barack Obama is re-elected. … Judge Head said regarding a possible Obama re-election, “We are talking civil unrest, civil disobedience, possibly, possibly civil war, OK? Now what happens? What happens? Now I’m not talking just talking riots here and there. I’m talking Lexington, Concord, take up arms, get rid of the dictator. ..And in this political climate and financial climate, what is the very worst thing that can happen right now? Obama gets back in the White House. No. God forbid.”

These comments, spoken on behalf of the power of the office as County Judge of a major county in Texas, are seen to possibly incite violence and potentially cause great harm to the United States. Judge Head must be held accountable and the officials of Lubbock County must also be held accountable for any further actions occurring from these statements.

To sign the petition, go here.

—  David Taffet

Cruz declared winner in Republican Senate runoff

Ted Cruz, left, and David Dewhurst

Ted Cruz was declared the winner early in the evening in his race for the Republican nomination for Senator. Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst was expected to win until Cruz overtook him in the polls during the last week.

Cruz is the former Texas Solicitor General. He is expected to face Paul Sadler in the November election.

In other races, Tincy Miller won the Republican nomination for State Board of Education. She defeated incumbent George Clayton in the primary after he was outed last fall. Clayton plans a write-in candidacy.

For state railroad commissioner, Christi Craddick defeated Warren Chisum who made a name for himself in the legislature as one of the House’s most homophobic representatives.

—  David Taffet