Araguz booking raises questions about Harris County jail’s treatment of transgender inmates

Judge Vanessa Valasquez

Judge Vanessa Valasquez

According to the Houston Chronicle, Nikki Araguz has been booked into the Harris County Jain after arriving 40 minutes late for a scheduled court appearance on Friday. The court date was to allow Araguz to plead guilty to charges that she stole a watch from an acquaintance last year. Under the proposed plea bargain Araguz would have paid $2,600 in restitution and served 15 days in county jail. State District Judge Vanessa Velasquez, a Republican first appointed to the bench by Gov. Rick Perry, responded to Araguz’ apologies for her tardiness with “It’s too late for sorry,” ordering bailiffs to escort her to a hold cell next to the courtroom.

Araguz is the widow of firefighter Capt. Thomas Araguz who died in the line of duty last year. Capt. Araguz’s ex-wife and mother have sued to claim the portion of his survivor’s benefits reserved for the spouses of slain firefighters, claiming that since Nikki Araguz was identified as male at birth the marriage was invalid under Texas’ laws prohibiting the recognition of same-sex marriage. Mrs. Araguz’s birth certificate identifies her as female, as does her state issued identification.

Araguz’s booking has raised questions about the Harris County’s treatment of transgender detainees. The Sheriff Department’s Public Information Inquiry System listed Araguz using her male birth name on Friday. They have since removed the name from the site’s searchable database but have retained the record, listing it under the department’s “special person number” (SPN) filing system. The SPN record includes Araguz’s birth name. The Sheriff’s office has not returned calls from Houstini asking why the department is not using Araguz’s legal name and if this is common practice.

According to a friend who has visited Araguz at the jail her identity bracelet correctly identifies her gender as “F” – but reflects Araguz’s birth name, not her legal name. Araguz is segregated from the general jail population, but can receive visitors during regular visiting hours.

Araguz will remain in the Harris County Jail until Jan 25 when she is scheduled to appear again before Judge Velasquez.

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Judge to rule this week in Nikki Araguz case

Nikki Araguz

Transgender widow vows appeal if she loses case

JUAN A. LOZANO  |  Associated Press

WHARTON, Texas — The transgender widow of a Texas firefighter will likely learn next week whether his family’s request to nullify their marriage and strip her of any death benefits will be granted, a judge said Friday.

State District Judge Randy Clapp made the announcement after hearing arguments in a lawsuit filed by the family of firefighter Thomas Araguz III, who was killed while battling a blaze last year. The suit argues that his widow shouldn’t get any benefits because she was born a man and Texas doesn’t recognize same-sex marriage.

The widow, Nikki Araguz, said she had done everything medically and legally possible to show that she is female and was legally married under Texas law. She believes that she’s entitled to widow’s benefits.

“I believe the judge is going to rule in my favor,” Araguz said after the court hearing.

The lawsuit seeks control over death benefits and assets totaling more than $600,000, which the firefighter’s family wants to go to his two sons from a previous marriage. Voiding the marriage would prevent Nikki Araguz from receiving any insurance or death benefits or property the couple had together.

Thomas Araguz died while fighting a fire at an egg farm near Wharton, about 60 miles southwest of Houston, in July 2010. He was 30.

His mother, Simona Longoria, filed a lawsuit asking that her son’s marriage be voided. She and her family have said he learned of his wife’s gender history just prior to his death, and after he found out, he moved out of their home and planned to end the marriage.

But Nikki Araguz, 35, has insisted that her husband was aware she was born a man and that he fully supported her through the surgical process to become a woman. She underwent surgery two months after they were married in 2008.

Longoria’s attorney, Chad Ellis, argued that Texas law — specifically a 1999 appeals court ruling that stated chromosomes, not genitals, determine gender — supports his client’s efforts to void the marriage.

The ruling upheld a lower court’s decision that threw out a wrongful death lawsuit filed by a San Antonio woman, Christie Lee Cavazos Littleton, after her husband’s death. The court said that although Littleton had undergone a sex-change operation, she was actually a man, based on her original birth certificate, and therefore her marriage and wrongful death claim were invalid.

Ellis presented medical and school records that he said showed Nikki Araguz was born without female reproductive organs and that she presented herself as a male while growing up and going to school. He also said her birth certificate at the time of her marriage indicated she was a man.

“By law, two males cannot be married in this state,” Ellis told the judge.

Nikki Araguz, who was born in California, did not change her birth certificate to reflect she had become a female until after her husband’s death, said Edward Burwell, one of the attorneys for Thomas Araguz’s ex-wife, Heather Delgado, the mother of his two children.

But one of Nikki Araguz’s attorneys, Darrell Steidley, said that when his client got her marriage license, she presented the necessary legal documents to show she was a female. He also noted changes made in 2009 to the Texas Family Code that allowed people to present numerous alternatives to a birth certificate as the proof of identity needed to get a marriage license. That was an example, he argued, of the state trying to move away from the 1999 appeals court ruling.

The changes in 2009 allowed transgendered people to use proof of their sex change to get a marriage license. The Texas Legislature is currently considering a bill that would prohibit county and district clerks from using a court order recognizing a sex change as documentation to get married.

After the hearing, the firefighter’s family and attorneys for his ex-wife criticized plans by Nikki Araguz to star in a reality television dating show and implied she was only interested in money and fame that the case would bring her.

“That is absurd,” Nikki Araguz said in response. “I’m after my civil equality and the rights that I deserve as the wife of a fallen firefighter.”

If the judge rules against the firefighter’s family in their motion for a summary judgment, the case would then proceed to trial. Araguz said if the judge rules against her, she would appeal, all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court if necessary.

—  John Wright

DEATHS: James ‘Kissey’ Olson, James Edward ‘Beaux’ Geer, Ray ‘Alpha Pup’ Witt

James “Kissey” Olson, 62, died at his home in Dallas on March 30 after recently being diagnosed with liver cancer.

Olson was native of Iron River, Mich. After graduating from high school, he served in the U.S. Air Force for six years. He went to work for AT&T, living in Phoeniz, Little Rock and finally Dallas, where he retired.

He had lived in the Dallas area for more than 24 years.

His home here was party central and was always open to his many friends who will miss his and his hospitality.

Olson is survived by his mother, Minnie, and sisters, Ruth and Doris, of Iron River; his brother, Ron, of Milwaukee; his ex-wife, Jo, of Yuma, Az.; his two children, Scott and Amy of Phoenix, and six grandchildren; and his beloved Chihuahua, Moose.

Olson was cremated and his ashes were buried at Iron River. A celebration of his life will be held on the patio at The Hidden Door, 5025 Bowser St., on Saturday, April 30, at 2 p.m.

 

James Edward “Beaux” Geer, 46, died April 13.

Geer worked as a hairdresser with Salon D for 23 years. He was also an artist who founded “Healing Texas through the Arts” to showcase new artists and make their works available to the public.

Geer was truly loved by friends and family, and he had an innocent sweetness of spirit and extraordinary talent that turned everything he touched into a thing of beauty. His paintings provided a view into his soul. He will be profoundly missed by those who knew him and will keep him forever in their hearts.

Geer is survived by his mother and stepfather, Bill and Millie Ritter of Plano; his father, Thomas Geer, Lafayette, La.; his brother Greg “Blackie” Geer, wife Kayce, daughter Typhane and grandson Thor, all of Austin; his best friend and brother-of-the heart, Dale Hall; and a host of other family and friends. Plans are pending for a celebration of life memorial gathering.

 

Ray “Alpha Pup” Witt, 59, died March 30 from an apparent stroke. Witt, loving boy and partner to Daddy Ron Hertz of Dallas and a member of the Dallas leather community, was a former member of Discipline Corps and NLA-Dallas. He held the first International Puppy title presented in 2001, thus becoming the “Alpha Pup.” His gift for storytelling and his warm heart endeared him to many in the community and his presence will be missed.Witt is survived by his partner of 9 ½ years, Ron Hertz of Dallas; his mother, Duluth Witt of Lexington, Ky.; and his canine friend “Mugsy.” A celebration of his life will be held at a later date.

 

—  John Wright

Video: Thomas More Law Center makes one truly nasty anti-gay video

Guess Elena Kagan hates repeal too, since she didn’t clap. And guess the Joint Chiefs hated every last thing said in the speech, since they didn’t clap once. Got it.

Wait, what’s that? You say it’s exceedingly rare for either the Joint Chiefs or the Supreme Court justices to ever clap, as they are supposed to be apolitical offices by design? And therefore these folks stoic expressions mean absolutely nothing in terms of either policy or feelings about gay “perversion”, much less enough of an indicator to necessitate a political hit video?

Weird, wonder why such a staid, principled, Christian organization like Thomas More would’ve tried to mislead me like this?




Good As You

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SLDN’s Comm Director Trevor Thomas joins Socarides, Eleveld at Equality Matters

This evening I received an email from Trevor Thomas, the ace communications director at Servicemembers Legal Defense Network announcing his move to Equality Matters, the new rapid-response LGBT venture of Media Matters for America. He will serve as Programs Director alongside President Richard Socarides and online editor Kerry Eleveld; he starts at EqM on January 24th. (MetroWeekly): Socarides:

“He is an incredible advocate and forthright spokesperson. We are excited he has agreed to join us and continue his work on behalf of the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community at Equality Matters.”

In an email sent this evening to friends and colleagues that he gave permission for Metro Weekly to publish, he wrote of his time at SLDN, “When I arrived to SLDN, I viewed it broadly as another gay rights group.  It didn’t take long to recognize SLDN was a military group first and foremost.  For so many on the staff and board, ending ‘Don’t Ask’ was deeply personal. Many of them were discharged or served in fear and silence.

“In my own life, my brother Ricky enlisted in the United States Army at age 18. My father served in the 126th Infantry of the Michigan National Guard. And my grandfather served as a U.S. Army Corporal during World War II. I’ve been fortunate to find my own road to pay it forward.”

***

On a semi-related note, as Kerry Eleveld wraps up her stint at The Advocate, don’t miss her latest interview — Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. A snippet:

Feeling your way through an interview with one of the world’s most powerful women is more art than science. Marriage seemed like the place to start, since Clinton had been caught off guard by a recent inquiry on the issue while visiting Australia. Her husband has said that he now supports full marriage equality: Many of his gay friends are in committed relationships, former president Bill Clinton said in 2009. As far as marriage goes, he said, he had just been “hung up about the word.”

Did she share his experience? I wondered. Was she at odds with President Barack Obama’s stated position in support of civil unions but against marriage equality?

But on the phone, Clinton is circumspect about her husband’s comments. “Well, I share his experience because we obviously share a lot of the same friends, but I have not changed my position,” she says without elaborating. The secretary wasn’t taking any political bait, nor was she going to tangle with anything that could figure negatively for her boss.

Clinton’s chief of staff and counselor, Cheryl Mills, had modeled the same on-message discipline when I sat down with her a few weeks earlier, avoiding any comparison between the secretary’s movement on LGBT issues and the president’s. Mills and Clinton have been friends for nearly 20 years, dating back to when Mills served as deputy White House counsel for President Clinton. She arrived on the national stage as part of a legal team defending the president during the 1999 impeachment trial. A quick Google search of Mills’s name turns up the crux of her argument, spoken on the Senate floor from the perspective of an African-American woman: “I’m not worried about civil rights, because this president’s record on civil rights, on women’s rights, on all of our rights, is unimpeachable…. I stand here before you today because President Bill Clinton believed I could stand here for him.”

(Note/disclaimer and all that jazz – I am a member of the Equality Matters advisory board.)
Pam’s House Blend – Front Page

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Nude Maid Thomas Cordero Killed Client John Conley For Attacking Him And His ‘Nice Ass’

Thomas Cordero, a 41-year-old from the Bronx who is paid to clean houses in the nude, and finds clients via Rentboy.com, confessed to killing client John Conley way back in October 2001, prosecutors revealed today in a case hat has the killer facing a 25-year prison sentence. Conley, a 50-year-old paralegal, "got too rough" in bed after he "wanted to get down to business" and grabbed a knife — which has Codero claiming the slaying was in self-defense. Condero says in a videotaped confession that he "grabbed the knife from him and hit him in the back of the head." Then he left Conley's apartment but not before grabbing from his wallet, "per our agreement. So why did Cordero, who was tied to the murder in 2007 through surveillance video, send his client into such a frenzy? "It's because I have a nice ass."


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Rourke Confirms Gareth Thomas Biopic

MICKEY ROURKE GARETH THOMAS X390Oscar nominee Mickey Rourke confirmed on a British talk show that he
will play gay rugby player Gareth Thomas in an upcoming biopic.
Advocate.com: Daily News

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Mickey Rourke’s Fingernails Confirmed To Play Gareth Thomas

Disfigured personality Mickey Rourke confirmed on Alan Carr’s Chatty Man that he'll be appearing in a "movie about a man who plays rubgy who is gay." Rourke will star as Gareth Thomas, and to get into the part he's figuring out which of his teeth need knocking out.


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Nice try, Thomas Peters. But you’re only highlighting Sullivan’s point

Catholic blogger Thomas Peters is accusing Andrew Sullivan of being disingenuous. But in truth, it’s Peters who’s far more clearly bending toward the side of deliberate deception in order to provide cover for crude Catholic condemnations.

Let’s begin here: The following is how Peters quotes an exchange had by Sullivan and Maggie Gallagher at Wednesday night’s debate on same-sex marriage:

Sullivan: In a 1986 letter the current pope wrote [as Cardinal Ratzinger] he said that we should not be surprised – I’m paraphrasing – we should not be surprised that violence is waged against homosexuals given their desire to change society to conform to what they believe, one of the consequences – unfortunate consequences nonetheless of the push for gay equality will be violence against gay people. Which I felt and I think most normal readers of that sentence would agree was a kind of warning that if we do start standing up for ourselves we deserve violence.

Maggie Gallagher: I’m sure that wasn’t what was meant. I don’t know the sentence so we’ll have to go and get the quote if we want to debate that.

Andrew Sullivan: Well, you can find it but it was definitely at the time very disturbing to hear.

One of Sullivan’s lies about the pope [Catholic Vote]

Okay, so Sullivan’s paraphrase charges the current Pope of once claiming that an increase of gay rights will lead to an increase in violence. Sullivan also admits that the Pope saw these supposed consequences as unfortunate, but saw them as consequences nonetheless. So that’s what Andrew, from his admittedly incomplete memory, put on the table. That’s exactly what a paraphrase is: A summation with a built-in caveat that there is more “there” there.

But Peters is all kinds of fed up, saying that Sullivan trafficked in “deliberate misrepresentation of the Church’s position,” and was bent on “maligning the Church” of which Andrew is a part. And to “prove” Sullivan wrong, Peters hauls out the 1986 letter (titled “On the Pastoral Care of Homosexual Persons“) and presents a verbatim transcript of the claims in question:

RATZINGER WROTE: 10. It is deplorable that homosexual persons have been and are the object of violent malice in speech or in action. Such treatment deserves condemnation from the Church’s pastors wherever it occurs. It reveals a kind of disregard for others which endangers the most fundamental principles of a healthy society. The intrinsic dignity of each person must always be respected in word, in action and in law.

But the proper reaction to crimes committed against homosexual persons should not be to claim that the homosexual condition is not disordered. When such a claim is made and when homosexual activity is consequently condoned, or when civil legislation is introduced to protect behavior to which no one has any conceivable right, neither the Church nor society at large should be surprised when other distorted notions and practices gain ground, and irrational and violent reactions increase.

One of Sullivan’s lies about the pope [Catholic Vote]

Peters then goes on to further accuse Sullivan of lies and misrepresentations and oversights, even going so far as to say that Andrew “owes Catholics and everyone an apology”:

Notice, especially, the fact that Sullivan completely avoids any mention of Cardinal Ratzinger’s strong and unequivocal condemnation of all violence against homosexual persons. There cannot be any doubt about the fact that Ratzinger is a model of respect, someone who upholds the dignity and rights of all persons, regardless of their orientation.

Sullivan read what Cardinal Ratzinger wrote and now goes around claiming that the cardinal said, “gays deserve violence.” Nothing, nothing, could be farther from the truth.

Sullivan owes Catholics and everyone an apology. Why?

Because he wasn’t paraphrasing, he was deliberately misrepresenting the Church.

One of Sullivan’s lies about the pope [Catholic Vote]

Peters’ outrage is certainly novel. But now go back and read what Andrew claimed versus what the Pope actually said when he was but a Cardinal. Yes, Ratzinger deplored the violence, Popeand Andrew, in his paraphrase, hinted to as much when he alluded to the Pope’s belief that the supposed consequences would be unfortunate. But Ratzinger absolutely did say that violence would increase, and the then-Cardinal directly laid that violence at the feet of gay activists rather than those who might actually bring the brutality to bear!

And actually, it’s not just motivated gay activists who the Pope blamed, but rather anyone who makes a “claim that the homosexual condition is not disordered,” condones their homosexual neighbor, or drafts/passes/supports legislation granting basic civil rights to LGBT people (what with their “distorted notions and practices” and all). Translation: Standing up for gay people’s worth as part of human principle will lead to a natural flow of violent behavior. If anything, Ratzinger’s actual words went even further than Andrew remembered! Because while he didn’t explicitly say that the violence was deserved (and this writer personally wouldn’t use the word “deserved” in describing it), it’s plain to see that Ratzinger did paint extreme aggression as the earned effect of the inclusive human rights cause!

Then if one goes the next step and pulls out some other pertinent passages from this same Pope John Paul era document, he or she will see even more offense. “Intrinsic moral evil.” “Objective disorder.” A “condition” that’s not a “morally acceptable option.” “Contrary to the creative wisdom of God.” An “evil” that should be converted or abandoned with the help of “God’s liberating grace.” Those are just some of the notions that Ratzinger circa 1986 wanted (and presumably still wants) people to support, so as to stave off “irrational and violent reactions“:



Although the particular inclination of the homosexual person is not a sin, it is a more or less strong tendency ordered toward an intrinsic moral evil; and thus the inclination itself must be seen as an objective disorder.

Therefore special concern and pastoral attention should be directed toward those who have this condition, lest they be led to believe that the living out of this orientation in homosexual activity is a morally acceptable option. It is not.



As in every moral disorder, homosexual activity prevents one’s own fulfillment and happiness by acting contrary to the creative wisdom of God. The Church, in rejecting erroneous opinions regarding homosexuality, does not limit but rather defends personal freedom and dignity realistically and authentically understood.



It is deplorable that homosexual persons have been and are the object of violent malice in speech or in action. Such treatment deserves condemnation from the Church’s pastors wherever it occurs. It reveals a kind of disregard for others which endangers the most fundamental principles of a healthy society. The intrinsic dignity of each person must always be respected in word, in action and in law.

But the proper reaction to crimes committed against homosexual persons should not be to claim that the homosexual condition is not disordered. When such a claim is made and when homosexual activity is consequently condoned, or when civil legislation is introduced to protect behavior to which no one has any conceivable right, neither the Church nor society at large should be surprised when other distorted notions and practices gain ground, and irrational and violent reactions increase.



It has been argued that the homosexual orientation in certain cases is not the result of deliberate choice; and so the homosexual person would then have no choice but to behave in a homosexual fashion. Lacking freedom, such a person, even if engaged in homosexual activity, would not be culpable.

Here, the Church’s wise moral tradition is necessary since it warns against generalizations in judging individual cases. In fact, circumstances may exist, or may have existed in the past, which would reduce or remove the culpability of the individual in a given instance; or other circumstances may increase it. What is at all costs to be avoided is the unfounded and demeaning assumption that the sexual behaviour of homosexual persons is always and totally compulsive and therefore inculpable. What is essential is that the fundamental liberty which characterizes the human person and gives him his dignity be recognized as belonging to the homosexual person as well. As in every conversion from evil, the abandonment of homosexual activity will require a profound collaboration of the individual with God’s liberating grace.

LETTER TO THE BISHOPS OF THE CATHOLIC CHURCH ON THE PASTORAL CARE OF HOMOSEXUAL PERSONS [Vatican]

So yeah, okay: Thomas Peters can support this 1986 document all he wants. The National Organization can support Peters with however many links they want to offer. But it is simply undeniable that this document was hellbent on painting self-accepting gays as completely outside of God’s purview, and laying more responsibility for potential violence at the feet of those same gay people who are being shunned by this document, not those who might see the document’s crude language as giving them a godly pass to turn hostile words into hostile action.

They can support it — they just need to own it! Just like Andrew has had to own it and look past it in order to reconcile his faith commitment with his church’s faithful commitment to driving him away.




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Exodus International’s Randy Thomas Is Uninsurable

What has Obamacare done for you lately? It hasn't helped Randy Thomas, executive vice president of heterosexuality-for-gays organization Exodus International, figure out why his abdomen hurt so much! And that hasn't helped him get life insurance coverage. Sads!

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