What’s Brewing: Retiring anti-gay bigot Chisum says gay marriage ban was his toughest battle

Your weekday morning blend from Instant Tea:

Wendy Davis

1. The Texas Legislature begins a special session today to try to reach an agreement on a school finance plan that currently contains $4 billion in cuts, including the first reductions in per-pupil spending since the Great Depression for a state that already ranks 44th in school spending. The special session became necessary after a heroic 75-minute filibuster of the cuts on Sunday night by State Sen. Wendy Davis, D-Fort Worth. Davis is an LGBT ally who was succeeded on the Fort Worth City Council by Joel Burns, whom she had appointed to the city’s Plan Commission. Although the focus of the special session is school spending, other issues are likely to come up, including a proposed ban on so-called sanctuary cities that’s backed by Gov. Rick Perry. There could also be anti-LGBT legislation, such as Sen. Tommy Williams’ bill aimed at barring transgender people from marrying people of the opposite sex.

Warren Chisum

2. State Rep. Warren Chisum, R-Pampa, a longtime anti-gay leader and one of the the architects of Texas’ constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage, was honored by the House on Monday as he prepares to retire from the Legislature. In an interview with the Texas Tribune, Chisum called the marriage amendment his toughest battle in 22 years. Really? Getting a constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage passed in Texas was your toughest battle in 22 years? Chisum, who’s stepping aside because his district was combined with that of another Republican incumbent, says he plans to run for railroad commissioner.

3. Lt. Dan Choi was among dozens of LGBT marchers arrested Saturday during a gay Pride demonstration in Moscow. Watch video of Choi’s arrest below.

—  John Wright

LEGE UPDATE: Best. Legislative. Week. Ever.

Daniel Williams

The passage of not one but two anti-bullying bills, the final death of an anti-trans marriage bill and the failure of amendments designed to defund and ban campus LGBT resource centers made this, the final full week of the Texas Legislature’s 20-week regular session, perhaps the best legislative week for LGBT Texans ever.

Friday, May 20th dawned amid fears that Rep. Wayne Christian, R-Center, would attempt to amend Senate Bill 1811 to include provisions designed to defund and ban LGBT resource centers from Texas universities. SB 1811 is one of several “fiscal matters” bills that compliment the budget, further clarifying details of how appropriated funds should be used. Christian pre-filed two amendments the previous Thursday. The first was identical to an amendment he attached to the state budget that was later removed in the Senate. The amendment required schools that appropriated state funds for LGBT resource centers to spend an equal amount on “family and traditional values centers.” The second would prohibit any state funds from being spent on LGBT resource centers and would prevent them from being housed in campus buildings.

For seven hours the House considered amendment after amendment to SB 1811. Jim Pitts, R-Waxahachie, who carried the legislation in the House and chairs the powerful Appropriations Committee had promised both the Republican and Democratic caucuses that he would oppose all but 11 “perfecting” amendments to the bill. For the most part the House respected his opposition and the House rejected the vast majority of amendments. Late in the debate word came over that another of the fiscal matters bills, Senate Bill 1581, had passed the Senate. SB 1581 deals specifically with fiscal matters affecting secondary and higher education. Because of the late hour, and because most of the amendments to SB 1811 weren’t passing anyway, Simpson and several of his colleagues withdrew amendments dealing with education with the assumption that they could be amended to SB 1581 the next Monday, when it would be debated in the House.

Just after midnight on Saturday morning, SB 1811 passed the House, without the Christian amendments.

—  admin

LEGE UPDATE: Trans marriage ban all but dead; major anti-bullying bill clears Senate committee

Daniel Williams

The zombie-like resurrection of an anti-transgender marriage bill, movement by bullying bills and uncertainty about the fate of Texas’ HIV medication assistance program made for an uncertain week during this, the 19th week of the Texas Legislature’s 20-week regular session.

Last Friday, May 13, dawned with a decided pall hanging upon the Capitol. The previous evening the House had rushed to meet the midnight deadline for House bills to receive the first of their two required floor votes. Hundreds of bills, good and bad, simple and complex, failed to be heard before the deadline, and memories of the preceding night’s massacre still stung the raw, sleep-deprived nerves of elected officials and staffers alike. Bleary-eyed House members stumbled to their desks aware that another midnight deadline loomed before them: Every bill that passed in Thursday’s flurry of activity had to pass again Friday.

House Bill 1386, Rep. Garnet Coleman’s teen suicide prevention bill, had slid in just 20 minutes before Thursday’s midnight deadline. Coleman, D-Houston, began crafting the bill after the suicide of Asher Brown, a 12-year-old Houston-area boy who took his own life after enduring years of anti-gay torment at the hands of school bullies.  The bill allows school districts to work with other state and local agencies to provide counseling and resources to at-risk youth, but does not require any action from schools. When the House brought up the bill for a vote Coleman removed portions that duplicated language in House Bill 1492, the anti-bullying compromise bill drafted by the House Public Education Committee that passed the House the week before. After Coleman reassured his colleagues that HB 1386 did not require school districts to take any action but merely permitted them to work to prevent suicide if they choose to, it passed 107-to-29.

Over in the Senate, LGBT activists were waiting with baited breath. Sen. Tommy Williams, R-TheWoodlands, the author of Senate Bill 723, the infamous anti-trans marriage bill, had once again placed it on the Senate’s fast-track “intent calendar.” The bill would effectively ban opposite-sex marriage for anyone who has changed their legally recognized sex. As the day progressed the Senate took up bill after bill, but SB 723 remained on the table, untouched. Finally, the Senate adjourned without taking up the bill.

—  admin

What’s Brewing: Pro basketball executive Rick Welts, CNN anchor Don Lemon come out

Don Lemon

Your weekday morning blend from Instant Tea:

1. An anti-transgender marriage bill is back on the Texas Senate’s Intent Calendar for today. That means if you haven’t already contacted your senator and urged them to vote against SB 723, by Sen. Tommy Williams, you should do so now by going here. If the bill doesn’t clear the Senate and a House committee by midnight Saturday, it will die.

2. The FBI has expanded its probe into a brutal beating outside a gay nightclub in downtown El Paso to include other recent possible hate crimes in the area, the El Paso Times reports. The victim, 22-year-old Lionel Martinez, remains in a coma more than a week after the attack, and LGBT advocates say El Paso police haven’t been taking anti-gay incidents near the Old Plantation nightclub seriously.

3. The weekend was marked by two pretty big coming-out stories: Rick Welts, president and chief executive officer of the NBA’s Phoenix Suns; and CNN anchor Don Lemon.

—  John Wright

Transgender marriage bill back on Texas Senate calendar for Monday; contact your senator now

Sen. Tommy Williams

Equality Texas reports that SB 723, the anti-transgender marriage bill from Sen. Tommy Williams, R-The Woodlands, has been placed back on the state Senate’s Intent Calendar for Monday. As we reported earlier, Williams’ bill is on life support at this late stage of the session, but it isn’t quite dead yet. Backed by anti-LGBT groups like the Plano-based Liberty Institute, who say they’re trying to preserve “traditional marriage,” the bill would remove an affidavit of sex change from the list of documents that can be used to obtain marriage licenses in Texas. A direct response to the case of widow Nikki Araguz,  the bill is designed to bar transgender people from marrying people of the opposite sex. To pass this year, the bill would have to clear the Senate as well as a House committee by midnight on Saturday, May 21. That means Williams and his cohorts have only one week left. Go here to contact your senator urge them to oppose this bill.

Above is video of Nikki Araguz confronting a staffer in Williams’ office about the bill. The video reportedly is also a trailer for a documentary about the Araguz case. Araguz’s husband, Thomas, was a volunteer firefighter who died in the line of duty last year. Thomas’ family is suing Nikki Araguz to prevent her from receiving death benefits, arguing that their marriage was not valid because she is transgender.

—  John Wright

LEGE UPDATE: Trans marriage ban on life support; suicide prevention bill advances

Daniel Williams

Acrimony in the House, the return of a transphobic Senate bill and renewed hope for community input in HIV programs marked the 18th week of the Texas Legislature’s regular session, one of the most contentious thus far.

The House had its first Saturday meeting of the session last week, and it set the tone for everything to come. House rules require 100 members to be present to establish a quorum. When the 10 a.m. meeting started, only 113 members were in the House chamber. Democrats realized that, just by walking out, they could end the business of the House, which included controversial “loser pays” changes to how lawsuits work in Texas. The legislation had already been defeated but was placed back on the House’s to-do list by GOP Gov. Rick Perry, who declared it an “emergency item.”

While the Democrats where contemplating a walk-out, Rep. Warren Chisum, R-Pampa, the author of Texas’ constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage, asked for a roll call, which would have locked the House doors, preventing any members from leaving. Rep. Sylvester Turner, D-Houston, then asked about sending state troopers out to find the missing members, some of whom had gone home to celebrate Mother’s Day. A debate erupted over a threat by Republicans to “set aside the rules” using their two-thirds super majority and prevent all debate on future bills. Tempers flared. At one point Rep. Craig Eiland, D-Galveston, who is known for his even disposition, literally threw his House rule book across the room.

Things eventually settled and the House continued its business, eventually passing the contentious lawsuit legislation without allowing debate. The hurt feelings and bruised relationships would continue to influence business in the House for the rest of the week.

On Monday, Senate Bill 723, the anti-transgender marriage bill that’s been lurking on the Senate’s schedule for a month, was put back on the the “intent calendar” for Tuesday. The intent calendar is a fast-track list of bills that require two-thirds of Senators to agree to bring them up for a vote. Equality Texas, the Human Rights Campaign, the Transgender Education Network of Texas and other groups issued alerts to LGBT Texans to call their senators in hopes of finally defeating the bill.

—  admin

Right-wing Liberty Institute issues action alert in support of transgender marriage ban

Sen. Tommy Williams, R-The Woodlands

Daniel Williams at Legislative Queery reports that the Texas Senate has again adjourned for the day without taking up a bill that would bar transgender people from marrying people of the opposite sex. However, The Woodlands Republican Tommy Williams’ SB 723 remains on the Senate’s calendar for Thursday. The bill, a response to the Nikki Araguz case, would remove a court order of sex change from the list of documents that can be used to obtain marriage licenses in Texas.

Daniel Williams also notes that today, the right-wing, Plano-based Liberty Institute issued an action alert calling on people to urge senators to support the anti-LGBT bill. Here’s an excerpt:

Some Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, and Transgender advocates, want to thwart a Texas appeals court decision and force the state to recognize their gender (for marriage purposes) as something other than what was assigned at birth, to change their gender later on in life and force county clerks to recognize the changed gender. Such an outcome will create confusion for county clerks, for the courts and no doubt will be used by the GLBT community to undermine our marriage laws, which affirm traditional marriage, between one man and one woman.

Protect traditional marriage, support SB 723.

If you haven’t already contacted your senator and asked them to oppose this bill, this disgusting action alert from the Liberty Institute should provide plenty of motivation to do so. Email your senator by going here.

—  John Wright

ACTION ALERT: Transgender marriage ban back on Texas Senate calendar for Tuesday

Equality Texas sends along word that SB 723, by Sen. Tommy Williams, R-The Woodlands, has been placed back on the Texas Senate’s intent calendar for Tuesday. SB 723 would remove a court order of sex change from the list of documents that can be used to obtain marriage licenses. A response to the Nikki Araguz case, the bill would effectively bar transgender people from marrying people of the opposite sex in Texas. To contact your state senator and urge them to oppose SB 723, go here.

—  John Wright

IRONY: Texas lawmakers cite support for man-woman marriage as reason for banning it

Gov. Rick Perry

The mainstream media is finally picking up on efforts by the Texas Legislature to bar transgender people from marrying people of the opposite sex.

The Associated Press has a story today about SB 723 by Sen. Tommy Williams, R-The Woodlands, which would remove a court order of sex change from the list of documents that can be used to obtain marriage licenses. As we’ve reported, the bill was on the Senate’s intent calendar last week but has yet to be called up for a vote.

The irony of Williams’ bill, of course, is that if it becomes law, it will indicate that the Texas Legislature thinks it’s perfectly fine for transgender people to marry people of the same sex. And yet, Williams and others are citing their opposition to same-sex marriage as the reason for supporting the bill.

“The Texas Constitution,” Sen. Williams said told the AP, “clearly defines marriage between one man and one woman.”

“The governor has always believed and advocated that marriage is between a man and a woman,” said Mark Miner, a spokesman for Gov. Rick Perry.

As the story notes, most states allow transgender people to marry people of the opposite sex if they have a court order of sex change.

But you can’t have it both ways, which appears to be what conservative lawmakers in Texas want.

—  John Wright

Texas Senate didn’t take up transgender marriage ban today — but may take it up on Tuesday

The Texas Senate adjourned today without taking up SB 723, the bill by Sen. Tommy Williams, R-The Woodlands, that could prevent transgender people from marrying people of the opposite sex in Texas.

SB 723, apparently prompted by the Nikki Araguz case, would remove a “court order of sex change” from the list of identifying documents that can be used to obtain marriage licenses in Texas. And while transgender people could still theoretically use their driver’s licenses to obtain marriage licenses, advocates say the “legislative intent” of Williams’ bill would allow courts to declare those marriages invalid. Moreover, they say the bill could effectively lead to the state refusing to recognize the existence of transgender people for any purpose.

“If SB 723 gets a favorable vote it will enshrine Littleton vs Prange (1999) logic — you are what the doctor put on your birth certificate — into Texas State law,” writes Meghan Stabler, a transgender woman from Round Rock who serves on the Board of Directors for the Human Rights Campaign. “This will lay the foundation for the State of Texas to cease to recognize the transitioned status of transgender people.”

The bill was on the Senate’s intent calendar for today, meaning it could have come up for a vote if two-thirds of the Senate agreed to consider it. While the Senate didn’t get to the bill today, it remains on the intent calendar, and advocates are continuing to ask people to call Democratic senators and ask them to vote against SB 723. Republicans are one vote short of a two-thirds majority in the Senate, meaning if no Democrats vote to take up the bill it will die.

Contact info for Democratic senators is after the jump.

—  John Wright