Judge Tonya Parker elected president of Texas Association of District Judges

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Judge Tonya Parker

Judge Tonya Parker has been selected as president-elect of the Texas Association of District Judges.

TADJ is a non-partisan organization that monitors the Texas Legislature for issues that impact the state’s district courts and promotes legislation that supports the state’s justice system. Parker, who’s openly gay, was nominated by immediate past President Judge Craig Smith and elected by the membership.

“I am honored to be selected by my peers and I thank Judge Smith for having faith in my ability to lead this organization,” Parker said in a statement. “I am excited to use this position to advance ideas that will improve our justice system.”

Parker was elected to the 116th Civil District Court in Dallas County in 2010. She became a national star last year when she told Stonewall Democrats of Dallas that, among the things she does for LGBT equality in her courtroom, she refuses to perform weddings since she cannot marry in the state.

Parker will speak at the NAACP Garland Freedom Fund Brunch at 10 a.m. Saturday at the Curtis Culwell Center, 4999 Naaman Forest Blvd. in Garland.  For information about the event, go here.

—  Dallasvoice

Judge Tonya Parker among honorees at SMU’s Women’s Symposium

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Judge Tonya Parker

Lesbian Dallas County Judge Tonya Parker is among six women who will be honored at SMU’s Women’s Symposium on Wednesday.

Parker, who took a stand for marriage equality last year when she divulged her policy of not performing heterosexual marriages, was selected as a Profiles in Leadership Award recipient. The award recognizes accomplishments made by women that had a significant impact on Dallas and on the quality of life of women.

The symposium, themed “Mind the Age Gap,” is all day tomorrow with workshops focused on how to unite women of all ages to work together on women’s issues.

Brent Paxton, administrative coordinator for SMU’s Women’s Center for Gender and Pride Initiatives, informs us that online registration for the symposium has officially closed. Paxton says the general public can still register at the door to attend, but it will be first come, first serve. Lunch is $40 and dinner is $60.

“I just recounted our registrants and we have plenty of room,” Paxton added. “Please spread the good word and tell people to come.”

 

—  Dallasvoice

State Rep.-elect Mary Gonzalez visits Stonewall Dems in Dallas, Fort Worth

Mary Gonzalez speaks at the Round-Up on Monday night.

State Rep.-elect Mary Gonzalez was the keynote speaker at a Stonewall Democrats of Dallas fundraiser Monday night at the Round-Up Saloon. She will appear at a fundraiser for Tarrant County Stonewall Democrats tonight at a private residence in Fort Worth.

Gonzalez won her El Paso primary election and faces no opposition in November. She will be the youngest member of the Legislature and the first LGBT woman to serve. Gonzalez made national news a second time when she came out as pansexual in an interview with Dallas Voice.

On Monday night, she said she hopes to develop a warm working relationship with Stonewall Democrats.

Although she hasn’t yet entered the House, it seems Gonzalez may already have her sites set on the Senate. She pointed out that only six women serve in the 31-member state Senate.

While she hopes to break down stereotypes among her colleagues once she enters the House, Gonzalez said she ran to help people in her district. Large areas of her far West Texas district are without electricity, running water and plumbing. She said she hopes to represent the area better than her predecessors, one of whom was indicted on drug trafficking charges.

The evening was a fundraiser for County Commission District 1 candidate Theresa Daniel and Sheriff Lupe Valdez. Commissioner Elba Garcia attended, although she is not up for reelection. Several other candidates including Judge Don Adams also attended. Former state Rep. Harryette Ehrhardt was there to greet the newest queer member of the Legislature.

Gonzalez is scheduled to appear tonight at Tarrant County Stonewall Democrats with Hon. Tonya Parker and former Rep. Glen Maxey.

More photos from Monday’s event below.

—  David Taffet

Texas LGBT leaders keynote Tarrant County Stonewall fall fundraiser

Tarrant County Stonewall Democrats is kicking off its fall fundraising efforts with a “Building on Legacies” event next Tuesday.

Former state Rep. Glen Maxey, state Rep.-elect Mary Gonzalez and Dallas County 116th Civil District Court Judge Tonya Parker are scheduled speak at the event.

Felipe Gutierrez, Stonewall president, said the event symbolizes the work in the past with Maxey, Parker’s current work and Gonzalez’s future work in the Texas House.

“Our goal was talking about the past, the work in the present and in the future and how we come together to work on issues,” he said.

The event is at 7 p.m. Sept. 25 at the home of. Scott W. Green and Garrett Warren, at 3905 Summercrest Drive in Fort Worth.

General admission is $75. Sponsorships are also available for $250 (for two tickets, $500 for four tickets and $1,000 for six tickets. All sponsorships include donor recognition and an invitation to private donor cocktail party.

For tickets, contact Scott Green at sgreen6@sbcglobal.net. Deadline to RSVP is today or ASAP. For more info, go here.

—  Dallasvoice

Tonya Parker’s controversial marriage policy continues to attract media attention, analysis

Judge Tonya Parker

Despite lesbian Dallas County Judge Tonya Parker’s hope that her refusal to marry straight couples until marriage equality is gained in Texas will fade from the public’s attention, her name and stance still frequent headlines.

More than a month has passed since her comments at a Stonewall Democrats of Dallas meeting were first reported on Instant Tea. Our video of Parker’s comments has been viewed more than 29,000 times. A longer story followed, as did hundreds of interview requests from national media.

Parker told us the media attention was “an incredible distraction” before declining a longer, in–depth interview.

The Dallas Morning News ran articles and opinion pieces on Parker’s comments, the most recent coming just last Monday in the form of a front-page article. In the article, Parker clarified that she only wants to serve and doesn’t want to make political statements. As with us, she declined The DMN’s request for a longer interview. The article, like all of ours, found only positive support from various friends and people who’ve interacted with Parker or influenced her career.

Then, on Friday, a New York Law School blog post analyzed the legality of Parker’s decision, comparing her stance to a New York county clerk’s refusal to issue same-sex marriage licenses last year after marriage equality became law. The contrast between the job responsibility of the county clerk and the job option for Parker to perform marriages is clearly defined in the blog, along with kudos to Parker for her decision.

So, while Parker continues to decline interview requests— the Morning News reported that she’s turned down CNN and The Ellen DeGeneres Show — the comments she made in February continue to be discussed and analyzed.

—  Dallasvoice

As lesbian Judge Tonya Parker makes national news, Stonewall Democrats shows her some love

Judge Tonya Parker

Judge Tonya Parker

Dallas County Judge Tonya Parker’s comments about not performing marriages until same-sex couples can legally wed in Texas have made national headlines this week, since first being reported here on Instant Tea.

Parker’s speech at Tuesday’s monthly meeting of Stonewall Democrats of Dallas has been featured in The Washington Post, The Huffington PostWFAA’s Thursday newscast and on the front page of today’s Dallas Morning News (subscription only).

Media outlets that picked up the story highlighted Parker’s strong support for the LGBT community, with the only negative comments mixed in with the hundreds of thankful and encouraging comments on the various sites, including Dallas Voice’s original post and our YouTube video.

Parker emailed a statement in response to a Dallas Voice interview request Friday, writing “I faithfully and fully perform all of my duties as the Presiding Judge of the 116th Civil District Court, where it is my honor to serve the citizens of Dallas County and the parties who have matters before the Court.

“Performing marriage ceremonies is not a duty that I have as the Presiding Judge of a civil district court.  It is a right and privilege invested in me under the Family Code.  I choose not to exercise it, as many other Judges do not exercise it.  Because it is not part of our duties, some Judges even charge a fee to perform the ceremonies.

“I do not, and would never, impede any person’s right to get married.  In fact, when people wander into my courtroom, usually while I am presiding over other matters, I direct them to the Judges in the courthouse who do perform marriage ceremonies.   If my deputy is not busy, I will even ask him to escort or help these individuals find another Judge who performs the ceremonies.  I do this because I believe in the right of people to marry and pursue happiness.”

According to Chapter 3 of the Texas Family Code, a county judge is among the judges and religious leaders allowed to perform marriages and “may conduct the marriage ceremony.”

The term “may” is defined in the terminology section of the Texas Code of Judicial Conduct as a term that “denotes permissible discretion or, depending on the context, refers to action that is not covered by specific proscriptions.”

Parker said Tuesday that she chooses not to conduct the ceremony and refers couples to other judges with the explanation of why she will not preside over the union.

“I use it as my opportunity to give them a lesson about marriage inequality in this state because I feel like I have to tell them why I’m turning them away,” Parker said.

Stonewall Democrats of Dallas President Omar Narvaez issued a statement Thursday saying the group is collectively proud of Parker’s work in turning the 116th Civil District Court into “an efficient model for other courts,” as well as her stance on marriage equality, with the group “responding in total support of Judge Tonya Parker as follows:”

—  Dallasvoice

Gay Dallas judge won’t conduct marriages because they ‘can’t be performed for me’

Judge Tonya Parker

Judge Tonya Parker

Out lesbian Dallas County Judge Tonya Parker touted her refusal to conduct marriage ceremonies in her courtroom on Tuesday night.

“I have the power, of course, to perform marriage ceremonies,” Parker said. “I don’t.”

The mention of her decision to not perform marriage ceremonies came while the 116th Civil District Court judge addressed the audience at the monthly meeting of Stonewall Democrats of Dallas, of which Parker is a member. While Parker highlighted her progress in her first year as judge in what had been “the worst district court at the courthouse” with more old pending cases than the other 12 district courts, she also spoke about the importance of having an LGBT person on the bench.

Parker is the first LGBT person elected judge in Dallas County and is believed to be the first openly LGBT African-American elected official in the state’s history. As such, Parker said she takes into account the importance of her position to make members of the LGBT community feel comfortable and equal in her courtroom by “going out of my way to do things that other people might not do because they are not who I am.”

Using the example of turning young couples away who want the court to marry them quickly because they are often pregnant and desperate, Parker said she refers them to other judges because of the state’s marriage inequality, informing them that that is why she will not marry them.

“I use it as my opportunity to give them a lesson about marriage inequality in this state because I feel like I have to tell them why I’m turning them away,” Parker said. “So I usually will offer them something along the lines of ‘I’m sorry. I don’t perform marriage ceremonies because we are in a state that does not have marriage equality, and until it does, I am not going to partially apply the law to one group of people that doesn’t apply to another group of people.’ And it’s kind of oxymoronic for me to perform ceremonies that can’t be performed for me, so I’m not going to do it.”

—  Dallasvoice

Watch Instant Tea for election coverage

Vote 2010 Logo.colorWe’ll be live-blogging tonight’s primary election results right here on Instant Tea, so don’t forget to check back when polls close at 7 p.m. Here are some of the races we’ll be watching closely:

1. Openly gay Dallas County Judge Jim Foster, who chairs the Commissioners Court, faces an uphill battle for the Democratic nomination. Foster is being challenged by Highland Park attorney Clay Jenkins and Dallas Schools President Larry Duncan. If no candidate receives more than 50 percent of the vote, a runoff between the top two candidates will be held April 6. Foster is the first openly gay incumbent previously endorsed by Stonewall Democrats of Dallas to not receive the group’s backing in a bid for re-election. Stonewall, which endorsed Foster in 2006, is backing Duncan this year. Jenkins also has his share of LGBT supporters, including openly gay District Clerk Gary Fitzsimmons.

2. Foster and Fitzsimmons are two of four openly LGBT candidates on the ballot in Dallas County. Fitzsimmons should easily fend off a challenge from perennial candidate Johnny Gomez. Meanwhile, former Dallas Mayor Pro Tem John Loza is one of four Democrats in the primary for County Criminal Court No. 5, where a runoff is also likely. Loza and Tony Parker are vying to become the first openly LGBT candidates elected to the judiciary in Dallas County. Parker, who’s running for the 116th Civil District Court seat, doesn’t have an opponent in the primary.

3. Former Houston Mayor Bill White is the heavy favorite to win the Democratic gubernatorial nomination. White’s most formidable challenger is hair care products tycoon Farouk Shami. Stonewall Democrats of Dallas has endorsed White. In the GOP primary, the question is whether incumbent Gov. Rick Perry will avoid a runoff against either U.S. Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison or Tea Party activist Debra Medina.

4. Rob Schlein, the openly gay president of Log Cabin Republicans of Dallas, is running for precinct chair in his Far North Dallas neighborhood against Homer Adams, the husband of Texas Republican Party Chairwoman Cathie Adams. Cathie Adams, former president of the Texas Eagle Forum, has been one of the leading anti-gay voices in North Texas over the last few decades.

5. State Rep. Terri Hodge, a longtime LGBT ally in the House, pleaded guilty to a felony charge in February in connection with the Dallas City Hall corruption case, and is no longer eligible to hold public office. However, Hodge’s name still appears on the ballot, and if she receives more votes than the other candidate in District 100, Eric Johnson, the Democratic nominee will be decided by precinct chairs in the district. Another embattled Democrat, Precinct 5 Constable Jaime Cortes, faces three primary challengers amid an ongoing criminal investigation of his office.

—  John Wright

Bill White to address Stonewall Dems tonight, when group also votes on 2010 endorsements

Hank Gilbert, who's running for agriculture commissioner, supports full equality for LGBT people, including same-sex marriage.

Hank Gilbert, who’s running for agriculture commissioner, says he supports full equality for LGBT people. Gilbert, who faces Kinky Friedman in the March 2 primary, received a unanimous recommendation from Stonewall Democrats of Dallas’ endorsement committee over the weekend.

As we mentioned last week, former Houston mayor Bill White, the frontrunner for the Democratic nomination for governor, will speak tonight at Stonewall Democrats of Dallas’ regular monthly meeting. The meeting begins at 6:30 p.m. at Ojeda’s, 4617 Maple Ave.

Also tonight, Stonewall’s general membership will vote on whether to ratify a long list of endorsement recommendations for the March 2 primary. Political Director Omar Narvaez told me yesterday that Stonewall’s endorsement committee screened a total of 92 candidates during about 20 hours of interviews over the weekend at Resource Center Dallas. Narvaez said a full list of endorsement recommendations won’t be availalbe until tonight, but they include White for governor, Ronnie Earle for lieutenant governor and Hank Gilbert for agriculture commissioner. In local races, the committee is recommending that the group get behind Larry Duncan for county judge and Dr. Elba Garcia for District 4 county commissioner, among many others. After the jump, more images from this weekend’s candidate screenings.

—  John Wright

Dallas could elect 1st gay judge

Judicial candidates John Loza, Tonya Parker among 4 LGBTs running in local races in 2010

By John Wright | News Editor wright@dallasvoice.com
IN THE RUNNING | Dallas County District Clerk Gary Fitzsimmons, clockwise from top left, County Judge Jim Foster, attorney Tonya Parker and former Councilman John Loza are LGBT candidates who plan to run in Dallas County elections in 2010. The filing period ends Jan. 4.

Dallas County has had its share of openly gay elected officials, from Sheriff Lupe Valdez to District Clerk Gary Fitzsimmons to County Judge Jim Foster.
But while Foster, who chairs the Commissioners Court, is called a “judge,” he’s not a member of the judiciary, to which the county’s voters have never elected an out LGBT person.

Two Democrats running in 2010 — John Loza and Tonya Parker — are hoping to change that.

“This is the first election cycle that I can remember where we’ve had openly gay candidates for the judiciary,” said Loza, a former Dallas City Councilman who’s been involved in local LGBT politics for decades. “It’s probably long overdue, to be honest with you.”

Dallas County’s Jerry Birdwell became the first openly gay judge in Texas when he was appointed by Gov. Ann Richards in 1992. But after coming under attack for his sexual orientation by the local Republican Party, Birdwell, a Democrat, lost his bid for re-election later that year.

Also in the November 1992 election, Democrat Barbara Rosenberg defeated anti-gay Republican Judge Jack Hampton.

But Rosenberg, who’s a lesbian, wasn’t out at the time and didn’t run as an openly LGBT candidate.

Loza, who’s been practicing criminal law in Dallas for the last 20 years, is running for the County Criminal Court No. 5 seat. Incumbent Tom Fuller is retiring. Loza said he expects to face three other Democrats in the March primary, meaning a runoff is likely. In addition to groups like Stonewall Democrats of Dallas, he said he’ll seek an endorsement from the Washington, D.C.-based Gay and Lesbian Victory Fund, which provides financial backing to LGBT candidates nationwide.

Parker, who’s running for the 116th Civil District Court seat, declined to be interviewed for this story. Incumbent Bruce Priddy isn’t expected to seek re-election, and Parker appears to be the favorite for the Democratic nomination.

If she wins in November, Parker would become the first LGBT African-American elected official in Dallas County.

Loza and Parker are among four known local LGBT candidates in 2010.
They join fellow Democrats Fitzsimmons and Foster, who are each seeking a second four-year term.

While Foster is vulnerable and faces two strong challengers in the primary, Fitzsimmons is extremely popular and said he’s confident he’ll be re-elected.

“I think pretty much everybody knows that the District Clerk’s Office is probably the best-run office in Dallas County government,” Fitzsimmons said. “I think this county is a Democratic County, and I think I’ve proved myself to be an outstanding county administrator, and I think the people will see that.”

Randall Terrell, political director for Equality Texas, said this week he wasn’t aware of any openly LGBT candidates who’ve filed to run in state races in 2010.

Although Texas made headlines recently for electing the nation’s first gay big-city mayor, the state remains one of 20 that lack an out legislator.

Denis Dison, a spokesman for the Victory Fund, said he’s hoping Annise Parker’s victory in Houston last week will inspire more qualified LGBT people to run for office.

“It gives other people permission really to think of themselves as leaders,” Dison said.

The filing period for March primaries ends Jan. 4.


This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition December 18, 2009.

—  admin