TFN: Travis County GOP ‘dives into the deep end of the crazy pool’

Screen shot 2015-09-23 at 11.16.42 AMThe Travis County Republication “dived into the deep end of the crazy pool” this week, according to the Texas Freedom Network, which called out the Austin-based GOP group for a Monday night tweet promoting a right-wing blog that labeled Islam as a “satanic cult of murder.”

The Tweet — removed from the group’s Twitter feed late Tuesday morning, but not before TFN got a screen capture — linked to the blog that starts with the slam on Islam and goes on to call former President George W. Bush a traitor and a coward.

While the Travis County Republicans are wrong for tweeting such crap out to a larger audience, at least that group had the good sense to remove the tweet. has left the post written by Bob Russell up on its page.

Russell’s post starts out, “Christianity is a religion but Islam is merely a satanic cult of rape, torture, murder, bestiality, and satan worship!!!!!” That’s the part Travis County GOP tweeted out on Monday night, Sept. 21. And it’s “all downhill from there, with the writer demonstrating … an almost unhinged hatred for Muslim,” TFN notes.

Russell George W. Bush and goes after other Christians, notably the Roman Catholic Church.

Here’s one section on “moslems” and Bush: “I remember an instance in Iraq after the overthrow of Saddam Hussein where a group of ‘jihadists’ fired on American soldiers then hid in a mosque. The Americans returned fire, causing minor damage. The ‘outrage’ of the worldwide islamic cult and the Bush hating ‘American’ media was vociferous. The American government led by the coward and traitor George Bush immediately dispatched millions of dollars to the islamist terrorists to pay homage to allah/satan but before any repairs were made the other sect of the satanic cult blew it up with a truck bomb. The total destruction of the house of satan was met with silence from moslems and the ‘American’ media.”

Then there’s this declaration: “The catholic church is very prominent in the importation of members of the satanic cult of islam while ignoring middle east Christians who are being slaughtered by islamic satanists.”

Liberals, who “stand with the Godless islamic cult against Christianity,” also came in for their fair share of abuse: “Those who constantly scream ‘separation of church and state’ in regards to the legitimate religion of Christianity ( the religion this nation is based on) have no issue with the satanic cult of islam being taught to their children in the public schools.”

Then Russell falls back on the usual “God’s gonna get you” warnings: “I wonder how long it will be until God destroys this nation (as He destroyed Sodom and Gomorrah) for the cruelty to the innocent, and its promotion of immorality and satan worship.”

Lump this in with the fact that crazy-ass Donald Trump — whose idea of foreign policy and immigration reform is to build a wall along the U.S./Mexico border and make Mexico pay for it —  is the frontrunner in the GOP presidential primary race (closely followed by the possibly-even-crazier Ben Carson) and the idea of the GOP winning in 2016 gets even scarier than before.

—  Tammye Nash

Travis County Clerk’s office plans to extend hours if Supreme Court ruling is favorable

Travis County Clerk Dana DeBeauvoir

Travis County Clerk Dana DeBeauvoir

If the U.S. Supreme Court rules in favor of marriage equality as expected later this month, the Travis County Clerk’s office is already planning to offer extended evening and weekend hours to accommodate the expected high demand, according to the Austin Statesman American.

County Clerk Dana DeBeauvoir told the Austin newspaper, “We’re hoping for crowds.”

Texas has a 72-hour waiting period for marriage licenses, but that can be waived by a district judge. Judges in Dallas and Austin have already indicated they are willing to waive the waiting period.

DeBeauvoir already issued one marriage license to a lesbian couple after a court order gave them permission to marry immediately because of health concerns for one of the women.

Watch Instant Tea for updates and word from Dallas County and Tarrant County clerks on what plans they have.

—  David Taffet

Stay on Travis County marriage may continue until Supreme Court ruling

Goodfriend and Bryant.2

Suzanne Bryant and Sarah Goodfriend show off their marriage license

A spokesperson for the Texas Supreme Court said its stay on a same-sex marriage ban will likely be in place until a United State Supreme Court ruling this summer.

“Somebody is going to rule on this, and it’s the U.S. Supreme Court, definitively, in three months,” Osler McCarthy, staff attorney for public information at the Texas Supreme Court told The Daily Texan, the student newspaper of the university of Texas at Austin. “So what the court has done is say, ‘Stop. Nobody move.’”

Last Wednesday, Feb. 18, a Travis County probate judge ruled the state’s same-sex marriage ban unconstitutional. Then last Thursday, Feb. 19, Suzanne Bryant and Sarah Goodfriend received a one-time marriage license from Travis County Judge David Wahlberg, citing the probate judge’s decision.

Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton, a Republican, asked for an emergency stay, which was ultimately granted by the court. He also asked the court to overturn the couple’s marriage. But that doesn’t seem likely.

What remains to be seen is if the stay will be lifted pending a 5th Circuit decision on the state’s same-sex marriage ban, which could come any day now.

—  James Russell

BREAKING: Bill reaffirms same-sex marriage ban, would only allow state to issue marriage licenses


Sen. Charles Perry, R-Lubbock.

A bill filed today by a freshman West Texas Republican legislator would only allow the Texas Secretary of State to issue marriage licenses to opposite sex couples.

SB 673, known as The Preservation of Sovereignty and Marriage Act filed by Sen. Charles Perry, R-Lubbock, centralizes the process of obtaining marriage licenses to a single Texas entity, the Secretary of State, according to a statement released by the legislator’s office.

“This will ensure uniformity and prevent noncompliant individuals within a county from issuing marriage licenses that do not conform to state law,” he said, citing a Travis County judge’s decision yesterday, Thursday, Feb 19, allowing the county officials to issue a marriage license to a same-sex couple, Sarah Goodfriend and Suzanne Bryant.

In his statement Perry also cited the need to restrict marriages to a man and a woman per Texas law.

In 2003, the Texas Legislature banned recognition of same-sex marriage. Voters in 2005 voted to enshrine marriage discrimination in the state constitution.

“Almost a decade ago the definition of marriage was democratically defined by a super-majority of Texans,” said Sen. Perry. “Yesterday, Travis County officials acted in direct conflict with the Texas Constitution. SB 673 ensures rule of law is maintained and the Texas Constitution is protected.”

A companion bill, HB 1745, was filed in the House by Rep. Cecil Bell, R-Magnolia.

—  James Russell

UPDATE: Texas Supreme Court stays Travis County marriage

Goodfriend and Bryant.2The Texas Supreme Court has issued a stay in the marriage between a Travis County couple following Attorney General Ken Paxton’s appeal.

The order can be found here. However, this order apparently does not void Sarah Goodfriend’s and Suzanne Bryant’s marriage.

Barbara Rosenberg, an attorney who works in the Dallas City Attorney’s Office, said her understanding is that the ruling can only stop future licenses from being issued.

“The [status of the ] marriage will be determined by the outcome of the cases,” she said. “It will be like California.”

By that, she is referring to the 18,000 marriage performed in California in 2008 before Prop 8 put issuing marriage licenses on hold. Those performed were recognized. In 2013, Prop 8 was overturned and marriage resumed in the state.

—  James Russell

Equality Texas celebrates couple’s wedding, urges 5th Circuit to lift stay

Goodfriend and Bryant.2

Suzanne Bryant, left, and Sarah Goodfriend with their Texas marriage license

Equality Texas has issued a statement on the marriage this morning in Travis County of Sarah Goodfriend and Suzanne Bryant, congratulating the couple, but noting that the Travis County Clerk issued the license only under court order, and that other same-sex couples are not able to get licenses in Travis County — or elsewhere in Texas — without a similar court order.

Equality Texas also called on the federal Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals to lift the stay put on U.S. District Court Judge Orlando Garcia’s February 2014 ruling striking down Texas’ ban on marriage equality. If the Fifth Circuit lifts the stay, that would clear the way for same-sex couples across Texas to begin getting their marriage licenses and having weddings.

Equality Texas’ statement read: “While we join with Sarah, Suzanne, and their children in celebration of their wedding, we recognize that other couples are still denied the freedom to marry the person they love. We urge the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals to quickly issue a ruling affirming the freedom to marry for all loving couples in Texas.”

—  Tammye Nash

UPDATE: More on same-sex couple married in Travis County

The two women who today became the first lesbian couple to receive a marriage license and be legally married in Texas exchanged their weddingGoodfriend and Bruant vows this morning in front of the same building where they were denied a marriage license eight years ago, according to the Austin American-Statesman.

Sarah Goodfriend is a unpaid policy advisor to Austin state Rep. Celia Israel. She advises primarily on environmental and energy issues. Suzanne Bryant is an attorney in private practice in Austin. The two have been a couple for 31 years, and they exchanged their wedding vows in front of the Travis County Clerk’s office this morning with Rabbi Kerry Baker officiating.

To read read the couple’s petition to the court and the judge’s resulting order, go here.

—  Tammye Nash

TEXAS MARRIAGE UPDATE: Equality Texas calls on DeBeauvoir to start issuing marriage licenses

Dana DeBeauvoir

Travis County Clerk Dana DeBeauvoir

A day after a Travis County probate judge issued a ruling striking down Texas’ ban on legal recognition of same-sex marriages, Equality Texas today (Wednesday, Feb. 18) is calling on Travis County Clerk Dana DeBeauvoir to begin issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples immediately.

But according to a spokeswoman in DeBeauvoir’s office, the county clerk will not issue those marriage licenses until she gets the go-ahead from the federal courts.

DeBeauvoir had previously said she was ready to begin issuing marriage licenses to gay and lesbian couples as soon as the courts would allow. After Judge Guy Herman issued his ruling Tuesday, DeBeauvoir said she needed to meet with Herman and county lawyers to “find out if there is anything I can do [in terms of issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples]. Right now, I think it’s no, but we are checking.”


Equality Texas Executive Director Chuck Smith

But Equality Texas Executive Director Chuck Smith said today that Herman’s ruling makes marriage equality the law in Travis County. “The law in Travis County now allows for marriage equality. Equality Texas calls upon the county clerk to stand with us — on the right side of history,” Smith said.

The written statement issued by Equality Texas also noted: “Just as the Supreme Court may issue a marriage ruling this summer that applies to all 50 states, and just as the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals may issue a marriage ruling any day now that applies to the 5th Circuit, Judge Herman has issued a ruling that has the effect of law in Travis County.”

The spokeswoman in DeBeauvoir’s office, who identified herself as Angela Vallejo, said today that “nothing has changed” since the county clerk’s statement yesterday. “We have to wait for the federal courts” to settle the question, she said. “As soon as they approve it, I am sure we will begin issuing the licenses.”

Getting a license in Travis County

If — or rather, let’s say when — DeBeauvoir’s office begins issuing licenses to same-sex couples, here are a few rules you need to know:

• The Travis County Clerk’s Office is located at 5501 Airport Blvd. in Austin.

• The cost to get a marriage license is $81 if you pay cash, $84 if you pay with a credit card. Checks are not accepted.

• Both parties have to present a valid ID; both parties have to know their Social Security numbers, and both parties must be at least 18 years old. (Those under 18 must have a parent or guardian with them to give permission.)

• Marriage licenses expire 90 days after they are issued.

• Those obtaining marriage licenses have to wait 72 hours to get married, unless they have a waiver from the court.

The status of marriage equality in the courts

Herman’s ruling came as part of an estate fight in which Austin resident Sonemaly Phrasavath is seeking to have her eight-year relationship to Stella Powell designated as a common-law marriage. Powell died last summer of colon cancer, and after her death, her siblings attempted to step in to claim her estate.

According to the Equality Texas statement issued today, Herman’s ruling finds “that the restrictions on marriage in the Texas Family Code and in the Texas Constitution that restrict marriage to the union of a man and a woman and prohibit marriage for same-sex couples are unconstitutional because the restrictions violate the Due Process Clause and the Equal Protection Clause of the 14th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.

“Contrary to [DeBeauvoir’s] position previously stated in the media, this ruling in fact allows her to immediately issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples in Travis County,” the statement declares.

“Travis County Clerk Dana DeBeauvoir previously stated she would be happy to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples once the law allows for it.” Equality Texas Executive Director Chuck Smith said.

Herman’s ruling yesterday came a year, to the month, after U.S. District Judge Orlando Garcia ruled in federal court that the Texas same-sex marriage ban violates the U.S. Constitution. Garcia declined plaintiffs’ request late last year to lift the stay on that order and allow same-sex marriages to begin in Texas. The 5th Circuit Court of Appeals heard oral arguments on that case and two others — one from Louisiana and one from Mississippi — on Jan. 9, and could rule in that case any day. Plaintiffs in the Texas case last week asked the Fifth Circuit to lift the stay allow gay and lesbian couples to begin marrying in Texas right away.

The U.S. Supreme Court is expected to hear oral arguments on four marriage equality cases out of the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals in April, and to issue a ruling in June. The court is widely expected, as this time, to strike down all same-sex marriage bans in the U.S.



—  Tammye Nash

BREAKING NEWS: 2nd Texas judge strikes down marriage ban

Judge Herman

Judge Guy Herman

Less than a week after plaintiffs in the federal lawsuit challenging Texas’ ban on marriage equality asked the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals to lift the stay on U.S. District Judge Orlando Garcia’s February 2013 ruling striking down the marriage ban, Travis County Probate Judge Guy Herman ruled today (Tuesday, Feb. 17) that the Texas ban is unconstitutional.

Travis County will not, however, begin issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples, at least not immediately, according to the Austin American-Statesman.

Herman’s ruling came as part of an estate fight in which Austin resident Sonemaly Phrasavath is seeking to have her eight-year relationship to Stella Powell designated as a common-law marriage. Powell died last summer of colon cancer.

Travis County Clerk Dana DeBeauvoir, who has said previously that she is ready to begin issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples as soon as the courts will allow, said today she will meet with Herman and county lawyers to “find out if there is anything I can do. Right now, I think it’s no, but we are checking.” DeBeauvoir told the Austin newspaper.

The lawyer for Powell’s siblings, who opposed Phrasavath’s claim, said they have made no decision on whether to appeal Herman’s ruling.

Herman ruled after an hour-long hearing in which Phrasavath challenged the constitutionality of Texas ban on marriage equality as a first step toward establishing her relationship as a common-law marriage. Phrasavath and Powell had lived together since Phrasavath proposed in 2007. The two were joined in 2008 in a ceremony performed by a Zen priest in Driftwood southwest of Austin. The ceremony was, of course, not legally recognized.

Powell died without a valid will in June, eight months after she was diagnosed with colon cancer.

In the federal case, the state of Texas appealed Orlando’s ruling to the Fifth Circuit Court, which heard oral arguments in the case — and one case from Mississippi and one from Louisiana — on Jan. 9 in New Orleans, but has yet to rule in the case. Last week, the plaintiffs in the marriage case — Plano couple Mark Phariss and Vic Holmes and Austin couple Cleo DeLeon and Nicole Dimmetman — asked the Fifth Circuit Court to lift the stay, after marriage began in Alabama when the U.S. Supreme Court refused to extend the stay on lower court rulings overturning the marriage equality ban there.

The Supreme Court also refused to extend the stay on a lower court ruling in Florida in late December, allowing same-sex couples to begin legally marrying there on Jan. 5.

The Supreme Court has agreed to hear appeals in four cases from the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals, the only federal appellate court to rule against marriage equality since the Supreme Court’s June 2013 ruling in United States v Windsor, which overturned portions of the Defense of Marriage Act. The Supreme Court is expected to hear oral arguments on those cases sometime in April, and will likely issue a ruling in June. That ruling is widely expected to favor marriage equality.

—  Tammye Nash

Gay Travis County sheriff candidate talks about changing county’s immigration stance, diversity

John Sisson

John Sisson, a gay Democratic candidate for Travis County sheriff, is up against incumbent Sheriff Greg Hamilton in the May 29 primary. Hamilton is running for his third term.

Former Sheriff Raymond Frank is the only candidate running on the Republican ticket. He was sheriff from 1973 to 1980.

Despite going up against an incumbent, Sisson said that he is faring well and received the endorsement of Stonewall Democrats of Austin.

After two marriages, Sisson came out as gay six years ago while working as a lieutenant for the Austin Police Department. Although he was talked about among his co-workers, Sisson said the talk eventually died down and he does not think his sexuality will be a target in the race.

“I am gay and I’m out. They’re fine with it,” he said. “Back in 1978 when I joined the police department, you just didn’t come out because you couldn’t get backup, they wouldn’t talk to you, they would treat you differently. And so I basically didn’t have enough guts to be who I really wanted to be.”

—  Dallasvoice