Texas: A not-so-great state

As Perry eyes the presidency and Dewhurst makes a bid for the Senate, let’s look at the story the numbers really tell

Phyllis Guest | Taking NoteGuest.Phyllis.2

It seems that while David Dewhurst is running for the U.S. Senate, Rick Perry — otherwise known as Gov. Goodhair — is planning to run for president. I wonder what numbers they will use to show how well they have run Texas.

Could they cite $16 million? That’s the sum Perry distributed from our state’s Emerging Technology Fund to his campaign contributors.

Or maybe it is $4.1 billion. That’s the best estimate of the fees and taxes our state collects for dedicated purposes — but diverts to other uses.

Then again, it could be $28 billion. That’s the last published number for the state’s budget deficit, although Perry denied any deficit during his last campaign.

But let’s not get bogged down with dollar amounts. Let’s consider some of the state’s other numbers.

There’s the fact that Texas ranks worst in at least three key measures:

We are the most illiterate, with more than 10 percent of our state’s population unable to read a word. LIFT — Literacy Instruction for Texas — recently reported that half of Dallas residents cannot read a newspaper.

We also have the lowest percentage of persons covered by health insurance and the highest number of teenage repeat pregnancies.

Not to mention that 12,000 children have spent at least three years in the state welfare system, waiting for a foster parent. That’s the number reported in the Texas-loving Dallas Morning News.

Meanwhile, the Legislature has agreed to put several amendments to the Texas Constitution before the voters. HJR 63, HJR 109 plus SJR 4, SJR 16, and SJR 50 all appear to either authorize the shifting of discretionary funds or the issuance of bonds to cover expenses.

Duh. As if we did not know that bonds represent debt, and that we will be paying interest on those bonds long after Dewhurst and Perry leave office.

Further, this spring, the Lege decided that all voters — except, I believe, the elderly — must show proof of citizenship to obtain a state ID or to get or renew a driver’s license. As they did not provide any funds for the issuance of those ID cards or for updating computer systems to accommodate the new requirement, it seems those IDs will be far from free.

Also far from free is Perry’s travel. The Lege decided that the governor does not have to report what he and his entourage spend on travel, which is convenient for him because we taxpayers foot the bill for his security — even when he is making obviously political trips. Or taking along his wife and his golf clubs.

And surely neither Rick Perry nor David Dewhurst will mention the fact that a big portion of our state’s money comes from the federal government. One report I saw stated that our state received $17 billion in stimulus money, although the gov and his lieutenant berated the Democratic president for providing the stimulus.

And the gov turned down $6 billion in education funds, then accepted the funds but did not use them to educate Texans.

The whole thing — Dewhurst’s campaign and Perry’s possible campaign, the 2012-2013 budget, the recent biannual session of the Texas Legislature — seems like something Mark Twain might have written at his tongue-in-cheek best.

We have huge problems in public school education, higher education, health care, air pollution and water resources, to mention just a few of our more notable failures.

Yet our elected officials are defunding public education and thus punishing children, parents, and teachers. They are limiting women’s health care so drastically that our own Parkland Hospital will be unable to provide appropriate care to 30,000 women.

They are seeking a Medicaid “pilot program” that will pave the way for privatized medical services, which will erode health care for all but the wealthiest among us. They are fighting tooth and nail to keep the EPA from dealing with our polluted environment. They are doing absolutely nothing to ensure that Texas continues to have plenty of safe drinking water.

They are most certainly not creating good jobs.

So David Dewhurst and his wife Tricia prayed together and apparently learned that he should run for Kay Bailey Hutchison’s Senate seat. Now Rick Perry is planning a huge prayer rally Saturday, Aug. 6, at Houston’s Reliant Stadium.

God help us.

Phyllis Guest is a longtime activist on political and LGBT issues and a member of Stonewall Democrats of Dallas.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition August 9, 2011.

—  Kevin Thomas

DOMA ruled unconstitutional by bankruptcy court

A federal bankruptcy court in California on Monday ruled that Section 3 of the Defense of Marriage Act is unconstitutional.

The U.S. Bankruptcy Court for the Central District of California in Los Angeles ruled that it is discriminatory to prevent a legally married same-sex couple from filing for joint bankruptcy.

The couple, Gene Balas and Carlos Morales, filed a joint chapter 13 petition. They were married in 2008 in California and remain legally married.

In his ruling, the judge wrote: “This case is about equality, regardless of gender or sexual orientation, for two people who filed for protection under Title 11 of the United States Code (Bankruptcy Code).”

It is “undisputed that the Debtors are a lawfully married California couple,” the judge wrote, adding that the couple came to the court to restructure and repay their debt following extended illnesses and long periods of unemployment.

The U.S. trustee for the case filed a motion to dismiss on the grounds that two men cannot file jointly for bankruptcy. The judge ruled the trustee did not ask for dismissal based on one of the 11 causes listed in bankruptcy law to dismiss, but simply because the couple are two men.

The judge said the trustee filed no relevant case law supporting his position and said the couple should not be singled out for discriminatory treatment. He cited the Obama administration’s position that DOMA is unconstitutional and ruled that, indeed it is.

—  David Taffet

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

Complaint: LGBT immigrants abused, neglected at detention centers run by Homeland Security

The National Immigration Justice Center has filed civil rights complaints on behalf of 13 LGBT immigrants who were allegedly abused and neglected at detention centers run by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security in nine states, including one in Houston. The Heartland Alliance’s NIJC filed the complaints today in a letter addressed to Homeland Security’s Office for Civil Rights and Civil Liberties, calling on the department to investigate and implement new policies.

The group has also launched a petition calling on the DHS and President Barack Obama to end the abuse of LGBT immigrants in detention.

The 13 complaints include allegations of sexual assault, denial of adequate medical care, long-term solitary confinement, discrimination and abuse, and ineffective complaints and appeals process. Below are a few examples from the letter, which you can download in its entirety here:

• [Juan] was sexually assaulted by two other detainees. Despite repeated requests for a transfer to another facility because he feared for his safety [Juan] was not transferred until three months after the incident, when ICE Headquarters intervened. In the meantime, the only “protection” that the Otero County Detention Center offered was placement in the “hole.” (Otero County Detention Center, New Mexico)

• [Delfino] was held in segregation for four months, justifying their decision on the basis that [Delfino] presented “effeminately.” Facility staff refused to provide [Delfino] a Bible and permitted him only one hour of recreation – in a cold nine- by-thirteen-foot cell – per day. (Houston Processing Center, Texas)

• [Monica] continues to be denied hormone therapy, despite her use of hormones for ten years prior to immigration detention, and her physical and psychological reliance on them. [Monica], now detained for over five months, told NIJC staff, “I can’t even look at myself in the mirror anymore,” due to returning facial and body hair and other distressing changes. [Monica], an asylum seeker who has suffered grave past abuse in Mexico, also received no treatment for her trauma- related depression. She attempted suicide in February 2011 – the facility put her in solitary confinement as punishment. (Santa Ana City Jail, California)

• [Alexis] was repeatedly called a “faggot” by guards, who also made jokes about her dying of AIDS. They singled her out for public searches in which they forced her to remove her outer clothing and mocked her exposed breasts. (Theo Lacy Facility, California)

—  John Wright

U.S. Passport Applications To Acknowledge Same-Sex Parents

PassStarting in February, passport applications will start to recognize gay and lesbian families:

The State Department has decided to make U.S. passport application forms "gender neutral" by removing references to mother and father, officials said, in favor of language that describes one's parentage somewhat less tenderly. The change is "in recognition of different types of families," according to a statement issued just before Christmas that drew widespread attention Friday after a Fox News report.

The announcement of the change was buried at the end of a Dec. 22 news release, titled "Consular Report of Birth Abroad Certificate Improvements," that highlighted unrelated security changes.

Sounds like progress to me, but the usual suspects have vocally opposed the changes. Wingnut Tony Perkins said the following in a press release:

"Only in the topsy-turvy world of left-wing political correctness could it be considered an 'improvement' for a birth-related document to provide less information about the circumstances of that birth. Yet that is the result of the State Department's decision to remove the words 'mother' and 'father' from Consular Reports of Birth Abroad."

He continued:

"This is clearly designed to advance the causes of same-sex 'marriage' and homosexual parenting without statutory authority, and violates the spirit if not the letter of the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA). But it does so at the expense of fundamental biological reality – and social reality as well. The State Department's abolition of motherhood and fatherhood would be almost comical, if it did not fly in the face of the mounting social science evidence that children are most likely to thrive when born into a family led by their own married biological mother and father."


Towleroad News #gay

—  admin

UPDATE: AZ U.S. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords clears surgery after attempted assassination in Tucson

4:05 PM ET: From live presser re: AZ shooting – surgeon says he’s “as optimistic as he can be” about Giffords’ recovery (full recovery unclear). Surgery over. One child shot has died. Federal authorities identify the gunman as Jared Laughner of Arizona, born September 1988.

U.S. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords was hosting her first “Congress on Your Corner” at a Safeway supermarket in northwest Tucson when she and at least 12 people were shot.

This is the first female member of Congress targeted for assassination; Giffords is a member of the LGBT Caucus. From LGBTPOV:

This blogger notes that Gifford was on Sarah Palin’s political hit list for her support of healthcare reform. The blogger agrees and says: “I intend to do my part to help make her pay.”
“As those of us who follow Sarah Palin’s political activity are aware, the former Governor of Alaska has strongly recommended that We the People Take Back the 20 in the November elections. The 20 under discussion are legitimately vulnerable Democrats up for reelection to Congress this fall and who also live in voting districts that went for McCain/Palin in 2008. One of those Democrats is Representative Gabrielle Giffords of Arizona’s District 8.

Gaby Giffords is also on my personal political hit list, primarily because Pam and I live in Cochise County, Arizona, which is part of District 8. We don’t appreciate our Representative going against our wishes and voting for Obama’s Health Care Deformed…and I intend to do my part to help make her pay.”

From CNN:

UPDATE: The right-wing blogger took his post down but here’s a screencap:

UPDATE #2: Sarah Palin has taken down a page from the SarahPAC website that showed Rep. Giffords and others targeted in Tea Party cross hairs.

Sarah Palin’s statement on her Facebook page: (be sure to check out the comments)

My sincere condolences are offered to the family of Rep. Gabrielle Giffords and the other victims of today’s tragic shooting in Arizona.

On behalf of Todd and my family, we all pray for the victims and their families, and for peace and justice.

- Sarah Palin

Statement from the President:

THE WHITE HOUSE

Office of the Press Secretary

_____________________________________________________________

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

January 8, 2011

STATEMENT BY THE PRESIDENT

This morning, in an unspeakable tragedy, a number of Americans were shot in Tucson, Arizona, at a constituent meeting with Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords.  And while we are continuing to receive information, we know that some have passed away, and that Representative Giffords is gravely wounded.

We do not yet have all the answers.  What we do know is that such a senseless and terrible act of violence has no place in a free society.  I ask all Americans to join me and Michelle in keeping Representative Giffords, the victims of this tragedy, and their families in our prayers.

UPDATE 3: Giffords interviewed recently about being “targeted”:

Visit msnbc.com for breaking news, world news, and news about the economy

“We’re on Sarah Palin’s targeted list, but, the thing is, that the way that she has it depicted, has the crosshairs of a gunsight over our district. When people do that, they’ve got to realize there’s consequences to that action.”

 
Pam’s House Blend – Front Page

—  admin

FRC staffer likens U.S. to Sodom and Gomorrah; we wonder if Biblical city had universal healthcare

And now more Christmas cheer from Bob Maginnis, the Family Research Council‘s Senior Fellow for National Security:

“I’ve heard from commanders who are saying, ‘Well, we may not be able to tolerate that sort of [assertion] about homosexuality.’ What about the service member who is not a chaplain, but a Christian service member who has an understandable religious-based belief that what these people do is an abomination and that they should not embrace that lifestyle — especially if they’re told to live with someone like that?” the Pentagon advisor wonders. “Will they be listened to?”

But he laments that the military has refused to recommend segregating the homosexuals from heterosexual service members out of concern of antagonizing the homosexuals. So he decides America is now no better than Sodom and Gomorrah, the biblical cities mentioned in Genesis that are synonymous with impenitent sin that brought God’s wrath upon them.

Maginnis: U.S. no better than Sodom and Gomorrah [One News Now]

Honestly, it’s not even these folks repeated hostility towards gay people that’s so shocking. We, the proud crowd that gets marked for exportation and/or criminalization, 201012230842are more than used to that sort of thing. Why should the holidays put an end to it?

What is new and different in the DADT conversation is the way groups like FRC keep indicting heterosexual soldiers, making it sound as if our military is crawling with straight men and women whose violent tendencies towards other sexual orientations are hinging on a thin closet door. We of course all deserve better than what FRC offers up as discourse. But on this: It’s really the millions of perfectly adjusted men and women who serve our country with a brave heart and a peaceful mind who should resent the way the “values” crowd keeps presenting our armed forces as the world’s largest “Smear The Queer” team.

***

*NOTE: The audio version of this OneNewsNow report takes the segregation suggestion one step further, with the above line instead reading: “the military has refused to recommend segregating the homosexuals from [normal] service members.” Listen to that cheerful carol here.




Good As You

—  admin

Frank: U.S. Not Ready for Gay President

BARNEY FRANK 20100521 X390 (GETTY) | ADVOCATE.COMCongressman Barney Frank said that discriminatory laws like DOMA prove that America is not yet ready for a gay president.
Advocate.com: Daily News

—  admin

U.S. Senate Votes to End “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell”

Today the U.S. Senate voted on legislation that will allow for the repeal of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” (DADT).  This historic action comes on the heels of the passage of an identical bill Wednesday in the U.S. House of Representatives.  President Obama has said that he will sign DADT repeal into law.

“Today, America lived up to its highest ideals of freedom and equality. Congress recognized that all men and women have the right to openly serve their country,” said HRC President Joe Solmonese. “Plenty of people had already planned the funeral for this legislation. Today, we pulled out a victory from what was almost certain defeat just a few days ago. We are grateful to President Obama, Majority Leader Reid and Sens. Lieberman, Collins and countless others for their dogged determination to repeal DADT.”

Today’s vote caps off two weeks of frenetic, roller-coaster activity. Last week, the Senate voted for the second time against allowing debate to begin on the National Defense Authorization Act, to which DADT repeal was attached. As a result, Senators Joe Lieberman (I-CT) and Susan Collins (R-ME) introduced a stand-alone repeal bill in the Senate. This Wednesday, the U.S. House of Representatives overwhelmingly approved a DADT bill sponsored by Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-MD) and Representative Patrick Murphy (D-PA). That bill was advanced to the Senate and voted on today.

DADT was made a law seventeen years ago and is the only U.S. law that punishes people for simply telling the truth. Since the law went into effect, over 14,000 gay and lesbian service members have been discharged from our nation’s military simply because they were gay or lesbian. An estimated 66,000 gays and lesbians are currently on active-duty. Twenty-three studies over the past fifty years, including most recently a comprehensive study by the Pentagon, have concluded the same thing: that there would be no to minimal impact on force cohesion or unit readiness by allowing gays and lesbians to serve openly in the U.S. military. Thirty-countries currently allow gays and lesbians to serve in their nation’s armed forces. Over the past two years, HRC has worked steadily, including dedicating over million in financial resources, to bring about today’s successful outcome. Click here to see a summary of our work.

Senator Joe Lieberman, the sponsor of the Senate bill, added his perspective to this historic day. “This ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell Repeal Act of 2010’ removes a law that discriminates against military service members based solely on their sexual orientation and also harms our national security.   This historic day has been seventeen years in the making and would not have happened without the leadership of Joe Solmonese and the Human Rights Campaign.”

HRC President Joe Solmonese greets Senators Collins, Lieberman and Udall in the Senate reception area immediately following the successful vote to repeal "Don't Ask, Don't Tell".

“This is an historic moment.  Like our closest allies, the United States’ Armed Forces should welcome the service of any qualified individual who is willing and capable of serving our country,” said Senator Susan Collins (R-Maine).  “And, I agree with Defense Secretary Gates that it is critical that the issue is decided by Congress, not the courts.”

Following enactment of this legislation, the repeal of DADT will happen only after certification by the President, Secretary of Defense and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff that policies have been written to implement repeal and compliance with these polices is consistent with military readiness.  The Human Rights Campaign issues a critical warning to service members that repeal of DADT is not effective immediately and service members are still at risk of being discharged on the basis of their sexual orientation until certification occurs and an additional 60 days have passed.  Click here to see the Pathway to Final Repeal.

“This has been a long fought battle, but this failed and discriminatory law will now be history,” added Solmonese.  “Congress now joins the majority of our troops and the American public in the common sense belief that on the battlefield, it does not matter whether a service member is lesbian, gay or straight – what matters is that a service member gets the job done. The President can now fulfill his promise and sign this repeal legislation into law.  After signing this legislation, we call on the President and Secretary of Defense to act expeditiously to complete the steps necessary to implement final repeal.


Human Rights Campaign | HRC Back Story

—  admin