Anti-gay measures filed in Texas House

Dennis Coleman

As deadline looms, Chisum files bill to give AG more time to intervene in same-sex divorce case; Workman files resolution urging Obama to defend DOMA

DAVID TAFFET  |  Staff Writer
taffet@dallasvoice.com

Just before the Texas Legislature’s deadline for filing new bills passed last week, one anti-gay measure and one hostile resolution were filed in the House of Representatives. It was the first time in six years that anti-gay measures have been introduced.

Rep. Paul Workman, a freshman Republican who represents the southwest corner of Travis County, introduced a resolution to urge U.S. President Barack Obama to defend the Defense of Marriage Act. In February, the president directed Attorney General Eric Holder to stop defending DOMA in court.

So far the resolution, known as HCR 110, has no Senate counterpart bill.

Equality Texas Executive Director Dennis Coleman said a resolution doesn’t need a committee hearing before going to the floor. The resolution was added to the LGBT lobby group’s tracking list, but Coleman did not express concern.

“So far, we don’t see it as having any traction,” he said.

Rep. Warren Chisum, whose district covers part of the Panhandle and is known as one of the most conservative members of the House, has filed a bill to give the Texas attorney general more time to intervene in same-sex divorce cases.

The move comes after Texas AG Greg Abbott tried to intervene in the divorce of a lesbian couple in Austin but was declared ineligible by an appeals court because he had missed the deadline.

This bill would give that office up to 90 days after a divorce is settled to intervene.

Coleman laughed and said, “It was introduced because [the attorney general] missed the window. We want to give him more time so he doesn’t miss the window again.”

Coleman said that it was interesting that a legislature that was elected to get government out of people’s lives was considering bills that interfered more when it came to the lives of gays and lesbians.

Known as HB 2638, the bill has no co-sponsors and has not been referred to committee yet. A Senate counterpart was not been filed.

Now that the filing period for new bills has ended, Coleman said his organization’s main concern is amendments that could weaken pending legislation or add anti-LGBT measures to other laws.

Anti-bullying bills

Several bills addressing bullying have been introduced in both the Senate and House of Representatives. But not all those bills have gained ringing endorsements from LGBT activists, while the two that had advocates most hopeful have been stripped of language enumerating protected categories.

Sen. Wendy Davis and Rep. Mark Strama authored identical bills that have been amended and are now known as CS (Committee Substitute) SB 242 and CS HB 224. A House committee has already heard the bill. Coleman said that most of the testimony supported the bill and only two groups spoke in opposition.

Coleman said that as a result of the recent LGBT Lobby Day, Rep. Alma Allen of Houston has signed on as a new co-sponsor. He has spoken to others in both the House and Senate about adding their names.

Rep. Garnet Coleman of Houston introduced another anti-bullying bill in the House known as Asher’s Law, in memory of Asher Brown, a Houston 13-year-old who committed suicide last September.

Asher’s Law would mandate creation of suicide prevention programs for junior, middle and high schools. It requires training for counselors, teachers, nurses, administrators, social workers, other staff and school district law enforcement to recognize bullying and know what to do to stop it. A report would be submitted to the legislature by Jan. 13, 2013.

The bill also defines cyberbullying in state law for the first time.

That bill was placed in the public health committee. Dennis Coleman liked that the legislature was treating suicide as a public health issue and thought the bill had a good chance to move to the House floor from committee.

He said legislators favoring anti-bully laws have told him that they need to continue to hear from constituents, especially from teachers and principals.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition March 18, 2011.

—  John Wright

Rep. Workman loves 10th amendment, except when it protects gays from discrimination

Daniel Williams

By DANIEL WILLIAMS | Legislative Queery

HCR 110 by Rep. Paul Workman, R-Travis County, expresses the desire of the Texas Legislature for President Barack Obama to defend the so-called Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) against court challenges. DOMA was passed in 1996 by Congress. It prohibits the federal government from recognizing same-sex marriage and allows individual states to not recognize same-sex marriages performed in other states.

(HCR stands for “House Concurrent Resolution.” Concurrent resolutions must be passed by both the House and Senate and — in most cases — signed by the governor. They cannot create new laws but are used to express the will of the Legislature and, in some situations, to allow the Legislature to exercise its power. HCR 110 expresses the will of the Legislature for the executive branch of the federal government to take a particular course of action. If passed it would have no binding power over the president.)

—  admin

Another anti-gay measure filed in TX Legislature

Rep. Paul Workman

Fortunately, it’s just a meaningless, piece-of-crap concurrent resolution that isn’t worth the piece of paper it’s written on.

Rep. Paul Workman, R-Travis County, today filed HCR 110, which would urge President Barack Obama to defend the Defense of Marriage Act. The text of the resolution is not yet available on the Legislature’s website, but it sounds pretty self-explanatory. Obama’s administration, of course, has announced that it will no longer defend a section of DOMA in federal court because it’s unconstitutional. And while Workman’s resolution may be likely to pass, the Obama administration certainly isn’t going to pay it any attention. As such, it’s clearly just an attempt to score political points on the part of Workman and others who support it. Let’s just hope it’s not a sign of things to come as this year’s session proceeds. Last week, State Rep. Warren Chisum, R-Pampa, filed a bill that would create a loophole for the Attorney General to block same-sex divorces. Although the main bill-filing deadline has passed, there’s always the danger of amendments.

If you’d like to tell Workman what you think of his resolution, you can e-mail him by going here, and the phone number for his Capitol office is 512-463-0652.

UPDATE: Here’s the full text:

CONCURRENT RESOLUTION
WHEREAS, President Barack Obama took an oath to “preserve,
protect and defend the Constitution of the United States,” but on
February 23, 2011, he instructed the U.S. Department of Justice to
stop defending the constitutionality of the Defense of Marriage
Act; and
WHEREAS, The Defense of Marriage Act, or DOMA, was passed in
1996 with overwhelming majorities in both houses of Congress and
signed into law by then president Bill Clinton; DOMA consists of two
core provisions: it defines the words “marriage,” “spouse,”
“husband,” and “wife” wherever they appear in the U.S. Code as
referring only to the union of a man and a woman, and it defends the
right of each state to reject the redefinition of marriage that has
occurred in a handful of other states as a result of state court
decisions or legislation; and
WHEREAS, Nearly 40 states have enacted laws defending the
institution of marriage, and 31 have embraced traditional marriage
in their constitutions; the Texas Defense of Marriage Act was
signed by the governor in 2003, and the statute was solidified with
a constitutional amendment defining marriage as a union between a
man and a woman, which was approved by voters in November 2005; and
WHEREAS, The constitutional role of the president of the
United States is to execute the laws, not adjudicate them; it is
well-established policy of the U.S. Department of Justice to defend
a federal statute unless no reasonable argument can be made in its
defense, but instead President Obama has unilaterally decided that
DOMA is unconstitutional; the constitutionality of this law should
be determined by the courts, not by the executive branch; now,
therefore, be it
RESOLVED, That the 82nd Legislature of the State of Texas
hereby respectfully urge the president of the United States to
order the U.S. Department of Justice to defend the
constitutionality of the Defense of Marriage Act; and, be it
further
RESOLVED, That the Texas secretary of state forward an
official copy of this resolution to the president of the United
States.

—  John Wright

City orders removal of Oak Lawn cross

The wooden cross at Atmosphere of Praise on Hall Street can be seen at left.

The city of Dallas wants a cross in the backyard of a property on Hall Street to come down. But apparently God doesn’t.

A cross standing for years in the backyard of the property at 3917 Hall is a city code violation and must be removed. The house is used by Atmosphere of Praise, a group founded by Pastor Linda Harris, who passed away on Jan. 5.

Local gay artist Robb Conover described Atmospere of Praise as “a meeting place for people in the community no one else will have anything to do with.”

He said that Byron Zealey lives at the property.

“Byron prepares lunch and invites people on the street to eat,” he said. “We don’t call it a church. We don’t have a parking problem. People walk there.”

Conover said it’s never a large group of people and not a daily occurrence. He said the house is not a shelter but has been used for meetings since 1999.

Councilwoman Angela Hunt’s office received a complaint from a local businesses. Hunt’s office didn’t say which businesses complained.

Hunt’s staff referred the complaint to city code enforcement. Code enforcement ordered the cross to be removed.

Conover thinks the timing is interesting coming just a week after Harris’ death — and after a notice in Dallas Voice included the address of Atmosphere of Praise.

To comply with the city order, the property owner hired someone to cut down the cross on Tuesday night. But as the workman began to cut it down, the chain on the chainsaw broke.

Zealey said he was consulting with an attorney. On Thursday morning, the cross was still standing.

—  David Taffet