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Texas Lawmaker Introduces Arkansas-Style Ban On Local LGBT Protections

Miller

A Texas lawmaker has introduced a draconian anti-LGBT bill almost identical to the one that became law in Arkansas last month. 

The proposal from GOP Rep. Rick Miller (above) would prohibit cities from enforcing nondiscrimination ordinances that include protected classes not contained in state law. 

The Texas Observer reports: 

Texas law doesn’t include sexual orientation or gender identity and expression. If passed, Miller’s bill would undo LGBT protections passed by numerous cities, including Austin, Dallas, San Antonio, El Paso, Fort Worth, Houston and Plano. Altogether more than 7.5 million Texas are covered by such ordinances. 

Miller’s office didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment.

HB 1556 is more specific than a similar measure introduced by Sen. Don Huffines (R-Dallas). Huffines’ SB 343 would bar cities from enforcing any ordinances that are more stringent than state law, unless otherwise authorized by statute.

In Arkansas last month, a similar bill became law without the governor's signature. Grassroots activists criticized national LGBT organizations for not doing enough to oppose the Arkansas measure, SB 202, which was drafted in direct response to Fayetteville's passage of an LGBT-inclusive nondiscrimination ordinance.  

It will be interesting to see if things are any different in Texas. 

Read the full text of HB 1556, AFTER THE JUMP ...

Continue reading "Texas Lawmaker Introduces Arkansas-Style Ban On Local LGBT Protections" »


State Legislators Mark Texas Independence Day By Introducing Omnibus LGBT Civil Rights Bill

SB856 graphic (final)

On Texas Independence day, five Democratic state senators introduced an omnibus civil rights bill that is the first of its kind in the state's history. 

Senate Bill 856 would prohibit anti-LGBT discrimination in employment, housing, public accommodations and state contracting. Texas claimed its independence on March 2, 1836. 

“I chose today—Texas Independence Day—to file this important legislation,” Senator (Jose) Rodríguez said in a release, “because Texas values—such as hard work, opportunity, and the Golden Rule—are the reason why Texas remains strong 179 years later. That is why we must act definitively to ensure everyone in the Lone Star State is treated fairly and equally.”

More from Equality Texas' release

One of our most strongly held beliefs here in Texas is taking care of our own and treating our neighbors as ourselves. This kind of Texas spirit is visible in every town and city in the state, in family-owned businesses and large public employers. 

And yet, we realize there are places across Texas where this spirit does not flourish. Texans like Isabel and Victoria in Lewisville (Denton County) can be denied housing for themselves and their sons Juan and Oscar because the two women are in a same-gender relationship. Casanova from Austin and Dylan from Houston were harassed on the job after coming out as transgender but were given no recourse by their employers; Dylan would end up being laid off. Darla from Austin has been and can again be discriminated against while attempting to secure employment because she is a lesbian. John David and his partner Jerry from Tyler can be asked to leave a public accommodation—such as a restaurant or concert venue—because they are gay. Antonia, a transgender woman of color was fired from her job because of her transition.

Further, discrimination is bad for business. Fair treatment for workers, families, and people who visit our state—including gay and transgender people—is a crucial factor in the ongoing strength of the Texas brand.

In the past, separate legislation has been filed in Texas to ban anti-LGBT discrimination in all four areas — but the effort has never been combined into a single bill. The other authors of SB 856 are Sens. Rodney Elllis, Sylvia Garcia, Kirk Watson and John Whitmire. 

“Discrimination of any form has no place in Texas. Not in our schools, our government, or our services. I am proud to co-author this legislation and proud to stand strong for the fair treatment of all Texans especially our friends in the LGBT community who for too long have been the target of discrimination,” Whitmire said. 

“I’m proud to coauthor legislation to prevent fellow Texans from being discriminated against due to who they love,” Ellis added. “All hardworking Texans, including our LGBT neighbors, should have the chance to earn a living, provide for their families, and live like everyone else without fear of getting fired or evicted solely because of who they are. ”

“All Texans should enjoy equal protection under the law. This important legislation would ensure that our LGBT brothers and sisters can express who they are without fear of discrimination. It would also send a message to the rest of the world that Texas welcomes anyone that wants to contribute to our great state, regardless of sexual orientation,” Garcia said.

The 20-page bill has little chance of passing in the Republican-dominated Legislature. But its introduction is important symbolically in the face of a slew of anti-LGBT legislative attacks. It could also signal a future shift to protect all LGBT civil rights with a single piece of legislation, rather than doing it piecemeal. 

Read the full text of the bill, AFTER THE JUMP ... 

Continue reading "State Legislators Mark Texas Independence Day By Introducing Omnibus LGBT Civil Rights Bill" »


In Texas, Gay Marriage Chaos Could Be Only The Beginning

Goodfriend

There've been some notable developments since marriage equality chaos erupted in Texas last month. 

If you'll remember, longtime lesbian couple Sarah Goodfriend and Suzanne Bryant received a marriage license Feb. 19 after a county probate judge struck down the state's marriage ban. The Texas Supreme Court subsequently issued an emergency order blocking any further marriages. 

TinderholtSince then, a Republican state lawmaker has filed an ethics complaint against the judge who ordered the license to be issued. However, there a few problems with the complaint from state Rep. Rep. Tony Tinderholt, which accuses District Judge David Wahlberg of failing to properly notify the attorney general's office before declaring a law unconstitutional.   

First, Tinderholt's complaint was filed against the wrong judge. Wahlberg didn't strike down the ban. He merely ordered the license to be issued pursuant to the Probate Judge Guy Herman's ruling. Second, it turns out that Herman did in fact notify the attorney general's office of his intent to strike down the ban, back in January.  

Finally, it's worth noting that Tinderholt is married to his fifth wife, yet he's seeking to punish a judge who granted a marriage license to a lesbian couple of 30 years — one of whom is dying from ovarian cancer. 

In a related development, the anti-gay, GOP-dominated Texas House inadvertently allowed the rabbi who performed the marriage to deliver the invocation on the floor of the chamber last week. 

Needless to say, this could be only the beginning of marriage equality chaos in Texas. Attorneys for two same-sex couples have asked the 5th U.S. Circuit of Appeals to lift a stay on a federal judge's ruling striking down the ban last year. If that happens, it likely would trigger the Legislature to attempt to strip the salaries of county clerks who issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples.  

Hang onto your cowboy hats. 


Texas Lawmaker Wants To Throw Transgender People in Jail for Using Public Restrooms

Riddle

A Texas state legislator has filed a bill that would make it a crime for transgender people to use public restrooms according to their gender identity. 

The proposal from GOP Rep. Debbie Riddle (above) would make it a class-A misdemeanor — punishable by up to one year in jail and a maximum $4,000 fine — for transgender people to use "a locker room, shower facility, or toilet facility designated for use by persons of a gender that is not the same gender as the individual’s gender."

Riddle's HB 1748 would also make it a state jail felony — punishable by up to two years in prison and a maximum $10,000 fine — for a building manager to "repeatedly allow" a transgender person to use such a facility according to their gender identity. 

Here's how the bill defines gender: 

Riddle

Riddle's bill is similar to one filed earlier this month in Florida. 

In Texas, anti-LGBT groups have recently used the issue of transgender restroom use to attack Equal Rights Ordinances in Houston and Plano

Read the full text of Riddle's bill, AFTER THE JUMP ... 

Continue reading "Texas Lawmaker Wants To Throw Transgender People in Jail for Using Public Restrooms" »


First Same-Sex Marriage License Issued in Texas

Texas
(twitter)

A couple in Austin have just obtained the first same-sex marriage license in Texas, The Austin American Statesman reports:

Sarah Goodfriend and Suzanne Bryant, together almost 31 years, said their vows before Rabbi Kerry Baker while standing in front of the Travis County Clerk’s Office sign on Airport Boulevard.

The couple was denied a license in the same office building eight years ago.

But on Thursday morning, state District Judge David Wahlberg, petitioned by a lawyer for Goodfriend and Bryant, ordered Travis County Clerk Dana DeBeauvoir to grant the couple a marriage license.

The ceremony was a mix of personal – with friends and their teenage daughters, Dawn and Ting, standing nearby – and public statement, with photos of their vows in front of the county sign.

“It’s very exciting,” Bryant said before the wedding. “My little one was worried about missing her history class. I said we’ll be making history.”

The news comes two days after a Travis County probate judge issued a ruling striking down the state's ban on same-sex marriage. A federal judge struck down the ban last February - a decision that is currently before the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals. 

It appears this may be the only same-sex marriage performed in the state at the moment:

Watch Goodfriend and Bryant's emotional reaction to the federal judge's ruling last February, AFTER THE JUMP...(warning: autoplay). We've also included Travis County Clerk Dana DeBeauvoir's interview with local radio station KUT on the circumstances surrounding the license.

Developing...

Continue reading "First Same-Sex Marriage License Issued in Texas" »


Gay Texas Couples Ask 5th Circuit To Allow Same-Sex Marriages Immediately

DeLeon

Yesterday we reported that same-sex couples in Missouri and South Dakota had asked federal judges to allow marriages to begin immediately in those states. 

Now attorneys for two same-sex couples in Texas, including Cleopatra DeLeon and Nicole Dimetman (above) have done the same. 

Like the Missouri and South Dakota motions, the Texas filing relies on the U.S. Supreme Court's decision this week to allow same-sex marriages to begin in Alabama

The Texas Observer reports: 

LaneIf the 5th Circuit doesn't lift the stay for all same-sex couples, the motion asks that it be lifted for the limited purpose of establishing the parental rights of plaintiff Cleopatra DeLeon, whose wife, Nicole Dimetman, is expecting a child in March.

The motion cites the U.S. Supreme Court's refusal to halt same-sex marriages in both Alabama and Florida, after federal district judges struck down bans in those states. The high court will hear appeals in April from four states where same-sex marriage bans were upheld. ... 

Neel Lane (right), an attorney for the couples, said in a statement he remains confident the 5th Circuit will rule in favor of marriage equality.

"But same-sex marriages are proceeding across the South and Southwest, while Texas remains the most populous state where gays and lesbians are deprived of that right," Lane said. "Today we urge the Fifth Circuit to remedy that omission immediately.”

The Texas motion includes powerful arguments in favor of lifting the stay at least for DeLeon, outlining the many steps the couple would have to go through for her to adopt their expected daughter, and explaining that if something happens to Dimetman during childbirth, she may never be able to do so. 

"If Dimetman is otherwise incapacitated, DeLeon’s right and ability to care for the child will be far from assured, as she will not have parental rights unless and until the adoption is completed. Thus, DeLeon may not be able to rock the baby to sleep; she may not be able to comfort the baby when he or she is upset; she may not be able to direct the baby’s medical care. Adoption takes time, and if something happens to Dimetman, time will not be a luxury that DeLeon and the baby have."

Last February, U.S. District Judge Orlando Garcia struck down Texas' marriage ban as unconstitutional, but stayed his decision pending the state's appeal to the 5th Circuit, which heard oral arguments last month. 

Observers believe a 5th Circuit panel is likely to rule in favor of marriage equality, but it's unclear whether it will do so before the Supreme Court addresses the issue. The high court will hear appeals in April from four states where marriage bans were upheld.

In December, Judge Garcia denied a motion to lift the stay in Texas — but that was before the Supreme Court allowed marriages to begin in Alabama and Florida. 

Read the full motion, AFTER THE JUMP ...

Continue reading "Gay Texas Couples Ask 5th Circuit To Allow Same-Sex Marriages Immediately" »


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