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Texas Official Says Equal Retirement Benefits For Gays Will Lead To 'Decline Of The Empire': AUDIO

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A Galveston County, Texas, commissioner says offering retirement benefits to the same-sex spouses of employees could lead to "the decline of the empire." 

Republican County Commissioner Ken Clark (above) made the comments during a meeting of the Houston-Galveston Area Council (H-GAC). Clark serves on the board of the H-GAC, an intergovernmental planning agency made up of 13 member counties and more than member 100 cities in Southeast Texas. 

The H-GAC recently received a notice from the IRS stating that, due to the U.S. Supreme Court's 2013 decision striking down the federal Defense of Marriage Act, H-GAC must begin offering equal 401(k) benefits to same-sex couples who are legally married in other states, or lose the tax-qualified status of its retirement fund. 

The H-GAC's attorneys and a budget committee recommended complying with the IRS notice and offering retirement benefits to same-sex spouses legally married in other states. But Clark and others on the H-GAC board are apparently willing to risk losing the tax-qualified status — a decision that would affect the 401(k) plans of all 241 of its employees — to avoid offering the benefits, which they say would violate Texas' constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage. 

When the issue was discussed at an H-GAC board meeting on Oct. 21, Clark said: 

“This is how the decline of the empire happens is we acquiesce to these sort of items little by little and it desensitizes us to it. At some point we’re gonna have to stand up and on this issue I choose to stand up to this because this is not, this is not appropriate for them to hold our employees hostage. And, if they choose to disqualify our plan, it will become a national issue. The American people, in my opinion, are not willing to let this come in incrementally the way this is happening, so that’s where I'm at on this issue.” 

Listen to audio from the meeting here

The scary thing is that a majority of Clark's fellow H-GAC board members went along with him, agreeing to table the item until their November meeting. The anti-gay Houston Area Pastor Council, which is also fighting same-sex benefits in Houston, then distributed an email to its members, in which Clark wrote: 

"If we, as freemen, do not draw the line here against the political correctness, moral decline, and government fiat in this country, our children will inherit the bonds of moral slavery. What will you say when they ask; What did you do? Why did you not stand? If you wish to stand and voice your opinion on this matter, you may attend the next meeting and do just that." 

Several members of the public spoke against same-sex retirement benefits at H-GAC's Nov. 18 montly meeting, where the board announced it was again tabling the issue. Which prompted both the Houston Area Pastor Council and the anti-gay group Texas Values to declare a victory:

“Thankfully some leaders in the Houston-area are starting to recognize that they must follow Texas law on marriage,” said Jonathan Saenz, attorney and president of Texas Values. “That’s encouraging, but Houston Mayor Annise Parker still thinks she’s above the law, and her violations of federal and state law are doing more damage to the Houston people every day,” concluded Saenz.

H-GAC has until Dec.31 to comply with the new IRS policy or lose the tax-qualified status. Stay tuned. 


South Carolina Town Where Lesbian Police Chief Was Fired, Rehired Adds LGBT Job Protections: VIDEO

Moore.Crystal

It's not often we get to say this, but it's a great week to be gay in the Palmetto State. 

Not only is South Carolina's LGBT community celebrating the arrival of marriage equality, but WBTW Channel 13 reports that the town of Latta — where lesbian police Chief Crystal Moore (above) was fired, then rehired in April — has added LGBT job protections for its workers. 

The new policies, which prohibit discrimination and harassment based on sexual orientation and gender identity, are a direct response to the controversy over Moore, who claimed she was fired by Mayor Earl Bullard for being gay.

Bullard issued Moore seven reprimands in one day, the first in her 20-plus year career. But he denied he fired her for being gay, even though Councilman Jared Taylor provided a recording to a TV station in which Bullard said he'd rather have an alcoholic take care of his kids than a gay person with a “questionable” lifestyle. 

The town's residents and council members rallied to Moore's defense, with voters quickly approving a measure weakening the mayor's powers. When Bulllard tried to hire someone to replace Moore, the council blocked him and rehired her instead. 

The new nondiscrimination policies were actually approved last month, and Latta becomes the smallest city in South Carolina with LGBT job protections, joining Charleston, Columbia, Myrtle Beach, North Charleston and Richland County, according to WBTW. 

Councilman Taylor, who leaked the recording of Bullard, said the policies wouldn't have passed if it weren't for the town's support for Moore: 

“We don't care what you are or what you believe in,” Taylor said. “If you get the job done, you're adequate at your job and you excel at your job, we feel like you should have an opportunity to work and live in our community.” ... 

“Our community rallied around the individual for who she was instead of what she was." 

Of course, there still are no federal or state job protetions for LGBT workers in South Carolina, which Moore called "crazy." 

“As long as I do my job and it doesn't interfere, my personal life should be just that: My personal life,” Moore said. “The town passing an ordinance is just one step to making sure everyone is equal." 

The nondiscrimination policies passed 6-0, but shockingly, Mayor Bullard was not present to vote on them. Maybe he couldn't find a baby-sitter. 

Watch WBTW's report, AFTER THE JUMP ...

Continue reading "South Carolina Town Where Lesbian Police Chief Was Fired, Rehired Adds LGBT Job Protections: VIDEO" »


ACLU Will Sue Kansas to Force State Agencies to Recognize Gay Marriages

Kansas

The ACLU of Kansas is poised to amend its lawsuit challenging the ban on same-sex marriage in order to force state agencies to grant marriage benefits to same-sex couples.

Yesterday, we reported that despite marriage equality having commenced in many Kansas counties, Governor Sam Brownback was refusing to allow any state recognition of same-sex unions.

The Wichita Eagle reports:

Doug Bonney, who represented the couples suing the state, said the plaintiffs would amend their complaint to force state agencies to recognize the marriages and grant full legal rights to the newly married couples.

This includes the right to change the last name on your driver’s license to your spouse’s. For the spouses of state employees, it also includes receiving state health care benefits.

Bonney said they would sue Gov. Sam Brownback if necessary. He added the governor has the authority to direct agencies on how to respond to the ruling but said the administration’s combative response was disappointing. He also said it would cost taxpayers a lot of money in the long run.


Lambda Legal Asks U.S. Supreme Court to Review Federal Judge's Ruling Upholding Louisiana Gay Marriage Ban

Scotus

Hoping to bypass the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals, Lambda Legal and the lawyers representing Forum for Equality Louisiana and seven same-sex Louisiana couples have asked the U.S. Supreme Court to review U.S. District Judge Martin Feldman's August ruling upholding the state's same-sex marriage ban. 

The filing, called a Writ of Certiorari before Judgment can be granted in cases that show there is imperative public importance as to justify bypassing the normal appeals process in the Circuit Court of Appeal.

Said Lambda Legal Senior Counsel Kenneth D. Upton, Jr. via statement:

LouisianaThe ruling from the lower court in this case is a time-warped reading of the Constitution and neglects developments in the law, including since the Supreme Court’s decision in Windsor. We have seen a blizzard of well-reasoned rulings in recent months holding similarly discriminatory bans unconstitutional, including rulings out of the Fourth, Seventh, Ninth and Tenth Circuits Courts of Appeal. We are asking for the Supreme Court’s review now while it is considering the Sixth Circuit decision because together these cases present the full gamut of aberrant arguments supporting these discriminatory bans, and, in Louisiana specifically, present in one state a case covering both the right of same-sex couples to marry, and for legally married same-sex couples to have those marriages recognized. The longer same-sex couples are forced to live in a country divided by where their families are respected and where they aren’t the more apparent the injustice will become—and that clarity will come at a price for thousands of families.

Added Forum for Equality Louisiana Executive Director SarahJane Brady:

Dozens of federal courts have been nearly unanimous: these hateful, politically motivated marriage bans have no place in our country – and they will soon end up in the dustbin of history where they belong.  After the Sixth Circuit’s ruling upholding state bans on same sex marriages, we determined there is too much at stake in Louisiana and other states without marriage equality to wait on the appeals process to play out, potentially delaying justice for same-sex couples.

The Fifth Circuit has scheduled arguments in challenges to same-sex marriage bans from Louisiana and Texas for January 9. 

Read the petition below via Equality Case Files:

 


Kansas Gov. Sam Brownback Refusing to Grant Marriage Rights to Gay Couples

Kansas

Despite marriage equality having already commenced in many counties in Kansas, GOP state officials are continuing to drag their heels in defiance, with Governor Sam Brownback announcing today that he will not allow any state recognition of same-sex unions. 

NPR station KCUR reports:

BrownbackBrownback said Thursday that he won’t offer any of the benefits heterosexual couples get, such as name changes on a driver’s license or employee benefits for gay and lesbian state workers.

“There is still considerable legal ambiguity on the topic of same-sex marriage,” said Eileen Hawley, a Brownback spokeswoman. “Once that ambiguity is gone, the governor will direct state agencies to comply with applicable laws.” 

The Wichita Eagle adds:

Tom Witt, executive director of Equality Kansas, an LGBT rights organization, said it was outrageous for state agencies to not treat legally married same-sex couples the same as they would newly married heterosexual couples.

“These are legal marriages legally performed in the state of Kansas,” Witt said.

Kansas Attorney General Derek Schmidt told the Associated Press on Wednesday that his vigorous defense of the state’s gay marriage ban is designed to get a final U.S. Supreme Court ruling on whether such bans are constitutional.

While things get sorted out, Equality Kansas has a list of counties that are issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples. Check out the list here


Sean Hayes and Scott Icenogle Have Officially Tied the Knot

Hayes

In a #ThrowbackThursday post on social media, actor Sean Hayes announced he wed longtime partner Scott Icenogle sometime last week. 

Congrats gents!

Previously, "Sean Hayes Dishes With Ellen About Overseas Adventures With His Other Half, Kissing Will Arnett" [tlrd]


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