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Could Repealing LGBT Protections Cost Houston The 2016 Final Four, 2017 Super Bowl?

FinalFour

Since Indiana Gov. Mike Pence signed an anti-LGBT religious freedom bill this week, the backlash has been enormous. 

Celebrities, corporationschurches and even the White House have come out against the discriminatory law — with some announcing boycotts of the Hoosier State. They include the NCAA, which issued a statement saying it's concerned about how the law will affect its student-athletes and employees during the men's basketball Final Four in Indianapolis next weekend. There's also a petition calling for the Big 10 Conference to move its football championship out of Indianapolis.

Meanwhile, in Houston — which is scheduled to host the 2016 Final Four and the 2017 Super Bowl — anti-LGBT groups continue their efforts repeal an Equal Rights Ordinance passed by the City Council last year. 

Super-Bowl-Houston-BannerAfter Houston became the last major city in the US to add LGBT protections in May, opponents launched a petition drive to repeal them. The city eventually rejected the petition, saying it didn't have enough valid signatures to qualify for the ballot.  

Anti-LGBT groups filed a lawsuit, and last month a jury determined that among other things, the petition contains widespread forgery. Based on the jury's determinations about which signatures should be considered valid, Judge Robert Schaffer began a final count. More than a month later, Schaffer revealed this week that opponents of the ordinance are roughly 3,000 signatures short of the 17,269 needed to qualify for the ballot. However, approximately 8,500 signatures remain in question because they appear on pages circulated by people whose names aren't legible. 

The Houston Chronicle reports: 

The plaintiffs argue that legibility should not be a factor.

"We can't empower the government with the right to be the judge, jury and executioner on whether somebody has a right to vote based on penmanship," said Andy Taylor, attorney for the plaintiffs.

The city, however, contends that if they can't determine who a circulator is based on their signature or printed name, all the other signatures collected on that page should be discarded, per city charter and the judge's ruling.

"The plaintiffs are mounting every desperate challenge they possibly can to try to overcome the effect of the jury's verdict and the effect of the judge's post-verdict rulings," said Geoffrey Harrison, lead attorney for the city. "The plaintiffs lost at trial. They lose on the law. They lose on the facts. But they are prolonging this process by refusing to accept reality."

Judge Schaffer is expected to rule in early April on the final signature count. If he determines the petition has enough valid signatures, the ordinance likely would appear on the November ballot. If he determines the petition doesn't have enough valid signatures, the plaintiffs are expected to appeal.  

Either way, perhaps opponents of the ordinance and other citizens of Houston should take note of what's happening in Indiana. If Houston repeals LGBT protections and again becomes the only major US city without them, it's hard to imagine there wouldn't be a push to get the NCAA to move the 2016 Final Four and to get the NFL to move the 2017 Super Bowl — among other things. 

Texas lawmakers might also want to take note, as several measures similar to the Indiana bill have been introduced in the current session of the state Legislature.

Houston and Texas have a reputation as business-friendly places, but judging by what's happened in Indiana, that could easily and very quickly change. 


Dallas Mayoral Candidate, Anti-LGBT Activist Arrested For Spray-Painting '666' On Gay Landmarks: VIDEO

Sheridan

A mayoral candidate and longtime anti-LGBT activist has been arrested and charged with spray-painting "666" on two gay landmarks in Dallas

Richard Sheridan (below), 66, who is running for mayor in May, is charged with vandalizing the Legacy of Love Monument (above) and the Cathedral of Hope (below) last June. 

The monument, in the heart of Dallas' gayborhood, and the church — known as the world's largest LGBT congregation — were among 12 sites in the city vandalized with "the number of the beast" in red paint. 

However, Sheridan thus far is charged in only two of the incidents. A grand jury indicted Sheridan for a state jail felony, punishable by up to two years behind bars. If prosecutors treat the case as an anti-gay hate crime, the charges could be enhanced to a third-degree felony, punishable by up to 10 years in prison. 

The Dallas Morning News reports: 

SheridanIn August, police told The Dallas Morning News that Sheridan was the only person who’d been questioned in the case. Sheridan maintained he didn’t do it: “I’m not guilty, I’m not guilty, I’m not guilty,” he told our Tristan Hallman on August 14 in the lobby of Dallas police headquarters. But Sheridan said he knew who did — and that he agreed with the tags. He also said that despite what police were saying, the tags were “not a hate crime [but] an act of love — and a warning.”

Sheridan, who frequently distributes anti-gay leaflets around Dallas City Hall and has been escorted out of council chambers more than once, took to his Facebook page last summer to admit to having been interviewed twice. He insisted he was merely “representing the person who did it.” In an open letter to Dallas police on August 2, Sheridan claimed that the person who actually tagged the locations “recognizes that there are some in the Gay community, the rabid faction, that wants vengence [sic], wants a ‘scalp’, wants to hang him out to dry, wants to send a message across Dallas and the Nation that (if they get their way) this is what will happen to anyone who dares to call out the immorality of the Gay lifestyle, to reference the Bible in saying that the Gay community is violating Gods laws.”

More from NBCDFW.com

“At no time did he admit to being the person that committed these offenses, but he also did not deny that to be the case either,” said assistant chief Randy Blankenberger. ... 

"We also believe that it is likely that Mr. Sheridan selected these locations due to their connection or significant to the LGBT community," Blankenberger said. ...

"These types of crime, that appear to be targeting people based on their sexual orientation or because of their race or religion, those types of crimes are important to the police department to solve," Blankenberger said. "So we can send a message that everyone is inclusive in the police community."

Watch NBCDFW.com's report, AFTER THE JUMP...

Continue reading "Dallas Mayoral Candidate, Anti-LGBT Activist Arrested For Spray-Painting '666' On Gay Landmarks: VIDEO" »


Michigan Civil Rights Commission Endorses Model Local LGBT Non-Discrimination Ordinance

Screen Shot 2015-03-25 at 1.29.36 PMThe Michigan Civil Rights Commission endorsed a model local non-discrimination ordinance that covers sexual orientation and gender identity at a meeting held at the Holocaust Memorial Center on Monday reports the Daily Reporter. The ordinance states that no one should be denied "civil rights or be discriminated against," on the basis of gender expression, identity and sexual orientation. The model also bars bias based on education, age, disability, race, sex, religion, weight, national origin, marriage or family status. Commission Chairman Arthur Horwitz stated that the ordinance is designed to provide a more cohesive anti-discrimination view for over 30 Michigan municipalities.

Said Horwitz:

"The concept of developing a model non-discrimination ordinance grew from the fact that more than 30 Michigan municipalities have non-discrimination ordinances that vary significantly in their structure, wording and scope... developed model language that municipalities could access if, in their own discretion, they decided they wanted a starting point for their own discussions and deliberations."

In a January appearance before the commission, Republican Gov. Rick Snyder expressed hope that the GOP-controlled Michigan legislature would continue discussing a bill to add protections for gay, lesbian, transgender and bisexual people to the state civil rights law. However, House Speaker Kevin Cotter, a Midland Republican and American Family Association of Michigan leader, believes the measure is unnecessary saying that gay and gender identity laws are a "solution in search of a nonexistent problem," and that they "have a history of themselves being discriminatory" in forcing people to choose between their morals or religious beliefs.


White House Voices Concerns Over Indiana’s Discriminatory 'Religious Freedom' Law

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The White House voiced concerns today over the passage of Indiana’s religious freedom law that could potentially allow discrimination against LGBT people reports Metro Weekly. White House press secretary Josh Earnest told reporters that the Religious Freedom Restoration Act signed into law yesterday by Indiana Gov. Mike Pence raises legitimate concerns for companies considering doing business in the state and is a step backward for all Americans.

Said Earnest:

"I have seen that there are a number of private businesses and nonprofit organizations that have said that the signing of this law prompts them to reconsider doing business in the state of Indiana. All those business and some of those who are considering having conventions in Indiana have raised concerns about whether all of their employees can count on being treated fairly in Indiana. 

"I think that is a testament to the kind of reaction I think a lot of people all across the country had, which is that the signing of the bill doesn’t seem like it’s a step in the direction of equality and justice and liberty for all Americans. Again, that’s not just the view of the administration, I know that’s the view of the Republican mayor of Indianapolis and a whole host of nonprofit and private sector companies who have legitimate concerns about the impact of this legislation."

Earnest added that he hasn’t spoken to President Obama directly regarding Indiana’s new law, or the "Kill the gays," ballot initiative that California Attorney General Kamala Harris is currently fighting.

 


Texas School Bars Lesbian Student From Making Adorable 'Promposal' To Another Girl: VIDEO

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A lesbian teenager in Texas says her high school refused to allow her to make a "promposal" to another girl.

Promposals, apparently a tradition at Timber Creek High School in Keller, near Fort Worth, are dramatic, public invitations to prom between students. 

BoxCasey Akers (above), 16, planned to jump out of a box with flowers on it (right) holding cookies and a sign that said, "Out of all these cookies, you're my favorite one. Prom?" The name of the girl Akers planned to invite to the prom is Cookie. 

Akers said she got approval for the promposal from school administrators — until they found out she was inviting another girl. NBCDFW.com reports: 

"I gave them all the details before. They say it’s fine. They find out who I am asking, then say it’s not fine," Akers said.

Akers sent a direct message about what happened to a friend on Twitter. Akers' friend who tweeted a screenshot of the message — with Casey’s permission — and it didn’t take long for the hash-tag campaign #LetCaseyPromposal to take off. 

“People are tweeting me from all over the U.S.," Akers said. "I had someone tweet from Toronto, Canada. This is spreading like crazy, and all I want to do is get the word out.”

TextsIn the message to her friend, Akers said she was walking into lunch when administrators pulled her aside and said her promposal was not appropriate. When she asked why, they said, "You know why. It's just not appropriate." 

Akers still plans to attend the prom with Cookie. 

"This is spreading like crazy and all I want to do is get the word out," she told NBCDFW.com. "I just want equality for everyone." 

The Keller Independent School District later issued a statement alleging that all promposals are prohibited, not just same-sex ones: 

"In response to recent social media posts regarding “promposals” at our high school campuses, Keller ISD does not grant permission for any student, regardless of gender, to conduct public prom invitations, or promposals, on campus during the school day. Any previous promposals that have occurred have done so without District approval. Promposals, and other similar public displays, may create a disruption to the academic setting, therefore they are not allowed for any student."

The district's statement may reflect a realization that under Title IX, administrators cannot discriminate based on sex. Therefore, the school could be in violation of federal law if they allowed straight promposals but not gay ones.

Watch NBCDFW.com's report, AFTER THE JUMP ...

Continue reading "Texas School Bars Lesbian Student From Making Adorable 'Promposal' To Another Girl: VIDEO" »


Federal Judge Blocks Gay Workers in Four States From Taking Unpaid Leave To Care For Sick Spouses

Paxton

Republican Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton has been in office less than three months, but he's already making a name for himself as one of the nation's biggest anti-gay bigots. 

Last month, Paxton (above with Sen. Ted Cruz) sought to void the marriage of a 30-year lesbian couple, even though one of the women has ovarian cancer. And last week, he filed a lawsuit against the Obama administration over a new labor department rule extending benefits under the Family & Medical Leave Act to same-sex couples who live in states that don't recognize their marriages. 

On Thursday, Paxton — a "tea partier" who admitted to securities fraud last year — won a small, temporary victory in his ongoing war against LGBT people. 

U.S. District Judge Reed O’Connor, a President George W. Bush appointee, issued an order blocking the new FMLA rule from taking effect as scheduled on Friday in Texas and three other states that joined Paxton's lawsuit — Arkansas, Louisiana and Nebraska.  

“The Obama Administration’s attempt to force employers to recognize same-sex marriages would have put state agencies in the position of either violating Texas law or federal regulations,” Paxton said in a statement. “We are pleased that the Department of Labor’s effort to override our laws via federal rulemaking has been halted, and we will continue to defend our sovereignty in this case.”

Reed-OConnor_bigJudge O'Connor (right) presides over the Northern District of Texas in Wichita Falls, an extremely conservative area that has brought us, among others, the Rev. Robert Jeffress. In his 24-page decision, O'Connor wrote that if the new FMLA rule was allowed to take effect, "irreparable injury would occur." From the decision: 

“The Full Faith and Credit Statute affirms Congress’ intention to reserve the power to define marriage and accompanying rights and benefits to the states, and Windsor cabins Congress’ authority to aggrandize that power. Congress could not have delegated to the Department the power to define marriage in a way as to override the laws of states prohibiting same-sex marriages.”

The Human Rights Campaign issued this statement in response to O'Connor's ruling: 

“No legally married same-sex couple should be denied family leave simply because they happen to live in a state that fails to respect their marriage,” said HRC Legal Director Sarah Warbelow. “Because of Judge O’Connor’s decision, countless legally married same-sex couples in Texas are now unable to access to their federal FMLA benefits. With a pending Supreme Court decision on nationwide marriage equality this summer, we are confident that justice will ultimately prevail.”

In other words, if the U.S. Supreme Court issues a nationwide decision in favor of marriage equality in June, Paxton's lawsuit will quickly go away. 

Therefore, it's quite possible that the only thing Paxton has really accomplished, aside from pandering to the GOP base, is wasting taxpayer dollars on a frivolous lawsuit, which would seem contrary to the avowed principles of the tea party. Of course, Paxton has also ensured that he will go down in history as someone who sought to preserve the right of employers to legally fire gay people who want to take unpaid leave to care for ailing loved ones. Truly, this lawsuit is one of the more disgusting displays of anti-gay bigotry from any elected official in recent memory. 

View some of the responses Paxton has received on Twitter, AFTER THE JUMP ...

Continue reading "Federal Judge Blocks Gay Workers in Four States From Taking Unpaid Leave To Care For Sick Spouses" »


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