Gay Rights Hub

Jesse Tyler Ferguson's Site Will Send Your Gay Wedding Date To SCOTUS Ahead Of Marriage Ruling: VIDEO

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Jesse Tyler Ferguson's is allowing users to create custom wedding invitations and then sends their invitations to every member of the Supreme Court.

As the Supreme Court decides on gay marriage over the next couple of months, the site aims to show the justices just how much their decision on the matter affects real lives by sending every single invitation they receive to every justice including Ruth Bader Ginsberg herself.

The card builder isn't running yet, but users can submit their email and the site will notify them later when it's up and running.

Watch the cute ad for the site, aiming to make a statement before the big decision in June, AFTER THE JUMP

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Over 100 Texas Organizations, Including 13 Fortune 500 Companies, Sign LGBT Equality Pledge


More than 100 corporations and other organizations — from American Airlines and Apple to the Houston Super Bowl Host Committee — have joined an impressive coalition of businesses pledging to support LGBT equality in Texas.

The coalition, called Texas Competes, launched Tuesday in Austin against the backdrop of 22 anti-LGBT bills in the state Legislature. 

From the Texas Competes website

Texas Competes' mission is to provide a unified voice for the Texas business community on the clear economic and business case for fair treatment of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) workers, families, customers, and tourists. That unified voice takes the form of the Texas Competes pledge.

Many of Texas' most successful businesses have policies and workplace cultures that are inclusive and welcoming to LGBT workers and customers. But the competitiveness of these businesses, and of the Texas economy, is impacted by the brand that the state of Texas projects on the LGBT issue. The Texas Competes pledge creates an opportunity for business leaders to clarify their shared economic interests in fair treatment for gay and transgender people.

More from The Texas Observer:

Texas Competes spokesman James Shackelford said the coalition won’t take positions on specific legislation and that the effort has been in the works for months, long before anti-LGBT religious freedom laws in Indiana and Arkansas sparked historic backlash from the corporate sector.

“But obviously the timing, when it’s launching and when we’re going public with it, is important,” Shackelford told theObserver.

The Texas Association of Business, the state’s powerful chamber of commerce, has come out against two religious freedom amendments that critics say would enshrine a license to discriminate against LGBT people in the constitution. However, dozens of other measures also target LGBT rights, from statutory religious exemption bills to proposals that would ban local nondiscrimination protections and transgender restroom use.

“Texas is an economic powerhouse because it’s a place where talented people, entrepreneurs and companies want to call home. But our competitiveness is in jeopardy if Texas does not become a place that is welcoming to LGBT workers and families,” Texas Competes advisory board member and former Dell CFO Tom Meredith said in a statement. “Businesses that embrace diversity are doing both the right thing and the economically smart thing.”

Interestingly, several business not otherwise known as LGBT-friendly have joined the coalition, while others long considered corporate allies have not. 

For example, Texas-based MetroPCS, which joined the coalition, has a score of 0 on the Human Rights Campaign's Corporate Equality Index. But AT&T, which hasn't joined the coalition, has a score of 100. (AT&T was also a major supporter of anti-gay Republican Gov. Greg Abbott's campaign last year).

Watch a report from KXAN-TV and check out the full list of organizations that have joined Texas Competes, AFTER THE JUMP ... 

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Anti-LGBT Texas Lawmaker's Staff Says Meeting With Gay Constituent Would Be 'Waste Of Time'


An anti-LGBT Texas lawmaker's staff refused to meet with a gay constituent last month, saying it would be "a waste of time."  

Back in February, we told you how GOP state Rep. Molly White (shown above cutting anti-gay hate cakeposted an Islamophobic rant on Facebook during Muslim lobby day at the Texas Capitol. 

White's rant prompted Equality Texas, the statewide LGBT group, to drop off a gay Pride flag at her office, saying: "There are many flags that celebrate the diversity and unity of TX. We decided to help build Rep White's collection."

White.MollyShortly thereafter, White (right) filed two draconian anti-LGBT bills — one that would allow business owners to discriminate based on religious beliefs, and another seeking to exempt Texas from a U.S. Supreme Court ruling in favor of same-sex marriage. 

On March 27, during Equality Texas' Family Advocacy Day, gay constituent Frank Carlson was part of a group that went to White's office to try to meet with her staff, according to The Temple Daily Telegram. But Carlson said the group was told that no one was available to meet with them. 

When the group indicated they were from Equality Texas, White's chief of staff, Hannah Bell, told them to "drop their literature and leave." When Carlson said they had personal stories to share, including one from a PFLAG mother, Bell responded that it would be "a waste of time." According to the Daily Telegram, Bell confirmed the group's account. 

“I conveyed that the representative has stances on some issues and that she isn’t likely to change her mind on them,” Bell said. “We try to be a transparent office and I told them that they needed to meet with individuals that shared their viewpoint.”

Janet Adamski, a political science professor at the University of Mary Hardin-Baylor, told the Daily Telegram it's unusual for a lawmaker's staff to refuse to meet with constituents, regardless of their views. 

Chuck Smith, executive director of Equality Texas, called the action's of White's staff “rude, insensitive and inappropriate.”

“Rep. White was elected to represent all of her constituents, even those whose views she doesn’t share,” Smith told the newspaper. “It may not be her job to agree with all of her constituents, but it is her job to listen to them.”

As it turns out, on the very same day, White found time to attend an anti-gay rally at the Capitol featuring Alabama Chief Justice Roy Moore. 

Equality Texas has another lobby day scheduled Monday, so it will be interesting to see if any groups try to visit White's office. 

Federal Judge Declines To Lift Injunction Blocking FMLA Benefits For Gay Couples In 4 States


An untold number of gay workers in four states remain unable to take unpaid time off to care for their ailing spouses, after a federal judge in Texas declined to lift an injunction Friday. 

Last month, Republican Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton (shown with Sen. Ted Cruz) 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. 

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 March 27 in Texas and three other states that joined Paxton's lawsuit — Arkansas, Louisiana and Nebraska.  

The U.S. Department of Justice appealed the order, but O'Connor declined to lift it during a hearing Friday, according to  

Paxton, a tea partier who took office in January and is under investigation for securities fraud, is also seeking to void the marriage of a 30-year lesbian couple, one of whom has ovarian cancer. 

Presumably, the Justice Department will appeal O'Connor's decision, which will be overturned anyway if the U.S. Supreme Court rules in favor of nationwide marriage equality in June. 

The Family Medical & Leave Act grants workers 12 weeks of unpaid, job-protected leave per year "to care for the employee’s spouse, child, or parent who has a serious health condition."  

So perhaps we should thank Paxton for drawing further attention to the tremendous harm inflicted by state same-sex marriage bans. 

Judge To Decide This Week Whether Petition To Repeal Houston LGBT Protections Qualifies For Ballot


Nearly a year after the Houston City Council approved an Equal Rights Ordinance, a judge is expected to rule this week on whether anti-LGBT groups gathered enough valid signatures to place a repeal of the measure on the ballot. 

The city filed a motion Friday alleging that opponents of the ordinance remain 650 signatures short of the number needed to trigger a referendum. 

The Houston Chronicle reports: 

TaylorThe city's latest count puts conservative opponents of the law closer to triggering a vote than ever before, but still short of the needed 17,269 valid signatures.

"Under the jury's verdict, and under any honest application of the court's rulings, plaintiffs lose, the city wins, and civil rights are safe in Houston, Texas," said Geoffrey Harrison, lead attorney for the city. ... 

Andy Taylor (right), attorney for the plaintiffs, said he was not fazed by the city's filing Friday and would submit his own count Monday proving opponents have a valid petition.

"I'm excited to report that our number exceeds the minimum number required so we're going to get to have an election for the city of Houston," Taylor said.

ParkerMayor Annise Parker has placed enforcement of the ordinance, known as "HERO," on hold pending the outcome of the case. In February, supporters of HERO reported that since it passed, 84 cases of discrimination had been reported to the city's Office of the Inspector General, including 52 that would have been covered by the ordinance. From

These reported cases of discrimination run the gambit of protected characteristics, from race to age to gender to disability to sexual orientation to gender identity to national origin to veteran status.  

If you look at the math, that breaks down to 1.6 people every week who are actively facing discrimination in some form and who have no local remedy because HERO is not in effect. To look at it another way that is almost 7 people (6.9 to be exact) every month. 

After Houston became the last major city in the US to add LGBT protections, 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 in February a jury determined that among other things, the petition contained widespread forgery. Based on the jury's determinations about which signatures should be considered valid, Judge Robert Schaffer began a final count. In late March, Schaffer revealed that opponents of the ordinance were roughly 3,000 signatures short of the 17,269 needed. However, approximately 8,500 signatures remained in question because they appeared on pages circulated by people whose names weren't legible. 

Opponents have vowed to appeal if Schaffer determines they don't have enough valid signatures. 

Houston officials rejected a separate petition last week aimed at repealing the ordinance — and enshrining a transgender bathroom ban in the city charter — after the organizer misread rules about the number of required signatures.  

Guam Rejects Gay Couple’s Marriage License Application, Attorney General Declines To Comment Until ‘Later Time’


Guam couple Loretta M. Pangelinan and Kathleen M. Aguero’s marriage license application, the first to be submitted in the U.S. territory, was rejected by a Department of Public Health and Social Service clerk this week, the AP reported. Under Guam law a marriage license is only issued to opposite sex couples.

The U.S. District Court of Guam falls under the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals, which has ruled in favor of marriage equality. Pangelinan and Aguero’s attorney, R. Todd Thompson, says the couple plans on taking their case to federal court and that he expects the Guam court to follow the appeals court’s precedent. Although many same-sex couples on Guam usually fly to Hawaii or Washington to marry, Pangelinan and Aguero wish to marry in Guam so their friends and family may all attend.

Screen Shot 2015-04-11 at 6.59.05 AMGuam’s Attorney General Elizabeth Barrett-Anderson said that she is "deferring answering further questions on the issue of gay marriage until a later time." Barrett-Anderson’s statement issued to Pacific Daily News came a day after she issued a public statement that the island’s health department was, "Acting in compliance with Guam law," when it denied Pangelinan and Aguero’s marriage application on Wednesday. On April 9, Barrett-Anderson said, "Whether Guam’s statutes will stand or fail will soon be definitely decided by the Supreme Court of the United States for our entire nation and upon that decision Guam will abide."

Of the five U.S. Pacific and Caribbean territories, only Puerto Rico has faced a marriage rights lawsuit for gay and lesbian couples. The federal judge of Puerto Rico rejected the suit. The case later appealed to the 1st U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Boston, but Puerto Rico’s Justice Department stated last month that it would not defend its own laws banning gay marriage, with Justice Secretary Cesar Miranda stating that the government can no longer continue to discriminate against the gay community.

Watch a report on the couple and the license denial, AFTER THE JUMP...

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