Gay Rights Hub

Federal Judge Again Tosses Gay Couple's Lawsuit Against Airline Over Sex Toy Taped To Luggage


A federal judge has again thrown out a gay couple's lawsuit against United Airlines alleging that a baggage handler removed a sex toy from their bag and taped it to the outside to humiliate them. 

Last week we told you how the lawsuit from Christopher Bridgeman and Martin Borger was finally headed to trial four years after the incident. But after three days of testimony, U.S. District Judge Kenneth Hoyt granted summary judgment to the airline. 

The Houston Chronicle reports: 

Hoyt decided that the plaintiffs never proved their case, which remains a "whodunit," the judge noted, because no one with TSA or United was revealed as the definite perpetrator in the mystery of the rifled and manipulated bag.

"If you have two operatives and you do not eliminate one of those operatives by clear and convincing evidence, then you cannot go to judgement. There's nothing to submit to the jury – especially in light of the fact that you didn't sue both of them," Hoyt explained from the bench.

"You have not presented clear and convincing evidence that TSA did not handle these bags and cause the situation that occurred. … In fact we know TSA handled these bags. We know that they scan them and in many instances they go into bags."

The couple's attorney says he plans to appeal Hoyt's decision. Hoyt initially threw out the case in 2012, only to have it reinstated by the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.

In case you're wondering, United Airlines maintains a perfect score of 100 on the Human Rights Campaign's Corporate Equality Index.  

Anti-Gay Former Texas Governor Rick Perry To Launch 2nd Bid For President Despite Felony Charges: VIDEO


Not surprisingly, anti-gay former Texas Gov. Rick Perry plans to officially enter the 2016 Republican presidential primary at an event in Dallas next month. 

The Dallas Morning News reports: 

PerrycorndogFor months Perry has said that he would announce his decision in May or June. But his constant travel to the early contest states of Iowa, New Hampshire, South Carolina and Florida has left little doubt of his intentions.

Unlike four years ago, when he rushed into the contest after seeing he could raise quick money and was leading in polls, Perry enters this contest as an underdog.

He is polling in single digits, but again unlike his last run, he has spent more than a year in preparation. He has consulted weekly with conservative experts on foreign relations and economic policy. He has assembled advisers and campaign teams in the early states and has even taken tutoring in public speaking.

The announcement was made by Perry's wife Anita on Twitter, a possible indication he'll aim to emphasize his appeal to GOP women: 

Once the frontrunner for the 2012 GOP nomination, Perry's campaign flamed out amid a few disastrous debate performances. His decision to go anti-gay in Iowa also backfired, after he released a widely parodied "Strong" ad slamming the repeal of "don't ask, don't tell." 

Perry, who's currently facing two felony counts, has a long history of opposition to gay rights. He once called the state's sodomy ban "appropriate," but later said he'd forgotten what the case was about. He championed Texas' 2005 marriage amendment, holding an unnecessary ceremonial signing at a Fort Worth church. And more recently, Perry — long plagued by rumors that he's closeted — compared homosexuality to alcoholism in response to a question about so-called reparative therapy

Check out a video featuring some of Perry's biggest bloopers over the years, AFTER THE JUMP... 

Continue reading "Anti-Gay Former Texas Governor Rick Perry To Launch 2nd Bid For President Despite Felony Charges: VIDEO" »

Prison Rape Epidemic Still Plagues LGBT Inmates 12 Years After Passage Of Federal Law


Back in March we told you how Texas prison officials had finally agreed to protect transgender inmate Passion Star (self-portrait above), after Lambda Legal filed a lawsuit alleging the Department of Criminal Justice had ignored her years of complaints about being raped and assaulted. 

The New York Times recently interviewed Star — and photographed the horrific scars she suffered in one attack — for an in-depth piece about the national epidemic of prison rape, which persists despite passage of a federal law to combat the problem in 2003. 

As of last year, only two states had certified compliance with the Prison Rape Elimination Act, while five have refused the standards outright, foregoing federal funds rather than striving to meet them.  

From The NYT

StarAfter decades of societal indifference to prison rape, Congress, in a rare show of support for inmates’ rights, unanimously passed the Prison Rape Elimination Act in 2003, and [Rick] Perry’s predecessor as governor, President George W. Bush, signed it into law.

“The emerging consensus was that ‘Don’t drop the soap’ jokes were no longer funny, and that rape is not a penalty we assign in sentencing,” said Jael Humphrey, a lawyer with Lambda Legal, a national group that represents Ms. Star (right) in a federal lawsuit alleging that Texas officials failed to protect her from sexual victimization despite her persistent, well-documented pleas for help.

But over 12 years, even as reported sexual victimization in prisons remained high, the urgency behind that consensus dissipated. It took almost a decade for the Justice Department to issue the final standards on how to prevent, detect and respond to sexual abuse in custody. And it took a couple of years more before governors were required to report to Washington, which revealed that only New Jersey and New Hampshire were ready to certify full compliance.

According to Just Detention International, which works to eliminate sexual abuse in detention facilities, LGBT inmates are 15 times more likely to be victims of prison rape than non-LGBT inmates. And Texas is home to five of the 10 facilities in the nation with the highest rates of sexual assault. 

Back in October, Lambda Legal filed a federal lawsuit on behalf of Star, accusing Texas prison officials of deliberate indifference to threats of sexual assault and violence against her in male facilities. The lawsuit alleges Star has lodged dozens of grievances, complaints and requests to be placed in safekeeping, but instead of taking measures to protect her, prison officials have told her to “suck dick,” “fight” or to stop “acting gay” if she doesn't want to be assaulted. 
On one occasion, when Star appealed to officials to protect her from a gang member who said he owned her, they responded by moving her even closer to the inmate. The next morning, the gang member attacked Star, calling her a “snitching faggot,” and slashed her face eight times with a razor, resulting in 36 stitches. Even after the attack, prison officials refused to move Star to protect her from violence in the general population.

Lambda Legal recently delivered a petition with more than 10,000 signatures to current Texas Gov. Greg Abbott urging him to adopt the federal prison rape standards. From the group's release: 

Following the delivery of the “Campaign to Stop Prison Rape in Texas” petitions today, Jael Humphrey, Lambda Legal Staff Attorney and Criminal Justice and Police Misconduct Strategist issued the following statement:

“We have brought the voice of the public directly to Governor Abbott’s desk. Texas is among the states with the highest rates of rape and sexual assault in its prisons. This violence disproportionately affects lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) people. LGBT people in Texas prisons, like Lambda Legal client Passion Star, live with the risk of sexual violence every day.

“Rape is not an inevitable part of incarceration, but leadership is key. PREA provides a framework to end sexual violence in Texas prisons and jails. Our petition represents the voice of a public eager to reform Texas’s prisons. We are hopeful that Governor Abbott will do the right thing and take steps to implement PREA.” ... 

Asked what she would say to Governor Abbott ahead of the May 15th deadline, Passion said: “We need something like PREA to change the culture of prisons in the state of Texas. If Texas was doing everything they say that they’re doing to stop [rape] from happening, then there’s no point in turning down PREA. I don’t want to have sex to be safe.  I shouldn’t have to.”

U.S. Condemns Gambia President's 'Unconscionable' Threat to Cut the Throats of Gay Men


National Security Advisor Susan Rice has condemned Gambian President Yahya Jammeh's recent pledge to slit the throats of gay men living in the West African nation.

Said Jammeh in a speech last while while on a nationwide agricultural tour:

"If you do it [in The Gambia] I will slit your throat — if you are a man and want to marry another man in this country and we catch you, no one will ever set eyes on you again, and no white person can do anything about it.”

Said Rice in a statement:

JammehThe recent unconscionable comments by Gambian President Yahya Jammeh underscore why we must continue to seek a world in which no one lives in fear of violence or persecution because of who they are or whom they love. We condemn his comments, and note these threats come amid an alarming deterioration of the broader human rights situation in The Gambia. We are deeply concerned about credible reports of torture, suspicious disappearances – including of two American citizens - and arbitrary detention at the government's hands.

In related news, today marks the International Day Against Homophobia and Transphobia (IDAHOT) and the White House has released a fact sheet on various U.S. governmental efforts over the years to address LGBT issues both domestic and abroad.  

"Here at home, we are working to end bias-motivated violence, combat discrimination in the workplace, and address the specific needs of transgender persons," said President Obama in a statement. "Overseas, I am proud of the steps that the United States has taken to prioritize the protection and promotion of LGBT rights in our diplomacy and global outreach."

93 of 98 Texas House Republicans Shamefully Sign Anti-Gay Letter Pledging to Defy SCOTUS on Marriage


The day after an anti-gay marriage bill died in the Texas House, 93 of the chamber's 98 Republicans signed a letter affirming the definition of marriage as between one man and one woman. 

The Texas Tribune reports:  

TexasThe House Republican Caucus on Friday released a letter reaffirming its support of the state’s long-standing ban on gay marriage, calling marriage between a man and woman a “principle that is so dearly held by Texans far and wide.”

“This letter provides legislative support and a legal foundation for the Texas constitutional provision,” Kelly Carnal, executive director of the caucus, said in a statement.

The letter was signed by 93 of the 98 House Republicans. Those who did not sign were: Sarah Davis of West University Place, Jason Villalba of Dallas, Matt Schaefer of Tyler, Larry Gonzales of Round Rock and Speaker Joe Straus.

Schaefer, a tea partier, told the Tribune he didn't sign the letter because he wanted action, not words, in opposition to same-sex marriage. 

Even though his anti-gay marriage bill fell victim to Thursday night's deadline, GOP Rep. Cecil Bell Jr. says he hopes to re-introduce it as an amendment to other legislation. From The Dallas Morning News

Bell“We missed an opportunity tonight, but the session is still intact, the session still moves on,” Bell told reporters. “No bill is dead, as long as there are other bills in front [further along in the process]. You just have to find something that’s germane. … We will continue to look for places that it fits [and] work to get this effort … done.”

Bell said that his bill easily would have passed if it had come up Thursday for a vote — and would have drawn some Democratic votes.

“I don’t believe that standing up for sovereignty is a partisan issue,” he said.

LGBT advocates are also warning that with two weeks left in the Texas legislative session, there is still a risk of anti-gay amendments. One could emerge Monday, when GOP Rep. Scott Sanford gets another chance to introduce a proposal that would give child welfare agencies a license to discriminate against LGBT people. However, Sanford's amendment would need a two-thirds majority to pass. There are 98 Republicans and 52 Democrats in the House. If some Democrats vote for Sanford's amendment or are absent, opposition from Republicans like Davis and Villalba — who declined to sign the anti-gay marriage letter — could be crucial. 

While the vast majority of the record number of anti-LGBT proposals introduced in Texas this year are officially dead, the leader of the hate group Texas Values says his side is "#StillWinning":  

Read the anti-gay marriage letter signed by 93 House Republicans, AFTER THE JUMP ...

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Congress Moves to Extend Credit Non-Discrimination Protections to LGBT People


U.S. Senate and House lawmakers introduced new legislation on Wednesday that would prevent discrimination against LGBT people who are seeking credit reports the Washington Blade. The bill, dubbed the Freedom from Discrimination in Credit Act, would amend the Equal Credit Opportunity Act and prohibit discrimination based on gender identity and sexual orientation.

MurrayRep. Steve Israel (D-N.Y.) reintroduced the bill in the U.S. House of Representatives while Sen. Patty Murray (D-Wash.) reintroduced the bill in the U.S. Senate.

Sen. Murray stated that everyone should be afforded these protections:

"It is unacceptable that someone can be denied credit, simply because of their sexual orientation or gender identity. I am proud that my home state of Washington has these protections, but it is time to ensure all LGBT Americans are protected from this discriminatory practice." 

Only 14 other states guarantee credit protections, including Sen. Murray's state of Washington. The credit bill's introduction comes ahead of a larger, anticipated bill that would guarantee LGBT protections in employment housing, education, federal programs and public accommodations. 

(Top photo via Flickr)


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