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04/19/2007


Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott and Gay Friend Face Off in Marriage Battle

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Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott, who is defending the state's gay marriage ban (which was struck down this week) in court, has a personal connection to the case in that he went to law school with Mark Phariss (second from left), one of the plaintiffs, and considers him a friend, the AP reports:

AbbottAfter leaving Vanderbilt, Abbott was crushed by a falling tree in Houston while out jogging. He was permanently paralyzed from the waist down, and upon hearing the news, Phariss flew to the hospital and spent two days with Abbott. He bought books to help him pass the time and kept Abbott's wife and mother company. A year later, Phariss said Abbott helped line up a job offer for him.

In the 1990s, when Abbott entered politics and was elected a state judge and later a Texas Supreme Court justice, he flew to San Antonio for a campaign stop. Phariss picked him up at the airport and drove him to meetings and a fundraiser.

Phariss, now 58 and an attorney near Dallas, said he was not openly gay at Vanderbilt. He dated girls and didn't ask out men, and didn't publicly reveal he was gay until his mid-30s.

Phariss apparently never came out to Abbott:

"If I was only friends with the people I agreed with, particularly in Texas, I wouldn't have many friends," Phariss told The Associated Press.

The AP adds:

Abbott made clear at a campaign stop Friday he doesn't approve of Phariss' quest to wed his longtime partner. He also expressed no sympathy at the thought of refusing his old friend the right to marry his partner of 16 years, Victor Holmes, an Air Force veteran.

"When the constitution is upheld, we're all winners," Abbott said.

The two haven't spoken for 10 years.

 


Wendy Davis Endorses Marriage Equality, Calls on Texas AG to Stop Defending Gay Marriage Ban: VIDEO

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Wendy Davis, the Texas state senator whose 11 hour filibuster of a abortion bill last summer gained her national headlines and a platform for a gubernatorial run, has come out publicly for marriage equality and has urged Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott to stop defending the state’s constitutional ban on same-sex marriage. The San Antonio Express-News reports:

“It's my strong belief that when people love each other and are desirous of creating a committed relationship with each other that they should be allowed to marry, regardless of their sexual orientation,” Davis told the Express-News editorial board.

Davis, D-Fort Worth, said she is “pleased” that the state's constitutional definition of marriage, as being between a man and a woman, is under challenge in federal court.

“I think that what we see happening at the federal level in terms of constitutional interpretations on that provide some hope that it may be found unconstitutional,” she said.

AbbottGreg Abbott, who is Davis's presumed general-election opponent in the race for governor later this year, scoffed at her request to stop defending the state's ban on same-sex marriage. Said a spokesman for the Abbott campaign:

“Unlike Senator Davis' positions on the issues, the Texas constitution is not subject to change on the latest whims of the day. Senator Davis' comment suggesting the Attorney General not enforce the Constitution mimics an Obama-style approach to government, and Texans deserve better,” 

Watch Davis' announcement and call to the Attorney General, AFTER THE JUMP...

Davis’ campaign for governor is seen as the first real test for Battleground Texas, the Political Action Committee founded by top political strategists, campaign operatives, and field directors from the Obama 2012 campaign. The PAC’s long-term goal is turning Texas into a presidential swing state, something that Republicans in the state are increasingly worried about.

Abbot, to his credit, realizes that Texas’ 38 electoral votes are “the last line of defense” in keeping Republicans electorally competitive in presidential elections. So naturally, he’s already on record saying that Battleground Texas represents a greater threat than North Korea.

Continue reading "Wendy Davis Endorses Marriage Equality, Calls on Texas AG to Stop Defending Gay Marriage Ban: VIDEO" »


Challenge to Texas Gay Marriage Ban Goes Before Judge Today: VIDEOS

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A lawsuit challenging Texas' ban on gay marriage will go before a federal judge in San Antonio for the first time today, the AP reports:

U.S. District Judge Orlando Garcia is expected to decide whether to temporarily block the law, approved by voters in 2005, until a trial can be held in the couples' case. Similar lawsuits have been filed in 22 other states, but the Texas lawsuit is the first of its kind in the region covered by the southern and deeply conservative 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, where the case will likely end up...

RallyThe suit was filed in November. The AP adds:

...Wednesday's hearing combines two cases, one from Mark Phariss and Victor Holmes who filed a federal civil rights lawsuit complaining that Texas' ban unconstitutionally denies them the fundamental right to marry because of their sexual orientation. The other lawsuit was filed by Cleopatra De Leon and Nicole Dimetman, who argue that Texas officials are violating their rights and those of their 2-year-old child by not recognizing their marriage license from Massachusetts.

Lone Star Q reports:

The hearing begins at 9:30 a.m. Central time at the John H. Wood, Jr. United States Courthouse in San Antonio, and activists on both sides of the issue are expected to attend. Same-sex marriage is legal in 17 states and the District of Colombia, and dozens of similar federal lawsuits are pending across the U.S. But the Texas case, known as De Leon v. Perry, is among the first to go to court in the Deep South.

Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott has vowed to defend the state's ban.

Garcia is a Clinton-appointed judge. We'll see if he follows other judges who have recently ruled that banning same-sex marriage violates the equal protection clause of the 14th amendment.

Lone Star Q adds:

If Garcia grants the injunction, it’s likely his decision will be stayed and immediately appealed to the conservative 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals by Republican Attorney General Greg Abbott. Experts say it’s unlikely there would be any window for same-sex marriages to occur.

Watch an interview with Phariss and Holmes, and footage of a rally last night in San Antonio, AFTER THE JUMP...

Continue reading "Challenge to Texas Gay Marriage Ban Goes Before Judge Today: VIDEOS" »


Texas Supreme Court Hears Arguments in Whether State Can Grant Divorce to Gay Couples: VIDEO

Back in August, we reported on two gay couples in Texas who were bringing their divorce cases all the way to the state Supreme Court in a challenge of the state's constitutional ban on same-sex marriage. Both couples originally married in Massachusetts several years ago and later filed for divorce in Texas. The Dallas Morning News reports:

ScheskeTheir attorney, James Scheske [pictured right], told the all-Republican court Tuesday that Texas' gay marriage ban doesn't bar same-sex divorces because divorce is covered under a separate section of family law. Furthermore, he argued that the state can't dispute that the couple were legally married elsewhere.

"Texas can't prevent its gay and lesbian citizens from getting married" and returning home, he said. "There's no dispute my clients were married."

Several justices asked how granting a divorce could not be an official recognition of marriage. 

"Don't you have to presume there is a legal marriage (to grant a divorce)?" Justice Don Willet asked Scheske.

Check out a news report of the case, AFTER THE JUMP...

Justices also brought up the broader issue of the constitutionality of Texas' gay marriage ban itself, with Willet asking Scheskie if the ban is "driven by irrational animus" against homosexuals.

Scheske argued that the gay marriage ban is unconstitutional because it treats same-sex couples as "second-class" citizens. In June, the U.S. Supreme Court overturned part of the federal Defense of Marriage Act because it treated same-sex couples unequally.

"If we haven't learned anything from the U.S. Supreme Court cases the last 60 years, we should have learned that forcing a targeted group of citizens into a separate and unequal court procedure is never constitutional. That's what happens here." Scheske said.

AbbottBack in 2009, when one of the couples originally filed for divorce, Attorney General Greg Abbott, who is running for governor next year, intervened and invoked DOMA, "which specifically protects the rights of states to refuse to recognize or give effect to marriages between persons of the same sex..."

It remains to be seen how the Texas Supreme Court will handle this legal predicament, especially considering this is one of the first serious challenges to the state's anti-gay constitutional amendment since it was implemented in 2005.  The court is not expected to issue a ruling for several months.

Continue reading "Texas Supreme Court Hears Arguments in Whether State Can Grant Divorce to Gay Couples: VIDEO" »


Texas AG Greg Abbott: San Antonio Ordinance Protecting Gays Would Curb Religious Expression

Texas Attorney General and gubernatorial candidate Greg Abbott spoke out on Monday against a proposed LGBT anti-discrimination bill in San Antonio. The measure  has been in the headlines recently because of City Councilwoman Elisa Chan's remarks on it, in which she called gays and lesbians "disgusting".

AbbottThe Dallas Morning News reports:

The ordinance mirrors language already adopted in five other large Texas cities, including Dallas. AG candidates Railroad Commissioner Barry Smitherman, Rep. Dan Branch of Dallas and Sen. Ken Paxton of Plano all have come out against the ordinance.

That chorus was joined by Abbott on Monday, who said it would impinge on religious freedoms. He also suggested it would run afoul of the Texas Constitution, which was amended in 2005 to define marriage as between a man and a woman.

“Religious expression is guaranteed by the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution, and this ordinance is also contrary to the clearly expressed will of the Texas Legislature,” Abbott said.

“Although the proposal has been couched in terms of liberty and equality, it would have the effect of inhibiting the liberty of expression and equality of opportunity for San Antonians,” he said.

The San Antonio City Council is expected to vote on the ordinance on September 5.


Texas To Decide If Married Gays Can Divorce

AbbottGay marriage is presently not legal in Texas as the state constitution explicitly bans marriages and civil unions between members of the same sex. However, the constitutionality of the marriage ban may soon be challenged in the Texas State Supreme Court as two Texas couples - one in Dallas, one in Austin - bring their cases against the state. The Dallas couple had originally filed for divorce in 2009, having legally married in Massachusetts two years prior, but were denied by Greg Abbott of the Texas Attorney General's Office when he invoked DOMA.

Now that DOMA has been struck down the case is being brought back to court to test whether or not Texas will recognize legal out-of-state marriages as well as challenge the constitutionality of Texas family law. Abbott feels confident that the court cases will help prove that the Texas laws do not violate the U.S. Constitution when oral arguments begin in Austin on November 5th.


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