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Judge Orders Houston to Stop Providing Insurance Benefits to Same-sex Spouses of City Employees

A Texas judge has ordered the city of Houston to stop offering health and life insurance benefits to same-sex spouses of married employees, the Houston Chronicle reports:

ParkerDays after being elected to her third and final term last November, Mayor Annise Parker announced Houston would extend employment benefits to the spouses of all married employees, gay or straight. It would be a liability for the city to enforce an unconstitutional ban on such benefits, she said, following the U.S. Supreme Court's ruling last summer that the federal Defense of Marriage Act is unconstitutional.

Parker's policy change spurred three lawsuits, including two from conservatives, who argued the policy change violates Houston's city charter, the state's Defense of Marriage Act and the Texas Constitution.

State District Judge Lisa Millard quickly signed an order preventing the city from offering the benefits, but that order was lifted in January after the city moved the case to federal court. [...]

Jared Woodfill, a conservative activist who filed the first lawsuit against the city, filed another lawsuit last week, again asking Millard to stop Parker from issuing benefits to same-sex couples. As she did in January, Millard agreed to issue a temporary injunction Wednesday.

A spokeswoman for Parker said the city is preparing an immediate appeal that would allow the benefits to remain in place. 

The city is also currently embroiled in a legal fight over its non-discrimination ordinance protecting LGBT Houstonians from discrimination. 


Ted Cruz Has a Message for Houston's Anti-gay Pastors: VIDEO

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Although Ted Cruz was unable to attend the Family Research Council's anti-gay extravaganza in Houston last night (he was busy campaigning for Republican U.S. Senate hopeful Dan Sullivan in Alaska), the tea party firebrand still managed to record a message for the right-wing pastors in attendance.

Said Cruz:

Just this past week the mayor announced that they would withdraw the subpoenas of the pastors. Praise be to God! What an answer to prayer. By God's great and mighty hand, our faith once again remains free. But these threats are ever-present. They are coming from every direction and we must remain vigilant. If we speak with resounding voice and if we stand for religious liberty, the truth will prevail. Out of the rubble, we will restore the faith that is the rock of this nation.

Watch, AFTER THE JUMP...

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Gay Texas Teen Attacked After Being Lured by 'Friends' to Public Park: VIDEO

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Dylan Beard, a gay Houston teen, was ambushed and beaten in a planned hate crime by his peers, KHOU reports:

Dylan Beard says he lost his sense of security. His friends told him to meet him at Jenkins Park in Baytown, only to get jumped.

"It's tough being gay. It's tough. Because we are out of the norm I guess. They lured me indirectly. They had one of their friends, who I'm also friends with, tell me to come up there and they walked up and did it," said Beard.

Dylan says a girl started hitting him.

"Then two of her friends who are guys jumped in and they all started hitting me, got on the ground hit me and punched me," said Beard.

The teens posted the attack on Facebook, where Beard's mother saw it before he got home.

"His face was swelled, his nose was broken, he bit through his tongue, his bottom teeth were chipped, his knees were scabbed everywhere." said Jennifer Beard, the victim's mother.

KHOU reports that police are releasing very little information about the case except that the girl is facing an assault charge.

TeethThe Houston Chronicle reports that Beard was called a "faggot" and a "booty lover" by his attackers and an activist is calling for the FBI to step in:

The Baytown Police Department's lack of response to the assault prompted activist Quanell X to hold a press conference Thursday, claiming they have been negligent in the case by allegedly ignoring witnesses, refusing statements and openly insulting Beard, all because he is gay. They've also filed a hate crime complaint with the FBI.

"It doesn't make you a man, it doesn't make you a tough guy, it doesn't make you some real person to be proud of because you want to prey on a little kid because he's gay. Why don't you pick on somebody your own size? Why won't you pick on some men who you know will fight you back?" said the activist, gesturing to Beard's bruised eye and chipped tooth. "This little kid does not deserve to be treated like this. Whether you agree or disagree with his sexual orientation, or not, it does not give anyone the right to treat him like he's less than a human being and rob him of his human and civil rights."

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

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Houston Mayor Annise Parker Withdraws Subpoenas of Anti-gay Pastors

Following right-wing outrage, Houston Mayor Annise Parker announced yesterday that the city would be withdrawing its subpoenas sent to five local pastors for "all speeches, presentations, or sermons related to HERO, the Petition, Mayor Annise Parker, homosexuality, or gender identity prepared by, delivered by, revised by, or approved by you or in your possession."

ParkerThe Houston Chronicle reports:

Parker said she was persuaded, in part, by the demeanor of the clergymen she met with Tuesday, saying they were concerned not about the ordinance or politics but about the subpoenas' impact on the ongoing national discussion of religious freedoms.

"That was the most persuasive argument, because to me it was, 'What is the goal of the subpoenas?' The goal of the subpoenas is to defend against a lawsuit and not to provoke a public debate," Parker said. "I don't want to have a national debate about freedom of religion when my whole purpose is to defend a strong and wonderful and appropriate city ordinance against local attack."

Anti-gay conservatives, meanwhile, are rejoicing.

Said Erik Stanley, Senior Legal Counsel for the Alliance Defending Freedom:

“The mayor really had no choice but to withdraw these subpoenas, which should never have been served in the first place. The entire nation--voices from every point of the spectrum left to right--recognize the city's action as a gross abuse of power. We are gratified that the First Amendment rights of the pastors have triumphed over government overreach and intimidation. The First Amendment protects the right of pastors to be free from government intimidation and coercion of this sort."

PerkinsAdded FRC President Tony Perkins:

“Standing together across the nation, Christians have sent a strong message to Mayor Parker. While we are encouraged by this evidence that the Mayor is responding to pressure and withdrawing her unconstitutional subpoenas, this is about far more than subpoenas. As we have stated since the beginning of this intrusion into the private affairs of Houston churches; this is not about subpoenas, this is not about sermons, it is not even about biblical teaching on sexual immorality, it is about political intimidation and the bullying by Mayor Parker that continues.

Sunday's anti-gay extravaganza against Mayor Parker and her "radical agenda" is still expected to take place. 


Houston Mayor Annise Parker Meets With Clergymen Over Subpoena Of Church Records: VIDEO

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Houston Mayor Annise Parker met with clergymen from across the nation yesterday to discuss the city's subpoena of church records tied to Houston's recently passed Equal Rights Ordinance (HERO). KHOU reports:

The mayor juggled her schedule Tuesday afternoon to meet with the church leaders after they staged a news conference and prayed outside City Hall, but the meeting apparently didn't change any minds – at least, not yet.

"I don't think the mayor wanted to do the subpoenas," said Alexander Webster, a Russian Orthodox Church leader from Virginia who attended the meeting. "I think she is looking for a way to get out of the subpoenas and find a more positive, reconciling approach."

The clergymen described the meeting as cordial and took pictures with the mayor, but they were unsure about whether she would change her stance on the subpoenas.

"This is not a local Houston issue exclusively, but an affront to every church and pulpit in America," said Rev. Patrick Mahoney, a leader of the Christian Defense Coalition, which is organizing opposition to the subpoenas.

The subpoenas in question were issued after anti-gay activists sued Houston over its rejection of petition signatures intended to force a public referendum on HERO. City attorneys then subpoenaed local pastors tied to the lawsuit for "all speeches, presentations, or sermons related to HERO, the Petition, Mayor Annise Parker, homosexuality, or gender identity prepared by, delivered by, revised by, or approved by you or in your possession." This set off a firestorm among the religious right, drawing the ire of Ted Cruz, Mike Huckabee and Pat Roberston to name just a few. While Parker has stated that original subpoena was too broad and has since amended the subpoena not to include any mention of sermons, as KHOU notes, "the damage was already done" and the wingnuts had their spin in full swing.

Watch a video on Parker's meeting with the clergymen, AFTER THE JUMP...

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Anti-gay Forces Unite to Oppose Houston Mayor Annise Parker and the 'Radical Agenda' of LGBT Equality: VIDEO

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The right-wing freak out over subpoenas sent to Houston area pastors for "all speeches, presentations, or sermons related to HERO, the Petition, Mayor Annise Parker, homosexuality, or gender identity prepared by, delivered by, revised by, or approved by you or in your possession" is set to continue via live telecast next Sunday as anti-gay leaders and organizations from across the country join together to "stand with these pastors and stand against the radical agenda sweeping our nation."

Those participating in "I Stand Sunday" include would-be HGTV stars David and Jason Benham, Mike Huckabee, hate leader Tony Perkins, Duck Dynasty patriarch Phil Robertson, Rick Scarborough, Fox News' Todd Starnes, Christian litigation group Alliance Defending Freedom, National Organization for Marriage, and others. 

Watch a promo for the anti-gay extravaganza, AFTER THE JUMP...

Continue reading "Anti-gay Forces Unite to Oppose Houston Mayor Annise Parker and the 'Radical Agenda' of LGBT Equality: VIDEO" »


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