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Lambda Legal: TX Governor-elect Greg Abbott Must Stop 'Horrific Violence and Sexual Abuse' Affecting LGBT Prisoners

Passionhz

When transgender inmate Passion Star appealed to Texas prison 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, according to Lambda Legal. Even after the attack, prison officials refused to move Star, who identifies as female, to protect her from violence in the general population.

Lambda Legal filed a federal lawsuit on behalf of Star in October, accusing the Texas Department of Criminal Justice of deliberate indifference to threats of sexual assault and violence against Ms. Star in TDCJ’s male facilities. 

AbbottNow, the LGBT civil rights group has launched a petition calling on Republican Gov.-elect Greg Abbott, who takes office in January, to comply with the federal Prison Rape Elimination Act. 

From Lambda Legal: 

Texas is one of only seven states that has refused to comply with PREA. Texas is also home to five of the 10 prisons with the highest rates of reported rapes in the country, as documented in a 2013 report by the U.S. Department of Justice’s Bureau of Justice Statistics. It is widely understood that sexual violence in custody disproportionately affects lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) inmates.

“Gov. (Rick) Perry has refused to comply with PREA, and Texas is among the states leading the nation in rates of reported rapes in its prisons. Governor-elect Abbott needs to fix this mistake and implement PREA,” Lambda Legal Staff Attorney Jael Humphrey said. “While Texas fiddles, LGBT inmates like Passion Star endure horrific violence and sexual abuse.”

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. JDI says Texas is home to more facilities with high levels of inmate-on-inmate sexual abuse than any other state. The group also says it receives more letters from survivors of sexual abuse in Texas prisons than from any other state.

In filing its lawsuit on behalf of Star, Lambda Legal alleges she has been raped, forced to submit to undesired sexual acts to escape violence, and threatened with sexual assault. Star has filed dozens of grievances, complaints and requests to be placed in safekeeping, but instead of taking measures to protect her, TDCJ officials have told her to “suck dick,” “fight” or to stop “acting gay” if she doesn't want to be assaulted: 

“Somebody, somehow, needs to shed light on what is taking place here in Texas prisons,” Star said in a written statement. “TDCJ officials get away with so much and disregard so many legitimate threats to people’s safety. It needs to stop somewhere. I fight for my life every day in here. Safety from rape and assault is not a privilege; it’s a right. I hope that this lawsuit will help make sure this doesn’t happen to anyone else.”

To sign Lambda Legal's petition, which will be delivered to Abbott once he takes office, go here.  


LGBT Advocates Cry Foul After Texas Leases 222 Acres To Anti-Gay Boy Scouts Of America For Nominal Fee

Perry

LGBT advocates in El Paso are objecting to the state of Texas' decision to lease a large tract of land to the Boy Scouts of America for a nominal amount.

The Texas Transportation Commission approved a 25-year lease Thursday for 222 acres in El Paso that reportedly will be the site of one of the Boy Scouts' largest urban camps. 

The Boy Scouts of America, based in Irving, Texas, lifted a ban on gay youth last year but retained a ban on gay adult leaders. 

The El Paso Times reports:  

The state is waiving a requirement that it seek fair-market value for the property "for social mitigation purposes."

It's not appropriate to give such public resources to an organization that does not allow gay men to serve as scoutmasters, said Skip Rosenthal, executive director of the group International AIDS Empowerment of El Paso and Las Cruces.

"Our city should be opposing this," Rosenthal said. "We should not be giving government perks to an organization that discriminates against gay men."

Rosenthal is calling on the city of El Paso, which has an ordinance prohibiting anti-LGBT discrimination, to pass a resolution opposing the lease. 

Texas has no state law that prohibits it from entering contracts with organizations that discriminate against gays.

Republican Texas Gov. Rick Perry (above), who appoints members of the Transportation Commission, is an Eagle Scout who published a book about the Boy Scouts in 2008 in which he compared homosexuality to alcoholism. 

Of course, the irony of the Boy Scouts' ban on gay adult leaders is that the organization has been covering up sex abuse by Scoutmasters for nearly a century. 

This week, a jury in Connecticut found the Boy Scouts negligent and awarded $7 million to a man who was sexually abused by a Scoutmaster in the 1970s. It was the largest compensatory damages verdict ever against the Boy Scouts. 

The Connecticut Post reports: 

During the trial, the plaintiff's attorneys introduced evidence that the Boy Scouts of America knew for decades before the 1970s that child sexual abuse was widespread in Boy Scout troop activities across the country. Witnesses in the trial said the Boy Scouts maintained thousands of secret cases it called "the Confidential Files," dating to the early 1920s. The files were held in locked cabinets in the Boy Scouts national headquarters in Dallas, according to the attorneys.

Rather than using the information to inform and educate local troop leaders, parents and Scouts about the existence of sexual abuse, the plaintiff claimed, the Boy Scouts hid the information, partly out of concern for protecting the Boy Scouts' all-American image.


The Right Enemies: A Look Back at Right-Wing Attacks on Eric Holder

Holder resignation

BY LAYNE AMERIKANER

Attorney General Eric Holder, who this week announced his plans to resign, has been a leader in addressing systems of racial discrimination and protecting the fundamental rights of every American to be treated equally under the law and participate in our democracy.

Perhaps it’s not surprising, then, that the Right loves to hate him.

Tim HuelskampIn February of this year, the American Family Association demanded Holder’s impeachment after he had the audacity to treat married same-sex couples like married opposite-sex couples with regard to a host of legal rights and recognitions. Shortly after, both Faith and Freedom Coalition head Ralph Reed and Republican Rep. Tim Huelskamp [pictured right] echoed the call for Holder’s impeachment because of his support for marriage equality. Televangelist Pat Robertson also joined the impeachment parade, alleging that under Holder, “sodomy” was being “elevated above the rights of religious believers.”

Holder’s commitment to redressing racial injustice was no more warmly received by the Right than his work in support of LGBT equality. After Holder spoke out against voter ID laws, which disproportionately harm people of color, Texas Gov. Rick Perry accused him of “purposefully” “incit[ing] racial tension.” Gun Owners of America director Larry Pratt argued that Holder’s open discussion of racial discrimination in the criminal justice system means that he is the real “racist,” asserting last year that Holder wants to “intimidate the rest of the country so that we don’t think about defending ourselves” against “attacks by black mobs on white individuals.” Bryan Fischer of the American Family Association went so far as to say that Holder would never “prosecute someone if the victim is white.” And after Holder visited Ferguson, Missouri last month, David Horowitz outrageously commented that the attorney general was leading a black “lynch mob.”

And those are just a handful of the attacks the Right has leveled against Holder for his work protecting equality under the law.

The fact that the far Right has reacted with so much vitriol to the attorney general’s leadership is a sign not only of how uninterested they are in the civil rights that the Justice Department is meant to protect, but also of how effective Holder’s work has been. The next attorney general should share Holder’s deep commitment to protecting the rights of all Americans – and, by extension, make all the “right” enemies among those hoping to turn back the clock on civil liberties.

This post originally appeared on People For the American Way's blog.

This post originally appeared on the PFAW blog.

Southern Baptist Pastor: Gays Should Be Put To Death, God Can Cure Homosexuality - VIDEO

Robert Gallaty

Robert Gallaty, a pastor at a Southern Baptist church near Chattanooga, Tennessee, said in a sermon last week that god wants LGBT people to be put to death, reports The Raw Story.

In the hour-long sermon, Gallaty also claimed that although Christians have repented for racism, they will never repent for homophobia because African-American people cannot change the color of their skin.

Said Gallaty:

“A black man can’t change his race, a white man can’t change his race, a homosexual can stop engaging in homosexual acts. See, sexuality is a choice. Gender and race are not.”

Explaining the biblical basis for the death penalty, he said:

“God said that the sins of the people had infected the very land in which they live. So what happens to people who engage in this activity, this sexual immoral activity? Go to Leviticus 20, god gives us the punishment for engaging in these sins… ‘If a man sleeps with a man as with a woman, they have both committed a detestable thing. They must be put to death. And their blood is on their own hands.’”

Comparing homosexuality to addiction, he said that same-sex attractions is “the same desire I had to get high and score dope years ago.”

Gallaty also suggested that God is active in the “ex-gay” movement, claiming he told a gay member of his congregation that he “may have to remain single for the rest of your life...the cool thing is this: God, over time, will heal you.”

Back in June, Rick Perry made a similar claim when he said that a homosexual deciding not to be gay is the same as an alcoholic choosing to not have a drink.

Watch the full sermon and the edited highlights, AFTER THE JUMP...

Continue reading "Southern Baptist Pastor: Gays Should Be Put To Death, God Can Cure Homosexuality - VIDEO" »


Texas Governor Rick Perry Indicted On Felony Charges of Coercion and Abuse of Official Capacity

Perry

In a move that might complicate Rick Perry's 2016 presidential ambitions, a grand jury in Texas has just indicted the long-time governor on two charges related to his effort last year to force District Attorney Rosemary Lehmberg to resign after her drunken driving arrest. 

LehmbergLehmberg [pictured], the first woman and first openly gay District Attorney in Travis County, runs the state’s Public Integrity Unit (PIU) which is charged with investigating wrongdoing by state officials. After her arrest and guilty plea for a drunk driving incident in April 2013, Perry called on her to resign and threatened to withhold $7.2 million in state money from the PIU if she refused.

Lehmberg refused and Perry carried through with his veto threat. The two felony charges, abuse of official capacity and coercion of a public official, stem from this.

The AP reports:

Several top aides to the Republican governor appeared before grand jurors in Austin, including his deputy chief of staff, legislative director and general counsel. Perry himself did not testify, though.

Grand jurors indicted Perry on abuse of official capacity, a first-degree felony with potential punishments of five to 99 years in prison, and coercion of a public servant, a third-degree felony that carries a punishment of two to 10 years. [...]

"I took into account the fact that we're talking about a governor of a state — and a governor of the state of Texas, which we all love," said Michael McCrum, the San Antonio-based special prosecutor. "Obviously that carries a lot of importance. But when it gets down to it, the law is the law."

The Austin-American Statesman continues:

Lehmberg supporters said Perry’s actions constituted political retribution; Many Republicans have said the Public Integrity Unit has unfairly targeted their party for prosecutions. The Travis County District Attorney’s office has for decades been led by Democrats, including Lehmberg.

As head of the PIU, Lehmberg was credited in 2010 with convicting U.S. House Republican Majority Leader Tom DeLay for money laundering. Had Lehmberg resigned after her arrest and conviction, Perry would have been able to name her replacement, likely a Republican.   

Austin's KXAN adds that an indictment indicates the grand jury believes the state has a strong enough case to send to trial and is not an admission of guilt. McCrum told reporters he plans to meet with Perry's attorneys on Monday.


President Obama Fist Bumps Gay Comedian in Texas

By night, Daniel Rugg Webb is an aspiring comedian based out of Austin, Texas. By day, he’s a cashier at Franklin Barbecue: the same Franklin Barbecue President Obama dropped by last Thursday as a part of his brief tour through Texas.

"If Rick Perry would've walked in, I would have lost my job. Webb told the Austin Chronicle. “I would've taken that old queen to town."

Fist_obamaInstead, Webb met face to face with the President, and, ever the performer, still managed to find a choice set of words, as he recounted to Buzzfeed:

“Equal rights for gay people!” he exclaimed.

Obama reacted without missing a beat. “Are you gay?”

Taken aback by the directness of the question, he said, Webb responded, “Only when I’m having sex!”

The president laughed, then, realizing there was a group of children near the two, said, “Not in front of the kids!”

Webb, more than mere taking the opportunity to banter with the Commander-in-Chief, saw the exchange as a chance to take a pointed stand against current governor Rick Perry.

“We are an anti-gay state. We are a state with a whole bunch of hungry children and sick old people, and [Rick Perry is] grandstanding on things that will get him a better election,” Webb explained. “I would like to see Rick Perry negatively influenced by any kind of attention. Even Obama laughing at something as, hopefully, acceptable as sexuality can show the difference.”

Watch a clip of Webb’s standup at the Austin Encyclopedia Show AFTER THE JUMP...

Continue reading "President Obama Fist Bumps Gay Comedian in Texas" »


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