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Army Vet Gets 10 Years Probation For Brutal Attack On Two Gay Men In Downtown Austin: VIDEO


An Army veteran will serve 10 years of probation for brutally assaulting two gay men on Pride weekend in downtown Austin in 2012. 

Lambert Borgardt (right), who pleaded guilty Wednesday to aggravated assault, must also complete 200 hours of community service. Borgardt faces trial on a second count of assault in connection with the attack next year. 

Andrew Oppleman (above) and his friend, Nick Soret, were in line at a pizza truck near Austin's gay entertainment district on Sept. 21, 2012, when Borgadt reportedly thought Soret was checking him out. Borgardt became enraged and punched both men in the face. 

BorgadtOppleman lost nine teeth in the attack, which was captured on surveillance video, and Soret suffered a broken nose. Oppleman and Soret told police they felt they were targeted due to their sexual orientation, but the case wasn't prosecuted as an anti-gay hate crime.  

In court on Wednesday, Borgardt apologized for the attack, according to a report from KXAN-TV

“I apologize from the bottom of my heart, and I’ll do whatever it takes, whatever I can, whatever can work to pay you guys back for that,” said Borgardt.

However, Oppleman told KVUE-TV he doesn't believe Borgardt's apology was sincere: 

"The only part of closure I feel may not be complete is the perpetrator, Lambert Bogardt, his lack of showing true remorse for what he did, but more remorse for the predicament and the situation he's in," said Oppleman.

Borgardt's attorney, Bill Hines, said post-traumatic stress disorder could have been a factor in the attack:

“We’re pleased that the judge did the difficult work of balancing the really serious injuries with the incredible lifetime of honor and service [Borgardt] had in the military,” said Hines.

The Austin LGBT community held a march against hate crimes in response to the attack, and a local dentist provided Oppelman with free reconstructive surgery. 

Watch the reports from KVUE-TV and KXAN-TV (which includes the surveillance video), AFTER THE JUMP ...

Continue reading "Army Vet Gets 10 Years Probation For Brutal Attack On Two Gay Men In Downtown Austin: VIDEO" »

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


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


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.

Employees At San Antonio Gay Bar Brutally Attacked In Apparent Hate Crime: VIDEO


Two employees at a popular San Antonio gay bar were brutally attacked in an apparent hate crime as they left work early Wednesday. 

SaintDaniel Ramos, an employee at the Saint Nightclub, said two men pulled up in a black Silverado and asked for jumper cables. When Ramos' co-worker turned his back to look for the jumper cables, the men attacked him. From Fox 29

"Random guys asking for our help, we were willing to help them, but then all of a sudden, it was an attack,” Ramos said.

He said the guys started punching his friend.

"I heard the commotion and went around to try to help, got hit in the face by the second guy,” Ramos explained. “Fortunately, I only got hit once. Nothing as extreme as my friend."

The friend did not want to be identified, but he told us the attackers yelled gay slurs while they pounded on them. Ramos believes his sexual orientation is the reason behind the beating.

Ramos suffered a gash below his left eye, and his co-worker reportedly was admitted to a trauma unit. 

The attack was caught on surveillance video, but the suspects are still at large and San Antonio police haven't indicated whether they're treating the incident as an anti-gay hate crime: 

"I come to work thinking that it's a gay establishment, I'm a gay individual, my boss is gay, I'm supposed to feel safe,” Ramos said. ... 

"I've never, never been assaulted this way,” he said. “Stuff like this really needs to stop. It really does."

Watch Fox 29's report, AFTER THE JUMP ...

Continue reading "Employees At San Antonio Gay Bar Brutally Attacked In Apparent Hate Crime: VIDEO" »

Bills Aim To Overturn Anti-Gay Texas Law That Punishes Children For Having Same-Sex Parents


The founders of a popular support network for gay dads are taking on a Texas law that prohibits them from having both of their names on their son's birth certificate. 

Austinites Andy Miller and Brian Stephens (above and below), founders of The Handsome Father, say the law is "mean-spirited" because it punishes their son, 7-year-old Clark, for something over which he has no control. From The Texas Observer

“As he got older, it became less about us and it became more about him,” Miller said. “This is his document that he’ll carry with him the rest of his life, and it very clearly only lists half of his family on it, and that’s when we kind of became angry and said the state is treating our son differently because of who his parents are, not because of anything he has done or hasn’t done. This needs to change because of our kids. The state is basically targeting them for unequal treatment.”

Acting in the name of "conservative values," the Texas Legislature decided in 1997 to require supplemental birth certificates issued to adoptive parents to have the name of one man and one woman. Texas is one of a handful of states with similar laws, and marriage equality won't solve the problem. 

On Wednesday, lawmakers in the state House and Senate introduced bills to overturn the law. State Rep. Rafael Anchia, D-Dallas, told the Observer

“I think if you asked every member of the Legislature, they would say they care about orphaned children, and if we can get them to understand that this bill is about children and not about who their parents are, then that should carry the day. There’s no doubt that this policy has cruel effects.”

Daniel Williams, legislative specialist for Equality Texas, called the law "the lowest form of politics possible — if you don’t like someone, attack their children.”

A few years ago, Lambda Legal challenged a similar law in Louisiaina, but lost the case when the U.S. Supreme Court declined to hear it

Equality Texas is calling on people to contact their legislators in suport of the bills.  



Texas Gets 1st Openly Gay Federal Judge Thanks to Anti-Gay GOP Senators John Cornyn, Ted Cruz


Thanks to the support of two rabidly anti-LGBT senators, Texas is getting its first openly gay federal judge. 

The Senate on Tuesday night confirmed Robert Pitman to fill a San Antonio seat that's been vacant for more than six years. 

President Barack Obama in June nominated Pitman, who was backed by Cornyn and Cruz, both members of the Senate Judiciary Committee. Cruz also inadvertently aided Pitman's confirmation when he forced the Senate into session last weekend. 

Pitman will become one of about 10 openly LGBT federal judges in the US. When Obama took office, there was only one.

Eric Lesh, fair courts project manager at Lambda Legal, said in a statement responding to Pitman's confirmation: 

“For the judicial system in the United States to be truly fair, it must reflect the tremendous diversity of the country. President Obama has made great strides in promoting and ensuring that diversity with his nominations of people of color and of openly gay and lesbian individuals to the federal bench. We celebrate the confirmation of Judge Pitman, which brings welcome diversity to the federal bench in Texas while simultaneously filling a seat that had been vacant for more than six years.

"While great progress has been made to bring diversity to the courts, we still have a long way to go. There are nearly 900 federal judges in the U.S., and most are straight white men. Federal courts are charged with providing everyone with equal access to justice, and yet justice has not always been a reality for some. A judiciary diverse in race, ethnicity, gender identity and expression, sexual orientation and lived and professional experience serves not only to improve the quality of justice, but to boost public confidence in the courts."

Pitman is a Fort Worth native who attended Abilene Christian University and earned his law degree from the University of Texas. He currently serves as U.S. attorney for the Western District of Texas. 

When Pitman was first recommended for U.S. attorney by Cornyn and former Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison in 2009, the pick riled some fellow Republicans, but Cornyn stood behind it.

“A person’s sexuality has no bearing on his qualifications for a job. … It’s just not even remotely considered,” Cornyn spokesman Keven McLaughlin said at the time. 

Based on that statement, one might think Cornyn would be a supporter of the Employment Non-Discrimination Act, but he voted against it last year and received a zero on the Human Rights Campaign's most recent Congressional Scorecard


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