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Fort Worth Will Recognize Same-Sex Marriages, Causing Gay Officer To Choke Up On Camera: VIDEO

Knight

Fort Worth will begin recognizing same-sex marriages on Feb. 1. The city announced Wednesday it is extending spousal benefits to same-sex couples who are legally married in other states. 

The city already offers health insurance to same-sex partners, but the decision to begin treating them as spouses will extend equal benefits to other areas, including pension plans. It will also bring the city into line with IRS rules issued in the wake of the U.S. Supreme Court's decision in Windsor v. United States.

From the city's employee newsletter

The City of Fort Worth will be extending spousal benefits to same-sex couples beginning Feb. 1, 2015.

This change will allow the city to follow the IRS's definition of "spouse" as defined for federal income taxes in the granting of survivor benefits.

Since the city's retirement ordinance does not specifically define "spouse," surviving spouses in a same-sex marriage will be eligible for survivor benefits if the survivor can prove, through documentation, that they were legally married to the employee/retiree in a state where same-sex marriage is legally recognized.

The news drew an emotional reaction from out lesbian police Cpl. Tracey Knight. From WFAA-TV

"When I got the news last night," she said, pausing, tears in her eyes... "When I got the news last night, it was very emotional. ...

"I told my wife and we burst into tears," said Knight, who serves as the department's LGBT liaison. "We're like any other family. And God forbid if I'm ever killed in the line of duty, I want her and our child to be taken care of."

The WFAA report goes on to mention that Fort Worth has made great strides on LGBT equality since the police department's infamous raid of the Rainbow Lounge gay bar in 2009. The department is also actively recruiting gay officers, and several employees recently appeared in a TV ad supporting marriage equality. 

While numerous other cities in Texas offer benefits to same-sex partners, it is believed that only one — Houston — has done so by recognizing out-of-state same-sex marriages.

That decision from out lesbian Houston Mayor Annise Parker, which was designed to get around a city charter amendment prohibiting domestic partner benefits, prompted a lawsuit from anti-gay Republican activists. 

The lawsuit alleges that Parker's decision violated Texas' ban on same-sex marriage. The lawsuit is on hold, and the Houston same-sex benefits remain in effect, pending the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals' ruling in a federal lawsuit challenging the the marriage ban. 

However, it wouldn't be the least bit surprising to see anti-gay activists — or perhaps the Republican attorney general's office — similarly challenge Fort Worth's decision. 

Watch WFAA-TV's report, AFTER THE JUMP ... 

Continue reading "Fort Worth Will Recognize Same-Sex Marriages, Causing Gay Officer To Choke Up On Camera: VIDEO" »


Anti-LGBT Groups Vow To 'Fight To The Legal Death' As Trial Begins Over Houston Equal Rights Ordinance: VIDEO

Welch

Allegations of fraud and forgery took center stage as a trial over Houston's Equal Rights Ordinance began this week, according to a report from The Houston Chronicle.

After the council approved the ordinance in May, anti-LGBT groups said they turned in more than 30,000 signatures on a petition to repeal it. However, city officials rejected the petition, saying it had only 16,500 valid signatures, fewer than the 17,269 needed to force the City Council to repeal the ordinance or place it on the ballot.

That prompted a lawsuit from opponents of the ordinance, led by former Republican Party Chair Jared Woodfill and Texas Pastor Council Executive Director Dave Welch (above). In court documents, the city has accused the anti-LGBT groups of fraud, forgery and other dishonest tactics in gathering signatures. From the Chronicle

TaylorAttorneys for the city of Houston signaled in court Tuesday they intend to prove rampant fraud in a petition drive led by opponents of the equal rights ordinance who hope to force a repeal referendum. ...

In his opening argument in court Tuesday, Alex Kaplan, an attorney for the city, said the petition is "full of problems." ...

Andy Taylor (right), attorney for the plaintiffs, said any claims of fraud were untrue and the city's argument is "laughable." He said "well-intentioned voters from time to time didn't follow all the rules" but there was no fraud. 

"They're talking about ticky tacky deficiencies like we're missing a comma or our signatures are hard to read," Taylor said. "Give me a break. Did our forefathers die in battle so that commas could prevent their children from voting." 

Taylor told My Fox Houston that his clients will "fight to the legal death" to repeal the ordinance. And while the trial is focused on technical issues as opposed to the merits of the ordinance, Taylor's legal representation appears severely tainted by his bigotry. From My Fox Houston: 

"Why in the world would we create a law that confers special rights on men who just want to pretend they are women so they can go into female restrooms in Houston and take advantage of young girls?” asks Taylor. ...

Taylor claims this case is going to trial not because of an invalid petition but because Mayor Parker doesn't want the issue on the ballot.

“She just told her lawyers kill this thing. Smother this thing in the crib because she doesn't want voters to have a chance to pass on the lunacy of this bathroom ordinance. Well her day off reckoning is about to come," Taylor says. "We are very confident the jury, after it hears all the evidence, is going to say one thing, mayor you got it wrong. Let the people vote."

The city's lead attorney, Geoffrey Harrison, told Click2Houston.com that the people have already voted:

"The people elected Mayor Annise Parker and elected the members of City Council who voted for this ordinance."

The trial could last two months as jurors go over more than 5,000 pages of signatures to determine how many are valid. 

Watch reports from My Fox Houston and Click2Houston.com, AFTER THE JUMP ... 

Continue reading "Anti-LGBT Groups Vow To 'Fight To The Legal Death' As Trial Begins Over Houston Equal Rights Ordinance: VIDEO" »


Anti-Gay Texas Lawmaker Wants To Undo LGBT Protections — Along With Most Other City Ordinances

Huffines

Perhaps not wanting to be outdone by Oklahoma, a Texas Republican lawmaker has filed the fourth anti-LGBT bill of the state's 2015 legislative session. While Oklahoma leads the way with eight anti-LGBT bills, Texas still has several weeks before its filing deadline.   

The latest Texas proposal, SB 343 from Sen. Don Huffines (above and below), isn't anti-LGBT on its face, but among its effects would be prohibiting cities from implementing nondiscrimination ordinances protecting gay and transgender people. These ordinances have become rather unpopular among Texas Republicans of late, as evidenced by a series of repeal petitions and "license to discriminate" measures.

Huffines2But Huffines appears to be taking a somewhat novel approach. The Texas Observer reports that Huffines' bill would bar local governments from implementing ordinances that are more stringent than state law on the same subject, unless otherwise authorized by statute. In other words, since Texas doesn't have statewide LGBT protections, cities wouldn't be allowed to have them, either. 

Huffines hasn't elaborated on his reasons for filing the bill, so it's unclear whether his prime target is LGBT nondiscrimination ordinances. If so, he's certainly willing to inflict a lot of collateral damage in a creative effort to skirt Romer v. Evans.

However, it's also possible that Huffines is targeting other municipal laws that have drawn the ire of Texas Republicans — including restrictions on tree-cutting, fracking and plastic bags. Or, maybe Huffines just hates the whole idea of cities, despite the conservative principle of local control.   

But regardless of Huffines' motives, if his past statements are any indication, he wouldn't be sorry to see LGBT protections go. Huffines is a tea partier who ousted one of the few gay-friendly Republican legislators in Texas in last year's primary, and when the Boy Scouts lifted their ban on gay youth, he was none too happy about it. 

“I think it was a big mistake what the BSA did,” Huffines said at the time. “They can’t be trusted not to open the door for more infiltration from the gay agenda. Eventually we’ll have gay Scouts and gay Scoutmasters and gay troops. They’ll keep coming until their mission is fulfilled.”

Equality Texas issued the following statement on Huffines' bill: 

"Local elected officials are in the best position to know the best solutions to local problems.

"Since 1909, the State of Texas has granted cities with a population of greater than 5,000 broad discretion to make local decisions under the 'home-rule charter city' provision of the state constitution . This bill would be a significant change to over a century of Texas tradition.

"In addition to non-discrimination ordinances, any other local ordinance that deals with a subject covered by state law could be affected, including: plastic bag use, tree ordinances, fracking bans, land use restrictions, sight line and building height restrictions.

"The 31% of Texans who live in cities with some level of protections based, not only on sexual orientation and gender identity or expression, but on as race, sex, color, ethnicity, national origin, age, familial status, marital status, military status, disability, religion, pregnancy, genetic information and student status deserve the ability to keep their locally adopted ordinances."


Transgender Woman Found Shot To Death In East Texas; Roommate Suspects Hate Crime

Underwood

A 24-year-old transgender woman was found shot to death inside her car early Monday in East Texas, and her roommate believes her murder was a hate crime. 

Ty Lee Underwood, 24, suffered multiple gunshot wounds and reportedly tried to flee her attacker before crashing on a residential street in Tyler, Texas, shortly before 3 a.m. 

From KYTX 19:

“She was lovely, just a lovely person. Very real, down to earth person who didn't deserve this, did not deserve this at all,” Underwood's roommate Coy Simmons said.

A woman called 911 saying a car had hit a telephone pole and that her children heard gunshots. Underwood's roommate believes Underwood was targeted because she is a transgender person.

“This has to be a hate crime, this has to be a hate crime, nothing else because that was an upstanding person with a good heart,” Simmons said.

Other local news reports and police misgendered Underwood, who had recently been accepted to nursing school in nearby Longview. From KLTV 7

Authorities say Underwood was in or near his car when he was shot early Monday morning.

“They said that she had been shot three times and that she was trying to get away,” says Kenya Darks, another one of Underwood's friends.

“Apparently after he was shot, he drove off, didn't go far, hit several curbs, and knocked a mirror off,” says Andy Erbaugh of the Tyler Police Department.

“The rim was busted and stuff like that. They were asking me if I knew who could have done it. I said no,” says Darks.

Friends say they can't image who would want to hurt him.

“She's a fan favorite. Everybody likes Ty,” says Darks.

Police are offering a $1,000 reward for information leading to an arrest. 

Watch reports from KTXY and KLTV, AFTER THE JUMP ... 

Continue reading "Transgender Woman Found Shot To Death In East Texas; Roommate Suspects Hate Crime" »


Hunky Theatre Arts Teacher Inspires Entire High School To Show Off Their 'Uptown Funk': VIDEO

Untitled-3

Whether you're in Harlem, Hollywood or Jackson, Mississippi this performance of Mark Ronson and Bruno Mars' "Uptown Funk" is sure to rouse you. The video comes from Dallas' A. Maceo Smith New Tech High School and the school's theatre arts teacher Scot Pankey. Said one student who participated in making the video, "This is a great example of how a bunch of technology students let go of their fears, trusted their teacher and got down to Uptown Funk!!!"

Let Mr. Pankey and the students of A. Maceo New Tech High uptown funk you up, AFTER THE JUMP...

Continue reading "Hunky Theatre Arts Teacher Inspires Entire High School To Show Off Their 'Uptown Funk': VIDEO " »


Saks Fifth Avenue Is No Longer Claiming It Has A Right To Discriminate Against Transgender Workers

Jamal.Leyth

After weeks of pressure from LGBT groups, Saks Fifth Avenue has withdrawn a court filing in which the department store chain alleged it has a right to discriminate against transgender workers. 

BuzzFeed reports that attorneys for Saks on Monday withdrew their motion to dismiss a lawsuit filed by Leyth Jamal (above), a transgender woman who worked at the company's Houston Galleria store. 

Jamal sued Saks for wrongful termination based on sex in violation of Title VII of the federal Civil Rights Act of 1964, in addition to a hostile work environment, retaliation and breach of contract. 

In their motion to dismiss, attorneys for Saks shockingly alleged that transgender workers aren't protected against discrimination under Title VII — despite findings to the contrary from both the federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission and US Attorney General Eric Holder. 

Attorneys for Saks also misgendered Jamal and argued that Saks isn't bound by the nondiscrimination policy in its employee handbook, which includes gender identity. 

In response to Saks' filings, the Human Rights Campaign suspended the company's score of 90 on the Corporate Equality Index. HRC also joined the National Center for Lesbian Rights in filing a brief in Jamal's case supporting her claim under Title VII. Meanwhile, New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman launched an investigation into Saks' transgender-related employment practices in the Empire State. 

Saks finally relented, and in withdrawing their motion to dismiss, the company's attorneys wrote: 

“Saks is confident that, as this matter proceeds, the facts will demonstrate that Plaintiff’s allegations are wholly without merit, that Saks did not discriminate against Plaintiff, and that Saks’ policies and procedures are effective in ensuring an inclusive and diverse workplace free of discrimination and harassment."

Also Monday, the Department of Justice filed a Statement of Interest in the case supporting Jamal's claim under Title VII, BuzzFeed reports. 

It will be interesting to see how Jamal's case plays out from here, but it's already had a lasting impact. If nothing else, it's doubtful we'll see too many more major corporations with a record of support for the LGBT community claiming Title VII doesn't protect transgender workers. 


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