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Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott Fights To Keep Stay on Pro-Marriage Equality Ruling In Place

6a00d8341c730253ef01b8d09a4e63970c-800wiTexas Attorney General Greg Abbott (right) implored a federal judge Tuesday not to lift his stay of a February ruling striking down the state's marriage bans. 

However, experts said they believe it's likely U.S. District Judge Orlando L. Garcia will lift the stay. It's unclear, though, whether such a decision would allow marriages to begin immediately in the Lone Star State. 

On Monday, attorneys for two same-sex couples filed a motion asking Garcia to lift the stay, which he put in place pending the state's appeal of his decision in DeLeon v. Perry

Abbott filed his response to the motion Tuesday. 

"The judge could decide something very soon," said Neel Lane of Akin Gump in San Antonio, which is representing the same-sex couples. "I think there's a good chance he'll lift the stay." 

Ken Upton, Dallas-based senior counsel for Lambda Legal, agreed. 

"Garcia will probably grant it," said Upton, who's not involved in the case. "It's a good motion." 

Abbott's office didn't immediately respond to a request for comment. 

Both Lane and Upton said if Garcia lifts the stay, it's possible he would allow time for Abbott to appeal the decision to the 5th U.S. Circuit Court before it takes effect. But if Garcia decides to make the decision effective immediately, same-sex couples could begin applying for marriage licenses. 

6a00d8341c730253ef01b8d09a4e37970c-800wiTexas has a 72-hour waiting period before marriages can occur, but the waiting period can be waived by any judge. 

In asking Garcia to lift the stay, attorneys for the couples argued that the basis for it is no longer valid, since the U.S. Supreme Court has declined to review rulings striking down marriages bans from four federal appeals courts. 

But in his response, Abbott argued that the plaintiffs "misread the Supreme Court tea leaves" — arguing that the high court has never stopped a state from enforcing a marriage ban before the issue was considered by an appeals court. 

In their motion, the plaintiffs' attorneys said the stay should be lifted because, for example, one of them is pregnant and if something were to happen to her before their marriage is recognized, it could affect her partner's legal rights to care for the child. But Abbott callously rejected that argument. 

"These alleged harms are speculative; they are contingent on death or incapacity of one of the parties, but the plaintiffs do not allege any threat or expectation that these potential tragedies will befall them," Abbott wrote.

If Garcia lifts the stay, Abbott could appeal the decision to the 5th Circuit, where a three-judge panel would have to decide whether to allow same-sex marriages in Texas pending oral arguments in the case on Jan. 9. 

"You don't get a stay unless the court concludes there's a likelihood you'll prevail," Lane said. 

If the 5th Circuit were to impose a stay, Lane said he would consider appealing that decision to the U.S. Supreme Court. 

"That's several steps down the road," he said. 

Texas is one of 15 states where same-sex couples cannot marry. The Lone Star State is home to 46,401 same-sex couples, according to the Williams Institute, more than any state except California or New York. 

Also Tuesday, a federal judge struck down Mississippi's marriage ban, but stayed the decision for 14 days to allow the state to appeal to the 5th Circuit.  

Read the state of Texas' motion asking Garcia not to lift the stay, AFTER THE JUMP ... 

Continue reading "Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott Fights To Keep Stay on Pro-Marriage Equality Ruling In Place" »

Arizona Lesbian Couple Nelda Majors, Karen Bailey Marry After 57 Years Together: VIDEO


When they met in their college dorm in Texas in 1957, Nelda Majors and Karen Bailey never dreamed of telling anyone they were gay — let alone getting married. 

In fact, Majors and Bailey didn't come out publicly until they'd been together for 50 years — when they were inadvertently outed by lesbian Houston City Councilwoman Sue Lovell during an inauguration ceremony. 

After almost 57 years together, Majors and Bailey finally celebrated their marriage at the Orpheum Theater in downtown Phoenix on Sunday.

Majors and Bailey, who have two daughters, spent most of their lives in Houston, but retired to Arizona.  

They were among the plaintiffs in a federal lawsuit challenging Arizona's marriage bans, which were struck down in October. They also were among the first couples to receive marriage licenses

Majors and Bailey invited the public to the ceremony on Sunday, and hundreds showed up. 

From AZfamiliy.com

"They feel that 56 and a half years together is a long engagement, but today they now have 1,134 federal laws on their side to protect their relationship," the officiant said. … 

"Oh it's much more than what we envisioned," Bailey said. "I don't think we could have ever imagined the people that have helped us, the vendors that have helped us. Our wedding assistant was unbelievable and we could have never imagined that it would be as wonderful as it's been."

Watch the report, along with a 2012 video of the couple talking about their relationship, AFTER THE JUMP ... 

Continue reading "Arizona Lesbian Couple Nelda Majors, Karen Bailey Marry After 57 Years Together: VIDEO" »

Gay Couples Ask Texas Judge To Allow Same-Sex Marriages To Begin Immediately


Attorneys for two same-sex couples are asking a federal district judge to lift his stay of a February ruling striking down Texas' marriage bans. 

If U.S. District Judge Orlando L. Garcia agrees to lift the stay, it could allow same-sex marriages to begin in Texas immediately. 

In a motion filed Monday morning, attorneys for the couples argue that the basis for the stay is no longer valid, since the U.S. Supreme Court has declined to review rulings striking down marriages bans from four federal appeals courts. 

Garcia struck down Texas' marriage bans in February but stayed his decision pending the state's appeal to the 5th U.S. Circuit Court in New Orleans, which has scheduled oral arguments for Jan. 9.  

"With the upcoming Thanksgiving and Christmas Holidays, it would be wonderful to see same-sex couples marry before the end of the year," plaintiff Cleopatra DeLeon said in a statement Monday. "We are hopeful Judge Garcia will lift the stay. With recent events that have legalized gay marriage across the nation, the time for equality for all is now." 

Attorney Neel Lane of Akin Gump, which is representing the couples, noted that two-thirds of U.S. citizens now live in states where same-sex marriage is legal.  

"Our fellow Texans are entitled to enjoy the same right," Lane said. "Not some day in the future, but right now, today." 

DeLeon and her wife, Nicole Dimetman, are seeking to have their Massachusetts marriage recognized in Texas. The other plaintiffs in the case, Mark Phariss and Vic Holmes (above), are seeking a marriage license. 

"With each day of delay, our loving, committed 17-year relationship is treated unequally," Phariss said. "With each day of delay, we are forced to run the risk that if, God forbid, one of us dies in a car wreck or something else happens, we will never be able to marry — to exchange vows, to say 'I do,' to call each other spouses. These harms simply can never be cured and justify lifting the stay now." 

Garcia has not yet set a hearing on the motion. 

Read the full motion, AFTER THE JUMP ...  

Continue reading "Gay Couples Ask Texas Judge To Allow Same-Sex Marriages To Begin Immediately" »

Dedicated Transgender Hotline Aims To Stem Epidemic Of Suicides Like Texas Teen Alex DeChiara's


After relentless bullying at her high school in Texas, transgender teen Alex DeChiara (above) transferred to an alternative school in April. 

But switching schools cut 17-year-old Alex off from her closest friends and her biggest passion: working with special-needs children at Euless Trinity High School, in a conservative suburb of Fort Worth. Alex hoped to one day become a teacher for autistic kids. 

After Alex transferred schools, administrators at Euless Trinity even barred her from campus and threatened her with arrest when she tried to visit. Faced with loneliness and a deepening depression, Alex felt she had nowhere to turn. On May 8, she hung herself from a tree in her family's backyard. 

Alex's father, Rick DeChiara, who came home from work to find Alex and had to cut her down from the tree, told the Texas Observer this week he feels there are a fair amount of resources dedicated to gay youth. But he added: “As far as transgender awareness kind of stuff, that’s a different story. I don’t think that’s quite as popular, as out there in the open.” 

MartelaNow, a San Francisco-based group is hoping to help change that — and to stem the epidemic of trangender suicides like Alex's. According to Greta Gustava Martela (right), the founder of Trans Lifeline, half of people who are openly transgender will attempt suicide at least once in their lives. 

Trans Lifeline is a first-of-its-kind, nonprofit crisis and suicide hotline staffed by transgender people. 

“There are a ton of suicide hotlines. There’s no shortage of them,” Martela told Time.com. “But it’s really difficult to get a person who isn’t trans to understand what it’s like to be trans.”

According to Trans Lifeline's website: "Our hotline is staffed by the true experts on transgender experience, transgender people themselves. Our volunteers are all trans identified and educated in the range of difficulties transgender people experience." 

Although the hotline's goal is to prevent self-harm, it is open to any transgender person in need — as well as the parents of transgender children. 

After a surge in calls thanks to the Time.com story this week, Martela launched a GoFundMe page to help pay for training for additional volunteers. Those interested in volunteering for Trans Lifeline can learn more here. 

The hotline covers the US and Canada and is staffed by volunteers outside the Bay Area.

For those in crisis, the number is 877-565-8860





Mayor of Lubbock, Texas, Calls HRC Report 'Completely Bogus' After City Receives A Zero On Gay Rights


Of the five cities nationwide, out of 353 rated, that received zeros on the Human Rights Campaign's 2014 Municipal Equality Index, four are in Texas, and one is Lubbock. 

But the mayor of Lubbock — a city of 240,000 in West Texas that is home to Texas Tech University — isn't the least bit happy about the score.

From The Lubbock Avalanche-Journal

Mayor Glen Robertson said no one from the HRC contacted his office, the city managers’ office or the head of human resources. The holes in their research, he said, makes the entire report “completely bogus.”

“This survey is not, in my opinion, designed to get facts. This survey is designed to create problems that aren’t there,” he said.

The report alleges Lubbock has no ordinances in place that protect against workplace discrimination based on sexual orientation. Robertson said these issues are covered by federal and state laws. 

Needless to say, Robertson is dead wrong: Neither state nor federal law contains explicit protections against anti-LGBT employment discrimination. But Lubbock Mayor Pro Tem Karen Gibson has Robertson's back:  

“It’s not that we don’t include anyone. We include everyone,” Gibson said. “Are they wanting us to reach out to the gay and lesbian community specifically? Because in my opinion, that is discrimination. We don’t reach out to Asians or reach out to blacks, we reach out to everyone.”

Last I checked, Asians and blacks were protected against discriminatoin under state and federal law, and they can get married in Texas, which qualifies their spouses for city benefits. 

The story focuses on how the atmosphere for gay people in Lubbock has improved from 20 years ago. For example, they no longer have to worry about getting jumped leaving bars or hide the locations of their meetings: 

“The community as a whole — the actual living citizens that make up the city of Lubbock — has come a long way and does not warrant this,” said Tony Thornton, president of the Lubbock chapter of Parents, Families and Friends of Lesbians and Gays.

Hell, Texas Tech even hosts an annual drag show fundraiser, according to the article, whereas drag queens only used to feel safe going out on Halloween. Doesn't that count for something?!

Actually, no, because the HRC survey doesn't claim to measure intangibles like overall quailty of life. It doesn't factor in the number of gay bars or LGBT organizations. Case in point: Houston received a 53, while Norman, Oklahoma, received a 60. Say what you want about Houston, and no offense to Norman, but as an LGBT person, where would you rather live?  

You see, folks, the HRC survey is merely a barometer of what city government has accomplished on a policy level to be LGBT-inclusive, and in the case of Lubbock, that would be a grand total of zilch. Lubbock doesn't have nondiscrimination protections for LGBT city employees, it doesn't offer domestic partner benefits, etc. 

Let's check back in with Mayor Robertson: 

Equality in Lubbock, from Robertson’s perspective, doesn’t seem to be a problem. In his two-plus years as mayor, he’s heard few complaints from the LGBT community.

“I haven’t seen it. I haven’t seen any problem. That doesn’t mean we don’t have it, but if we do, nobody’s being vocal about it,” he said. “Typically, if somebody’s being treated differently because of their gender or sexual orientation, they speak up, and I have heard nothing.”

Equality is not a problem, Robertson said, so it’s not a priority.

OK, this is getting ridiculous. Earlier this year, when Lubbock social worker Casey Stegall was fired for being gay, and it made national news, Robertson himself told this very same newspaper he was open to considering a nondiscrimination ordinance:

“If anybody brought that issue forward, I’d be open-minded and look at it," he said. 

Ultimately, though, despite his selective memory, Robertson's outrage over the goose-egg is perhaps a good thing. After all, if he were rabidly anti-LGBT, he'd be proud of the HRC score. 

Now, it's just a question of LGBT leaders talking some sense into the mayor, which is what Thornton, the PFLAG president, says he plans to try to do:  

“I think the city needs lots of work from the perspective of policy and administration in these areas,” he said. “And I want to work with the city. I want to work with the mayor and the City Council and the HR directors to fix this.”

It sounds like the biggest challenge will be convincing Robertson there's a problem to begin with. But at some point the question also becomes, even if you fix the HRC score, can you ever really fix Lubbock?  


Texas Official Says Equal Retirement Benefits For Gays Will Lead To 'Decline Of The Empire': AUDIO


A Galveston County, Texas, commissioner says offering retirement benefits to the same-sex spouses of employees could lead to "the decline of the empire." 

Republican County Commissioner Ken Clark (above) made the comments during a meeting of the Houston-Galveston Area Council (H-GAC). Clark serves on the board of the H-GAC, an intergovernmental planning agency made up of 13 member counties and more than member 100 cities in Southeast Texas. 

The H-GAC recently received a notice from the IRS stating that, due to the U.S. Supreme Court's 2013 decision striking down the federal Defense of Marriage Act, H-GAC must begin offering equal 401(k) benefits to same-sex couples who are legally married in other states, or lose the tax-qualified status of its retirement fund. 

The H-GAC's attorneys and a budget committee recommended complying with the IRS notice and offering retirement benefits to same-sex spouses legally married in other states. But Clark and others on the H-GAC board are apparently willing to risk losing the tax-qualified status — a decision that would affect the 401(k) plans of all 241 of its employees — to avoid offering the benefits, which they say would violate Texas' constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage. 

When the issue was discussed at an H-GAC board meeting on Oct. 21, Clark said: 

“This is how the decline of the empire happens is we acquiesce to these sort of items little by little and it desensitizes us to it. At some point we’re gonna have to stand up and on this issue I choose to stand up to this because this is not, this is not appropriate for them to hold our employees hostage. And, if they choose to disqualify our plan, it will become a national issue. The American people, in my opinion, are not willing to let this come in incrementally the way this is happening, so that’s where I'm at on this issue.” 

Listen to audio from the meeting here

The scary thing is that a majority of Clark's fellow H-GAC board members went along with him, agreeing to table the item until their November meeting. The anti-gay Houston Area Pastor Council, which is also fighting same-sex benefits in Houston, then distributed an email to its members, in which Clark wrote: 

"If we, as freemen, do not draw the line here against the political correctness, moral decline, and government fiat in this country, our children will inherit the bonds of moral slavery. What will you say when they ask; What did you do? Why did you not stand? If you wish to stand and voice your opinion on this matter, you may attend the next meeting and do just that." 

Several members of the public spoke against same-sex retirement benefits at H-GAC's Nov. 18 montly meeting, where the board announced it was again tabling the issue. Which prompted both the Houston Area Pastor Council and the anti-gay group Texas Values to declare a victory:

“Thankfully some leaders in the Houston-area are starting to recognize that they must follow Texas law on marriage,” said Jonathan Saenz, attorney and president of Texas Values. “That’s encouraging, but Houston Mayor Annise Parker still thinks she’s above the law, and her violations of federal and state law are doing more damage to the Houston people every day,” concluded Saenz.

H-GAC has until Dec.31 to comply with the new IRS policy or lose the tax-qualified status. Stay tuned. 


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