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LGBT Advocates Score Another Victory In Texas, But Risk Of Anti-Gay Legislation Remains

Sanford.Scott

Texas LGBT advocates dodged another bullet Monday, when an anti-gay adoption amendment was derailed — at least for now — in the state House of Representatives. 

Last Thursday, an anti-gay marriage bill died in the Texas House when the deadline expired for the chamber to pass it. 

Four days later, GOP Rep. Scott Sanford (above) laid out an amendment on the House floor to allow state-funded, faith-based adoption agencies to discriminate against LGBT people based on "sincerely held religious beliefs." 

The Washington Blade reports: 

But after he proposed the amendment on the floor, Rep. Joe Moody (D-El Paso) raised a point of order on the vehicle bill on the basis the amendment wasn't properly filed. The Texas House agreed to the point of order, sending both the proposed amendment and the vehicle bill back to committee. ... 

Sanford invoked the decisions of Catholic adoption agencies in Massachusetts and D.C. to halt operations there after marriage equality came to those jurisdictions, as well as Catholic adoption agencies in Illinois after the state legalized civil unions, saying the agencies were "forced" to take those actions. Each of agencies were already required not to discriminate against LGBT people on the basis of non-discrimination laws in those jurisdictions and halted operations on their own volition.

After the point of order against the anti-LGBT adoption measure was sustained, LGBT advocates claimed victory. It wasn't immediately clear whether the point of order was the last opportunity for the measure, or whether it could be revived at later time in some other fashion. The Texas legislative session continues until June 1.

The adoption amendment began as one of more than 20 anti-LGBT pieces of legislation in Texas this year, believed to be the most in the history of any state. However, with less than two weeks remaining in the legislative session, none of the anti-LGBT legislation has yet passed. 

That could change soon, though, as the House is set to take up the so-called Pastor Protection Act, ostensibly designed to protect pastors and churches from being forced to participate in same-sex weddings. The measure has already cleared the Senate, and anti-gay Gov. Greg Abbott has said he would sign it. 

As Matt Baume mentioned in his weekly Gay Marriage News Watch, pastors and churches already enjoy those protections under the First Amendment, as well as under the state's Religious Freedom Restoration Act. But the Texas bill is written so broadly that it could allow discrimination by religiously affiliated individuals who are acting in a secular capacity, such as justices of the peace. 

The so-called "Pastor Protection Act" could also serve as a vehicle for GOP Rep. Cecil Bell to try to introduce his anti-gay marriage bill — which died last week — as an amendment. 

Stay tuned.  


Texas Hate Group Leader Says Gay Marriage Ban Is Good For Business, Blasts Chamber Of Commerce

Saenz

The leader of an anti-LGBT hate group says Texas' same-sex marriage ban has helped make it the most business-friendly state in the nation. 

Jonathan Saenz, president of Texas Values, also blasted the state chamber of commerce for allegedly helping to kill a bill that would have banned local LGBT protections. 

Saenz, whose ex-wife famously left him for a woman, made the comments last week during an interview with host Craig James on the Family Research Council's "Washington Watch" radio program. 

The Texas Observer reports: 

“Texas has been No. 1 for business for 10 straight years—that is during the same 10 years that our marriage laws have been between one man and one woman,” Saenz said. “It appears to me those policies have helped Texas and been a part of what makes Texas great. You see people flocking from New Yorks and Clairofni bec. of our business climate." 

Saenz told James that the Texas Association of Business — the state's chamber of commerce —  killed Senate Bill 1155, which would have banned local LGBT protections. However, the Texas Association of Business actually took no position on the bill, according to the Observer

The TAB made headlines when it came out against two religious freedom proposals, but it did not publicly take a position on SB 1155 or other anti-LGBT legislation. ... 

“The business lobby, the Texas Association of Business, has decided now they’re going to put all their investment in the homosexual agenda, and that’s one of the things they did,” Saenz said. “It was a big surprise to a lot of lawmakers, and when they did that it had a very negative impact on the impression of what this law was really about. The Texas Association of Business has clearly turned their back on the values of Texas.”

Saenz was scheduled to appear Monday afternoon on Michelangelo Signorile's XM Radio show, which is in Texas this week, but Signorile said he canceled at the last minute. Listen to Saenz's full "Washington Watch" interview, AFTER THE JUMP ... 

Continue reading "Texas Hate Group Leader Says Gay Marriage Ban Is Good For Business, Blasts Chamber Of Commerce" »


Gay Marriage News Watch: Texas, Texas, Texas! - VIDEO

Baume

Matt Baume with the American Foundation for Equal Rights reports on Texas House Republican efforts to defy the Supreme Court's upcoming ruling on marriage, a "trojan horse" bill that may open the door to more anti-LGBT discrimination, and more.

Watch, AFTER THE JUMP...

Continue reading "Gay Marriage News Watch: Texas, Texas, Texas! - VIDEO" »


Federal Judge Again Tosses Gay Couple's Lawsuit Against Airline Over Sex Toy Taped To Luggage

Bridgeman

A federal judge has again thrown out a gay couple's lawsuit against United Airlines alleging that a baggage handler removed a sex toy from their bag and taped it to the outside to humiliate them. 

Last week we told you how the lawsuit from Christopher Bridgeman and Martin Borger was finally headed to trial four years after the incident. But after three days of testimony, U.S. District Judge Kenneth Hoyt granted summary judgment to the airline. 

The Houston Chronicle reports: 

Hoyt decided that the plaintiffs never proved their case, which remains a "whodunit," the judge noted, because no one with TSA or United was revealed as the definite perpetrator in the mystery of the rifled and manipulated bag.

"If you have two operatives and you do not eliminate one of those operatives by clear and convincing evidence, then you cannot go to judgement. There's nothing to submit to the jury – especially in light of the fact that you didn't sue both of them," Hoyt explained from the bench.

"You have not presented clear and convincing evidence that TSA did not handle these bags and cause the situation that occurred. … In fact we know TSA handled these bags. We know that they scan them and in many instances they go into bags."

The couple's attorney says he plans to appeal Hoyt's decision. Hoyt initially threw out the case in 2012, only to have it reinstated by the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.

In case you're wondering, United Airlines maintains a perfect score of 100 on the Human Rights Campaign's Corporate Equality Index.  


Anti-Gay Former Texas Governor Rick Perry To Launch 2nd Bid For President Despite Felony Charges: VIDEO

Perry

Not surprisingly, anti-gay former Texas Gov. Rick Perry plans to officially enter the 2016 Republican presidential primary at an event in Dallas next month. 

The Dallas Morning News reports: 

PerrycorndogFor months Perry has said that he would announce his decision in May or June. But his constant travel to the early contest states of Iowa, New Hampshire, South Carolina and Florida has left little doubt of his intentions.

Unlike four years ago, when he rushed into the contest after seeing he could raise quick money and was leading in polls, Perry enters this contest as an underdog.

He is polling in single digits, but again unlike his last run, he has spent more than a year in preparation. He has consulted weekly with conservative experts on foreign relations and economic policy. He has assembled advisers and campaign teams in the early states and has even taken tutoring in public speaking.

The announcement was made by Perry's wife Anita on Twitter, a possible indication he'll aim to emphasize his appeal to GOP women: 

Once the frontrunner for the 2012 GOP nomination, Perry's campaign flamed out amid a few disastrous debate performances. His decision to go anti-gay in Iowa also backfired, after he released a widely parodied "Strong" ad slamming the repeal of "don't ask, don't tell." 

Perry, who's currently facing two felony counts, has a long history of opposition to gay rights. He once called the state's sodomy ban "appropriate," but later said he'd forgotten what the case was about. He championed Texas' 2005 marriage amendment, holding an unnecessary ceremonial signing at a Fort Worth church. And more recently, Perry — long plagued by rumors that he's closeted — compared homosexuality to alcoholism in response to a question about so-called reparative therapy

Check out a video featuring some of Perry's biggest bloopers over the years, AFTER THE JUMP... 

Continue reading "Anti-Gay Former Texas Governor Rick Perry To Launch 2nd Bid For President Despite Felony Charges: VIDEO" »


Prison Rape Epidemic Still Plagues LGBT Inmates 12 Years After Passage Of Federal Law

Star.Passion

Back in March we told you how Texas prison officials had finally agreed to protect transgender inmate Passion Star (self-portrait above), after Lambda Legal filed a lawsuit alleging the Department of Criminal Justice had ignored her years of complaints about being raped and assaulted. 

The New York Times recently interviewed Star — and photographed the horrific scars she suffered in one attack — for an in-depth piece about the national epidemic of prison rape, which persists despite passage of a federal law to combat the problem in 2003. 

As of last year, only two states had certified compliance with the Prison Rape Elimination Act, while five have refused the standards outright, foregoing federal funds rather than striving to meet them.  

From The NYT

StarAfter decades of societal indifference to prison rape, Congress, in a rare show of support for inmates’ rights, unanimously passed the Prison Rape Elimination Act in 2003, and [Rick] Perry’s predecessor as governor, President George W. Bush, signed it into law.

“The emerging consensus was that ‘Don’t drop the soap’ jokes were no longer funny, and that rape is not a penalty we assign in sentencing,” said Jael Humphrey, a lawyer with Lambda Legal, a national group that represents Ms. Star (right) in a federal lawsuit alleging that Texas officials failed to protect her from sexual victimization despite her persistent, well-documented pleas for help.

But over 12 years, even as reported sexual victimization in prisons remained high, the urgency behind that consensus dissipated. It took almost a decade for the Justice Department to issue the final standards on how to prevent, detect and respond to sexual abuse in custody. And it took a couple of years more before governors were required to report to Washington, which revealed that only New Jersey and New Hampshire were ready to certify full compliance.

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. And Texas is home to five of the 10 facilities in the nation with the highest rates of sexual assault. 

Back in October, Lambda Legal filed a federal lawsuit on behalf of Star, accusing Texas prison officials of deliberate indifference to threats of sexual assault and violence against her in male facilities. The lawsuit alleges Star has lodged dozens of grievances, complaints and requests to be placed in safekeeping, but instead of taking measures to protect her, prison officials have told her to “suck dick,” “fight” or to stop “acting gay” if she doesn't want to be assaulted. 
 
On one occasion, when Star appealed to 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, resulting in 36 stitches. Even after the attack, prison officials refused to move Star to protect her from violence in the general population.

Lambda Legal recently delivered a petition with more than 10,000 signatures to current Texas Gov. Greg Abbott urging him to adopt the federal prison rape standards. From the group's release: 

Following the delivery of the “Campaign to Stop Prison Rape in Texas” petitions today, Jael Humphrey, Lambda Legal Staff Attorney and Criminal Justice and Police Misconduct Strategist issued the following statement:

“We have brought the voice of the public directly to Governor Abbott’s desk. Texas is among the states with the highest rates of rape and sexual assault in its prisons. This violence disproportionately affects lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) people. LGBT people in Texas prisons, like Lambda Legal client Passion Star, live with the risk of sexual violence every day.

“Rape is not an inevitable part of incarceration, but leadership is key. PREA provides a framework to end sexual violence in Texas prisons and jails. Our petition represents the voice of a public eager to reform Texas’s prisons. We are hopeful that Governor Abbott will do the right thing and take steps to implement PREA.” ... 

Asked what she would say to Governor Abbott ahead of the May 15th deadline, Passion said: “We need something like PREA to change the culture of prisons in the state of Texas. If Texas was doing everything they say that they’re doing to stop [rape] from happening, then there’s no point in turning down PREA. I don’t want to have sex to be safe.  I shouldn’t have to.”


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