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Texas County Clerk Says She'll Issue Marriage Licenses To Gay Couples Even If Lawmakers Suspend Her Salary

Dana

One county clerk in Texas says she's not intimidated by a bill threatening to discontinue her salary for issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples. 

Last week, we reported that Texas GOP Rep. Cecil Bell Jr. (right) had introduced the “Texas Preservation of Sovereignty and Marriage Act" — which would punish county clerks for issuing marriage licenses to gay couples by barring them from collecting “a salary, pension, or other employee benefit.”

Cecil-BellLast February, U.S. District Judge Orlando Garcia judge struck down Texas' marriage ban as unconstitutional, but stayed his decision pending the state's appeal to the 5th U.S. Circuit Court, which heard oral arguments last week. 

On Thursday, Democratic Travis County Clerk Dana DeBeauvoir (above) told Towleroad that even if Bell's bill passes — which she believes is unlikely — her office will issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples. 

"I believe the courts would still support any clerk that acted under the direction of either the Supreme Court or the 5th Circuit," DeBeauvoir said. "I feel like there's no danger in me performing this duty, especially in accordance with a court order. … I'm not intimidated." 

If Bell's bill were to receive two-thirds majorities in the House and Senate, it would take effect immediately. If it's approved by a simple majority in both chambers, it would take effect Sept. 1. 

DeBeauvoir said if Bell's bill becomes law before the marriage ban is struck down, she thinks most clerks in Texas would comply with the federal court ruling.

"While I think a few clerks may still have religious concerns, I think like the rest of the country, most clerks are more committed to delivering equal services to all members of their communities," DeBeauvoir said. "In response to this bill, I think a lot of clerks would be concerned about the interference [by legislators] with an elected official performing the duties of an office." 

Bell's bill would apply not only to county clerks, but to any state employee who recognizes, grants or enforces a same-sex marriage license. 

"That just makes it all the more offensive," DeBeauvoir said. "People who are just working, trying to do the best for the county, get swept up in a political battle." 

DeBeauvoir was one of three county clerks in Texas who recently said they would issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples if Judge Garcia lifted his stay, despite the state's pending appeal at the 5th Circuit. The other two, Dallas County's John Warren and Bexar County's Gerhard Rickhoff, told Towleroad they wanted to consult with attorneys before commenting on Bell's bill. 

Watch Fox 7's report on Bell's bill, AFTER THE JUMP ...

Continue reading "Texas County Clerk Says She'll Issue Marriage Licenses To Gay Couples Even If Lawmakers Suspend Her Salary" »


San Antonio GOP Rejects Resolution Calling For Repeal Of 'Pro-Homosexual Policies'

Finger

Last month, we reported that a Republican Party committee in San Antonio had submitted a resolution to the county GOP calling for "the repeal of our local governments’ pro-homosexual policies." 

The resolution, authored by anti-gay activist Jack Finger (above), demanded that GOP elected officials roll back the city's LGBT-inclusive nondiscrimination ordinance, as well as domestic partner benefits for city and county employees. Otherwise, the proposal threatened, voters would "'throw the rascals out' and elect officials who will carry out the resolution." 

On Jan. 8, the Bexar County GOP Executive Committee rejected the resolution, according to San Antonio gay Republican Justin Nichols. OutInSA reports:  

“The resolution in question was the last agenda item,” says Nichols. “After Mr. Finger’s fear mongering presentation, the floor was opened for discussion. Not a single precinct chair spoke in favor of the resolution, with at least four other people speaking against it on various grounds. I spoke last, and the question was called. I don’t recall the exact vote, but it was approximately 54-21, a margin of nearly 2 to 1, rejecting the resolution, which was then declared to have failed.”

Nichols says he told the assembly that the resolution did not reflect the “true priorities of the party” but reflected “one man’s peculiar obsession with the topic of sexuality.”

Nichols added that Finger was alone in spreading his anti-LGBT message. “Beside Jack’s befuddled scrambling to hand out his classic bush-league leaflets, and his own absurd explanation of the NDO, not a single person at the meeting spoke a word of disdain or disrespect for any LGBT person or group.  I was really very pleased at the speed with which the party ended Jack’s charade and got on to real business.”

Although it's commendable that the precinct chairs rejected the resolution, it's still disturbing that one-third of them voted in favor of it. Sadly, it's this one-third that is most active in party primaries and maintains a virtual stranglehold on the Texas GOP. Which explains why Republican state lawmakers have introduced legislation that would ban local LGBT protections and punish county clerks for issuing same-sex marriage licenses. 

But hey, baby steps, right? 


Company To Take Down Ex-Gay Therapy Billboard In Dallas, Says It Was Misled By Advertiser

Billboard

The president of the advertising company that's hosting an "ex-gay" therapy billboard in Dallas says the company was misled about the nature of the sign or he wouldn't have allowed it to go up.  

Yesterday Towleroad broke the story about the billboard ad paid for by David Pickup, a well-known practitioner of ex-gay therapy in Dallas — and one of the authors of a plank endorsing reparative therapy in the Texas GOP platform. 

Terry Kafka, president of Impact Outdoor Advertising, told Towleroad on Wednesday that Pickup led the company's sales manager to believe the billboard was an advertisement for couples therapy. Kafka said he hadn't even heard of reparative therapy until he began getting complaints about the billboard on Wednesday. 

"We were misinformed," Kafka said. "I'm not a proponent of it. I'm not on that bandwagon. When we have a controversial advertisement, we always discuss it internally, and we didn't even discuss it because our sales person was under the impression it was for couples therapy." 

Kafka said the sign has been up for two-and-a-half weeks and was scheduled to come down Jan. 26 anyway. 

"We're going to attempt to get it down sooner but that's the worse-case scenario," Kafka said, adding that he will not renew the contract or lease billboard space to Pickup again. 

"I have no interest in promoting that," Kafka said. "I have no interest in doing business with him." 

Pickup refused to address Kafka's allegations.  

"I can't comment on that, because nobody contacted me from the company," Pickup said. "I thought that the main thing this sign would do was raise awareness for those people who really want and need this therapy." 

Pickup would not say whether the billboard has generated new business. Asked whether he expected it to be controversial, he said, "I wasn't certain what would happen." 

If you'd like to thank Kafka for his decision, send them an email through the form here.  


Passenger Gets Slap On Wrist For Drunken, Anti-Gay Assault Caught On Video At Dallas Airport

Benham2

The passenger who went on a drunken, violent, anti-gay rampage that was caught on video at DFW International Airport in October will pay $474 in fines for the incident, according to a court spokeswoman. 

BenhamMcCleish Christmas Benham (right), now 28, of Shelbyville, Tennessee, assaulted two people while yelling anti-gay epithets, before other passengers tackled him to the ground and he was arrested on Oct. 23. 

A bystander captured the incident on video and posted it on YouTube, where it's been viewed more than 5 million times.

Benham was charged with public intoxication and simple assault, both class-C misdemeanors each punishable by a maximum $500 fine, but no jail time. The case was referred to the Municipal Court in the city of Grapevine, Texas. 

Cindy Eteaki, court manager for the city of Grapevine, told Towleroad on Wednesday that Benham posted a cash bond to get out of jail and entered a conditional plea of no contest at the time. Because Benham failed to appear in court, his bond will be forfeited and he will be convicted on both counts, Eteaki said. Benham's bond was $262 dollars on the assault charge and $212 on the public intoxication, for a total of $474.

The FBI has declined to comment on whether it is investigating the incident as an anti-gay hate crime under the federal Matthew Shepard and James Byrd Jr. Hate Crimes Act of 2009. 

Expert Pete Schulte, an openly gay criminal defense attorney and former police officer from Dallas, has said he believes authorities mishandled the case — and Benham should have been charged with class-A misdemeanor assault, punishable by up to one year in jail: 

“I’m sure the individual who was punched felt a little pain based on the video,” Schulte said. “Class-C assault is offensive contact without any pain.

“He could be charged with resisting arrest if they decide the person who broke his ankle was attempting to arrest him,” Schulte added. “It appears that DFW airport police may have not done a great job in this case.”

Benham had previously been in trouble for theft and animal abuse.  

Watch video of the attack, AFTER THE JUMP ... 

Benham4

Continue reading "Passenger Gets Slap On Wrist For Drunken, Anti-Gay Assault Caught On Video At Dallas Airport" »


Texas Republican Lawmakers Aim To Nullify LGBT Nondiscrimination Protections Covering 7.5 Million People

Shaheen

Texas GOP lawmakers plan to introduce a bill that would nullify LGBT nondiscrimination protections covering 7.5 million people. 

The bill is being drafted in response to the Plano City Council's passage of an LGBT inclusive nondiscrimination ordinance last month. It's expected to be introduced by four Republican Plano-area lawmakers, including Rep. Matt Shaheen, above. 

The Texas Observer reports: 

Texas Pastor Council Executive Director David Welch, whose group is leading efforts to repeal equal rights ordinances in Plano and Houston, told the Observer the legislation would prohibit political subdivisions of the state from adding classes to nondiscrimination ordinances that aren’t protected under Texas or federal law—neither of which covers LGBT people.

“It should be a uniform standard statewide, and cities can’t just arbitrarily create new classes that criminalize a whole segment of the majority of the population,” Welch said. “It’s just self-evident that they’re going to try to do it city by city. We’re dealing with a broad public policy that creates criminal punishments. That’s a pretty serious issue, and when it’s based on a special agenda by a small, tiny fragment of the population … that’s a legitimate need and reason for the state Legislature to act.”

The bill reportedly will be modeled after a law that passed in Tennessee in 2011.

In the landmark 1996 case Romer v. Evans, the U.S. Supreme Court struck down a Colorado law that banned nondiscrimination protections based on sexual orientation. However, the Tennessee bill attempted to get around Romer v. Evans by simply prohibiting any protected classes that aren't included in state law, rather than specifically targeting the LGBT community. The National Center for Lesbian Rights filed a lawsuit challenging the Tennessee law, but it was dismissed for lack of standing. Now, NCLR reportedly plans to file a federal lawsuit challenging the Tennessee law. 

NCLR Shannon Minter said the Tennessee bill passed in part because the business community was too slow in voicing its opposition to the measure. 

From The Texas Observer

“Hopefully this time in Texas the response will be more immediate, and I hope the legislators listen to the business community and do not do something that’s going to really hurt the Texas economy,” Minter said.

It’s been widely speculated that Plano passed its equal rights ordinance in response to Toyota’s decision to relocate a major facility to the city, after the company’s employees expressed concern about the lack of LGBT protections in Texas. Plano-based Frito-Lay also sent a letter to the City Council in support of the equal rights ordinance.

But Welch dismissed the argument that efforts to undo local nondiscrimination ordinances will hurt business, calling it “a red herring.” He said one of the engines of Texas’ strong economy is its “family-friendly” climate.

“We’re not going to let corporations, Toyota or anybody else, come in and dictate to the community what our standards are going to be on a moral level and religious level,” Welch said. “Companies like Frito-Lay had better take thought of who their customers are before they start trying to step up and ramrod these things though, because we will remember.”

The Texas legislative session didn't begin until Tuesday, but three other anti-LGBT bills have already been filed — two "license to discriminate" measures, as well one that aims to reban same-sex marriage in the event it becomes legal. Representatives from Equality Texas say they're expecting even more attacks fueled by backlash against the spread of same-sex marriage. 


LOOK: Dallas Billboard Promotes 'Ex-Gay' Therapy

Billboard

The above billboard promoting so-called reparative therapy has gone up in Dallas.  

Pickup.DavidDavid Pickup (right), a well-known local practitioner of reparative therapy, confirmed Tuesday afternoon that the billboard, which advertises his business, is up along U.S. Highway 75 near the Royal Lane exit.

Pickup is a licensed marriage and family therapist who helped write a plank endorsing reparative therapy that was added to the Texas GOP platform last year. 

The Dallas Morning News interviewed Pickup for a story about the plank in June: 

Licensed marriage and family therapist David Pickup in Dallas said that homosexuality is an attachment issue “based on severe emotional wounds.” He believes unfulfilled needs become sexualized as children grow up.

“What reparative therapy does is it uses psychodynamic processes to access those deeper wounds that are hidden underneath the homoerotic impulses,” Pickup said. “It resolves the male identity wounds and helps the guy get those needs met.”

Also promoting the billboard on Tuesday was Jeremy Schwab (below right), who heads a Dallas ex-gay ministry called Joel 2:25 International and reportedly was the driving force behind the Texas GOP reparative therapy plank. 

Schwab"Hopefully, this will help get the Truth to those who can benefit," Schwab wrote below a photo of the billboard on Facebook. 

Last month, a billboard promoting reparative therapy in Virginia sparked controversy. One of the models whose image was used on the Virginia billboard said he was a proud gay man and local LGBT activists rallied against the sign

One might anticipate a similar response in Dallas, where a sign advertising a sermon titled "Gay Is Not Okay" sparked LGBT protests outside First Baptist Church several years ago.  

Two states, New Jersey and California, in addition to the District of Columbia, have passed laws restricting "ex-gay" therapy for minors. 

After the Texas GOP endorsed reparative therapy in its platform, the state Democratic Party responded with a plank opposing the practice, which has been discredited by virtually all of the relevant medical organizations.

Equality Texas has also submitted petitions seeking to ban reparative therapy to the state's mental health licensing boards. And the issue might very well come up during the state legislative session that began Tuesday. 


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