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Gay Texas Couples Ask 5th Circuit To Allow Same-Sex Marriages Immediately


Yesterday we reported that same-sex couples in Missouri and South Dakota had asked federal judges to allow marriages to begin immediately in those states. 

Now attorneys for two same-sex couples in Texas, including Cleopatra DeLeon and Nicole Dimetman (above) have done the same. 

Like the Missouri and South Dakota motions, the Texas filing relies on the U.S. Supreme Court's decision this week to allow same-sex marriages to begin in Alabama

The Texas Observer reports: 

LaneIf the 5th Circuit doesn't lift the stay for all same-sex couples, the motion asks that it be lifted for the limited purpose of establishing the parental rights of plaintiff Cleopatra DeLeon, whose wife, Nicole Dimetman, is expecting a child in March.

The motion cites the U.S. Supreme Court's refusal to halt same-sex marriages in both Alabama and Florida, after federal district judges struck down bans in those states. The high court will hear appeals in April from four states where same-sex marriage bans were upheld. ... 

Neel Lane (right), an attorney for the couples, said in a statement he remains confident the 5th Circuit will rule in favor of marriage equality.

"But same-sex marriages are proceeding across the South and Southwest, while Texas remains the most populous state where gays and lesbians are deprived of that right," Lane said. "Today we urge the Fifth Circuit to remedy that omission immediately.”

The Texas motion includes powerful arguments in favor of lifting the stay at least for DeLeon, outlining the many steps the couple would have to go through for her to adopt their expected daughter, and explaining that if something happens to Dimetman during childbirth, she may never be able to do so. 

"If Dimetman is otherwise incapacitated, DeLeon’s right and ability to care for the child will be far from assured, as she will not have parental rights unless and until the adoption is completed. Thus, DeLeon may not be able to rock the baby to sleep; she may not be able to comfort the baby when he or she is upset; she may not be able to direct the baby’s medical care. Adoption takes time, and if something happens to Dimetman, time will not be a luxury that DeLeon and the baby have."

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

Observers believe a 5th Circuit panel is likely to rule in favor of marriage equality, but it's unclear whether it will do so before the Supreme Court addresses the issue. The high court will hear appeals in April from four states where marriage bans were upheld.

In December, Judge Garcia denied a motion to lift the stay in Texas — but that was before the Supreme Court allowed marriages to begin in Alabama and Florida. 

Read the full motion, AFTER THE JUMP ...

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Dallas To Recognize Same-Sex Marriages


After three hours of debate, a Dallas pension board voted Tuesday to recognize the same-sex marriages of city employees — contingent on approval from the City Council and the city attorney. 

Despite a lack of leadership on the issue from Mayor Mike Rawlings, the board voted 6-0 to approve the compromise between members who wanted to recognize out-of-state same-sex marriages, and those who felt the decision should be left up to voters. 

The city attorney and City Council are expected to sign off, paving the way for Dallas to join Austin, Fort Worth, Houston and Plano in recognizing same-sex marriages and providing equal retirement benefits to the spouses of gay employees. 

The Dallas Morning News reports: 

Again and again, different variations of the effort to include same-sex marriages in spousal benefits failed in deadlocked votes. Then, after three hours of discussion and some harsh words, a deal was struck. ... 

Dallas’ two pension boards — the Employees’ Retirement Fund and the Police and Fire Pension Board — have been among the last city entities to extend same-sex benefits, after the City Council passed a resolution nearly a year ago calling for LGBT equality in all city operations. ... 

The pension boards have grappled with what they say is a legal gray area between a Texas ban on gay marriage and a 2013 U.S. Supreme Court ruling requiring the Internal Revenue Service to recognize same-sex marriages from any state, regardless of where the couple lives.

A federal district judge struck down Texas' marriage ban last year, but stayed his decision pending the state's appeal to the 5th Circuit, which heard oral arguments last month. 

In Houston, anti-LGBT activists sued the city and Mayor Annise Parker over her decision to recognize employees' out-of-state same-sex marriages. But that lawsuit is on hold pending the outcome of the Texas marriage case. 

Tuesday's vote would provide equal pension benefits to gay civilian employees in Dallas, but not police or firefighters. The city's Police and Fire Pension Board is scheduled to discuss the issue Thursday. 

Ted Cruz Reintroduces Anti-Gay Bill That Would 'Defend' States' Right To Regulate Marriage


Two Texas Republicans reintroduced a bill Tuesday that would prohibit the federal government from recognizing same-sex marriages in states that ban them.  

Sen. Ted Cruz (above), who introduced the State Marriage Defense Act along with Rep. Randy Weber (right), said in a press release:

“Even though the Supreme Court made clear in United States v. Windsor that the federal government should defer to state ‘choices about who may be married,’ the Obama Administration has disregarded state marriage laws enacted by democratically-elected legislatures to uphold traditional marriage. I support traditional marriage and we should reject attempts by the Obama Administration to force same-sex marriage on all 50 states. The State Marriage Defense Act helps safeguard the ability of states to preserve traditional marriage for their citizens.”

Weber added

Weber“The 10th Amendment was established to protect state sovereignty and individual rights from being seized by the Federal Government. States are currently struggling against activist court judges overstepping their constitutional authority by legislating from the bench, and an Obama Administration attempting to counter marriage laws voted on by the American people.”

“Multiple court cases defending state marriage laws are still awaiting Supreme Court review. While my hope is that the Supreme Court will uphold the right of voters to affirm the truth that marriage is the union of a man and a woman, it is imperative that Congress prevent federal agencies from undermining intact marriage laws in states like Texas.”

The Human Rights Campaign called the bill "shameful": 

"Ted Cruz and Randy Weber are proposing legislation that would do real harm to legally married same-sex couples in states across this country," said JoDee Winterhof, HRC Vice President for Policy and Political Affairs. "But what really stands out is the fact that they would use this reckless and irresponsible legislation to take important federal benefits away from their own Texas constituents. This just solidified their standing as two of the most extreme opponents of equality in America."

This legislation would roll back the federal government’s robust implementation of the Supreme Court’s decision in United States v. Windsor, which struck down Section 3 of the Defense of Marriage Act and extended recognition to the lawful marriages of same-sex couples for most federal spousal benefits.  Agencies across the federal government have taken the fairest and most practicable approach by recognizing those couples for most federal purposes, even if they currently live in a state that does not itself respect their marriages.

The bill would callously strip federal rights and benefits from married same-sex couples – like federal employee health benefits, military spouse benefits, immigration rights, and many others – simply because of the state in which they currently live.  In the name of protecting “states’ rights,” the bill would take spousal benefits away from the wife of a soldier serving in Afghanistan if she and their children were stationed in a state without marriage equality.  In order to “defend marriage,” his legislation would force a grieving widower to pay an unfair tax on his husband’s estate, simply because the couple had retired nearer to grandchildren in their golden years.  This legislation would make our nation’s already-unfair patchwork of laws even more burdensome for same-sex couples, and undermine the promise of equal treatment embodied in the historic Windsor decision.

The bill, which went nowhere last year, has 11 co-sponsors in the Senate and 23 co-sponsors in the House. 

Cruz's press release notes that he also plans to introduce a federal marriage amendment later this year. 

3 Years After Mayor Refused To Sign Marriage Pledge, Dallas Drags Feet On Equal Benefits For Gay Employees


Back in 2012, Dallas Mayor Mike Rawlings declined to join a coalition of mayors who support same-sex marriage.  

And in 2013, Rawlings refused to allow a City Council vote on a resolution in support of marriage equality.

All along, Rawlings' position has been that although he personally supports same-sex marriage, he doesn't think it should be a city issue.  

Now, though, it has clearly become a city issue, and Rawlings' lack of leadership may be coming back to haunt Dallas' gay employees. 

The Dallas Morning News reports that the city's pension boards are divided on whether to recognize out-of-state same-sex marriages for the purposes of providing equal retirement benefits: 

This week, two Dallas boards — the Police and Fire Pension Board and the Employees’ Retirement Fund board — will consider actions that could put Dallas in line with Fort Worth. But the city officials say they are facing reluctance from lawyers who fear legal consequences from the state law and would rather wait on the Supreme Court to provide more guidance.

City Council member Lee Kleinman, who serves on both boards, called the lack of action in Dallas “extremely frustrating.” He said the pension board “has been resistant and the staff has been resistant.” ...

The city’s Employee Retirement Fund has been equally difficult, he said.

“Over there I faced the exact same resistance and the same ‘Let’s wait and see’ and the same B.S. line of ‘Oh, it’s the right thing to do, but let’s not do it now,’” Kleinman said.

The Morning News reports that while the Police and Fire Pension Board would have to put the change to a vote of its members, the Employee Retirement Fund Board, which covers the rest of the city's workers, could fix the problem by simply changing its interpretation of "spouse" to include married same-sex partners. 

Noticeably absent from the story is Rawlings, who's up for re-election this year. 

Police Arrest Suspect In Murder Of Texas Transgender Woman Ty Underwood


Police in Texas have arrested a suspect in the murder of Ty Underwood, a transgender woman who was found shot to death on Jan. 26. 

6669727_GCarlton Ray Champion Jr. (right), 21, is charged with first-degree murder. He reportedly was in a "brief relationship" with Underwood prior to the shooting. 

Underwood is one of at least three trans women of color who've been murdered in 2015. Underwood's friends suspected the shooting was a hate crime, but investigators have said they don't believe that's the case. 

The Tyler Police Department announced Monday in a press release:  

On Monday, February 09, 2015 Tyler Police Investigators served an arrest warrant for Murder on Carlton Ray Champion Jr., B/M, born 01/12/1994, of Longview, Texas who was attending Texas College.

Investigators learned that Champion and Underwood were in a brief relationship prior to the murder. Electronic and video evidence was located that supported that Champion was meeting Underwood on the date and time of when the murder took place. 

During the investigation investigators discovered that Champion was wanted out of Gregg County for a probation violation. On January 29, 2015 Tyler investigators arrested Champion for the outstanding warrant while the investigation continued.  Champion was transported to Gregg County Jail on the probation violation and held without bond.

Tyler Investigators informed Gregg County Sheriff’s Department that Champion is now wanted for Murder 1st degree. Judge Kennedy signed the warrant and placed a $1,000,000 bond on him.   

Last week, Underwood's family and friends, along with LGBT advocates, gathered for a vigil to remember her. Watch news report on the vigil, AFTER THE JUMP... 

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Gay Teen Vlogger Austin Wallis Tells Houston TV Stations How He Was Threatened With Expulsion: VIDEO


Gay teen vlogger Austin Wallis — who was forced to leave his high school because he's gay — may not have any legal recourse given that it's a private, religious institution. 

However, it's safe to say the school — Houston's Lutheran High North — has now gotten its share of bad PR. And at the very least, other parents of LGBT children — or even those who want their kids to learn in a diverse, real-world environment that's accepting of all people — may be reluctant to enroll them at Lutheran High North. 

Five days after posting the heartbreaking YouTube video recounting how he was threatened with expulsion for being gay, the 17-year-old Wallis went in front of Houston TV news cameras on Friday to discuss the ordeal. 

Wallis didn't identify his former school in the YouTube video, which was first reported by Towleroad and has been viewed almost 200,000 times. However, The Texas Observer revealed this week that it was Lutheran High North, prompting TV reporters to descend upon the school and Wallis, who still seems a little overwhelmed. 

Wallis asked the TV stations not to use his last name, and for the most part he simply reiterated what he said in the video — that the school's principal told him if he didn't delete his YouTube channel, which he maintains with his boyfriend, he needed to find another school. 

Although there's not a lot of new information in the three TV news reports, we do learn that Wallis' mom is supportive, with both her and her son saying they didn't realize the school handbook had a "morals code" prohibiting homosexuality. 

"They had a right to offer this ultimatum and I would stress to all parents read your handbooks," Cheryl Wallis told KHOU-TV. 

Not surprisingly, Lutheran High North officials opted not to go on camera to explain their bigotry. But on a side note, head of school Dallas Lusk contacted yours truly on Friday morning — the day after my report in The Texas Observer — and asked whether the magazine is affiliated with the hacker group Anonymous. Lusk said that since the story's publication, other students were getting "attacked" with lewd images sent to them over social media. I assured Lusk there was no connection and pressed him more information, saying I'd be interested in reporting on the alleged attacks, but he declined and hung up. 

The local TV stations attempted to speak with other students at Lutheran High North, but only one was successful in getting a comment.  

"It's a Lutheran school. What do you expect?" the student said.   

Gee, I don't know, perhaps some Christian love?   

Watch reports from KHOU-TV, KPRC-TV and KTRK-TV, AFTER THE JUMP ...

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