Houston Goes BIG For Historic Pride Celebration

Sometimes a series of unlikely events converge to yield what is ultimately the best of all possible conclusions.  For months prior to the week of Houston’s official Pride celebrations, the continued success of those festivities was somewhat in question.  Pride Houston, the organization charged with planning producing and executing the massive festival and parade each year, had some early difficulties when it first announced last October that the signature events would be relocated to downtown… away from their traditional home in the Montrose neighborhood.  The move came as a total surprise to the many organizations that plan and participate in Pride, as well as local businesses who often cited the parade’s convenient location to be of great benefit.

Barely one month later, Pride Houston once again frustrated community leaders by announcing plans to change the date of Pride from the expected last weekend of June (June 27th) to one week earlier (June 20th).  Had this move occurred the city’s LGBT celebration would have been in direct conflict with observances of the Sesquicentennial Anniversary of Juneteenth… an event which prior to a contentious meeting with community leaders was unknown to local Pride leaders.

Even despite this arduous journey, in the case of Pride Houston all is well that truly ends well. Leaders rightfully moved the Parade to downtown in part because they hoped to eventually grow the size and scope of the festival.  But because Pride planners also listened to community leaders and decided to hold the festivities on the June 27th date, Houston received the special bonus of being the first Pride celebration in Texas after the Supreme Court’s historic decision to legalize marriage equality across the United States.  What resulted was by all accounts, the largest Pride celebration in city history, in a venue well designed to accommodate the roaring crowds.

On June 26th one day before the planned Pride festivities, city leaders gathered for a joyful and spontaneous rally following the day’s court decision.  Mayor Annise Parker, and now formally recognized First Lady of Houston Kathy Hubbard were all smiles at the event.  With the ruling, their marriage too was now official in the state of Texas.

ParkerFriday1

Mayor Annise Parker speaking just hours after the Supreme Court struck down Texas’ same-sex marriage ban, and brought marriage equality to all 50 states.

ParkerFriday2

Houston’s First Lady Kathy Hubbard beams while linking arms with wife, Mayor Annise Parker.  

SenatorGarcia

Prominent allies like State Senator Sylvia Garcia (above) and State Legislator Garnet Coleman also made time to speak at the impromptu event, and show support on the historic day.  

Pride1

On Saturday June 27th, many Houstonians experienced a new way to get to Pride.  Now that it is being held in downtown, celebrants can park their cars, and arrive at the event via MetroRail.  Patrons parked all along the lines, including sites like Fannin South station, Northline Mall and the University of Houston main campus.  

Pride2

The iconic canyon skyscrapers lining Smith street became the new backdrop for Houston’s Pride Parade.  

Pride3

Record crowds attended the Pride Festival and parade.

Pride4

Pride5

Pride7

Pride6

Houston Social Media Director Melissa Ragsdale Darragh, Mayor Annise Parker and First Lady Kathy Hubbard smile before the parade. Melissa also placed 3rd in the 2015 Pride SuperStar singing competition, and is an avid LGBT ally.  (Photo credit:  Mayor’s facebook page

 

No official numbers have been released yet, but many believe that this year’s Pride parade had well over 600,00 attendees… shattering previous records for the city of Houston.  Kudos to all of the incredible volunteers, and to Pride Houston leadership for producing a monumental celebration.  It’s safe to say that many Houstonians and out-of-town visitors will be looking forward to our version of Pride next year.

TL rainbow

 

 

 

 

Marriage Equality Comes To Texas

In the wake of today’s historic SCOTUS decision, marriage equality for the state of Texas went from dream to reality.

But depending on the county that one lives in, that reality may be harder to swallow than it is for others.

As we speak, legal marriage ceremonies are being conducted in  several Texas Counties, including El Paso, Hidalgo, Travis, Bexar and Dallas are now granting marriage licenses to same-sex couples.

However in the state’s most populous county of Harris, a pathetic waiting game is still being played, as County Clerk Stan Stanart is trying desperately to slow down the process of granting loving couples their constitutional rights.

Even after County Attorney Vince Ryan directly instructed Stanart to comply with federal law, the elected official seems to be ignoring federal law. One Houston couple, Hunter Middleton and John LaRue were the first in line at the Harris County Clerk’s office waiting to apply for the marriage license.  Sadly they were also the first to be turned down. This is a risky stance for the Clerk, as it leaves Harris County and its taxpayers liable for deniability.  In fact, several Houston couples have already begun proceedings to sue the county.  

As of 3pm today, LGBT couples can now wed in Harris County!!!  Here’s what you need to do to obtain a marriage license.  

 

If LGBT Texans were hoping for some support from their governor on this historic day, they sadly will not find it.  As Rebecca Elliott of the Houston Chronicle reports, Governor Greg Abbott has issued a directive in hopes of preventing same-sex spouses from receiving now federally-mandated benefits…

Texas Gov. Greg Abbott opened the door for state agencies to withhold benefits from same-sex couples Friday, hours after the Supreme Court legalized same-sex marriage nationwide.

In a letter released Friday afternoon, Abbott ordered heads of state agencies to prioritize religious freedom, writing that no adverse action should be taken against a state official “on account of the person’s act or refusal to act that is substantially motivated by sincere religious belief.”

“This order applies to any agency decision, including but not limited to granting or denying benefits, managing agency employees, entering or enforcing agency contracts, licensing and permitting decisions, or enforcing state laws and regulations,” Abbott wrote.

Yet again, we have a measure of grand irony from the Texas Governor.  preventing loving couples from getting married or receiving benefits is of the highest priority, but letting millions of poor Texans suffer without health insurance of any kind can wait??  Actions like these border on shameful.

CRITICAL UPDATE!!

Harris County Clerk Stan Stanart will begin issuing same-sex marriage licenses at 3pm, whether he has the correct forms or not!  Marriage equality has come to the nation’s 4th largest city!

3:20pm

And it’s DONE.  Congratulations to Hunter Middleton and John LaRue, the first same-sex couple ever to marry in Harris County and the City of Houston!  

038

An historic day indeed!!

 

 

Texas Flag pide1

Marriage EQUALIZED: SCOTUS Strikes Down State Marriage Bans

BREAKING:  In a 5-4 decision, the Supreme Court of the United States has invalidated ALL state bans against same-sex marriage. Justice Anthony Kennedy joined Justices Elena Kagen, Sonia Sotomayor, Stephen Breyer and Ruth Bader Ginsburg to form the majority, with Justices John Roberts, Samuel Alito, Clarence Thomas and Antonin Scalia in the dissent.

The ruling’s foundation came from the Fourteenth Amendment of the constitution.  Directly from the majority opinion

The right of same-sex couples to marry is also derived from the Fourteenth Amendment’s guarantee of equal protection. The Due Process Clause and the Equal Protection Clause are connected in a profound way. Rights implicit in liberty and rights secured by equal protection may rest on different precepts and are not always coextensive, yet each may be instructive as to the meaning and reach of the other. This dynamic is reflected in Loving, where the Court invoked both the Equal Protection Clause and the Due Process Clause; and in Zablocki v. Redhail, 434 U. S. 374, where the Court invalidated a law barring fathers delinquent on child-support payments from marrying. Indeed, recognizing that new insights and societal understandings can reveal unjustified inequality within fundamental institutions that once passed unnoticed and unchallenged, this Court has invoked equal protection principles to invalidate laws imposing sexbased inequality on marriage,…

No doubt about it… this is an historic day for the United States of America.  With same-sex marriage now legal in all 50 states, we must wait and see how this ruling comes into reality.  In the case of Texas, at least 3 county clerks are ready to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples, though sadly Harris County is not one of them. Texas Leftist will have more as the process of marriage unfolds across the state, and the nation.

SCOTUS

 

The Flag Debate… Another Sidestep For Racism, Guns?

There’s a definite ebb and flow to the race debate in this country.

Or wait, maybe ebb and flow doesn’t provoke the correct image.  Instead let’s try a minefield.

Most of the time, Americans go about their business quite well by dodging the subject.  For white Americans, this is done by simply not bringing it up (see no evil, hear no evil, right?).

For communities of color however, racism at multiple levels is reality.  While the daily slights of discrimination and prejudice continue, Americans go on with their lives, try not to “blow things out of proportion”, and pray that whatever they just endured will be the worst of it.

This system of duck-and-cover largely works for the country… that is until we hit another minefield.

Thus was the tragedy that befell Charleston, South Carolina last week.  A young white male, welcomed into the historic Emanuel AME church, joined worshipers in bible study, looked into their eyes, and proceeded to murder 9 people  in cold blood.  As families and friends of the mass shooting try to pick up the pieces of their lives, people across the country are also left in a state of shock.

As further details of the mass shooting were revealed, we learn that not only was it not some isolated incident, but motivated by deeply-seeded racism.

Yet one week later, more Americans are talking about this, than a brutal and heinous act of domestic terrorism…

Caonfederate Flag Mine Field

Why you ask?  Because convenience.  It’s a lot easier to discuss minefields surrounding a piece of cloth than it is to begin the real work of tackling the conditions that led to, and fed into such hatred.  To be clear, I’ve never been a fan of the rebel flag either.  Given the choice, I would gladly take them down, along with many painful relics of our nation’s racist history.

But if we think that cleansing the country of rebel and Confederate memorabilia is going to “fix” our issues with race, we are sadly mistaken. It’s true that this killer ultimately made an individual decision to walk into that church, and take the lives of those people.  Only he is responsible for that.  But at the same time, it is all of society that has helped to shape impressions of different races.

It’s also society, at least in states like South Carolina and Texas, that constantly lifts up the gun wielder as some ultimate hero that will save “us all” (who is us?  who is all?) from danger in the face of an unknown enemy.  You’ve heard the phrase “the only thing that can stop a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun.”  which as it turns out, is a complete lie.  Whether one agrees or disagrees with the constitution’s right to bear arms, we should all at least agree that a gun is in fact a deadly weapon. After the December 2012 mass slaughter of children in Newtown, Connecticut, studies showed that a full 92 percent of Americans supported a federal law requiring background checks before the purchase or transfer of a gun.  Yet politicians in Washington, caving to political pressure from a few fringe leaders, could not pass a law on requiring background checks before the purchase or transfer of a firearm.  It’s not possible to know what a background check could have discovered about the killer in Charleston, but we do know that he was able to obtain the weapon without one being required.

With such hard truths surrounding the needed conversations around guns and race, it’s not surprising that the media and politicians have focused on the removal of the rebel flag.  And yes… the removal of many of these symbols is a most worthy discussion.  But hopefully one day, we will also stop fearing the minefields around race and guns in America, and learn how to truly make this country safer and more equal for all.

 

 

Texoblogosphere: Week of June 22nd

The thoughts and prayers of the Texas Progressive Alliance are with the families and friends of the victims of the horrible shooting in Charleston as it brings you this week’s roundup.

Off the Kuff looks at the latest developments in the ongoing investigation against AG Ken Paxton.

Letters from Texas advises Capitol staffers how to respond to the Texas Monthly Best and Worst Legislators list.

Libby Shaw at Texas Kaos and contributing to Daily Kos spanks the GOP for its craven use of dog whistles and thinly veiled racism. Come and Take the Truth About Playing the Race Card, GOP.

Will the outcome of Houston’s mayoral race be similar to San Antonio’s — abysmal turnout, two Democrats in a runoff, one going after Republican votes in order to win? PDiddie at Brains and Eggs would prefer almost any other scenario besides that one.

Moving towards offering an accessible and comprehensive way to view all of life, Neil at All People Have Value added a page of pictures he has taken out in everyday life to his website. APHV is part of NeilAquino.com.

Socratic Gadfly says that, although the symbolism of the Confederate flag is offensive, the First Amendment protects offensiveness, and the Supreme Court got it wrong in ruling Texas can ban Sons of Confederate Veterans vanity plates.

With municipal elections looming large in the background, Texas Leftist tried to keep up with intense political theater that was this year’s Houston City Budget… the last ever of the Annise Parker Mayoralty.

=================

And here are some posts of interest from other Texas blogs.

The TSTA Blog has plenty of reasons to fear a Scott Walker presidency.

Better Texas Blog measures the impact in Texas of an adverse SCOTUS decision in King v. Burwell.

Juanita Jean marvels at the story about Texas’ own Fort Knox.

Texas Vox calls on the CFPB to end forced arbitration.

The Lunch Tray bemoans Ag Commissioner Sid Miller’s decision to lift a decade-old ban on deep fat fryers in schools, ironically done as part of an initiative to fight childhood obesity.

And finally, the TPA congratulates Scott Henson of Grits for Breakfast on his new gig as Executive Director of the Innocence Project of Texas.

opportuntyhouston1

 

Today’s feature photo is a screenshot from an Opportunity Houston video.  

Amid Political Barbs, Houston City Council Passes Budget

With this year’s municipal elections looming large in the background, the Houston City Council did its annual duty, passing a $5.1 Billion Dollar budget.

Here’s more on the process from Mike Morris of the Houston Chronicle

Houston City Council, in passing a budget amendment on Wednesday, made the mayor and some union leaders nervous by dipping into funds set aside for uncertainties including dollars for possible employee raises, to keep a program that gives each of the 11 district council members $1 million to spend in their areas.

That amendment to Mayor Annise Parker’s budget, approved by an 11-4 margin, came despite the city facing a projected $126 million gap next summer between revenues and expenses in its $2.4 billion general fund, which is fed mainly by property and sales taxes and funds basic services. That estimated deficit far exceeds the one the city closed during the recession several years ago, when 776 workers were laid off.

Houston’s coming budget challenges are driven mainly by soaring pension and debt costs and the impact of a decade-old, voter-imposed cap on what the city can collect from property taxes, the main source of general fund revenue.

[…]

The budget itself was approved shortly after 11 p.m. Wednesday after a solid 12 hours of debate, by an 11-4 margin, with Councilmen Jerry Davis, Dave Martin, Michael Kubosh and C.O. Bradford opposed. Few substantive amendments passed.

The highest-profile item approved was a proposal by Davis and Councilman Mike Laster to keep $11 million in the so-called council district service funds. That program, launched last year, is intended to help council members more quickly solve local problems such as mowing overgrown lots, fixing sidewalks or razing dangerous buildings.

The District Council member appropriation may have been one of the most high profile amendments that passed, but there was plenty of political theater over amendments that failed.  One of the day’s biggest debates was over a proposal to make across-the-board cuts to the city budget. Brought forth by Council Member Dave Martin, one amendment would have required every city department (except for the elected officials around the table) to make a 2 percent cut to their spending for city “savings” of $40 million.  The standoff sparked the usual debate of whether to save money via draconian cuts or invest in the city’s future.  Members like Martin and Jack Christie would prioritize these cuts above all else, but others acknowledge that the city has an actual job to do.

“The fact of the matter is we have costs and needs that need to be paid for now.” said Council Member Mike Laster.

“I am confident that there’s a lot of $ to cut in the budget, but it must be specific and start with the extras, not core services.”  tweeted Council Member Brenda Stardig.

In the end, more measured opinions like Stardig won out.  Martin’s amendment, even after being reduced from a $40 million dollar impact cut down to $20 million, was defeated 10 to 5.  Council Member Stephen Costello was one of the 5 in favor… a move likely made in hopes of shoring up support among his Conservative base for the Mayoral campaign.  Though votes like this could just as easily come back to haunt him if he were to be elected.

After a very long day, Mayor Annise Parker’s 6th and final budget was approved by Council.  Yet without intervention from the state, City leaders can do little to address growing pension obligations, which cause the greatest amount of uncertainty for how the city can move forward.  Nor can they anticipate what lies ahead for one of Parker’s signature initiatives– ReBuild Houston, which is currently tied up in litigation over apportionment of the drainage fee.  But with only months left for the current administration, these issues will be for the next Mayor to tackle.

City Council Sculpture

 

Texoblogosphere: Week of June 15th

The Texas Progressive Alliance is binged out on the Women’s World Cup as it brings you this week’s roundup.

Off the Kuff tries to predict how County Clerks and AG Ken Paxton will react to a SCOTUS ruling in favor of marriage equality.

Libby Shaw at Texas Kaos and contributing to Daily Kos spanks the Texas Republican Party for its ideological and spiteful decisions that cheat Texas taxpayers, robbing them of paid for services. Wake up voters. TX GOP: Spite Cheats Texas Taxpayers.

A few people predicted Leticia Van de Putte’s close loss in the San Antonio mayor’s race, and PDiddie at Brains and Eggs found them.

CouldBeTrue of South Texas Chisme wants you to know a labor bashing provision was in the Latino bashing border security bill. 50 hours a week is the new norm.

Socratic Gadfly thinks we need to drop a bomb on our entire current health care system, going beyond “single payer” to a full-blown British-type National Health System.

Nonsequiteuse is frustrated by journalists who can’t or won’t shut down wingnuts when they go into the Gish Gallop.

From WCNews at Eye on Williamson. Good news out of Williamson County regarding renewable energy, Georgetown Will Be Powered 100 Percent By Renewable Energy Within The Next Couple Years.

Neil at All People Have Value took a picture of the mailbox he used to send a $50 donation to the Bernie Sanders campaign. APHV is part of NeilAquino.com.

Texas Leftist wants you to know about the 150th Anniversary of Juneteenth, and where you can go across Texas to celebrate.

===================

And here are some posts of interest from other Texas blogs.

Scott Braddock looks back at how the Senate operated in a non-two-thirds-rule world.

Juanita is keeping an eye on Tom DeLay as the SCOTUS same sex marriage ruling draws near.

Greg Wythe reviews the list of departing (or possibly departing) legislators so far.

Scott Metzger offers his thoughts on a recent kerfuffle between some high-end restaurants and the Silver Eagle beer distributor that has many Texas microbreweries caught in the middle.

Carmen Cruz and Annetta Ramsey argue that marriage equality matters to both gay and straight people.

BEYONDBones celebrates World Ocean Day while spreading the word about the problem of plastic pollution.

The Texas Election Law Blog critiques Rick Hasen’s criticism of the Hillary Clinton campaign’s push for voting rights reform.

Jay Crossley calls for an end to road-only bonds.

galveston trumpet

Today’s feature photo is from the Strand in Galveston, Texas.  Taken by Texas Leftist author L. Wayne Ashley

A Voice for the Rest of Texas