LOOKOUT! Marriage Equality May Soon Land In Texas

Some very exciting news may be ahead for LGBT Texans, as reported by John Wright in the Texas Observer…

Last week, plaintiffs in a federal lawsuit challenging Texas’ marriage bans asked U.S. District Judge Orlando L. Garcia to lift his stay of a February decision striking down the bans. If Garcia lifts the stay, it could create a window for same-sex marriages to occur in Texas before Republican Attorney General Greg Abbott can seek a new stay from the U.S. 5th Circuit Court of Appeals, which is set to hear oral arguments in the case on Jan. 9.

[…]

“I don’t think there is anything keeping them from issuing the licenses once the stay is lifted, but an argument could be made that they aren’t required to do so until it [the outcome of the case] becomes final,” Upton said.

Fortunately, same-sex couples from Fort Worth will be able to obtain licenses in Dallas, where Democratic clerk John Warren said he’s prepared to issue them.

“You take an oath to uphold the law, and if the law changes, you’ve got to do it,” Warren said. “If the law says I can’t, then I won’t. If the law says I can, then I will.”

Democratic Republican Bexar County Clerk Gerhard C. “Gerry” Rickhoff said in addition to keeping his office open ’round-the-clock, he’s considering setting up tables in Main Plaza to accommodate same-sex couples. Rickhoff said he’s also lined up district judges to waive a 72-hour waiting period before ceremonies can occur, as well as officiants to conduct them.

“There’s a pent-up demand to stop these civil rights violations that are pretty evident,” Rickhoff said. “I would imagine they’ll be driving into San Antonio in droves, and that’s what we’re prepared for. Nobody will be turned away. We’ll work until there’s nobody left.”

Democratic Travis County Clerk Dana DeBeauvoir said her office will also be ready to extend its hours if Garcia lifts the stay.

This same “marriage window” occurred earlier this year in the state of Arkansas, where a judge struck down the state’s ban on same-sex marriage, but state Attorney General Dustin McDaniel did not file an emergency stay upon appeal of the judge’s ruling.  As a result of this window, 541 couples were able to marry in the Natural State, but for now the validity of those marriages is in legal limbo.

But Arkansas seems to be following a very familiar playbook… that of California.  Because of the marriages established for the state beginning in 2004, the Supreme Court had no choice but to strike down California’s ban once and for all in 2013.  These are all important steps in the process.  It’s one thing for a state to ban any and all possibilities of marriage.  But once people are allowed to obtain official marriage licenses from any counties willing to issue them, it’s going to be hard for Texas to keep up appearances with the state’s marriage ban.

So there you have it… we’ve got at least 3 Texas County Clerks that are ready to start issuing same-sex marriage licenses at any time.  Let’s hope that judge Garcia lifts the stay soon, and if you’re an interested couple that doesn’t live in Dallas, Austin or San Antonio, get your bag packed for a quick trip!

LGBT marriage County Clerks

(Photo credit:  Equality Texas)

The Unjust System

There are some days when The Huffington Post really nails their front page.  Today would be one of them…

HuffPo For Real

Across the United States, many communities have already erupted in protest following the recent decision not to indict Ferguson police officer Darren Wilson after the death of young Michael Brown Jr.

Shortly before the grand jury decision was even issued in the Darren Wilson case, the city of Cleveland Ohio lost 12 year old Tamir Rice to the actions of yet another police officer… all because the boy was playing with a toy gun.  Evidence has already emerged from Cleveland.com that Tim Loehmann– the policeman responsible for Rice’s death, was previously found unfit to even be wielding a firearm in the first place by his former Deputy police chief in 2012.

And just yesterday, the country learned of yet more shocking news… police officers responsible for the death of 42 year old Eric Garner, taken down in a lethal choke hold after the unarmed man resisted arrest, will also not face a proper trial.  Learning of the decision, New York City immediately erupted in protests, with more across the country sure to follow.

Garner’s tragic death was captured on video.  His last words as a living being on this planet captured for all of the world to see.

“I Can’t Breathe.”  

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=j1ka4oKu1jo

Even the person who filmed this viral footage, Ramsey Orta, was indicted on two felony counts… ones he claimed he was framed for by the officers involved.

Every minute of my life, I have had to wonder if I would ever be in a situation like that of Michael Brown Jr., Tamir Rice or Eric Garner.

Four times in my life, in two different states, I have been improperly and unjustifiably detained by police officers.  Each time, I was unarmed.  Each time, they were armed.  Each time, they had the ability to take my life.

Whatever the facts of any one particular case, these experiences are simply too much a commonality for certain segments of the American population. There is no other way to say it… the fear is real. Our friends, our neighbors are being profiled and unlawfully detained.  They are being beaten.  They are being killed at the hands of officers across this country.  Since 9/11, police forces have become increasingly militarized with unprecedented access to weaponry and training that would only be seen in the theater of war.   This is not normal, and it is not how you treat American citizens.

I pray for these families.  I also pray for our police officers.  For all of the ones that get up, work hard and risk their lives everyday to keep people safe, I pray for them and I thank them.

But among the vast majority of good, hard-working public servants, there are too many doing wrong to simply ignore.  These people are hiding in plain sight, and getting away with murder.  They may be protecting some communities, but if they are allowed to profile, harass and even kill people without consequence, then they deserve to not only be removed from the force, but brought to justice. Of course, doing so requires having a justice system that is not skewed in their favor.

The time for change is now.  We can’t stop with police body cameras.  We can’t condone profiling.  We can’t stop by a massive reexamination of our nation’s justice system.  We can’t allow police militarization to continue.  We can’t stop by simply asking police forces to return to a more community-centered structure.  We can’t stop by simply reforming police use-of-force practices.  We also can’t afford to keep sitting out on critical elections where we have the power to put people in office that truly listen to community concerns.  The struggle has to incorporate change at all levels.

So please… march. Protest. Blog. Vote. Support our officers that are doing their jobs.  Demand justice against those are abusing their immense privilege and responsibility.  Demand justice for those slain.

We need a new system.  We can’t breathe.

 

 

 

 

SCOTUS Takes Up Landmark Pregnancy Discrimination Case

In recent times, there has been a large amount of focus on discrimination waged against certain classes, particularly the LGBT community and certain racial groups.  But while it may not be as widely discussed, many Americans also face discrimination during a very important part of their lives… pregnancy.  What is should be a joyous time in a woman’s life is all too often one of the most dangerous situations for their professional career, as many employers have a long history of discriminatory practices against young mothers and mothers-to-be.

But a big move by the nation’s highest court will bring pregnancy discrimination into the national focus over the next year.  Here’s more from the Houston Chronicle (via AP)…

WASHINGTON (AP) — The Supreme Court is taking up a pregnancy discrimination case with the potential to affect many American women who continue to work throughout their pregnancies.

The case before the justices Wednesday involves a former driver for United Parcel Service who wanted a temporary assignment to avoid lifting heavy packages after she became pregnant in 2006.

UPS refused to accommodate driver Peggy Young, who did not return to work until two months after she delivered her baby.

The court is weighing whether the company’s actions violated the 36-year-old federal Pregnancy Discrimination Act.

Young says she should have been offered light-duty work because some UPS workers were.

The Atlanta-based package delivery company says it will voluntarily offer pregnant women light duty starting in January. But the company contends it complied with the law in Young’s case.

The question at the Supreme Court is whether UPS was required to accommodate Young, 42, because it gave temporary assignments to some workers, including those who were injured on the job or had a condition that was covered by the Americans With Disabilities Act.

[…]

The U.S. Chamber of Commerce is among those on UPS’ side. The chamber says many of its members do provide additional benefits to pregnant workers, but says policies at thousands of companies would be upended if the court were to rule for Young. Lower federal courts have rejected her claim.

Since the justices agreed in July to hear the case, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission updated guidance to employers to make clear that they should accommodate people in Young’s situation. Yet the U.S. Postal Service, an independent federal agency, maintains the practice that UPS has now abandoned, UPS said in court papers. The Postal Service declined to comment.

So while the Obama Administration has done more to protect pregnant with strengthened EEOC guidelines, a SCOTUS decision favoring the plaintiff could cause a landmark shift in the way companies treat pregnant employees.

Barring potential outcomes of the court case, there are still many state and local protections that go above those outline in the Pregnancy Discrimination Act.  When Houston City Council passed the Houston Equal Rights Ordinance earlier this year, pregnancy was included as one of the protected classes to combat discrimination in the workplace, housing and public accommodations.   This ordinance not only clarifies that discrimination is illegal in Texas’ largest city, but also gives Houstonians increased accessibility to file discrimination complaints.  And despite any of the copious lies out there, the Houston Equal Rights Ordinance does NOT allow men to enter women’s bathrooms!!  Not a part of this law in any way.

HERO faces its own court challenge January 19th to determine whether the new law will be forced to face a recall.   Meanwhile after hearing the case today, a SCOTUS decision isn’t expected until June.

Texoblogosphere: Week of December 1st

The Texas Progressive Alliance is back from its tryptophan vacation as it brings you this week’s roundup.

Off the Kuff is cheering for the Texas same-sex marriage plaintiffs as they move for the stay of the ruling that threw out the ban on same-sex nuptials to be lifted.

Libby Shaw writing for Texas Kaos and Daily Kos is taking a few days off to spend quality time with family. I hope all of our readers had a wonderful Thanksgiving holiday.

Some helpful tips to avoid looking like a jackass with respect to the events in Ferguson, Missouri this past week were offered by PDiddie at Brains and Eggs.

CouldBeTrue of South Texas Chisme disagrees with the GOP view that only rich, white, old men should vote.

Neil at All People Have Value attended the Michael Brown protest march in Houston this past week. The work of freedom is always up to each of us. APHV is part of NeilAquino.com.

The controversial decision in Ferguson, Missouri sent shockwaves across the country, with many communities immediately engaging in protests. But as Texas Leftist discovered, the Houston protests may yield some substantive progress in the quest to outfit officers with body cameras. Plus, a new video highlights HPD’s work to tackle homelessness.

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

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

The Rivard Report, with a clear view of what “bipartisanship” means these days, reminds us that it only takes a few generations to go from immigrant to hypocrite.

Lone Star Ma has had it with the textbook adoption process.

Grits for Breakfast questions Republican funny math on border security funding.

Texans Together discusses hardship exemptions for the Affordable Care Act.

LGBTQ Insider explains another acronym for the spectrum.

 

(Photo credit:  Dr. Marvel on Flickr)

Holiday Lights Houston

Houston City Council Proposes 2015 Charter Amendments

Many that follow Houston municipal government have expected a charter amendment proposal to remove the city’s voter-imposed revenue cap on taxes.  With rapid growth and exploding property costs, most Houstonians understand that the cap hinders the city’s ability to carry out basic functions.

But as Texpatriate reports, City Council is doesn’t plan to stop with just the one charter amendment for the upcoming elections…

Texpatriate has learned that the Houston City Council’s ad hoc “charter review committee” has assembled a memorandum of four proposed rule changes to the city’s constitution-like document and plans on holding a public hearing on the matter. On December 4th at 1:00 PM, a week from tomorrow, the council will hold a public hearing on these four proposals, which I will delineate below. Additionally, to call it a “committee” is a misnomer, as the whole council sits on this special group. Mayor Pro Tem Ed Gonzalez (D-District H) will preside.

The four proposals were initially suggested by City Councilmember C.O. Bradford (D-At Large 4). They are eliminating the so-called “revenue cap” for local property taxes, allowing for secret sessions of the council, modifying term limits and allowing a coalition of at least six councilmembers to add agenda items.

Removal of the municipal revenue cap seems to have support on both sides, so it is unlikely to stoke much in the of controversy as Houstonians head into November 2015.

But the proposal for term limits is a somewhat different matter.  Many expect the committee to propose shifting limits of the Mayor and City Controller from a maximum of three 2-year terms to a maximum of two 4-year terms.  This would not only lower the number of elections these public servants have to endure, but would also increase the total amount of time they could serve in office by 2 years overall.  There are points to be made on both sides of the issue. Points in favor would be that fewer elections means more time for governing and more experienced office holders. In opposition would be that the elected official doesn’t have to be held accountable to the public as often for their actions.  In a constituency as large and diverse as Houston, I tend to believe that our elections are important enough to hold every two years.  Rather than reform the frequency of when elections occur, it would be a better idea to reform how they are held– i.e. campaign finance restrictions that level the playing field.

On the other hand, allowing a contingency of Council Members to place an item on the meeting agenda without prior approval of the Mayor seems not only reasonable, but long overdue.  It is a way to go about the people’s business in a more efficient and direct manner.

For all of the positive that would come expanding agenda abilities to members of Council, the proposal to allow secret sessions of City Council seems confusing at best.  As Texpatriate pointed out, it has potential to cause conflict with the open meetings act of the Texas Constitution.  Of course the other side to that is many Council Members feel that the open meetings act is actually too restrictive– they’re not allowed to even informally discuss an issue if not convened in an official meeting.

All of this to say that November 2015 looks to be yet another very important election for Houstonians.  There won’t be a President or Governor on the ballot, but the new Mayor, Council Members and whatever charter amendments are passed could have a huge impact on the city.