Category Archives: Texas Politics

Texas Couple Denied Adoption Of Their Own Biological Kids?!

Most everyone in the United States of America understands the concept of a blended family… A couple gets married, and each member of the couple already has child.  In order to become a more cohesive family, that couple may cross adopt each other’s children.  Given all the legal complexities associated with raising a child, this makes total sense to do with young children.

But apparently in the state of Texas, the basic rights of parenthood are not so simple for the LGBT community.  As one couple in Fort Worth found out, they can even be denied  rights when they are the BIOLOGICAL parents of the children.  Here’s more from LGBTQnation about the tangled web that one judge has woven for this family…

A judge in Texas has denied a same-sex couple’s petition to adopt their month-old twin boys.

Jason Hannah, 36, and Joe Riggs, 33, are the proud fathers of twins Lucas and Ethan, who were born of the same surrogate mother. Each biologically fathered one of the twins, and the boys — who are half-brothers — share an egg donor. One child is biologically Hanna’s, the other is Riggs.’

But neither Hannah nor Riggs, who were married in Washington D.C. last year, are listed as fathers on either of their sons’ birth certificates. They have petitioned to add each of their names to their biological sons’ birth certificates and to cross-adopt, or second-parent adopt, the boys, reports KDFW-TV.

But the judge, who says she “strictly follows the law,” has denied the couple’s adoption request.

Currently, only the surrogate mother — who has no biological relationship to the boys, since embryos were transferred to her — is named on the twins’ birth certificates.

In case you didn’t catch it above, Jason and Joe are the biological fathers of their children… each man fathered a child separately, found a common donor mom, and had a surrogate mother (unrelated to the children) carry them to term.  There are absolutely no disputing the facts in this either, considering that they had a fantastic profile in the Dallas Morning News before the babies were born!!  Yet the court says that not only can the men not cross-adopt, but the ACTUAL fathers of each child cannot be listed on the child’s birth certificate?  Is this even possible??  What would this judge say if a court ruled that he or she didn’t have custody of their biological children?

Whatever the outcome, this case has “United States Supreme Court” written all over it.  Hopefully Jason and Joe decide to appeal this ridiculous ruling.  Yet another example that proves the unending asininity of Texas’ same-sex marriage ban.

 

In Lt. Governor’s Race, It’s Time for Leticia

As the 2014 campaign season begins to pick up steam, it’s becoming clear which candidates hold the momentum. Some are fully engaged in general election fights, like Democrat Wendy Davis and Republican Greg Abbott in the Governors’ race, while others like Dan Patrick and David Dewhurst are forced to vie for the GOP nomination in the upcoming Primary run-offs. The Patrick- Dewhurst brawl has already gotten particularly ugly.

However, one candidate for Lieutenant Governor sees the GOP run-off as a golden opportunity… State Senator Leticia Van de Putte. Though she’s been a known fixture in Austin since the Ann Richards administration, Senator Van de Putte came to international prominence last June alongside Wendy Davis, causing a roar in the Senate chamber when she was disrespected by her male colleagues.

But make no mistake… Senator Van de Putte is not taking her cues from Davis. She is running her own campaign, and talking about the issues that matter to Texans as she sees them. The increased action on the GOP side is certainly an advantage, but in some ways, so is the fact that the Davis- Abbott battle is stealing the spotlight. As a result of these factors, Van de Putte is quietly building a movement for her campaign, and may have a better shot at victory than her  more famous Gubernatorial counterpart. The Senator has tackled the tough issues, and is a strong supporter of common-sense reforms, public investment, and providing healthcare for all Texans.

And this week, Leticia Van de Putte embarked on a bus tour across the state of Texas, giving voters a dose of old-fashioned shoe leather politics. Here’s more about the tour from Van de Putte’s op-ed in the Burnt Orange Report…

Campaigning statewide requires listening to the people in all of these areas, learning what they expect of government, and then unifying them all under the Lone Star flag so that we may move forward together as a single state.

And when I say unify, I don’t just mean Democrats or those who usually agree with me. I mean all the people of Texas. During my 30 years as a pharmacist and legislator, I’ve learned that to really serve people, first you listen – then you talk. That’s why I’ve been able to work with Republicans, Independents and Democrats to solve problems. I’ve worked with Fortune 500 executives, community activists, doctors and nurses, firefighters and financial executives, all sharing the same goal – keeping Texas the best place to live in the country. And I am proud to say I’ve developed friendships and working relationships with all of them.

Those relationships will be key to sway voters if the Senator is to make history in the Lone Star State. April is a critical time for the Van de Putte campaign… a time to get the word out, meet voters and make sure that Texans know there is a credible alternative GOP antics. Given that she’s kicking off the month with a statewide, press-generating bus tour, one has to think she off to a great start. As a business owner, pharmacist, mother of 6, and experienced legislator, Van de Putte brings a wealth of unique experience that her opponent, whomever it is, simply cannot match. It just may be the prescription for victory in November.

If you’d like to learn more about Leticia Van de Putte, check out her Texas Tribune interview with Evan Smith below…

TexWatch 2014: Vote in the Democratic Primaries!

First things first, an explanation…

Many readers may be wondering why Texas Leftist has been so mum on the 2014 Primary circuit. It’s due to a combination of factors… Some personal, and some professional. I wanted to sit back and see how the Primaries play out before endorsing particular candidates. I’m still learning about the statewide political landscape, so rather than dive in head-first like in the municipal elections, this is the decision I made for the primary cycle. Once the primary results come in, Texas Leftist will assume a more ‘active’ role, including sending candidate questionnaires to those that make it to the general election.

This decision was certainly NOT because I consider the primaries to be less important… they are absolutely crucial. For the Democrats, it’s even more important that you vote in this Primary election so that statewide political forces (Battleground Texas, etc.) can have a gauge of how their work is going. Remember that in general, a vote to support Democratic candidates is a vote to expand healthcare for our states poorest citizens, to actually invest in the education of our next generation, and to strive for equality of all Texans. These principles are likely to be part of Democratic Party platform.

There a few races however, that I will go ahead and endorse outright… Texas Leftist supports Wendy Davis for Governor, Leticia Van de Putte for Lieutenant Governor and Kim Ogg for Harris County District Attorney. Recent comments made by Lloyd Oliver, Ogg’s opponent, denying the existence of domestic violence against women are inaccurate and misleading. As a result, I have to leave the fence on that race.

As much as it pains me to do so, there is also one anti-endorsement that must be made. Please DO NOT VOTE FOR KESHA ROGERS. She is a “LaRouche Democrat” that openly advocates for the impeachment of President Obama. Rogers is a danger to the entire Texas Democratic party. If any friends ask you about Rogers, tell them to not to voter for her under any circumstances.

Though not covered at Texas Leftist, I highly recommend the following sources to help guide your voting choices for the Democratic Primary…

The Off the Kuff 2014 Elections Page is information central for Houston-area politics. He has a fantastic breakdown of local races, and a few other contests from around the state.

Another trusted resource is the Texpatriate Blog. They have conducted several candidate interviews for the Primaries, kept up with all of the latest developments, and offer insightful analysis of each race and it’s broader implications.

Early Voting is underway now in counties across the Houston area. Please go VOTE!!

TPA’s 2013 Texan of the Year

Texas Progressive Alliance Names Senator Wendy Davis 2013 Its ‘Texan Of The Year’

AUSTIN—The Texas Progressive Alliance, the nation’s largest state-based association of online and netroots activists, today named State Senator Wendy Davis recipient of its Texan of the Year Award for 2013.

“Senator Davis’ actions this year made her a clear choice. Our vote was unanimous,” said Vince Leibowitz, Chair of the Alliance. Leibowitz said Senator Davis’ June filibuster of Senate Bill 5 on behalf of Texas women and the preservation of reproductive rights was a courageous action that served to galvanize and energize Texas Democrats. “Senator Davis’ courage to stand up and block this outrageous legislation helped raise awareness in Texas of the assault on a woman’s right to choose that our legislature has waged for the last decade, as well as the extraordinary measures right-wing Republicans in Texas will take both to trample the rights of women and their own colleagues in government,” Leibowitz continued.

Not only did Davis’ actions draw national attention to Texas, but her filibuster and subsequent campaign for Texas Governor have galvanized Texas Democrats. “We have not seen this kind of excitement for a non-presidential election in Texas in many years. We see Democrats are energized, organized, and ready to take back our state for the people. To a great extend, we have Senator Davis and her courageous actions to thank for this; she served as a unifying figure for our party to rally around, and her actions will both strenghten the party in the long run and serve to expand our base,” said Charles Kuffner, Vice Chair of the Alliance.

Previous Texan of the Year recipients are: Carolyn Boyle of Texas Parent PAC (2006); Texas House Democratic Leaders State Reps. Jim Dunnam, Garnet F. Coleman, and Pete Gallego (2007); the Harris County Democratic Party Coordinated Campaign (2008); Houston Mayor Annise Parker (2009); Fort Worth City Councilman Joel Burns (2010); and the protesters of the Tar Sands Blockade (2012). There was no award given in 2011.

Minimum Wage Misconceptions

Like most teenagers, I was not only excited to have my first full-time job, but proud to know that I had reached a significant milestone in my life. I didn’t have to rely on my parents for every want and need anymore. By having a job, and making my own money, I was able to contribute (in a very small way) to the household income, even if it was just by asking them for less spending cash directly. The minimum wage was a staggering $5.15 per hour back then, and I thought was really living the life by getting hired at $5.25. A full 10 cents higher!! I’ll never forget going to pick up my first paycheck of thirty-two dollars and fifteen cents. No great sum by any measure, but being my sum it was great to me.

I’ll also never forget the first time I worked the day shift at my job… a Sonic Drive-In in my hometown of Benton, Arkansas. Unlike the boisterous teenagers that ruled the store at night, Sonic’s day crew was very different. Most of them were older women who were at the store all day, working as many hours as they possibly could. I remember times when I would practically beg for extra hours, and asked my manager if I could work on Saturday mornings. She would always say “not unless you’re called in.” When I asked why, and was persistent, she would say “because they need the hours more.”

I didn’t understand it very well back then, but now those situations make a lot more sense. My managers weren’t being mean. They knew that the adult crew’s hours were truly a need, and not just a teenage want. As David Cooper and Dan Essrow of the Economic Policy Institute explain, the experience most Americans had with minimum wage work in their teens does not reflect the reality of those trying to survive on those wages. A full one-third of all persons working for minimum wage are over the age of 40. That means they aren’t just working to earn money for Friday night, but are struggling to support their families and put enough food on the table so that everyone can eat. They are trying to stem the tide of a constant stream of crises… hoping the car will run until payday, praying for their child to not get sick because they can’t afford to go to the doctor, praying that the lights will stay on until the end of the month. What seems to be petty annoyances to most in the middle class are a full-blown catastrophe to those making minimum wage.

No better place to witness these struggles than the Lone Star State. According to the Dallas Morning News, Texas is “king of the crop” for minimum wage earnings. Of the 3.6 million workers making the federal minimum, 452,000 of them are Texans. And though Texas is still one of the cheapest places to live in the United States, it may not be that way for long. The cost of living in cities like Austin has risen rapidly, with the state’s other big metros not far behind. Adding insult to injury is the fact that poor Texans continue to be denied vital assistance with healthcare, thanks to Governor Perry and Attorney General Abbott’s refusal to expand Medicaid. Despite what many say to the contrary, Texas’ working poor are struggling just like those in other states.

As we enter a new year, it’s time for the country to get out of that ‘teen mindset’ on the minimum wage, and start finding the reality around us. Sure, the minimum wage is probably higher than when most of us were in high school. The problem with that? Everything else is too.

Will She Run? Wendy Davis Answers

Texans, if you’re not watching the new MSNBC program All In With Chris, then you missed some serious breaking news for the state of Texas last night. As I read this morning’s blogosphere, there’s a lot of prognostication about State Senator Davis’ next role in Texas politics. Will she run for Governor, or won’t she??

In an exclusive interview with Chris Hayes last night, she answered the question point blank….

Hayes: There is a Gubernatorial election in 2014. Your state has not elected a statewide Democrat for quite some time. Are you going to run for Governor?

Davis: You know, I would be lying if told you that I hadn’t had aspirations to run for a statewide office. I love this state and it’s been an incredible opportunity to represent it in the Texas Senate. I think the real story will be… will the sentiment of people hold? Will they demonstrate their desire for new leadership in this state? If yesterday was any indication, I think chances are good that is going to be the case.

Here’s the clip.

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An interesting answer which sounds quite familiar. In fact, I discussed this same issue with HCDP Chairman Lane Lewis a few months back. After suffering two decades of defeat for statewide office, Texas Democrats have been caught in a particular political conundrum. Here was Lane’s answer when I asked him about the possibility for statewide candidates…

If we expect a Senator, Mayor or State Rep to put their name out to run for state-wide office, the first thing they will look at is their ability to raise money. The second thing they’re going to look at is capacity for voter turnout. Now the problem is this… the only way they can raise money is if the answer to the second question is already there. The big money isn’t going to contribute without knowing voter turnout and engagement (the answer to the FIRST question) is already in place. So when people ask me “who have we got running for Governor?” my question to them is “How many calls have you made today? How many doors have you knocked on today?” Because if the answer to my question is ZERO, then the answer to their question will most certainly be ZERO. The money will come… the candidates will come when we’re doing our job. That job is to raise a dollar, knock a door and make a call.

Luckily, we know that things are beginning to change in the state. Shifting state demographics are in our favor, even if aggressive gerrymandering and voter suppression are not. Battleground Texas has already made a visible difference with rapid fundraising, organization and training to increase voter turnout. County Democrats across the state are working hard to line up new initiatives and stay active before the 2014 campaign season even begins. And let’s just admit the facts… with Governor Perry waiting less than twenty-four hours to call another Special Session (this time with his Anti-Choice agenda a top priority), the GOP is giving Democrats plenty of fuel for the fire.

Senator Davis has issued Texans a clarion call. Are we ready for new leadership in the state? If so, it’s time to get our act together and work for it. We have to keep raising money, keep knocking doors, and keep speaking out against Rick Perry’s abuses. Don’t let any bad deed be forgotten, or get swept under the rug. There’s 495 days left until the 2014 election. I say we go ALL IN.

SB5 Falls: Wendy Davis, Texas Women Still Standing

American politics is a living, breathing thing. And it is constantly changing. Those changes occur in very small increments… A new people moving to an area, people talking at work, or learning about new neighbors. It’s difficult to actually see that change happening until we take a “snapshot” of it through an election.

But this week in the great state of Texas, we’ve gotten to witness a true political turning point. Like any real movement, it wasn’t cooked up by a couple of money big-wigs, but borne from the concerns of everyday Texans. Texans that were tired of living under the oppression of Perrystan and his minions in the lege. Texans have had enough.

On Thursday night, hundreds of Texans went to the Capitol and staged a Citizen’s Filibuster to slow down the GOP- Dominated House hearing on omnibus anti-abortion bills. After pushing the hearing long into the night, true Republican intransigence prevailed, as Committee Chairman Byron Cook decided that the testimony of his constituents was “too repetitive” and simply shut down the hearing, illegally blocking hundreds of protesters.

That fact was not lost on Texas state House Democrats however. As the Anti-Abortion bills moved to the House floor, Democrats lodged a true fight of their own, challenging Republicans at every turn with amendments to weaken the legislation (and get it caught in Conference. Reps Jessica Farrar, Senfronia Thompson, Dawnna Dukes and others fought valiantly to stall the legislation by keeping the House in session for nearly 15 hours. But true Republican intransigence prevailed, and the bills were finally passed Monday morning and moved to the Senate.

And that’s where this story took an epic turn.

State Senator Wendy Davis, a Ft. Worth Democrat who successfully defended her seat in a majority Republican district, had already proven herself a fighter, and a good politician. But she decided to take up the fight, and defend the rights of all Texas Women by staging a filibuster of the anti-abortion bill… SB5.

And with millions of Texas Women on her shoulders, Wendy Davis took to the Senate floor (in pink tennis shoes), and began one of the most significant 13-hour stands in Texas History. As the last line of defense, she held the floor, reading the testimonies of hundreds of women, including some of those that were originally shut out from that first House hearing. She stood and endured the grueling rules of Texas filibuster, which doesn’t all you to sit or even lean on your desk, and talked all the while. But of course, Republican intransigence once again prevailed, and just after 10pm, they effectively “killed” the filibuster. But with less than two hours to go, Senate Democrats rallied to slow revocation through a slew of Parliamentary Inquiry and Points of Order. As midnight approached, the crowd in the Senate Gallery began to roar with all their might, running down the clock before a vote could be cast. Republicans tried to lie and say that the vote occurred in time, but it was kind of hard to do with the whole world watching. Thanks to the bravery of Davis, Senate Democrats and others in the Chamber, Lt. Governor Dewhurst confirmed this morning… SB5 died.

Thanks to the incessant short-sighted nature of the Texas GOP, that sleeping giant that Democrats have so long predicted in Texas is now awake. Who knows what the next election will hold, but today we celebrate a new political landscape in Texas. Hopefully, as Senator Davis takes a look at that landscape, she’ll want to be sure her next career moves play a prominent role.