Tag Archives: Supreme Court

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.


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.


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


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.  


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.  


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


Record crowds attended the Pride Festival and parade.





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 700,00 attendeesshattering 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





SCOTUS Hobby Lobby Decision: A One-Way Ticket to Socialized Medicine?

After lauding the Supreme Court’s decision last week to protect digital privacy rights, it’s quite ironic that today they’ve dealt an insurmountable blow to individual rights while favoring corporate intransigence.  From the Chicago Tribune, here’s the story…

The U.S. Supreme Court today ruled that business owners can object on religious grounds to a provision of President Obama’s healthcare law that requires companies to provide health insurance that covers birth control.

The court held on a 5-4 vote on ideological lines that such companies can seek an exemption from the so-called birth control mandate of the healthcare law. The decision means employees of those companies will have to obtain certain forms of birth control from other sources.

In a majority opinion by conservative Justice Samuel Alito, the court said the ruling applies only to the birth control mandate and does not mean companies would necessarily succeed if they made similar claims to other insurance requirements, such as vaccinations and drug transfusions.

In the majority opinion, Alito indicated that employees could still be able to obtain the birth control coverage via an accommodation to the mandate that the Obama administration has already introduced for religious-affiliated nonprofits. The accommodation allows health insurance companies to provide the coverage without the employer being involved in the process.

Under the accommodation, eligible non-profits must provide a “self certification”, described by one lower court judge as a “permission slip” authorizing insurance companies to provide the coverage. The accommodation is itself the subject of a separate legal challenge.

The Chicago Tribune also posted text of the full SCOTUS decision, which is definitely worth a read if you want a thorough understanding of the case.  One of the first things to notice?  This case was decided not just by a 5 to 4 majority, but 5 MEN ruling in favor of corporate rights, while all 3 of the court’s women were in dissent.  The irony is striking… 5 men that will never have to endure a situation seemingly ignore the input of women that have both a legal and personal understanding of the full range of women’s health needs (i.e. the medical FACT that some “birth control pills” are taken for other uses, and not just Contraception).  Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg writes the dissenting opinion here (it starts on page 60), and at the least, the way she refutes the narrow minds of her male colleagues is truly EPIC.  A dissent that will go down in history for sure.

Directly from Justice Ginsburg’s dissent…

After assuming the existence of compelling government
interests, the Court holds that the contraceptive coverage
requirement fails to satisfy RFRA’s least restrictive means
test. But the Government has shown that there is no less
restrictive, equally effective means that would both (1)
religious objections to providing insurance coverage for certain contraceptives (which they believe cause abortions); and (2) carry out the objective of
the ACA’s contraceptive coverage requirement, to ensure
that women employees receive, at no cost to them, the
preventive care needed to safeguard their health and well
being. A “least restrictive means” cannot require employees to relinquish benefits accorded them by federal law in
order to ensure that their commercial employers can
adhere unreservedly to their religious tenets. See supra,
at 7–8, 27.25

Then let the government pay (rather than the employees
who do not share their employer’s faith), the Court suggests. “The most straightforward [alternative],” the Court
asserts, “would be for the Government to assume the cost
of providing . . . contraceptives . . . to any women who are
unable to obtain them under their health-insurance policies due to their employers’ religious objections.” Ante, at

As quoted from the majority opinion, the precedent set here may broaden “religious freedom” for non-people, but it also potentially broadens the reach of the Affordable Care Act.  The Court essentially endorses government healthcare over that of the private employer, which sows the seeds to eliminate private insurers entirely.  Can any company that suddenly “finds religion” and wants to alter or lessen their health plans just pass the buck on to Uncle Sam?  In any instance where companies decide to provide “separate but unequal” care that violates the ACA, will the government then step in and quietly take on more of the healthcare system?  The opinion of these Conservative justices is so short-sighted, that it leaves any and all of these possibilities on the table.  As shameful as today’s decision is, it may have some very real inroads to waving corporate responsibilities for healthcare entirely, leaving government to then create a public option to get people covered.  Only time will tell.


Supreme Court Upholds Right to ‘Digital Privacy’

In a landmark ruling this week, the United States Supreme Court has taken a bold step to protect ‘digital privacy’ rights in the United States.  Here’s the story from the New York Times

In a sweeping victory for privacy rights in the digital age, the Supreme Court on Wednesday unanimously ruled that the police need warrants to search the cellphones of people they arrest.

While the decision will offer protection to the 12 million people arrested every year, many for minor crimes, its impact will most likely be much broader. The ruling almost certainly also applies to searches of tablet and laptop computers, and its reasoning may apply to searches of homes and businesses and of information held by third parties like phone companies.

“This is a bold opinion,” said Orin S. Kerr, a law professor at George Washington University. “It is the first computer-search case, and it says we are in a new digital age. You can’t apply the old rules anymore.”

With so much of our lives taking place through these small, electronic devices, it’s not surprising that the Justices issued a unanimous ruling on this.  In the 21st century, we already place far more value on intellectual capital than almost any other pursuit.  But the only way to protect this new economic engine is by strengthening our ‘digital privacy’ rights.  The Supreme Court has succeeded this week in protecting all Americans. Let’s hope for more common-sense conclusions on other issues.

A test for DOMA in the health care fight??

Of course the main swarm of the newsday is buzzing around the Supreme Court, but soon we’ll be talking about some big moves going on in the lower courts that will set up another Supreme Showdown. According to Chris Geidner at PoliGlot, the Obama Administration has asked the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals to fast-track it’s review of a case that alleges the Defense of Marriage Act violates the equal protection clause. This case involves Karen Golinski, who’s wife (married in California) was denied Health Care Coverage because eventhough gay marriage was legal in California at the time, DOMA allowed the insurance company to block her coverage. The Obama administration has called it out and is now pursuing DOMA for discrimination.

Recall that the Obama Administration is no longer defending DOMA… it has already declared the 1994 law unconstitutional. Instead, our tax-payer dollars are being spent by House Republicans on the Bi-Partisan Legal Action Group, or BLAG. Don’t let the “Bi-Partisan” name fool you, this effort is entirely from the GOP, as it was approved by a 3-2 party line vote.

How does this affect the Affordable Care Act, or Obamacare?? There is no mention of guaranteed coverage for domestic partners in the ACA (the House version of the Bill had domestic partner protections, but they were scrapped in the Senate version of the Bill). But if the ACA is upheld by the Supreme Court, it could potentially weaken DOMA even further by ending other broad discriminatory practices by health insurance companies. Proving that the Defense of Marriage Act is discriminatory would cause portions of it to be struck down, or end the law entirely. So as we all watch the showdown over the Individual Mandate, know that another big court fight is ahead… possibly before the General Election.