#Texas

Texas Has Its 1st Major Party LGBT Candidate For Governor

Former Dallas County Sheriff Lupe Valdez made history in Texas last night, becoming the first openly LGBT and first Latina candidate to win a major party nomination for governor, defeating her opponent Andrew White.

According to the Dallas Morning News, Valdez told supporters, “I am constantly hearing this is going to be such an uphill battle. Please, tell me when I didn’t have an uphill battle.” 

“I am getting darned good at uphill battles,” she added.

Annise Parker, former mayor of Houston and president of the LGBTQ Victory Fund, was jubilant: “Tonight Texans made history by making Lupe Valdez the first openly lesbian woman to win the gubernatorial nomination from a major political party — the latest in a series of groundbreaking wins for LGBTQ candidates in the state.”

Valdez now turns her focus to incumbent Governor Greg Abbott, who has amassed a $41 million war chest for the general election. In six months, Valdez has only raised $200,000.

Also in Texas, Gina Ortiz Jones, a lesbian Filipino-American and Iraq War veteran, won her contest in the 23rd Congressional District over Rick Treviño. She will challenge two-term Republican incumbent Will Hurd.

Out lesbian Lorie Burch triumphed in the Democratic runoff in the Dallas-area Third Congressional District to face Republican newcomer Van Taylor in November. 

And openly gay Eric Holguin cruised to victory in the Democratic runoff for the Corpus Christi-area 27th Congressional District. Holguin will run against Republican Michael Cloud this fall to replace now-retired, scandal-ridden U.S. Rep. Blake Farenthold.

Good night for Texas!

A Former Police Employee Got Away With Murdering His Neighbor After Using The "Gay Panic" Defense

A former police employee got away with murder after using the “gay panic” defense.

69-year-old James Miller from Texas is a retired civilian employee of the Austin Police Department.

After retiring, Miller spent of a lot of his time playing music. One of his past times was to meet up with his 32-year-old neighbor named David Spencer and play with him.

But one night in September 2015, Miller was shocked to find his neighbor and friend coming onto him. Apparently, Spencer closed in for a kiss, but Miller told him he wasn’t interested.

“We were playing back and forth and everything, and I just let him know — Hey, I’m not gay,” Miller, stated in an affidavit, according to Austin NBC-affiliate KXAN.

Things calmed down from there between the two before they suddenly escalated again. In James Miller’s account, Spencer came onto Miller again and Miller’s instinct was to pull out his knife and stab Spencer twice.

While in court, Miller says the he felt threatened by Spencer who was at least eight inches taller than him.

“He had height advantage over me, arm length over me, youth over me,” Miller said, according to the American-Statesman. “I felt he was going to hurt me.”

A few hours later, Miller showed up at a police station to turn himself in. He was then charged with murder, but he would later get his conviction lowered thanks to the “gay panic” defense.

After three years of court cases, Miller was convicted of criminally negligent homicide and not murder or manslaughter.

Because of this, he’s been sentenced to six months in jail and not prison. Plus, he has to carry around a portable alcohol monitor for the next year, be on probation for a year, complete 100 hours of community service, and pay $11,000 to Spencer’s family.

Despite Miller still being convicted of the murder, many are upset that his “gay panic” defense allowed him to lower his conviction.

The “gay panic” defense is legal in 48 states besides California and Illinois. Many see it as offensive due to the nature of the defense. It centers on the belief that the murder of gay people is somehow inherently justified.

D’Arcy Kemnitz, the executive director of the LGBT Bar Association, spoke to the Washington Post about the case and said:

“This is something from the very darkest of ages, based on the idea that if a gay guy hits on a straight guy, then the straight guy gets to do whatever he wants to do to him, including a homicide.”

She also added: “If there’s a secondary chilling effect, when an individual gets to attack or indeed murder someone and walk away with a slap on the wrist or scot-free, it tells us that we’re still vulnerable,” she said.

h/t: The Washington Post

A Federal Judge Just Made An Important Decision Concerning Job Discrimination in Texas

If you thought that nationwide, all American citizens were protected from discrimination in the workplace based on sexual orientation or gender identity, you’d be wrong.

In the states of Texas, Louisiana, and Mississippi, which are run by the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, no federal court has made employment discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity illegal. But, someone just got really close.

In Austin, Texas, an engineer by the name of Nicole Wittmer went through a case against energy company Phillips 66 who Wittmer says didn’t hire her because she’s transgender.

The end of that court case happened recently. Unfortunately, Wittmer didn’t win as the chief judge, Judge Lee Rosenthal of the Southern District Court of Texas, says that Wittmer’s specific case didn’t have enough evidence.

That said, Rosenthal also said that if Wittmer’s case was stronger, she would have had cause to sue under federal law and the court would have ruled with the integrity to fight employment discrimination based on gender identity.

"We're certainly disappointed that this particular ruling did not fall in her favor," Wittmer’s lawyer Alfonso Kennard Jr. told The Dallas Morning News. "The silver lining here is it has helped to define the landscape for people who have been discriminated [against] in the workplace due to their transgender status."

"This ruling is earth-shattering — in a good way."

As for Rosenthal, who was appointed in 1992 by President George H.W. Bush, she says that it was decisions made by other jurisdictions that has helped her come around the to idea of extending Title VII, which protects citizens from job discrimination based on sex, to sexual orientation and gender identity.

“Within the last year, several circuits have expanded Title VII protection to include discrimination based on transgender status and sexual orientation," Rosenthal wrote. "Although the Fifth Circuit has not yet addressed the issue, these very recent circuit cases are persuasive. ... The court assumes that Wittmer's status as a transgender woman places her under the protections of Title VII."

While this is a loss for Wittmer, this could be the start of a major win for LGBTQ workers in Texas (and maybe Louisiana and Mississippi too).

h/t: The Dallas Morning News

Man Who Wanted To Marry His Computer Tried To Throw Gay Marriage Under The Bus

Another person’s trying to marry an inanimate object, but this time it was a poorly veiled attempt to take down gay marriage.

Chris Sevier is a serial litigant with a vendetta against same-sex marriage. Sevier has filed several lawsuits, like one in Alabama and one in Utah, to have marriage equality overturned.

On top of that, he’s also sued Apple for providing devices that allow users to easily access pornography, and he’s lobbied for Texas lawmakers to make a bill saying all retailers have to put pornography-blocking programs on all their electronics.

And most recently, he tried to use polygamy and marrying inanimate objects to prove his stance that gay marriage is unconstitutional.

As Dallas News reports, Sevier appeared in an Austin, Texas court house late last month, with three polygamists, and asked that the definition of marriage be extended even further.

"The governor is overseeing laws that give benefits to homosexuals who are married, but not objectophiles, zoophiles, and polygamists for reasons that are arbitrary," the four, who represented themselves, wrote in the formal complaint, "The plaintiffs seek to force the government to legally recognize polygamy and man-object marriage, as marriage is a matter of civil rights."

"We will make it impossible for the court to dream up ways to dismiss the action in order to avoid the merits of our constitutional claims," Sevier later told The Dallas Morning News, "While the Judges in Texas can run. They cannot hide (sic)."

In addition, Sevier says he’ll be lobbying for Texas lawmakers to introduce the Marriage and Constitution Restoration Act, which would define any marriage that isn’t between a man and a woman as a “parody marriage.” He’s already tried to introduce similar bills to Wyoming and South Carolina.

Luckily, no judge has agreed with Chris Sevier so far. In fact, U.S. District Judge Sam A. Lindsay dismissed Sevier’s lawsuit last week. She did so because 1. None of the plaintiffs are actually from Texas, 2. This isn’t their “first rodeo” (meaning, at least Sevier is obsessed with court cases), 3. They didn’t have a true and rational argument for their case.

As the state argued during the hearing:

"The right to marry one's computer or enter into polygamous marriages is not an interest that is, objectively, deeply rooted in the nation's history and tradition such that it qualifies as a protected interest. Because plaintiffs do not have the fundamental right that they assert and do not belong to either a suspect or quasi-suspect class, and because there are myriad rational bases for prohibiting polygamous marriage or marriage to an inanimate object, plaintiffs fail to state an Equal Protection claim upon which relief may be granted."

That said, Chris Sevier wasn’t deterred. He just said he’d be back, and with more plaintiffs next time.