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Human Rights Campaign

Bathroom bills are floundering

Good.

Bills to curtail transgender people’s access to public restrooms are pending in about a dozen states, but even in conservative bastions such as Texas and Arkansas they may be doomed by high-powered opposition.

The bills have taken on a new significance this week following the decision by President Donald Trump’s administration to revoke an Obama-era federal directive instructing public schools to let transgender students use bathrooms and locker rooms of their chosen gender. Many conservative leaders hailed the assertions by top Trump appointees that the issue was best handled at the state and local level.

Yet at the state level, bills that would limit transgender bathroom access are floundering even though nearly all have surfaced in Republican-controlled legislatures that share common ground politically with Trump. In none of the states with pending bills does passage seem assured; there’s been vigorous opposition from business groups and a notable lack of support from several GOP governors.

The chief reason, according to transgender-rights leaders, is the backlash that hit North Carolina after its legislature approved a bill in March 2016 requiring transgender people to use public restrooms that correspond to the sex on their birth certificates. Several major sports organizations shifted events away from North Carolina, and businesses such as PayPal decided not to expand in the state. In November, Republican Pat McCrory, who signed and defended the bill, became the only incumbent governor to lose in the general election.

[…]

National LGBT-rights groups are closely monitoring the fluctuations, recalling how North Carolina politicians took activists by surprise last year when they passed the divisive bathroom bill in a fast-paced special session.

“That experience makes us very wary about when and how legislation will move,” said Sarah Warbelow, legal director of the Human Rights Campaign. “On the other hand, the American public has been incredibly vocal against these bills… so we’re hopeful that legislators have learned a lesson from North Carolina.”

Even if all the new bathroom bills fail, Warbelow said activists will continue to push for explicit and effective federal protections for transgender students — protections have been undercut by this week’s revocation of the Obama-era guidance.

In addition to Arkansas, I counted fourteen other states where legislators have tried or are trying to pass a North Carolina-like bill, though none of the ones that are trying are getting any traction. The fact that states like South Dakota and Kentucky have explicitly rejected such bills should give you some idea of how far out on a limb Texas would be if we follow Dan Patrick and pass SB6. All these other states saw what happened in North Carolina, and they have stepped back from the abyss. Are we really dumber than they all are? Call Dan Patrick’s office, as so many others have, and ask him that.

Transgender acceptance

I have a question to ask about this.

The trans civil rights movement began with stacked odds because it represents such a minority, less than 1 percent of the population, according to various studies. The movement is seen as the frontier beyond gay marriage rights, and trans activists “have moved so much faster than any of these other social justice movements,” said Mara Keisling, director of the National Center for Transgender Equality. “It’s because they’ve all laid the groundwork for us.”

She expects to see a tipping point as more transgender children come out, just as gay rights picked up support from families with openly gay children.

Minneapolis became the first city to pass protections for transgender people 40 years ago, and more than 225 other municipalities and 19 states have followed suit. Houston is one of the only major U.S. cities without such a law.

Despite those ordinances, the rights of transgender people are being disputed in court or considered by federal authorities.

[…]

In 2013, the Public Religion Research Institute reported that 9 percent of Americans had a close transgender friend or family member. In 2014, the Human Rights Campaign said 17 percent of American survey respondents knew or worked with a transgender person, increasing to 22 percent this year.

It jumps to about 80 percent when the question is about gays and lesbians.

Remember those “What Would Jesus Do?” bracelets that were all the rage a few years back? I always thought they were obnoxious, but it seems to me they might serve a purpose these days. What would Jesus do with transgender people? Would he spit on them and call them perverts and refuse to let them use public restrooms, or would he embrace them as his brothers and sisters under a just and loving God? I’m just asking. I guess you can tell how I feel by the way I framed the question. I also know that this is a matter of life and death for a lot of people. I know that we will become more accepting as a society over time, but for too many people that won’t be soon enough.

8 day finance reports: Pro- and anti-HERO

First, from the inbox:

HoustonUnites

Houston Unites has raised nearly $3 million in support of Proposition 1 from late August through last Saturday, according to the campaign’s finance report submitted to the city today. Almost 75 percent of all donors were from Houston.

“Compared to the handful of wealthy opponents funding the rollback of needed protections for African-Americans, Latinos, women and veterans, we have put together a massive, diverse grassroots coalition backing Houston’s Equal Rights Ordinance,” said Richard Carlbom, campaign manager of Houston Unites. “We anticipate this to be the closest of races, so these final days are critical for HERO supporters to keep investing in the campaign.”

Highlights of the finance report include:

  • More than 85 percent of the total donors to Houston Unites were from Texas.
  • More than 1,100 of the 1,500 total donors were from Houston.
  • Total raised was $2,971,491.
  • More than $100,000 was raised online from more than 1,000 donors.

Here’s their report. Here also are the reports for the Human Rights Campaign for HERO PAC, the Business Coalition for Prop 1 PAC, and the anti-HERO Campaign for Houston PAC. In case you’re wondering, the name Bob McNair does not appear anywhere in that report. I assume this is because he had merely pledged to give $10K before having his mind changed, so with no money actually changing hands there’s nothing to report. Those of you who are more in tune with the legal requirements, please correct me if I’m wrong on that. There’s also the No On Prop 1 PAC, but they had not reported as of yesterday, so the antis do have more than this, we just don’t have all the details yet.

I did not scan through the Houston Unites report last night – I may do so later, and we have their summary, so we’ll go with that for now. The Business Coalition has four donors – cash donations from Bret Scholtes ($500) and Haynes & Boone LLP ($5,000), and pledges from the Greater Houston Partnership ($71,760) and United Airlines ($10,000). They spent all their money on print ads – $77,500 in the Chronicle, $9,760 in the Houston Business Journal – which may sound weird until you remember that the average age of a Houston voter in this election is expected to be about 69. Newspaper print ads seems like a reasonable way to reach that demographic.

As for the Campaign for Houston, they listed 45 contributions, for a total of $62,495 raised. Forty-one came from individual donors, 21 of whom were non-Houston residents (one Houston person gave twice), with two familiar names: Andrew (son of Phyllis) Schlafly, and former HCC Trustee Yolanda Flores (no middle name given, but the ZIP code points to her). One donor listed in this group rather than the “corporations or labor unions” line item on the subtotals cover sheet page 3, was TriStar Freight, which gave $2,500. Don’t ask me why they did that, I couldn’t tell you. What I can tell you is the names of the three corporate donors:


Contributor Name             Amount
===================================
Trinity Equity Partners LLP  50,000
Texas Outhouse Inc            5,000
The Education Valet Inc         250

I shit you not (sorry not sorry) about that middle one. They list $88,195 in expenses, of which a bit less than $45K is for media buys. They’re running that disgusting bathroom ad during the evening news, or at least they did last night on KPRC at 6. I have no idea how many of those spots that kind of money can buy. This Chron story documents the ad wars; I can confirm that the pro-HERO folks have mail going out as well, one of which landed in my box yesterday. Campaign for Houston also lists a $50K outstanding loan, which isn’t detailed on this form but is presumably the same Hotze loan from their 30 day report.

Other 8 day reports are coming in as well – you can find them here and by searching here. I’ll do my best to update the Election 2015 page as we go this week.

30 day finance reports: Pro- and anti-HERO

Some good news here.

HoustonUnites

Supporters of Houston’s contentious equal rights ordinance raked in $1.26 million during seven weeks of official fundraising, more than doubling opponents’ efforts and fueling a fierce and frenzied media campaign to court voters before the law hits the November ballot.

In campaign finance reports filed Monday that reflect late summer totals, both sides spent more than $550,000, largely on dueling TV and radio ads. But the more than $521,000 that supporters of the law still had left in campaign coffers as of Sept. 25 dwarfed the $58,000 that opponents reported in cash-on-hand.

[…]

In the battle over the city’s equal rights ordinance, Jared Woodfill, spokesman for opponents, said the campaign is unfazed by supporters’ significant fundraising totals.

Opponents reported a $100,000 donation from conservative developer Al Hartman, $25,000 from Harris County Commissioner Jack Cagle and $5,000 from Houston state Rep. Gary Elkins, among others. Longtime anti-gay activist Steve Hotze also loaned the campaign $50,000.

“We’re absolutely not intimidated at this point,” Woodfill said. “I believe the momentum is in our favor and clearly this is an ordinance that the people in Houston don’t want.”

In a news release, the Houston Unites campaign said it expected to spend $2 million before the November election.

The campaign said 80 percent of its nearly 700 donors are Houston residents.

But its efforts were also fueled by big-ticket contributions from national groups and figures.

The Washington, D.C.- based Human Rights Campaign contributed more than $200,000, and New York philanthropist Jon Stryker, a frequent donor to LGBT causes, pitched in $100,000. Colorado’s Gill Action and New York-based American Unity Fund, both LGBT advocacy groups, donated a combined $200,000.

Campaign manager Richard Carlbom, in a written statement, said the group had “certainly done well on the money front so far.”

“But, there is a great sense of urgency around fundraising this week and next,” Carlbom said. “We know from past ballot campaigns that equal rights opponents spend significant dollars in the final weeks. We must remain competitive with them in what will, no doubt, be a close election.”

The story has some highlights of candidate finance reports as well. Those can be found here, same place as the July reports. Reports for PACs can be found on the usual city finance webpage – here’s the Advanced Search link; select either the “Specific-Purpose Political Committee” or “Both” radio button, then click the “Search” button next to the “Candidate/Committee” name boxes. Latest results are on the last pages, so go to page 4; the only relevant result on page 3 is for Brenda Stardig’s campaign PAC.

There are three PACs of interest regarding HERO. Two are pro-HERO: the Houston Unites Against Discrimination PAC and the Human Rights Campaign Houston Equal Rights PAC. One is anti-HERO, the Campaign for Houston PAC. There is a “No on Houston Prop 1” PAC that shows up in the search results, but it reports no funds raised or spent.

Here’s a summary of the reports for the three active PACs mentioned above:

PAC name Raised Spent Loans On Hand ============================================================== Houston Unites 1,262,893 597,299 0 521,462 Human Rights Campaign 218,480 205,810 0 11,503 Campaign for Houston 274,785 492,231 50,000 18,494

Houston Unites had $901K in cash contributions and $359K in kind. It also reports $6,800 in loans on summary page 3, though I didn’t see any explanation of that. Some of their big donors are as follows:

Human Rights Campaign 205,810 Gill Action LLC 100,000 American Unity Fund 100,000 ACLU of Texas 95,000 Freedom For All Americans 50,000 Wes Milliken 50,000 Texas Freedom Network 25,000 Equality Texas 12,500 Annise Parker campaign 5,000 Robert Gallegos campaign 1,000

So basically, the HRC PAC was a passthrough, as all the funds they raised ($200K of which came from themselves) went to the Houston Unites PAC. A lot of these same big donors were also the main suppliers of in kind contributions, which mostly amounted to staff time and office space:

ACLU Texas 137,187 Freedom for All Americans 124,017 Human Rights Campaign 50,144 ACLU (national office) 16,750 Texas Freedom Network 15,139 Equality Texas 10,625

The expenses listed were fairly straightforward. About $360K was allocated for advertising. Some $158K was for consulting to a group called Block by Block; there were some smaller consultant expenses as well. There was about $37K for printing, and $5K for polling.

And here are the big donors for Campaign for Houston:

Allen R Hartman 100,000 Jack Cagle PAC 25,000 Ralph Schmidt 25,000 Mickey Ellis 20,000 Texans for Family Values PAC 10,000 Mac Haik Ford 10,000 Law Office of Melanie Flowers 10,000 Ryan Sitton 10,000 Anthony McCorvey 10,000 Johnny Baker 10,000 Edd Hendee 5,000 Paul Pressler 5,000 Dan Huberty 5,000 William Carl 5,000 Jay E. Mincks 5,000 Malcolm Morris 5,000 Gary Elkins 5,000 Dwayne Bohac 1,000 Jodie L. Jiles 1,000 Norman Adams 1,000

That’s $268K of the $275K they reported raising. Grassroots, they ain’t. There are some familiar names in this list. Jack Cagle is County Commissioner in Precinct 4. Ryan Sitton is a Railroad Commissioner. Dan Huberty, Gary Elkins, and Dwayne Bohac are all State Reps. Texans for Family Values is the main source of anti-gay wingnuttery at a state level. Edd Hendee is (was? I don’t listen to AM radio) a talk radio host and the owner of the Taste of Texas restaurant. I don’t recognize a lot of the other names, but I’m glad I’ve never bought a car from Mac Haik or sought legal services from Melanie Flowers.

The expense side of their report is weird. Two line items totaling $200,350.50 are to American Express for unitemized expenses. I mean, these are presumably credit card bills, so they could be for just about anything – office supplies, food, consulting expenses, strippers and porn downloads, who knows? It’s their responsibility – requirement, actually – to specify what these expenses are. My guess, if I were forced to make one, is that these are their line items for advertising costs, as there’s basically nothing else for that. But that’s just a guess, and I should note that while they listed $492,231 in total expenses on their summary page, the individual expense items only add up to $291,880. Is there an error in their form, or are there another $200K in expenditures they’re not reporting? Like I said, it’s on them to tell us. I for one will feel free to speculate wildly until they do so.

Those are the highlights for now. I am posting 30 day reports as I find them to the Election 2015 webpage. I’ll have a closer look at the reports for citywide candidates next week. Any questions about this, leave ’em in the comments.

Ready to engage in the next fight

No rest for the righteous.

RedEquality

On Monday, national and state gay rights leaders and the plaintiffs who sued for marriage equality convened in front of the Texas Capitol to make a different kind of vow: The fight for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people is not over. The next frontier, they said, is pushing for more protections against discrimination in areas including employment and housing.

“In many states, including my home state of Ohio and right here in Texas, you can get married but then suffer consequences,” said Jim Obergefell, the lead plaintiff in the landmark case that legalized same-sex marriage. “You can get married and then lose your job, lose your home and so much more because we are not guaranteed nondiscrimination protections. … Friday’s historic ruling is a victory, but it’s just the beginning.”

Obergefell was joined Monday by a coalition of from the Human Rights Campaign, a prominent LGBT civil rights organization; Democratic state Rep. Celia Israel of Austin; Equality Texas; two same-sex couples who filed suit over Texas’ same-sex marriage ban; and others who announced that they would be part of a statewide campaign for nondiscrimination protections.

[…]

Texas is a huge part of a national strategy to pursue nondiscrimination ordinances because it’s the largest state in the country that offers no statewide protections for LGBT residents, Equality Texas executive director Chuck Smith said Monday.

Democratic proposals for statewide nondiscrimination laws have been non-starters in the Republican-controlled Legislature, where conservatives have tried to override local ordinances. Among opponents of the nondiscrimination ordinances are Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick and Gov. Greg Abbott, who as the former state attorney general said such ordinances violate freedom of speech and religion.

This has left Texas with a patchwork of local protections against discrimination in employment, housing and other public areas like buses and restaurants.

At least nine Texas cities with a population of more than 100,000 have passed some nondiscrimination rules or legislation.

[…]

In defending the need for more protections for LGBT residents, Mark Phariss, one of the plaintiffs in the Texas gay marriage case, likened those protections to the Americans with Disabilities Act that prohibits discrimination against people with disabilities like Abbott, who has used a wheelchair since he was paralyzed from the waist down in a 1984 accident.

At the time of his accident, Abbott was not protected against discrimination “as a result of that disability,” said Phariss, who attended law school with Abbott and said he visited him in the hospital after his accident.

“That has been fixed. The ADA now provides protections for Americans who are disabled, just like Greg, from being discriminated against in their workplace and in public accommodations,” Phariss said. “And that is the exact same protection that we seek for ourselves — nothing more, nothing less.“

Of course, Abbott opposes the ADA, too. All of his accommodation needs have been met, so what does he care about anyone else? Enacting NDOs in more cities and eventually at the state and national level are important and need to be done, but as noted before there are other fights as well, including the birth certificate issue for adoptees and transgender folks, transgender issues in general, and just making sure the laws that are on the books now, including marriage quality, get enforced. Towards that end, Sen. Rodney Ellis sent a letter to the DOJ.

Sen. Rodney Ellis, D-Houston, on Monday sent a letter to U.S. Attorney General Loretta Lynch asking the department to “monitor the implementation of Obergefell and intervene, if necessary, to ensure that Texas officials do not flout the Supreme Court’s ruling and blatantly discriminate against same sex couples.”

[…]

In his letter, Ellis blasted Paxton for the guidance and said “religion must not be relied upon as an excuse to discriminate and refuse to fulfill the duties of government taxpayer-funded jobs.”

“Where does this end?” he asks. “Will judges be able to argue that they should not have to recognize or authorize divorces if it offends their religious sensibilities? Could a judge refuse to sentence a defendant to the death penalty under his or her belief that ‘thou shalt not kill’ means just that?”

A copy of Sen. Ellis’ letter is here. Slippery slope can be tendentious and sometimes ridiculous, but when the state’s top lawyer encourages local officials to ignore a Supreme Court ruling, it’s hardly unfair to ask these questions. And nothing would make me laugh harder than having DOJ observers camp outside Ken Paxton’s office. All Paxton needs to do to make this go away is promise to obey the law. That may be tricky for a guy with Paxton’s past history to promise, but it is what he needs to do.

The situation in Plano is complicated

I had not realized this.

The nation’s largest LGBT political advocacy group indicated this week it is unlikely to help defend a nondiscrimination ordinance in Plano due to exemptions affecting the transgender community.

The announcement from the Washington, D.C.-based Human Rights Campaign could amount to a costly setback for supporters of the ordinance, as the organization recently poured hundreds of thousands of dollars into a similar fight in Fayetteville, Arkansas.

[…]

Cathryn Oakley, HRC’s legislative counsel for state and municipal advocacy, told the Observer on Thursday that the organization hasn’t made a final decision about its role if the ordinance appears on the ballot. However, Oakley also made clear that HRC would be reluctant to join the fight due to exemptions including one that appears to bar people from using public restrooms according to their gender identity—a provision which she called “transphobic.”

“The language in Plano is very problematic and in terms of investing a lot of resources in an ordinance that has a lot of problems, it’s difficult to see why that’s necessarily the best use of resources,” Oakley said. “If we had been consulted in the drafting of this bill, we would have withdrawn our support, and given that, it’s hard to justify defending it as valid.”

[…]

Nell Gaither, president of Dallas-based Trans Pride Initiative, has posted blistering attacks on social media saying exemptions in the ordinance amount to bigotry and accusing other LGBT groups of signing off on them.

“This is not a Plano issue. This is a Texas issue, and more,” Gaither wrote recently. “If they get away with the lie that this is an LGBT equality policy it will set a dangerous precedent that will be very difficult to overcome for many, many years.”

I confess, I totally missed this aspect of the Plano equal rights ordinance. My fault for not paying sufficiently close attention to the details and for not having more trans resources in my regular reading list. The Dallas Voice covered Gaither’s criticisms:

Nell Gaither isn’t having it with Plano’s equal rights ordinance.

If anything, the Dallas transgender activist and Trans Pride Initiative president says she thinks the nondiscrimination ordinance, passed by the Plano City Council in December, is not just flawed but actually harmful.

On Wednesday, Jan. 21 TPI released a position statement denouncing the ordinance. And the organization did not hold back: “[We are] publishing this statement to express our conviction that the Plano Code of Ordinances Section 2-11, as modified by the so-called ‘Equal Rights Ordinance,’ is detrimental to the trans community and other marginalized persons who may experience discrimination due to sexual orientation or gender identity.”

Among the seven types of exemptions in the ordinance are nonprofit (except for city contractors), religious and educational organizations. Gaither also believes the ordinance contradicts the announcement by outgoing U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder last year that Title VII of the 1964 Federal Civil Rights Act protects gender identity and sexual orientation.

Exempting organizations from the ordinance means any complaint filed under Title VII could be disregarded, Gaither said.

“It’s a green light to discriminate with no recourse,” she added.

[…]

Gaither says Plano and its elected officials don’t bear all the blame.

“Plano shut out the trans community because they didn’t understand the issues or the tactics of the conservative religious groups,” Gaither said. “GALA [ Gay and Lesbian Alliance of North Texas ] has no interest in the trans community so didn’t do the right thing in their communications by insisting that the ordinance actually be an equal rights ordinance. [So] we have a lose/lose situation that is incredibly problematic for the broad community.”

Gaither also chided Equality Texas for accepting an ordinance that doesn’t adequately protect anyone in the LGBT community, especially trans people.

So here we have another object lesson in the need for diversity, and the vital importance of ensuring adequate representation of all stakeholders when undertaking a project like this. I encourage you to read the Trans Pride Initiative’s position paper on the Plano ERO and the specific points of concern it has with it. Their belief is that repealing the ordinance now would lead to a better outcome later. I’m sure some people will disagree with that. I don’t know how I feel about that as a strategic move. But I get where Gaither is coming from, and she totally has a point. Discrimination is still discrimination, and if this law fails to fully address it, indeed if it makes some forms of discrimination easier to get away with, then the bad of this law outweighs the good.

You may recall that this was a similar point of contention in the process that led to Houston’s equal rights ordinance. In the end, it was resolved favorably. It’s truly unfortunate that this didn’t happen in Plano, especially if it was a calculated move.

Although adamant they didn’t sign off on the exemptions, both Equality Texas and GALA North Texas indicated they plan to defend the ordinance if it appears on the ballot.

“While the ordinance is not perfect, it is a fact that it includes protections from discrimination in employment, housing, and public accommodations for LGBT residents and veterans in Plano that did not previously exist,” Equality Texas Executive Director Chuck Smith said in a statement to the Observer. “While criticisms expressed by leaders in the transgender community are valid, it is imperative that we work together to ensure that this ordinance is not repealed in the short term and is improved in the long term.”

Jeanne Rubin, a spokeswoman for GALA North Texas, called HRC’s likely decision to sit out the ballot fight disappointing.

“In politics, as much of a bummer as it is, everything is incremental, and I know that’s sort of a dirty word for our community,” said Rubin, who’s also an Equality Texas board member. “If this ordinance goes down, not only will Plano not touch this issue with a 10-foot pole, but no other suburban city out here will, and that doesn’t do L, G, B or T any good.”

Rubin and others said they believe the exemptions were included because officials hoped to head off attacks seen in other cities over transgender protections in public accommodations.

But if that’s the case, the strategy hasn’t worked. Despite the exemptions, opponents have repeatedly and publicly asserted that the ordinance would allow men to enter women’s restrooms and prey on children.

In other words, the same lies and bullshit being spread by the same kind of people who call themselves “Christians” as what we’re seeing here. I don’t know how some of these people can look at themselves in a mirror. The real tragedy here is that if we had passed ordinances like the HERO years ago, we wouldn’t be having these problems now. This Trib story, which provides an overview of the ongoing fights in Houston and Plano, provides this tidbit at the end:

In 2000, Fort Worth became the first major Texas city to update its nondiscrimination ordinance to include protections for sexual identity. Then-Fort Worth Mayor Kenneth Barr said he couldn’t remember facing the kind of opposition council members in Houston and Plano have faced.

“Frankly, I don’t remember any specifics of the debate about it,” Barr said this week. “That speaks to the fact that we passed it without a whole lot of fanfare.”

And to how our politics and our discourse have gotten so debased. Let that be a lesson to us all. Unfair Park has more.

Hagel tells Texas National Guard to obey the law

Good.

RedEquality

Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel late Thursday rebuked Texas and eight other states whose National Guard organizations have refused to process federal benefits given to same-sex couples.

In a speech before the Anti-Defamation League in New York, Hagel revealed that he had ordered the head of the National Guard Bureau, Gen. Frank Grass, “to take immediate action to remedy this situation.”

Hagel said commanders “will be expected to comply with both lawful direction and (Pentagon) policy” as 45 other states and jurisdictions now do.

“Not only does this violate the states’ obligations under federal law, their actions have created hardship and inequality by forcing couples to travel long distances to federal military bases to obtain the ID cards they’re entitled to,” Hagel said in a prepared text of his remarks provided by the Pentagon.

“This is wrong. It causes division among the ranks, and it furthers prejudice, which DoD has fought to extinguish,” he continued. “At my direction, (Grass) will meet with the adjutants general from the states where these ID cards are being denied.”

See here for the background. Texas Military Forces has asked the Attorney General for an opinion on this, which is still pending, and Lambda Legal threatened a lawsuit if they did not comply. As far as I can tell, despite Lambda Legal giving Texas Military Forces ten days to respond to them, no further action has been taken.

The Texas National Guard’s adjutant general, Air Force Maj. Gen. John Nichols, said in an Aug. 30 policy memo his organization’s Camp Mabry headquarters in Austin and other facilities around the state could not enroll same-sex families “until we receive clarification.”

Neither he nor others at Camp Mabry could be reached Thursday night. Josh Havens, a spokesman for Gov. Rick Perry, said the Guard is a state agency and “as such is obligated to adhere to the Texas Constitution and the laws of this state, which clearly define marriage as between one man and one woman.”

[…]

It wasn’t clear if Hagel’s action would force the Guard to immediately process same-sex couples’ benefits, but his action was hailed by Chad Griffin, president of the Human Rights Campaign, and Eric Alva, a local gay-rights activist.

“Guard members and their families serve this country every day, and it is unacceptable that any state would make it unreasonably difficult for these heroes to access the benefits they are entitled to,” Griffin said.

“If the states had it their way, they would be the ones who still say gay individuals are not allowed to serve in the National Guard,” said Alva, a retired Marine Corps staff sergeant who was the first American GI wounded in the Iraq invasion. “So I think it’s one last defense of the states to try to prevent same-sex couples from getting any benefits, and it’s going to fall. They’re going to lose.”

You would think so, but they won’t go quietly and they won’t go quickly. One way or another this will wind up in court. We ought to tell the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals to go ahead and start writing its opinion striking down any injunctions or orders against the state, since we know that’s what they’ll eventually do anyway. May as well save some time and cut right to the chase. BOR has more.

The Municipal Equality Index

From the inbox:

A new report on lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) equality in America’s cities by the Human Rights Campaign, the nation’s largest LGBT civil rights organization, in partnership with the Equality Federation Institute and the Gay and Lesbian Victory Institute,  rated 137 cities across the nation, including seven Texas cities.  TheMunicipal Equality Index (MEI), the first ever nationwide rating system of LGBT inclusion in municipal law found many U.S. cities lack sufficient protections for LGBT people, while many cities diligently protect their LGBT workers and citizens.  The average score for cities in Texas is 60 out of 100 points, which is in line with the national average. Arlington scored 16 points, Austin scored 91 points, Dallas scored 76 points, El Paso scored 49 points, Fort Worth scored 89 points, Houston scored 52 points, and San Antonio scored 48 points.

Key findings from the MEI create a snapshot of LGBT equality in 137 municipalities of varying sizes drawn from every state in the nation – these include the 50 state capitals, the 50 most populous cities in the country, and the 25 large, 25 mid-size, and 25 small municipalities with the highest proportion of same-sex couples.

The 100-point cities in the MEI serve as shining examples of LGBT inclusivity, with excellent policies ranging from non-discrimination laws, equal employee benefits, and cutting-edge city services.  As America moves forward in support of LGBT equality, cities across the country are on the forefront of this movement.  Cities in every region of the country are fighting for equality at the most intimate level of government.  At the same time, cities across the country also have room for improvement.  The MEI articulates a path forward and celebrates the success of cities doing this important work.

MEI at a glance:

•    Eleven of the 137 cities surveyed earned a perfect score of 100 points – these cities came from both coasts and in between, were of varying sizes, and not all are in states with favorable laws for LGBT people;
•    A quarter of the cities rated scored over 80 points;
•    45 percent of cites surveyed obtained a score of 60 or higher;
•    Nearly a third of cites scored between 40 and 60 points, showing good intentions on behalf of municipal governments but also opportunity for improvement; and
•    Just under a quarter of the cities scored less than 20 points, including eight cities that scored under ten points and three that scored zero.

The MEI rates cities based on 47 criteria falling under six broad categories:

•    Non-discrimination laws;
•    Relationship recognition;
•    The municipality’s employment practices;
•    Inclusiveness of city services;
•    Law enforcement; and
•    Municipal leadership.

In today’s world, cities must compete for business and brain power.   Research shows that to do this, they must treat their LGBT citizens with dignity and respect. Acclaimed Professor Richard Florida authored the forward for the MEI. Professor Florida is a pioneer in research into how the nurturing of a “creative class” (entrepreneurs, artists and architects, researchers, scientists, engineers, and other professionals) creates prosperous, economically competitive cities.

“Municipal work is especially important in Texas given the less-than-friendly (some would say “hostile”) current composition of the State Legislature,” said Equality Texas Foundation Executive Director Chuck Smith. “However, the environment for progressive policy change affecting LGBT Texans is considerably more positive at the local level with progressive mayors and/or council majorities in many of the state’s largest cities, including Austin, Dallas, El Paso, Houston, Fort Worth and San Antonio. It is these local efforts that will provide at least some level of equal protection at the municipal level until we are able to secure full equality statewide. The MEI is a valuable tool that we can use to measure our progress toward full equality in Texas,” Smith said.

“Our nation is on an irreversible path forward in LGBT equality and local and state-level advocacy ensures our voices are heard in public squares across the country” said HRC President Chad Griffin. “This index gives advocates and municipallawmakers a potent tool to improve the lives of LGBT people.”

“Advances at the local level are often unheralded, but they are critical to building the momentum we need for statewide and federal victories,” said Rebecca Isaacs, Executive Director of Equality Federation Institute. “The Municipal EqualityIndex not only recognizes the remarkable progress that state equality groups and local partners have made in cities and towns across the country, but is a powerful tool to help push local governments to do better.”

“The freedom to be ourselves is most important where we live, work and raise our families.  That’s why it’s so crucial that local and municipal governments understand the need to make life better for LGBT people. We work hard to make sure openly LGBT people participate in government as elected and appointed officials, and the MEI will be a great resource for them,” said Chuck Wolfe, president and CEO of the Gay & Lesbian Victory Institute.

The full report, including long form scorecards for every city and a searchable database, is available online at www.hrc.org/mei.

Check it out and see how your city rates. All I can say is that I’d like to see Houston’s score improve. There’s no reason for it to be below average.