Tag Archives: Texas

The Supreme Court Upholds Voter Suppression in Texas

20 Oct
Sad Legacy!

Sad Legacy!

Sadly, not many of us were surprised by the exceedingly conservative high court’s decision to uphold voter suppression laws in Texas.  The Roberts’ court continues to leave a legacy that works against civil rights, just in time to negatively impact the 2014 mid-term election. I would like to talk about how these voter ID laws negatively impact targeted/marginalized populations. Not that most of the high court is interested in how we continue to oppress targeted populations, but I hope we will at least start to have more conversations around what we all need to do to expand civil rights rather than curb them. Texas’ voter ID laws intentionally create barriers for the following communities to vote: people in poverty, people of color experiencing poverty, people with disabilities, senior citizens, transgender people, and all of the intersections of these populations. In addition to the horrible impact of this action, it flies in the face of judicial tradition. Typically, appeals courts — including the Supreme Court — act to do the least harm while the laws in question work their way through the system. Allowing the law to stand while it is under appeal aggressively disenfranchises Texas voters during the important November mid-terms. Even if the law is struck down in the long run, that damage will have been done, almost certainly to the benefit of Republican candidates. Suspending the suspect law until a final decision is made would be more typical, sensible, and just. Of course those words can rarely be applied to Scalia, Alito, Roberts, or Thomas. If only we could get more voices like Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s. Justice Ginsburg composed the dissent and eloquently highlighted the damage of this verdict:

…may prevent more than 600,000 registered Texas voters (about 4.5 percent of all registered voters) from voting in person for lack of compliant identification…A sharply disproportionate percentage of those voters are African-American or Hispanic. Racial discrimination in elections in Texas is no mere historical artifact.

Both Justice Kagan and Justice Sotomayor joined Justice Ginsburg’s dissent. I want to believe there is hope that this court’s majority will soon gain a better understanding of their jobs and of civil rights.

Black History Month 2014: Barbara Jordan

21 Feb

01t/25/arve/G2064/056Today we honor and celebrate a civil rights activist and pioneering politician. Today would have been Barbara Jordan’s 78th birthday; she was born on this date in 1936 in Houston, TX. She was an honors student, inspired by the model of Edith Sampson to pursue a career in law. Unable to attend UT Austin because of segregation, she majored in Political Science at Texas Southern. She received her law degree from Boston University in 1959.

After a year teaching at Tuskegee Institute, she returned to Texas and started her own law practice. After two failed runs at the Texas House, she was appointed to the state Senate, the first African-American woman to serve in that body. She ran for the seat and won it, leaving in 1972 after her election to the U.S. House of Representatives.

Jordan was the first woman elected to represent Texas in the House and the first Southern African American in the House. With the support of former President Lyndon B. Johnson (a great civil rights pioneer), she secured an important post on the House Judiciary Committee. She became a leader in Democratic politics, delivering the keynote at the 1976 Democratic National Convention — the first African-American woman to do so. While in office she helped pass the Community Reinvestment Act, requiring banks to make services available to minority and underserved communities.

Jordan retired from politics in 1979 (although she delivered another DNC keynote in 1992), teaching at UT Austin, the very school that had barred her attendance decades before. Throughout her life she suffered from multiple sclerosis, requiring a cane for most of her adult life and eventually needing a wheelchair. President Clinton intended to nominate her for the Supreme Court, but her health forced her to withdraw before the initial vetting process.

Barbara Jordan spent the last 30 years of her life with her partner, Nancy Earl. Although she never publicly described herself as a lesbian, she attended many public functions with Earl and made it clear that they were a couple. For a black, southern woman of her generation, this is fairly remarkable, especially given her very public career. The Jordan/Rustin coalition was created in her name and the name of Bayard Rustin to mobilize LGBT African Americans and encourage their active participation in the political process.

She was a frequent public speaker, known for her vibrant support of progressive causes. Jordan died of leukemia in 1996 at the age of 59, leaving behind a legacy of public service and activism.  Happy Birthday, Barbara Jordan.

Michael Sam: Black History Hero, Feb. 14, 2014

14 Feb

MSamBHMHeroThis week it is a real pleasure to honor a Hero of the Week who is also making strides in Black History. Michael Sam was born in 1990 in Texas. The seventh of eight children, he has faced significant family hardship. His parents separated when he was little. One brother died from a gunshot in front of him, another is missing, and two are incarcerated. Sam discovered a talent for football in high school, but met opposition from his mother, whose religion is opposed to organized sports. Often he had to stay with friends.

A promising player, Sam was accepted into the University of Missouri and joined their football team in 2009, the first member of his family to attend college. During his time on the team, he racked up an enviable record, including being named the SEC Defensive Player of the Year and a first-team All-American. (Wow, I don’t think I have ever used this many sports terms in my life.) He is considered a top choice for the NFL draft.

Michael Sam put that promising career at risk with bold honesty. Last August, he told his team that he was gay. They were very supportive and agreed to let him come out publicly on his own time — Bravo! Last Sunday, he did just that. He is one of a handful of openly gay college athletes and, if drafted, would be come the first out gay player active in the NFL.

Coming out is still, sadly, a challenge and a risk. It is even more difficult and risky for those facing many intersections of  oppression, and African-American men have historically faced even greater threats and rejections. Professional sports are hardly embracing, and the NFL is at the bottom of the pack. Despite all this, Sam decided that honesty and integrity made it worth the risk. In his coming out interview with the New York Times, he said:

I just want to go to the team who drafts me, because that team knows about me, knows that I’m gay, and also knows that I work hard. That’s the team I want to go to.

That’s as it should be. Hard work and talent should be enough for any team. Nonetheless, a number of NFL executives and officials commented anonymously in Sports Illustrated that Sam had doomed his chances. Playing the gay panic card, they said things like

There are guys in locker rooms that maturity-wise cannot handle it or deal with the thought of that. There’s nothing more sensitive than the heartbeat of the locker room. If you knowingly bring someone in there with that sexual orientation, how are the other guys going to deal with it? It’s going to be a big distraction. That’s the reality.

How disgusting and how bizarre! Does it then naturally follow that all heterosexual men are unable to control themselves around all women that come near them? How ironic that Michael Sam made a strong public statement and those who want to tear him down will only speak off the record.

Fortunately, the official NFL stance is much more positive:

We admire Michael Sam’s honesty and courage. Michael is a football player. Any player with ability and determination can succeed in the NFL. We look forward to welcoming and supporting Michael Sam in 2014.

Let’s hope that this proves to be true, and that Michael Sam gets the chance he deserves to shatter an ugly, long-standing barrier.

How absolutely wonderful that First Lady Michelle Obama texted Sam:

You’re an inspiration to all of us, @MikeSamFootball. We couldn’t be prouder of your courage both on and off the field. -mo

Just when I did not think I could love her anymore than I already did. Brava, First Lady!

As a nice footnote to this story, Hero of the Week Honorable Mention goes to an unexpected representative of the dominant discourse. Dale Hansen, a white sportscaster on WFAA TV in Dallas, TX, celebrated Michael Sam and thrashed his critics during his segment Monday evening, ripping apart their hypocrisy:

You beat a woman and drag her down a flight of stairs, pulling her hair out by the roots? You’re the fourth guy taken in the NFL draft. You kill people while driving drunk? That guy’s welcome … You lie to police trying to cover up a murder? We’re comfortable with that. You love another man? Well, now you’ve gone too far!

Of course, I love that he quotes Audre Lorde! He rails against conservatives who want small government but also want the government to control who we can love and ends with a lovely celebration of the ways that our differences make us stronger. Thank you, Mr. Hansen!

Texas: Where the Men Are Men and the Women are Property

10 Jan

G0524WARONWOMEN7I need to thank my friend Jennifer Carey for inspiring me to write this story. The state of Texas isn’t known as a safe place for women or a bastion of reproductive rights. A new case arising in a Texas hospital takes things to a new low, however.

Marlise Munoz suffered what appeared to be a blood clot and collapsed in her kitchen. She was rushed to the hospital but doctors were unable to revive her. They informed the family that she was brain dead. Her husband and parents sadly prepared to honor her explicit wishes and disconnect her from life support.

The hiccup? Ms. Munoz was 14 weeks pregnant. Under Texas law, care cannot be removed from a pregnant woman. Although medical ethics experts argue that the law applies to vegetative and comatose patients, John Peter Smith Hospital opted for a broad interpretation rather than risk legal action, and applied it to Marlise Munoz. As her father bluntly observes:

All she is is a host for a fetus. I get angry with the state. What business did they have delving into these areas? Why are they practicing medicine up in Austin?

He is absolutely right. The law itself is horrific and violates personal and family choice. That these doctors would take it to such an extreme clearly illustrates how every chip made in the bedrock of reproductive rights can be opened into a chasm.

The hypocrisy is palpable. The hypothetical rights of a non-viable fetus have been elevated above the clear wishes of a woman and her family — and it’s all done in the name of protecting life. Of course, if that kid manages to be born and grows up to break the law, (s)he has a better chance of being executed in Texas than anywhere else in the country.

But that’s all right. After all, Marlise Munoz was just a woman. Sadly, women have more restrictions over the governance of their bodies since 1972.  I worry about the message this sends to both women and men. It has now become the norm for our government to police women’s bodies in ways that would never be acceptable to police men’s bodies.  For more information regarding the backwards trend for women’s reproductive rights, click here.

Update:

According to the New York Times there is some good news for this family: Judge R.H. Wallace Jr. of State District Court in Texas ordered the John Peter Smith Hospital to pronounce Marlise Munoz dead and to remover her from life support. Sadly, the hospital now has the chance to appeal that ruling, which would dishonor the wishes of Munoz’ family.

Bigot of the Week Award: September 6, Texas National Guard

6 Sep
Bigot of the Week:Texas Weak, Texas Pathetic

Bigot of the Week:
Texas Weak, Texas Pathetic

Thank you to my dear friend and LGBT ally, Jennifer Carey, and Arturo Schultz, for inspiring me to write about this week’s Bigot.  Despite the Death of DOMA, Texas wants to create its own laws and refuses to abide by the Supreme Court’s decision. Recent actions by the Texas National Guard refuse to treat LGBT people as equal citizens of the United States.  Yet again we see Texas on the wrong side of history.  Lest we forget the misogynistic Rick Perry beaten back by the amazing Wendy Davis.

Sadly, The Texas National Guard refused to process requests from same-sex couples for benefits on Tuesday,  September 3, 2013.  Despite a Pentagon directive to honor these requests, they tried to justify this discrimination by citing the state constitution’s ban on gay marriage. Interestingly enough, Maj. Gen. John Nichols, the commanding general of Texas Military Forces, wrote in a letter, …”the Texas Constitution defines marriage as between a man and a woman, his state agency couldn’t process applications from gay and lesbian couples.”  However, in this rather convoluted state of confusion, he added that ” the Texas National Guard, Texas Air Guard and Texas State Guard would not deny anyone benefits.”  How to reconcile these statements is unclear. And incidentally, what about the rest of the LGBT population in Texas?

To my surprise and delight, National guard officials in Florida, Michigan and Oklahoma – all states that ban marriage equality for LGBT couples – said they will follow federal law.  I say with a great sigh, when will the rest of the South and the rest of country abide by Federal Law and work towards equality and equity for all LGBT people?

While I am able to enjoy and appreciate the steps towards progress, I cannot rest in that place. When do each of us actively work to stand in solidarity with all targeted people? When do we say enough to racism, homophobia, misogyny, and when do we pull together to eradicate poverty and look at a more equitable distribution of wealth?

Hero of the Week Award: June 28, Wendy Davis

28 Jun
Hero of the Week

Hero of the Week

Some weeks the choice for Hero is abundantly clear. Thanks to regular SJFA follower Voice of the Trailer for nominating the amazing Wendy Davis.

Davis is a Democrat state senator in Texas, a thankless job if ever there was one. When Gov. Rick Perry called a special legislative session specifically to curtail abortion rights, she refused to let his scheme work. The short session was intended to pass a ban on all abortions after 20 weeks, create more burdensome requirements for all abortions, and crush Planned Parenthood in the state. Davis, working with a strong coalition that included Planned Parenthood’s wonderful Cecile Richards, mounted a firm plan of resistance.

Demonstrating what a filibuster ought to be, Davis launched a thirteen-hour speech on the Senate floor, refusing to allow the bill to move forward. Her marathon speech required the use of a back brace before she was done, but she stuck it out. Republicans tried a number of administrative tricks to block her, but she carried on almost to the end. When they finally cut her off with moments to go, dozens of pro-choice supporters in the gallery raised their voices in protest, shouting down any action until the clock ran out on the special session.

Gov. Perry has sworn to try again, but the voices raised against him are strong. Having a true leader like Wendy Davis brought new life to the cause. There’s now a movement to draft her to run against Perry — that would be lovely justice indeed.

Honorable mention goes to the four justices on the Supreme Court who did their best to truly represent the people in their work this week. In the devastating ruling that gutted the Voting Rights Act, Justice Ginsburg delivered a scathing dissent, joined by Justices Breyer, Kagan, and Sotomayor. All four also voted to overturn DOMA and to preserve Affirmative Action and worked to ensure that Prop 8 was nullified in California. When the highest court in the land is ruled by an opportunist ideologue, their courage and voices for justice are needed more than ever.

Bigot of the Week Award: May 10, Texas Gov. Rick Perry

10 May
Bigot of the Week

Bigot of the Week

As the date draws near for the Boy Scouts of America to take their next vote on just how icky the gays are, the hypothetically Christian far right is mounting its vocal protests of any change in Scout policy. There are plenty of BWA nominees in the making, but my friend Jennifer Carey sent me the clear winner this week.

The Family Research Council hosted its bigotastic “Stand With Scouts Sunday” last weekend. Hosted by the ever nefarious Tony Perkins, it was a festival of hate disguised as religious freedom and family values. One of the virtual guests at the Jamboree of Hate was Texas Governor Rick Perry. Somehow his inability to form a cohesive sentence qualifies him as an FRC guest spokesman.

Perry calls civil rights for gay scouts and leaders the “flavor of the month” and mere “pop culture.” He then manages to toss a bit of Texas Pride into his babblings, invoking the spectre of Sam Houston. He refers to Houston’s opposition to slavery and secession as the kind of principled stand the Scouts would be taking by NOT changing their homophobic practices.

MEMO TO PERRY: Houston’s actions were principled because they represented ADVOCACY of human rights. That’s really not what you’re talking about here…

Dishonorable mention this week goes to wrestler Jay Briscoe. The Ring of Honor Champion displays some real dishonor in his response to the creation of marriage equality in Delaware this week. He tweeted a congratulatory message “if that makes you happy,” then added a truly disturbing follow-up.

… try and teach my kids that there’s nothing wrong with that and I’ll f**king shoot you!

Wow! Briscoe manages to oppose education, trivialize equal rights under the law, and make a strong argument for gun control all in one tweet.

Bigot of the Week Award: April 5, Susan Patton

5 Apr

PattonBigotAs a social worker, social justice blogger, advocate for the marginalized, and regular participant in discussions about the world around us, I should be used to things like this. Nevertheless, when I heard about Susan A. Patton’s editorial Advice for the young women of Princeton on NPR, I had to pull off the road to control my rage and disbelief — is this 1952?

Patton graduated from Princeton in 1977, one of the first women to do so. Three-and-a-half decades later she wrote a letter to the Daily Princetonian telling women at the university that they damn well better snag themselves a man right now or they’ll be miserable for life. WHAT?!? Really? There are so many things wrong with her premise that I’m not sure how to dissect it.

Let’s focus on what seems to be the core section.

For most of you, the cornerstone of your future and happiness will be inextricably linked to the man you marry, and you will never again have this concentration of men who are worthy of you.

Is she real? Is she a Phyllis Schlafly puppet? An Ann Coulter clone? That one sentence has so much homophobia, classism, misogyny, and downright ignorance embedded in it that it seems like a Stephen Colbert piece rather than serious advice from the mother of two sons at Princeton.

Patton’s piece has sparked outrage from many corners, which is reassuring. She continues to defend the advice as “retrograde” but “heartfelt” and says that if she had daughters this is exactly what she would tell them. We should be glad she doesn’t; it is bad enough her sons are hearing this crap from her. What message is she sending to all young people here?  Susan, may you find the time capsule you came here from and return to 1952, where you will feel safe in your all white, all heterosexual, oblivious world and where you can trap yourself a man and be chained to the kitchen.

Dishonorable mention this week goes to Rep. Louie Gohmert (R – TX), who is trying to win the Texas Elected Official Scary Stupidity Award. Despite stiff competition from Ted Cruz and Rick Perry, he made major strides this week by opposing gun control because marriage equality will make bestiality legal. Yes, you read that right. Here’s the quote:

And I pointed out, well, once you make [the gun cartridge limit ]ten, then why would you draw the line at ten? What’s wrong with nine? Or eleven? And the problem is once you draw that limit ; it’s kind of like marriage when you say it’s not a man and a woman any more, then why not have three men and one woman, or four women and one man, or why not somebody has a love for an animal? There is no clear place to draw the line once you eliminate the traditional marriage and it’s the same once you start putting limits on what guns can be used, then it’s just really easy to have laws that make them all illegal.

Apparently Gohmert is the horrific offspring of Wayne LaPierre and Rick Santorum. How do these people get elected?  Do we need to worry that Gohmert seems to be obsessed with gay sex and bestiality?  I suspect there are no safe sheep near Gohmert’s home.

War on Women Continues…

10 Mar

Jeers to Gov. Bob McDonnell, of Virginia, for signing into law the ultrasound bill, which exploits women at a very vulnerable moment to discourage them from having an abortion–yet another chip away at Roe v. Wade by Right Wing KKKristians. Thus, the war on women continues, as we police women’s bodies in an attempt for our government to own every vagina in the country. My hope is this article will wake people up and show how close we are to completely objectifying women, as we send the message that we don’t trust women to exercise control over their own bodies.

There are still 450 other bills on birth control and abortion in state legislatures across the country. With a far-right faction of the GOP holding a majority in many of them, it’s unclear how many we can stop. But let me just say this: It is time we STOP right wing Republicans from holding the US hostage, unless Republican men are willing to have their sperm policed in the exact same ways we police women’s eggs.

Currently, New Hampshire, Florida, Arizona (home of Jan Brewer), Ohio (Home of John Boehner), and many other states are considering similar legislation.  The Texas legislature is in the midst of a bitter fight to eliminate state support for a wide range of women’s health services. They’ve already eliminated two-thirds of their funding for women’s health, closing more than half of the state’s Planned Parenthood and other clinics. And now they’re voting to reject aid for the Medicaid Women’s Health Program. They claim they’re doing this to fight abortion, but what they’re actually doing is denying hundreds of thousands of women access to basic health care.  This is called fascism and we have to stop it by how we vote!

Hero of the Week Award, July 1

1 Jul

Thank you to Jennifer Lockett for inspiring this story.  While it is true that I typically show great disdain for the state of Texas, home of Rick Perry, there are little gems that are worth celebrating. The Fort Worth school district is making a bold move and expanding their anti-bullying policy to include and protect gender non-conforming and LGBT students, thus earning them the HWA.  Unlike Tennessee, where you are not even allowed to say the word gay, Fort Worth is proving to be a spot of progressive activity in the very bigoted and homophobic south. Let us hope that Fort Worth will be setting the standard for other school districts in Texas.  Click here to see the full article.

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