Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Gays can't divorce in Texas after all

A state appeals court in Dallas has rejected a lower court’s decision that two gay men who married in Massachusetts had the right to divorce in Texas.

In October 2009, state District Judge Tena Callahan ruled that the men could legally end their marriage and that the state’s prohibition against same-sex marriage violates the federal constitutional right to equal protection.

But today, the Fifth District Court of Appeals in Dallas reversed that decision and ordered Callahan to dismiss the case.

Same-sex marriages or civil unions are prohibited by a voter-approved amendment to the state Constitution and the Texas Family Code.

The appeals court said today that the trial court had wrongly ruled that those provisions violate the Equal Protection Clause of the 14th Amendment.

Additionally, Justice Kerry P. Fitzgerald wrote in the decision: "We hold that Texas district courts do not have subject-matter jurisdiction to hear a same-sex divorce case." 

You may recall that Attorney General Abbott also waded into rolled into this case.

Abbott said last fall that he was appealing the ruling "to defend the traditional definition of marriage that was approved by Texas voters."...

(Attorney for the plaintiffs Peter) Schulte wrote in a court filing that the state's arguments were an attempt "to mislead the court in an effort to pursue the attorney general's own political agenda."

Back to the DM News for the OMG (my emphasis):

And in arguments before the three appellate judges, all Republicans, attorneys for the state and the conservative Plano-based Liberty Institute repeated the claim that to recognize same-sex divorce, Texas would have to recognize same-sex marriage.

Plaintiffs are deliberating whether to appeal to the (all-Republican) Texas Supreme Court. How do you think that will go if they do?

Oh, yes: The Liberty Institute. Where have we seen their name in recent developments in Houston lately?

Monday, August 30, 2010

Harris commissioners OK $13 MM for more e-Slates... and paper ballots *updated*

I was unable to be present, so this post pieces together some eyewitness as well as media accounts of this afternoon's emergency gathering of county commissioners to address concerns surrounding the November election in the wake of last week's warehouse fire which destroyed all of the county's voting machines.

The $13.6 million approved will cover 2,325 voting machines and support equipment, and Beverly Kaufman indicates she has offers of "fifty here and a hundred there" from other elections administrators around the state, but not nearly enough to replace what was lost in last Friday's inferno. So while she pledges to "protect everyone's rights" by not consolidating precinct locations, she will also have 1.4 million paper ballots on hand "as a backup".

KPRC's Mary Benton, in this video report, holds a copy of a sample paper ballot. The two-page ballots will be available to "anyone who asks" for one, according to Benton.

Texas Watchdog's Twitter feed from this afternoon's meeting is here, yet Lee Ann O'Neal's report makes no mention at all of paper ballots.

State representative Garnet Coleman was present and publicly underscored concerns about voter suppression simply by virtue of fewer locations, fewer machines, and longer lines. Kaufman's pledge, as mentioned in the first graf, is to satisfy all those concerns.

I'll update this post with more as it comes around.

Update: Harvey Kronberg adds the following -- desperately in need of proofreading -- related to Garnet Coleman's public remarks at the hearing.


Consolidating voting places, long lines and other other measures could reduce minority participation, they say

Sixteen Democratic lawmakers today signed a letter to U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder calling on the Department of Justice to "assist and oversee the development of new plans for conducting the upcoming elcections (sic) in Harris County."

They continue, "While we are heartened by the stated intention of local officials in Harris county and across the state to condut (sic) a fair and open election in November, we are concernece (sic) that some of the options for conducting the election could have an adver (sic) impact on voter participation...."

The lawmakers note, "...In recent elections, there have been controversial actions on the part of the Harris county officials that administer and oversee voter registrations and elections."

The entire letter can be found here.

Also the Houston Press' Hair Balls ...

For all those who pine nostalgically for cardboard privacy boxes and paper voting ballots, oh boy is this the year for you.

At an emergency meeting of the Harris County Commissioners' Court on Monday, County Clerk Beverly Kaufman said paper ballots will be used to help compensate for the 10,000 pieces of electronic voting equipment that went up in flames last week.

The paper ballots will be the same as the ones regularly used by mail-in voters, and will be two-pages long for the November 2 election. Kaufman is urging residents to vote by mail and use the early voting period, which begins October 18.

8/31 a.m. update: Burka shares a letter from a friend and Harris County Democratic election official, and Glenn Smith expands on the conspiracy theory. Go read both.

The Weekly Wrangle

The Texas Progressive Alliance sure hopes that Harris County has a disaster recovery plan for the loss of its voting machines as it brings you this week's blog roundup. (There's an emergency commissioner's meeting on the topic scheduled for this afternoon that I will attend and report on.)

Off the Kuff had three more interviews this week, with state representatives. Armando Walle, Ellen Cohen, and Kristi Thibaut.

Meet Jeff "The Trucker" Evans, an unemployed 49-year-old whose unemployment benefits were restored by congressional Democrats after a Republican filibuster caused the payments to temporarily cease. Eye On Williamson returns to the Wrangle and explains how misdirected Tea Party anger causes Jeff the Trucker to vote against his economic best interest.

John Cornyn, known as a rapist enabler, decides to waffle on 14th amendment to the Constitution. CouldBeTrue of South Texas Chisme is certain that Cornyn doesn't care about civil rights -- just his fat a**.

Over at TexasKaos, lightseeker summaries the latest scandals at the Texas Youth Commission. The more things change over there, the more they remain the same, sadly.... Check it out : TYC Abuses Make the News Again.

Neil at Texas Liberal attended press conferences held by both Houston Votes and by a local so-called Tea Party group, as a possible pattern of harassment and intimidation against likely Democratic voters in Harris County may be at work. Also, Neil announced that he will now also be blogging at The Daily Hurricane as well as at Texas Liberal. Neil is also a featured politics reader-blogger at the Houston Chronicle.

WhosPlayin reports that the local school district sent a letter to the Texas Attorney General's office requesting exemption from release on the grounds that some personal expenses on district credit cards were too embarrassing to release.

The warehouse where Harris County's election machines are stored erupted in flames last Friday morning, and PDiddie at Brains and Eggs had the early line on what it means for Houston and the surrounding area, which represent 15% of the statewide vote tally. Coupled with the histrionics of Leo Vasquez vis-a-vis Houston Votes, it's going to be a real lively election season (and that's before a single race gets mentioned).