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Firefighter’s Widow Denied Death Benefits After Husband Killed In Fire

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When Nikki Araguz stepped into a Wharton County, Texas courtroom, she stood much more to lose than the $600,000 in death benefits which would be assigned to her if the court deemed her marriage to Thomas Araguz invalid.  She stood to lose her legal claim to marriage.

Thomas Araguz was a firefighter in Wharton, Texas. Last year, while fighting a large fire at an egg farm, Thomas and two other firefighters became trapped inside when the burning building collapsed.  Rescuers were able to locate and save Thomas’ colleagues, but Thomas remained trapped and died from the injuries.

Thereafter, Thomas’ family filed suit against his widow claiming that his marriage to Nikki was invalid under Texas Law and that Nikki should not receive any of the death benefits from her relationship with Thomas. Judge Clapp ruled in favor of Thomas’ extended family declaring his marriage to Nikki invalid.

However, before the judge even ruled on the case, society had denied Nikki her marriage.  In fact, when a service was held and Thomas’ name was added to the list of fallen firefighters at the Capitol in Austin, Texas, Nikki was not allowed to attend and be recognized as Thomas’ wife. She was not presented with the flag like so many other widows who have suffered the same loss.

But why? Why would society turn their back on the widow of a fallen hero? Why would the same society that honors so many fallen firefighters and their widows suddenly shun Nikki, ignoring her grief? Their excuse? Nikki is transsexual. Having been born intersex and declared “male,” she later conformed her body to her true gender identity. The family argued that Thomas was unaware that Nikki was transsexual; however, evidence presented in the case showed otherwise.

Texas law clearly bans marriages between two consenting and loving adults if their birth certificate gender markers match. In fact, it goes a step further to ban anything similar to marriage (which could arguably disallow persons of the same gender from entering into business partnerships or forming corporations due to the vagueness of the ban in that regard.) In a similar ruling by the 5th Circuit Court, Littleton v. Prange, 9 SW 3d 223 (Tex.App.-San Antonio, 1999), the court held that, as a matter of law, Christie Littleton, a male to female transsexual, is legally a male and therefore her marriage to another male was invalid. The irony of this ruling is that it created what is known as the “Littleton Loophole” in Texas law which allows for same-sex marriage. For example, a male to female transsexual can legally marry a biological female when Littleton is applied. The gender markers on each of their birth certificates would be opposite (presuming the birth certificate has not been amended.)

Perhaps even more interesting is the concurring opinion in the Littleton case of Justice Karen Angelini, who stated that she concurred with the opinion only in the absence of “any legislative guidelines for determining whether Texas law will recognize a marriage between a male-to-female transsexual and a male.”

However, in 2009, legislative guidelines were provided which clearly established legislative intent to allow for such marriages. Section 2.005(b)(8), Texas Family Code was amended to allow for an applicant for a marriage license to use a certificate or court order relating to the applicant’s sex change to be used as “proof” of identity. Although efforts were made by Senator Williams to amend the bill this legislative session and remove the “and sex change” language, the effort was unsuccessful.

The present case highlights the need for change in our government. Until such time as marriage equality exists, all of us are in danger of falling victim to our government’s tyranny, as did Nikki Araguz and Christie Lee Littleton. While many argue that same-sex marriage is not a transgender issue, these cases clearly evidence otherwise.

However, we cannot simply focus on the micro issues.  Our community suffers gravely due to health care and insurance barriers, discrimination in public accommodations and employment, marriage inequalities and other government sanctioned discrimination.  We must continue the fight for full federal equality in all matters governed by civil law with no excuses, no compromises and no caveats.

Equal must mean equal.

 

Jay Morris is a State Lead for GetEQUAL​.org, a founding member of the Direct Action Network San Antonio, a writer for Ignite San Antonio Magazine, and blogger at jaysays​.com. You can find him posting randomness on Twitter or engage him in conversation on Facebook.

Read Jay Morris’ most recent piece at The New Civil Rights Movement, “The T In Me: Living The Gender Binary,”

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82-Year-Old Black Woman Arrested and Handcuffed by Alabama Police Over $77 Unpaid Trash Bill

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Martha Menefield, an 82-year-old Black woman in Valley, Alabama, had police officers show up to her home on Sunday and arrest her for failing to pay a $77 trash bill, CBS42 reports.

Menefield told CBS42 that she thought the bill had already been paid, “but they said it hadn’t.”

“And the cuffs,” she said, her eyes swelling with tears. “They’re so heavy.”

When the officer told her not to cry, Menefield asked him, “How would you feel if they came and arrested your grandmama?”

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“I’m just happy my grandkids weren’t here to see that,” Menefield said, her voice shaking. “That would have upset them. I was so ashamed. And it’s been bothering me.”

In a post on the city’s social media account, Valley’s police chief defended the arrest.

“City of Valley Code Enforcement Officers issued Ms. Menefield a citation in August of 2022 for non-payment for trash services for the months of June, July, and August,” Chief Mike Reynolds’ statement said. “Prior to issuing the citation, Code Enforcement tried to call Ms. Menefield several times and attempted to contact her in person at her residence. When contact could not be made, a door hanger was left at her residence. The hanger contained information on the reason for the visit and a name and contact phone number for her to call. The citation advised Ms. Menefield that she was to appear in court on September 7, 2022, in reference to this case. A warrant for Failure to Pay-Trash was issued when she did not appear in court.”

Since the arrest, Menefield has been thinking about the role of God in her life.

“I’ve been questioning God a little bit,” she said. “I guess cause I’ve been so upset. I had a daycare here for eight years, and I’ve been asking the Lord. I say ‘Why did this happen to me as much as I’ve done for people, Lord? I’ve paid my tithes every Sunday. I ushered at church. I was just questioning. Something’s just not right.”

Read the full report over at CBS42.

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‘Another Happy Jobs Day’: Economists Thrilled With ‘Amazing’ Report as Jobs Growth Beats Expectations, Wages Increase

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The Biden economy added a whopping 263,000 jobs last month, crushing expectations of 200,000, and wages are growing as well, leading one economist to declare “another happy jobs day.”

The U.S.Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) adds that unemployment remains at a near-historic low of 3.7% in November, “and has been in a narrow range of 3.5 percent to 3.7 percent since March.”

University of Michigan School of Economics Professor Justin Wolfers exclaimed, “It’s yet ANOTHER happy jobs day. Payrolls rose +263k, well above expectations.”

“This expansion just keeps on rolling on,” added Wolfers, a senior fellow at The Brookings Institution.

RELATED: ‘This Is a Very Strong Economy’: Experts Cheer October Jobs Report – Blast Those Claiming ‘Recession’

Wolfers also takes on those who have been falsely pushing “recession” talking points.

“BTW, remember all that recession talk? It was nonsense. Bollocks. Cow dung,” he tweets. “There never was a recession. And the economy sure doesn’t look like it’s in one now. Job growth at this rate is the economy singing: ‘This is a robust expansion.'”

And he also slams the doom and gloom forecasters.

Economist David Rothschild sums up where the Biden economy is compared to the rest of the world.

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“Economy is far from perfect,” he writes, “but conditional on the worldwide pandemic and supply chain issues generated from pandemic: US economy has done *amazing* over last 2 years.”

In news alerts The New York Times reported hiring “continued to exceed expectations,” The Wall Street Journal called it “a sign of continued strength in the labor market,” and even Fox News reported it as “stronger-than-expected.” CNN referred to the jobs report as “robust” and “defying expectations.”

“America’s jobs engine kept churning in November, the Labor Department reported Friday, a show of continued demand for workers despite the Federal Reserve’s push to curb inflation by tamping down hiring, The Times reported. “The labor market has been surprisingly resilient in the face of successive interest rate increases by the Fed over the past year. Even sectors normally sensitive to borrowing costs, like construction and manufacturing, have been slow to back off the brisk pace of growth they posted coming out of the pandemic.”

The BLS also broke down unemployment numbers by demographics.

“Among the major worker groups, the unemployment rates for adult men (3.4 percent), adult women (3.3 percent), teenagers (11.3 percent), Whites (3.2 percent), Blacks (5.7 percent), Asians (2.7 percent), and Hispanics (3.9 percent) showed little or no change over the month.”

 

Image: Matt Smith Photographer / Shutterstock

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‘The Law Is Clear’: Appeals Court Rules Trump Handpicked Judge Should Never Have Appointed Special Master

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A three-judge panel on the conservative 11th Circuit Court of Appeals has ruled against Donald Trump, and effectively against his hand-picked federal district court judge Aileen Cannon in the ex-president’s “special master” case.

The judges, all three conservatives, two of whom appointed to the bench by Trump himself, ruled that Judge Cannon should never have agreed to Trump’s request to appoint a “special master” to review all the items the Dept. of Justice removed from his Mar-a-Lago residence by executing a legal search warrant.

Cannon had ordered the special master to specifically review approximately 100 classified documents, and blocked the DOJ from accessing them while they were under review. That block halted its investigation into Trump’s likely illegal retention of the documents and other items – over 10,000 – he removed from the White House and was string at Mar-a-Lago.

RELATED: In Trump’s ‘Special Master’ Appeal 2 of 3 Judges Are Ones He Appointed – and Both Previously Ruled Against Him

CNN calls Thursday’s ruling “a major defeat for former President Donald Trump.” The appeals court’s ruling halts  “a third-party review of documents seized from his Mar-a-Lago estate,” and “removes a major obstacle to the Justice Department’s investigation into the mishandling of government records from Trump’s time in the White House.”

“The law is clear,” the judges wrote in their ruling Thursday, posted by NBC News’ Daniel Barnes. “We cannot write a rule that allows any subject of a search warrant to block government investigations after the execution of the warrant. Nor can we write a rule that allows only former presidents to do so. Either approach would be a radical reordering of our caselaw limiting the federal courts’ involvement in criminal investigations.”

“And both would violate bedrock separation-of-powers limitations,” they continued. “Accordingly, we agree with the government that the district court improperly exercised equitable jurisdiction, and that dismissal of the entire proceeding is required.”

READ MORE: ‘Roughing Him Up’: Judges Scorch Trump’s Attorney in Tense Hearing Over His ‘Secret’ Argument

They also wrote: “In considering these arguments, we are faced with a choice: apply our usual test; drastically expand the availability of equitable jurisdiction for every subject of a search warrant; or carve out an unprecedented exception in our law for former presidents. We choose the first option. So the case must be dismissed.”

“The district court,” meaning Judge Cannon, “improperly exercised equitable jurisdiction in this case. For that reason, we VACATE the September 5 order on appeal and REMAND with instructions for the district court to DISMISS the underlying civil action.”

 

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