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



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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‘We’re Not There Yet’: House Republican Hasn’t Seen Any Evidence to ‘Get Anywhere Near Impeachment’



Rep. Mike Lawler (R-NY) hasn’t seen anything worthy of impeachment dredged up by the House Republican investigations of President Joe Biden and his family.

The New York Republican, who recently ripped his GOP colleagues as a “clown show” over their failure to produce a government spending agreement, told MSNBC’s “Morning Joe” that he’s dubious of the impeachment inquiry launched by House speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) and suggested the process was being undertaken as revenge for Donald Trump’s two impeachments.

“Look, these investigations obviously started earlier this year in Oversight and Judiciary [and] they are continuing,” Lawler said. “As I have said repeatedly, we are not there yet with impeachment. There is a very high bar. It should not be political, it should not be tit-for-tat, and the facts and the evidence will determine what, if any steps are taken after this.”

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At the end of the day, you know, a lot of this is semantics – it’s a continuation of the investigation,” the congressman added. “The ultimate question is whether or not the facts or evidence would bear out that Joe Biden somehow financially benefited from his son’s deals with Russian oligarchs, Ukrainian oligarchs, Iranian business folks and the Chinese. If that’s the case, the facts and evidence will show that, and if not, I don’t see how you get anywhere near impeachment.”

Watch the segment below or at this link.


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White House Mocks GOP With ‘Worst Person You Know’ Meme After Matt Gaetz Blames McCarthy for Shutdown



In a rare move the Biden White House on Wednesday mocked House Republicans with a popular internet meme to highlight remarks made by U.S. Rep. Matt Gaetz that show how the Florida Republican  is blaming the impending, likely shutdown of the federal government on Speaker Kevin McCarthy. Congressman Gaetz specifically says “We cannot blame Joe Biden” and “We cannot blame House Democrats” for it.

Gaetz, who did not vote to hand McCarthy the gavel back in January, for weeks has increasingly been targeting the House Speaker. Last week he threatened he would get McCarthy removed as Speaker, going as far as to say he was “out of compliance.” On Tuesday a reporter found a resolution with links to Gaetz declaring the Office of the Speaker “vacant” on a baby changing table in a House restroom.

Fox News’ Liz Elkind reported on Gaetz’s comments via social media, “MATT GAETZ pins shutdown on McCarthy: ‘We will have a government shutdown and it is absolutely Speaker McCarthy’s fault. We cannot blame Joe Biden for not having moved our individual spending bills. We cannot blame House Democrats. We can’t even blame Chuck Schumer in the Senate.”

READ MORE: ‘Brazen and Misguided’: Schumer Decimates Tuberville’s ‘Act of Desperation’ – and Threatens to Hold Senators in DC

The White House reposted them, and the “worst person” meme, known as the “Heartbreaking: The Worst Person You Know Just Made A Great Point.” The meme was published in 2018 by Clickhole. a satirical website.

The federal government will shut down in 10 days if Speaker McCarthy cannot pass legislation to keep the government funded after September 30. That legislation will need to be acceptable to the Senate, and President Joe Biden. House Republicans, intent on stripping funding for Ukraine, defunding Special Counsel Jack Smith’s investigations, along with the Dept. of Justice and FBI, are digging in their heels amid “chaos” and “infighting.” Some have called it a GOP “civil war.”

See the White House’s post below or at this link.


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‘Brazen and Misguided’: Schumer Decimates Tuberville’s ‘Act of Desperation’ – and Threatens to Hold Senators in DC



Democratic Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer took strong action on Wednesday, slamming U.S. Senator Tommy Tuberville, vowing to get several officers in the U.S. Armed Forces confirmed to top posts, and threatening that if the Georgia Republican lawmaker who has blockaded well over 300 military promotions does not release his holds he will hold Senators in D.C. over the weekend.

“In an act of desperation, Sen. Tuberville is trying to use a procedural step to overcome his own holds,” Majority Leader Schumer wrote on social media Wednesday afternoon, before delivering a floor speech. “You read it right. His own holds.”

“He is trying to make himself the gatekeeper of which officers are promoted or languish,” Schumer added. “We can’t allow this to continue. We’re taking action.”

On the floor of the Senate he added: “We cannot allow Senator Tuberville to decide which of our dedicated and brave service members get promoted and which get to languish. Which military families are able to settle in their new posts, and which must remain in limbo. We cannot we should not allow that to be the case.”

READ MORE: Tuberville Refuses Responsibility but Says He’s Blocking 300 Military Promotions Because ‘We’re Not a Communist Country’

“So I have just filed cloture on the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, the Commandant of the Marine Corps, and the Army Chief of Staff. These men should have already been confirmed. They should already be serving in their new positions,” Schumer said. “The Senate should not have to go through procedural hoops just to please one brazen and misguided senator.”

“But this is where we are. In the end, the Senate will overwhelmingly vote to overcome Senator Tuberville’s blockade of these three nominees by voting for cloture then the Senate will overwhelmingly vote to confirm them,” he vowed. “And these three honorable men will finally be able to assume their positions and the abortion policy that Senator Tuberville abhors will remain in place. Senator Tuberville will have accomplished nothing.”

It is rare for a Senate Leader to target one member of the body, and even more rare to do so by name, but Senator Tuberville’s blockade, which he began in February, has harmed military readiness, according to multiple top Pentagon officials and former officials.

Tuberville has said he has blocked at least 319 military promotions, which require Senate confirmation, in response to the Pentagon’s policy of reimbursing service members who need to travel out of state to obtain abortion health care services. Many GOP-majority states have imposed abortion bans, forcing out-of travel.

READ MORE: ‘Years to Recover’: Tuberville’s 300+ Military Holds to Have Long Impact Says Top Biden Navy Pick

But Schumer’s reference to “gatekeeper,” and later, in his floor speech saying, “which of our dedicated and brave service members get promoted,” may also refer to Tuberville’s unprecedented personal attacks on individual officers awaiting promotion.

Last month the Georgia freshman Republican Senator targeted over 20 individual U.S. Military officers, promoting an attack on their remarks supporting diversity and equity programs, or even, in one case, blasting one officer for their “celebration” of the late U.S. Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg.

Tuberville, who denied holding up hundreds of promotions is having a damaging effect on the military and morale, also has said he is blocking these promotions because the Biden administration is “woke.”

Recently, Tuberville told Bloomberg News each military officer’s promotion takes two hours of voting by the Senate, which could take them up individually despite his block. Tuberville falsely said voting on all the promotions would take “no time at all” to complete.

READ MORE: ‘A Nazi Movement—All the Way to the Top’: Critics Denounce Trump’s Antisemitic Attack on ‘Liberal Jews’

Watch Majority Leader Schumer below or at this link.

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