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TX Court Admits It Considered Public Opinion on Postcards to Reject Ruling Gay Couples Must Receive Equal Benefits



‘Numerous Emails, Letters, and Postcards Expressing a Wide Variety of Views, Which We Have Treated as Amicus Briefs’

The Texas Supreme Court early Friday morning rejected a state appeals court ruling that found same-sex couples must be treated equally, including in the benefits they are entitled to receive from the state. Two men sued the Mayor of Houston saying the city did not have the right to grant married same-sex couples the same employee marriage benefits that married different-sex couples automatically receive.

While the Texas Supreme Court did not specifically rule same-sex couples don’t have to receive equal benefits, it didn’t actually say they did not, except to imply in its opinion that they don’t.

“No inherent right to gay marriage benefits,” is how the Austin American-Statesman reported the ruling.

The Court sent the appeals court ruling back to the lower court for review.

But, as Josh Blackman, a law professor at the South Texas College of Law Houston noticed, the Texas Supreme Court took what NCRM can only call the unprecedented step of admitting it took public opinion into account when deciding the case, Pidgeon v. Houston.

And not just public opinion, but postcards, letters, and emails.

Generally, interested parties can petition the court to allow them to submit an amicus brief to express their opinion on a particular case. For example, in Obergefell v. Hodges, the U.S. Supreme Court case that finally declared marriage for same-sex couples to be a civil right, nearly 150 “friend of the court” briefs were accepted. 

But the Texas Supreme Court admits not only did it accept amicus briefs, it accepted public opinion – basically the opinion of anyone who wrote to the court, regardless of their ties to the case, regardless of their level of expertise. Presumably, not one of these opinions were vetted; it’s entirely unknown who sent them.


“Both before and after we granted review, we received numerous amicus curiae briefs urging us to consider the case and expressing various views on how we should rule,” the Court writes in a footnote buried on page 9 of the 24-page ruling.

“In support of Pidgeon,” actually Jack Pidgeon and Larry Hicks, two men who don’t believe same-sex couples deserve equal rights or benefits, the court writes, “we received amicus briefs from one Texas Railroad Commissioner, eleven Texas Senators, forty Texas Representatives, and four then-candidates for the Texas Legislature; fifteen ‘Conservative Leaders throughout Texas,’ the U.S. Pastor Council, and Texas Leadership (aka the Texas Pastor Council); the Texas Governor, Lieutenant Governor, and Attorney General; and the Foundation for Moral Law and the Institute for Creation Research.”

Yes, Texas Governor Greg Abbott, anti-LGBT activist and extremist Lt. Governor Dan Patrick, Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton (charged with felony fraud), former Alabama Chief Justice Roy Moore’s Foundation for Moral Law, and the pseudoscience group Institute for Creation Research were all allowed to weigh in and have their opinions taken into consideration.

“In support of the Mayor,” actually the Mayor of Houston, Sylvester Turner, “we received amicus briefs from Kenneth L. Smith; the International Municipal Lawyers Association and the Texas Municipal League; Lawyers for America; twenty-six Texas constitutional-law and family-law professors; L.J. and M.P., a Married Couple, and Equality Texas; the De Leon plaintiffs; the Anti-Defamation League; GLBTQ Legal Advocates & Defenders, Lambda Legal Defense and Education Fund, Inc., the National Center for Lesbian Rights, the American Civil Liberties Union of Texas, and the American Civil Liberties Union Foundation; and three ‘scholars who study same-sex couples and their families.'”

And then this stunning admission:

“We also received numerous emails, letters, and postcards expressing a wide variety of views, which we have treated as amicus briefs.”

In other words, it was a Texas free-for-all.

If you had a pen, a post card, and a stamp, your opinion, regardless of the quality of it, how well versed on the law you are, no prerequisites whatsoever, you got a say in whether or not a ruling on same-sex marriage rights should stand.

A Gallup poll would have been more scientific.

In case you’re wondering, justices on the Texas Supreme Court are elected, not appointed. 

It gets worse. Holy Bullies and Headless Monsters editor Alvin McEwen points to these paragraphs in the Austin-American Statesman article:

A campaign by social and religious conservatives produced a barrage of emails asking the eight other justices to reconsider or risk a backlash in the next GOP primary. Leading Republicans — including Gov. Greg Abbott, Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick and Attorney General Ken Paxton — joined the call, and in January the court issued a rarely granted motion to rehear the case and set oral arguments for March 1.

Friday’s ruling by the state’s highest civil court returns the case to a Harris County district court to determine if the U.S. Supreme Court’s marriage ruling applies to spousal benefits provided by the city of Houston.

This was not a legal ruling, this was a campaign re-election rally.

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Image by Boston Public Library via Flickr and a CC license

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‘Simply Nonsense’: Judge Shoots Down Rudy Giuliani’s Desperate Bid to Escape Liability



A federal judge peevishly shot down Rudy Giuliani’s last-ditch effort to avoid a jury trial in a libel suit brought by a mother-daughter pair of Georgia poll workers.

District judge Beryl Howell denied the former Donald Trump lawyer’s request by repeatedly noting that his attorney had missed deadlines in the case filed by Ruby Freeman and Shaye Moss, and she rejected his argument that mistakes by the pair’s counsel justified a shift from a jury trial to a bench trial.

“This is simply nonsense,” Howell wrote in a footnote to her order. “Giuliani’s counsel’s two-sentence email cited three out-of-circuit, non-binding cases, dated between thirty and nearly fifty years ago, without any express statement that Giuliani planned to seek a bench trial or that he would do so in reliance on this cited authority.”

Howell found Giuliani liable for defamation in a default judgment August and has ordered him to pay tens of thousands of dollars in legal fees for the two women, and she fined him more than $100,000 in September after he failed to comply.

The jury trial will determine Giuliani’s penalty for falsely claiming Freeman and Moss had engaged in fraudulent activities following the 2020 election, which he claimed had cost Donald Trump re-election and led to a deluge of violent threats toward the two women.

Giuliani is among 19 defendants, including Trump, who have been charged in a racketeering case in Fulton County related to efforts to overturn the ex-president’s election loss.


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On World AIDS Day, DOJ Says Tennessee Law Discriminates Against Those With HIV



World AIDS Day

The Department of Justice celebrated World AIDS Day by calling out a Tennessee law that discriminates against people with HIV.

The DOJ released a report Friday that the state’s aggravated prostitution law violated the Americans with Disabilities Act. A person arrested under the aggravated prostitution law is normally changed with a misdemeanor, and faces up to six months in prison and a $500 fine. However, if the person arrested has HIV, the crime becomes a felony, and if they’re convicted, they would face between three and 15 years in prison and a $10,000 fine.

“Tennessee’s aggravated prostitution law is outdated, has no basis in science, discourages testing and further marginalizes people living with HIV,” Assistant Attorney General Kristen Clarke of the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division said in a statement. “People living with HIV should not be treated as violent sex offenders for the rest of their lives solely because of their HIV status. The Justice Department is committed to ensuring that people with disabilities are protected from discrimination.”

READ MORE: Activists Arrested After AIDS Funding Protest in Kevin McCarthy’s Office

The law was originally passed in 1991. It classifies HIV-positive sex workers as violent sex offenders, according to WKRN-TV. This means that in addition to the sentence, those convicted are put on the Tennessee Sex Offender Registry, usually for the rest of their lives.

The DOJ advised the state—and particularly, the Shelby County District Attorney’s Office, which enforces the statute most frequently, the department says—to stop enforcing the law. It also calls on the state to repeal the law and remove anyone from the registry when aggravated prostitution is the only offense. If this doesn’t happen, Tennessee could face a lawsuit.

Tennessee isn’t the only state to have laws applying to only those living with HIV. In 1988, Michigan passed a law requiring those with HIV to disclose their status before sex, according to WLNS-TV. The law is still on the books, but was updated in 2019 to lift the requirement if the HIV-positive person has an undetectable viral load. The law now also requires proof that the person set out to transmit HIV.

Laws like these can work against public health efforts, according to the National Institutes of Health. The NIH says these types of laws can make people less likely to be tested for HIV, as people cannot be punished if they didn’t know their status. In addition, critics say, the laws can be used to further discriminate. A Canadian study found a disproportionate number of Black men had been charged under HIV exposure laws.

World AIDS Day was first launched in 1988 by the World Health Organization and the United Nations to highlight awareness of the then-relatively new disease. The theme of the 2023 World AIDS Day is “Let Communities Lead,” calling on community leaders to end the AIDS epidemic.

Featured image by UNIS Vienna/Flickr via Creative Commons License.

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John Fetterman Says Bob Menendez ‘Senator for Egypt,’ Should Be Expelled Next



Senator John Fetterman (D-PA) called Senator Bob Menendez (D-NJ) a “senator for Egypt,” and said he needed to be expelled from Congress, much like the now-former Representative George Santos.

Fetterman appeared on The View on Friday. The live broadcast aired as Santos had been kicked out of the House. When host Joy Behar asked what he thought of the vote, Fetterman immediately replied, “I’m not surprised.”

“If you are going to expel Santos, how can you allow somebody like Menendez to remain in the Senate? And, you know, Santos’ kind of lies were almost, you know, funny,” Fetterman said. “Menendez, I think is really a senator for Egypt, you know, not New Jersey. So I really think he needs to go.”

READ MORE: ‘See How Easy That Is to Say?’: GOP Mocked for ‘Weaponization’ of DOJ Claims as Democratic Senator Gets Indicted

Host Sunny Hostin then asked if Fetterman was uncomfortable with expelling Menendez, as, like with Santos, he had only been indicted, not convicted.

“He has the right for his day in court and all of it, but he doesn’t have the right to to have those kinds of votes and things. That’s not a right,” he said. “I think we need to make that kind of decision to send him out.”

This September, Menendez was indicted on corruption charges. He is accused of accepting bribes of cash, gold and a car, as well as giving “highly sensitive” information about U.S. Embassy staffers in Cairo to the Egyptian government, according to USA Today. Menendez was forced to step down as chair of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. He was replaced by Ben Cardin, Maryland’s Democratic senator.

Menendez denied wrongdoing, and has refused to resign, despite many calls to do so from both Democrats and Republicans.

“For years, forces behind the scenes have repeatedly attempted to silence my voice and dig my political grave,” Menendez said in a statement following his indictment. “Since this investigation was leaked nearly a year ago, there has been an active smear campaign of anonymous sources and innuendos to create an air of impropriety where none exists.”

This is not Menendez’s first brush with the law. Menendez was indicted in 2015 on federal corruption charges. He was accused of helping Salomon Melgen, one of Menendez’s campaign contributors, by intervening in a dispute with federal regulators and helping Melgen get a port security contract in the Dominican Republic.

In 2017, Menendez’s trial ended with a hung jury, and the Department of Justice declined to retry the case, according to the Philadelphia Inquirer. Menendez denied all wrongdoing.

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