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January 24th, 2014:

Friday random ten: Cold enough for you?

I’m pretty sure we’ll all be happy to never hear the words “polar vortex” again.

1. Baby, It’s Cold Outside – The Priestess And The Fool
2. Cold – Annie Lennox
3. Cold Chicago – Humming House
4. Cold Irons Bound – Bob Dylan
5. Cold Shot – Stevie Ray Vaughan
6. Cold Wait – Ian Pooley
7. Cold War Fiasco – team9 vs Stereogum
8. Dark Was The Night, Cold Was The Ground – Asylum Street Spankers
9. Hot N Cold – Katy Perry
10. Truth Gets Colder – Idiot Savant

Stay warm, y’all.

Interview with Rep. Carol Alvarado

Rep. Carol Alvarado

Rep. Carol Alvarado

In addition to the contested Democratic primary in HD131, there is also one in HD145, where Rep. Carol Alvarado is in her third term. Rep. Alvarado was of course a three-term City Council member in District I prior to her election to the Legislature, experience that served her on the Urban Affairs, Public Health, and Redistricting committees. She is also serving on the House Select Committee on Transparency in State Agency Operations, which among other things is investigating UT Regent Wallace Hall. Rep. Alvarado has also been a strong defender of reproductive freedom in the House, which is no small task. I was redistricted into HD145 in 2011, and while I was sad to lose Rep. Jessica Farrar as my representative, I was and am quite happy to be represented by Rep. Alvarado. Here’s the interview:

You can see all of my interviews as well as finance reports and other information on candidates on my 2014 Election page.

Federal judge denies Abbott motion to consolidate same sex marriage lawsuits

From Lone Star Q:

RedEquality

A key hearing in a federal lawsuit challenging Texas’ same-sex marriage bans will go forward next month in San Antonio.

U.S. District Judge Orlando L. Garcia, of the Western District of Texas, on Wednesday rejected Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott’s latest effort to transfer the lawsuit from San Antonio to Austin.

Garcia cited key differences between the San Antonio lawsuit, known as DeLeon v. Perry, and two other lawsuits challenging the marriage bans that are pending before U.S. District Judge Sam Sparks in Austin. Garcia’s decision to deny Abbott’s motion means a hearing in DeLeon v. Perry will take place as scheduled in February.

“The Court finds that while both lawsuits filed in the Austin court share a common issue with the present lawsuit in that all Plaintiffs challenge he constitutionality of Defendants’ refusal to let them marry their same-sex partners, the three lawsuits differ in important respects,” Garcia wrote.

That hearing will be on February 12. Previously, Abbott had petitioned Judge Sparks to consolidate the lawsuits, which do have some key differences, but Judge Sparks denied the request. Neel McLane, the attorney for the San Antonio plaintiffs, thinks Abbott has been forum shopping.

U.S. District Judge Orlando L. Garcia, who presides over the Western District of Texas’ San Antonio district, is a President Bill Clinton appointee. Garcia also happens to be the brother-in-law of Sen. Leticia Van de Putte, a Democrat and marriage-equality supporter who’s running for lieutenant governor in 2014. Legal experts say they believe there’s a good chance Garcia will rule in favor of marriage equality in DeLeon v. Perry, a lawsuit filed in his court in October alleging Texas’ marriage bans are unconstitutional.

[…]

Lane said Abbott’s office wants the cases before Sparks, who gave preliminary indications at [a hearing on January 9] that it won’t be easy to convince him to strike down the state’s marriage amendment.

“He [Sparks] did suggest it was going to be a difficult showing to make,” Lane said.

Of course, from there it would be appealed to the Fifth Circuit, where good things go to die. But it would still be a big step forward.

The state of Texas is sure to fight this every step of the way. At least, that would be the case as long as there is a fanatical enemy of marriage equality infesting the Attorney General’s office. If a proponent of marriage equality were to be elected, we might see what Virginia is seeing, where its newly-elected AG is declining to defend that state’s ban on same sex marriage.

Virginia’s new attorney general has decided to switch sides in an important case that is challenging the state’s constitutional ban on gay marriage.

In an interview with Morning Edition’s Steve Inskeep, Democrat Mark Herring said his office will no longer defend the state’s ban on same-sex marriages.

“As attorney general, I cannot and will not defend laws that violate Virginians’ rights,” Herring said. “The commonwealth will be siding with the plaintiffs in this case and with every other Virginia couple whose right to marry is being denied.”

Herring was sworn in just days ago after a razor-thin win in November, an election that marked big political change in the state and also ushered in Democrat Terry McAuliffe to the governor’s mansion. Herring is taking over for Ken Cuccinelli, a Republican who ran and lost a bid for governor on a Tea Party platform and was a staunch defender of the gay-marriage ban.

Herring said as he came into office, he asked his staff to review Bostic v. Rainey and, after careful consideration, he came to the conclusion that the ban violates the Equal Protection Clause of the 14th Amendment of the Constitution.

[…]

Herring’s solicitor general will tell a federal judge in Norfolk next week that Virginia is joining the plaintiffs in the case, that the state agrees a ban on gay marriage denies some couples in the state what the Supreme Court has called a fundamental right.

Herring said he’s doing it for Virginians. That’s when Steve reminded him that the amendment to Virginia’s Constitution defining marriage as only between a man and woman was approved by 57 percent of voters in 2006.

Herring said that his job is to defend laws that are constitutional. This one, he said, isn’t. Also, Herring added, he wants his state to be on the right side of history.

“There have been times in some key landmark cases where Virginia was on the wrong side, was on the wrong side of history and on the wrong side of the law,” Herring said. “And as attorney general, I’m going to make sure that the [people] presenting the state’s legal position on behalf of the people of Virginia are on the right side of history and on the right side of the law.”

Consider that a reason to vote for Sam Houston, if you needed one. Herring is not the first AG to reach this conclusion.

It is not the first time an attorney general has decided to stop defending their state’s gay marriage ban. In Pennsylvania, Attorney General Kathleen Kane said last year that she would stop defending that state’s gay marriage ban, also calling it unconstitutional. An outside law firm was hired to represent the state in a lawsuit over the ban.

And before that, the state of California declined to defend Prop 8, and the federal government declined to defend DOMA. It’s one thing to be dealt a losing hand, it’s another to be dealt a hand you don’t believe should be played at all. The fall of DOMA, the recent court rulings, and the massive shift in public opinion give plenty of cover for these decisions. And as Dave Weigel points out, it’s not like this is a bedrock principle that’s at stake here.

Virginia’s constitutional definition of marriage is not some sacred script handed down from Thomas Jefferson to Patrick Henry to (still sounds weird) Terry McAuliffe. It’s actually younger than the iPod. In 2006, 57 percent of Virginia voters approved the Marshall-Newman Amendment, adding the definition to their Constitution. Since then, lots of Virginians have, like Herring, changed their minds. As of six months ago, only 43 percent of Virginians opposed gay marriage — a 14-point swing.

So Virginia’s one of those states that’s probably ready to wave in gay marriages, but can’t, because an older and more conservative electorate locked and bolted the door. Back in 2006, this was seen as a boon for Republicans. And now it’s left Republicans defending a pretty unpopular position.

Texas passed its amendment in 2005, still years after the iPod hit the scene, though our history of banning gay marriage does go back to the pre-iPod era. The point about locking it in via the Constitution, which I’ve made before, is why this will need to be resolved by the courts. Daily Kos has more.

Endorsement watch: EQTx for Davis

Sarah Davis, that is.

Rep. Sarah Davis

A gay rights group Tuesday backed its first Texas Republican in a primary election, for better or worse.

State Rep. Sarah Davis, R-West University Place, will find out in March if the endorsement, from Equality Texas, a gay rights advocacy group, will help or hurt her re-election bid. The announcement marks the first time the group has endorsed a Republican, a subtle signal of the momentum marriage equality is gaining as cases challenging the state’s Constitutional ban make their way through courts.

Davis said in a September interview with the San Antonio Express-News that she does not agree with the ban and that marriage should not be a government issue, citing personal freedom and limited government.

“I believe marriage is a religious sacrament, and the government should not force congregations to perform the ceremonies, however I do not oppose two consenting adults entering into civil unions,” Davis said by text message Tuesday. “The greatest threat to freedom is fiscal in nature, not social.”

She also said in the September interview that language outlawing sodomy in Texas’ law, which has been ruled void by the U.S. Supreme Court, should be removed. Davis also said spouses of same-sex members of the military should receive benefits, a move the federal government has asked state militaries to enforce but Texas has challenged.

“It just doesn’t make sense to me,” Davis said of denying the benefits.

Lone Star Q adds on.

Davis, who was first elected in 2010 and defeated gay Democrat Ann Johnson in 2012, has been an outspoken supporter of LGBT equality. Davis authored legislation to ensure equal hospital visitation and medical decision-making, and she helped defeat an effort to ban LGBT resource centers on college campuses. She also happens to be the lone House Republican who voted against Texas’ strict new abortion regulations.

“The majority of Republicans agree with most of our legislative priorities,” said Texas Equity PAC volunteer Daniel Williams. “We have to make it safe for Republican representatives to be out front on those issues. Rep. Davis has done that and she’s facing a primary opponent who is decidedly anti-equality. Endorsing Rep. Davis in the Republican primary isn’t just the smart thing to do, it’s a vital step towards making it safe for other Republicans to represent true Texas values of fairness.”

Davis wasn’t immediately available for comment on the endorsement, which Williams said she signed off on. Williams said the endorsement also applies to the November election, when Davis faces Democrat Alison Ruff.

EQTx announced the endorsement on their Facebook page; as you can see, there’s not exactly a consensus over this. They also sent out an email yesterday with their full slate of endorsed candidates for the primaries and links to contribution pages for each; Davis’ page is here. As of yet, there is nothing about any of this on Rep. Davis’ campaign Facebook page.

I respect EQTx and I get what they’re doing, though I can’t claim to be as impressed by Davis’ record as they are. That said, Davis does stand apart from the bulk of her GOP House colleagues on social issues, and Lord knows she’s better than her primary opponent. This is obviously a calculated risk for both EQTx and Davis, since it’s far from clear that an endorsement like this will be of value in a Republican primary. What will Jared Woodfill and Dan Patrick make of this? To be as fair to them as I can, dissenters on high-profile issues are never all that popular within their own party, for obvious and valid reasons. We Democrats have been historically pretty tolerant of our own heretics, often out of a practical need to avoid trouble and be competitive in less-than-ideal districts, but that tolerance is almost always grudging at best. You’d think after the example of Martha Wong last decade, that the GOP would want to take a more pragmatic view here, but we’ll see about that. Davis is a strong November candidate, but she has to survive March first. BOR has more.

Trial date set for Wilson residency lawsuit

Mark your calendars.

Dave Wilson

Dave Wilson

County officials have dropped their request to temporarily keep Houston Community College trustee Dave Wilson from his office in favor of an expedited trial date that will allow jurors to decide if he lives in District 2.

Last month, the county sued to prevent Wilson from serving on the HCC board amid questions about his residency.

On Tuesday, First Assistant Harris County Attorney Robert Soard confirmed that the county will stop pursuing immediate legal action against Wilson in exchange for a civil trial beginning on April 15.

“We decided that it would be helpful to the people of District 2 and the people of the state of Texas to get this trial over with as quickly as we can,” Soard said late Tuesday. “We reached an agreement with Mr. Wilson through his lawyer that we would drop our request for a temporary injunction. In return, they would agree to an expedited trial.”

Wilson is ready for a jury to consider the case.

“I look forward to the speedy trial and getting my name cleared,” he said late Tuesday. “They’ve got a losing case and they know it. … I hope they come to their senses. This is nothing but partisan politics.”

The temporary restraining order preventing Wilson from taking his seat had already been lifted, so it’s not a huge concession to quit fighting that battle. I have no doubt that both sides would like to get the core issues resolved, so an expedited court date makes sense. I can’t wait to see what happens.