Speed Read: Mayor Parker wins a round
PARKER WINS A ROUND IN HOUSTON: A federal judge granted Houston Mayor Annise Parker at least a temporary victory Thursday. According to Lone Star Q, a Dallas-based LGBT news site, U.S. District Court Judge Lee Rosenthal denied a request from the Houston Republican Party litigants to issue a stay against Parker’s policy of granting equal benefits to married gay city employees. A state family court judge had granted a stay when the case was in state court; but the Houston City Attorney successfully moved the case to federal court and Rosenthal refused to continue the stay. The action had not yet been docketed by deadline, but court records indicate parties will be back in court January 21 on a motion by the plaintiffs to return the case, Pidgeon v. Parker, to state court.
LAMBDA ARIZONA DEVELOPMENT: A federal court in Phoenix on December 23 certified as a class action Lambda Legal’s lawsuit on behalf of Arizona state employees seeking equal benefits. The lawsuit, Diaz v. Brewer, was originally filed on behalf of five state employees; but with class action certification, Lambda will now represent all state employees with same-sex partners. Similar to the mayor in Houston, then Arizona Governor Janet Napolitano directed the state to provide equal benefits, but the legislature, under current Governor Jan Brewer, changed the law to deny benefits to gay employees. Judge John Sedwick’s order said the class will represent “All lesbian and gay employees of the State who are now, or will in the future, be eligible …to obtain State health insurance benefits for their committed same-sex partners….”
LAMBDA PUSHES WEST VIRGINIA: Lambda Legal filed a motion for summary judgment in its marriage equality lawsuit in federal court in Huntington, West Virginia. Lambda originally filed the suit, McGee v. Cole, October 1. The summary judgment request notes that both parties in the case agree that the case can be resolved “as a matter of law,” and not requiring any findings of fact. The case is before U.S. District Judge Robert C. Chambers, an appointee of President Clinton. Chambers has slated a scheduling conference for January 6.
RABID RIGHT READY FOR PUSH, TOO: While moderate Republicans have been warning that the GOP needs to put less focus on such divisive social issues as marriage for same-sex couples, the more right-wing conservative groups are reportedly convinced they’d do better by increasing their focus and money on such issues. According to a report at politico.com Monday, leaders of 25 groups, including Focus on the Family, Family Research Council, and American Values, held a closed-door summit last month, organized by the Conservative Action Project.
EQUALITY MAINE BACKS MICHAUD: Although its former leader backed independent gubernatorial candidate Eliot Cutler, Equality Maine announced this week it’s backing openly gay U.S. Rep. Mike Michaud for governor in November. Equality Maine, which led the successful effort to pass a pro-marriage equality bill on the November 2012 ballot, released a statement Thursday endorsing Michaud. “We’ve seen incredible progress for the LGBT community in Maine in the past few years, but there is a lot more work left to do,” said Elise Johansen, Equality Maine’s current executive director. Former executive director Betsy Smith wrote an op-ed in November saying she respected Michaud but believes Cutler will make the better governor.