Connect with us

US

Smithsonian Receives Matthew Shepard Collection

Published

on

The Smithsonian‘s National Museum of American History received a donation of papers and personal objects from the parents of Matthew Shepard, a young, gay college student who died of severe injuries following a vicious attack in October 1998 when he was a student at the University of Wyoming, Laramie.

Judy and Dennis Shepard donated papers, photographs and notebooks representing the everyday life of their son from elementary school through college, as a participant in local theater productions and as an international traveler. The collection also includes condolence cards and correspondence the Shepards received following his death. In addition to the archival materials, a number of objects serve as a poignant reminder of Shepard’s life as an average American boy: a child-sized Superman cape, sandals, a purple ribbon award he received at school and a wedding ring he purchased in anticipation of one day meeting his soulmate.

“Twenty years is a long time in human years but only a blink in history. Yet it seems like only a moment ago that the country was shocked by the brutal killing of Matt Shepard,” said Katherine Ott, curator at the museum. “The materials donated by his parents, Judy and Dennis, will allow a deeper understanding not only of that time and how people responded and grieved but also the historical vulnerability of LGBTQ people.”

“For 20 years, we have tried to share the meaning of our son’s life, as well as his dreams for a kinder, more accepting and loving world,” said Judy Shepard, speaking for the Shepard family. “While we always have our family memories, it is deeply comforting to know the Smithsonian will preserve his story for future generations. We cannot think of a better way to honor Matt’s life and legacy.”

Matthew Wayne Shepard was born Dec. 1, 1976 in Casper, Wyoming. Shepard spent his childhood and teenage years in Casper and participated in various local theatrical productions. In his junior year of high school, the family moved to Saudi Arabia for his father’s new job with ARAMCO. Shepard returned to the United States after graduating from The American School in Switzerland (TASIS) and lived in North Carolina and Colorado before attending the University of Wyoming during the 1998-1999 school year.

On Oct. 6, 1998, Shepard became the victim of a vicious attack during which he was taken from a bar, tied to a fence, robbed and pistol-whipped. Abandoned in near freezing temperatures, he was discovered 18 hours later by a cyclist. Shepard succumbed to his injuries on Oct. 12.

His killing made headlines around the world and resulted in an outpouring of grief and anger that people channeled into poetry, songs and musical compositions, a major motion picture, The Matthew Shepard Story, and at least two plays, The Laramie Project and The Laramie Project: Ten Years Later. Materials related to these are included in the collection.

Students from The School of Theater, George Mason University College of Visual and Performing Arts presented a brief selection from The Laramie Project by Moisés Kaufman and Tectonic Theater Project during the donation ceremony.

Materials from the National Museum of American History’s LGBTQ collections date back to the 19th century. Objects in the collections include a selection of protest signs from gay civil rights activist Frank Kameny, Billie Jean King’s tennis dress, the first transgender pride flag and HIV- and AIDS-related lab equipment and medications. The archival collections are rich in ephemera, oral histories, photographs, posters and entertainment publicity materials. The museum has mounted a number of LGBTQ history displays over the years, including two marking the 25th and 40th anniversaries of the 1969 Stonewall riots in New York City, and a showcase exhibit on the 30th anniversary of the emergence of the HIV and AIDS epidemic.

This donation will join the museum’s permanent holdings of some 1.8 million objects and three shelf-miles of archival collections. While there are no immediate plans for an exhibit, the materials will preserved for future generations. They will be available to researchers and filmmakers, and may be included in future exhibitions.

Continue Reading
Advertisement
Comments

Texas

Federal Judge Rules Obamacare Unconstitutional, Handing Texas an Early Win

Fort Worth U.S. District Judge Reed O’Connor ruled that the individual mandate — a critical component of Obamacare — is unconstitutional, rendering the rest of the law invalid as well.

Published

on

Dr. Javier Saenz treats a patient in his clinic in the Rio Grande Valley town of La Joya. Photo credit: Reynaldo Leal / Texas Tribune.

This article originally appeared in The Texas Tribune

In a ruling that could throw the nation’s health care system into chaos, Fort Worth-based U.S. District Judge Reed O’Connor on Friday ruled that a major provision of the Affordable Care Act is unconstitutional — and that the rest of the landmark law must fall as well.

In February, a Texas-led coalition of 20 states sued the federal government to end the health care law in its entirety, arguing that after Congress in December 2017 gutted one of its major provisions, the rest of the law was unconstitutional. The U.S. Supreme Court had upheld the law because its individual mandate — a financial penalty for not having insurance — could be interpreted as a tax. But after Congress set that tax at $0, the Texas coalition claimed the rest of the law no longer had “constitutional cover.” 

O’Connor sided with Texas, ruling that the individual mandate was rendered unconstitutional. That portion of the law, he argued, is not severable from other provisions, and so the rest of the law must fall. 

Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton cheered the decision in a statement. 

“All Americans will again have greater choice about what health coverage they need and who will be their doctor,” the Republican said. 

O’Connor’s ruling comes a day before the deadline to enroll in a health plan through the insurance exchange created under the law. 

That could cause unnecessary confusion for consumers, said Stacey Pogue, a health care expert with the left-leaning Center for Public Policy Priorities

“But that confusion or anxiety shouldn’t stop people from signing up who need health care,” Pogue said. “This is just the very first step. The lawsuit will go on for a very long time. Open enrollment ends tomorrow.” 

A White House statement said that the law will remain in place pending the appeals process. 

A counter-coalition of states led by California, which stepped in to argue the case when the federal government sided partially with Texas, panned the decision. 

A spokeswoman said the California Attorney General’s Office will immediately appeal. 

“Today’s ruling is an assault on 133 million Americans with preexisting conditions, on the 20 million Americans who rely on the ACA’s consumer protections for healthcare, on America’s faithful progress toward affordable healthcare for all Americans,” said California Attorney General Xavier Becerra. “The ACA has already survived more than 70 unsuccessful repeal attempts and withstood scrutiny in the Supreme Court. Today’s misguided ruling will not deter us: our coalition will continue to fight in court for the health and wellbeing of all Americans.” 

Rob Henneke, general counsel for the Texas Public Policy Foundation and an attorney on the Texas side of the case, described the ruling as “a historic win.” 

“Obamacare’s been broken long before it was struck down by the court,” Henneke said in an interview Friday evening. “It’s time to now work toward solutions that can actually provide health care, doctor choice and affordability for Americans.” 

Henneke added that the case is likely to end up before the U.S. Supreme Court. The coalition’s suit was filed on behalf plaintiffs who said they were burdened by Obamacare 

This is not Texas’ first lawsuit targeting Obama’s signature health care law, though it is the most sweeping. The lawsuit, which now involves most states in the country on one side or another, also has emerged as a political issue in dozens of states. If successful, the lawsuit would end Obamacare’s protections for individuals with pre-existing conditions like diabetes or asthma — a group of about 130 million people across the nation. Democrats have focused on that provision, arguing that their conservative foes are failing to protect the country’s most vulnerable. 

Legal scholars — even some conservatives who oppose the law — have nonetheless called Texas’ argument unconvincing. 

The argument that the whole law should be doomed by problems with one provision is “a massive stretch,” Ilya Somin, a constitutional scholar at George Mason University who filed an amicus brief in the case, told The Tribune in August. 

Some have pointed to O’Connor as an advantageous decider for Texas. An appointee of President George W. Bush, O’Connor has ruled against Obamacare several times and is perhaps best known for for blocking Obama-era guidelines directing public schools to allow transgender students to use bathrooms that align with their gender identity. 

Timothy Jost, an emeritus professor at Washington and Lee University who has studied Obamacare and its legal battles extensively, called Friday’s ruling “an ideological opinion” that is “unmoored in law.” 

“This is breathtaking in its sweep, and I think O’Connor has no idea what he’s doing,” Jost said Friday. “This is going to get thrown out. But I also think it’s timed to cause maximum chaos.” 

The Texas Tribune is a nonpartisan, nonprofit media organization that informs Texans — and engages with them – about public policy, politics, government and statewide issues.

Continue Reading

Texas

Amazon Picks Crystal City and New York for HQ2, Snubbing Texas

The long-awaited decision comes more than a year after Amazon announced the public bidding war in September 2017.

Published

on

Illustration by Todd Wiseman / Texas Tribune

This article originally appeared in The Texas Tribune

In the end, there were two, and neither was in Texas.

Amazon announced Tuesday morning that it will build its second and third headquarters in New York and Crystal City, Virginia — a blow to Texas, a state fiercely proud of its business-friendly reputation that boasted two cities on the tech giant’s short list of 20 potential picks.

Since September 2017, when the tech giant announced it was searching for a home for its “HQ2” — a multi-billion dollar capital investment expected to create as many as 50,000 new jobs — Texas pledged to compete aggressively, and some cities went “all-in” on the wooing efforts. Austin and Dallas made the January 2018 cut for Amazon’s shortlist, a trim that eliminated some 200 other bids, including one each from Houston and tiny Milam County in Central Texas.

Ultimately, the company opted to split that prize into two, with 25,000 jobs each intended for New York’s Long Island City and Virginia’s Crystal City. Nashville will also become a home to an Amazon “operations center of excellence,” with more than 5,000 jobs, Amazon announced Tuesday.

Throughout the 14-month bidding war, Texas officials had projected confidence about the state’s ability to attract top businesses; in March, the state won a Site Selection magazine award for attracting investments, its sixth consecutive victory. In television interviews, Gov. Greg Abbott boasted about the state’s “built-in” advantages for attracting big tech.

Both Austin and Dallas were considered top contenders for HQ2, winning top billing in a host of rankings. Austin, a burgeoning tech hub in its own right, boasts the state’s flagship university campus and a relaxed culture attractive to young professionals — but its relatively small airport, poor transit system and rising rents may have hurt its chances. Dallas, on the other hand, is a bigger city with a world-class airport. Experts expected it could more easily absorb the enormous influx of new workers — but some speculated that it lacked a “cool factor” Amazon sought to attract top talent.

And experts had cautioned since the beginning of the bidding process that Texas’ conservative social policies might hurt its chances with the young, largely liberal tech company, whose owner, Jeff Bezos, has championed gay rights. A group of activists launched a “No Gay No Way” campaign, calling on the tech giant to reject any states with policies unfriendly to the LGBTQ community.

After the news broke Tuesday morning, Austin’s chamber of commerce said in a statement that “the fundamentals that made Austin a top 20 finalist and have helped our city be a leader in job generation — our incredible talent and lifestyle—haven’t changed.”

“Make no mistake, this has been a ‘win’ for our region regardless of the outcome,” said Dale Petroskey, CEO and President of the Dallas Regional Chamber. “Our business community grows and expands by the day, and our momentum as a destination of choice has only increased as a result of being a finalist for HQ2.”

Amazon said in its announcement that it may receive more than $2 billion in tax incentives from the two locations. Dallas offered the company up to $600 million in incentives, not including the state’s contribution, according to a summary of the bid the city released Tuesday. Austin has not disclosed its offer.

Abbott told Fox News earlier this year that Texas would “be stepping up and providing some incentives,” though it would not “give away the farm.”

Those state-level incentives have not been disclosed publicly, but likely fell in the nine-figure range. Documents released as part of Houston’s failed bid showed the city had offered $268 million in incentives, including the state’s contribution. Arlington, which released its bid after being eliminated from contention, had offered $921 million, a figure that did not appear to include a contribution from the state.

Disclosure: The Austin Chamber of Commerce has been a financial supporter of The Texas Tribune, a nonprofit, nonpartisan news organization that is funded in part by donations from members, foundations and corporate sponsors. Financial supporters play no role in the Tribune’s journalism. A complete list of Tribune donors and sponsors can be viewed here.

The Texas Tribune is a nonpartisan, nonprofit media organization that informs Texans — and engages with them – about public policy, politics, government and statewide issues.

Continue Reading

Elections 2018

In Texas, “Rainbow Wave” Outpaces the Blue One

Fourteen of 35 LGBTQ candidates won their races Tuesday night, and activists say the 2018 election will carve a path for a future “rainbow wave” in Texas.

Published

on

This article originally appeared in The Texas Tribune

Fourteen of the 35 gay, bisexual and transgender candidates who ran for office in Texas during the midterms claimed victory Tuesday night — a 40 percent success rate in deep-red Texas — and national and state activists say they’re confident this election cycle carved a path for a future “rainbow wave” in Texas.

The historic number of Texas candidates who ran for offices from governor down to city council positions joined a record-shattering rank of more than 400 LGBTQ individuals on national midterm ballots this year.

“It shows that politics are changing and that more LGBTQ people feel comfortable to step out and run openly,” said Sean Meloy, political director at Victory Fund, a Washington D.C.-based LGBTQ group that fundraised for several Texas races.

LGBTQ candidates had plenty of fuel to inspire their campaigns and galvanize supporters, from Texas’ controversial “bathroom bill” to the Trump administration’s plans to eliminate “transgender” from legal terms.

Julie Johnson, a lesbian candidate from the Dallas-Fort Worth area, defeated Republican incumbent Matt Rinaldi of Irving; LGBTQ candidate Jessica González ran uncontested for a Dallas-area seat after defeating state Rep. Roberto Alonzo in the Democratic primary; and Erin Zwiener, a bisexual House candidate, won a Central Texas seat by defeating Republican Ken Strange. They will more than double the number of openly LGBTQ women in the Texas House of Representatives.

In Harris County, five LGBTQ judicial candidates defeated Republican incumbents Tuesday. Jason Cox, Jerry Simoneaux, Shannon Baldwin, James Kovach and Beau Miller will join the three openly gay judges in Houston. Charles Spain, a gay man, also won a seat on the 14th Court of Appeals over Republican incumbent Marc Brown.

“I think we are on a new path,” said Chuck Smith, CEO of Equality Texas, an Austin-based LGBTQ nonprofit. “[One] that demonstrates equality is a mainstream value and that extremists who seek to oppose equality are not in the mainstream.”

Perhaps the most recognizable LGBTQ candidate in Texas, Lupe Valdez, garnered national attention as the first openly gay candidate and first Latina to win a major party nomination in a Texas gubernatorial race. Valdez, a Democrat and former Dallas County sheriff, lost to Republican incumbent Gov. Greg Abbott by 13 points on Tuesday.

Valdez talked frequently about her race, gender, sexuality and socioeconomic background during the election.

“I’m Hispanic, female, lesbian, Democrat,” Valdez said in an interview with the Tribune in May. “Diversity is what made this country strong. Diversity is what will make Texas strong.”

In Texas’ 23rd Congressional District, Democrat Gina Ortiz Jones — a former Air Force intelligence officer, Iraq War veteran and lesbian candidate — fought incumbent U.S. Congressman Will Hurd to a virtual tie. Hurd remained less than a percentage point ahead of Ortiz Jones on Wednesday morning and the race is still too close to call.

Meloy, whose Victory Fund organization contributed nearly $9,000 to Ortiz Jones’ campaign and raised more than $53,000 on her behalf, said Ortiz Jones’ run represents a historic moment that gives hope to those fighting for equality.

“I think it represents not only her perseverance but that a queer woman of color who is also a veteran should not be underestimated,” Meloy said.

Below is the complete list of winning candidates (candidates with an asterisk won re-election).

  • Erin Zwiener, Texas House, District 45
  • Celia Israel, Texas House, District 50*
  • Mary González, Texas House District 75*
  • Jessica González, Texas House, District 104
  • Julie Johnson, Texas House, District 115
  • Charles Spain, 14th Court of Appeals, Place 4
  • Shannon Baldwin, Harris County Criminal Court-at-Law No. 4
  • Jerry Simoneaux, Harris County Probate Court-at-Law No. 1
  • Jason Cox, Harris County Probate Court-at-Law No. 3
  • James Kovach, Harris County Civil Court-at-Law No. 2
  • Rosie Gonzalez, Bexar County Court-at-Law No. 13
  • Tonya Parker, 116th Judicial District, Harris County*
  • Beau Miller, 190th Judicial District, Harris County
  • Sara Martinez, Dallas County Justice of the Peace, Precinct 5, Place 1*

The Texas Tribune is a nonpartisan, nonprofit media organization that informs Texans — and engages with them – about public policy, politics, government and statewide issues.

Continue Reading
Advertisement
Advertisement

Trending