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Court: Texas AG Cannot Halt Same-Sex Couple’s Divorce

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As Texas waits on the U.S. Supreme Court to rule on same-sex marriage, the state’s highest civil court ruled Friday that the Texas attorney general tried too late to stop the divorce of a Texas couple married in Massachusetts.

[gdlr_notification icon=”icon-flag” type=”color-background” background=”#e2872e” color=”#ffffff”]Editor’s note: This story has been updated throughout. [/gdlr_notification]

Five members of the Texas Supreme Court affirmed a 2011 opinion from the Austin-based 3rd Court of Appeals that said the attorney general’s office did not have standing to appeal the divorce between Texas residents Angelique Naylor and Sabina Daly.

“We agree with the court of appeals that the state lacks standing to appeal the trial court’s decree,” wrote Justice Jeff Brown for the majority. He was joined by Chief Justice Nathan Hecht and Justices Paul Green, Phil Johnson and Jeff Boyd.

Daly and Naylor married in Massachusetts in 2004. A few years later, Naylor filed for divorce and Texas District Judge Scott Jenkins of Travis County approved it.

In the opinion delivered Friday, Brown emphasized that the court’s decision was confined to whether or not the attorney general’s office’s attempt to intervene was timely.

“This Court has consistently recognized the State’s right to defend Texas law from constitutional challenge,” Brown wrote. “However, as the court of appeals explained, the State did not timely intervene in this dispute and therefore is not a party of record.”

Justice Don Willett filed a dissenting opinion, joined by Justices John Devine and Eva Guzman.

“In my view, the State’s chief legal officer — sworn to ‘preserve, protect, and defend’ Texas law — should in fact be permitted to preserve, protect, and defend it,” Willett wrote. “I would allow the attorney general to make his argument that Texas law imposes an absolute jurisdictional constraint and constitutionally prohibits a judge not only from performing a same-sex marriage but also from dissolving one.”

Republican Gov. Greg Abbott, who formerly served as the state’s attorney general, called the court’s decision “disappointing and legally incorrect.” Abbott, also a former Texas Supreme Court justice, said the court “mistakenly relied on a technicality” in its ruling and failed to address the state’s constitutional definition of marriage.

“The state and all political subdivisions in Texas remain prohibited by the Texas Constitution from giving effect to a same-sex marriage or any document recognizing one — including the divorce decree in this case,” Abbott said in a statement.

Texas’ ban on same-sex marriages has been on the books for a decade since Texas voters approved a constitutional amendment to define marriage between one man and one woman.

A legal challenge to Texas’ constitutional ban is awaiting a decision from a New Orleans-based federal appellate court that took up the case in January.

But all eyes are on the U.S. Supreme Court, which will have the final word on the issue. The high court is expected to rule in the coming weeks on whether same-sex marriages are constitutional nationwide.

Dozens of challenges to state same-sex marriage bans cropped up across the country after the U.S. Supreme Court struck down part of the federal Defense of Marriage Act in 2013.

Those challenges, including a case against Texas’ ban on gay marriages, barreled through the courts. And the U.S. Supreme Court earlier this year took up four gay marriage cases out of a Cincinnati-based federal appeals court.

If the court rules that same-sex marriage bans are unconstitutional, its decision could legalize gay marriage nationwide.

Terri Langford and Alexa Ura contributed to this report.

[gdlr_icon type=”icon-camera-retro” size=”16px” color=”#999999″]Texas Supreme Court justices listen to the State of the Judiciary speech on February 23, 2011. / photo credit: Bob Daemmrich

[gdlr_notification icon=”icon-external-link” type=”color-background” background=”#ffcc20″ color=”#ffffff”]This article originally appeared in The Texas Tribune at http://www.texastribune.org/2015/06/19/texas-ag-cant-halt-same-sex-couples-divorce/[/gdlr_notification]

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Austin

Austin Raises Metered Parking Rates Citywide

Austin Transportation will raise the base rate of all City of Austin metered, on-street parking spaces to $2-per-hour starting Monday, October 14, 2019.

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Starting Monday, October 14, 2019, Austin Transportation will implement the $2-per-hour citywide parking meter base rate City Council approved in the Fiscal Year 2019-20 Budget. The new base rate will apply to all City of Austin metered, on-street parking spaces.

The City’s street parking system is designed to promote space turnover, which provides convenient short-term access to places of interest. However, at the current rates of $1.20 per hour in the downtown core and $1 per hour outside of it, Austin Transportation staff have routinely observed drivers exceeding parking time restrictions.

These observations align with those documented in the Downtown Austin Parking Strategy, released by the Downtown Austin Alliance in 2017. “The rates do not match the level of demand or patterns of behavior,” reads the report. “On-street prices are lower than off-street prices. There is a direct incentive for drivers to circle and hunt for the best deal.”

In order to reduce congestion, national best practices indicate that one to two parking spaces should be available at any time on any given block, minimizing the time that drivers spend circling in traffic in search of a nearby parking space. As parking usage is monitored quarterly, Austin Transportation may make incremental pricing adjustments to ensure that this goal is met.

“This rate modernization better represents the true value of street parking,” said Robert Spillar, Austin Transportation Director. “It also supports the City of Austin’s goals of providing more mobility options and reducing single-occupancy vehicle trips.” These goals are outlined in the Austin Strategic Direction 2023, the Imagine Austin Comprehensive Plan, and the Austin Strategic Mobility Plan, which envisions at least 50 percent of commuters using modes other than single-occupancy vehicles by 2039.

Reducing drive-alone trips allows Austin Transportation to test and implement curb management strategies that promote equitable and flexible curb space access for all travel modes and public needs.

As an alternative to on-street parking, Austin Transportation launched its Affordable Parking Program in 2016 to make downtown off-street parking more accessible for people who work or regularly park downtown in the evenings, including service industry workers. This program has flourished and now has approximately 400 users, reducing evening demand for on-street parking by directing people to off-street spaces that would otherwise often be unused. There continue to be spaces available at rates that vary from $30 to $65 per month, and Austin Transportation encourages people to learn more about the program.

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Austin

Unite The Fight 2019

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The Equality Alliance returns with its third annual Unite The Fight “black tie” gala event on Saturday, September 21, 2019 at the Hilton Austin, complete with hostess Shangela, the red carpet, a huge silent auction, and the highly-anticipated main event as eight amateur drag contestants lip sync for their rights and the coveted title of Miss Unite the Fight. “Every year, The Equality Alliance hosts our Unite the Fight Gala to raise money for non-profit organizations who are on the front lines every day fighting for equality and basic human rights for the LGBTQ community,” explained Monica Painter, Executive Director of The Equality Alliance.

“At the gala, the charities briefly speak about what they do in our community and ways people can plug in and help,” Painter added. This year’s beneficiaries are:

“To add some fun to the mix, eight people [who have never considered doing drag in their life] are paired with a professional drag queen,” explained Painter. “The amateur queens practice drag for months and then they perform on the night of the gala in front of 1,000 people to compete for the crown of Miss Unite The Fight. We always say: ‘People come all dressed up in their fanciest clothes to support charity and leave with laryngitis from screaming for their favorite contestant.’ We have found this combination to be a perfect mix of philanthropy and fun!”

This year’s contestants walking the catwalk and the chance at the title of Miss Unite The Fight, (along with their mentors) are:

  • Veronica Castelo + Jack Rabid
  • Bobby Cook + Sabel Scities
  • Christopher Davis + Vylette Ward
  • Kelvin Glover + Scarlett Kiss
  • Cody Kinsfather + Colleen Deforrest
  • Sandy McIlree + Vegas Van Cartier
  • Matt Moffit + Alysha Pretty
  • Emmanuel Winston + Maeve Haven

The title of Miss Unite The Fight isn’t the only award up for grabs. Thanks to red carpet sponsor, Chappy, judges will be on the red carpet with awards handed out throughout the night for attendees presenting head-turning looks upon arrival. Categories include:

  • “The Beyonce” for sparkliest
  • “The Grace Kelly” for classic beauty
  • “The Gender Bender” for binary realness
  • “The Cher” for most over the top
  • “The OMGaga” for the Grand Prize

“Not only are LGBTQ+ events important as it raises awareness towards critical issues within our marginalized community, but Unite the Fight is near and dear to our hearts as it is an Austin-based event, which is now our hometown,” said Chappy Co-Founder and Head of Brand Sam Dumas. “We are so excited to participate in this event as a red carpet sponsor and we are honored to work side-by-side with an organization that aligns so closely to our core principals of equality, empowerment, commitment to safe spaces, and values that align across all sexualities and genders.”

In addition to the silent auction with over 100 items up for mobile bidding, this year features a raffle for a 3-year lease on a 2019 Mercedes C-300 Cabriolet (or a $20,000 credit towards the purchase of a new car) from Mercedes-Benz of Austin. The raffle is limited to only 500 tickets.

The official after party for the Unite The Fight gala will be hosted by Oilcan Harry’s on 4th Street, in the Warehouse District.

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El Paso Democrat Sen. José Rodríguez Announces Retirement

Rodríguez, who was first elected in 2010 to represent Senate District 29, said he would retire from the Senate at the end of this term in January 2021.

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State Sen. José Rodríguez, D-El Paso, speaks to the press following Gov. Abbott's State of the State address in Austin on Feb. 5, 2019. Photo credit: Emree Weaver/The Texas Tribune

This article originally appeared in The Texas Tribune

Editor’s note: This story has been updated throughout

State Sen. José Rodríguez, an El Paso Democrat, announced Friday that he will not seek reelection to the upper chamber in 2020.

Rodriguez informed El Paso colleagues of his decision in a text late Thursday night that was obtained by The Texas Tribune. He said he would make the announcement at “noon tomorrow at my office.”

“I started my tenure in the Senate with one of the worst budgets in the state’s modern history,” Rodríguez said in a written announcement on his retirement. “Fortunately, my last session was one where state leaders finally gave long overdue attention to our public schools.”

Rodríguez was first elected in 2010 to represent Senate District 29. The district, which hugs the Texas-Mexico border, is considered historically Democratic; it covers El Paso, Culberson, Hudspeth, Jeff Davis and Presidio counties.

The senator’s retirement announcement comes a day after the Senate Democratic Caucus announced that Rodríguez would step down as chair at the end of the year. State Sen. Carol Alvarado, D-Houston, will replace him at the post.

It’s unclear who all will announce bids for Rodríguez’s seat. One potential candidate could be state Rep. César Blanco, a fellow El Paso Democrat who serves as chair of the House Democratic Campaign Committee.

Patrick Svitek contributed to this story.

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

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