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Mansfield ISD Teacher on Leave After Showing Students Photo of Wife

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[gdlr_notification icon=”fa-flag” type=”color-background” background=”#ffcc20″ color=”#000000″]This article originally appeared in The Texas Tribune[/gdlr_notification]

Stacy Bailey has been employed as an art teacher at Charlotte Anderson Elementary School for a decade, but she hasn’t been in the classroom since September. 

Instead, she’s in limbo: She isn’t fired — her contract with the district has even been renewed — but she’s not working. 

Mansfield ISD in North Texas put Bailey on paid administrative leave at the start of this school year, following complaints from a parent that she was “promoting the ‘homosexual agenda’” by showing her class a photo of her and her now-wife, Julie Vazquez, as well as mentioning that the artist Jasper Johns had a partner, another artist Robert Rauschenberg, Bailey claims in a federal lawsuit filed earlier this month. 

The two-time teacher of the year argues that the district violated the U.S. Constitution and the Texas Constitution by treating her differently than it would have treated a straight teacher. 

Bailey’s story has drawn outrage from the state’s LGBTQ community and disappointment from many of her students’ families, who praise her as knowledgeable and passionate. Her case has also exposed what advocates call gaping holes in the state’s employment discrimination laws, which don’t explicitly protect LGBTQ employees. 

Texas law prohibits employment discrimination based on a host of factors, including sex, race, religion and disability. But there’s no express protection for gay, lesbian and transgender employees. 

“Texas doesn’t protect its workers very well in general, and it doesn’t protect LGBT folks in particular,” said Jason Smith, the Fort Worth attorney representing Bailey. “Stacy Bailey’s case will hopefully send a message to school districts across Texas that the Constitution doesn’t allow them to discriminate based upon sexual orientation.” 

Some courts across the country have ruled that prohibitions on sex discrimination also prohibit discrimination based on sexual orientation, but there’s no Texas court decision on the matter, according to Paul Castillo, an attorney with Lambda Legal, an advocacy firm for LGBTQ rights. And either way, said Equality Texas CEO Chuck Smith, “we’d like to not have to rely on judicial interpretation, but to codify this in statute.” 

The dearth of Texas-level protections has forced Bailey into federal court, where she’s claiming that Mansfield ISD violated the state and federal constitutions’ equal protection clauses. But the federal system is costlier and will almost certainly be more time-intensive, Jason Smith said. 

“We could do much better by explicitly amending the Texas Labor Code to add sexual orientation and gender identity and expression to a pre-existing list of personal characteristics that already constitute employment discrimination,” Chuck Smith said. “We know that discrimination occurs, and the protections need to exist as a matter of law in order to provide the same level of recourse for [anti-LGBTQ discrimination] as is available for other characteristics. At the end of the day, it comes back to equal treatment.” 

Twenty-two states have some sort of employment protection for LGBTQ workers, Chuck Smith said. State Rep. Eric Johnson, D-Dallas, has filed such a measure in Texas every session since 2011; in 2017, the bill narrowly passed through a House committee but never got a vote in the full chamber. Opponents told the committee at a public hearing that the bill would create a special classification for LGBTQ individuals and impose new restrictions on businesses. Johnson said he plans to raise it again next session. 

“LGBTQ Texans have waited long enough,” Johnson said. “If Texas had a statewide employment nondiscrimination policy in place, [Bailey] would have had clear protection under state law.” 

Johnson’s bill, if successful, would have given Bailey a more local option for pursuing her case against the district. It may have even prevented her from being placed on leave in the first in the first place, advocates said. 

“Statewide protections send a message to both private businesses and public entities that discrimination is expressly prohibited. It would’ve been clear,” said Castillo, the attorney for Lambda Legal. “And it may have been outcome-determinative.” 

And, Jason Smith said, a state law would have given Bailey a much broader legal ability to win monetary damages for lost wages, lost benefits and mental anguish. 

Current law allows Bailey to recover those damages under the U.S. Constitution. But under the Texas Constitution, she can’t win money back, her lawyer said. If she could sue under Texas state law — the way employees discriminated against based on sex or religion, for example, already can — she’d have a much better shot at winning back those funds. 

Still, in some ways, Bailey is fortunate: Texas law leaves few options for teachers like her, but there are even fewer options for workers not employed by government entities like public school districts. 

Bailey’s lawsuit — which challenges the school based on a constitutional protection that prevents the government from treating different groups of people differently — would not have been possible if she were employed by a private school, advocates said. 

If she had worked at a private school, Smith said, “I don’t think she would have the same avenue. I’m not sure that she would have any avenue.” 

Some of the state’s liberal centers such as Austin, Fort Worth and Dallas have local anti-discrimination ordinances that protect LGBTQ individuals. And a handful of school districts, many in those same geographic areas, have the same protections; in fact, Bailey lobbied Mansfield ISD to add LGBTQ protections to its anti-discrimination policy. But none of those is as powerful as a state law, advocates said. 

“State law already protects workers from discrimination based on things like religion,” Johnson said. “If someone can’t be fired because of whether or where they worship, then they shouldn’t be able to be fired because of who they love or how they identify.” 

Disclosure: Equality Texas and Chuck Smith have 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.

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[gdlr_notification icon=”fa-camera” type=”color-background” background=”#999999″ color=”#ffffff”]Top image: Lupe Valdez gives her victory speech after defeating Andrew White in the Democratic runoff for governor on Tuesday, May 22, 2018. / photo credit: Leslie Boorhem-Stephenson / The Texas Tribune[/gdlr_notification]

Emma Platoff is a breaking news and civil courts reporter at The Texas Tribune, where she started as a fellow in 2017. She is the first to fill either role. A recent graduate of Yale University, Emma is the former managing editor of the Yale Daily News and a former intern at The Philadelphia Inquirer and the Hartford Courant.

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Austin

Gay Couple Attacked in Dowtown Austin

Austin Police confirmed that all four suspects in the January 19 attack against Spencer Deehring and Tristan Perry are now in custody.

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Attack victims Spencer Deehring (left) and Tristan Perry (right). Attack suspects Frank Macias (center top left), Quinn O'Connor (center top right), Miguel Macias (center bottom left), and Kolby Monell (center bottom right).

A gay couple in Austin were hospitalized after being attacked and beaten unconscious by a group of five men in downtown Austin early Saturday morning. The men say they were targeted because of their sexual orientation telling KXAN that they believe their attackers were set off by seeing the couple holding hands.

Night Out

Spencer Deehring and Tristan Perry were out Friday night with a group of friends, celebrating a friend’s birthday, stopping by several downtown bars. The couple told KXAN that they only had a couple drinks early in the night. Since they had drove downtown, they wanted to be sober when the night ended.

The Attack

The men say they left Rain on 4th at approximately 2:20 AM Saturday morning and were walking to their car, hand-in-hand, when a man passed them and directed a homophobic slur at the couple. Deehring responded by saying, “I’m sorry, I couldn’t hear you.” That was when the man called out to four other people, who had been out of sight, and motioned for them to come over.

The group of attackers began to follow Deehring and Perry, verbally assaulting the couple with expletives as they continued the walk to their car. “The last thing I said to one of the guys before they attacked both of us was like, ‘I don’t have anything more to say to you guys, we’re just going home, leave us alone’,” Deehring told KXAN.

It was then that one of the attackers punched Perry in the face, breaking his nose. As he dropped to his knees, two of the other assailants stepped up and continued to attack Perry, hitting and kicking him until he was unconscious, including a kick to the back of the head by one of the attackers.

“The last blow he took was an extremely long kick to the back of his head, so, at that point, I thought he was dead. I thought that that kick alone had killed him and so, when he was just lying there, my first instinct kicked in to kind of just charge at the guy that kicked him because I wanted to create some kind of diversion,” Deehring told Fox 7.

Deehring immediately tried to tackle the men attacking Perry. “That was my first reaction, was to stop them from kicking him because he couldn’t receive one more blow to the head or he may well have been dead,” he told KXAN. He himself was knocked unconscious by the attackers.

A bystander who witnessed the attack called 911 and waited with the couple until police and EMS arrived, which Deehring estimated took 20 minutes. He noted that had it not been for the bystander, the attack may have continued and their injuries more severe.

Their Injuries

The couple was transported to Dell Seton Medical Center at the University of Texas at Austin where they were treated and hospitalized for their injuries. Both men have since been released.

Last night I was a victim of a brutal hate crime. I was beaten and called a “faggot” as well as numerous other terms…

Posted by Spencer Deehring on Saturday, January 19, 2019

Deehring’s injuries included a concussion, lacerations on his forehead, swelling to his mouth and jaw, and bruising from blows to the back of his head and neck.

The focus of the initial assault, Perry sustained more extensive injuries, including a concussion, lacerations to the back of his head, a broken nose, busted lip, chipped teeth and suffered from swelling in his face, pain in his neck and back and needed stitches over his eye. He also reported some memory loss from the head injuries he sustained. He was readmitted to the hospital Sunday for persistent bleeding, but has since been released.

last night my boyfriend and i went out for a drink with some of his friends, and unfortunately when he and i were…

Posted by Tristan Perry on Saturday, January 19, 2019

Details

The original account to KXAN had the couple leaving Rain on 4th at approximately 2:45 AM and the following attack occuring near 7th and Red River streets. In their interview with FOX 7, the couple said they left Rain on 4th at approximately 2:20 AM and the attack happened near 4th and Guadalupe streets.

According to the Austin Police Department, the incident occured at 3rd Street and Congress Avenue just before 2:30 AM and the bystander’s 911 call was pinged from an address near West 4th Street. Deehring said police told him his misremembering the location of the attack was likely a result of the concussion he sustained from head trauma during the attack. Rain on 4th confirmed the couple exited that bar at 2:18 AM.

A request to the Austin Police Department for a copy of the police report from the night of the attack was denied by the department. “The requested information pertains to ongoing criminal investigation. The detective assigned to this investigation has advised that the release of the requested information would interfere with this ongoing investigation,” said the City of Austin’s Law Department in a letter to the Texas Attorney General’s office asking for a decision from the Attorney General as to whether this information is within an exception to public disclosure. “Accordingly, it is the department’s position that the release of information pertaining to this investigation would interfere with the detection, investigation, or prosecution of crime, and the department seeks to withhold the information represented by the enclosed records under Section 552(a)(1).”

The couple are encouraging others to be cautious when they’re out and to not travel alone, and that they plan to keep going out and being affectionate in public.”Spread love, end all this hatred, end all this closed-mindedness always watch your surroundings, always be aware of your surroundings, don’t walk alone,” Perry told KXAN, with Deehring adding, “Be aware of your surroundings, but don’t change who you are as a person, don’t ever change who you are as a person and don’t be afraid to go out there and explore the world, just as you are. We’re gonna do that too.”

The couple have set up a GoFundMe campaign to help cover medical expenses.

Search for the Attackers

The couple hope the police will find and prosecute the attackers. According to Deehring, police have surveillance video from the night of the attack showing them walking down 3rd Street and Congress Avenue. Police are using the video to track down the assailants involved in the attack.

“They have so many people working on this. Multiple supervisors, multiple people checking cameras,” Deehring told KXAN. “It’s good to hear APD is doing everything they can and are taking it very seriously.”

They are also asking that the bystander who called 911 to come forward to participate in the investigation

Rewards

The owners of Rain on 4th and Oilcan Harry’s are offering a $5,000 reward for any new information which leads to an arrest in connection with the attack.

The Owners of Rain on 4th and Oilcan Harry’s are offering a $5,000 reward for any new information which leads to an arrest in connection with the Hate-Crime attack against Spencer Deehring and Tristan Perry on the early morning of Saturday, January 19th in downtown Austin.

For too long gay-bashings have threatened our community. Historically and still to this day establishments like ours have provided sanctuary and security from these incidents. At Rain on 4th and Oilcan Harry’s we strive daily to provide a safe and tolerant environment for our community, and our actions do not stop at our doors. We will not stand by when our customers and community members are brutally assaulted simply for expressing their love.

Rain on 4th has been in contact with Mayor Adler’s office as well as Police Chief Manley and Assistant Chief Newsom. We will continue to coordinate resources and actions to help ensure this crime is fully investigated and prosecuted. We are also working together on community safety measures to ensure we send a strong message that threats in the warehouse district will not be ignored.

Anyone having information concerning the crime please call APD at 512-974-9207 or contact Crime Stoppers at 512-472-TIPS. You may remain anonymous.

Additionally, the Shefman Law Group’s Cyclistlaw.com and R-Events are each offering an additional $2,500 reward and the Austin Playhouse‘s production of “Paradise” is offering an addition $1,000 reward. The combined reward stands at $11,000.

Anyone having information concerning the crime please call APD at 512-974-9207 or contact Crime Stoppers at 512-472-TIPS. You may remain anonymous.

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Austin

Austin PRIDE Announces Date for 2019 Festival & Parade

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The Austin Gay and Lesbian Pride Foundation, the non-profit organization that manages and organizes Austin’s PRIDE celebration, has announced that the 29th annual Austin PRIDE Festival and Parade will take place on SATURDAY, AUGUST 10, 2019. This year’s theme is Boogie Wonderland.

The 2015 Austin Pride Festival at Fiesta Gardens. Photo credit: Chase Martin/therepubliq

The festival will return to Edward Rendon Sr. Park at Festival Beach in Town Lake Metropolitan Park (a/k/a Fiesta Gardens) from 11 AM – 6 PM and feature entertainment, games and activities, drinks, food, family zone, and 140+ booths featuring local non-profits organizations and businesses. Tickets on the day of the event will be $20 for adults (18+), $10 for youth (7-17 years old), and FREE for children six and under. Discounted advanced tickets will go on sale in the near future at www.austinpride.org.

The Apple contingent in the 2015 Austin Pride Parade
The Apple contingent in the 2015 Austin Pride Parade. Photo credit: Chase Martin/therepubliq

The parade will step off at 8 PM. The route through downtown Austin remains unchanged from previous years; starting at the south gate of the Texas State Capitol Building, heading down Congress Avenue, then turning on 4th Street going through the Warehouse District before ending at Republic Square. The parade is free and open to the public.

The parade and festival are projected to bring in over 400,000 attendees, making it the largest single day event based on attendance in Austin. By comparison, the Austin City Limits Music Festival has 75,000 attendees and South by Southwest has 285,000 attendees.

Registration for booths at the festival and spaces in the parade is now open online at www.austinpride.org/paradeandfestival.

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86th TX Lege

Dan Patrick Dismisses Need for Bathroom Bill in 2019: “It’s been settled and I think we won”

In 2017, Patrick pushed for the controversial measure that would have restricted the use of certain public facilities for transgender Texans, but it failed to become law.

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Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick, left, sits next to Gov. Greg Abbott
Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick, left, sits next to Gov. Greg Abbott as he speaks during a press conference at the Governor's Mansion on Wednesday. Photo credit: Miguel Gutierrez Jr. / Texas Tribune.

This article originally appeared in The Texas Tribune

The “bathroom bill” won’t be back this session, its loudest champion suggested Wednesday morning.

At a Governor’s Mansion press conference on the second day of this year’s legislative session, Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick — who last session was the top state leader championing the measure, which would have regulated the use of certain public facilities for transgender Texans — suggested there’s no need to bring back the divisive proposal that headlined the last legislative year in 2017, but failed to reach the governor’s desk. 

“When you win the battle, you don’t have to fight the battle again,” Patrick said, sitting beside Gov. Greg Abbott and recently elected Texas House Speaker Dennis Bonnen, R-Angleton. “I think it’s been settled, and I think we’ve won.” 

Without citing evidence, Patrick claimed that the school district behavior necessitating the measure has “stopped.” 

“Sometimes a bill doesn’t pass, but you win on the issue,” Patrick said.

The bathroom bill fight kicked off in the wake of an Obama-era policy guideline that directed public schools to allow transgender students to use bathrooms that aligned with their gender identity. One version of Texas’ “bathroom bill” measure would have required that individuals, including transgender men and women, use the facilities with the gender identity on their birth certificates. Other, similar proposals would have prevented local governments and school districts from enacting or enforcing nondiscrimination ordinances allowing transgender individuals to use the facilities that align with their gender identity.

In the months since the 2017 legislative sessions, Patrick has made similar suggestions that the issue no longer requires the Legislature’s attention. But his answer carried extra weight Wednesday as he and the state’s other top two leaders projected a unified front, promising to tackle bread-and-butter policy reforms like school finance, property tax reform and disaster recovery. Any lawmaker can file a bill, but if the measure doesn’t have support from the state’s top leaders, it’s unlikely to make it very far.

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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24feb4:30 PM8:00 PMTexas Hold'em TournamentHosted by ADA Hold'em4:30 PM - 8:00 PM Sellers UndergroundCategories:NightlifeAges:21+

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28feb7:30 PM10:00 PMHEDWIG AND THE ANGRY INCH7:30 PM - 10:00 PM The Topfer Theatre at ZACHCategories:TheatreAges:18+

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28feb01marCountry Nightft. DJ Michael Bond10:00 PM - (march 1) 2:00 AM Oilcan Harry'sCategories:NightlifeAges:21+

28feb01marDown & Dirty Thursday ft. DJ ProtégéAll-Male Amateur StripOff ft. Bobby Cook & Sabel Scities10:00 PM - (march 1) 2:00 AM Rain on 4thCategories:NightlifeAges:18+

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