Pro: Couples say they deserve right to love, legal and financial benefits
March 23, 2014 at 10:04 p.m.
Updated March 22, 2014 at 10:23 p.m.
UHV program tackles gay issues
The University of Houston-Victoria has a program called Safe Zone.
The program is headed by Dr. Hege Riise, a counseling psychologist and Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender and Queer and Questioning coordinator. The program started in September 2013, and already about 46 faculty and staff at UHV have been trained in dealing with LGBTQ issues.
"Right now, the true focus has been getting the training up and running and getting as many people trained as much as we can," she said.
UHV has its first Pride week coming up as well, Riise said. The university will have a movie night April 7. Safe Zone training is April 8, and an anti-slur campaign is April 9 and 10.
For more information on the program, call 361-570-4848.
Misty Johnson is on the pursuit of happiness.
In September, she plans to marry her partner of two years in New York, but it never occurred to her that one day soon she might be able to marry in Texas.
U.S. Federal Judge Orlando Garcia in San Antonio ruled Feb. 26 that Texas' ban on gay marriages is unconstitutional.
"I thought Texas would be one of the last states," Johnson, 31, said. "I want to have that commitment now."
The Williams Institute's census snapshot lists 46,401 same-sex couples in Texas; of those, 8,397 were legally married out of state. Johnson and her partner will soon add to that number when they marry in Niagara Falls, N.Y.
While love and the right to marry has a lot to do with Johnson and her partner planning to wed, the financial and legal issues are just as important, she said.
Though not fully recognized in Texas, Johnson and her partner would have rights to health and life insurance benefits and would be able to file taxes jointly, among other benefits.
Johnson said she still expects a tough fight before gay marriage is allowed in Texas.
She said she understands the opposition's religious objection to an extent but said she, too, is a Christian and marriage is not about religion; it's about rights and is between the two people being wed.
"I see their point, but I also see that it says in the Bible not to judge and that all sins are equal," she said.
John Schlembach, a 30-year-old Victoria resident, said he supports same-sex marriage "100 percent."
"I think gay marriage has always been allowed," he said. "That's why specific bans had to be enacted because without them, there was no good reason to deny gay people equal rights."
Schlembach, a bisexual, finds fallacy in the opposition's arguments. Most of the arguments are based on religion and are inconsistent, he said.
"I think people have a right to their opinion," he said. But, he added, the February ruling is "a step in the right direction."
Christine Flores, who married her wife, Cynthia, in 2011 in Iowa, said she was surprised by the ruling.
The two decided to take matters into their own hands and marry.
"I didn't want to wait for Texas," she said of their wedding in Iowa. "I didn't know when it was going to come. I wasn't going to let someone tell me I can't be married to her."
Flores applauds the judge for his efforts, though she knows the road ahead will be a long one.
"You're finally getting judges standing up. ... That's what we need," she said. "We're going to go further and quicker than what we have in these past 10 years."