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In Memoriam: Connie Moore

The LGBT Law Section of the State Bar of Texas has lost a great lawyer and one of its co-founders. Our friend Connie Moore died on August 24, 2015 at her home in Galveston.

Connie graduated from the University of Houston Law Center in 1986, where she met her life and law partner Debbie Hunt. Moore & Hunt, their Houston law firm, was an early fixture in the Houston’s emerging LGBT legal scene and the site of many meetings and parties for the Bar Association for Human Rights for Greater Houston (known as BAHR and now renamed as the Stonewall Law Association of Greater Houston).

Connie was BAHR’s 1996–1997 president when, at the suggestion of Pat Wiseman, the lead attorney in the 1990s state-law challenge to the Texas homosexual conduct statute, a petition was circulated to form a Gay and Lesbian Issues Section of the State Bar of Texas. More than fifty lawyers signed the petition, and on October 4, 1996 Connie, past BAHR president Mitchell Katine, and BAHR director Charles Spain went to Fort Worth to present the petition to the State Bar board of directors. In her speech to the board, Connie spoke movingly about families and the need for lawyers to effectively represent LGBT clients in divorce, child-custody, and similar cases.

Despite the trio’s lobbying and advocacy, the board of directors narrowly defeated the measure. Adding to the loss’s sting was a parade of directors who voted against the proposed Section, assuring the trio that the rationale was not anti-gay, but instead motivated by the fact that the issues could be “better represented within the existing Individual Rights and Responsibilities Section.” As Pat Wiseman was a key leader in the IRR Section, those comments rang quite hollow.

But as Connie knew, you just can’t quit. And sometimes the unexpected happens. Norman W. Black, the chief judge of the United States District Court for the Southern District of Texas, approached the trio before they left Fort Worth and told them he was disappointed in the board’s vote and that they had to keep trying. And he went further, addressing the board later that day and speaking to the media: “I’ve always learned a lot about my fellow members from these meetings. . . . Today’s the first time I wasn’t real proud.” It proved another thing Connie knew, you never know who your friends and allies might be.

On April 8, 1997, BAHR held its annual meeting at Moore & Hunt. One of Connie’s last acts as outgoing president was to recognize Judge Black with a plaque for his role as an outspoken guardian of human rights. Judge Black told the BAHR members of his vocal criticism of the board of directors and exhorted them to continue the fight for an LGBT law section, concluding with the words of Winston Churchill, “Never give up.” Sadly, Judge Black died later that year. But Connie and others didn’t give up, and the State Bar board of directors voted on April 17, 1998 to approve the creation of the Sexual Orientation and Gender Identification Issues Section, which was transgender inclusive due to the work of Phyllis Frye. The Section is now known as the LGBT Law Section and is first such section of any unified bar in the Unites States.

The Section later recognized Connie as a co-founder, along with Frye, Katine, Spain, and Anne Pike. In 2012 Connie received the Section’s highest honor, the Judge Norman W. Black Award, which is given to a past or present member of the State Bar of Texas for a significant contribution to lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgendered legal issues.

Connie’s place in LGBT history and as a lawyer and friend to so many of us is fodder for many great stories, and her fellow traveler was always her law partner and wife, Debbie. But for us in the LGBT Law Section, regardless of whatever else Connie did, on October 4, 1996 she was in Fort Worth, she spoke up, and-as Judge Black exhorted-she never gave up.

Neither should we.