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Accidental Activists: Mark Phariss, Vic Holmes, and Their Fight for Marriage Equality in Texas

Description: In early 2013 same-sex marriage was legal in only ten states and the District of Columbia. That year the Supreme Court’s decision in United States v. Windsor appeared to open the door to marriage equality. In Texas, Mark Phariss and Vic Holmes, together for sixteen years and deeply in love, wondered why no one had stepped across the threshold to challenge their state’s 2005 constitutional amendment prohibiting same-sex marriage. They agreed to join a lawsuit being put together by Akin Gump Strauss Hauer & Feld LLD. Two years later—after tense battles in the Federal District Court for the Western District of Texas and in the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals, after sitting through oral arguments at the Supreme Court of the United States in Obergefell v. Hodges—they won the right to marry deep in the heart of Texas. But the road they traveled was never easy. Accidental Activists is the deeply moving story of two men who struggled to achieve the dignity of which Justice Anthony Kennedy spoke in a series of Supreme Court decisions that recognized the “personhood,” the essential humanity of gays and lesbians. Author David Collins tells Mark and Vic’s story in the context of legal and social history and explains the complex legal issues and developments surrounding same-sex marriage in layman’s terms.
Date: August 2017
Creator: Collins, David
Partner: UNT Press

Ben Thompson: Portrait of a Gunfighter

Description: Ben Thompson was a remarkable man, and few Texans can claim to have crowded more excitement, danger, drama, and tragedy into their lives than he did. He was an Indian fighter, Texas Ranger, Confederate cavalryman, mercenary for a foreign emperor, hired gun for a railroad, an elected lawman, professional gambler, and the victor of numerous gunfights. As a leading member of the Wild West’s sporting element, Ben Thompson spent most of his life moving in the unsavory underbelly of the West: saloons, dance-houses, billiard halls, bordellos, and gambling dens. During these travels many of the Wild West’s most famous icons—Wyatt Earp, Doc Holliday, Bat Masterson, Wild Bill Hickok, John Wesley Hardin, John Ringo, and Buffalo Bill Cody—became acquainted with Ben Thompson. Some of these men called him a friend; others considered him a deadly enemy. In life and in death no one ever doubted Ben Thompson’s courage; one Texas newspaperman asserted he was “perfectly fearless, a perfect lion in nature when aroused.” This willingness to trust his life to his expertise with a pistol placed Thompson prominently among the western frontier’s most flamboyant breed of men: gunfighters.
Date: August 2018
Creator: Bicknell, Thomas C., & Parsons, Chuck
Partner: UNT Press