Does Texas Need another Gold Star for Bigotry?
By Greg Moses
Pink Dome live-blogged the hearing for a proposed Texas amendment to define marriage. Hundreds poured in to oppose it. I dropped off a form opposing it. The room was stuffed full with people. Testimony lasted until 2:30 am. But the lege is a Republican greenhouse, so this bad weed will be watered anyway? We hope not.
The hearing got good headline coverage in state press, thanks to an AP story by April Castro and a wire photo of Rep. Mike Villareal (D-San Antonio) that stresses his wedding band.
Martha Wong, the Republican who represents the Montrose area of Houston told 365Gay that although she opposes gay marriage, last minute amendments to the amendment by Warren Chisum (R-Pampa) went too far in outlawing civil unions or other arrangements “similar to marriage.” If Chisum holds firm with his amendments, the bill dies, says Wong. So hang in there Warren.
State Affairs Committee indeed. How about Committee to Restrict Affairs Pertaining to No Elected Official. CRAPNEO. Said Justice Kennedy in Lawrence v Texas:
Liberty protects the person from unwarranted government intrusions into a dwelling or other private places. In our tradition the State is not omnipresent in the home. And there are other spheres of our lives and existence, outside the home, where the State should not be a dominant presence. Freedom extends beyond spatial bounds. Liberty presumes an autonomy of self that includes freedom of thought, belief, expression, and certain intimate conduct. The instant case involves liberty of the person both in its spatial and more transcendent dimensions.
There is some philosophy in Justice Kennedy. Compare his high court eloquence with Chisum’s chump bite: “This doesn’t discriminate against anyone. It discriminates against a practice, not people.” Chisum is lead author of the bill. In addition there are three other authors and sixty co-authors piling on.
Has anyone among the 64 Marriage Cops considered that Texas needs no more credentials for illiberal geography? While they grandstand for hometown mobs, the general image of Texas as a place you’d like to raise your children or your company drags even further down. Some of these sponsors (like Rep. Will Hartnett R-Dallas) have been to Ivy League schools, and they are well aware of the sparks that fly when fabulously talented people think about social freedom and Texas at the same time. Do Texans send their kids to Harvard so they can come back home and pander for a living? Does Texas need another gold star for bigotry?
Why don’t Republicans try a line like this: “while many of my constituents may be personally opposed to marriage between two men or two women, it’s already against the law and I see no reason to waste more time or money on the issue while we have other pressing needs in State Affairs. The people of Texas should be free to work out their marriage commitments without any interference from lawmakers. And while many of my constituents have concerns about this issue, they generally agree that I should be busy with things that have clear government interest, like providing an environment for prosperity, health, and education.”
Not only does the proposed bill pander to homophobia during the legislative season, it sets the stage for an obnoxious public campaign when the amendment hits the ballot box in some future election. A cautionary announcement out of Washington D.C. this week warns us that officialized homophobia is problem enough in Texas. As reported by OutSports, “an award-winning teacher and basketball coach” was fired from her job in Texas because of homophobic bigotry. The school board president “testified under oath in a deposition that the board’s decision to terminate [Merry] Stephens was based on the personal anti-gay animosity of several school board members.” With that testimony on the record, settlement was quick to follow.
Compare the news out of Texas this week to the news out of Connecticut, where the state Senate “has approved a bill that would make Connecticut the first state to recognize same-sex civil unions without pressure from the courts.” In the contrast between state house leadership in Texas and Connecticut, news consumers everywhere will see which state is a happier place to do business for “award-winning” professionals.
Is this a civil rights issue? Yes it is. Whenever the majority gangs up against the rights of a minority, we have classic features of civil rights at play. In such cases, the progressive use of constitutions is to preserve equal protections, not to grandfather discrimination. Message to Rep. Chisum: you have gay and lesbian constituents, many of them award winning professionals, and you are misusing your power of office when you conjure public opinion into moblike behaviors against them. Make no mistake that your actions contribute to a threatening environment for all Texans. The appropriate use of public power in a constitutional democracy is to preserve civil rights under majority rule, not to pander to illiberal mobs.
See the Goddess of Liberty high atop the Pink Dome? She has transcendent potential. At the Texas legislature, however, they just keep that woman outside, bolted to her pedestal. Maybe we should have an image of her at ground level, where she can look folks in the eye?
Here’s a link to the bill status page, just type in HJR 6
Note: article modified and expanded Apr. 7.