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A tale of two perspectives

The Democratic perspective.

Sen. Wendy Davis

Sen. Wendy Davis

Much has been written about the importance of groups like suburban women and Hispanics in the 2014 Texas governor’s race.

But Democrat Wendy Davis said this week in her first interview of the campaign focused on LGBT issues that another, less-talked-about demographic—LGBT voters—could also be critical to her chances of upsetting Republican Greg Abbott in November.

“It’s been tremendously important, and it will continue to be,” Davis said of the LGBT community. “I’ve received some widespread support both through volunteer hours and through donations to the campaign, and what I see on the ground as I’m traveling around the state is an excitement and enthusiasm for this race by members of the LGBT community in a way that probably hasn’t presented itself for a long time. I think they understand and see that they have someone who’s a champion for them, and I’m really proud and feel privileged to have that support.”

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Davis said although her gubernatorial campaign has focused primarily on issues like education that affect everyone, she’ll continue to speak out in support of LGBT rights—whether or not pro-equality stances are politically advantageous in a statewide race in Texas.

“I think Texas, just as the rest of the country, has evolved on this issue, but I want to be very clear that this is my position and perspective, and whether Texas has caught up to believing that’s a favorable position to have or not, I’m proud to hold it,” Davis said.

Even if Davis wins, it’s questionable whether she could accomplish much legislatively for the LGBT community in a Republican-controlled statehouse. But she said her voice would be important in setting the tone on LGBT issues in next year’s biennial session.

“Leadership and vision are a terribly important part of what it means to sit in the governor’s office in this state,” Davis said. “I certainly as a legislator have experienced what it’s like to see our current governor set the tone for what our work will look like, and I think that setting a tone of inclusion and respect on this issue, as well as many others that have been absent in our conversation in the state, is very important.”

Of course, Davis would also be in a position to veto any anti-LGBT legislation, and she said she could help halt the state’s legal defense of Texas’ same-sex marriage ban, which has been led by Abbott.

“As we saw happen in a couple other states recently, when the courts have favorable decisions in that regard, their attorneys general first decided they would not oppose that, unlike our attorney general, and then secondly the governors also very proudly stepped in and allowed those decisions to stand,” Davis said. “That I think is going to be something that will likely face the person who is elected in November.”

Asked whether she would, as governor, issue an executive order protecting state government employees against anti-LGBT job discrimination, Davis said she was unsure of the legal ramifications. The executive branch is diffuse in Texas, and experts say such an order likely would apply only to employees who are directly under the governor’s supervision.

“If indeed the power exists or rests with the governor to do that, I would most certainly and proudly sponsor that, sign that,” Davis said.

It’s true that there are still a few holdouts among Democrats on this, but they’re a small and shrinking minority in the caucus. The overwhelming majority of Democratic candidates and officeholders reflect the beliefs of the party faithful and a growing majority of Americans, who support equal rights for the LGBT community. This is as it should be.

And then we have the Republican perspective.

At the Republican state convention in Fort Worth, GOP leadership has been trying to cattle-prod the base in the direction of immigration reform, with mixed success. But there are other issues in the platform that fall under the general question of party “inclusivity,” issues that are stuck in neutral—perhaps none so much as the question of how the party should treat gay people.

Earlier this year, a federal court nixed the state’s anti-gay marriage amendment—and while that’s being appealed, it increasingly feels like gay marriage will become a reality across the country soon. Republicans in bluer states have acquiesced to that reality. But for a considerable number of people in Texas, the idea of homosexuality remains absolutely terrifying. And the state’s biggest names and brightest stars are still resolutely on their side.

On Thursday night, hundreds of convention attendees gathered in the ballroom of the swanky Omni hotel, at the heart of the action, at an event sponsored by the Conservative Republicans of Texas, one of the state’s largest Republican PACs. The emcee for the night was Houston megachurch Pastor Steve Riggle, who’s been active in opposing Houston’s non-discrimination ordinance and famously compared making Christians sell products for gay weddings to forcing a Jewish baker to make a swastika cake.

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Enter Ted Cruz, the night’s first speaker, who Riggle called “the next president of the United States.” These are Cruz’s people, and they love him as they would Moses. Earlier, Riggle joked that each of the night’s long list of speakers would get five minutes, but Cruz could talk as long as he wanted. He was greeted by riotous applause.

Cruz lived up to their expectations. “From the dawn of time, marriage has been the foundation of our civilization. The basic building block, going back to the Garden, where God said it was not good for man to be alone. And so God made Adam a companion from his own rib so they might live together and raise children up in the world.”

Heterosexual marriage was the bedrock of the natural order. “There was a time that that was not considered to be a controversial statement,” he said. “There was a time that a duck hunter in Louisiana wouldn’t be threatened with losing his TV show for saying something like that.”

Marriage is “under assault in a way that is pervasive and unrelenting,” and the assault was emanating, first, from President Obama. Three things needed to be done to beat him back, Cruz said. Prayer was one. Legislation to protect state laws on marriage was another. And the third was to win elections, including the presidential election in 2016.

Are you scared yet? Doesn’t really matter what you’re scared of, as long as you’re scared of something, Ted Cruz is happy. There are a few confused young gay Republicans out there who think that somehow they will be able to overcome Ted Cruz and make their party officially not homophobic. I’ll just note that fifty years after the passage of the Civil Rights Act, there are still plenty of Republicans that oppose it. If these young gay Republicans do eventually succeed in their quest, I’m confident in saying it won’t be while they’re young. Maybe they can work in immigration reform, too, while they’re at it. They’ve got plenty of time to get it all done, right?

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2 Comments

  1. Mainstream says:

    You have a twisted view of history. You imply that when the Civil Rights Act was passed, Republicans opposed it. In fact, more Republicans than Democrats voted for that Act, both in the House and the Senate. 61% of Democrats and 80% of Republicans in the House supported it. 69% of Democrats and 82% of Republicans backed it in the Senate.

  2. We both know that the Republicans back then were people like Jacob Javits, while the Democrats were people like Trent Lott. Neither party has people like that – certainly not people like that who have any influence nationally – any more. The people that oppose (or at least claim to be skeptical about the constitutionality of) the Civil Rights Act these days are Republicans like Rand Paul and Ted Cruz.

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