LGBT activists pleased Houston mayor is running for governor
Houston Mayor Bill White, who announced last week that he’s seeking the Democratic nomination for governor, said in an e-mail Thursday, Dec. 10 that his position on same-sex marriage is the same as President Barack Obama’s, meaning he supports civil unions instead.
White, who announced his candidacy for governor on the first day of the filing period, said in the e-mail that a video attack ad posted on the Internet by the Texas Republican Party suggesting that he supports same-sex marriage is "inaccurate."
The GOP ad reportedly was based on a statement White made in 2005 in response to a question from Houston’s Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Transgender Political Caucus PAC. According to The Houston Chronicle, White told the GLBT Political Caucus PAC that he planned to vote against Proposition 2, the state’s constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage.
"Same-sex marriage is precluded by the Texas constitution," White said in the e-mail to Dallas Voice on Thursday, responding to a question about the issue. "I believe Texas state government has more pressing issues than support or repeal of state constitutional amendments on this subject. My personal position has been the same as was expressed by President Obamain the last campaign. The GOP statement was inaccurate. I did vote against the state constitutional amendment in protest of wedge issue politics."
White’s e-mail marked the first time he’s publicly addressed LGBT issues since he announced his candidacy for governor. Campaign spokesman Katy Bacon said White was unavailable for a phone interview this week.
Bryan Preston, a spokesman for the Texas GOP, said the allegation about same-sex marriage in the Internet ad was based on the 2005 article in The Chronicle. According to the newspaper, White told Houston’s GLBT Political Caucus PAC: "As mayor, I avoid commenting on state and federal laws and policies I do not influence. I intend to vote ‘no’ on the proposed state constitutional amendment to protest its use as a wedge issue."
Preston didn’t respond to phone calls or e-mails seeking comment about White’s claim that the ad is inaccurate. Although the 2005 amendment enshrined the ban into the state’s constitution, same-sex marriage was already prohibited in Texas by a 2003 statute.
In his e-mail to Dallas Voice, White also responded affirmatively to questions about whether he’ll continue to support the LGBT community now that he’s running for statewide office and about whether he expects he’ll continue to come under attack for it.
"Yes and yes," White said. "I will try to represent all Texans and I expect to be attacked for this."
In response to a question about whether he would make pro-equality legislation, such as relationship recognition and LGBT employment protections, a priority as governor, White said: "I will work hard to build an atmosphere of respect in Texas. I will work with legislative leadership of the state of Texas to establish legislative priorities and to build consensus. That will start with improvements in public and higher education."
LGBT activists around the state said this week they’re pleased White is running for governor. Some also said they believe White has a good chance to defeat the Republican nominee, especially if it’s Gov. Rick Perry.
White initially planned to run for Texas Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison’s seat but declared for governor after Hutchison, who’s challenging Perry in the Republican gubernatorial primary, repeatedly delayed her resignation from the Senate.
"He [White] has a really good history in our community," said Jack Valinski, a longtime Houston activist who hosts a weekly gay radio show in the Bayou City. "He would definitely be supportive [as governor]."
Valinski said White was only the second Houston mayor to appear in the city’s annual gay Pride parade and did so during each of his six years in office. Valinski
noted that White had a gay brother who died in 2004.
Erin Moore, president of Stonewall Democrats of Dallas, called White "fabulous on LGBT issues." But Moore said the importance of White’s candidacy extends beyond the governor’s race.
"I think it’s really going to help the [Democratic] ticket," Moore said. "It definitely helps the rest of the ticket to have a known name that people can get behind."
Both Moore and openly gay Dallas County District Clerk Gary Fitzsimmons said they feel it’s time to throw out the conventional wisdom that 2010 is too soon for a Democrat to win a statewide race.
"I think he’s got a great shot at it," Fitzsimmons said of White. "Perry is so unpopular. … Even for Texas, he’s kind of out there."
Randall Terrell, political director at Equality Texas, also said he thinks White can beat Perry.
If White were to replace Perry in the governor’s mansion, it could be "huge" in terms of pro-equality legislation, Terrell added. Both Perry and Hutchison have very poor records on gay rights.
"If we had passed something out of the House in the last two [legislative] sessions, I guarantee you Perry would have vetoed it," Terrell said. "If we pass something next session, and White’s governor, he signs it. It’s a game-changer." •
This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition December 11, 2009.