‘Democrat’ doesn’t always equal ‘gay-friendly’

Posted on 07 Apr 2011 at 12:59pm
Justin Nichols

Comments by Bexar County Democratic Party chair — and the response to them — shows LGBTs have to work across lines of race, party to make progress

JUSTIN NICHOLS | Special Contributor

Much has been said about the chairman of the Bexar County Democratic Party, Dan Ramos, who last month made headlines with a rant in which he called LGBT people“Nazis” and “termites.”

But as things develop, we shouldn’t just write Ramos off as one county chairman gone crazy. Lessons can be learned here about politics, race and the fight for equality.

On April 5, the Bexar County Democratic Party precinct chairs held two meetings, both claiming to be official. The San Antonio Express-News reported that the larger meeting, from which Ramos was absent, had about 75 precinct chairs that voted to put Ramos on trial for rule violations.

The smaller meeting, which Ramos attended, was comprised almost exclusively of Hispanic precinct chairs who gave him, reportedly, a “hero’s welcome.”

In March, a local news survey showed that only 54 percent of viewers believed that Ramos should resign his post — a far cry from unanimous agreement.

This got me thinking: Is there a quiet but significant group of people who aren’t that upset with Ramos?

Ramos’ comments have become increasingly racially charged. Further, Ramos has maintained his position opposing same-sex marriage and gay adoption represents the true sentiments of Bexar County residents.

What if Ramos is right, and what if race is a bigger player than initially thought?

The Pew Hispanic Center, the leader in Latino research, reported that 56 percent of Hispanics oppose gay marriage, compared to only 42 percent of non-Hispanics; 43 percent of Hispanics believe that abortion should be legal compared to 60 percent of non-Hispanics.

These numbers are in stark contrast to a 2010 Gallup poll showing 56 percent and 87 percent of Democrats support, respectively, gay marriage and some form of legal abortion.

According to Pew, Hispanics tend to identify with the Democratic Party 66 percent of the time, double the rate by which they identify with the Republican Party. And, the Latino population is the fastest-growing minority in the country — seeing a 56 percent increase from 2000 to 2010 in Southern states.

What this means is that the fastest-growing population, which overwhelmingly supports the Democratic Party, significantly breaks with the Democratic platform on issues like gay rights and women’s right to choose.

So maybe, the conflict in Bexar County is just a sample of more intra-party disputes to come as the Latino populations grows and realizes more leadership positions in the Democratic Party.

To the people ready to accuse me of lumping all Latinos into one big bag: Cool down, I’m not.

I’m suggesting that, as the Hispanic community becomes larger and more politically active — flexing its muscle on issues like immigration and education — we shouldn’t assume that a “D” or “R” next to someone’s name automatically reveals their position on gay rights.

As a community, we need to be reaching out to all communities, and we should never assume that one group is automatically in our corner.

The leaders of Stonewall Democrats of San Antonio are right: Dan Ramos is a dinosaur who will soon be extinct.

But I caution against assuming that when dinosaurs die there will automatically be political oil to drill. The numbers show that is not guaranteed.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition April 8, 2011.


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