Social conservatives blamed for blocking resolution at conventions
Ten years after Log Cabin Republicans took to the streets to protest their exclusion from the Texas GOP convention in Fort Worth, Rob Schlein was hoping for another defining moment in the organization’s history.
Schlein, president of Log Cabin’s Dallas chapter, backed a resolution this year that would have removed anti-gay language from the party’s platform, which states that homosexual behavior is contrary to God-ordained principles and calls for the criminalization of sodomy.
The resolution cleared its first hurdle, passing at nine Republican precinct conventions on March 4, Schlein said. But on March 29, the resolution was voted down in all three state senatorial districts where it was introduced, meaning it won’t be considered at this year’s Texas GOP convention in Houston in June.
"I’m disappointed personally because it seemed like there were a lot of different things falling into place, and I really wanted to write a new chapter to the history," Schlein said. "My goal was, 10 years later, wouldn’t it be great if we could get this thing changed?"
Schlein said he believes the current platform, passed by the Texas GOP in 2006, is divisive and patently homophobic.
The platform calls for a federal constitutional amendment banning gay marriage and opposes any legal recognition whatsoever for same-sex couples.
The platform also says gays should be barred from adopting and having custody of or visitation with children.
"We believe that the practice of sodomy tears at the fabric of society, contributes to the breakdown of the family unit, and leads to the spread of dangerous, communicable diseases," the platform states under the section titled, "Strengthening Families and Promoting A Freer Society."
"The point we were trying to make is it’s very offensive and inflammatory, and we actually got a fair amount of agreement with that comment at the precinct level," Schlein said.
Unfortunately, he added, senatorial district conventions tend to be dominated by party activists from the religious right.
"The social conservatives have a lot of boots on the ground," Schlein said.
"I think deep down, the politicians would love to take some of that divisive language out of there, but you have to get through the party structure, and the party structure’s made up of a lot of very church-oriented social conservatives."
Mike Walz, executive director of the Dallas County Republican Party, said he’s not surprised the resolution was defeated.
"I think the majority of Republicans continue to support the language in the platform," Walz said. "It’s extremely difficult for any group to change a particular part of the platform, and it would be even more so, kind of going against the grain, where a majority of delegates would support the platform as it exists."
Schlein said he isn’t giving up.
Although the resolution has been defeated, he’s said he’s still looking for a way to at least have it heard at the state convention, where more than a dozen Log Cabin members will be delegates.
"It’s not officially dropped," Schlein said. "We just don’t know at this point how we move forward other than just trying again in a few years. … It’s not going to change this time. We’ll just keep discussing it and bringing it up when we can."
Walz said he doubts the platform will be changed anytime soon, even if the state continues to trend Democratic.
"That’s not where the Republican Party is," he said. "The platform is really a statement of belief. It’s a statement of where we stand as a party, regardless of whether Republicans win or lose at the ballot box."
Jesse Garcia, president of Stonewall Democrats of Dallas, commended his counterpart across the aisle for trying to combat "hatred" in the Texas GOP. Stonewall Democrats helped pass pro-LGBT resolutions at four of five senatorial district conventions in Dallas this year.
"Trying to change attitudes is a monumental task, and Mr. Schlein had an uphill battle, especially when you have party leaders like Rick Perry and George W. Bush who regularly attack the LGBT community for political benefit," Garcia said. "These actions allow followers to perceive it is OK to discriminate, leaving little room for discussion at Republican conventions. It is going to take new leadership from proven LGBT champions, Sen. Hillary Clinton and Sen. Barack Obama, to start changing the tone and rhetoric toward LGBT Americans."
This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition April 11, 2008.