Gay Republican member of State Board of Education to run for Texas House in Richardson

State Board of Education member George Clayton speaks at the kickoff meeting for the new Dallas chapter of Log Cabin Republicans in January.

George Clayton, an openly gay Republican member of Texas’ State Board of Education, announced Tuesday that he isn’t seeking re-election this year and will instead run for the Texas House District 112 seat, which covers Richardson and parts of Garland.

Clayton, who works for the Dallas Independent School District and was first elected to the SBOE in 2010, came out as gay last year in the midst of a whisper campaign about his sexual orientation among Republicans in his Collin County district.

Clayton couldn’t immediately be reached for comment today.

“After many hours of careful consideration and consultation, I have decided not to seek reelection to the Texas State Board of Education,” he said in an email announcing his decision on Tuesday, according to the Dallas Morning News. “Most of the work I seek to do for education in Texas is outside of the board’s assigned duties and responsibilities. Therefore, I have decided to seek election to the Texas House of Representatives in what is now district 112, which covers Richardson and portions of Garland. A formal announcement will be made in the next few days. Of course, I will complete my term on the State Board of Education. I look forward to serving the people of Texas in the legislature. Restoring strength to Texas education will be the primary focus of my legislative campaign.”

After new redistricting maps were announced Tuesday by a federal court in San Antonio, Clayton is one of two known openly LGBT candidates in North Texas who plan to run for Texas House. The other is Fort Worth school board member Carlos Vasquez, who plans to challenge incumbent Lon Burnam in the Democratic Primary.

Texas is one of only 18 states that currently lack an openly LGBT legislator.

—  John Wright

Solmonese fears 2012 setback

BTD-Solmonese

LAST NIGHT | Human Rights Campaign President Joe Solmonese speaks at a previous Black Tie Dinner in Dallas. Solmonese will be leaving HRC next March, making this weekend’s event the last Black Tie Dinner he will attend as president of the national LGBT advocacy organization.

Outgoing HRC president says community must fight for Obama

JOHN WRIGHT | Senior Political Writer
wright@dallasvoice.com

Joe Solmonese admits he’s “very concerned” about President Barack Obama’s prospects for re-election.

But Solmonese says he’s equally concerned about how the LGBT community — and his successor at the Human Rights Campaign — would respond if Obama loses.

Solmonese will step down as president of HRC after seven years in March. On Saturday, Nov. 12, he’ll make his final appearance as the group’s president at the Black Tie Dinner, of which HRC is the national beneficiary.

In an interview last month with Dallas Voice, Solmonese focused largely on the importance of 2012 elections, saying that depending on their outcome, major advances during his tenure could be all but erased.

“I don’t think that he’s going to lose,” Solmonese said at one point, attempting to clarify his assessment of Obama’s chances. “I think that if everybody does what they need to do, I think there is just as good a chance that Barack Obama will be re-elected, but I’m as concerned that he could lose.”

Solmonese said Republicans already have a majority in the House, Democrats have only a slim majority in the Senate, and “everything about these [2012] elections points to us having real challenges.”

“I think that if everybody who has gained from the Obama administration does everything they need to do over the course of the next year, he’ll get re-elected,” Solmonese said. “But I would be lying if I said I’m not very concerned about the prospects of him getting re-elected.”

Solmonese said the message he wants to send to the LGBT community is that Obama has done more for us than any other president, and that the movement has seen more gains under the current administration than at any other time in its history.

“If we care about continuing with the forward motion that we’ve experienced, then we as a community need to do everything possible to re-elect Barack Obama,” Solmonese said. “And we can talk about and debate and press the administration on his ability to do more, and him coming out for marriage, or anything else that we want to talk about, but now is the time to sort of decouple that from all of the work we need to put into getting him re-elected. Because at the end of the day, it comes down to a choice, and the choice isn’t even hard for me: It’s Barack Obama or any of these other people who are running against him.”

Despite his concerns about Obama’s chances, Solmonese said he has no misgivings about leaving HRC seven months prior to Election Day. He said he made a commitment to give the organization six months notice, and his contract expires in March.

He said announcing his resignation at the end of August allowed HRC to begin the transition process, which will be completed when his successor takes over, midway through the Republican primary. Solmonese also said he’ll continue to be involved with the organization through next year, assisting with its efforts around the November election.

“I’m a lot more concerned about what happens the morning after the elections,” Solmonese said. “I’m a lot more concerned about this organization and its leader being in the best possible position to navigate those waters, and either we are contemplating a second term with Obama and a continuation of our agenda and perhaps a decidedly different Congress, or we’re contemplating President Mitt Romney and all of the implications that means for our community, and I want whoever is in this seat leading this organization contemplating where we go from there, to have had some time under their belt to figure that out.”

Asked whether that means he believes Romney will be the Republican nominee, Solmonese clarified that anyone claims to know definitively “doesn’t’ know what they’re talking about” — but he added that he thinks the former Massachusetts governor is the “odds-on favorite.”

And while Romney may appear less anti-gay than some other GOP presidential hopefuls, Solmonese called him “someone you have to be careful of” because “he’s essentially beholden to no issue.”

“He adopts a position that works best for the political predicament he finds himself in,” said Solmonese, a Massachusetts native who’s watched Romney’s political career closely. “So, while he was seemingly pro-gay as he attempted to unseat Ted Kennedy, and his rhetoric isn’t harsh and he doesn’t have the same sort of narrative that a Rick Santorum has, he’s effectively said that he doesn’t believe in the repeal of ‘don’t ask don’t tell’ and that he would support the federal marriage amendment. But what we don’t know, just like we didn’t really anticipate with [President] George [W.] Bush, is how beholden he is going to feel to the hard right once he becomes president.”

It was Bush, of course, whose administration was pushing a federal marriage amendment when Solmonese joined HRC in 2005. The marriage amendment, Solmonese said, represents the worst possible thing that could happen to the LGBT community, because it would enshrine discrimination into the Constitution. And although the threat of the amendment may seem like a distant memory to some, Solmonese warned that it could easily resurface. Which is why, he said, the 2012 elections are the biggest challenge HRC faces going forward.

“I think the elections loom largest because what the elections really represent to me is the potential for us to really stop, potentially derail and ultimately set back a lot of the progress that we’ve made,” Solmonese said. “What also concerns me then is that the community be braced for that, and we understand that we’ve been in these places before, and the measure of who we are and how we’ll be defined, is how we react in those moments, the degree to which we stay in the fight and make sure we continue to press forward regardless of the outcome of the election.”

Solmonese said he fears the progress of the last several years may lead to complacency. And he said based on his experience, when the LGBT community suffers setbacks, instead of regrouping and uniting, people have a tendency to lose their way and point fingers.

“If we lose, if the outcome is negative, if we go from the march toward marriage equality and the repeal of DOMA and the positive direction that we’ve been in, to a president and a Congress who decide they’re so troubled by all the success we’re having with marriage they want to take up the fight again to pass the federal marriage amendment — well, boy, we’ve come full circle from where we were back in 2005, the last time that happened,” he said. “And you can react to that in one of two ways. You can say this is the inevitable ebb and flow of social change, so pull up your boot straps and let’s get going and turn that around again — and understand that that sort of energy that the other side has around something like that is a reaction to their own fear of the progress we’ve made — or you can become very dispirited and depressed and disenfranchised and decide that it’s our own doing, it’s our own lack of progress, it’s our own failing. And that would be the worst possible thing that we could do.”

—  John Wright

From bad to much, much worse

NOT LIKELY | Despite predictions by The Economist, if Texas Gov. Rick Perry decides to run for president, he may take a more moderate position on some issues, but he probably won’t move to the middle on LGBT issues.

If Rick Perry runs for president, he’s likely to move toward the middle, but not on LGBT issues

DAVID WEBB  |  The Rare Reproter

Just when I thought the social and political atmosphere couldn’t get any more depressing or bizarre than it already is, I witnessed Gov. Rick “Pretty Boy” Perry tell television reporters the other day he was thinking about running for president.

The governor followed that remark with the disclaimer that he tends to “think about a lot of things.” But if you ask me, he would probably have a difficult time proving that because everything that comes out of his mouth sounds like it’s been prepared by the Southern Baptist Convention’s advisory board.

But that could change according to The Economist, a weekly news and international affairs publication owned by a London-based publication that was founded more than a century and a half ago.

The Economist article speculated that if he ran for president, Perry would likely soften his stance against same-sex marriage, and that there really hadn’t been much of a debate about gay marriage in Texas.

It went on to say there hadn’t been a “serious effort” to legalize same-sex marriage or civil unions in Texas.

I had to reread that passage about three times to make sure that I really comprehended what I was reading. And when I was finally sure I was reading what I thought I was reading, it occurred to me The Economist staff must all be nuts and/or stoned.

The likelihood of the governor softening his stance on same-sex marriage is about as probable as him growing a ponytail and going skinny-dipping at Hippy Hollow on Lake Travis.

I think Perry probably shudders every time he remembers the rumors that spread across the country in 2004 that claimed he was a closet homosexual who had been caught in flagrante delicto by his wife, Anita, in the governor’s office with a high-ranking male public official.

That was the first time I was ever able to get Perry’s public relations office to return a call to the Dallas Voice after literally years of unsuccessful attempts. Soon after I left a message that I was writing about the widespread rumors, a spokesman quickly called me back to say the governor certainly was not a homosexual, had never been a homosexual and furthermore, never would be one.

The truth is that Perry has gone out of his way to offend the state’s LGBT community over the years:

He opposed the inclusion of sexual orientation in the state’s hate crime law. He told reporters he thought the state’s sodomy law was “appropriate” before it was declared unconstitutional by the U.S. Supreme Court. He supported the passage of a state constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage in Texas. And he told a Fort Worth audience that gay and lesbian veterans returning from war should look for a more liberal state in which to live.

So to The Economist, I would have to say that I don’t think Perry is going to change his stance on same-sex marriage anytime soon, and that we have talked about same-sex marriage quite a bit in Texas, that we fought the passage of a constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage with everything we had and failed.

The reason we failed is that Texas is overpopulated by people who share the same ideology as Perry and keep voting him and other politicians like him into office. And what’s even scarier is that there are a whole lot of gay and lesbian voters and other socially liberal people who voted for Rick Perry.

It’s hard to believe, but it’s true. They don’t vote their consciences. They vote for what they consider is best for their pocketbooks.

I do think that if Perry were to run for president that he would attempt to move more to the middle from his current position on the far right. And it could work.

Former Texas Gov. George Bush was able to do it, and he even managed to convince a dozen or so LGBT political leaders that he would be gay-friendly.

Of course, we all know how it turned out with President Bush — very badly. But I don’t think things would turn out the same way with a President Rick Perry in the Oval Office — I think it would be much, much worse.

David Webb is a veteran journalist who has covered LGBT issues for the mainstream and alternative media for three decades. E-mail him at davidwaynewebb@yahoo.com.

—  John Wright

Tarrant County Stonewall revving up for 2012

Lisa Thomas

Tarrant County Stonewall Democrats is holding a fundraising party tonight in preparation for the 2012 election cycle, according to TCSD President Lisa Thomas.

The event will be held from 5 p.m. to 7 p.m. at Blue Mesa Grill, 1600 S. University Drive.

Thomas noted that TCSD have not endorsed any candidate in the Fort Worth mayoral election runoff between Betsy Price and Jim Lane because the race is non-partisan. But she did say that Lane, a former City Council member who is a Democrat, has been invited to the fundraising event tonight.

TCSD holds regular  meetings at 7 p.m. on the second Monday of each month at Tommy’s Hamburgers, 5228 Camp Bowie Blvd.

—  admin