Bill White says LGBT vote ‘absolutely critical’

Democratic challenger says he expects ‘a very close election’ as he works to unseat incumbent Perry

John Wright  | Dallas Voice wright@dallasvoice.com

OPPOSITE SIDES  |  Democrat Bill White, above, has courted LGBT votes in his bid for Texas governor, including making appearances at the Stonewall Democrats of Dallas meetings (above). Republican Gov. Rick Perry (below) has courted anti-gay conservatives, suggesting that same-sex marriage hurts job growth.
OPPOSITE SIDES | Democrat Bill White, above, has courted LGBT votes in his bid for Texas governor, including making appearances at the Stonewall Democrats of Dallas meetings (above). Republican Gov. Rick Perry (below) has courted anti-gay conservatives, suggesting that same-sex marriage hurts job growth.

A strong turnout from LGBT voters is “absolutely critical” to his chances of unseating Republican Gov. Rick Perry on Tuesday, Nov. 2, Democrat Bill White told Dallas Voice this week.

In an exclusive interview, White said he expects “a very close election” and that gay voters in Texas shouldn’t stay away from the polls because they may be frustrated with a perceived lack of progress on LGBT issues in Washington.

White declined a request for a phone interview but agreed to answer questions via e-mail.

“It’s absolutely critical. This will be a very close election,” White said when asked about the importance of the gay vote. “I’m proud of my support in the community and so grateful to all the volunteers who have been raising funds, making phone calls, and knocking on doors to spread the word about the choice we have for the future of our state. This is no time to stay home. Whatever is going on nationally, we have major issues facing our state and need a leader to take them on.”

White, the former Houston mayor, is widely considered a strong LGBT ally, and he appeared in Dallas’ gay Pride parade in September.

White had a gay brother who died several years ago and has said he voted against Texas’ 2005 constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage, which was championed by Perry.

However, White hasn’t made LGBT issues a major part of his gubernatorial campaign, presumably in part because they might be used by Perry to energize right-wing voters.

Some Democrats seeking statewide office, including Barbara Ann Radnofsky and Hank Gilbert, have published policy statements in support of LGBT equality on their websites.

“Actions speak louder than words, and I have a track record of inclusive leadership,” White said in response to a question about why he hasn’t focused on LGBT issues. “That’s why I’ve received a rare endorsement from the Human Rights Campaign. Rick Perry wants to divide Texans — it’s what we’ve seen from him for decades. He’d rather divide for his personal political purposes than bring people together to get things done. Major corporations in our state, like Shell Oil for example, know that being inclusive makes them more competitive. But Perry recently made some comment saying that Texas’ job growth was somehow tied to the constitutional amendment banning gay marriage. What? It just shows you how clueless a professional politician is.”

White was referring to Perry’s comment during a campaign stop in Temple in August, when the incumbent said: “There is still a land of opportunity, friends — it’s called Texas. We’re creating more jobs than any other state in the nation. … Would you rather live in a state like this, or in a state where a man can marry a man?”

Dallas Voice also asked White whether, as governor, he would support or sign bullying legislation that provides specific protections for students based on sexual orientation and gender identity in Texas public schools.

Asher Brown, a gay 13-year-old from the Houston suburbs, committed suicide in September after his parents say he was bullied relentlessly at school. Asher’s suicide was one of several across the country in recent months by teens who were gay or perceived to be gay.

“Asher Brown’s suicide is a heartbreaking tragedy,” White responded. “I’ll support policies that prohibit school and workplace discrimination and harassment of any kind, and I’ll work hard to build an atmosphere of respect in Texas.”

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition October 29, 2010

—  Kevin Thomas

AG candidates polar opposites on gay issues

Radnofsky pledges to stand for equality; incumbent Abbott has record of fighting LGBT rights

DAVID TAFFET  |  Staff Writer taffet@dallasvoice.com

OPPOSITE NUMBER  |  Democratic candidate for Texas attorney general Barbara Radnofsky supports marriage equality for same-sex couples, while Republican incumbent Greg Abbott has spoken against same-sex marriage. He also recently intervened to appeal a trial court ruling granting a same-sex couple a divorce.
OPPOSITE NUMBER | Democratic candidate for Texas attorney general Barbara Radnofsky supports marriage equality for same-sex couples, while Republican incumbent Greg Abbott has spoken against same-sex marriage. He also recently intervened to appeal a trial court ruling granting a same-sex couple a divorce.

Possibly no race in Texas this election cycle is as clear-cut about where the candidates stand on LGBT issues as is the attorney general’s race.

Neither Attorney General Greg Abbott nor anyone from his campaign returned calls seeking comment for this story. But Dallas County Republican Party Chairman Jonathan Neerman agrees that the choice in this race is clear for those who vote primarily on LGBT issues. Still, he suggested looking at Attorney General Greg Abbott’s entire record.

Democratic challenger Barbara Ann Radnofsky stands by her positions on equality.

“I try to follow the Golden Rule,” Radnofsky said.

In other races, candidates run from the issue. Radnofsky was happy to talk about where she stands.

Radnofsky said she supports employment nondiscrimination legislation and she uses language on her website that is transgender-inclusive.
She said she would like to add gender identity and expression to the James Byrd, Jr. Hate Crimes Act, the Texas penalty enhancement law that

applies to hate crimes committed in Texas.

Radnofsky said she would also like to see the legislature pass a law prohibiting discrimination against or harassment of LGBT students and teachers in Texas public schools.

Radnofsky campaign spokeswoman Katie Floyd said the candidate taught mediation for 15 years.

Radnofsky addressed another threat to gay and lesbian families that makes its way into legislative committees each session. She said that taking the best interests of the child into account, she supports guaranteeing foster and adoptive parenting rights to LGBT parents.

She would also like to provide domestic partner benefits to state employees and opposes any legislation that would prohibit private employers from offering those benefits.

On her website, Radnofsky also mentions supporting the Americans With Disabilities Act. While that doesn’t seem controversial, the Texas Republican Party platform calls for gays and lesbians to be excluded from protections guaranteed under the ADA.

Greg Abbott recently won an appeal of the Dallas same-sex divorce case. In enforcing the anti-marriage amendment passed in Texas in 2005, he appealed a lower court ruling that would have granted a divorce to a gay couple married in Massachusetts.

Abbott is equally clear on his website about his stand on marriage equality for gays and lesbians.

“Texas law defines marriage as an institution between one man and one woman,” his website claims. “Attorney General Abbott has fought efforts to undermine Texas’ law and the basic family structure in our state. He understands that traditional marriage is the cornerstone for a strong and stable family.”

But Abbott goes further defending opposite-sex marriage by claiming studies support his stand without citing any of those studies.

“A wealth of empirical data demonstrates the unmatched potency of the family to combat social ills, foster strong communities, and promote happier, healthier lives,” he claims in his official position statement.

Radnofsky, on the other hand, agrees with the ruling from the lower court in the same-sex divorce case.

“The Attorney General shouldn’t intervene in the non-violent, orderly wind-down of a relationship,” she said. “He should leave divorce orders to the proper court decision-making, and get back to work on the problems facing our state.

“Orderly divorce and family law allows the peaceful separation of the two disputants, property disposition, payment of taxes and debt, alimony, child support and custody,” Radnofsky said. “That’s the way civilized society is supposed to function. Ignoring or voiding an out-of-state marriage, suggested by the AG, is not a solution to these many issues and the need for courts to supervise peaceful, orderly solutions.”

Abbott lists his success in collecting more than $13 billion in child support payments as his top issue.

“He’s very strong on going after deadbeat fathers for child support,” Neerman said. “He fights for the interests of children.”

Neerman also mentioned Abbott’s record on prosecution of white-collar fraud and online data protection.

“He’s also been strong on fighting Internet predators,” Neerman said.

He mentioned a number of areas where Abbott has protected rights of Texans. On behalf of 31 states, Abbott fought the District of Columbia’s handgun law before the Supreme Court and won.

But on LGBT issues, he has worked against equality.

Stonewall Democrats of Dallas President Erin Moore said, “Abbott’s been a henchman for Republicans for years.”

Moore called this one of the most important statewide races as far as LGBT rights are concerned.

“It’s one of the ones we’re keeping the keenest eye on,” she said. “He’s been malicious in his prosecution of LGBT rights. He’s got to go.”

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition September 10, 2010

—  Kevin Thomas

Radnofsky slams Abbott over gay divorce

Barbara Ann Radnofsky
Barbara Ann Radnofsky

In my story for today’s Voice about the gay divorce case out of Austin, I mentioned that Democratic AG candidate Barbara Ann Radnofsky has said she believes our constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage could actually invalidate ALL marriages in Texas, due to the way it’s worded. Radnofsky blames incumbent Republican Greg Abbott for not catching the error.

Now, Radnofsky has penned a piece for The HuffPo in which she explains why she believes Abbott’s arguments against same-sex DIVORCE are based on a misinterpretation of state law. Radnofsky holds that while the constitutional amendment applies to marriage, divorce is governed by the Family Code. Here’s a snippet:

The Texas AG is mis-using his office for a partisan, political wedge-issue gain. And, he is mis-stating the law of Texas.

1. Divorce is not the same issue as gay marriage, which is governed by Texas statute, regardless of the Constitutional issues concerning non-recognition of gay marriage. Gay people can be married in certain states. Texas divorce law is controlled by the Texas Family Code Section 1.103.

“The law of this state applies to persons married elsewhere who are domiciled in this state.” Texas Family Code Section 1.103. So, the law of Texas clearly applies Texas law to “persons married elsewhere.” Gay people are persons. Texas law would apply to any Texas domiciliaries seeking a divorce. The language is clear. This Texas law doesn’t apply to “marriages;” rather it applies to “persons.”

—  John Wright