White vs. Perry: Comparing the candidates on LGBT issues

Incumbent Republican faces former Democratic Houston mayor in race for Texas governor’s office

DAVID TAFFET  |  Staff Writer taffet@dallasvoice.com

Bill White, Rick Perry
IN THIS CORNER … | Democrats say LGBT voters should back former Houston Mayor Bill White, left, who has said he supports same-sex civil unions and opposed Texas’ anti-gay-marriage constitutional amendment. Republicans say that LGBT people who care about the economy should vote for incumbent Gov. Rick Perry, even though he pushed for passage of the marriage amendment.

Labor Day is the traditional kick-off of election season. This weekend, campaigning goes into high gear as voters begin paying more attention to the candidates competing in the November races.

The governor’s race pitting incumbent Rick Perry against former Houston Mayor Bill White is the Texas’ most high profile contest and an important one for the state’s LGBT community.

Perry came into office in January 2001 when George W. Bush resigned to become president. He has been elected twice since then and is seeking his third full term. He already is the longest-serving governor in Texas history and is currently the longest serving governor in the United States.

In May 2001, Perry signed the James L. Byrd Hate Crimes bill into law after years of opposition to the law by Gov. Bush. Since then, Perry’s record of LGBT issues has swung to opposite direction.

Under his tenure and with his support, an anti-same-sex-marriage amendment was added to the state constitution in 2005. But bills restricting adoption by gays and lesbians have not passed and Perry generally stayed out of that legislative debate.

White supports anti-bullying legislation that will be the top priority for Equality Texas in the upcoming legislature. That measure, first introduced in the legislature by Rep. Harryette Ehrhardt in the 1990s, has not come to the floor for a vote in past sessions.

Dallas County Republican Party Chairman Jonathan Neerman said that education is at the top of Perry’s priorities. He said that a good public education system is important to everyone, including the LGBT community, because it benefits the entire state.

Dallas County Democratic Party Chair Darlene Ewing agrees and points out how low Texas’ public education system ranks nationally. She said Texas has the highest dropout rate in the country.

“If they can’t have vouchers for their private schools, they’ll just destroy the public school system,” she said. “[Perry] sees it as a property tax burden.”

She said she believes White would be good for Texas and good for the LGBT community.

“I think he could do a lot,” said Ewing. “He believes in equality for everyone. Republicans use gay equality as a wedge issue.”

Ewing said that she believes that as governor, White would disregard sexual orientation in appointments, for example.

“I’ve heard him say that every citizen is entitled to protection,” she said. “He has a track record of working with all people in Houston.”

This week, the Texas Tribune reported Perry scored points by deriding the LGBT community.

“There is still a land of opportunity, friends — it’s called Texas,” Perry said. “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?”

He didn’t explain what one thing had to do with the other or address studies that show that same-sex marriage actually creates jobs.

Ewing dismissed the statement as nothing more than a “Let’s get the crazies all riled up” attempt.

But in this race, Dallas Log Cabin Republicans President Rob Schlein is focusing on Texas’ pro-business climate, with low taxes that have kept the state strong.

“I think the proof is in the economy,” said Schlein. “We have the best economy in the country and I think it has to do with conservative governance.”

Neerman said the election would hinge on the economy. He said LGBT voters would look for the same thing as straight voters.

“Who is the best man to lead the state in job creation, getting the economy moving and keeping spending under control,” he said. “This election will be about pocketbook issues.”

He pointed out that Perry angered many people in his base by not supporting an Arizona-type immigration law. Soon after that bill was signed into law, Perry said that a similar law wouldn’t work in Texas.

“He’s an ambassador for the state and he does a great job at that,” Neerman said.

Jonathan Neerman and Jennifer Allen
Jonathan Neerman and Jennifer Allen

But while White has attended Stonewall Democrats events across the state, Perry has not courted support of that group’s Republican counterparts.

“I’d like to see [Perry] do what another Republican governor did in Utah and host a reception for Log Cabin,” Dallas Log Cabin Republicans President Rob Schlein said. “Include us in the conversation.”

Bill White has said he supports civil unions rather than marriage. In 2005, he opposed the marriage ban proposition that became law. On his website, he has no official statements about equality for the LGBT community.

Under issues, the Perry campaign simply lists “Protecting Traditional Marriage,” without explanation, under a heading “social conservative.” The 2005 marriage ban remains in place. That is the only reference to anything gay.

The Texas Republican platform, however, goes into more detail. It calls for outlawing child custody by gay parents and only allowing supervised visitation if called for by court order.

The platform advocates outlawing adoption by gays and lesbians, disqualifying gays and lesbians from military service and excluding gays and lesbians and persons with infectious disease from the Americans with Disabilities Act.

Since being gay or lesbian isn’t a disability, this implies that any gay or lesbian person who is disabled would be disqualified from the law. Infectious disease refers directly to persons with HIV who are covered by the act.

Stonewall Democrats of Dallas President Erin Moore called the Republican Party platform reprehensible.

“As head of the Texas Republican Party, Perry had to have signed off on it,” she said. “Bill White has been a friend of the LGBT community as mayor of Houston and will be as governor.”

Schlein said, “As a practical matter, politicians do not govern by the platform.”

He noted that at their recent meeting, Texas Young Republicans unanimously called for removing the anti-gay planks from the platform.

Neerman agreed and thought this was the direction many social conservatives were moving. He cited Ted Olsen, who fought California’s Proposition 8 in court recently and won, as an example.

Dallas Stonewall Young Democrats Political Director Jennifer Allen gave a different example of why she is supporting White. She said she was impressed by White’s response after Hurricane Katrina.

“When the national government wasn’t doing anything about it, Bill White as mayor of Houston organized the city to provide housing, food and medical care when people were fleeing New Orleans,” she said.

Neerman and Schlein argue that Texas has not been affected by the recession as badly as other parts of the country and both credit Perry for that. They think Perry deserves LGBT support because economic issues are what this community is focused on.

Ewing argued that White would be great for Texas business and warned about four more years of Perry.

“Perry’s full of crap,” she said.

“He claims to have balanced the budget, but he took money from the feds to plug up the hole. When he panders to the secession nuts and then wants to sell the roads off to foreign companies, follow the money.”

A current Rasmussen poll has Perry at 49 percent and White at 41 percent.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition September 3, 2010.

—  Michael Stephens

Bill White officially isn’t talking about Prop 8 ruling

On Thursday I sent an e-mail to Katy Bacon, a spokeswoman for Democratic gubernatorial nominee Bill White, inquiring whether the former Houston mayor had any comment on Wednesday’s Prop 8 ruling. Bacon responded as follows: “No he does not.”

The Dallas Morning News asked White the same thing on Friday in Fort Worth, and he gave pretty much the same answer:

On another topic, White, the former mayor of Houston, declined to offer an opinion on a federal judge’s decision this week to strike down California’s ban on same-sex marriage.

White said he’s been too busy running for governor of Texas to study the legal briefs in the California case.

Asked if he thought a Texas ban on gay marriage, approved by voters in 2005, should be reversed, White would only say: “The Texas Constitution has been amended to prevent it, and that’s a fact.”

On Thursday we wrote about how anti-gay Republicans in Texas have been deafeningly silent about the ruling. The topic later was the subject of a segment on “The Rachel Maddow Show,” who noted that Republicans nationwide are largely avoiding an issue that was their rallying cry  just five short years ago.

The fact of the matter is, though, that in places like Texas, most Democrats don’t want to talk about it either.

—  John Wright

Bill White wants ideas from the arts community

Bill White wants to learn the needs and wants of Texas’ arts community. We wonder if ZZ Top gave him some ideas.

What could the Democratic nominee for governor want with local artists?

Theatre Three posted this invitation for Dallas’ creative community to meet with former Houston Mayor Bill White.

White reportedly wants to know the needs and wants of people in the arts around the state, and it sounds like he knows how to appeal to this target audience: Shiner, wine and snacks will be provided. Nice.

The event is at Stoneleigh P Restaurant, 2926 Maple Ave. at 5 p.m. For details, call, 469-855-7680.

—  Rich Lopez

Where are the voices of our straight political allies in Texas on 'don't ask don't tell'?

OK, so this is really one of those Facebook status updates that’s morphed into a blog post. So to my FB friends who’ve already seen it, I apologize for the redundancy. And for everyone else, keep in mind that it’s nothing but an overblown status update, but anyway here goes …

Where are the voices of our straight political allies in Texas calling for the repeal of “don’t ask don’t tell”? Has anyone heard a peep from any of them? I haven’t. Have you? Now is the time. This to me is a defining moment in our struggle for equality, and the outcome may be decided in the next few days. Where are Congresswomen Sheila Jackson Lee and Eddie Bernice Johnson? Hell, where is Democratic gubernatorial nominee Bill White? Sure, our allies in Congress will vote for the repeal when it comes to the floor, but shouldn’t we be hearing their voices loud and clear at this critical juncture?

—  John Wright

Parker issues extensive non-discrimination order

Mayor Annise Parker
Mayor Annise Parker

On March 25, Houston Mayor Annise Parker issued an extensive executive order protecting city employees based on gender identity as well as sexual orientation. This order expands on an earlier one issued by former Mayor Bill White that addressed only sexual orientation.

Parker’s order includes vendors and contractors doing business with the city and includes protection for people in all city-run facilities.

The gender identity protection is defined to include self-identification as well as expression of identity.

Coverage of facilities would include protection for people in all areas operated by the city including stadiums, museums or parks as well as city offices. But facilities would also mean protection for persons regarding bathroom usage.

The coverage for Houston employees is more extensive than for Dallas city employees. Gender identity is not included in the non-discrimination ordinance that protects city employees.

More about Parker’s executive order in this Friday’s Dallas Voice.

—  David Taffet

Bill White's response to the gay marriage question leads to, well, more questions

Scott Braddock, host of KRLD’s “Behind the Headlines,” asked Texas Democratic gubernatorial nominee Bill White yesterday whether it’s true that he voted against Texas’ 2005 constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage. White responded affirmatively and said he did so “out of protest.” Here’s a transcript of the audio, which you can listen to here:

“I think we ought to have traditional marriage between a man and a woman, but frankly it was against the state statutes anyway and I think of it more as a wedge issue. I think politicians ought to spend a little bit more time thinking about staying married themselves then on who marries who. … I’ve never gotten up in the middle of the night, you know, just hoping the people in Austin would pass a law to prevent my wife from going off and marrying another woman.”

When I posed a similar question to White three months ago, he answered as follows:

“Same-sex marriage is precluded by the Texas Constitution. 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 Obama in the last campaign. … I did vote against the state constitutional amendment in protest of wedge issue politics.”

There’s only one problem with White’s responses, aside from the fact that he doesn’t support marriage equality. Find out what it is after the jump.

—  John Wright

Superman’s editor running for gov; creationist and pastrami-maker lose

Perry White
Perry White

John Wright did our print edition election coverage this week. Since I was at the Democratic Party’s watch party on Tuesday, I decided to add my own keen observations. Maybe this is why editor Tammye Nash asked John to do our election coverage in the paper this week.

Rick Perry is running against Bill White for governor making it a Perry-White race. Say what you want about either Perry or White, Daily Planet editor Perry White was the greatest editor of all times. Although Tammye is more observant. She notices every time I change into tights and jump out of our window.

White and Linda Chavez-Thompson might make a stronger ticket on the Democratic side, but Shami-Katz would have been far more interesting. A Palestinian and a Jew running together would have been historic. And say what you will about Texans, I thought we were ready to embrace a Muslim governor. And talk about qualifications. Shami is a hairdresser and Katz … well, he simply makes the best pastrami sandwich in the state. I always make at least one stop at his 6th Street deli whenever I’m in Austin. Much more interesting than a race between two attorneys.

And I’m really upset about the District 9 State Board of Education race. Long-time board member Don McLeroy was defeated. McLeroy is a “young-earth creationist.” He believes the dinosaurs lived on earth about 5770 years ago, the same time as Adam and Steve. Because of the size of Texas schoolbook orders, decrees from the Texas Board of Edumacation affect books used around the country. Now, how are those heathens in New York City going to learn real creation science? Their books will be full of facts. The history they learn will be un-rewritten. Well, we’ll still have a couple of home-skoolers on the board.

And am I the only one who wanted the election to come out differently or is everyone in my office simply delighted that I won’t be walking around doing my Debra Medina imitations anymore.

—  David Taffet

Watch Instant Tea for election coverage

Vote 2010 Logo.colorWe’ll be live-blogging tonight’s primary election results right here on Instant Tea, so don’t forget to check back when polls close at 7 p.m. Here are some of the races we’ll be watching closely:

1. Openly gay Dallas County Judge Jim Foster, who chairs the Commissioners Court, faces an uphill battle for the Democratic nomination. Foster is being challenged by Highland Park attorney Clay Jenkins and Dallas Schools President Larry Duncan. If no candidate receives more than 50 percent of the vote, a runoff between the top two candidates will be held April 6. Foster is the first openly gay incumbent previously endorsed by Stonewall Democrats of Dallas to not receive the group’s backing in a bid for re-election. Stonewall, which endorsed Foster in 2006, is backing Duncan this year. Jenkins also has his share of LGBT supporters, including openly gay District Clerk Gary Fitzsimmons.

2. Foster and Fitzsimmons are two of four openly LGBT candidates on the ballot in Dallas County. Fitzsimmons should easily fend off a challenge from perennial candidate Johnny Gomez. Meanwhile, former Dallas Mayor Pro Tem John Loza is one of four Democrats in the primary for County Criminal Court No. 5, where a runoff is also likely. Loza and Tony Parker are vying to become the first openly LGBT candidates elected to the judiciary in Dallas County. Parker, who’s running for the 116th Civil District Court seat, doesn’t have an opponent in the primary.

3. Former Houston Mayor Bill White is the heavy favorite to win the Democratic gubernatorial nomination. White’s most formidable challenger is hair care products tycoon Farouk Shami. Stonewall Democrats of Dallas has endorsed White. In the GOP primary, the question is whether incumbent Gov. Rick Perry will avoid a runoff against either U.S. Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison or Tea Party activist Debra Medina.

4. Rob Schlein, the openly gay president of Log Cabin Republicans of Dallas, is running for precinct chair in his Far North Dallas neighborhood against Homer Adams, the husband of Texas Republican Party Chairwoman Cathie Adams. Cathie Adams, former president of the Texas Eagle Forum, has been one of the leading anti-gay voices in North Texas over the last few decades.

5. State Rep. Terri Hodge, a longtime LGBT ally in the House, pleaded guilty to a felony charge in February in connection with the Dallas City Hall corruption case, and is no longer eligible to hold public office. However, Hodge’s name still appears on the ballot, and if she receives more votes than the other candidate in District 100, Eric Johnson, the Democratic nominee will be decided by precinct chairs in the district. Another embattled Democrat, Precinct 5 Constable Jaime Cortes, faces three primary challengers amid an ongoing criminal investigation of his office.

—  John Wright

Farouk to visit gay LULAC Council tonight

Farouk Shami
Farouk Shami

Houston hair care magnate Farouk Shami, the only Texas gubernatorial candidate who’s released a comprehensive policy statement on LGBT issues, will appear tonight at a meeting of Dallas’ gay LULAC Council, according to Council President Jesse Garcia. The meeting, at 6:30 p.m. at Hungdinger, 4000 Cedar Springs Road, will also feature appearances by State Rep. Roberto Alonzo, Texas LULAC Director Joey Cardenas III and representatives from the Human Rights Initiative.

As I noted last week, Shami has adopted the policy statement on LGBT issues that was previously published by Hank Gilbert, who dropped out of the Democratic gubernatorial primary to run for agriculture commissioner. The policy statement proposes repealing Texas’ ban on same-sex marriage and allowing civil unions that give gay and lesbian couples the same privileges and protections as heterosexual couples. It also proposes legislation banning discrimination in employment, insurance and public education based on sexual orientation and gender identity.

Former Houston Mayor Bill White, who’s considered the frontrunner for the Democratic nomination, has yet to release a policy statement on LGBT issues. White was endorsed by Stonewall Democrats of Dallas last week.

—  John Wright

Bill White to address Stonewall Dems tonight, when group also votes on 2010 endorsements

Hank Gilbert, who's running for agriculture commissioner, supports full equality for LGBT people, including same-sex marriage.

Hank Gilbert, who’s running for agriculture commissioner, says he supports full equality for LGBT people. Gilbert, who faces Kinky Friedman in the March 2 primary, received a unanimous recommendation from Stonewall Democrats of Dallas’ endorsement committee over the weekend.

As we mentioned last week, former Houston mayor Bill White, the frontrunner for the Democratic nomination for governor, will speak tonight at Stonewall Democrats of Dallas’ regular monthly meeting. The meeting begins at 6:30 p.m. at Ojeda’s, 4617 Maple Ave.

Also tonight, Stonewall’s general membership will vote on whether to ratify a long list of endorsement recommendations for the March 2 primary. Political Director Omar Narvaez told me yesterday that Stonewall’s endorsement committee screened a total of 92 candidates during about 20 hours of interviews over the weekend at Resource Center Dallas. Narvaez said a full list of endorsement recommendations won’t be availalbe until tonight, but they include White for governor, Ronnie Earle for lieutenant governor and Hank Gilbert for agriculture commissioner. In local races, the committee is recommending that the group get behind Larry Duncan for county judge and Dr. Elba Garcia for District 4 county commissioner, among many others. After the jump, more images from this weekend’s candidate screenings.

—  John Wright