LEGE UPDATE: Anti-gay ‘family and traditional values’ item not in Senate’s version of budget

Daniel Williams

The absence of a homophobic budget amendment, movement on anti-bullying legislation and the most adorable committee hearing in recent memory marked this, the 17th week of the Texas Legislature’s 20-week regular session.

The infamous anti-gay amendment to the Texas budget — which would require universities to fund “family and traditional values centers” if they have LGBT resource centers — isn’t in the Senate version budget. While the state’s media focused on whether the Senate would actually vote on the budget, the Finance Committee seems to have quietly skipped over the provision, added by amendment in the House by Rep. Wayne Christian, R-Center. Last week the American Independent reported that the Christian amendment would have little to no impact, but its absence from the Senate budget is cause for celebration for LGBT Texans.

Chuck Smith, deputy director of Equality Texas, greeted the news with cautious optimism, explaining that the budget is a massive document, 854 pages long, and although the “family and traditional values” language isn’t in Article III Sec. 56, the entire text would have to be carefully searched before the amendment’s absence was certain.

“If it really is out of there, then I’m pleased,” Smith said, “but I need to do research.”

The full text of the Senate budget can be found here.

—  admin

What’s Brewing: Texas A&M student body president vetoes anti-gay Student Senate bill

State Rep. Wayne Christian, R-Center, says he doesn’t know what the impact of his anti-gay budget amendment would be: “Ask the attorneys,” he says.

Your weekday morning blend from Instant Tea:

1. Texas A&M Student Body President Jacob Robinson has vetoed an anti-gay measure passed by the Student Senate last week aimed at slashing funding for the school’s LGBT resource center. The Student Senate voted 22-21 in favor of the bill supporting a state budget amendment by Rep. Wayne Christian, R-Center, that would require schools with LGBT resource centers to spend an equal amount on centers for “family and traditional values.” Meanwhile, Christian told the American Independent that he doesn’t even know what the impact of his budget amendment would be: “I am interested in finding out the legal opinion — does our bill also instruct them with what to do with private funds? I am not sure, that’s something to ask attorneys, so no, I don’t know the answer.” How do you introduce a budget amendment without even knowing what its impact will be? What kind of fiscal responsibility is that? The sad part is, the amendment passed the Texas House by a vote of 110-24. The state Senate is expected to take up the appropriations bill, with Christian’s amendment attached, this week.

2. A San Antonio man who unsuccessfully tried to use the gay panic defense was sentenced to 30 years in prison Wednesday for fatally slashing the throat of a retired teacher with a cheese knife. Augustine Sauceda, 23, claims to be straight and says he committed the crime because the victim, 56-year-old Joe Ramon Jr., started groping him and wouldn’t take no for an answer. But that didn’t explain why Sauceda initially told police he was bisexual and had been at a gay bar the night before the murder. It also didn’t explain the fact that Ramon’s DNA was found on the victim’s flat-screen TV, suggesting that the real motive for the crime was robbery. In any case, 30 years still seems like a pretty light sentence, especially given that Sauceda will be eligible for parole after 15? Would he have gotten more time if the victim was straight?

3. Dallas police aren’t releasing any additional information about the murder of a gay Lake Highlands couple found dead inside their burned apartment early Wednesday. The victims names are being withheld pending positive identification of their bodies by the medical examiner, and authorities are still searching for a missing vehicle belonging to one of the victims. Police also continue to say that while they don’t believe the murders were a hate crime, they don’t really know what the motive was.

—  John Wright

Why Rafael Anchia didn’t vote against Wayne Christian’s anti-gay budget amendment

Rep. Rafael Anchia

By now you’re probably aware of the anti-gay Texas House budget amendment authored by Rep. Wayne Christian, R-Center, which would require schools with LGBT resource centers to spend an equal amount, dollar for dollar, on centers promoting “family and traditional values.”

Like seemingly most things these days, Christian’s amendment has led to a petition at Change.org, which now has 146 signatures, calling for the Texas Senate and/or Gov. Rick Perry to reject it:

“This proposal does nothing to enhance the educational experience of Texas university students,” writes Mindy Townsend of Kansas, who started the petition. “It only serves to further marginalize LGBT people. Society is built to support straight people. We need LGBT resource centers to help fill in the gaps.”

We’ve got a message in to Christian’s office seeking further explanation of the amendment, such as how it jibes with teabagger principles of reduced spending and local control.

But for now, we wanted to note that Rep. Rafael Anchia, D-Dallas, is listed as “present, not voting” in the House voting record for the amendment. Anchia’s vote, or lack thereof, prompted Instant Tea contributor Daniel Williams to write on his Legislative Queery blog that Anchia, a staunch LGBT ally, had “cowardly refuse[d] to take a stand on this issue.”

—  John Wright