Lt. governor candidates low key on LGBT issues

Dewhurst lists fiscal responsibility as a top issue; Chavez-Thompson says she is focusing on education

DAVID TAFFET  |  Staff Writer taffet@dallasvoice.com

ON THE ISSUES | Although the candidates for Texas lieutenant governor have been relatively quiet on LGBT issues, a few key statements give an indication on where they stand. Republican incumbent David Dewhurst, left, chimed in to help cancel a student production of the gay-themed play “Corpus Christi” last spring. Linda Chavez-Thompson, the Democratic challenger, Tweeted her support for equality when a judge overturned California’s Proposition 8.

LGBT issues are not playing a big role in the race for Texas lieutenant governor between Republican incumbent David Dewhurst and Democratic challenger Linda Chavez-Thompson.

Neither candidate addresses LGBT issues on their website. But while neither campaign returned phone calls from Dallas Voice seeking comment for this story, a Tweet and a recent incident give an indication of their positions.

Dewhurst played a role in last spring’s controversy over the production of the play “Corpus Christi” at Tartleton State University in Stephenville.

“No one should have the right to use government funds or institutions to portray acts that are morally reprehensible to the vast majority of Americans,” Dewhurst said in a written statement.

In later praising the university for canceling the performance, he claimed he was “a strong defender of free speech.”

Chavez-Thompson has taken a more LGBT-friendly stance.

After the Proposition 8 decision was handed down in California, she Tweeted her reaction to the ruling: “So glad to hear Prop 8 was overturned today. It was discrimination at its worst. I will keep fighting for equality for all Texans.”

Dallas County Democratic Party Chair Darling Ewing said she believes Chavez-Thompson would be an ally to the LGBT community.

“Linda comes from an immigrant family, a poor family,” said Ewing. “On equality, she’ll be right on the issues.”

Dewhurst has been lieutenant governor since 2003 and is running for a third term. He was first elected to statewide office in 1998 as commissioner of the General Land Office of Texas.

On his website, Dewhurst prominently displays a “Petition to Repeal Obamacare” directly under his “Take Action” call for volunteers for his campaign.

Under a pull down list of issues, health care is first. While he claims that an overwhelming majority of people oppose the “2,000-plus page, $1.2 trillion, health care overhaul” and estimates the new law will add $27 billion in costs to taxpayers, he proposes no solution to the lack of health coverage by Texans.

“He isn’t in favor of health care,” Ewing said. “He’s only interested in not paying for it.”

Dewhurst’s other top issues are fiscal responsibility, border security and property rights. He believes the federal government has not stopped the flow of illegal drugs and immigrants into Texas, and he says Texas has stepped in to enhance border security. He does not, however, propose an Arizona-type immigration law for the state.

Chavez-Thompson lists jobs and education as her top issues.

“The state has dropped the ball on education,” Ewing said. “It’s all about saving a buck. They’ve made college education a luxury. The cost of a college education today is ridiculous.”

Chavez-Thompson also addresses the health care debate on her website, saying, “Today, rising health care costs has forced too many Texas families to go without insurance.”

Chavez-Thompson spent most of her career working her way up through union ranks. When she was chosen to serve as the executive vice president of the AFL-CIO, she was the first woman and the first person of color to hold that position.

President Bill Clinton appointed Chavez-Thompson to serve on his Race Advisory Board and on the President’s Committee on Employment of People with Disabilities. Today, she is vice chair of the Democratic National Committee.

“I think what she brings us is a workingman’s perspective,” Ewing said. “Because of her union history, she brings bargaining skills that would bring groups together.”

Local Republicans did not return calls or offered no comment for this article.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition September 17, 2010.

—  Michael Stephens

DVtv: In wake of Tarleton State controversy, 'Corpus Christi' arrives at Cathedral of Hope

Terrence McNally’s “Corpus Christi” is set in Texas, but it’s never before been staged in the Lone Star State. That will change this weekend, when the Cathedral of Hope hosts a Los Angeles-based production of the play about a gay Christ-like figure named Joshua. This weekend’s shows grew out of the recent controversy at Tarleton State University in Stephenville. TSU student John Jordan Otte wanted to stage an excerpt from “Corpus Christi” as a class project, but the university canceled the production, citing security concerns. We later learned that Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst and even Gov. Rick Perry may have been responsible for cancellation of Otte’s project.

For the DVtv segments previewing this weekend’s shows, we sat down with the Los Angeles-based co-producers of “Corpus Christi,” Nic Arnzen and James Brandon (who also plays Joshua); with Otte and with the Rev. Jo Hudson, senior pastor at the Cathdral. Our interviews with Otte and Hudson are after the jump. Showtimes are Friday through Sunday at 7 p.m., with a Saturday matinee at 3 p.m. Tickets are $32–$52 and can be purchased at the door of the Cathedral, 5910 Cedar Springs Road.

—  John Wright

Shocker! Dewhurst ignores request for meeting from student behind gay Jesus play

John Jordan-Otte
John Jordan-Otte

John Jordan-Otte, the Tarleton State University student whose production of the gay-themed play “Corpus Christi” was cancelled amid controversy in March, issued a press release last night alleging that Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst is ignoring his request to meet and discuss how to prevent a similar episode in the future.

Otte says he submitted a letter to Dewhurst’s office last Thursday, letting the lieutenant governor know that he’ll be in Austin this weekend and would like to chat. Dewhurst has been accused of prompting cancellation of the “gay Jesus play” by issuing  a press release condemning it and possibly contacting TSU administrators and threatening their jobs. It’s also been suggested that Dewhurst was merely doing the dirty work of his buddy Rick Perry.

“The torrent of media and political attention changed my life forever, and I don’t want another student to face the same criticism,” Otte wrote in his letter to Dewhurst.

Last week, Dewhurst claimed he was exercising his right to free speech when he squelched Otte’s free expression. Dewhurst also said he would have intervened regardless of what religious leader was portrayed as gay, even Buddha, because the school receives state funding and shouldn’t be allowed to “denigrate” anyone’s faith. Read Otte’s full letter to Dewhurst after the jump.

—  John Wright

Dewhurst says he was exercising free speech when he stifled free expression and got the gay Jesus play canceled at Tarleton State

I rushed into the office at 8 a.m. this morning, hoping to catch The Texas Tribune‘s interview with Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst, because I knew they’d ask about his recent decision to issue a press release calling for the cancellation of a gay-themed play at Tarleton State University. As it turns out, The Tribune doesn’t broadcast its live chats live, but they have now posted Dewhurst’s response to the question on YouTube. Above is the video, and below is my transcript.

Dewhurst: First of all if that particular play had been in any other venue, a private school, some theater, none of my business. None of my business. I exercised my First Amendment right to say something when a lot of people were calling all around the state of Texas saying, “What in the world is going on at a state school that receives state money?” That was the only reason I said something. There were two elements. One, it was at a state school that was receiving state money. Two, it was ridiculing, in my judgment, you may not agree, but ridiculing one religion. It doesn’t make any difference to me — on this, and I want to use this word carefully, I’m agnostic on this — it doesn’t make any difference, in my judgment: If a play ridiculed anybody’s religion, I would have reacted the same way.

TT: So a play about gay Buddha would have received the same press release?

Dewhurst: Yes, it would have, because I don’t believe it’s right to denigrate anybody’s religion.

—  John Wright

A&M chancellor called Tarleton State officials on same day gay Jesus play was canceled

Last week, Dallas Voice online editor John Wright posted this blog (“Rick Perry killed the gay Jesus”), citing a note from Conservative Republicans President Steve Hotze thanking Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst for pressuring Tarleton State officials into cancelling a student class project production of Terrance McNally’s play “Corpus Christi.”

John Jordan Otte, the student who was presenting the play for his project, suggested at the time of the cancellation that “jobs had been threatened,” and that’s why it was canceled.

School officials and representatives for both Dewhurst and Gov. Rick Perry, however, continued to deny Dewhurst and Perry put any pressure on school officials and reiterated their claim that the play was canceled over security issues in the face of planned protests.

But now Fort Worth Weekly has published a wire service article by Rachel Dudley with Texan News Service claiming Texan News Service has obtained phone records that appear to support the claims that elected officials pressured the school. Fort Worth Weekly reports:

However, records released this week show that, in the hours leading up to the cancellation decision, Dottavio received five calls on his cell phone from top officials in the Texas A&M University System, of which Tarleton is a part. …

Records reflecting the calls — but not their content — were released by the university in response to a request by the Texan News Service under the state’s open records law. The calls, totaling 35 minutes, were placed between 4:29 and 8:15 p.m. on March 26, the day Terrence McNally’s controversial play, “Corpus Christi,” was canceled. According to one person present, who asked not to be named, university officials met for about an hour during that same period to discuss the fate of the play, scheduled for performance the following morning.

Dottavio reports to A&M system Chancellor Dr. Michael McKinney, who, records show, placed one of the phone calls. McKinney reports to the A&M Board of Regents, whose members are appointed by the governor.

At the end of the lengthy article, Dudley points out:

Tarleton has also suspended student journalists’ access to its YouTube channel. Students had used the channel to post Texan TV News newscasts, including stories about the play and its aftermath. Officials said they were suspending access to the channel  until policies governing its use can be promulgated. They later authorized the posting of a two-week-old news broadcast.

The university also temporarily suspended journalism students’ access to post Texan News Service print stories on the university web site but lifted that ban for the remainder of the semester.

—  admin

Tarleton State University cancels performance of gay-themed play, citing safety concerns

So much for free expression.

The much-publicized performance of a gay-themed play at Tarleton State University, scheduled for Saturday morning, was canceled Friday night due to safety concerns, The Dallas Morning News reports.

Tarleton State President F. Dominic Dottavio issued a statement earlier Friday calling the play “offensive, crude and irreverent,” but adding that stopping the production would amount to a violation of free expression. However, the university issued a statement later saying the class’s professor canceled the play due to concerns about students’ safety and the need to maintain an orderly academic environment.

Also, Friday, Texas Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst issued a statement condemning the play, according to The Texas Tribune. Here’s what Dewhurst said:

“Every citizen is entitled to the freedom of speech, but no one should have the right to use government funds or institutions to portray acts that are morally reprehensible to the majority of Americans.

Texans don’t deserve to see their hard-earned tax money used to debase their religion. This lewd display runs completely contrary to the standards of scholastic excellence and common decency that we demand in our publicly-funded institutions for higher learning.”

—  John Wright