LGBT community must call on Texas A&M leaders to send message that hatred won’t be tolerated

Administration remains silent in wake of attack on resource center

By TIFFANY CREECY and JOSH COLLINS

In April 2011, Texas State Rep. Wayne Christian, R-Center, proposed Amendment 143 to House Bill 1 — an amendment demanding that public universities that fund centers for gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender (GLBT) students also provide an equal amount of funding for student centers that promote “traditional and family values.” The amendment passed 110-24. Though it is unclear whether the Texas Legislature will include the amendment in its final budget, its introduction has created unnecessarily hostile discourse about GLBT issues at Texas A&M University.

Christian’s amendment inspired a group of A&M student senators to author a bill with identical objectives: SB 63-106, “The Sexual Education Equality in Funding” bill. While student governments at other public universities in Texas (e.g., University of Texas at Austin and University of Houston) have openly, adamantly, and clearly rejected the intentions of the Texas Legislature, A&M’s SB 63-106 passed with a vote of 21-21, with the speaker of the Senate breaking the tie in favor of the bill. The Student Government Association at the University of Houston called for the Texas governor to veto the state amendment, citing potential harm to the university’s already-existing diversity initiatives — initiatives similar to the ones in existence at Texas A&M, which have long been met with opposition by conservative Aggie student groups.

Immediately after the passing of SB 63-106, Texas A&M students both in favor of and in opposition to the bill expressed impassioned viewpoints that quickly manifested in emotional and aggressive debates. The fervor of these debates was further heightened by the publication of four GLBT-related articles in the student newspaper, The Battalion. GLBT/Ally students felt empowered by the publication of articles with positive representations of GLBT individuals, especially following the events of GLBT Awareness Week, which took place April 1-15. Some non-GLBT/Ally students felt that the articles contributed to an imbalanced, liberal-leaning perspective on the rise at Texas A&M. Many students from both perspectives on the issue have unfortunately engaged in hostile communications and the use of unwarranted personal attacks.

Texas A&M Student Body President Jacob Robinson vetoed the decision to pass the bill, sending it back to the Student Senate — where it failed to receive the two-thirds majority required to override Robinson’s veto. However, the damage to campus climate as a result of the bill had already been done. Tension between GLBT/Ally students, faculty, and staff and some of the bill’s more vocal supporters has never been higher. The Texas A&M GLBT Resource Center no longer feels like the safe space that it used to be, and although it appears, for the time being, that no funding will be cut and a center for “family and traditional values” will not be established, what has been most alarming about the events that have unfolded over the last month is the lack of public, GLBT-supportive responses from university officials. In perhaps the most critical moment for GLBT Aggies since they won the right to have a student organization on campus in the 1980s, the university has failed to send the message that homophobia, heterosexism, and hatred for the GLBT community will not be tolerated.

—  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

Watching the hypocrites self-destruct

As the dirty little secrets of ‘family values’ politicians and religious leaders come to light, the scandals help the cause of LGBT equality

DAVID WEBB  |  The Rare Reporter

The new year is well under way, but it’s like Christmas just keeps coming for the LGBT community in terms of our enemies destroying their credibility by performing what amounts to high dives into empty swimming pools.

Just a few weeks ago we saw New York Republican Congressman Christopher Lee hastily resign after the website Gawker.com published an expose about the congressman’s attempts to hook up via Craigslist.

The website revealed Lee had e-mailed a shirtless picture of himself to a woman, along with the lie that he was a single lobbyist, rather than declaring his true identity as a married father and elected public official.

Now, the National Enquirer is treating us to an expose alleging that married Republican Speaker of the House John “Cry Me a River” Boehner engaged in at least two affairs with mistresses. It would seem that Boehner, who created a sensation tearing up on a 60 Minutes broadcast while discussing his rise to political fame, really has something to cry about now.

I would say that these fellows who portrayed themselves as champions of family values had exhibited a level of stupidity in their behavior that defies reason and distinguishes them as clowns without comparison — but I can’t. Because this is a story that we have seen play out time and time again.

For naysayers who criticize the sources of these exposures: Remember, when it comes to really distasteful news, it usually surfaces in alternative publications before the mainstream media dares to pick it up. A case in point would be the exposure of former presidential candidate John Edward’s infidelity that was revealed by the National Enquirer.

While Edwards wasn’t an enemy of the LGBT community, he was a champion of family values. So it’s only fair to point out that stupidity and compulsively destructive behavior obviously know no political boundaries.

It’s hard to figure out why a prominent public official would secretly engage in an activity that they publicly condemn. But they just keep on keeping on — to our enormous benefit. There’s nothing that turns off people and awakens them to the truth more than a good dose of reality via the exposure of false prophets’ hypocrisy.

My first recollection of this type of hypocrisy dates back to 1981 when I read The Gentleman from Maryland, The Conscience of a Gay Conservative by former Congressman Richard Bauman. Bauman, who by day railed against gay rights and by night cruised Washington, D.C., gay bars, lost re-election in 1980 over a scandal involving a gay prostitute.

Since then it has been one revelation after another involving foes of the gay rights movement. Who could ever forget the 2007 scandal involving former Idaho Sen. Larry Craig when it was revealed that several months earlier he was arrested in a vice squad sex sting in a Minneapolis airport men’s restroom? The married politician’s denials of guilt and attempts to explain away his behavior made him the laughing stock of the country for awhile.

Over the years, straight Americans’ acceptance of gay and lesbian people has steadily grown, and I suspect at least part of the reason for that has been the exposure of the secret lives of political and religious celebrities who denounce homosexuality and bisexuality as aberrant behavior.

It’s sort of like a housewife who is leading a fight against an ordinance that would allow liquor sales in a community getting busted for drunken driving while ferrying the neighborhood’s kids home from school. Her motives suddenly become suspect.

Of course, we can’t thank our foes for all of our good fortune. The relentless fight by gay activists during the past 40 years has had a tremendous impact on public perception about who we are and what we want.

The battles for parental and marriage rights, along with other nondiscrimination goals, have led many people to realize that many members of our community are in fact champions of family values. Our families just happen to look a little different sometimes, but they are essentially the same as the one next door.

It’s been a wildly successful formula for achieving gay rights since the birth of the movement in 1969, and I’m sure the success is going to continue. And for that we can thank ourselves and our foes who just can’t seem to help being true to their real natures.

David Webb is a freelance reporter and former staff writer for the Dallas Voice. He has reported on LGBT issues for the mainstream and alternative media for more than two decades. E-mail him at davidwaynewebb@yahoo.com.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition Feb. 25.

—  John Wright

What’s Brewing: Craigslist congressman quits; iPhone confession app includes anti-gay query

Your weekday morning blend from Instant Tea:

1. New York GOP Congressman Christopher Lee resigned late Wednesday after Gawker reported that he sent a shirtless photo (above right) to a woman who’d placed an ad in the “Women Seeking Men” section of Craigslist. Lee, who is married and 46, told the woman in a series of e-mails that he was a 39-year-old divorced lobbyist. According to the Associated Press, Lee had cultivated a family values voting record since being elected to the House in 2008. With so many sexually repressed conservatives in Congress these days, we look forward to an abundance of stories like this one over the next few years, and we can only hope some involve lawmakers from Texas.

2. A new iPhone app that allows users to make Catholic confessions is under fire from LGBT advocates for asking, “Have I been guilty of any homosexual activity?” The app, “Confession: A Roman Catholic App,” is currently ranked No. 22 in sales worldwide. (INSERT PEDOPHILE PRIESTS JOKE HERE.)

3. On the local front, there will be no 7-11 at Oak Lawn Avenue and Gillespie Street, after a property owner withdrew the proposal in response to concerns from angry Oak Lawn residents. The property two blocks southwest of the Cedar Springs strip previously was home to Tony’s Wine Warehouse but has been vacant for the last two years. Nearby residents and businesses were concerned about the crime and late-night traffic a 7-11 would bring. Among other things, the compromise reached Wednesday ensures that most crime will continue to occur near the Valero on Cedar Springs instead.

—  John Wright