Congressman Lamar Smith doesn’t think LGBT people should be allowed to serve on juries

Lamar Smith

Anti-gay Texas Republican Congressman Lamar Smith is chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, which is reviewing a bill to ban discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity for jurors.

Attorneys are not prohibited from discriminating based on sexual orientation and gender identity during jury selection by federal courts. The U.S. Department of Justice declined to take a position last year on whether Supreme Court rulings that prohibit removal based on race or sex should include sexual orientation.

A spokesman for Smith told the Colorado Independent that he has “no plans to move the bill at this time.”

The bill was introduced last month by Rep. Steve Rothman, D- New Jersey, and is co-sponsored by Rep. Susan Davis, D-California, and Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton, a Democrat from the District of Columbia.

But Smith’s opposition to the bill means it is unlikely to get a hearing.

—  Anna Waugh

WATCH: House hearing on ‘defending marriage’

As we noted earlier, a U.S. House subcommittee held a pointless hearing this morning on “defending marriage.” The Wonk Room reports:

This morning’s “defending marriage” hearing held by the House Judiciary Committee’s Subcommittee on the Constitution invited anti-LGBT witnesses Maggie Gallagher of the National Organization for Marriage and Edward Whelan of the Ethics and Public Policy Center to reinforce stigma against gays and lesbians. Committee Chairman Lamar Smith (R-TX) and subcommittee Chairman Trent Franks (R-AZ) also used the hearing to attack the White House.

Watch The Wonk Room’s video compilation from the hearing above.

Outside the hearing, activists from GetEQUAL presented Gallagher with the “Anita Bryant Unparalleled Bigotry Award.” Watch below.

—  John Wright

Texas Republican seeking to intervene in marriage cases

Lamar Smith claims a ‘protectable interest’ in defending DOMA in Massachusetts lawsuits

Lisa Keen  |  Keen News Service lisakeen@mac.com

Claiming that the Obama Department of Justice is not doing enough to defend the federal Defense of Marriage Act, U.S. Rep. Lamar Smith, the Republican who represents Texas’ 21st district, has asked a federal court for permission to serve as an intervenor-defendant in two cases expected to come before the First Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals.

The Alliance Defense Fund announced Tuesday, Oct. 5,  that it had filed motions on behalf of Smith in the U.S. District Court for Boston, where Judge Joseph Tauro had ruled — in two cases — that one part of the federal Defense of Marriage Act is unconstitutional.

The Department of Justice still has until Oct. 12 and Health and Human Services has until Oct. 18 to give the court notice of whether the federal government intends to appeal those decisions.

In its Oct. 5 motions to intervene, the ADF claims the Department of Justice is mounting “no defense at all” for DOMA. The lawsuits in question challenge only DOMA Section 3, the section that limits the interpretation of “marriage” for any federal purpose to heterosexual couples.

“We should be strengthening and protecting marriage, not subjecting it to a hostile takeover through the courts,” said Dale Schowengerdt, legal counsel for the Alliance Defense Fund, in a press release. “If the Obama administration won’t defend marriage, we are ready and willing to do so.”

ADF claims the DOJ has failed to raise certain crucial arguments in defense of DOMA. For instance, it argues that DOJ should have noted that the U.S. Supreme Court’s “decision” in the 1972 Baker v. Nelson “was binding precedent that DOMA is constitutional.”

“Under the new administration, which strongly supports DOMA’s repeal, the DOJ traded these winning rationales for anemic arguments never recognized by any court in a challenge to DOMA or a similar state marriage definition,” states the ADF’s motion to intervene.

Actually, the Supreme Court did not issue a “decision” in Baker; it dismissed the appeal of a gay couple who had sought a marriage license in Minnesota.

Dismissing an appeal has more significance than simply refusing to hear the appeal. But, in dismissing the Baker appeal, the high court explained it was doing so because there was no “substantial federal question” presented by the case.

There is dispute within legal circles as to whether that dismissal means anything today.

And Mary Bonauto, civil rights director for Gay & Lesbian Advocates & Defenders that brought one of the DOMA lawsuits, said the lawsuits here are not — like Baker — about marriage.

Bonauto also said she wasn’t surprised to learn of ADF’s motion to intervene.

“The ADF tries to intervene in everything,” said Bonauto. “We’re just surprised it took this long.”

Bonauto said her organization would oppose Smith’s motion to intervene “on multiple grounds.”

The motions to intervene will be decided by Judge Tauro sometime during the next few weeks or so. Bonauto said she doesn’t imagine the motions will be granted if the federal government decides to appeal the two cases.
The ADF motion claims that Rep. Smith has a “protectable interest” in the outcome of these lawsuits because, as ranking minority member of the House Judiciary Committee, he has a duty to see that federal laws “are fully defended and that adverse decisions are appealed.”

The motion says Smith asked Attorney General Eric Holder, by letter, on Aug. 9, whether DOJ intends to appeal the DOMA cases. DOJ had not yet made a decision, notes ADF.

“[I]t is difficult to understand to DOJ’s indecision,” says ADF’s brief.

Attorneys for the HHS have until Tuesday, Oct. 12, to file notice that they intend to appeal the decision in the state’s case, Massachusetts v. HHS. DOJ attorneys have until Oct. 18 to file notice of appeal in GLAD’s case, Gill v. Office of Personnel Management. GLAD’s Bonauto said it is common for the appealing party to give the court notice of its appeal in the last couple of days remaining to do so.

Thus, the timing of ADF’s motion could have the political benefit of appearing to prod DOJ and HHS to file notice. But Arthur Leonard, a long-time legal scholar on LGBT cases, says it’s also not unusual for Smith to file the intervenor motion.

“There have been occasions in the past where members of Congress have sought to intervene in order to present what they think would be stronger arguments than the Justice Department is likely to present, especially when the administration that is defending the statute is different from the administration that signed it into law,” said Leonard.

“But,” he added, “to the extent this is about getting particular arguments before the court of appeals, I can’t imagine that an appeal of the DOMA case won’t attract plenty of amicus briefs that would make all the arguments that Rep. Smith would want to make.”

© 2010 Keen News Service

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition October 08, 2010.

—  Kevin Thomas

Lamar Smith has questions to answer

Texas Republican is throwing stones over ‘secret negotiations,’ but he’s got conflicts of interest of his own

U.S. Rep. Lamar Smith
U.S. Rep. Lamar Smith

On April 22, 2010, House Judiciary Committee ranking member Lamar Smith of Texas and House Oversight and Government Reform Committee ranking member Darrell Issa of California — both Republicans — asked asked nine automobile company CEOs to answer questions about their “secret negotiations” with the Obama administration on setting greenhouse gas (GHG) emission standards under the Clean Air Act.

“Given the clear conflict of interest issues at play, which naturally arise when the government is in a position to pick winners and losers and the future viability of private entities, it’s imperative to act with the utmost of transparency,” Smith said, regarding the secret greenhouse emission arrangement.

Smith — the fifth richest member of the Texas delegation to Congress, vehemently anti-gay and a former partner of the law firm of Maebius and Duncan — has some “secret negotiation” issues himself that he needs to explain to Texas voters.

From 1989 to 2010, Smith received $403,547 in political campaign donations from big oil and gas companies.

Valero Energy and Lewis Oil, a distributor for Chevron, donated thousands of dollars to his campaign. Smith’s former law firm partner, Jeb Mabius Jr., worked for the Gulf Oil Company rebranded as Chevron in the 1980s.

The apparent conflict of interest doesn’t end there. Smith co-sponsored House Congressional Resolution 417, which would open the Outer Continental Shelf and the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge to oil shale reserves exploration and extraction.

Smith is a staunch advocate for big oil companies and is opposed to the American Clean Energy and Security Act, stating it would raise gas prices and eliminate more than 2 million jobs.

According to the University of California at Berkley, the ACES bill would boost annual household income by $1,200 and create more than 1.9 million jobs.

So, why does our state representative oppose the bill that would limit green house emissions and help kick start our fledgling job market? I will allow you to decide as I lay out the results of my investigation.

Smith and Rep. Jim Sensenbrenner, a Wisconsin Republican, recently submitted a brief to the federal appellate court in Case No. 09-17490, arguing that the U.S. Constitution gives the legislative and executive branches, not judiciary, the authority to make political determinations about the impacts or injury as a result of greenhouse emissions.

Around 400 indigenous villagers of the city of Kivalina, Alaska, claim they were forced to relocate due to floods destroying their homes and business — floods that they feel were a result of global warming.

The villagers, with the help of Steve Susman, filed a lawsuit against the big oil companies whose business operations, they felt, were responsible for the global warming that lead to the destruction of their city.

The oil companies in question included ExxonMobil, BP America, Chevron and other big oil producers.

Are you starting to see a pattern? Why would a Texas representative file a brief in an Alaskan case? Why would

Lamar Smith want to stop the court from determining damages that were a result of global warming?

Once the head of the Ethics Committee and currently up for re-election, Smith needs to answer what appears to be a quid pro quo issue.

So my questions are, given the clear conflict of interest issues at play — which naturally arise when the government is in a position to pick winners and losers and the future viability of private entities — will Lamar

Smith resolve the issues around questionable campaign donations? Will he explain his opposition to the ACES bill? Will the Texas Ethic Commission investigate these issues?

C.D. Kirven is an activist and the Lambda Literary Award-nominated author of the book What Goes Around Comes Back Around. She is also a former GetEqual member and co-founder of Get Equal Now, a founding board member of DFW Pride Movement, an artist and a filmmaker who created the first LGBT cell phone documentary about same-sex intimate partner abuse. She has an online clothing line at Zazzle.com/cdkirven and is editing her online reality show about her life called: SOULPRINT. She is currently working on a screenplay, her second book and a documentary. E-mail her at cdkirven@aol.com.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition October 08, 2010.

—  Kevin Thomas

What does Ken Mehlman have to say about his former boss, anti-gay Texas Rep. Lamar Smith?

Congressman Lamar Smith, R-Texas

If we could ask Ken Mehlman only one question, it might just be something about his one-time boss Lamar Smith.

Mehlman, the formerly anti-gay former RNC chair who recently came out as gay, served as Smith’s legislative director in the 1990s. Smith, meanwhile, seems to be vying for the title of No. 1 homophobe in Congress.

• In August, Smith sponsored a resolution to condemn U.S. District Judge Vaughn Walker’s decision declaring Proposition 8 unconstitutional.

• Also in August, Smith announced plans to introduce federal legislation that would define marriage as between one man and one woman.

• And now, Smith is asking a federal court to allow him to intervene in a case to help defend the Defense of Marriage Act, according to Keen News Service. The Alliance Defense Fund announced Tuesday it had filed motions on behalf of Smith asking to intervene in two cases in which a U.S. district judge in Massachusetts declared DOMA unconstitutional. The ADF argues on behalf of Smith that the Obama administration isn’t doing enough to defend the 1996 law, which some gay-rights activists don’t think the administration should be defending at all.

Interestingly, Smith’s Democratic opponent in November, Lainey Melnick, touts her opposition to DOMA prominently in the issues section of her website:

“It will be up to the [Supreme Court] to decide if the Defense of Marriage Act violates the Constitution by forcing the states to discriminate against same-sex couples,” Melnick writes. “This decision could uphold that federal encroachment over the areas where states have sovereign jurisdiction, such as with marriage, is unconstitutional and leaves marriage in the hands of the states. This question is to be answered by the courts, not the Congress. But I do believe that the US Constitution provides equal rights for all people, including same sex couples who want to get married, who want to own property, who want to make medical decisions, who want to share insurance expenses, who want to immigrate, who want to work, who want to serve in our military, and who deserve to live their lives free of discrimination.”

Unfortunately, Smith represents a pretty safe Republican district in Central Texas, and Melnick is facing some long odds. But who knows, maybe Smith’s one-time legislative director, Ken Mehlman, has something to tell us about him.

—  John Wright

Mehlman’s out, but will the LGBT community forgive him his past?

Liberal activists still blame Mehlman for some of the GOP’s most anti-gay strategies, but gay Republicans criticize them for failing to ‘walk the talk’ of inclusion


Tammye Nash  |  Senior Editor nash@dallasvoice.com

ON THE CAMPAIGN TRAIL | Then-Republican National Committee Chair Ken Mehlman hits the campaign trail with U.S. Rep. Jean Schmidt, an Ohio Republican, in October 2006. Mehlman came out as a gay man last month, but many in the LGBT community have refused to welcome him into their ranks because of his past support of anti-gay politicians, like Schmidt who has consistently voted against LGBT-friendly legislation. (Nati Harnik/Associated Press)

On the surface, it would seem that having a former chair of the Republican National Committee, someone with close ties to a number of high-level Republican officeholders and party officials, come out as a gay man and a same-sex marriage supporter would be a real coup.

After all, who could be better at helping sway politicians and policymakers away from their anti-gay stances than a man who helped them reach their positions of power in the first place.
But when Ken Mehlman, former RNC chair and 2004 campaign manager for George W. Bush, announced last month that he is gay and intends now to be an advocate for marriage equality, he wasn’t exactly welcomed with open arms by the LGBT community overall.

It was during Mehlman’s tenure as Bush’s campaign manager that, LGBT activists say, the Republicans used LGBT issues, specifically same-sex marriage, as a tool to whip up fear among right-wing conservatives, driving them to the polls to give Bush a second term in the Oval Office.

Although Republican Karl Rove is widely seen as the architect of that strategy, liberal activists aren’t willing to give Mehlman a pass for the role he played in that election, when right-wingers in 11 states got constitutional amendments banning gay marriage on their ballots — and all 11 passed.

Mehlman has also previously worked as chief of staff for U.S. Rep. Kay Granger of Fort Worth and as legislative director for U.S. Rep. Lamar Smith of San Antonio. Both Texas congressmembers have consistently voted against LGBT-positive legislation, and Smith last month announced his intention to introduce legislation this fall to define marriage as between a man and a woman.

Mehlman himself acknowledged, in an interview with Marc Ambinder published Aug. 25 in The Atlantic, that if he had come out earlier he might have been able to fend off some of the GOP’s most anti-gay efforts and rhetoric. And Ambinder said Mehlman had told him previously, in private, off-the-record conversations, about working behind the scenes to “beat back efforts to attack same-sex marriage.”

Mehlman told Ambiner that he had only begun coming to terms with his sexual orientation earlier this year, and that he “really wished” he had reached this point earlier in his career so that he could have fought against the federal marriage amendment pushed by right-wing Republicans in 2004, and, as RNC chair, “reached out to the gay community in the way I reached out to African-Americans.”

Mehlman, through Ambinder’s interview, asked for, if not support, “at least … understanding” from the LGBT community. But some aren’t willing to give him that, either.

Erin Moore, president of Stonewall Democrats of Dallas, this week summed up the feelings of many on the left.

“He’s just another closeted gay Republican that came out. But more than that, he was a closeted gay Republican who worked against the community,” Moore said. “That’s my biggest issue. You can’t work against the community, and then come out and say, ‘Just kidding,’ and think that makes everything OK. When you have done a crime, you can’t erase it by doing community service.”

Moore said Mehlman’s new-found LGBT activism is “too little, too late.”

She said, “If there is a rosy side to this, then I’ll be happy to see it. But I don’t think it will happen. If he thought he could change hearts and minds, why didn’t he do it when he had the power to do it? When he was in a seat of power and was gay, he hid it and worked against our community. Now that he is outside that seat of power, I don’t think he will have the influence to make a real difference.”

Michael Mitchell, now president of the National Stonewall Democrats, was working with Equality Utah in 2004. The marriage amendment there, Mitchell said, “literally ripped families apart. It caused suicides. The Republican Party pushed those amendments in as many places as they could. There are people in Utah today who are still not talking to each other because of that, and I am sorry, but I implicate the Republican Party in that. And Ken Mehlman was part of it.”

Mitchell said that in his work with the GOP and the Bush campaign, Mehlman “spent a lot of time putting a stamp of approval on some really heinous policies, on pushing ways of thinking that have changed the way people treat LGBT people.”

Mitchell also noted, as have other liberal activists, that Mehlman has continued to donate to candidates and officeholders who are stridently anti-gay.

According to the website OpenSecrets.org, which tracks campaign contributions, Mehlman has donated a total of $20,200 to nine different political candidates, plus $5,000 to the Every Republican is Crucial political action committee, for a total of $25,200 over the past 12 months.

All nine candidates are Republicans, and of them, five are described as “hard-core conservatives” who have consistently voted against LGBT issues, by the nonprofit, non-partison website OnTheIssues.org. Granger is one of those five.

Two more of the nine were described as “centrists,” by OnTheIssues.org, and an eighth, Sen. John McCain of Arizon, is described as a “populist conservative.”

The ninth is Kelly Ayotte, candidate for the U.S. Senate from New Hampshire. Because Ayotte has not served in the Senate yet, she is not listed on OnTheIssues.org. However, in her former position as New Hampshire attorney general, she opposed efforts there to legalize same-sex marriage, and resigned her office when Gov. John Lynch signed the marriage equality legislation into law.

Mehlman made six of those 10 political contributions since Jan. 1 this year, including contributions  to Rep. Mark Kirk of Illinois, Sen. Scott Brown of Massachusetts, Rep. Michael Castle of Delware, McCain and Ayotte.

His most recent donation to Granger, for $2,400, was made Dec. 10, 2009. Records on OpenSecret.org do not show any donations to Smith.

Mitchell said, “Ken Mehlman continues to give money to conservatives who are working against the best interest of the LGBT community. How quickly can a tiger change his stripes, is my question.

“Yes, he’s come out. I applaud him for that. I am sure he has a bit of influence still in the Republican Party, and if that shifts the debate and takes gay rights off the target list for the Republicans, then that’s great,” Mitchell added. “If Ken Mehlman can help accomplish that, then bully for him. But I think there’s a lot of making up he has to do.”

The gay Republican view

But those on the opposite end of the LGBT political spectrum said this week that those who continue to condemn Mehlman and refuse to accept him into the LGBT activist community are, in effect, cutting off their noses to spite their faces.

“I say, let’s move forward and bring about reconciliation,” said R. Clarke Cooper, executive director of the national Log Cabin Republicans. “Yes there are a lot of folks within the broader LGBT community that are not happy [with Mehlman over his previous work with the GOP]. That’s understandable. But I say to them, remember where you were at certain stages of your own coming out process.

“I am not discounting the past. We shouldn’t ignore it. But I would offer a gentle reminder that we preach to people to come out … . Not every person in the LGBT community is a Democrat.”

Cooper said he sees “something cannibalistic” in the way LGBT liberals have been attacking Mehlman since he came out, and suggested that to “continuously vilify Ken could delay those conservative young gay Republicans in coming out themselves. … People are on record now saying stuff about Ken that could be used against our community, and this is coming from bloggers and advocates in the community who have a record of calling for tolerance and reconciliation. That stuff is out there now. You can’t just hit delete.”

Cooper also said LGBT liberals shouldn’t castigate Mehlman now for donations he made at a time when he wasn’t out as a gay man, either publicly or to himself. And, he added, Mehlman’s continuing donations to Republican candidates will help keep open doors of opportunity.

“Look where he’s going now,” Cooper said of Mehlman. “I know he has reached out to Log Cabin and to other entities to say, ‘This is what I want to do moving forward. Tell me where I can be the most helpful.’ We would be foolish to refuse that.”

Cooper compared Mehlman’s situation to his own experience. Cooper worked in the Bush administration, and has also worked for Republican legislators such as Rep. Iliana Ross-Lehtinen, a moderate Republican from Florida. Although he was not closeted during those years, Cooper said, “There were people I worked with who didn’t know I was gay because I didn’t lead with that. But I never hid that part of me.”

Now, because of the relationships he built with those lawmakers in the past, Cooper said he has a better chance of making headway toward swaying their positions on LGBT issues. As does Mehlman.

“Both of us has a certain amount of credibility with the conservatives. Since I took this job [with Log Cabin] three months ago, there have been people I have met with that I know the only reason I even got in the door is because I have that ‘R’ next to my name, or because they remember me from past working relationships. And getting in the door is the first step,” Cooper said.

He also said that activists who refuse to work with or support candidates who don’t vote with the LGBT community in every instance are making a mistake.

“There are Republicans who are supportive on [the Employment Non-Discrimination Act] but they are not going to vote with us on marriage. Are we supposed to throw away any chance of making progress on at least one issue because somebody isn’t with us on every issue,” he said. “People like [U.S. Rep.] Pete Sessions and [U.S. Sen.] John Cornyn [both of Texas] who have told us, ‘We’re not going to be 100 percent with Log Cabin. But let’s start talking about where we do concur, and move forward from there.’ That is a vast shift. And [Mehlman] helps push that it even further forward.”

Cooper recalled one visit to a member of the Texas delegation in Congress who asked him, “When did you become a gay?” That prompted, he said, “a serious conversation” about the fact that sexual orientation is not a choice.

“If [Mehlman] can do the same thing with the people he knows, even better. That’s why it is important to come out. That chips away at the argument that sexual orientation is a choice, that it’s deviant and only a small subset of society. The more people who come out, the more it shows how diverse the LGBT community is. And [Mehlman] being out and available to answer those kinds of questions can only help.”

Rob Schlein, president of Log Cabin Republicans of Dallas, was even more adamant.

“I think it’s great that [Mehlman] has figured out who he is and that we now have a high-profile advocate” in the Republican Party, Schlein said. “I am disappointed but not surprised that people in the gay community are giving him so much grief about what happened before. They blame him for things that happened when he was not out, even to himself, and things that he probably had no real say in. Sometimes even the RNC chairman just has to be a good soldier and execute the strategies that other people have laid out.”

And while Cooper offered “a gentle reminder” to those on the left to think about their own coming out process, Schlein was much less gentle.

“They yearn to talk about inclusion. They yearn for acceptance, and they yearn for grace. But when it’s time to show that acceptance and grace to someone else, they don’t walk the talk,” he declared.

“Anyone who would criticize [Mehlman] for what he did before he was out needs to remember what they did before they were out, what it was like for them. If you want acceptance and tolerance and inclusion, then you have to actually practice acceptance and tolerance and inclusion. I say there is a lot of hypocrisy coming from the left.”

Neither Granger nor Smith, nor any of the aides in their offices, returned calls from Dallas Voice seeking comments for this story.

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

—  Michael Stephens

Former RNC Chair Ken Mehlman, who headed Bush’s 2004 campaign, comes out as gay

Ken Mehlman

Gay blogger Mike Rogers, a pretty reliable source when it comes to these things, is reporting that former Republican National Committee Chairman Ken Mehlman, who served as President George W. Bush’s 2004 campaign manager, is set to come out of the closet — in an Atlantic magazine column to be published Friday or early next week. Before leading what Rogers calls “the most homophobic national campaign in history,” Mehlman served as chief of staff to Texas Congresswoman Kay Granger and legislative director for Texas Congressman Lamar Smith. From Rogers: 

So, how can Ken Mehlman redeem himself? I want to hear from Ken that he is sorry for being the architect of the 2004 Bush reelection campaign. I want to hear from Ken that he is sorry for his role in developing strategy that resulted in George W. Bush threatening to veto ENDA or any bill containing hate crimes laws. I want to hear from Ken that he is sorry for the pressing of two Federal Marriage Amendments as political tools. I want to hear from Ken that he is sorry for developing the 72-hour strategy, using homophobic churches to become political arms of the GOP before Election Day.

And those state marriage amendments. I want to hear him apologize for every one of those, too.

And then there is one other little thing. You see, while you and I had the horrible feelings of being treated so poorly by our President, while teens were receiving the messaging ‘gay is bad’ giving them ‘permission’ to gay bash, while our rights were being stripped away state by state, Ken was out there laughing all the way to the bank. So, if Ken is really sorry, and he very well may be, then all he needs to do is sell his condo and donate the funds to the causes he worked against so hard for all those years. He’s done a lot of damage to a lot of organizations, while making a lot of money. A LOT of money. It’s time to put his money where his mouth is. Ken Mehlman is sitting in a $3,770,000.00 (that’s $3.77 million) condo in Chelsea while we have lost our right to marry in almost 40 states.

THEN, and only then, should Mehlman be welcomed into our community.

Read more at blogactive.com.

UPDATE: The Atlantic’s story is now up:

“It’s taken me 43 years to get comfortable with this part of my life,” Mehlman said. “Everybody has their own path to travel, their own journey, and for me, over the past few months, I’ve told my family, friends, former colleagues, and current colleagues, and they’ve been wonderful and supportive. The process has been something that’s made me a happier and better person. It’s something I wish I had done years ago.”

—  John Wright

Texas Congressman Lamar Smith plans to file ‘one man-one woman’ marriage bill this fall

Congressman Lamar Smith, R-Texas

Texas Congressman Lamar Smith, a Republican who represents a portion of Central Texas that includes, believe it or not, part of Travis County, is once again showing his way-right conservative roots — not to mention his lack of knowledge on the basic facts of world history.

According to the Christian news service One News Now, Smith has announced that he intends to introduce federal legislation this fall to define marriage as being between one man and one woman.

In making the announcement, Smith told One News Now: “I think it’s important for Congress to go on record saying that we need to respect the traditional definition of marriage — to recognize a standard that has served all civilizations for thousands of years.” And that’s why I made the comment about his lack of knowledge of basic historical fact. Even the tiniest bit of research can show that the “one man, one woman” model is actually a fairly recent thing, in historical terms.

Anyway, Smith also said he will introduce the legislation in response to Judge Vaughn Walker’s ruling on the California Prop 8 case, because his constituents are “somewhere between disturbed and outraged” by Walker’s ruling. And Smith poo-pooed the idea that LGBT people might have the constitutional right to marry whomever they want, saying, “Can you think of anything further from the minds of those who wrote the Constitution?”

(Actually, Congressman, I can think of several things that would horrify those authors of the Constitution, not the least of which would be seeing you and others like you use government to force religious beliefs on U.S. citizens.)

I am thinking we probably have some Instant Tea readers in Smith’s congressional district, District 21, which includes portions of Bexar and Travis counties and all of Comal, Real, Kerr, Bandera, Kendall and Blanco counties. So if you live in his district, you might want to contact his office, let him know that you are one of his constituents and tell him exactly what you think of his plan to introduce this legislation.

You can go here for contact information.

—  admin

Obama to visit Dallas on Monday for fundraiser

President Barack Obama

On Monday, President Barack Obama will be in Dallas to raise money for the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee.

The Dallas County Democratic Party provided few details on the dinner other to say it will be a $15,000-per-plate affair at the home of attorney Russell Budd.

Budd is a partner in the law firm Baron & Budd. His late law partner Fred Baron was national campaign treasurer for John Edwards in 2008.

Few of this year’s candidates for Congress or statewide office said they plan to attend. Only lieutenant governor nominee Linda Chavez-Thompson expressed interest.

Katy Bacon, spokesperson for the Bill White campaign, said he doesn’t plan to attend.

“He will be in Midland, Abilene and Johnson County that day,” she said.

But she said he’s not avoiding the president.

“He has talked to him by phone from time to time,” she said.

She said that with just 90 days left until the election, White needs to get out and meet as many Texans as possible. She said the campaign is on track and that White out-raised Gov. Rick Perry three reporting periods in a row and currently has $3 million more cash on hand than the incumbent.

“When I heard President Obama would be visiting Dallas the week of August 9th, I immediately thought that he intended to come to my fundraiser on Wednesday, Aug. 11,” joked openly gay Dallas County District Clerk Gary Fitzsimmons. “Regrettably that has turned out not to be the case.”

Fitzsimmons said Texas Democrats have historically been very generous donors to congressional campaigns around the country and that the president is doing everything he can to ensure Democratic candidates are competitive in the fall.

“It is a shame, however, that the president will not be having a public event in North Texas this time around,” he said. “President Obama is enormously popular here in Dallas County.”

Congressional candidates were not invited to the events. Lainey Melnick, a Democrat running against Republican incumbent Lamar Smith in Austin, said she wanted to attend but was told she would have to pay $30,000 a couple.

Erin Moore, president of Stonewall Democrats of Dallas, said she expected Republicans to have something to say about Obama’s visit. But she said that Dallas is still “blue” and supports him.

“He’s not coming to stump,” she said. “They’re down here raising money and we’re a big ATM. Fifteen thousand dollars a plate is worth a stop in Dallas.”

Moore said White and other top Democrats know Dallas’ big donors already and that attending a fundraising event for the national Senate candidates wouldn’t be a good use of campaign time.

—  David Taffet