House GOP caucus endorses Straus for speaker; LGBT community breathes sigh of relief

Although more conservative factions in the state had been calling for the ouster of Rep. Joe Straus as speaker of the Texas House, the House Republican Caucus today endorsed Straus — known as a moderate Republican — for the seat.

Rep. Joe Straus

That news comes as something of a relief for LGBT advocates who had feared that someone further to the right would be chosen as speaker and given the chance to control the legislative agenda. Back in November, Reps. Warren Chisum of Pampa and Ken Paxton of McKinney both announced they were running for speaker. Chisum has long been known as one of the most anti-gay members of the House, routinely introducing and/or supporting bills on such topics as preventing LGBT people from becoming foster or adoptive parents. Chisum also was the primary author of the constitutional amendment passed in 2005 to ban same-sex marriage in Texas. Paxton was a co-author of the amendment and also voted in favor of banning LGBT foster and adoptive parents.

Among those fighting the hardest to defeat Straus’ bid for another term as speaker were leaders of the anti-gay Texas Eagle Forum, who had warned lawmakers the group would base half its score for legislators on who they supported for speaker. Others who have been outspoken in opposing Straus are Liberty Institute President and CEO Kelly Shackelford, Heritage Alliance President Richard Ford and Texas Eagle Forum founder Cathie Adams.

And in December, The Texas Observer reported that John Cook, a member of the State Republican Executive Committee, said he was campaigning against Straus — who is Jewish and attends a synagogue that supports LGBT rights — because, “I got into politics to put Christian conservatives into office.” Cook also accused Straus of being pro-choice and pro-gay rights.

The Houston Chronicle reported today that 70 of the 100 lawmakers attending the House Republican Caucus meeting today voted to back Straus for speaker. The Chronicle report noted that the caucus vote is non-binding but “virtually guarantees Straus’ re-election Tuesday when the Texas Legislature opens a new session.”

—  admin

SREC member wants to oust Speaker Joe Straus because he’s Jewish, doesn’t hate gays enough

Speaker Joe Straus

We’ve already told you about the anti-gay forces that have undoubtedly been working behind the scenes in the race for speaker of the Texas House, but now it looks like they may be starting to emerge publicly. The Texas Observer posted a story Friday in which John Cook, a member of the State Republican Executive Committee, explained his opposition to Speaker Joe Straus. Cook’s biggest problem with Straus, apparently, is that he’s Jewish: “I got into politics to put Christian conservatives into office,” Cook says. But Cook also accuses Straus of being pro-choice and pro-gay rights:

His opposition to Straus, he said, was rooted largely in his belief that the current Speaker is both pro-choice and pro-gay rights. “He’s a pro choice person basically,” Cook said. (Earlier in his career, Straus did vote against banning gay couples from serving as foster parents and against a ban on late-term abortions, but Kyleen Wright, president of Texans for Life, has been one of his biggest supporters.) Cook called the Republicans who worked with Democrats to elect Straus “turncoat RINOs.” (Republicans in Name Only.)

As the legislative session draws closer, it’ll be interesting to see whether the so-called tea party folks who oppose Straus start to escalate their attacks based on his 2005 vote against the gay foster parenting ban. Particularly since Straus has said he voted against the ban because it would have cost the state a lot of money and gone against his libertarian principles. From a January 2009 interview in which Texas Monthly asked Straus about the vote:

STRAUS: …  I’m not supportive of adoption by homosexual couples, but the whole issue of government with a fiscal note attached and government employees investigating people’s private lives caused me a great deal of heartburn. I remember looking at the expenditure of taxpayer money for that and it was a lot. And it required what? Going into people’s homes? Watching the way people dress or the way they talk? I have some pretty strong libertarian leanings, and sometimes that causes a conflict. What gave me confidence to hit the button I hit was that I was very certain that Barry Goldwater would have done the same thing.

—  John Wright

Texas GOP leaders consider call to pardon DeLay

Former Congressman Tom DeLay high-fives staff members outside his Washington, D.C. office back in April 2006 — before he was convicted on felony money laundering charges

A week ago, on Friday, Nov. 6, John Wright posted this item on Instant Tea about the conviction of former Texas Congressman Tom DeLay on felony charges of money laundering for illegally funneling corporate dollars into Texas state legislative races in 2002, and how Travis County’s lesbian district attorney, Rosemary Lehmberg, helped get that conviction.

Now comes word, from the Austin American-Statesman, that members of Texas’ State Republican Executive Committee plan this weekend to consider a resolution calling on Gov. Rick Perry to pardon DeLay. The proposal — submitted by SREC member Clint Moore of Spring — was to be considered today by the SREC’s Resolutions Committee and, if approved, then advance for consideration by the full SREC.

DeLay, in case you don’t remember, represented a Houston-area House district from 1984 to 2005, and was known as one of Congress’ most anti-gay members.

Although I was rather stunned to read that the SREC is considering calling on Perry to pardon DeLay, I guess I really shouldn’t be surprised. After all, that’s pretty much par for the course for the party whose state platform calls for LGBT people to be declared criminals.

The resolution uses the word “desperately” a lot in describing how former Travis County District Attorney Ronnie Earle Jones worked to get DeLay indicted, and calls the trial that culminated with DeLay’s conviction “a mockery of a show trial.” The resolution says Perry should grant DeLay a complete pardon on all charges “to end the absurd political circus and gross abuse of our judicial system by Earle and his successor, as well as the corrupt Democrat judges of that county,” and concludes by calling on the Texas Legislature to “permanently eliminate the authority of the Travis County District Attorney’s office to prosecute state and federal elected officials like Tom Delay, due to the grossly politicized environment of Travis County, as well as to devise a special prosecutor system for cases involving state and federal elected officials, to be overseen and administered jointly by the Attorney General and the Governor of Texas.”

Go ahead and read the full text of the resolution after the jump.

—  admin