Rewriting history

Recently outed State Board of Education member George Clayton vies to become the first candidate elected in Texas as an openly gay Republican

Clayton.George.Cover

UNIQUELY QUALIFIED | Clayton, shown at a board meeting last year, is the only educator in the race. He serves as special projects coordinator at Thomas Jefferson High School in Dallas. (Associated Press)

JOHN WRIGHT  |  Senior Editor

There was a moment when George Clayton considered throwing in the towel.

It was last November and Clayton, a first-term Republican member of Texas’ State Board of Education from Richardson, had become the subject of an apparent whisper campaign concerning his sexual orientation.

After the 62-year-old Clayton put an end to the rumors once and for all by publicly acknowledging he’s gay, commenters on news sites predicted he wouldn’t stand a chance of getting re-elected in District 12, which includes all of Collin County, one of the most conservative urban areas in the nation.

And Clayton was starting to believe it.

“There was a moment after this broke that I thought well, I’m not going to pull out, but maybe I’ll just suspend the campaign,” Clayton told Dallas Voice in an exclusive interview last week.

Clayton called a meeting with his brain trust, which includes his campaign manager and partner of 34 years, Jim Southworth, as well as his sister, Dallas County District Judge Teresa Hawthorne.

“They were against me pulling out altogether,” Clayton recalled. “So I said OK, let’s move on with this. We’ll go down the road, and if it gets really, really rough, then we’ll meet again, but it hasn’t.”

In fact, Clayton said his sexual orientation hasn’t come up at all on the campaign trail since then, even during the many candidate forums he’s attended in the district.

Clayton, believed to be the first openly gay Republican officeholder in Texas’ history, said he realizes his sexual orientation may hurt him among some primary voters on May 29 — when he faces three GOP challengers. But he said he’s also heard from plenty of Republicans in the district — which has a population of 1.7 million and also includes portions of northern Dallas County — who are totally supportive.

“It’s amazing, and it has been encouraging, because I didn’t want to spend the rest of the campaign having that discussion, and that’s where it would have gone if I hadn’t said anything,” Clayton said. “What they were hoping is that I would try to cover it up, Nixon-ize the damn thing, or deny it, lie about it, stonewall, circumvent it in some way.

“All that would do is create more problems for me, and I’ve got plenty of those already,” he added. “And if it killed off the campaign completely, and there was always that risk, then it killed it off. But I never thought that it would, and it hasn’t.”

Deep political roots

Clayton said he and Southworth first devised their strategy for dealing with potential rumors about his sexual orientation — by responding honestly and forcefully — when he ran for City Council in Tampa, Fla., in 1987.

“We had had this discussion as far back as Tampa, that when somebody comes up and attempts to slap me down, the best thing I can do is slap back harder than they have,” he said.

Clayton wouldn’t need the strategy in the 1987 race. Although the issue didn’t come up, he lost anyway.

“I had no business on that council,” he said. “I didn’t have a clue what I was doing.”

Regardless of his defeat in that first campaign, Clayton had always seemed destined to run for public office.

As a student at Garland High School, he was elected president of his sophomore, junior and senior classes.

In 1968, at age 19, Clayton became the youngest delegate to the Democratic National Convention, representing Dallas.

“The Democratic Party was somewhat different in those days,” Clayton said. “When George McGovern and Jane Fonda took control of the party, it didn’t fit me anymore. I switched to the Republican Party long before the Reagan revolution, when it became very fashionable to do that.”

Clayton said he knew he was gay from a very young age, and although he never hid it, he “didn’t get on the rooftop and announce it either.”

Clayton.George.Southworth

34 YEARS AND COUNTING  | Clayton, right, and his partner, Jim Southworth, met at Throckmorton Mining Co. in 1978. Southworth also serves as Clayton’s campaign manager. (John Wright/Dallas Voice)

He and Southworth met in 1978 at Throckmorton Mining Co., which was the first gay bar in the Cedar Springs area — on a Tuesday night.

“I never went out on a weeknight,” Clayton recalled. “He walked in, and we started talking, and we’ve been talking ever since. One day we’re going to get it settled.”

A year later, the couple moved to Florida, where Clayton earned a bachelor’s degree in philosophy from the University of South Florida.

He became heavily involved in the Hillsborough County Republican Party in Tampa, serving on the Executive Committee and chairing many fundraisers. Although Clayton and Southworth regularly attended party functions together, there was never an uproar.

“I just went about my business like everyone else did,” Clayton said. “I thought I was entitled to. I still do.”

After the couple moved back to Dallas in 1999, Clayton decided to leave a career in real estate to become a teacher at North Dallas High School.

“It was fairly obvious from the time I walked into a building that something serious had happened from the time I left public school,” Clayton said.

“The primary thing that had happened was that management of education had been wrestled from teachers and handed to politicians in Austin, Texas — and you talk about mismanaging something …”

Clayton spent 12 years at North Dallas, where he served as English department chair and academic coordinator, before recently being named special projects coordinator at Thomas Jefferson High School. Among other things, Clayton said he now helps prepare teachers for changes in testing requirements.

Officials in Austin, Clayton said, have created an enormous “testing industry” that has “taken over” public education in Texas.

“It’s marginalized the teachers, but in some cases it’s almost made the teacher obsolete,” he said. “The teacher is now a testing coordinator, a testing facilitator, and that’s when I looked around and said, ‘Where do I go?’ The first thought is, get in politics.”

As a district employee, Clayton was barred from running for DISD’s Board of Trustees. So he turned his attention to the State Board of Education, which writes K-12 curriculum for Texas schools.

Shocking upset

Clayton quickly discovered that his SBOE representative in District 12, Geraldine “Tincy” Miller, had never been an educator. Miller had served on the SBOE for 26 years without opposition.

Miller.Tincy

OUT FOR REVENGE | Geraldine ‘Tincy’ Miller, shown at a board meeeting in 2008, served for 26 years with no opposition. After losing to Clayton in 2010, the 74-year-old Miller reportedly plans to spend more than $50,000 of her own money this year in her bid to win back the seat. (Associated Press)

Now 74, Miller is married to Vance Miller, the son of late Dallas real estate mogul Henry S. Miller Jr.

Clayton said Ms. Miller had a sense of entitlement about the SBOE seat, acting as though she owned it.

“She didn’t take me seriously,” he said.

It was a combination of Miller’s complacency and his strong grassroots campaign, Clayton said, that propelled him to a shocking upset in the 2010 primary. His sexual orientation never came up, and he defeated Miller by a margin of 3,000 votes, or 52 percent to 48 percent.

“I had so many teachers out working for me, and many of them Democrats,” Clayton said. “They saw a need for an educator on the board, especially from this huge urban area.

“She’s never worked in a public school system,” he said of Miller. “She’s never had to. She’s never lived on $45,000 a year. She’s never had to. … I’m not begrudging her her money — I’d like to have some myself — but I do resent a multimillionaire thinking she can represent teachers who are making $45,000 a year and are constantly being threatened with their jobs.”

Clayton said his victory devastated Miller, who didn’t respond to a request to be interviewed for this story.

“I’m told she practically went catatonic,” he said of her reaction on election night.

Two years later, Clayton said Miller has set out to win back her seat at all costs, vowing to spend more than $50,000 of her own money on the race.

Two other Republican candidates are also challenging Clayton — Gail Spurlock and Pam Little.

Lois Parrot is unopposed in the Democratic Primary, but the district is heavily Republican, and the GOP nominee is all but certain to win the seat.

Clayton estimated his three GOP challengers will spend a combined total of $100,000, while he expects to raise less than $10,000.

“That’s two and a half teachers’ salaries for a government position that pays nothing,” he said. “I have to ask myself just what it is I’ve done wrong.”

Whisper campaign

Dan Quinn, a spokesman for the Texas Freedom Network, a progressive group that monitors the SBOE, said unlike in the years leading up to Clayton’s election— when the board drew national attention for its battles over science and U.S. history — there haven’t been many controversial votes in his 16 months on the board.

Clayton has consistently been a “swing” or moderate Republican vote, Quinn said. The SBOE is currently made up of 11 Republicans — six of whom are hard-right social conservatives who vote as a bloc — and four Democrats.

“He takes his job seriously as a representative for the people in his district,” Quinn said. “George Clayton’s votes have generally been with the five traditional conservatives.”

Quinn said in 2010, District 12 was “the last race we were looking at,” as TFN simply assumed Miller would win. Although the group doesn’t endorse in primaries, Quinn condemned the gay-baiting tactics used against Clayton.

“Quite obviously whether or not he’s gay makes no difference at all in how he does his job as a State Board of Education member, and it’s appalling that right-wing groups up there would think that this is an appropriate thing to do, to smear somebody in such a way, as if being gay in the first place is something to be ashamed of,” Quinn said.

Rumors about Clayton’s sexual orientation first surfaced on blogs as early as October 2010, but they didn’t gain traction until late last year, when the president of the Golden Corridor Republican Women, Susan Fletcher, sent an email to board members reporting on an interview she’d done with Miller.

The GCRW has members in Collin, Dallas and Denton counties, and Fletcher’s interview with Miller focused on hot-button issues including evolution and abstinence-only education. At the bottom of her email to board members, Fletcher wrote of Clayton: “What are his living arrangements in Richardson? With whom does he live? It’s not appropriate to comment further — but this needs to be investigated.”

In Clayton’s response sent to media outlets confirming that he’s gay, he alleged that in addition to the GCRW, Miller herself was behind the whisper campaign. He now says he has no concrete proof of that, but was basing it on the fact that Miller was a party to the interview with Fletcher.

“Anything like that has to start somewhere, but I steer clear of that nonsense,” Clayton said. “I just go out and talk about education. Maybe Tincy didn’t instigate it, but she planned to take advantage of it. I was not going to allow that to happen. I was not going to give her any room to wiggle.”

Fletcher, meanwhile, claims her comments about Clayton were taken out of context. Fletcher told Dallas Voice her suggestion that Clayton needed to be investigated was related to his “position on sex education in the classroom and whether or not his personal life indicated there may be an agenda.”

“Because it was a private e-mail, an explanation of what needed to be investigated was not necessary,” Fletcher wrote in an email last week. “BOE candidates should expect these kinds of questions regarding their educational philosophy — as one’s personal life/world view frequently influence[s] the policy decisions they make. As a constituent of District 12, I am advocating for an abstinence only curriculum when it comes to sex education. I do not want the school teaching about heterosexual or homosexual topics, as that opens the door for an unhealthy lifestyle.”

Donna Garner, a socially conservative activist from Waco who’s been involved in SBOE races, issued a statement withdrawing her endorsement of Clayton after learning he was gay.

“If Clayton is indeed a homosexual, then we as voters must be concerned about re-electing him to the SBOE since the Board will soon begin the process of writing and adopting Health curriculum requirements for all Texas public school students,” Garner said in the November statement.
Contacted last week, Garner told Dallas Voice she had “nothing more to say on this issue after having made my initial statement.”

“Gail Spurlock is the candidate we are supporting because she is an authentic conservative and holds our same traditional values,” Garner said in an email.

“When I say ‘we,’ I mean those people across Texas who believe that schools should teach knowledge-based academic skills, largely objectively tested, instead of making the public schools a place for social engineering,” she added.

Spurlock’s campaign didn’t respond to a request for an interview. Little, meanwhile, said she would have to “respectfully decline” an interview with Dallas Voice.

Running on his record

Clayton said Spurlock, who’s running on an ultraconservative tea party platform, doesn’t even have a college degree, while Little currently works as a clerk at a fence company.

“If I’m more qualified, it’s because I know more about curriculum education,” Clayton said. “It really disturbs me to know that one of these women, gracious as they are, will go on that board, but it could happen.”

At candidate forums, Clayton said his challengers typically begin by declaring that they’re the only “real Republican” or “true conservative” in the race, before continuing the narrative throughout their remarks.

Clayton, meanwhile, focuses on education, and unlike the others, he’s able to provide real-world examples based on his experience.

“That’s why at the end of these meetings, I always come away feeling a little better,” Clayton said. “They’re relying on their political agenda to see them through, which tells me that if they get on the board, it’s their political agenda that’s going to be their priority on the board.”

Even though Clayton’s sexual orientation hasn’t come up at the candidate forums, he realizes people may be discussing it privately. But he said he has no way of knowing that, and even if he did, there isn’t much he could do.

“I’m going to have to ride this thing through,” he said. “I’m going to rely on the good hearts and the intellect of the voters in my precincts, and Collin County especially, and rely on their intelligence to know the difference between a qualified person to be on the board, and people who have political ambitions and political agendas.

“Do I think it will hurt me? The answer is I’m sure it will among some voters, and maybe some voters who voted for me last time up in Collin County,” Clayton said. “But do I think I still have a chance? I think so.”

TFN’s Quinn said Clayton’s “going to have to be tough” and focus on his record, as well as what he wants to accomplish on the board going forward.

Quinn added he has no doubt the whisper campaign against Clayton is continuing.

“There may not be real public things said or done, but I can guarantee you that’s going on behind the scenes,” Quinn said. “One would hope we’ve reached the point in our society that people can run for office and be judged on their positions on the issues and not their sexual orientation. The unfortunate thing is, the Republican Party in Texas is extremely homophobic.”

Denis Dison, a spokesman for the Washington, D.C.-based Gay and Lesbian Victory Fund, said the problem isn’t necessarily confined to Texas.

Of the 530 openly LGBT officials the Victory Fund has identified nationwide, just 20 are members of the GOP.

“Republicans are a fraction of the out officials in the country, which is something we’d like to see change,” Dison said. “Even though you have plenty of people working in politics who are Republican and gay, the idea that they would be out about that is an even newer phenomenon in the GOP than in the Democratic Party.”

Since being outed, Clayton has spoken at a meeting of the gay group Log Cabin Republicans, which also held a fundraiser for him at his home. But he’s declined to seek the endorsement of the Victory Fund, saying he didn’t want to run as “the gay candidate.”

“True equality to me comes without having to precede your name with a label,” he said.

At the same time, Clayton acknowledged that for him and Southworth, his status as Texas’ first out GOP officeholder is a source of pride.

“That’s not lost on us,” he said, adding that if he’s re-elected, the significance will only grow. “Something else that’s not lost on us is, if I win this election, it’s going to bring that up even more, I know it will, at which point because I have come out, it frees me up a little bit to be more frank and above board, and I will be, and I promise you that.

“But I’ve got to win the damned election,” he said. “If I lose the election, it’s going to be, ‘I told you so.’”

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition May 4, 2012.

—  Kevin Thomas

TX Dems, GOP agree to April 3 primary

The Texas Democratic and Republican parties have reached an agreement under which all 2012 primary elections would be held April 3, the Houston Chronicle reports. The agreement has been submitted to a panel of federal judges in San Antonio for approval. Below is the parties’ joint statement issued this morning:

—  John Wright

A good sign for Texas’ LGBT community

Log Cabin Dallas President Rob Schlein

Joe Straus’ re-election as speaker of the House proves that social conservatives no longer can control the Republican political agenda

ROB SCHLEIN  |  Special Contributor

Unless you’re “wired in” to the inside baseball of Texas politics, you may not know there was a cantankerous fight for the position of Texas House speaker.

House Speaker Joe Straus, a Republican from San Antonio, showed himself to be a moderate on social issues last session. Yet, after a momentous midterm election where a slight Republican majority turned into a Republican supermajority in the House, calls for a “true conservative” to be elected speaker started to ring louder and louder among social conservative activists who regularly attend GOP party functions.

Many of these people are the same individuals that helped create the Republican Party of Texas platform that we all know too well includes the language on “homosexuals” revealed and discussed right here in Dallas Voice every election season.

State representatives who had already pledged to support Straus were being lobbied hard to reverse their support, via a war of words on Facebook, by those who changed their profile pictures with logos that declared “Oust Straus,” with statewide e-mail campaigns, and large, organized visits to field offices.

Precinct chairs in Harris, Denton and Dallas counties — perhaps others — convened during the holidays to pass resolutions demanding the election of a “conservative speaker,” implying that Joe Straus wasn’t conservative enough because of his social views.

Activists made threats to “primary,” which means to find someone to run in the next election season primary, against any Republican representatives that didn’t go along with their desire for change in leadership. Their bullying was amplified when hundreds of them descended on Austin on Jan. 10 to observe a caucus gathering of Republican representatives.

The caucus was demanded by the activists as a strategy to replace Straus by forcing a unified Republican vote, because last session Straus took over from Tom Craddick as speaker when Straus garnered the votes of all Democrats and just a handful of Republicans.

What the activists didn’t know was that the caucus would vote solidly for Straus, and after 70 votes were cast (representing more than two-thirds of the caucus present), voting was suspended and the choice was clearly made.
The social conservatives didn’t like the outcome and contradicted themselves about the process, first calling for an open ballot so they could see who voted for whom, and then complaining later that it should have been done in secret because the outcome might have differed.

The social conservatives were perplexed when their chosen candidate, Rep. Ken Paxton of McKinney, dropped from the race after assurances he would stay in, and after the other candidate, Rep. Warren Chisum of Pampa, switched his support from Paxton to Straus.

On Jan. 11, when the formal selection of a House Speaker was concluded, calls for a recorded vote were made and approved, and more than 130 representatives voted for Joe Straus for speaker, with 15 “No” votes or abstentions — handing the social conservatives a serious defeat.

So, what does this mean for the LGBT community?

It means that there is a continual and growing disconnect between the hard-line social conservatives who are a part of the Republican Party of Texas, the average Republican voter and the actual Republican legislators who govern our state. This is good news for the LGBT community, which often fears possible legislation that could be put forward by the extreme elements of our party.

The selection of Joe Straus as speaker means that Republicans will focus most of their time and energy on balancing a state budget that is some $24 billion short over the next two years due to the slowdown of our economy, and will spend considerable effort reviewing programs that automatically sunset every session.

I would be quite surprised if the legislature spends much time on any social items.

Log Cabin Republican members spent considerable time getting to know their local state representatives. We offered direct support and encouragement for their initial pledges to Joe Straus, and were in continual contact by e-mail and very open in our Facebook rebuttals, asking them to stay loyal to their pledges.

Now our direct interaction with Republican elected officials is paying dividends in less anti-gay rhetoric in campaigns and no anti-gay legislation being proposed in this session that we are aware of.

The election of Joe Straus as speaker means that the impact of the Republican Party of Texas platform on legislation continues to be muted. Social conservative activists always complain that the legislators “never govern by the platform.”

So, when you ask gay Republicans about the platform, or if you point to the passages in the platform about “homosexuality,” understand that the re-election of Joe Straus confirms what we have been saying for some time now: The platform isn’t used as a legislative vehicle and only expresses the opinions of a small minority of people in the party who are loud, but not in the majority among everyday Republicans.

What matters to most Republican voters and legislators are the true principles of conservatism, meaning government stays out of our pockets and our bedrooms!

Rob Schlein is president of Log Cabin Republicans of Dallas.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition Jan. 21, 2011.

—  John Wright

What is the single most offensive plank in the Republican Party of Texas’ 2010 platform?

Texas GOP Chair Steve Munisteri

Last week a coalition of 13 nonpartisan organizations including Equality Texas and the Human Rights Campaign issued a joint statement calling on RNC Chair Michael Steele and Texas GOP Chair Steve Munisteri to “forcefully reject” the state party’s 2010 platform.

There’s been a lot of talk lately about anti-gay language in the Texas GOP platform, but last week’s statement cites a whole host of other objectionable planks, from “Eliminating the Endangered Species Act” to “Eliminating laws that require healthcare facilities to treat undocumented human beings.” Here’s a full list from the statement:

• Eliminating the Endangered Species Act
• Rescinding no-fault divorce laws and supporting “covenant marriage”
• Eliminating future and repealing past presidential executive orders
• Opposing making the District of Columbia a state, leaving tens of thousands of U.S. citizens to pay government taxes without the benefit of a voting representative
• Making every driver’s license indicate citizenship status
• Opposing the Employment Non-Discrimination Act because of a belief that it affirms “sinful and sexually immoral behavior.”
• Opposing governmental action to restrict the public display of the Ten Commandments
• Making the issuance of a marriage license to a same-sex couple a felony to include the civil official that would perform the marriage
• Stating that homosexuality “tears at the fabric of our society, contributes to the breakdown of the family unit and leads to the spread of dangerous, communicable diseases.”
• Recriminalizing sodomy statutes in spite of a landmark Supreme Court case that settled the issue a decade ago
• Overturning Roe v. Wade and passing a “human life amendment” to the Constitution, a proposal that would make abortion illegal in all cases and criminalize most common forms of birth control
• Eliminating those with HIV/AIDS, learning disabilities, behavioral disorders and mental stress disorders from the Americans with Disabilities Act
• Opposing any sex education “other than abstinence until heterosexual marriage,” a strategy that has proven to be ineffective and that ignores the health concerns of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender young adults
• Urging Congress to withhold Supreme Court jurisdiction in cases involving abortion, religious freedom and the Bill of Rights
• Calling for no bilingual education after the third grade
• Eliminating laws that require healthcare facilities to treat undocumented human beings

—  John Wright

Texas GOP vice chair, TABC commissioner appears to defend anti-gay language in state party platform

Melinda Fredricks, pictured at right, was elected vice chair of the Republican Party of Texas during its state convention in Dallas last month. Fredricks is a commissioner for the Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission, and her husband is the publisher of The Courier of Montgomery County, which happened to publish a story about her this week. In the story, Fredricks responds to recent criticism of anti-gay langauge in the party’s platform, which has made national news:

Fredricks addressed the 2010 state Republican Party platform, which has drawn some criticism for its harsh view toward homosexuality. The platform states that “homosexuality tears at the fabric of society, contributes to the breakdown of the family unit, and leads to the spread of dangerous, communicable diseases.”

“Homosexuality must not be presented as an acceptable ‘alternative’ lifestyle in our public education and policy, nor should ‘family’ be redefined to include homosexual couples,” the platform states.

Although Fredricks admits she cannot speak for the entire Republican Party, she believes the strong statement was a response to an aggressive homosexual political agenda, including an attempt to repeal the Defense of Marriage Act and pass laws forcing churches to consider hiring homosexuals. Fredricks said “a large portion of our base is Christian, and we believe that homosexuality is contrary to what God says is appropriate behavior.”

“People feel threatened that their children have to be taught that it’s an equal lifestyle to heterosexuality,” she said. “At the same time, you can’t say people are subhuman. (Homosexuals) still deserve the dignity entitled to them.”

First of all, as horrible as they may be in and of themselves, the excerpts in the story hardly reflect the full extent of the anti-gay language in the Texas GOP platform, which also calls for the criminalization of sodomy and for anyone issuing a same-sex marriage license to be charged with a felony. But in any case, it’s strange that Fredricks recognizes that the Texas GOP platform makes people “subhuman,” yet seems to justify it by saying it’s their own fault for demanding equality. In doing so, Fredricks is not really defending or even explaining the platform, she’s merely regurgitating it. That’s because the platform already includes the following in its anti-gay section:

Family Values – We affirm that this section is a response to the attacks on traditional family values. These include wellfunded, vigorous political and judicial attempts by powerful organizations and branches of the government to force acceptance, affirmation and normalization of homosexual behavior upon school children, parents, educational institutions, businesses, employees, government bodies and religious institutions and charities. These aggressive, intolerant efforts marginalize as bigots anyone who dissents.

—  John Wright

Texas Democrats add four pro-LGBT resolutions to platform

While we’re on the subject of political party platforms in Texas, looks like the Democrats approved four pro-LGBT resolutions over the weekend during their state convention in Corpus Christi.

It’s safe to say the Lone Star State has gotten yet another black eye, albeit deserved, in national LGBT circles over anti-gay language in the state GOP platform. So let’s hope some of those same bloggers will pick up this positive story, but don’t count on it. After all, the idea that everyone in Texas wants to lock up “homosexuals” makes for better headlines.

Anyhow, according to the Texas Stonewall Democratic Caucus, the four pro-LGBT resolutions that were adopted at the convention call for (1) a state employment nondiscrimination policy that includes LGBT protections, (2) competitive insurance benefits for LGBT employees at Texas universities, (3) accurate birth certificates for same-sex parents of adopted children and (4) policies that would prohibit bullying and harassment in Texas public schools.

TSDC also reports that the new Texas Democratic platform, for the first time ever, now uses the words “gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender” in calling for the repeal of discriminatory laws and policies.

“The 2010 State Democratic Convention proved beyond a reasonable doubt that LGBT Texans have a place at the table of the Democratic Party,” said TSDC President Dan Graney. “As for the Republican Party of Texas, it might as well call itself the Republican Party of Uganda because of all the hate and bigotry that is dripping from its platform.”

Here’s the full press release from TSDC:


TEXAS DEMOCRATS ADOPT PRO-LGBT PLATFORM/
RESOLUTIONS AT STATE CONVENTION

Delegates meeting at the Texas Democratic Convention this past weekend in Corpus Christi adopted a platform and resolutions that champion gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) equality and nondiscrimination on a variety of levels. This is in stark contrast to the State Republican Party Convention two weeks ago, which adopted a platform that denounces homosexuality as “tearing at the fabric of society” and calls for the felony prosecution of anyone who performs a marriage ceremony for a same-sex couple in Texas.

For the first time ever, the 2010 State Democratic Party platform uses the words “gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender” in calling for the repeal of discriminatory laws and policies against the LGBT community.  The platform also advocates for anti-bullying policies in public schools, diversity in institutions for higher learning,
passage of the Employment Non Discrimination Act, increased education initiatives and services to address HIV/AIDS and Hepatitis C, an end to discrimination in the state foster care system, strong enforcement of both federal and state hate crimes laws and repeal of the “Don’t Ask Don’t Tell” policy.

All four pro-equality resolutions that were proposed by Equality Texas and that passed numerous senate district and county conventions also were adopted on the floor of the convention without opposition.  These resolutions included (1) a state employment nondiscrimination policy that includes LGBT protections, (2) competitive insurance benefits for LGBT employees at Texas universities, (3) accurate birth certificates for same-sex parents of adopted children and (4) policies that would prohibit bullying and harassment in Texas public schools.   Similar resolutions had been approved by previous convention resolutions committees but never made it to the floor of the convention for a vote.

Hundreds of LGBT Texans were among the 5,000 delegates and alternates who attended the convention.  The Texas Stonewall Democratic Caucus (TSDC), which is the official LGBT Caucus of the Texas Democratic Party, hosted a reception on June 24 to commemorate the 10th anniversary of its founding.  The TSDC also held an Executive Board meeting and Caucus membership meeting at the convention, both of which were well attended.  Dan Graney of San Antonio was re-elected President, Erin Moore of Dallas was re-elected Vice President and Carol Cappa of Fort Worth and Shaun Nelson of Houston were respectively elected the new Secretary and Treasurer of the Caucus.  Graney and Moore will represent the TSDC on the State Democratic Executive Committee or SDEC, which is the governing body of the State Democratic Party between conventions

Also elected to the SDEC were four members of Stonewall Democrats chapters in Texas: Eli Olivarez of McAllen, Garry Brown of Austin and DeeJay Johannessen and Mary Edwards of Tarrant County.  Stonewall Democrats members were also elected to all five of the permanent committees of the convention, which includes credentials, rules, platform, resolutions and nominations.

“The 2010 State Democratic Convention proved beyond a reasonable doubt that LGBT Texans have a place at the table of the Democratic Party”, exclaimed TSDC President Dan Graney.  “As for the Republican Party of Texas, it might as well call itself the Republican Party of Uganda because of all the hate and bigotry that is dripping from its platform”, he said.

Texas Democrats are gearing up for the midterm elections this November and are hoping to elect Bill White the first Democratic governor of this state in 16 years.  The 2012 Texas Democratic Convention will take place in Houston.

—  John Wright

Rob Schlein: Anti-gay GOP platform must be changed so Dems can't use it against us

We’ve been somewhat troubled by the online spread of a recent “news story” saying the Republican Party of Texas’ platform is, well, still anti-gay. But now that the story has appeared in both The Huffington Post and The New York Daily News, we’ve accepted the fact that we’re powerless to stop it. Which is not to say that we ever really wanted to stop it, but given that this language has been in the GOP platform for years, we don’t consider it any more of a story than saying that the national Democratic Party’s platform calls for passage of the Employment Non-Discrimination Act. I mean, we know it may be hard to believe considering the inaction in Congress on ENDA, but that doesn’t make it news.

Anyhow, we just noticed that Rob Schlein, president of Log Cabin Republicans of Dallas, has posted a response to the story about the GOP platform on his Facebook page. Schlein’s group has fought, to no avail, to have the anti-gay language removed from the platform in recent years. Here’s what he said:

“This is an article that’s gaining a lot of traction on the internet. I have had a lot of requests asking about it. Although much is not really ‘new’ because it existed in prior platforms, it is being used again as a tool to damage Republican politicians. To my R friends: we need to reform this next time as Democrat activists are using it against us! To my D friends, these planks were put in place by a tiny minority of grassroots activists (among the religious right) and does NOT represent the overall views of the rank and file politician or voter who identifies themselves as Republican. Many politicians claim either to not having read the platform, or will bluntly say they disagree with these planks.”

—  John Wright

NEWS FLASH: Shocker!!! The Texas Republican Party is anti-gay!!!

This story has been all over the blogosphere this weekend, after the Texas GOP released its 2010 platform, which was finalized during its state convention two weeks ago in Dallas. Among other things, the platform calls for again making sodomy a crime and for making it a felony to issue a same-sex marriage license. The anti-gay language in the platform has prompted headlines on some blogs comparing Texas to the African nation of Uganda, which sought to impose the death penalty for homosexuality.

But the story is hardly new. This anti-gay language has been in the Texas Republican Party platform for years, and it was unchanged during this year’s convention. We’ve reported extensively on Log Cabin Republicans’ efforts to get the anti-gay language removed, and two years ago, The Dallas Morning News even picked up the story.

So why is it all of a sudden such a big deal — and how could it possibly be news to anyone that the Texas GOP is anti-gay?

I really don’t know, but I suppose it’s a good sign that this type of anti-gay language seems newsworthy, because it signals that it’s becoming uncommonly hateful. I also think the sudden wave of attention could help motivate moderate Republicans to try to change the language, because it can only hurt Texas’ image.

On the other hand, I think this “story” is good example of the sheep mentality that exists among some bloggers. One posts something, and all of the others simply regurgitate it without doing any fact-checking or original reporting.

Yes, folks, the Republican Party of Texas and its platform are anti-gay. If this comes as a surprise to you, I don’t know where you’ve been.

—  John Wright

With Cathie Adams gone, Rob Schlein says the Texas GOP is already showing signs of change

Former Texas Eagle Forum President Cathie Adams, one of the leading anti-gay voices in North Texas over the last few decades, was ousted this weekend as chair of the state Republican Party. Delegates to this weekend’s Texas GOP Convention in Dallas voted to replace Adams with Houston lawyer Steve Ministeri. From The Dallas Morning News:

In her nomination speech, Adams gave a fiery account of her fight of 30 years against abortion, gay marriage and the United Nations, and for maintaining a Christian nation. More recently, she said, “I’m saying no to Barack Hussein Obama.”

Rob Schlein, president of Log Cabin Republicans of Dallas, was a delegate to the convention who opposed Adams’ bid for a full term as chair. Schlein, who lives in the same senate district and precinct as Adams and her husband, Homer, sent over a brief report:

“Cathie, instead of taking a dignified defeat, forced a delegate floor vote,” Schlein wrote. “She and Homer stood in front of our Senate District delegation to observe a standing vote … This intimidated folks who rebelled and voted against her by an even larger margin in her own backyard!”

Schlein said the final floor vote was 4,295 for Munisteri and 2,950 for Adams. “A resounding defeat, and an EXCITING day for Log Cabin and Texas Republicans,” Schlein said. “I have already seen some change with an outreach by the Rick Perry campaign.”

Really? Outreach by the Perry campaign?? To Log Cabin??? I asked Schlein to explain.

“I received an email today from an SREC [State Republican Executive Committee member] introducing us to a Field rep with Perry whose task [is] to speak to the Republican clubs. We will attempt to schedule him,” Schlein said.

—  John Wright