BREAKING: Anti-gay Texas Gov. Rick Perry won’t seek re-election

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Texas Gov. Rick Perry

Anti-gay Texas Gov. Rick Perry announced Monday in San Antonio that he won’t seek re-election to a fourth full four-year term. Perry did not say whether he plans to run for president again in 2016.

Perry, a Republican who took over for George W. Bush in December 2000 after Bush was elected president, is the longest serving governor in Texas history. His current term expires at the end of 2014.

Perry championed Texas’ constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage in 2005, holding a ceremonial signing at a Fort Worth church. He also made his opposition to LGBT rights a central focus of his 2012 campaign in the Republican presidential primary — a strategy which some say contributed to his demise.

“We have better protected the right to life for Texas children and families, protected the sanctity of marriage, and respected the traditional values that made Texas the greatest state in the greatest nation on earth,” Perry said in his announcement. “We Texans are not afraid to fight for what we believe in.”

Perry’s decision not to run opens the door for Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott, also a Republican, to succeed him in the governor’s office. Abbott also has an anti-gay record, having intervened to prevent two same-sex couples who legally married in other states from obtaining divorces in Texas. Abbott also issued a non-binding opinion earlier this year that domestic partner benefits offered by local government entities in Texas are illegal.

Watch Perry’s full announcement below.

—  John Wright

Perry, Dewhurst, Abbott mum on Supreme Court marriage rulings

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Perhaps it’s because they were too distracted by the fallout over state Sen. Wendy Davis’ historic filibuster.

Or perhaps they realize LGBT issues are losing their effectiveness as a political wedge, even in solidly red states like Texas. (Note this Associated Press story from yesterday.)

Or perhaps it’s a little of both.

But whatever the reason, statewide GOP leaders in Texas have been surprisingly mum about the U.S. Supreme Court’s historic decision this week striking down a key section of the federal Defense of Marriage Act.

Gov. Rick Perry, Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst and Attorney General Greg Abbott are all Republicans and strong supporters of Texas’ 2005 constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage, which also prohibits civil unions, domestic partnerships and anything “identical or similar to marriage.” But none of the three has issued any kind of official statement responding to the high court’s decisions, which will inevitably pave the way for Texas’ marriage ban to be struck down.

In fact, Republican Agriculture Commissioner Todd Staples, who’s running for lieutenant governor in 2014, is the only statewide official who’s issued a statement. Staples also happens to have co-authored Texas’ marriage amendment when he was a state senator in 2005.

“I’m very disturbed by today’s SCOTUS rulings on marriage,” Staples wrote on Twitter. “But I remain even more committed to fighting for our conservative values.”

—  John Wright

Perry threatens funding veto if Travis County DA Lehmberg doesn’t resign

Rosemary Lehmberg

Rosemary Lehmberg

Gov. Rick Perry is using his power to threaten a veto of funding for the state’s Public Integrity Unit unless Travis County District Attorney Rosemary Lehmberg resigns.

Lehmberg, who’s openly gay, is over the unit responsible for investigating wrongdoing by state officials, but her integrity came into question when she was arrested for driving while intoxicated in April. After her arrest, she apologized and said she wouldn’t resign. Instead, she said she would seek treatment for her behavior.

She was sentenced to 45 days in jail, but was later released after serving half the sentence for good behavior.

Perry’s announcement Monday is one of several attempts to remove Lehmberg from office. Attorney Kerry O’Brien filed a request to have her removed shortly after she was arrested, but it was later dismissed.

Now former prosecutor Rick Reed, who ran against Lehmberg in 2008, has filed a criminal complaint, alleging that she engaged in various criminal acts while in custody. Lehmberg allegedly threatened and spat at offices and was belligerent during arrest.

Perry has been accused of using the funds to force Lehmberg out because he wants to fill her position with a Republican. He has until Sunday to veto bills by the Legislature.

—  Dallasvoice

Today marks the 15th anniversary of the murder of James Byrd Jr.

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James Byrd Jr.

Today is the 15th anniversary of the murder of James Byrd Jr. in Jasper. Three men picked Byrd up in a bar and after they left, beat him, hooked him by a chain to the back of their pickup and dragged him to his death. Because of the horrific nature of the crime, the story received international attention.

After Byrd’s death, Lesbian/Gay Rights Lobby Executive Director Dianne Hardy Garcia met with the Byrd family. She had been working almost a decade tracking hate crimes, attending the trials of those indicted on murder charges in bias cases and lobbying the Legislature to enact a hate-crime penalty-enhancement law.

Hardy Garcia explained to the Byrds that a hate crime bill would pass if it didn’t include sexual orientation. Byrd’s mother asked if gays and lesbians were targets of hate crimes. Hardy Garcia showed her the statistics.

“No family should have to go through what my family went through,” Mrs. Byrd told Hardy Garcia.

The Byrds became staunch allies of the LGBT community and insisted sexual orientation remain in the bill.

Despite the national attention the Byrd case brought to Texas, the Legislature blocked any attempt to pass a hate crime bill in 1999 as Gov. George W. Bush campaigned for president.

However, the 2001 Texas Legislature passed the James Byrd Jr. Hate Crime Law and Gov. Rick Perry signed it into law. In 2009, President Barack Obama signed an LGBT-inclusive federal hate crimes law, called the Matthew Shepard and James Byrd, Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act.

The three men involved in the murder were arrested. Lawrence Brewer was executed. John William King is on death row. Shawn Berry is serving a life sentence.

Fox 26 Houston talked to members of the Byrd family and discussed the background of the murderers on the 10th anniversary of Byrd’s death:

—  David Taffet

WATCH: Texas’ ‘Governor for a Day’ delivers emotional pro-LGBT speech

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Sen. Leticia Van de Putte is sworn in as ‘governor for a day’ on Saturday.

The governor of Texas delivered impassioned remarks in support of LGBT equality on Saturday.

Unfortunately, San Antonio Democratic Sen. Leticia Van de Putte was only “governor for a day” — a ceremonial honor bestowed upon the president pro tempore of the Texas Senate for one day each legislative session.

After returning to his pulpit on Sunday, Gov. Rick Perry would inanely compare his opposition to gays in the Boy Scouts to Gov. Sam Houston’s opposition to slavery. But on Saturday, Van de Putte choked back tears as she compared her support for LGBT equailty to Gov. Houston’s support for American Indians.

“A few minutes ago I swore on Sam Houston’s Bible to uphold the oath,” Van de Putte told those gathered at the Capitol for her address. “Sam Houston stood proud and he stood up for our Native Americans, our first nation, who at that time were considered savages, and he said, ‘I am aware that presenting myself as an advocate for the Indians and their rights, I shall stand very much alone.’ But Sam Houston stood up, and he did because it was the right thing to do, and I so I will stand because it’s the right thing to do.”

Van de Putte, the author of a bill to ban anti-LGBT job discrimination in Texas, talked about meeting Staff Sgt. Eric Alva, the openly gay Marine from San Antonio who lost his leg when he stepped on a landmine in Iraq in 2003.

“He fought for us. He fought for you,” she said. “He nearly died for our country, and he still suffers for it every day, and yet, here in his home state, he can be denied or fired from a job, not because he’s Hispanic, and not because he has a disability, but because he is gay. A man who protects our country is not protected at home. A man who loves his country is denied and is discriminated against because of who he loves, and Texans, that has to change.”

Van De Putte concluded by referencing portraits of people like Barbara Jordan and Henry B. Gonzalez hanging in the state Capitol.

“At one time it would have been unthinkable to think that an African-American woman and a Mexican-American man, that their portraits would hang, would be adorned on these hallowed walls,” she said. “Someday on these walls there will be a portrait of a Texas hero who just happens to be gay, and it won’t matter, because they’re a Texas hero.”

Watch Van de Putte’s historic remarks below.

—  John Wright

Gov. Rick Perry compares support for BSA gay ban to opposition of slavery

Gov. Rick Perry

Gov. Rick Perry

Gov. Rick Perry is still adamant about his opposition to gay youth and leaders in the Boy Scouts.

While the decision to allow gay youth into the organization will be voted on later this month, Perry appeared on the anti-gay Family Research Council’s Stand With Scouts Sunday show yesterday to voice his disdain for gay Scouts.

He appeared from the library in the governor’s mansion, and compared the gay ban to slavery, saying the BSA should reject pop culture like the greatest governor in Texas’s history, Gov. Sam Houston, opposed slavery.

“That’s the type of principled leadership, that’s the type of courage that I hope people across this country on this issue of Scouts and keeping the Boy Scouts the organization that it is today,” he said. “If we change and become more like pop culture, young men will be not as well served. America will not be as well served, and Boy Scouts will start on a decline that I don’t think will serve this country well as we go into the future.”

Perry also said he hopes the push for LGBT equality as the “flavor of the month” won’t override the BSA’s moral history.

“I know there are those in the world today that would tear that apart. But the fact is this is a private organization,” Perry said. “Their values and principles have worked for a century now. And for pop culture to come in and try to tear that up because it just happens to be, you know, the flavor of the month so to speak and to tear apart one of the great organizations that have served millions of young men, helped them to become men and become great fathers. That is just not appropriate. Frankly, I hope the American people will stand up and say, ‘Not on my watch.’”

Watch the video below.

—  Dallasvoice

Bob Perry, No. 1 donor behind Texas marriage amendment in 2005, dies

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Bob Perry

Bob Perry, who built homes in Oak Lawn and was the top donor to the anti-gay marriage amendment in Texas, died Saturday.

Perry came to national attention in 2004 when he funded Karl Rove’s “swiftboating” campaign against Sen. John Kerry, who was challenging President George W. Bush. The purpose was to cast doubt on Kerry’s claim to being a decorated Vietnam War hero. Until the swiftboat ads ran, Kerry was ahead in the polls.

But the following year, Perry’s contribution of $110,000 to a PAC supporting the anti-gay amendment, caused many in the LGBT community to boycott his properties. In Oak Lawn, Perry built The Reserve at Reagan and Wycliff Place. Downtown he built City View at Farmer’s Market.

Gay real estate agent Jack Evans said at the time: “Why feed the enemy? The more profit he makes from the community, the more he’s going to try his best to bury it.”

An Austin-based Perry spokesman at the time said Perry was not homophobic because he wouldn’t be building homes in LGBT neighborhoods if he were. Perry Homes also built properties in Houston’s heavily gay Montrose neighborhood.

—  David Taffet

Gov. Perry, Mayor Rawlings visit anti-gay First Baptist Church of Dallas

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Texas Gov. Rick Perry, right, greets pastor Robert Jeffress as he exits the stage at First Baptist Church of Dallas on Sunday. (Via WFAA-TV)

The bigoted views of Robert Jeffress may be too extreme for the likes of evangelical NFL quarterback Tim Tebow, who canceled a scheduled appearance at Jeffress’ First Baptist Church of Dallas last month.

But Jeffress’ views, as it turns out, are not too extreme for Texas Gov. Rick Perry — and they’re not even too extreme for Dallas Mayor Mike Rawlings.

Both Perry and Rawlings attended a dedication of First Baptist’s $130 million expansion project on Sunday, with Perry delivering a speech that amounted to a sermon in which he appeared to reference homosexuality while using coded language.

“I do believe it is right, under the purview of Scripture, for the church to judge certain behaviors,” Perry said. “But that is totally different from judging fellow sinners. … We must love all.

“We cannot condemn certain lifestyles while turning a blind eye to sins that, in God’s eye, are just as grievous,” he added. “We must love all… welcome all … and be a model for Christ.”

WFAA says Perry’s comments “reflect a shift from previously-stated beliefs,” referring to his anti-gay record, but I wouldn’t go that far. If anything, it was an attempt by Perry to put some space between himself and the extremism of Jeffress — who has called homosexuality “unnatural,” “filthy,” “perverse” and “abnormal” — as he prepares to run for president again in 2016. Unfortunately for Perry, it’s more than a little hypocritical to stand at a place like First Baptist — led by one of the most hateful anti-gay preachers in the world — and talk about God’s love.

As for Rawlings, we’ve reached out to his chief of staff, Paula Blackmon, for a comment on his decision to attend the event. Blackmon did not immediately respond, but we’ll update if she does.

Let’s just hope Rawlings isn’t going down the same road as his predecessor, Tom Leppert, who became a member of First Baptist in an effort to pander to conservative Republican Primary voters as he prepared to run for U.S. Senate. How’d that work out for you, Tom?

Watch Perry’s remarks at First Baptist below.

—  John Wright

GLBT Aggies gear up for forum on anti-gay Student Senate bill

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Texas A&M Student Senator Chris Woolsey, second from left, is shown in this photo with Gov. Rick Perry from Woolsey’s Facebook page. Woolsey is the sponsor of the GLBT Funding Opt-Out Bill.

The LGBT community at Texas A&M University is gearing up for an open forum Wednesday night to discuss a Student Senate bill designed to cut funding for the school’s GLBT Resource Center.

The GLBT Funding Opt-Out Bill, introduced two weeks ago, would allow students to opt out of funding the campus GLBT Resource Center with their activity fees if they have religious objections. According to The Battallion student newspaper, about $100,000 goes to the GLBT Center annually — or about $2 per student.

The campus group GLBT Aggies says the bill, similar to one introduced two years ago, is discriminatory and amounts to an attack against the LGBT community under the guise of religious freedom. Just as in 2011, a parallel effort is under way in the state Legislature to defund LGBT resource centers on college campuses in Texas.

“As a community dedicated to respecting diversity, we support measures sincerely aimed at protecting the religious beliefs of Texas A&M students, including those of many within the LGBT community,” GLBT Aggies wrote in a news release about the Student Senate bill last week. “However, while SB 65-70 claims to promote religious freedom, we cannot ignore that it only allows students with one religious belief to control how their student fees are used: only religious traditions that disapprove of LGBT interests are given a voice. A bill truly dedicated to allowing religious designation of fees would make the opportunity available to students of all faiths toward whatever policy creates a moral conflict of interest for them. Given the extremely narrow scope of this bill, we can only conclude that its interest lies not in promoting religious freedom but specifically in targeting the LGBT community. Whatever the intentions of the bill may be, its effect is clearly discriminatory.”

—  John Wright

Memo to Gov. Perry: ‘You’re done here’

On the same day the U.S. Supreme Court took up California’s ban on same-sex marriage, Texas Gov. Rick Perry told the Dallas Morning News on Tuesday that both he and the state of Texas still oppose marriage equality:

“In Texas, it is fairly clear about where this state stands on that issue,” Perry said when asked by reporters about the Supreme Court cases.

“As recently as a constitutional amendment that passed – I believe, with 76 percent of the vote. The people of the state of Texas, myself included, believe marriage is between one man and one woman,” Perry said.

Unfortunately for Perry, and as Mother Jones aptly notes, Texas’ marriage amendment passed eight years ago in an off-year election, and it banned not only same-sex marriage, but also civil unions.

Of course, what Perry really means is that a majority of Republican Primary voters in Texas still oppose same-sex marriage, because that’s his political base.

A majority of Americans, however, now support marriage equality, which helps explain why Perry’s anti-gay tactics helped doom his presidential campaign last year.

Furthermore, as the chart above shows, his statements about Texas are rapidly becoming false if not so already.

Numerous polls over the last few years have shown that roughly two-thirds of Texas voters now support either marriage or civil unions for same-sex couples — meaning if it were on the ballot today, the amendment would fail.

So, in the words of the heckler who interrupted Perry during “Texas Faith and Family Day” at the Capitol on Tuesday: “You don’t represent me. 2016 — no way! You’re done here!”

—  John Wright