Perry says Obama’s push for LGBT rights abroad part of ‘war on traditional American values’

Gov. Rick Perry

Still polling in the single digits in Iowa and faced with the prospect that the Republican presidential primary is becoming a two-man race between Newt Gingrich and Mitt Romney, Texas Gov. Rick Perry is desperately resorting to extreme anti-gay tactics. In response to President Barack Obama’s memorandum today saying the U.S. will use foreign aid to promote LGBT rights abroad, Perry issued this statement:

“Just when you thought Barack Obama couldn’t get any more out of touch with America’s values, AP reports his administration wants to make foreign aid decisions based on gay rights.

“This administration’s war on traditional American values must stop.

“I have proposed a foreign aid budget that starts at zero. From that zero baseline, we will consider aid requests based solely on America’s national security interests. Promoting special rights for gays in foreign countries is not in America’s interests and not worth a dime of taxpayers’ money.

“But there is a troubling trend here beyond the national security nonsense inherent in this silly idea. This is just the most recent example of an administration at war with people of faith in this country. Investing tax dollars promoting a lifestyle many Americas of faith find so deeply objectionable is wrong.

“President Obama has again mistaken America’s tolerance for different lifestyles with an endorsement of those lifestyles. I will not make that mistake.”

Also condemning Obama’s memorandum was GOP presidential candidate Rick Santorum, according to CNN:

“I would suggest that we give out humanitarian aid based on humanitarian need, not based on whether people are promoting their particular agenda,” Santorum said. “Obviously the administration is promoting their particular agenda in this country, and now they feel its their obligation to promote those values not just in the military, not just in our society, but now around the world with taxpayer dollars.”

Santorum, who has long been an outspoken opponent of gay marriage, said Obama needed to clarify his stance on marriage rights. Obama has said he is “evolving” on the issue, but does not currently support the rights of gays to marry.

“He said he’s for traditional marriage, and now he’s promoting gay lifestyles and gay rights, and he’s fighting against traditional marriage within the courts, and I think he needs to be honest,” Santorum said.

UPDATE: According to the Washington Blade, Human Rights Campaign President Joe Solmonese issued a statement in response to Perry’s remarks.

“Rick Perry has made no secret of his dislike for LGBT Americans – but his most recent remarks are outrageous even by his own standards,” Solmonese said. “It is bewildering that someone who wants to be President of the United States wouldn’t want to see our nation be a global leader in universal human rights. This is further proof that Rick Perry doesn’t want to represent the best interests of all Americans — he wants to advance an extremist, anti-gay agenda that represents the fringe views of a very small few.”

UPDATE NO. 2: Log Cabin Republicans also issued a statement:

“With all due respect, Governor Perry is wrong. Speaking out for the basic human rights of LGBT people to life and liberty is anything but ‘at war with American values,’” said R. Clarke Cooper, Log Cabin Republicans executive director. “Throughout his administration, President George W. Bush was strongly committed to supporting and protecting dissident and minority voices abroad. Our nation can be proud of its long, bipartisan legacy of promoting freedom for all. Around the globe today, gay and lesbian people are often subject to ‘corrective’ rape, state-sponsored torture, imprisonment and execution. Combatting these injustices is not advocating for any kind of ‘special rights,’ and it is shameful for Governor Perry to suggest that American people of faith do not support protecting vulnerable populations from brutality.”

—  John Wright

Republicans tout support for ‘traditional values’

Candidates jockey for position as most anti-gay at forum sponsored by ‘family values’ groups

Rep. Newt Gingrich

Rep. Newt Gingrich

Lisa Keen  |  Keen News Service
lisakeen@mac.com

Current Republican presidential frontrunner Newt Gingrich used a right-wing Christian forum Saturday, Nov. 19, to claim “the left” is trying to “drive out the existence of traditional religions … and use the government to repress the American people against their own values.”

He made the comment in the context of a discussion about whether religious-oriented adoption agencies should be allowed to refuse adoptions to same-sex couples. Some states, such as Massachusetts, have cut off government funding to adoption groups that refuse to obey state laws prohibiting discrimination based on sexual orientation.

At that same event, Texas Gov. Rick Perry said that gay couples in Texas cannot adopt, which isn’t true, strictly speaking. Gays and lesbians can adopt as individuals, and in most cases, that person’s partner can do a second-parent adoption separately.

Without referring to gay groups or the LGBT community specifically, Gingrich lashed out against a movement that, since the 1960s, has gone from “a request for tolerance to an imposition of intolerance … [and] closing down those with traditional values.”

Gingrich said he would support a law that would cut off “all federal funding to any jurisdiction that discriminates against religious beliefs in that format.”

The forum was the “Iowa Thanksgiving Family Forum,” sponsored by the Family Leader group of Iowa, as well as the National Organization for Marriage and Focus on the Family. Its format was an “around the family table” kind of conversation with Gingrich and five other Republican presidential hopefuls, including Ron Paul, Michele Bachmann, Rick Santorum, Herman Cain and Perry.

Mitt Romney, who has been eschewing most Iowa events, declined an invitation.

The candidates responded to questions from a moderator and from several representatives of the host groups, including Brian Brown of the National Organization for Marriage. The topics centered around such broad themes as values, morality and liberty, with a strong bent toward the view that the country is divided into conservatives — who are all happy, God-loving citizens — and liberals, who are all sad and out to destroy religious freedom.

As has become his routine, Santorum boasted about his superiority in the GOP field when it comes to opposing marriage between same-sex couples. Same-sex marriage, he said, “radically changes the entire moral fabric of our country.

“Gay marriage is wrong,” said Santorum. “As Abraham Lincoln said, the states do not have the right to do wrong. … America is an ideal. It’s not just a Constitution.”

But only Cain spoke up when Brown solicited responses for what each candidate would do, as president, if the U.S. Supreme Court should overturn the Defense of Marriage Act.

Cain said he would “lead the charge to overturn the Supreme Court.” After some prodding from the moderator, Gingrich did offer up that he thought it important to “make DOMA not appealable” in the courts.

Brown’s questions came near the end of the two-hour event, held at the First Federated Church in Des Moines. His first, directed to Rep. Paul, was whether he would support an amendment to the federal Constitution to ban same-sex marriage. It was an odd question, given that Paul has for years been on record publicly as opposing such an amendment and voted against it in 2004.

Paul reiterated his opposition, noting that he believes generally that the issue should be left to the states or, preferably, to individual churches and families.

But Paul added that he does support DOMA.

Brown then asked other candidates to explain why they believe a federal marriage amendment is necessary. Santorum jumped in with a recap of his strategy to “stop this problem” through battles state by state. Bachmann touted her own leadership against same-sex marriage in Minnesota.

The forum was marked by dramatically emotional moments in which the candidates shared personal stories related to their faith.

Santorum acknowledged having decided to keep an emotional distance from his infant daughter who he believed would soon die in order to avoid the pain of the potential loss.

Herman Cain talked about what it was like to hear that he had stage four cancer.

Michele Bachmann recalled what it was like, as a child, to watch her mother sell the family’s dishes and other possessions after she divorced Bachmann’s father.

The moderator, Fox News contributor Frank Luntz, and news reports indicated 3,000 people were in attendance at the forum. The chief sponsor, The Family Leader, helped organize last year’s ousting of three Iowa Supreme Court justices who voted with the unanimous court to say the state constitution required equal treatment of same-sex and heterosexual couples under marriage laws.

© 2011 by Keen News Service. All rights reserved.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition November 25, 2011.

—  Kevin Thomas

The power of coming out

ABC News co-anchor Dan Koeffler set an example we all should follow if we want to reach the goal of equality

dan-kloeffler

Dan Koeffler

There’s probably never before been a safer — or more critical — time in American culture and politics for LGBT people to come out and acknowledge their identities.

This week when Dan Koeffler, an ABC News co-anchor on the World News Now show, acknowledged he was gay, in a reference to Star Trek actor Zach Quinto, Koeffler likely caused a lot of people to realize we might just pop up anywhere — even on TV at 3 a.m.

The television personality’s off-hand quip that he might drop his rule against dating actors in favor of Quinto, who recently came out in a New York Magazine interview, might serve as an good example for members of our community who have thus far opened the closet door only a little bit.

The television journalist’s declaration hopefully will inspire LGBT people who are tired of listening to Republican presidential candidates backed by evangelical stooges, condemn us and threaten to rollback our hard-won human rights gains.

If there was ever a moment for us to stand up against the likes of Texas Gov. Rick Perry, who was introduced recently at a campaign event by First Baptist Church of Dallas’ senior pastor Robert Jeffress, it is now. The thought of Jeffress — who has made a pastoral career out of trampling on the rights of LGBT people — having the ear of the next U.S. president ought to be enough to scare anyone into action.

If Jeffress would dare to publicly condemn the Mormon faith of Perry’s Republican political rival Mitt Romney in a weaselly attack before reporters after the event, what retributions against our community might he attempt to exact in exchange for helping deliver the evangelical vote to Perry in a presidential election?

We’re talking about an obsessed man who goes on TV to rail against anyone who doesn’t follow his religious philosophy, declaring that merely being a good person is not enough. Anyone one who doesn’t want to burn in hell must believe as Jeffress does, according to his sermons.

A friend of Perry’s who has known him for more than a half-century told me recently that the governor is more enlightened and tolerant than the LGBT community perceives him to be. But I don’t buy that — especially after he failed to condemn Jeffress’ outrageous remarks.

The message doesn’t get much better over in the camp of Herman Cain, who has vowed to veto the Employment Non-Discrimination Act if it were to pass Congress if he is elected to the presidency. There are other Republican candidates, such as Rick Santorum and Michelle Bachman, vying for the party’s presidential nomination that are just as scary. But they appear to be trailing so significantly in

David-Webb

David Webb The Rare Reporter

the polls that they aren’t a threat — at least for now.

Veteran LGBT activists have long known and shared their wisdom with us about the need for people to come out and stand united against hypocrisy and bigotry. And much has been accomplished as a result. There is strength in numbers, and to quote one of my favorite gay activists, William Waybourn of Washington D.C., “If everyone who is gay came out at once, the discrimination and bullying would stop immediately.”

That obviously won’t ever happen, but it does present a strong argument for the kind of mass, non-threatening demonstration that is the philosophy of the National Coming Out Day. The event has already passed this year, but there is nothing to say we couldn’t declare 2012 a coming out year in light of the importance of the national election.

Bullying is something everyone needs to remember and condemn, and it’s what Kloeffler said was on his mind when he came out on national television in the early morning television broadcast. He was referring to a gay teenager, 14-year-old Jamey Rodemeyer of Buffalo, N.Y., who had valiantly fought intolerance and violent anti-gay discrimination to the point of posting a YouTube video titled “It Gets Better,” only to finally succumb to suicide when he lost the will to endure more intolerance from his peers.

Although Koeffler was likely confident he would suffer no repercussions at work nor in the rest of his life by his admission, it was still a courageous move, apparently undertaken in an effort to help others in less comfortable situations. Too many people who could make a difference sit by idly and silently when opportunities arise to speak out against intolerance and discrimination. And Koeffler acknowledged he had been one of those for quite some time.

When it comes to anti-gay discrimination and bullying or any other class of prejudice, situations just don’t get any better without concerted resistance on the part of the oppressed. I know this because I have in the past tried to reason with evangelical Christians, including a close associate of Jeffress’, whom I have known most of my life.

Their reaction to my pleas for compassion as regards the plight of young LGBT people who are victims of anti-gay bullying and other issues involving discrimination was something along the lines of, “They deserve what they get.”

A typical response during the conversations was a flabbergasting, “We are so far apart on this,” which was based solely on what I consider to be misguided religious beliefs.

What I learned from trying to reason with the opponents of our quest for equal rights is that it was destined from the start to be a fruitless endeavor, and that our only hope in attracting allies is to appeal to the compassion of open-minded individuals who believe in fairness.

Even if that wasn’t Koeffler’s conscious objective in speaking out on the broadcast, I think his words probably reached a lot of people who are realizing our sheer numbers necessitate them giving more thought to our mission.
Maybe it’s a good time for others to follow Koeffler’s lead and see what kind of difference they might be able to make in spreading tolerance and fairness in their communities.

David Webb is a veteran journalist who has covered LGBT issues for the mainstream and alternative media for three decades. E-mail him at davidwaynewebb@yahoo.com.

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

—  Kevin Thomas

PHOTOS: Gov. Rick Perry must not like being called ‘Al Gore’s Texas cheerleader’

Texas Gov. Rick Perry and Congressman Ron Paul, R-Texas, traded barbs on camera during Wednesday night’s GOP presidential debate in California. But Perry also reportedly lit into Paul off-camera during a commercial break. Above is one of several photos that have emerged of the exchange. The Guardian reports:

Before Wednesday night’s debate, Paul’s campaign launched a series of attacks on Perry’s political career, including a hard-hitting TV ad, and followed with some snippy comments by Paul during the debate itself.

Several photographers captured the scene on stage at the Ronald Reagan Library – and of course there’s no way of knowing what was being discussed. But given Paul’s recent attacks, I’m guessing it wasn’t about the chances of the Texas A&M football team this season.

The Guardian has more photos. Paul’s ad accusing Perry of being Al Gore’s Texas cheerleader in 1988 is below:

—  John Wright

GOP frontrunner Rick Perry tries to assure social conservatives that the gay rumors aren’t true

Gov. Rick Perry

In an apparent reference to longstanding rumors that he’s gay, Texas Gov. Rick Perry assured a group of influential social conservatives over the weekend that “there is nothing in my life that will embarrass you if you decide to support me for president,” according to this report from the Texas Tribune.

Perry spoke during a private gathering in Texas’ Hill Country attended by hundreds of social conservatives including several prominent anti-gay bigots, such as Focus on the Family founder James Dobson and Family Research Council President Tony Perkins. The gathering was organized by David Barton, the WallBuilders founder and so-called “Christian historian” who recently suggested that four Republican lawmakers who voted in favor of same-sex marriage in New York should be scalped.

According to the Tribune, those in attendance asked Perry about a range of hot-button social issues, including abortion, immigration, gay marriage and hate crimes. Perry’s wife, Anita, was even asked whether she shares her husband’s views on abortion and same-sex marriage, to which she replied that she does. From The Tribune:

While job creation is the chief campaign message, winning evangelical voters is a major part of Perry’s nomination strategy. Polls show they make up some 40 percent of the electorate in some states, and social conservatives are expected to play a huge role in the outcome of the race in first-test Iowa, where Perry is giving native daughter Michele Bachmann a run for her money. Former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee, an ordained minister, won the Iowa caucuses in 2008.

Research published last weekend by the Palm Beach Post shows that “white, born again evangelicals” also make up more than a third of the vote in the GOP electorate in Florida, a key state that is expected to draw a lot of attention from Perry.

Perkins, the Family Research Council president, said religious conservatives will increasingly become comfortable with the Texas governor once they get to know him and examine his record in detail.

“I think he has the answers that are satisfactory when those issues are brought up,” Perkins said. “I think he is addressing them with the leaders in that community and as that information disseminates, I think he will be fine.”

—  John Wright

Dallas Log Cabin President Rob Schlein explains why he’d support Gov. Rick Perry for president

Log Cabin Dallas President Rob Schlein
Rob Schlein

A few weeks back we reported that Rob Schlein, president of the Dallas chapter of Log Cabin Republicans, plans to support Texas Gov. Rick Perry for president if he’s the Republican nominee — despite Perry’s anti-gay record.

Schlein says he used his regular remarks at the start of Log Cabin’s monthly meeting Monday night to explain why. Below is a transcript:

—  John Wright

If you liked Bush, you’ll love Perry

Gov. Rick Perry and President George W. Bush are shown together in Austin in 2008. (Associated Press)

Anti-gay governor’s presidential bid is a nightmare, but sadly some in LGBT community will support him

DAVID WEBB  |  The Rare Reporter

Someone please shake me awake, because this must be a nightmare. That’s what I was thinking last weekend as I watched Texas Gov. Rick Perry’s announcing that he’s seeking the Republican Party’s nomination for president in 2012. The most outrageously outspoken anti-gay governor in the history of Texas has decided that he wants to take his act to Washington.

More than anything else, I’ve wanted to see a conclusion to Perry’s seemingly unending, tyrannical reign over Texas politics, but this is not what I had in mind.

The scariest part is that I wouldn’t be surprised at all if Perry snatches the Republican nomination away from current GOP frontrunner Mitt Romney — and anyone else who is eyeing the spot. The only scenario that could make the situation any worse would be Perry naming his buddy Sarah Palin as a running mate.

My guess is that Perry and his team feel pretty confident.

This is a career politician who, in addition to being the longest-serving governor, has never lost an election since he entered politics as a state legislator in 1984.
During his announcement speech in South Carolina, Perry focused on economics and steered clear of social issues, but we all know where he stands on LGBT equality.

He is adamantly opposed to it, just as he is to a woman’s right to choose.

The week before his announcement, Perry held a rally in Houston to pray away the nation’s problems. As the poster boy for evangelical Christians, Perry has made it clear he’ll do that group’s bidding if he goes to Washington.

In his speech he only referred to overturning President Barack Obama’s health care plan, but anyone who thinks he wouldn’t target every other progressive measure approved in the last three years is in for a big shock. As a former Air Force pilot and Texas A&M cadet yell leader, he no doubt bristled when “don’t ask, don’t tell” was repealed.

What makes Perry particularly dangerous to the LGBT community is the rumor that he once was sexually involved with other men in Austin. The rumor has plagued his career, although he appears to have convinced his conservative religious base that it’s untrue. Perry may view anti-gay rhetoric as a way of combating the rumor.

Gay activists and journalists from the national media are combing through Perry’s past at this moment to determine if there is any truth to the rumor, but I suspect they are coming up empty-handed.

I recently wrote that I didn’t think there was any truth to the rumor, and I received quite a few
emails from gay Texans telling me I was wrong. I spoke with one of them on the phone who told me that a married, closeted male legislator had allegedly told several people that he had been involved sexually with Perry.

The biggest problem with the story is that the former legislator has credibility problems. On top of that, I understand that he now denies having ever been involved with Perry.

The only other incident possibly involving homosexuality is a story about Perry and another Boy Scout in Haskell County being caught in a sleeping bag together on a camping trip. That was when Perry, now 61, was about 10, and he reportedly got into the sleeping bag of a 12-year-old because he was cold. The two reportedly slept “back to back” during the night.

The Scoutmaster reportedly raised a fuss about the innocent incident when he discovered the two boys together the next morning, so that could possibly help explain some of Perry’s aversion to anything related to LGBT people. Such a scolding at that early of an age could have made a strong impression on our presidential hopeful.

I had also heard that Perry was seen in the late 1980s in an Austin gay disco called the Boat House, but I have a little trouble believing that as well.

Perry has clearly been motivated all of his life to succeed and overcome his humble beginnings, and that has involved a lot of macho posturing. In my opinion he would never have made an appearance at a gay bar, even if he was bi-curious and experimenting a little bit.

Unless someone has some compromising pictures of Perry or someone credible comes forward to acknowledge a same-sex relationship with the governor, I don’t think that story is going anywhere.

There are plenty of tales out there about Perry and wild youthful antics before he was married, but those are of no consequence in 2011, as a veteran politician
pointed out to me recently. Hypocrisy equals zilch in terms of derailing a presidential bid in today’s world.

In fact, I’m confident many LGBT voters will support Perry for president. It’s a curious phenomenon that I’ve seen time and time again. Politicians can spout anti-gay rhetoric from dawn to dusk, and many members of our community will still vote for them.

To those people I would say, if you liked having George W. Bush in the White House, you no doubt would love seeing James Richard “Rick” Perry in the Oval Office.

David Webb is a veteran journalist who has covered LGBT issues for the mainstream and alternative media for three decades. Email him at davidwaynewebb@yahoo.com.

—  John Wright

What’s Brewing: With Perry about to enter race, Bachmann steps up her anti-gay game

Your weekday morning blend from Instant Tea:

1. With Texas Gov. Rick Perry about to enter the GOP presidential race, Michele Bachmann is stepping up her anti-gay game. Polls show that Perry and Bachmann are likely to compete for the critical evangelical vote. So, with Perry’s day of prayer happening Saturday in Houston, Bachmann released a list of 100 pastors who’ve endorsed her on Friday and set out to attend two evangelical church services on Sunday. And one of those services just so happened to be virulently anti-gay, with the pastor denouncing homosexuality as “immoral” and “unnatural” and playing a video featuring a man who claims to have prayed away the gay. Watch the hilarious video featuring the “ex-gay” man, Adam Hood, below.

2. The polls say Perry and Bachmann will compete for the evangelical vote, but Rick “frothy mix” Santorum isn’t about to throw in the towel, so to speak. CNN reports that on Monday, Santorum’s campaign launched a pre-emptive strike against Perry based on the news that the Texas governor will confirm his plans to run for president on Saturday in South Carolina. “If reports are true, then I want to be the first to welcome Governor Perry to the race — but it’s too bad he chose to ignore Iowa,” Santorum said in a statement. “I guess we’ll all see each other soon on the trail. I wonder which version of marriage he’ll be ‘fine’ with in South Carolina – obviously, not the same version he was ‘fine’ with in New York.”

3. Here’s something both Perry and Bachmann — but not Santorum — can include on their list of anti-gay credentials: Their home states, Texas and Minnesota, are both among the 18 where where sodomy laws remain on the books despite the U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling in 2003 declaring them unconstitutional. Equality Matters posted a detailed report about the sodomy laws on Monday saying that not only do they remain on the books, but in some cases they continue to be enforced. Scary.

—  John Wright

Responding to “The Response”

From partisan to apolitical, from atheistic to interfaith — groups from around the state are speaking out against Gov. Perry’s Houston prayer meeting

Rick Perry

Daniel Williams  |  Contributing Writer
editor@dallasvoice.com

HOUSTON — Texas Gov. Rick Perry has partnered with the American Family Association to present a day of prayer and fasting they have dubbed “The Response” on Saturday, Aug. 6, at Houston’s Reliant Stadium.

Organizers are calling the event “a call to prayer for a nation in crises.”

But opponents have a different take. They are calling the event everything from a political maneuver pandering to the right wing intended to kick off Perry’s 2012 presidential bid to an unconstitutional confluence of church and state.

And those opponents from around the state have been hard at work in recent weeks, planning their own response to the Perry prayer meeting.

Perry’s choice to partner with the American Family Association, which is paying for the Saturday event, quickly raised eyebrows in the LGBT community, where AFA is considered one of the country’s leading anti-gay groups. In fact, the Southern Poverty Law Center has classified AFA as an anti-gay hate group.

AFA’s contention that homosexuality is sinful according to the Bible is not enough, in and of itself, to put AFA on the SPLC hate group list.

But the AFA’s “propagation of known falsehoods — claims about LGBT people that have been thoroughly discredited by scientific authorities — and repeated, groundless name-calling” was more than enough to earn a place on the list.

To bring attention to their concerns over “The Response,” opponents have planned a variety of events in Houston and around the state: from partisan to apolitical, from atheist to interfaith.

Each event, organizers say, strives to stand in contrast to what they see as the blurring of church/state separation and the promotion of hate against LGBT people fostered by “The Response.”

Houston GLBT Caucus

For Noel Freeman, president of the Houston GLBT Political Caucus, “The Response” is just the latest in a long line of anti-LGBT events the caucus has encountered.

The caucus is spearheading an event highlighting the LGBT community’s response at 7 p.m, Friday, Aug. 5. State Rep. Garnet Coleman, a Houston Democrat and longtime LGBT ally in the Texas Legislature, will deliver the keynote address for the event at Tranquility Park at 400 Rusk St., in downtown Houston.

The Friday night LGBT event is being staged just one block from the site of a 1977 rally the caucus held to oppose Anita Bryant, who at the time was one of the most visible and most vocal foes of LGBT equality.

Fresh off her successful campaign to repeal a Dade County, Fla., ordinance banning discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation, Bryant brought her “Save The Children” campaign to Houston. And the GLBT Caucus responded.

“The caucus has always stood up against the forces of hate. Look at our response in ’77,” said Freeman.

The caucus organized a massive counter-protest when Bryant came to town. And among those participating was a 22-year-old student and activist named Annise Parker.

Parker later became as the caucus’ eighth president before beginning her political career. She now serves as Houston’s mayor, becoming the first out LGBT mayor of a major American city when she was elected in 2009.

Freeman says responding to Perry’s rally is a duty for LGBT activists, a continuation of the caucus’ legacy of fighting hate and fostering young leadership.

“We have to support our community and say that hate is not acceptable in any capacity,” he said.

(left to right) The Rev. Adam Robinson, Daniel Scott Cates, Noel Freeman, Brad Pritchett and Robert Shipman
(left to right) The Rev. Adam Robinson, Daniel Scott Cates, Noel Freeman, Brad Pritchett and Robert Shipman

GetEQUAL

Dallasite Daniel Cates, North Texas regional coordinator for GetEQUAL, is heading to Houston on Friday to participate in the caucus’ rally. But the main reason for his trip is a protest planned by GetEQUAL outside Reliant Stadium on Saturday as “The Response” takes place inside.

Cates said the national attention paid to the fact that Perry is partnering with a hate group to stage “The Response” has helped galvanize activism in Texas.

“For a while we’ve been pretty quiet. I think that with events like this and events like the [June 2009] Rainbow Lounge [raid in Fort Worth], people are waking up,” Cates said.

“What’s interesting about the reaction to ‘The Response’ is that it’s been statewide,” he continued. “You’re seeing all these cities — Austin, San Antonio, Houston, Dallas — all these different cities coming together.”

GetEqual’s protest will be at the corner of Kirby Drive and McNee Road, starting at 8 a.m. Saturday.

Michael Divesti with GetEQUAL said that the protesters will remain at Reliant Stadium throughout the day. He urged participants to bring water and drink it often to fight the heat.

“We don’t want anyone getting heat stroke out there,” Divesti said.

GetEQUAL is partnering with the American Atheists for the protest, but GetEQUAL leaders stressed that the event is not anti-prayer.

“We’re not at all anti-prayer or anti-religion,” said Cates. “We’re anti-the-state-getting-involved-in-religion.

“I pray; my faith is very important to me,” he added.

CNN reported last month that Perry may not even speak at the rally, although it was his idea to stage the event. The possibility doesn’t surprise Divesti, who believes “The Response” has always been more about political pandering than sincere prayer.

“Perry was a Democrat until he figured out he would be more popular as a Republican. He was Methodist until he figured out he would be more popular as an evangelical,” Divesti said. “He believed in state’s rights until he figured out he would be more popular as a DOMA supporter. So now that his support of the AFA is proving unpopular on the national stage, is anyone surprised he’s scrambling to distance himself?”

FW First Congregational Church

Also planning to protest outside of Reliant Stadium on Saturday is a group from Fort Worth’s First Congregational Church.

Marvin Van, who is organizing the group, said he expects 15 to 20 people to make the trek to Houston on Friday night to participate in an interfaith service at Mount Ararat Baptist Church before spending Saturday at Reliant Stadium.

Van said that as representatives of a mainstream Christian church, his group is in a unique position to respond to “The Response.”

“We are very specifically protesting the misuse of the gospel to promote hate speech,” Van said.

“We know we’re not going to convince the governor or the AFA. That’s not why we’re going. We’re going for that gay or lesbian teenager or that Muslim teenager who thinks Christianity is only about hate,” he said.

FIGHTING HATE  |  In 1977, Anita Bryant brought her “Save the Children” campaign to Houston and the LGBT community responded.
FIGHTING HATE | In 1977, Anita Bryant brought her “Save the Children” campaign to Houston and the LGBT community responded.

Harris County Democratic Party

While Cates, Divesti and the people of First Congregational Church are protesting at Reliant Stadium Saturday, the Harris County Democratic Party will hold its fourth “Trailblazers Luncheon” downtown at the Hyatt Regency Hotel — ironically, the same hotel that was the venue for Anita Bryant’s 1977 event.

The traditional luncheon is the Harris County party’s way of highlighting contributions by members of historically oppressed communities. Previous luncheons have honored women, African-Americans and Latinos. According to the event’s co-chairs, Brad Pritchett and Robert Shipman, the party had already planned to honor members of the LGBT community at this year’s luncheon before learning of “The Response.”

“We hadn’t decided on a date for the event yet. But when Perry’s event was announced, it seemed like the perfect opportunity to counter-program,” Pritchett said.

Shipman added, “I think the tag line of the luncheon says it best: ‘A Celebration of Diversity.’ We’re focusing on the positive.”

Pritchett said while he sees parallels between Saturday’s “Response” and Anita Bryant’s 1977 “Save the Children” event in Houston, he believes Perry’s rally is worse.

“We should feel even more attacked because it’s our own governor bringing a hate group here,” he said. “He was elected to represent all Texans, but instead decided to align himself with the most extreme fringe.”

Pritchett also said he isn’t surprised Perry has refused so far to confirm whether he will speak at “The Response” event on Saturday, because the governor has “seen a negative push-back from his association with the AFA. He doesn’t know how that’s going to affect him when he’s trying to court moderate voters in a presidential election.”

Tickets for the Trailblazer’s Luncheon are available at the door and on-line at HCDP.org. Check-in begins at 9:30 a.m.

First UU Church of Houston

Another — uniquely apropos — response to “The Response” is planned for 2 p.m. Saturday: an interfaith prayer service.

The Rev. Adam Robinson of First Unitarian Universalist Church of Houston, who is organizing the event, said that it’s sometimes difficult for people of faith to oppose events like “The Response” for fear of appearing anti-prayer.

“It’s hard for faith leaders to take a stand and not make it look like they oppose praying to God to make the country better,” Robinson acknowledged. But, he said, he felt he had a responsibility to do something.
“I despise that our governor has aligned himself with a hate group. I feel called to provide people with an alternative,” Robinson said.

First Unitarian Universalist Church of Houston is located at 5200 Fannin St.

The aftermath?

Dennis Coleman, executive director of the statewide LGBT advocacy organization Equality Texas, said he believes “The Response” has already backfired on Perry.

“There’s been a galvanization of the community around the state,” Coleman said. “Texans are taken aback by the people our governor has aligned himself with.”

But Coleman said he suspects Perry’s attempt to distance himself from the prayer meeting has more to do with fears of low turnout at the event rather than concerns over being associated with a hate group.

“I think he’s backpeddling because his event’s a flop, not because of the association with the AFA,” Coleman said. “The AFA is controversial, but Perry is controversial. He wants this to be a success. He doesn’t want 7,500 people in a 75,000 seat arena. But I think that’s what he’s going to get.”

Coleman is traveling to Houston to speak at the GLBT Caucus’ Friday night rally and to present the keynote address at the Trailblazer’s Luncheon on Saturday. The legacy of “The Response” remains to be determined and will depend largely on whether Perry decides to finally announce his much-hinted-at presidential bid.

But for those organizing the responses to “The Response,” the event has created a unique flash-point, a moment in time to focus and unite the people of Texas in opposition to hate.

“We’ve had so many victories lately — in local government, in the state legislatures and nationally,” Coleman said. “But it’s sometimes hard for people to find a single, concrete issue that they can wrap their hands around and participate in.

“Gov. Perry, by aligning himself with the AFA and other hate groups, has provided that moment, and LGBT Texans and their allies have responded unanimously: ‘There is no room for hate in our state.’”

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Texans responds to ‘The Response’

• The Houston GLBT Caucus will hold a rally Friday, Aug. 5, at 7 p.m., at Tranquility Park, 400 Rusk St. in downtown Houston. State Rep. Garnet Coleman will be keynote speaker.

• GetEQUAL will hold a day-long protest outside Reliant Stadium, at the corner of Kirby Drive and McNee Road, beginning at 8 p.m. and lasting as long as “The Response.” Participants are urged to bring plenty of water.

• Members of Fort Worth First Congregational Church, 4201 Trail Lake Drive, will be leaving for Houston on Friday night and will be holding a rally outside Reliant Stadium on Saturday. Call the church at 817-923-2990 for details.

• The Harris County Democratic Party will hold its fourth annual “Trailblazers Luncheon” Saturday at Houston’s Hyatt Regency Hotel. Tickets for the Trailblazer’s Luncheon are available at the door and on-line at HCDP.org. Check-in begins at 9:30 a.m. Go online for more information.

• First Unitarian Universalist Church of Houston, led by the Rev. Adam Robinson, will hold an interfaith prayer service Saturday at 2 p.m. to offer a faith-based alternative to “The Response.” The church is located at 5200 Fannin St. For more information call the church at  713-526-5200.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition August 5, 2011.

—  Michael Stephens