LGBT Democrats, Republicans see some success with resolutions on anti-gay discrimination, bullying and anti-gay language in GOP platform
There was more to the precinct conventions held March 3 following the Texas primary elections. Those gatherings were also an opportunity for LGBT activists in both parties to introduce resolutions they hope will eventually become planks in their party’s platform.
And according to Randall Terrell, political director for Equality Texas, activists in both parties took some big steps forward toward that goal.
"I know we have 30 or 40 locations where at least one of these resolutions passed, and I suspect we may have twice as many as that, when all is said and done", Terrell said. "We are just now really beginning to get all the feedback on them."
Terrell said that Equality Texas circulated two positions that Democrats were asked to introduce at their precinct conventions. One called on the Texas Legislature to pass a non-discrimination bill that protects LGBT people, and the other calls on lawmakers to enact a measure prohibiting anti-LGBT bullying and harassment in the state’s public schools.
On the Republican side of the equation, Terrell said, LGBT Republicans were asked to introduce a resolution calling for the removal of anti-gay language in the Texas GOP Platform.
The two resolutions Equality Texas circulated to be introduced at Democratic precinct conventions met with little resistance in most places. In fact, he said, in Precinct 152 in Travis County, the crowd cheered as the non-discrimination resolution passed.
The resolution on bullying in the schools was held up in that precinct, but only because some of those attending insisted it be amended to call for more specific protections for LGBT students.
Once those changes were made, that resolution also passed easily, he said.
Terrell said reports he has received indicated that in Democratic precincts where the resolutions were introduced, "they usually passed without much bother."
But that wasn’t the case in every precinct. In fact, according to Stonewall Democrats of Dallas President Jesse Garcia, in some precincts people didn’t even have the chance to introduce resolutions because of the chaos created by the huge crowds.
"It was such a difficult night across the board in some places," Garcia said. "I heard from several people who couldn’t introduce their resolutions. I was one of them. I didn’t get to do it because the people in charge of my precinct convention wouldn’t allow us the time for resolutions.
"It’s a shame I couldn’t do it," he continued. "But lots of other people could and did, in precincts all over the area. I have heard from people who got these resolutions passed in places like Rowlett, Grand Prairie, Plano and Richardson. The majority came from precincts in Dallas, but there were other places, too — places you wouldn’t think of really as being gay friendly."
Garcia also noted that while most people he talked to said the anti-bullying resolution met with little resistance, "there were some people who were not that cool with the non-discrimination resolution."
"You could tell there are people out there in the Democratic Party who are still not with us on that issue," he said. "That’s why it will be important to have people who do support them as delegates as the senatorial district conventions. It’s an education process."
Both Garcia and Terrell said they have high hopes that the two resolutions will make their way into the state party platform.
"I think both the Democratic resolutions stand a very good chance of making it all the way to the state convention. There are a number of Democratic legislators who will stand up for the resolutions," Terrell said. "I am pretty optimistic."
The long-term picture might not be as bright for the resolution introduced in Republican precinct conventions. But Terrell and Log Cabin Republicans of Dallas President Rob Schlein said they were pleased with the positive reaction in many precincts — including at least one very unlikely one.
"I am in Precinct 1800 with Cathy Adams, who is president of the Eagle Forum," Schlein said. "I had expected to have stacked the deck against me, and I expected to have a hostile audience. But I introduced the resolution anyway. I went in there and made my case, and I won.
"Afterwards, I had several people come up to me and say, ‘You did something no one has ever done. You went up against Cathy Adams. No one ever stands up to her.’ They were thrilled," Schlein said.
He said he knows of at least 10 Republican precincts where the resolution passed, including a notoriously conservative precinct near White Rock Lake where it was introduced by a non-gay ally of the community.
In each place, Schlein said, the story was the same: "When people actually read the [anti-gay] language that is in the platform, they had the same reaction. They either didn’t know that language was in there, or they didn’t realize that it was so inflammatory. And they said it needs to come out of the platform."
He added, "I think this shows that if we can get the word out and shine a light on this, we can make progress."
The Texas GOP Platform includes passages referring to homosexuality in connection with child support and visitation, adoption, sex education, sodomy laws, the Americans with Disabilities Act and military service. But, Schlein said, the passage most people consider most egregious is on page 14 of the 31-page document. It reads:
"We believe the practice of sodomy tears at the fabric of society, contributes to the breakdown of the family unit, and leads to the spread of dangerous, communicable diseases. Homosexual behavior is contrary to the fundamental, unchanging truths that have been ordained by God, recognized by our country’s founders, and shared by the majority of Texans. 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.’ We are opposed to any granting of special legal entitlements, recognition, or privileges including, but not limited to, marriage between persons of the same sex, custody of children by homosexuals, homosexual partner insurance or retirement benefits. We oppose any criminal or civil penalties against those who oppose homosexuality out of faith, conviction or belief in traditional values."
Schlein said that he believes many Texas Republicans would support excising those passages — if it were proposed to them in the right way.
"When Randall sent me the resolution he had drawn up, I called him back and said it was obvious that he was a Democrat. Liberal arguments about fairness won’t sell to conservatives. They don’t care about fairness. They don’t care what some psychiatric association says. Their beliefs are based in religion. So I rewrote it," Schlein said.
He said his version of the resolution was written to convince his fellow republicans that "it’s time, politically, to remove this language. It does not help Republicans get elected."
"We have to try to speak to them in terms the conservatives understand. We’re not going to get to them on the fairness issue," he said. "We acknowledge that their attitudes are based on heartfelt beliefs and that they have the right to those beliefs. But we want their beliefs balanced with our beliefs in the platform.
"Our tactic is to show them that homosexuality has been unfairly singled out in our platform. The Democratic activists use this language against us.
"One point I made at my precinct convention is that Barack Obama had 400 people over at the Democratic caucus in our precinct, and we had about 20. Those young people over there supporting Obama don’t think homosexuality is an illness. Our national party platform doesn’t have this language. It’s just not smart politics," he said.
Schlein said the 10 precincts he knows of that passed the resolution came from three different senatorial districts, which could mean a better chance for it advancing to the state convention.
"Honestly, I don’t know what the prospects are. We are trying to get the word out about it and get support," he said. "It may not happen this year, but I think it is heading in the right direction. It just seems like a lot of things are falling into place."
This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition March 14, 2008