The once-complicated Congressional District 33 race has come down to state Rep. Marc Veasey and former state Rep. Domingo Garcia, who now both say marriage equality would be their No. 1 LGBT priority in Congress next year.
Before the primary, Garcia said if elected his focus would be on be the Domestic Partner Benefits and Obligations Act, which would give domestic partner benefits to federal government employees, because a repeal of the Defense of Marriage Act isn’t likely in the next few years.
However, he told Dallas Voice this week that his opinion had changed after President Barack Obama’s endorsement of marriage equality. He said he wants to push for marriage equality in 2013 and would co-author the DOMA repeal bill.
When Garcia served on the Dallas City Council from 1991-95, he was a strong proponent of the Dallas police lifting a ban on hiring gays and lesbians. Then, in the Texas House, where he served from 1996 until 2002, he voted for an LGBT-inclusive hate crime bill in 2001.
Garcia would become the first Hispanic representative elected to Congress form North Texas if he wins the July 31 runoff. As a Hispanic, he said he would be able to help push for the Uniting American Families Act, which allows for same-sex partners to sponsor immigrants coming to the U.S.
Veasey said prior to the primary that his legislative priorities were the Employment Non-Discrimination Act, which would prohibit anti-LGBT job bias, and the Student Non-Discrimination Act, which would ban harassment of LGBT students in public schools.
Based on the shift of the country in recent polls and conversations with voters, Veasey said marriage equality “can’t happen fast enough.”
“It’s long overdue,” he said, adding that the nondiscrimination bills are also still a priority.
Veasey represents state House District 95 that encompasses one-third of District 33, which begins in Fort Worth near the Rainbow Lounge and narrows to include parts of Arlington and Irving and ends in North Oak Cliff.
In the state House, Veasey voted against an amendment to the Texas Constitution banning same-sex marriage and civil unions in 2005. He was also outspoken in his opposition to a bill that would have banned LGBT resource centers on college campuses, and he authored a bill to study the effectiveness of the rarely used James Byrd Jr. Hate Crimes Act, which passed a decade ago.
Both candidates have touted their LGBT support in the past and have highlighted major endorsements that could help them win over LGBT voters in the other’s county.
Garcia, who won Dallas County in the primary, said he’s confident he’ll win it again and could take Tarrant County with former City Councilwoman Kathleen Hicks’ endorsement. Hicks was a fellow District 33 candidate who captured 13 percent of the Tarrant County vote in the primary, compared to Garcia’s 16 percent and Veasey’s 48 percent.
“She has a strong LGBT following in Tarrant County that I think will also bring a surge of new voters that we did not have the first time,” Garcia said.
But gay Fort Worth Councilman Joel Burns, who lives in District 33, has endorsed Veasey. Burns told Dallas Voice that Veasey is a “longtime friend” to the LGBT community and has “an outstanding pro-equality record and has been a leader on issues important to the LGBT community from his first day in the Texas Legislature.”
Congresswoman Eddie Bernice Johnson, D-Dallas, who has been a supporter of LGBT rights, also endorsed Veasey, a high-caliber endorsement Tarrant County Stonewall Democrats President Felipe Guttierez said will help Veasey in Dallas.
Guttierez said the mudslinging from Garcia about allegations that Veasey is backed by Republicans and special interests have led to comments that are “out of order or distasteful.” On the other side, Veasey has portrayed Garcia as untrustworthy.
But Veasey captured 37 percent overall to Garcia’s 25 percent in the primary, a margin Guttierez said he’s sure Veasey will be able to hold onto.
“Overall, Veasey’s always had the edge,” he said.
Stonewall Democrats of Dallas President Omar Narvaez said Hicks’ endorsement of Garcia means more because she has served the Tarrant County area that encompasses the Rainbow Lounge. Dallas Stonewall has endorsed Garcia, but Tarrant Stonewall does not endorse in the primary.
The most important thing in the runoff is the vote, Narvaez said, encouraging LGBT voters to make their voice heard amid an expected low turnout. “The LGBT vote will be so important because the vote that turns out is so low,” he said. “So LGBT people have a really huge ability to have a great so-say with such a low turnout among the electorate.”
This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition July 20, 2012.