Dems add marriage equality while Republicans remove some anti-gay language — although a state GOP spokesman downplays the changes


MAKING THEIR STAND  | LGBT Democrats — including Patti Fink, Erin Moore, Noel Freeman and Meghan Stabler — line up to speak in support of the marriage equailty plank on the floor of the Texas Democratic Party Convention in Houston last weekend. (Antonia Padilla/Dallas Voice)


DAVID TAFFET  |  Staff Writer

LGBT advocates from both sides of the aisle were celebrating this week after successful state conventions.

On the Republican side, some of the virulently  anti-gay language from previous platforms was removed from or tempered in the 2012 version.

Meanwhile, Texas Democrats added marriage equality to their state platform, revised rules to include gender identity and selected a record number of LGBT people to attend the national convention in Charlotte in September.

“I think it’s progress,” Metroplex Republicans President Rob Schlein said of the changes to the GOP platform. “Had there been more time to address the convention, we might have been able to get rid of more of it.”

But Chris Elam, a spokesman for the Republican Party of Texas, suggested the changes weren’t intended to reach out to LGBT Republicans, but rather to make an “unwieldy” platform more concise.

“Sometimes less is more,” Elam said, adding that reaching out to LGBT Republicans is “not what I read the platform as saying.”

Elam then quoted one of the anti-gay passages  that remains in the Texas GOP platform.

“We affirm that the practice of homosexuality tears at the fabric of society and contributes to the breakdown of the family unit,” Elam said.

Gone from the new GOP platform is opposition to the legalization of sodomy that appeared in 2010. Also missing from this year’s platform is the call to make it a felony to issue a marriage license or for a civil official to perform a same-sex wedding in Texas.

“Some people are going to hang on to what’s there,” Schlein said. “I think we’re moving in the right direction.”

Schlein said that all the bad language didn’t go into the platform in one session and it’s not going to all come out at once.

But Elam said the platform is “clear” on its position on homosexuality.

‘Let’s support the president’

Fresh off a state convention that embraced the community with supportive language from the rules committee and in the platform, LGBT Democrats are looking forward to the convention in Charlotte — and they’re fired up to try to add marriage equality to the national platform.

The rules committee added gender identity to its statement of principles, which bans tests for membership based on a list of characteristics such as race and ethnicity.

A separate sentence was added prohibiting discrimination based on characteristics including sexual orientation and gender identity “in the conduct of Democratic Party affairs.”

Former Texas Stonewall Democrats President Dan Graney proposed the rules changes.

Dallas transgender activist Pam Curry sat on the rules committee. She wasn’t surprised that the changes passed but was delighted by the complete lack of controversy.

“There was not a squabble,” Curry said. “It was perceived by everyone as long overdue.”

Curry said it’s noteworthy that the changes are to the fundamental principles of the party at the top of the document, not just tacked on as an obligatory nondiscrimination policy toward the end.

Meanwhile, the platform committee added marriage equality and pro-adoption planks that were passed by the convention nearly unanimously.

Chuck Smith, deputy director of Equality Texas, said outgoing Texas Stonewall Vice President Erin Moore, who served on the platform committee, was instrumental in adding those planks.

“She worked her butt off to get that passed,” he said.

Smith said Moore attended a number of meetings in Austin prior to the convention armed with studies and statistics that convinced other committee members that Texas Democrats  support equality.

Looking forward to the national convention, Smith said, it was telling that Wisconsin and Montana added marriage equality planks to their platforms last weekend as well.

“We’re part of the larger march to equality,” he said. “It’s going to happen.”

Moore will be carrying that equality message to the national convention as a member of the national platform committee. She was recommended by the Texas members of the Democratic National Committee and the state party chair and appointed to the national committee by the President Barack Obama re-election campaign.

Outgoing party Chair Boyd Richie was the only state chair who didn’t come from a state that already had relationship recognition to endorse adding marriage equality to the national platform, Moore said.

Richie’s recommendation of Moore to the Obama campaign reflected his support of the issue.

Moore said she wants to do more than just make sure marriage equality is included in the state and national platforms.

“I wanted to make sure we made the strongest statement we could,” she said.

Dallas Gay and Lesbian Alliance President Patti Fink, Moore’s partner, said she cried when she saw the floor vote on adding marriage equality was nearly unanimous.

“It’s really wonderful to say Texas Democrats support all families,” she said.

She called the platform, which contains a number of other progressive points such as abolition of the death penalty, support for strong public education, high-speed rail and a statement that corporations are not people, a reaction to the extremism in the Republican Party.

What was so exciting about the vote, she said, was the support coming from across the party.

“It didn’t matter if you were white, Latino, African-American,” she said. “I’ve been in Texas politics a long time. There’s been a progression, but this was overwhelming.”

Juan Ayala, who’s openly gay and was elected as an at-large national delegate, said that the inclusion of marriage equality shows how important LGBT voters are to the party. He’s been active in party politics for 20 years.

“I’ve seen it building and building and seen the role of the LGBT community grow year after year,” Ayala said.

Tom Elliott, elected as a national delegate representing Austin, learned politics as a graduate student at Southern Methodist University where he campaigned to add an LGBT student senate seat. Now, he’s the Travis County Democratic Party’s administrative director.

Elliott decided to run to become a national delegate two weeks before Obama announced his support for marriage equality.

Elliot said he initially wanted to show the president that the base supports equality. But once Obama made his statement, he said his focus became, “Let’s support the president.”

At least 32 members of the LGBT community will be going to the national convention in Charlotte as delegates, committee members or elected officials.

Elections were held at the convention to fill a number of positions.

Glen Maxey was elected to be one of 10 Texas members of the Democratic National Committee. He replaces lesbian former Houston City Councilwoman Sue Lovell. Dallas County Sheriff Lupe Valdez also serves on the DNC but was appointed to that position in addition to the 10 elected members.

The State Democratic Executive Committee selects one male and one female from each state senatorial district. At least two new gay members from Dallas were elected to SDEC positions — Paul Tran from District 23 and Michael McPhail from SD 9.

Also at the convention, the Texas Stonewall Democratic Caucus elected new officers. Eli Olivarez of Brownsville was elected president. Olivarez founded and served as president of Stonewall Democrats of the Rio Grande Valley.

Carol Cappa from Tarrant County, previously the group’s secretary, is the new vice president. Replacing Cappa as secretary is Jay Narey from Dallas, who has served as an officer of Stonewall Dallas. Shaun Nelson of Houston will continue as TSDC treasurer.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition June 15, 2012.