Todd Staples
Todd Staples

Hank Gilbert, the Democrat who’s challenging Republican incumbent Todd Staples in the race for Texas Agriculture Commissioner, is publicly questioning Staples’ involvement in a same-sex divorce case in Dallas. In a statement posted on his campaign Web site yesterday, Gilbert said:

“I can’t for the life of me figure out what this has to do with agriculture. The last time I checked, marriage and divorce played absolutely no role whatsoever in the price of cotton, sorghum, or corn. One would think Todd Staples would focus his energies on actually improving agriculture in Texas, but instead, he’s focused on yet again bashing the LGBT community and their families in an effort to shore up his erosion in his right wing base. I’m sick and tired of politicians masking their terrible job performance by using our citizens as a punching bag.”

Gilbert, who’s from Whitehouse, issued a comprehensive policy statement on LGBT issues, called “Equality for All,” when he planned to run for governor. He switched to the agriculture commissioner race after Bill White declared for governor. Gilbert defeated Kinky Friedman in the primary. While “Equality for All” stops short of explicitly endorsing same-sex marriage, it comes pretty darn close. It proposes repealing Texas’ ban on same-sex marriage and allowing civil unions that give gay and lesbian couples the same privileges and protections as heterosexual couples. Gilbert’s policy statement, which was later adopted by gubernatorial candidate Farouk Shami, also proposed legislation banning anti-LGBT discrimination in employment, insurance and public education.

Staples’ office hasn’t returned phone calls seeking comment about his involvement in the same-sex divorce case. Staples, from Palestine, and State Rep. Warren Chisum, R-Pampa, filed a brief opposing the divorce with the help of the right-wing, Plano-based Liberty Institute. Staples’ involvement in the case presumably stems from the fact that he co-sponsored Texas’ bans on same-sex marriage when he served as a state senator.

Yesterday I suggested that right-wing politicians in Texas are showing signs of backing away from gay-bashing, because they’re afraid it may come back to haunt them. I also called for pro-LGBT politicians to go on the offensive. Perhaps Gilbert was listening:

“I’m not sure what benefit Todd Staples will get aligning himself with a right-wing think tank that sued the state of Alaska to stop an investigation into former Governor Sarah Palin’s abuse of power, but one thing is clear: Texas agriculture doesn’t benefit from this at all. While Todd Staples worries about gay marriage, Texas food security is at stake. When Texas produces less crops, that means we have to import them from other states or even other countries. Staples needs to be doing something about shrinking agricultural production and what that means for food safety, not filing briefs in a bunch of lawsuits that don’t involve him or his department. Finally, there’s the basic issue of human decency. It’s time Todd Staples stop bashing LGBT Texans. Todd’s already been a critical player in denying equality to LGBT Texans, why continue to demonize them?”

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