Friday, June 10, 2011

Amendment to Ban Campus LGBT Resource Centers Defeated - Again

Late last night, as the 16 hour debate on SB 1, the "fiscal matters" bill, was drawing to a close on the House floor Wayne Christian (R-Center) offered his latest permeation of an amendment to ban LGBT resource centers from Texas Universities. In its original incarnation the amendment would have required schools that have LGBT resource centers to equally fund "family and traditional values" centers. The new version completely banned LGBT resource centers from Texas' public universities.

My post on the Dallas Voice Instant Tea Blog goes into further detail on the over half-hour debate of the amendment, and it's eventual death, but I wanted to take a second here to make an editorial observation: The first time Christian tried to destroy this valuable resource no member of the House spoke against him and only one (Joaquin Castro (D-San Antonio)) questioned the need for the amendment, this time there was concerted and passionate opposition. The first time Christian tried to silence the voice of queer college students it sailed through with only 22 House members voting against, this time Trey Martinez-Fischer (D-San Antonio) threatened to sink the entire fiscal matters bill, probably the most important bill of the special session, unless Christian removed the amendment. The first time Christian sought to create an environment of closeted fear on college campuses all anyone could do was make jokes about what "pansexual" meant, this time members made statements like:
"Everybody’s not straight, people who are gay are born gay and they deserve the same rights, liberties and protections that everyone does."
-Marc Veasey (D-Fort Worth)

"You may say ‘if they’re gay, and somebody hurts them, then so what?’ But let me just remind you that those persons are somebody’s child..."
-Senfronia Thompson (D-Houston)

"I have the same feelings elicited in me about the hate and bigotry put forth by measures like this as [measures that] were [introduced] back in the pre-civil rights period when certain buzz words and statements to create fear about certain individuals [who were] different [were] brought before legislative bodies and certainly before the Texas House of representatives on multiple occasions just to create a vote based on hate, because someone was different."
-Dawnna Dukes (D-Austin)

Do [LGBT students] have the right to participate in extra-curricular activities? Do they have the right to participate in the debate team? Do they have the right to play on our football teams, on our basketball teams, on our volleyball teams?
Or should we say, because they may be gay or something else, that they do not have the right to play right along with other girls and other boys, because we are sending the wrong message and they should remain in the bleachers?”
-Sylvester Turner (D-Houston)
What changed between April 17th, when Christian's amendment passed with almost no objection, and June 9th, when allies of the LGBT community were willing to bring the entire special session to a screaming halt to stop him?

You did.

The LGBT community changed. The LGBT community spoke, with a strong and unambiguous voice and told the people who were sent to Austin to represent us that we would not sit idly by while hate and bigotry were written into our laws. We told them we expected a fight, and they fought for us.

Take Raphael Anchia (D-Dallas), historically Anchia's been one of the stronger allies the queer community has in the House, but when Christian first offered his amendment Anchia voted "present, not voting." His aide explained to the Dallas Voice that the vote was intended to be a protest of what Anchia considered a ridiculous piece of legislation.

The LGBT community didn't see a it as a protest, we saw it as someone watching us being attacked and not doing anything about it, and we let Anchia know it. This time, when Christian offered his amendment, Anchia was one of the first at bat and asked Christian what might have been the most pertinent question of the evening: "What is your gender identity?" To which Christian replied "I'm a heterosexual father of three." Showing a better understanding of gender than most straight, cisgender men Anchia retorted "No, that's your [sexual orientation], what's your gender identity?" Anchia pushed Christian to understand that, just like everyone else, he has a gender identity, that's it's not some foreign attribute that only wierdos posses, but a universal attribute that everyone shares.

It is easy sometimes to despair, to think that efforts to influence our elected officials will never create dramatic change, and the truth is they won't. The change they create is subtle. Talking to our elected officials isn't going to turn a rabid homophobe like Christian into an ally, but it can push a quite ally like Anchia to become a vocal advocate. That's the key.

We must must constantly communicate with those charged with making these important decisions so that one day instead of Wayne Christian hating queer people and introducing amendments to make his hate statutory, he just hates queer people while quietly muttering to himself in the corner; so that a conservative representative who cringed at the Christian amendment but voted for it anyway will have the courage to vote "nay" next time; and so that a representative who this time voted against the amendment, but didn't take the opportunity to publicly and loudly decry homophobia on the floor of the Texas House of Representatives will find the courage next time to stand up and say "This amendment hurts me, because it hurts my fellow Texans."

While we work towards that day, please take the opportunity to call those members who fought for us on the House floor and tell them "thank you":

Raphael Anchia (512) 463-0746
Joaquin Castro (512) 463-0669
Dawnna Dukes (512) 463-0506
Trey Martinez-Fischer (512) 463-0616
Borris Miles (512) 463-0518
Senfronia Thompson (512) 463-0720
Sylvester Turner (512) 463-0554
Marc Veasey (512) 463-0716

There were two record votes taken on amendments offered to the Christian Amendments. As soon as those are available on the Texas Legislature Online LQ's House score card will be updated.


  1. Just for the record, Rep. Sylvester Turner is from Houston, not from Fort Worth. He is my representative.

    On another front, where are the "Log Cabin Republicans" when their colleagues (Christian) propose ridiculous bills like this one? Do they organize their colleagues in Texas to fight against it? As a university staff, it really concerns me that a bill like this could someday be law.

  2. Thank you for the correction, I have corrected the post. As for the Log Cabin Republicans: there are two chapters in Texas, in Dallas in Houston. I would encourage you to contact the chapters to see what they have to say:

    Stonewall Republicans of Dallas
    President, Rob Schlein

    Houston Stonewall Republicans
    Chris Busby, President