Despite targeted challenges, time (and public opinion) is on the side of equality in Texas
Published: June 29, 2011
At the start of this year’s legislative session, LGBT groups braced themselves for a bumpy ride. With an overwhelming Republican majority in the House and the Senate’s conservative edge, advocates knew prospects weren’t rosy. But despite a few heated battles, one of which nearly derailed a crucial state budget bill, LGBT groups claim the 82nd session was an overall victory, noting that advocates successfully avoided some of the most damaging proposals and wound up scoring one of their top priorities for the session: an anti-bullying measure with teeth.
“I thought we came out pretty well this session, especially with the passage of the anti-bullying bill,” said Dan Graney, president of the Texas Stonewall Democratic Caucus, the LGBT wing of the state’s Democratic Party. “Despite the ultra-conservative nature of this Legislature, we didn’t feel LGBT people were under the gun or as attacked as they have been in the past.”
Darrell Parsons, a San Antonian who sits on the National Board of Governors with Human Rights Campaign, says the LGBT community is not always aware of how fast things are changing for the better. “I see us making progress by leaps and bounds, not only legislatively with laws like Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell being overturned,” Parsons said. Beyond DADT and New York’s fresh victory for marriage equality are fundamental attitude shifts.
Despite national stunts pandering to fringe elements that don’t reflect today’s America, popular attitudes about homosexuality are changing fast — even in Texas.
In a 2010 Equality Texas poll, 60 percent of responders said they felt that LGBT couples were seeking equal — not “special” — rights. And 63.1 percent supported civil unions for gay couples. A Texas Tribune/UT poll likewise found 63 percent in favor of either civil unions or full marriage rights for same-sex couples.
Parsons points to other, more public forms of expressions of this change.
Take comedian Tracy Morgan, forced to return to Nashville to apologize for hateful comments he made about gays recently. Closer to home, former chairman of the Bexar County Democratic Party Dan Ramos was widely lambasted by a wide array of political interest groups and politicians after he compared homosexuality to polio in an interview with the Current.
In short: “It’s not okay to be a gay-basher anymore,” said Parsons. “I know Texas is a red state, very red, but I’m hoping that one day marriage equality won’t be a red-state or a blue-state issue. … It may happen state by state, but eventually it’s going to sweep the nation. It’s just a matter of time.”
That is, it’s perhaps inevitable that marriage equality will find its way to the U.S. Supreme Court, possibly as a result of the district judge who recently overturned California’s Prop 8, intended to prevent gay marriage.