Despite targeted challenges, time (and public opinion) is on the side of equality in Texas
Published: June 29, 2011
And while Texas’ 82nd Legislature was marked by many shades of wingnuttery, the worst of the bills targeting LGBT issues sank, while a handful of good ones rose.
Here’s our wrap-up.
Twice this year — once in the regular session and once in special session — state Rep. Wayne Christian, R-Center, put so-called university gender and sexuality centers in his sights. In his first run, Christian filed an amendment requiring universities to spend equal state funds on “family and traditional values” centers and college LGBT resource centers. While the measure passed the House it was stripped from the Senate version of the bill.
Christian revived the issue this month, resulting in a long, heated, and bizarre floor debate as he sought to ban colleges from using any state money, or university facilities, for groups addressing “gay, lesbian, homosexual, bisexual, pansexual, transsexual, transgender, gender questioning, or other gender identity issues.”
He specifically targeted UT Austin’s Gender and Sexuality Center, which Christian said once hosted a gender performance workshop “that provided a lot of wigs and makeup”; and Texas A&M’s GLBT Resource Center, which sparked outrage among college conservatives by holding a “safe and fun sex” seminar. Democrats balked at Christian’s measure, some calling it “backward” and overreaching. As Christian described videos of a “naked rear-end” shown during A&M’s seminar, Rep. Ruth Jones McClendon, D-San Antonio, walked to the floor podium and shot out, “This is sickening.”
And Rep. Senfronia Thompson, D-Houston, added, “If this amendment is passed, you’re going to be denying these students the right to socialize and discuss these issues in a safe environment, and that may not bother you, because you may say, ‘If they’re gay and somebody hurts them, so what?’”
Christian reluctantly withdrew the measure after it nearly imploded a crucial school-funding bill, the primary objective of for the special session. In pulling the proposal, Christian insisted he too has been the victim of discrimination, saying that on his high school basketball team he was kicked to the bench once the school integrated black students during his senior year. “I couldn’t play as good as they did, white boys can’t jump, so I received discrimination,” he said.
Sure the Supreme Court struck down Texas’ anti-sodomy laws eight years ago, but we’ve had a hell of a time actually getting them scrubbed from the legal code. Revisited efforts in the 82nd Legislative session by Houston state Reps Garnet Coleman and Jessica Farrar made it to a committee hearing (a first) but that’s where the matter died. Their bills (HB 2156 and HB 604, respectively) would have finally removed Statute 21.06 regarding “deviant sex” from the books. In the big picture, it’s a small thing, perhaps. The language that today is merely annotated “declared unconstitutional by Lawrence v. Texas, 123 S.Ct. 2472” doesn’t carry legal weight and will be erased. Just like — again, one day — there will be legal gay marriage nationwide.