The Legislature has provided no shortage of what-the-hell-are-they-thinking moments the past six months. But late Thursday night (well, early Friday morning) during a House floor debate, we saw perhaps the most bizarre moment of all—a glimpse inside the mind of Wayne Christian.
The House had been debating a package of school finance and fiscal bills. Democrats had their biggest win of the special session when Austin Democrat Donna Howard attached an amendment that requires surplus money in the Rainy Day Fund—as much as $2 billion—to go toward public education. But Christian stole the show when he offered an amendment near midnight that forbid state universities from spending public dollars on a “gender and sexuality center or other center for students focused on gay, lesbian, homosexual, bisexual, pansexual, transsexual, transgender, gender questioning or other gender identity issues.” (At least he was pretty inclusive in his discrimination.) That meant not only could state dollars not be used to support such centers, but, according to Christian, gay student groups couldn’t even meet in campus buildings.
Earlier in the session, Christian had offered a similar, though less restrictive, amendment and successfully attached it to the state budget. The amendment passed with 110 votes, but later got stripped out of the bill in negotiations with the Senate. So on Thursday night, the Republican from the East Texas town of Center brought to the floor an even harsher version.
Despite its obvious anti-gay bias, the amendment had a chance to pass. Though many members no doubt found the amendment odious, few were willing to vote against it. In April, the less-harsh version won 110 votes, including support from 11 Democrats.
This time, though, they didn’t have to take a public vote. Christian pulled the amendment down when Democrats threatened to torpedo the entire bill with a point of order that Rep. Trey Martinez Fischer, D-San Antonio, presumably had ready for a moment like this.
This entire line of thinking—shut down the LGBT centers groups—might lead a number of readers of this particular publication to wonder “What the hell is was this guy thinking?”
For once, we actually got a sense of just what he was thinking. And it wasn’t pretty.
Before he actually pulled down the measure, Christian took the stage to express his own baffled amazement at the people before him—people willing to gut the entire bill rather than risk a blatantly discriminatory amendment getting tacked on. His speech, however, was more than about the amendment itself. It was some insight into a worldview that’s increasingly present in the Texas Legislature—a vehement social conservatism, responding to the various social revolutions in this country. (The entire text of Christian’s speech is below.)
Christian began, not by talking about sexuality at all, but about racial politics. “I’m one fellow that was racially discriminated against,” he said. “See back in the ’70s I was on the first team in basketball at … high school my sophomore and junior years. We integrated my senior year, and I rode the bench because I couldn’t play as good as they did. ‘Cause white boys couldn’t jump.
“So,” he concluded, “I received discrimination.” Let’s put this in context. His school was integrating. You know—because the town had been segregated so white children got a disproportionately better education. Christian apparently feels he “received discrimination” because he “couldn’t play as good as they did.” If you missed the part of this anecdote in which Christian actually endured discrimination, you’re not alone.
Christian wasn’t done however. He began telling the chamber how he worked on the Human Services Committee “to address the human service question of taking care of the poor and needy.” For the record, Christian championed the ultimately failing effort to drain the System Benefit Fund, which provides electric bill assistance to poor and elderly Texans. But Thursday night—well Friday morning by this point—Christian was explaining that despite all his efforts to help these poor creatures, human services is “just a place where there’s such a high wall of misunderstanding, prejudice, distrust that we can’t get over that fence.”
Still with no mention of the actual amendment or human sexuality, Christian then went on to the greatness of America. “The white people in Europe couldn’t do it. Black people from Africa couldn’t do it. White people from Canada, the Hispanic population couldn’t do it,” he said. “But when we all came together in this one place called America, the United States of America—we have 90 percent of the world’s wealth.” Eat your heart out, Sarah Palin.
After expending quite a bit of energy, explaining he was a patriot and liked everyone “red or yellow, black or white,” Christian ended by saying he simply didn’t get how a good guy like himself was seen as hateful.”Every time I open my mouth and express ‘let’s equalize this,’ [people think] I’m prejudiced or I’m wrong or I’m tainted in my views and opinions,” he said.”I apologize to anybody in this session that I have ever said anything, done anything, expressed any way that would be prejudicial, discriminatory, wrong, hateful—anything. Because I’m sure my mouth does it. My wife reminds me regularly that it does.” Which makes us wonder what he says around the dinner table.
Christian might have ended with a nice why-can’t-we-all-get-along? Instead, however, he finally got to the point. Those darn gay people, whose rights, for some reason, some reps were trying to protect. “I am just amazed that that is why we would pull down the entire bill in the State of Texas,” Christian said, noting that neither the cuts to school finance or health and human services had caused as much havoc. “It was because we didn’t want to continue expressing training in our higher institutions for alternative lifestyles,” Christian said. “I am dumbfounded with that one.”
By the end of that speech, I have a feeling he wasn’t the only one dumbfounded.
Here’s the full text of Christian’s speech in all its glory:
Members let me first apologize for burning so much of your time this evening. It’s not my desire to delay to getting home to your families, getting home to whatever, doing whatever. And it is most certainly not my desire to kill a days of hard diligent sincere dedicated work that all of us have participated in. I don’t intend to do that.
Came here about 15 years ago… I came here 15 years ago mostly because I had the honor of being elected by constituents. But I remember I came because one night, one Christmas Eve night, my wife worked at Perry Brother’s variety store. I was there. There was a young single mother that was crying with her child because she couldn’t afford to buy toys. I was very concerned about that. Good Lord got better to me and Lisa, we got married and he gave me enough success that I could come here and do what all of you do and leave our families. And I came with the attitude that there needed to be a better way. I was raised in a school that was largely minority, I lived in a district that represents probably one of the highest Hispanic populations in the state next to the Valley. I’m one fellow that was racially discriminated against. See back in the 70s I was on the first team in basketball at [inaudible] high school my sophomore and junior years. We integrated my senior year and I rode the bench because I couldn’t play as good as they did. ‘Cause white boys couldn’t jump. So I received discrimination. I grew up in a racially mixed community. To me equality is me saying the same thing to one, doing the something to the other. In my home, every race in the world you could think of, my children came home, spent the night, we graduated every kind of kid. It doesn’t matter, red or yellow, black or white. I believe that.
It amazed me when I got here to the Texas House and asked to be on the Texas Human Services Committee because I felt like we needed to do something about these poor single mothers in the state of Texas. I would keep saying what can we do for them? And they’d say give ‘em more money, keep doing the same thing. And Einstein’s story that ya’ll have heard is that the mark of a true idiot is to keep doing the same thing over and over again expecting a different result.
I was asked at the Republican Caucus meeting down in San Antonio, when I raised my hand and asked the Speaker at that time… or the senior members, I said when are we going to address the human service question of taking care the poor and needy? And they said, “Oh Christian, we’ll handle that later. Different time, Different place.”
I guess my view is just somehow warped. I asked for the Human Services Committee and I didn’t know a freshmen could get their first committee assignment but I was amazed to get it. Found out it’s because nobody else wanted it. For three sessions we worked on human services and I found that it’s just a place where there’s such a high wall of misunderstanding, prejudice, distrust that we can’t get over that fence. And to this day fifteen years later, it’s still present. Tonight I brought an amendment that was requested of young people. I believe very simply—this is my warped opinion and evidently I must not meet the majority of understanding somewhere and I apologize for it. But let me say that what I believe is that equality is either everybody is either treated equally and equal means the same. But I don’t understand that if you teach, express, promote, fund, advocate this one view, then that’s okay. But if you don’t do that one and do the other, say the more traditional like I would believe values that I think were more responsible for building the values for our country, our our society, that’s somehow intolerant or wrong or somehow not equal. Or if you do them both equally, that’s not right either.
I don’t understand that and I apologize for my prejudiced in thinking everybody having equal or not expressing one side over another. To me that views as equality.
Let me say this in closing. I believe America is unlike any other place on planet Earth. The white people in Europe couldn’t do it. Black people from Africa couldn’t do it. White people from Canada, the Hispanic population couldn’t do it. But when we all came together in this one place called America, the United States of America. We have 90 percent of the worlds’ wealth. Listen to this. The second richest place on planet earth next to the united states is western Europe. that’s france and england, that bunch. that’s the second richest place on planet Earth. Do you know the absolute classification of people in the United States, we’re talking the poorest our government can classify, has more square footed heated area, eats more red meat, is more likely to drive a car, own a telephone and a television than the average citizen in the second richest place on planet Earth, Western Europe. There’s something right about all of us working together. And that’s what I bleed for. But it seems like the walls are so high every time I open my mouth and express ‘let’s equalize this,’ that I’m prejudiced or I’m wrong or I’m tainted in my views and opinions.
Folks I pray for the day that we actually can sit and discuss things and bring those walls of prejudice down. And I apologize to anybody in this session that I have ever said anything, done anything, expressed any way that would be prejudicial, discriminatory, wrong, hateful—anything. Because I’m sure my mouth does it, my wife reminds me regularly that it does. But folks, there is a better way of working together. And I hope to God one day we can find it together in this country. I do not want to destroy the day’s work.
I have been told that if I will pull my amendment, that then those that have objected to the amendment will pull down their point of order against Senate Bill one. I am just amazed that that is why we would pull down the entire bill in the state of Texas. Get this clear. Wasn’t over the inappropriate school finance. It wasn’t over not funding the needy and the human services agenda. it was because we didn’t want to continue expressing training in our higher institutions for alternative lifestyles. I am dumbfounded with that one.