Rarely are the words of one state legislator worth national attention, but when Senfronia Thompson, a black representative from Houston, stalks to the back mike with a certain “get out of my way” look in her eye, it’s, Katie, bar the door. Here is Thompson speaking against the Legislature’s recent folly of putting a superfluous anti-gay marriage measure into the state constitution:
“I have been a member of this august body for three decades, and today is one of the all-time low points. We are going in the wrong direction, in the direction of hate and fear and discrimination. Members, we all know what this is about; this is the politics of divisiveness at its worst, a wedge issue that is meant to divide.
“Members, this is a distraction from the real things we need to be working on. At the end of this session, this Legislature, this leadership, will not be able to deliver the people of Texas fundamental and fair answers to the pressing issues of our day.
“Let’s look at what this amendment does not do. It does not give one Texas citizen meaningful tax relief. It does not reform or fully fund our education system. It does not restore one child to CHIP [Children’s Health Insurance Program] who was cut from health insurance last session. It does not put one dime into raising Texas’ Third World access to health care. It does not do one thing to care for or protect one elderly person or one child in this state. In fact, it does not even do anything to protect one marriage.
“Members, this bill is about hate and fear and discrimination. … When I was a small girl, white folks used to talk about ‘protecting the institution of marriage’ as well. What they meant was if people of my color tried to marry people of Mr. Chisum’s color, you’d often find the people of my color hanging from a tree. … Fifty years ago, white folks thought interracial marriages were a threat to the institution of marriage.
“Members, I’m a Christian and a proud Christian. I read the good book and do my best to live by it. I have never read the verse where it says, ‘Gay people can’t marry.’ I have never read the verse where it says, ‘Thou shalt discriminate against those not like me.’ I have never read the verse where it says, ‘Let’s base our public policy on hate and fear and discrimination.’ Christianity to me is love and hope and faith and forgiveness—not hate and discrimination.
“I have served in this body a lot of years, and I have seen a lot of promises broken. … So … now that blacks and women have equal rights, you turn your hatred to homosexuals, and you still use your misguided reading of the Bible to justify your hatred. You want to pass this ridiculous amendment so you can go home and brag—brag about what? Declare that you saved the people of Texas from what?
“Persons of the same sex cannot get married in this state now. Texas law does not now recognize same-sex marriages, civil unions, religious unions, domestic partnerships, contractual arrangements or Christian blessings entered into in this state—or anywhere else on this planet Earth.
“If you want to make your hateful political statements, then that is one thing, but the Chisum amendment does real harm. It repeals the contracts that many single people have paid thousands of dollars to purchase to obtain medical powers of attorney, hospital visitation, joint ownership and support agreements. You have lost your way. This is obscene. …
“I thought we would be debating economic development, property tax relief, protecting seniors’ pensions, and stem cell research to save lives of Texans who are waiting for a more abundant life. Instead we are wasting this body’s time with this political stunt that is nothing more than constitutionalizing discrimination. The prejudices exhibited by members of this body disgust me.
“Last week, Republicans used a political wedge issue to pull kids—sweet little vulnerable kids—out of the homes of loving parents and put them back in a state orphanage just because those parents are gay. That’s disgusting.
“I have listened to the arguments. I have listened to all of the crap. … I want you to know that this amendment [is] blowing smoke to fuel the hell-fire flames of bigotry.” Molly Ivins is a nationally syndicated columnist. Her most recent book with Lou Dubose is Bushwhacked: Life in George W. Bush’s America.(Random House).