Old culture warriors never say die. They just flail away. Steve Hotze, leader of the Conservative Republicans of Texas, has been an important and influential figure in the Texas conservative movement for years. Republican candidates seek his endorsement and money while the grassroots look to him as a forceful leader.
The guy’s always been a bit odd — moderate on immigration but rabid about social issues. Once, he recorded bizarre auto-tuned songs with titles such as “God Fearing Texans Stop Obamacare.“ He’s a practitioner of alternative medicine who hawks his own line of vitamins. Like Dr. Strangelove’s General Ripper, the purity of mind and body he prizes in his personal life seems to bear some connection to his political fixation with moral rot and decay.
But the Supreme Court’s gay marriage ruling may have unmoored Hotze.
On Thursday, he launched a multi-city tour of Texas, “The Faith Family Freedom Tour,” at a nearly half-empty event at a hotel ballroom in Houston. Sponsored by Christian conservative notables such as Cathie Adams and Jonathan Saenz, speakers included former House Majority Leader Tom DeLay, who explained why he thought the judiciary could be effectively overruled by the people, a radio host named Terry Lowry who told the crowd that “Satan and his demons are seducing the people of Houston,” and a reparative therapist who warned the audience that the science of making kids un-gay could someday be banned.
But it was Hotze who stole the show. He began his time on stage by showing his audience a video that warned of the audacious plans of the gay rights movement. “Just like there was a communist manifesto, there’s a homosexual manifesto,” Hotze said. “The hackles will stand up on the back of your neck when you see what they have planned.”
Copies of the manifesto were sitting on every seat in the audience, although the copies Hotze distributed omitted the first line of the original, which establishes the text as a “cruel fantasy.” The “manifesto” is a satirical essay, originally written in 1987, a strange and hilarious imagining of a world in which gay men reign as oppressors over lowly straights.
“Your sons shall become our minions and do our bidding,” reads one line. “All churches who condemn us will be closed. Our only gods are handsome young men. We adhere to a cult of beauty,” the manifesto continues, concluding after many paragraphs: “Tremble, hetero swine, when we appear before you without our masks.” A legally required disclosure immediately beneath Hotze’s version reads “Reprinted and Paid for by Campaign For Texas Families PAC.”
The video featured a voiceover of passages from the manifesto while photos of shirtless men and gay pride parades flashed by. After the video, Hotze spoke. He took the manifesto seriously, as a list of plans and objectives from the great gay army. It was a declaration of war, he said. The gays wouldn’t stop until every man and boy has been sodomized.
Then things took a turn for the weirder. “Our strongest weapon in the fight,” he said, pulling out a sword from its sheath and brandishing it for the audience, “is the word of God. The word of God is like any two-edged sword.”
He pointed the sword at the audience. “For thousands of years, men fought with swords,” he said. “Can you imagine that piercing right through the enemy like this? That’s what the word of God does. I’ve decided, I’m not going to fight the homosexuals with sweet words. I’m going to fight them with God’s word.”
After the gay marriage decision came down, Hotze said, he appeared at a press conference. A gay marriage supporter came up to Hotze, blurting out, in Hotze’s retelling, how much he “loved Jesus.” Hotze replied: “You love Jesus? Have you ever heard this, my friend: ’The wages of sin is death?’” He “ran away.” Hotze had made “the wicked flee,” he boasted to the audience.
“What you just saw in the homosexual manifesto underscores the evil nature of this battle. It’s a spiritual battle, OK? It’s against the world forces of darkness and the spiritual forces of wickedness in the heavenly places. You have to put on the full armor of God,” he admonished the audience, swinging his sword again. The psychic and supernatural battle between God and the devil was playing out every day in the world of flesh and blood. “The battle takes place in time and space,” he said, “but it’s also going on in the heavenly places.” He told the audience that “Satanic cults” were driving the “homosexual movement.”
Gays “want to make Houston another San Francisco,” and “want to make Texas a clone of California.” The next battle, now that the battle over gay marriage was lost, would be over transgender rights. Bumper stickers that read “No men in women’s bathrooms!” were available in the back of the room. “Bruce Jenner — I call him ‘Bruce Degenerate’ — he says he’s transgendered, but he’s gonna keep his male parts. Because he likes women! Now, is that deviant or am I wrong?” He continued: “Do you want your wife, daughter, or granddaughter exposed to his?”
“Homofascists,” Hotze said, were enabled and appeased by those who treated their behavior as normal or acceptable. The indoctrination started in public schools, by design. “Remember: Homosexuals can’t reproduce. They have to recruit.”
Swift action was needed. “Drive them out of our city. I don’t want them in our city. Send them back to San Francisco.” No half-measures could be contemplated when dealing with the truly wicked. “Has anybody ever heard of the Nazis? Were they wicked? OK. What did we send our boys over to do in World War II? What did our preachers pray that would happen in World War II?”
They weren’t praying that the Germans would straighten up and fly right. “They prayed, ‘give our boys victory in battle,’” Hotze said. “Sometimes you have to do that when people are totally opposed to God like that, and wickedness rises up.”
City elections are coming to Houston soon, and Hotze urged those in the audience to take part, to end the stain of outgoing Houston Mayor Annise Parker, who is a lesbian. He had his candidates for Houston City Council stand up, along with Ben Hall, who’s launching another bid for Houston Mayor. Hall’s campaign schwag was prominent in the event — it even lined the men’s bathroom. “The homosexual political movement hates Ben Hall,” Hotze said. “I support Ben Hall. I’ve given him my endorsement, I’ve given him my money.” Hall smiled and waved to the audience.
Then Hotze urged attendees to pull out their mobile phones, so they could wire him money. He tried to walk the older crowd through joining the Hilton’s Wi-Fi network, then opening their browser and going to Hotze’s website, but ultimately he too got lost. Finally, someone in the crowd asked if he would take checks. So he relented. “Where are the buckets? We’ll take everything,” he said.
Hotze’s always been kind of… out there. And a lot of GOPers grumble about him in private. But he still holds a lot of sway. A rally he held to oppose gay rights on the sidelines of the 2014 state Republican convention drew a packed house and plenty of big names, Senator Ted Cruz and then-Senator Dan Patrick among them. Patrick spoke forcefully against transgender rights, hitting many of the same points Hotze did in Houston, although Hotze seems to have fallen out of love with Patrick in the year since.
Hotze and his faction are losing influence. But as the rhetoric of the gay-rights dead enders hardens, it’s getting a little harder to laugh off.