At the state level there have been three major challenges to the Texas sodomy statute: Baker v. Wade, which was ultimately unsuccessful and two recent cases Morales v. State and England v. State. The Third Court of Appeals in Austin has held, in both cases, that the state sodomy statute is unconstitutional under the privacy right granted by the Texas Constitution. Recently, the Texas Supreme Court has stated that it does not have jurisdiction in the England case because the city of Dallas failed to comply with the statutory prerequisites. The Texas Supreme Court has heard arguments in the Morales case and we are awaiting a final decision. Morales is sponsored by the Texas Human Rights Foundation, the statewide lesbian/gay legal action group. Recent anti-abortion court decisions have led to an erosion in the so-called right to privacy. Because of this erosion, equal protection has become an appealing alternative legal theory in the protection of lesbian and gay people. Equal protection under the United States Constitution requires that a class of individuals share a common immutable characteristic such as race or gender. Because there is some question about whether lesbian or gay identity is a choice, the courts have refused to find an common immutable characteristic. Although this is rarely discussed, I believe that Dr. Simon LeVay’ s studies concerning biological causes of gayness and other similar studies are a direct response to the erosion of the privacy right and the search for an immutable characteristic. Legislative Issues The most important lesbian/gay issue in the current state legislative session is the repeal of section 21.06. During the last session the Legislature mandated the repeal of the current state penal code and convened the Punishment and Standards Commission to write a new more efficient code. After months of efforts by the Lesbian/Gay Rights duct statute was removed from the Punishment and Standards Commission report which was the basis for both Senate Bill 1067 and its companion House Bill 1235 the revised Texas penal code. When S.B. 1067 reached the Senate floor, Senator Jane Nelson, a conservative Republican from Flower Mound, put forth an amendment to place an anti-homosexual conduct statute back into the revised code. After strong opposition from Senator John Whi4mire, who was the sponsor of the bill, as well as opposition from the Lieutenant Governor and others, Nelson’s amendment was defeated 16 to 11. An anti-homosexual conduct statute and a heterosexual sodomy statute were amended into the House version of the revised code. Currently, we are fighting to have them removed. In addition to major legislative challenges such as the repeal of the anti-homosexual conduct statute, the Lesbian/Gay Rights Lobby performs three major tasks. One is to attempt to kill bad legislation that could harm the lesbian/gay community or persons living with HIV or AIDS. For instance, during the last legislative session LGRL successfully blocked an attempt to criminalize HIV-positive health-care workers. Secondly, the Lesbian/Gay Rights Lobby works on legislation to improve the quality of life for lesbian and gay people and people living with AIDS and HIV in 1989. The reformation of the state’s durablepower-of-attorney laws and the passage of the omnibus AIDS bill were both LGRL victories in 1989. Finally, LGRL works to educate legislators about the lesbian/gay community. Bills such as the same-sex marriage bill are meant to broaden the discussion at the state capitol concerning lesbian/gay rights. Another important educational bill is the state lesbian/gay civil rights bill which would protect lesbian and gay people in housing, employment and public accommodation. Currently the bill has 30 co-sponsors, although it is not expected to pass. At the federal level, the main issues affecting our community are the national lesbian/gay civil rights bill, increased visibility of lesbian/gay issues in the Clinton Administration and the lifting of the ban on lesbian and gay people in the military. The military issue has become particularly important because changes in the military, such as racial desegregation in 1948, have traditionally been a harbinger for greater civil rights. Community vs. Civil Rights Identity politics are among the major issues facing us today as lesbian and gay people. By identity politics I am referring to how we wish to identify ourselves as a group and as individuals. Consider the numerous and diverse terms that we use to identify ourselves: lesbian, gay woman, gay man, gay men and lesbians, gay and lesbian people, queer, bisexual, sex radicals, homosexual and so on. Each of these terms has a specific implication and a specific history. For instance the term “lesbian” is associated with women who identify primarily with the feminist movement while the term “gay woman” is used by those who identify with the gay rights movement. The term homosexual is a 19th-century clinical term used to describe sexual pathology; nevertheless, this term is still often used in the press. The term “queer” is an insult which has been appro priated by some in order to describe the wide variety of sexual expressions that are possible outside of the narrow “gay” or “straight” categories. Questions arise concerning the presentation of our so-called community to the media. Some individuals are outraged when direct action groups, such as Queer Nation and Act-Up, use tactics such as street theater, “die-ins” and “kiss-ins” to bring media attention to social oppression. At the same time some individuals are outraged when lesbian and gay organizations hold very exclusive fund raisers to collect money for political influence. There are other identity issues as well. For instance, lesbian and gay people are the most diverse minority in this country. Do our organizations present our community as only white or only male? What about issues of class? Having spent some time as a lesbian/gay rights organizer, I’ve concluded that it is important for our so-called community to focus more energy on the lesbian/gay rights movement and to focus less energy on trying to fashion a notion of community where no single community exists. In my job as a statewide organizer, I work with gay Republicans and with Queer Nation activists. I work with people who are very “out” and with people who are very “closeted.” I work with people of all different races and of different classes. All of us serve an important function in our civil rights movement. But trying to form a community that will suit us all is an impossible task. The Youth Movement Lesbian/Gay Youth organizations are an important development in the history of our civil rights movement. In response to a federal study which found that lesbian and gay teenagers are at a higher risk for suicide, youth groups such as Out Youth Austin have formed. These organizations are important because they provide young people with self-esteem, a support network and adult role models. Like all other minorities, lesbian and gay people have not been treated well by the media. It is important for young people to understand that the self-destructive stereotypes portrayed in the media are not representative of lesbian and gay life. Coming Out For those of you who are considering coming out, I encourage you to do so. I know it is difficult. Coming out is an incremental and constant process. People decide to come out at all different ages and stages of their lives. All of us who have done it believed that we had too much to lose, but once you make those first steps you will find that you have everything to gain. If you are THE TEXAS OBSERVER 19
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