Five Texas-Sized Examples of Anti-Gay Bigotry in 2014

When Rolling Stone magazine recently named Texas one of “The 5 Worst States for LGBT People,” it was difficult to argue with the designation.

Was I hurt? Yes.

Did I have the urge to become insanely defensive? Yes.

Has the person who wrote it ever been to Texas? Probably not.

Do we have our share of glittery, bedazzled LGBT bright spots? You’re damned right we do, so let’s go over a few of them:

Houston elected the nation’s first openly gay big-city mayor, Dallas has the world’s largest gay church and—oops, I can’t remember the third.

Wait, Austin. I’m pretty sure the third thing is just “Austin.”

Let’s face it, though: For LGBT people in Texas, it seems that all too often the good is simply outweighed by Ted Cruz. And most of us have probably said to ourselves at some point, “Maybe it’s time to get the hell out of here.”

Many have actually stayed, though, so it can’t be that bad. But it isn’t hard to understand why the rest of the country has gotten the impression that Texas is an absolute living gay hell.

To which I say good, let them think that. We have a limited supply of fresh water, the traffic is bad enough, and my rent already seems exorbitant, so let’s not let them in on our secret (which is, of course, that everything’s bigger here).

So, with that in mind, and now that I’ve gotten away with a not-so-subtle sexual reference, here are my five year-end examples of anti-gay bigotry in Texas.

Praying Away the Gays

Ex-gay GOP heartthrob Jeremy Schwab (via IMDB)
Ex-gay GOP heartthrob Jeremy Schwab (via IMDB)

Only two states, California and New Jersey, have passed laws banning so-called “ex-gay therapy” for minors. But Texas has a history of zealously countering “the gay agenda,” and the Texas Republican Party opted to deliver a pre-emptive strike by adding a plank endorsing the discredited practice to its 2014 platform.

Given that “ex-gay therapy” has been denounced by virtually all of the relevant medical associations, the plank—authored by GOP delegate Jeremy Schwab, who claims he’s been cured of homosexuality—didn’t go over well in the national media.

GOP Chair Steve Munisteri apparently sought to quell controversy over the plank when he came out against it. But Gov. Rick Perry effectively undermined Munisteri’s damage control by comparing homosexuality to alcoholism—during a visit to San Francisco, no less—in response to a question about the plank.

Texas Democrats responded by adding a plank calling for a ban on “ex-gay therapy” to their own platform, and Equality Texas has submitted petitions to the state’s mental health licensing boards that would place the practice outside accepted standards of care.

Depending on the outcome of those petitions, it’s an issue we could hear more about in the upcoming legislative session.

Would an exorcism of homosexual demons on the House floor be too much to hope for?

Aimee Wilson (center) and Connie Wilson (right) with their son Aidyn.

DPS Heterosexuality Checkpoints

Everyone knows you can’t get gay-married in Texas—yet—but it came as a surprise to many that same-sex couples who’ve married in other states can’t even obtain accurate driver’s licenses from the Department of Public Safety.

Connie Wilson found this out the hard way after she moved from California to the Houston area this year with her wife and children. When Wilson attempted to obtain a Texas driver’s license in her married name using her California marriage license, a DPS employee reportedly told her she would “never get a license” and that “the name doesn’t belong to [her].”

A DPS spokesman later said the employee denied making those statements, but the agency confirmed it prohibits people from using out-of-state same-sex marriage licenses to obtain driver’s licenses. That’s because the state’s 2005 marriage amendment prohibits government recognition of same-sex marriages.

Wilson, who says the DPS policy is unevenly enforced, threatened to file a lawsuit against the agency, but instead she eventually obtained a Texas driver’s license in her married name by first getting a passport.

The DPS got another gay black eye weeks later when Houston Mayor Annise Parker alleged the agency wouldn’t allow her teenage daughter to take a driving test because she has two moms. DPS responded that it had turned away Parker’s daughter due to insufficient documentation of her residency, not same-sex marriage.

If nothing else, we can take comfort in the fact that Texas isn’t alone in strictly enforcing its driving-while-gay restrictions. In fact, the Florida DMV recently revoked a gay couple’s driver’s licenses after they obtained them using an out-of-state marriage certificate.

Playing the Pedophilia Card

Lt. Gov.-elect Dan Patrick was one of 63 GOP legislators who signed the anti-gay court brief.
Via Facebook
Lt. Gov.-elect Dan Patrick was one of 63 GOP legislators who signed the anti-gay court brief.

Texas stands to lose $180 million in wedding-related spending over the next three years due to its bans on same-sex marriage. In addition, the nation’s patchwork of marriage laws is costing Texas businesses and employees $71 million annually.

And that’s not to mention the expenses incurred by the attorney general’s office in defending the marriage bans, or the fact that the state could also be on the hook for plaintiffs’ attorneys fees if and when it loses the case.

Based on all this, one might expect anti-government-spending, pro-business Republican lawmakers to tone down their opposition to same-sex marriage a few notches.

But that wasn’t the case when 63 GOP state legislators signed a court brief linking same-sex marriage to polygamy, incest and pedophilia. And in a rather ominous sign about the next four years, they included Lt. Gov.-elect Dan Patrick and Attorney General-elect Ken Paxton.

Even Gov.-elect Greg Abbott, whose office is defending the bans, has avoided such offensive arguments in court filings, but that’s not to say some of his public comments haven’t been troubling.

Asked during a debate what he’d say to a 10-year-old who wanted to know why his gay parents couldn’t get married, Abbott callously explained that the reason is quite simply that he’s been married to his wife for more than 33 years. Abbott also wouldn’t say if he would have opposed interracial marriage, and that it would be “deeply offensive” for same-sex weddings to occur during his appeal of a federal district judge’s February decision striking down the marriage bans.

The 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals is set to hear oral arguments in the Texas case Jan. 9, but it seems increasingly likely the U.S. Supreme Court will settle the issue before the 5th Circuit has a chance to rule.

No word yet on when you’ll be able to marry your sister.

Mayor Annise Parker
Mayor Annise Parker

Houston, What’s Your Problem?

As the openly gay mayor of Texas’ largest city, Parker is public enemy No. 1 for the state’s anti-gay activists.

Emboldened by re-election to her third and final term last December, Parker extended benefits to the same-sex spouses of city employees—resulting in a lawsuit from the then-chair of the Harris County Republican Party.

Parker also had the gall to travel to California to marry her partner of 23 years, a decision for which she was slammed by the likes of Patrick.

Finally, Parker pushed through an Equal Rights Ordinance, making Houston the last major US city to ban anti-LGBT discrimination. However, trumpeting discredited arguments about transgender bathroom use, opponents launched a petition to repeal the ordinance. The city rejected the petition due to invalid signatures, prompting Parker’s haters to file another lawsuit.

As part of the latter suit, the city subpoenaed the sermons of pastors involved in the petition drive, and all hell broke loose. Anti-gay groups organized an “I Stand Sunday” rally in Houston featuring the likes of former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee and Phil Robertson of “Duck Dynasty”—whom Parker once called a “redneck wingnut.”

The same-sex benefits challenge is on hold pending the outcome of the Texas marriage case, and the lawsuit over Houston’s Equal Rights Ordinance is set for trial in January. Meanwhile, in yet another unmistakable sign of the end times, Parker says she plans to run for statewide office in 2018.

A woman waits in line outside the "I Stand Sunday" rally in Houston.
Courtesy of Brad Pritchett
A woman waits in line outside the “I Stand Sunday” rally in Houston.

Don’t Let Them Eat Cake

At the aforementioned “I Stand Sunday” rally in Houston, some attendees donned T-shirts saying, “WE RESERVE THE RIGHT TO REFUSE SERVICE TO HOMOSEXUALS.”

It was a reference to the new battleground staked out by opponents of LGBT equality. Cynics might say these sore losers are just looking for a new way to raise money and drum up votes now that same-sex marriage is all but decided. But in any case, their new rallying cry is the relatively small number of bakers, florists and other businesses who’ve faced discrimination complaints in other states for refusing to serve same-sex couples.

In Texas, the champion for this cause is Sen. Donna Campbell (R-New Braunfels), who has again filed legislation that would enshrine a “license to discriminate” against LGBT people in the state Constitution.

Never mind that Texas already has a state statute with strong protections for religious freedom, Campbell claims her legislation isn’t discriminatory—even though she was a vocal opponent of San Antonio’s LGBT protections.

The icing on Texas’ as-yet-unbaked gay wedding cake came when conservative Plano passed a nondiscrimination ordinance this month, prompting another “license to discriminate” measure and threats of a third.

Meanwhile, opponents say they plan a petition drive to repeal the Plano ordinance, but the good news is, they’re apparently not very good at gathering valid signatures. Yep, you guessed right—it’s that same bunch from Houston.

John Wright is a freelance journalist based in Austin. Follow him on Twitter and Facebook.

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Published at 12:24 pm CST