Wednesday, June 08, 2005

Texas Governor's Actions Alarming

Governor Rick Perry of Texas is sounding more and more like the young Alabama Governor George Wallace who defiantly declared "segregation today, segregation tomorrow and segregation forever" in response to federal efforts to force racially segregated schools in Alabama to integrate. Governor Perry, who succeeded to the office upon then-Governor's Bush's election as President and who was easily elected by Texas voters in 2002, has become one of the biggest cheerleaders for the fundamentalist Christian agenda. In so doing he has aimed his sights directly at gays and lesbians in a way that can only be described as alarming.

The Texas Legislature, like the Indiana General Assembly, approved a proposed amendment to the Texas Constitution which would ban same sex marriages and civil unions. Unlike Indiana, the measure now goes directly to the Texas voters for consideration; in Indiana an amendment must be approved by two successive sessions of the legislature before it can be considered by the voters. The proposed amendment does not require the Governor's signature, but that didn't stop Governor Perry from scheduling a "resolution signing" event. Governor Perry held his special little "resolution signing" at a private Christian school. According to an article in the Washington Blade written by Chris Crain, one speaker at the ceremony, Rev. Rod Parsley of Columbus, Ohio, praised the gay marriage ban by "painting a grim picture of gay men and lesbians," citing an Associated Press report. "We are not to sacrifice our children on the altar of sexual lust of a few," Parsley said. As Crain put it, "Texas Governor Rick Perry provided picture-perfect proof . . . . that efforts to block gays from marrying are motivated by nothing more than the religious beliefs of conservative Christians."

Crain correctly opines that "[r]eligious faith groups, including Christian denominations, differ on the issue of gay marriage, and civil marriage equality would not require any church or synagogue to marry a gay couple. By voting to give legal effect to the religious beliefs of the majority, the Texas Legislature violated the First Amendment's establishment clause and the U.S. Constitution's guarantee of equal protection to gay Americans."

Even more disturbing than the bill signing ceremony at an evangelical school was Governor Perry's later comments to a reporter that he would tell gay veterans returning home from Iraq that they should look for another state to live. "I'm going to say Texas has made a decision on marriage and if there's a state with more lenient views than Texas, then maybe that's where they should live," the Fort Worth Star-Telegram reported Perry said last Sunday. "More than 66,000 lesbian and gay veterans make their home in Texas," Sharra E. Greer, SLDN’s director of law and policy was quoted as saying in a recent Washington Blade story. The story quoted Greer as further stating, "Their service has defended the freedom of every Texan, including Governor Perry. . . The governor’s remarks dishonor their service and he should immediately apologize. We should be thanking these brave men and women, not asking them to leave."

The anti-gay sentiment doesn't end there. The Texas Legislature also passed legislation to the delight of Governor Perry that bars gay and lesbian couples from being foster parents. Oddly, the new law still allows single gays and lesbians to be foster parents. Try to understand the logic behind that law.

Texas is the second largest state in the nation and three of our last eight presidents have hailed from the Lone Star state. That the Governor of any state in our country, let alone a large state like Texas, could act in such a bigoted manner towards so many of a state's citizens in the 21st Century tells us just how far we have left to go to achieve true equality for everyone in our country. I think President Bush should take a little bit of a time out from his campaign to bring freedom and democracy to Iraq and have a talk with his good buddy and hand-picked successor in Texas about basic human rights. At least have the decency to demand that he treat all veterans returning from Iraq with the well-earned respect they deserve.

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