If they had a "Wall of Fame" for oratory on public policy, State Representative Senfronia Thompson's (D - Houston) speech during the debate on the constitutional amendment banning same sex marriages would be prominently displayed. The speech is a must read.
Cynical voices will be quick to point out that Thompson, an African American, can make that kind of speech because she comes from a district that reelects her easily - translation, she could be an ax murderer and still get reelected. At the same time, an African American state rep from a nearby district with a history of supporting gay/lesbian issues, the cynics say "this legislator is out front on these issues, when many in the legislator's community aren't" - translation, African Americans have a problem supporting gay/lesbian issues. Confused?
Urban Latino Dems tended to oppose the ban, while Latino Dems from south of Interstate 10 got the excuse slips - translation, the South Texas culture has a problem accepting the gay/lesbian lifestyle. More confused?
Meanwhile, the Dem reps that received excuse slips from their Party and went along with the ban, abstained from voting, or were absent, are off the hook. They don't have to worry about a future opponent sending a campaign mailer into their districts that depicts two heavily tattooed males, dressed in full leather gear, looking into each other eyes, with a caption that says "I do", accompanied with a picture of the legislator super imposed standing there ready to present the wedding rings. Wrong.
The GOP will always make this a wedge issue. They may not attack the Dem legislator directly on this issue, but they will certainly attack the Dem Party - and force the Dem reps to distance themselves from their own Party. The GOP has employed this tactic in Texas for the past 27 years. It has worked because the Texas Dem Party leaders have put up a meek defense. Wedge issues work if the party "wedged" allows themselves to be "wedged". On this issue the GOP is betting that the Texas Dem Party will not have the courage to go out and explain to Texans that this is a bad idea.
In the fancy offices of the state GOP, they laugh at Dems because they force a vote on this issue and see half of the Dem state reps on one side, some on the other, some confused, and some that take a hike. Imagine if all the Dem reps had done the right thing by standing together and voting against. Imagine a Texas Dem Party that says enough of this bs and goes out and informs Texans on why gay/lesbian bashing is wrong. Why not take Senfronia on the road to South Texas and East Texas, to schools, chambers of commerce, Rotary Clubs, and churches and let her make that speech? Hey Dems, don't buy the line that Texans have to be as mean spirited as the GOP legislators.
April 29, 2005, 9:00AM