Last edited: February 06, 2005

Sodomites Owe Texas Republicans Their Thanks

Houston Chronicle, July 23, 2003
801 Texas Avenue, Houston, TX 77002
Fax: 713-220-6575

By Dale Carpenter

Let’s pause to thank the people who brought us the U.S. Supreme Court’s sodomy decision, shall we?

There are the obvious ones: John Lawrence and Tyron Garner, who were arrested in Lawrence’s bedroom for having sex and then endured five years of public exposure and judicial appeals; the lawyers for Lambda Legal, who successfully shepherded the case from a Justice of the Peace to the Supreme Court; the six justices who accepted their arguments; and the generations of courageous gay civil rights advocates, who made it possible for a court to regard gays as citizens worthy of constitutional protection.

But don’t overlook the Republican Party of Texas, without whose tireless devotion to the 16th century none of this would have happened.

In the face of repeated legislative attempts to repeal the state sodomy law, the Texas GOP stood firm, thereby making possible the arrests of Lawrence and Garner, thereby making possible their convictions and appeal to the Supreme Court, thereby making possible the ringing declaration of gay rights in Lawrence v. Texas.

National Review, the flagship magazine of American conservatism, opposes sodomy laws. Conservative commentators such as William Kristol do, too. Even Justice Clarence Thomas, a conservative Catholic, thinks sodomy laws are “uncommonly silly.”

But the leaders of the Texas GOP are no ordinary conservatives, or even ordinary social conservatives for that matter. They are theocrats, devoted to the idea that there is no proper distinction between God’s law and civil law.

They have become an embarrassment to the national Republican Party. It’s the Texas delegation, you may remember, that had its members bow their heads in prayerful protest while openly gay Rep. Jim Kolbe, R-Ariz., was permitted to speak—on the issue of free trade—at the 2000 Republican National Convention.

But the best evidence of Texas GOP leaders’ devotion to theocracy is their 22-page party platform, which is less a political document than a fundamentalist encyclical. It declares the United States “a Christian nation” founded “on the Holy Bible.” It repudiates “the myth of separation of Church and State.” It supports a “school prayer” amendment to the Constitution. It backs “a character education curriculum” in public schools “based upon biblical principles.” On and on it goes in that fashion.

When it comes to gays, the state party platform lapses into obsessed rage. References to “homosexuals” or “homosexuality” (14) even outnumber invocations of “God” (10).

Needless to say, the platform opposes gay marriage and gays in the military. It goes further, opposing domestic partners benefits and allowing gays to adopt kids or even have custody of their own children. It urges stripping AIDS sufferers of any legal protection from discrimination.

Here is the Texas GOP on gay sex:

“The Party believes that the practice of sodomy tears at the fabric of society, contributes to the breakdown of the family unit, and leads to the spread of dangerous, communicable diseases. Homosexual behavior is contrary to the fundamental, unchanging truths that have been ordained by God,” blah, blah, blah.

In case you were in doubt, the platform adds, “The Party opposes the decriminalization of sodomy.”

Elsewhere it declares, brazenly, “We are opposed to genocide.” (Whew!)

I had my own run-in with the Texas GOP on the subject of the state sodomy law. In 1996, I was president of the Log Cabin Republicans of Texas. We applied to run an information booth at the state GOP convention that year. Our application was denied because, the party’s executive director told me, “Sodomy is illegal in Texas.” When I offered to forbid our members to sodomize each other in the booth, state party leaders were unmoved.

Now all their fundamentalist fervor has yielded the most far-reaching decision affirming the basic dignity of gay people ever issued by the Supreme Court, with more to come. We couldn’t have done it without them.

I urge everyone reading this to send a thank-you note or e-mail to Texas GOP leaders, letting them know how profoundly grateful you are. Perhaps they can be goaded into concocting and defending even more purposeless discriminations against gays that generate even more precedent-setting reaffirmations of our rights.

Keep your thank-you message short and simple. In fact, use the version of English most familiar to Texas GOP clerics, the King James version.

Try this: “O Holy Party: I thank thee for thine everlasting persecution of me. Thou hast delivered me from criminality. My civil rights runneth over. Thy faithful sodomite, [Your Name].”

  • Carpenter, a law professor at the University of Minnesota Law School in Minneapolis, is a former Houstonian.

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