Texas Republicans Target One of Their Own
Plan to Put Political Pressure on Sodomy-Law Judge Fizzles
July 3, 2000
801 Texas Avenue, Houston, TX 77002
By Alan Bernstein
It was a plan by Republican Party leaders in Houston to intensify the political heat on
a judge from their own party.
The party chairmen in Harris County and 13 surrounding counties would urge 14th Court
of Appeals Justice John S. Anderson either to resign or to change his ruling that helped
strike down the Texas sodomy law in June.
But the strategy was shelved late last week when some of the GOP chairmen wouldnt
or didnt sign the letter.
"We had to have consensus (but) we didnt hear from more than a couple of
people who liked it," said Harris County GOP Chairman Gary Polland, one of the
officials who devised the plan.
Brazoria County Chairman Mike Golden, for instance, said he didnt sign the letter
because as a non-lawyer he didnt want to second-guess the opinion of legal experts.
Golden, a Lake Jackson banker, said he talked to other county chairmen who agreed with
him that "these judges are intelligent guys, they are highly educated, they are
experienced in the law, or else they wouldnt be judges."
Though the direct attack on Anderson was scuttled, Republicans continue to struggle
with the idea that rulings from majority-Republican courts sometimes run counter to party
philosophy. The party, which wants to outlaw abortion, recently used its state platform to
scold Republican judges who allow girls to bypass a state law that otherwise would require
them to notify their parents before getting abortions.
Anderson and Chief Justice Paul Murphy, who voted with him on the sodomy ruling, also
were singled out for scorn in the state platform, which was adopted June 16.
Anderson and Murphy ruled on June 8 that the sodomy law violated the state
Constitutions equal rights provision because it singles out homosexuals.
Anderson is unopposed on the November election ballot for a second six-year term on the
court. Murphy was not mentioned in the proposed letter because his term continues through
Another Republican judge, Harvey Hudson, voted to uphold the sodomy law.
The case arose from the arrest of two Houston men who were engaging in sex acts that
are legal for heterosexuals. Backed by gay activists, they appealed their conviction in an
attempt to get the state law thrown out.
The Texas Republican Party, whose platform says that "homosexual behavior is
contrary to the unchanging truths that have been ordained by God," declared that
Anderson and Murphy should be defeated at the polls.
Polland and other local party leaders then took the next step by contacting the county
party chairmen who would nominate a replacement for Anderson on the ballot if he were to
resign. The 14th Court decides civil and criminal appeals only in southeast Texas.
But, like Golden of Brazoria County, some chairmen were unwilling to extend the attacks
Washington County Chairman Richard Stadelmann of Brenham, a Texas A&M University
philosophy professor, said he had decided not to sign the letter. Then he got a follow-up
document from Harris County GOP Treasurer Paul Simpson saying that the letter to Anderson
wasnt going to be sent after all..
Stadelmann said he wouldnt agree with the letter because while he thinks
homosexuality is wrong, he also thinks the sodomy law discriminated against same-sex
Trinity County Chairwoman Janet Brannen said she was prepared to sign the letter in
part because "the morality in this country is really deteriorating."
Other chairmen said they had not seen the letter or the follow-up that withdrew it.
Walker County Chairman Andrew Martinez of Huntsville said he waited to see how others
would react to the idea of calling for Anderson to switch his legal opinion or step down.
"I am not committed either way," Martinez said. "Some of these guys,
they kind of put the cart before the horse."
Anderson declined to comment Monday about the controversy over his ruling.
He said he cant discuss the case because it is still being considered by the
appeals court. Harris County prosecutors have asked all nine judges to reconsider the 2-1
decision. All members of the 14th Court of Appeals are Republicans.
Anderson did say that he plans to stay on the ballot as his partys uncontested
Polland, the Harris County GOP chairman, said that a lack of consensus among the 14
county officials was not the only reason the letter was never sent to Anderson. The
letter, written by party treasurer Simpson, asked the judge to reverse his ruling. That
would be inappropriate for the party to do as long as the case is being considered by his
court, said Polland, an attorney who has appealed many of his clients cases to the
"What we are going to do is sit back and let the court of appeals decide if they
are going to hear the case or not," Polland said. "We will review the case (and)
it is possible we will do nothing."
The proposed letter told Anderson his ruling had no legal basis, that it amounted to
"the worst kind of judicial activism" and that it contradicted "the will of
Andersons ruling said the problem with the sodomy law can be traced to 1973, when
the Legislature abandoned a 114-year-old sodomy law banning certain sex acts between all
people and adopted the new law, which banned them only for homosexuals.
That created two standards, Anderson wrote, and conflicts with the state Equal Rights
Amendment because it equates to sex-based discrimination.
The dissenting opinion by Hudson said the history of the Texas Equal Rights Amendment
"suggests the people of this state intended to grant to women the same rights as
those already enjoyed by men, not to abolish criminal sanctions imposed for homosexual
The ruling by Anderson and Murphy technically applies only to the 14th Court of Appeals
jurisdiction until the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals rules on it, according to legal
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