Last edited: February 14, 2005

Texas Part of The Pot Needs Stirring Up

San Francisco Examiner, June 13, 2000
P. O. Box 7260, San Francisco, CA 94120
Fax 415-512-1264

By Stephanie Salter, Examiner Columnist

ARE WE a paradoxical country or what?

On the same day that Detroit’s Big Three automakers agreed to provide health care benefits for the domestic partners of lesbian and gay employees, the Texas attorney general was trying to decide whether to appeal a court ruling that found the state’s 1860 sodomy law unconstitutional.

And you thought that big melting pot metaphor was passe?

Up in the southeastern Michigan portion of the pot, we have Ford, General Motors and DaimlerChrysler — hardly considered on the radical fringe of corporate policy making — all agreeing to extend dental, medical and pharmacy insurance benefits to same-sex partners of office and factory employees.

The promise will translate into relatively small sums: Ford estimates about $5 million on top of the company’s existing $2.4 billion health care budget. But the symbolic value of the agreement is incalculable.

"When the Big Three come together as a group to announce domestic benefits for same-sex couples, it’s really a sea change," said Kim Mills, of the lesbian-gay advocacy group, Human Rights Campaign. "We have not seen this kind of movement in the manufacturing sector."

Especially from Chrysler.

Just three years ago, before Daimler-Benz took over the company, it was Chrysler that pulled its commercial spots from the historic Ellen-Comes-Out episode of Ellen DeGeneres’ late, sometimes-lamented, TV show.

In explaining their decision, the big cheeses at Chrysler said the company preferred not to run ads on controversial programs that divided Americans.

What a difference three years, and a new team of British executives, can make.

Perhaps they can all pay a consciousness-raising visit to the southeastern Texas portion of the big melting pot, where a 140-year-old law still makes it a crime for people of the same sex to engage in oral or anal intercourse.

While there are still 12 states that outlaw sodomy between any configuration of couple - straight as well as gay — Texas is one of only four states that says it’s exclusively verboten for gays.

The other three are Kansas, Oklahoma and Arkansas [and Missouri –Bob].

Last week, the 14th Court of Appeals in Houston overturned the conviction of two men who were arrested for having sex in their own bedroom in 1998.

In a 2-1 decision, the court said that Texas’ 140-year-old sodomy law was being used to discriminate against homosexuals who are guaranteed equal protection under the state’s 1972 equal rights amendment to the constitution.

Said the appellate court ruling:

"The simple fact is, the same behavior is criminal for some but not for others, based solely on the sex of the individuals who engage in the behavior. In other words, the sex of the individual is the sole determinant of the criminality of the conduct."

According to the Associated Press, the Houston district attorney, who originally brought the case against the two men, was expected to appeal. The Texas attorney general’s office has not yet decided if it will join in.

But, in a brief submitted last year on the case, the state A.G. maintained that the homosexual sodomy ban was meant to dissuade "immoral conduct" and bolster "family values."

The dissenting appeals justice apparently agrees. In his minority opinion, he wrote that homosexuality "represents a gross deviation from historic perceptions of morality."

So, there you have a couple of contrasting ladlefuls from two parts of the big pot. What gets you medical and dental benefits in Detroit might still get you thrown in jail in Texas.

Anybody got a big spoon?

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