Last edited: February 14, 2005

Senate District Strikes Anti-Gay Language from State GOP Platform Recommendation

Texas Triangle, April 19, 2002
1012 N. Bishop Ave., Dallas, TX 75208 Fax: 214-946-0402

By Matt Lum

HOUSTON—Anti-gay language was removed from Senate district 13’s version of what will go on to become the state’s GOP platform last week, marking the first time such language has been removed since it was first introduced almost twenty years ago. Although there is little possibility the final state-approved version will reflect the district’s recommendation, Log Cabin Republicans in Houston and across the state are pleased with the progress.

"This was not a victory for gays, it was a victory for fairness," says Jeffrey Dorrell, former LCR-Houston president who lead the effort. "Texas voters are fed up with old-style campaign fear-mongering. This is a final wake-up call to Republican candidates everywhere—from now on, scapegoating gays will be political suicide."

The platform recommendations of each Senatorial district are sent to the state committee that will meet in June. The 31 versions of the platform (one for every district in the state) will be cobbled together to form the state platform. "The state committee is not bound to observe anything that any senatorial district does, but considering the imprimatur of the entire district, our version does carry some weight," said Dorrell.

For the past six years, Dorrell has lead Houston’s Log Cabin Republicans (LCR) in a systematic effort to seat gay and gay-friendly GOP precinct chairmen and delegates to the Texas GOP in hopes of moderating the stridency of right-wing conservatives in the party, according to LCR. The changes in district 13’s platform were possible because Dorrell was able to secure a seat on the district’s platform committee.

"It was kind of grudging and I had to negotiate for the spot on the committee and I campaigned for it," Dorrell says. "But the pleasant surprise was that the result was as successful as it was. I thought I would get voted down on everything. Instead, we had a group of people that are willing to listen. When you can’t persuade them on issues, sometimes you can persuade them on being politically pragmatic."

Platform planks condemning homosexuality as "tearing at the fabric of society" and "contributing to the spread of disease," as well as those calling for continued criminal penalties for sodomy and dozens of other references to homosexuality were all deleted by the committee Dorrell worked on, and later by the full district. Although the platform still calls for repeal of no-fault divorce and still opposes adoption of children by gays, it is nevertheless the most moderate position statement to come out of a Republican convention anywhere in Texas, if not in the United States, in decades.

Dorrell’s district was also successful at removing the sacrosanct GOP mainstay provision that for over 20 years has called for a ban on abortion. "We did that to get the support of pro-choice women in the district, but had no idea the local party structure would approve it," says Dorrell, who indicated that removing the call to prohibit abortions is perhaps more striking and surprising than removing anti-gay language from the document.

"I have worked very hard to build relationships with conservative Republicans based on mutual respect and trust," said Dorrell. "We have learned that we do not have to agree with each other on everything in order to respect each other’s positions. While we are still a long way from the day when Republicans will officially endorse full equality for gays, this shows the progress that can be made when conservatives see that gays do not fit the stereotypes portrayed in right-wing television ads and pamphlets."

Dorrell says the prejudice and bigotry that continues to survive in the state and national platforms is the result of ignorance. "There are people that, to the best of their knowledge, have not met anyone gay. The concept of what they think gay people are is drastically different than the professional reality. Just letting them see that we don’t have fangs, drink blood and prey on children—that alone—is progress."

District 13’s version of the platform will be represented by district chairman Jim Graham at the state convention. Dorrell says although Graham is a "hard-right conservative," he supports the changes and will advocate for the gay-friendlier platform. "Quite frankly, I am astonished that we were able to do it in this district considering where we were six years ago when I started this," Dorrell said. "Jim Graham will advocate for something that avoids unnecessarily controversial issues, but the state committee will probably pick up a copy of the 2000 platform and repeat it again. We are still a few more conventions away—and a few more people will have to die and be replaced—before the state approves a more moderate platform."

Texas’ 2000 GOP Platform

  • Marriage and Divorce: "We urge the immediate passage by the Texas Legislature of the ‘Defense of Marriage Act’, which would deny recognition by Texas of homosexual ‘unions’ legitimized by other states."
  • Homosexuality: "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, recognized by our country’s founders, and shared by the majority of Texans. Homosexuality must not be presented as an acceptable ‘alternative’ lifestyle in our public education and policy, nor should ‘family’ be redefined to include homosexual ‘couples’. We are opposed to granting any special legal entitlements, recognition, or privileges including, but not limited to, marriage between two persons of the same sex, custody of children by homosexuals, homosexual partner insurance of retirement benefits. We oppose any criminal or civil penalties for those who oppose homosexuality out of faith, conviction, or belief in traditional values."
  • Child Support and Visitation: "The party believes that no homosexual or any individual convicted of child abuse or molestation should have the right to custody or adoption of a minor child, and that visitation with minor children by such persons should be limited to supervised periods. We oppose adoption of children by homosexuals."
  • School Health Care: "We oppose the use of any tax dollars for any program which teaches or legitimizes pre-marital sexual activity and birth control, abortion, and homosexuality."
  • Military Support: "We encourage the disqualification from service of homosexuals."

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