Politics Feature

Warren's War on Gay Families

The history of anti-gay legislation in the Texas Legislature is as long as it is ignoble. And although odds are good that the state's sodomy statute will soon be ruled in violation of the state's constitution (see "In and Out," August 11), odds are better that Warren Chisum, R-Pampa, will be back in January with another anti-gay initiative.

Chisum is the affable homophobe who jumped from the Democratic to the Republican Party, where he serves as a point man in the Christian right's anti-gay crusade. Before Chisum descended to the leadership of the anti-queer caucus, there was Billy Clemons -- a dull-normal East Texan who wasn't agile or bright enough to survive his decision to abandon the Democratic Party and become a Republican. And working with Clemons was dapper Houston Republican lawyer Brad Wright, whose fight against AIDS prevention and education in the late Eighties made him an elected public health menace until he left the Legislature.

It was Chisum who, last session, introduced a bill that would have barred gays and lesbians from adopting children or serving as foster parents. (He also introduced a bill banning gay and lesbian marriages.) The bill was killed by Democratic Speaker Pete Laney, who assigned it to the State Affairs Committee he chaired before he was elected to preside over the House. Laney sent the bill to committee with an obvious signal that that was where it was to remain. But he was forced to show his hand late in the session, when Pasadena Republican Rep. Robert Talton tried to attach the adoption ban to a bill creating new positions at the Department of Protective and Regulatory Services. Laney quickly ruled that the amendment was not germane, and the gay adoption ban was dead for the session.

Chisum faces no political opposition and will be back next session, probably pre-filing another round of anti-gay bills. Should the voters return Gov. George W. Bush to Austin, he'll have an opportunity to redeem himself with the state's gay and lesbian community. Bush opposed the James Byrd Jr. Hate Crimes Bill because it provided protections for gays and lesbians. And after avoiding the issue, the Governor finally came out in support of Chisum's adoption ban bill.

Or at least he tried to. "I think adoptions ought to be between a married man and woman," the governor said last March.

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