Off the Desk
Texas Civil Rights Project director James Harrington mentions Black History Month in a press release announcing a TCRP suit filed against Taco Cabana. Harrington says that Charles Byrd, Malcolm Richardson, Wan Matthews, and Jeffery Johnson Jr. were refused service at a Taco Cabana restaurant on 517 W. Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd. The four African-American men, according to allegations in the lawsuit, were told to use the drive-through, though the restaurant was open and Anglo and Hispanic customers were served in the dining area. Restaurant employees called the police and the men were detained during a brief investigation. One of the men allegedly denied service, Charles Byrd, is a local rapper who goes by the name Nook -- which stands for "none of our kind"
There is little organized opposition to this year's version of the James Byrd Jr. Hate Crimes Act, which last legislative session was stopped in Senate committee by Republicans determined to ensure that Gov. George W. Bush would not have to sign a bill providing protections for gays and lesbians. But the Young Conservatives of Texas are still in the fight, and they kicked off their Tuesday press conference with a quote from Republican Sen. Jane Nelson recycling a Bush line: "If passing a hate crimes law would eliminate hate in our society, I would vote for it." Rep. Robert Talton, R-Pasadena, told a reporter that the burning of a cross on a white family's lawn is no different than burning a cross on the lawn of an African-American family. And San Antonio Rep. John Shields argued that minority groups are adequately protected by the U.S. and Texas constitutions and current law. Joining the Young Conservatives are the Eagle Forum, the Christian Coalition, the Concerned Women for America, the Free Market Foundation, and the American Family Association. "Just because you have a law on the books doesn't mean people aren't going to commit these crimes," said YCT vice chair Marc Levin. A House Judicial Affairs Committee hearing on the bill is set for 2pm on Monday.