Bashing Gays and Children
In a bill on child protection, the House votes to do its worst
Last week's amendment to ban gays and lesbians from becoming foster parents could be tomorrow's birdcage liner. That's the good news. The bad news is that the measure could go into the meat grinder and re-emerge as the lesser of two evils.
What we do know is that the state senator who wrote the bill overhauling the state's problem-plagued Child Protective Services has vowed to "strenuously object" to the measure remaining in the final drafting of Senate Bill 6. The surprise (yet not so surprising) floor amendment wrought by the gay-obsessed GOP rep from Pasadena, Robert Talton, would require state workers to launch an $8 million inquisition into the sexual orientation of current and prospective foster parents and uproot thousands of children from their homes and schools. The House passed the amendment 81-58, with 10 members conveniently missing in action when it came time for a vote. A sprinkling of Republicans, including Austin Rep. Terry Keel, voted with Democrats against the measure.
The amendment was introduced and defended in vintage Talton fashion: an angry scowl that would frighten little children. Gay foster parents, he said, are "teaching something that is not conducive to our traditional families. God created man, and he created woman, and he created marriage." He went on to talk about homosexuality as a learned behavior, "and I think a child ... ought to have the opportunity to be presented to a traditional family as such." He allowed that a child should have to wait until he or she turns 18 before making that "choice" to be gay or straight.
Sanity in the Senate?
That the majority of the House would buy into this clown's amendment really irked SB 6's author, Sen. Jane Nelson, R-Lewisville. She vowed to "strenuously object" to the amendment's staying in the bill. Not only would the provision wreak havoc on the lives of thousands of children, she said, but it would open the door to an onslaught of lawsuits against the state. It's a rare day when progressives look to Nelson for leadership and guidance on social issues, but these are desperate times. Nelson, and the rest of the Senate for that matter, is not given to the kind of stunts that we've come to expect in the House of horrors. (This is the same bunch that on Monday passed the proposed constitutional amendment that not only would prohibit gay marriages but would ban the state's legal recognition of civil unions for gays and straights alike.)
Democratic Rep. Elliott Naishtat, a co-sponsor of the House version of SB 6, says he hopes saner minds will prevail on the joint committee charged with hashing out the bill's final details. "There's a much better than 50-50 chance that the amendment will be removed, but in this new era of Texas government, you never know," he said. "But we hope the Republicans on the conference committee will follow Sen. Nelson's lead."
It helps that even Gov. Rick Perry acknowledges that the measure would create an enforcement nightmare. It would also sully what is supposed to be his showcase legislation carried with the help of bipartisan sponsorship. The last thing Perry needs is a brawl over a child welfare bill. On the other hand, killing the amendment will force him to answer to his right-wing base of Christian fanatics the ones he's counting on to clinch his re-election next year. This includes people like Cathie Adams of Texas Eagle Forum, who told reporters that opponents to the amendment are "so hypersensitive and absolutely unreasonable."
Friends Like These
It should be noted that Talton isn't particularly well liked in some Republican circles the ones that favor gambling and abhor trial lawyers. On the latter, Texans for Texas, a group that describes itself as "conservative activists promoting common-sense public policy with fiscal responsibility," took attorney Talton to task in its March 7 newsletter for not toeing the party line on tort reform. Texans for Texas cited Talton's voting record this session on tort reform measures before the House Civil Practices Committee, of which he is a member. Talton, according to T for T, voted three times with "liberal Democrats" Richard Raymond, D-Laredo, and Trey Martinez Fischer, D-San Antonio, to block reform legislation. ("Liberal" Raymond voted with Talton on the gay foster parent measure. His explanation: "I voted with my district.") As T for T noted: "Conservatives have long feared that trial lawyers would look for Republicans they could use to spread their influence over the legislative arena. It looks like they've found their man."
You see, Talton is a hybrid of the scariest kind a radical right-wing Republican trial lawyer who, in the end, votes for Talton.