Naked City

Perry schmoozes with gay bashers

A year from now, observers will look back on the campaign season and say the governor's race did not begin with a stump speech behind a podium in some anonymous hotel ballroom. It began in a church school gymnasium on a Sunday afternoon in June.

Gov. Rick Perry was at Fort Worth's Calvary Christian Academy on Sunday to sign two bills. One was the parental consent bill, which requires minor girls to get parental permission before an abortion. The other was what Perry chose to call the "defense of marriage" constitutional amendment, which will go to Texas voters in November. In his speech, Perry said it was important for Texas to protect the sanctity of marriage against the encroachment of court cases that would turn the sacred institution into a transaction.

"Activist judges have used the bench as a platform to advance a narrow agenda in utter opposition to the laws of the land and the views of the majority," Perry told the cheering crowd. "These actions have brought legal uncertainty to an issue on which the people are anything but uncertain. And more than that, these acts pose a direct threat to the institution that is the very bedrock of society and the laws designed to protect the institution of marriage in Texas and states like it."

Perry said he could have signed the bills in the parking lot of a Wal-Mart, but it wasn't the location that was the eye-opener on Sunday. It was Perry's backslapping companions on stage at the event. Consider the words offered by televangelist Rod Parsley, who preceded Perry and praised him for his godly stand, saying the effects of the homosexual agenda in American were substantial. Most homosexuals were anything but happy and carefree, Parsley told the crowd – many suffer from low self-esteem and depression.

"Gay sex is a veritable breeding ground for disease," Parsley went on. "Only 1 percent of the homosexual population in America will die of old age. The average life expectancy for a homosexual in the United States of America, discounting AIDS, is 42 years of age. Their heterosexual counterpart is 75. A lesbian can only expect to live to be 45 years of age. Her heterosexual counterpart is 79. Homosexuals represent 2 percent of the population, yet today they're carrying 60 percent of the known cases of syphilis. We must not chance an untested social experiment with the security of our children."

Such dubious comments drew ovations from the crowd of 600 or so, and the crowd was wildly enthusiastic about Perry, even as some claimed the issue was about the family, not politics. It wasn't quite George W. Bush's visit to Bob Jones University in 2000, but it was Perry sitting with what has been noted in Christian circles as three of the four horseman of apocalypse against the "homosexual agenda" – Parsley, Donald Wildmon of the American Family Association, and Tony Perkins of the Family Research Council. The only one missing from Sunday's festivities was James Dobson of Focus on the Family.

Perkins said the media would clearly misunderstand the intentions and purpose of those who support traditional marriage. That may be so. What was easy to understand was that Perry has found part of his base at Calvary Christian Academy, a base that he hopes will carry him through the 2006 election season.

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