Just one day after the Massachusetts Legislature soundly rejected a ban on same-sex marriage, state Rep. Warren Chisum, R-Pampa, stood before a gay-friendly crowd in Austin and urged them to support an even stricter marriage ban in Texas.
What was he thinking? Of course, Chisum did not expect to win over any new converts, but the Panhandle rancher is not one to shy away from any chance to defend his conservative brand of moral values, even in liberal Austin. That's why he agreed to square off at Austin Community College's Rio Grande campus last Thursday against Anne S. Wynne, an Austin attorney who argued against the ban Prop. 2 on the Nov. 8 ballot on behalf of the No Nonsense in November campaign.
For the most part, Wynne could have been preaching to the choir, drawing applause while Chisum generated relatively polite hisses. Wynne drew on her family law experience to offer first-hand accounts of how a lack of legal entitlements harms untold numbers of families and children. For gays and lesbians, she said, "there are no 'accidental' families and there are no 'accidental' children in those families. They have been planned and prayed for more than you can imagine.
To those unfamiliar with Chisum's long history of filing anti-gay legislation he carried the bill that produced Prop. 2 the Pampa Republican must have seemed something of an odd novelty on the West Austin campus. "If there is a difference between men and women, God must have created both of them for a reason," he said. He told his audience that a same-sex marriage ban is not so unusual, since 17 states have already passed similar constitutional measures. "Texas is just going to be No. 18," he said. But while the newly defeated Massachusetts ban would have allowed, at the very least, civil unions for gay and lesbian couples, the Texas proposal covers a much wider swath, outlawing both marriage and civil unions. "It is not my intent to hurt anyone," Chisum said. "It is not my intent to break up families." Wynne responded, however, that existing laws are already harmful for families, pointing out the most recent example of families being denied federal assistance in the wake of Hurricane Katrina. "Do not think that these laws don't affect people in times of natural disaster," she warned. "They do."
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