There seems to be an unspoken belief among some of our nation’s citizens that if the LGBT community is denied the same rights as everyone else, we will eventually cease to exist. Unfortunately for them, the “ignore it until it goes away” tactic isn’t going to work.
Do people think by promoting discrimination against us, we will all wake up “cured” one day and no longer be a threat to their hetero-normative lifestyle? The majority of Texans’ answers may surprise you.
According to a poll commissioned in December 2010 by Equality Texas and conducted by Glangariff Group Inc., an independent national polling firm, a large percentage of Texans support pro-LGBT legislation, including domestic partnership. When asked if gays and lesbians should be allowed to get a civil union, 63 percent of the respondents answered “yes.” On the subject of gay marriage, 42 percent answered “yes,” saying it should be legal. This is a significant shift in public opinion since 2005, when the Texas Marriage Amendment passed with 76 percent of voters’ support.
Texas is ready for gay marriage. All the talk about “protecting the children” and “preserving the sanctity of marriage” is simply fear-based political rhetoric. When gay marriage was legalized in Massachusetts in 2004, were any children endangered? No. Were any heterosexual marriages suddenly less valid? No. Seven years since the legislation was passed and the country has not fallen into anarchy.
Connecticut, Iowa, New Hampshire, Vermont, New York and Washington D.C. have also legalized gay marriage without any kind of social fallout taking place. And although Texas politicians may say otherwise, the people they claim to represent are ready to follow suit.
In a separate poll conducted by the University of Texas and the Texas Tribune in February 2010, 28 percent of respondents thought gay marriage should be legal, while 35 percent thought civil unions should be legal. Adding those two figures together, more than half of the people polled believe the LGBT community deserves domestic partnership rights. Only 30 percent said gays shouldn’t be able to marry or get civil unions.
Looking at social trends over the past decade, the number of people supporting gay marriage is only going to rise. So my question for Texas is: why wait? In 1970, it took legal action (United States v. Texas) for our state to desegregate its schools, 16 years after Brown v. Board of Education had been passed down by the U.S. Supreme Court. Let’s not be on the wrong side of history again.
However, we can’t leave it up to our politicians to lead the charge. In the past, former Dallas Mayor Tom Leppert was very supportive of the LGBT community, participating in the International LGBT Press Tour and several Dallas pride parades. However, now that he’s resigned, supposedly to go after Kay Bailey Hutchinson’s Senate seat, he has come out against the Obama administration’s decision to no longer enforce the Defense of Marriage Act.
Rick Perry also did some recent backtracking. After New York legalized gay marriage, Perry said, “Our friends in New York, six weeks ago, passed a statute that said marriage can be between two people of the same sex. Well you know what, that’s New York and that’s their business, and that’s fine with me.” His unconcerned approach to the subject resulted in a fair amount of criticism from his fellow GOP members and he changed his tune. “Obviously, gay marriage is not fine with me,” he said a few days later in an interview with the Family Research Council. He continued, saying New York’s law was a threat to other states.
We have to make our voices heard. I’m not just talking to the LGBT community; I’m talking to everyone. We have the power to influence our representatives’ opinions. Their number one priority is to stay in office, and they can’t do that without enforcing the beliefs of their constituents. Let’s make our beliefs known to them.
Former Massachusetts State Rep. Paul Loscocco, a Republican, decided to vote against an attempt to remove their legalization of gay marriage from the books in 2007 because of what he was hearing from the people in his district. “I can’t tell you how many calls I got from people saying, ‘I called you before and now my grandson is gay — now they’re a couple — now I’ve changed my mind and I want you to vote the other way,'” he said in an interview with CNN.
We can make a difference; all we have to do is speak up. We’re ready. Texas is ready.