Rats off a sinking ship

I’ve now spent three summers walking around the Courthouses, and I like to think the insight has given me a special perspective on the decline & fall of a political party’s empire. Since the vast majority of partisan officeholders in Texas are actually jurists, it is imperative to note what is affecting the judicial institution’s elections.

Before the 1994 landslide elections –which saw total control of Harris County, among others, shift to the Republican Party– there were a plethora of opportunist Democratic judges who changed partisan label. For the first time in a very long time, we are now seeing the opposite to be true.

Judge Carlos Key, a Republican who is a County Court at Law Judge in Bexar County, today announced his transition into the Democratic Party to run for re-election. The San Antonio Express-News has the full story, including a rebuttal from House Speaker Joe Straus, who conflated the announcement with is opposition to the partisan election of judges.

Click here to read more about Key’s announcement!

San Antonio approves NDO

The San Antonio Express-News reports that the San Antonio City Council has approved an encompassing non-discrimination ordinance aimed at protecting LGBT people. The vote wasn’t even close –8 to 3– and only saw objection from the most vitriolically homophobic Councilmember, including Elisa Chan.

Julian Castro can now put this elegant feather in his cap, right alongside the ‘Pre-K for San Antonio‘ measure. Houston has neither a comprehensive pre-educational program nor a non-discrimination ordinance. Castro, for his part, released this statement shortly following the votes:

“This ordinance fundamentally is about ensuring whether you’re white or black, Christan or Jew, straight or gay, this city belongs to you. This ordinance is about saying there are no second-class citizens in San Antonio.”

This ordinance is a wonderful example of Castro, and all the representatives of San Antonio, standing quite firm following terrible attacks on all fronts from the right wing. I cannot think of a single Statewide Republican who has publicly condoning/endorsed this measure. However, the conservatives lined up to oppose the measure stretches out the door.Greg Abbott, our Governor-in-waiting, strongly opposed the ordinance. All three Attorney General candidates (Dan Branch, Ken Paxton and Barry Smitherman) also opposed the ordinance. Ted Cruz too.
The Texas Tribune has more on this issue, including the possibility of a court challenge. The Tribune article notes that Greg Abbott and his buddies are planning on to bring a court challenge against the ordinance, arguing it violates the 1st Amendment (Religious Liberty).—From a very personal point of view, I am ecstatic that the ordinance was passed today, as today is the Jewish New Year, Rosh Hashanah. It is no secret that I am somewhat secular, but this is one of the two days of the year I go to services and spend my day predominantly in nominally spiritual introspection. For some sort of minor political development, I probably would not have taken the time to follow the news today, research this article or write this article.A number of years ago, when I was getting my “fifteen minutes of fame,” I was interviewed by KPRC. As it turned out, the only day the could fit me in was on Rosh Hashanah. I remember being somewhat apprehensive about the idea at first, but at the urging of my parents, I was told that it would be far more important to live-out the virtues of decency and justice and righteousness that you would have just spent the day promising to do in the upcoming year anyways.
Accordingly, it was an easy decision to write this article today. Again, for what it is worth, I typically do not condone gloating in reaction to political victories, but believe this is an important exception. In a normal election, there is obviously a losing party, who has been hindered. Further, on many policy issues, the same arrangement may exist (e.g., Doctors being harmed by healthcare reform). There are no losers in San Antonio this afternoon. No persons will be discriminated against, whether for sexual orientation, gender identity or religious viewpoint. No money will be lost. Only benefit comes from this issue; it is truly a one-sided issue.

Elisa Chan, bigot

The San Antonio Express-News ran an exposé on a member of the City Council there, Elisa Chan, on awfully homophobic comments she made while under secret recording. The recording is from May and involves Chan’s opposition to the city’s proposed non-discrimination ordinance.

For those not familiar, the City of San Antonio is debating an ordinance that would add both “sexual orientation” and “gender identity” to the city’s non-discrimination laws, adding the categories with protected classes such as race, sex, religion and disability (among others). The ordinance was perhaps most controversial for awhile when it included a clause that would have prohibited the holding of public office for those found guilty of violating the ordinance. That clause has since been removed, because, to be fair, we do have a constitutional right to be bigoted (see: “Westboro Baptist Church”). After the revision, some major figures in the evangelical community gave their full support to the bill.

The specific calumnies do not deserve the honor of being reprinted, because they are totally without substance. What is important to know is that, when the eyes of the public were away, Chan revealed her untethered hatred for the LGBT community, and then, perhaps more offensive, formulated ways to veil this hatred as a policy disagreement with the ordinance. Chan discussed, at length, her intention to write an op-ed in the Express-News explaining her opposition to the ordinance. Her candid hatred, however, would not be included.

The Mayor of San Antonio, Julian Castro, pulled no punches when rightly criticizing Chan for her hurtful, defamatory remark. As the Mayor stated on his personal Facebook account:

Councilwoman Chan’s remarks were hurtful and ignorant. They do not reflect the views of the overwhelming majority of San Antonians. Ours is a city that respects and appreciates all people.

These sorts of opinions are the exact reason why a non-discrimination ordinance protecting LGBT is completely necessary. Sadly though, it is the reason why homophobia may continue being an ugly part of our lives well into the future.

Homophobia is not like racism. In fact, the two types of prejudice could not be more different. Prejudice exists in two different forms: institutional and overt. In years past, overt racism existed quite extensively. Following the passage of the Civil Rights Act, overt racism all but disappeared except for a few unfortunate pockets in the South. Institutional racism, however, has persisted.

Now, as being gay is becoming more and more accepted within our culture, overt homophobia is rapidly diminishing, making comments like Chan’s all the more controversial. Institutional homophobia, however, is becoming non-existent. This is because, no matter what you do, no matter how you raise your family, no matter who you associate yourself with, the rich and powerful could have a gay son or a lesbian daughter.

To be blunt, Republican Senators (like Rob Portman) have gay sons, but not African-American sons. This will cause institutional homophobia to disappear within a generation or two while institutional racism (unfortunately) will persist.

When it comes to overt prejudice, the opposite is true. As big of a scandal Chan’s comments made, if she would have been this racist, she would have already resigned. Racism in public is still much more controversial than public homophobia. This is because racism is guided by culture, whereas homophobia is guided by religion, and culture is much easier to change.

I get this inkling when I see polls that say 58% of Americans support gay marriage, whereas 37% of Americans believe being gay is a horrible, horrible sin. That 37% is motivated by religion, and will be very hard-pressed to change their minds.

Gay marriage will most definitely be inevitable, but I fear nationwide acceptance will not. People like Elisa Chan sadly remind me of that.

Burnt Orange Report has more.