April 9, 2013 by Karin Quimby, Regional Field Director
I was in Texas this past week, meeting with CAUSA, a coalition in San Antonio that is working to pass a citywide Human Rights Ordinance. I then headed to Austin to speak at two first-time political summits.
I spoke on a marriage panel at the Texas Log Cabin Republicans’ conference that brought together LGBT and straight-ally Republicans from across the state for the first time. If I had to sum up the wide-ranging discussion at the Log Cabin summit, I’d say it was one of eager engagement in the current internal debate about the direction of the Republican Party—about who is included and who is not. The gulf between what Republican gays want and where the rest of the party resides appears to remain rather wide. On the marriage panel one of the wonderfully outspoken straight allies related her recent conversations with Republican women, revealing that these women would be more accepting of gay rights except for our insistence on marriage; she asked the room, would we be okay with not using the term marriage? Most of those in attendance groaned in response. Nevertheless, the very fact that such conversations are taking place is a huge step, even with the accompanied hand-wringing.
The Texas Stonewall Democratic Caucus Summit had a larger crowd that was considerably more energized, although Democrats have not won a statewide election in Texas since 1994. The energy was in no small way a result of the promise of significant Democratic investment in the Battleground Texas campaign. LGBT Democrats were called upon to work to mobilize our community in the years and elections ahead. We know in Texas, and other red states, organizing and change has to come first at the local level. My colleague, Cathryn Oakley, and I presented a workshop entitled: “How to Pass Municipal Non-Discrimination Ordinances.” Cathryn discussed how HRC’s Municipal Equality Index has been used effectively as a tool by dozens of elected officials and community organizers to advance nondiscrimination policies in cities and counties across the land since its publication last year. I followed up with some strategies local coalitions are using to press city and county councils into action, with a focus on how to develop effective transgender messaging to ensure that all NDOs establish fully-inclusive protections for our transgender sisters and brothers.
One of the highlights for me at the Stonewall Democratic Caucus Summit was meeting one of my lesbian heroes from Texas: Dallas County Sheriff Lupe Valdez.
If Texas is going to be a battleground, it’s a good thing we’ve a sheriff there to keep the peace.