Anti-LGBT rhetoric perpetuates partisanship

Alden Marshall

It’s finally November, and a grueling national campaign cycle is coming to an end. 2016 has been all the rage, but for Texas’ top officials, 2015 is rousing up feelings of nostalgia. After eight years that saw the end of Don’t Ask Don’t Tell, DOMA and culminated with the legalization of same-sex marriage, Gov. Abbott and Attorney General Ken Paxton are up to their old tricks, using the press and political posturing to re-litigate social issues — especially LGBT and women’s issues. The truth is that progress is here to stay and no amount of conservative grandstanding will change that. Rhetoric for political expediency does nothing to solve our problems and only serves to divide us.

Just last week, Abbott, Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick and Paxton filed an amicus brief (in non legalese, they put their two cents and political capital on the official record) with the Texas Supreme Court, asking them to rehear a challenge to the City of Houston’s benefits policy for same-sex couples. 

After the landmark Obergefell v. Hodges ruling that legalized same-sex marriage nationwide, the City of Houston decided to give equal benefits to same-sex couples — you know, like the ruling requires. City lawyers agreed, saying that the Obergefell decision protects Houston’s equal benefits policy. Ironically, the State of Texas seems to agree as well, considering that it started doling out equal benefits to its employees shortly after the Supreme Court handed down its ruling. 

And in case our top officials didn’t know, the Obergefell ruling hinges on the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment, guaranteeing that same-sex marriages receive the same status as heterosexual marriages.

So why are our leaders wasting taxpayer dollars trying to rehash this issue? The answer is quite simple: Texas Republicans have mastered the magic art of turning legal issues into political prose. 

Don’t believe me? Republicans sent emails to justices, trying to guilt-trip them with conservative talking points. They continue to use their outdated and hateful rhetoric as a dog whistle for Tea Party conservatives. And the location of the suit, Houston, is the site of the defeat of HERO, the Houston Equal Rights Ordinance. The failure of HERO was ensured by a counter campaign built on a foundation of hate and disgusting stereotypes. Basically, it was HB 2 before Pat McCrory brought it into style and Dan Patrick camouflaged it as the “Women’s Privacy Act.”

Sadly, this isn’t the only time in recent memory that Republicans have chosen the expedient route. Just last week, when the news broke about FBI Director James Comey’s letter to the House Oversight Committee, Governor Abbott and Dan Patrick were quick to use this as evidence of Hillary’s innate corruption, when in reality, it was unprecedented meddling by the FBI. But when polling shows your party’s nominee within the margin of error, well, the script just writes itself.

So Gov. Abbott, Lt. Gov. Patrick and Attorney General Paxton, I challenge you to put your money where your mouth is. Protect your constituents with action, not shameful rhetoric. Instead of re-litigating equality in the press, try addressing legitimate problems that are facing our state, such as a lack of HIV testing or disastrous school funding.

Because bless your heart, if you talk the talk you had better walk the walk.

Marshall is a governnment freshman from Mabank. Follow him on Twitter @aldenmarshall