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Don't mess with
Texas gays

Don't mess with
Texas gays


A week has passed since the state's voters added antigay discrimination to the state's constitution. One out University of Texas student saw plenty of bigotry during the campaign but plans to keep fighting.

Around me the crowd began to heat up into small pockets of fury. Suddenly, the anger splashed above the surface and swept upon the five people who were holding Imperial Knights of America and Confederate flags. The crowd hissed "KKK, go away!"

Such was the chaos surrounding the November 5 visit of the Imperial Knights of America--a group better known as the KKK--to the liberal stronghold of Austin, Texas. These hateful people were there to rally around Proposition 2, an amendment to the state's constitution defining marriage as between one man and one woman. The dozen or so members of the IKA who swaggered into town that day thought they could devour us "crazy liberals." Instead, they had to be protected by 200 armed police officers in riot gear.

Sadly, we were not able to crush the amendment like we did the KKK. On November 8 it passed with 76% of the vote, although 60% of Travis County, which includes Austin, voted against it. But as an out lesbian who attends the University of Texas at Austin, I plan to continue to fight. From my perspective, pro-gay groups put up one hell of a fight to defeat Prop. 2.

When House Joint Resolution 6--which later became Prop. 2--was first presented in a hearing, we were there. Hundreds of LGBT and allies spoke during the 121/2-hour committee hearing. Eight hours into the hearing, my gay best friend, Rob Keffer, spoke up at the committee hearing against his father, Rep. Jim Keffer (R-Eastland), who, along with his brother Rep. Bill Keffer (R-Dallas), co-authored the bill. He made jokes about how his dad doesn't like his blond faux-hawk--not to mention his sexual orientation--but he also spoke of the pain of being denied rights. He knew the risks of speaking at a hearing like this, and to some degree he paid for it. After speaking, The Dallas Morning News outed him to his grandparents and the entire Dallas area. But he also knew the necessity of speaking up.

Unfortunately, the resolution passed through the House by one vote, and in response the political action committee No Nonsense in November was formed. I received e-mails about vigils most weeks since July. At every big event I went to in Austin since May, No Nonsense in November volunteers bombarded me with pledge cards against Prop. 2. On the UT campus, the Campus Alliance Against Inequality mobilized over 100 volunteers to speak in classes, talk with organizations, and pass out flyers. All-night rallies were held at the start and end of early voting. This year around 5,200 students voted early with a projected 10 to 1 in our favor.

But the Christian right mobilized in full force. A friend of mine went to a church in Waco, the Antioch Community Church, and received a full-page flyer in the Sunday bulletin with a happy straight couple and the words "Protect Marriage" across the top. The pastoral staff then made an announcement encouraging people to vote for Prop. 2--just in case anyone missed the large flyer right in front of their faces. In my hometown of Eastland, churches had signs that said "Vote for God's word. Vote Yes on Prop. 2."

Around campus, more flyers were distributed on cars and bulletin boards around campus claiming the "gays" were busing in thousands of people from other states to illegally vote, and by voting "no" on Prop. 2, gay marriage would become legal in Texas. Their lies and conservative Christian core were effective--76% effective. Nearly every member of my family voted yes. And even through the strong LGBT campaigning, only 25% of Travis County came out to vote.

How did I stop the tears after Prop. 2 passed? I found support through my community and among my diverse group of friends. On the last day of voting, when calling up my friends, I hesitated to call one of my more conservative friends who is a sorority girl at Baylor University. But when she answered, she said of course she supported my friend Rob and me. She was trying to find a poll booth to vote no.

I've also been overwhelmed by the support of my generation. A Polling Point survey on gay marriage found that 70% of young people between the ages of 18 and 24 support marriage equality. Another 10% support civil unions. Support for gay marriage fell to 32% among those 65 year and older. The findings made me think of the author Thomas Kunn who coined the phrase "paradigm shifts." These changes in culture don't happen because new information is revealed but because the older generation is no longer in control.

The fight's not over yet. The way the amendment was written creates problems for all marriages because it states that the state "may not create or recognize any legal status identical or similar to marriage." Isn't marriage identical to marriage? The courts still hold the possibility of its defeat.

During the KKK rally, you could find me and my friends--one hipster prima donna in her 1980s hot pants and another guy in a shirt that said "Southern by birth, faggot by the grace of god"--as we drew in a crowd of about 20 people dancing to "Shake That Laffy Taffy" as we shook off the hate.

Why dance while the KKK protests? Why not? We have to live our lives with joy and have fun while we can. We were there to show we don't support the KKK and I'll be damned if I'm going to let the conservatives of Texas keep me down. The changes aren't here yet, but LGBT Texans are resilient. We've dealt with homophobia like the rest of the country, and we will continue to keep moving until something is done.

Advocate Channel - The Pride StoreOut / Advocate Magazine - Fellow Travelers & Jamie Lee Curtis

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