Sodomy ruling reaction

Ginger has some words about the local angle to the Lawrence v. Texas decision, about which Chron coverage is here, a local reaction story is here, an unsigned editorial praising the ruling here, and analysis of DA Chuck Rosenthal’s inept performance arguing the state’s case is here. I agree with Ginger that the net result of Rosenthal’s handling of this case is likely to be at best a wash. He fired up his conservative base as well as his opponents.

Rosenthal is seen by Dems as one of the weaker Harris County incumbents. A glance at the 2000 election returns shows why:

REP - CHUCK ROSENTHAL .  .  .  .  .  .     485,385   54.12
DEM - JAMES S. "JIM" DOUGHERTY .  .  .     411,436   45.88

REP - MICHAEL P. FLEMING .  .  .  .  .     529,029  100.00

REP - TOMMY THOMAS .  .  .  .  .  .  .     534,137  100.00

REP - PAUL BETTENCOURT   .  .  .  .  .     521,165   57.08
DEM - JOHN T. WEBB .  .  .  .  .  .  .     372,671   40.82
LIB - PETER C. ELLOWAY   .  .  .  .  .      19,194    2.10

Rosenthal drew quite a few less votes than similar Republican officeholders. It’s not hard to believe that a strong challenger could knock him off in 2004, though if it happens I’d think it’d be because of his involvement in the HPD Crime Lab scandal and not because of the Lawrence case.

Meanwhile, Ted points to The Antic Muse, who has a sharp and witty analysis of the decision.

Check out the hissy-fit he throws in his dissent, basically predicting that overturning Bowers will lead to utter chaos, real wrath of God type stuff! Fire and brimstone coming down from the skies! Rivers and seas boiling! Forty years of darkness, earthquakes, and volcanos! The dead rising from the grave! Human sacrifices, dogs and cats living together! Mass hysteria!:

State laws against bigamy, same-sex marriage, adult incest, prostitution, masturbation, adultery, fornication, bestiality, and obscenity are likewise sustainable only in light of Bowers’ validation of laws based on moral choices. Every single one of these laws is called into question by today’s decision; the Court makes no effort to cabin the scope of its decision to exclude them from its holding.

That’s right, folks, he just argued that the getting the police out of gay people’s bedrooms will lead to pig-fucking. (Or, worse: touching yourself.)

Hilarious. Go read the whole thing.

Finally, as propitious as the ruling’s timing was to coincide with Appropriate Michael Savage’s Name For Your Own Purposes Day, it’s even more fitting that it came two days before Houston’s annual Pride Day Parade. Go read this article – it’s full of what things used to be like for gay folks in Houston, and it ain’t pretty. Here’s a sample:

[Jack] Valinski, host of KPFT-FM’s weekly “Queer Voices” talk show, recalled a day in the 1980s when robed and hooded Ku Klux Klansmen paraded through the heart of Montrose.

Bill Bridges, 65, a longtime member of the fiscally conservative Log Cabin Republicans, remembered when police raids on gay bars in the early 1960s invariably would be reported in a daily newspaper, complete with the names of those arrested and the places they worked.

[Clarence] Bagby, president of the Houston Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Transgendered Community Center, recalled his days at Sharpstown High School in the late 1970s when openly gay students would be beaten or smashed into lockers. “I didn’t feel safe to be open and out,” he said. “I was afraid someone would take me out back and beat the hell out of me or worse.”

In the 1980s, Bagby recalled, undercover Houston police were assigned to Montrose in an effort to sensitize them to the plight of gays.

“They went out in stereotypical gay outfits — 501 jeans and real tight T-shirts with rolled-up sleeves,” Bagby said. “They kind of looked like muscle boys. Here are these police, heterosexual, middle-aged men. They were horrified by how they were treated. Eggs were thrown at them. One was attacked with a baseball bat.”

In 1985, Houston voters trounced a proposal protecting the jobs of gay city workers. And the momentum of that vote led to creation of of a “Straight Slate” of anti-gay rights candidates, led by former Mayor Louie Welch. Welch failed in his challenge to then-Mayor Kathy Whitmire, but not before suggesting one answer to curbing the growing AIDS epidemic was to “shoot the queers.”

Verbal and physical gay bashing reached its nadir on July 4, 1991, when 27-year-old banker John Broussard and two friends left a Montrose night spot to be confronted by 10 teens from The Woodlands.

In the ensuing altercation, Broussard suffered crushed testicles, a broken rib and two stab wounds in the chest. He died hours later at a Houston hospital.

With Hill, a gay gadfly and ex-jewel thief, in the forefront, Houston’s gay community successfully agitated for full investigation and prosecution of the crime. Broussard’s killer, Jon Buice, was sentenced to 45 years in prison.

These are all things that happened within my lifetime, some of them within my memory. Don’t ever forget what it was like.

[Ken Jones, president of the Houston Gay and Lesbian Political Caucus] estimated that as many as 20 percent of Houstonians may be “truly scared of gays.” “That may be down from 60 percent,” he said. “I’m just pulling these numbers out of my hat, but there’s no doubt there’s a group frightened of the ‘gay agenda.’ I’d like to know what that is.

Ask and ye shall receive.

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