If you were to put money on which Republican politician in Texas would publicly express support for gay rights, John Carona, the state senator from Dallas, would be a good bet. He's always been about as pragmatic as Texas Republican come. But it was still a surprise when, earlier this week, he told the Dallas Voice he supports several pro-LGBT initiatives.
He stopped short of endorsing gay marriage, but he told the paper that he would support bills to ban employment discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity, offer domestic partner benefits to state university employees, and allow same-sex adoptive parents to have both names on birth certificates.
"I think anything that advances, encourages monogamy is a good thing," he said. "And frankly how could you be against people who want to get their affairs in order and have a loving household"
Seems reasonable enough, but not in Texas' many circles of conservatism. The Texas Freedom Network has a roundup of some of the reaction. Yesterday the Liberty Institute-founded group Texas Values lambasted Carona for his support for the "top legislative agenda of the homosexual lobby."
"We also remain very concerned that such statements regarding marriage and the LGBT agenda would ever be uttered by Senator Carona or any other member of the Texas Legislature who is believed to support family values," the group said in a statement, adding that it's "very clear, these so-called "gay rights" measures are nothing more than a direct attack on marriage."
Dave Welch, head of the Texas Pastors Council, and Houston pastor Steve Riggle separately accused Carona of throwing support behing measure that amount to a violation of God's law. A San Antonio pastor Charles Flowers, said Carona would be faced with an "unpleasant reality."
"We will no longer be silent, intimidated or ignored when traditional marriage, the nuclear family and our moral standards are threatened," he wrote. "We love God and love His people too much to allow those threats to remain unchallenged."
None of that's a surprise. It's telling, though, that Republicans not so closely affiliated with the religious right have been quiet on Carona's remarks. Maybe they and Carona sense that the tide is shifting, that support for LGBT rights is slowly but surely reaching critical mass. Or maybe Carona just decided it was the right thing to do. Either way, it was a pretty ballsy move for a Texas Republican.
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