People 2015: Rafael Anchia Bucks the Establishment

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In this week's Dallas Observer we profile 20 of the metro area's most interesting characters, with new portraits of each from local photographer Can Turkyilmaz. Click here to find all our People Issue profiles.

It meant everything, even though it would accomplish nothing. The Texas House of Representatives was not going to pass anything that could be construed as helping the LGBTQ community, no matter how much sense it made. But there was Rafael Anchia, longtime state representative from Dallas, speaking up for the right of all adoptive parents to be listed on their kids’ birth certificates, even when the parents are both men or both women.

It was the first time in his six terms in the Legislature that he’d made a personal privilege speech, talking about an issue not on the House’s agenda. He’d saved it for something truly important, he said, helping kids with nontraditional families move through life as easily as their classmates.

“This is [an issue] that hits close to home for a lot of the families in the community that I live in, whether we’re talking about North Oak Cliff or the Oak Lawn/Cedar Springs area, really all around Dallas,” Anchia says. “I find the statute so cruel because it ignores the needs of children and the loving families that they live in.”

The bill’s failure to even get an up or down vote is proof of what Anchia calls the Texas Legislature’s “homophobic hypocrisy.”

“Members will say that they’re pro-adoption and pro-family unless they don’t approve of the family,” he says.

Anchia’s stand was a microcosm of his legislative session. Throughout, he’d fought the raft of anti-LGBTQ bills that floated onto the Texas House calendar. Anchia stuck up for his home — and all of us.

“These proposed bills would undermine or even sweep away nondiscrimination ordinances put in place in major cities across the state — including my hometown of Dallas,” Anchia said during his speech. “My own city and many others across the state have decided against that kind of discrimination, and the Legislature shouldn’t undermine our cities’ economic well-being or our citizens’ civil liberties.”

Anchia, as he usually does, was acting on the will of his increasingly progressive Oak Cliff-centered district, just as he was when he polled his district about the Trinity toll road late last year. Anchia, a longtime ally of toll road supporters like former Dallas Mayor Ron Kirk and current Mayor Mike Rawlings, became one of the most important figures to hint that he might not be totally locked in on the $1.5 billion-plus project, two decades in the making.

When the results of the poll came back, Anchia didn’t ignore them. He filed a couple of bills that would’ve effectively killed the project by denying the toll road any potential state funding. The bills died in committee, but Anchia had positioned himself as an apostate to Dallas’ conventional leadership structure.

What that means for the rep’s future is unclear. He’s long been tossed around as a potential Dallas mayor, but now he’d be an anti-establishment candidate, not just the next in line. 

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