AUSTIN, TEXAS, GAY COMMUNITY FIGHTS THE RIGHT By Kristianna Tho'Mas Progressive forces in

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AUSTIN, TEXAS, GAY COMMUNITY FIGHTS THE RIGHT By Kristianna Tho'Mas Progressive forces in Austin, Texas, are in the midst of a gay-rights battle. The opposition, which calls itself "Concerned Texans," is a religious fundamentalist grouping bankrolled by the right wing. The focus of the struggle is equal benefits for gay and lesbian city employees. Last September the city council approved a domestic-partner policy. Reactionary forces immediately formed Concerned Texans in order to push back the gains made by the lesbian and gay community. The bigots circulated petitions to force a referendum on the issue of domestic-partner rights. That vote is scheduled for May 7. The right-wing proposal would amend the city charter to specifically define "spouse" as husband or wife. This definition would overturn the city council's act that extended medical and other benefits to unmarried, live-in-partners of city employees. In response to the frontal assault on the gay community, a group called the Mainstream Austin Coalition was formed. MAC is leading the campaign to defeat the right-wing initiative May 7. MAC sprang from earlier campaigns in Austin, including struggles against discrimination in housing and the Save Our Springs environmental campaign. Its members include church groups, civil-rights and community organizations. Back in 1982, the Austin city council moved to amend the city' Fair Housing Ordinance to outlaw discrimination based on sexual orientation, age, martial status or parenthood. Right-wing bigots declared that they were against the ordinance because "it could compromise the Christian beliefs of the landlord." Calling themselves Austin Citizens for Decency, they forced a referendum on a new amendment that would have specifically permitted landlords "to deny housing on the basis of sexual orientation." The progressive community of Austin didn't let this pass unchallenged. The anti-gay amendment was defeated at the polls. Gay community leaders say the same thing will happen this time. "The people of Austin have a history of rejecting this," Mark Yanaga, MAC campaign manager said. "Frankly, discrimination is discrimination." MAC activists say most of the funding for "Concerned Texans" comes from outside Texas--from Colorado and other states where the right wing has recently waged aggressive anti-gay offensives. TEXANS UNITE VS. RACIST AND ANTI-GAY VIOLENCE By Shelley Ettinger An angry, aroused crowd of some 500 people descended on the West Texas town of Midland April 9 to demand "justice for all" a year after the gay-bashing murder of local resident Tommy Musick. In February Musick's killer was let off with a light sentence in a trial that outraged the community for its blatant anti-gay bias. Organizers said the April 9 rally, the first gay political event ever in the region, was a historic turning point for the struggle. Delegations from the NAACP and the League of United Latin American Citizens joined lesbian and gay organizations and individuals. Gene Collins of the NAACP was a featured speaker, as was a representative of LULAC. Diane Hardy Garcia, executive director of the Lesbian/Gay Rights Lobby of Texas, listed recent victims of anti-gay killings and said, "We cannot be silent." Tony Belcher and Jos Chavez, an African American and a Chicano whose daughters were recently killed in racist attacks, also addressed the crowd. They linked racist and anti-gay violence. "We refuse to accept another Tommy Musick verdict," Belcher said. Jerry Hon, Musick's lover of 20 years, passionately assailed the legal system. He said: "That is not a justice system across the street [at the courthouse]. It's an injustice system. "My Tom was murdered cold-blooded and then allowed to be lied about in court. We mustn't be silent anymore." People came to the rally from Amarillo, Lubbock, Dallas, Houston, Austin, Midland, Odessa and the small West Texas towns of Rankin, Lamesa and Stanton. -30- (Copyright Workers World Service: Permission to reprint granted if source is cited. For more information contact Workers World, 55 W. 17 St., NY, NY 10011; via e-mail: ww%transfr@blythe.org.)

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