AUSTIN, TEXAS, GAY COMMUNITY FIGHTS THE RIGHT By Kristianna Tho'Mas Progressive forces in
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
The focus of the struggle is equal benefits for gay and lesbian
city employees. Last September the city council approved a
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
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
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
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
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
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.
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