John Lawrence remembers the porcelain birds shattering as the sheriff's officer shoved him down on the couch. They had been a gift from his mother. An anonymous caller, who had told cops there was a screaming man with a gun in the building, had summoned the lawmen to Lawrence's apartment. When the Harris County (Houston) deputies entered, they claimed to have seen two men having sex. In 1998, gay sex in Texas was against the law.
"I was totally dumbfounded," Lawrence said later.
He and his partner, Tyron Garner, were arrested, handcuffed, and driven to jail in their underwear. They were charged with a Class C misdemeanor under the 1973 Texas Homosexual Conduct Law and spent the night in jail. Yes, in the late 60s and early 70s, during the era of free love when sex was a party favor and nobody paid any attention to what somebody might be doing with somebody else, Texans were busy passing a law making it illegal to have gay sex.
Which was kind of hard to enforce.
But Lawrence and Garner had been set up for arrest by a mutual friend, Robert Eubanks, who had helped them move furniture that day into Lawrence' apartment. They had spent the evening drinking margaritas before they returned to Lawrence' apartment and made plans for transporting the old furniture into Eubanks' place the next morning. Garner and Eubanks ended up in an argument and Eubanks excused himself to get a soda in a fit of jealousy. Instead, he found a pay phone and described a frantic scene involving a gun in Lawrence' apartment, which was not true. (Eubanks later spent 30 days in jail for making false claims to the police.)
Lawrence and Garner, however, decided to fight. They pled "no contest," paid a $200 fine, and then began filing appeals. Texas appellate courts upheld their convictions but their legal team managed to get the case heard by the U.S. Supreme Court. Eventually, the high court, by a vote of 6-3, overturned the Texas sodomy law, which it had previously upheld in 1986. Justice Anthony Kennedy wrote that gay men and lesbians were "entitled to respect for their private lives" and that the previous interpretation of the law "demeans the lives of homosexual persons." The majority opinion also argued that the state "could not control their destiny by making their private sexual conduct a crime." As of the court's decision on June 26, 2003, gay sex became legal in Texas.
And that has kept Rick Perry very, very busy.
The problem with letting homosexuals have sex with each other is that it might turn into an emotional attachment and then if they fall in love they may want to marry. Two homosexuals united in marriage, as Rick Perry tells everyone, is a threat to the institution of heterosexual marriage. No one is quite certain how this might happen but there are some big Texas thinkers working on the connections. The state was one of only four that banned same-sex sodomy and tried to outlaw it for heterosexuals. Maybe acting like a homosexual during heterosexual intercourse leads to gay sodomy, which turns out to be nice and becomes love and then gay marriage? If that sounds illogical, then you've never lived in Texas where it is abundantly clear to conservatives that every time homosexuals hold hands another crack forms in the foundation of traditional marriage.
In its zealotry to stop anal sex, the Texas legislature overlooked bestiality, sex between (kind of) humans and animals. One of the state's U.S. Senators, John Cornyn, who must not have been busy with the Wall Street bailout or Afghanistan, had a moment of sudden clarity when he realized the lack of a ban on bestiality combined with the possibility of gay marriage being legalized created scary scenarios. The Republican Cornyn had written a speech about the dangers of gay marriage, which he was to give to the conservative Heritage Foundation. Either he did not look at what his ghostwriter had penned or the senator had second thoughts but he dropped from spoken remarks a line that made it into the media. A copy of the speech had already been distributed and the Associated Press reported the unused text.
"It does not affect your daily life very much if your neighbor marries a box turtle. But that does not mean it is right. Now you must raise your children up in a world where that union of a man and a box turtle is on the same legal footing as a man and a wife."
Imagine a world where human and box turtle hybrids get squished trying to cross the road. There is also the bitter divorce fight during property settlement of who gets to keep the aquarium and who gets custody of any hatchlings or recently laid eggs. In a culture where Hillbilly Handfishin' thrives on cable TV, it is not hard to envision John Cornyn's grim tomorrow fueled by box turtle sexual mania. The senator may have saved us from our latent shell fetishes.
But he didn't help Rick Perry get any sleep at night.
The governor of Texas got active in the state's legislature and almost exactly two years after the U.S. Supreme Court had overruled the ban on gay sex, Perry signed a measure that allowed voters to change the Texas constitution to permanently ban marriage by homosexuals. Perry was so pleased that lawmakers were putting the constitutional amendment in front of the public that he held a signing ceremony for the referendum. Nobody noticed, though, that there was no place on the document for the governor's signature; it wasn't required. The two-thirds majority of the legislature, which is needed for a constitutional amendment, meant the governor's legal authorization was not necessary for the gay marriage ban to be included on that year's November ballot.
But by god he was going to have a signing ceremony.
Ignoring a fundamental tenet of the U.S. Constitution about keeping church and state separate, Perry's campaign office chose an evangelical school in Fort Worth to host the event. An email was sent out urging "Christian friends" to come to the Calvary Christian Academy. "We really need for you to help us turn out a very large crowd. We may also film part of this to be used later for TV." This was the first time Rick Perry had signed any legislation at a religious institution; he had stepped over a border that disappeared behind him so far he can no longer even remember its relevance. The governor was going to a church on Sunday to formalize state law.
The New York Times quoted Rev. Robin Lovin, a Southern Methodist University professor and a Methodist minister, who said, "Signing a bill into law at a church is a pretty clear sign that the church is at the service of the state or the state is at the service of the church. Either way, we've crossed an important line that has a long history in both politics and theology." The Perry campaign's email didn't even bother to pretend this was anything more than a Christians for Perry rally, though. "We want to completely fill this location with pro-family Christian friends who can celebrate with us."
The ceremony was moved from the church sanctuary to the academy's gymnasium in an attempt to appease critics. There were about 100 protestors on the street but more than a thousand adoring Perryites cheered the governor as he signed the constitutional amendment on gay marriage and a new law requiring women under 18 to get the consent of their parents before having an abortion. Previously, they had only needed to provide notice.
"We may be on the grounds of a Christian church," Perry told his congregation. "But we all believe in standing up for the unborn."
Rick Perry has been very good at protecting the unborn. It's the living he can't be bothered with. The poor. Elderly. Unhealthy. Uneducated. Unemployed. Gay. Lesbian. Teachers. Texas is last among all states in almost every possible category of social services and has reduced public help as the economy has worsened. But the governor's been busy with more important issues. Nothing matters if he can't keep homosexuals from getting married. Everything will fall apart when that happens.
When the Texas Republican Party met in 2010 to affirm Rick Perry as its candidate for governor, the policy platform indicated he had not gone far enough in his commitment to fight the rising scourge of legalized homosexual happiness. Outlawing gay marriage wasn't enough; the Texas GOP wanted it criminalized. The platform called for "legislation to make it a felony to issue a marriage license to a same-sex couple and for any civil official to perform a marriage ceremony for such." Party members wanted to prevent the presentation of the homosexual "alternative lifestyle" in public education and stop family from being redefined to include gay couples. Perry had inspired them to also seek a ban on strip clubs and sexually oriented businesses as well as eliminating all pornography. They are an ambitious organization.
Being over-zealous in the public about gay marriage always prompts suspicions. There are enough examples of exposed hypocrites to support a separate book on the topic. During the administration of George W. Bush, Ken Mehlman, who was the Republican National Committee chairman for several years, was also a top political operative for the president's campaigns. Mehlman led the strategy laid out by Karl Rove to oppose gay rights in order to increase conservative vote turnout for the GOP. He refused to answer questions about his sexual orientation but after leaving public life acknowledged that he was gay. Congressman Ed Schrock, a Republican from Virginia, was a sponsor of the Federal Marriage Amendment to constitutionally ban gay marriage and had complained about having to share showers in the military with gay men under the "Don't ask, don't tell," policy. Schrock resigned from congress when he was recorded soliciting gay sex from a male escort agency in Washington. Republican U.S. Senator Larry Craig, who wanted to give states even more rights to prevent gay marriage and voted against including the term "sexual orientation" in a hate crimes bill, resigned after he was caught soliciting gay sex in an airport bathroom. Chairman of John McCain's presidential campaign in Florida, State Representative Bob Allen, offered an undercover cop $20 if he could perform fellatio on the officer. Allen had previously signed onto then Governor Jeb Bush's Friend of the Court filing to stop adoptions of children by gay couples in Florida. A former national chairman of the Young Republicans, Glenn Murphy, Jr., was accused of two sexual acts where two different drunken young men awoke after passing out and found Murphy performing what is best described as mouth to penis resuscitation. There is also, of course, Ted Haggard, a Colorado minister who met regularly with President George W. Bush to offer spiritual guidance. Haggard preached that homosexuality was an abomination and he fought vociferously against gay rights, until a male escort and masseuse convinced the media he had been having sex and doing methamphetamine with Haggard for three years. Haggard finally admitted his sins.
Self-loathing homosexuals always seem to have the loudest voices in the anti-gay rights choir. Well, now, wait a minute. That doesn't mean that anyone who is trying to stop same sex couples from getting married has unsettled sexual orientation questions of his or her own, does it? But the odds are probably higher that they've had a few dreams and urges they can't figure out, which makes them very mad since they've been told for so long that's naughty, naughty, naughty, and unnatural.
You see where this is going?
This is the point in the story where the editor of a big city newspaper or TV station gets all huffy and says, "We don't report on gossip, whispers, and rumors." As a policy for journalists, this is a good standard. An angry, ill-formed individual with revenge in mind and a lot of good contacts could destroy a person's reputation just by spreading untruths. It happens in politics without the power of the media's assistance. Karl Rove did it to John McCain in South Carolina in the 2000 presidential primary. He organized a whisper campaign that suggested McCain had spent so much time in solitary confinement in Vietnam that he was mentally unstable, and that he had a black child out of wedlock. Rove was also responsible for a rumor that spread through East Texas that the late Texas Governor Ann Richards was gay, which probably helped Bush defeat her in their election contest. Rumors can kill.
That's why Rick Perry spoke publicly about his rumor problem.
In 2004, there was a story about Perry's personal life circulating in the Texas capitol and there was no one in politics, government, or journalism that had not heard it in some version. The details were consistent, regardless of who was doing the retelling, and it began to almost transform from mythology to fact. The version of the yarn that most Austinites had heard involved Perry's wife Anita coming home to the governor's mansion and finding her husband in flagrante with another man. She supposedly ordered up a moving van the next day and was said to be returning to her hometown of Haskell to file divorce papers. Not a scintilla of proof of any of details, however, has ever been provided.
Instead of just being whispered about as gossip among political professionals, the story became a part of the public discourse. The governor woke up one morning to a small group of protestors outside the mansion. They were carrying signs that said, among other things, "It's okay to be gay, guv," and "Come out. We'll support you." Later that evening at a rally in Houston with former presidential candidate John Edwards, the chairman of the Texas Democratic Party tried to turn the Perry apocrypha into a political advantage. Charles Soechting was on stage killing time until Edwards arrived and he alluded to the unsubstantiated stories of Perry's sexual orientation.
"Ladies and gentlemen," Soechting said. "I ask you to stay tuned. There's a lot of things happening in Texas. For those of you that know, there's a lot of stuff happening at the state capitol. And you're going to be excited when you learn more and more about it. So I wish I could tell you more, but I think if you've got someone sitting next to you knows what's going on, just get them to whisper it to you."
A number of political websites, including the The Burnt Orange Report, popular among progressive Texas Democrats, had already written about Perry's alleged personal problems. The story had, in fact, been dancing across the Internet for several weeks when Soechting let it fly to the Houston crowd. "How many of you all know? Raise your hands up. That's right. They had a rally up there in support of the governor today. Some of his friends said, 'Come out, Rick, and we'll support you.' Anyway, it's a good time for us," (Actually, it was not such a good time for John Edwards, whose personal life unraveled in subsequent years as he tried to help Democrats).
Gay jokes tend to attach to handsome well-dressed men in public life. Rick Perry has to understand how Tom Cruise feels when he watches Family Guy. The notion has dogged the Texas governor like a rabid coyote as he rose to political prominence. Part of it is his fault. During his campaign for Agriculture Commissioner he affected the pose of the Marlboro man on election posters, which drew equally on the iconography of the western cowboy myth and The Village People. He was also a cheerleader in college at Texas A and M University. Although A and M is a Tier One research institution and not a military academy, a large portion of the student body joins the Corps of Cadets and dresses up in sleek leather boots and form fitting uniforms. Rick Perry was captain of the Fighting Texas Aggie Yell Leaders when he was in college. How is it that tough and macho Texas has had two former cheerleaders (yell leader, whatever) as governors in the modern era? Bush cheered at Andover prep school.
A few Texas political reporters had called the governor's office to ask if he wanted to comment on what everyone knew was being discussed in the public. The offer was politely declined but the more Rick Perry contemplated how his reputation was being harmed, the more difficult it became for him to remain quiet. His son Griffin had heard the rumors while attending Vanderbilt University and his daughter Sydney had been forced to confront them while at her high school in Austin. Eventually, the governor had a staffer call the Austin American-Statesman's Pulitzer-winning reporter Ken Herman, who had been covering Texas politics since the late 70s and had been assigned to the White House during the George W. Bush administration.
The story Herman published made no substantive mention of the gay aspects of the story beyond quoting a protestor's sign outside of the mansion. The reporter concentrated instead on the possibility of divorce from first lady Anita Perry. The governor told the newspaper that he thought he was the victim of an organized smear campaign by political opponents making use of the Internet to spread baseless information.
"It is a cancer on the political process that is deadly," Perry said. "They [rumors] are not correct in any shape, form or fashion. These are irresponsible. They're salacious. They're hurtful to my family."
Perry also avoided talking about the gay part of the attack on his reputation but he suggested it was clearly an organized effort to destroy him. "I don't think a rumor can just get to critical mass by itself," he said. "I think you have to have a well-thought-out, organized effort to disseminate that kind of information and keep it going day after day after day after day." That's not necessarily true, of course. All it really takes is cheap drinks at happy hour and the urge to gossip. Things can go viral on and off of the net.
Perry had already dealt with the allegations of a pending divorce during an appearance in San Antonio. A reporter for KSAT-TV caught up to him after a speech and asked the governor about the status of his marriage as the camera was recording.
"I also understand that there are rumors about your wife and whether there is talk of separation, talk of divorce. Do you have any comment on that?" the TV reporter asked.
Perry responded that the story was absolutely and totally false and when he left the room his press secretary jumped all over the reporter for asking an irresponsible question. The TV station never aired the exchange but the matter had become viable enough that the governor decided to contact the Austin newspaper, executing a tactic that probably made him the first politician in American electoral history to ask a reporter to interview him and write a story about how he is not gay. The governor did use the space in the newspaper article to accuse Democrat Soechting of crossing the line of "everything decent" by publicly repeating the rumor. Soechting told reporter Herman, "What crosses the line of everything decent is the utter hypocrisy of Rick Perry injecting his mean-spirited politics into everyone else's personal life while insisting his own personal life is off-limits."
In this instance, Perry is also a victim of a new process in journalism that has only manifested itself with the maturation of the Internet as an information source. Blogs, which tend to often be little more than websites where people express opinions and share gossip, are not held to normal standards of proof and corroboration. A blogger has a right to say whatever they want on their page just as a private individual can say what they choose in personal conversations. Web surfers, though, can discover the blog, and the information can be passed off as accurate. Bigger, more heavily trafficked websites can post the story and increase their number of visitors and, eventually, mainstream journalists decide they are freed to write about a specific rumor as a kind of cultural phenomenon. The target of the original unfounded piece of spurious information is then cornered into responding and the story is finally legitimized in a way that was never possible before the Internet.
Except Rick Perry did this one to himself by talking to the newspaper.
Tales of sexual indiscretion involving Rick Perry surfaced almost as soon as he showed up in the Texas legislature all shiny and pretty and new. If even one of them is true, no one has ever spoken convincingly in public about the experience. Nonetheless, as the Texas governor launched his presidential campaign the population of Austin increased with numerous national reporters chasing down former staffers and friends and possible lovers of Perry to break the story of his sexual profligacy. They may very well end up as annoyed by the dearth of information as the late Texas Governor Ann Richards, who grew tired of hearing people repeat Perryphernalia regarding both sexes.
"Oh come on, y'all," she said. "He can't be fuckin' all the girls and all the boys."
Robert Morrow disagrees. Morrow is an Austin libertarian trafficker of unsubstantiated allegations and he is convinced Rick Perry has special sexual capacities for men and women. He spent the early months of the governor's presidential campaign zapping out emails to journalists in the mainstream and beyond. He cites nameless sources he claims are strippers who are his friends and he insists have had sex and drugs with Rick Perry. No names are ever given, though. A three-time delegate to the Texas Republican Party State Convention, Morrow's emails contain salacious, unproven allegations regarding Perry.
"Recently a local Austin reporter was telling me that they had heard about Rick Perry and the strippers in 2006," he wrote in one of his more restrained dispatches. "But they never could nail it down. Well, consider it confirmed. Additionally, there are many people in Austin who are convinced that the man is a homosexual or has had gay affairs in the past. I have never met a man who has had sex with Rick Perry, but I have met women who have had direct dealings with Adulterer (sic) Rick Perry and his enabling entourage. Perry has most definitely been living a double life."
The 47-year-old Morrow is not your standard crackpot. He is a millionaire Princeton graduate who also holds an MBA from the University of Texas. Nonetheless, he has been a guest on the radio show of Alex Jones, a man who sometimes appears to believe day and night are conspiracies cooked up by the sun and earth. Morrow, like Jones, believes President Bill Clinton and his wife Hillary had opponents murdered in Arkansas, George H. W. Bush was a cocaine smuggler, and, in general, nobody is up to no good, especially Rick Perry, who Morrow says is sitting on a "slut fueled tank of nitroglycerin" that will destroy his image.
Morrow attracted a lot of national attention when he ran an ad in the Austin Chronicle, which asked in large black letters, "Have you ever had sex with Rick Perry?" He was hoping to make contact with "strippers, escorts, or "young hotties" and help them publicize their encounters with the Texas governor. Morrow's ad was presented as an effort by an organization he founded and called CASH: The Committee Against Sexual Hypocrisy."
The governor's office finally decided it was unable to ignore Morrow and once again his staff reached out to Ken Herman of the Austin American Statesman. Perry chief of staff Ray Sullivan sent the reporter an email that Herman included in his story about Morrow.
"Morrow's allegations are more false rumors, with a different story line," Sullivan wrote. "The fact is that decades of intense media scrutiny, political opposition research and more than $100 million in attack ads have proven nothing other than Perry's solid and stable family, financial and political life. Unfortunately, the current political environment and exponentially larger number of media/information outlets allow crackpot conspiracy theorists like Mr. Morrow to run amok in cyberspace and in some cases traditional media outlets."
The Perry stories have been around almost as long as he has been in Austin. None has ever been confirmed and there have been some fairly capable Texas journalists examining the accusations for more than two decades. There is, of course, more at stake in a presidential election and the fight for power is boundlessly fierce. Perry's presidential campaign told Politico it is prepared to address the sexual stories if they are used as a tactic. There should be little problem for Perry's team to shout down an accuser since any such individual is not likely to be publicly associated with another candidate and will have limited resources to protect their own integrity. As John Edward's life has ably demonstrated, however, it is not impossible to prove indiscretions by public figures. The only thing that's readily verifiable in Texas, though, is that when it comes to screwing people with statutes, Rick Perry's strong preference is for homosexuals.
But even that has had some unintended consequences.
The Texas governor and the author of the constitutional amendment outlawing gay marriage in Texas had no idea there were people like Therese Bur and Sabrina Hill. They are a same sex couple living in poverty in a humble plywood structure built in the Chihuahuan Desert east of El Paso. When Warren Chisum, the wildly conservative Republican state legislator from Pampa in the Texas panhandle, drew up the amendment he was operating on a basic premise. Chisum and Perry believe that god doesn't make mistakes and your gender is determined at birth. Transgender complications probably didn't come up when Chisum and his staff began to draft language to keep homosexuals from getting married. But they ought to have given it some consideration if they truly wanted to stop the horrors of gay marriage. There's a loophole in the law that has allowed little "cells" of legalized gay love to pop up around Texas.
Therese Bur and Sabrina Hill realized Rick Perry's state was the perfect place for them to legitimize their marriage. Hill was born a hermaphrodite but her father wanted her to be male and had her vagina surgically closed. Even though she had genitalia of both sexes, Hill's birth certificate identifies her as a male. She always felt like a woman, though, and during an ultrasound at age 28 discovered she had female internal organs. Sabrina had already realized, in spite of the fact that she was anatomically a man, that she was attracted to women. Sabrina met Therese and they fell in love. Sabrina's male sex organs, however, continued to offend her and mock who she knew herself to be.
"I went to this guy in Mexico," she told El Paso TV station KVIA. "He was called 'the butcher.' I just had him cut it off. I didn't want to look at it any more."
Sabrina and Therese had been together for more than 15 years and decided they wanted to be married. The reasons were more practical than spiritual and legal. When she served in the U.S. military, Sabrina was known as Virgil, the name given to her by her parents, and she wanted to get the health care she had earned from the Veterans' Administration. Therese was sick and because they were poor she could not afford visits to the doctor. If they were married, Therese would be eligible for VA health care as Sabrina's (Virgil's) spouse.
But two people of the same sex can't get married in Texas, can they?
"Well, it says 'male' on my original birth certificate," Sabrina explained. "The birth certificate you were given when you were born is the only one that matters. Therefore, it shouldn't be a problem. It doesn't matter what my name is now or what someone's done with their surgical wizardry. I'm a boy and she's a girl and we can get married."
And that probably disgusts Rick Perry and Warren Chisum, the West Texas lawmaker who wants to wipe out even the idea of gay marriage. (Chisum believes homosexuality is a "lifestyle choice," like being a ski bum or joining a motorcycle gang). When he was drafting the amendment, Chisum undoubtedly would have never imagined a world in which a hermaphroditic person made surgically male might actually feel female and also be attracted to that gender. He also clearly overlooked the fact that a Texas appeals court had ruled that gender was determined at birth by nature and there were certain situations that would not be covered by his new law.
"You can't have it both ways, and I know that's what they're trying to do," Chisum told the Texas Tribune. "I can't write the law for what everybody changes themselves to. That would be even more confusing. You're either born a man or you're born a woman and you can't change that."
He actually doesn't know what they are trying to do because all they are trying to do is live their lives as enjoyably and comfortably as possible regardless of their gender, genetics, or economics. Sabrina and Therese wanted a little happiness and some health care, which is not always easy to get in Rick Perry's Texas, especially if you are gay, lesbian, or transgender. Ultimately, Perry and Chisum discovered their belief that god doesn't make mistakes, and that a person's gender is an immutable act of nature at the time of birth, made it possible for a transgender female to marry her lesbian lover and get VA health care to live happily ever after under the Lone Star skies. Sabrina is a man on her birth certificate. Therese is a woman.
"Let me just tell you that that little short chubby half Mexican is the most beautiful woman in the world," Sabrina said as she looked at her partner Therese. "And if god chooses to take her home before me, well, I'll live with it and understand. But that's it for me. There won't be anyone else for me. I'll wait until I can be with her again."
Such horrifying sentiments surely must send shivers down the spines of Rick Perry and Warren Chisum. But there's something else that should worry them to the edge of panic: They don't realize yet what their anti-gay marriage paranoia has accomplished. The determination by the court that your true gender is the one that is on your birth certificate has had an unexpected economic bonus for the state that Rick Perry has not yet claimed.
Texas has turned into a marriage destination for post-op trannies.
Also at http://www.moorethink.com
This post has been updated from a previous version.
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