Texas Governor Warned That Pandering to Intolerance Will Doom Candidacy
The nation's largest gay Republican organization strongly criticized comments on gays by Texas Governor George W. Bush (R), and warned the likely Republican presidential candidate that he will not be able to avoid addressing the issue of anti-gay intolerance in the 2000 elections.
At a press conference on March 22, Governor Bush was asked about legislation in the Texas state legislature that would ban gay individuals or couples from adopting children or providing foster care in all possible circumstances, and would order the state to remove children currently in the homes of gay people in the state. Bush was quoted as saying: "I believe children ought to be adopted in families with a woman and a man who are married" and "I am opposed to gay adoptions." When asked if he then supported the removal of children from gay homes, he said: "I have no idea whether the children ought to be removed or not removed."
Bush further stated that he believes there is no reason to include sexual orientation a state hate crimes bill, which is moving through the Texas legislature. Since his comments at the press conference, Bush spokespersons have tried to back away, saying he would "carefully consider" legislation that comes to his desk.
"This seems like a case of 'here we go again,'" said Rich Tafel, executive director of Log Cabin Republicans. "The Governor appears to be making the same mistake as his father made in 1992, and Bob Dole made in 1996. Pandering to the religious right in the primaries and trying to run back to the center in the general election has failed over and over again. But worse, it seems like the Governor was badly prepared to address these very serious issues."
"Governor Bush needs to understand that the gay vote is as large as the Latino vote, and it's just as Republican," Tafel said. "And when you attack gays, you have families and friends and others that make up the swing voters that you need to win a general election. Republicans everywhere were hoping this campaign would be different, but this might be an indication that it will be more of the same."
On the adoption issue, Tafel said: "You don't just wade into the issue of tearing children out of stable, loving homes if you want to be the leader of the free world. I hope the Governor will take another, much more serious look at this issue, because he needs to understand the terrible moral implications of what he said in the context of what is sitting in his own legislature right now."
On February 9, Tafel wrote to Bush about the gay adoption bills in the legislature, detailing how the bills "are so sweeping and aggressive that from an objective standpoint, their passage would do serious harm to the best interests of adoptive and foster care children in the state of Texas." Tafel wrote that the bills "were designed merely to express a blanket intolerance towards gay people in Texas, with innocent children as political pawns." [LETTER ATTACHED]
On hate crimes, Tafel observed: "If the governor believes that all of the people in Texas are protected under current laws, than he needs to be consistent and call for the end of all hate crimes legislation, and not single out gays. In fact, there are few states in the country with a worse record of allowing perpetrators of anti-gay violence to get off scott free than Texas."
"We are still asking Governor Bush to listen to other points of view on these issues," Tafel said. "He needs to demonstrate that he wants to be a leader of all the people."
Log Cabin Republicans is the nation's largest gay Republican organization, with state and local chapters nationwide, a federal political action committee and a national office headquartered in Washington, D.C.
February 9, 1999
The Honorable George W. Bush
Governor of Texas
P.O. Box 12428
Austin, TX 78711
Dear Governor Bush:
I am writing today regarding legislation introduced in the state legislature which would prohibit gay individuals from being adoptive or foster parents in the state of Texas under any possible circumstance. I am asking you to support the principle that in the foster care and adoption policies of the state of Texas, the best interests of the children must always come first and not the gay-bashing agenda of a narrow interest group.
Two bills have been introduced on this issue in the legislature. A bill by Representative Warren Chisum would establish the prohibition without any possible exception in both foster care and adoption. A bill by Representative Robert Talton would order the state to immediately remove all children currently in foster care with gay people, and would require the state to question and investigate all new applicants on their sexual orientation.
Both bills are so sweeping and aggressive that from an objective standpoint, their passage would do serious harm to the best interests of adoptive and foster care children in the state of Texas. We believe you should veto both bills if they come to your desk.
During my work as Director of Adolescent Health Services under Governor William Weld in Massachusetts, I would see cases of wonderful little children languishing in state care with no adoptive parents. The principle behind the legislation proposed in Texas had been pioneered by former Governor Michael Dukakis who literally used the power of the state to remove a young child from the care of a gay couple. The courts eventually forced the Dukakis administration to reverse course, but not after serious damage was done. The child taken from the gay couple had been sexually molested in the home of a heterosexual couple. Sadly, politics got in front of the best interests of that child.
The Chisum and Talton bills officially establish any gay couple as unfit for consideration as parents in all cases, regardless of their merits and clear ability to provide a loving home. Stereotypes like that are the product of ignorance and prejudice, not founded on the key principle of protecting the best interests of children.
The Chisum legislation is dangerous because it establishes the policy that in the state of Texas, there can never be a circumstance when a gay individual or couple could either adopt a child or serve as a foster parent, even if completely qualified and capable of providing a good home for a needy child. Furthermore, the legislation prohibits the considerations of homes where "homosexual conduct is likely to occur," and a wide latitude is left for caseworkers to conclude how such a "likelihood" exists.
The Talton legislation is particularly harmful in that it will summarily remove all children currently under foster care with gay individuals or couples, even if the home environment has been excellent for the child, and/or the child has been in placement for an extended period of time and positive attachments have formed. Furthermore, it requires foster care caseworkers to conduct wide-ranging investigations of the private lives of foster care applicants and gives similarly wide latitude for them to establish that an applicant may be homosexual or bisexual in order to bar them from participation. Information gathered by investigators, even hearsay and false information, would be admissible and in the hands of state agencies. This is a reckless and gratuitous expansion of state power, designed simply to harass and intimidate people, not to help children.
Both bills would cost the state up to $10 million a year to implement, mostly in the added cost of initial and ongoing investigating of people's personal lives and the added casework of removing children from homes. It is clear that neither bill will result in furthering the best interests of children in Texas. They were designed merely to express a blanket intolerance towards gay people in Texas, with innocent children as political pawns.
As the arbiter of adoption and foster care policy, the state has a clear interest in assuring that all children under state care are placed in the best home available to them. The North American Council on Adoptive Children recently concluded that blanket prohibitions against gay adoptive and foster parents is not justified.
We are here to help you on this issue. Any such radical changes in child care policy should have the input of professionals and the broader community in Texas. Since the legislation is aimed directly at gay people, we believe that the views, experience, and empirical evidence offered by gay Texans must also be strongly considered as you make your decision on this or any such legislation. We hope that the best interests of children, and not special interest politics, will guide child care policy in your administration.
We look forward to working with your administration on this important issue.
Log Cabin Republicans