Dishonoring Texas

Monday, June 13, 2005

THE DAY TEXAS Gov. Rick Perry (R) ceremonially signed a state constitutional amendment defining marriage as an exclusively heterosexual matter, he may not have been intending to spit in the faces of countless men and women fighting for their country in Iraq. But that is what he did. Mr. Perry was asked by a reporter what he had to say "to gays and lesbians who are serving in the military right now in Iraq who are going to come back to Texas and may not be entitled to the same rights as the rest of us?" Mr. Perry responded that "Texans have made a decision about marriage, and if there is some other state that has a more lenient view than Texas, then maybe that's a better place for them to live."

In some sense, the governor was merely stating a fact: Texas law forbids same-sex marriage, so a returning veteran who wants state recognition for a lifelong relationship does have to go elsewhere. But the governor was doing more than describing a law that treats one class of people differently from all others; he was wallowing in it.

Foes of same-sex marriage often emphasize that they have nothing against gays and lesbians but are merely trying to protect the sanctity of a traditional institution. Some are certainly sincere in this protestation. But in much of the "defense of marriage" world, the rhetoric of tolerance is paper-thin. Mr. Perry, a veteran himself, did not take the trouble to honor the service of gay people now in harm's way or mention that they were welcome in Texas. He didn't mention the need to respect different life choices or note that same-sex couples might have deeply committed relationships. His message was simple: If you don't like it, leave. It's a message unworthy of the governor of any state.

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