Ann Richards could talk the talk.
In 1990 there were three candidates for the Democratic nomination for governor of Texas. One of them had a sterling record on human rights and as attorney general had opposed the Texas (anti-)sodomy statute. That candidate was Jim (James Albon) Mattox. I thought he would surely get the endorsement of every gay organization in Texas.
But of course, the Austin Lesbian-Gay Political Caucus and most similar organizations in the state endorsed Ann Richards, who had no record on human rights at all. I was astonished and wrote many letters to various editors. What were they thinking? If gay political organizations would not support people who had gone to bat for human rights, why would any politician consider taking the risk of advocating gay causes?
Former governor Mark White got enough votes in the first primary to keep either Richards or Mattox from getting a clear majority, so there followed a runoff election, prolonging the idiocy of gay organizations working against the state's foremost office-holding advocate of gay rights. The grand poo-bahs of gay politics, among whom Glen Maxey was in the forefront, were simply gaga for Ann Richards, and there was no reasoning with their pronouncements.
In the fullness of time, Richards won the runoff and the general election. In office she did nothing whatsoever for human rights, and when the Texas (anti-)sodomy statute was sunseted, Richards signed its replacement into law. That's right. She set gay people up to be labeled sex offenders.
I was right. Gay politicos betrayed their supporter Jim Mattox, and their reward was a slap in the face from Ann Richards.
Yeah, she could talk the talk, and her "silver foot in his mouth" remark about Bush père is replayed endlessly. But when it came to human rights, she wouldn't walk the walk.
Now the poo-bahs are out again, dabbing at their eyes with their handkerchiefs. Richards prolonged the criminalization of homosexuality, but the poo-bahs still pretend their support of Richards was the right thing.
None of them will mention Tyrone Garner, who also died this week. Because Richards signed the sodomy statute into law, it was still a crime (misdemeanor) for Garner to make love with John Lawrence, and so Garner was arrested when a jealous lover summoned police to the Lawrence home in September of 1998. Garner was a shy and private person, and he had not intended to create a test case. Garner was reluctant at first, for it meant years of publicity with his mugshot shown on TV repeatedly. But he agreed to go forward and eventually he was proud of the part he played in the struggle for gay rights.
We are no better off today because of Ann Richards. But we are all freer because of Tyrone Garner. My friends, it is not the Ann Richardses of the world who make progress. It is the Tyrone Garners. Flags will not fly at half-staff for Tyrone Garner. The grand and pompous gay political poo-bahs will not be lined up to be seen mourning and eulogizing him.
I would like to find some way to take the edge off this somber lesson in the way things really work. But I do not see how. The powerful do ill, and they are praised. The little guy does good, and no one notices. Typical. Typical.