From firstname.lastname@example.org Thu Nov 2 19:58:29 2000
Date: Wed, 1 Nov 2000 23:06:21 -0600 (CST)
From: John - THE LIST <email@example.com>
Subject: Ivins Slams Bush on Hate Crimes Law
A little background on that hate crimes bill
From John - THE LIST <firstname.lastname@example.org>, in Star Telegram,
Monday 30 October 2000
AUSTIN -- A dramatic new political ad reminding viewers of the dragging
death of James Byrd Jr. in Jasper two years ago has the Bush campaign in a
royal snit, denouncing the ad as utterly disgusting and below the belt.
You may want some background on how it came about.
Byrd's hideous death attracted the national media to East Texas. The case
and reaction to it were much-examined, as was the later case of Matthew
Shepard, the young gay man who was lashed to a fence in Wyoming.
By the beginning of the 1999 session of the Legislature, the black, brown
and gay communities were demanding a hate crimes bill, and the issue had to
be addressed by Gov. George W. Bush. He said he opposed the bill because
"all crimes are hate crimes."
The House sponsor, Rep. Senfronia Thompson, in one of the finest speeches
of her career, made a direct rebuttal: "Is cashing a bad check a hate
crime? Is insurance fraud a hate crime?"
The House, after an impressive debate, passed the James Byrd Jr. Memorial
Hate Crimes Bill, 83-61, and it looked as though something good would
actually come out of the racist murder. Bush said he would consider the
bill if the Senate passed it, and then he set to work to keep it bottled up
in committee in the Senate.
Because the media followed the bill closely, there is no doubt about what
happened. As Senate sponsor Rodney Ellis said, "The bill is stuck in the
Criminal Justice Committee because committee Republicans could not accept
gays and lesbians as a special category."
This was the "Let's Not Embarrass the Governor" session, and Bush's
political problem was simple: He was about to run for the nomination of a
party in which Christian-right voters make up one-third of the Republican
primary vote. He could not afford to be associated with a bill that could
be interpreted as giving special rights to gays.
The bill was desperately needed to reassure minority communities that the
state cares about what happens to them. During the intense lobbying on the
bill, Renee Mullins, Byrd's daughter, traveled from Hawaii -- where her
husband is stationed at a military base -- to testify before the Lege and
meet with the governor.
The Senate Judiciary heard her, but the governor refused to meet with her.
Mullins called U.S. Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison, the only Republican state
official to attend Byrd's funeral, to ask for help.
Hutchison and Thompson persuaded Bush to meet Mullins, and according to
several sources present, it was a most uncomfortable meeting. Bush seemed
especially uncomfortable. It began with Mullins asking why he opposed the
bill, and he said he hadn't read it. Mullins gave him a copy and he threw
it on his desk. At the end, Mullins asked, "Will you help us?" Bush said, "No."
According to Diane Hardy-Garcia, lobbyist for the Lesbian and Gay Political
Caucus, "[Mullins] was crying and he didn't try to console her or even
offer her a Kleenex. He was cold, icy to her." This is confirmed by
Thompson and others.
(This doubtlessly accounts for Mullins' voice in the now-controversial ad
saying that when Bush refused to help pass the bill "it was like reliving
my father's murder all over again." To put it mildly, Bush did not feel
When the Republicans finally voted to kill the bill after a caucus meeting
with Bush's staffer, Democrats walked out. They held a pray-in at the
Capitol rotunda and shut down the Senate during 10 hours of negotiations on
More than 200 bills were killed during the stand-off, and a remarkable
level of personal animosity was achieved. It was an incredibly bitter
fight, and Bush's subsequent effort to claim that he had sided with
moderate Republicans on the bill embarrassed his own supporters. This is
the background of the ad.
When Bush disingenuously claimed during the third debate that the state of
Texas `has' a hate crimes bill, he was deliberately ignoring this entire
history and referring to the weak, essentially meaningless law that was all
that could be passed under Gov. Ann Richards.
It's hard for me to tell whether Bush actually believes the things he keeps
claiming about Texas.