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From john@gayadvocacy.com Thu Nov 2 19:58:29 2000
Date: Wed, 1 Nov 2000 23:06:21 -0600 (CST)
From: John - THE LIST <john@gayadvocacy.com>
Subject: Ivins Slams Bush on Hate Crimes Law
Organization: ?
Article: 108227
To: undisclosed-recipients:;
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A little background on that hate crimes bill

From John - THE LIST <john@gayadvocacy.com>, 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 Mullins' pain.)

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 the bill.

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.

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