Bigotry and Politics in Houston

by Dan Quinn

With Houston’s Dec. 12 mayoral runoff election just a little over a week away, the far-right Houston Area Pastor Council is intensifying its vicious anti-gay campaign against one of the candidates. The group’s leader, Dave Welch, has joined with other religious-righters in a coordinated attack on mayoral candidate Annise Parker — currently the city’s controller — because she is a lesbian. On Wednesday Welch continued his attacks in an e-mail to HAPC activists. His e-mail includes an essay he wrote for the far-right World Net Daily Web site.

In his essay, Welch questions Parker’s morals and character, charges that she is promoting a “radical sexual diversity agenda” and even suggests she essentially invited his attacks:

“Stating that activist lesbian Annise Parker — running for mayor of Houston, the fourth largest city in the nation in the heart of the Bible Belt — has made her lifestyle a core part of her public policy is asserting fact, not opinion. . . .”

As we explained last month, the Houston Chronicle has denounced this repeated claim from Welch as a lie. In fact, Parker hasn’t made her sexual orientation an issue. Welch and his fellow extremists have, even charging that gay men and lesbians are trying to take over the city’s government:

“(T)he gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender lobby fielded candidates in multiple races for Houston City Council to increase their numbers on that governing body. Are we supposed to be lemmings and assume there is no agenda at play here? Please.”

Yet it’s Welch’s agenda that should be alarming to Houston voters. He insists that divisive “culture war” battles on issues like same-sex marriage are far more important than issues that really matter to most working families:

“Hundreds of pastors and thousands of citizens refuse to be silenced and keep the debate at the level of road repair, transportation infrastructure, city spending and other such fiscal issues, important as they are. Nothing, I repeat, nothing is as important to the future of this city, state and nation as the protection and restoration of the nuclear family grounded in marriage, having both a mother and a father raising their children and committed to a healthy, nurturing home.”

So a sex-obsessed Welch wants voters to focus on the private lives of candidates, not on their experience, abilities and policy positions. Welch thinks voters need not know anything else about the candidates other than who they love. In short, he wants voters to judge gay men and lesbians as threats to families and “healthy, nurturing homes” simply because of who they are. There’s a word for that, but Welch denies it applies to him and what he’s saying:

“This is an act of love, not of bigotry.”

He’s wrong. We see little love but lots of bigotry in Welch’s disgraceful actions.