A play about the long and ultimately successful efforts to pass a hate crimes bill in Texas is premiering this weekend in Austin. The play, Just Outside Redemption by Dennis Bailey, was inspired by the work of Dianne Hardy-Garcia, the executive director of the Lesbian/Gay Rights Lobby of Texas (now Equality Texas) in the 1990s and when the Legislature finally passed the hate crimes statute in 2001. Dianne later served as a member of the Texas Freedom Network Board of Directors.

Dianne had worked relentlessly for years to include sexual orientation in the bill that became the James Byrd Jr. Hate Crimes Act. Religious-right groups and anti-gay politicians repeatedly tried to undermine — with success until 2001 — all attempts to pass the legislation if it covered crimes tied to hatred or bias based on sexual orientation.

The Texas Freedom Network partnered with Dianne’s organization and others in support of the legislation. The story of its passage is a triumphant reflection on how citizen activists can persuade elected officials to enact laws that ultimately bend the course of history toward justice.

The play premieres this weekend at The City Theatre in Austin and runs until September… Read More

The religious right's relentless demonization of gay and lesbian Americans got only worse in 2009. More quotes from the past year: “We believe to have ‘fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness’ for the sake of political expediency, or any other reason for that matter, is to offend a holy God, from whom the blessings bestowed upon this country flow. . . . For that reason, sir, the Grand Prairie Republican Club holds strong to our Christian heritage and will take no part in knowingly excepting [sic] or promoting any immorality (by attending or promoting your organization) that may hasten the death of the American Government." -- Cylynda Caviness, president of the Grand Prairie Republican Club near Dallas, in an e-mail responding to an invitation to attend a meeting of Log Cabin Republicans, an organization of gay and lesbian Republicans, Dallas Voice, March 12, 2009 "America is on the verge of destruction. You, beloved, are the hope." -- Rev. Rick Scarborough, head of the Lufkin (Texas)-based Vision America, preaching -- in typically apocalyptic form -- at a rally in Virginia about the dangers of loosening sexual mores. He warned that gay rights and hate crimes legislation could be used to silence pastors who preach that homosexuality is a sin. Roanoke Times, June 26, 2009 Read More

That got your attention, didn't it? That's what one far-right group in Texas was counting on today when it sent out a hair-on-fire fundraising e-mail with that subject line. We wanted to give you a taste of how far-right extremists are trying to frighten and shake down folks for money these days. From the e-mail: "Just days ago, President Obama signed the so-called 'Hate Crimes' bill into law. This bill is an attack on religious freedom like never before. We must not stand by and do nothing! This new federal law could actually criminalize pastors and ordinary citizens who speak out biblically against homosexuality." Of course, that's a lie. Read More

Texas has an abundance of religious-righters who send countless e-mails circulating throughout the internets. We don’t want to give specific ranters publicity by identifying them, but we will occasionally post examples of their nonsense to show the kind of extremism that passes for discourse on the far right.

Today we note an e-mail attacking proposed congressional legislation that would expand protections under the federal hate-crime law to those attacked because of their sexual orientation, gender, gender identity or disability. The Senate added this measure to the defense appropriations bill last week. Just before the Senate vote on the measure, this serial e-mailer (with apparently a rather long list of recipients) recycled many of the talking points far-right pressure groups have been using to try to defeat it:

“If the Senate approves the Hate Crimes bill (an amendment added to the Defense budget bill) and it becomes the law of the land, here is a practical scenario that could occur:

If a sexual pervert were having sex with my dog (bestiality) in my backyard and I did something violent to stop the pervert, I could be charged and convicted of committing a hate crime and would receive a longer prison… Read More

The religious right’s campaign against a stronger federal law on hate crimes has increasingly been, well, hateful. An e-mail blast from one Texas-based pressure group this morning calls on recipients to express

“opposition to the pending hate crimes legislation, also known as the “Pedophile Protection Act” due to its inclusion of pedophiles as a protected class under the proposal that protects homosexuals from hate crimes.”

Protecting pedophiles? That’s a lie, of course, as the Southern Poverty Law Center pointed out months ago. Media Matters for America and Politifact also looked at how the “pedophile” meme got its hateful start.

We’ve seen a lot of far-right e-mails about the proposed hate crimes legislation in Congress. Over time the venomous language attacking it has evolved. At first was the absurd suggestion that clergy preaching against homosexuality would fill our nation’s jails if the legislation passed. The increasingly prominent message in recent months equates homosexuality with pedophilia.

We wonder how proud religious-right groups must be that they are sharing the same message as anti-Semitic white supremacists and hate mongers like David Duke, whose Web site blames the Anti-Defamation League for both hate crimes legislation andRead More

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