Wendy Davis and Our LGBT Community

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Texas politics are always interesting and our current gubernatorial race proves to be no different. At the same time that the Texas Republican Party endorses “reparative therapy” as a voluntary effort to help convert homosexuals into heterosexuals, our co-founder, Lynn Yeldell, sat down with Wendy Davis to discuss her historic race and the landscape of the LGBT community in Texas.

LY: We know that you’ve been supportive of the community, but just curious, why is the LGBTQ community important to you and your campaign?

WD: Every person’s individual freedoms are important to me. We’ve seen for a long time that there those who have had to fight to have the same protections and respect and freedom accorded to them that others have long had. It’s sad to say that our LGBT community is sort of last in line in terms of receiving the protections that others have fought for and gained. But I’m very encouraged and inspired by what I see happening across the county– a wave of enthusiasm and  acceptance of the idea that this is very, very important and deserves our attention and our work.

LY: To that point, the Houston City Council passed its non-discrimination ordinance including gay and lesbian’s protections. As Governor, how can you help more Texas cities address discrimination such as this?

WD: I’d like to see every city in Texas enact a similar ordinance. I think this is something we need to look at at the statewide level and I’d like to work with the legislature to achieve that. In 2000 in Fort Worth we passed the first anti-discrimination ordinance protecting the LGBT community in employment and housing which helped set the model for other cities. It’s surprising to me that Houston was so far behind what some of the other cities had done and I’m very, very impressed and encouraged by the tenacity of Mayor Parker and others on the council who courageously moved the issue forward in the face of some strident opposition.

LY: Speaking of the progressive movement, I was at the Molly Awards on Tuesday night and the entire community is reeling from the loss of Grace Garcia. I wanted to give you the opportunity to share some thoughts on her passing. 

WD: Well first of all, she was a pioneer. Obviously, [she] worked very closely with the Clinton administration and was so proud and so happy to be returning to her home state to give her energies and talents to it. Grace really inspired both Leticia and me – that we could run statewide and win. I will carry her on this journey with me everyday. She had this perfect balance of being really tough and also having a tremendous heart that she wasn’t afraid to show. She was just a rare person and I will miss her greatly.

LY: I think it all reminds us as well, we’re bigger than the work of any one individual and we need to keep all of those legacies alive. For me, it was Bettie Naylor and her passing… another one of those very, very strong but also very joyous women that you want to be aligned with and work with. 

WD: Yes, absolutely. You said that perfectly.

Wendy Davis Addresses LGBT Supporters. Photo by Casey Chapman Ross.

Wendy Davis Addresses LGBT Supporters. Photo by Casey Chapman Ross.

LY: We want everyone to know that their vote counts. My partner, Alisa, wanted to know why you feel it is important for the LGBTQ community to vote and what percentage can we add to contribute to real change? 

WD: Every vote is so important. When you look at the landscape of Texas, the values of everyday, hardworking Texans aren’t being reflected in the Texas capital everyday because so many hardworking Texans aren’t showing up and participating in electing someone who reflects their values. We have an opportunity, an historic opportunity, to change that in this election. We have a candidate who is well poised in terms of name recognition. We have a movement of people who are excited about this race in a way that they haven’t been since Ann Richards ran and we have a massive field organization unlike anything that’s ever been seen in Texas before. And I hope everyone will own their piece of making history in November by showing up and voting and not believing for a moment that their vote won’t make a difference.

The outcome – the stakes are so high. We know that for the first time in 14 years, without question, we will elect a new governor. In many ways, Greg Abbott and I are very, very different people with very, very different policy perspectives, but most certainly we’re very different in regard to our respect for LGBT rights and freedoms. It’s like the bumper sticker says, “If you don’t vote, you can’t complain.” Greg Abbott, will not be a voice for the LGBT community. In fact, he will be hostile to LGBT rights and you won’t be able to complain if you didn’t show up and vote.

LY: Every time we speak with someone we hold in high regard, we always give our community the opportunity to ask a question. So, we asked our Facebook fans, “what would you ask” Wendy Davis?” And, Sarita Null, one of our readers, wrote in:

“I’m delighted that you are running, and how will you show that you are truly fair minded & willing to work with the entire spectrum of ideologies? Candidates, politicians & their mouthpieces have a huge problem being respected and heard by their opponents. Do you have any creative ideas to soften the dogma so that you can be heard and perceived as someone who could and would actually reach across and (perhaps) walk across the aisle?”

WD: That’s such a good question. I would say that my long tenure in public service is an example of my ability to do that. I feel so privileged that I started in a local capacity where we didn’t have partisan labels next to our names and we worked together in a very unique and profound way. When I came to the Texas Senate, I worked very hard to continue that same relationship with both my democratic colleagues and my republican colleagues and I think that we’re missing that at the leadership level in Texas and we’ve been missing it for some time. We need a leader who will set a tone of respect for all perspectives and a vision that helps people feel confident that support of freedoms for all is and should be a cherished value that we all hold, whether we come with R’s or D’s next to our name. I will be proud to do that if I have the privilege of serving the state as its next governor.

LY: Our last question is just a three word question: Wendy Davis is…?

WD: A fighter.

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