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Houston School Board Member Manuel Rodriguez Got Away With His Anti-Gay Campaign—He Had A Lot Of Help

At Houston’s Gallegos Elementary School on Harrisburg Drive, they appreciate School Board Member Manuel Rodriguez.

We know this is true because–at least as of 2 days ago–there was a sign in front of the school that said so. You see that sign above.

In contrast to the views expressed on the sign, I am uncertain that Mr. Rodriguez is a good example for school children or for any resident of our community.

Mr. Rodriguez circulated anti-gay campaign materials in his recent successful reelection effort. Please click this link to see what Mr. Rodriguez circulated. The bottom right corner of the circular is where you will find the hate.

Here is what the Houston Chronicle reported at the time

“Rodriguez, who is seeking re-election to the District III seat, noted in the brochure that his challenger, Ramiro Fonseca, has “spent years advocating for gay, lesbian, bi-sexual, transgender rights … not kids.”  The ad also points out (Ramiro) Fonseca’s endorsement by the Houston GLBT political caucus and underlines the words “gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender rights.” Rodriguez describes himself in the flyer as a “family man” who is married to his high school sweetheart and is the father of four and the grandfather of five. The ad says Fonseca has a male partner and no children”

There were some protests regarding Mr. Rodriguez.

A website was set-up to draw attention to the issue. There was also a Facebook page.

While the people who organized the protests and set up the website are to be commended for the work they did, these protests were not able to be sustained.

This failure is an indictmant of our entire city of Houston.

If local civil rights groups and advocacy groups had spoken out, maybe the protests could have been sustained.  Maybe it only matters when people in your own group are attacked.

If local political leaders had spoken up, maybe the protests could have been sustained. Many of these officials seek the endorsement of the Houston GLBT Political Caucus, yet they were no place to be found when a school board member responsible for the education of children used anti-gay words.

If the Houston GLBT Political Caucus had focused on the issue, maybe the protests could have been sustained.

In a previous post on this subject I noted that news of Mr. Rodriguez’s deeds were not on the Caucus website.  This is still the case.

Yet Mr. Rodriguez is still on the board and is still making decisions about our Houston schools.

There is a measure of irony in the absence of Rodriguez issue from the Houston GLBT website. The Houston GLBT Caucus endorsement questionnaire for local candidates is well-known for having very many questions and for taking a long time to complete.

Candidates for public office are expected to take hours to complete that form in the middle of a campaign, but the Caucus itself can’t take a few minutes to update a website when a school board member responsible for the education of children attacks gay folks and remains on the board.

I update this blog each day.

If the parents and all the other folks who live in Mr. Rodriguez’s district had spoken up, maybe the protests could have been sustained.

If everyday people in Houston had spoken up, maybe the protests could have been sustained.

Instead–What has happened is that Mr. Rodriguez communicated a terrible message and got away with it just fine. If you motor on down Harrisburg Dr., you’ll know Mr. Rodriguez as nothing other than a great guy helping out school kids.

Sure.

On the back of the sign at the top of this post was a reminder that Martin Luther King Day was approaching. I have no idea if the incongruity of this was considered at a place where people are supposed to be learning history.

You see this side of the sign at the bottom of this post.

Here is former NAACP chairman Julian Bond speaking in support of gay marriage. Coretta Scott King supported gay marriage. 

The work of freedom and justice is up to each of us. You can’t wait for somebody else.

If you are a gay kid in our Houston schools— or any freedom loving young person who sees that all people are created equal—you just got a lesson from all sides of the aisle.

Regretfully, one of the most valuable things you can learn from your elders is very often how not to be like them.

January 19, 2012 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

You Have To Stay Your Own Course

When the police state raids Occupy camps, the Tea Party and libertarians are nowhere to be found protesting an aggressive and violent government.

When finally a movement starts that opposes economic injustice, many progressives calculate if and when it will be safe to support it.

When a new Hispanic opportunity Council district is created in Houston after much fuss, hardly anybody votes.

When the GLBT Political Caucus in Houston gains influence on behalf of a just civil rights cause, the influence is used to back candidates who support right-wing economics.

The lessons are clear–Just like the ships in the Houston Ship Channel, you have to stay your own course even in polluted waters.

(Above–A ship in the Houston Ship Channel.)

November 17, 2011 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , , | 2 Comments

Houston School Board Member Manuel Rodriguez Distributes Anti-Gay Campaign Materials—It Would Be Great To See Houston GLBT Caucus Backing The Progressives Who So Often Support Them

Houston Independent School Board Member Manuel Rodriguez has distributed campaign materials that by any reading appear anti-gay.

The Houston Chronicle has rescinded their endorsement of Mr. Rodriguez. Mr. Rodriguez up for election on November 8. He holds position 3 on the board.

From The Chronicle—

A last-minute campaign flier for Rodriguez displays appalling homophobia. The flier urges recipients not just to vote for Rodriguez, but to vote against his opponent,Ramiro Fonseca, because he has been endorsed by the Houston GLBT Caucus, “the South’s oldest civil rights organization dedicated solely to the advancement of gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender rights.” The flier further states that Fonseca has “spent years advocating for gay, lesbian, bi-sexual, transgender rights … not kids,” and winds up with a pair of bullet points noting that he’s 54 years old with no children and has a male partner. That’s obvious gay-bashing, of the kind that HISD rightly prohibits on the playground. It has no place on HISD’s board.

Mr. Rodriquez’s opponent is Ramiro Fonseca. Here is Mr. Fonseca’s website.

‎Perry Dorrell at Brains & Eggs has blogged on thisissue. Art Pronin from the Meyerland Dems is on the case as well as reported in Perry’s post.

I’ve been involved in these issues since opposing anti-gay Cincinnati Issue 3 as a City Council staffer in 1993, and as a Stonewall Cincinnati endorsed candidate for the Cincinnati Board of Education in 1997.

It would be great to see our Houston GLBT Political Caucus come to an Occupy Houston event, and to see them ask more of Mayor Parker as she writes a $40K check to the Texas Conservative Review for a campaign ad.

It seems so often a wide range of progressives and liberals advocate strongly for the cause of gay rights and equal rights for all, but that GLBT political organizations are always not to be found on issues of social and economic justice that impact all people.

The rights of all people are connected.

November 7, 2011 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , | Leave a comment

Will Progressives And Progressive Groups In Houston And Across Texas Speak Up And Mobilize In Advance Of The Upcoming Arizona-Style Immigration Bill In The Texas Legislature?—I Would Not Bet Very Much That They Will

Leading members of the current Republican majority in the Texas legislature say that an Arizona-style immigration law will be at the top of the agenda of the next session of the Texas legislature.

The Texas legislature will convene again on January 11, 2011.

From the Houston Chronicle—

“Sen. John Carona, R-Dallas, chairman of the Senate Business and Commerce Committee, said he expects a “huge push” for immigration reform. “If the Legislature were to choose an Arizona-style path to go down, then I do believe that the emotions will run very high,” he said. It is important, he said, that lawmakers have public hearings and review the issue before deciding a course. “We need to be very cautious. We need to be mindful of all of the concerns among the public. But, above all, we would be mistaken as a legislative body were we to choose to ignore the issue entirely in favor of other issues,” he said. “The voting public here in Texas has made it clear that immigration is one of its top concerns, and, as such, I think legislators of both parties are obligated and have a responsibility to address the issue.” (Texas House Speaker Joe) Straus spokeswoman Tracy Young said, “Speaker Straus agrees with Gov. (Rick) Perry that the heart of the issue is the immediate need to focus on border security and the safety of Texans, and that the federal government should do its job.” Legislators next year will face severe budget problems, divisive redistricting, school funding troubles and reviews of major state agencies, including the Texas Commission of Environmental Quality and the Texas Department of Insurance.”

Here is the full Chronicle article. The article makes it clear that the Tea Party is calling the shots for Texas Republicans.

It’s funny in a way because you can tell here that Senator Carona, Speaker Straus and Governor Perry really don’t want this fight.  Those guys would sell out their core voters in a moment to keep the cheap labor in Texas and to avoid national controversy that could upset the business climate in Texas. These cats are bought and paid for by corporate money.  These top Republicans also know that whenever Hispanics do get around to voting in strong numbers in Texas, they will remember  who treated them as human beings and who treated them as criminals. Texas is one of four majority-minority states in the union and the future here is not with the Tea Party.

This is part of what makes the Tea Party folks in Texas so angry all the time. They know that any victory they gain in Texas is just delaying the inevitable change in what it means to be a Texan.

That said, Texas Republicans have announced months in advance that they will be going after people of Hispanic origin in our state.

The core issue is not immigration. It is about race and culture.

Will progressive forces in Houston and in Texas now speak-up mobilize to meet this challenge? We’ve been given plenty of warning.  A threat to the freedom of one person is a threat to the freedom of all people.

How about the Texas NAACP? Maybe they can get some money to start an effort of all-races solidarity from the “corporate advisory board” listed on the side the Texas NAACP web home. I’m sure Wal-Mart, Coca-Cola and Dell would like to help.

How about the Houston NAACP?

How about the folks who saw the election of Annise Parker as Mayor of Houston as a victory for human rights?

Here is the web home of the Houston GLBT Political Caucus.

The rights of all people are connected.

How about Mayor Parker? Mayor Parker got her start in politics fighting for human rights.  What would Hispanics owe the Mayor if she remains silent when her voice is most needed?

Mayor Parker’s campaign web page has a whole list of local progressives and progressive groups that could help lead the fight against an Arizona type immigration law in Texas.

What about Democrats on Houston City Council? Wouldn’t be it something if they met in caucus on a regular basis and offered a vision for Houston’s future?

That sure would be something.

Will the Hispanic community mobilize in the face of this threat?

Will folks on our side of the aisle speak up or will they remain silent?

I’m betting that for the most part silence will carry the day.

If we can easily ignore a nearly 50% child poverty rate in Houston, I figure we can ignore pretty much anything.

July 28, 2010 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment