Wednesday, April 27, 2005

Turner Walks a Thin Line

Rep. Sylvester Turner's (D-Houston) standing in the gay and lesbian community still proves to be a bit rocky after his 'accidental' voting for Rep. Talton's amendment to SB6, which banned gays, lesbians, and bisexuals from becoming foster parents. This week a new approach to discrimination against homosexuals entered the House- HJR6, which adds a constitutional amendment 'providing that marriage in this state consists only of the union between one man and one woman.' Faced with another difficult vote that directly affects the gay and lesbian community, Rep. Turner chose to vote 'present, not voting,' and obstain from taking a position for either side (HJR6 passed the House Monday with 101 yeas, 28 nays, and 8 present, not voting). This decision, however, did not settle well with some gay and lesbian activists. In response, Turner's office has once again received an array of disgruntle phone calls from these individuals- all upset he didn't stand up against the amendment and some accusing him of following the leadership (Turner is the Speaker Pro Tempore- the second highest position in the House).
So why did Turner not stand up for a community that has been the recent target of much 'governmental regulation?' Turner walks a thin line between social conservativism and standing up for gay rights. He has a strong church backing, with conservative African-American church-goers as many of his constituents. While representing this community he felt he couldn't vote against HJR6, but he also stands behind the gay community and has personal concerns about the bill. He voiced many of his concerns during the House debate on Monday, stating that HJR6 was just making a political statement and that the languange was too broad and vague.
But in the end he knew he didn't want to be part of the 100 votes needed to pass HJR6- he simply didn't want to make a difference in the vote. Turner plays a constant balancing act between his leadership position and his constituents, he will surely have more decisions of this nature in the future.