Steve Hotze's and Jared Woodfill's opinion piece in Friday's Houston Chronicle is an important contribution to history. It preserves in amber (OK, ink or pixels) the hate, bigotry, and fear-mongering that killed a bill that would have extended protection from discriminatory practices in the country's fourth-largest city, circa 2015.
One day in the future, adults flying around in their space-cars will look at that type of thinking as antiquated and laughable, like the way most Houstonians probably think about Hotze's early-1980s crusade to make it legal to deny housing on the basis of sexual "preference." Back then, Hotze was part of a group called Austin Citizens for Decency, that went from church to church in the state's capital, showing a TV documentary called "Gay Power, Gay Politics," which the Decency folks said was proof of how the gays wanted to "take over" cities. One thing gays wanted to do, according to Hotze, was "abolish laws that prohibit sex with minors." Even worse, gays wanted "public acceptability."
According to "Decency Ordained," Kenneth W. Martin's fascinating analysis of Hotze and "Austin's Anti-Gay Crusade," (linked in this story) the ACD's spokesman "said showing the film isn't really a scare tactic, 'but fear is very important when trying to counteract something.'"
Fear is very important.
Fast-forward about 30 years chronologically, and Houston voters elect a gay mayor. Then they elect her again. And then again. By this time, the notion of "acceptability" is a museum curio; it's like when your well-intentioned but mothball-festooned great-grandmother talks about "colored" people being "uppity." You smile and nod and put up with it because you know it's ultimately meaningless, and she — and her type of thinking — won't be around forever.
Today, Hotze is still peddling homophobia, but his market is shrinking. When it comes to homosexuality in general, he's preaching to his own hate-filled choir. He's just become better at tailoring his arguments to the audience. When he talks about his "health and wellness" center, he talks about his "natural" treatments trump Big Pharma's bottom-line interests — an argument that's at least mainstream. But he doesn't mention his belief that birth control pills make women biologically less attractive to men, because you don't have to be a doctor to know that's pidoodles.
And Hotze (and Woodfill, and the rest of them) couldn't come out against HERO by explicitly saying that he hated gay and transgender individuals, because even if you're not the most open-minded person in the world, hate is a hard thing to get behind. So Hotze and his ilk had to code-switch. The move against HERO was not about "public safety" and protecting women and children — two groups of people Hotze hasn't exactly gone to bat for in any other setting. The state's foster care system, for example, is rife with mistreatment of children.The Texas Youth Commission and the state's Catholic parishes have had their problems with real, as opposed to hypothetical, predators. But if Hotze was screaming from the rooftops about children's safety as those scandals were unfolding, we missed it. And certainly, the systematic dismantling of low-cost women's health clinics in Texas is a clear and present attack on women's well-being, as opposed to the damsels in distress populating anti-HERO fantasies.
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There it was again. Fear is very important.
But now, upon their victory, Hotze and Woodfill don't have to rely on fear — they can acknowledge their primary anti-HERO motivations in the Chron.
"There is a war being waged by the secular left on the biblical foundations of our culture, and this was one of the battlegrounds," the Less-Than-Dynamic Duo freely write. Prior to this piece, of course, the anti-HERO crowd's homophobic rhetoric appeared in the Chron, but in the context of reporting the news. This seems like the first time Hotze and Woodfill have been able to exhale and drop the public safety spiel.
"It was not about discrimination; rather, it was about using the political and legal system to force individuals, businesses, and society to accept, affirm, and celebrate those who participate in homosexual and transgender behavior," they write.
You'd be hard-pressed to open a major metro paper's op-ed section and find a sentence dripping with more bile. Although it's at the center of the anti-HERO movement, such naked hatred alone couldn't power a campaign, and Hotze and Woodfill were sharp enough to know it. Emboldened by their Houston victory, they're now taking their scare tactics on the road. They knew just how important fear was.