In the 2000 Bush/Gore presidential election, George W. Bush carried the state of Texas, which came of little surprise to anyone. Texas is, after all, as red as red states can be on most socio-political issues and the former governor was a poster boy for socially conservative politics. But, here in Houston, Vice President Al Gore actually beat Bush 52 percent to 48 percent. The same held true of Harris County. Yes, the same city that is the home to Urban Cowboy, one of the largest rodeos in North America and a big chunk of the energy industry is not the backwards, racist honkey tonk many of our northern neighbors might think. We have a lesbian mayor and everything!
This is why people in Houston -- and, we assume, residents of Austin and probably San Antonio -- get frustrated when we are forced to endure the stereotype that lumps us in with cowboy hat-wearing, country club line-dancing conservatives from Dallas's northern suburbs and East Texas, which is as known for dragging black men to death as it is for meth labs. And why many of us are partly thrilled, partly relieved when a judge in San Antonio strikes down the Texas ban on gay marriage.
The irony is that, for all the conservatives that exist in our state, Texas is mostly a bastion of live and let live philosophy. Sure, our first flag had a picture of a cannon on it with the words "Come and Take It" and, yes, our current hairspray-addled governor brought up secession during one of his many ill-advised outbursts, but both were not so much examples of gun-toting conservative values as the continued desire for independence -- albeit a misguided variety in the case of Gov. Rick Perry.
That's why so many of us here in the Lone Star State don't understand what the big deal is when it comes to a people marrying the same gender. Houston has the largest nighttime gay pride parade in the world. Why should we care if gays marry? If our mayor can have a concealed handgun permit, she most certainly should be allowed to marry her partner.
It is notable, in fact, that when Annise Parker was a member of City Council, she had the longest and most stable relationship of any of her fellow council members including the two hyper conservatives who found themselves embroiled in a sex scandal involving one of them and the other's wife.
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Up until W took over the governor's mansion in Austin, Ann Richards, a big haired, sassy talking Texas lady if there ever was one, sat in the state's highest office. She famously said of George HW Bush during the 1988 Democratic National Convention, "Poor George. He was born with a silver foot in his mouth."
Since then, the state has largely been captured by ultra-conservative politics. I'm not saying that a good portion of the state doesn't share those views. I'm just saying that there is another sizable part of our state that doesn't.
Daily Show jabs aside, we get that some of what we do down here is pretty laughable. Sometimes we appear to the rest of the world like Yosemite Sam, guns drawn and spurs jangling. But for every Rick Perry holding up a gun and ranting about secession, there's a Wendy Davis filibustering to protect the rights of women. George W. Bush may have been from Texas, but so was Barbara Jordan. It's the home of Ted Cruz and Shelia Jackson Lee.
This is why many of us aren't surprised by a gay marriage ban being overturned by a judge in Texas even if the rest of the country is.