Tuesday, June 21, 2005

You Might Say Stakes Were More Than Political

This captures the sad state of affairs for gays and lesbians in Texas. It responds to Governor Perry's earlier statement at a church that if gays in the military want to move to another state upon their return, they can. Reminds me of when people tell Mexicans to go back to where they came from. The deal is, though, that there's no where to go back to. Texas be it. Same for gays in the military who are laying their lives on the line for us all. This is what the ever-eloquent John Young is saying below by juxtaposing Perry's comments with gay activist, John Ball's taking of his life. This is very tragic and very sad—all the way around. -Angela

Sunday, June 19, 2005
John Young / Opinion page editor / Waco Tribune-Herald

The story on Page 2B was tragic. The story on Page 3B was just sad.

Not surprisingly, the tragedy got the smaller headline, being in the obituaries.

The story on the opposite page? Some will say it's about morality. Actually, it's about power, and not a higher one.

A higher power wouldn't be concerned with raw politics. That higher power would be intent on caressing and comforting those who hurt, and who cry out, someone like Bruce Ball.

Unfortunately, the story placement demands that we discuss politics first under the heading: “Perry backs anti-gay marriage group.”

That's Rick Perry, Texas governor. The story told about two men, John Colyandro and Jim Ellis, helping set up the Texas Marriage Alliance. The two recently were indicted on charges of money laundering on behalf of a political action committee set up by U.S. House Speaker Tom DeLay.

Perry had filmed a testimonial for the Texas Marriage Alliance, saying a constitutional amendment on the Texas ballot is “your chance to protect marriage from fringe groups and liberal judges . . .”

Gee. I wonder if they'll be raising money.

Analysts call this “securing the base,” as was Perry's appearance at an Austin church for a bill-signing on the amendment (the signing signifies nothing; voters will have to make it law).

At the event, Ohio evangelist Rod Parsley made disparaging remarks about homosexuals and got a squeeze on the shoulder from Texas' chief executive.

You might call that inspiring. Then again, you might have agreed with Bruce Ball and me on the matter. It was just sad.

I can't know, but I cringe to think that such sadness is what overwhelmed Ball. On May 31 in Texas' lovely capital city, he took his life. Ball, a longtime Waco florist, had moved to Austin two years ago to work at the Planned Parenthood clinic.

No one who knew Ball will remember him as unhappy. Among friends, like the organization he helped found, the Waco chapter of Parents and Friends of Lesbians and Gays (PFLAG), Ball was very much the jester.

But if you are homosexual in Texas, sadness comes with the territory.

“He was tired of fighting,” said Valerie Fallas, co-founder of PFLAG in Waco. Like many gays and lesbians, Ball took personally the slights aimed at a class of people. “The constant negative comments, he was tired of that.”

Friends who wrote his obituary, there on Page 2B, included some of his anger:

“His dream was of a human race that respected and honored ‘infinite diversity with infinite combinations,' ” they wrote, “but [he] yet left this planet disheartened, watching ‘Liberty die to the roar of thunderous applause.' “

As to that story about politics on the page opposite Ball's obituary: It's a sad specter when leaders who have important things to do for us instead lead us on side-road parades.

I can understand people's angst when on top of the personal issues of being marginalized, it becomes clear that the most convenient way a leader can find of “building the base” is to further marginalize people like you.

As many friends as Bruce Ball had, he apparently died alone. Call the matter moot, but I wonder: If a marriage, or civil union, had conferred a lifetime bond on him and a partner, would the angst of the moment that took him away have passed without event?

Another point: Rev. Parsley, the governor's rostrum partner, called gay sex “a veritable breeding ground of disease.” (Yes – and males and females don't share diseases, right?) In the age of AIDS, if you were concerned about disease, you'd promote laws that promoted monogamy, wouldn't you? Ah, but maybe the reverend's appearance with the governor wasn't really about public health.

Maybe it was about power, at other's expense.

Morality? You have your followers, Reverend. But I see the mirthful and inclusive Bruce Ball modeling it for me.

John Young's column appears Thursday and Sunday. E-mail:

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