Rafael Anchia

A swelling Hispanic population will continue to affect public policy related to immigration and education in Texas according to speakers at the Texas Tribune Event Series.

The Texas Tribune hosted a bipartisan “conversation” with two state representatives Thursday morning as part of the Tribune Events Series. 

State Reps. Rafael Anchia, D-Dallas, and Larry Gonzales, R-Round Rock, discussed budget cuts and the voter redistricting of 2011, which was intentionally deemed discriminatory by a federal court. They debated whether or not demographic shifts affected those decisions. 

“The first time that we have a majority of public school kids who are African American or Hispanic and we took pretty dramatic steps last session,” Anchia said. “We cut 5.4 billion dollars from the public education budget. We hadn’t done that in the history of the State.” 

Gonzales denied seeing any racial factors that determined the cuts. He framed the problem as a byproduct of a struggling economy.

“[The cuts had] absolutely zero to do with changing demographics [and everything to do] with a very changing economy,” Gonzales said. “You saw re-adjustment of budgets at the county, state, and federal level. Everyone made a concerted effort to re-prioritize what [funds] we had. I don’t see any race component there at all.”

The representatives also discussed immigration reform and the State’s low percentage of civic participation. Anchia and Gonzales noted that Texas consistently ranks among the lowest states in terms of voter turnout. For the last presidential election, Texas was ranked 50th in the nation. 

Despite several points of contention between the two representatives,  Anchia and Gonzales agreed that the key to solving most of the state’s issues will be education. Both spoke anecdotally about the transformative and beneficial effects of education.  

Anchia and Gonzales agreed that budget cuts affecting education limit initiatives to better schooling in the state.

“The only reason I was able to move ahead is because I received scholarships for both undergrad and law school,” Anchia said. “If we continue to cut, cut, cut and raise tuition prices, we’re going to dismantle the very infrastructure that has helped generations of Texans move ahead. That’s been the access to the next station in life, to the middle class. We must keep that going.”

Earlier this month, state Representatives Rafael Anchia, D-Dallas, and Garnet Coleman, D-Houston, introduced twin bills initiating an amendment to the Texas Constitution. If passed, the bills would reverse the constitutional provision added in 2005 that bars under Texas law marital status for same-sex couples.

According to newspaper accounts, Coleman said in support of his own measure, “In 2005, most Texans did not support any form of legal recognition for lesbian and gay couples. But, public opinion has changed greatly in the last eight years, both across the country and right here in Texas … Two-thirds of Texas’ voters now believe the state should allow some form of legal recognition for committed same-gender couples.” Researchers from UT and The Texas Tribune conducted a survey in October 2012 that showed that only 33 percent of Texas voters wanted same-sex couples marrying, another 33 percent wanted to allow them to join only in civil unions and 25 percent didn’t want any state-sanctioned coupling of two men or two women.

We vigorously support a reversal of Texas’s ban on same-sex marriages.

But we think arguments supporting that reversal, which are unrelated to other statistics, might be more persuasive; quibbling about polling data amounts to nothing more than testing which way the wind blows. 

Instead, look at what the federal courts have already decided and the reasoning they relied on. One year ago, on Feb. 7, 2012, the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed a lower court ruling that determined that California’s Proposition 8 — which amended that state’s constitution to eliminate the right of same-sex couples to marry — violated the 14th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, which guarantees all of our rights to equal protection under the law. On March 26, the U.S. Supreme Court is set to hear an appeal of that ruling. If the Supreme Court justices read the 9th Circuit opinion — and undoubtedly they have already — they will see an elegant, encouraging message to advocates of same-sex marriage rights to keep fighting, even in the Texas Legislature, an unlikely setting for their success.

The 9th Circuit opinion states: “We need consider only the many ways in which we encounter the word ‘marriage’ in our daily lives and understand it, consciously or not, to convey a sense of significance. We are regularly given forms to complete that ask us whether we are ‘single’ or ‘married.’ Newspapers run announcements of births, deaths and marriages. We are excited to see someone ask, ‘Will you marry me?’, whether on bended knee in a restaurant or in text splashed across a stadium Jumbotron. Certainly it would not have the same effect to see ‘Will you enter into a registered domestic partnership with me?’ ... The name ‘marriage’ signifies the unique recognition that society gives to harmonious, loyal, enduring, and intimate relationships.”

In a final note, the 9th Circuit ruling adds: “To the extent that it has been argued that withdrawing from same-sex couples access to the designation of ‘marriage’ will encourage heterosexual couples to enter into matrimony, or will strengthen their matrimonial bonds, we believe that the People of California ‘could not reasonably’ have ‘conceived’ such an argument ‘to be true.’ … It is implausible to think that denying two men or two women the right to call themselves married could somehow bolster the stability of families headed by one man and one woman.”

All said, marriage is meaningful and all should enjoy the right to get married. Gay people getting married and enjoying that right does not hurt straight people wanting to do the same.