Austin Rejects Domestic Partners
Liberal Bastion Falls to Pro-Family Grassroots Activists
By Jack Chambers
In recent years, Austin has developed a reputation as being the
most liberal city in Texas, and possibly one of the most Liberal
in the nation. It is sometimes called, "the San Francisco of the
South.'' But on May 7, Christians and other conservatives in
Austin won an overwhelming victory on an issue with major
Last September, the Austin city council approved spousal
benefits, including health insurance, for live-in lovers of city
employees, joining approximately fifteen other cities in the
U.S. with similar policies for so-called "domestic partners."
Although Austin's benefits applied to heterosexual partners as
well as homosexual, it was the homosexual community which was
the most visible force in pushing for the policy.
Rev. Charles Bullock, pastor of Christ Memorial Independent
Baptist Church, and Michael Brandes, an attorney and independent
candidate for U.S. representative, founded Concerned Texans to
fight the control that militant homosexuals had exercised over
city policy. Scores of volunteers joined the group's effort and
gathered the needed signatures on a petition calling for a
public ballot referendum.
When the petition was turned in, the city council was forced to
put the matter up for a public vote during the regular city
election. What voters saw on the ballot was Proposition 22 which
amended the city charter to limit benefits to legitimate family
members of municipal employees.
In the months leading up to the vote there was a grassroots
effort by citizens across the community to gather support for
the amendment by radio talk-show hosts on both secular and
Proponents of the proposed amendment fell into one, or both, of
two categories: 1) those who supported it on moral grounds, and
2) those who supported it on economic grounds.
One argument against domestic partner insurance was that
awarding spousal benefits to people who simply lived together
encouraged irresponsible and immoral behavior (the policy became
known as "shack-up insurance").
The other argument was that it was not fiscally responsible to
require already overburdened taxpayers to pay for these benefits.
Almost immediately, a group calling itself Mainstream Austin
Coalition (MAC), made up of homosexual activists and liberal
community leaders, was formed to oppose the efforts of Concerned
Texans. Instead of focusing on the issues raised in the debate
over domestic-partner benefits, MAC Ieaders resorted to
The most outrageous tactic used by MAC was its effort to
convince citizens that Concerned Texans was a front for the
so-called "radical religious right," and that Prop. 22 was being
orchestrated by Pat Robertson and the Christian Coalition.
MAC bought time on local TV stations to air commercials which
portrayed Robertson as the mastermind behind Concerned Texans.
The commercials used unauthorized footage from a Christian
Coalition video. Out-of-context quotes used on the ad implied
that Robertson was taking over America "city by city," and that
Austin was next on his hit list.
Many supporters of Prop. 22, especially in the Christian
community, expressed a mixture of emotions about the TV ads. On
one, hand, they were glad to have the support of the Christian
Coalition (the local and state chapters assisted by distributing
voter guides) but they resented the implication made by MAC that
this was not a local effort.
Lawyers representing the Christian Coalition sent a letter to
the TV stations urging them to discontinue the ads which
contained copyrighted material. The stations complied.
MAC immediately called a press conference, supposedly to expose
efforts by the Christian Coalition to cover up the truth. I
attended the press conference but was told by Mark Yznaga, MAC's
director, that he was not sure whether or not to admit me since
he didn't consider me a "legitimate member of the media." I
offered my credentials, including my press I.D. card. Ynaga
reluctantly allowed me into the room then looked around the room
and announced that the press conference was canceled, "because
our attorneys are working things out with the attorneys from the
Christran coalition." (I confirmed later that no such
arrangements were being made at the time.)
Yznaga then dismissed me along with some other concerned
citizens who had showed up. Yet he invited other reporters to
come into his office for private interviews. When I asked MAC's
media director why I wasn't considered a member of the media, he
said it was because of my "close affiliation with the radical
In spite of these desperate efforts by MAC to stop Prop. 22,
the measure passed on May 7 by a vote of 62 to 38 percent.
Dick Mallory, a Republican nominee for state representative,
said this issue went beyond any party lines. It appealed to both
moral and economic conservatives. A combination of grassroots
volunteers, community and church leaders and media personalities
worked together to garner support for the proposition.
Many other cities and the entire state of Hawaii are currently
considering various benefits policies for domestic partners. If
such benefits can be repealed in a city like Austin, then they
can probably be prevented or repealed anywhere.
(Jack chambers is a syndicated columnist and a TV talk-show host
in Austin, Texas)
[includes pictures of ads against proposition 22, with the
Supporters of Austin's Domestic Partner Law launched a media
print blitz to kill Proposition 22 by attacking Pat Robertson
and the Christian Coalition. Austin voters didn't fall for it,
voting 62 to 38 percent to defeat the pro-gay measure.##30##