Glen Maxey, Texas, 1991
Glen Maxey (D)
Born February 23, 1952
State Representative, 51st District
Elected March 1991 (Special Election)
Re-elected November 1992, 1994, 1996, 1998, 2000
Essay by Glenn Maxey for Out and Elected in the USA
One of the most frustrating things in making my decision to run in 1991 was a view that came up in a conversation I had with then Governor-Elect Ann Richards. She urged me not to run. She said, “They are going to type cast you as a single issue candidate. That’s going to be the headline – that you are the gay guy and you do gay stuff, and you can’t work with any other issue.” I listened politely and said, “I know you are right, but I’ve got to go and see if I can win this.”
I had a conversation that same day with Tom Doyal, a local attorney and long-time gay activist, who game me some advice. Tom said not to run too, but what he also said to me was that, “The most important thing is not passing a gay rights bill. The most important thing you will ever do, or a gay person can ever do in the legislature, is be able to stand at the front mike and present an issue, and nobody cares that you’re gay. That is going to be the most important thing.”
I was first elected in a special election and the legislative session was already underway. That was a huge disadvantage. I came in already with the reputation that I was going to be the most liberal and outrageous person. I actually had, in my first days in office, headlines in the newspapers, that members requested to move their seats on the House floor so they wouldn’t have to sit next to me. I had a member ask me to be careful not to ever be near him when the House photographer took just a random picture on the House floor. That was the beginning. It was a very difficult first session. The homophobia was rampant.
I set out not to be “the gay guy.” But, of course, I did also have my “gay agenda.” It was a pretty schizophrenic time for the first year. I can look back on it, at what is now close to the end of my legislative career after almost twelve years in office. From the beginning, with those kinds of problems, I just finished my sixth term passing more legislation in the last two sessions than anybody else in the legislature.
I gave a Personal Privilege speech in the session before last and it was sort of the highlight of my legislative career. There was quite a lot of national press during the presidential campaign about Governor George W. Bush and children’s health insurance. I was the leader on expanding access to children’s health insurance in Texas. It was a pitched fight, me against George Bush, and I beat him. He wanted to cover about half as many kids as I did. When that bill passed, he actually congratulated me, and, as he said in press that went all over the country, “You crammed it down our throat.” In the speech I gave on the House floor in the closing on that bill, after others had talked about what we were ding for kids and families, I said, “I know this is a little out of the ordinary, but I have to give a Personal Privilege speech about being gay. When I came to this legislature, it was very hostile. And the most hurtful thing that happened was not by those of you who disagree with me on gay issues, or those people that have religious differences about homosexuality. The most hurtful thing happened from the liberals; my friends sitting around on the floor. How may times y’all told me, “Glen, don’t go to the microphone. You can’t talk about the kids stuff. You can’t talk about public education because, you know, you’re gay and you know how people react to the gay guy talking about the kids.” That was pretty hurtful. So, I think of children’s health insurance. Everybody else here today has talked about how important it is for kids, but the most important thing I can say is that I think one of the most important things I’ve ever done in my career, and perhaps will ever do in my career for the gay and lesbian community, is that I’ve stood at this front mike, I’ve led on the children’s issue, and nobody cares that I’m gay.”
I’ve been telling gay audiences over the last year or so that the most important thing, clearly, that I have done, is that I have become boring. I have become one of 150 members of the legislature. I do not have a newspaper headline, every time I sneeze, saying, “The gay guy said today…” It’s become “The environmental leader, the consumer leader, the children’s health advocate, the disability advocate in the legislature performed today on…” whatever the topic. And my sexual orientation does not play a role.
Now, conversely, my sexual orientation plays a huge role every day. Texas is only one of about ten states that hasn’t adopted a “Defense of Marriage Act.” I can tell you pure and simple that the only reason that hasn’t happened is that there is an openly gay person sitting on the House floor. It’s having someone in the meeting, in the back room, when people start trading. This last session it was, “Give us the Defense of Marriage Act and the Governor will sign the Hate Crimes Bill.” It I hadn’t been there that deal would have been cut in a flash. It would have been, “Yeah. We’re going to pass a Defense of Marriage Act and the Hate Crimes Bill can be signed by the Governor, and he can balance the two off in his political campaign.” I was able to say, “No, we’re not making that deal. We’ll take Defense of Marriage on its merits and Hate Crimes on its merits. I’m not trading one against the other.” And we ended up getting the Governor, reluctantly, to sign a Hate Crimes Bill in this state and defeated Defense of Marriage. I’m convinced that is because there was a gay person there.