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Why the Austin Police Force’s “It Gets Better” Video Matters

Why the Austin Police Force’s “It Gets Better” Video Matters

Texas has earned a reputation as an anti-gay state, something the state’s GOP has done little dissuade from with its aggressively anti-gay party platform. However, in a new It Gets Better video the Austin Police Department wants to send a message to LGBT kids that, despite what they might hear from some quarters, they are valued members of society.

The video features several personal stories from department staff and officers; from feeling being gay might be a barrier to serving as an officer, to being told that being gay is “biblically wrong,” there are tales of sadness and rejection.

However, the video also contains a message of hope, one that is expressed most succinctly by Austin Chief of Police Art Acevedo who affirms the department’s commitment to equality and inclusiveness.

Watch the video below:

This statement by the Austin Police Department is made even more significant when put in context with the LGBT rights landscape in Texas.

Texas of course is perhaps best known for its role in the Lawrence v Texas supreme court case in which the state’s sodomy law (specific to “homosexual conduct”) was declared unconstitutional in 2003, a landmark ruling that served to make sodomy laws unenforceable–even though they remain on the books in several states, including Texas.

Texas specifically bans same-sex marriage via a 2005 constitutional amendment and will not recognize other partnerships such as civil unions. This has an impact on adoption rights in the state even though there aren’t any official bars on gay people adopting at this time. It is particularly problematic when those on the judiciary interpret the law in order to bar gay people from leaving their kids with their spouse/partner.

Also, while local authorities have moved to offer some discrimination protections to their LGBT residents, there exists no LGBT-inclusive state level anti-discrimination law, nor one that protects LGBTs from discrimination in the housing sector, meaning it is still legal to fire or make homeless an LGBT person simply because of their sexual orientation or gender identity.

Texas does allow for gender reassignment, but how this squares with marriage laws in the state has been met with widely different interpretations from several Texas judges.

Further, as recently as 2010 the Texas Republican Party, which retains majorities in both legislative chambers, published in its platform a call to Congress that they be allowed to enforce the state’s surviving sodomy statute.

In the platform the Party wrote:

We believe that the practice of homosexuality tears at the fabric of society, contributes to the breakdown of the family unit, and leads to the spread of dangerous, communicable diseases. Homosexual behavior is contrary to the fundamental, unchanging truths that have been ordained by God, recognized by our country’s founders, and shared by the majority of Texas.

The platform went on to say:

Homosexuality must not be presented as an acceptable ‘alternative’ lifestyle in our public education and policy, or should ‘family’ be redefined to include homosexual ‘couples.’ We are opposed to any granting of special legal entitlements, refuse to recognize, or grant special privileges including, but not limited to: marriage between persons of the same sex (regardless of state of origin), custody of children by homosexuals, homosexual partner insurance or retirement benefits. We oppose any criminal or civil penalties against those who oppose homosexuality out of faith, conviction or belief in traditional values.

In fact, Governor Rick Perry made his opposition to gay people an opening gambit of a highly ridiculed campaign video entitled “Strong” where he said:

I’m not ashamed to admit that I’m a Christian, but you don’t need to be in the pew every Sunday to know there’s something wrong in this country when gays can serve openly in the military but our kids can’t openly celebrate Christmas or pray in school.

It’s not that Texas is singularly the most anti-gay state in America, it is simply that the Texas GOP has made its anti-gay stance a very particular selling point, despite Texas residents regularly polling in favor of gay rights and even increasingly in favor of same-sex marriage.

It is for this reason that the Austin Police Department’s It Gets Better video is perhaps doubly important in demonstrating that institutionalized homophobia in Texas is not absolute and that there are some in positions of authority who are willing to stand for equality.

 

Related Reading:

A Lesbian Commitment Ceremony? Texas Judge Says ‘Denied’

Let This Loving Gay Couple Marry in Texas

Judge Orders Gay Man Can’t Leave Children with Husband

 

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71 comments

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8:09AM PDT on Nov 1, 2012

Wow, good for the police force! Brave, but important move :)

2:34PM PDT on Oct 9, 2012

Love it!

7:57AM PDT on Oct 3, 2012

What a beautiful video.

And what a sad platform by the Texas GOP--who maybe should leave their hateful god out of politics.

I fail to see how allowing two men or two women to marry affects the "fabric of society" or causes the "breakdown of the family"; after all, if people are allowed legal recognition for their families, doesn't that *strengthen* the family unit? I fail to see how sex between consenting adults affects anyone but the adults involved, provided they use protection. As for the spread of diseases, that can also occur during heterosexual encounters.

Attitudes are changing (although not fast enough), and those who cling to their biblically inspired brand of hatred will soon be left behind and shamed as the cruel people they are.

9:49PM PDT on Oct 1, 2012

Great video!

8:55PM PDT on Oct 1, 2012

I wanted to cry watching the video. I could see so much sorrow in the eyes of the people talking. How sad that there are supposedly religious people who think homosexuality is a life choice instead of a choice life made for 10% of our population. The Pope has done nothing to help with this nor have many other nationally, and internationally, recognized religious leaders. I feel so sorry for the religious leaders for their shallow hearts but even more I detest the fact that they have contributed to the anti-gay stance here in American and other parts of the world. Congratulations to the Austin Police for standing up for their GLBT brethren.

4:23PM PDT on Oct 1, 2012

Austin south is democrat, just in case you couldn't tell. These police people make us all proud, next I would like to see this video repeated by other police agencies here and from other states.
In Austin the expression known far and wide is "Keep Austin Weird" if this weird then let's have more weird. Sorry, RED folks but Texas is rapidly becoming purple, with a small bit of luck we will become blue. That may seem a tough challenge but we are tough folks and exhausted from the crazy legislation that make us all seem equally crazy.

3:41PM PDT on Oct 1, 2012

To those who have "countered" Elaine A's hypocrisy and illogical rantings...she never returns. She comes in to scream hatred in upper case (guess that's easier for her,) drops hateful allusions to her bible and then departs, before anyone can point out the nonsense in what she's written.

3:36PM PDT on Oct 1, 2012

Gov. Rick Perry and his version of "CHRISTIANITY" are the reason the participants in this video make me so very proud! Despite a hypocritical JOKE in the Gov.'s office....they stand up proudly and serve their city!

The Jesus I was raised to know as a child would NOT be spending time with the Elaine As and the Rick Perrys.....he'd be hanging with these police officers....HANGIN' WITH THE HOMOS, if you will, thanking them for coming out in public, trying to help young people.

2:51PM PDT on Oct 1, 2012

Now if they can just stop shooting our dogs....

9:50AM PDT on Oct 1, 2012

PS – I forgot to give credit to our friend and resident “Christian” Elaine A. She should be thanked for her contribution. It is because of her that makes some of these discussions so easily recognizable as “right or wrong”. It is her hatred of all things that in “her opinion” are not God's will that makes it clear to many just how the spread of religion can be so destructive to a good, healthy society.
Perhaps Elaine when you are done pointing out where exactly in the bible it states that homosexuality is against God's will – you could take some time to explain to us poor souls why your particular belief in what God believes - is different and more correct that the other religions on the planet. And explain to us why it is that religious beliefs are defined by your origin of birth, and what your mommy tells you, more than any other reason.

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