Perry Speaks Out on Gay Marriage Ban Victory

11-10-05 - Not long ago, Republican Gov. Rick Perry fired up his conservative base by going to a church school and signing a proposed constitutional ban on same-sex marriage - even though Texas voters, not Perry, held the real power to approve it.

Perry continued to endorse the amendment and met privately several times with a pastors' group before Tuesday's vote, prompting suggestions that he actually was lining up support for his 2006 re-election bid.

After keeping curiously quiet all week, Perry spoke out Thursday on the overwhelming passage of Proposition 2. He said he and his wife, Anita, felt strongly the gay marriage ban was needed.

"We believed passionately that marriage should be between a man and a woman," he said after an appearance in Addison. "The good news is, 75 percent of the people who went to vote - plus - agreed with us."

Texans approved Prop 2 by more than a 3-to-1 margin. Same-sex marriage already was forbidden by state law. Amendment supporters said a constitutional ban was needed so that no judge could ever interpret the law to allow homosexual marriage.

Dan Quinn, spokesman for the Texas Freedom Network, a group that describes itself as working to counter the religious right, said Perry was using the amendment for his own political purposes.

Leaders of the Texas Freedom Network lodged a complaint with the Texas Ethics Commission alleging the ministers' organization Perry repeatedly spoke to - the Texas Restoration Project - should have filed with the state as a political committee.

The Texas Restoration Project said it was only trying to help pastors get their congregations to vote in an effort to restore the state's religious heritage.

"The governor spent a lot of time and energy working to pass what was really an unnecessary and divisive amendment," Quinn said. "He was using it as a wedge issue to divide Texans to help his re-election campaign next year."

Perry faces Comptroller Carole Keeton Strayhorn in the Republican primary in March. Both will try to woo the conservative voters who regularly turn out for GOP primaries.

Perry's political operatives have learned from President Bush's team about using church contacts in election season, said Cal Jillson, professor of political science at Southern Methodist University in Dallas.

The Prop 2 election can be viewed as a "dry run" for Perry's campaign, he said.

But Perry brushed off that suggestion.

He said his support for Prop 2 was much like his work two years ago for an amendment that limits some damage awards in medical malpractice lawsuits. That amendment won voter approval, but he said he got criticism then, too.

"I'm an opinionated person," Perry said. "I have a strong set of beliefs and values. And I'm not afraid to stand up and say, 'Here's what I believe in.' If someone wants to say 'Gosh, he just believes that for political purposes,' that's their reason, but they're wrong," Perry said.

Strayhorn, who also favored the gay marriage ban amendment, declined to comment on whether Perry was making a political play. She would comment only on voter turnout in Tuesday's election, which at 18 percent was unusually high for a constitutional amendments election.

Through her spokesman, Strayhorn said: "The more people who vote, the happier I am. I have great confidence in the people of Texas."