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Ciara O'Rourke
By Ciara O'Rourke January 12, 2010

Citing Bill White's 2005 vote on a constitutional amendment, GOP says Democrat supports gay marriage

The Republican Party of Texas debuted an online attack ad Dec. 2, 2009, casting Democratic gubernatorial hopeful Bill White, the former Houston mayor, as too liberal for Texas tastes.

The GOP's spot muffles the audio from a White advertisement while blaring the Platters' oldie "The Great Pretender" and suggesting White isn't as moderate as he claims.

And the ad includes a stab that might wound White's appeal to many Texans: "Favor gay marriage? Bill White's for it."

We weren't aware of White's pro-gay-marriage stance.

As evidence, the Republican Party pointed to White's vote against a ban on gay marriage that was proposed as a constitutional amendment in 2005. The ban passed statewide with 76 percent of the vote, two years after Lawrence v. Texas, a landmark case that decriminalized sodomy in Texas.

White's campaign countered that White has since said that his 2005 vote wasn't a vote for gay marriage. His campaign spokeswoman Katy Bacon said White wasn't available for comment and pointed us to the only public statement White has made about the Republicans' ad, reported in a Dec. 12 article in the Dallas Voice. In an e-mail to the publication, which touts itself as a media source for the LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender) community, White said his position is the same as that of Barack Obama, who endorses civil unions but does not support same-sex marriage.

Obama supports unions that would give same-sex partners legal rights and privileges equal to those of married couples on a state-by-state basis, including the right to assist a partner during an emergency, equal health insurance, employment benefits and property rights.

Unlike marriage, civil unions aren't recognized in all states. For instance, even if you had joined in a civil union with your partner in Vermont, you wouldn't be able to visit that person in the ICU after a head-on collision in Texas — a state that doesn't honor civil unions.

"Contrary to generally held assumptions, civil unions do not provide the same protections as does a marriage in terms of legal and financial rights, benefits and protections," said Yolanda Padilla, a professor of social work and women's studies at the University of Texas at Austin. "These are not minor differences, but indisputably place gay couples in a very vulnerable position."

White, who received the Political Equality Award in 2009 for his commitment to the Houston community from gay rights organization the Human Rights Campaign, said as mayor it was his job to work for everyone. For the same reason, he has said he refrained from taking sides in the gay marriage debate.

"As mayor, I avoid commenting on state and federal laws and policies I do not influence. I intend to vote 'no' on the proposed state constitutional amendment to protest its use as a wedge issue," White told Houston's GLBT Political Caucus Political Action Committee, according to a 2005 Houston Chronicle article that the Republican Party's video ad cited as evidence of his support for gay marriage.

Now that he's running for governor, White told the Dallas Voice that he intends "to represent all Texans, and I expected to be attacked for this." But that isn't the same as championing same-sex marriage.

We find the Republican Party's claim False.

Featured Fact-check

Our Sources

002houston, page 35, July 2009

Dallas Voice, Bill White clarifies his position on gay marriage, by John Wright, Dec. 12, 2009

Email interview with Yolanda C. Padilla, professor of social work and women's studies at the University of Texas at Austin, Jan. 1, 2010

Gay & Lesbian Advocates & Defenders, Civil Marriage v. Civil Unions, accessed Dec. 30, 2009

Lawrence et al v. Texas, decided June 26, 2003

Newstreamz San Marcos, Senate hopeful swings through San Marcos, by Sean Batura, Nov. 12, 2009

Office of the Secretary of State, Race Summary Report: 2005 Constitutional Amendment Election, Nov. 8, 2005

Project Vote Smart, President Barack Hussein Obama, Jr. , accessed Dec. 30, 2009

Republican Party of Texas, Video Ad: "Bill White: Too Liberal For Texas," Dec. 2, 2009

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Citing Bill White's 2005 vote on a constitutional amendment, GOP says Democrat supports gay marriage

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