Now that State Representative Joaquin Castro is running
for Congressman Charlie Gonzalez' seat, many in the LGBT community are
wondering what type of ally he is going to be. (Photo by Lauryn Farris)
Joaquin Castro: Ready for his close-up
QSanAntonio, January 14, 2012
When Congressman Charlie Gonzalez said he would not seek re-election,
San Antonio's LGBT community lost a strong ally.
Not only was Gonzalez an advocate in Congress, he was a regular at Stonewall
Democrat events, he helped raise funds for the San Antonio AIDS Foundation,
he was honored by the Human Rights Campaign, he marched yearly in the
Now that State Representative Joaquin Castro, D-San Antonio, is running
for Gonzalez' seat many in the gay community are wondering what type of
ally he is going to be.
Unlike some of his fellow San Antonio colleagues in the legislature, like
Sen. Leticia Van De Putte, Rep. Mike Villarreal or Rep. Joe Farias, Castro
has never been a regular at LGBT events or participated in the Pride Parade,
not even when his twin brother, Mayor Julian Castro, led the march as
Grand Marshal in 2009.
While no one has questioned whether Castro will do the right thing if
he's elected to Congress, his low profile has left many LGBT leaders wondering
where he's been.
"I'm hoping and expecting to be very supportive and also more visible
as we go forward," Castro told QSanAntonio in an interview.
"For the last decade or 11 years, I was burning the candle at both
ends cause I was doing two jobs basically," referring to the legal
practice with his brother and his work in the legislature.
"Then, when my brother ran for mayor, I was helping him and one of
us was always running. It has been a bit of a whirlwind." Now that
he's running for Congress, Castro has stopped practicing law because he
wants to focus on "campaigning and public policy."
Castro does not recall being invited to participate in the Pride Parade
because, he says, "I would have and I will." He adds that despite
his low visibility at LGBT events, he has the community's issues at heart.
"I've made it very clear on the campaign trail that I would be somebody
that would sign on to the bill that would repeal DOMA, that I support
marriage equality. Certainly had I been in the Congress in the last few
years, I would have supported the repeal of Don't Ask Don't Tell"
Eight years in the Texas Legislature
In assessing Castro's time in the State Legislature, gay political activists
point to two bills, one presented in 2003 and the other in 2005, that
basically eliminated the possibility that same-sex marriage would be recognized
In 2003, in the vote on SB7 (often referred to as the Texas DOMA), which
barred Texas from recognizing same-sex marriages or civil unions conducted
in other states, Castro was marked "Absent" for the vote and,
unlike some of his colleagues, he did not offer any official remarks as
to what his vote would have been.
In 2005, the legislature voted on HJR6 which put Proposition 2, the anti-gay
marriage amendment, on the ballot. In that instance Castro voted "Present
In looking back on his 2003 vote, Castro says, "That was a very difficult
vote for me. It was never a matter or question of whether I supported
what the Republicans were trying to do. I never supported them. But as
a freshman I do think I was worried about my standing in my district back
Castro was elected in 2003 to represent District 125, a swing district
which he says is only about half Democrat.
Castro says that on the topic of marriage equality, "We're in a lot
better place in terms of public policy now certainly more that we were
in 2003 and 2005. I would point out that this issue has evolved a lot
since then. And, credit for that really goes to the gay community and
all of its work, both in educating the public and also in pushing the
issue. That makes a big difference."
"If I could go back to '03 and '05, I would make those solid 'No'
votes. I mean, that's always where my heart has been," he says. "But
I can't go back, I can only go forward and I've been very clear about
my commitments going forward."
Castro says he is asking that the LGBT community to do something he did
not see happen as strongly back in 2003 or 2005.
"When somebody does make a commitment to you, and I would say this
to any community on any issue -- when a politician makes a commitment
to you, that you absolutely hold him accountable to that commitment before
In discussing Castro's run for Congress with QSanAntonio, Dan Graney,
President of the Texas Stonewall Democratic Caucus said, "Although
I was disappointed that Joaquin did not have the courage to vote 'no'
on both Texas DOMA and the anti-gay constitutional marriage amendment
while he served in the state legislature, I am now convinced that he has
evolved on the issue of marriage equality and am hopeful that he will
emerge as a strong champion of LGBT equality if and when he is elected
On other issues affecting our community, Castro has been decidedly pro-gay.
In 2004, when Reps. Warren Chisum, R-Pampa, and Robert Talton, R-Pasadena,
filed bills to ban the placement of children into gay or lesbian households,
Castro cast his vote against the measure.
"In 2007, I carried a bill to expand the hate crime laws in Texas
that had to do with punishment and what I perceived to be a loophole in
the law," he says. "Of course that bill was not fated to turn
out very well because of the majority in the legislature."
Castro also was active on an issue that emerged in the last session of
the legislature. "This year, on the floor of the House of Representatives,
I led the charge against Rep. Wayne Christian (R-Center) who, if you remember,
wanted to defund not just gay and lesbian centers (at state colleges)
but any centers that essentially did anything else besides address Christian
values. I fought him on that twice this session."
Joaquin Castro with members of his
campaign staff. (Photo by Lauryn Farris)
Unfinished work lies ahead in Congress
If Castro is elected to fill Congressman Gonzalez' shoes, he will have
a lot of work ahead on two important issues: Repealing the Defense of
Marriage Act and passing and an Employment Non-Discrimination Act that
includes gender identity and expression.
Six states currently allow same-sex couples to marry. However, because
of DOMA same-sex couples married in those states are not eligible for
federal benefits extended to heterosexual couples.
One issue that has emerged for same-sex couples is with adoption and foster-care
agencies operated by religious organizations which get public funding
and yet don't want to offer services to these couples. Roman Catholic
bishops in Illinois decided to shut down most of the Catholic Charities'
adoption agencies in the state rather than acknowledge gay couples.
"If they're taking public money, then the public sets the baselines
through the law, and they should abide by it," says Castro.
The Employment Non-Discrimination Act presents another set of challenges
because many in Congress who would vote for such a measure are hesitant
to include gender identity and expression as a protected class.
When asked if an inclusive ENDA could be passed, Castro replied:
"I support that legislation and I do think it's possible. A lot of
it has to do with Americans' understanding of this issue. I really believe
that this is a civil rights issue and over the years, just as other groups
have pushed for full civil rights, I think that the gay community is getting
closer and closer but not quite there yet, obviously. Along with that
push comes greater understanding among not just the public but the politicians
also. So I do feel that in the coming years, there is the potential to
make that happen."
'There's two of us'
In speaking to Castro, one gets the impression that though he's been campaigning
for six months, he's still adjusting to the added attention he gets now
that he's running for Congress.
"It's not like being a city councilman or mayor," he says, explaining
that since his work in the legislature took place in Austin and for only
five months every two years, he never had to spend much time in the limelight.
"Before, people knew there were two of us," he says, referring
to his brother. "Now, they're really gonna know there's two of us."
Mayor Julian Castro is much admired by San Antonio's LGBT community not
only because he was the first mayor to march in the Pride Parade but also
because he led the fight to give domestic partnership benefits to city
employees including same-sex couples.
"Believe me," says Castro, "my heart is exactly where Julian's
is. He and I talk about the issues all the time. You can imagine."
As he begins his run for Congress, Castro says he has a message for his
LGBT constituents: "Anytime you think there's an issue that's bubbling
up and you think it's something I need to know about, or Julian needs
to know about, please let us know. Just reach out to us and we'll be responsive."
In run for
congress, Johnson invokes memory of Henry B.
QSanAntonio.com, January 28, 2012
In an interview with QSanAntonio, District 20 Congressional primary candidate
Ezra Johnson talks about strengthening Social Security, achieving marriage
equality and why he's a better candidate than Joaquin Castro.