In Defense of a good man - Congressman Tony Gonzales


OPINION — Reading about the Texas GOP’s censure of U.S. Rep. Tony Gonzales hurts me, deeply. We can learn a lot from his independent streak and perspective of fairness which at times runs afoul of extreme Texas GOP party doctrine.

Gonzales represents TX-23, the congressional district that hugs the Texas-Mexico border from western Bexar County in San Antonio stretching westward to the outskirts of El Paso. The State Republican Executive Committee passed the censure resolution 57-5, with one member abstaining. It needed a three-fifths majority to pass. Gonzales’ sin was his opposition to a recent border security bill, as well as his support for gun safety legislation and a same-sex marriage bill. 

On the other hand, I’m glad to hear that Gonzales has the full support of the National Republican Congressional Committee. This gives me hope.

This censure effort began nearly a year ago after Gonzales voted to codify same-sex civil marriages. He was the only Texas Republican and one of 47 House Republicans nationwide who understood our struggle for acceptance and equality under the law. Had Trump been President at the time, I believe he would have signed the law, too. It is way too easy, frankly cynical, for Republicans to summarily dismiss the LBGT community. It feels like the death of hard-won respect and decades of struggle as I have said before.

Marriage is a loaded term with deep religious connotations, but it is a civil construct, too. I recently read that civil marriage confers over 1,000 rights and privileges granted by the government. In my view, the federal and state government should encourage committed relationships. I fail to see how my same-sex marriage threatens anybody else’s marriage. Can someone show me empirically?

Last year, I wrote in my hometown newspaper that I believe that I know the celebrated decency and fairness of West Texans because as a four-time elected mayor of San Angelo, I strove to serve my city with my heart and soul. In 2009, I had to face the most distressing decision of my life when I met the love of my life in San Angelo, an undocumented Mexican man, and decided to resign from office so we could be together, legally, in Mexico.

I believe Gonzales serves with his heart and soul, too, which is the reason I’m writing this piece.

Regarding his vote on gun safety legislation, if the executive committee sites this as a reason to censure Gonzales, are they going to censure Sen. John Cornyn, too? This is absurd.

Rep. Chip Roy is a formidable legislator. However, if Tony Gonzales steps out and questions his border security proposal, then we should all listen. He represents over 800 miles of the Texas-Mexico border.

As for being the lone House Republican vote against his conference’s rules package in the House of Representative, this should tell us that Tony Gonzales isn’t afraid to take on a pack of bullies.

The Texas GOP Executive Committee is off base for targeting Tony Gonzales. Thoughtful conservatives must step up and support the five committee members that see the big picture and refuse to devour their own. The fundamentalists in the party have ceased to act wisely and do good. Do not let the foot of the arrogant tread on Gonzales.

We should all admire Representative Tony Gonzales.

Joseph W. Lown is a former mayor of San Angelo, Texas

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