Over the past years, many Texans and people across the country have come to realize just how personal the issues of LGBT rights are to them — whether it might be because their friends are LGBT or perhaps even some of their close family members. As more and more LGBT people find the courage to be themselves and come out, it is becoming increasingly evident we all know and love someone who is LGBT.
This is also true for Attorney General Greg Abbott. In an interesting twist of fate, Abbott's long-time friend, Mark Phariss, happens to be one of the LGBT plaintiffs that filed the lawsuit against our state's gay marriage ban. Abbott, who promises to defend the discriminatory law all the way up to the Supreme Court, will be doing so in the expensive of his long-time friend's true love, as well as against the happiness shared by the thousands of LGBT couples in Texas.
Abbott says he only realized Phariss was gay when he read his name on the lawsuit, and has expressed zero remorse in wishing to prevent his friend from marrying his partner of over 16 years. “When the constitution is upheld, we're all winners,” Abbott said.
Read more of the story below the jump.
The two couples upon hearing the news the ban had been given a preliminary injunction by Judge Orlando Garcia
In an interview with The Associated Press, Phariss recalled meeting Abbott during law school and quickly becoming good friends, despite being ideological opposites.
“If I was only friends with the people I agreed with, particularly in Texas, I wouldn't have many friends,” Phariss told the AP.
When Abbott was struck by a tree in 1984 — which left Abbott paralyzed from the waist-down — Phariss flew to Houston to see his friend while he was still in the hospital, and spend several days with him and his wife. Phariss was also there for Abbott during his early political career in the 90's when Abbott was elected as a Texas Supreme Court justice.
Phariss had not told Abbott he was gay during their law school years or the following years, coming out only after his mid-thirties.
“I don't perceive from him any animus toward gay people,” said Phariss. “I do remember, either in law school or after, (talking) about someone we thought might have been gay – we just kind of speculated whether a certain person might be gay. He didn't seem to have an issue with that.”
Despite previously having last spoken to each other in 2004, when Abbott had then recently become Attorney General, the two still consider each other friends because of their previous bond. Both even continue to exchange Christmas cards today.
Abbott had this to say about their friendship:
“Cecilia and I were, indeed, friends with Mark Phariss. We remember Mark from our law school days and his early days as a lawyer in San Antonio. We remain grateful that Mark visited the hospital during the trying time after my injury. As I said yesterday, there are good, well-meaning people on both sides of this issue. This shows that Americans can in fact debate substantial issues without being disagreeable.”
As more LGBT people continue to come out, it is becoming increasingly difficult for Republicans to ignore the fact that their discriminatory laws also hurt people they themselves know and care about. More and more Republicans are being forced to deal with this reality, the way U.S. Senator Rob Portman (R-Ohio) and former Vice President Dick Cheney have because of their gay children. Like Abbott, those continuing to push for anti-gay laws are choosing to push for discrimination against someone they know and care about who also happens to be LGBT. There's simply no way around it.
It is becoming increasingly difficult for Republicans to deny that the fight for LGBT equality is not just a liberal cause; LGBT discrimination impacts everyone.