Social conservative voters rally with confidence but feel besieged, even in Texas

Austin — For the Texas Faith and Family crowd gathered at the Capitol on Tuesday, the message was clear: We are besieged by an army of enemies.

Gay marriage advocates, abortion providers, liberal Democrats, Hollywood movie-makers, secularists, atheists. And Californians.

“Are we going to let their values invade us?” asked Carol Everett, an anti-abortion activist who warned that Texas’ booming economy is attracting a lot of Californians with West Coast values.

Nearly 300 Christian conservatives showed up for Texas Faith and Family Day. It was sponsored by several Christian-right groups, including the Eagle Forum, Texas Right to Life and Texas Values, which provides lawyers to defend prayer and other religious expression on government property.

The Legislature, which in recent years has curtailed abortion rights and outlawed gay marriage, is considering a fresh agenda of social-conservative bills this year.

They include legislation to make abortion clinics meet hospital surgical standards, give conservatives on the state Board of Education more say over curriculum, require a government-sanctioned course before a divorce, oppose advanced electric meters that critics say spy on people, defend the right “to say ‘Merry Christmas’” in schools and adopt a religious freedom amendment to the state Constitution.

It’s already legal to say “Merry Christmas” in schools, and advocates of the religious freedom amendment acknowledge that. Still, the measures allow legislators to cast votes they can tout back home.

At a morning briefing session for volunteers in an underground auditorium, Cathie Adams of the Texas Eagle Forum warned that Christians are under siege. She cautioned that international law could make its way into American courts.

“Does anyone think we should have Chinese laws coming in and supplanting the responsibility and authority of Texas law? No,” Adams said.

She criticized Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg for suggesting that Egypt look to a modern model in drafting its constitution.

“Ruth Bader Ginsburg says our Constitution is outdated and, you know, that one down there in South Africa where a dictator has five wives, theirs is better,” she said.

The noon rally on the sun-splashed steps of the state Capitol drew a crowd waving signs — “Protect Religious Freedom” and “Defend Marriage and Strengthen Families.” One group held a banner with pictures of people it said had been killed by illegal immigrants.

Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst pledged to protect the Republican Party’s two-decade dominance of state politics. “Over our dead bodies are we going to let this state turn blue,” he said. “The liberals have put a target on our backs, make no mistake about that.”

When Gov. Rick Perry’s turn to speak came, a heckler punctuated his remarks with a critique of his failed bid for the White House last year and the possibility he might run for president again in 2016.

“These are the days when a person can be vilified for stating they believe that, fundamentally, marriage is between a man and a woman,” Perry said, noting Wednesday’s hearing on same-sex marriage at the U.S. Supreme Court.

The heckler shouted: “You don’t represent me!”

Perry trumpeted his record as governor.

“2016 — No way!” the heckler yelled. “You’re done here!”

Perry looked over and responded: “Part of the problem is people believe our values and faith make us somehow judgmental. We’re not, brother.”

During the morning briefing session, Carol Everett offered a word of encouragement to Christian conservatives who feel their values are under attack — especially opponents of abortion rights.

“We win,” she promised. “You know why we win? Because we’re on God’s side and we’re the only side having babies.”