Members of Lubbock’s LGBT community have strong criticism for a new attack ad funded by Glen Robertson’s congressional campaign for the 19th District.
The ad attacks Michael Bob Starr, who is also running for Congress in the 19th District, for participating in gay pride events as commander at Dyess Air Force Base.
“I never, never dreamed that Mayor Robertson would take that information and put it into a smear ad, how disappointing,” said Grace Rodgers, a Lubbock resident and Board Member with Lubbock’s chapter of Parents and Friends of Lesbian and Gays (PFLAG).
The ad shows images of Starr participating in gay pride events at Dyess.
“Michael Bob Starr says he’s a conservative-values candidate,” the ad begins. Then a sound bite plays with Starr saying, “I have never been a gay rights advocate.”
The ad continues:
“But Starr supported, promoted and participated in gay pride events, wore rainbow colored gay pride clothing, and is being called a gay rights activist. And liberal, gay rights organizations are supporting Starr, the same radical groups that want men to be able to use women’s bathrooms. Michael Bob Starr: supported by the radical gay lobby, wrong for West Texas.”
Starr responded to similar reports from a news article earlier in February, saying that he supports traditional marriage, but that as commander on the base, he also supported the Dyess Pride Alliance.
“It is a group of lesbian, bisexual and homosexual airmen who are exercising their constitutional right and their freedom under the law to serve openly in the military,” Col. Starr said “As leader of the base, I participated in as many events as I could to support as many airmen as I could.”
“I was disappointed in Glen Robertson, for thinking the commander of the base doesn’t have the right or obligation to support all troops,” commented Grace Rogers. “In a way this ad, inadvertently maybe, does denigrate our LGBT troops that serve in our United States Military; I don’t think that’s a winning strategy for Mayor Robertson.”
Rogers said she believes it is important for military leaders to express support for all their troops– regardless of their sexuality. As a parent of gay children and as a Lubbock voter, she is especially concerned that Robertson would attack Starr for supporting his troops.
Rogers explained that she worked making phone calls for Robertson’s campaign when he was running for mayor.
“Gay people are simply people, they want to be treated with equality with dignity, the [gay] people that I know are some of the best people in Lubbock, they are doctors, teachers, lawyers and shop owners,” Rogers said. “And some of us who are their allies have voted for Mayor Robertson, and we thought that we voted for someone that was not bigoted and–I’m sorry–I consider that ad to be bigoted.”
Rogers worries that other local candidates may use gay rights issues to attack other politicians.
“Hate and bigotry, to me, are not West Texas values, they’re not American values, so let’s talk about issues,” Rogers said.
Reese Ramsey, a junior at Texas Tech who identifies as gay, also objected to Robertson’s attack ad.
“My family has lived [in West Texas] for over a hundred years. I come from multiple generations of farming — all the way up to my great great grandparents have farmed. I grew up on a cotton farm, my father still farms. I can say I’m from a West Texas farm, it’s something I’ve always been proud of,” he explained.
But he added that attack ads like the one Robertson used fuel an attitude of intolerance toward LGBT people in Lubbock, making it harder for him to feel welcomed on the South Plains.
“Me and my boyfriend, there’s been instances where I don’t feel safe holding hands with him in public. My car has been vandalized multiple times,” Ramsey explained. “This anti-gay rhetoric that’s being sprung out from all these candidates, creates a fear and discrimination against the LGBT community here in Lubbock.”
Ramsey understands that his views won’t always line up with his local politicians. But he wants local politicians to know, it matters to him that they respect him as they would any other voting citizen.
“Regardless of politics, just have some basic human decency. I’m a human too, I’m not a predator or a dangerous person,” Ramsey said.
He added that while he wants to pursue a career in agriculture like the rest of his family, messages like the ones expressed by Robertson’s ad make him feel like he can’t stay living on the South Plains.
One of Ramsey’s fellow Red Raiders, Katie Miller is also part of the campus LGBT community. She is in her seventh year as a member of the Army Reserve. She also feels attacked by this campaign ad.
“[Starr] was in charge of so many soldiers and after 2010 when “Don’t ask, don’t tell” was appealed, he was in charge of all soldiers regardless of sexual orientation. So, in him running the [Dyess Pride run] he was saying that he supported all of his soldiers, to include those of all sexual orientations. To be bashed for something as supportive as that event, or even to bash someone supporting their military and veterans, I think that’s more negative than [Robertson] could have even intended,” Miller said.
Miler explained that at Texas Tech and other Texas universities, schools have made major strides in supporting LGBT students over the last few years.
“We’ve made so much progress and to have ads like this that are so childish and negative surrounding us, I feel like will either hinder us or keep us in place to make us stagnant,” Miller said. “Which would put us steps behind the rest of the Big 12 and the rest of the colleges in Texas.”
EverythingLubbock.com reached out to Mayor Robertson for comment about this ad and are still awaiting a response.