BAKER »s 21.06
The "perfect" plaintiff
by Rue Starr
;)68, Donald Baker left college and-jcrined the
Navy to try to get away from the environment that he
felt might be causing(his homosexual feelings. It's
been a long battle, but Don Baker is back in school in
a graduate fellowship program at Southern Methodist University and, this time, it's not his sexuality he's
:"! aims the Texas State Sodomy law,
section 21:06 "violates my right to privacy" and who
has filed suit in Federal District Court challenging
the law, was in Houston recently. In an appeal for
statewide support, Baker told a meeting of the Gay
Political Caucus, "I think this (case) will create a
spirit of unity that Texas has not felt before."
Baker was backed up by lawyers from the Texas
Human Rights Foundation who were there to reiterate
the importance this case will have on gay civil rights,
should it go to the Supreme Court. "In this case, the
eyes of the nation are on Texas," Baker said. THRF
will play a big part in Baker's legal battle by coordinating the fundraisers for the money needed to get
the case thr in Dallas.
. GAY RIGHTS FIGHT LOOMING
IA - A fight that promises to be as big and as
as the one in Dade County, Florida is shaping
Santa Clara County. Next June voters will de-
:.ether to approve or disapprove a gay rights
-,ional binge or a relatively
rate atmosphere, as in the Proposition 6 :
ast year in California. (Propo.. ' ras one
few anti-homosr :■ fc measures to be I -
:ore in the country,)
The battle lines a:- etveen the cons-
atives, led by Chri-stv.
Opponents of the ordinance are gathering funds
: ose their
both Santa Clara County and the city of
The Santa Clara
(P.O.Box*2o66, San Jose, Ca.
raisers and other workers.
Keith McGee of THRF explains that lawyers, public
relations, and the necessity of obtaining expert witnesses from anywhere in the country might create legal
bills in excess of $50,000. Baker's attorney, James
C. Barber, says the case has a "reasonable chance" of
reaching the U. S. Supreme Court because of a lack of
legal precedent of the issue.
Baker held a press conference in Dallas on Nov,
19 announcing his suit and soon after, his face and
name was in the news. The following Sunday, the New
York Times carried the story under "Curb on "Homosexuality in-Texas is Challenged in Suit by Teacher."
Don Baker will tell you he was prepared for it.
"My pastor gave me the last green light," he said
about his decision. "My relationship to the church is
paramount. ... I'm doing what I can to correct a
wrong," he said. Baker is active in the Episcopal
Church and has taught sixth-grade students at Daniel
Webster Elementary since 1975. The 32-year-old social
studies and language arts teacher is on sabbatical
leave from the Dallas school district to pursue his
The Dallas native spent four years traveling the
world as a communications technician in the Navy and
received an honorable discharge. After a frightening
sexual experience the year before at the University of
Texas, Baker says, "I joined the Navy to escape," He
says he suppressed his sexuality because he "hadn't
come out." Baker claims to have had no affairs during
his military service. Also, he didn't lose his attraction for men.
After living in Massachusetts, he attended a meeting of a gay group at Cornell University in New York.
Baker was finally able to resolve his conflicts and his
life began to change. "I was literally born again. , .
but many gay people live with the sense of self-hate 1
once felt,7 he said.
The admirable record Donald Baker has earned as a
human being is part of the reason THRF lawyers are so
enthusiastic about the case. "We want to show, simply,
that Don is a real person - all over the state," says
Keith McGee. His attorney is hoping to get a favorable
judge in Dallas, but the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals
in New Orleans is one of the most liberal in the nation.
Six to ten months is the projected delay for the hearing in Dallas.
Until then, Baker will be taking his case all over
Texas to drum up support from human rights organizations
as well as the grass root gays. Lawyers are also predicting some support from the conservatives who will
object to the idea of policemen investigating private
bedrooms. Baker also explained that the law itself is
the cornerstone of legal discrimination against gay
people in immigration, child custody cases, vice laws,
housing, and employment. "The ramifications of the
law (which carries a maximum $200 fine) are overwhelming," he said.
"The illegality of homosexual acts makes it harder
for gay people to lead positive lives," Baker told the
Dallas Times Herald. Although THRF lawyers will be
soliciting input from organized gay law groups all over
the country, Patty O'Kane of Houston says she "hopes
the case will bring more gay lawyers in Texas down off
the bookshelves." O'Kane is also the only openly gay
person serving on the Police Advisory Commission for
Continued Improvement in Houston.
Don Baker not only has the support of the Texas
Human Rights Foundation, he has his family behind him,
too. He discussed the situation with them before
filing the suit. He's gotten calls of reassurance
from neighbors and former colleagues and claims to have
enough support from the SMU faculty to be insured of
future employment. He admits, though, that in education, he's qualified for an administrative position
as we 'he classroom.