Equality Texas Joins in Mourning the Loss of Ann Richards
Austin, Texas (September 14, 2006) – Equality Texas joins in mourning the loss of Ann Richards, 45th governor of Texas.
Former Texas governor Ann Richards died Wednesday at her home in Austin at the age of 73. Richards was an icon of progressive politics in Texas: a champion of civil rights, gay rights and feminism.
Ann Richards was the first governor in Texas history to take pro-equality stands for lesbian and gay Texans. She was the first governor to appoint openly-gay people to offices in her campaign and administration, including her protégé and supporter, former State Representative Glen Maxey.
Among her achievements as governor were institutional changes in the state penal system, including increased prison space and a nationally-respected substance abuse program in prisons. A longtime opponent of discrimination against gays and lesbians, Richards favored eliminating Section 21.06 of the Texas Penal Code, the “Homosexual Conduct” law as part of the penal system reforms. The proposed criminal code revision she sent to the legislature in 1993 eliminated the “Homosexual Conduct” law. However, the legislature reinstated it over her objections. The conduct law was later declared unconstitutional by the U. S. Supreme Court in 2003, although it remains in Texas statutes.
Also in 1993, Williamson County cited the sodomy law statute to deny Apple Computer tax incentives for a new facility in the county because of Apple’s policy of extending benefits to employees’ same-gender domestic partners. On December 7, 1993, under heavy pressure from Governor Richards, Williamson County commissioners reversed their decision.
Even after leaving public office, Ann Richards continued to be a progressive voice on the national stage. When asked by CNN’s Larry King in May 2004 what she thought of Massachusetts law allowing same-gender couples to marry, Richards responded, “…we need more loving families in this country, not less.”
Ann Richards was first elected to public office in 1976 as the first female commissioner of Travis County, which includes Austin. In 1982, she ran for state treasurer, received the most votes of any statewide candidate, became the first woman elected to statewide office in Texas in 50 years, and was re-elected in 1986.
In 1990, Richards was elected the 45th governor of Texas, ushering in what she called the “New Texas”. During her tenure as governor, Richards created the most representative and inclusive administration in Texas history, including people of color and openly-gay persons.
She appointed the first African-American University of Texas regent; the first crime victim to join the Texas Criminal Justice Board; the first disabled person to serve on the human services board; the first teacher to lead the State Board of Education; and the first African-American and female Texas Rangers.
Ann Richards is survived by four children, Cecile, Daniel, Clark and Ellen Richards, and eight grandchildren.