This Saturday I will be saying a prayer for a very special event. Fourth street will be named after one of my heroes and late friends, Bettie Naylor. I met Bettie as a part of the Ann Richards gang. She is best known for her work on Gay and Lesbian issues, but she had a passion for anyone being mistreated. She had a particular passion for the children of Texas.
We had many wonderful conversations at the Capital cafeteria, or sitting on the hallway benches waiting to testify at a meeting that had gone deep into the night. I remember her fierey eyes and gentle smile. I remember the pain on her face when she discussed any human rights issue. She would lean forward like a child, honestly trying to understand why anyone would withhold food, or education, or medical treatment to a child. Then sit back up like an ancient sphinx ready to defend whoever it was that needed her courage.
While many people may have feared Bettie Naylor, she did not have an enemy in her heart. I will never forget during the effort to pass the James Byrd, Jr. Hate Crimes Bill, she would have regular lunch with the most homophobic lawmaker of them all. I wondered at the time if she had some self loathing, some desire to get his approval. But then when the bill hung in the balance, it was that lawmaker who crossed the isle to support it. I realized she was living and loving by the power Gandhi called “Soulforce.”
In the future, when people drive through downtown Austin, I hope MLK Street will remind us that everyone, regardless, of race should be honored and given their rights. When we see Cesar Chavez Street I hope we will be reminded that people from every economic class should be honored and given their rights. And when we drive by Bettie Naylor Street, I hope we will all be reminded that every form of mutual, consensual, and faithful love should be honored and given its rights- all of them.