Judge Tena Callahan made national headlines this month when she ruled that a Dallas gay couple could seek a divorce in Texas to terminate the marriage granted by the State of Massachusets. See my prior post: Dallas Judge: Ban on Gay Marriage and Divorce Unconstitutional.
Judge Callahan spoke publicly this week for the first time since her ruling at a meeting of the Dallas Stonewall Democrats. The Dallas Voice reported on the meeting and her speech last night online Callahan: It’s always time to do the right thing by John Wright:
Judge Tena Callahan stood at the front of the room inside Ojeda’s Restaurant in Dallas on Tuesday, Oct. 20, and held up a small, red cloth bag.
Callahan said she has “millions” of bags like it, because they’re frequently given to judges and attorneys at legal seminars. She said she uses them for groceries and leaves them hanging over a chair in her dining room.
But Callahan said it was this particular bag — and the quotation printed on the back — that ultimately helped her muster the courage she needed to recently declare Texas’ marriage amendment unconstitutional.
“I was sitting at my dining room table and I was thinking, I’ve got to make this decision, I’ve got to rip this Band-Aid off and I’ve got to make this decision,” Callahan said, adding that she wasn’t struggling with the constitutional principle behind the ruling, but with the backlash she was sure to face.
“My dad always used to tell me that a billion people can believe in a bad idea, and it’s still a bad idea. And that man taught me to have the courage of my convictions and to do what’s right
— it’s always the right time to do the right thing. And as I’m sitting there and all this is going through my head, I’m looking at the back of this bag, and I went, ‘Oh my God, I just got my answer.’
“‘Let us have faith that right makes might,’” Callahan said, reading from the back of the bag, “and in that faith, let us to the end dare to do our duty as we understand it. — Abraham Lincoln.”
“I do my duty,” Callahan said. “That’s what you elected me to do.”
As Callahan concluded her brief remarks, fellow members of Stonewall Democrats of Dallas gave her a standing ovation, just as they had when she took the microphone.
Judge Callahan also commented on the application of the U.S. Constitution:
“And when I got to reading the Constitution of the United States of America, which Texas is still a part of, I was never more sure of just how much you and I are the very same and how important it is that that constitution protect you, because if it doesn’t protect you, then it doesn’t protect me, and I want it to protect me,” she said.
“It’s not there to protect the majority. In a democracy, majority rules. Who needs the silly constitution when you’re ruling? But when you overreach, when you step out of your bounds, when you apply the same laws differently to people who are just the same, that’s what it’s there for. …
“It is a wonderful, living, breathing document, and it protects us all,” Callahan said.
Callahan said she was only doing her job when she issued the ruling and she credited those in the room with being “smart enough” to help elect her and other Democrats in 2006. She encouraged them to do “the right thing” again in 2010 by supporting Democratic candidates, including several who attended Tuesday’s meeting.