Men-only rule threatens tribe's casino

March 26, 2009 12:55:58 PM PDT
A rule that allows only men to vote in Tigua tribal council elections has caught the attention of a state lawmaker and threatens to derail legislation that would allow the tribe to restart gambling at its shuttered casino. Tigua leaders said women have never voted in the 300 years of tribal elections and said any call to change that process would be an insult to the 1,500-member tribe.

"We don't go out there and judge any other group of people," said Tigua Lt. Gov. Carlos Hisa.

Rep. Valinda Bolton, D-Austin, said the practice of allowing only men to cast ballots concerned her, but she welcomed a meeting between Tigua women and female legislators -- a meeting hastily arranged by Rep. Norma Chavez, D-El Paso, after Bolton questioned the custom.

"The right to vote is a basic human right, and the tribe has economic development issues," Bolton said. "Those are true things; they are both true at the same time. So I am looking forward" to talking to the women.

The Tiguas are lobbying legislators to approve legislation that would allow them to reopen a casino shut down after then-Texas Attorney General John Cornyn, now a U.S. senator, successfully sued in 2001.

The tribe said the casino put $800 million into the local economy and provided about 800 jobs.

Two House committees are expected to consider the measure next week.

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