Texas GOP Ignores Pro-Family Issues. We Demand a Special Session
Once again, social issues RINOs have run out the clock in Austin. Tell them we need to be heard.
As I reported last week at The Stream, the Texas chapter of Mass Resistance made a trip to Austin to lobby for a slate of profamily, conservative policies. (See the master list of legislative priorities here.) Our goals were nothing radical, but simple, common-sense conservatism.
- EQUAL PROTECTION AGAINST HARASSMENT.
- MAINTAINING INTEGRITY OF RESEARCH.
- PROTECTION OF MOTHERHOOD AND FATHERHOOD.
- OVERSIGHT OF ACCREDITATION.
- STOPPING CANCEL CULTURE.
- LIABILITY FOR MALFEASANCE, INCOMPETENCE AND RECKLESSNESS IN COUNSELING.
- ETHICAL AND COMPASSIONATE RESPONSES TO SEXUAL ASSAULT.
- REASONABLE SCOPE OF PUBLIC ACCOMMODATIONS.
- NULLIFICATION OF UNCONSTITUTIONAL LAWS.
- ELIMINATION OF LGBT PRIDE EVENTS FROM SCHOOLS.
- BLOCKING OBSCENITY FROM SCHOOLS AND CHILDREN’S LIBRARIES.
- PROTECTION IN WOMEN’S PRISONS AND SHELTERS.
- PRESERVATION OF WOMEN’S ATHLETICS.
- FREEDOM IN COUNSELING, DISCIPLESHIP, AND THERAPY.
- RESPONSIBLE USE OF SCHOOL FUNDING.
- PROTECTION FOR INNOCENT SPOUSES OF TRANSGENDER PEOPLE.
Each of these sixteen points comes with a thorough analysis and drafted language. Each has complicated human stories behind it. These are responses to the imminent dangers facing families today. Mass Resistance’s priorities focus on substantial harms already inflicted on citizens because of the unintended consequences of the left’s agenda.
We should not have to draft these bills. Politicians should be in touch with constituents to know that these problems are already affecting families. But here we are.
Can Anything Happen in Texas?
The Texas state legislature only meets for six months every two years. To pass bills, legislators have to be attuned to current issues and willing to push them through in a timely and persevering manner. Along with fellow activists such as Tracy Shannon, Jeff Younger, and Kevin Whitt, I went to Austin with a sense of urgency. The Biden administration appears willing to make good on its radical promises to the pro-abortion and pro-Sexual Revolution left.
Some lawmakers were gracious and treated us respectfully as we discussed these concerns. These included the offices of Brian Birdwell, Donna Campbell, Beverly Powell, Eddie Lucio Jr., Bryan Hughes, Bob Hall, and Steve Toth. (Two of these are Democrats.) It is clear that our issues are commonsense concerns that aren’t partisan or even purely political. Whether these leaders can step up, file a bill, and stay the course through hearings is also an open question. (Texans need to keep track and plan their 2022 primaries accordingly.)
More were simply lukewarm and about average for a state legislator (though these are not the right times for average anything in government).
How Red Is Texas?
Despite the popular conception of Texas as a Republican paradise, the Lone Star State has been weak on socially conservative issues for quite some time. In the 2017 session, a highly popular bathroom bill designed to preserve female-only restrooms failed to go through. In the 2019 session, the only pro-family legislation that passed was the disappointing “Chick Fil-A bill.” It protected the business rights of a company that turned out to be canceling profamily and Christian conservatives just as badly as any other large, profit-minded corporation.
Because of these recent betrayals, the 2021 session began with a great deal of suspense. Memories of 2017 and 2019 led many profamily activists to mobilize early and draft legislative priorities. The 2020 convention of the Republican Party of Texas had established a powerful platform. Mass Resistance mapped each of our legislative priorities to explicit planks of that platform.
The controversies of the 2020 election woke many conservatives up, so legislators faced high expectations from their constituents. Betrayal of Trump by establishment Republicans left conservative voters with suspicion of GOP officials. We’ve seen too many trying to pander, beat around the bush, and speak out of both sides of their mouths.
By mid-March, it was clear that the Texas GOP was still wary of the social conservatives who’d placed them in power. The most likely explanation applies to Texas as well as to the rest of the country. We witnessed a recent feud between Lauren Witzke and Richard Grenell’s pro-LGBT allies. The feud showed that the MAGA movement includes many people who want to dump social conservatives’ agenda, even though they need our money and votes.
Many pro-family people such as myself supported Trump all the way until his helicopter carried him out of the White House. Now, with some weeks to reflect, we find ourselves increasingly repelled by the thought of reliving all of Trump’s hip and chic compromises with LGBTs like Rick Grenell. Trump had many photo ops with megachurch pastors like Robert Jeffress. Because he treated evangelicals with respect, many of us looked away from Trump’s complacency where LGBT issues were concerned. Now his presidency is over and we have the chance to strike a new path. A lot of us no longer want to remain quiet while socially liberal people claim ownership of MAGA.
Texas’s struggle mirrors the national tension on the right. The Republican Party of Texas announced eight legislative priorities for this session:
- Election Integrity.
- Religious Freedom.
- Children and Gender Modification.
- Abolition of Abortion.
- Constitutional Carry.
- Monument Protection.
- School Choice for All.
- Ban Taxpayer-Funded Lobbying.
Sounds promising, right? A full half of the slate appeals to the socially conservative base.
But pro-family activists in Texas have long known that the devil hides in the details. Given the left’s full-frontal attack on healthy sexuality and strong families, America needs Texas to get ahead of the culture. Texas must pass bold, groundbreaking legislation to attack the insanity at its root.
No other conservative state has the electorate and activist base that Texas has. If the Lone Star State does not take the lead, many of the deeper policy priorities outlined by Mass Resistance will become unattainable. We will have lost not only the culture war, but culture—civilization—itself. No civilization can endure with dysfunctional and self-destructive families.
Why the Best of Platforms Can Go Wrong
Even with a wonderful platform, an army of Texan activists, and intense motivation to pull off a pro-family session, 2021 appears on track to be underwhelming. Several bills have been introduced to ban gender transitioning in minors (HB68 and HB1399). But it remains unclear whether they will get hearings or eventually pass. Also, as Mass Resistance has pointed out, the bills introduced up until now focus on banning medical procedures like puberty-blocking drugs and sex change surgery. They do not address “social transitioning.” But that’s the most widespread threat to minors’ mental health.
“Social transitioning” means counselors, teachers, caregivers, and sometimes parents joining efforts with popular culture to pressure impressionable children into LGBT identity. Only a small portion of the problem can be solved by banning the medical procedures. Especially if that ban applies only to children under the age of eighteen. Minors are currently being pressured to transition socially, but much less often medically. That comes later, and we’re letting activists groom kids to do it.
Two bills have come up protecting women’s sports (HB 1458 and SB 373). This is good news, though without legislative intervention in the many other areas affected by LGBT, it is a little like whistling into a hurricane.
NIMBY Is Not Enough
One bill (HB 1424) has been filed relating to protecting “health care providers” from being forced to participate in medical procedures that violate the provider’s “ethical, moral, or religious beliefs.” The scenario here is a Christian doctor who does not want to perform sex reassignment surgery. So he refers the transgender client to someone else who does not object. This bill follows the approach favored by traditional advocacy groups such as the Alliance Defending Freedom and Family Research Council. When we arrived in Austin, we were told by a member of Texas Values that they had just held an event where a few dozen pastors testified in favor of such a law.
But this piecemeal method of responding to LGBT extremism is doomed to fail. Indeed, it has failed. Groups like Alliance Defending Freedom spent years talking about bakers and gay weddings while transgender curriculum invaded American schools virtually unopposed. While well intended, it contributes to a borderline selfish “not in my backyard” (NIMBY) attitude. We have no shortage of pastors who will insist that their churches not be forced to perform gay weddings while not caring about the proliferation of same-sex abuse in the larger community. Would we say that about drug abuse?
Tracy Shannon, president of Mass Resistance Texas, agrees with me that the “conscience protection” model is little more than a bone thrown to social conservatives. “Religious freedom,” Shannon says, “doesn’t protect the mass of people most likely to be harmed by these policies — the vulnerable children being force-fed this ideology in schools.”
Kevin Whitt, who directs Mass Resistance activities in the Dallas area, describes the traditional route of conscience protections as “weak.” Asked about HB 1424, Whitt says, “the party and these profamily organizations like to portray that they are doing something but they are really not.” Several activists in Austin described the problem as “controlled opposition” serving the left. In Whitt’s opinion, religious liberty and conscience bills are an attempt to capitalize on social conservatives’ goals while still placating the sexual radicals.
On the abortion front, many bills have been forward, especially HB 3326 which seeks abolition. The problem is that by now everyone knows the courts will strike down anything the Texas legislature passes. If the state is not willing to nullify unconstitutional laws and court decisions, the laws we pass end up as empty gestures. Legislators can file almost anything to continue attracting prolife voters. If they lack the boldness to support nullification of court decisions or federal mandates, they know their bills are mostly for show. For abortion another bill (HB 42) relates to protecting health care coverage for enrollees who refuse to have an abortion. Closely related are other bills (HB 44 and HB 92) instating a penalty for certain kinds of abortions and one bill trying to block abortions after 12 weeks (HB 69).
For now, it appears that’s all we have for social conservatives. Thin gruel indeed.
We Can Do Better Than This, Assuming We Really Care
Tracy Shannon insists that legislators are being dishonest when they claim this is the best we can do. “It’s a shame,” she says. “If they were serious about protecting children and families, they would extend the bill filing date or call for a special session totally dedicated to profamily issues.” Shannon also emphasizes the need for a profamily caucus in the Texas legislature. It must emerge alongside the well-known Freedom Caucus, which often includes libertarians opposed to our priorities.
Shannon firmly believes that the lack of extensions for filing dates or special sessions reflect a conscious decision by Republican leaders. They wish to swindle their socially conservative voters. “These problems are so pervasive because there’s no pushback,” she says. She urges us to reject excuses from GOP leaders who claim their hands are tied by calendar deadlines or electoral considerations.
Mass Resistance member Kevin Whitt shares Tracy Shannon’s critical view. He said, “The only representative I’ve spoken to who wants to take this agenda seriously is Rep. Toth.” Recently fired by the Republican Party for posting things on social media that social RINOs considered too radical, Whitt feels the party is stuck in a rut.
Legislators, Do Your Jobs!
In our press conference on March 10, I shared a similar sentiment: “The best way to get elected and re-elected is to do your job. If you can’t do your job in 2021, why should we re-elect you in 2022?”
If you want to contact Mass Resistance to see how you can help, contact Organization Director Arthur Schaper at [email protected] or 781-474-3005. If you want to write to Texas legislators or the governor to demand an extension of the bill filing deadline or a special session for profamily legislation, you can find contact information here and here. All is not lost yet, but we have to act quickly.