In just the second day of the 2017 Texas legislative session, far-right lawmakers are already demonstrating their contempt for LGBT people and public schools.
As the House debated rules for the session today, state Rep. Matt Schaefer, R-Tyler, proposed a nasty rule barring transgender people from using multi-occupancy Capitol restrooms that are consistent with their gender identity. Schaefer eventually withdrew his proposed regulation after state Rep. Charlie Geren, the Republican chairman of the House Administration Committee, objected that it was out of order and that the State Preservation Board sets rules on Capitol restrooms.
But Schaefer’s effort was just part of an increasingly vicious and mean-spirited campaign by far-right politicians to demonize and discriminate against LGBT people. In fact, we have seen dozens of anti-LGBT discrimination bills filed over the past two Texas legislative sessions. We’re expecting more in the next few weeks.
Last week Republican Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick and state Sen. Lois Kolkhorst, R-Brenham, announced the filing of a bill that would similarly discriminate against transgender people in public restrooms across the entire state. Patrick continues to repeat falsehoods in defense of the bill. For example, he suggests — without any evidence — that the discrimination bill would protect public safety. Yet scores of cities and states have enacted laws barring discrimination against transgender people in public accommodations, and none have reported public safety problems as a result.
In a more symbolic move today, we also saw the right’s contempt for public education. State Rep. Jeff Leach, R-Plano, proposed renaming the House Public Education Committee to simply the Education Committee. As Dallas Morning News reporter Bob Garrett tweeted, Leach argued that “we don’t have a Private Education Committee or a Home Schooling Committee.”
But the Texas Constitution doesn’t require the Legislature to establish private and home schools. It does require the Legislature to establish and pay for a system of free, public schools.
Like Schaefer, Leach withdrew his proposal. But it’s certainly no surprise that he offered it in the first place. He and other anti-public education lawmakers, like Lt. Gov. Patrick, support diverting tax dollars from public schools to subsidize private and religious schools (as well as homeschoolers). In fact, Patrick has held desperately needed education finance reform hostage to the passage of a publicly funded private school voucher scheme. A few years ago he even went to an Austin private school to push vouchers as part of his proposed education “reforms.”
As we said, we’re just two days into the current legislative session in Texas and already seeing anti-LGBT and anti-public education lawmakers bare their fangs.