Progressive leaders slam Abbott over special session agenda

Lambda Legal senior counsel Jenny Pizer

Texas Gov. Greg Abbott announced today (Tuesday, June 6) that he will convene a special session of the Texas Legislature on July 18 and that the agenda for the special session includes school vouchers, the anti-transgender “bathroom bill” and multiple restrictions on abortion access.

Progressive leaders were quick to speak out against Abbott’s agenda:

Terri Burke, executive director of the ACLU of Texas: “Lt. Gov. Patrick held the must-pass sunset bill hostage in order to advance his extremist agenda, and today Gov. Abbott paid the ransom. Taken together, the special session’s agenda items constitute an assault on Texas’s most persecuted communities — on women, on schoolchildren, on transgender kids. But there’s a reason this discriminatory legislation didn’t pass during the regular session: Texans don’t want it. And when legislators return to Austin on July 18, they should expect to meet stiff resistance not only from the ACLU, but from every Texan who believes everyone deserves a fair shot rather than a government running roughshod over our civil liberties.

“There is enough actual business Texas legislators need to take care of without pandering to Lt. Gov. Patrick and his determination to demonize transgender kids. That’s not just wrong and abusive: it’s also begging to be sued,” Burke said.

Jennifer C. Pizer, senior counsel and director of law and policy for Lambda Legal: “It was certainly widely expected that Gov. Abbott would call a special session. There are many items that Texas legislators did not act on, perhaps because they were distracted by the numerous, cruel efforts to enshrine anti-LGBT discrimination into law. There is enough actual business Texas legislators need to take care of without pandering to Lt. Gov. Patrick and his determination to demonize transgender kids. That’s not just wrong and abusive: it’s also begging to be sued.

“Let’s be clear,” Pizer continued, “the Legislature did find the time to pass HB 3859, a discriminatory bill that would allow many child placement agencies in the state foster care system — including agencies receiving state and federal funding — to prioritize their religious beliefs above the needs of children and to operate in a manner explicitly counter to professional standards. That bill is now before Gov. Abbott, and we call on him again to veto it.”

Pizer concluded, “We ask the Texas Legislature not to compound the error with this unwarranted solution in search of a problem driven by Lt. Gov. Patrick’s mistaken, discriminatory belief that transgender schoolchildren pose some kind of danger to others. Dozens of business leaders and sports organizations have called on legislators not to enact anti-LGBT legislation, pointing to the experience of North Carolina as a cautionary tale. And, as we said before, if the legislature does force discrimination targeting transgender schoolchildren into Texas law, you can bet that Lambda Legal will be on the case before the next school bell rings.”

Pizer also noted that Lambda Legal “stands ready to help transgender youth who experience discrimination in school, foster care or anywhere else.” Those students, their parents or guardians should call the Lambda Legal Help Desk at 212-809-8585 or to visit LambdaLegal.org/trans-students.

Sara Kate Ellis, president and CEO of Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation (GLAAD), also had choice words regarding Abbott’s special session agenda: “Gov. Greg Abbott is proving everything is bigger in Texas, including prioritizing discrimination. If the governor moves forward with this harmful legislation against trans students, LGBTQ people, businesses, and fair-minded Texans will respond in Texas style — big. Trans Texans have experienced harassment and threats because of this last session and if any anti-trans bills get signed into law, then Gov. Abbott’s legacy will be turning Texas into a state known for harming some its most marginalized people.”

—  Tammye Nash

Abbott to deliver UNT commencement address

Texas AG Greg Abbott

Gov, Greg Abbott

University of North Texas President Neal Smatresk has announced that Texas’ Republican Gov. Greg Abbott will deliver the keynote address during UNT’s inaugural university-wide commencement ceremony on May 16.

“I can think of no one better to celebrate the accomplishments of our students and kick off our yearlong 125th anniversary celebration,” Smatresk  said in a letter to students.

This will be UNT’s first university-wide graduation, and Smatresk said about 25,000 people are expected to attend.

Saying that school officials are looking forward “with great enthusiasm” to welcoming Abbott and Texas First Lady Cecilia Abbott to the UNT campus, adding that he expects the governor’s “message of hope and inspiration will resonate with all of us and leave a lasting impression on the Class of 2015.”

—  Tammye Nash

UPDATE: Texas statewide races

In Texas statewide races, Republicans are holding comfortable leads, in general.

In the big three races, Republican incumbent U.S. Sen. John Cornyn leads Democratic challenger David Alameel, 60 percent to 37 percent.

Republican Greg Abbott is ahead of Democrat Wendy Davis, 58 percent to 40 percent, in the race for governor, and with just 4 percent of the precincts statewide reporting, pundits are already calling the race for Abbott.

And in the contest for lieutenant governor, Republican Dan Patrick leads Democrat Letitcia Van de Putte, 57 percent to 40percent.

—  Tammye Nash

Texas AG Gregory Abbott Prevails: State Won’t Recognize Gay Marriages Long Enough to Grant Divorces

texasmap

Homosexuals in Texas cannot marry, but for a nearly a year they had high hopes they could get divorced. Until today, when a federal appeals court in Dallas overturned October's ruling that said Jeffrey and Henry Buck's marriage of two years could be ended in a Texas court under the 14th Amendment.

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