Patrick ‘pushes back’ after Straus quote links bathroom bill to suicide

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Texas Speaker of the House Joe Straus

(IMHO: Dan Patrick’s spokeswoman says the bathroom bill has never been about discrimination. That’s bullshit and everybody knows it. It is and always has been exactly about discrimination against transgender people and anyone who doesn’t “look right.” — T. Nash.)

 

Paul J. Weber | Associated Press

AUSTIN, Texas — The driving force in Texas behind a “bathroom bill” pushed back Monday, July 3, after the Republican House speaker was quoted as saying he didn’t want a “suicide” on his hands over efforts to restrict which restrooms transgender people can use.

LGBT rights groups and other opponents, meanwhile, praised House Speaker Joe Straus over comments published in The New Yorker that signaled a moral opposition to a “bathroom bill” alongside his repeated condemnation of the measure as bad for the Texas economy.

In the story published Monday, author Lawrence Wright wrote that Straus told him about a senator coming to his office with a proposed compromise just before the bill collapsed in May.

“I’m not a lawyer, but I am a Texan,” said Straus, according to the magazine. “I’m disgusted by all this. Tell the lieutenant governor I don’t want the suicide of a single Texan on my hands.”

Aides to Straus did not return emails Monday.

The comment appeared to echo concerns raised by LGBT rights groups that efforts to restrict which bathrooms transgender people can use further marginalize a group of people who at least one recent survey has shown attempt suicide at a higher-than-average rate.

Republican Lt Gov. Dan Patrick has spearheaded the push for a North Carolina-style “bathroom bill” in Texas, and a spokeswoman said Monday he did not send any senators to Straus’ office. She said the bill has never been about discrimination and that if Straus’ comments were accurate, it would be “the latest of his reasons” for opposing the bill.

“The Lt. Governor hopes the Speaker did not make these comments. Obviously no one wants to see harm to anyone as a result of any legislation that is passed,” Patrick spokeswoman Sherry Sylvester said in an email to The Associated Press.

Straus is the powerful leader of the GOP-controlled House and for months has gone against Abbott and Patrick — as well as most Texas Republican lawmakers — in his public rejection of efforts to impose bathroom restrictions on transgender people. Patrick has blamed Straus for sinking the measure and forcing a special legislative session that will begin July 18.

In December, the largest survey of transgender Americans painted a grim picture of pervasive discrimination and harassment, finding that 40 percent of respondents said they had attempted suicide at some point. The survey by the National Center for Transgender Equality assessed input received in 2015 from 27, 715 respondents in all 50 states. Researchers have estimated that the overall attempted suicide rate in the U.S. is less than 5 percent.

Leaders of Equality Texas, an LGBT right group, and Texas Competes, which says it has gathered signed opposition from more than 1,000 companies including Amazon and American Airlines, said they were glad to see a leading Republican share concerns that opponents have voiced for months.

“I’m pleased to see he said that. It’s true that literally people’s lives are at stake here,” said Chuck Smith, executive director of Equality Texas.

Abbott made what he calls “privacy protection legislation” part of a lengthy special legislative session agenda. He said last week that Texas needs bathroom regulations for “protecting the privacy of women and children” to avoid what he described as a patchwork of conflicting regulations across the state.

Some of Texas’ biggest cities, including Dallas and Austin, have anti-discrimination ordinances that extend protections to transgender people in public spaces.

 

Follow Paul J. Weber on Twitter: www.twitter.com/pauljweber

—  Tammye Nash

Straus: No more compromise on bathroom bill

Speaker of the House Joe Straus

Texas Speaker of the House Joe Straus said today (Friday, May 26) that he and the House members have compromised enough when it comes to anti-transgender bathroom bills, referring to the amendment to Sen. Larry Taylor’s SB 2078 that the House approved last Sunday. Straus said that Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick and his right-wing minions in the state Senate can take it or leave, because the Legislature has already spent way too much time wrangling over where people can pee.

Instead, Straus said, lawmakers should be paying attention to funding public schools and bolstering mental health services.

According to Quorum Report, Straus said today he WILL NOT appoint conferees on the latest bathroom bill.

Gov. Greg Abbott has urged lawmakers to reach a compromise, and Patrick has threatened to force a special session if he doesn’t get his way.

According to a Dallas Voice source in Austin, “Patrick is unraveling. He can only grandstand so much. The Senate has played its last cards. This is in Abbott’s hands and he is, of course, going to fuck up.

“This is unreal,” the source said.

The House passed the SB 2078 amendment, offered by Rep. Chris Paddie and which would require schools to have single-stall restrooms available for trans students who do not want to use multi-stall bathrooms, and Straus said today that schools had approved the amendment, saying it would allow trans students to use the facilities matching their gender identity. But Taylor said the amendment didn’t go far enough and when the amended bill ended up back in the Senate, he said he wouldn’t allow it to go through with the amendment.

Instead, the Senate tacked Sen. Lois Kolkhurt’s SB 6 — which would restrict bathroom use in schools and government buildings and rescind local nondiscrimination ordinances — onto a “catchall” bill by Rep. Garnet Coleman. Coleman has, in turn, said he will pull his bill rather than allow it thru with SB 6 attached.

Patrick is slated to speak to the press at 7:30. Stay tuned for updates.

—  Tammye Nash

Equality Texas offering legislative update at Cedar Grove; Patrick threatens special session over bathroom bill

Steve Rudner

About 10 days before the scheduled end of the 85th Texas Legislature, Equality Texas, the statewide LGBT lobbying organization based in Austin, will give a legislative update on Thursday, May 18, from 6-8 p.m. at Cedar Grove, 4123 Cedar Springs Road, #110.

The event begins at 6 p.m., with remarks starting at 6:45 p.m. Equality Texas Board President Steve Rudner will talk about the status of LGBT-related bills and issues in the legislature, and then take questions from the audience.

The event is free, sponsored by Alan H. Levi, CPA, Jones Day Law Firm and Littler Mendelson, PC. and each attendee’s first drink is complimentary. (A cash bar will be available.)

Texas Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick — titty baby supreme of Texas (Trump holds the national title) — has threatened to force the Legislature into a special session unless Speaker of the House Joe Strauss falls into goose-step line and gets both an anti-transgender bathroom bill (Patrick’s special interest issue) and a specific tax bill passed out of the house.

Texas Tribune reports: “Patrick deemed Senate Bill 2, a property tax bill from state Sen. Paul Bettencourt, and either Senate Bill 6, the “bathroom bill” from state Sen. Lois Kolkhorst, or similar language amended to another bill, as must-pass measures to avoid a special session. Both bills have passed the Senate and are currently in the House.

—  Tammye Nash

SB 6 passes in the Texas Senate

Texas Lt. Gov. and Potty Police Chief Dan Patrick

Texas is one step closer to sharing North Carolina’s fate today, following the vote in the state Senate to approve SB 6, aka Dan Patrick’s Ridiculous Bathroom Bill.

The vote was 21-10. I haven’t seen a breakdown of the vote yet, but I am willing to bet that all but one of the 11 Democrats in the Senate voted against the measure. That one would be Sen. Eddie Lucio Jr. of Brownsville. Lucio was the only Democrat — out of two — on the State Affairs Committee to vote in favor of sending the bill to the full Senate for a vote. He blames his vote on him being a Catholic.

His son, Eddie Lucio III, serves in the Texas House. He has said he opposes the bathroom bill.

What happens now depends largely on Speaker of the House Joe Strauss, a Republican who has made no secret of the fact that he is not in favor of the measure. LGBT rights advocates hope that Strauss will bury the House version of the bill in a committee that won’t let it ever see the light of day again.

You might want to contact Speaker Strauss and let him know we’re counting on him. And talk to your state reps, too. Make sure the Democrats are on our side, and do your best to convince the Republicans that the bathroom bill is bad for Texas’ pocketbook, but more importantly, that it’s bad for Texans.

—  Tammye Nash

Senate set to vote today on Bathroom Bill

Sen. Joan Huffman

Last week the Texas Senate’s State Affairs Committee voted 8-1 to send SB 6, Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick’s ridiculous bathroom bill — you know, the one that will supposedly keep women and children safe but in reality only interferes with transgender people using the appropriate public bathroom facilities — to the floor of the Senate for a vote.

Today, the Senate as a whole is scheduled to vote on the measure. So call your senator ASAP and let him or her know exactly what you think about the bathroom bill.

If you aren’t sure who your senator is or how to contact him or her, check here.

And while you are at it, you might want to look up the contact info for state Sen. Joan Huffman, the Houston Republican who chairs the State Affairs Committee. She’s the one caught last week on a hot mic calling a trans man testifying against the bathroom bill a “pervert.” Watch the video below to hear it for yourself.

Colt Keo-Meier, a clinical psychologist who runs the Transgender Health Lab at the University of Houston and the man Huffman called a pervert, told The Intellectualist, “You know, as a person of God, I have to say, ‘Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.’ To tell someone that they are a pervert for telling you the truth about their life. Who’s the perverted one in that case?”

—  Tammye Nash

SB 6 voted out of committee

Dan Patrick came to North Texas last year about this time to shake his finger at trans people who simply wanted to use the appropriate public restrooms at Fort Worth ISD.

To no one’s real surprise, Senate Bill 6 — aka Dan Patrick’s hateful bathroom bill — passed out of the Senate’s Republican-controlled State Affairs Committee on a 7-1 vote, despite the fact that testimony against the bill — which began about 8 a.m. yesterday (Tuesday, March 7) and finally ended just before 5 a.m. today (Wednesday, March 8) — was overwhelmingly against the measure.

Senate Bill 6 would require transgender people to use bathrooms in public schools and colleges and government buildings that correspond to their “biological sex” as listed on their birth certificate. It also would prohibit local jurisdictions, like cities and counties, from adopting anti-discrimination ordinances permitting transgender people from using public bathrooms that match their gender identity.

The lone “no” vote came from Sen Judith Zaffirini of Laredo, one of the committee’s two Democrats, according to the Houston Chronicle. The second Democrat, Sen. Eddie Lucio of Brownsville, voted in favor of SB 6, as he said Monday that he would.

The Houston Chronicle notes that it was Lucio’s support that gave Patrick the 19 votes he needed to bring it to the floor of the Senate for a vote, something that could happen as early as this week.

The Chronicle also noted that Republican Sen. Paul Bettencourt of Houston borrowed a page from Donald Trump’s playbook, calling a report — touted by the Texas Association of Business and indicating that passage of SB 6 would hurt the state’s economy — “fake news.” Despite clear evidence to the contrary, Texas Republicans have ignored warnings regarding the negative economic impact of passing SB 6, just as they — and North Carolina Republicans — continue to ignore the clear evidence of HB 2’s negative impact in North Carolina.

 

—  Tammye Nash

Brownsville Democrat joins the forces of evil, voices support for bathroom bill

Sen. Eddie Lucio

State Sen. Eddie Lucio Jr., a Democrat from Brownsville, today came out in support of Lt. Gov. Dan Patrrick’s and Sen. Lois Kolkurst’s bathroom bill, aka SB 6, according to a report by The Texas Tribune.

SB 6 would prohibit transgender people from using the appropriate public restroom facilities, and prohibits local governments or agencies from passing rules allowing otherwise. (The Texas Tribune explains exactly SB 6 says here.)

A hearing on the legislation is set for Tuesday, March 7, before the Senate State Affairs Committee,

Patrick parade Lucio before reports at a press conference to brag about having a Democrat supporting his hateful piece of legislation. Lucio, described as “a devout Catholic,” has been at odds with his Democratic colleagues on other “social issues,” like for example, abortion.

Lucio said at the press conference that “Children, youth and parents in these difficult situations deserve compassion, sensitivity and respect without infringing on legitimate concerns about privacy and security from other students and parents,” Texas Tribune reported.

North Carolina Lt. Gov. Dan Forest, who gets credit for pushing through his state’s bathroom bill — HB 2 — was also at the press conference. He urged Texas lawmakers not to listen to business leaders who say that SB 6 could damage the state economically, and claimed HB2 hasn’t hurt North Carolina at all.

(Others beg to differ with Forest’s claims that HB 2 hasn’t hurt his state. The Institute for Southern Studies, in a Jan. 6, 2017, article in its newsletter “Facing South,” estimated that the law has, so far, cost North Carolina about $560 million.)

Also at the press conference today, Patrick announced that he is launching “Operation 1 Million Voices” to build support for his hateful anti-transgender bill among Christians.

—  Tammye Nash

Patrick holding press conference to announce filing of bathroom bill

Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick speaking at a press conference in Fort Worth last spring against Fort Worth ISD guidelines on protecting transgender students. (Tammye Nash/Dallas Voice)

Texas Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick is so proud that he is going to put Texas’ economic health at risk that he’s holding a press conference this afternoon to announce it.

Patrick and state Sen. Lois Kolkhorst, R-Brenham, sent out a “media advisory” yesterday (Wednesday, Jan. 4) to say they will be holding a press conference today (Thursday, Jan. 5), at 1 p.m. in the Senate Press Conference Room at the Texas Capitol, to announce the filing of Senate Bill 6,”The Privacy Protection Act.”

For those who might not know, “Privacy Protection Act” is the alias Patrick has given to his version of HB 2, the anti-transgender bathroom bill that has cost the state of North Carolina hundreds of millions of dollars. Patrick thinks that by pretending he is trying to protect women and children from predatory men instead of just plain ol’ hating on transgender people, he can fool people into thinking SB6 is a good thing. Of course, if he really wanted to protect women and children from predatory men, he would be working to stop the men in the Texas Legislature from passing laws that interfere with women’s control over their own bodies and health decisions.

Hopefully there are enough people in the Legislature who have more sense than prejudice that they will be able to stop this bill before it gets anywhere. But we suggest that everyone who does oppose it put as much effort as possible into letting your representatives and senators know that this is a really really bad idea.

 

—  Tammye Nash

Texas Republicans slam business association for opposing ‘bathroom’ bill, ‘religious freedom’ bill

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Texas lawmakers, from left, Sen. Kelly Hancock and Reps. Matt Shaheen and Jonathan Stickland are intent on ignoring warnings from the Texas Association of Business that so-called “bathroom bills” and “religious freedom bills” could cost the state millions in lost revenue.

By James Russell, Contributing Writer

You’d think when a major business association traditionally allied with Republicans releases a study suggesting certain proposed laws could negatively impact a state, Republican lawmakers in that state would listen. Especially given lawmakers are working with a tight budget next session.

Nope.

That happened earlier this week when a study commissioned by the Texas Association of Business revealed the potential economic impact “bathroom” and “religious freedom” bills could have on the state. The report, conducted by researchers at St. Edward’s University in Austin, said that religious freedom bills and “bathroom” bills proposed by right-wing lawmakers in the Texas Legislature could cost the state between $964 million to $8.5 billion and lead to significant job losses — as high as 185,000 jobs.

The report culls data from the impact of similar bills passed in other states, including Arkansas, Indiana and North Carolina.

Indiana Gov. and Vice President-elect Mike Pence signed into law that state’s RFRA last year. The bill would have allowed business owners to deny services based on religious convictions, much to the dismay of activists who said it unfairly discriminated against LGBTQ people. Pence hesitantly amended the bill to include LGBTQ protections after threats from businesses and LGBTQ advocates.

North Carolina’s “bathroom bill” most notably barred transgender people from using the bathroom according to their gender identity. Republican Gov. Pat McCrory lost his re-election bid last month due in part to the fallout from the legislation, and the state has lost millions of dollars in revenue as businesses and events have pulled out of North Carolina.

But to some conservative Texas legislators, the report is just a bunch of bullshit.

“TAB supports a new radical agenda that places the safety and privacy of women and young girls at risk by forcing them to share locker rooms and restrooms with men through government regulation,” wrote Rep. Matt Shaheen, R-Plano, in the Texas Tribune.

Rep. Jonathan Stickland, a Bedford Republican, tweeted that the study is “trash and misinfo.”

Sen. Kelly Hancock, who represents parts of northeast Tarrant County, tweeted that the business organization “got the study they paid for and bullied conservative and female members into submission.”

Hancock’s position as chair of the senate’s business and commerce committee, tasked with overseeing business regulations in the state, also puts him in direct conflict with the TAB, the state’s most powerful business lobby.

But Hancock has plenty of allies, including his boss, Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick, the state’s leading cultural warrior who put the bathroom bill among his top 10 legislative priorities, ahead of reforming the state’s child welfare system. The Women’s Privacy Act, as it is called, is not anti-transgender; it’d simply protect women from men who want to assault them in bathrooms and locker rooms, Patrick claims. But critics argue the bill is all about barring transpeople from using the bathroom in accordance with their gender identity.

Shaheen has already filed a House version of the bill. His boss, Speaker Joe Straus, recently said the legislation is not a priority however.

(I’d check if Sen. Konni Burton of Colleyville tweeted about it, but alas, she blocked me.) Just today, two business-backed groups closely aligned with Hancock, Shaheen and Stickland went on the record saying they have no stance on the legislation. (Full disclosure: I write for Quorum Report.)

But it is clear scapegoating transgender and gender nonconforming people is a priority in 2017. After all, bashing them protects the children.

—  Tammye Nash

Texas’ Three Amigos of the Apocalypse still fighting marriage equality

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In Texas, AG Ken Paxton, left, Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick, center, and Gov. Greg Abbott took time off from trying to deny equality to transgender people to once again take up the banner against marriage equality.

It’s been almost a year and a half since the U.S. Supreme Court ruled, in Obergefell v. Hodges, that is violates the U.S. Constitution to deny equal marriage rights to same-sex couples. This week, Texas’ top elected officials took time out from their ongoing battle to deny equal rights to transgender Texans and keep trans people from using the appropriate public restroom facilities (see here and here), to go back and once again take up the fight against marriage equality.

Ummm, Greg, Dan and Ken, hello! The Dark Ages called; they want their assholes back.

Seriously.

Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton sent out a press release today announcing that he, Gov. Greg Abbott and Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick have filed a joint amicus brief with the Texas Supreme Court “urging the court to recognize that the U.S. Supreme Court’s announcement of a right to same-sex marriage in Obergefell v. Hodges does not resolve all constitutional issues relating same-sex marriage.”

They filed their brief in connection with a case now before the Texas Supreme Court, Jack Pidgeon and Larry Hicks v. Mayor Sylvester Turner and the City of Houston, in which Pidgeon and Hicks, Houston taxpayers, sued the city of Houston claiming then-Mayor Annise Parker broke Texas law and violated the Texas Constitution — which was amended in 2005 to specifically ban legal recognition of same-sex marriage — when she extended spousal benefits to the same-sex partners of city employees who had gotten married in jurisdictions that did legally recognize same-sex marriage.

The case when to trial and the district court issued an injunction preventing the city from extending those benefits until the case was ultimately decided. But then the U.S. Supreme Court — which, for those of you who might have spent too much time around Ken and Greg and Dan and don’t remember, still does trump the Texas Supreme Court — came out with the Obergefell decision. And the Pidgeon case became a moot point. Right?

Well, Ken and company don’t agree. They are saying, basically, that while they have to let the homos get married, they don’t have to actually treat them like straight married couples (you know, “real” married people). In essence, the Three Amigos of the Apocalypse are claiming that the city of Houston — and any other Texas city/town/whatever — cannot legally extend spousal benefits to the legal same-sex spouses of their employees because the Texas Constitution bans same-sex marriage, regardless of what the U.S. Supreme Court and Constitution say,

Really. That’s what they are saying (from the “Summary of Argument” in the Three Amigos amicus brief): “By issuing its judgment in Obergefell, the Supreme Court effectively has required all States to grant same-sex marriages and recognize same-sex marriages from other states, and the purpose of this brief is not to contest or circumvent that requirement. But the existence of a federal court judgment obligating States to grant and recognize same-sex marriages does not automatically dictate the outcome of a case like this one, which raises a related but different constitutional question involving municipal employee benefits. … While the judgment in Obergefell is authoritative, Justice Kennedy’s lengthy opinion explaining that judgment is not an addendum to the federal constitution and should not be treated by state courts as if every word of it is the preemptive law of the United States.”

(You can read the whole brief here.)

The press release quotes Paxton as saying, “My office had the privilege of defending Texas’ marriage laws in Fifth Circuit. While the U.S. Supreme Court did recognize a right to same-sex marriage, there are a host of issues in that area of the law that remain unresolved. I applaud Governor Abbott and Lieutenant Governor Patrick for their leadership in asking that state courts give serious consideration to these weighty, unresolved questions.”

I should stop here to point out that the Texas Supreme Court has already refused to hear the plaintiffs’ appeal in this case. But the plaintiffs — and the Amigos — are demanding a rehearing. Obviously, Paxton and company have not yet spent enough taxpayer money on lawsuits endeavoring to deny civil rights to LGBT Texans.

Perhaps this is just another ploy by Paxton to try and distract people from the fact that he STILL FACES criminal charges of securities fraud and that his buddies on the Collin County Commissioners Court and in the Texas Legislature are trying to torpedo the prosecution in that case by getting the Commissioners Court to refuse to pay the special prosecutors that had to be hired. A judge had dismissed a federal civil lawsuit against Paxton for securities fraud, but the SEC has refilled those charges.

—  Tammye Nash