House GOP caucus endorses Straus for speaker; LGBT community breathes sigh of relief

Although more conservative factions in the state had been calling for the ouster of Rep. Joe Straus as speaker of the Texas House, the House Republican Caucus today endorsed Straus — known as a moderate Republican — for the seat.

Rep. Joe Straus

That news comes as something of a relief for LGBT advocates who had feared that someone further to the right would be chosen as speaker and given the chance to control the legislative agenda. Back in November, Reps. Warren Chisum of Pampa and Ken Paxton of McKinney both announced they were running for speaker. Chisum has long been known as one of the most anti-gay members of the House, routinely introducing and/or supporting bills on such topics as preventing LGBT people from becoming foster or adoptive parents. Chisum also was the primary author of the constitutional amendment passed in 2005 to ban same-sex marriage in Texas. Paxton was a co-author of the amendment and also voted in favor of banning LGBT foster and adoptive parents.

Among those fighting the hardest to defeat Straus’ bid for another term as speaker were leaders of the anti-gay Texas Eagle Forum, who had warned lawmakers the group would base half its score for legislators on who they supported for speaker. Others who have been outspoken in opposing Straus are Liberty Institute President and CEO Kelly Shackelford, Heritage Alliance President Richard Ford and Texas Eagle Forum founder Cathie Adams.

And in December, The Texas Observer reported that John Cook, a member of the State Republican Executive Committee, said he was campaigning against Straus — who is Jewish and attends a synagogue that supports LGBT rights — because, “I got into politics to put Christian conservatives into office.” Cook also accused Straus of being pro-choice and pro-gay rights.

The Houston Chronicle reported today that 70 of the 100 lawmakers attending the House Republican Caucus meeting today voted to back Straus for speaker. The Chronicle report noted that the caucus vote is non-binding but “virtually guarantees Straus’ re-election Tuesday when the Texas Legislature opens a new session.”

—  admin

HRC says Jeb Hensarling of Dallas could pose major threat to gay rights in new Congress

The Human Rights Campaign says Jeb Hensarling is “extremely connected and close to a lot of the right-wing religious groups.”

Following the release of a Human Rights Campaign report showing an anti-LGBT majority in the new U.S. House — which we mentioned earlier — we requested a full list of which lawmakers the group considers anti-LGBT, pro-LGBT and mixed.

“Sorry but the list is proprietary and we aren’t releasing the names publicly,” HRC spokesman Michael Cole told us moments ago.

Naturally, we were interested to see how HRC categorizes various Texas lawmakers. And while HRC isn’t releasing its secret list, we do know about one member of the GOP leadership from Texas whom the group considers a major threat — our old buddy Jeb Hensarling of Dallas, who chairs the House Republican Caucus. From The HuffPo’s piece about the HRC report:

“I think they’re going to have to give some red meat to their base, and I assume it’s either going to be anti-gay, anti-choice, or anti-immigrant, or all of the above,” said [HRC legislative director Allison] Herwitt. “So I just think that when you have someone like Jeb Hensarling, who is chairman of the House Republican Conference, he’s extremely connected and close to a lot of  the right-wing religious groups, so there’s going to be pressure on the leadership to deliver on some of these issues.”

—  John Wright