It’s baaaaaack. Rep. Matt Krause, R-Fort Worth, filed HJR 125, an identical version of the religious liberty resolution that was previously introduced and then abandoned by Rep. Jason Villalba, R-Dallas.
After the Texas Association of Business denounced it, Villalba said he would reconsider the resolution, the House companion to one filed by New Braunfels’ Republican Sen. Donna Campbell.
Krause, who is serving his second term in the House, has consistently been ranked among the worst legislators for LGBT equality by Equality Texas.
“I’ve said this before, but with last week’s DOMA ruling, I think it bears repeating. The heterosexual community has done more to undermine the traditional family than same-sex marriage ever could,” Krause posted on his Facebook page. “High divorce rates, rampant infidelity, and the astronomical numbers of children being born into homes without fathers should cause us much concern. While it is important to be active and engaged on all fronts that seek to undermine the family, we fool ourselves if we think same-sex marriage is the one thing that could destroy the nuclear family. Agree or disagree?”
Krause, who’s worked for the anti-gay Liberty Counsel, authored HB 360 earlier this year. In its initial form, the bill would have allowed university clubs to discriminate based on race, gender and sexual orientation. Krause later reworded the measure and offered it as an amendment to another bill, but it was cut from the final version.
Many who’ve commented on Krause’s Facebook post agreed with him, while some pointed out that he shouldn’t be against same-sex marriage.
Krause called last Thursday night after the deadline for the story, but we were able to connect Friday and discuss the ranking, as well as his views on some LGBT issues. Until now Krause, who’s worked for the anti-gay Liberty Counsel, was perhaps best known in the community for his representation of Dakota Ary, a Fort Worth student accused of harassing a gay teacher.
Krause attributes the ranking to his amendment to SB 215 that started out as HB 360 and would have allowed student groups to determine who to allow into clubs based on sexual orientation, race and gender.
“Their rankings are up to them. They use the criteria of the votes of the issue they want to , so I can’t really disagree with them. I think if you talk to anybody, you wouldn’t find that I’m hateful toward the LGBT community, that I have any type of disregard for them,” Krause said. “It’s nothing that I do out of animosity. It’s just what I feel is constitutionally sound, but I think there’s a lot of people, maybe with Equality Texas, that think I don’t like them or appreciate them for who they are. That’s not true. But if they want to give me the worst legislator ranking, that’s their prerogative and completely up to them.”
HB 360 was rewritten and a substitute made it out of committee, but the bill didn’t make it onto the floor. The amendment was then created to allow universities to not follow “all-comers” policies. Krause said he should have monitored the bill’s original language more closely because the intent was not to discriminate but to not force groups from admitting people who would undermine the club’s purposes.
“When the draft came back and it said, you know, race, gender and sexual orientation, we should have known right then that’s not the language we wanted to use,” Krause said. “It was never my intent for a political group to be able to discriminate against someone because of their sexual orientation or an athletic group being able to discriminate on the basis of race, something that had nothing to do with the actual club.”
As the session winded down last week, an anti-gay amendment by Fort Worth’s Matt Krause was still pending in SB 215 but was ultimately killed.
The amendment, which was originally filed as HB 360, passed the House in mid-May and would have allowed student organization at state-funded colleges to discriminate for membership. But Equality Texas reports that the Senate refused to agree with the amendments and formed a conference committee over the weekend.
The amendment was later removed on Friday before the session ended Monday.
However, there’s still a special session, which has been limited to redistricting so far. Equality Texas Executive Director Chuck Smith said it’s unlikely anti-LGBT measures would come up unless the special session is expanded to include education or other social issues.
“We’ll just have to wait and see if the call gets expanded beyond redistricting, and if it does, it could be problematic,” Smith said.
Read Equality Texas’ timeline of the Krause amendment below.
The Texas House passed an amendment Wednesday afternoon that would allow student clubs at universities to discriminate against people for membership.
The motion passed 78-67 after a motion to table it failed.
Fort Worth Republican Rep. Matt Krause’s amendment mandates that the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board work with institutions to “ensure that each institution does not implement a policy or otherwise engage in a practice that requires a student organization” to accept members who “demonstrate opposition to the organization’s stated beliefs and purposes.”
Krause tacked it onto SB 215 and argued the amendment was about “protecting free speech” in deciding who can join a club. Others said it wasn’t appropriate to decide for universities how organizations on campuses should be handled and called it discriminatory.
According to Equality Texas, if enacted, Krause’s amendment “would allow officially-recognized student organizations who receive taxpayer funded support from a university to discriminate against a potential member based on race, religion, veteran status, HIV/AIDS status, gender, disability, sexual orientation and gender identity or expression if any attribute of the student ‘demonstrates opposition to the organization’s stated beliefs and purposes.’”
State Rep. Harold Dutton Jr., D-Houston, said during today’s debate that the amendment is discriminatory and takes away freedom from students to join whatever club they wanted to.
“You don’t lose your freedom a mile at a time. You lose it an inch at a time,” Dutton said. “This is another attempt to take away some of the freedoms we have.”
Daniel Williams, field organizer for Equality Texas, said the amendment “barely squeezed through” and had bipartisan opposition. He said the amendment can still be dropped from the legislation as a committee creates a compromise bill that combines the Senate and House version. That bill then goes to another vote.
“There are still many steps left in the process and we will continue to work with our allies in the House and Senate,” he said. “I am very hopeful that this amendment will not become law.”
To see how House members voted on Krause’s amendment, go here.
The Texas Senate on Tuesday passed SB 1218, which would prohibit anyone from obtaining a marriage license with a document that lacks a photo, including an affidavit of sex change.
Daniel Williams, field organizer with Equality Texas, said the bill’s author, state Sen. Donna Campbell, R-New Braunfels, stated that her intent with the bill was to require a photo be shown to get a marriage license.
However, removing an affidavit of sex change from the list of documents that can be used to obtain marriage licenses could bar transgender people from marrying people of the opposite sex.
“Donna Campbell’s bill is targeting communities that aren’t likely to have forms of ID,” Williams said.
Williams said Equality Texas is working to slow down the bill’s process. It still has to pass a House committee and make it onto the House calendar for it to be voted on by midnight on Tuesday, May 21, which is the last day for the House to consider Senate bills.
Meanwhile, anti-gay Fort Worth Republican Rep. Matt Krause has filed an amendment to SB 215 that would allow student organizations at universities to ignore the school’s nondiscrimination policy. Krause originally filed a bill with the same intention, but it died last week when it failed to make it onto the House calendar.
Williams said the amendment “has a really decent chance of passing” because Krause is gaining support for it based on students having free speech.
“It’s not about protecting free speech. It’s about tax-funded hate speech, ” Williams said.
Williams said constituents should contact their state representative and ask them to vote against the amendment when it’s considered today or tomorrow. You can find your representative here.
HB 1568 by Rep. Drew Springer, R-Muenster, which aimed to defund school districts that offer health benefits to partners of employees, is officially dead.
HB 360 by Fort Worth Republican Matt Krause also died. Krause’s substitute bill would have allowed school organizations to disregard the college’s nondiscrimination policy.
Equality Texas Executive Director Chuck Smith said the bills didn’t make in onto the last House calendar for May 9, and therefore will not go to the floor for a vote.
“It’s dead,” Smith said. “This is a victory.”
Springer’s bill was considered in committee, and a substitute passed out of committee in late April. The substitute changed cutting school funding to allowing the attorney general to defund and close school districts that offer DP benefits without an appeals process. Only Pflugerville and Austin ISD have elected to offer the benefits.
Equality Texas worked with the House Calendars Committee to ensure both bills would miss the deadline. They could come up again this session if they are attached to another bill, but Smith said Equality Texas would watch changes to bills to ensure that doesn’t happen.
Conservative freshman state Rep. Matt Krause, R-Fort Worth, has filed a bill that discriminates against people based on race, gender and sexual orientation.
HB 360 would deny state funding to colleges and universities, including private institutions, that require a “student organization, including a religious student organization, to allow any student enrolled at the institution to participate in the organization, regardless of the student’s beliefs or status, including race, gender, and sexual orientation.”
The bill states that colleges requiring a religious organization to accept any member regardless of “status or beliefs” violates the First Amendment, “including the rights of free exercise of religion and of freedom of association.”
When asked what the bill’s purpose was, Elliott Griffin, Krause’s chief of staff, said the bill was currently being redrafted to be more narrow. He said he would discuss it more after the language was final.
Equality Texas Executive Director Chuck Smith said the legislation could possibly apply to a faith-based organization at a private university that wants to limit membership to straight white men. He said the bill is so offensive it likely won’t go anywhere.
“It’s pretty much offensive across the board,” Smith said. “I think that piece of legislation is dead on arrival. It’s an equal opportunity offender.”
This week’s Equality Texas’ legislative update focuses on the other anti-gay bill filed this session by Rep. Drew Springer, R-Muenster. His bill would penalize school districts who offer domestic partner benefits to its employees.
FORT WORTH — Gay Western Hills High School teacher Kristopher Franks, put on paid administrative leave on Monday, Sept. 26, following allegations of improper behavior, has been cleared of all allegations and was set to return to work today (Friday, Sept. 30).
Franks is the teacher who became the target of ire from the religious right after he sent a student in his German 1 class to the principal’s office for saying in class that as a Christian he believed “homosexuality is wrong.” The school’s assistance principal then suspended the student, setting off a controversy that made headlines around the country.
That student, freshman Dakota Ary, and his mother enlisted the assistance of Liberty Counsel attorney Matt Krause in fighting the suspension on the grounds that Franks and the school had violated Ary’s right to freedom of speech.
District officials quickly reversed their decision, lifting the suspension.
But Steven Poole, deputy executive director for the United Educators Association of Texas, a teachers union, said Tuesday, Sept. 27, that the allegations leading to Franks being put on leave were unrelated to the incident with Ary.
Franks, who had not spoken to the press previously on the advice of his union representative, said Thursday afternoon that he had just met with Fort Worth Independent School District administrators, who told him the nearly weeklong investigation had determined that the allegations against him were unfounded. He did not elaborate on the substance of those allegations.
Franks also said administrators had given him the option of returning to teach at Western Hills High or transferring to another school in the district.
“I haven’t made up my mind yet what I’m going to do,” Franks told Dallas Voice by phone Thursday afternoon. “I’m going to go back to work tomorrow, and I will talk to my boss [the district’s world languages supervisor], and see what she says and decide what’s the best thing to do from there.”
FWISD Board of Trustees member Dr. Carlos Vasquez told Dallas Voice in a phone call Wednesday afternoon, Sept. 28, that any time allegations are made against a teacher, those allegations have to be investigated, and it is routine for the teacher in question to be placed on paid administrative leave.
Franks said Thursday that he was pleased with the outcome of the investigation, carried out by an independent investigator, and that interim FWISD Supt. Walter Dansby was “very nice” when they spoke.
“I think they did the right thing,” Franks said. “I can go back to work, which is great. But now I just have to figure out how to fix the damage this whole thing has done to my personal life.”
Franks said since the investigation is closed, he is no longer being represented by a union attorney. He has, instead, retained the services of attorney Stephen Gordon to “represent me on any aspects of this whole thing going forward.”
He also indicated that he and Gordon would be discussing what possible actions he might take against “those people who have lied and made false allegations against me.”
While Franks had previously declined to speak to the media, Daokta Ary, his mother and Krause as their attorney went immediately to the press, telling their side of the story in several TV interviews and saying Franks and the school had violated the student’s right to freedom of speech. The case quickly became a rallying point for the religious right.
Krause this week told Dallas Voice that he and his clients are satisfied with school officials’ decision to rescind the unexcused absences the suspension left on Ary’s record, but “we would still like for them [school officials] to completely vindicate him and say that he did nothing wrong. He should never have been written up for an infraction. He should never have been sent to the office, and he should never have been suspended.”
Ary said in media interviews that he made the comment quietly to a classmate sitting next to him in response to a discussion going on in the class at the time.
But Franks told friends shortly after the incident that there was no discussion involving homosexuality at the time, and that Ary made the comment loudly while looking directly at Franks.
Franks also told friends that the comment was only the latest in an ongoing series of incidents in which Ary and a group of three of his friends have made anti-gay comments to and about him.
Franks told friends that the harassment by Ary and his friends began several weeks ago after Franks, who also teaches sociology, posted on the “World Wall” in his classroom a photo, taken from the German news magazine Stern, of two men kissing. The photo was ripped off the wall and torn in two at some point during Ary’s class, and Franks told friends he believes that Ary or one of his friends tore up the photo.
During a later sociology class students upset that the photo had been torn up replaced it with a hand-drawn picture, and another student then covered that picture with a page bearing a hand-written biblical scripture from Leviticus calling sex between two men an abomination.
Franks told friends that since that incident, Ary and his friends had continued to make derogatory and harassing comments.
Franks’ friends also said that the teacher, a Fulbright scholar, has been the target of anti-gay harassment for at least the last two years, including having hateful messages left in his classroom and, in one case, having his car vandalized.
FWISD teacher Martin Vann, spokesman for the group LGBTQ S.A.V.E.S. that was formed about a year ago to help protect students and teachers in the district from anti-gay discrimination and bullying, said that Franks told his version of the incident last week, before the current investigation was launched and Franks was required to sign a statement saying he would not discuss the incident with other teachers, administrators, parents or students. Vann said Franks denied getting angry and yelling at Ary, as Ary had said, and reiterated that Ary’s comments were not pertinent to any discussion in the class at the time.
Vann said Franks told him that another student had asked him what the German word for “Christian” was, and how, if he moved to Germany, he could find an English translation of the Bible. That’s when, Franks told Vann, Ary looked directly at him and said loudly that as a Christian, he believes homosexuality is wrong.
It was not, Franks told Vann, a simple statement of belief or opinion but rather an intentional effort to insult and harass the teacher that Ary perceived to be gay.
Krause this week again said that Ary did not direct his remark in class that day at Franks, and that Ary had nothing to do with tearing down the photo of the men kissing.
The attorney also said that Ary told him he did not know to whom Franks was referring when he talked about Ary’s “three friends.”
The Franks case comes in the wake of months of scandal over allegations by teachers that administrators routinely allowed some teachers and administrators to harass and bully students and other teachers, and that teachers who complained often faced retaliation.
Vasquez, who is openly gay, said Wednesday that he believed the Franks investigation would be fair, that he would watch the situation closely “to make sure all the proper procedures are followed,” and that he believed Dansby would handle the situation fairly.
“Considering all the problems we’ve had, I know he [Dansby] will be watching this closely,” Vasquez said.
Vasquez said it is the school district’s responsibility to make sure there is “no harassment in our schools, whether it’s from the teacher to the student, or student to student or even student to teacher. I know that happens, sometimes, too.
“There should be no harassment whatsoever in our schools,” Vasquez , himself a former teacher, said.
Fort Worth ISD has been credited with having one of the most comprehensive anti-bullying and anti-harassment policies in the state, having adopted individual policies within the last year to include prohibitions against harassment and bullying, including that based on sexual orientation, gender identity and gender expression, for both teachers and students.
This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition September 30, 2011.