Allies fight off effort to ban LGBT resource centers
Rep. Wayne Christian, R-Center, lost his fight to ban LGBT resource centers from Texas universities on Thursday night.
Christian had previously been successful in attaching an amendment to the House version of the state budget that would have required schools with LGBT resource centers to equally fund “family and traditional values centers.” But the amendment was absent from the Senate version of the bill and is not in the final version of the budget adopted two weeks ago.
Then, on Thursday the House took up the controversial “fiscal matters” bill that, among other things, provides funding for public education in Texas. Christian took this opportunity to offer an amendment to completely ban LGBT resource centers from Texas universities.
When Christian passed his amendment to the budget back in April, it sailed through with no House members speaking in opposition, and only one, Rep. Joaquin Castro, D-San Antonio, asking questions. In contrast, his new amendment met with vocal opposition, as well as a threat to derail the entire fiscal matters bill if the discriminatory language was attached.
Christian began by saying that his original amendment passed with no opposition in the House (in fact, 24 members voted against it), that his new amendment was supported by the Young Conservatives of Texas and that the Texas A&M Student Senate had passed a resolution in support, although he didn’t mention that the resolution was vetoed by the Student Body President Jacob Robinson.
Rep. Senfronia Thompson, D-Houston, warned members that passing the Christian amendment was “buying Texas a lawsuit.” Thompson linked discriminatory policies at public institutions to hate crimes, saying: “You may say, ‘If they’re gay, and somebody hurts them, then so what?’ But let me just remind you that those persons are somebody’s child and some of those children’s parents live in your district and are your constituents.”
She went on to remind her colleagues that the Legislature had passed an anti-bullying bill during the regular session to address just the sort of discrimination and hate that the Christian amendment would incite.
Rep. Marc Veasey, D-Fort Worth, offered an amendment to the Christian amendment to strike the original language and replaced it with a statewide anti-discrimination policy in state schools that included sexual orientation and gender identity and expression. Said Veasey: “Everybody’s not straight, people who are gay are born gay and they deserve the same rights liberties and protections that everyone does. … We should be moving on and we’re starting to see people, Republicans and Democrats, move away from discriminating against gays because everyone knows this is wrong.”
Veasey’s amendment was defeated, 44-to-92.
Rep. Raphael Anchia, D-Dallas, questioned whether Christian even understood his amendment, which would ban any student group dealing with “gay, lesbian, homosexual, bisexual, pansexual, transsexual, transgender, gender questioning and other gender identity issues.” Christian’s response underscored his incomplete comprehension of the topic. When asked what his gender identity was, Christian replied, “I’m a heterosexual father of three.”
At this point, Christian switched arguments; after prodding from Rep. Bill Zedler, R-Arlington, Christian claimed that his real opposition was to sex education information offered by LGBT resource centers, and since he equality opposed straight sex education his amendment was not actually discriminatory, but in keeping with his “traditional values.”
Rep. Dawnna Dukes, D-Austin, offered a second amendment to Christian’s amendment that would have prohibited monies collected from LGBT people from being used to support non-LGBT campus groups. While Dukes’ amendment was intended to merely make a point, her explanation was perhaps the strongest statement in support of the LGBT community ever uttered on the Texas House floor:
“It’s with great sadness that I stand here tonight,” Dukes said. “This reminds me of and elicits the same emotion that I had … when the hate crimes bill was brought before this body, the hate crimes bill that was brought forth because of the death of James Byrd who happened to be murdered in the district of Rep. Christian.
“I have the same feelings elicited in me about the hate and bigotry put forth by measures like this as [measures that] were [introduced] back in the pre-civil rights period when certain buzz words and statements to create fear about certain individuals [who were] different [were] brought before legislative bodies and certainly before the Texas House of Representatives on multiple occasions just to create a vote based on hate, because someone was different,” she said.
“Whether their difference was that their skin was as brown as mine, or in some cases because their gender was mine, and in this case it’s because they are people who are LGBT who may be different than you or I, but nevertheless this is all about creating hate, and we’re stating in this amendment, what was stated in this amendment was that no tax dollars should be used for these people that [Wayne Christian] hates.
“So why should people that he hates be required to use their tax dollars on any other facility?”
Dukes amendment was defeated 44-to-95.
Rep. Sylvester Turner, D-Houston, posed a series of question to Christian:
Turner: “Do [LGBT children] in Texas have the right to graduate from high school?”
Christian: “That’s not what this amendment is about”
Turner: “That’s exactly what it’s about! Do they have the right to go to college?”
Christian: “That’s not what this is about”
Turner: “That’s exactly what it’s about! Do they have the right to participate in extra-curricular activities? Do they have the right to participate in the debate team? Do they have the right to play on our football teams, on our basketball teams, on our volleyball teams?
“Or should we say, because they may be gay or something else, that they do not have the right to play right along with other girls and other boys, because we are sending the wrong message and they should remain in the bleachers?”
After more than half an hour of debate on the amendment and the various amendments to the amendment, Rep. Trey Martinez-Fischer, D-San Antonio, presented a point of order on the entire fiscal matters bill. Martinez-Fischer argued that the process by which the bill’s House sponsor, Rep. Jim Pitts, R-Waxahachie, had been added was not in keeping with House Rules. If the point of order was sustained the entire fiscal matters bill, the main reason that the Legislature was called back to Austin for a special session, would have been derailed, forcing the process to start over.
After lengthy discussion between the parties Christian agreed to withdraw his amendment.