Conservative governor tells GOP delegates “Obama is turning bathrooms into courtrooms issues. I want you to know, I am working with the governor of North Carolina, and we are going to fight back.”
On International Day against Homophobia and Transphobia, Texas Governor Greg Abbott had something peculiar to say to his citizenry and the Twittersphere at large.
JFK wanted to send a man to the moon. Obama wants to send a man to the women's restroom. We must get our country back on track. #tcot
— Greg Abbott (@GregAbbott_TX) May 17, 2016
The crass tweet came nearly in concurrence with President Obama issuing a statement marking the event by “reaffirming the dignity and inherent worth of all people, regardless of who they love or their gender identity.”
The brief, but strongly worded commitment from the White House comes on the heels of the Department of Justice (DOJ) notifying Gov. Pat McCrory that his “Bathroom Bill” – which mandates transgender people use the bathroom of their biological gender – was found to be in direct violation of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972.
Lawsuits and counter-suits have been filed by the State of North Carolina and the DOJ, respectively, but the Obama Administration has made it clear that they intend to advance equal rights for the LGBT community to the fullest extent possible throughout their final eight months in office.
It would appear as though Texas may likely be their next target, as state officials have signaled that they will put themselves at the forefront of the federal government’s strong commitment to transgender rights.
“Obama is turning bathrooms into courtroom issues,” Abbott told GOP delegates last week at the Texas state convention in Dallas, “I want you to know, I am working with the governor of North Carolina, and we are going to fight back.”
A 32-page platform adopted at the convention would seem corroborate this pledge, giving a strong indication that lawmakers intend on passing a bill similar to North Carolina’s when the legislature reconvenes in January.
“We urge the enactment of legislation addressing individuals’ use of bathrooms, showers and locker rooms that correspond with their biologically determined sex,” reads the platform, adding that the Texas Republican Party opposes “all policies and curriculum that teach alternate lifestyles including homosexuality, transgender and other non-traditional lifestyles as normal.”
Additionally, it calls on Abbott to overturn the Supreme Court’s historic Obergefell v Hodges ruling from last summer – which legalized gay marriage in all 50 states – despite being unclear on how state government could constitutionally supersede the highest court in the land, along with maintaining support for the widely deplored practice of “conversion therapy” for LGBT people.
As the Obama administration in their notification implied their intention to withhold upwards of $800 million in annual education funding to North Carolina, Texas lawmakers are already planning to address these potential losses.
Dan Patrick, the Texas lieutenant governor who recently made headlines by claiming states were being “blackmailed” by the president, said the state is willing to forfeit potentially “billions of dollars” in federal funding that provides free meals for underprivileged schoolchildren rather than adhere to the federal government’s warning.
“Well, in Texas, he can keep his 30 pieces of silver. We will not yield to blackmail from the president of the United States,” Patrick told reporters. Last week, the combative politician urged a Fort Worth schools superintendent to resign for backing a transgender student bathroom policy, and on his Facebook page Tuesday, deemed LGBT rights in Texas a “modern day ‘come and take it’ moment in Texas.”
A similar proposal from the mayor of Rockwall, TX, failed to pass last month after a heated debate.
“This is purely a security issue to me,” wrote mayor Jim Pruett in an editorial for the Dallas Morning News, “These businesses are allowing men unrestricted access to women’s restrooms or changing rooms based solely on their representation that they are more comfortable using the facilities for the opposite sex.”
An additional victory was scored for conservatives in Houston last year when a campaign rooted in fear successfully persuaded Houston voters to reject a wide-ranging anti-discrimination ordinance inherently similar to the measure Charlotte passed provoking HB2.
It remains to be seen how far the standoff will go, and how many other conservative states will join, but this much remains clear: November’s election has the potential to undo significant social progress for LGBT rights and equality nationwide.