Texas MassResistance taking on the “conservative” State Legislature on important pro-family legislation that must be passed now!
Pushing 16 critical policies – drawn from the state GOP’s own platform!
Our Texas group a held press conference and big lobbying efforts.
by Robert Oscar Lopez
March 19, 2021
(A version of this article was previously published in The Stream.)
Last year, Texas MassResistance successfully worked with the state’s Republican Party to include several important pro-family planks in the official Texas Republican Party Platform. The Republican Party controls both houses of the state Legislature and the Governorship.
But now that the legislative session has begun, those platform statements need to be translated into real legislation! Texas MassResistance submitted a slate of 16 pro-family, conservative policies that need to be addressed this session. We also submitted language that legislators could use to transform those into bills.
Last week, our MassResistance chapter traveled to the State House in Austin to lobby for those policies to become law. We started off with a hard-hitting and emotional press conference on the steps of the State House on Wednesday (see video above), followed by two days of intense lobbying.
The 16 policies that must be addressed this session are:
- Equal Protection against Harassment
- Maintain Integrity of Research
- Protection of Motherhood and Fatherhood
- Oversight of Accreditation
- Stop Cancel Culture
- Liability for Malfeasance, Incompetence and Recklessness in Counseling
- Ethical and Compassionate Responses to Sexual Assault
- Reasonable Scope of Public Accommodations
- Nullification of Unconstitutional Laws
- Eliminate Pride Events from Schools
- Block Obscenity from Schools and Children's Libraries
- Protect Women's Prisons and Shelters
- Preservation of Women's Athletics
- Freedom in Counseling, Discipleship, and Therapy
- Responsible Use of School Funding
- Protect Innocent Spouses of Transgender People
Here is a definition of those 16 points, including a thorough analysis and drafted language.
Each of these points has complicated human stories behind it. These are responses to the imminent dangers facing families today, rather than past initiatives about the definition of marriage or whether Christian bakers would have to make wedding cakes for same-sex couples. MassResistance's priorities focus on substantial harms already inflicted on citizens because of the consequences of the Left's agenda.
We should not have to draft these bills. Politicians should be in touch with constituents to know that these problems are already affecting families. But here we are.
Will anything get done?
The Texas state legislature only meets for six months every two years. To pass bills, legislators have to be attuned to current issues, and persevere to get them through in a timely manner.
Along with fellow activists such as Tracy Shannon, Jeff Younger, and Kevin Whitt, I went to Austin with a sense of urgency. The Biden administration appears willing to make good on its radical promises to the pro-abortion and pro-Sexual-Revolution Left.
Some lawmakers were gracious and treated us respectfully as we discussed these concerns, especially at the offices of Brian Birdwell, Donna Campbell, Beverly Powell, Eddie Lucio Jr., Bryan Hughes, Bob Hall, and Steve Toth (included are two Democrats). Clearly, our issues are commonsense concerns – and not partisan or even purely political. But we need these leaders to step up, file a bill, and stay the course through hearings. (Texans need to keep track and plan their 2022 primaries accordingly.)
More offices were simply lukewarm, which is unfortunately about average for a state legislator (though these are not the right times for anything average in government).
How red is “red Texas”?
Despite the popular conception of Texas as a Republican paradise, the Lone Star State has been weak on socially conservative issues for quite some time. In the 2017 session, a highly popular “bathroom bill” designed to preserve female-only restrooms failed to go through. In the 2019 session, the only pro-family legislation that passed was the disappointing “Chick Fil-A bill,” which protected the business rights of that company to operate in airports – and not be “canceled.” But Chick Fil-A turned out to be canceling pro-family and Christian conservatives just as badly as any other large profit-minded corporation.
Because of these recent betrayals, the 2021 session has begun with a great deal of suspense. Memories of 2017 and 2019 led many pro-family activists to mobilize early and draft legislative priorities. As mentioned above, the 2020 convention of the Republican Party of Texas had established a powerful platform, and Texas MassResistance linked each of our legislative priorities to explicit planks of that platform.
GOP establishment having to deal with conservatives waking up
The controversies of the 2020 presidential election woke up many conservatives, so legislators are facing expectations from their constituents. Betrayal of Trump by establishment Republicans left conservative voters with suspicion of any GOP officials trying to pander, beat around the bush, or speak out of both sides of their mouths.
By mid-March, it was clear that the Texas GOP was still wary of the social conservatives who placed them in power. The most likely explanation applies to Texas as well as to the rest of the country, as we witnessed in a recent feud between Lauren Witzke and Richard Grenell's pro-LGBT allies. The feud revealed that the MAGA movement includes many people who want to dump social conservatives' agenda even as they need social conservatives in their coalition.
Many pro-family people (such as myself) supported Trump all the way until his helicopter carried him out of the White House. Now, with some weeks to reflect, we find ourselves increasingly repelled by the thought of reliving all of Trump's hip and chic compromises with LGBTs like Rick Grenell. In contrast, Trump had many photo ops with megachurch pastors like Robert Jeffress. Because he treated evangelicals with respect, many of us looked away from Trump's complacency on LGBT demands. Now his presidency is over and we have the chance to strike a new path with the GOP. A lot of us no longer want to remain quiet while socially liberal people claim ownership of MAGA.
The tension on the right
Texas's struggle mirrors the national tension on the right. The Republican Party of Texas announced eight legislative priorities for this session:
- Election Integrity
- Religious Freedom
- Stop Gender Transition of Children
- Abolition of Abortion
- Constitutional Carry
- Monument Protection
- School Choice for All
- Ban Taxpayer-Funded Lobbying
At first glance, this looks promising to social conservatives since we see #2, #3, #4, and #7 (half of those priorities) appealing to the socially conservative base.
Social conservatives in Texas have long known, however, that the devil hides in the details. Given the Left's aggressive attack on healthy sexuality and strong families, America needs Texas to get ahead of the culture. Texas must pass bold, groundbreaking legislation to attack the insanity at its root.
No other conservative state has the electorate and activist base that Texas has. If the Lone Star State does not take the lead, many of the deeper policy priorities outlined by MassResistance will become unattainable. We will have lost not only the culture war, but culture-civilization itself. No civilization can endure with dysfunctional and self-destructive families.
Here’s what’s been drafted into bills so far
Even with a wonderful platform, an army of Texan activists, and intense motivation to pull off a pro-family session, 2021 appears on track to be underwhelming. At this point, several bills have been introduced to ban gender transitioning of minors (HB68 and HB1399), but it remains unclear whether they will get hearings or eventually pass. Also, as MassResistance has pointed out, the bills introduced up until now focus on banning medical procedures like puberty-blocking drugs and sex-change surgery. Those are important. But they do not yet address "social transitioning."
"Social transitioning" is the reality for most transgender programs for minors. The term refers to the larger problem of counselors, teachers, caregivers, and sometimes parents joining efforts with popular culture to pressure impressionable children into trans identity – the psychological impact of counseling a child that he (or she) “really is” the opposite sex, and schools giving a child an opposite-sex name and “pronoun,” plus allowing cross-dressing and opposite-sex facilities use. Only a small portion of the problem can be solved by banning the medical procedures especially if that ban applies only to children under the age of 18. But that sets them up for more radical procedures to come.
Two bills have come up protecting women's sports (HB 1458 and SB 373), which match MassResistance's priority #13. This is good news, though without legislative intervention in the many other areas affected by LGBT, it is a little like whistling into a hurricane.
The weak “gradualist” approach
One bill that’s been filed, HB 1424 (backed by other groups), aims to protect "health care providers" from being forced to participate in medical procedures that violate the provider's "ethical, moral, or religious beliefs." This bill foresees a Christian doctor who does not want to perform sex reassignment surgery and so refers the transgender client to a surgeon who does not object. This bill follows the approach favored by traditional advocacy groups such as the Alliance Defending Freedom and Family Research Council. When we arrived in Austin, we were told by a member of Texas Values that they had just held an event where a few dozen pastors testified in favor of such a law.
But we see this bill as weak. Like the gradualist approach to ending abortion, this piecemeal method of responding to LGBT extremism has stopped impressing many conservative activists. Due to this approach, groups like Alliance Defending Freedom spent years talking about bakers and gay weddings while transgender curriculum invaded American schools virtually unopposed. While well intended, it contributes to a borderline selfish "not in my backyard" attitude. We have no shortage of pastors who will insist that their churches not be forced to perform gay weddings while not caring about the proliferation of same-sex abuses in the larger community.
Tracy Shannon, president of MassResistance Texas, agrees with me that the "conscience protection" model is little more than a bone thrown to social conservatives. "Religious freedom," Shannon says, "doesn't protect the mass of people most likely to be harmed by these policies – the vulnerable children being force-fed this ideology in schools."
Kevin Whitt, who directs MassResistance activities in the Dallas area, describes the traditional route of conscience protections as "weak." Asked about HB 1424, Whitt says, "the Republican Party and these pro-family organizations like to portray that they are doing something, but they really are not." Several activists in Austin described the problem as "controlled opposition" serving the Left. In Whitt's opinion, religious liberty and conscience bills are an attempt to capitalize on social conservatives' goals while still placating the liberal groups who don't want to see real obstacles to their radical agenda.
On the abortion front, many bills have been forward, especially HB 3326 which seeks abolition. The problem is that by now everyone knows the courts will strike down anything the Texas legislature passes. Without the nullification described in MassResistance’s priority #9, we must be cautious about celebrating prolife bills. Legislators can file almost anything to continue attracting prolife voters. If they lack the boldness to support nullification of court decisions or federal mandates, they know their bills are mostly for show. On abortion, another bill (HB 42) relates to protecting health care coverage for enrollees who refuse to have an abortion. Closely related are other bills (HB 44 and HB 92) instating a penalty for certain kinds of abortions and one bill trying to block abortions after 12 weeks (HB 69).
For now, it appears that's all we have for social conservatives. Thin gruel.
Where does this leave us?
Tracy Shannon insists that legislators are being dishonest when they claim this is the best we can do. "It's a shame," she says. "If they were serious about protecting children and families, they would extend the bill filing date or call for a special session totally dedicated to pro-family issues." Shannon also emphasizes the need for a pro-family caucus in the Texas legislature apart from the well-known Freedom Caucus, which often includes libertarians opposed to our priorities.
Shannon firmly believes that the lack of extensions for filing dates or special sessions reflect the conscious decision by Republican leaders to swindle their socially conservative voters. "These problems are so pervasive because there's no pushback," she says, refusing to accept the excuses from GOP leaders who claim their hands are tied by calendar deadlines or electoral considerations.
MassResistance member Kevin Whitt shares Tracy Shannon's critical view. He said, "The only representative I've spoken to who wants to take this agenda seriously is Rep. Toth." Recently fired by the Republican Party for posting things on social media that came across as too radical, Whitt feels the party is stuck in a rut.
In our press conference on March 10, I shared a similar sentiment. I said, "The best way to get elected and re-elected is to do your job. If you can't do your job in 2021, why should we re-elect you in 2022?"
Robert Oscar Lopez is the former director of Texas MassResistance – and still a strong MassResistance activist!
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