The question on everybody’s mind right now is whether Texas is terrible enough.
They’ve got a broken electrical grid, a reprehensible abortion ban that sets bounty hunters loose to enforce the law, newly passed voter suppression legislation aimed squarely at non-white voters, super lax gun laws that let folks carry handguns around without a permit, they’ve banned “critical race theory” even though CRT isn’t even taught in K-12 schools (they basically don’t want kids learning any U.S. history that makes white people look bad — so, basically any U.S. history), and the governor is trying to ban masks for kids at school during an ongoing pandemic that is killing more people in Texas than just about any other state. None of this touches on the fact that, according to Equality Texas, more than 70 anti-LGBTQ+ bills have been filed in the Texas legislature in 2021. That’s, like, a lot.
But this shouldn’t surprise anyone considering who is in charge of Texas. Nor should it surprise anyone that Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton is clearly on a mission to take Texas from “The Worst” to “The Fucking Worst.”
According to Newsweek, Paxton “filed a complaint seeking to strike down a federal guidance that includes several protections for LGBT employees, including a rule requiring employers to allow workers to use bathrooms that match their gender identity.”
In other words, the Biden Administration, by way of the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, said to Texas, “Be nicer to LGBT people,” and Paxton’s response was, “We can make our own laws about these things, thank you very much, and our laws do not include being nice.”
The federal guidance also says that dead-naming people and using incorrect pronouns is officially not cool. And we all know how the conservative right thinks that pronouns, like masks, are tyranny.
But Paxton says that in Texas, they do things differently. And, if recent history has been any indication, they do things terribly.
Look, I know that Austin is “weird” and “hip” and all that. But there are not enough vegan restaurants in the world to make up for what the Republicans running Texas have turned the state into. It’s not a safe place for LGBTQ+ people. It’s not a safe place for women. It’s not a safe place for children. It’s not a safe place for Black or brown people. It IS a safe place for guns and COVID-19, though. So, there’s that.
Paxton has a long history of being an anti-LGBTQ+ creep. In 2015 after the Supreme Court affirmed marriage equality, Paxton told clerks in Texas that they didn’t have to issue licenses to gays and lesbians.
That same year he took aim at Houston’s LGBTQ rights ordinance that would have dared to protect LGBTQ+ people in any way.
He also was the featured speaker at an event called “Texas Response: Pastors, Marriage, & Religious Freedom,” an anti-LGBTQ+ hatefest thrown by Texas Values, the Liberty Institute, and Concerned Women for America.
Keeping transgender people out of public restrooms has long been a Paxon pet project. He was super mad at Target for their restroom policy that let transgender people pee in peace. In 2016 he challenged the Obama Administration’s guidance to let transgender students use the restrooms in schools. He also challenged the Obama Administration’s prohibition of discrimination against trans people in healthcare. Equality Texas accused Paxton of assaulting “the very existence of an estimated 1.4 million Americans who are transgender.”
He’s also gone to bat for social workers and foster agencies who discriminate against LGBTQ+ people
Oh, wait. Of course he did that.
Nothing is going to bring Paxton around on the issue of LGBTQ+ people being, you know, people and thus deserving of any kind of rights or protections.
But as a country we don’t have to stand back and watch Texas become a reality show cross between the Handmaid’s Tale and the Hunger Games.
Democrats have the majority in Washington right now. The Senate could abolish the filibuster and pass The Equality Act to protect LGBTQ+ people from discrimination. They could pass a voting rights bill that would stop the attack on voters in Texas. They could pass legislation protecting reproductive rights, affirming abortion as health care.
They could do all of these things. But they aren’t.
Senators Joe Manchin (D-West Virginia) and Kyrsten Sinema (D-Arizona) are two big reasons why nothing is getting done. They are more interested in being friends with Republicans who, by the way, have very clearly stated that the feeling is not mutual and who would not hesitate to burn down the country to serve their political aims.
Contact your members of Congress and tell them to do their jobs. Now.