Prayers Today, Bathroom Bills Tomorrow #TXGOP

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In the aftermath of unspeakable tragedy, like the shooting that happened just over a week ago in Orlando, the least we can expect from lawmakers and leaders in our communities is to speak out against hate and violence. A few of the Republican lawmakers in Texas did just that – using their social media platforms to send their thoughts and prayers to the victims of the shooting.

At first glance, the overwhelming silence from GOP lawmakers in Texas on this national tragedy may seem to paint those who did speak up and offer their condolences in a kinder light. That is, until we take a quick refresher course on the over 20 anti-LGBT bills filed in the most recent Texas legislative session.

State Rep. James Frank, who hails from Wichita Falls, said he was “truly saddened” by the shooting, and that he was praying for both the victims and for our country. He has also received an F rating from Equality Texas for two years in a row. While Frank hasn’t been directly responsible for explicitly anti-LGBT legislation or amendments, he follows the party line when it comes to voting for anti-LGBT legislation and against legislation that would support expanding rights for LGBT Texans.

State Rep. Matt Shaheen, who urged his Twitter followers to #PrayForFlorida and show compassion for LGBT Texans who were (rightly) scared after the hate crime, hit the ground running in his freshman session. After Plano passed a non-discrimination ordinance that included LGBT people in its protections, he worked in coalition with other lawmakers from his community to try to prohibit other municipalities from passing such ordinances in the future. His commitment to this anti-LGBT backlash policy push earned him a spot in Equality Texas’ 10 Worst Legislators from the 84th session.

Oh, State Rep. Jeff Leach. The owner of the winningest smile and deepest commitment to keeping Planned Parenthood out of Texas schools was quick to offer his prayers to the victims of the shooting, and calls to stop politicizing the massacre. Interestingly, when LGBT people aren’t the target of a horrific hate crime, LGBT Texans are a group he is happy to politicize. After a letter to the Plano City Council demanding that the non-discrimination ordinance be repealed failed to spur any action, he filed a bill focused on combating such non-discrimination ordinances in the future. He co-authored seven other anti-LGBT measures last session alone, earning him spot number 3 on Equality Texas’ worst legislators list.

State Rep. Jason Villalba also called for prayers for the victims and their families in the immediate aftermath of the shooting. Villalba, who got a slightly higher grade of a D- for his record on gay rights at the legislature, filed a proactive measure to override the municipal ordinance by giving business owners the right to discriminate against LGBT patrons based on their religious beliefs.

And no conversation about anti-LGBT lawmakers would be complete without State Representative Matt Kraus, who also took to Facebook to say, “I just don’t see the benefit of labeling this crime, or any really, a hate crime – the motivation is immaterial to the act.” For a lawmaker who tried to allow college groups to discriminate against LGBT students in his first session, and attempted to add the right to discriminate to the Texas constitution in his second, it isn’t any surprise that he fails to grasp the importance of “identity” in a hate crime.

Perhaps this is a cynical reading of these lawmakers’ responses to the worst shooting in recent American history. It is possible, although not highly probable, that this act of discriminatory violence against LGBT people in Florida will change their hearts and minds, and that prayer will help them to realize that gay people are, well, people. But if history is any indicator, these tweets are instead the same hollow platitudes from lawmakers who will continue to demonize and criminalize LGBT Texans as soon as they get to the capitol in January.

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About Author

Genevieve Cato

Genevieve Cato is a feminist activist and a native Texan. While not writing for the Burnt Orange Report, she can be found working for NARAL Pro-Choice Texas, serving as a community member of the Communications Committee for the Lilith Fund for Reproductive Equity, and drinking copious amounts of pretentious local craft beers.

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