Texas lieutenant governor eyes state’s own version of Florida’s ‘Don’t Say Gay’ bill

Dan Patrick says he will prioritise passing a similar bill in the coming months

Abe Asher
Tuesday 05 April 2022 23:26 BST
White House condemns ‘Don’t Say Gay’ bill as ‘misinformed and hateful’

Texas Lieutenant Governor Dan Patrick has said that he will make passing legislation modeled on Florida’s “Don’t Say Gay” law a “top priority” in his state’s next legislative session.

Mr Patrick, who serves as lieutenant to Governor Greg Abbott, made his announcement in a campaign email sent to supporters with the subject line “I AM DONE WITH DISNEY!”

In it he took aim at the entertainment corporation for promising to fight the Florida law that prohibits teachers from teaching about sexual orientation or gender identity in classes up to the third grade or at all in a manner that is not “age-appropriate or developmentally appropriate” in other grades.

The law, like an anti-abortion law in Texas, allows parents to sue school districts if they believe they have violated the policy.

Experts have argued that the bill is targeted at LGBTQ+ students, who already face elevated levels of bullying, harassment in schools, and depression. Florida students have rallied against the bill in large numbers, staging school walkouts and demonstrating at the state capitol in Tallahassee.

Now Mr Patrick, who is running for re-election this November, wants to bring a version of the bill to Texas. While the state does not have another legislative session scheduled until 2023, Patrick wrote that the issue can be brought up in Education Committee hearings before then.

In addition to a potential crackdown on teachers’ freedom to teach about gender and sexuality, Mr Patrick has also targeted teachers’ ability to teach about current events and the history of racism in the US and announced his intent to end the tenure system in the state’s university system.

Texas teachers have responded by leaving the profession in significant numbers, leaving the state with a major teacher shortage.

In addition to the crackdowns on academic freedom, Texas has also criminalized gender-affirming care for transgender children. In February, Mr Abbott directed state welfare officials to open criminal investigations into parents whose children receive gender-affirming care.

But it was Disney that appeared to be top of mind for Mr Patrick on Monday.

The lieutenant governor wrote that he has sold his stock in the company, and encouraged supporters to boycott the corporation so that it cannot “indoctrinate the children of America with their radical ‘woke’ views.”

Val Benavidez, executive director of the Texas Freedom Network, told the Texas Tribune that Mr Patrick is out of line.

“Gender expression by children is not something that is scary or harmful,” Benavidez told the Austin-based outlet. “What is scary is that political activists are grasping at power by overstepping into the lives of Texas families and education of students.”

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