By John Wright
Evangelical Christian state lawmakers are on “a jihad” to pass anti-LGBT measures in the 85th Texas Legislature, according to state representative Jessica Farrar, D-Houston.
Farrar made the comment in response to a question from OutSmart regarding potential motives behind Senate Bill 6, the anti-transgender bathroom bill.
Farrar said she doesn’t believe, as some have suggested, that SB 6 is intended primarily to divert media attention from other embarrassing issues facing the state, such as the ongoing child-welfare crisis.
“I think these people are true believers,” Farrar said of anti-LGBT lawmakers. “I think they’re on a jihad. They think they’re operating religiously, but I don’t know any God that would be so hateful.”
Farrar, a staunch LGBT ally, added that she thinks anti-equality legislation poses “a bigger threat” in this year’s session than it did two years ago.
In 2015, GOP lawmakers introduced 23 anti-LGBT bills, but none passed. This year, they’ve introduced 26, according to Equality Texas.
SB 6, the highest-profile anti-LGBT bill, remained stalled in the House after clearing the Senate. Both the chair of the House State Affairs Committee and speaker Joe Straus have spoken out against SB 6, virtually assuring that the bathroom bill won’t pass.
However, by March 28, anti-LGBT lawmakers had begun trying to attach some of the provisions in SB 6 to other bills as House floor amendments.
In addition to religion, Farrar said those pushing anti-trans bathroom proposals are motivated by politics. She said their goal is to force a floor vote related to LGBT rights, which could have implications for moderate Republicans seeking re-election in 2018.
“They’re obsessed with who’s in the bathroom. It’s creepy,” Farrar said. “There are Republicans within the party who are trying to ‘out’ other Republicans for not being hard-line enough.”
Chuck Smith, CEO of Equality Texas, said after a record turnout at the group’s lobby day that it’s critical for the LGBT community across the state to remain vigilant for the remainder of the session, which ends May 29. He encouraged supporters to sign up for the group’s action alerts at EqualityTexas.org.
“It is critical that when alarms get sounded—whether we need people at the capitol or we need to make phones ring off the hooks in offices—we [have people who will] respond,” Smith said. “We are going to see a continued and prolonged effort to try to get something bad enacted, and it’s going to show up in a lot of different places.”
Smith added that he believes anti-LGBT “religious freedom” legislation now has a greater chance of passage than SB 6. Of the 26 anti-LGBT bills filed, the vast majority would allow discrimination against LGBT people based on people’s “sincerely held” religious beliefs.
“There are a lot more individual bills, so there’s a lot more to defend against,” Smith said of the “religious freedom” bills. “Each of those bills deals with a separate area that’s targeted, and all of those different areas become potential amendment targets.”
In particular, Smith said he’s concerned about House Bill 3859, which would give adoption and foster-care agencies a license to discriminate. A House committee left HB 3864 pending following a hearing on March 29.
“My concern is that this bill may replace the bathroom bill as the targeted legislation to pass this session by our opponents,” Smith said.