Dan Patrick was, and still is at his core, a talk radio guy. He was, one might say, the Rush Limbaugh of Texas. With all that analogy implies. He’s an egotistical blowhard all too happy to play the “family values” card in order to advance his ambitions. A decade or so ago, he used his fame to leverage himself into the Texas State Senate and in 2014 won the job of Lt. Governor. Looking east he noticed North Carolina’s HB2 and decided he wanted in on that action. He found a willing pawn in the Senate to introduce Senate Bill 6 which, while not identical to HB2, is basically the same concept, and made it the centerpiece of his legislative agenda for 2017. SB6 is a true “bathroom bill” which, unlike HB2, speaks to no other issues other than restricting restroom access according to birth-assumed sex.
To be sure, state legislators across the country have introduced dozens of anti-LGB/T measures even in basically progressive states like Washington and Minnesota (where they die quickly) and one of them, in South Dakota, has already been signed into law. Moreover, it’s an open secret that hate groups like FRC and ADF are the actual source of these laws, writing “model legislation” and shopping it among known right-wing firebrands. As Matt Baume notes here, these bills are often big winners for the politicians who advance them, but more than that, they are big winners for the hate groups as well. As I’ve noted before, the issue is a no-risk proposition for them because if the bill succeeds, they will fund-raise by trumpeting their great success in pushing for the legislation (“Send us money so we can repeat this success elsewhere!”) and if the bill is defeated, they fund-raise by saying “Dear Lord look what the liberals did! Send us money now so we can fight them!”
The reason I mention Texas, though, is because there’s seldom been a more clear demonstration of how this works in practice than we saw last Tuesday in Texas. The committee which was totake the first vote on SB6 was gaveled to order at 8 AM.For most of the next four hours they heard invited witnesses, breaking at 11:45. These included NC Lt. Governor Dan Forrest and notorious Pharisee fear-monger Tony Perkins. After breaking for the full Senate session they reconvened at around 2:30 PM to hear public comments, in which the 430+ individuals who’d signed up to testify would get 2 minutes apiece (at least in theory, they questioned the first witness for about 40 minutes). For the next FOURTEEN HOURS Texans would come in in groups of five, take their seat, and speak their piece.
I was able to tune in around 6:30 PM, and kept the testimony on in the background until I retired at around 3:30 AM, save for two hours where my attention was on another video. So I personally listened to at least 7 hours of testimony and in all those witnesses I hear THREE speak in favor of the bill. From the reports I’ve read that’s a fair representation of the ratio of public comments for and against. Overwhelmingly ordinary Texans said “don’t do this.”
at 4:47 in the morning, by a vote of 8-1 , they did it.
Here’s the takeaway folks, as much as it is VITAL that we tell our stories and put a face on this issue lest we be demonized in our absence, ultimately, many red state politicians are perfectly content to look truth in the eye and claim they saw a lie. For no other reason than it is in their political best interest to pander to ill-informed voters rather than educate them. Our work is certainly cut out for us.
Photo by: Jay