Newly elected Texas House Speaker Dade Phelan (R–Beaumont) signaled he may block all debate on gender-related legislation on the House floor this session, after declaring gender issues to be “political” and ineligible for consideration during a rules debate on Wednesday.
The ruling came during the debate on the House rules; however, Phelan pointed to a housekeeping resolution that passed earlier in the day. The resolution, which passed without significant debate or controversy, codified existing statutory and constitutional prohibitions on using House resources for political campaigns, stating: “A house member, committee, officer, or employee may not use or direct the use of any house resources to further any political purpose.”
When State Rep. Bryan Slaton (R–Royse City) proposed an amendment to change the rules of the House to disallow minority party members from holding committee chairmanships, State Rep. Charlie Geren (R–Fort Worth) called a point of order, alleging that barring Democrat chairs violated the existing prohibition on the use of House resources for political purposes that was codified later.
Phelan sustained Geren’s point of order, blocking Slaton’s amendment before members could vote on it, saying that the House resources “may only be used for public purposes and not political purposes.”
“The amendment would require the speaker to use public resources, including staff time and government facilities, on behalf of one political instrumentality,” said Phelan. “This obviously would require the speaker to violate the Housekeeping Resolution.”
Slaton and State Rep. Tony Tinderholt (R–Arlington) continued offering various amendments to change the House rules, with Democrats repeatedly calling unprecedented points of order that were sustained by Phelan.
One amendment from Tinderholt late in the day called for banning representatives, their staff, and all House employees from including their “preferred gender pronouns” in the signature block of any letters or emails sent while conducting “the legislative business of Texas.”
“In woke corporations and on Twitter, there’s an unhealthy trend of people inserting their preferred pronouns in their bio signatures,” said Tinderholt. “These kinds of games should not be played … and this type of communication should not be occurring at taxpayer expense.”
State Rep. Erin Zwiener (D–Driftwood) called a point of order against Tinderholt’s amendment, citing Phelan’s earlier rulings.
Phelan sustained the Democrat’s objection, referring back to his earlier ruling against Slaton’s amendment calling to ban Democrat committee chairs and declaring that because the amendment addressed a political issue, it was off-limits.
Some are now concerned that this ruling effectively labels gender a political and partisan topic, which would allow Democrats to follow Phelan’s precedent and raise points of order against Republican legislation addressing any issue relating to gender. If that is the case, Republicans can expect Phelan to block debate on priority measures such as a ban on child gender mutilation or the attendance of children at drag shows.
Citizens can use Texas Scorecard’s Elected Officials Directory to contact their lawmakers and Speaker Phelan.