Texas House Speaker Dade Phelan of Beaumont is trying to take down a television ad criticizing him for failing to pass legislation to protect children.

Texas Family Project announced plans last week to run $30,000 in TV ads in Phelan’s home district that would criticize him for not using his influence to pass a ban on all-age drag shows, which often expose children to cross-dressing men who perform suggestive dances.

Senate Bill 12, authored by State Sen. Bryan Hughes (R–Mineola), would restrict sexually explicit drag performances on public property and in the presence of children. The legislation would designate the offense as a Class A misdemeanor and subject anyone who violates the law to a fine up to $10,000.

The bill passed the Senate by a vote of 20-11 last month.

Despite ending the sexualization of Texas children being a legislative priority for Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick and the Texas GOP, Phelan has been reluctant to say whether he supports the bill, leaving many to worry that it could die in the House.

The TFP ad praised Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick for passing SB 12 and criticized Phelan, claiming, “Dade Phelan won’t say he opposes drag queens grooming kids.”

In response, Phelan hired lawyers and sent a cease-and-desist letter to Beaumont TV stations running the ad.

“The advertising in question falsely accuses Speaker Phelan of opposing legislation against drag shows,” reads the letter. “The lack of any sourcing in these advertisements speaks strongly to their lack of veracity.”

The document included two quotes from Phelan calling for legislation to protect children from “bad actors seeking to exploit their innocence.” However, neither statement explicitly mentions all-age drag shows.

TFP condemned Phelan for attempting to take down the ad instead of amplifying SB 12.

“Speaker Dade Phelan has had months to pass a bill to ban ‘family-friendly’ drag shows,” said TFP Policy Director Austin Griesinger. “Instead of speaking up in support of Senate Bill 12, Speaker Phelan hired high-priced attorneys to try to silence the truth.”

The Texas House State Affairs Committee will hear testimony on SB 12 this Wednesday—an event that was scheduled after TFP launched its TV ad.

“It wasn’t until our ads started playing in his district that Phelan’s own State Affairs Committee scheduled a hearing on a policy which they could have debated months ago,” said Griesinger. “We stand by our message, and it obviously had an impact. Texas Family Project will be working to share it with more Texas families.”

If the State Affairs Committee approves SB 12, the bill will go to the House Calendars Committee, which can choose to schedule the legislation for a House floor vote.

Texas’ 88th Legislative Session ends May 29.

Katy Marshall

Katy graduated from Tarleton State University in 2021 after majoring in history and minoring in political science.