Texas Republicans had the opportunity to shut down the political left’s assault on basic moral principles, but dodged the fight and thereby emboldened a national fight that now has parents fighting to keep boys out of their daughters’ bathrooms, locker rooms, and showers.
While Texans can often point the finger at Washington for problems such as these, the blame rests squarely on the shoulders of Texas Republicans and their unwillingness to confront the Left.
In 2015, a war was raging not over bathrooms and showers, but pizza parlors and wedding photographers. As small businesses and religious individuals nationwide saw their religious rights being trampled by big-government lawsuits, conservative Texas lawmakers moved to protect them.
Led by State Rep. Matt Krause (R–Fort Worth), lawmakers pushed for religious liberty legislation that would protect business owners from being forced to violate their conscience and provide services that conflict with their religious beliefs.
But the thought of protecting a Southern Baptist cake decorator or a Catholic wedding photographer was too much to bear for liberal organizations and their Democrat and establishment Republican allies. Likening such acts to apartheid, far-left LGBT groups teamed forces with allegedly “pro-business” groups like the Texas Association of Business to denounce Krause and his allies as extremists and kill the legislation.
After Texas lawmakers backed down from the fight, liberal organizations seized the momentum nationwide. With their “pro-business” allies giving them the cover and leverage they needed to shove weak kneed Republicans around, they defeated attempts at similar legislation in Arkansas, Indiana, and other states.
Emboldened by those victories, the groups went on the offensive in Houston where the citiy’s openly lesbian mayor, Annise Parker, passed an ordinance compelling business owners to allow men into women’s showers, locker rooms, and bathrooms or face steep penalties.
However, the effort didn’t go as planned.
Despite Parker’s attempt to squelch dissent (which included subpoenaing pastors opposed to her political decree), conservatives in the Bayou City quickly organized and forced the measure, known as the Houston Equal Rights Ordinance (HERO), to a referendum vote.
Despite liberal organizations pouring money into the effort and outspending the opposition 4:1, conservatives defeated the measure overwhelmingly with many Democrats voting against the ordinance.
But the battle wasn’t over, it was just beginning.
Almost as soon as Houston voters rejected the ordinance, it sprang up again, this time in Metroplex where Fort Worth ISD Superintendent Kent Scribner announced that his school district would be implementing a similar policy.
After facing intense pressure from parent groups, fellow school board members, and even Lt. Gov. Patrick demanding he resign, Scribner and the FWISD School Board relented and reversed the policy.
Though that particular fire was put out, the flames continued to spread across the nation with President Obama coming in to demand all schools allow the practice only to be blocked by a Texas judge. But while conservatives were able to hold the line in the courts they weren’t able to do anything on offense.
The only exception? North Carolina, where the state legislature passed a law keeping men out of women’s restrooms in schools and government buildings and also protecting business owners from having their bathroom policies dictated by local governments.
Such a victory was too much for liberals to bear, they howled and raged and bullied a good number of businesses to relocate or delay job openings in the state. But while they were effective in generating media attention, they couldn’t stand in way of the truth.
Since passing the law, North Carolina’s economy hasn’t suffered. It’s surged, climbing to second place in greatest economic outlook according to the American Legislative Exchange.
Liberals know that politics is a game of momentum and that if they can stop conservatives from foiling their plans in cherry-red Texas they can certainly win the war nationwide.
That’s why they’ve enlisted the liberal lobby group Texas Association for Business to fight against what has been the status quo for centuries and label it as “LGBT discrimination.” So far this month, TAB has unveiled “Keep Texas Open for Business” to lobby against any law to restrict men from having access to women’s locker rooms and showers.
They’ve also partnered with the state’s LGBT lobby organization, Equality Texas, to fight against a law similar to North Carolina’s from passing in Texas.
After refusing to defend religious liberty, Texas Republicans are now reaping what they have sowed. Once again they have a choice.
They can put the issue to rest and bolster their allies in other states or they can betray their conservative constituents, kowtow to the demands of a few liberal peacocks, and herald defeat for conservatives on yet another issue—nationwide.