AUSTIN (KXAN) — The seven emergency legislative items laid out Thursday night by Gov. Greg Abbott notably did not include any specific LGBTQ restrictions, diverging from the list of priorities announced earlier by the state’s second most powerful leader. However, advocates said the governor’s vague language about placing more limits on education curriculum raises concerns.
During his State of the State address, Abbott said he would like state lawmakers to initially focus this session on cutting property taxes, ending COVID-19 restrictions, education freedom, school safety, tougher bail requirements, border security funding and fentanyl overdoses. By naming these seven issues as emergencies, that means state lawmakers cannot move forward any bills that don’t correlate with one of these topics until mid-March.
These priorities largely align with some of the 30 pieces of legislation that Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick identified earlier this week as his top picks for the session. However, Patrick acted on the building rhetoric among many Republican leaders in Texas and across the country to enact further restrictions on the LGBTQ community. For instance, Patrick’s legislative priorities include “banning children’s exposure to drag shows,” “ending child gender modification” and “protecting women’s college sports.”
Abbott could end up adding one of these proposals onto his emergency item list for the legislature, but for now lawmakers will have to wait until later in the session to consider and vote on some of the bills that worry LGBTQ advocates most. However, they’re skeptical about the phrasing Abbott used when discussing his “education freedom” proposal. The governor called for the state to pass a “parental bill of rights” in his speech Thursday, adding that Texas parents “deserve access to curriculum, school libraries and what their children are taught.”
“Let’s be clear: schools are for education, not indoctrination,” Abbott said. “Schools should not push woke agendas — period.”
The governor never explained in his address what he meant by “woke agendas.” However, when he heard these words, Ricardo Martinez, the CEO of Equality Texas, said it sounded like a signal for potentially limiting what schools can teach about things like sexual orientation or gender identity.
“If the options are to be woke or not, to be asleep to the realities of Texas in the 21st century, then we will wear that stamp of woke-ness like a badge of honor,” Martinez said Friday. “Whether or not a kid is LGBTQ or not, they have a right to learn about the rich and beautiful history of our community, and having those conversations at an early age we know instills the habits of respect, compassion [and] values. That’s something all Texans hold dear and can get behind.”
Martinez also shared how he interprets Abbott’s remarks when they mention growing the role that parents could play in education.
“Touting this plan to extend parental rights is really just a cunning way to pretend that every single parent is included, but there is this invisible asterisk,” he said. “The fine print really excludes thousands of LGBTQ Texans, and we’ve seen lawmakers use the notion of parental rights to empower a vocal minority of parents to veto lessons about the different types of families if it makes them uncomfortable.”
Martinez said his organization and its supporters hope to mobilize Texans during this legislative session.
“We’re talking about a really unprecedented year, and I’m really getting tired of using that word. But that’s the reality of where we are right now,” Martinez said. “We are nearing 80 anti-LGBTQ bills that have been filed, and we have our work cut out for us. But our power has always come from the people, and I would urge everyone to understand the urgency of taking action to defend your neighbors.”
Abbott recently told a crowd in Dallas that he would support banning transgender student-athletes from competing on teams that match their gender identity at the collegiate level. That proposal would expand a law passed in 2021, which applied to K-12 sports.