By Brad Johnson
One GOP legislator in the Texas House has announced he will file legislation prohibiting the discussion of sex and sexual topics with schoolchildren in the classroom, mirroring the bill recently passed by the Florida legislature.
Lt. Governor Dan Patrick proclaimed last week that he’d advance similar legislation in Texas along with taking aim at state investments in the Walt Disney Company after its opposition to the bill and later video showed one of its executives describing their intention to add more gay, lesbian, and transgender characters in the company programming.
In a letter to Florida Governor Ron DeSantis applauding him for signing into law the “Parental Rights in Education” bill, Rep. Gary Gates (R-Richmond) said, “Disney’s conduct disregards me as a parent and feels like a betrayal.”
“As Texas moves forward, we will support Lt. Governor Dan Patrick’s legislation in the Senate to restrict how teachers can talk about sexual orientation in the classroom, mirroring yours in Florida,” he added. “Likewise, I will put forth legislation in the Texas House for the same purpose.”
The Texas Freedom Caucus, a collection of 11 conservative legislators which Gates joined last October, backed his letter, saying, “We’ll support it with all we’ve got in the 88th [legislative session], and we’ll ignore any threats from the [federal government].”
Texas GOP Chair Matt Rinaldi added that the Republican Party of Texas will back Gates and the legislation next session, too.
Patrick has also suggested removing state pension investments from Disney as reprisal for the company’s political stances — functionally similar to legislation passed last year that requires the state comptroller to pull investments from companies deemed to harbor fossil fuel divestment policies.
Texas state pensions currently have about $93 million in Disney stock.
Patrick has frequently clashed with the opposite chamber over the outcome of pieces of legislation he has prioritized, and this issue might be ripe for another point of discontinuity.
Speaker Dade Phelan (R-Beaumont) told the Nacogdoches County Chamber of Commerce last week that the House “will take a thorough look [at] what’s being taught in schools,” according to Bob Garrett of the Dallas Morning News.
But he expressed the enthusiasm of neither Patrick nor Gates on the issue, saying, “As Republicans who always talk about cancel culture, we need to be mindful of cancel culture in the Legislature.”
“And singling out companies and corporations? I don’t know that that’s what the House wants to be focused on next session.”
Per the Daily Sentinel, he further remarked, “I know everyone in here wants to talk about Mickey Mouse and how offensive Mickey Mouse is … My niece who graduated from SFA enjoys her job at Disney. I would hate to see her move back home and be unemployed.”
Those comments, he later added, were not a “thinly veiled swipe” at the lieutenant governor and his new priority issue.
At the discussion, Phelan highlighted his priorities going into next session as reforming the criminal code to eliminate onerous regulations such as the “13 different felonies [one] can be charged with on the illegal harvesting of oysters.”
But the third key to that bill’s passage is Governor Greg Abbott’s support, which he has remained silent on.