Hold These Republicans Accountable for Refusing to Protect Privacy

February 8, 2018

Texans deserve to have their privacy and dignity protected, and the Texas Privacy Act was broadly supported legislation designed to help achieve that goal. Texas’ very important Republican Primary Election is under a month away on March 6. As Election Day approaches, with early voting starting on February 20, it is important for Texas voters to remember which Republicans refused to support common-sense legislation to protect the privacy and dignity of our women and children.

The main purpose of the Texas Privacy Act was twofold. First, the legislation was designed to help push back against “sexual orientation” and “gender identity” (SOGI) legislation pushed by LGBT advocates that have been imposed at the local level across Texas forcing private business to open up female showers, changing rooms, and bathrooms to men. Instead of a local government mandate, the Texas Privacy Act would let private business set their own polices in accordance with free market principles. Second, the Texas Privacy Act would have set a common-sense policy in government buildings, including public schools, that men and women should use the bathroom, shower room, or locker room that corresponds to their biological sex.

While the Texas Privacy Act passed the Texas Senate, the legislation was repeatedly blocked and ultimately killed in the House without a vote. Much of the blame has been correctly placed on Speaker Joe Straus and House State Affairs Chairman Byron Cook for refusing to allow the legislation to have a floor vote.

But there were other Republicans in the special session called by Gov. Greg Abbott to pass privacy legislation (and other conservative reforms), who refused to sign on as a coauthor in support of the bill. In effect, these Republicans chose to side with liberal Democrats over Gov. Abbott and put loyalty to Joe Straus over the privacy and safety of their own constituents. The most effective way to hold these Republicans accountable is on March 6.

Every Republican in the Texas House was asked to sign on to the bill by our legislative team, supporters of Texas Values Action from their own districts, and by the Governor. Several notable Republicans, all of whom are being challenged by a pro-family conservative, deserve particular attention.

Rep. Charlie Geren (R-Fort Worth), a close Straus ally and a member of the House State Affairs Committee that refused to move the Privacy Act, was an opponent of the legislation throughout the session. This is despite the fact that Geren’s own district (HD 99) includes parts of Fort Worth ISD where local parents successfully fought against a “gender identity” transgender policy that allowed boys into girl’s bathrooms and trampled on parental rights. Geren is being challenged by conservative Bo French, who helped lead the fight to get Fort Worth ISD to reverse its dangerous policy.

Rep. Ken King (R-Canadian), another Straus ally and member of the House State Affairs Committee, was another vocal opponent of the Texas Privacy Act. King’s vocal opposition to the legislation even led to him receiving public praise by a radical LGBT lobbying organization. King is being challenged by conservative Jason Huddleston. No doubt the conservative Texans in this rural district (HD 88) in the Panhandle deserve a representative who will represent their conservative values, not the values of those seeking to radically transform our state.

Another outspoken opponent of the Privacy Act is Rep. Ernest Bailes (R-Shepherd) in HD 18. Bailes was one of a few Republicans that signed on to the Privacy Act in the regular session but refused to sign on when everything was on the line in the special session. Further, he has openly promoted misleading information about the bill on his Facebook page, including an out-of-touch comment that he “cannot find facts to substantiate” claims that there have been issues in public schools. Bailes is being challenged by conservative activist Emily Cook, who is the General Counsel for Texas Right to Life.

The facts are clear. Battles over this issue have happened in public schools all across Texas – from urban school districts like Fort Worth ISD, to suburban school districts like Coppell ISD, to even small town school districts like Dripping Springs ISD. Many of these cases were highlighted in testimony at the Texas Capitol this session and covered in the media. Republicans trying to claim they are not aware of these battles in Texas or that privacy legislation is a “solution in search of a problem,” are either grossly misinformed or deliberately trying to deceive their constituents.

Finally, among Republicans who refused to support the Texas Privacy Act, Rep. Jason Villalba (R-Dallas) holds the distinction of being the only Republican in the Texas House to actually vote for SOGI legislation proposed by liberal Democrats that would have forced private businesses in Texas to allow males into female facilities, including sleeping areas. Villalba was the deciding vote on two LGBT priority bills that were passed out of committee. Conservative Lisa Luby Ryan, a small business owner in Dallas, is mounting a serious challenge to Villalba in HD 114.

The Texas House’s failure to act has left Texas’ women and children vulnerable to dangerous policies pushed at the local level. Just days after the special session ended, San Antonio ISD snuck through a SOGI policy placing its children at risk. Make no mistake, Texas’ failure to pass the Texas Privacy Act means national LGBT advocates will continue to push their radical agenda across Texas. It’s their top legislative priority from the national level all the way down.

On March 6, Texans need to remember the Republicans that stood against Gov. Abbott, against their own Republican Party platform, and most importantly – against their duty to protect all Texans.

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