Jenna Skyy, left, and Cassie Nova pose with Drag Queen Story Hour fan Grayson

Texas lawmakers have found 93 ways to discriminate against the LGBTQ community, with trans folks and the drag community the main targets

DAVID TAFFET | Senior Staff Writer

The score in the 2023 Texas Legislature so far is 104 “good” bills to 93 “bad” bills according to Equality Texas. Good bills are those that protect the rights of LGBTQ Texans, and bad bills are those that take away those rights.

One new category of “bad” bills that has begun to pass in state legislatures around the country (Kentucky Senate committee advances anti-drag bill and ‘It literally makes no sense’) and has been introduced in Austin involves drag performances.

Senate Bill 1601, introduced by state Sen. Bryan Hughes who represents Tyler and Longview, revokes state funding to any municipal library that hosts an all-ages drag story time, like the one in which Cassie Nova and Jenna Skyy read to a packed crowd of all ages that was organized by the Grauwyler Branch of the Dallas Public Library but hosted in the Grauwyler Recreation Center.

SB 476 defines any business that hosts performers exhibiting a gender identity different from that assigned at birth — including makeup or clothing — as a sexually oriented business. That changes the distance the business is required to be from a school. It also requires separate and more expensive licensing.

Laws controlling “sexually-oriented businesses” are meant to regulate sexual activity. Drag shows — the target of SB 476 — are not sexual activity. Police are on higher alert when complaints are filed against sexually oriented businesses. There haven’t been complaints about businesses that host drag shows — other than from people who don’t go to bars and have never been to a drag show.

The bill that has gotten the most attention is House Bill 1266, filed by state Rep. Nate Schatzline — not because it does anything different than SB 476 or two other identical House bills, but because soon after he filed the bill, a video surfaced showing Schatzline in drag.

Schatzline, a freshman lawmaker who represents a large swath of Fort Worth, admits the video is of him. But, he says, it was part of a school theater project and was just a joke so it doesn’t count. But his bill doesn’t distinguish between theater performances, a drag show like the ones held at the Winspear Opera House during the pandemic, a weekly show at The Rose Room or performances that are “just a joke.”

So Broadway Dallas and Bass Hall better think twice before bringing in the new hit musical Some Like It Hot if this bill passes. And the Tony-winning musical La Cage Aux Folles would be illegal to perform in Texas. So would modern interpretations of the classic Cabaret.

And so would Schatzline’s own performance that was “just a joke.”

In Tennessee, Gov. Bill Lee has signed into law a bill that outlaws drag shows on public property — such as in schools — and performing drag in front of children. Of course, a photo from Lee’s yearbook promptly showed up with Lee doing drag for a school performance.

The governor issued a statement that said drag shows can’t be conflated with “lighthearted school traditions.” Because drag shows are serious affairs?

And wait a minute: Drag shows are a tradition at the school he attended in Tennessee?

The law Lee signed makes his lighthearted performance on school property illegal.

Schatzline has also authored an anti-transgender bill and has signed on as a co-author to two others.

In HB 1532, which he authored himself, life-saving care for transgender youth would be classified as child abuse. Physicians would be prohibited from offering life-saving, best-practice care to trans youth, and insurance companies would be banned from covering such treatment. Doctors who provide such care would lose their medical licenses.

Schatzline signed on as a co-author of HB 23 that expands the anti-transgender sports ban to the collegiate level and bans trans youth from participating in any sports in addition to the current competition ban.

He also signed on to HB 1350 that punishes district attorneys who refuse to prosecute parents of trans youth. That bill refers to an illegal directive issued by Gov. Greg Abbott that defines best-practice care of trans youth as child abuse. Child abuse is defined in the code that regulates the Texas Department of Family and Protective Services, not by executive orders.

The attorneys referred to in the bill include Dallas District Attorney John Creuzot whose office has indicated it would not prosecute parents of trans youth seeking medical care for their children. That medical care for minors includes counseling and, at a certain age, hormone blockers but doesn’t include surgery.

Categories of bad

Equality Texas divides the “bad” bills into seven categories.

Healthcare-related bills mostly aim at preventing parents, doctors and insurance companies from providing care recommended by every national medical and psychological association. One Senate resolution would censure those organizations for recommending medically necessary care.

One bill would require a psychological exam before any youth could receive any form of gender-affirming care. Most parents already take or have taken their trans kids for counseling anyway.

Education bills add barriers to students seeking mental health support from school staff. These bills affect far more students than just LGBTQ youth.

Other education bills ban surveys and studies related to the LGBTQ youth population. Violations would result in state jail time. School staff, however, would be required to out LGBTQ youth to family.

One bill would replace school counselors with religious chaplains. That’s a violation of the U.S. Constitution but perfectly reasonable to the bill’s author, state Sen. Mayes Middleton of Galveston County. To make sure we’d be getting the finest chaplains, they’d be exempt from any state certification, because, you know, religion.

Then there are the “don’t say gay” bills: Some would outlaw classroom discussion of sexual orientation or gender identity. Others would outlaw extracurricular activities such as gay-straight alliances. School personnel would be allowed to opt out of any diversity training that included sexual orientation or gender identity if other bills pass.

Identity document bills would make it more difficult or impossible to update ID documents.

Prosecutorial discretion bills would limit the authority of district attorneys to choose when and whom to prosecute. These bills are aimed at lawsuits filed against parents of trans youth, not someone like the Collin County district attorney who has refused for more than eight years to bring indicted Attorney General Ken Paxton to trial.

Religious refusal bills allow people with “sincerely held religious beliefs” to discriminate against LGBTQ people. They don’t allow LGBTQ people with sincerely held religious beliefs to refuse to serve straight people.

Finally there is a category of bills that would preempt local ordinances. While Dallas, Austin and San Antonio have non-discrimination ordinances, and Dallas even has that non-discrimination written into its city charter, seven bills have been filed to preempt those local laws.

The more bills that are filed, the less chance many will be heard. A committee only holds a hearing on a fraction of the bills assigned to it. Then the bill has to be voted out of committee to make it to the House or Senate floor for a vote. If a measure passes in one chamber, it then has to go through the process and get passed in the other chamber.

If the measure is then amended during the approval process in the second chamber, it goes back to the original chamber to get the amendments approved.

But chances are at least one of these heinous bills will pass so legislators can boast to their constituents that they did something to control the gays.


Get married, stay married, be fruitful and multiply

Texas state Rep. Bryan Slaton

We wanted to give a special shout out to HB 2889, introduced by Rep. Bryan Slayton, a Republican and a former pastor from Mineola, a wide spot in the road on Highway 69, just north of Tyler and Interstate 20.

Now, this isn’t his Texit bill, the seditious proposal that would have Texas leave the U.S. And it’s not his bill to ban minors from attending drag performances.

This is the one to give homestead exemptions to couples with children.

But he isn’t proposing exemptions for just any couple. Only straight couples. With both partners in their first marriage. Who had their children while married to each other (that’s biological children or adopted because there’s apparently something evil about adopting a child before you marry).

The size of the straight-never-divorced family determines the size of the tax break. A family with four children would get 40 percent off their taxes. A family with 10 children would get 100 percent tax relief.

No provisions are made for straight families with 20 or 30 children.

There is also no mention of how those families would be penalized if any of the children turn out to be transgender, gay or lesbian.

In introducing his bill, Slayton said, “Get married, stay married, be fruitful and multiply.”

But 10 kids? I’m not telling LGBTQ parents anything they didn’t know, but just one or two can be a handful.

Slayton said he introduced the bill to address the state’s falling birth rate.

Texas’ falling birth rate doesn’t seem to be a problem with the millions of people who have migrated here in the last few years. Oh, wait. Too many of those people are liberals from California.

Now maybe that’s the real danger he’s addressing.

— David Taffet