Royce West meets with LGBTQ leaders and issues an apology for anti-drag vote
DAVID TAFFET | Senior Staff Writer
After Dallas Voice printed a story in our April 14 issue about Sen. Royce West’s yes vote on an anti-drag bill, the senator met with a group of about 20 constituents for more than an hour on Saturday, April 15. West then issued a statement apologizing for his vote.
In that statement, West said he understands the issue better after meeting with LGBTQ community leaders and that he should have voted against SB 12.
For the record, the bill would have passed the Texas Senate without his vote.
Much of the discussion with West centered on SB 12’s unintended consequences and the impact it could have. The bill would make drag illegal at public venues.
For example, could a teacher in transition find their situation suddenly conflated with drag, putting their transition and their career in jeopardy?
“And why is drag worse than what kids can see on open air broadcast TV or in music videos?” Stonewall Democrats of Dallas President Susie Hess asked, describing the conversation the group had with West. “They like to brand us all as improper. This isn’t about protecting anyone. It’s about going back three or four decades.”
Hess called the meeting productive but said it was “not the end of the discussion.”
In his statement, West said that he’s not a person who frequents bars or night clubs and has never been to a drag performance. But, he added, “After meeting with leaders in the LGBTQ community, I’ve become aware that certain activities targeted for prohibition under the bill’s language are not based on fact.”
The type of performances the bill would ban “simply do not occur in front of children,” he acknowledged.
West explained that his vote was based on misinformation. “Had I communicated directly with trusted leaders in the LGBTQ community prior to my vote, I would have been better informed and would have voted against Senate Bill 12.”
Then he issued an unequivocal apology: “I am big enough to admit that I made a mistake with this vote,” he said.
(The full statement is available on DallasVoice.com.)
Longtime activist Patti Fink attended the meeting with West and after said she is “relieved that Sen. West has stepped up to own this mistake clearly, fully and publicly.” She gave West credit for sitting down with a large group of activists and business leaders and listening.
“It is encouraging to me as a constituent and as an activist in our community that Sen. West understands that SB 12 and scores of other extremist GOP-authored bills this session are simply part of the right wing’s manufactured attack on the LGBTQ community and, most viciously, on the transgender community,” Fink said. “I hope that his statement today helps to fortify our allies in the Texas House to stand united against this ugly attack bill.”
Hess said one of the most harmful ways a ban on drag would affect the community is eliminating a major source of income for a number of organizations. Drag queens have raised money for HIV organizations one dollar at a time for decades.
Quoting LGBT Victory Fund statistics, Hess said that 35,000 more LGBT people need to be elected to office across the country. “We need talented LGBTQ people at the table to represent us fairly,” she added.
Kendall Scudder, vice chair for finance of the Texas Democratic Party, said, “I appreciate Sen. West coming to the table to discuss our concerns with his terrible vote. I wish he had done it beforehand, but lessons have been learned. He acknowledges he made a mistake and we’re all moving forward together to stop the regressive Republican agenda that’s being pushed this legislative session.”
Rep. Bryan Slaton
New details from the complaint against Royse City Rep. Bryan Slaton have emerged during the last week. According to the Texas Tribune, a complaint against Slaton alleges that the married 45-year-old lawmaker had “sexual relations” with a female Capitol intern under the age of 21. Previous reports, before the full text of the complaint was made public, said that the Capitol staffer filing the complaint alleged that there had been an “inappropriate” relationship between Slaton and the intern, and that Slaton had invited the young woman to his condo in Austin after 10 p.m. on a Friday night and that he drank alcoholic beverages with the young woman.
Among the legislation Slaton, a former youth minister, has authored is a bill that would give heterosexual couples in which husband and wife are both in their first marriage property tax breaks depending upon the number of children they have.
Slaton was also one of if not the first Texas lawmaker pledging to “protect” children from drag shows and drag queens. After a bar on Cedar Springs hosted a family-friendly drag event before the bar opened on Saturday afternoon, June 4, 2022, as part of Dallas Pride Weekend activities, Slaton announced June 6 that he intended to file a bill in the 2023 legislative session barring minors from attending any kind of drag show.
Conservatives in the House are not rallying behind him. At least two Republicans have called for Slaton to resign. Among them is Steve Toth, author of a number of the anti-trans bills that are being given hearings, and Briscoe Cain, R-Deer Park.
Sen. Drew Springer has written legislation that would hold members accountable for “grooming” behavior with victims under 21.
Bad bills progress …
Anti-transgender bills HB 1686 and SB 14 have both been passed out of the House Public Health Committee and now go to the Calendars Committee. That committee schedules when and if a bill will get a hearing on the House floor.
The good news is Dallas Democrat Rep. Toni Rose is vice chair of the committee and LGBT Caucus member Rep. Ann Johnson and ally Rep. James Talarico sit on the committee. The bad news is that of the 11 members of the committee, a majority are Republican and, presumably, support the legislation.
Calls to representatives do make a difference — both to friends and foes. Republican Rep. Dustin Burrows chairs the committee. His office phone is 512-463-0542. Rep. Rose’s office number is 512-463-0664. A simple call stating opposition to these anti-transgender bills should take less than 30 seconds.
… but so do some good bills
Freshman Rep. Venton Jones has had five bills heard in committee with three that are HIV-related sent to the Calendars Committee.
His HB 3067 got a hearing in the Criminal Jurisprudence Committee this week. If passed, it would return the designation of Authorized Peace Officer to primary and secondary school officers.
He also laid out HB 3282 before the Environmental Regulation Committee which would give counties the ability to create tire recycling facilities.