Texas House takes up gender issues. Yes, you read that right.

Tonight at work, a tweet from the Texas Tribune caught my attention:

Um… huh?! Oh, and when I say “tonight at work,” I mean “tonight, when I was working at the newspaper in the state capital.” Yes, I knew the House was slated to debate a bunch of amendments to Senate Bill 1, which is the reason we’re in a special session. You see, while I was all distracted by other actions in the lege, I missed this one. Before I even got a chance to look up the amendment, I saw this:

I’ll admit, I don’t usually watch the stream of the lege, so I don’t know if this is common behavior. I sincerely hope the Trib posts video of this. Anyway, I looked up the amendment to SB 1, which all the papers just call “the fiscal matters bill.” Amendment 150 — spoiler alert — would have restricted any public college or university from using state money or property to support “a gender and sexuality center or other center focused on gay, lesbian, transgender, gender questioning, or other gender identity issues.” Rep. McClendon‘s right. That is sickening. (And yes, the Trib had a little typo in her name. Two Cs.)

Two bits of background here. Rep. Wayne Christian, who wrote the amendment was on my radar earlier in the day, when he said “I just believe is it wrong…for state dollars to be used for abortions” as the House was taking away my county’s public health care district from contracting with any facility (read: hospital) that provides abortions. Ours is was the only county in the state to do so. He is from WHERE? and he wrote the amendment to Senate Bill 7, a health care bill, which is described as “Relating to the administration, quality, and efficiency of health care, health and human services, and health benefits programs in this state” on the state website. Oh yeah, he’s from Center, Texas. Center is about a five-hour drive from Austin. (Props to Austin’s Rep. Donna Howard, who, when the House adopted the measure, the Statesman reports said in clear exasperation: “You guys just don’t give up, do you?” Howard also managed to pass an amendment to another bill that might get public schools a bit more funding.)

So back to the post-midnight debate. This is the next tweet I see:

It seems a few amendments are being posed to Christian’s amendment, including one from Rep. Marc Veasey, who said Christian’s amendment was blatantly putting discrimination in the law.” The amendment to the amendment (don’t ya just love how simple politics is?) says that a public college or university “may not consider creed, race, color, sex, gender, sexual orientation, ethnicity, or national origin of the students proposed to be served” when allotting state money or property to support a “student center or similar facility.” At some point during debate on various amendments, Christian revealed just how sexually repressed he is:

Eventually, a point of order is raised. Hilariously abbreviated on Twitter as “POO,” it was apparently called on calendar items. Points of order are usually technicalities, and they can completely derail a bill. The House Democrats told Christian that if he withdrew his amendment, they would raise the point of order. He eventually conceded:

The House debates other amendments for another hour or so, and then, to applause, finally passes the bill. Rep. Rob Eissler (the House public education chair) had this to say:

Heartwarming. Really, what’s heartwarming is that they finally took a stand. Senator Wendy Davis did it last week, and tonight, House Democrats did it, too. The House (and the Legislature in general) has let a lot of crap slip through — like Christian’s other measure that passed earlier in the day. Christian, actually, when withdrawing his amendment said he was “dumbfounded” that after approving measures such as giving publics schools $4 billion less than they’re owed under current law to cover the sharp growth in the number of students, among others things, that his fellow representatives would put their feet down over “alternative lifestyles.” I had to say, I was a bit surprised, too. Pleasantly, but surprised nonetheless. I just wish Texas Democrats would stop all this waiting until the last minute to rally and do something. The “final straw” should have come months ago.

Senate Bill 1 needs one more House vote before it goes back to the Senate, which will consider the House’s amendments. In the meantime, check out tonight’s Houston Chronicle and Statesman stories.

Updated to add: The Texas Tribune has posted their video of the debate on Christian’s amendment.


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