Apr 6, 2022 - Politics & Policy

Texas support for "Don't Say Gay" law may be sign of what's to come

Illustration of the state of Texas with the LGBTQ Pride Flag colors in it, and black blinds covering them.

Illustration: Brendan Lynch/Axios

Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick's campaign email this week promised a Texas version of the recently signed Florida bill referred to by some critics as the "Don't Say Gay" law.

Why it matters: Another front in the Texas culture war is erupting. Patrick's comments are a sign of what's to come when the Legislature convenes next January, and the sentiments are sure to help shape the political terrain ahead of the November elections.

  • Patrick's announcement raises questions about whether Gov. Greg Abbott will pressure state lawmakers to pass a measure that's similar to Florida's.
  • Ahead of potential 2024 presidential runs, Abbott and Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis have tried to outflank each other — on banning mask mandates, on purging library books, on restricting abortion access, on suppressing rights for transgender people — in ways likely to appeal to Republican primary voters.

Between the lines: The subject line of Patrick's campaign email on Monday afternoon ("I AM DONE WITH DISNEY!" — a company that has publicly opposed the Florida law) is the latest sign of how certain corporate interests have taken a backseat within some precincts of the GOP.

  • When Fort Worth-based American Airlines spoke out against Texas legislation restricting voting last year, Patrick called the company out by name, arguing that, "Texans are fed up with corporations that don't share our values trying to dictate public policy."
  • Now, even Mickey Mouse isn't safe.

Zoom out: Florida's passage of the measure could be a roadmap for the Texas Legislature.

  • DeSantis signed the controversial Parental Rights in Education Bill into law last month, banning classroom instruction on sexual orientation and gender identity from kindergarten through 3rd grade beginning July 1.

What they're saying: Patrick urged his supporters to boycott Disney and follow him in selling stock in the company, criticizing the business' "woke agenda" after the company suspended its political donations in Florida and said it would fight the law.

"Until they change their corporate philosophy, stop spending money with them. Cut off the Disney Channel. Cancel your park trip or your cruise if one is planned. If you own Disney stock, sell it."
— Patrick wrote in a campaign email

The other side: "Texans should have the freedom to be who they are without input from the government or anyone else," Texas Democratic Party officials posted on Twitter on Tuesday.

Reality check: With Republicans firmly in control of the Legislature and Abbott likely to be re-elected — a new poll Tuesday by the Texas Hispanic Policy Foundation shows him with a 12-point lead over Beto O'Rourke among very likely voters — there's little Democrats can do to prevent Patrick from seeing his pledge through.

Yes, but: Florida's bill is being challenged in federal court.

  • The lawsuit, filed by the National Center for Lesbian Rights on behalf of Equality Florida, contends that the new law violates students' First Amendment and other constitutional rights.

What to watch: Abbott has been known to file executive orders rather than wait for a legislative session. In February, he ordered state child welfare officials to investigate the families of transgender children, equating gender-affirming health care for kids as child abuse.

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