Assclown Alert: Letting the bigots win with Texas House Speaker Dade Phelan

Despite saying the legislature should stop 'bashing on' LGBTQ+ Texans, Phelan enabled final House passage of a bill to ban gender-affirming care for trans minors.

click to enlarge Texas House Speaker Dade Phelan has proven that he's no Joe Straus. - Courtesy Photo / Office of Dade Phelan
Courtesy Photo / Office of Dade Phelan
Texas House Speaker Dade Phelan has proven that he's no Joe Straus.

Assclown Alert is a column of opinion, analysis and snark.

Many political observers remember the 2017 session when former Texas House Speaker Joe Straus, R-San Antonio, stood up to extremists in his own party and prevented floor debate on toxic legislation that would have banned transgender people from public restrooms.

For a brief moment, many thought current House Speaker Dade Phelan, R-Beaumont, might have shown a similar level of intestinal fortitude. After all, this is the guy who told the Texas Tribune in 2019 that he was "kind of done talking about bashing on the gay community," adding that such behavior was "completely unacceptable."

Yet Phelan allowed the floor debate and this week's final House passage of Senate Bill 14, a proposal that would ban transgender minors from obtaining gender-affirming care such as hormone therapy and puberty blockers.

LGBTQ+ advocates and major medical organizations have condemned the bill, arguing that transition-related medical care improves the mental health of trans youth and pointing out that, despite the bill sponsors' claims, plenty of data supports use of these therapies.

Despite his pledge to stop "bashing on" LGBTQ+ Texans, Phelan didn't just allow passage of SB 14, he issued a statement praising its approval by the GOP-controlled House. The measure now heads back to the Texas Senate, which already granted approval. It's almost certain to be signed into law by Gov. Greg Abbott, who's made transphobia a key part of his political brand.

"In Texas, we will not tolerate bad actors taking advantage of our most vulnerable population, and we will not stand for minors being influenced to make life-altering decisions until they are of legal adult age," Phelan said.

Never mind that the families who make the decision to allow their minor children to obtain gender-affirming care do so in consultation with doctors and therapists. Never mind that the bill bans trans youth from getting treatments that are still available to other Texas kids. Never mind that the proposal will likely force some families to leave the state. Never mind that it comes as trans people face rising levels of hostility and discrimination.

"Seeing all the energy, all the hate directed against children breaks my heart," Danielle Skidmore, a trans woman from Austin who protested against the bill, told the Texas Tribune after its passage.

There's no shortage of assclowns channeling that hate into legislation just as loathsome as the bathroom bill. However, Phelan deserves a special hotseat in Assclown Hell for failing as gatekeeper and allowing SB 14 to be voted into reality.

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Sanford Nowlin

Sanford Nowlin is editor-in-chief of the San Antonio Current.

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