Religious extremism takes center stage in passage of anti-trans youth bill

by | Apr 30, 2021 | Policy, Texas Legislature

This week, the Texas Senate voted in favor of a bill that would classify transgender youth healthcare as child abuse, making it illegal for parents and doctors to consent or administer transition-related care to children.

When bill author Charles Perry introduced the bill into committee earlier this month, he said he harbored no ill-will against transgender individuals, and argued that the legislation was ultimately for the welfare of Texas children. 

“I recognize that this issue is extremely personal, very sinful— sensitive,” Perry said, correcting himself.

Apart from that Freudian slip minutes into his remarks, Perry’s speech at the time was light on scripture and cautiously worded to avoid any image that his bill was merely the latest incarnation of legal bigotry to make it to the legislature. 

That all changed Wednesday as the bill was approved for a third time in the Senate. 

Now abandoning any illusion that he was acting in good faith, Perry, the last speaker on the bill before passage, suddenly made it clear he was actually acting on faith alone, more specifically, his faith. 

In a long-winded speech, Perry went on to explain the “Fall of man” in Genesis where Adam and Eve ate the forbidden fruit and “opened the door for all these things.” 

“We opened a mind that was creative and magnificent enough to send a man to the moon,” Perry said. “At the same time, we opened up a mind to design a bomb that can wipe out 100,000 people.”

“It’s in that realm of secular humanism that I deal with, where my faith meets the road,” Perry said righteously, the obvious implication of his words being that the existence of transgender children — like Oppenheimer’s bomb — both derived from the original sin.

He clarified moments later.

“We’ve evolved as a people to be intellectually superior, in our mind, to God,” Perry said. “We now know best, and we try to reverse his creations.” 

Perry concluded that the medical community and “the folks that get tied up in these conversations” (presumably referring to transgender youth, their parents, and advocates), have “decided that they’re smarter than our creator.”

“We don’t have the right to be God when it comes to creation,” Perry said. “We are a sinful state and we are reaping the consequences of it.”

The bill passed 18-12 shortly after. 

It’s perfectly clear that Perry’s words are a zealous display of hateful, religious fundamentalism. They are a regular appearance in places of worship that find the size of their congregations dwindling year after year. 

To see them as the driving force for sweeping, discriminatory legislation at the state level is vile, but unfortunately nothing new. This is probably why Perry’s charade fooled no one, especially those in the room with him.

“Today it’s very clear that the proponents of this bill do no like the transgender families and what they’re living through,” said Sen. John Whitmire of Houston. “Anyone who denies that is just not being candid.”

Whitmire shared multiple moving letters from his constituents, including one from a father who was concerned about how the legislation would break up his family.

“The proposed legislation would prosecute my wife and I, and put three wonderful and happy kids into foster care,” the letter read. “Is this really the best thing to do for a five-member family that is a solid unit, that does the right thing, helps the community, and pays all of our taxes? We’re just trying to achieve the American dream and live a private life.” 

Whitmire said he hoped cooler minds would prevail in the Texas House where the bill was heading to, or that the court system, maybe even the Supreme Court, would one day strike down the bill if it ever became law. 

Sen. Sarah Eckhardt of Austin put it in terms Perry and his backers could understand.

“This is inappropriate for one-size-fits-all legislation, it will not bring these children or these parents closer to God, your God, or anyone else’s,” Eckhardt said. “It’s just further condemnation.”

Photo: Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call

fernando@texassignal.com | + posts

Fernando covers Texas politics and government at the Texas Signal. Before joining the Signal, Fernando spent two years at the Houston Chronicle and previously interned at Houston’s NPR station News 88.7. He is a graduate of the University of Houston, Jack J. Valenti School of Communication, and enjoys reading, highlighting things, and arguing on social media. You can follow him on Twitter at @fernramirez93 or email at fernando@texassignal.com

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