Texas House lawmakers recently penned a letter to Department of Family and Protective Services Commissioner Jaime Masters expressing concern with Gov. Greg Abbott’s order to investigate the parents of transgender youth for child abuse.
Lawmakers said the order (which has been temporarily blocked by litigation in court) violates the Texas constitution and due process rights of Texans. They also argue that the order is non-binding, and should have no legal effect since it stems from a Feb. 21 interpretation of the law by Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton.
That opinion was promptly used by the governor to direct DFPS to categorize and treat gender-affirming healthcare for minors as child abuse.
To discuss the order, the Signal spoke with Rep. Mary Gonzalez, an El Paso Democrat and chair of the Texas House LGBTQ Caucus. Gonzalez said the targeting of trans children and their families was devisasting, and has caused fear and sandless among trans youth and their parents.
“Not only do trans youth and their families have to deal with a variety of misinformation and attacks during the legislative session, but now in the interim the same thing is happening to the point where it’s actually dangerous,” Gonzalez said, adding that children who were actually being abused were becoming invisible under the order.
On Wednesday, a federal judge said she had lost confidence in the state’s investigation into allegations of sex trafficking at a a state-licensed shelter in Bastrop. It is only the latest issue with Texas’ foster care system and the state agency that oversees it. In 2015, the same judge ruled that the underfunded Texas Foster Care System was unconstitutional because it violated children’s rights to be free from unreasonable harm and said that children left the system, “more damaged than when they entered.”
As the chair of the LGBTQ caucus, Gonzalez said the caucus was doing everything it could to stop misinformation and create oversight.
“The reality is, this isn’t law,” Gonzalez said. “In fact there was a piece of legislation that was filed that would say that gender-affirming care was child abuse, but that didn’t go anywhere,” Gonzalez said. “And the attorney general’s opinion is just his opinion.”
Gonzalez said she hopes there isn’t an appetite in the Texas House to come back in 2023 and pass Paxton’s opinion and Abbott’s order as law.
“I hope that reasonable-minded, common sense policy makers realize this is just going too far,” Gonzalez. She said that even if it does pass, there’s an argument to be made that it isn’t constitutional.
Outside the order to DFPS, Gonzalez said it’s hard to predict where Texas Republicans will go next.
“I never thought we’d even be here,” Gonzalez said. “Everyday it’s like, are you kidding me?”
Gonzalez said she hopes that everyone in Texas is paying attention to the attacks on transgender children and their families.
“At the end of the day, these are kid’s lives, these are families,” Gonzalez said. “At some point we have to say that children shouldn’t be used as political pawns.”
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 email@example.com