Category: Protecting Our Children

LGBTQ Persecution in the Child Welfare System

This week the U.S. Supreme Court took on the case of whether taxpayer-funded agencies can use religion to discriminate. Two years ago, the city of Philadelphia rightfully decided to cut ties with Catholic Social Services (CSS) after a report detailed that they were openly prohibiting same-sex couples from fostering children. CSS and a number of foster parents sued the city, claiming it violated their first amendment rights to religious freedom. Now the case will be heard by the SCOTUS.


Texas has its own sordid history passing legislation that codifies discrimination in the child welfare arena under the guise of religious freedom. In 2017, Republican State Representative James Frank filed and ultimately passed HB 3859. HB 3859 allows faith-based organizations to deny foster children home placements and healthcare services and to refuse capable, deserving parents from fostering if they violate the organization’s “sincerely held religious beliefs.” Following a chorus of outcries from LBGTQ organizations and foster care system employees, House Democrats put up a strong fight on the floor in opposition to this bill. 


Texas has an infamously overcrowded and understaffed foster care system, a problem that is found across the country. Between 400,000 to 500,000 children live in foster care in the United States, many in derelict facilities. It is extremely difficult to find capable, loving, willing adults to foster each and every child in need. The thought of allowing state-affiliated agencies to prohibit loving foster parents from offering homes to children in desperate need of stability is tremendously upsetting. 


Religious organizations are not required to partner with the state. Therefore, to receive taxpayer funding, organizations should at the very least adhere to common-sense anti-discriminatory federal regulations.


Unfortunately, the conservatives on the U.S. Supreme Court may very well use their majority to defend regressive, discriminatory foster cases, claiming they are in fact “expanding religious freedoms.” Ruling in favor of CSS would loosen anti-discriminatory policies at the expense of real children in need of loving homes. 


We cannot afford to backslide from our already limited LGBTQ protections.


Photo courtesy of NBC News.

Gov. Abbott’s inaction on school safety

Two months ago, Gov. Greg Abbott announced a lengthy “school safety plan” to address the tragic shootings at Santa Fe High School. The announcement pacified the immediate call from community leaders for gun violence prevention. But in those two months, Texans have seen no action or leadership from Abbott on the topic — and the biggest concern about his proposal remains unaddressed.


Abbott Already Caving on Red Flag Laws

In his original plan, Gov. Abbott encouraged lawmakers to examine how “red flag laws” — laws that allow a judge to issue a court order to remove guns from individuals that are determined to be a threat to themselves or others — may be amended during the next session. Chairman Joe Moody held a lengthy Criminal Jurisprudence Committee meeting on the subject that generated positive discussion on how the law could work.

Unfortunately, Abbott showed no leadership on the matter. And once Lt. Governor Dan Patrick spoke out in opposition to the policy idea, Abbott — just like he did all last session — deferred to Patrick’s politics and has now signaled he doesn’t see this issue moving forward.


Misusing Federal Dollars for School Hardening?

As the Caucus laid out in its report on Abbott’s proposal, two-thirds of his suggestions that require funding specified no method of financing at all. And there are still serious questions about how he intends to finance the “school hardening” proposals in his plan.
In his plan, Abbott suggested that the state could use up to $62 million in federal grant dollars for “immediate school safety improvements, including school hardening.” However, the grant dollars he identified cannot be used for metal detectors or one-time school facility improvements, a fact that even the Texas Education Agency made clear in the updated grant application instructions they sent to school districts following Abbott’s announcement.
How does Abbott plan to pay for safer schools for our students?

With billions in the state’s Economic Stabilization Fund, the state has money ready for these kind of one-time expenditures. Would Abbott and Patrick be willing to use those Rainy Day Fund dollars to keep our kids safe?


Texas House Democrats Taking Action

These past two months have left us with more questions than answers. To date, the Santa Fe School Shooting appears to follow the unfortunate cycle of so many other school shootings in recent years — tragedy, outrage, and then nothing of substance from Republicans who are unwilling to support real solutions for gun violence prevention.

Texas Democrats are taking action. Rep. Joe Moody continues to push his red flag law proposals. Rep. Canales is exploring legislation to limit the 3D printing of guns, and Rep. Eddie Rodriguez and Rep. Gina Hinojosa continue to meet with student activists who are committed to making their schools safe places to learn. A full list of proposals from House Democrats is listed below.


The stakes are too high for us to do nothing. Hopefully, Abbott and Patrick will reconsider their positions on these important issues.


The list above details some of the gun violence prevention proposals members of the Texas House Democratic Caucus have laid out in recent sessions.



Statement regarding the Santa Fe school shooting tragedy

The Texas House Democratic Caucus is heartbroken about the senseless tragedy in Santa Fe Friday, a mass shooting that left ten people dead and several others injured. We stand together in offering our sincere condolences to the students, parents, educators, administrators and first responders who were affected by this mindless act of gun violence.

And while it is right to send our condolences, our thoughts and our prayers, we also know that is not enough. As Chairman Rafael Anchia said Friday:



The roundtables Gov. Abbott has called for are fine – we welcome that discussion. We’ve been ready to have that discussion for a long time, and we welcome our seat at the table to have serious conversations about solutions to the gun violence epidemic in Texas and across this country. However, we have a responsibility also to act and to act immediately to prevent an increase of gun deaths to prevent the loss of more life in Texas and across the country and protect the children of our state.


Many members of our caucus have already proposed real solutions. Last session, over eighteen pieces of legislation were filed by Members of our caucus to promote gun safety and prevent gun violence in our communities. Chairman Chris Turner sent a letter to Gov. Abbott and encouraged him to include the Democratic authors of these bills in his roundtable discussions.  The Democratic Caucus is ready to act swiftly to better protect all Texans, especially our children.


HDC Statement on Santa Fe School Shooting 

During our caucus retreat last week in Houston, we issued a statement via Facebook Live regarding the Santa Fe school shooting. We appreciate all members who have already shared this video on their social pages.You can watch and share our full statement here.


HDC Legislation to End Gun Violence

Below is an overview of legislation filed by Democratic members to help address gun violence and promote gun safety. If there is legislation your office filed that you would like to see here, please let us know and we will be happy to list it as we continue to promote and support the efforts of our caucus.
  1. HB 111 by Rep. Joe Moody
    Creating an educational program to improve firearm safety
  2. HB 259 by Rep. Rafael Anchia
    Creating offenses concerning firearm sales at gun shows & charging a fee
  3. HB 291 by Rep. Eric Johnson
    Allows Dallas to opt out of open carry laws
  4. HB 465 by Rep. Rafael Anchia
    Prosecuting offenses involving carrying guns at amusement parks or places associated w/ schools
  5. HB 631 by Rep. Donna Howard
    Creation of a public awareness firearm safety campaign
  6. HB 866 by Rep. Joe Moody
    Creates a lethal violence protective order a court may issue to stop an individual from possessing or purchasing a firearm
  7. HB 1929 by Rep. César Blanco
    Prohibiting the transfer of a firearm to someone included in the FBI terrorist screening database
  8. HB 2034 by Rep. César Blanco
    Requiring a national instant criminal background check in connection with internet firearm sales
  9. HB 2543 by Rep. Poncho Nevárez 
    Relating to the unlawful possession of a firearm by persons who are subject to certain judicial determinations
  10. HB 2583 by Rep. Armando Martinez
    Creating a class A misdemeanor for the reckless discharge of a firearm
  11. HB 2655 by Rep. Poncho Nevárez
    Limit transfer of firearms to individuals with certain adjudicated mental health conditions
  12. HB 2712 by Rep. Tomas Uresti
    $100 buyback program for guns, paid by state
  13. HB 2880 by Rep. Harold Dutton (Effective 9/1/17)
    Penalty if someone threatens to use or exhibit a gun at school or on a school bus
  14. HB 3057 by Rep. Rafael Anchia
    Possessing a gun in a secured area of an airport
  15. HB 3340 by Rep. Senfronia Thompson
    On providing info about gun safety & suicide prevention
  16. HB 3989 by Rep. Eric Johnson
    Prohibiting carrying of handguns at Texas State Fair and other places where amusement rides are available
  17. HB 4037 by Rep. Rafael Anchia
    Stop purchase-and-transfer of firearms from one who can buy legally to one who may use them illegally
  18. HB 4200 by Rep. Gina Hinojosa
    Report those banned from buying firearms who try to purchase them; add additional penalty for individuals who are banned from purchasing firearms who try to buy them