Texas Gov. Greg Abbott, a Republican who's being challenged this November by Latina lesbian Democrat Lupe Valdez in a history-making run, is a longtime foe of LGBT rights. On the next pages we take a look at Abbott's record, both as governor and in his previous position as Texas attorney general. We focus here on his stances on LGBT rights, but there are plenty of other reasons to oppose him, including his support of extreme restrictions on abortion, refusal to accept Medicaid expansion funds under the Affordable Care Act, and joking about shooting reporters — that came a year before the attack on the Capital Gazette in Annapolis, Md.
As attorney general, Abbott fought hard to keep marriage equality from coming to Texas — even though one of the Texans who sued for equal marriage rights, Mark Phariss, is a friend of Abbott's and went to law school with him. (Phariss is now the Democratic candidate for state senator from a Dallas-area district.) In court filings opposing marriage equality, Abbott even made the tired argument that prohibiting same-sex couples from marrying somehow protects children. Numerous studies, by the way, have shown that same-sex couples do just as good a job of raising kids as opposite-sex couples. After he became governor in 2015, Abbott denounced the Supreme Court's marriage equality ruling, saying, “The Supreme Court has abandoned its role as an impartial judicial arbiter and has become an unelected nine-member legislature. Five Justices on the Supreme Court have imposed on the entire country their personal views on an issue that the Constitution and the Court’s previous decisions reserve to the people of the States." He also promised to protect the "religious liberties" of Texans who oppose marriage equality.
Last year Abbott signed into law a bill allowing adoption agencies, even those that receive state funds, to discriminate against LGBT people or anyone else who offends the operator’s religious beliefs. The legislation also means faith-based agencies can “place a child in a religious school; deny referrals for certain contraceptives, drugs or devices; and refuse to contract with other organizations that don’t share their religious beliefs,” The Texas Tribune reported at the time. Supporters of the measure claimed it wasn't discriminatory and that any prospective parents who were turned away by one agency could just go to another. LGBT rights advocates, however, begged to differ. “This new law will have dramatic consequences on same-sex couples across Texas who are looking to open their homes and their hearts to children in need,” said Kasey Suffredini, Freedom for All Americans’ acting CEO and president of strategy, in an emailed statement. “It will have devastating consequences on LGBT youth, who now can be forced into dangerous practices like conversion therapy. Adults should always be looking out for children, and acting with their best interests at heart — and this new law runs contrary to that basic value.” Several other states have passed such laws, including, recently, Kansas and Oklahoma.
One of Abbott's more unusual proposals is giving states the power to override acts of Congress and U.S. Supreme Court decisions. In a 2016 speech to the Texas Public Policy Foundation, he called for a constitutional convention of the states to consider nine new amendments to the U.S. Constitution, including one that would let a two-thirds majority of states override a U.S. Supreme Court ruling, another that would allow such a majority to override any federal law, and another that would require a seven-justice majority on the high court to strike down a democratically enacted law. He wasn't quoted as specifically mentioning marriage, but his desire to bar Congress from regulating activities that take place "wholly within one state" most likely includes marriage as well as gun use, observers noted. Such a convention has little chance of occurring and would be a bad idea, leading to constitutional chaos, according to legal scholars. But Abbott's proposal says a lot about his mind-set — and notably, he made it while Barack Obama was president. He might have less objection to federal power exercised under a Donald Trump administration or by Trump's Supreme Court appointees.
Abbott, Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick, and Attorney General Ken Paxton were among the influential Republicans who urged the Texas Supreme Court to hear a case challenging the city of Houston's decision's to extend spousal and family benefits to city employees who are in same-sex marriages. The high court had initially declined to hear the case, saying the U.S. Supreme Court's 2015 marriage equality ruling had rendered it moot, but reversed its decision amid the pressure. In a friend-of-the-court brief, Abbott, Patrick, and Paxton contended that the marriage equality ruling “does not include a command that public employers like the City of Houston take steps beyond recognizing same-sex marriage — steps like subsidizing same-sex marriages (through the allocation of employee benefits) on the same terms as traditional marriages.” Eventually, the Texas high court agreed, ordering the trial court to reconsider the matter, and the U.S. Supreme Court declined to intervene.
This is even though he can't necessarily recognize a trans person when he sees one, as shown in this picture that San Antonio trans woman Ashley Smith had taken with him last year as Texas considered a "bathroom bill" and posted on social media with the caption "How will the Potty Police know I'm transgender if the Governor doesn't?" Abbott had praised North Carolina's infamous House Bill 2, which would have forced trans people to use the restrooms matching the gender on their birth certificates when in government buildings (it has now been partially repealed) and vowed to enact a similar law in Texas, while also challenging President Obama's recommendation to let trans students in public schools use the facilities of their choice. The Texas legislature has so far failed to pass such a measure, but as for the student guidance, the Trump administration has repealed it.