The Republican Party of Texas is well known for its anti-LGBTQ+ stances, but the party platform it adopted this year goes beyond even previous ones, with language calling homosexuality "an abnormal lifestyle choice" and opposing "all efforts to validate transgender identity."
The party adopted the platform Saturday at its convention in Houston, The Texas Tribune reports. Republican elected officials aren't required to follow the platform, but the document indicates the general feelings and direction of the party.
Previous platforms included much antigay and anti-trans language, but the "abnormal lifestyle choice" statement is new. The platform also endorses conversion therapy, as it has in the past, and calls it by a new name, "reintegrative therapy."
"Homosexuality is an abnormal lifestyle choice," the platform reads. "We believe there should be no granting of special legal entitlements or creation of special status for homosexual behavior, regardless of state of origin, and we oppose any criminal or civil penalties against those who oppose homosexuality out of faith, conviction, or belief in traditional values. No one should be granted special legal status based on their LGBTQ+ identification."
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At least one delegate, David Gebhart, tried to soften this language, saying, "We are the Republican Party of Texas, not the Westboro Baptist Church," Tribune editor Sewell Chan tweeted. Gebhart's suggestion was met with laughter and boos. Other delegates made homophobic and sexually charged comments.
The platform addresses trans identity more explicitly than in the past. It calls gender dysphoria "a genuine and extremely rare mental health condition" and opposes any gender-affirming treatment for people under 21. This aligns with Gov. Greg. Abbott's recent order that parents who allow their minor children to receive gender-affirming health care be investigated for child abuse (the order is temporarily blocked by court action). Texas legislators tried but failed to pass a law declaring such care to be child abuse.
Without recognizing any irony, though, the platform endorses "the fundamental right of parents to make all decisions regarding the upbringing and control of their children in all aspects." Apparently allowing children access to gender-affirming care is not one of those aspects.
The document further opposes teaching about critical race theory in K-12 schools -- something that is not taught outside of higher education anyway -- and calls for students "to learn about the humanity of the preborn child." It also asserts that President Joe Biden was not legitimately elected and criticizes U.S. Sen. John Cornyn, a Texas Republican, for negotiating with Democrats on gun regulations. Cornyn was booed at the convention.
Abbott had a limited presence at the event. He "only appeared at a reception on Thursday on the sidelines of the convention," the Tribune reports. Some Texas Republicans consider Abbott insufficiently conservative; Allen West, the former state party chairman, challenged him from the right in the recent Republican primary, but Abbott did win renomination for a third term. Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick, who pushes state leaders' priorities in the legislature, had a bigger role, addressing the convention.
The platform shows how far rightward the party has lurched, political observers told the Tribune. "A more aggressive party platform sends a clear message to politicians about where the base is going," said Brandon Rottinghaus, a political scientist at the University of Houston. "Donald Trump radicalized the party and accelerated the demands from the base. There simply aren't limits now on what the base might ask for."