The Austin Chronicle

Dan Patrick, Still on Bathroom Patrol

By Mary Tuma, May 13, 2016, 6:00pm, Newsdesk

In a continuation of his anti-LGBTQ fearmongering, Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick said Friday that he’s more than willing to forgo billions in education dollars in defiance of the federal government’s recent call to protect transgender students.

The Obama administration – ensnared in a suit against the anti-transgender North Carolina "bathroom bill" – issued a directive this morning reaffirming its commitment to ensure transgender students see their civil rights upheld through a “supportive and nondiscriminatory” school environment. The letter addressed to schools across the nation requests campuses allow transgender students to use the restroom facility that corresponds to their gender identity. There’s no new legal requirement, per se, but the feds do tie the expectation that districts will abide by the directive to the issuance of federal funds. Under Title IX, academic institutions are barred from receiving federal dollars if they discriminate on the basis of gender.

"He says he's going to withhold funding if schools do not follow the policy," said Patrick during the state’s GOP convention in Dallas. "Well, in Texas, he can keep his 30 pieces of silver. We will not be blackmailed by the president of the United States." (Thirty pieces of silver is the price for which Judas supposedly betrayed Jesus.)

Calling the restroom rule the "the biggest issue facing families, schools, in America since prayer was taken out of public schools,” Patrick encouraged superintendents to disobey the federal government’s orders. His anti-LGBTQ rhetoric could cost the state billions – over two years, Texas receives some $10 billion from the feds for public education. And his brash words couldn’t come at a more insensitive hour: Today, the Texas Supreme Court ruled the Texas school finance system constitutional after more than 600 schools filed suit against the state after the Legislature slashed $5 billion from public education in 2011.

"If schools don't knuckle down to force girls showering with boys and force 8-year-old girls to have to deal with boys coming into their bathroom, he is taking money from the poorest of the poor," said Patrick. "The president of the United States will be ending the free breakfast and free lunch program."

Focused on the school finance ruling, AISD officials have yet to release a statement regarding Patrick's stance, according to a district spokesperson. While AISD has not passed a policy specific to bathrooms, a general policy was amended a more than a year ago to prohibit discrimination and harassment based on gender identity or gender expression. (That can be found here.)

Forgoing federal assistance in the name of anti-Obama politics is a habit for short-sighted state conservatives, who have proudly rejected a Medicaid expansion under the Affordable Care Act and have sought to deny Planned Parenthood federal funding.

The shitstorm over restrooms comes after Patrick called for the resignation of a Ft. Worth ISD superintendent who recently approved guidelines protecting transgender students. He and other state officials including Attorney General Ken Paxton have insisted they will back a North Carolina-style "bathroom bill" this upcoming legislative session.

During a Friday press conference, White House press secretary Josh Earnest aptly summed up the dangers of allowing an anti-LGBT showman to assume more power: “Well, I think this does underscore the risk of electing a right-wing radio host to a statewide office,” he said.

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