Texas Democrat who supported gender-affirming care ban loses to queer progressive candidate

Author: Trudy Ring

In a Texas House primary runoff, a queer Black woman has defeated an incumbent who broke with her fellow Democrats to support a ban on gender-affirming care for transgender youth.

Lauren Ashley Simmons beat Rep. Shawn Thierry in the Tuesday runoff by a margin of 65 percent to 35 percent to win the Democratic nomination in Texas House District 146, located in Houston. In the March 5 primary, they were the top two in a field of three candidates, but neither won a majority — although Simmons came close — leading to the runoff. The district is heavily Democratic, so Simmons is favored to win the general election in November over Republican Lance York.

Thierry, who served four terms in the House, usually voted with her party, “but she outraged Democratic colleagues when she gave a 12-minute speech on the Texas House floor last year defending a proposed ban on gender-affirming care for minors,” the Associated Press reports.

“I am making a decision to place the safety and well-being of all young people over the comfort of political expediency,” she said at the time, according to the AP. “It is my core belief and conclusion that we should remain consistent in the premise that children must be given special provisions under the law as they cannot fully appreciate the long-term consequences of their actions.”

However, when minors undergo gender-affirming care, they do so with the guidance of parents or guardians as well as medical professionals. The care is endorsed by the American Academy of Pediatrics, the American Medical Association, and many other health care organizations.

Three other Democrats voted for the ban, which passed and was signed into law by Republican Gov. Greg Abbott, but Thierry was the most vocal among them. She also supported the removal of sexually explicit books from school libraries — something often used to target LGBTQ+ content — and a bill requiring trans college athletes to compete under the gender they were assigned at birth, The Texas Tribune reports.

Several current and former House members backed Simmons, and Thierry told the Houston Chronicle editorial board that Simmons’s supporters were “the gay ones,” according to the Tribune. Thierry later said the comment “was taken completely out of context.”

“The Simmons-Thierry contest emerged as a test of whether Democratic lawmakers who do not fully support LGBTQ+ causes can remain in good standing with their own party’s voters,” the Tribune notes. In this case, the answer was no.

Simmons is a shop steward and organizer with the Communications Workers of America labor union. Her family has a history of activism — one of her ancestors escaped slavery and founded a town for free Black people, and her father helped integrate his high school, according to an LGBTQ+ Victory Fund biography. She became a mother at age 19 and struggled financially for several years.

“I know what it’s like to be without power and keep fighting,” she said in the bio. “I went literally overnight from being a comfortable middle-class kid to a 19-year-old mom on food stamps. The Black women in low-income apartments where I lived taught me how to survive — how to stretch every penny. I owe them a debt. That’s why I do what I do.”

Her priorities in the legislature will include support for public schools, health care, and a living wage.

She was endorsed by Victory Fund, Equality Texas, and the Human Rights Campaign’s political action committee.

“Clearly voters are tired of the bigoted politics of Shawn Thierry, who has betrayed her constituents so she could carry water for the worst politicians in Austin,” said a statement from Victory Fund President and CEO Annise Parker, a former mayor of Houston. [Tuesday’s] result shows that Houstonians in District 146 are ready for much better representation. I couldn’t be more proud of Lauren, the campaign she ran and the fierceness she’ll bring to the Texas House, where she’ll proudly fight to make Houston a more welcoming place for everyone.”

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Original Article on The Advocate
Author: Trudy Ring

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