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Texas GOP platform embraces far-right and anti-gay rhetoric

LEILA FADEL, HOST:

Texas Republicans recently inserted homophobic and transphobic language into the state party's platform. This happened at their annual convention last week in the middle of Pride Month. Party leaders also excluded members of the nation's oldest conservative LGBTQ group from parts of the convention. NPR's Ashley Lopez was there and joins us now. Good morning, Ashley.

ASHLEY LOPEZ, BYLINE: Good morning.

FADEL: So, Ashley, let's start with this bigoted language that made it into the platform. What exactly was added?

A LOPEZ: So there were only a couple of planks that covered these issues. In total, there are about 270 planks in the platform, by the way. And LGBT issues came up in about five or six planks depending how you count them. But what Texas Republicans had to say about gay rights and homosexuality and transgender people really stands out. First and foremost, the party wrote that homosexuality is an abnormal lifestyle choice. They also included language that says there shouldn't be any special legal protections for gay, lesbian and bisexual people, and they oppose any criminal or civil penalties against people who oppose homosexuality. And last, the party says they oppose all efforts to validate transgender identity. And that for anyone under 21, no medical provider should be allowed to provide services to that person affirming their gender identity.

FADEL: Wow. In 2022, to write this into the state party platform, and there are LGBTQ Republicans. What was it like for them to see this?

A LOPEZ: Well, you know, this was a tough event for gay Republicans. Party leaders actually barred a group of Log Cabin Republicans from Fort Worth from having a booth at the event. The Log Cabin Republicans are the oldest and largest group of conservative LGBTQ people in the country. I spoke to one of their members, Michael Cargill, who is part of the state chapter. He says that in general, he agrees with Texas Republicans on so many issues, particularly gun rights. He sounded a little frustrated that, like, gay rights and inclusion is even something the party is still debating.

MICHAEL CARGILL: You have a small minority of people that call themselves Christian conservatives that have forgotten what the Bible actually says. God is the only judge. And as a conservative Christian, we should spend more time loving each other instead of judging each other.

A LOPEZ: I will say Cargill also told me that he has no intention of leaving the party over this. In fact, he says, he plans on going to the next convention where he can work on making the platform more inclusive.

FADEL: OK. So he says these voices fighting LGBTQ rights are a minority in the party, but these words got into the party platform. You describe party leaders stopping the Log Cabin Republicans from having a booth. So even if a minority, it sounds like these voices are influential.

A LOPEZ: They really are. And you can see the influence beyond just the planks in a party platform. Carisa Lopez with the Texas Freedom Network says Republicans in Texas have been codifying what she sees as discrimination into state law for the past few years.

CARISA LOPEZ: They have passed laws that open the door to discrimination for LGBTQ couples who want to adopt. They are still trying to undermine marriage. They've tried to regulate which bathrooms people can use. And now, currently, we're in a battle where they're going after families who affirm their trans children.

A LOPEZ: By and large, though, voters in Texas, including Republicans and independents, are more accepting of the LGBT community than people attending the party convention, you know, who hold more extreme opinions than Republican voters as a whole. But at the same time, you know, this is the base of the party, and they have a lot of influence.

FADEL: NPR's Ashley Lopez in Austin, thank you so much.

A LOPEZ: Yeah, thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Leila Fadel is a national correspondent for NPR based in Los Angeles, covering issues of culture, diversity, and race.
Ashley Lopez
Ashley Lopez is a political correspondent for NPR based in Austin, Texas. She joined NPR in May 2022. Prior to NPR, Lopez spent more than six years as a health care and politics reporter for KUT, Austin's public radio station. Before that, she was a political reporter for NPR Member stations in Florida and Kentucky. Lopez is a graduate of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and grew up in Miami, Florida.