While Texas Attorney General Paxton discriminates, California’s Becerra defends our own

Mark Gonzelez
Chair, Los Angeles County Democratic Party.

Someone needs to check on Ken Paxton. You have probably heard his name in the news lately here in California. He seems obsessed with our state – and our industries – these days, and when he has bad days, he likes to take it out on us. And while you are checking on the Texas Attorney General, you should convey to him that we in Los Angeles County, and across the state, don’t care what he thinks about California. I was born and raised in Texas, but Ken Paxton does not reflect my views. 

His most recent spat with California has to do with discriminatory laws that Texas has passed that, thankfully, our legislators in Sacramento have zero interest in supporting, especially when it comes to taxpayer-funded travel to that state and others like it that have similarly passed broad, discriminatory measures. 

In 2017, the Texas Legislature enacted a bill, HB 3859, which permitted faith-based agencies that administer adoptions to effectively deny prospective parents based on religious objections. Texas opponents of the law rightfully, and unsuccessfully, pointed out that the law would lead to same-sex couples being turned away from adoption. 

In response to this discriminatory measure, the California Department of Justice, led by Attorney General Xavier Becerra, took a bold action to stand up for equal rights, banning state and public university employees from traveling to Texas on any state-sponsored trips. AG Becerra said at the time, “when California said we would not tolerate discrimination against LGBTQ members of our community, we meant it.” 

Paxton has now sued our state in federal court over the travel ban. 

But to be clear, this is not the first time the Attorney General of Texas has pulled an attention-grabbing stunt to benefit his own political path in Texas, and perhaps beyond.  

He’s leading a Republican effort to completely dismantle and invalidate the Affordable Care Act, or Obamacare, taking it all the way to the Supreme Court. Again, and thankfully, our own Attorney General has answered the call to stand up to Paxton and his legal henchmen, who consistently have undertaken every opportunity to disable legislation passed by Congress that ensures accessibility and equitable treatment under the law. Repeatedly, our Attorney General is mustering a critical defense for equal rights.  

Finally, according to news reports Paxton and his cronies are also taking on our state’s crown jewel in the 21st century – our technology, innovation, and entrepreneurial spirit – by investigating homegrown tech companies here in California because he believes there’s an “anti-conservative” bias baked into algorithms. Meanwhile, he has the gall to assert that Californians working for these companies are “anti-Republican.” He’s campaigning on it too, blasting his tea party donor lists soliciting more money for his campaign. Tech companies are making it possible today for businesses and families to stay functioning and stay connected during the COVID-19 pandemic. Why are attacking the very entities that are holding us up during this fragile time?

With Paxton, it’s all nonsense. While it might be good politics in Texas to use California as a punching bag, it’s not good government.  According to the Human Rights Campaign, the leading advocacy organization for the LGBTQ community, and its State Equality Index, Texas has not even achieved “basic equality,” whereas California is classified well beyond basic equality and on the noble path of “working toward innovative equality.” 

On criteria of delivering healthcare and meeting citizens’ needs, California ranks seventh out of all 50 states, according to the U.S. News & World Report Health Care Rankings. It ranked #1 in the nation in public health. Texas, on the other hand, came in the 25th percentile, ranking 37th overall and 47th when it comes to “Health Care Access.”

None of this probably matters to Ken Paxton either. It’s clear his crusades du jour are rooted far more in the sport of politics than good policy.  But the next time he picks a fight with California, he knows that we aren’t afraid to stand up to his tricks, and worse, his efforts to dismantle progressive policies, protect discrimination, and support tea party conspiracy theories.      

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