AUSTIN, Texas — As Texas senators debated a bill that would "protect children from drag shows," one lawmaker said the state was focusing on the wrong things when it comes to protecting Texas kids.
On Tuesday, senators debated Senate Bill 12, authored by Sen. Bryan Hughes, a Republican representing Mineola. It would criminalize explicit performances where children are present and strip libraries of state funding for hosting any event featuring performers in drag. Critics say the bill is discriminatory and unconstitutional, but Hughes says it's meant to protect children.
Tension started to rise when State Sen. Roland Gutierrez asked Hughes questions about SB 12. Initially, the Uvalde state senator asked Hughes on specifics, such as if this could punish performers in certain types of clothing or doing certain styles of dance.
As Hughes stated again that SB 12 is meant to protect children, Gutierrez responded that protecting children is all Gutierrez has been trying to do.
"Man, I'll tell you, I've been all about this session about protecting children, my friend, and we haven't done a whole lot of protecting children when it comes to guns and ammunition," Gutierrez said.
The Senate gallery, which is for the public to view Senate proceedings, could be heard cheering.
Someone could be heard saying, "You're better than this," on the Senate floor, presumably to Gutierrez.
Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick then told Gutierrez to confine his debate to the bill in question, SB 12.
Gutierrez told Patrick he would be voting against SB 12 but shifted back to the topic of gun legislation.
"I appreciate your interest in protecting kids," Gutierrez said. "I sure would, could, use your support in protecting kids that are killed by gun violence in this state."
As the Senate gallery cheered again, Patrick banged his gavel and threatened to clear the gallery if there were another outburst.
"Sen. Gutierrez, I'm going to give you one more warning. That's the last time," Patrick said. "Stick to the topic, to the issues you're asking questions on, or you will not be recognized in the future."
In a press conference shortly after, Gutierrez provided an update on the 21 pieces of gun-reform legislation he has filed in honor of the 21 lives lost in the Robb Elementary School shooting last May. He said there was "no update" to give because Patrick and other lawmakers in the Texas Capitol live in a "fantasy land."
Gutierrez, joined by families of those lost in the Uvalde and the Santa Fe High School shootings, said the State is too focused on what they believe are culture extremes instead on what is the No. 1 cause of death and harm to Texas children.