Dan Patrick resembles President Obama more than he thinks

G. Elliott Morris

Although Texas and the 11 other states suing the Obama Administration have largely played by their own rules, Lieutenant Governor Dan Patrick has done just the opposite. In the sort of move he has often decried, Patrick used his executive power to bully school districts to accept his will–even threatening to force out the Fort Worth ISD Superintendent.

In late May, the Departments of Education and Justice issued clarification for how Title IX, a statute establishing equal protection for different sexes in all educational and extracurricular activities, applied to transgender students in public schools. This “Joint Guidance” clearly directed public schools to ensure transgender students’ access to the bathrooms in which they feel they belong. In response, Lt. Governor Patrick directed local school districts to ignore the Department of Justice and Education’s ordered. In doing so, Patrick performed the same so-called “executive overreach” for which he and his party's leadership often slam President Obama.

The controversy over the directive lies in the threat to remove federal funding from schools that don’t comply. This gave many state officials additional ammo with which to attack the Obama Administration. This ammo emerged at the 2016 Texas GOP convention, which Patrick and Texas Governor Greg Abbott headlined. There, Patrick joked “It is great to be in the largest Republican convention on the planet and not one man wants to use the ladies’ room.” Even in the context of a party convention, this misplaced humor underscores Patrick’s outright misrepresentation of both the debate over and his actions regarding bathroom access for transgender Americans.

In lieu of holding a debate in the State's Legislature next session, Patrick decided to order state public schools to ignore the Administration's letter. In effect, he circumvented not only federal executive orders, but statewide governance as well. In his press conference he said “the people should decide” on transgender students’ access to certain bathrooms. Why then does he take action, ensuring that the voters don’t, in fact, get to decide?

Despite Patrick’s long history of decrying President Obama's use of executive power in shaping public policy — which his responses to expanded background checks for gun purchases and the President’s Clean Power Plan make clear — he believe he is justified in using his against local policy actors. For him to call for the removal of the Fort Worth Superintendent is compounded hypocrisy in not overriding the will of the people.  

If Lt. Governor Patrick wished to distance himself from President Obama, it would be wise of him to steer clear of repeating the same self-decried political maneuvers. Directing the public to take contrary action to federal directives is not a catalyst of freedom, it is a symbol of Dan Patrick’s hypocrisy.

Morris is a government junior from Port Aransas. Follow him on Twitter @gelliottmorris.