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Texas Democrat who joined GOP in supporting ban on gender-affirming care for minors loses Senate

A Democratic lawmaker from Texas who broke with her party by supporting a ban on gender-affirming care for minors was ousted in a primary that galvanized LGBTQ+ groups across the country who then campaigned for her opponent in the race for the House seat. south of Houston.

Rep. Shawn Thierry’s defeat followed four terms in which the Houston lawmaker typically stood with her fellow Democrats on key issues, including voting against aggressive immigration measures demanded by Republican Gov. Greg Abbott and a ban on diversity programs on college campuses.

But she infuriated Democratic colleagues when she gave a 12-minute speech in the Texas House last year defending a proposed ban on gender-affirming care for minors. Three other Democrats also voted for the measure, but none were as outspoken as Thierry, who lost by double digits Tuesday night to challenger Lauren Ashley Simmons, a union organizer.

“Her voice was the reason she had a race, but when she doubled down and really went down the rabbit hole of disinformation, it energized people in the LGBTQ community,” said former Houston Mayor Annise Parker, the president and CEO from the LGBTQ+ Victory Fund. , which supported Simmons’ bid.

Simmons will be favored to win the seat in November in the district, which is heavily Democratic.

A message left with Thierry’s campaign on Wednesday was not immediately returned.

But during an emotional debate on the bill last year, Thierry said her vote in support of the ban was in line with her conscience and the values ​​of her constituency.

“I make a decision to put the safety and well-being of all young people above the comfort of political opportunism,” Thierry said. “It is my core belief and conclusion that we must remain consistent in the principle that children should receive special benefits under the law because they cannot fully understand the long-term consequences of their actions.”

While most Democrats support the rights, safety and visibility of LGBTQ+ adults and children, many Democrats nationally have struggled to counter a barrage of GOP attacks on LGBTQ+ people, especially transgender people .

Simmons received support from LGBTQ+ groups in Texas and across the country. The Human Rights Campaign’s political action committee backed her challenge against Thierry, calling and texting more than 2,000 people in support of her bid. Equality Texas, another group, organized block walks for Simmons, placed advertisements and set up a website for Simmons.

Grant Martin, a political consultant to Simmons’ campaign, said that while other Democrats also voted for the ban, Thierry doubled down on her support for the ban.

“Our opponent after that vote actually went on Fox News and defended her vote and spread some of these Republican talking points,” Martin said.

Martin said Thierry also faced criticism for her support from several Republican campaign donors.

Thierry called for support from black pastors in the district that spans south and southwest Houston. Mark Jones, a political science professor at Rice University, said the race is likely to leave an impression on other Democrats.

“This sends a clear message to Democratic elected officials that if you break with the party on important issues, you really run the risk of facing primaries and being removed from office,” Jones said. “It’s the same kind of purge and litmus test that we’ve seen in the Republican Party recently.”

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Murphy reported from Oklahoma City and DeMillo from Little Rock, Arkansas.

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