Chair Dutton officially announces the death of the equal parenting bill HB 453 on May 3, 2017. And he makes an unprecedented public statement to all equal parenting proponents that as long as who they perceive as supporters of equal parenting are making threats (or what they perceive as threats — we have been told that they are categorizing rudeness as threats) that even if the bill had not been withdrawn by the author he would not have allowed the bill to be heard by this committee. Bear in mind that another representative of a different bill not related to equal parenting has been receiving real threats, death threats, not just rude or irritating communications, but real death threats and yet he continues to move his bill forward, Tony Tinderholt. Representative Dutton is the Chair of the Juvenile Justice & Family Issues committee for the house and has been a representative for over 35 years.
Dutton claims that the bill was withdrawn by the author of the bill, Rep. James White. Dutton says that he keeps getting ugly and nasty messages from the supporters of the equal parenting bill. He does not state what these messages say exactly. Perhaps he doesn’t want to say that they are pissed off that he wouldn’t schedule the bill for hearing so that parents could be heard. Dutton said that if that is the way the supporters of HB 453 choose to lobby on a bill that it will never get passed. He also states that he didn’t know how it was affecting the other legislators but said that they received threatening messages and sent a threatening email back. Again, Dutton made no reference to what he means by threatening, but certainly he isn’t implying that one of the legislators made a death threat back to the person who they claim sent a threatening email to them?
Dutton does not give any specifics as to how he is defining threats. This is politics though and so regardless of the threats the action that a lawmaker should take is precaution and security and not shut down the dialogue regarding parents and children’s rights. If parents are upset that their children are being stripped and stolen from them because statutes are unconstitutionally authorizing the judges to do so, they have good reason to be upset.
One can only wonder what he considers threatening at this point since he presented no evidence and showed no crimes had been committed, no police reports substantiating that these rose to any kinds of illegal threats and no evidence that these communications that he was so irritated by were not just political in nature. And if a threat was made that was illegal from an individual or even several, would that mean that the lawmakers should deny all parents and children the passage of proper laws that protect their constitutional rights?
There is a threat that is appropriate for lawmakers like Dutton and that is the threat of not getting re-elected.
If your lawmakers are not tough enough to handle putting bills through that protect your child’s and your right to equal protection of the laws, then they certainly don’t deserve to continue in that seat.
We do not condone threats of violence of any kind. We do support lawmakers who believe strongly enough in protecting rights that they will perform their duty regardless. Judge Kocurek in Austin is an example of continuing to carry out her duty despite being shot and requiring 27 surgeries. Judge Kocurek’s comment to Texas Supreme Court Judge Hecht when he asked her if she was going to retire was that “…if she left the bench, people would think you can threaten a judge and scare her off, maybe scare off other judges, intimidate them, show that justice cannot stand up to violence. She would not do that.” Judge Hecht stated that instead “Poised, courageous, determined, humble, faithful, she would prove that judges sworn to preserve, protect, and defend the constitution would not cower in the face of lawlessness. She would return to the courtroom–and she did, amidst great celebration.”* Any lawmaker too scared to perform their duty perhaps should take a lesson from Judge Kocurek. It’s not that you don’t take death threats seriously, it is that you take precautions and you continue to do your job.
My thought is that if Dutton or any of the other lawmakers are scared off from performing their duty to protect children and their parents’ constitutional rights, then they are not performing their duty and are not serving the people and they should step down and let someone serve who will not be scared off so easily. In the alternative, they should be voted out of office.
My suggestion for any lawmaker making this excuse is to review this situation as follows: while you as a lawmaker do not have to have conversations with someone making illegal threats to your safety, if that is the kind of threat you are referring to, you still have a duty to fix problems in the laws that are brought to your attention. There are others who have been contacting all of you who are not making any illegal threats. You have blocked them now and are leaving them vulnerable to the continued problems that you have been made aware in the family courts because of a few people you don’t like. That is disgraceful and not the kind of lawmaker I will choose to represent my voice.
I suggest that Dutton stop blaming all parents who support equal parenting and stop making excuses for why he is refusing and failing to provide all parents seeking constitutional protections for their rights as a result of the actions of a few because doing so is a bigoted prejudiced approach, unbecoming of a Congressman.
While this may be the end of the equal parenting bill in Texas for this 85th session in 2017, it may also mark the end of Representative Dutton’s career as a lawmaker next election cycle.
*Quote comes from Judge Hecht’s Address to the 85th Legislature