Quite often, Houston GOP Rep. Sarah Davis clashes with her caucus.
Despite a Texas Republican platform calling for “total constitutional rights for the unborn child,” she's been an outlier in the concerted GOP push to further regulate every uterus in Texas. Last session she notably opposed an omnibus anti-abortion bill that, depending on how things shake out in the federal courts, could shutter all but eight abortion clinics in Texas. She's been critical of the attempt this session to further restrict the process by which abused or neglected minors can ask for a judge's approval to get an abortion without parental consent (a process created and championed by Texas Republicans in 1999, it should be noted).
Davis has also spoken out against a part of the proposed state budget that will effectively kick Planned Parenthood out of the state's breast and cervical cancer screening program for poor, uninsured women. Planned Parenthood currently serves about 10 percent of women in the program and for Davis, a breast cancer survivor herself, any attempt to restrict providers in the state hits close to home.
And she's bucking her party on LGBT rights, too.
In an interview this week, Texas Observer reporter John Wright asked Davis why she was among the only five members who didn't sign an anti-gay marriage letter sent out by the House Republican Caucus last week. “I just don't agree with the sentiment of the letter,” she told the Observer . “I don't feel the need to pass legislation or vote for legislation that prohibits two adults who love each other to be able to be joined in a civil union or marriage. It does not affect my marriage.”
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Unlike many in her caucus, Davis has never been a clear enemy to the LGBT community, but neither has she been a vocal, enthusiastic supporter. While she's in the past acknowledged support for civil unions for LGBT couples, and won the somewhat grudging support of LGBT rights group Equality Texas, she's never before – as far as we can tell – publicly voiced her support for gay marriage.
It's a pretty brave move, given the stranglehold social conservatives and Tea Partiers still have on the Republican Party of Texas, whose official 2014 platform, in addition to endorsing the dangerous and widely discredited practice of “reparative therapy” for gays, spills a whole lot of ink “celebrating traditional marriage” and has this to say about the LGBT community:
“Homosexuality is a chosen behavior that is contrary to the fundamental unchanging truths that have been ordained by God in the Bible, recognized by our nation’s founders, and shared by the majority of Texans. Homosexuality must not be presented as an acceptable alternative lifestyle, in public policy, nor should family be redefined to include homosexual couples. We believe there should be no granting of special legal entitlements or creation of special status for homosexual behavior, regardless of state of origin. Additionally, we oppose any criminal or civil penalties against those who oppose homosexuality out of faith, conviction, or belief in traditional values.”
In an op-ed last session, right as the GOP-dominated legislature fought to restrict abortion rights, Davis wrote that, "Personal freedom and limited government are the foundation of my political philosophy." Only time will tell whether her brand of true, small government conservatism is sign of the ground shifting beneath the Texas Republican party or the setup to a fierce primary battle.