Democratic Texas politician who switched sides to support ban on gender-affirming care for minors loses primary election

A primary runoff in Texas resulted in the defeat of a Democratic lawmaker who defied her party’s stance by backing a ban on gender-affirming care for minors. This outcome drew significant attention from LGBTQ+ organizations across the country, who actively campaigned for her opponent in the race for the south Houston seat.

Rep. Shawn Thierry faced defeat after serving four terms as a Houston lawmaker. Throughout her tenure, she consistently aligned herself with her fellow Democrats on important matters, such as opposing stringent immigration policies advocated by Republican Governor Greg Abbott and rejecting a ban on diversity programs within college campuses.

She sparked outrage among her Democratic colleagues when she delivered a 12-minute speech on the Texas House floor last year in defense of a proposed ban on gender-affirming care for minors. While three other Democrats also supported the measure, none were as outspoken as Thierry. Unfortunately, her vocal stance may have contributed to her defeat on Tuesday night, as she lost by double-digits to her challenger, Lauren Ashley Simmons, a union organizer.

According to Annise Parker, the former Houston Mayor and President/CEO of the LGBTQ+ Victory Fund, Simmons’ vote was the reason she faced opposition in the race. However, when Simmons continued to spread misinformation, particularly within the LGBTQ+ community, it sparked a sense of urgency and determination among the community members. The LGBTQ+ Victory Fund had extended its support to Simmons during her campaign.

Simmons is the clear frontrunner to secure the seat in November, given the district’s strong Democratic leanings.

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Thierry’s campaign did not immediately return a message left on Wednesday.

During a passionate discussion on the bill last year, Thierry stated that her vote in favor of the ban was in line with her conscience and the values of her constituency.

Thierry emphasized the importance of prioritizing the safety and well-being of young people above political convenience. He firmly believed that special provisions should be made for children under the law, as they may not fully comprehend the long-term implications of their actions.

Many Democrats across the country are grappling with the challenge of countering a wave of attacks from the GOP on LGBTQ+ individuals, especially transgender individuals, despite the fact that the majority of Democrats support their rights, safety, and visibility.

Simmons garnered support from LGBTQ+ groups both in Texas and across the country. The Human Rights Campaign’s political action committee endorsed her campaign against Thierry, actively reaching out to over 2,000 individuals through calls and text messages to rally support for her candidacy. In addition, Equality Texas, another organization, organized block walks, ran advertisements, and even set up a dedicated website to support Simmons’ campaign.

According to Grant Martin, a political consultant working on Simmons’ campaign, Thierry not only voted for the ban, but also reaffirmed her strong support for it, distinguishing herself from other Democrats who also voted in favor of the ban.

Martin accused our opponent of defending her vote and spreading Republican talking points during an appearance on Fox News after the vote.

According to Martin, Thierry also received backlash for her endorsement from a number of Republican campaign contributors.

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Thierry highlighted the endorsement of Black pastors in the district that spans south and southwest Houston. According to Mark Jones, a political science professor at Rice University, this race is expected to make an impact on other Democrats.

Jones emphasized that Democratic elected officials should take note of the consequences of deviating from the party’s stance on important matters. He pointed out that straying from the party’s core principles puts them at risk of facing primary challenges and potentially losing their seats. Jones drew a parallel between this phenomenon and the recent purges and ideological tests witnessed within the Republican Party.

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