Protecting Our Constitutional Rights
Independence Day serves as a reminder that our Founding Fathers risked their lives and fortunes to safeguard the unalienable rights that are given to us by our Creator. Along with the Texas Constitution, the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution of the United States of America are the foundation of my public service as your State Senator. Their words and ideas are a roadmap for a limited government that safeguards our God-given rights that our Founders helped secure by signing their names to the Declaration of Independence in 1776.
As we celebrated liberty last weekend, I am reminded that two weeks ago was terrible for protecting our constitutional rights. It proved that we must have checks and balances in all forms of government. The Obamacare and marriage decisions by the U.S. Supreme Court were wrong on the Constitution, wrong on policy, and wrong on process: both healthcare and marriage should be governed at the state level. Now, more so than ever, we must be mindful of the Constitution and we must fight to protect it. I am principled in my beliefs due to my faith in God, and I will always stand by the Constitution and fight to uphold its words and ideals.
Although two weeks ago was a sad time for constitutional liberty and freedom, the 84th Texas Legislature advanced our unalienable rights in some significant ways. Here are some of the important issues we worked on this year, and some of the rights we will be fighting to protect and restore in the 85th Texas Legislature in 2017.
Although it is not explicitly spelled out in the U.S. Constitution, our Declaration of Independence opens by recognizing an unalienable right to life. The U.S. Supreme Court decision in Roe v Wade - which fabricated a constitutional “right to abortion” that simply doesn’t exist - is a stain on our constitution, our history, and our souls. Despite that, I was able to help advance a culture of life in the 84th Legislature.
We strengthened the existing parental notification law (HB 3994) by providing opportunities for a minor to be more thoughtful and deliberative before she seeks an abortion. Importantly, this bill further safeguards parental rights.
We also passed legislation to give end-of-life patients access to food and water if they request it (HB 3074), and legislation to train abortion center workers to identify and assist victims of human and sex trafficking (HB 416).
I’m proud of these pro-life accomplishments, and I look forward to even more in 2017.
As a legislator, I am guided by my conviction that marriage is a bond between one man and one woman. My values are informed by my Roman Catholic faith. I believe that children need and deserve both a father and a mother in their lives. The union of man and woman is a special one because it can lead to the birth of children, and deserves special protection and consideration by society. Furthermore, it is my firm belief that the First Amendment protects the rights of Americans to peacefully practice their religion according to the dictates of their conscience, and without government interference.
That’s why I co-authored and voted for the Pastor Protection Act (SB 2065), which allows churches and clergy to refuse to solemnize a gay marriage if doing so would violate a sincerely held religious belief of the organization or the individual. This is critical for safeguarding Texans’ free exercise of religion. I also voted for Senate Resolution 1028, which reaffirmed Texans’ definition of marriage as a union of one man and one woman, which was added to our state constitution in 2005 by a vote of 76 percent of Texas voters.
Moving forward in light of the Supreme Court’s shortsighted and impulsive decision, Texas clearly has more work to do to protect religious freedom and traditional marriage. This will be among my top priorities this year and next as I prepare for the 85th Texas Legislature in 2017.
The 84th Texas Legislature significantly advanced Texans’ right to self-preservation, a God-given, natural right that is safeguarded by the Second Amendment. Open Carry (HB 910) removes a state burden on how law-abiding Texans can carry a handgun. The Campus Personal Protection Act (SB 11) allows law-abiding Texans with a CHL - those who are 21 years old or older - to carry a concealed handgun in most areas of a public university campus, making those campuses much safer for faculty, staff, and students. The NRA stated that “Texas gun owners enjoyed several important victories this year.” I couldn’t agree more, but my work begins immediately to lay the foundation for even more Second Amendment victories next session.
Americans do not need a government permission slip to exercise their First Amendment rights to speak freely or worship as they see fit, and they shouldn't be forced to jump through unnecessary hoops to enjoy their Second Amendment rights, either.
That's why I authored the Texas Constitutional Carry Act (SB 342). This legislation would have allowed law-abiding Texans to carry a handgun without having to obtain a concealed handgun license. Constitutional carry would also allow a citizen to carry their handgun openly or concealed, according to their preferences. SB 342 did not pass this session, but I will continue the fight.
Our legislative leadership should be commended for expanding Second Amendment rights during this session, but I know we can do more. I will continue to fight for legislation that will allow Texans to exercise their natural and God-given rights to self-defense without having to first obtain a government issued permission slip. With your continued assistance, we can make the Lone Star State a national leader on Second Amendment freedoms.
As we expand Second Amendment liberty with Open Carry (HB 910), we must remain mindful of the civil liberties safeguarded by the Fourth Amendment. Texans who choose to openly carry a handgun once Open Carry takes effect on January 1, 2016 should not be suspect, and should not be detained, delayed, or searched simply because they choose to exercise their Second Amendment right.
We have a duty to protect the civil liberties of Texans who choose to open carry. I debated for six and a half hours on the Senate Floor to successfully add an amendment to the Open Carry bill to provide that a police officer may not make an investigatory stop of someone solely because he or she is openly carrying a handgun. While my amendment passed that day, it was ultimately stripped out of the bill in Conference Committee after police unions and others misrepresented the amendment as anti-law enforcement. That couldn’t be further from the truth, of course: my amendment would have protected law enforcement departments from lawsuits over civil liberties violations.
Open Carry is a great victory for the Second Amendment. I will continue to work to make sure we also safeguard Fourth Amendment civil liberties.
Two weeks ago the Supreme Court extended another lifeline to Obamacare through another judicial rewrite of the law passed by Congress and signed by the President. The Court then ruled that there is a Constitutional right to same sex marriage. These fights are far from over. Healthcare and marriage are policy issues that must be governed by the states. After all, the Tenth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution proclaims:
"The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the states, are reserved to the states respectively, or to the people."
I co-authored and voted for this session’s Tenth Amendment Resolution (SCR 1), which noted that “many powers assumed by the federal government as well as federal laws and mandates are in direct violation of the Tenth Amendment…” and provided that “the 84th Legislature of the State of Texas hereby [claims] sovereignty under the Tenth Amendment to the Constitution of the United States of America over all powers not otherwise enumerated and granted to the federal government by the Constitution.”
As Texans, we must continue to stand united in the fight to repeal Obamacare and protect traditional marriage. The Texas Miracle of job growth and unrivaled economic opportunity is in jeopardy, and we must fight to protect it. Texas has been the leader for limited government and individual freedom, but power-hungry liberals and insiders in Washington D.C. want the government to interfere with every aspect of your life. These rulings - these abuses of power - are just the beginning. The Tenth Amendment must have meaning.