Tarrant lawmaker says he didn't think his bill would protect racism

Posted Saturday, Feb. 23, 2013  comments  Print Reprints
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kennedy At 33, state Rep. Matt Krause, R-Fort Worth, is in his eighth week as an elected official.

As one of Tarrant County's vaunted "Five Freshmen" in the Texas House, he's due a freshman mistake.

This was a big one: He filed a bill to allow discriminatory student clubs in public or private universities.

Yes, even racist, white-only clubs.

"We didn't get our point across the right way," Krause said Friday, saying his House Bill 360 is "inartfully" written and was meant to protect campus Christian clubs.

As filed, the Fort Worth lawyer's bill would cut off state money to any university that bars campus clubs that select members by "beliefs or status, including race, gender and sexual orientation."

In other words, a college would be stripped of state grants for disbanding the Aryan Nation Club.

"It was meant to make sure like-minded people could gather," Krause said Friday, calling from California after preaching a reunion-weekend chapel service at his alma mater, San Diego Christian College.

Krause said the bill protects First Amendment freedom of association.

In a press release on the Web, he was quoted calling the bill "near and dear to my heart" and adding: "Ensuring that public colleges and universities in Texas are prohibited from invading and removing those First Amendment rights is essential."

But as written, the bill also robs private universities -- many of them faith-based -- of the First Amendment freedom to uphold campus values for clubs.

This started in 2010, when the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that universities could prohibit Christian-only campus clubs. Last year, private Vanderbilt University in Tennessee prohibited closed, faith-specific clubs.

Krause's bill was filed Jan. 7.

It has no co-author or sponsor.

It has not been scheduled for a Higher Education Committee hearing.

That means it probably has zero chance of going anywhere by adjournment May 27.

The Dallas Voice newspaper reported on it Friday, labeling it racist and anti-gay. An LGBT advocacy group official called the bill an "equal-opportunity offender."

Krause said he will rewrite the bill to focus on members' shared interest instead of race or status.

"If you have a Red Hat Society, you ought to be able to discriminate against anyone who wants to wear a blue hat," he said.

I'd worry more about the white hoods.

Bud Kennedy's column appears Sundays, Wednesdays and Fridays. 817-390-7538

Twitter: @budkennedy

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