The moderate brand of Texas Republican politics practiced by Joe Straus, the Jewish speaker of the Texas House of Representatives, may be on the line as a 30-day special legislative session begins Tuesday.
The main event is Texas’ version of the bathroom bill, which could restrict transgender people to using bathrooms for the gender assigned to them at birth in schools and government-owned buildings.
Straus, whom the New York Times called “the public face of the opposition to the bathroom bill,” is one of the last remaining high-profile Texas politicians taking a stand against far-right wing conservatism.
“I’m not embarrassed to say that I know how to govern without being an extremist,” Straus told the Times.
Straus, born to a major Jewish family in Texas, has been elected speaker five times. In 2010, emails circulated among Texas Republican Committee suggesting that Straus be replaced as speaker because he was not Christian. Straus’ opponents in the fight against the bathroom bill are also largely religious Christians.
“Too many of our state leaders spend too much of their focus and attention on divisive social issues,” Straus said. “You can count me out.”