The lower chamber erupted into a gender war of sorts this afternoon, with Rep. Senfronia Thompson, D-Houston, angrily accusing a special interest group of sexism and using exploitative images, and Rep. Debbie Riddle, R-Tomball, suggesting that some lawmakers have pornography visible on the House floor.
Thompson gave an impassioned personal privilege speech over flyers passed out in the House chamber about an insurance bill, HB 2093. The flyer, which was printed by the Texas Civil Justice League, said "Don't Expand the Nanny State," and had a graphic picture of a child suckling a woman's bare breast.
"I am really disgusted, and I’m really ashamed, that there’s nothing better for some organizations than kicking women," Thompson said, at times screaming into the microphone as many female lawmakers gathered in support. "I am appalled that the Texas Civil Justice League would go so low that they would put out these kind of hateful, resentful, bitter, despicable and violent flyers toward women just to get at a piece of legislation passed."
E. Lee Parsley, the president and general counsel of the Texas Civil Justice League, wrote in an apology email that the flyer was a draft that was "never considered appropriate," and that the existing copies should've been destroyed. He said he "showed extremely poor judgment" in handing the flyer to someone not associated with the Texas Civil Justice League, who scanned and distributed it.
"I am very sorry the offensive piece exists at all and that you had to see it," he wrote. "It was in poor taste, and I accept complete responsibility."
Following Thompson's speech, Riddle came to the back microphone and said the flyers aren't the only things offensive to women on the House floor. She suggested she's even seen "pornography" as lawmakers work in the lower chamber.
"You are a hero," Riddle said to Thompson. "Do you think this has become standard operating procedure ... with the way some of the men have treated some of the women? With pornography on the floor of the House?"
After the House adjourned, Riddle said her comments referred to an isolated incident where a male lawmaker displayed pornographic material on his cellphone. She declined to say who the lawmaker is, but said the issue has been resolved.
Thompson's speech received a standing ovation. Following the speech, Rep. Trey Martinez Fischer asked the speaker if a handful of male lawmakers could arrange a meeting to ensure there was no objectification of women in the chamber.