Texas House Democrats who fled to Washington, D.C., in July to avoid voting on an election reform bill filed a lawsuit against Gov. Greg Abbott (R-TX) and other Republican leaders on Friday, alleging the governor’s threat to arrest them upon their return to the Lone Star State is causing them “anxiety,” “distress,” and “embarrassment.”
Twenty-two Texas House Democrats sued some of the state’s top Republican leaders in federal court in Austin late Friday, alleging that GOP officials’efforts to bring them home for a special legislative session infringed on their constitutional rights to free speech and to petition the government for redress of grievances.
The lawsuit was filed on the final day of the first special session called by Gov. Greg Abbott — and on the eve of a second specially called legislative session — and names as defendants Abbott, House Speaker Dade Phelan and State Rep. James White.
The 22 Texas House Democrats filing the lawsuit were part of a larger group of over 50 who flew to Washington, D.C., to prevent the Texas legislature from voting on an election and voting reform bill.
ON PLANE TO DC: Texas Democratic lawmakers are leaving state to break quorum to stop Republican voting bill. Veteran Capitol observers say this is unchartered territory. Photo from Democrat on the plane. https://t.co/YOuOMb0A2mpic.twitter.com/abWoARvFIC
The lower chamber of Texas’s legislature cannot have a quorum to conduct official business with over 50 House Democrats out of the state. The Democrats absconded from the Lone Star State to protest the proposed legislation to reform elections.
The Texas House Democrats, according to the complaint, have been “deprived of liberty for substantial periods of time, suffered much anxiety and distress over separation from their families, and much discomfort and embarrassment.” They further claimed their “reputations” have been “impaired.”
“The lawsuit alleges that some Democrats are being targeted because of their race and skin color, but then provides no evidence,” according to KWTX, a CBS affiliate in Waco, TX, which added, the “Democrats’ attorney, Craig Anthony Washington, is a former Democratic lawmaker, who is practicing law under a probationally suspended license, according to the State Bar of Texas.”
The lawsuit frames the plaintiffs as “victims of a discriminatory scheme” predicated on “their protected status.” It accuses Abbot, Phelan, and White of pursuing “deliberate acts of status discrimination.”
KWTX also reported:
[The lawsuit] claims the three Republican lawmakers acted together under the “color of law” to cause the harm alleged in the suit, but then pointsno specific harmful actions other than “public statements.” The lawsuit also says some individual plaintiffs experienced “retaliatory attacks, threats and attempts at coercion relating to the exercise of their First Amendment rights” but again does not provide specifics.
Three of the Democrats who flew to the nation’s capital tested positive for the coronavirus despite being vaccinated.