Tarrant County commissioners voted against giving state funds to a local organization that aims empower girls after nearly 20 people showed up to the Tuesday meeting to speak out against the organization’s political ideology.
Commissioners were asked to approve a $115,334 state grant for Girls Inc., a nonprofit helps nearly 20,000 girls in Tarrant County every year with health, education opportunities and workforce preparedness. It has operated in Tarrant County since 1976 and primarily focuses its work in Northside and Diamond Hill.
Five other organizations were approved to receive funds through the same state grant.
A motion to reject the contract went through 3-2, with Democrats Alisa Simmons and Roy Brooks voting in opposition.
Those against funding the organization were concerned about the messaging from the national organization promoted on its website and social media.
The national organization of Girls Inc. operates separately from its local chapters, said the organization’s board chair Brittany Christian, and it decided against accepting the national level’s advocacy positions.
Jennifer Limas, the CEO of Girls Inc. of Tarrant County, said she understood the concerns, and said there were times she and other members of the local chapter disagreed with the positions pushed at the organization’s national level that weren’t related to youth-serving programs.
Commissioner Roy Brooks, who has supported Girls Inc. for more than a decade, said those who came to the commissioners meeting to speak against the organization’s political agenda had a political agenda themselves.
“We are presented this morning with what I believe is a false narrative about Girls Inc. of Tarrant County,” Brooks said. “And one of the things that bothers me is that that false narrative was probably created by someone paid by your tax dollars.”
Commissioner Alisa Simmons said turning down the funding would be a part of the “ongoing assault on women’s health.” She said she was confused by the opposition she’s seen in her email inbox.
“This organization has a record of success and achievement,” Simmons said. “I am also a bit appalled at the tenor and vitriol. I mean, I wonder if some of those who sent emails and some of those who spoke would’ve crucified Christ.”
Many of those who spoke said they do not agree with the national organization’s views on abortion, transgender rights, sex education, free period products and the definition of who can menstruate.
“As far as Girls Inc., where were they whenever we had a man on a woman’s swim team?” resident Sheila Clemmons said. “Where are they when we have men on track running against women? The thing is, is Girls Inc. really for the girls, or are they for an agenda?”
Resident Aaron James said: “You know, I hear a lot of people say that Girls Inc. does a lot of good for the girls. Well, I’m sure that there’s a lot of German citizens in Germany that that could say that the Nazi’s programs and clubs they had going on at the time were instrumental in making good citizens. But we know that divisive ideology is bogus.”
Jolyn Potenza said: “Young minds follow and trust what they are told by leaders as being the truth. It’s like lambs being led to the slaughter. It is a bold-faced lie and, quite frankly, child abuse.”
Leigh Wambsgaans, who co-founded the Southlake Family PAC with County Judge Tim O’Hare to fight against a cultural competence plan from being established in Carroll schools, said she didn’t think the local and national chapters of the organization could be separated, and said she feared the organization was using low income children to promote a political agenda.
Conservative activist Carlos Turcios told the commissioners that Girls Inc. would be showing up to fight if the county ever decided to give funding to Turning Point USA, a conservative organization that organizes students “to promote freedom.”
Turcios led the Turning Point chapter at the UTexas Arlington during his time as a student.
O’Hare, who has four daughters of his own, said he was happy to hear there was a split between the local and national organizations, but he ultimately did not agree with the county funding Girls Inc.
He disagreed with the ideology being pushed by the organization, like helping children transition genders, removing the stigma around abortion and other items that O’Hare said could be interpreted as anti-police.
State law outlaws abortion and denies medical treatment like drugs and surgeries for children who wish to transition.
“Either way, the county government should not be funding, nor should the county government be passing through money from some other source for an organization that is so deeply ideological and encourages the children that they are teaching to go advocate for social change,” O’Hare said.
If Girls Inc. of Tarrant County wanted to change its name and dissociate, O’Hare invited the organization to come back next year for a chance at more funding. He said the narrative that girls won’t be able to receive programming elsewhere was false.
Commissioner Manny Ramirez, a Republican who has three daughters, said he was raising his girls to be strong and independent and that every girl in the community deserved that too. Ramirez was troubled by the vitriol being tossed at Girls Inc. employees and board members, who he said were both conservative and not conservative as well as respected in the community.
At the end of the day, Ramirez could also not get on board with funding Girls Inc. because of its political advocacy that espouses “troubling things” that he said aren’t true.
Ramirez did not identify what things he believed weren’t true. Commissioner Gary Fickes did not speak at all.