A conservative Texas congressman has canceled plans to speak at a Massachusetts GOP fundraising event amid a fight over a state party official's anti-gay remarks.

U.S. Rep. Dan Crenshaw, R-Texas, was scheduled to speak during a Sunday Father's Day fundraiser at the barn behind the home of MassGOP Chairman Jim Lyons.

But late Monday Lyons abruptly canceled the event, citing the threat of protests that he said would create a "major disturbance" in his Andover neighborhood.

In a statement, Lyons blamed "cancel culture" and said he didn't want to upset his neighbors or let Crenshaw be "subjected to a chaotic and potentially volatile situation."

"The fight against censorship, cancel culture and the far left's obsession with silencing anyone who dares to express their right to free speech and free expression continues," Lyons said. "The threat is real."

It's not exactly clear which groups, if any, planned to protest. Lyons' statement didn't provide more details.

A spokesman for Crenshaw's office said the congressman personally decided to cancel his appearance amid a growing rift between Massachusetts Republicans over recent anti-gay comments by a state committeewoman.

Deborah Martell, a GOP committeewoman from Ludlow, sparked the intra-party fight when an email she wrote surfaced saying she was "sickened" that Jeffrey Sossa-Paquette, an openly gay Republican challenging Democratic incumbent U.S. Rep. Jim McGovern, had adopted children with his husband.

Other leaders in the state GOP, including Gov. Charlie Baker, called on Martell to resign. But Lyons has refused to call for her resignation, putting himself at the center of the controversy.

Crenshaw, a former U.S. Navy SEAL officer who lost his right eye during a combat mission in Afghanistan, is known for his conservative views. But he has been supportive of gay rights groups such as the Log Cabin Republicans, which represent LGBTQ conservatives. The group has criticized Martell's comments.

"More like congressman Dan Crenshaw didn’t want to be affiliated with a chairman not on the GOP's inclusive message and instead defended hate," the group posted on social media on Tuesday, in response to the canceled fundraiser. "Thank you, congressman, for taking a stand."

Crenshaw, a second-term lawmaker, was first elected to represent Texas' 2nd Congressional District in 2018. He won a second term last year.

He has increasingly sought to raise his national political profile, appearing regularly on TV news shows and speaking at fundraising events, which has fueled speculation that he may seek the GOP nomination for president in 2024.

Crenshaw is also scheduled to speak in New Hampshire next month at a GOP-sponsored fundraising event in Concord with Republican Gov. Chris Sununu.

Christian M. Wade covers the Massachusetts Statehouse for North of Boston Media Group’s newspapers and websites. Email him at cwade@cnhinews.com.

 

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