In the aftermath of shocking allegations against Robert Morris, former pastor of Southlake’s Gateway Church, Texas lawmakers aim to tighten laws against child sex abuse and those who enable it.

As previously reported by The Dallas Express, Morris, who founded Gateway Church in 2000, resigned amid allegations from Cindy Clemishire, who claims Morris abused her starting in 1982 when she was just 12 years old.

In a statement to The Christian Post, Morris admitted to engaging in inappropriate behavior, acknowledging “kissing and petting” with a “young woman” on multiple occasions.

The scandal has sparked outrage and calls for legislative action among Texas legislators, including State Rep. Steve Toth (R-The Woodlands). Toth has been vocal about his proposed reforms, advocating for stiffer penalties for abusers and a requirement for church board members to be designated mandatory reporters. This designation would legally obligate board members to report any suspected abuse directly to law enforcement, reported The Dallas Observer.

However, not all legal experts agree on the effectiveness of mandatory reporting laws alone. Michelle Simpson Tuegel, a Dallas-based victims’ rights attorney, argued that while these laws can be beneficial, they may not address the root of the issue — the widespread underreporting and institutional cover-ups that often protect abusers.

Tuegel has been a staunch advocate for legislative changes that would empower survivors by extending the statute of limitations through a “look-back window.” This provision would allow victims to file civil cases against their abusers even after the traditional statute of limitations has expired. Currently, Texas law restricts such filings to within 30 years after the victim turns 18.

“We know a lot of survivors don’t come forward until well into adulthood, so that’s why laws like this are so important. There are thousands and thousands of survivors whose statute of limitations ran out before they were ever able to disclose, and those people deserve a chance at seeking some measure of justice,” Tuegel told The Dallas Observer.

Similar advocacy efforts have gained momentum in other states, such as New York and Louisiana, resulting in law reforms that have enabled hundreds of survivors to pursue legal action.

Earlier this month, the Louisiana State Supreme Court confirmed the legality of a law granting child sex abuse victims extended time to file lawsuits against their alleged abusers. This decision affirms the constitutionality of the “look-back window” within the state, according to WDSU News.

Child USA reports that, as of 2024, 33 U.S. states and territories have laws allowing revival periods for sex abuse claims or the ability to extend the age limit for child sex abuse claims, with new legislation being proposed annually.