We are halfway through the July Special Session, and preparing for all possibilities to come. As a reminder, last week two anti-transgender sports bans — SB 2 (Perry) and SB 32 (Perry) — passed through the Senate at a record pace. With the House lacking quorum, these dangerous bills remain stagnant for the time being.
Meanwhile, in a radio interview, Governor Greg Abbott has suggested he’s made new efforts towards banning gender-affirming-related health care for transgender youth. Though the Governor did not elaborate much, he’s said that rather than pushing an anti-transgender health care bill during the July Special Session, he has “another way of achieving the exact same thing.”
While we anticipate the upcoming threats to our community, we are encouraged by the good news and progress materializing across the nation.
In 2021, seven states — Mississippi, Montana, Florida, West Virginia, Tennessee, Arkansas and Alabama — signed transgender sports bans, barring transgender students from playing on the sports teams that align with their gender identity. On Wednesday, a West Virginia federal judge ruled to temporarily block the state’s sports ban, claiming in his order that the law did not “address any problem at all, let alone an important problem.” The lawsuit was filed on behalf of 11-year-old Becky Pepper-Jackson, a soon-to-be middle schooler who will run for the school’s girls cross-country team in the fall.
Similarly, in Louisiana, state lawmakers failed to override Governor John Bel Edwards’ former veto of a transgender sports ban. Two-thirds of both the House and Senate are required in order to override a veto, and with only sixty-eight votes in favor, the GOP-held House failed. In response, on Wednesday over one-hundred Louisianan Protestant, Jewish, and Catholic clergy signed an open letter signaling their opposition to the transgender sports ban, and confirming what we already know: “these children of God deserve our support and love and affirmation as they grow into adults, not our ridicule and scorn.”
The final victory took place in Arkansas, where a federal judge temporarily blocked state law that banned physicians from providing transition-related health care to transgender youth. The ACLU filed the case on behalf of four transgender inclusive families and two physicians who provide gender-affirming healthcare.
With 2021 serving as the worst year for LGBTQ+ state legislative attacks across the country, these national victories are a testament to the tenacity of transgender people, their families, and their allies. We must remain vigilant and ready to mobilize in a moment’s notice. Together, we can put a stop to this relentless and unprecedented attack on our Texas community.
There is still time to join our Rapid Tesponse Team. If you are in Waco, San Antonio, Houston, Corpus Christi, Amarillo, Dallas, or the Valley, please sign up as we may have opportunities to bus individuals to the Capitol during future special sessions.
Equality Texas hosted a panel discussion with advocates in the LGBTQ+ movement, past and present.
These amazing advocates provided insight into their own lived experiences as activists and movement leaders. They discussed the landscape that existed when they started their advocacy journey and how that is similar to and different to the landscape that we witnessed during the 87th legislative session.
Check it out below.
So far 2021 has been a record breaking year of anti-LGBTQ+ bills and other dangerous “red meat” legislation in Texas. In the past six months alone, the state legislature has attacked our community at least 50 times through anti-LGBTQ+ bills and amendments.
After the Governor released his agenda for the special session, it became clear that the attack on the rights and liberties of Texas would continue with transgender kids, the right to vote, Texas classrooms and abortion. Texas House Democrats courageously broke quorum this past Monday in defiance of voter suppression legislation and the constant erosion of citizen rights on all fronts.
The Texas Senate, meanwhile, conducted business as usual, holding a brutal 8.5 hour long hearing debating the humanity of transgender children and fast-tracking sports bans despite unequivocal evidence of documented harm.
While parents courageously spoke of the actual harm the legislature has caused their children this year, politicians on the committee asked invasive questions about their children’s medical history and identity documents. Senators then used that information on the Senate floor in their continued efforts to further marginalize transgender children in Texas. This underhanded political tactic is yet another escalation of the attack on our community and why we will stop at nothing to protect trans kids.
The Governor has announced that he will call continual special sessions until his priorities are passed. Donate today so we can have the resources to fight him every step of the way.
This special session’s anti-trans bills, the sports bans SB 2 (Perry) and SB 32 (Perry) passed the Senate on Wednesday. Without a quorum, business in the Texas House has come to a halt, and all eyes are on our state leaders to see how the situation will resolve. SB 2 and SB 32 were the only anti-trans bills in the Senate on the Governor’s special session agenda. We will be watching closely to see whether the Senate will find new ways to continue their attack on trans lives.
There’s a lot up in the air at the Texas capitol right now. What we do know is that anti-trans bills aren’t going anywhere.
In the first week of the special session alone, 15 bills have been filed directly targeting transgender kids along with 2 bills that attack the LGBTQ+ community as a whole. That’s 17 total anti-LGBTQ+ bills in a week for a special session — in 2019, there were only 19 anti-LGBTQ+ bills filed total. It’s clear that the Texas legislature has made attacking transgender kids a priority. And we’ve already seen the harm.
Calls from Texas to the crisis hotline Transgender Lifeline increased 71.6% in May, at the peak of the debate on similar bills.
Transgender children participating in sports is not a national emergency; these attacks on trans kids and the ongoing trauma to the trans community certainly are. That is unconscionable.
The next few weeks will be a waiting game but Equality Texas is gearing up for the long haul through creating public education campaigns, cultivating key experts to testify, and updating our messaging to meet this moment. You may feel like us — exhausted and hurting, unable to see a clear path forward with this uncertainty. Because we don’t know what the next week holds, this week’s call-to-action is simple: fill your cup. Get some rest while you can.
Another action you can take during this waiting game: donate to our Special Session Fund. Any gift — even $5 — will help us defend the rights of LGBTQ+ Texans against this unconscionable attack.
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: EQUALITY TEXAS RELEASE STATEMENT ON SENATE CHAMBER PASSAGE OF SB2 AND SB32
Angela Hale, Equality Texas | 512.289.2995 | firstname.lastname@example.org
July 14, 2021 – AUSTIN, TEXAS – Equality Texas, the largest statewide organization solely dedicated to securing full equality for LGBTQ+ Texans, today released a statement on Senate Chamber passage of SB2 and SB32.
“The Texas Legislature and state leaders launched an unprecedented attack on the LGBTQ+ community during the regular legislative session by filing more than 30 anti-LGBTQ+ bills. During the first special session of the legislature, they filed an additional 16 anti-trans bills targeting innocent Texas children despite unequivocal evidence of documented harm to our children caused by political leaders debating whether trans kids should be treated like every other child in this state,” said Ricardo Martinez, Chief Executive Officer, Equality Texas.
During the Senate hearing, the committee brought in so-called experts from other states, including Idaho and Nebraska, and relied on old stories from Connecticut to defend the purpose of these bills. Even when directly challenged, legislators pushing these bills could not cite a single example or produce a shred of evidence as to why this discriminatory legislation is necessary in Texas. Legislators should leave trans children and their families alone and stay out of their private lives.
During Monday’s hearing, parents courageously told Senators about the impact anti-trans bills have had on their kids — kids who have lost significant weight due to anxiety and worry about these bills and who are self-harming because we are debating their existence. Calls from Texas to the crisis hotline Transgender Lifeline increased 71.6% in May alone, at the peak of the debate on similar bills. Altogether, LGBTQ+ Texans have experienced close to 50 attempts on our personhood in 2021 through the most extreme regular session in recent memory and this special session.
In addition, our community has had to live through the tragic loss of Aidelen Evans, Tiffany Thomas and Iris Santos — all transgender Texans who have senselessly lost their lives to violence in 2021. Texas is a leading state in an actual emergency: the murders of Black and Brown transgender women.
Fearmongering about the lives of trans/LGB people fuels bias and discrimination. The political climate has only increased these risks. Parents of trans kids have begun making plans to leave Texas, while transgender adults fear for their safety and well-being. These nearly 50 attempts at erasing and persecuting our community, the inaction around the crisis impacting Black and Brown trans women, and continued efforts to limit LGBTQ+ Texans individual liberties, will go down as one of the cruelest moments in our history. Transgender children participating in sports is not a national emergency; these attacks on trans kids and the ongoing trauma to the trans community certainly are. That is unconscionable.
Equality Texas is the largest statewide organization working to secure full equality for lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender Texans through political action, education, community organizing, and collaboration. The Equality Texas Foundation works to secure full equality for lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender Texans through education, community organizing, and collaboration.
The Transgender Education Network of Texas and Equality Texas proudly partnered together this legislative session to uplift the voices of trans Texans and allies who came together to fight anti-transgender and anti-LGBTQ+ bills.
Below, you will find some of the videos released to showcase the humanity of the trans community, dispel misinformation, show the harm that anti-LGBTQ+ bills create, and center stories of those directly impacted by the proposed legislation. Thank you to all who participated!
Sports participation provides life lessons and promotes shared values that all children should be able to experience: physical health and stress relief, sportsmanship, team-building and camaraderie, goal-setting and self-discipline, leadership, confidence, and belonging. The vast majority of children are not elite athletes and never will be, that goes for cisgender and transgender children alike. Students primarily want to play sports for fun, with friends and classmates.
Thank you, Ashlie for sharing your story and perspective as a Coach, Athletic Director, Educator and Texan.
This last legislative session has been particularly brutal for our community and courage anchored all of the powerful testimony against anti-LGBTQ+ and anti-trans legislation.
Thank you, Lais, Stephanie, Lydia, Adamalis, Adelyn and Sofia for talking to us about your courage.
All Texans should have the rights to provide for themselves and their families, to live in a safe place, to access appropriate medical care without government intervention and to access public spaces, safely and without fear of losing these rights because of who they are or whom they love. It takes so how much courage, effort and anguish to stand proudly, honestly, and authentically to advocate for these rights.
Thank you, Adamalis and Adalyn, for standing up for all of us at the Capitol and for allowing our community to get to know you a little better.
Too many people believe that anti-LGBTQ bias doesn’t exist — couldn’t exist — in healthcare. Medical providers swear an oath to “do no harm,” but LGBTQ Texans know that bias exists.
This legislative session alone, we had to fight bills that would eliminate best-practice, medically recommended, life-saving medical care for transgender youth and bills that would allow any medical professional to object to any medical procedure that violates their “ethical, moral, or religious beliefs” even if the procedure in question is live-saving care.
Discrimination can be be fought. Let us hold our lawmakers accountable by reminding them that “doing no harm” is first done by opposing any anti-LGBTQ+ legislation and not interfering in the relationship between a healthcare provider and their patient.
For Pride this year, we wanted to celebrate our amazing community members and the inspiring, brave individuals who fought with us during the 87th legislative session.
The Texas legislature gaveled back in for a special session Thursday and we’re already moving at full speed. Last Wednesday, Governor Abbott released his agenda for the special session and granted Lt. Governor Dan Patrick’s wish: trans youth will once again be in the crosshairs. The Governor has called for dangerous legislation ostracizing transgender youth by banning them from sports that align with their gender identity.
Although legislators can file bills on any topic, in a special session only subjects that the Governor places on his agenda can be seriously considered. Though we’ve only had a few full days of the special session, Dan Patrick wasted no time referring two new versions of the transgender sports ban, SB 2 (Perry) and SB 32 (Perry) to the Senate Health and Human Services committee. The Chair, Senator Lois Kolkhorst, has already set both bills for a hearing this Monday, July 12. It’s no wonder these anti-transgender bills were fast-tracked, as Senator Kolkhorst is infamous for authoring the “bathroom bill” of 2017.
Submit written testimony for Monday’s hearing and demand that legislators to stop prioritizing bills that target transgender children.
Overall there are about 11 items on the Governor’s agenda including weighty complex issues like voter suppression, the border, and property tax reform. That’s a lot to cover in the 30 days allotted for special sessions. While the Senate rushes to fast-track bills, we still don’t know which of the 11 issues will get traction and priority in the House.
In total, nearly 50 anti-LGBTQ+ bills have been filed in Texas this year.
What we do know:
Equality Texas is laser focused on doing everything we can at the Capitol to defeat the immediate threats SB 2 and SB 32 and keeping our transgender community safe.
What you can do to help:
Together, we can put a stop to this relentless and unprecedented attack on our community. We know this year has been challenging for so many reasons, but we must remain vigilant and ready to mobilize in a moment’s notice. Thank you to everyone who continues to show up to hold lawmakers accountable to do right by our kids.
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
EQUALITY TEXAS RESPONDS TO GOVERNOR GREG ABBOTT ADDING ANTI-TRANS LEGISLATION TO THE CALL
Angela Hale, Equality Texas, 512.289.2995 email@example.com
Austin, Texas – July 7, 2021– Equality Texas, the largest statewide organization solely dedicated to securing full equality for LGBTQ+ Texans, responded today to Governor Greg Abbott adding anti-trans legislation to the call for a special session. 2021 has been the worst year for LGBTQ+ state legislative attacks across the country and in Texas as an unprecedented number of anti-LGBTQ+ bills — especially bills targeting transgender children — were filed. These bills represent a cruel effort to further stigmatize and discriminate against LGBTQ+ youth across the country.
“We are incredibly disappointed that fictitious emergencies are once again being prioritized over critical issues that impact everyday Texans like the power grid and access to affordable health care. Anti-trans legislation which blocks transgender youth from normal school activities does nothing but send a message to bullies that it is okay to attack and humiliate transgender kids and normalizes bias and discrimination against transgender people (adults and kids alike). Texas law defines bullying as a single significant act or a pattern of acts by one or more persons directed at another that exploits an imbalance of power and further defines the behavior as sufficiently severe, persistent, or [and] pervasive enough that the action or threat creates an intimidating, threatening, or abusive educational environment for a student. These bills constitute government sanctioned bullying — and trans kids, trans adults and the people who love them are paying the price,” said Ricardo Martinez, CEO of Equality Texas.
Transgender, nonbinary, and gender non-conforming students are already at greater risk in school. The political climate has only increased these risks. Since the nationally coordinated attacks on transgender youth by state legislatures began, we have seen a marked increase of bullying against transgender youth and negative effects on the mental health of trans youth due to a disrespectful and uneducated public debate about trans people.
“My teenage son came close to needing hospitalization. He is supported at home, but knowledge of what was transpiring in Austin caused stress and depression we have never seen in him before. He began cutting, and stopped eating almost entirely. He lost almost twenty pounds over the course of only a couple of months, from a weight that was already slender. We are only now starting to see him eat without coaxing and display some measure of his former self,” said Quinn, parent of a transgender son, from Houston, TX.
Martinez concluded, “Families of trans/nonbinary/intersex children should not be creating contingency plans to leave Texas or be forced to watch their children suffer the detrimental effects of anxiety and fear associated with the debate around these bills. Parents are depending on our leaders to protect every child in the state of Texas and not use them as political football.”
Equality Texas is the largest statewide organization working to secure full equality for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer Texans through political action, education, community organizing, and collaboration.
The Equality Texas Foundation works to secure full equality for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer Texans through education, community organizing, and collaboration.
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
EQUALITY TEXAS RESPONDS TO THE SUPREME COURT RULING IN FULTON v PHILADELPHIA AND ITS IMPACT ON THE RIGHTS OF THE LGBTQ+ COMMUNITY AND NONDISCRIMINATION ORDINANCES
Angela Hale, Equality Texas, 512.289.2995 firstname.lastname@example.org
Austin, Texas – June 17, 2021- Equality Texas, the largest statewide organization solely dedicated to securing full equality for LGBTQ+ Texans, today is relieved by the ruling of the U.S. Supreme Court in its ruling regarding Fulton v Philadelphia.
Today’s ruling is a victory for efforts to prevent discrimination in taxpayer-funded services, including child welfare. While the court did find that some of the language in Philadelphia’s contracts was less than neutral in providing exceptions to their nondiscrimination law, cities and states may continue to prevent discrimination in taxpayer-funded services as long as those laws are applied even-handedly.
The agency in this case sought a broad license to discriminate against LGBTQ+ people for religious reasons while providing public services with taxpayer money. The court’s ruling denied them that license, affirming that “gay persons and gay couples cannot be treated as social outcasts or as inferior in dignity and worth” and respected the city’s interest in providing nondiscrimination protections for same-sex couples as “a weighty one.”
“Today’s Supreme Court decision does not change the current constitutional framework which allows governments to enforce non-discrimination laws which prohibit discrimination against LGBTQ+ people. The court’s decision was fact-specific and does not overturn long-established precedent on the Free Exercise Clause, ensuring that existing legal protections against discrimination remain intact.
“It’s also important to note the court upheld the dignity and humanity of LGBTQ+ people by affirming that we cannot be treated as social outcasts or as inferior in dignity and worth. After a traumatic Texas legislative session where we had to defend our inherent value as human beings, that statement is of the utmost importance. It’s more important now than ever for Congress to affirm that inherent dignity in law and listen to the overwhelming majority of voters, including 70% of Texans, who support LGBTQ+ inclusive federal nondiscrimination protections and pass the Equality Act.” said Ricardo Martinez, CEO of Equality Texas.
While it’s important that the Court recognized the need for nondiscrimination protections, we are disappointed that Catholic Social Services will, for now, be able to deny children access to loving homes with qualified same-sex parents. Since 2017, Texas has allowed state-funded child welfare service providers to refuse services based on their personal “sincerely held religious beliefs.” Discrimination has no place in foster care. When child welfare agencies allow religious beliefs rather than the child’s best interest to govern their placement decisions, the harm falls on children. As of May 2021, there are over 15000 kids in foster care in Texas according to the Texas Department of Family and Protective Services.
Equality Texas is the largest statewide organization working to secure full equality for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer Texans through political action, education, community organizing, and collaboration. The Equality Texas Foundation works to secure full equality for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer Texans through education, community organizing, and collaboration.
The 87th regular session of the Texas legislature is officially over, and with your help, we were able to fend off an unprecedented attack on LGBTQ+ Texans including bills that would ban life-saving, best practice healthcare for transgender youth and bills that would categorically exclude transgender youth from playing sports. These were nationally coordinated attacks that swept through the nation in order to peel back support for the LGBTQ+ community as a whole.
While we’re holding our breath to see if Governor Abbott adds anti-transgender legislation to a special session, we can reflect on the key takeaways of this session.
This session we faced almost insurmountable odds but our community partners joined together virtually and in-person to create real power that held back an overwhelming attack on our rights. Visible public pressure is a core pillar of legislative strategy, and LGBTQ+ Texans and their families delivered in Texas-sized fashion.
The landscape in the Texas legislature is tough. Over 30 anti-LGBTQ+ bills were filed this legislative session. Half of the legislators who filed anti-LGBTQ+ bills were committee chairs, a powerful position in the legislature. Lt. Governor Dan Patrick, who presides over the Senate chamber, is well known for his animosity towards the LGBTQ+ community.
In spite of these facts, our community mobilized with strength, fiercely protecting our most marginalized transgender youth. But we know that even debating these bills causes harm. Until the balance of power shifts inside the Capitol dome, attacks on our community will continue. We now have the opportunity to carry this momentum forward from the regular session to a possible special and beyond to elections to ensure that we never have a session like this again.
Donate to our Special Session Fund to help us hold the line against anti-LGBTQ+ bills.
The primary talking points of anti-trans bill supporters were all fabricated fear-mongering. This isn’t a new tactic, anti-LGBTQ+ groups have been painting the community as a threat since Stonewall and long before. This session, with the focus on transgender youth, the lies used to support anti-trans legislation pointed to imaginary girls with lost scholarships and healthcare scenarios that didn’t exist.
70% of Texans support nondiscrimination protections for the LGBTQ+ community. This majority support exists because our education and visibility have left no room for lies about who LGBTQ+ Texans are. The more we educate lawmakers during session, the less room there is for manipulation, fear, and lies. We’ll spend the next few months, in collaboration with our partners, ramping up education efforts so that Texas lawmakers and voters alike understand the facts about sports participation bans and bans on best-practice transition healthcare and that these attacks are just new ways to express the same hate towards the LGBTQ+ community.
Throughout the session, champion legislators pushed back vocally against anti-LGBTQ+ rhetoric. Every session, the more champion members speak up the lower the tolerance in places of power for attacks on the LGBTQ+ community. There were some poignant moments in hearings this session where lawmakers spoke out and stood for what was right. And we will never forget the powerful visual of legislators waving transgender flags on the floor of the House as the clock struck midnight, killing SB 29, the transgender sports ban. Keep an eye out for our moments of pride this month for a recap of these passionate scenes.
30+ anti-LGBTQ+ bills:
Some highlights of our advocacy work this year:
Legislative sessions are not the end of our advocacy, but the moment of truth where we apply the power we’ve built in the interim. This session we sent the important message that we have the strength to withstand an all out assault. Join us in the interim as we continue to build and change the dynamic in the Capitol for a special session and beyond.
Last Tuesday as the clock struck midnight, all 30+ anti-LGBTQ+ bills filed this session were officially dead, including 13 direct attacks on transgender youth. It’s been a long, hard road to get here and we absolutely could not have done it without you, our partner organizations or our LGBTQ+ champions in the Texas House. THANK YOU to everyone who contacted your legislators, attended an event, testified and shared your story publicly, or educated your friends and family privately.
Of course as we’ve mentioned before, nothing is over until Sine Die (the last day of session). Sine Die is this coming Monday and in the near term we’re watching all amendments closely to ensure that anti-LGBTQ+ bills aren’t revived.
We’re also watching for indications on whether our fight will continue through a special session. As it stands, there will be a special session in the fall to handle redistricting and the disbursement of federal COVID relief funds only. The Governor alone has the power to call a special session, and the bills considered must be limited to the items that the Governor puts on his “call,” or the announcement kicking off the special session.
Despite the recent exchanges between the Governor and Lt. Governor, it’s unlikely at this time that there will be a special session in June to bring back SB 29 (Perry), the ban on transgender youth playing sports. Make sure you’re following us on social media so we can keep you updated if anything develops. If you would like to commit to taking action should there be a special session please, sign up here.
The last time there was a special session attacking transgender Texans (for the “bathroom bill”), it cost taxpayers over 1 million dollars and the bill still failed to pass — because hate is not a Texas value.
70% of the state supports nondiscrimination protections for transgender Texans. The attacks on transgender youth that dominated this session are not reflective of our state and should never have moved as far through the legislative process as they did. These bills relied on misinformation and lies to gain momentum and caused untold damage through the rhetoric they promoted.
Change is made through speaking truth to power. We’re incredibly proud of our community and allied legislators for defeating the overwhelming attack on transgender Texans. We’ll continue to work to educate those in power and demand that they acknowledge the truth: that transgender Texans are not political pawns. They are an integral part of the fabric of this state and deserve to be treated with dignity and respect. Join us.