Our Pledge to Anti-Racism

The Texas Legislative Session Starts Today — Here’s how we prepared in 2020

Today, the 2021 Texas Legislative Session officially began. When the legislature convenes every two years, we go into work overdrive. But the work of Equality Texas never really ends…or even slows down. Last year was an oddity for so many reasons, but we still had attacks on the LGBTQ community and still fought back. Here are some of our top victories…

  1. We were victorious in ensuring that existing protections for LGBTQ+ folks and people with disabilities were not removed from the Social Workers Code of Conduct.
  2. Worked with local advocates to support a Clyde High School’s student who received in-school suspension for wearing nail polish to school. And that win is already extending into 2021, with the student reporting to us that in a school assembly, the principal announced that the policy will be gender neutral this semester, with no specific grooming requirements and that boys can wear nail polish and/or makeup!
  3. Supported our coalition partner, Texas Freedom Network, in trying to make sex education inclusive of sexual orientation and gender identity.
  4. Mobilized local community in Wimberley in support of Board of Trustee Lori Olson who was vilified for supporting LGBTQ+ students by wearing a modified school logo with rainbow colors to commemorate the first-ever Wimberley Pride.
  5. 23 Fellows from 15 cities across the state completed our inaugural leadership development program Equality Fellows
  6. We planned and led 30 trainings on LGBTQ+ issues and advocacy skills which were attended by over 700 people.
  7. Worked with a coalition of organizations across Texas on COVID-19 and You: a survey, which was initiated on May 4th and sought to understand the concerns and challenges faced by LGBTQ Texans during the pandemic.
  8. Submitted Public Comment condemning the Housing and Urban Development’s Proposed Rule Change Excluding Trans People from Homeless Shelters.
  9. Equality Texas continued to work on a patient-centered outcomes research collaborative through TransFORWARD: Texas Transgender Health, a unique collaboration with Texas Health Institute. In 2020, we held TransFORWARD’s Capstone Collaborative Summit which brought together forty project leaders to review the key themes that emerged from over two hundred participants in eight regional summits during 2019.   
  10. We launched the Queer Texas Crisis Fund, a joint project by Texas Pride Impact Funds and Equality Texas. The fund raised $50,000 which was distributed to 16 LGBTQ+ direct service orgs who provided emergency relief to communities disproportionately impacted by COVID-19.
  11. Hosted our second annual Gala: All Eyes on Texas, virtually! While we missed celebrating in person, attendees raved that the event was “the best virtual event all quarantine” and helped us raise $200,000 to continue our important work.
  12. Worked as a 2020 Census Partner to help recruit more marginalized community participants in the census, to ensure that traditionally underrepresented populations were counted and could receive critical federal funding in their communities.

Pivoting to 100% online work and still seeing so many successful initiatives was possible because of having such dedicated, engaged, and resolute members — you, Equality Texans. 

We look forward to even more wins in 2021!

SHARE
Filed Under:   , , , , , , ,
ADD YOUR VOICE

For Immediate Release: Combined Statement on DoJ Changes to US Asylum Procedures

January 11, 2021 by Debi Jackson

Contact:  Angela Hale, 512-289-2995 angela.hale@equalitytexas.org

Austin, Texas- January 11, 2021 

Today, Equality Texas, the largest statewide organization solely dedicated to securing full equality for LGBTQ Texans, the Transgender Education Network of Texas (TENT), the largest statewide, trans led, trans focused organization in the state of Texas, and RAICES, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit agency that promotes justice by providing free and low-cost legal services to underserved immigrant children, families, and refugees, condemned the “Death to Asylum” rule change, the Department of Homeland Security and the Department of Justice’s radical finalized rule to U.S. asylum procedures that seeks to eliminate asylum for LGBTQ individuals seeking to escape persecution. 

The rule change will systematically dismantle key elements of the asylum process, including rewriting the standards for the credible fear interview stage, membership of a particular social group, and political opinion, redefining the threshold of harassment that qualifies as persecution and denying the experiences of LGBTQ refugees worldwide. The rule is set to go into effect on January 11, 2021. 

Statement by Ricardo Martinez, CEO of Equality Texas: “What has made America great historically is our reputation across the world as a sanctuary for those who are experiencing persecution in their country of origin. People have viewed the US as a place where a new beginning is possible, a place where hope exists, where there is a chance to lead a safe and authentic life. For LGBTQ people experiencing persecution, transgender people in particular, asylum is a matter of life and death. I’m appalled at this heartless proposal that will undoubtedly put lives we should be protecting in more danger.”

There are numerous changes that impact LGBTQ individuals directly.  The new rule drastically increases the asylum seeker’s burden of proving persecution by requiring proof that government officials specifically participated in any persecution — private civilian actors do not qualify. In addition, any threats of violence to the individual must be “exigent” and “extreme,” according to the new rule, going so far as to say that “repeated threats,” “intermittent harassment” and “governmental laws that are infrequently enforced” aren’t enough to qualify as persecution. We know all too well how quickly repeated harassment and threats can escalate to violent behavior towards the LGBTQ community, and no one should have to expose themselves to violence in order to prove their persecution and attain safety. 

The rule also drastically changes the definition for persecution on account of “political opinion,” or seeking asylum because of political persecution, ignoring the fact that in over 70 countries living openly as LGBTQ is against the law, and by its very nature a political act. 

Statement by Cristian Sanchez, Staff Attorney at Refugee and Immigrant Center for Education and Legal Services (RAICES):  “As an immigration attorney, I have represented many LGBTQ+ people fighting for asylum. The persecution they have suffered in their home country is horrific, and they make the journey here to save their life. Their stories of discrimination and violence are some of the worst I have heard in my career, especially for those who are transgender. Many of my LGBTQ+ clients have been granted asylum and are now living in relative safety in this country. But most of those who were granted would be denied under these proposed asylum regulations, which is unconscionable. Deserving LGBTQ+ applicants to asylum will be deported to their home country if these regulations go into effect, which will put them in danger of death and torture.”

Texas has always had a robust refugee population. In 2016, more refugees were resettled in the Dallas Fort Worth Metroplex than in any other U.S. metropolitan area, and 52% of those refugees were from countries with criminal penalties for being openly LGBTQ. In 2019, Texas was the top state in the U.S. for refugee resettlement, leading Washington, California, and New York. 

Statement by Emmett Schelling, Executive Director of the Transgender Education Network of Texas (TENT): “Transgender asylum seekers are in most cases fleeing their homes and everything they have known because the risk of staying is in many times a death sentence due to who they are. This rule change continues the pattern of recent changes in HUD, Title IX, and DHHS that rewrite existing rules and rollback protections in a targeted effort to tacitly condone individual bias and transphobia. To the community it has felt like a coordinated campaign to destabilize stable trans populations and cruelly target those of us who are impacted and marginalized the most.

Refugees are a vital part of our state, contributing to the vibrant mix of folks we call Texans. We, as Texans, have opened our doors, reiterating our values that all individuals have a right to be free from fear and persecution. The Administration’s new rule turns its back on those values and on LGBTQ people seeking safety around the world.” As this rule is challenged in court, we strongly urge the incoming Biden administration to make receding this final rule change a top priority. 

###

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 Transgender Education Network of Texas (TENT) is the largest statewide, trans led, trans focused organization in the state of Texas. TENT focuses on policy, education, and community engagement to work towards achieving equality for transgender and non binary Texans.

RAICES is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit agency that promotes justice by providing free and low-cost legal services to underserved immigrant children, families, and refugees. With legal services, social programs, bond assistance, and an advocacy team focused on changing the narrative around immigration in this country, RAICES is operating on the national frontlines of the fight for immigration rights.

SHARE
Filed Under:   , , , , ,
ADD YOUR VOICE

Nothing About Us Without Us: TransFORWARD’s 2020 Accomplishments for Advancing Trans Health

January 4, 2021 by Debi Jackson

Equality Texas, through the Equality Texas Foundation, is critical in developing evidence-based medical and healthcare outcomes through leadership in TransFORWARD: Texas Transgender Health, a unique collaboration with Texas Health Institute.

No other Equality organization is in a position to directly improve a LGBTQ+ person’s life through patient-centered outcomes research by engaging the community at the grassroots level and including these voices at the leadership table. Research collaborations formed through TransFORWARD’s multi-sectoral collaboration ensures transgender and gender diverse voices directly, and LGBQ+ voices in general, are at the leadership and decision-making table. The Equality Texas Foundation, together with Transgender Education Network of Texas, ensure “Nothing About Us Without Us” is not just a phrase but essential in providing key stakeholders in our work.

TransFORWARD’s 10-year goal is to reduce suicides, suicide attempts, and suicide ideation by improving transgender and gender diverse lives through evidence-based patient outcomes research. Three research capacity and foundation building accomplishments took place in 2020.

Three Accomplishments in 2020

1) Creating Safe Spaces — Addressing mental health, housing, and employment issues during the COVID-19 pandemic was launched on August 31. TransFORWARD used THI’s Project ECHO hub to create 22 individual one-hour sessions to explore the pandemic’s impact on transgender and gender diverse people. The first seven sessions focusing on mental health enabled a large number of grassroots leaders from BIPOC communities to take an active part in shaping the project’s outcomes.

This novel approach included innovative online brainstorming to capture and synthesize six session discussions into a summary containing integrated services, leadership, training, and policy recommendations. The Patient-Centered Outcomes Research Institute (PCORI) awarded a One-Year COVID-19 Enhancement of $132,342 to the 2-year project TransFORWARD: Creating a Statewide Transgender-Powered Research Network in Texas, increasing the total funding over 3 years to $382,342. 

2) Research — Simply put, there is relatively little transgender and gender diverse research included in clinical decision-making. Most of the current research is based on East and West Coast studies which involve small sample sizes and primarily focus on HIV. Clinicians need evidence-based data informed by patients to make clinical decisions.

TransFORWARD’s Capstone Collaborative Summit brought together 40 project leaders to review the key themes that emerged from over two hundred participants in eight regional summits during 2019. Evidence-based patient outcome studies on gender affirming hormone replacement therapy is the number one medical research issue by far. Clinical guidelines and WPATH (World Professional Association for Transgender Health) Standards of Care leave clinicians choosing treatment options without the benefit of patient outcomes research — an important gap in scientific knowledge.

Mental health or substance abuse, including tobacco, is the second most requested area of study. The Capstone Summit identified the priorities and need to further develop research capacity and create transgender-focused research proposals.

3) Reducing risk of a disease to improve and extend a person’s life is an important medical, healthcare, and public health focus. In November, the American Heart Association published a “Scientific Statement Assessing and Addressing Cardiovascular Health in LGBTQ Adults”. The AHA conceptual model of cardiovascular health in LGBTQ adults is a cornerstone in TransFORWARD’s emerging medical research capacity building program. Research team members and several of the AHA Statement authors are submitting two ancillary studies to The PRIDE Study to review existing data from 21,000 participants to begin understanding the role tobacco and hormones play in cardiovascular health.

The PRIDE Study, the only national attempt to enroll 100,000 LGBTQ+ people in research studies, is crucial in understanding LGBTQ+ health issues. TransFORWARD, a PRIDE Study/net community engagement partner, will complete one of its remaining PCORI deliverables with these submissions. Importantly, members of TransFORWARD’s research team have also submitted additional research proposals. A Merck Long Acting PrEP proposal is in final review with the expectation it will be awarded shortly.

TransFORWARD is the community engagement lead and key partner in a full application PCORI asked UT Southwestern Medical Center and UT Dell Medical Center to submit. The four+ year project “Preventing Suicide and Gender Diverse Young Adults in Primary Care”, will compare the effectiveness of two culturally adapted suicide intervention approaches among 18 to 24 year old adults in the Dallas/Fort Worth and Central Texas metropolitan areas.

Finally, TransFORWARD‘s research team is developing data to submit a Letter of Intent to develop evidence-based research through a statewide gender affirming hormone replacement therapy clinical study. The LOI is due in February 2021 and if funded could enable TransFORWARD to develop some of the first evidence-based data in prescribing hormones.

These three accomplishments position the Equality Texas Foundation, Texas Health Institute, and TransFORWARD to scale up funded research projects in 2021 to improve the lives of LGBTQ+ people in Texas.

SHARE
Filed Under:   , , , ,
ADD YOUR VOICE

Closing out 2021

December 30, 2020 by Debi Jackson

It’s with a heavy heart that we close this year, having witnessed the significant effects of the COVID-19 crisis across Texas, disproportionately impacting those in the LGBTQ+ community. The lingering effects of the pandemic will continue to be felt in 2021 but hope is not lost. Just this month we’ve seen a glimpse of what positive change may be in store for the new year with the news of vaccine distribution! 

Although we are encouraged by the vaccine rollout and the relief it will hopefully provide our communities, we remain wary of the epidemic of hate we will continue to fight during the 2021 Texas Legislative Session. Equality Texas has begun tracking proposed anti-LGBTQ+ legislation, and has already seen bills filed that criminalize affirming healthcare for transgender youth, allow licensed professionals to sue local nondiscrimination ordinances, and lawyers to turn away clients due to their “sincerely held religious beliefs”. For over 30 years, Equality Texas has been in communities across the state and at the Texas Capitol, fighting against discrimination like this.

As Equality Texans, you support the critical engagement, education, mobilization, leadership programs Equality Texas has developed to build a statewide movement to protect the rights afforded to LGBTQ+ people today and advocate for change.

During this next Legislative Session, Equality Texas aims to pass a comprehensive, statewide nondiscrimination bill through the House of Representatives for the first time in Texas history. This bipartisan effort is an important moment in Texas history, as we move from defense to offense to protect the rights of our community, and would create significant economic opportunity in Texas, as shown by this economic impact study commissioned by Texas Competes, Equality Texas’ business coalition program. 

We continue to build nonpartisan support for equality and respond aggressively to the expected attacks on the LGBTQ+ community. We have worked for three decades in a challenging, often-hostile political climate, and because of you — Equality Texans — we have achieved victories in the face of strong opposition. Thank you for being a part of Equality Texas’ legacy.

From all of us at Equality Texas, we wish you a happy, healthy, and safe New Year.

SHARE
Filed Under:   , ,
ADD YOUR VOICE

Field Director

December 19, 2020 by Debi Jackson

THE POSITION

Equality Texas is seeking a Field Director to manage the operation and execution of all field organizing activities to advance our organization’s mission of full lived equality for all LGBTQ+ Texans. The Field Director is responsible for managing campaigns that persuade or pressure decision-makers to accomplish advocacy goals, establish and maintain partner and coalition relationships, and create strategies that map out the path to accomplishing short-, medium-, and long-term goals. They will oversee activities such as deep canvassing, staffing and coordinating local events across Texas, supporting steering committees, pride, volunteer engagement, and phone and text banking. The Field Director works closely with programmatic staff and field staff to ensure campaigns are run effectively and efficiently.

PRIMARY RESPONSIBILITIES

ADDITIONAL RESPONSIBILITIES

CANDIDATE SKILL PROFILE/REQUIREMENTS

Preferred Qualifications/Experience:

APPLICATION INSTRUCTIONS

Please email your resume and cover letter detailing how your experience prepares you to assume the responsibilities and expectations of the Field Director role at Equality Texas to jobs@equalitytexas.org with subject line: EQTX Field Director.

ORGANIZATION OVERVIEW

Equality Texas envisions a Texas where all LGBTQ+ people and their families have full equality in the hearts and minds of their fellow Texans and in all areas of the law. Headquartered in Austin, Equality Texas is dedicated to securing full legal and lived equality for LGBTQ+ Texans through political action, education, community organizing, and collaboration. With tens of thousands of members across the state, Equality Texas is the state’s leading state-wide organizing and advocacy organization for LGBTQ+ Texans.

Today’s Equality Texas is comprised of two connected nonprofit corporations:

Each organization is governed by a volunteer Board of Directors; these Boards have 33 members in total who represent a cross-section of LGBTQ community, business, and philanthropic leaders and allies. Equality Texas had combined (c)3 and (c)4 revenue of roughly $1.2 million in 2018.

Equality Texas values the leadership of people of color and LGBTQ+ individuals, and strongly encourages people of all traditionally underrepresented identities to apply. No applicant will be discriminated against because of race, color, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity or expression, age, religion, national origin, disability, ancestry, marital status, veteran status, medical condition or any protected category prohibited by local, state or federal laws.

SHARE
ADD YOUR VOICE

Calling All Faith Leaders

December 18, 2020 by Debi Jackson

The end of the year and the holiday season brings with it the opportunity to reflect, to connect, and to be thankful for what we have faith in — be it our friends and chosen family, our community, our spirituality, or a higher power. 

For those of us who do celebrate religious holidays, as we come together (virtually) in song, in prayer, and in light we reaffirm the values and beliefs that connect us to each other. These values include treating each other with love and ensuring that no one is singled out.  

As we at Equality Texas prepare for the 2021 session this holiday season, we need our faith communities more than ever to fight for statewide nondiscrimination protections and against religious refusals and anti-trans legislation. Is easy to forget that the legislative session is now less than a month away. 

While we don’t quite know what a legislative session under the pandemic will look like, we do know what strategies anti-LGBTQ+ advocates are already planning. We’ve already seen a return of the negative and absurd “ban the bible” campaign to drum up opposition to pro-LGBTQ+ legislation.

We’ve also seen a resurgence of the religious refusal bills that carve out ways to discriminate under the guise of “religious freedom,” all the way up to the Supreme Court of the United States (SCOTUS) with the case of Fulton v. Philadelphia. We know how important true religious freedom is and that it is not mutually exclusive with the existence of LGBTQ+ people. Religious refusal arguments spread the false narrative that there is an irreconcilable wedge between people of faith and the LGBTQ+ community. We know better. 

Texas faith leaders and activists pushed back against that narrative in 2017 with a faith sign-on letter denouncing any attempts to use religion to demonize the LGBTQ+ community with over 200 signatories. That’s why we’re releasing a new letter to speak to our new reality. With everything going on right now it’s crucially important to ensure that no one can be evicted, fired, denied services, or refused healthcare just because of who they are or who they love. 

You can help!

We plan to share this letter and its signatories with legislators on January 16th, “Religious Freedom Day,” so that our legislators know that Texans of faith support LGBTQ+ inclusive nondiscrimination protections and are opposed to any attempts to use religion as a sword against the LGBTQ+ community. 

If you’re a faith leader, please share your commitment to equality and sign onto our 2020 “Faith Leaders Against Discrimination Open Letter” today. If you’re not a faith leader, but a person of faith, please encourage your clergy to sign onto this letter. 

A majority of Texans of every region, religion and major ethnic group support legal protections against discrimination for the LGBTQ+ community. Make sure legislators aren’t swayed by a vocal minority by signing onto the open letter and invite other faith leaders in your circle to do the same.

SHARE
Filed Under:   , , , , ,
ADD YOUR VOICE

Trevor, painted nails, and an out-of-touch Clyde Independent School District policy

December 11, 2020 by Debi Jackson

On November 30, Trevor attended school with his nails painted. He showed up authentically — like all students should. Shortly after beginning his day he was taken to the assistant principal’s office and placed in “in-school suspension” for refusing to remove his nail polish.

On Monday, December 7, after public pressure, Trevor was allowed to return to regular instruction pending a school board meeting and executive session scheduled for Thursday, December 10.

Yesterday, the Clyde Independent School District (CISD) Board held that special meeting. There were no topics for open session in view of the public, but a closed session included deliberation on student discipline and a visit with their legal counsel. After the closed session, the CISD Board motioned to adjourn the meeting and left without comment on whether or not they would reexamine/modify their existing dress and grooming policy.

We had hoped that the district would act urgently to address their current policy which is anchored in antiquated sex stereotypes that treat students differently on the basis of their gender. This was an opportunity for the district to adhere to existing federal law and protect LGBTQ+ youth who are disproportionately impacted by these policies.

According to GLSEN’s Educational Exclusion: Drop Out, Push Outand the School-to-Prison Pipeline among LGBTQ Youth reports, anti-LGBTQ discriminatory policies and practices contribute to high rates of discipline. Over half (56 percent) of LGBTQ students experienced some form of anti-LGBTQ discrimination at school, and these students were more likely to have received school discipline than those who did not experience discrimination (48 percent vs. 32 percent).

LGBTQ Black/African American, LGBTQ Hispanic/Latino, and LGBTQ Multiracial students; LGBTQ students experiencing homelessness; and LGBTQ students with disabilities experienced higher rates of detention, in-school or out-of-school suspension and/or expulsion from school than others. This is unacceptable.

LGBTQ+ students exist everywhere, even in rural West Texas communities. It is important for their mental health, emotional well-being, and academic success to know that adults in their lives and community members at-large affirm and support them. Your messages, thousands of likes, and encouraging words have shown Trevor and all LGBTQ+ students across Texas that they have a community that will have their back.

We will continue to monitor this situation and support Trevor and the local community alongside our partners Abilene Pride Alliance, ACLU of Texas, and Lambda Legal.

SHARE
Filed Under:   , , , ,
ADD YOUR VOICE

For Immediate Release: Equality Texas, Abilene Pride Alliance and Lambda Legal Condemn Clyde High School’s in School Suspension of an Openly Gay Student Who Wore Nail Polish to School

December 6, 2020 by Debi Jackson

Contact:  Angela Hale, 512-289-2995 angela.hale@equalitytexas.org

Austin, Texas- December 6, 2020 – Today, Equality Texas, the largest statewide organization solely dedicated to securing full equality for LGBTQ+ Texans, Abilene Pride Alliance, a nonprofit organization that is committed to connecting, coordinating, and advancing the LGBTQ+IA+ community in Abilene and the Big Country and Lambda Legal condemn Clyde High School’s decision to suspend an openly gay student for wearing nail polish to school.

Earlier this week, a student from Clyde High School received in-school suspension for having his nails painted. The school district’s student handbook says male students are prohibited from wearing make-up and nail polish. As such, the school has given the student three options 1) remain in in-school suspension, 2) remove nail polish, 3) attend virtual learning.

“Unfortunately, discriminatory policies in schools are all too common in Texas. 70%[1] of LGBTQ+ students in Texas report experiencing at least one form of anti-LGTBQ discrimination at school. Right now, there are many schools preventing LGBTQ+ students from using their chosen name or pronouns in school, bringing a same-gender date to a school dance, or starting a GSA, while others are being sent home for wearing LGBTQ+ supportive apparel or wearing nail polish. LGTBQ students are experiencing unequal treatment from that of their non-LGBTQ counterparts. LGBTQ students have the same right to express themselves as non-LGBTQ students; and therefore, should not be singled out for differential treatment. Students should attend safe and affirming schools where they can be their authentic selves and focus on their studies. Forcing a student into in-school suspension because of a rigid and out of date policy regarding gender stereotypes can have detrimental effects on educational outcomes,” said Ricardo Martinez, CEO of Equality Texas.

“It is our hope that we can work with Clyde CISD to immediately rectify this situation the student is currently in and ensure that going forward, the school district follows TASB recommendations to dissolve policies that treat students differently based on gender expression.

We are asking for this discriminatory policy to immediately be addressed at Clyde CISD’s next school board meeting and that the child in question be released from suspension with an official apology from the School District, said Sam Hatton, Chair, Abilene Pride Alliance.

“School rules that treat students differently based on gender stereotypes violate clearly established law.  By enforcing such archaic rules that disproportionately harm LGBTQ+ students, the district exposes itself to significant legal liability.  We call on the board and district leaders to act with urgency to correct outdated policies that foster an unwelcoming school environment and take significant and meaningful steps to ensure inclusion for all students,” said Paul D. Castillo, Counsel and Students’ Rights Strategist for Lambda Legal.

In September, the ACLU of Texas sent a letter to Clyde CISD demanding that they reexamine dress and grooming code policies that are unconstitutional and discriminatory.

Our organizations are committed to monitoring this developing situation and support the Clyde High School student to ensure action is taken to create a safe and affirming learning environment for the student and all LGBTQ+ students across Texas.

###

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.

Abilene Pride Alliance is a nonprofit organization that is committed to connecting, coordinating, and advancing the LGBTQ+IA+ community in Abilene and the Big Country.

Lambda Legal is the oldest and largest national legal organization whose mission is to achieve full recognition of the civil rights of lesbians, gay men, bisexuals, transgender people and everyone living with HIV through impact litigation, education and public policy work.


[1] GLSEN. (2019). School Climate in Texas (State Snapshot). New York: GLSEN.

GLSEN is the leading national education organization focused on ensuring safe schools for all students.

SHARE
Filed Under:   , , , , , ,
ADD YOUR VOICE

A license to discriminate on trial at the U.S. Supreme Court

December 5, 2020 by Debi Jackson

On November 4th, with all eyes on the 2020 elections, the U.S. Supreme Court heard oral arguments on a case that could have immense implications for the LGBTQ community. Fulton v City of Philadelphia brings to light the anti-LGBTQ practices of a taxpayer-funded foster care agency. The agency, Catholic Social Services, refused to serve same-sex couples, which is in violation of the City of Philadelphia’s nondiscrimination law and the contract the agency signed with the City. 

What is the issue before the court?

The question before the court is whether a government contractor, including a foster care agency, can use taxpayer funds to perpetuate discrimination by citing their religious beliefs. The larger issue is this: to what extent can organizations or individuals use their religious beliefs to justify discrimination, even when it’s against the law? These kinds of exemptions are what we call “religious refusals” or “license to discriminate” legislation, because they allow individuals to refuse to comply with generally applied laws due to their “sincerely held religious beliefs.” 

Imagine if each of us were free to pick and choose which laws to follow based on our personal religious beliefs. In such a world, we would become as the late Justice Antonin Scalia wrote on this issue, “a law unto [ourselves].” 

Religious refusals target more than just the LGBTQ+ community. They open up a Pandora’s box that would allow discrimination against other faith traditions, access to reproductive healthcare — any issue that people could conceivably have a “sincerely held religious belief” about.

“Religious liberty” does not give an individual the right to discriminate against others, especially when public taxpayer funds are involved. LGBTQ Americans are in danger of facing discrimination in foster care, homeless shelters, food banks, and the 33,000 human service nonprofits that receive grants to carry out government contracts. 

If the Supreme Court rules in favor of Catholic Social Services, the decision could open the door to religious refusals by government contractors across the country. 

How did the November 4th oral arguments go?

Every Justice seemed to understand the potential larger impact of this case and asked questions accordingly. An extremely broad breakdown of the Justices’ questions are below: 

Those thought of as the “liberal justices,” including Justice Kagan, Justice Breyer, and Justice Sotomayor, asked questions that implied that the government has a compelling interest in eradicating discrimination against the LGBTQ+ community and ensuring that government programs treat everyone equally. They also pointed out that no one was forcing Catholic Social Services to “approve of” or support same-sex couples, only to evaluate their eligibility to be foster parents.

Those thought of as the “conservative justices” had a wide range of questions. Justice Roberts and Justice Gorsuch asked clarifying questions around when programs should take protected identities into account and whether or not the government gets to set the rules for its own programs, even if it is contracting that work out. 

Justices Thomas, Alito, Kavanaugh, and Barrett seemed to question who was harmed by the denial of service if there are other agencies that will serve LGBTQ+ couples, implying that discrimination was okay as long as not every agency discriminates. Justice Alito in particular also made a strong distinction between discrimination based on race and discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity, implying that discrimination towards the LGBTQ+ community was acceptable. 

Any decision will have to have at least 5 of the Justices in agreement. 

What comes next?

This is yet another landmark Supreme Court case for our community, and we need legislators, the media, and the general public to understand what’s at stake. Religious refusals are a tactic that opponents of equality rely on incessantly to rollback progress for our community. If individuals can exempt themselves from laws that enforce nondiscrimination protections, then our community isn’t fully protected.

The decision will likely come down sometime next spring or early summer.  

How is Equality Texas responding?

Join us in December for a virtual webinar that will take a deeper dive into the Fulton v City of Philadelphia case. 

We’re also fighting religious refusals on the state level in the 2021 state legislative session this January. Join our grassroots advocacy strategy by emailing rachel.hill@equalitytexas.org and we’ll help you find where to fit in. 

SHARE
Filed Under:   , , , , , ,
ADD YOUR VOICE

Field Intern – Paid

December 4, 2020 by Debi Jackson

Title: Field Intern
Organization: Equality Texas Foundation/Equality Texas
Reports to:  Community Outreach and Engagement Managers
Location: Austin, TX
Hours and Compensation: Hours are based on selected candidate’s availability. Ideally, applicants should be able to commit to at least 10 hours a week from January – June 2021 and hold a predetermined schedule to be agreed upon during onboarding. Interns will be paid $15/hr.

THE POSITION

Equality Texas is seeking an intern to join our field and advocacy team. This individual will work closely with the Community Outreach and Engagement Managers (North and South) to engage Equality Texans in advocacy to support our legislative priorities.

PRIMARY RESPONSIBILITIES

CANDIDATE SKILL PROFILE/REQUIREMENTS

Preferred Qualifications/Experience

Learning Objectives

APPLICATION INSTRUCTIONS

Please email your resume and cover letter detailing how your experience prepares you to assume the responsibilities and expectations of the Field Internship role at Equality Texas to info@equalitytexas.org with subject line: EQTX Field Intern.

No applicant will be discriminated against because of race, color, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity or expression, age, religion, national origin, disability, ancestry, marital status, veteran status, medical condition or any protected category prohibited by local, state or federal laws.

ORGANIZATION OVERVIEW

Equality Texas envisions a Texas where all LGBTQ+ people and their families have full equality in the hearts and minds of their fellow Texans and in all areas of the law. Headquartered in Austin, Equality Texas is dedicated to securing full legal and lived equality for LGBTQ+ Texans through political action, education, community organizing, and collaboration. With tens of thousands of members across the state, Equality Texas is the state’s leading state-wide organizing and advocacy organization for LGBTQ+ Texans.

Today’s Equality Texas is comprised of two connected nonprofit corporations:

Each organization is governed by a volunteer Board of Directors; these Boards have 33 members in total who represent a cross-section of LGBTQ community, business, and philanthropic leaders and allies. Equality Texas had combined (c)3 and (c)4 revenue of roughly $1.2 million in 2019.

SHARE
Filed Under:   , , , ,
ADD YOUR VOICE