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Citing Independence for All Texans, Senator Jose Rodríguez files Senate Bill 856
Posted on March 2, 2015 at 9:16 pm

Senators Ellis, Garcia, Watson, and Whitmire co-author bill to promote Texas Independence from Discrimination

Here in Texas, we are fiercely independent people. Our values—such as hard work, opportunity, and the Golden Rule—are strong. These values are in large part why Texas remains strong, dating back to when we claimed our independence on this day in 1836.

One of our most strongly held beliefs here in Texas is taking care of our own and treating our neighbors as ourselves. This kind of Texas spirit is visible in every town and city in the state, in family-owned businesses and large public employers.

And yet, we realize there are places across Texas where this spirit does not flourish. Texans like Isabel and Victoria in Lewisville (Denton County) can be denied housing for themselves and their sons Juan and Oscar because the two women are in a same-gender relationship. Casanova from Austin and Dylan from Houston were harassed on the job after coming out as transgender but were given no recourse by their employers; Dylan would end up being laid off. Darla from Austin has been and can again be discriminated against while attempting to secure employment because she is a lesbian. John David and his partner Jerry from Tyler can be asked to leave a public accommodation—such as a restaurant or concert venue—because they are gay. Antonia, a transgender woman of color was fired from her job because of her transition.

Further, discrimination is bad for business. Fair treatment for workers, families, and people who visit our state—including gay and transgender people—is a crucial factor in the ongoing strength of the Texas brand.

That’s why today—Texas Independence Day—Senator José Rodríguez, along with co-authors Senators Rodney Elllis, Sylvia Garcia, Kirk Watson, and John Whitmire, introduced Senate Bill 856, a state-wide anti-discrimination bill that would prohibit discrimination in the areas of employment, public accommodation, housing, and state contracting based upon sexual orientation, or gender identity or expression.

Senator Rodríguez is filing this legislation so that all Texans—including those who are lesbian, gay, bisexual, or transgender—can live out their independence in our great state without fear that they will be denied employment, housing, or access to public spaces or state contracts because of who they are or whom they love.

Because Texas does not protect people who are gay or transgender from discrimination, many municipalities have already acted to extend discrimination protection to their lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) residents. Currently it is estimated that 35.5% of Texans live in a city where discrimination against sexual orientation is prohibited. 33.9% live in a city where gender identity is protected.

“I chose today—Texas Independence Day—to file this important legislation,” Senator Rodríguez said, “because Texas values—such as hard work, opportunity, and the Golden Rule—are the reason why Texas remains strong 179 years later. That is why we must act definitively to ensure everyone in the Lone Star State is treated fairly and equally.”

“Every Texan deserves to be treated fairly, and this legislation will make our state stronger by protecting this important ideal,” Senator Watson said.

“Discrimination of any form has no place in Texas. Not in our schools, our government, or our services. I am proud to co-author this legislation and proud to stand strong for the fair treatment of all Texans especially our friends in the LGBT community who for too long have been the target of discrimination,” stated Senator John Whitmire, Dean of the Texas Senate.

“I’m proud to coauthor legislation to prevent fellow Texans from being discriminated against due to who they love, ” said Senator Ellis. “All hardworking Texans, including our LGBT neighbors, should have the chance to earn a living, provide for their families, and live like everyone else without fear of getting fired or evicted solely because of who they are. ”

“All Texans should enjoy equal protection under the law. This important legislation would ensure that our LGBT brothers and sisters can express who they are without fear of discrimination. It would also send a message to the rest of the world that Texas welcomes anyone that wants to contribute to our great state, regardless of sexual orientation,” said Senator Garcia.

“Equality Texas applauds Senator Rodríguez and his four co-authors for the filing of the omnibus non-discrimination bill SB 856. Every Texan deserves to be treated fairly and equally, including gay and transgender Texans,” said Equality Texas Executive Director Chuck Smith. “This legislation would help ensure that every Texan has the opportunity to work hard, earn a living, and provide for their families in the great state we proudly call home.”

The independent Texas spirit is alive in all Texans and we all thrive when everyone is treated fairly and equally according to the values that have sustained us for 179 years. That is why we encourage you to join us at the state capitol to meet face-to-face with your elected legislators and tell them what this proposed legislation means to you as well as how harmful legislation affects you and the people you love and care about. Family Advocacy Day will be held Monday, March 23. Freedom Advocacy Day will be held Monday, April 13. We hope you will join us for one or both of these important days as we work toward making Texas a state where we all have independence from discrimination!