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EQUALITY TEXAS BLOCKED NEARLY 20 ANTI-LGBTQ BILLS THIS SESSION;
ONE ‘DOG WHISTLE’ MEASURE PASSED, BUT IT DOES NOT EXPAND EXISTING LAW
Austin, Texas-May 28, 2019-Pointing to the death of 20 anti-LGBTQ bills, Equality Texas, the state’s largest LGBTQ rights organization, said the death of 20 LGBTQ bills was evidence of the growing political strength of and support for the LGBTQ rights movement.
“The Texas Legislature just wrapped up the legislative session — which means LGBTQ Texans can now rest a little easier, knowing that Dan Patrick and his cadre of anti-equality crusaders won’t have the opportunity to legislate discrimination again until January 2021. We are proud we were able to work with our partners and legislative allies to defeat nearly 20 pieces of discriminatory legislation,” said Samantha Smoot, Interim Executive Director for Equality Texas.
The organization credited the efforts of the state’s first-ever LGBTQ Caucus as a major driver of holding the line for equal rights in the Capitol. “The new LGBTQ Caucus in Texas is a game-changer in the fight for LGBTQ equality. For the first time, we have a whole team of strong LGBTQ voices on the floor of the House. The caucus founders (Rep. Mary Gonzalez of El Paso, Rep. Celia Israel of Austin, Rep. Julie Johnson of Carrollton, Rep. Jessica Gonzalez of Dallas and Rep. Erin Zweiner of Driftwood) stood tall in defense of the LGBTQ community, delivering impassioned speeches about the real harm caused by discrimination and negative rhetoric and looking their colleagues in the eye to change hearts and minds,” said Samantha Smoot, Interim Executive Director for Equality Texas.
Equality Texas killed 19 bills this session, including Dan Patrick’s priority legislation — SB 17, the “license to discriminate” bill. When Patrick stripped preemption legislation of its protections for the local nondiscrimination ordinances (NDOs) that cover the LGBTQ community, the organization succeeded in getting those protections restored in the House. “Dan Patrick’s opposition to letting nondiscrimination protections for LGBTQ Texans in a few cities stand was so strong that — rather than accept the legislation with protections for our community — he chose to let the preemption bills die. It’s an astounding demonstration of animosity towards the LGBTQ community,” said Smoot.
SB 1978 is the only anti-LGBTQ bill that passed. As amended, it creates virtually no change in Texas law, because federal and state constitutions as well as Texas law already protect religious freedom, including the right to membership in or affiliation with a religious organization.
“SB 1978 may be an empty shell when it comes to public policy, but its real impact is as an anti-LGBTQ ‘dog whistle’ — LGBTQ and anti-equality Texans alike know that the bill’s intent is to advance anti-LGBTQ messages and discriminatory public policies,” said Smoot.
Equality Texas vowed to make passing such ‘dog whistle’ bills that encourage LGBTQ discrimination “unthinkable,” said Smoot. “We will continue to fight, as we have for the past 30 years, for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer Texans and their families until we secure full equality in the hearts and minds of our fellow Texans and in all areas of the law.”
Equality Texas wasn’t just on the defense this session. The organization pointed to new progress on pro-active bills that will protect LGBTQ Texans, including a half-dozen bills making it to a hearing for the first time. Some of these legislators have persevered for over a decade to advance these critical measures:
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.