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For immediate release: Hundreds of Texans Rally at the Texas Capitol to Stand Up to Renewed Attacks on the LGBTQ Community
Posted on March 18, 2019 at 8:25 am

Angela Hale, Equality Texas, 512-289-2995, angela@redmediagroup.com

Hundreds of Texans Rally at the Texas Capitol to Stand Up to Renewed Attacks on the LGBTQ Community

Austin- March 17, 2019- Equality Texas and hundreds of supporters from across the state of Texas rallied at the Texas Capitol today to stand up to renewed attacks on the community and support full equality for LGBTQ Texans.    

The All In For Equality Day, is the largest gathering of advocates during the Texas Legislative Session. Texans spoke out against legislation that discriminates against LGBTQ Texans including bills that put non-discrimination protections across the state of Texas at risk and allow religion to be used as a legal justification for discrimination against lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBTQ) Texans.

The large show of support comes during a legislative session in which lawmakers have filed 19 discriminatory bills. There are two Senate bills that we believe are primary threats at this time: SB 15, and SB 17 that have been elevated to priority status by the Lt. Governor.

“The bathroom bill may be over but the attacks on our community are just as strong as ever,” said Samantha Smoot, Interim Executive Director of Equality Texas.  

The Committee Substitute for SB 15 is a pre-emption bill targeting local paid sick leave ordinances passed out of the Senate State Affairs committee after language was stripped out that would have protected municipal Non-Discrimination Ordinances (NDOs) such as those in Austin, Dallas, Fort Worth, El Paso, and Plano.

The newly-prioritized SB 17 would create “religious exemptions” for virtually every licensed occupation in Texas – hundreds of professions, from barbers to tow truck operators to doctors. If an occupational license holder were to call on “sincerely held religious belief” in taking a discriminatory action, the licensing agency that oversees the occupation would have no recourse to remedy that discrimination. This includes health care providers, who could turn away sick and injured people seeking care (unless immediate live-saving measures were needed), based just on a person’s identity. Lt. Gov. Patrick has placed this bill on his “top 30” priority list, signaling his intention to pass it. SB 17 has been referred to the Senate State Affairs committee.

The other 17 bills would make a mockery of religious freedom, guaranteeing that discrimination will be permitted. The bills would allow businesses, licensed professionals and even government officials to use religion to exempt themselves from nondiscrimination laws and policies, including licensing and professional standards.

The gathering is a joint effort of Equality Texas, ACLU of Texas, Texas Freedom Network, Transgender Education Network of Texas and Human Rights Campaign.

“Public support for LGBTQ equality continues to grow and a clear majority of Texans across all groups support fair treatment for LGBTQ Texans. We are here today to ask legislators to catch up to public opinion and stand on the side the fairness,” said Smoot.  

Religious freedom is a fundamental American value, but it is not a license to discriminate.

A survey conducted in 2017 by the Public Religion Research Institute (PRRI) found that:

  • 57 percent of Texans oppose allowing businesses to refuse for religious reasons to provide products or services to gay or lesbian people.
  • 64 percent of Texans favor laws that protect LGBTQ people against discrimination in jobs, public services and housing.

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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.