A lot happened in the Texas Legislature this week, and it’s not what most Texans want to see.
Lt. Governor Dan Patrick announced his 2021 legislative priorities. While there are a few needed priorities included, such as reforming the state’s electrical grid, expanding broadband access, and first responders pandemic care, the majority seem to be familiar anti-equality hot buttons that will make his supporters happy at the expense of other Texans.
Texans need access to critical health care. Texans need secure homes and utilities. It’s a shame — but not a surprise — to see Patrick pander to his base rather than prioritize the needs of those most at risk. We’ll keep an eye on these, as the Lt. Governor only shared the names. We’ll wait to see who the authors will be and what the bills fully entail.
Most likely, SB 29 on his list, will be another anti-trans youth sports ban like SB 373 we saw filed by Senator Perry earlier this year.
The Lt. Governor wasn’t the only one focusing on bills that would harm some of our most vulnerable Texans. Several of the most anti-LGBTQ+ bills were assigned to committees this week.
HB 68 (Toth, R-Spring), which would alter the statutory definition of “child abuse” to include affirming, life-saving transition-related health care for trans youth, was referred to the House Public Health Committee. If passed, medical and mental health professionals who offered transition-related support to adolescents and teens could be charged with abuse and face subsequent penalties.
HB 70 (Swanson, R-Spring) would require legislative oversight of agency rules and would increase barriers to any agency in Texas that attempts to bring their practices into alignment with the U.S. Supreme Court ruling in Bostock to prevent discrimination in employment, housing, and public accommodations based on sexual orientation and gender identity. It has now been referred to the House State Affairs Committee.
HB 369 (Craddick, R-Midland) would impact those living with HIV and deepen the stigma associated with it, and likely deter people from getting tested or accessing treatment, because the bill would add increased penalties to crimes when a defendant is “afflicted with a communicable disease.” But this bill does not account for a person’s undetectable viral load and similar laws have been shown to disproportionally impact transgender people and people of color. This week, it was referred to the House Criminal Jurisprudence Committee.
We did see two new good bills filed this week. HB 2045 (Lopez, D-San Antonio), which would create a task force and report on the housing needs of LGBTQ+ seniors and HB 2355 (Reynolds, D-Missouri City) which creates a task force to study legal and societal barriers to transgender equality. The bill filing deadline is March 12th.
This week our opponents have put their words into action by tangibly elevating two incredibly harmful issues for transgender youth: banning best practice, life-saving healthcare for transgender adolescents (HB 68, Toth R-Spring) and barring transgender youth from sports (SB 29, author forthcoming). We need to ensure that all our legislators, particularly the members of the House Public Health Committee, understand the real harms done by this legislation.
Please call or email your legislator and tell them that these are not priority issues for the people of Texas, particularly when we’re still in the midst of a deadly pandemic and recovering from last week’s storm.
If you know any affirming healthcare professionals, faith leaders, or sports fans, please share these sign-on letters so that we can activate our community as these issues unfold. And then ask those people to share the letters with five others to sign. We can show our strength in numbers.
There are so many important issues that should be addressed. We cannot let our legislators prioritize riling up their base or making their donors happy at the expense of Texan’s urgent needs. When you attack one Texan, you attack all Texans. And focusing on social issues rather than basic needs is an attack on all Texans.