Texans believe that protecting others—particularly those who cannot protect themselves—is a core personal value and a tenet of most faith traditions. And yet, many Texas children face discrimination, harassment, bullying, and homelessness.
- No child should fear going to school because of harassment. Every Texas student—including young people who are gay and transgender—deserves an education free from the harmful physical and emotional effects of harassment and bullying. In schools across Texas, thousands of children dread going to school to face the taunts, jeers, humiliation, physical intimidation and pain inflicted through harassment and bullying.
- Currently there is no law in Texas prohibiting discrimination in public schools based on sexual orientation or gender identity and expression. Although the state’s largest school districts have policies prohibiting such discrimination, students, parents and teachers in many school districts throughout the state have no protection. The State of Texas should prohibit discrimination based on ethnicity, skin color, gender, gender identity or expression, sexual orientation, disability, religion, or national origin of the employee, student, or student’s parent.
- Every student deserves a fair chance to succeed in school and prepare for their future, including students who are transgender. Every student should be treated fairly and equally under the law, and protecting transgender students helps ensure that they have the same opportunity as their classmates to fully participate in school. Forcing transgender students into restrooms that don’t match their gender identity puts their safety at risk. School administrators have long been able to accommodate the needs of their students without banning transgender students from common spaces. School districts across the country have successfully worked to ensure that transgender students have access to facilities that match their gender identity while still protecting the privacy of all students. A school’s responsibility and ability to keep all students safe is not compromised by allowing a transgender student to use facilities consistent with their gender identity.
- Every child deserves loving parents who care for them, but not every child is blessed with such parents. When we don’t care for these kids, we as a state lose out on the gift of their potential. A 2014 study indicates that as many as 40% of homeless youth are lesbian, gay, bisexual, or transgender. While homelessness among all youth is a great concern, research indicates that LGBT homeless youth are at a far greater risk of suicide and sexual assault. Current law requires parental consent for most minors to be able to access housing services such as homeless shelters. This requirement prevents LGBTQ youth who may have been kicked out by their parents from accessing safe housing. LGBTQ minors with unsupportive parents need a pathway to access safe housing. Texas should create a mechanism to allow minors experiencing parental abandonment, or who face unsafe situations at home, to legally arrange for their own housing.
- It is a felony in Texas to engage in sexual contact with a person under the age of 17. However the law creates an “out” in situations where the contact was consensual, the parties involved are over the age of 14, the parties are with-in three years of each other’s age and are of the opposite sex. This is a logical approach to the reality that adolescents sometimes make sexual decisions that adults may wish they hadn’t made, but that adolescents have been making since the beginning of time. This “out” does not exist for teen sweethearts who are dating someone of the same sex, creating a risk that a teenager may be sent to prison and forced to register as a sex offender for becoming physical with their sweetheart. The state should not intrude on the right of parents to instill their values about sex into their children. Teenagers sometimes make decisions that we as adults know are not what’s best for them, but that needs to be a conversation between parents and their children… not between parents, their children, the arresting officer, the bailiff, the prosecuting attorney and the trial judge. Texas should remove the provision requiring the parties to be of the opposite sex.
- Every young person’s identity as lesbian, gay, bisexual, or transgender should be honored, celebrated and supported. Few practices hurt LGBT youth more than attempts to change their sexual orientation or gender identity through so-called “conversion therapy”, which can cause depression, substance abuse, and even suicide. But some mental health providers continue to subject young LGBT people to these practices—also known as “reparative therapy,” “ex-gay therapy,” or “sexual orientation change efforts”—even though they have been condemned by every major medical and mental health organization in the country. Texas should create a penalty for licensed health professionals who claim their treatment can change the sexual orientation or gender identity or expression of a minor.
Equality Texas is committed to building a state in which every young person’s identity as LGBT is honored, celebrated, respected, and supported.