Rankings of legislators are always tricky. It’s difficult to include all the little things that happen behind the scenes, the influence of members on each other, or the true motivations or beliefs of individual members. That said, it’s important to acknowledge the public actions of the people elected to represent us. In compiling this score card we considered public votes, authorship of pro- and anti-LGBT legislation, filing of resolutions acknowledging the LGBT community and committee votes on issues affecting the LGBT community. Behind the scenes work and advocacy was not included.
We’ve given each member of the Texas Senate a letter grade. The best lawmakers got an “A+,” the worst an “F-” (that’s how bad they are, we had to invent a grade).
There is certainly room for debate, particularly when something as complicated as this is reduced to a letter grade. We’d love to hear your opinion of the score card. How’d your Senator do? Did we score them too harshly? Too favorably? Share this list with your friends and let’s have a conversation about how the people elected to represent us did over the last five months.
You can see the full math behind how this list was developed HERE.
#5 (tie) John Whitmire
Whitmire is the Dean of the Texas Senate, having served longer than any other member of his chamber. He’s also the only committee chair on this list. Committee chairs have a lot of power to move or stop legislation and Whitmire wielded that position of influence like a sword of righteous truth this session. He’s the author of SB 492, the Senate version of the Romeo and Juliet equalization bill that Rep. Mary González so deftly steered to the House floor. Whitmire’s been in the legislature for 42 years and is still going strong. He’s exactly the type of elected official the LGBT community needs on our side.
#5 (tie) Rodney Ellis
For the second session in a row Ellis carried the Insurance Non-Discrimination bill in the Senate, but it’s the fight he brought to the session that’s most worth celebrating. Ellis stared down those infamous 20+ anti-LGBT bills this session and proudly proclaimed “not on my watch.” Throughout the session Equality Texas received calls and e-mails from the Senator’s staff every time there was any movement on an opposition bill letting us know that he was ready to dive into the fray head first. Senator Ellis is a warrior for equality.
#4 Juan ‘Chuy’ Hinojosa
Don’t mess with a proud father! Particularly not if he’s a 30+ year veteran of the Texas Legislature. Last year Hinojosa penned a moving open letter to his lesbian daughter for Father’s Day. This year his impassioned speech in support of the freedom to marry on the Senate floor brought us all to tears. Hinojosa puts his money where his mouth is, authoring SB 98 to repeal the statutory prohibition on the freedom to marry, and joint authoring SJR 13, Sen. Rodríguez’ repeal of the constitutional prohibition. Hinojosa should be the patron saint of every PFLAG dad in the state – this is how to be an advocate for your children.
#3 Sylvia Garcia
Visit Sylvia Garcia’s third floor office in the capitol and the first thing you’ll notice is the table right outside the door with a sign-in book for guests and three small flags on display: an United States flag, a Texas Flag, and a rainbow flag. Apparently such an unabashed display of support for the LGBT community in the hallway of the capitol, just feet from the Senate Gallery, quite shocked some of the Senator’s less enlightened colleagues and they asked for its removal. It’s still there, you can check for yourself. Garcia carried the Senate version of Rep. Anchia’s birth certificate bill and filed her own bill to try to require DPS to stop refusing to issue driver’s licenses to people married in other states.
#2 José Menéndez
Menéndez was elected in a special election to replace out-spoken LGBT advocate Sen. Leticia Van de Putte. He got right to work, introducing amendments to SB 2065, the “pastor’s protection” bill, to clarify the intent of the bill and to require a public posting notice that services would be denied. He’s also a co-author on Hinojosa’s freedom to marry bill. If this is what Menéndez can accomplish in just a partial session, we can’t wait to see what he can do with a full one.
#1 José Rodríguez
Before 2015 there had never been a comprehensive bill filed in the Texas legislature to prohibit discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity or expression in employment, housing, public accommodation and state contracting. That’s not true anymore and the reason is José Rodríguez. He also authored an LGBT inclusive suicide prevention bill, a repeal of the constitutional prohibition against the freedom to marry and a repeal of the unconstitutional (and unenforceable) law against “homosexual conduct.” Rodríguez is the “go to” guy on LGBT issues in the Senate, with an able and experienced staff that knows more about these issues than even some seasoned LGBT advocates.