InsideOut At City Hall: Equality for All
Texas lobby group champions our rights, needs our support.
People may joke about Texas being somewhat conservative, but Texas can boast about being the first state to support a full-time GLBT lobbyist. Equality Texas, the GLBT state legislative lobby group, celebrated its 25th anniversary in 2005. And celebrate it should. Yes, the legislature passed an anti-marriage amendment that later won statewide approval. So did many other states. But the state legislature passed the James Byrd Jr. Hate Crimes Act and has not limited GLBT adoptions or foster care, as some states have done. We owe a big thank you to Equality Texas for these and many other accomplishments.
This legislative session should be extremely interesting. While Democrats narrowed the vote gap in the Texas House of Representatives by four votes, some Republicans may be planning to go out with a right-wing bang, fearing more losses in 2008 when the presidential race could draw a record Democratic turnout. Republicans are still recoiling from the seismic shift that hit Dallas County in November when the red county unexpectedly turned blue. Can Harris County be far behind?
As Republicans look toward 2008, some lawmakers and lobbyists on the more progressive side of the aisle fear that homophobic amendments could pop up on the House or Senate floor and get attached to bigger bills at the last minute. This keeps little right-wing bills from making the public stroll through the committee process and prevents the GLBT community from getting ample warning. That’s when being on the www.EqualityTexas.org email alert list becomes critical.
I served on the board of what was then LGRL (Lesbian Gay Rights Lobby) in the mid-1980s and saw first-hand how hard our lobbyist and staff work. Some months they were paid little or nothing. One or two waited well past the end of the session to receive the balance of their paychecks. Fortunately, finances have improved, and we’ve been extraordinarily lucky to hire outstanding people. Equality Texas executive director Paul Scott is no exception. Paul’s been on the job 10 months and is already juggling a complicated set of legislative priorities and meetings with apparent ease.
Scott is watching about a dozen bills, from HIV/AIDS testing in prisons and employment nondiscrimination to GLBT issues in education, insurance, and other legislation. The best way to keep up with the bills is to stay connected with www.EqualityTexas.org.
HOW YOU CAN HELP
Make a small or large donation at www.EqualityTexas.org. When you donate, you automatically become part of the email alert network, but you do not have to donate to join the email list. Equality Texas can quickly alert you to send an email to your state rep, senator, or a targeted committee member. As an elected official, I know what it feels like to get hundreds of emails about legislation. It’s one of the most effective ways to make your vote count. Since we sometimes only get 24 hours’ notice of a legislative vote, signing up at www.equalitytexas.org is vital to our success.
Beautifully wooded West 11th Street Park has finally joined the city park system. Well, not quite. The 20-acre gem, located at 2300 W. 11th at T.C. Jester just two blocks from Resurrection Metropolitan Community Church, has been in the news lately because the city and community activists are trying to raise $3.5 million to complete the purchase of this magnificent park so that five acres don’t have to be sold to developers to repay a loan. Before the recent purchase/loan, the parkland was the last remaining significant undeveloped parkland inside the Loop.
It’s well worth a visit–1,000 mature trees, 90 bird species. If you’d like to donate or visit the park online, see www.savethispark.org.
Annise Parker is the second-term city controller and the highest-ranking openly GLBT elected municipal official in any of the 10 largest U.S. cities. Her website is www.houstoncontroller.org . Parker’s television program, Money Matters, airs Monday on the Municipal Channel (Time Warner Cable 16) at 2 and 8 a.m. and 2 and 8 p.m.