Opinion/Commentary

Sexual Orientation Not Protected

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by Larry D. Ponder

I, like many of the GLBT community, am getting impatient with policies and laws that continue to discriminate against people based on their sexual orientation. It seems we take two steps forward and one or even two steps back. I have had many conversations, mostly with people, gay and straight, in the educational settings, where beliefs and actual practices are better than the policies and laws state. If people do not believe that someone should be discriminated against because of their sexual orientation, then why will they not go the next step and put it into policy? It seems people / politicians go almost the whole way and stop just short.

So many examples of policy and discriminatory practices exist but Non-discrimination policies of school districts in Texas are a particular example that has bothered me for several years. The school districts of Texas are in legal compliance by defining discrimination on the basis of race, color, religion, gender, national origin, disability, or other basis prohibited by law. I found four school districts of Texas that go beyond the minimum required by law and include sexual orientation as a protected basis against discrimination. These districts are Houston ISD, Dallas ISD, Fort Worth ISD, and Austin ISD. Congratulations for doing the right thing go out to these four school districts, but why are other districts not stating in their policies that their GLBT students will be protected against discrimination? Houston and the Houston metro area has many school districts. Why are all of the school districts of the Houston area not including policy to protect their GLBT students as Houston ISD has done? I am impatient. We can wait no longer. The children and youth of our community must be protected and step one is to protect them in school board policy.

Protections for GLBT persons is not only lacking for children and youth in our schools, but also in our cities and communities for all ages. I recently was having a conversation with someone from the northeastern United States and our conversation was grounded in the fact that there are little protections for GLBT people in Texas. In Texas you can be fired for being gay as sexual orientation is not a protected cause for discrimination. A landlord could evict a tenant for being gay. Sexual orientation is not protected against discrimination in the state of Texas.

At the end of the Civil War, Texans did not let their slaves know they were free. The Emancipation Proclamation was effective January 1, 1863 and all slaves were to be given their freedom. The United States had to send 2000 troops to Texas to enforce the emancipation of the slaves as Texas decided to do what they wanted despite the ending of the Civil War and the president’s signing of the proclamation. Texas’ slaves were not actually freed until June 19, 1865 when Texas was forced to comply with law. Texas has a long history of doing its own thing. It is my fear that protections for GLBT persons in Texas will not come until it comes from the federal level and then there may still be action needed to enforce federal law. Texas will come up last, when forced to comply with doing right.

All of these events, thoughts, ideas, and frustrations have been rolling around in my mind and has caused quite an irritation in my soul. I am NOT a fan of Governor Perry and I believe he epitomizes all that I find abhorrent in Texas government. When he recently stated that Texas has created new jobs and expressed that he would rather live where there are new jobs than where a man could marry a man I was not really surprised but appalled that he would be so arrogant to slam about ten percent of the people of his state. He has no idea.

What if some of these people who have no idea, could some way get an idea of the discrimination they foster? If sexual orientation is not a protected cause for discrimination, why does it have to be one-sided? If discrimination based on sexual orientation is not protected, can we not only hire people that are GLBT? Can we choose to only sell or lease our properties to members of the GLBT community? Can we not build housing developments only for members of the GLBT community? Imagine interviewing someone for a job and stating, “I’m sorry, but we already have one straight person working here and that is more than enough.” Imagine a customer coming into your place of business and looking them up and down, wrinkling your nose, and muttering, “Ugh! Straight person!”

This may seem bizarre or even amusing, but in reality, this behavior still exists against GLBT persons all over Texas and the father you get from the urban centers, it is even more blatant. I live three hours north of Houston and it is amazing at the intolerance.

I am impatient! Yes, things must change. Yes, we must speak up and be diligent everywhere we can and every time we can. Write your school board members and superintendents (districts surrounding HISD) asking them why their policies do not protect GLBT students from discrimination. As November approaches you have an important time to speak through your vote. Taking steps forward and getting pushed a few steps back is not comfortable. We must, however, continue stepping forward.

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