On Wednesday, April 3, state Senator Leticia Van de Putte (D-San Antonio) laid out Senate Bill 237 in the Senate Committee on Economic Development. SB 237 would prohibit employment discrimination on the on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity or expression.
Among those giving testimony in support of the bill was Marine Staff Sergeant Eric Alva, the first American seriously injured in the Iraq War. He lost his right leg as a result of stepping on a land mine on March 21, 2003.
“I eventually retired from the United States Marine Corps after 13 years of honorable service to my country,” Staff Sgt. Alva told the committee. “But the reality of today as I sit here is that as a veteran, I could be fired from a job or be denied from applying from employment in this great state, that I was born in, all because it doesn’t matter that I am a decorated Veteran, disabled or Latino, I would be denied employment because I am also a gay individual.”
“In a country founded on the notion that all people are created equal, and a state that strives so hard to protect our personal freedoms, the bottom line is that all Texas workers must be free from the threat of workplace discrimination,” Van de Putte told the committee. “Every Texan deserves the opportunity to earn a fair wage and succeed in the workplace, and I find it unacceptable that qualified, hardworking Texans can be denied job opportunities, fired or otherwise discriminated against just because of their sexual orientation or gender identity.
“Every day, they work hard to make an honest living to support themselves and their families, and help our economy grow along the way,” Van de Putte continued. “But far too many go to work with the fear that they will lose their job based on factors that have nothing to do with their performance or ability. Discrimination has no place in our society or in our workplaces. Texas can and should do better for all our workers.”
Currently, employment protections are in place to protect employees and job applicants against discrimination based on race, color, disability, religion, sex, age and national origin. S.B. 237 adds sexual orientation or gender identity or expression to that list.
Twenty-one states and the District of Columbia prohibit discrimination based on sexual orientation. Several cities in Texas, including Austin, Dallas, El Paso, Fort Worth, Houston, and San Antonio provide some protections to municipal employees.
The bill was left pending in committee.