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Texas Activists Shut Down 19 Anti-LGBTQ Bills This Legislative Session

Six pro-equality bills received a hearing for the first time.

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Rep. Mary Gonzalez (center), chair of Texas’ first LGBTQ caucus, stood before the group to lead its first press conference at the Capitol in early February. The caucus seeks to create awareness and advocate for queer Texans by backing pro-equality legislation and eradicating anti-LGBTQ propaganda.

The death of 19 discriminatory bills this legislative session is evidence of the growing political support for the LGBTQ rights movement, according to Equality Texas.

Equality Texas, a statewide political LGBTQ advocacy organization, said in a May 28 statement that it worked to shut down 20 proposed anti-LGBTQ bills with its partners and legislative allies. Nearly all of these bills were killed—including lieutenant governor Dan Patrick’s priority SB 17 legislation, also known as the “License to Discriminate” bill. The only discriminatory bill that passed was SB 1978, or the “Save Chick-Fil-A” religious freedom bill, which creates virtually no change in Texas law because religious freedom is already protected.  

“LGBTQ Texans can now rest a little easier knowing that Dan Patrick and his cadre of anti-equality crusaders won’t have the opportunity to legislate discrimination again until January 2021,” Equality Texas’ interim executive director Samantha Smoot said.

Equality Texas gives credit to Texas’ first-ever LGBTQ caucus for being a major driver holding the line for equal rights at the Capitol. Caucus founders Mary Gonzales (D-El Paso), Celia Israel (D-Austin), Julie Johnson (D-Carrollton), Jessica Gonzalez (D-Dallas), and Erin Zweiner (D-Driftwood) defended Texas’ queer community by pointing out the harm caused by discrimination throughout the 2019 legislative session, which ran from January 8 through May 27.

“The new LGBTQ caucus in Texas is a game-changer in the fight for LGBTQ equality,” Smoot said. “For the first time, we have a whole team of strong LGBTQ voices on the floor of the House.”

While SB 1978 passed, it is an “empty shell” when it comes to public policy. However, its real impact is an anti-LGBTQ “dog whistle,” Smoot says, the bill’s intent is to advance anti-LGBTQ messages and discriminatory public policies.

“Equality Texas vowed to make passing such dog-whistle bills that encourage LGBTQ discrimination unthinkable,” Smoot said. “We will continue to fight, as we have for the past 30 years, for [LGBTQ] Texans and their families until we secure full equality in the hearts and minds of our fellow Texans, and in all areas of the law.”

Equality Texas noted that this session made pro-equality progress to protect LGBTQ Texans, with six bills making it to a hearing for the first time. Those bills are:

  • HB 517 – a ban on conversion therapy proposed by Celia Israel (D-Austin)
  • HB 85 – protections for consensual sexual conduct between same-sex underage couples proposed by Mary Gonzalez (D-El Paso)
  • HB 3281 – elimination of the gay/trans panic defense proposed by Gina Hinojosa (D-Austin)
  • HB 2089 – streamlining the process for changing gender markers on official documents proposed by Garnet Coleman (D-Houston)
  • HB 244 – statewide nondiscrimination protections for the LGBTQ community proposed by Jessica Farrar (D-Houston) 
  • HB 1513 – adding gender identity to the James Byrd Jr. Hate Crimes Act proposed by Garnet Coleman (D-Houston)

For more information about Equality Texas, visit equalitytexas.org.

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Lourdes Zavaleta

Lourdes Zavaleta is the managing editor of OutSmart magazine.

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