The Human Rights Campaign’s State Equality Index (SEI) scorecards are out, and Texas doesn’t fare too well. In fact, it’s at the bottom of the barrel. The annual state-by-state report of statewide laws and policies that affect LGBTQ people and their families places Texas right down there with ultraconservative states like Alabama and Florida.
Texas gets a “High Priority to Achieve Basic Equality” rating, which is a failing grade. In the Lone Star State, there are no laws to prohibit housing discrimination, employment discrimination, discrimination in public accommodations, or student discrimination based on gender identity or sexual orientation. Texas does not have an anti-bullying law for LGBTQ kids, nor does it have a law that bans insurance companies from denying transgender health care to state employees. There are no policies or laws to facilitate gender-marker updates on identification documents, and there are no restrictions on conversion therapy. Nor does the Texas hate-crime law address sexual orientation or gender identity. In fact, just about the only thing the State of Texas does for the community is allow marriage licenses to be issued for same-sex couples. The HRC scorecard deems all other Texas markers as unacceptable.
And so far, the current Texas Legislative Session has seen several anti-LGBTQ+ bills being filed by Republicans, including a bill that would criminalize medical officials who aid trans youth with medical transitions. Republican legislators, who control the Texas House and Senate, have until March 12 to file proposed bills.
Nationwide, LGBTQ advocacy groups (such as the nonprofit Texas Equality) spend most of their time trying to keep anti-LGBTQ bills from becoming law in conservative states. Some bills are blatantly anti-LGBTQ, and others are cloaked in deceptive “religious freedom” language.
HRC’s approach to the Texas Legislature is similar during every session, meaning it tries to prevent anti-LGBTQ bills from becoming law while building steady support for pro-equality legislation. But instead of focusing on the many challenges all Texans face, the Texas Legislature continues to waste time putting discrimination on the menu during each session.
“The Biden administration has committed to being the most pro-equality administration in history, and HRC looks forward to partnering with them in making that possible,” says Colin Kutney, HRC’s senior legal department program manager. That could be both a blessing and a curse. “Some states might deprioritize LGBTQ issues, knowing that there is progress on the federal level, while other states might react to the administration’s actions negatively,” she says. One of President Biden’s first executive orders was to reverse Trump’s ban on transgender troops.
And while there is currently no sign of another bathroom-bill showdown, anti-LGBTQ bills continue to be filed. The fight for equality in Texas is far from over, according to the Texas House LGBTQ Caucus, a recently formed “forum for Texas legislators to discuss issues that affect LGBTQ Texans and to further the goal of equality and justice for all Texans.”
For more information on the Human Rights Campaign, visit hrc.org.