While the major news story out of the 87th Texas Legislature’s special session will be the fate of the voter-suppression bills, which caused House Democrats to flee the state on July 13 in order to break quorum and sideline the bills, there are also many LGBTQ-rights issues at stake.
Both of these human-rights issues are intertwined, according to State Representative Ann Johnson, who is one of more than 50 local lawmakers who fled to Washington, DC to protest Republican efforts to restrict voters’ access to the polls. During an interview with MSNBC, the out Democrat from Houston noted that the voter-suppression bills target and hinder access for marginalized people such as communities of color, the elderly, and the disabled.
“[Republicans] know that if people have the freedom to vote in Texas, [they will vote to oppose] their extreme views against women and LGBT youth, [and] they’ll lose,” Johnson said. She and her Democratic colleagues are now urging Congress to pass the For the People Act to protect voting rights nationally.
Although voter suppression is at the top of the list of Governor Greg Abbott’s 11-item agenda for his special session, transgender discrimination isn’t far behind. Just days into the session, Lieutenant Governor Dan Patrick referred to the Senate two new versions of a bill that would ban trans students from competing in sports that align with their gender identity. Both of those bills—SB 2 and SB 32—were passed by the Senate Health and Human Services Committee on July 12. These bills cannot move forward because of the lack of a quorum.
According to the LGBTQ advocacy organization Equality Texas, nearly 50 anti-LGBTQ bills have been filed in Austin this year. Sixteen anti-LGBTQ bills have been filed so far during the special session, but only the 7 sports-ban bills are a part of the Governor’s call. The two pro-LGBTQ bills that have been filed are not on the Governor’s call.
“We are incredibly disappointed that fictitious emergencies are once again being prioritized over critical issues that impact everyday Texans, like the power grid and access to affordable health care,” said Ricardo Martinez, CEO of Equality Texas.
“Anti-trans legislation which blocks transgender youth from normal school activities does nothing but send a message to bullies that it is OK to attack and humiliate transgender kids. [The legislation] normalizes bias and discrimination against transgender people—adults and kids alike,” he added. “Texas law defines bullying as a single significant act or a pattern of acts by one or more persons directed at another that exploits an imbalance of power and further defines the behavior as sufficiently severe, persistent, or pervasive enough that the action or threat creates an intimidating, threatening, or abusive educational environment for a student. These bills constitute government-sanctioned bullying, and trans kids, trans adults, and the people who love them are paying the price.”
The special session expires after 30 days, but Gov. Abbott has said he will continue to call session after session until the next election if the House Democrats do not return to fill a quorum and pass these bills.
Track the current status of these anti-trans bills at equalitytexas.org.