In light of the tragic shooting that claimed five lives at Colorado Spring’s Club Q in November, groups like GLAAD and Equality Texas pointed the finger at the rise of anti-LGBTQ legislation. At the time, Austin Davis Ruiz, the Montrose Center’s communications and marketing manager, said: “In the last Texas legislative session 120 anti-LGBTQ+ bills were filed, the violence we are seeing today is a direct result of the hate being openly directed to our community.”
On the first day to pre-file bills for the upcoming legislative session starting in January, 17 anti-LGBTQ bills were filed. They included bans on access to gender-affirming care, LGBTQ topics in schools, participation on college athletic teams, and even one bill, HB 643, that would criminalize drag performances. House Bill 42, filed by Rep. Bryan Slaton, R-Royse City, would expand the state’s definition of child abuse to include providing gender-affirming health care under the guidance of a doctor or mental health care provider. The Legislature declined to pass a similar bill last session. So far, there are 24 anti-LGBTQ bills on file.
“Many of the prolific filers of anti-LGBTQ legislation, rather than fix any of our state’s many pressing problems, they’ve decided to lean into their animus for our community,” says Ricardo Martinez, CEO of Equality Texas. We are under a well-funded, layered attack, not just bills at the legislature: disinformation is being shared by public officials, state agencies are being weaponized against us, and vigilantes are taking over school boards and eliminating safe spaces for children. Anti-LGBTQ forces are seeking to hold onto power at any cost without regard to the damage they inflict on our communities. We have seen a marked increase in incidents of discrimination, bullying and harassment in schools and violence as a result of this attack. That is no coincidence.”
“…it literally hurts my heart for the trans community. No community should have to go through what they have been through. This hate has to stop.” —Tammi Wallace, President and CEO of the Greater Houston LGBT Chamber of Commerce
One bright spot, although a long shot, is Senate Joint Resolution 15, pre-filed by State Sen. Nathan Johnson of Dallas. It calls for an amendment to repeal language in the Texas Constitution that defines marriage as a union between one man and one woman. He also pre-filed Senate Bill 81, which calls for changing the text of Texas laws relating to marriage and parenting to gender-neutral terms and repealing the portion of the Texas Penal Code that makes same-sex intercourse a crime. That was ruled unconstitutional back in 2003, but it’s still on the Texas books.
“I think we can expect it’s going to be as bad as the last session,” says Tammi Wallace, Co-founder, president, and CEO of the Greater Houston LGBT Chamber of Commerce. “We continue to go backwards when it comes to our community, and our state leadership is not supporting us. I do think there will be a lot of support on the ground, we have several legislators who support us, and the Texas LGBT chambers will be working to stop the hate bills.”
Martinez agrees. “This legislative session is off to a rocky start, but I know that Texans’ hearts are with the LGBTQ+ community,” he adds. “Over 70 percent of Texans stand against discrimination against our community, and we know so many of those will be calling their legislators to speak up on our behalf. The private lives of LGBTQ+ people will be under the microscope again this session, but we have a state full of allies and advocates ready to step up. We’re ready for the fight.”
“But it literally hurts my heart for the trans community,” says Wallace. “No community should have to go through what they have been through. This hate has to stop.”
The 88th Legislature’s regular session runs from January 10 to May 29, 2023. Republicans again control both chambers.