On March 12, I attended an LGBTQ Know your Lege forum. It’s been a couple of weeks ago now, and I surely intended to write this sooner, but as often happens, things “came up”. This forum was focused on legislation which would impact the LGBTQ community. We heard from representatives from ACLU Texas, State Rep Mary Gonzalez’s office, Project VIDA, and an attorney, and I’m sure that for the people who attended it was very informative. I wish more people had attended, but the weather wasn’t that great, and I’m sure that for some people, some things “came up”.
I feel very strongly that the information shared at the forum is important, and valuable to all of you, so I will summarize here for you. The forum panelists talked about gerrymandering and the recent attempt to purge 95,000 people from Texas voting rolls. They talked about bills which have been introduced in our State legislature which, if passed, will be harmful to the LGBTQ community, Bills such as HB 1035 which would make it legal for anyone providing a service to discriminate against any group on the basis of religious beliefs, including as mental health providers, civil servants providing marriage licenses, medical professionals, and more. SB444 is a bill that prohibits a state agency that issues a license or otherwise regulates a business, occupation, or profession from adopting any rule, regulation, or policy or imposing a penalty that limits an applicant’s ability to obtain a license based on a sincerely held religious belief of the applicant, or burden an applicant’s or license holder’s ability to speak freely about religions beliefs or to exercise their religion. The forum panel also discussed that there are no federal laws which explicitly ban discrimination based sexual orientation and gender identity for the private sector, and there are no Texas state laws which prohibit discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity, though some cities do have their own ordinances.
The panel discussed some positive work on legislation, such as HB 2161 and HB1012, which both aim to improve human sexuality education in public schools by requiring that curriculum must be medically accurate, and that it must discuss sexuality, pregnancy, and STI’s. They discussed HB 517 which would ban conversion therapy, and SB 154 which would allow Transgender people to get their name and gender marker changed without appearing before a judge. It was a good forum, and I wish more people had attended, but I’m sure some things “came up”.
There’s nothing wrong with things “coming up”. It’s life and things happen. But while we are tied up with everyday concerns, decisions are being made that impact our lives, and too often we know nothing about them until it’s too late. We know nothing about the decisions being made until our employer terminates someone because the employee is gay, and that employee really has no protection and minimal legal recourse. We know nothing about the decisions being made until a transgender child gets left in a dangerous situation during an active shooter drill because the teacher doesn’t know which bathroom the child should go in to seek shelter. We’ve all heard the saying “Knowledge is Power”, and that saying is absolutely true. When we know what is going on in our city, state, and national governmental bodies, we can advocate for ourselves and our loved ones. We don’t have to wait until decisions are made for us about our lives and our ability to thrive; we can take an active role in that process. We can make the commitment to value ourselves enough to get engaged. Let’s make advocacy for our community one of the things that “comes up”.