Bill of the Week: Cleaning up Bad Language
Bill aims to strike anti-LGBT verbiage from sex ed curricula
By Brandon Watson,
10:00AM, Sat. Apr. 27, 2013
Despite the staggering pace of same-sex marriage victories and rapidly shifting public opinion, Texas remains one of the last few states resistant to any consideration of LGBT inclusion. But for Texas Democrats, that's not for a lack of trying.
Lawmakers in the House and Senate have steadily introduced pro-equality bills throughout the 83rd legislative term. On Wednesday, the House Economic and Small Business heard Rep. Mike Villarreal's and Rep. Eric Johnson's complementary bills seeking to end LGBT employment discrimination. Earlier this month, SB 1316 – a "Romeo and Juliet" bill providing protections for sexually active LGBT teens – became the first pro-LGBT bill to advance to full Senate vote in twelve years. Despite the push, a key piece of equality legislation is still languishing.
According to an action alert from Equality Texas, HB 1696 from Houston Democrat Jessica Farrar has not been given a hearing due to a lack of public interest in the bill. The legislation seeks to remove exclusionary language from the Texas Health and Safety Code, which requires in part that sexual education curricula instructs that "homosexuality is an unacceptable lifestyle and is illegal under Penal Code 21.06." Although such anti-sodomy laws were ruled unconstitutional by Lawrence v. Texas, the section still remains on Texas books.
While the Health and Safety Code is largely unenforceable, LGBT rights groups say that the language sends a dangerous message to Texas students. Several studies have indicated that LGBT youth are at a greater risk for suicide than their straight peers. Bullying also remains a problem, with other studies confirming long lasting effects. To equality advocates, the code's language takes bullying to an institutional level. Equality Texas notes "telling these vulnerable children that they are 'unacceptable' is repugnant."
As the legislative term nears end, Equality Texas is asking for supporters to call House Public Education Committee Clerk Dustin Cox to demand a hearing be set immediately.