Equality Texas Promotes LGBTQ Friendly Legislation
Report finds “stark gap” between acceptance and lack of protections
By Lilli Hime,
3:45PM, Wed. Feb. 27, 2019
In a new report released Wednesday, Feb. 27, Equality Texas – a statewide political advocacy organization for queer and trans rights – urged lawmakers to take action in favor of LGBTQ non-discrimination policies.
According to the Public Religion Research Institute’s recent survey, 64% of all Texans support such laws, with notable consistency across political party, religious affiliation, demographic group, and region.
“Public opinion is with us,” EQTX’s interim executive director Samantha Smoot said during Wednesday’s press conference at the Capitol. “Public opinion wants equal treatment of their LGBTQ neighbors. The legislators need to catch up.”
While the report notes strong public support for LGBTQ people, the actual lives of those in the community suggest some dissonance. As in other states, LGBTQ Texans face higher rates of poverty and violence and less access to health care than their heterosexual and cisgender counterparts. Approximately 30% of Texas’ LGBTQ population reports an annual household income below $24,000, and disparities are only multiplied among people of color.
Members of the Texas Legislature’s first LGBTQ Caucus – five out, LGBTQ representatives backed by nearly two dozen allies in the Texas House – have already moved to enact comprehensive non-discrimination policies. Among their efforts to better support queer Texans, Sen. José Rodríguez (D-El Paso) has filed Senate Bill 151, which aims to protect the community from discrimination in housing, employment, labor, and public services; Rep. Celia Israel (D-Austin) filed House Bill 517 in her ongoing effort to end conversion therapy; and Rep. Joe Moody (D-El Paso) aims to repeal the old Penal Code provisions that criminalize sodomy with HB 84. Smoot said Equality Texas believes “the work they’re going to do, the energy they’re creating, is going to play a very big role in creating change in Texas.”
While supporting these initiatives, EQTX will continue to play defense against religious refusal bills and preemption laws. The former allow service providers to deny LGBTQ people service – including health care in non-life-threatening situations – based on “sincerely held religious beliefs.” SB 85 and SB 444 would grant religious refusal rights to counselors, therapists, and psychiatrists. The preemption of city ordinances would limit the ability of Austin and other major cities to protect their LGBTQ communities with local non-discrimination ordinances.