Collin County group charters bus for Equality Texas event on March 11; Log Cabin, Transgender Network plan their own Capitol campaigns
AUSTIN — Equality Texas’ Lobby Day is set for March 11 in Austin, and for the first time the Collin County Gay and Lesbian Alliance has chartered a bus from Plano that will make a stop in Dallas to pick up riders before heading to Austin.
Because of a scarcity of hotel rooms in Austin in March during the SXSW music festival, the Transgender Education Network of Texas will hold a separate Lobby Day on Feb. 25.
Both lobby days will concentrate on a variety of legislative issues important to the LGBT community, such as employment nondiscrimination. But the transgender lobby day will also focus on issues of particular interest to the trans and gender nonconforming community.
TENT Executive Director Katy Stewart said she’s particularly interested in bills filed by Sen. Rodney Ellis and Rep. Senfronia Thompson, both Houston Democrats, that would prohibit insurance discrimination. She also said members of her group would speak to legislators about making the process of name changes and gender-marker changers easier.
“Name change and gender change in Texas is so hit or miss,” she said. “It depends on finding a sympathetic judge and a good lawyer.”
The annual Transgender Advocacy Summit takes place at the Allendale Hotel in North Austin on Feb. 24, the day before TENT’s lobby day.
Equality Texas’ Lobby Day on March 11 will begin with training at First United Methodist Church of Austin, one block to the west of the Capitol.
Team leaders are being selected for groups that will concentrate on individual priorities. Those leaders are encouraged to recruit members. Individuals who attend will be assigned to one of the groups.
During orientation, teams will learn more about the legislation they are supporting. The most effective lobbyists simply tell their stories briefly to legislators so they’ll understand that these bills affect real people’s lives, according to Equality Texas Executive Director Chuck Smith.
Smith said rooms are already getting scarce, especially in the larger convention hotels. He said the CCGLA bus is a good alternative.
Breakfast will be served during the early morning trip to Austin, with wine available on the trip home. The bus is equipped with reclining seats, DVD players and a restroom. The group is asking for a donation of at least $10.
The night before Equality Texas’ Lobby Day, GetEQUAL TX plans a Texas March for LGBT Justice from Austin City Hall to the Capitol.
Meanwhile, both Log Cabin Republicans and Stonewall Democrats are holding statewide conventions in Austin the first week in April. This is the first time
Log Cabin is holding a statewide meeting in Texas.
“This is a very big deal, especially since the Austin Chapter was just founded in August 2012,” said Log Cabin Austin President Jeffrey Davis, who is coordinating the logistics for the weekend.
Dallas and Houston have chapters that will participate.
“There are also lots of Log Cabin Republicans in Texas that aren’t close geographically to any of the three chapters,” Davis said, “so this gives them a unique opportunity to get involved and to meet other LCR Texans.”
Log Cabin’s weekend begins on April 4 with a lobby day at the Capitol. Borrowing an idea from Equality Texas, the chapters will form teams that will speak to legislators from their areas.
Davis said they will focus on three areas of legislation — Rep. Rafael Anchia’s birth certificate bill, the employment nondiscrimination bills and the Romeo and Juliet disparity between gays and straights — and expects to also talk about economic issues.
“Nothing can or will change without Republican support, and our goal with this conference is to both thank our Republican allies and to find more of them who will continue to support us over the years,” he said.
Republicans hold almost two-thirds of the seats in each house so support from some of their members is needed for any of the proposed bills to pass.
“We feel that we need to focus on our similarities rather than our differences in order to create positive change in our community, and approaching our representatives that way will generate action that will translate into the support of LGBT-friendly legislation,” he said.
Stonewall Democrats will be meeting in Austin the same weekend.
Dallas Stonewall Democrats President Omar Narvaez said plans for the conference on are still being drawn up. Rather than create its own lobby day, Stonewall chapters are encouraging members to attend the March 11 Equality Texas’ Lobby Day.
At the beginning of the year, National Stonewall Democrats suspended operation but Narvaez said the Texas organization is stronger than ever with more than a dozen local chapters. He said a new Central Texas chapter just opened covering the area from Temple and Killeen to Waco and he’s looking forward to working with them at the conference.
The Stonewall meeting begins April 5 at the Hilton Hotel at the airport.
Keeping Austin queer
Transgender Advocacy Summit, Feb. 24–25, Allendale Hotel, 7685 Northcross Drive, Austin; Lobby Day on Feb. 25; TransTexas.org
Texas March for LGBT Justice, organized by GetEQUAL TX, March 10, 5:30 to 8:30 p.m., Austin City Hall to Texas Capitol, GetEqualTX.org
Equality Texas Lobby Day, March 11, First United Methodist Church of Austin Family Life Center, 1300 Lavaca St., Austin at 9 a.m., EqualityTexas.org
Log Cabin 2013 Conference, April 4–6, Hilton Garden Inn, 500 N. I-35, Austin, Lobby Day on April 4, Texas.LogCabin.org
Stonewall Democrats Equality Forward Summit, April 5–7, Hilton Hotel at Bergstrom Airport, TexasStonewallDemocrats.org
This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition February 15, 2013.