Advocacy group wants at least 2,000 signatures to take to Republican committee chair; no anti-gay bills filed, but amendments still possible
AUSTIN —Lobby Day has come and gone, but Equality Texas says it needs continued participation from members across the state in order to advance pro-LGBT legislation during this year’s session.
The statewide advocacy group was circulating an online petition this week aimed at securing a committee hearing on a bill that would prohibit employment discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity/expression.
By Wednesday afternoon, March 25, 1,116 people had signed the petition, and the group was hoping to reach 2,000 signatures.
The petition will be delivered to Rep. Burt Solomons, R-Carrollton, who chairs the House Committee on State Affairs, where the bill has been referred. The bill is sponsored by Democratic Rep. Mike Villarreal of San Antonio.
"It becomes a matter of really getting our membership involved," Equality Texas Executive Director Paul Scott said of the group’s strategy as the biennial session moved past its halfway point this week.
"We need to do that in order to show that we’re committed as a community to supporting legislators in performing this work. We need to make sure we back them up. People will be seeing some very specific actions that we’re requesting from our members as we go deeper into the session."
Equality Texas is supporting a total of 16 pro-equality bills this year. And for the first time in a decade, no anti-LGBT bills were filed prior to the deadline on Friday, March 13. However, Scott noted that anti-LGBT measures could still be introduced as amendments.
Prior to the start of the session, Scott said the group’s goal was to get at least one pro-equality bill through the House. The legislation would face an even tougher road in the Senate as well as the threat of a veto by Republican Gov. Rick Perry.
"I know that we are definitely looking at educating the senators about some of the issues that we think may move forward so we can be prepared if it’s to pass the House," Scott said this week. "We have not had any direct conversations with the Governor’s Office yet."
The bills backed by Equality Texas are listed below. For more information or to sign up for e-mail alerts from Equality Texas, go to www.equalitytexas.org.
• SB 2216 by Ellis, Insurance Nondiscrimination Bill.
• HB 197by Alonzo, Insurance Nondiscrimination Bill.
• HB 353 by Rodriguez, Hospital Visitation and Medical Decision Making Bill.
• HB 538 by Villarreal, Freedom from Workplace Discrimination Act.
• HB 616 by Veasey, Hate Crimes Study.
• HB 861 by Naishtat, Competitive Insurance Benefits (CIB) Bill.
• HB 1323 by Strama, Reporting Standards for Incidents of Bullying & Harrassment.
• HB 1455 by Howard, Right to Decide Act (Medical Decisions).
• HB 2080 by Anchia, Birth Certificate of an Adopted Child.
• HB 2215 by Farrar, Housing & Public Accommodation Nondiscrimination Bill.
• HB 2923 by Farrar, Student Nondiscrimination Bill.
• HB 2966 by Coleman, Addition of Gender Identity/Expression to Byrd Hate Crimes Act.
•â€‚HB 3026 by Coleman, Repeal of the Unconstitutional "Homosexual Conduct Law."
• HB 3746 by Coleman, Safe Schools Bill.
• HB 4297 by Coleman, Gender Marker Bill.
• HJR 131, repeal of constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage.
This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition March 27, 2009.