Farouk Shami comes out in support of LGBT equality. Will Bill White do the same?

Posted on 19 Jan 2010 at 5:19pm

Farouk Shami
Farouk Shami

Hank Gilbert, who’s running for agriculture commissioner, has challenged fellow Democrats to adopt his policy statement on LGBT issues, titled “Equality for All.” And today it appears as though at least one candidate, gubernatorial hopeful Farouk Shami, the Houston hair products tycoon, has taken Gilbert up on the challenge.

Shami’s communications director, Kelly Love Johnson, just sent over Shami’s official LGBT policy, which appears to be nearly identical to Gilbert’s. Love Johnson said the Voice is the first media outlet to receive a copy of the policy.

Although Gilbert and Shami stop short of explicitly endorsing same-sex marriage, they come pretty darn close. Both propose repealing Texas’ ban on same-sex marriage and allowing civil unions that give gay and lesbian couples the same privileges and protections as heterosexual couples. They also propose legislation banning discrimination in employment, insurance and public education based on sexual orientation and gender identity.

So I called Bill White’s campaign to find out whether the former Houston mayor, who’s considered the frontrunner for the Democratic nomination, will be adopting a similar policy statement on LGBT issues. Katy Bacon, a spokeswoman for the campaign, tells me that White is “not one to just pick up someone else’s agenda” but plans to issue his own policy statement on LGBT issues in coming weeks.

Incidentally, White is expected to be endorsed tonight by Stonewall Democrats of Dallas, and he’ll be speaking at the group’s general meeting. White is receiving the endorsement after Shami’s campaign failed to respond to an invitation from Stonewall. Love Johnson said Shami didn’t respond to the invitation because someone on his campaign staff misplaced it. She also provided a statement from Charlie Ray, press secretary for Shami, which says that “Farouk’s stance on LGBT issues reflects a true champion for LGBT rights and not the same old ‘all hat, no cattle’ approach the LGBT community receives from other candidates. We would challenge the Stonewall Dems to re-visit the endorsement with a thorough review of our policy and further, we challenge every democrat to adopt our LGBT policy.”

After the jump, read Shami’s policy in its entirety.

• Equality For All Couples

Farouk proposes allowing civil unions in Texas, and repealing the Texas Defense of Marriage Act. Farouk’s vision for Texas is one in which no same-sex couple should be denied the privileges and protections afforded to heterosexual couples under our state’s legal system.

Farouk proposes strengthening the rights of churches and religious institutions to conduct their own marriage ceremonies, according to their traditions, without interference from the State.

Employment Non-Discrimination.

Farouk proposes legislation prohibiting employment discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity or expression. Farouk proposes making it unlawful for employers to: fail to hire, refuse to hire, discharge, or discriminate against an individual in any manner based on sexual orientation, or gender identity or expression. This provision would also extend to public officials. Additionally, Farouk proposes making discrimination by labor organizations based on sexual orientation, or gender identity or expression unlawful.

• Ending Discriminatory Insurance Practices.

Farouk proposes legislation prohibiting insurance companies from considering a history of transition treatments as a reason to deny coverage. Simply because an individual has undergone gender transition treatments is not a reason to deny them healthcare coverage—or consider conditions like broken arms or the flu as being related to the transition. Under current Texas law, insurers cannot discriminate based on race, color, religion, national origin, age, gender, marital status, geographic location, disability or partial disability. Under Farouk’s plan, these discrimination prohibitions would be expanded to include sexual orientation and gender identity or expression. Discrimination would include refusing to insure, charging a different rate for insurance, or limiting coverage in amount, extent, or nature because of bias or prejudice.

Farouk proposes legislation allowing Texas public and governmental institutions—including all universities, public school districts, municipalities, and all governmental entities to offer same-sex domestic partner benefits. Presently, the University of Texas and Texas A&M University systems do not offer same-sex domestic partner benefits as their governing bodies interpret existing Texas law as prohibiting them from doing so. Under Farouk’s plan, this will cease and the universities will be able to offer same-sex domestic partner insurance benefits. Additionally, under Farouk’s plan, no governmental body in Texas would be required to adopt specific ordinances or referenda in order to be able to offer same-sex domestic partner benefits to employees.

• Ending Discrimination In Housing & Public Accommodations.

Farouk proposes prohibiting discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity or expression in housing, public accommodations, and real estate transactions. All people in Texas deserve access to housing and public accommodations free from discriminatory practices. Farouk proposes codifying these prohibitions and making it illegal to discriminate against LGBT citizens in real estate transactions, housing, or public accommodations. Additionally, Farouk proposes enacting legislation to make such cases of discrimination subject to civil causes of action in Texas courts.

Ending Discrimination For Public School Employees. Farouk’s employment non-discrimination plan will fully extend to all public educational institutions in this state—primary, secondary, and post-secondary—to prevent qualified school employees from being fired or discriminated against based on sexual orientation, gender identity or expression.

• Increased Patient Privacy Protections.

Farouk proposes legislation prohibiting the electronic sharing of information related to a person’s sexuality on medical records. While complete primary care for any individual necessitates that their primary care and other physicians will know about an individual’s sexual behavior and gender history, not all providers need access to this information. For example, if a LGBT person is in an emergency room being treated for a broken leg, it is unnecessary for the orthopedist to know the person’s sexuality. In fact, the disclosure of too much information could expose LGBT people to discrimination by health care providers in emergency situations.

• Medical Decision Making For Same-Sex Couples.

Farouk proposes legislation establishing the authority of domestic partners in medical decision making. Under current Texas law, same-sex couples are unable to exercise health care decision making rights because the relationship between the partners is unrecognized.  Under Farouk’s plan, domestic partners would be granted legal status, in the event of their partner’s incapacity, to make decisions concerning end of life care, medical decisions, hospital visitation, organ donation, disposition of remains, and consent for an autopsy. The legislation would also require, in an emergency situation, for a hospital to accept a good faith representation of the existence of a domestic partnership. Similar rights would extend to the children of a domestic partner.

Ending baseless lawsuits challenging the veracity of medical powers of attorney for LGBT couples. Under existing Texas law, anyone (even friends, family, or neighbors) can institute litigation to challenge legitimate and legal medical powers of attorney, including those of LGBT couples. Under Farouk’s proposal, individuals filing such lawsuits, would, once their lawsuits are found to be baseless, be required to compensate prevailing parties for attorney’s fees, court costs, and health care expenses during any unwarranted delays caused by the proceedings.

• Ending Discrimination In Texas Schools; Making Schools Safer.

Farouk proposes legislation prohibiting public educational institutions or the employees of public educational institutions from discriminating against students based on the ethnicity, gender, gender identity or expression, sexual orientation, disability, religion, or national origin of the student or the student’s parent(s)/guardian(s).

Farouk proposes legislation to prohibit discrimination, harassment, and retaliation against school district employees and students based upon actual or perceived ethnicity, religion, national origin, sexual orientation, gender identity or expression, or disability.

Farouk proposes tough anti-bullying statutes. Under Farouk’s plan, the definition of bullying would be expanded to include bullying by electronic means and to include incidents that occur off school property if the communication is likely to cause a disruption to the educational environment of a campus. Farouk’s plan would also provide for the movement of a bully to another classroom or campus at the discretion of school administration (currently, the victim is required to move). In addition, Farouk’s plan would expand the mandatory sexual harassment policy that school districts are required to have to include bullying, require notification of the parents/guardians of the victim and student who is being bullied or sexually harassed by another student; and expand PEIMS reporting requirements to include incidents of bullying, harassment, and sexual harassment—and to report if such incidents were a result of race, ethnicity, color, religion, gender, gender identity, sexual orientation, national origin, or disability.

• Birth Certificates For Adopted Children Of Same-Sex Couples.

Farouk proposes removing the requirement stipulating that adopted children must have both male and female parents on their birth certificate. Under current law relating to supplemental birth certificates for adopted children, it is required that, in order for the birth certificate to be issued, one parent must be female and the other male. Farouk proposes removing this language from existing statute.

• Protecting Transgender Individuals.

Farouk proposes expanding the James Byrd, Jr. Hate Crimes Act to include gender identity or expression.

Farouk proposes making it less difficult for transgender individuals to change the gender marker on birth certificates and state identification cards. Under Farouk’s plan, a court would not be able to require surgical intervention before ordering such a change, as the vast majority of transgender individuals do not fully undergo surgical procedures of this nature.

Repealing The “Homosexual Conduct Law”

Farouk proposes repealing §21.06 of the Texas Penal Code, the “Homosexual Conduct Law,” which was declared unconstitutional by the US Supreme Court in 2005.

• Gay Youths Deserve The Same Defenses For Straight Kids When It Comes To “Romeo & Juliet” Laws.

Farouk proposes affirmative defenses to protect gay teens from disparate treatment under the Texas Penal Code. Under existing Texas law, older straight teens are treated differently than gay and lesbian teens when it comes to dating offenses such as “heavy petting” or engaging in sex when both minors are under the age of consent. Under existing law, there are affirmative defenses to prosecution for straight teens—the so-called “Romeo & Juliet” defense. Gay teens, however, don’t have such protections and could be forced to register as sex offenders for conduct identical to that for which straight teens wouldn’t be prosecuted.

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