BREAKING: Zedler withdraws LGBT resource center amendment

State Rep. Bill Zedler

State Rep. Bill Zedler

Arlington state Rep. Bill Zedler withdrew his amendment that would defund LGBT resource centers at state universities when it hit the House floor tonight amid cheers from the gallery.

Matthew Posey, Zedler’s legislative director, told Dallas Voice Thursday afternoon that it’d be “pulled down.” He declined to comment on the decision to remove the amendment.

News of the amendment that stated LGBT and gender centers caused high-risk behavior and the spread of HIV/AIDS and other sexually transmitted diseases created an uproar among LGBT advocates.

Petitions and letters opposing the amendment were sent to lawmakers this week.

Daniel Williams, field organizer with Equality Texas, said the organization had been preparing for the amendment for the past year after a similar one from the previous session was filed, which was withdrawn after pressure to stall the appropriations bill.

“Because of Equality Texas’ outreach, there was massive public outcry about the amendment,” he said. “Zedler was under tremendous pressure to remove it.”

Three other amendments that would have some impact on the LGBT community were considered.

An amendment filed by state Rep. Elliott Naishtat, D-Austin, was adopted and will allot grant money to school districts for suicide prevention, mental health and substance abuse programs.

State Rep. Roberto Alonzo, D-Dallas, withdrew his amendment that would collect data on the number of LGBT people under the age of 24 who seek mental health services.

An amendment by state Rep. Lon Burnam, D-Fort Worth, was tabled. The measure would require school districts to make reports based on alleged discriminatory incidents based on sexual orientation, gender identity and expression, and other categories.

Amendments are still being debated on the floor. Watch here.

—  Dallasvoice

Resource Center Dallas sends letter opposing Zedler amendment

Cece Cox

Cece Cox

Equality Texas is collecting letters to send to legislators encouraging them to oppose an amendment that would ban and defund LGBT resource centers on college campuses.

The amendment filed by state Rep. Bill Zedler, R-Arlington, claims that the centers endorse high-risk behavior and the spread of HIV and other sexually transmitted diseases.

Resource Center Dallas CEO Cece Cox sent a letter today, stating that the amendment has “no public health value.”

“It exists for one reason and one reason only: to target college student resource centers simply because the centers provide services to the LGBT community,” the letter reads in part. “It’s intent is mean-spirited and discriminatory, and is rooted in the inaccurate belief that sexual orientation and gender identity ate behaviors.”

Read the full letter below.

—  Dallasvoice

Measure targets campus LGBT centers, says they lead to ‘high-risk’ behavior

State Rep. Bill Zedler

State Rep. Bill Zedler

An amendment to the Texas Legislature’s general appropriations bill, SB1, would defund gender and LGBT resource centers on the basis that they encourage risky sexual behavior.

State Rep. Bill Zedler, R-Arlington, filed the amendment to cut state funding from universities that have “Gender and Sexuality Centers and Related Student Center[s].” The amendment argues that “to support, promote, or encourage any behavior that would lead to high risk behavior for AIDS, HIV, Hepatitis B, or any sexually transmitted disease.”

A representative from Zedler’s office did not return calls seeking comment.

An amendment to defund and prevent universities from housing LGBT resource centers on campus last session was filed by former state Rep. Wayne Christian. He eventually withdrew the amendment after Democrats threatened to derail the bill it was attached to.

Daniel Williams, field organizer for Equality Texas, said that while the University of Texas at Austin, Texas A&M and the University of Houston have dedicated offices for their LGBT resources centers, the amendment could also affect the LGBT program at the University of Texas at Arlington, as well as women’s centers at several universities.

In related news, the Texas A&M Student Senate may vote this week on a measure that would allow students to opt out of funding the GLBT Resource Center with their activity fees if they have religious objections.

Williams said Zedler’s reasoning for filing amendment on the grounds that centers would encourage unsafe sexual behavior is unfounded and hopes the LGBT community contacts representatives to stop the amendment from moving forward. (CLICK HERE TO FIND YOUR STATE REPRESENTATIVE)

“If the community mobilizes and lets the 150 members of the Texas House know that this amendment is hurtful and represents antiquated stereotypes that belong in a bygone era, we can beat it,” he said.

The amendment could be voted on as early as Thursday.

Equality Texas has endorsed eight budget amendments from lawmakers that would collect data on LGBT bullying and suicide risk, as well as reinstate Planned Parenthood in the Women’s Heath Program and study the cost of litigation the Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott’s office has spent defending laws that include anti-gay bias.

See the amendments below.

—  Dallasvoice

LEGE UPDATE: Highlights from the Texas House debate on Wayne Christian’s anti-gay amendment

Rep. Wayne Christian

Allies fight off effort to ban LGBT resource centers

CLICK HERE TO WATCH VIDEO OF THE DEBATE

Rep. Wayne Christian, R-Center, lost his fight to ban LGBT resource centers from Texas universities on Thursday night.

Christian had previously been successful in attaching an amendment to the House version of the state budget that would have required schools with LGBT resource centers to equally  fund “family and traditional values centers.” But the amendment was absent from the Senate version of the bill and is not in the final version of the budget adopted two weeks ago.

Then, on Thursday the House took up the controversial “fiscal matters” bill that, among other things, provides funding for public education in Texas. Christian took this opportunity to offer an amendment to completely ban LGBT resource centers from Texas universities.

When Christian passed his amendment to the budget back in April, it sailed through with no House members speaking in opposition, and only one, Rep. Joaquin Castro, D-San Antonio, asking questions. In contrast, his new amendment met with vocal opposition, as well as a threat to derail the entire fiscal matters bill if the discriminatory language was attached.

Christian began by saying that his original amendment passed with no opposition in the House (in fact, 24 members voted against it), that his new amendment was supported by the Young Conservatives of Texas and that the Texas A&M Student Senate had passed a resolution in support, although he didn’t mention that the resolution was vetoed by the Student Body President Jacob Robinson.

—  admin

Texas House committees and pro-LGBT bills

DANIEL WILLIAMS  |  Legislative Queery

Texas House Speaker Joe Straus has finally announced the committee assignments for the 82nd Texas House. As I predicted last month the partisan breakdown of the committee chairs roughly reflects the distribution of party control in the House with 11 Democratic chairs and 25 Republicans (not including the four select and joint committee chairs, all Republicans).

House committees that queer Texans will want to watch very carefully:

Public Education — Will get the anti-bullying bills. Chairman Rob Eissler, R-The Woodlands, scheduled the hearing for HB 1323 (last session’s anti-bullying bill) very late last session, but he did schedule a hearing and the committee eventually voted to send the bill to the floor for a vote of the whole House. Unfortunately, time ran out last session (more info on HB 1323 is here). Rep. Mark Strama, D-Austin, whose HB 224 is expected to be the water bearer for anti-bullying bills, is on the committee this session.

Public Health – Will get HB 405, which would allow same-sex parents to get accurate birth certificates for their children. Chairwoman Lois Kolkhorst, R-Austin, was visibly moved by testimony last session on this bill. Let’s hope that causes her to schedule it for an early hearing.

Criminal Jurisprudence – Will get HB 604, the repeal of Texas’s unconstitutional sodomy law and HB 172, the study of the effectiveness of the Texas Hate Crimes Act. Chairman Pete Gallego, D-Alpine, has a solid record of voting in the best interest of queer Texans, but repealing the unconstitutional sodomy law, however common-sense, is going to be a hard sell. Plus, with virulent homophobes Wayne Christian, Bill Zedler and Will Hartnett on the committee, it seems unlikely that common sense will beat out bigotry. The Hate Crimes study has a better chance. It made it out of committee last session, but it’s hard to predict what will happen this session.

Insurance – Will get HB 208 prohibiting insurance companies from discriminating on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity/expression. Chairman John Smithee, R-Amarillo, hasn’t let this bill through in past sessions, and I’d be shocked if he lets it through this session. Smithee takes every chance he can get to hurt queer Texans. He’s not likely to pass this chance up, either.

State Affairs – Will get HB 665, which would prohibit employment discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity/expression. This bill, or a version of it, has been filed every session for over a decade, and it never gets a hearing. While new Chairman Byron Cook, R-Corsicana, is an immense improvement over old Chairman Burt Solomons, it’s unlikely that this bill will go anywhere.

Now that we have committees, bills are going to start moving left and right. The 82nd regular session of the Texas Legislature is finally getting going!

—  admin