The women of the Texas House are MAD! Senfronia Thompson speaks up on House floor against fliers disrespectful to women

State Rep. Senfronia Thompson

Texas state Rep. Senfronia Thompson — someone I have for whom immense admiration and respect for many reasons, not the least of which is her passionate support of LGBT rights — took a moment of personal privilege today on the House floor to let loose on the Texas Civil Justice League, which distributed fliers targeting Thompson HB 2093 which deals with insurance and contractors. Thompson wasn’t angry that the TCJL opposes her legislation. What made her mad was the photo on the flier: a close up of an breastfeeding infant over which were written the words “Don’t expand the nanny state.”

“Some of you may find them funny, but I find them despicable. I find them distasteful. I find them hateful, and I find them to foster violence and disrespect toward women. And I find it hard to believe the Texas Civil Justice League would go so low that they would put out this kind of hate resentful bitter, despicable, despisable, violent fliers toward women just to get at a piece of legislation. They could have come and talked to me,” Thompson said. “We cannot sit here and tolerate this kind of attitude.”

But it wasn’t just the Texas Civil Justice League that bore the brunt of Thompson’s anger. She also criticized the male members of the House for allowing and even perpetuating an atmosphere of such disrespect toward women to exist in the first place that the flier was even produced in the first place.

“Men, if you don’t stand up for us today, you don’t walk in this chamber tomorrow!” Thompson demanded.

And she wasn’t the only woman who was angry.

Houston Democrat Rep. Carol Alvarado led what she said was a bipartisan group of female legislators to the chamber’s back mic where she spoke up to call the flyer is a “below-the-belt political tactic.” And Rep. Debbie Riddle, a Republican from Tomball spoke up in support of “Mrs. T,” adding that she has been appalled to see pornography on the House floor. Riddle didn’t elaborate on her statement.

Even if I were to transcribe Rep. Thompson’s speech for you here, word for word, I couldn’t do it justice. So instead, I’ll just post the video and let you hear it for yourself.

—  admin

References to sexual orientation, gender identity to be removed from TX anti-bullying bills

Chuck-Smith
Chuck Smith

Specific references to LGBT youth will be removed from two anti-bullying bills backed by Equality Texas to improve their chances of passage and de-politicize the issue, Instant Tea has learned.

One of the bills, House Bill 224 by State Rep. Mark Strama, D-Austin, is scheduled for a committee hearing Tuesday.

Chuck Smith, deputy director of Equality Texas, said Monday that a substitute for HB 224 will be introduced during the hearing that removes all enumerated categories — including sexual orientation — from a provision requiring school districts to report incidents of bullying to the state.

Instead, the substitute bill will direct the Texas education commissioner to specify what types of bullying must be reported. Smith said enumerated categories will also be removed from a companion bill in the Senate, SB 242 by Sen. Wendy Davis, D-Fort Worth. Davis’ bill as originally drafted included both sexual orientation and gender identity/expression.

“If they were all there it likely wouldn’t pass,” Smith said, referring to the enumerated categories. “At the end of the day, the reporting part is not important compared to the rest of the guts of the bill.”

HB 224 and SB 242 would establish uniform definitions for bullying and cyberbullying in the state education code, and require districts to create training programs for students, parents, staff and volunteers. The bills would also allow officials to transfer bullies to different classes or campuses than their victims.

Strama’s HB 224 is scheduled for a hearing at 2 p.m. Tuesday in the House public education committee. It’s one of three bills backed by Equality Texas scheduled for committee hearings Tuesday.

HB 172, by Rep. Marc Veasey, D-Fort Worth, would launch a study on the effectiveness of the James Byrd Jr. Hate Crimes Act. HB 172 is scheduled for a hearing at 10:30 a.m. in the House criminal jurisprudence committee.

HB 130, by Rep. Carol Alvarado, D-Houston, would incorporate an anti-bullying hotline into the state’s existing Texas Abuse/Neglect Hotline. HB 130 is scheduled for a hearing at 2 p.m. in the House human services committee. 

Smith said it’s unlikely that any of the bills will be voted on Tuesday. You can watch committee hearings live on the Legislature’s website. For more information on Equality Texas’ legislative agenda, go here. To register for the group’s lobby day on Monday, March 7, go here.

UPDATE: The full text of the substitute bill is here. Smith also had this to say on Facebook:

“I would have preferred a headline like, ‘House Public Ed Committee to hear landmark anti-bullying bill that will protect every child based upon any actual or perceived personal characteristics, behavior, or belief.’ That’s what’s IN the bill and EVERY child will be protected. The enumerated references were removed from reporting guidelines, not who is covered by the bill.”

—  John Wright

TX Lege: Pro-LGBT bills see ‘flurry of activity’

Chuck-Smith
Chuck Smith

It’s been a good week for pro-LGBT bills in the Texas Legislature.

Three bills backed by Equality Texas were referred to House committees and another three were filed as lawmakers started getting down to business in the 2011 session.

“There was kind of a flurry of activity this week,” said Chuck Smith, deputy director of Equality Texas. “The lower your bill number is, the greater opportunity you have to have a committee hearing sooner rather than later. It’s possible that either the birth certificate [bill] or some of the bullying bills may have hearings in the next couple weeks, and that’s certainly positive.”

HB 415, by Rep. Rafael Anchia, D-Dallas, would allow same-sex parents to record both of their names on an adopted child’s birth certificate. The bill was referred Wednesday to the House Committee on Public Health. Two years ago, Anchia’s birth certificate bill received a very favorable hearing in the same committee, Smith said.

“There’s a decent chance we could have another good hearing. I’m hopeful that we might be able to win a vote in that committee,” he said, adding that testimony two years ago came from children of same-sex parents who told legislators they merely want accurate birth certificates. “It’s a pretty straightforward and compelling argument.”

—  John Wright