Equality Texas issues action alert on bullying

As school gets under way and Equality Texas gears up for the 2011 legislative session, the statewide gay-rights organization is calling on members to contact their representatives and ask them to support LGBT-inclusive anti-bullying legislation. From the Action Alert:

Under current law, students are not specifically protected from bullying and harassment based on actual or perceived sexual orientation or gender identity/expression. Current law does not establish a uniform state school conduct policy and does not provide for monitoring or enforcement of independent school district policies.

For the third legislative session, Equality Texas will be working to pass safe schools legislation. It will not pass until lawmakers know it is a top priority for their constituents. During the 81st Legislative Session, Rep. Mark Strama filed a bill relating to safe schools for all youth. While it was voted favorably out of committee, it died on the the floor of the Texas House of Representatives. Will this be the session to finally pass a safe schools bill?

As of this morning, Equality Texas reported that only 68 of 150 representatives had been contacted via the online advocacy campaign. To contact your representative, go here.

Also, while perusing the Equality Texas website, we couldn’t help but notice another recent advocacy campaign that we’d somehow missed in the wake of the Prop 8 ruling. It’s a fundraising letter from Equality Texas that calls attention to the need for advocacy right here at home and, to illustrate the point, highlights some differences between Texas and California:

TEXAS
•    No form of statewide relationship recognition for same-sex couples.
•    Allows employers to legally discriminate against LGBT Texans.
•    Does not have a safe schools law that explicitly addresses sexual orientation and gender identity.
•    Does not permit a same-sex partner to make a medical decision on behalf of his/her incapacitated partner in the absence of an advance directive.
•    No clear adoption laws. Courts have used a parent’s sexual orientation to deny, restrict or modify custody and visitation.
•    Hate crimes law explicitly includes “sexual preference.” No provision of Texas law explicitly addresses gender identity.

CALIFORNIA
•    Allows same-sex domestic partners to register and to receive essentially all of the rights and benefits of married couples under state law.
•    Prohibits discrimination based on sexual orientation, gender identity, appearance and behavior in the areas of employment (public and private), housing and public accommodations.
•    Protects students from discrimination and hate violence on the basis of gender identity and sexual orientation.
•    Allows same-sex domestic partners to make decisions on behalf of an incapacitated partner. Domestic partners and their children are specifically granted hospital visitation rights.
•    Permits a same-sex couple to jointly petition to adopt.
•    Hate crime law covers sexual orientation and gender identity.

—  John Wright

A perfect example of the politics of fear: California Sen. Roy Ashburn apologizes for anti-gay votes

Sen. Roy Ashburn

California State Sen. Roy Ashburn isn’t really someone to point to as a role model when it comes to proud gay men. He was deeply closeted most of his life, and spent his time as a senator diligently voting against anything even remotely gay positive, including his vote last November against establishing an annual Harvey Milk Day in honor of the murdered gay rights activist. And in 2005, he not only voted against same-sex marriage in California, he organized an anti-gay-marriage rally.

But then this past March 10, Ashburn’s house of cards came tumbling down: He was stopped as he left a well-known gay bar, with a man in the car with him, and arrested for DWI.

So Ashburn owned up and came out. He admitted, he is gay. But he still defended his anti-gay votes, saying that he was following the wishes of the constituents in his district.

Now, though, the senator — in his final term — has taken yet another step forward: He has apologized for his anti-gay votes in a blog post on GayPolitics.com. He said:

“I am sincerely sorry for the votes I cast and the actions I took that harmed lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people. Just as important to me, I am sorry for not stepping forward and speaking up as an elected official on behalf of equal treatment for all people.”

And why, you may ask, did he vote against the best interests of himself and his community for so long? He has an answer:

“I chose to conceal who I truly am and to then actually vote against the best interests of people like me. All this was done because I was afraid — terrified, really — that somehow I would be revealed as gay.”

He was afraid. He was afraid because he lived with a secret. He lived, as a transgender friend of mine described it, “stealth.” What better example could anyone ask for of the dangers of living in the closet?

He may have not come out all that willingly, but now that he is out, Roy Ashburn is changing his tune — and his politics. And he is calling on his party — the Republican Party — to change its politics, too:

“We stand for equality as well as opportunity. We stand for individuals living their lives without fear or limits imposed by a powerful government. We stand for a government of limited powers over citizens, including not being involved in the private lives of people. These tenets of Republican ideology call for bold action by our party when confronted with the real-life issues of discrimination against LGBT people.

“I am no longer willing, nor able to remain silent in the face of unequal and hurtful treatment of my community. It may have taken me a strange, incoherent and long path to get here, but this is where I find myself as a gay Republican senator. It’s time for Republicans to find our way and fight for equal treatment for all people, especially the freedom to be unique and have our rights acknowledged and protected.”

OK, so while his life up until this year isn’t role-model material, it looks like Ashburn is moving in that direction. I just wish it wasn’t his last term in the California Senate. And I hope his GOP colleagues will listen to him.

—  admin