AUSTIN — Hundreds of LGBT Texans and allies from across the state told their personal stories of discrimination, love and hope for a better future to lawmakers Monday during Equality Texas Lobby Day.
With more than 540 registered attendants, it marked the biggest Lobby Day ever, Equality Texas Executive Director Chuck Smith said.
Smith started working with the statewide LGBT advocacy organization as a lobbyist in 2003. He shared his experience with the crowd Monday morning, explaining that he came out to former state Rep. Carter Casteel, who had been his eighth-grade history teacher. He told her that he and his partner of 17 years, Rick, had loved each other dearly until his death in 2001.
And he asked her not to vote for the state’s Defense of Marriage Act, which defines marriage between a man and a woman and passed later that year.
Smith said she acknowledged his love between him and his partner but told him she couldn’t vote against DOMA because she would lose her seat.
“The day changed my life because I learned that the people who serve this state are real people just like me,” he said, adding that more legislators need to hear stories to earn their support. “They just need to hear from enough of us to give them the strength to do the right thing for the people of Texas.”
Pansexual state Rep. Mary Gonzalez, D-El Paso, thanked those who attended for standing behind her when she came out during her contested Democratic Primary last year and for encouraging her with their fight for LGBT rights.