As Equality Texas unveils poll results on bullying, Rep. Anchia files gay adoption measure

State Rep. Rafael Anchia

Senior editor Tammye Nash is down in Austin this morning, where as we speak Equality Texas is holding a press conference to unveil poll results showing that 80 percent of Texans support anti-bullying legislation that protects gay teenagers and the children of gay parents. Fort Worth City Councilman Joel Burns is also there, and comments from former first lady Laura Bush will be shared. More on that here for now and later from Tammye.

But elsewhere on the legislative front this morning, it looks like State Rep. Rafael Anchia, D-Dallas, has again filed legislation that would allow same-sex adoptive parents to have both of their names listed on a child’s birth certificate. This issue has been the subject of litigation in Louisiana, where a federal appeals court recently ruled that the state must issue an amended birth certificate listing the names of both gay parents. The Louisiana attorney general is appealing the ruling, and the gay parents are represented by Ken Upton of Lambda Legal in Dallas, who tells us he’s also itching to challenge Texas’ statute if Anchia’s bill doesn’t pass.

Anchia’s HB 415, filed Friday and similar to a bill he filed last session, would strike language from the Health and Safety Code as shown below:

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—  John Wright

Joel Burns, Laura Bush join Equality Texas’ call for anti-bullying legislation

I was already planning to head to Austin on Monday to talk with Executive Director Dennis Coleman and Deputy Executive Director Chuck Smith at Equality Texas about the upcoming session of the Texas Legislature. Then Chuck told me that Equality Texas would be holding a press conference that same morning, and although he did not at first tell me what the press conference was about, I figured I had gotten lucky and could kill two birds with one stone.

Laura Bush

Then this afternoon, I got a press release in my e-mail inbox with a title that linked gay Fort Worth Councilman Joel Burns and Republican former First Lady Laura Bush and Equality Texas, and my interest level concerning this press conference went even higher.

Here’s what’s going on:

Sen. Wendy Davis of Fort Worth and Rep. Mark Strama of Austin have already prefiled bills aimed at protecting children from bullying at school, and a scientific poll commissioned by Equality Texas shows that 80 percent of Texans support anti-bullying legislation. So Equality Texas is having a press conference Monday to talk about the problem of bullying, the results of the poll and what this legislation can do to address the problem.

Burns, who made headlines around the country in October with his emotional “It Gets Better” speech at a Fort Worth City Council meeting, will be there at the press conference to offer his perspective. And although the former first lady won’t be there in person, she is sending along a written statement expressing her support for the legislation.

I wish Mrs. Bush were going to be there in person, but having her written support is certainly better than nothing. And while some folks were disappointed that the campaign to get her to participate in the Alan Ross Texas Freedom Parade fell through this year, I’d much rather have her speaking out against bullying than riding in a convertible down Cedar Springs.

The press conference is being held at 10 a.m. Monday in the Speaker’s Committee Room in the Texas Capitol.

—  admin

WATCH: Laura Bush speaks out against anti-gay bullying, says she’s proud of Joel Burns

Last week we noted that former first lady and Dallas resident Laura Bush, despite her stated support for equality for same-sex couples and her longtime focus on education, hadn’t said anything about the gay teen bullying and suicide crisis. Well who knows, maybe she was listening, because while Bush hasn’t yet made her own “It Gets Better” video, she did say this about the subject in an interview with ABC News (video above):

“Bullying in every kind, certainly gay teens, is really, really terrible, but any children, is terrible. And schools really need to make sure that bullying is not going on,” Bush says. “I was proud of the Fort Worth city councilmember [Joel Burns] that talked about it. I think that’s part of the ‘It’ll get better’ project. I think that’s what he said to children, to young gay teenagers is, ‘It will get better,’ and it’s really important for us to not allow bullying of any kind in schools.”

Coincidentally, Bush goes on to talk about a recent visit to North Dallas High School, which is where transgender student Andy Moreno was denied a chance to run for homecoming queen. Have a look.

—  John Wright

Laura Bush: It wasn’t my role to defend the gays

Laura Bush

Former first lady Laura Bush, who recently said she supports equality for same-sex couples, tells The Texas Tribune she didn’t speak out publicly about the issue while her husband was in office because she was not the elected official and it wasn’t her responsibility. In her recent book, Laura Bush said she asked George not to make gay marriage “a significant issue” and that she “could never have imagined what path this issue would take and where it would lead.” In the interview with the Tribune, she responds to criticism that she didn’t speak up publicly about the matter:

TT: … You found yourself back in the headlines not so long ago for taking positions on gay marriage and abortion that appeared to be at odds with your husband and with the GOP. What do you say to the critics who argue you had a responsibility to come forward sooner, or who suggest you maybe hid those opinions from view?

Bush: Well, I didn’t hide them from view. They were very well known from the first day George was elected, when Katie Couric asked me the question. I’m not elected. I was not elected. George is. He’s the one who’s elected. I was not the elected official. It was not my responsibility, I didn’t think, to speak out in ways to get in some sort of debate with him. I just didn’t see that as part of my role.

Apparently Bush still doesn’t see advocacy on behalf of the LGBT community as part of her role, because she ignored an invitation to attend Dallas’ gay Pride celebration this year. Meanwhile, despite her focus on education, Bush hasn’t said anything about the national teen bullying suicide crisis. Asked at the end of the TT interview about the governor’s race, Bush says, “Absolutely we’re supporting Gov. Perry.”

—  John Wright