“Employment discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity is reprehensible, but in Texas, it’s perfectly legal,” Johnson said in a statement. “It’s time for that to change.”
Johnson, whose district includes Oak Lawn, cited a 2010 Equality Texas poll that found 75 percent of Texas voters support prohibiting discrimination based on sexual orientation in employment and housing.
Johnson’s bill is identical to one filed earlier (HB 238) by Rep. Mike Villarreal, D-San Antonio, and Marisa Marquez, D-El Paso.
Johnson’s openly gay chief of staff, Juan Ayala, said there are strategic advantages to having two bills. A second bill could be assigned to a different committee. Villarreal’s bill was referred to Economic & Small Business Development. Johnson’s bill, filed Monday, has not been referred to committee yet.
Ayala said one committee might give the bill a fairer hearing or one committee opposed to the bill could simply not schedule a hearing and let it die. With two bills, there’s a better chance one of will reach the floor.
Should either bill emerge from committee, Ayala said he expects the two to be merged into one.
Ayala described the mood of the Legislature this session as “less hostile, perhaps more open” compared to last session and said he thinks the bill has a chance.
Also, some of the anti-gay language was removed from the Texas Republican Party platform last year, possibly giving some Republicans cover to vote for nondiscrimination.
In the last session, Republicans held a 102-48 supermajority in the House, allowing them to pass anything without Democratic input. This session, Republicans still have an overwhelming 95-55 majority, but Democrats are not shut out of the legislative process.