LEGE UPDATE: Senate flirts with trans marriage ban; LGBT youth removed from suicide bill

Daniel Williams

An attack on opposite-sex marriage, movement on anti-bullying bills and the removal of protections for LGBT teens from a suicide prevention bill marked this, the 15th week of the Texas Legislature’s 20-week regular session.

On Friday morning , April 15, urgent alerts went out from state and national transgender advocacy groups asking Texans to call Democratic members of the Senate and urge them to oppose Senate Bill 723. The bill would remove a court-ordered “change of sex” from the list of identifying documents which Texans can use to obtain a marriage license, potentially voiding all opposite-sex marriages in Texas where one partner has changed their legally recognized sex.

The alert was caused by the placement of SB 723 on the Senate’s “intent calendar” for Monday, April 18.

Senate rules require bills to be considered in the order they are filed, but the Senate hardly ever follows that rule. Instead they file a bill at the front of the line (the “blocker bill”) and everyone agrees not to vote on it. In order for the Senate to consider a bill filed after the blocker bill they must vote to “set aside” the Senate rules and take the bill “out of order.” Senate Rule 22.02 says that setting aside the rules requires a two-thirds majority of the members present. The intent calendar is a list of bills that Senators intend to bring up out of order that day. The Senate creates an intent calendar each week, and any bill not taken up on Monday rolls over to Tuesday and then to Wednesday. They then start a new intent calendar the following week.

There are 31 Senators: 12 Democrats and 19 Republicans. In order for a bill to receive the required two-thirds (or 20) votes it needs, at least one of the Democrats must support it. Thus the urgency of the alert.

—  admin

ACTION ALERT: Tell Senate Democrats to vote against bill to ban transgender marriage

dead firefighter's transgender wife
Nikki Araguz

As we noted below, the Texas Senate is slated to consider a bill Monday would effectively bar transgender people from marrying people of the opposite sex. The bill is a direct response to the case of transgender widow Nikki Araguz.

In order to take up the bill, the Senate must have 20 votes. Republicans are one vote short of a 20-vote majority, meaning they will need at least one Democratic vote.

The Transgender Education Network of Texas issued an action alert this morning for people to contact Senate Democrats and urge them to vote against Senate Bill 723 by Sen. Tommy Williams, R-The Woodlands. Here is contact information for Senate Democrats:

Mario Gallegos (512) 463-0106
Wendy Davis (512) 463-0110
Rodney G. Ellis (512) 463-0113
Kirk Watson (512) 463-0114
John Whitmire (512) 463-0115
Carlos I. Uresti (512) 463-0119
Juan “Chuy” Hinojosa (512) 463-0120
Judith Zaffirini (512) 463-0121
Royce West (512) 463-0123
Leticia R. Van de Putte (512) 463-0126
Eduardo A. (Eddie) Lucio, Jr. (512) 463-0127
José R. Rodríguez (512) 463-0129

—  John Wright

What’s Brewing: HIV/AIDS progam not a priority for Texas Senate panel; Target sues gay group

Your weekday morning blend from Instant Tea:

1. Things aren’t looking good for the Texas program that provides life-sustaining drugs to 14,000 low-income people with HIV/AIDS. The Texas HIV Medication Program, which needs an additional $19.2 million from the Legislature over the next two years, was not among the top priorities listed by a Senate budget panel that made its recommendations Thursday. If the Legislature doesn’t provide the money, the program will have to cut off enrollment or otherwise restrict access. “We’re basically making a decision regarding who lives and who dies,” said Sen. Judith Zaffirini, D-Houston, who voted against the panel’s recommendations.

2. Servicemembers United reports that 261 people service members were discharged under “don’t ask, don’t tell” in 2010. “While this latest official discharge number represents an all-time annual low, it is still unusually high considering that the Secretary of Defense issued a directive half-way through the fiscal year to make it much harder for military units to discharge troops under ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,’” said Alexander Nicholson, executive director of Servicemembers United. “Despite this law clearly being on its deathbed at the time, 261 more careers were terminated and 261 more lives were abruptly turned upside down because this policy.”

3. Target is suing an LGBT group in San Diego to stop it from gathering petitions in support of marriage equality outside eight of the retailer’s stores. Target says the group, Canvass for a Cause, is bothering customers, but the group says the company has anti-gay motives. Arguments in the case are set to begin today.

—  John Wright