Rep. Workman loves 10th amendment, except when it protects gays from discrimination

Daniel Williams

By DANIEL WILLIAMS | Legislative Queery

HCR 110 by Rep. Paul Workman, R-Travis County, expresses the desire of the Texas Legislature for President Barack Obama to defend the so-called Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) against court challenges. DOMA was passed in 1996 by Congress. It prohibits the federal government from recognizing same-sex marriage and allows individual states to not recognize same-sex marriages performed in other states.

(HCR stands for “House Concurrent Resolution.” Concurrent resolutions must be passed by both the House and Senate and — in most cases — signed by the governor. They cannot create new laws but are used to express the will of the Legislature and, in some situations, to allow the Legislature to exercise its power. HCR 110 expresses the will of the Legislature for the executive branch of the federal government to take a particular course of action. If passed it would have no binding power over the president.)

—  admin

Texas House committees and pro-LGBT bills

DANIEL WILLIAMS  |  Legislative Queery

Texas House Speaker Joe Straus has finally announced the committee assignments for the 82nd Texas House. As I predicted last month the partisan breakdown of the committee chairs roughly reflects the distribution of party control in the House with 11 Democratic chairs and 25 Republicans (not including the four select and joint committee chairs, all Republicans).

House committees that queer Texans will want to watch very carefully:

Public Education — Will get the anti-bullying bills. Chairman Rob Eissler, R-The Woodlands, scheduled the hearing for HB 1323 (last session’s anti-bullying bill) very late last session, but he did schedule a hearing and the committee eventually voted to send the bill to the floor for a vote of the whole House. Unfortunately, time ran out last session (more info on HB 1323 is here). Rep. Mark Strama, D-Austin, whose HB 224 is expected to be the water bearer for anti-bullying bills, is on the committee this session.

Public Health – Will get HB 405, which would allow same-sex parents to get accurate birth certificates for their children. Chairwoman Lois Kolkhorst, R-Austin, was visibly moved by testimony last session on this bill. Let’s hope that causes her to schedule it for an early hearing.

Criminal Jurisprudence – Will get HB 604, the repeal of Texas’s unconstitutional sodomy law and HB 172, the study of the effectiveness of the Texas Hate Crimes Act. Chairman Pete Gallego, D-Alpine, has a solid record of voting in the best interest of queer Texans, but repealing the unconstitutional sodomy law, however common-sense, is going to be a hard sell. Plus, with virulent homophobes Wayne Christian, Bill Zedler and Will Hartnett on the committee, it seems unlikely that common sense will beat out bigotry. The Hate Crimes study has a better chance. It made it out of committee last session, but it’s hard to predict what will happen this session.

Insurance – Will get HB 208 prohibiting insurance companies from discriminating on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity/expression. Chairman John Smithee, R-Amarillo, hasn’t let this bill through in past sessions, and I’d be shocked if he lets it through this session. Smithee takes every chance he can get to hurt queer Texans. He’s not likely to pass this chance up, either.

State Affairs – Will get HB 665, which would prohibit employment discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity/expression. This bill, or a version of it, has been filed every session for over a decade, and it never gets a hearing. While new Chairman Byron Cook, R-Corsicana, is an immense improvement over old Chairman Burt Solomons, it’s unlikely that this bill will go anywhere.

Now that we have committees, bills are going to start moving left and right. The 82nd regular session of the Texas Legislature is finally getting going!

—  admin

A queer take on the Texas Lege

Former Dallas resident Daniel Willams (right), who n0w lives in Houston, is the author of a very informative blog devoted to coverage of the Texas Legislature from an LGBT perspective, Legislative Queery. Williams has agreed to allow Instant Tea to cross-post his material from time to time, and we hope to do so regularly in our Community Voices section as this year’s session progresses. Read Williams’ first contribution to Instant Tea below, and be sure to visit his blog yourself to catch up on other topics.

DANIEL WILLIAMS | Legislative Queery

Today is the 11th day of the 82nd regular session of the Texas Legislature. Both the House and Senate will reconvene on Monday at 1:30 p.m. The Senate is expected to begin what is certain to be an impassioned debate on voter suppression legislation, the House may finally adopt rules.

Senate committee assignments are also expected which means bills should start being referred to committee. Of particular interest is SB 245 by Sen. Wendy Davis, D-Fort Worth, which proposes comprehensive and inclusive anti-bullying measures. We’ll be watching that carefully and will let you know as soon as it’s referred to committee.

Today is Friday, which means that most of the representatives and senators are back in their district offices in your cities and neighborhoods. Fridays are great days to call your local office and ask for support from the people elected to represent you. This is particularly important if you know that your elected officials are not supportive of the queer community.

To find the phone number for your representative and senator’s district offices go HERE. Put in your address and press enter, then scroll down the page until you see the listing for state senator and state representative and find the phone numbers for their district office. Now put those numbers in your phone’s address book so you don’t have to keep looking them up!

For a suggested script for your phone call read Legislative Queery’s post from Day 4.

You can call about any topic that’s important to you. For lists of bills that have been filed this session check out the taps at the top of this page.

I suggest calling your representative about HB 604 by Farrar, which would repeal the state’s unconstitutional ban on “Homosexual Conduct”. Ask them to “co-author HB 604″. Equality Texas has an excellent fact sheet on the bill HERE.

Sen. Davis has been unabashed in her support for anti-bullying legislation. I want to thank her by reiterating my suggestion from last week to call your senator and ask them to “co-author SB 245.” The Equality Texas fact sheet is HERE.

—  John Wright