Powerful GOP Rep. Byron Cook supports supplemental birth certificate bill

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State Affairs Committee Chairman Byron Cook, R-Corsicana.

State Affairs Chairman and Republican Representative Byron Cook, R-Corsicana, voiced his explicit support today (Wednesday, April 15) for legislation that would allow same-sex couples and legal guardians of a child to receive a supplementary birth certificate reflecting both of their names.

Cook’s announcement came following Dallas Democrat Rep. Rafael Anchia’s moving speech in support of the bill, HB 537.

“I want everyone to know I support [the bill] too,” Cook said after asking for Anchia’s comments to be included in the House’s written record.

The move was a milestone for the bill that has languished in the House for the past three sessions. Cook chairs the powerful State Affairs committee, which recently heard comments for and against the bill. He is also a close ally of House Speaker Joe Straus.

Cook expressed skepticism to opponents of the bill during a March 18 State Affairs committee hearing, telling one opponent he “struggled” with her opposition to the measure, according to the Texas Tribune.

“That’s a terrible indictment on one group to be real honest with you,” Cook told conservative legislative analyst Julie Drenner with the group Texas Values during the hearing.

You can watch Anchia’s moving speech and Cook’s statement below.

—  James Russell

Diverse coalition speaks out against numerous anti-LGBT bills at Capitol

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Rep. Ron Reynolds, D-Missouri City.

Texas lawmakers and the head of the Texas Association of Business joined with civil liberties organizations today (Tuesday, April 7) at a press conference warning against numerous bills filed this year that promote discrimination against LGBT Texans.

Sen. Rodney Ellis, D-Houston, and Rep. Rafael Anchia, D-Dallas, say they are worried about at least 20 bills that would allow, promote or even require discrimination against LGBT Texans.

“These bills allow people to be fired from their jobs, evicted from their homes, denied public services the rest of us take for granted, and even turned into criminals simply because of who they are and whom they love,” Ellis said. “The Texas I love is better than that. This debate isn’t about businesses not serving someone they might object to, as that minimizes the seriousness of what’s at stake here.”

They also voiced concerns over two bills that they say would burden taxpayers, businesses and the LGBT community.

Currently three resolutions would expand the state’s Religious Freedom Restoration Act, which the Legislature passed with an overwhelming bipartisan majority in 1999, is sufficient. Like the federal RFRA, it protects religious liberty from government overreach while including provisions to ensure that civil rights protections against discrimination aren’t undermined.

All 20 proposed bills in Texas this year, on the other hand, are unnecessary for protecting religious freedom and would allow, and sometimes even require, discrimination or harm to others, Ellis said.

Rep. Anchia warned that the proposed bills would undermine or even sweep away nondiscrimination ordinances put in place in major cities across the state, including Dallas and Fort Worth.

“By undoing these protections, the Legislature would be sending a message that local control isn’t as important as some of my colleagues have long said that it is,” Anchia said. “They would be saying to the rest of the country that discrimination against our neighbors, our friends, our family members is more important. My own city and many others across the state have decided against that kind of discrimination, and the Legislature shouldn’t undermine our cities’ economic well being or our citizens’ civil liberties.”

The message to the rest of the country particularly concerns business leaders, said Bill Hammond, chief executive officer of the Texas Association of Business.

“Either of these two amendments would bring the same backlash to Texas,” Hammond said. “They also would lead to potentially enormous litigation costs, hurt our efforts to attract businesses and tourism dollars that keep our economy growing, and make it harder for employers to enforce laws and company policies barring discrimination against their workers and customers. Texas is a magnet for new businesses, talent and visitors. This legislation would immediately threaten our solid brand.”

Reached by phone, Rep. Ron Reynolds, D-Fort Bend County, urged activists to keep the pressure on legislators.

Among those legislators is Rep. Matt Krause, R-Fort Worth, who authored HJR 125 and spoke with the Voice last week about the legislation.

Reynolds said Krause and others “are hiding behind a smoke screen. They may say discrimination is not the purpose of the bill but we also saw that with the debates over voter ID laws and the sonogram bill. They said those bills were about ‘voter integrity’ and ‘safety’ but they were really about voter suppression and closing down Planned Parenthood. They’re never gonna admit it but that’s what it is.”

“If so many people hadn’t read the bills in Indiana and Arkansas, then activists would’ve never turned it around until it was too late,” he said. “Grassroots activists and business were key to the outcry over both Indians and Arkansas’ bills. It’s imperative to stay informed.”

Sustaining the momentum against the bills could make Abbott and other legislators rethink their support of the legislation, Reynolds added.

“I don’t want to see Texas go down a slippery slope. I don’t see what happened in Indiana happen here, “ he said. “We’re a conservative state, but you can be conservative and not discriminate.

“Let’s not let this be a black eye on the state,” he said.

—  James Russell

Legislators file joint adoption bills for LGBT parents

Anchia.RafaelRep. Rafael Anchia, D-Dallas, and Sen. Sylvia Garcia, D-Houston, filed companion bills today (Wednesday, Dec. 17) that would allow adopted children in Texas to have the names of both parents listed on their supplemental birth certificates, regardless of the parents’ gender.

HB 537 and SB 250 would amend the Texas Health and Safety Code, which requires the supplemental birth certificate of an adopted child be in the names of the adoptive parents, one female and the other male.

“Texas families come in all shapes and sizes, including those formed by adoption. An adopted child needs to have a birth certificate that accurately reflects the child’s family,“  said Anchia.  “Texas laws should protect and support the rights of children and families — not hinder them.”

Under the current law, adopted children of same-gender couples are denied accurate birth certificates, which can cause difficulty in obtaining a passport or Social Security card or in registering for school.

“This bill removes an unreasonable obstacle to some children getting the important legal documentation they need,“  Garcia said.  “A birth certificate is vital and should accurately reflect both parents.  Neither these children nor their parents should be burdened with an incomplete birth certificate that omits a loving parent.”

As it stands, the requirement compels same-gender parents to carry and present documentation proving their legal parentage for medical care, school enrollment and international travel. Without a birth certificate, the child is left in legal limbo and can never have the same recognition of family status that is afforded other adopted children.

This will be the fourth consecutive legislative session that Anchia has filed this legislation. This is the first time the bill has been filed in the Senate.

—  James Russell

Guns, God and gays: first day of prefiling for upcoming Lege session

abaa8de7236b4022851ea2557e2d68b0dc212ddb6ea8b427616006bb297bd2cdToday is the first day for Texas legislators and members-elect to pre-file legislation for the 84th legislative session. This means you get to see just how crazy some of your newly and returning elected officials really are. Don’t worry everyone, the first day of pre-filing didn’t bring out the worst of your electeds just yet. Rep. Bill Zedler, R-Arlington, only filed a handful actually, so the worst is yet to come.

As of mid-afternoon, legislators have pre-filed 336 bills.

Rep. Walter “Four” Price, R-Amarillo, filed four bills commemorating the National Day of Prayer, Christmas, Easter and Thanksgiving. Rep. Jonathan Stickland, R-Bedford, filed HB 195, loosening restrictions on gun toting. Rep. Jeff Leach, R-Plano, is gonna keep abortionists out of the classroom with HB 205.

But wait! LGBT people were recognized by our allies!

Out Rep. Mary Gonzalez, D-El Paso, filed HB 70, an anti-bullying bill preventing discrimination against and harassment of students in public schools based on their sexual orientation and gender identity.

Rep. Garnet Coleman, D-Houston, filed HJR34, one of many bills targeting the repeal of Texas’ same-sex marriage ban. As the Voice reported, Rep. Rafael Anchia, D-Dallas, filed HB 130, repealing Texas’ same sex marriage ban. The identical SB 98, was filed by Sens. Juan Hinojosa, D-McAllen, and José Rodríguez, D-El Paso. Sen. Rodríguez also filed SB 148, repealing language condemning homosexuality in the state’s health and penal codes.

 

 

—  James Russell

Reps. Anchia, Coleman file bill to repeal Texas’ marriage amendment

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A screengrab of the text of the House Joint Resolution from the Texas Legislature’s website.

Rep. Rafael Anchia

Rep. Rafael Anchia, D-Dallas

While Rep. Garnet Coleman, D-Houston, has filed a bill to repeal the marriage amendment repeatedly since it passed in 2005, we’re pretty sure this marks the first time Rep. Rafael Anchia, D-Dallas, has signed on as a co-author. Here’s the full release from Equality Texas:

Reps. Rafael Anchia and Garnet Coleman File Legislation to Repeal Discriminatory Marriage Amendment

Two-thirds of Texas’ voters now support some form of legal recognition for lesbian & gay couples.

Austin, Texas (February 6, 2013) – State Representatives Rafael Anchia of Dallas (D-103) and Garnet Coleman of Houston (D-147) today filed legislation [HJR 77 and HJR 78] to repeal the constitutional amendment added to the Bill of Rights to the Texas Constitution in 2005. The amendment denies same-gender Texans in committed relationships the freedom to marry or enter into a civil union.

“In 2005, most Texans did not support any form of legal recognition for lesbian and gay couples. But, public opinion has changed greatly in the last eight years, both across the country and right here in Texas,” said Representative Coleman, who has championed a repeal in multiple legislative sessions. “Two-thirds of Texas’ voters now believe the state should allow some form of legal recognition for committed same-gender couples,” Coleman said.

Indeed, an October, 2012 University of Texas/Texas Tribune poll reported that 36 percent of Texas voters surveyed would support allowing lesbian & gay couples to marry, while another 33 percent would allow civil unions but not marriage. Only 25 percent of Texas voters said that same-gender couples should neither be allowed to marry nor enter into a civil union.

“Millions of Texans have had their own very personal evolution on this issue,” said Chuck Smith, Executive Director at Equality Texas. “Texans now agree that all couples in loving and committed relationships deserve the opportunity to create stronger and more successful families. Because the Texas Constitution currently prohibits any form of recognition similar to marriage, the first step toward civil unions or marriage must be repeal of the discriminatory 2005 amendment,” Smith concluded.

“My constituents include many couples and families who are negatively impacted by the current constitutional restrictions. It is time we revisit this issue; it is time we treat all Texans with dignity and respect,” Rep. Anchia concluded.

—  John Wright

LEGE UPDATE: PolitiFact finds attack on birth certificate bill ‘mostly false’

A conservative group’s claims that a bill to allow same-sex adoptive parents to have both names on birth certificates would affect everyone’s records were mainly unfounded, according to research by PolitiFact Texas.

The nonpartisan politics fact-checking project analyzed claims Texas Values President Jonathan Saenz made on Austin’s KTBC-TV Nov. 19 about HB 201 filed by state Rep. Rafael Anchia, D-Dallas.

Saenz said the bill would mandate a change in all birth certificates in the state, suggesting that the bill aims to grant gay couples special rights and would lead to two or three fathers listed on certificates in cases of polygamy.

But the bill would only apply to adopted children of same-sex couples, allowing both parents to have their names on the supplemental birth certificate. Texas law currently only allows one man and one woman to be listed on birth certificates, but the bill would remove that requirement from the Texas Health and Safety Code.

PolitiFact found Saenz’s claims “mostly false” saying the potential wording of forms remained unclear after they consulted with a State Health Services representative, who said it’s unknown whether “Mother” and “Father” would be replaced with “Parent 1″ and “Parent 2″ on forms for adopted children if the bill passes. Gender-neutral parent designation on birth certificates would raise the risk of distinguishing records for adopted children, which is prohibited under state law.

—  Dallasvoice

WATCH: Texas Values president attacks Rep. Anchia’s gay adoption bill

A bill that would provide accurate supplemental birth certificates to same-sex couples came under fire last night by Texas Values President Jonathan Saenz.

Saenz appeared on Austin’s Fox 7, speaking out against HB 201 filed by state Rep. Rafael Anchia, D-Dallas.

Under the impression that the bill would mandate a change in all birth certificates in the states, Saenz suggested that his three children would have to have theirs changed. But the bill would only apply to adopted children of same-sex couples, allowing both parents to have their names on the certificate. Texas law currently only allows one man and one woman to be listed on birth certificates.

“In the state of Texas, homosexual adoption is allowed, so that’s not the issue here. The issue is that you have a small group of people that want to change a birth certificate for everybody else,” Saenz said. “This is an issue about what is natural and what is common sense. You have a mother and a father.”

—  Dallasvoice

Up to 20 LGBT youth served by Dallas agency could benefit from Obama’s immigration order

The rally outside the White House after Friday's announcement. (Via NGLTF)

As many as 20 LGBT young people at Youth First Texas could take advantage of a new immigration policy announced Friday by President Barack Obama, according to YFT Board Chair Chris Cognetta.

Obama announced that the U.S. will stop deporting illegal aliens who were brought to this country as children, and they will be able to obtain work permits.

Effective immediately, the new rule will apply to people who are currently under 30 years old, arrived in the U.S. before they turned 16 and have lived here for at least five years. To qualify, they must have no criminal record and have earned a high school diploma, be in school or served in the military.

The provisions are similar to those proposed in the DREAM Act that has been before Congress several times but has not passed.

The change in policy could have an even greater impact for gay and lesbian youth. That’s because in many cases, a heterosexual sibling marries a U.S. citizen and can immediately apply for a green card and begin the naturalization process. The gay or lesbian sibling cannot be sponsored by a partner.

—  David Taffet

Local briefs • Dallas Bar Association hosts forum

Dallas Bar Association hosts forum

The Dallas Bar Association will host a legislative forum on Monday, Oct. 3, at noon in The Pavilion at the Belo Mansion, 2101 Ross Ave., to discuss legislative changes recently put into law, focusing on topics and trends related to local, state and national legislative agendas.

Guest speakers for the event are state Rep. Rafael Anchia, representing District 103 in Dallas, and state Sen. John Corona, representing District 16 in Dallas.

The event is free and open to the public, but an optional lunch buffet is available for $13 per person. Those interested in attending are asked to respond to sevans@dallasbar.org to ensure adequate seating.Garage parking is available with the entrance on Olive Street.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition September 30, 2011.

—  Michael Stephens

What’s Brewing: FW officials briefed on LGBT progress; GLAAD rips Houston’s Fox affiliate

Jon Nelson

Your weekday morning blend from Instant Tea:

1. Fort Worth officials received a briefing Tuesday on progress the city has made in addressing the concerns of the LGBT community in the nearly two years since the Rainbow Lounge raid. According to the Star-Telegram, the city has implemented 19 of 20 recommendations made by an LGBT task force formed after the raid. The only recommendation left outstanding is that the city provide health insurance to cover the cost of sex reassignment surgery for transgender employees. Other ongoing concerns include some apparent resistance to diversity training among police and firefighters, as well as the question of whether the city should subsidize domestic partner benefits. But overall, everyone seems pleased with the progress. “I think there is no city, because I’ve looked, in the United States which has done more in less time on these issues than the city of Fort Worth,” said Jon Nelson, a member of the task force and a leader of Fairness Fort Worth.

2. A Texas House committee is expected to take up a bill this morning that would allow same-sex parents to put both their names on the birth certificate of an adopted child. HB 415, by Rep. Rafael Anchia, D-Dallas, would resolve an issue in Texas that’s been the subject of a high-profile lawsuit in Louisiana, where a federal appeals court recently ruled against a same-sex couple in a case that could go to the U.S. Supreme Court. Meanwhile, the full House could give final approval today to an anti-bullying bill that’s become Equality Texas’ top priority in this year’s legislative session. HB 1942, by Rep. Diane Patrick, R-Arlington, would then go to the Senate for consideration.

3. GLAAD is calling on Houston’s Fox affiliate (KRIV-26) to apologize for a segment that aired last week called, “Is TV too gay?” which criticized Glee‘s portrayal of gay teens. The segment aired the same night as a Glee‘s “Born This Way” episode and featured Bryan Fischer of the American Family Association, which has been certified as a hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center. Watch the full segment below. To sign GLAAD’s petition, go here.

 

—  John Wright