LEGE UPDATE: Anti-gay ‘family and traditional values’ item not in Senate’s version of budget

Daniel Williams

The absence of a homophobic budget amendment, movement on anti-bullying legislation and the most adorable committee hearing in recent memory marked this, the 17th week of the Texas Legislature’s 20-week regular session.

The infamous anti-gay amendment to the Texas budget — which would require universities to fund “family and traditional values centers” if they have LGBT resource centers — isn’t in the Senate version budget. While the state’s media focused on whether the Senate would actually vote on the budget, the Finance Committee seems to have quietly skipped over the provision, added by amendment in the House by Rep. Wayne Christian, R-Center. Last week the American Independent reported that the Christian amendment would have little to no impact, but its absence from the Senate budget is cause for celebration for LGBT Texans.

Chuck Smith, deputy director of Equality Texas, greeted the news with cautious optimism, explaining that the budget is a massive document, 854 pages long, and although the “family and traditional values” language isn’t in Article III Sec. 56, the entire text would have to be carefully searched before the amendment’s absence was certain.

“If it really is out of there, then I’m pleased,” Smith said, “but I need to do research.”

The full text of the Senate budget can be found here.

—  admin

What’s Brewing: Texas Senate panel votes to restore funding for HIV/AIDS drug program

Petty Officer 2nd Class Derek Morado

Your weekday morning blend from Instant Tea:

1. The Texas Senate Finance Committee agreed Thursday to provide an additional $19.2 million that’s needed to deliver life-sustaining medication to low-income people with HIV/AIDS over the next two years. HIV/AIDS advocacy groups issued an action alert Wednesday asking people to call members of the Finance Committee and urge them to restore the funding, which had been recommended for cuts by a subcommittee. The Texas HIV Medication Program currently serves 14,000 people but the number is expected to increase by 3,000 over the next two years. Without the additional funds, the program could be forced to turn people away.

2. A Colorado House committee killed a civil unions bill on a 6-5 party line vote Thursday, after hours of emotional testimony from both sides. Those who testified in favor of the bill included both the partner and the twin sister of gay Rep. Mark Ferrandino, the bill’s House sponsor. But it wasn’t enough to convince any of the six Republicans on the committee to vote in favor of the measure, which had already cleared the Senate. “What makes me saddest,” Ferrandino said, “is there were people on that committee who were, I think, supportive in their hearts but weren’t willing to stand up against the leadership and the far-right fringe of their party.” He added: “It’s not a matter of if; it’s a matter of when.”

3. A gay sailor won’t be discharged from the Navy under “don’t ask don’t tell” after an administrative separation board voted 3-0 Thursday to retain him. Petty Officer 2nd Class Derek Morado came under investigation in 2009 after someone in his unit reported a photo on his MySpace page of him kissing another man. DADT, of course, was repealed by Congress in December of last year, but Morado’s case still went forward because the policy remains in effect pending certification of repeal by the president, the secretary of defense and the joint chiefs chairman — followed by a 60-day waiting period. “It really begins to make you question why we’re wasting the money on a hearing like this and also why we’re allowing the military to bully him,” said Director Robin McGehee of GetEQUAL, which assisted Morado.

—  John Wright

Action Alert: Texas Senate panel to consider funding for HIV/AIDS drug program

Resource Center Dallas is calling on people to contact members of the Texas Senate Finance Committee and ask them to fully fund the state’s HIV Medication Program. The Finance Committee is scheduled to consider the funding on Thursday, according to RCD.

As we noted last week, a Senate finance subcommittee did not list the HIV Medication Program as one of its top priorities when making its recommendations last week. Unless the state Legislature provides an additional $19.2 million for the program over the next two years, the state will have to cut off enrollment or restrict access. The program currently provides life-sustaining medication to 14,000 low-income people with HIV/AIDS.

From the Resource Center moments ago:

ACTION ALERT! Tomorrow the Senate Finance Committee will consider funding the Texas HIV Medication Program.

We must let the committee members know that if they fail to fund the Texas HIV Medication Program people will not have access to the drugs that keep them alive.

We are asking you to make three phone calls to key Senators on the Senate Finance Committee. The message is simple-

“I am asking you to fully fund the Texas HIV Medication Program.  The lives of thousands of Texans depend on it.”

Senator Steve Ogden  512.463.0105

Senator Juan Hinojosa 512.463.0120

Senator Jane Nelson    512.463.0112

We are asking you to make these calls now!  The vote is scheduled to take place on Thursday morning. In addition to your own action, please reach out to your networks: email lists, Facebook, Twitter, co-workers and friends.

—  John Wright