Anti-trans marriage license bill dies, but Krause amendment remains

State Sen. Donna Campbell

State Sen. Donna Campbell

Republican state Sen. Donna Campbell’s anti-transgender marriage license bill is officially dead.

SB 1218 passed the Senate last week, but failed to make it out of a House committee and onto the calendar for a vote this week. The bill would have prohibited anyone from obtaining a marriage license with a document that lacks a photo, including an affidavit of sex change.

Daniel Williams, field organizer with Equality Texas, said the organization worked with transgender activists to slow the bill’s progress throughout the session.

“That is absolutely a victory,” he said.

This is the third and last anti-gay bill that’s died this session. However, Fort Worth Republican Matt Krause turned his failed HB 360 into an amendment and tacked it onto a bill last week that passed. The amendment would allow student organizations at state-funded colleges to discriminate against people for membership.

Williams said the bill’s final version will come for a vote this week and the group will work to kill the amendment if it makes it into the bill.

—  Dallasvoice

WATCH: Texas’ ‘Governor for a Day’ delivers emotional pro-LGBT speech

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Sen. Leticia Van de Putte is sworn in as ‘governor for a day’ on Saturday.

The governor of Texas delivered impassioned remarks in support of LGBT equality on Saturday.

Unfortunately, San Antonio Democratic Sen. Leticia Van de Putte was only “governor for a day” — a ceremonial honor bestowed upon the president pro tempore of the Texas Senate for one day each legislative session.

After returning to his pulpit on Sunday, Gov. Rick Perry would inanely compare his opposition to gays in the Boy Scouts to Gov. Sam Houston’s opposition to slavery. But on Saturday, Van de Putte choked back tears as she compared her support for LGBT equailty to Gov. Houston’s support for American Indians.

“A few minutes ago I swore on Sam Houston’s Bible to uphold the oath,” Van de Putte told those gathered at the Capitol for her address. “Sam Houston stood proud and he stood up for our Native Americans, our first nation, who at that time were considered savages, and he said, ‘I am aware that presenting myself as an advocate for the Indians and their rights, I shall stand very much alone.’ But Sam Houston stood up, and he did because it was the right thing to do, and I so I will stand because it’s the right thing to do.”

Van de Putte, the author of a bill to ban anti-LGBT job discrimination in Texas, talked about meeting Staff Sgt. Eric Alva, the openly gay Marine from San Antonio who lost his leg when he stepped on a landmine in Iraq in 2003.

“He fought for us. He fought for you,” she said. “He nearly died for our country, and he still suffers for it every day, and yet, here in his home state, he can be denied or fired from a job, not because he’s Hispanic, and not because he has a disability, but because he is gay. A man who protects our country is not protected at home. A man who loves his country is denied and is discriminated against because of who he loves, and Texans, that has to change.”

Van De Putte concluded by referencing portraits of people like Barbara Jordan and Henry B. Gonzalez hanging in the state Capitol.

“At one time it would have been unthinkable to think that an African-American woman and a Mexican-American man, that their portraits would hang, would be adorned on these hallowed walls,” she said. “Someday on these walls there will be a portrait of a Texas hero who just happens to be gay, and it won’t matter, because they’re a Texas hero.”

Watch Van de Putte’s historic remarks below.

—  John Wright

LEGE UPDATE: State ENDA pending; another pro-LGBT bill advances

State Rep. Mike Villarreal

State Rep. Mike Villarreal

Two state House bills that would end anti-LGBT job discrimination were left pending in committee Wednesday, but Equality Texas is hopeful the measures will make it out of committee by next week.

Testimonies were given in favor HB 238 by Rep. Mike Villarreal, D-San Antonio, and HB 1146 by Dallas Democrat Eric Johnson before the House Economic and Small Business Development Committee.

Daniel Williams, Equality Texas field organizer, said he was confident the bills would make it out of the committee by next week, as it is common for committees vote on a bill a week after its hearing. The Senate version is still pending in committee.

Williams urged advocates to contact members of the House committee and ask them to advance the bill. Members are: Chairman John Davis, R-Houston, Vice Chairman Hubert Vo, D-Houston, Cecil Bell, R-Magnolia, Yvonne Davis, D-Dallas, Jason Isaac, R-Drippings Springs, Jim Murphy, R-Houston, Mary Ann Perez, D-Houston, Eddie Rodriguez, D-Austin, and Paul Workman, R-Austin.

Earlier this week, LGBT state Rep. Mary Gonzalez’s HB 2403, which would protect same-sex minors in intimate relationships under the “Romeo and Juliet” defense, was voted out of the House Criminal Jurisprudence Committee. The Senate version was voted out of committee earlier this month.

Anti-gay HB 1568 also passed out of committee earlier this week. The bill by Republican Drew Springer of Muenster originally aimed to cut state funding for school districts that offered domestic partner benefits and was withdrawn from consideration by the committee last week.

But Williams said a committee substitute bill was passed. The substitute would allow the Texas attorney general to defund and decertify school districts that offer domestic partner benefits without an appeals process. Williams said the substitute bill is “much worse than the first one.”

“As the bill progresses through the system we’ll have a better understanding of how to kill it,” he said, adding that people should contact their lawmakers now to tell them they oppose the bill.

Two pro-equality bills have hearings scheduled for Monday, April 29. HB 201, which would allow same-sex parents to sign an adopted child’s supplementary birth certificate, will be heard by the House Judiciary and Civil Jurisprudence Committee.

And HB 1701, which would remove the state’s “homosexual conduct” law found unconstitutional by the U.S. Supreme Court in 2003 from the Texas Penal Code, will have a hearing by the House Criminal Jurisprudence Committee. The Senate version has already passed out of committee.

Equality Texas is trying to get HB 1696 a hearing before the deadline on May 6.

“We’re very much on a deadline,” Williams said.

The bill authored by Democrat Jessica Farrar of Houston would remove language form public school curriculum that condemns homosexuality.

He’s urging advocates to contact House Public Education Committee Chairman Rep. Jimmie Don Aycock, R-Killeen, at 512-463-0684 and tell him to give HB 1696 a hearing.

—  Dallasvoice

UPDATE: House committee removes anti-gay education bill for consideration

Springer.Drew

UPDATE, 5:15 p.m.: Equality Texas reports that HB 1538 has been removed for consideration from the House Public Education Committee. However, the bill could come back up for discussion or a vote at a later date.

ORIGINAL POST: Equality Texas is asking people to contact lawmakers and urge them to vote against advancing an anti-gay education bill the House Public Education Committee is expected to vote on later today.

HB 1568 by Republican Rep. Drew Springer of Muenster would cut state funding for school districts that offer domestic partner benefits to employees. Pflugerville and Austin ISD are the only school districts in Texas that have decided to offer DP benefits.

Six Republicans and five Democrats sit on the committee, which left the bill pending after a hearing last week.

Jonathan Saenz, president of anti-gay group Texas Values, told Dallas Voice he expects the bill to pass through committee and be signed into law.

Contact info for House Public Education Committee members is below.

Chairman Jimmie Don Aycock, R-Killeen, 512-463-0684

Marsha Farney, R-Georgetown, 512-463-0309

John Davis, R-Houston, 512-463-0734

Bennett Ratliff, R-Coppell, 512-463-0468

Dan Huberty, R-Houston, 512-463-0520

Ken King, R-Canadian, 512-463-0736

Joe Deshotel, D-Beaumont, 512-463-0662

Harold Dutton, D-Houston, 512-463-0510

Justin Rodriguez, D-San Antonio, 512-463-0669

Rep. Alma Allen, D-Houston, 512-463-0744

Mike Villarreal, D-San Antonio, 512-463-0532

—  Dallasvoice

UPDATED: Sen. John Carona backs 2nd pro-LGBT bill, repeal of sodomy law

John Carona

Sen. John Carona, R-Dallas

UPDATE, 2:35 p.m.: Jamie McCormick, a spokeswoman for Carona, said in an email, “Senator Carona is supportive of SB 538.”

ORIGINAL POST:

State Sen. John Carona, R-Dallas, who made history last week when he stood up to anti-gay bigots and bucked the GOP line by voting in favor of a pro-LGBT bill, may get a chance to do it again this Wednesday.

Equality Texas issued an Action Alert moments ago urging constituents to call Carona’s office and express their support for SB 538, which would repeal Texas’ unconstitutional homosexual conduct law and which is scheduled to be heard Wednesday by the Senate Criminal Justice Committee, on which Carona serves as part of a 4-3 Republican majority.

Last week, the committee voted 4-1 to advance SB 1316, which would extend legal protections to sexually active gay and lesbian teens. SB 1316 was the first pro-LGBT bill to clear a committee in the Texas Legislature in 12 years. Carona joined three Democrats in voting to advance the bill. One Republican voted against it, while the other two were absent.

—  John Wright

TX legislative panel advances pro-LGBT bill for 1st time in 12 years

John Carona

Sen. John Carona, R-Dallas, voted in favor of the pro-LGBT bill.

Even in Texas, LGBT equality is inching forward.

For the first time in 12 years, a state legislative committee advanced a specifically pro-LGBT bill on Tuesday.

The Senate Committee on Criminal Justice voted 4-1 to advance SB 1316 — which would provide legal protections for sexually active gay and lesbian teens.

Sen. John Carona, a Republican from Dallas who made news by waffling on LGBT issues last year, joined three Democrats in voting to advance the bill. The Democrats who voted for the bill were author John Whitmire of Houston, Juan Hinojosa of McAllen and Jose Rodriguez of El Paso. Sen. Charles Schwertner, R-Georgetown, voted against the advancing the bill. The other two Republican members of the criminal justice committee were absent from the hearing.

The committee heard testimony from the parents of gay teens before voting to advance the bill, which is backed by Equality Texas. No one testified against the bill, although the anti-gay group Texas Values issued statements to media outlets saying it amounts to “promoting sexual behavior.”

Under Texas law, sexual contact with minors under the age of 17 is a crime of indecency. But a “Romeo and Juliet” defense protects teen couples from prosecution as long as they are in a consensual relationship, both over 14 and within three years of age of each other. However,  the law specifically states that this protection is available only to couples of the opposite sex. SB 1316 would give same-sex teen couples the same protection as their heterosexual peers.

A House version of the bill, HB 2403, was also heard by a committee today but did not receive a vote. Despite clearing the Senate committee, the measure still faces long odds. It would need a two-thirds majority vote from the full Senate before it can be considered on the floor.

The last pro-LGBT bill to clear a Texas legislative committee was the James Byrd Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act, which includes protections based on “sexual preference” and was signed into law by Republican Gov. Rick Perry in 2001.

Four anti-bullying bills passed the Legislature and were signed by Perry in 2011, but none contained specific protections for LGBT youth.

 

—  John Wright

State Rep. Mary Gonzalez on getting hate mail after coming out as pansexual

Gonzalez.Mary

Texas state Rep. Mary Gonzalez, D-El Paso, who is believed to be the nation’s first pansexual elected official, recently did an interview with El Paso Inc. in which she talked about, among other things, the reaction of other legislators and the public to sexual orientation and her  historic election. Here’s a snippet:

Q: The Texas Legislature is a profoundly conservative workplace. Without delving into your personal life, how have members reacted to your coming out so publicly and to your unusual sexual orientation?

I think in the beginning they were confused by me for a lot of different reasons. You look at me and you don’t expect me to have an agriculture background. You read about me and my ambiguous sexuality. I think in the beginning there was confusion.

But, I hit the ground running. I filed 29 bills, opened my office before any other freshman. I’ve been at the mike asking pointed questions. I think I’m serious and that as progressive as I am, I’m not polarized when it comes to politics. I can work with Republicans and get along with Republicans, and I can get things done.

I think the best way to combat any oppression is for people to meet someone who is that identity. So, they’ve met me; they understand me a little better and see me as a person. They don’t care anymore.

Q: What about the public reaction?

Right after all the media stuff happened, it did feel like bullying. I was getting hate emails and ugly, ugly messages sent to me. At that point, I thought, “This is why no one comes out in politics. This is why kids don’t come out in schools.” While I’m proud of all the barriers we’ve broken, it has not come without a lot of ugliness attached to it.

Read the full interview here.

—  John Wright

Possibly gay state Rep. Naomi Gonzalez charged with DWI after Austin crash

Gonzalez.Naomi

Naomi Gonzalez

In the 2010 Democratic Primary, challenger Naomi Gonzalez was gay-baited by incumbent state Rep. Norma Chavez, who famously (and redundantly) called Gonzalez “a lesbian woman.”

Gonzalez went on to upset Chavez in the primary, but would neither confirm nor deny that she is in fact gay.

Naomi Gonzalez, not to be confused with her out and proud neighbor, El Paso state Rep. Mary Gonzalez, is now in her second term in the Texas House.

Last night, Naomi Gonzalez was charged with DWI following a crash near downtown Austin that injured three people. Gonzalez  was traveling at an estimated 50 mph when her BMW rear-ended a Fiat, which rolled forward and struck a woman on a bicycle, according to the Austin American-Statesman.

My question is, does this not seem like the type of reckless behavior that goes hand in hand with the self-torment of living in the closet?

It’s only speculation, of course, but here’s my point: The era when the LGBT community is willing to tolerate closeted or partially closeted elected officials — regardless of whether they are actively doing harm to the community — needs to come to an end. Because even if they aren’t harming us, they are undoubtedly harming themselves and the people around them.

If you can’t be open and honest about who you are, how can we trust you with the public’s business? And if you aren’t comfortable representing yourself as an LGBT person, how can you possibly represent me?

—  John Wright

Republican strategist encourages repeal of Texas’ sodomy law

Neil.Dan

Dan Neil

Republican strategist Dan Neil told Fox News in Austin that it’s time to take §21.06, the homosexual conduct law, off the books in Texas. That provision of the Texas Penal Code was declared unconstitutional in 2003 in the Lawrence v. Texas case.

Last week, state Rep. Jessica Farrar of Houston filed a repeal bill in the Texas House. State Sen. Jose Rodriguez filed a companion bill in the Senate.

“If it’s unconstitutional, they should take the measures and time to get it off the books,” Neil said. “It makes fiscal sense to get it off the books so that there is not another situation as in El Paso where there’s a lawsuit and the city pays out for something that it shouldn’t pay out for just because a legislator didn’t take the time to get it off the books.”

Equality Texas Executive Director Chuck Smith told Fox, “It’s there for no other reason than to denigrate and demean lesbian and gay Texans.”

The El Paso case referred to a couple kicked out of a restaurant for kissing and threatened by a police officer who said he would arrest them under the statute. Kissing was never included as illegal conduct under the law.

The question is whether Neil’s support will translate into Republican votes needed for the measure to pass.

Watch the video below.

—  David Taffet

Racist, anti-gay bill would allow college student groups to decide membership

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State Rep. Matt Krause

Conservative freshman state Rep. Matt Krause, R-Fort Worth, has filed a bill that discriminates against people based on race, gender and sexual orientation.

HB 360 would deny state funding to colleges and universities, including private institutions, that require a “student organization, including a religious student organization, to allow any student enrolled at the institution to participate in the organization, regardless of the student’s beliefs or status, including race, gender, and sexual orientation.”

The bill states that colleges requiring a religious organization to accept any member regardless of “status or beliefs” violates the First Amendment, “including the rights of free exercise of religion and of freedom of association.”

When asked what the bill’s purpose was, Elliott Griffin, Krause’s chief of staff, said the bill was currently being redrafted to be more narrow. He said he would discuss it more after the language was final.

Krause is perhaps best known in the LGBT community as the Liberty Counsel attorney who defended Fort Worth student Dakota Ary after he was suspended for making anti-gay remarks in class.

Equality Texas Executive Director Chuck Smith said the legislation could possibly apply to a faith-based organization at a private university that wants to limit membership to straight white men. He said the bill is so offensive it likely won’t go anywhere.

“It’s pretty much offensive across the board,” Smith said. “I think that piece of legislation is dead on arrival. It’s an equal opportunity offender.”

This week’s Equality Texas’ legislative update focuses on the other anti-gay bill filed this session by Rep. Drew Springer, R-Muenster. His bill would penalize school districts who offer domestic partner benefits to its employees.

Watch the video below.

—  Dallasvoice