Measure targets campus LGBT centers, says they lead to ‘high-risk’ behavior

State Rep. Bill Zedler

State Rep. Bill Zedler

An amendment to the Texas Legislature’s general appropriations bill, SB1, would defund gender and LGBT resource centers on the basis that they encourage risky sexual behavior.

State Rep. Bill Zedler, R-Arlington, filed the amendment to cut state funding from universities that have “Gender and Sexuality Centers and Related Student Center[s].” The amendment argues that “to support, promote, or encourage any behavior that would lead to high risk behavior for AIDS, HIV, Hepatitis B, or any sexually transmitted disease.”

A representative from Zedler’s office did not return calls seeking comment.

An amendment to defund and prevent universities from housing LGBT resource centers on campus last session was filed by former state Rep. Wayne Christian. He eventually withdrew the amendment after Democrats threatened to derail the bill it was attached to.

Daniel Williams, field organizer for Equality Texas, said that while the University of Texas at Austin, Texas A&M and the University of Houston have dedicated offices for their LGBT resources centers, the amendment could also affect the LGBT program at the University of Texas at Arlington, as well as women’s centers at several universities.

In related news, the Texas A&M Student Senate may vote this week on a measure that would allow students to opt out of funding the GLBT Resource Center with their activity fees if they have religious objections.

Williams said Zedler’s reasoning for filing amendment on the grounds that centers would encourage unsafe sexual behavior is unfounded and hopes the LGBT community contacts representatives to stop the amendment from moving forward. (CLICK HERE TO FIND YOUR STATE REPRESENTATIVE)

“If the community mobilizes and lets the 150 members of the Texas House know that this amendment is hurtful and represents antiquated stereotypes that belong in a bygone era, we can beat it,” he said.

The amendment could be voted on as early as Thursday.

Equality Texas has endorsed eight budget amendments from lawmakers that would collect data on LGBT bullying and suicide risk, as well as reinstate Planned Parenthood in the Women’s Heath Program and study the cost of litigation the Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott’s office has spent defending laws that include anti-gay bias.

See the amendments below.

—  Dallasvoice

WATCH: Equality Texas Lege Update

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The state Legislature is more than halfway through its session, but this week three pro-equality bills had hearings in committees.

The House Insurance Committee heard HB 226, which deals with insurance discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity, and HB 1140, which would allow the University of Texas and Texas A&M systems to offer health benefits to domestic partners. The systems say they need legislation passed to allow them to offer DP benefits under the Texas Insurance Code.

The House Human Services Committee had a hearing on HB 2240, which would study homelessness among the state’s youth and would offer solutions to help lower the number of youth on the street.  Estimates show that 40 percent of homeless youth are LGBT, so this is considered a pro-equality bill.

Watch Equality Texas’ weekly legislative update below.

—  Dallasvoice

Research publication refers gay UT parenting study to ethics committee for investigation

The controversial UT study about gay parenting that many LGBT groups have labeled as flawed has been referred to a publication ethics committee.

The study was published in the science journal Social Science Research in early June. The publisher of the journal, Elsevier, received a complaint from a person, who also emailed Instant Tea this week, stating “that Regnerus’s study does not make a valid comparison and therefore is not sociologically valid.” The study will be investigated by the Committee on Publication Ethics.

In addition, the University of Texas will look into the study to determine whether it lacked scientific integrity. However, it is not a formal investigation, but an inquiry to determine if an investigation should follow, Director of Public Affairs David Ochsner told Instant Tea.

Ochsner said the university “received an allegation of scientific misconduct.”

“It is our policy that any time a formal allegation of scientific misconduct is made, a process of inquiry is begun within the Office of the Vice President for Research,” he said. “An ‘inquiry’ is a preliminary fact-finding exercise to determine if there is a basis for an investigation. An inquiry in itself is only an acknowledgement that a formal allegation has been made and is not evidence of wrongdoing.”

Mark Regnerus of UT’s department of sociology and the Population Research Center conducted the study. Regnerus examined children living in stable, two-parent heterosexual households for his control group and analyzed a mixture of children raised by gays and lesbians, including those who had a parent in a same-sex relationship but didn’t live with that parent.

The Witherspoon Institute and the Bradley Foundation funded the study. Both are known for their support of conservative causes. The Witherspoon Institute has ties to the Family Research Council, the National Organization for Marriage and ultra-conservative Catholic groups like Opus Dei.

—  Dallasvoice

LGBT alumni network debuts at UT in Austin

The University of Texas at Austin’s LGBT alumni group celebrated its first large event for new graduates and alumni Wednesday, officially debuting the group at the university.

The Texas Exes LGBT Network formed last year, according to the university alumni website The Alcalde. But the first official gathering of LGBT alumni at UT was Wednesday after UT’s lavender graduation. The group is the first UT alumni network for LGBT grads since the school’s creation.

The network has only had mixers and gatherings before the graduation, welcoming about 100 LGBT alumni and students.

“Our primary goal is to come together to build community and advocate for UT,” network co-chair Ryan Miller told the website.

Miller said the LGBT network is working to create more ways to involve alumni and wants to establish a scholarship fund. While he wants LGBT members to join, he told the audience Wednesday that everyone is welcome.

“You don’t have to identify as LGBT to join us,” he said. “We really want to involve everyone.”

Gregory Vincent, UT’s vice president for diversity and community engagement, said the graduation reception was a historic event for the university, praising the alumni for their efforts on and off campus and encouraging them to do more in the future.

“UT has a proud tradition of LGBT student activism and we should take a moment to appreciate how far we’ve come,” he said. “Then we should get back to work, because there’s more to do.”

For more information about the Texas Exes LGBT Network, call or email Kara Florez with the Texas Exes at 512-471-8098 or our LGBT Network volunteers Ryan Miller or Angie Faye Brown at 512-471-7295.

—  Dallasvoice

UT-Austin to allow transgender students to use preferred name on all university documents

UT student Joey Ovalle (Shannon Kintner/Daily Texan)

Transgender students at the University of Texas at Austin will be able to use a preferred name on university and medical records under a new policy this summer.

Students were able to request to use a preferred name on university documents beginning last fall, but the new policy includes medical records in addition to class rosters and ID cards,  The Daily Texan reports.

The policy was the result of the LGBT presidential task force that uses the input of faculty and students to advance LGBT rights on campus.

UT administrators had to address the concern of identifying students off campus in the event that a student became involved with the police and the university was asked to verify a student’s name. In order to verify the name on record, the student’s legal name is on the back of the student ID, and the preferred name is on the front.

However, a legal name change is required for a different name on diplomas or transcripts.

From The Daily Texan:

Music studies sophomore Joey Ovalle identifies as a trans man and was approved for a preferred name last fall. Ovalle said when he first came out as transgender he asked all his friends to call him “Joey.” Ovalle said while he had never had a professor call him by the wrong first name because of the change, he did have a professor mention his middle name, which was a feminine name, because the preferred name policy did not apply to middle names at the time. Ovalle said he also faced problems buying football tickets because his preferred name did not match the one on his credit card.

Ovalle said he felt outed when people would call him by his birth name instead of his preferred name.

“It’s not necessarily being outed by it that bothered me,” Ovalle said. “It’s the questions and the explanations that people feel entitled to after that which can be difficult to deal with.”

—  Dallasvoice

UT to add gender-neutral bathrooms

The University of Texas at Austin will include at least one gender-neutral bathroom in every new campus building and convert some bathrooms in older buildings, according to the UT Daily Campus.

Gender-neutral bathrooms are becoming more common on college campuses around the country, mostly because they are advocated by LGBT groups.

But as the story points out, gender-neutral bathrooms don’t just benefit transgender people. For example, they give people with medical conditions such as diabetes a private place to administer their medication, and allow opposite-sex attendants to accompany disabled people.

Transgender students are a primary focus of the new facilities at UT, though. Students who don’t conform to gender norms might feel uncomfortable or threatened in men’s or women’s bathrooms.

Associate Vice President Linda Millstone of the Office of Institutional Equity and Workforce Diversity is leading the initiative. She said that in many buildings, there are already small bathrooms with only one or two stalls. So the only needed changes would be replacing signs and adding locks.

—  David Taffet