Advocates saw major wins at the state Capitol this year from advancing pro-LGBT bills out of committee for the first time in 12 years to defeating anti-equality measures.
With a record 30 pro-equality bills filed in the state House and Senate covering job nondiscrimination to the freedom to marry and with openly pansexual state Rep. Mary Gonzalez in the chambers to speak for LGBT Texans, advocates were energized for the session.
The first big success was in April when Dallas Republican John Carona supported SB 1316 — which would’ve provided legal protections for same-sex minors in intimate relationships under the “Romeo and Juliet” defense — to help it out of committee.
The bill was the first pro-LGBT bill to make it favorably out of committee since 2001, when the James Byrd Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act, which includes protections based on “sexual preference,” passed out of committee and was signed into law by Gov. Rick Perry.
The House version of SB 1316 by Gonzalez also passed out of committee. Neither bill made it to the floor for a vote.
Carona also helped advance SB 538, authored by El Paso’s Jose Rodriguez, to remove the unenforceable “homosexual conduct law” from the Texas Penal Code. The law remains on the books despite being declared unconstitutional by the U.S. Supreme Court in the 2003 Lawrence v. Texas case.
Carona’s support wasn’t a complete surprise after he came out in support of LGBT rights during an interview with Dallas Voice last fall before going silent on the issues.
Other pro-LGBT bills received hearings, though none made it to the floor for a vote, but two pro-equality bills endorsed by Equality Texas did pass.
But with allies working for the LGBT community, its enemies were working against it. Three anti-gay bills were defeated and two anti-gay measures were conquered.
The Senate passed Republican state Sen. Donna Campbell’s SB 1218, which would have prohibited anyone from obtaining a marriage license with a document that lacks a photo, including an affidavit of sex change. But advocates delayed the process for its advancement in the House and it never made it out of committee for a vote.
Republican Fort Worth state Rep. Matt Krause’s HB 360 originally stated that student groups at state-funded universities could discriminate based on gender, race and sexual orientation. A compromise bill later passed out of committee that would have allowed student groups to disregard a school’s nondiscrimination policy in determining membership.
Krause then attached the bill as an amendment to another bill and it passed the House, but the amendment wasn’t included in a final version of the bill.
HB 1568, authored by state Rep. Drew Springer, R-Muenster, aimed to cut state funding for school districts that offer domestic partner benefits after Pflugerville ISD announced it would offer DP benefits. The bill was left pending in committee.
And Arlington state Rep. Bill Zedler ended up withdrawing an amendment that would defund LGBT resource centers at state universities when it hit the House floor.
News of the amendment that stated LGBT and gender centers caused high-risk behavior and the spread of HIV/AIDS and other sexually transmitted diseases created an uproar among LGBT advocates. Petitions and letters opposing the amendment were sent to lawmakers before it was withdrawn.
The measure urged the University of North Texas, which has long debated creating a student LGBT Resource Center, to open one this fall called Pride Alliance.
With the many successes this past session, advocates should be revved up to expect another stellar session in 2015.
This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition December 27, 2013.