Rep. Eric JohnsonRep. Eric Johnson, D-Dallas, today (Thursday, Jan. 8) filed HB 627, which would protect workers from being fired or otherwise discriminated against because of their sexual orientation or gender expression. He did so on the 37th anniversary of Harvey Milk’s inauguration to the San Francisco Board of Supervisors as one of America’s first openly gay elected officials.

Texas law currently protects workers from discrimination based on race, religion, gender, national origin, age, or disability. It does not protect workers from being fired or discriminated against solely due to their sexual orientation or gender expression.

“Every Texan should have the opportunity to work hard and provide for their families,” Rep. Johnson said. “Right now, the law allows someone to be fired simply for being him or herself or for whom they love. This really is a civil rights issue.”

The bill would include sexual orientation and gender expression in the list of prohibited employment discrimination. The Legislative Budget Board estimates that under this law more than 500 credible cases of discrimination could be reported each year.

Polls show that more than 3 in 4 Texans (75.8%) of Texans support prohibiting employment discrimination based on sexual orientation. “The Legislature is lagging behind the people of Texas on this issue,” Rep. Johnson said. “We need to catch up.”

Today also marks the anniversary of Harvey Milk’s inauguration as one of the first openly gay elected officials in America, in 1978. One of Milk’s first acts as a member of San Francisco’s Board of Supervisors was to pass a landmark non-discrimination ordinance that contained the same employment non-discrimination provisions that Rep. Johnson filed today.

Nearly four decades after San Francisco adopted Milk’s ordinance, 21 states and hundreds of cities have prohibited employment discrimination based on sexual orientation.

A number of Texas cities have passed employment non-discrimination ordinances as well, including Plano, Fort Worth, Dallas, Houston, San Antonio, El Paso, and Austin. However, the State of Texas has not yet joined them in enacting such protections for its workers. Rep. Johnson is looking to change that and extend non-discrimination protections to all Texas workers.