Nearly 1,000 turnout for Advocacy Day


Tammye Nash  |  Managing Editor

Nearly 1,000 Texans went all out when Equality Texas asked them this week to go “all in for equality,” converging on Austin Monday for Advocacy Day, sponsored by Equality Texas in partnership with ACLU of Texas, Te3xas Freedom Network, Human Rights Campaign and the Transgender Education Network of Texas, along with several local organizations.

“My daughter and I got up at 4 o’clock this morning — well, she actually got up at 3:30 — so we could be here today,” said a woman from Winnsboro, a tiny East Texas town of about 3,300 just south of Mount Vernon. “We’re here for my transgender son, who can’t even live in Texas any more. It’s just too scary here for him.”

Her son, she said, is 23 and has been living in Boston for the last three years.

The day began with training sessions designed to help those who came to the state Capitol to lobby their elected representatives learn how to tell their stories in the most compelling and convincing ways. But it was the rally on the south steps of the Capitol that really got participants fired up.

AUSTIN-IMG_5031Kathy Miller with Texas Freedom Network took aim at the numerous “religious freedom bills” that are intended, in essence, to allow otherwise prohibited discrimination based on “sincerely held” religious beliefs. While the U.S. is a country founded on religious freedom, Miller said, “you are not free to use religion as a weapon” against LGBT people and other minorities.

Rebecca Robertson with the ACLU of Texas said that much of the legislation this GOP-controlled session of the Texas Legislature directed at “bashing and vilifying immigrants, women and LGBTQ people and targeting transgender people.” Many of the proposed bills, she said, “make it impossible for us to participate equally” in public and civic life.

But much of the anger and determination expressed during the rally was aimed at SB 6, aka the Texas bathroom bill, which was pushed by Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick and introduced by Sen. Lois Kolkorst and had recently sailed through the Texas Senate.

Robertson noted that Texas’ progressive community had rallied in the wake of the court decisions targeted lesbians and gays, and now the progressive community will fight for the transgender community.

“We are here today to say we’re going to fight. We stand with the people that are being targeted,” she said. “At the ACLU of Texas, we stand with you.”

Gray’s Anatomy star Sara Ramirez, who played a bisexual character on the TV show and who recently came out as bisexual herself, participated in the rally, singing her pledge to the trans community: “We feel, we hear your pain, your fear. We’re here to say, who you are is OK. You are not alone.”

(See video of a portion of her remarks at the end of this article.)

Andrew Morrison appeared at the rally with his 8-year-old transgender daughter, Marilyn. He said that his daughter and other trans youth “face a constant, daily battle” against discrimination and bullying, and that he couldn’t comprehend how lawmakers pushing SB 6 “can’t find even an ounce of compassion” for their plight.

Legislation like SB 6, Morrison said, doesn’t just allow discrimination against transgender people like his daughter to continue, it condones and encourages violence against them, especially the transgender youth.

AUSTIN-IMG_5064“I just want [lawmakers] to know, the blood will be on your hands if something happens to any of these kids,” he warned.

Houston transgender activist Monica Roberts said that while Texas lawmakers “have a long history of passing history to demonize people they don’t like,” and that SB 6 in this session is “fanning the hellfire flames of anti-transgender bigotry.”

But, she continued, Texas also has a long history of transgender activism, naming pioneers such as Phyllis Randolph Frye, and pledging that “the heirs to their legacy” will not let the bigots win.

“The Texas Trans Oppressive Act must die,” Roberts declared to cheers from the crowd, “and with your help, it will.”        

See more images here.