Advocates encourage Texans to keep fighting as special session looms

Tammye Nash | Managing Editor
nash@dallasvoice.com

 

When the 85th Texas Legislature ended its regular session on May 29, the state’s LGBT community heaved a collective sigh of relief.

Yes, lawmakers had passed — and Gov. Greg Abbott eventually signed — a bill allowing adoption and foster care organizations to make decisions based on religious beliefs and still receive state funding, setting the scene for LGBT youth and potential adoptive or foster parents to face discrimination. But it could have been worse. Other so-called “religious refusal” bills failed to make headway, and Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick’s notorious “bathroom bill” fell short, as well.

But some necessary pieces of legislation fell victim to the wrangling over potty politics and other discriminatory bills, and Abbott quickly called for a special session, setting an extensive agenda that includes a call for passage of a bathroom bill, abortion restrictions, school vouchers and more.

Now, with opening day of the special session — July 18 — less than two weeks away, LGBT advocates and other progressive leaders are rallying the troops in hopes of once again holding discrimination at bay in the Lone Star State.

David Topping, the Human Rights Campaign’s Texas field manager, said Thursday that he and his team of seven field organizers — including Criss Ruiz in Dallas — are “activating our volunteers across the state,” urging people to call their state representatives, state senators and the governor “and talk about why the bathroom bill and these other discriminatory bills are bad for Texas.”

“People need to let their elected officials know that this is a hurtful special session that is focusing on discrimination,” Topping said, adding that HRC is “opposed to discrimination in all its forms,” and is “working side-by-side with our coalition partners every single day” to stop anti-LGBT legislation in the special session.

Tx-Supreme-court

Texas State Capital

“We will be here til the end of it,” Topping said, noting that other coalition members include Equality Texas, the ACLU of Texas, Texas Freedom Network and the Transgender Education Network of Texas to oppose not just anti-LGBT bills, but all legislation targeting progressive issues.

Coalition partners are planning the One Texas Resistance rally and day of action at the state Capitol, on July 18, and Topping said he hopes to see as many people as possible in Austin for that event.

Jose Medina, deputy communications manager for Texas Freedom Network, said that the rally is “still in the planning stages,” but the purpose is to declare “the one unifying message, which is that we are one Texas, and we are standing against extreme legislation.”

Medina said, “The most effective thing is for state representatives and state senators to hear from their constituents, telling them that this [bathroom bill and other discriminatory measures] isn’t something most fair-minded Texans want. They want real issues, not fabricated issues. And the bathroom bill is a fabricated issue.

“Calling your elected officials really works,” he said. “If we get enough people calling their offices, we can stop these discriminatory bills.”

Ruiz said that getting people calling their elected officials is exactly what she has been working on, and will continue to work on up through the session itself.

“We are trying to get our phone banks up to par, to get people calling. Even if you’ve never phone banked before, come help. We can show you how to do it right then and there,” Ruiz said.

“We have to get people energized and organized,” she continued. “I know it’s all been taking a toll on people. There’s been a lot of wear and tear on people. But the fight is not over. No matter how tired you are, we’ve got to keep going. You can’t just sit back and watch. You can be part of the change.”

Abbott’s agenda for the special session includes: passage of a bathroom bill that would prohibit transgender people from using appropriate public restroom facilities and would negate local nondiscrimination ordinances; passage of legislation to keep public funds from being used to pay for abortions, to bar some insurance plans from covering the procedure and to tighten restrictions on clinics where abortions are performed; passage of a school voucher program to allow taxpayer dollars to allow some special education students to attend private schools; and passage of legislation increasing teacher pay statewide and create a commission to fix the school finance system.

Other issues on his agenda include voter fraud legislation, maternal mortality, property tax cuts, local government limits, union dues, end of life care and agency operation.

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How to Get Involved
For information on the One Texas Resistance rally and day of action,
visit Facebook.com/events/243320782832909.

For information on phone banks and other volunteer opportunities in Dallas/Fort Worth,
visit the DFW HRC page at Facebook.com/HRCDFW or the DFW Federal Club page at

Facebook.com/DFWFederalClub.
You can also email Criss Ruiz at criss.ruiz@hrc.org for information on volunteering.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition July 7, 2017.