Flurry of last-minute bills advance, hinder LGBT equality
Bill filing season ended in the Texas Legislature on Friday, March 13, and the last day predictably featured a slew of last-minute bills being filed. Some are welcome surprises; some are predictably eye-rolling ridiculous.
Despite the knee-jerk bills filed in reaction to an Austin lesbian couple’s marriage in February, it’s safe to say LGBT Texans largely dodged any more harmful legislation, based on a perusal of the bills filed between late Thursday, March 12 and Friday, March 13.
Rep. Celia Israel, an out lesbian and Democratic lawmaker from Austin, filed HB 3495 that would ban the harmful and discredited practice of reparative or conversion therapy on minors. Bills like it are gaining steam in statehouses nationwide and already California, New Jersey and Washington, D.C., have enacted laws protecting LGBT youth from such “therapy.”
The historic move earned praise from numerous groups, including Equality Texas, the Human Rights Campaign and the National Center for Lesbian Rights.
Marty Rouse, field director with HRC, said, “No child should be subjected to this extremely harmful and discredited so-called therapy. These harmful practices are based on the false claim that being LGBT is a mental illness that should be cured, using fear and shame to tell young people that the only way to find love or acceptance is to change the very nature of who they are.
“Psychological abuse has no place in therapy, no matter the intention,” Rouse said.
Samantha Ames, NCLR staff attorney, said, “We commend Rep. Israel on making the lives of LGBT children a priority, as well all the local organizers who have worked tirelessly to get this bill introduced and ensure all Texans have the opportunity to grow up in a safe community where they are loved for exactly who they are.”
After the June 2014 Texas Republican Party convention voted to include a plank in the party platform condoning the reparative therapy, legislative observers expressed concern a bill condoning the practice would be filed at the last minute.
Then-Texas Republican Party chair Steve Munisteri told Texas Public Radio he disagreed with the language in the platform, but a procedural move shut down debate before GOP convention-goers could intervene.
“I just make the point for anybody that thinks that may be the possibility: Do they think they can take a straight person to a psychiatrist and turn them gay?” Munisteri questioned.
But for every good bill are bad ones, and Rep. Scott Sanford, R-McKinney, filed two last-minute bad ones targeting same-sex marriage and children of LGBT parents.
Sanford’s HB 3567 would prevent the government from punishing a clergy member or person of faith who does not perform same-sex marriages.
He also introduced HB 3864, which would allow child welfare organizations to deny care to children of LGBT parents based on religious beliefs.
Companion, opposing bills filed
Other bills — both good and bad — earned last-minute companions, boosting the likelihood they would at least be considered by the legislature.
For instance, Sen. Sylvia Garcia, D-Houston, and Rep. Sylvester Turner, D-Houston, filed companion bills HB 4013 and SB 1580, authorizing the creation of a statewide study on homeless youth and veterans.
Meanwhile Sen. Donna Campbell, R-New Braunfels, filed SB 1934, a companion to Sugar Land Republican Rep. Rick Miller’s HB 2477. Both would prohibit carrying a driver’s license and photo identification card at the same time. If the two make it into law, they would essentially discriminate against the transgenders and crossdressers because those individuals sometimes carry a driver’s license with listing their biological gender and a photo ID showing their gender identity.
And in another case, Rep. Elliott Naishtat, D-Austin, earlier in the session filed HB 2692, which would extend pension benefits to same-sex partners. Concurrently, Rep. Phil Stephenson, R- Wharton, filed HB 3890, a last-minute bill banning all public retirement or pension systems from providing benefits to same-sex spouses.
With all bills now filed, the sausage making can begin.
Relationships and marriage:
• New SB 1064 by Sen. Sylvia Garcia would allow a person to use their same-sex marriage license or civil union record as a valid form of identification before state or municipal government.
• HB 71 by Rep. Mary González and SB 492 by Sen. John Whitmire would prevent two minors in a same-sex relationship from being charged with child indecency.
• HB 537 by Rep. Rafael Anchia and SB 250 by Sen. Sylvia Garcia would remove language added to the Health and Safety code in 1997 to equalize access to accurate supplementary birth certificates for all Texas children.
• HB 130 by Rep. Anchia, HJR 34 by Rep. Garnet Coleman, SB 98 by Sen. Juan “Chuy” Hinojosa and SJR 13 by Sen. José Rodríguez would put a constitutional amendment on the November 2015 ballot to extend the freedom to marry to Texas.
• New HB 2692 by Rep. Elliott Naishtat would permit state university pension systems to provide pension benefits to same-sex spouses.
• New HB 3495 by Rep. Celia Israel would prohibit the practice of “reparative therapy” to change a child’s sexual orientation.
• New HB 187 by Rep. Senfronia Thompson and SB 65 by Sen. Rodney Ellis would broaden the language in the state’s employment and wage discrimination codes, prohibiting discrimination based on sexual orientation, gender identity and expression.
• New HB 2860 by Rep. Diego Bernal would prohibit housing discrimination based on sexual orientation, gender identity or expression.
• Update HB 1351 by Rep. Chris Turner and SB 88 by Sen. Ellis would prohibit bias based on sexual orientation in health education curricula.
• HB 582 by Rep. Chris Turner would prohibit and penalize discrimination by state contractors based on sexual orientation or gender identity or expression.
• HB 1522 by Rep. Jessica Farrar would prohibit discrimination in public accommodations protections statewide for multiple protected classe,s including sexual orientation and gender identity or expression.
• HB 627 by Rep. Eric Johnson would prohibit employment discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity or expression.
• HB 70 by Rep. González would prohibit discrimination in public schools based on gender identity or expression and sexual orientation.
• HB 453 by Reps. Roberto Alonzo, HB 304 by Rep. Thompson and SB 76 by Sen. Rodney Ellis would prohibit insurance discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity.
• HB 2059 by Rep. Coleman would amend James Byrd, Jr. Hate Crimes Act to include sexual orientation and gender identity or expression.
• Updated HB 679 by Rep. Sylvester Turner and SB 1892 would authorize a study on homeless youth including LGBT youth. HB 4013 by Rep. Turner and SB 1580 by Sen. Garcia would create a study on homeless youth and veterans.
• HB 2058 by Rep. Coleman would create a standard process for correcting gender markers.
Religious liberty bills:
• New HB 3567 by Rep. Scott Sanford would prevent the government from punishing a clergy member or person of faith who does not perform same-sex marriages. HB 3864, also by Rep. Sanford, would allow to child welfare organizations to deny care to children of LGBT parents based on religious beliefs.
• HJR 55 by Rep. Jason Villalba and SJR 10 by Sen. Donna Campbell would allow Texas’ businesses to refuse service or deny employment to LGBT people based on individual’s or religious organization’s beliefs. Villalba has since said he would reconsider his resolution but Rep. Matt Krause filed the identical HJR 125 late Wednesday, March 12.
• HB 2553 by Rep. Molly White would allow business owners to decide whom they serve or conduct business with based on religious convictions.
• HB 1355 by Rep. Matt Shaheen would make it a criminal offense for an elected official to threaten, punish or intimidate a person based on the person’s religious beliefs.
• New HB 3890 by Rep. Phil Stephenson would ban public retirement or pension systems from providing benefits to same-sex spouses.
•New HB 4105 by Rep. Bell would amend the state family code to prevent state or local employees from issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples or use funds to issue those licenses.
• HB 623 by Rep. Cecil Bell punishes state employees who would issues marriage licenses to same-sex couples.
• HB 1745 by Bell, and SB 673 by Sen. Charles Perry would restructure state government to only allow officials in the secretary of state’s office to issue marriage licenses.
• HB 2555 by Rep. White would bar Texas from recognizing same-sex marriages regardless of federal court rulings.
• HB 1747 by Rep. Debbie Riddle would criminalize transgender individuals whose gender identity does not match their biological sex from using public accommodations appropriate to their gender identity or expression.
• HB 1748 also by Riddle, would make it a state jail felony for business owners to allow individuals to use a bathroom appropriate to their gender identity. It would also make it Class “A” misdemeanor if transgender individuals use bathrooms appropriate to their gender identity.
• HBs 2801 and 2802 by Rep. Gilbert Peña would make it a criminal offense for transgender students whose gender identity does not match their biological sex to use public accommodations appropriate to their gender identity or expression. School district and officials who failed to prevent the student from using a bathroom would be held liable.
Nondiscrimination ordinances/local control:
• New HB 2477 by Rep. Rick Miller and SB 1934 by Sen. Campbell would make it illegal for someone to carry both a driver’s licenses and photo identification, adversely impacting transgender and crossdressing individuals.
• HB 1556 by Rep. Miller and SB 1155 by Sen. Bob Hall would restrict the ability of local elected officials to pass or enforce nondiscrimination ordinances, rules or regulations of identities not already protected by the state.
• SB 343 by Sen. Don Huffines, like HB 1556 and SB 1155 would restrict the ability of local elected officials to pass or enforce nondiscrimination ordinances or other rules or regulations not already protected by the state or in state code.
This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition March 20, 2015.