Equality Texas Interim Director Samantha Smoot

The Senate State Affairs Committee today (Thursday, Feb. 28) approved on a 5-1 vote Senate Bill 15, a piece of legislation that LGBT lobbying organization Equality Texas warns “would gut nondiscrimination ordinances that protect more than 6 million Texans in most major Texas cities.”

In a press release distributed this afternoon, Equality Texas Interim Director Samantha Smoot said that as originally filed, SB 15 included “explicit exemptions” for nondiscrimination ordinances. But the committee substitute unveiled today completely strips that exemption language from the bill.

Six major Texas cities — Dallas, Fort Worth, Plano, Austin, El Paso and San Antonio — have municipal ordinances banning anti-LGBT discrimination, and several cities and counties have nondiscrimination policies for employees and contractors. Those six cities, Smoot said, account for about 20 percent of the state’s population.

Before the legislative session began, Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick said he had no plans to pursue passage of anti-transgender bathroom bills, such as the ones that nearly derailed the 2017 Texas Legislature, claiming at a press conference there was no need to since conservatives had “already won” on that issue — even though no such legislation passed in either the 2017 regular session or the 2017 special session.

But Smoot warned the LGBT community not to let Patrick’s words on the bathroom bill lull them into a false sense of security.

“The lieutenant governor may have put aside the bathroom bill, but he is still coming after LGBTQ Texans,” Smoot said. “Dan Patrick’s fingerprints are all over this stealth attack.

“The new language would leave nearly six million Texans currently protected by non-discrimination ordinances vulnerable. LGBTQ Texans and allies fought hard for these protections and we intend to fight to keep them intact,” she pledged.

— Tammye Nash