Since 2012, InterWaco has been very fortunate to work closely with Equality Texas. Equality Texas’ staff, especially Daniel Williams, has provided us with their time, talent, and resources. Our City of Waco LGBT employees are some of the very few Texans that have non-discrimination employment protections, this is because of the assistance InterWaco received from Equality Texas. Daniel has given many talks in Waco on legislative lobbying and advocacy, he participated in our Pride celebration, and he participated in the discussion of a local church when they were in a discernment process on LGBT issues. Lou Weaver of Equality Texas was our speaker at our 2015 Transgender Day of Remembrance and led a day long workshop on Transgender 101 in Waco. On December 10, 2016 Equality Texas will be here in Waco to give us an overview of the upcoming session and give us concrete steps we can take to combat the horrific proposed legislation.
In his talk at Cathedral of Hope, Dallas, Texas, Steve Rudner, Chair of the Equality Texas Board explains what we we will be up against this next legislative session. Charles Kuffner’s blog “Off the Kuff” has outlined horrific proposals coming from our Lt. Governor Dan Patrick and other Texas legislators. (There is a link to the video at the end. Much of the contents below are paraphrased or taken directly from the video.)
In this talk, Steve tells us how our Attorney General Ken Paxton, Lt. Governor, and many Texas legislators, are trying to negate our Constitutional birthright of equal protections for all. Since the passing of federal marriage equality these legislators see the LGBT community as a danger to our state.
State legislators see us as a threat to children and in the next legislative session plan to reintroduce legislation which would allow state funded child welfare agencies to decline to place children in foster care with LGBT families, despite the fact that children are literally dying while waiting for placement with foster families.
Steve goes on to tell us that our state legislators will be proposing legislation encouraging reparative therapy. Well adjusted LGBT children who live with pride, dignity, and courage, will be compelled, against their will to submit to harmful, medically unsound, cruel, ineffective, banned in several states, suicide inducing reparative therapy.
Transgender adults and children are finally beginning to be able to live authentically, but state leaders would like us to see them as predators just waiting to attack us in the bathroom. Transgender children are compelled by state law to attend school, but our law makers would deny them access to the bathroom.
Most of our legislators do not see us as equal members of society. It is legal, in most places in Texas to evict someone for being part of the LGBT community, to fire someone for being part of the LGBT community, and to refuse to serve someone a meal in a restaurant for being part of the LGBT community. We know that in the coming legislative session bills will be introduced which would allow those who provide personal services to deny those services to the LGBT community. They talk about florists and cake bakers, but they also mean to include doctors, therapists, bankers, tax preparers, landlords, mechanics, and every kind of person with whom we must all deal with in the course of our every day lives. We must have your help to ensure that these legislators see what we see – we are all have the Constitutional birthright of equal protections for all.
Steve goes on to tell us, our state legislators, during the next session will try to pass so called religious freedom bills which would protect the right of all Texans to discriminate against the LGBT community, despite the fact that it is already perfectly legal to discriminate against the LGBT community and despite the fact that we already have a religious freedom law in Texas. He sees this as political theater and grandstanding.
He states, our state leaders proclaim the importance of local control, but they will attempt during the next legislative session to pass laws which would invalidate the non-discrimination laws we currently have in a few municipalities.
He explains, in the last legislative session Equality Texas confronted 22 horrible anti-LGBT bills, and Equality Texas defeated every single one of those bills, with support of some wonderful allies in the community and in our state legislature, with the help of those who attended the lobby days in Austin during the session. You may not know that it was done with a tiny staff of ONE lobbyist and ONE executive director to lobby 181 members of the Texas legislature, for almost 150 days, often putting in 20 hour days, working with legislators in a state that is 881 miles across.
The job done by Equality Texas is a Herculean task. Our rights, our right to marry the one we love, our right to secure housing, our right to have employment, our right to be served in public places, our right to use the bathroom, all of these rights are once again at risk. Every advance our community has made is at risk, as those who oppose us use our victories to convince themselves that they are the victims, that their religion and their marriage and their society is at risk.
Some estimate that we will confront more than 100 bills this coming session in Texas alone, which would take away the rights of our community. Every time we have a small win our opponents get ready to come at us harder than before d=down in Austin.
We know that we will prevail, we know that the clear majority of Texans in recent polling approved measures that would end discrimination against the LGBT community. We know that the business community is with us in a way that they have never before aligned with a social movement in the history in the State of Texas. Just this week Texas Competes announced that over 1,000 Texas businesses including 34 Fortune 500 companies have signed a pledge that in order for our state’s economy to thrive, we must be open and welcoming to the LGBT community.
We know that we will achieve our goal, we will get there, BUT WE CAN NOT BE COMPLACENT, WE CAN NOT ASSUME THAT OUR RIGHTS ARE ASSURED, THEY ARE NOT.
We need your help, Equality Texas is a tiny operation that operates on a shoe string budget, if you would like to contribute, or become a member, go to.
In this next session and the months ahead, we need your help. Every visit to the capitol makes a difference, every door that is knocked on, every phone that rings, every email sent, makes a difference. We can not put a price on our freedom, we can not put a price on our liberty, we can not put a price on our equality, we need your help.
Together we can make a difference, together we can make our lawmakers see what we see, that we all deserve equality under the law.