HRC Blog

Texas House Committee Hears Testimony on Four Pro-Equality Bills

This special guest post comes from Meghan Stabler, a member of HRC’s Board of Directors and of the HRC Business Council.

On Tuesday of this week, Texas House of Representatives Criminal Jurisprudence Committee heard testimony on four pro-equality bills. These bills would add gender identity and gender expression to Texas’ hate crimes law, repeal the state’s unconstitutional 'homosexual conduct' law, and remove discriminatory provisions from the state’s age of consent (Romeo and Juliet) laws.

After Representative Garnet Coleman presented the bills to the committee, Equality Texas executive director Dennis Coleman and I provided testimony and answered questions. I was glad to speak in favor of these bills as a Texan and as a member of HRC’s board of directors.

Rep. Coleman laid out HB 2227 which would add gender identity and gender expression to the list of characteristics covered by the state’s existing hate crime law. Currently Texas law allows prosecutors to seek tougher penalties for crimes motivated by bias against certain characteristics (or perceived characteristics) of the victim -- race, color, disability, religion, age, gender, and sexual orientation -- but not gender identity or expression. Because gender identity and expression is not currently included, prosecutors are unable to pursue hate crimes charges if the victim is targeted based on those characteristics.

In my testimony, I let committee members know that transgender people are often targeted for hate violence based on their non-conformity with gender norms and that hate crimes against transgender people tend to be particularly violent.

The committee also heard testimony on HB 2165 and HB 604, two identical bills that would remove the crime of ‘homosexual conduct’ from the Texas Penal Code. This very law was found to be unconstitutional by the U.S. Supreme Court in their 2003 Lawrence v. Texas ruling and is therefore considered unenforceable. Only the Texas Legislature has the power to remove the law from the books, though. Despite attempts to repeal this unconstitutional law in every session since the Supreme Court ruling, so far Texas legislators have been unwilling to do so.

All of the bills were left pending in committee.

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