Post submitted by Elisabeth Rutledge, HRC state legislative team consultant

Hundreds of Texans joined with HRC, Equality Texas, ACLU of Texas, Texas Freedom Network and the Transgender Education Network of Texas for “All in for Equality Lobby Day” on Monday, March 18. Advocates met with elected officials to share their opposition to any discriminatory legislation in the Lone Star State, including SB 15 and SB 17, bills currently under consideration by the Texas Senate.

Soon, the full Senate is expected to vote on SB 15, a dangerous bill that would preempt local control of paid leave policies for employees while also threatening enforcement of existing non-discrimination ordinances in cities across Texas. Originally, SB 15 explicitly protected non-discrimination ordinances from the scope of the bill. However, after pressure from anti-LGBTQ groups, the exemptions were removed. HRC strongly opposes this bill, made worse by unclear language that could threaten enforcement of non-discrimination ordinances statewide.

Non-discrimination ordinances are vital in states like Texas where LGBTQ people do not have full statewide protections. These ordinances protect LGBTQ people from discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity in employment, housing and places of public accommodation.

HRC is also monitoring SB 17, another discriminatory bill that Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick has put on his list of “must pass” bills this session. SB 17 would allow a professional license holder to discriminate based on their religious beliefs. License holders in Texas include health care professionals, counselors, lawyers and those in dozens of other professions. This bill would allow them to impose religious litmus tests on potential customer and patients in order to deny goods, services, or care.

While we are still anticipating more threats to come this session, there is also reason to celebrate.

We know that speaking out can make a difference. After the 2017 Texas legislative session, where we worked to defeat 20 anti-LGBTQ bills, Texans voted for their values and elected several pro-equality candidates, including three new LGBTQ representatives.

To learn more about how to get involved with HRC in the Lone Star State, visit hrc.org/Volunteer.


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