Voices of Equality Voters Heard Loud and Clear During 2019 Texas Legislative Session

by HRC Staff

As the 2019 legislative session in Texas comes to a close, HRC looks back with pride on accomplishing some significant milestones for equality in the Lone Star State.

Post submitted by HRC Texas State Director Rebecca Marques

As the 2019 legislative session in Texas comes to a close, HRC looks back with pride on accomplishing some significant milestones for equality in the Lone Star State.

When the the Texas legislature last met in 2017, both the regular and special sessions were incredibly toxic for the LGBTQ community. Although the divisive and hateful “bathroom bill” ultimately did not pass, the rhetoric around it and other discriminatory bills forced LGBTQ Texans to share their deeply personal and private stories in the public eye again and again.  

Determined to prevent a repeat of the painful 2017 session, HRC devoted significant resources to weakening the far-right’s hold on the Texas House in the 2018 elections. Joined by our state partners and thousands of voters who oppose discrimination, the election results sent a clear message that hate is not a Texas value.

Pro-equality Democrats gained 12 seats and many far-right legislators, including the House sponsors of the “bathroom bill,” were defeated or had extremely close victories. Pro-LGBTQ Republican Rep. Sarah Davis ran on a pro-equality platform and successfully defended challenges from both parties to win re-election.

And, for the first time, Texas had enough out members to form an LGBTQ Caucus led by five women: Reps. Julie Johnson, Jessica González, Mary González, Celia Israel and Erin Zweiner.

Heading into the 2019 session, the anti-LGBTQ rhetoric seen in the prior session decreased but legislative threats remained present. Despite leadership’s stated intention to focus on tax reform, school funding and other priority issues, there were still 23 anti-LGBTQ bills filed.

Major threats to equality centered around:

  • Municipal preemption bills aimed at sick leave ordinances that would have also gutted employment non-discrimination ordinances;
  • Broad “license to discriminate” bills;
  • And bills that would block judges from considering a child’s gender identity in child custody cases.

HRC worked with its partner organizations to mobilize voices for equality to speak out against these and other anti-LGBTQ proposed legislation. Through action alerts, e-alerts, digital ads, videos, text banks and phone banks, we engaged thousands of HRC members and supporters to defeat these bills.

With the leadership of the LGBTQ Caucus, the Texas legislative session concluded with only one anti-LGBTQ bill, SB 1978, being passed into law. SB 1978 was originally filed as a broad, sweeping anti-LGBTQ bill. However, after concerns raised by the LGBTQ Caucus, advocates and other organizations, significant changes were made to the bill. HRC opposed SB 1978, but was pleased that it passed in a form which causes no significant legal harm to the LGBTQ community.

Additionally, it is important to celebrate the hearings of many bills that would positively impact the LGBTQ community, including a bill to prohibit the harmful and discredited practice of so-called “conversion therapy.”

And, for the first time ever in Texas, a Republican speaker publicly defended local non-discrimination ordinances. Furthermore, Sen. Kel Seliger became the first Republican in the Senate to vote in defense of the LGBTQ community.

None of this would have been possible without the support, engagement and dedication of HRC members across Texas. As we turn our attention to the 2020 elections and the 2021 legislative session, it is important to celebrate these victories.