Texas transgender people Greg Abbott is gunning for you. Your freedoms are at stake à la Equality Maryland only this time its worst. Much, much worst.
Every city-wide transgender inclusive human rights ordinance in the state will be erased with the stroke of a pen, if Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick and Gov. Greg Abbott have their way.
Abbott’s rallying point for his religious extremist neocon constituency is Plano’s newly amended human rights ordinance which legalized excluding transgender people from public accommodations.
Plano’s ordinance lacks public accommodation protections, a fact not missed by the trans community who have raised concerns over it and how it was crafted. Equality Texas president Chuck Smith responded to the Trans community in a statement to the the Texas Observer:
“While the ordinance is not perfect, it is a fact that it includes protections from discrimination in employment, housing, and public accommodations for LGBT residents and veterans in Plano that did not previously exist,” Equality Texas Executive Director Chuck Smith said in a statement to the Observer. “While criticisms expressed by leaders in the transgender community are valid, it is imperative that we work together to ensure that this ordinance is not repealed in the short term and is improved in the long term.”
HRC said it’s ‘unlikely’ they will help in this fight. HRC has made it clear it’s all for one and one for all, as it must be if we are to win LGBT equality.
Jeanne Rubin, a spokeswoman for GALA North Texas, called HRC’s likely decision to sit out the ballot fight disappointing.
“In politics, as much of a bummer as it is, everything is incremental, and I know that’s sort of a dirty word for our community,” said Rubin, who’s also an Equality Texas board member. “If this ordinance goes down, not only will Plano not touch this issue with a 10-foot pole, but no other suburban city out here will, and that doesn’t do L, G, B or T any good.”
Representatives from Equality Texas and a Plano-based LGBT group, GALA North Texas, denied any role in drafting the ordinance. Plano spokesman Steve Stoler maintained this week that the ordinance was written exclusively by the city attorney’s office reports the Texas Observer.
How is it that Equality Texas is helping Greg Abbott’s aim? The formerly cohesive LGBT community was more resilient to buckshot, but now that we are fragmented we make a perfect target for the statewide discrimination being purposed by Plano legislators.
I have it from multiple inside sources who wish to remain anonymous, who said both groups had conversations with the city of Plano about the crafting of the ordinance. It’s not clear if ether groups were officially represented or if it was a single member acting independently.
It gets worst yet.
My sources have also confirmed that both groups intentionally left the Dallas-based Trans Pride Initiative, led by Nell Gaither, out of the process.
Seriously, what trans person in their right mind would trust inequality Texas after this?
“This is not a Plano issue. This is a Texas issue, and more,” Gaither wrote recently. “If they get away with the lie that this is an LGBT equality policy it will set a dangerous precedent that will be very difficult to overcome for many, many years.”
Trans Pride Initiative released an eight-page position paper criticizing exemptions in the ordinance related to not only restrooms, but also nonprofits and schools. The position paper says the exemptions run counter to federal laws and may ultimately promote violence and harassment against transgender people, suggesting it would be better to simply allow the ordinance to be repealed and start from scratch.
In part the Trans Pride Initiative position paper stated
This policy presents trans persons and others as second-class citizens who should not be afforded the same rights as other residents of Plano, sets a dangerous precedent for future nondiscrimination policies in other jurisdictions around the state, and will almost certainly take many years of effort by advocates to correct. In addition, Trans Pride expresses our strong objection to the complete exclusion of the local trans community during the development of this ordinance by the City of Plano, the Gay and Lesbian Alliance of North Texas, and Equality Texas.
That’s not a federal law, it’s a court ruling and the position of the federal government under Obama. That case law is being challenged by Sax Fifth Avenue. Should Sax win we will be pushed off our precarious protective Title VII ledge.
Some Texas lawmakers say they are trying to enact a new religious freedom legislation to counter the cities equal rights ordinances. How long will it be until they figure out they can invalidate those ordinances by requiring that city’s don’t supplant federal lay by adding a protected class?
Yeah Jeanne Rubin, Jim Crow is a dirty word. A real fucking dirty word.
I wish Jeanne Rubin and Chuck Smith were members of my minority then you would have never so cavalierly dismissed my life. And for the record Jeanne Rubin and Chuck Smith, FUCK YOU. Stop dismissively saying its only a few leaders of the trans community who object to being made second class citizens, just so you may temporarily have your precious marriage equality. Its every fucking one of us. YES even you. If you think you are immune to this you are sadly mistaken. Look what’s happened to the LGBT community in Maryland during the new Governors first day in office!.
Do you think for an instant that these neocons and religious extremists from Texas will be placated by beating down the trans community? Perhaps the will invalidate my legal identity next, but know when they are done with me they will be coming after you. Know that.
United we stand, divided I will fight you tooth and nail…..
I’ve survived in Texas so far, but not by much.
After transitioning in 2007 I lived in extreme poverty but by the graces of others I survived, on their couches and back rooms, until 2012 when I got my current job. The second day there a coworker alerted me to a rumor that I was seen using the men’s room. I went from ecstatic to suicidal in one breath. That was three years ago, and I’m still here but not by much.
Texas how many other inhumanities will I be forced to suffer? How long until I am forced to choose between fleeing for my life from Texas, leaving my loved one behind, or certain death by de-transition?
Republished with full permission
Nondiscrimination Ordinance Battle Goes Statewide
As fights brew in several Texas cities over nondiscrimination ordinances protecting gay people, state lawmakers are poised to dive into the fray.
Since 2013, San Antonio, Houston and Plano have passed ordinances that offer lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people certain protections against discrimination in employment, housing and public places like restaurants. In Houston and Plano, opponents of the ordinances are seeking to repeal them. Dallas, Austin and Fort Worth have had such ordinances for more than a decade.
Now, some Republican lawmakers — including state Rep. Jeff Leach of Plano and state Sen. Donna Campbell of New Braunfels — say they plan to take aim at the city ordinances. Among those who have opposed such ordinances are Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick and Gov. Greg Abbott, who, when he was the state attorney general, said the San Antonio ordinance would stifle speech and repress religious freedom.
Campbell is “concerned about the hostility that we are seeing towards Texans of faith, especially in regards to some of these local city ordinances,” said Jon Oliver, a spokesman for the senator.
This comes as the U.S. Supreme Court prepares to consider whether same-sex marriage should be legal and a federal appeals court weighs whether to strike down Texas’ ban on same-sex marriage. And it foreshadows the next landmark gay rights issue the high court might address, said Texas A&M University law professor Meg Penrose: the balance between religious liberties and gay rights.
“You’re talking about competing individual freedoms,” Penrose said. “The religious liberty issue really is the next big question. It’s very hard to predict.”
Advocates for gay rights say the ordinances are needed to ensure the safety in public spaces of all Texans, regardless of sexual orientation or gender identity. And they say efforts to target the ordinances are a backlash against recent same-sex marriage victories in federal courts across the country.
“The more advances we make on behalf of equality for the LGBT community, the more threatened our opponents become — and this is the way they lash out,” said Equality Texas Foundation President Steve Rudner. “The people on the other side are losing, they know they’re losing, and it’s freaking them out. And their response is to lash back in ways that are clearly illogical.”
A proposal filed by Campbell calls for asking voters to amend the state constitution to say that “government may not burden an individual’s or religious organization’s freedom of religion or right to act or refuse to act in a manner motivated by a sincerely held religious belief.”
Campbell filed similar legislation last session; it did not gain traction. An aide to Leach said Friday that the representative is working on a proposal related to the ordinances that seeks to protect religious liberties.
“After hearing from concerned citizens, business owners and community leaders from all across Texas, I look forward to leading the charge, in conjunction with my colleagues in the Texas House and Senate, to craft legislation that aims to protect religious liberty and the fundamental Constitutional rights of Texans,” Leach said in a statement.
Before Plano passed its nondiscrimination ordinance in December, Leach was one of several Republican lawmakers who signed a letter opposing it. He was joined by Rep. Pat Fallon, R-Frisco; Rep. Jodie Laubenberg, R-Parker; and Rep. Matt Shaheen, R-Plano.
State Rep. Jason Villalba, R-Dallas, has filed a proposed constitutional amendment similar to Campbell’s, but he said he is not targeting city ordinances; rather, he’s seeking to ensure the right of a county courthouse to display a Nativity scene or a high school valedictorian to speak about God.
“Our legislation was in no way intended to limit the ability of municipalities or cities to implement this type of ordinances that they believe might be beneficial to their community,” Villalba said. He declined to say whether he supported the nondiscrimination ordinances.
Daniel Williams, a legislative specialist with Equality Texas, said Texas already has protections for religious liberties. He pointed to the Texas Religious Freedom Restoration Act, which was passed in 1999.
“We have strong religious liberties protections in this state that work well,” Williams said. Legislation like that filed by Campbell and Villalba “isn’t about the protection of religious liberties, it’s about overturning good law that we’ve had for a decade and a half and replacing it with a broad exemption.”
Opponents of ordinances in Houston and Plano say they have gathered enough signatures to force voter referendums on the matter. Houston denied the opponents’ petition, saying too many of the signatures were invalid, and the city is now embroiled in a lawsuit with the opponents. Plano city officials received the signatures and are still in the process of verifying them, a city spokesman said Friday.
“The ordinances create a category of protected characteristics that is simply indefensible legally. It addresses a problem that doesn’t exist and creates a criminal class for people who believe in the traditional Judeo-Christian viewpoint of marriage, family and gender,” said Pastor Dave Welch, a leader of the Texas Pastors Council and one of the opponents of the ordinances. “We can’t just sit back and let that freedom be taken away without opposition.”
Before Houston’s City Council passed its ordinance last year, more than 200 people testified — including a mother of a transgender daughter who said that when LGBT youth grow up, “there is nobody there to protect them from the bullying.”
Rudner said the ordinances protect LGBT people from workplace discrimination — a protection not offered by federal or state law. According to a 2013 survey from the Pew Research Center, about 21 percent of LGBT adults faced discrimination in the workforce.
“We have nondiscrimination ordinances in place, and nothing bad has happened to anyone. It hasn’t interrupted anyone’s life, it hasn’t intruded on anyone’s liberty,” Rudner said. “The cities are frustrated by the failure of our state Legislature to adopt a statewide nondiscrimination ordinance.”
These ordinances aren’t new to Texas. In 2000, Fort Worth became the first major Texas city to update its nondiscrimination ordinance to include protections for sexual identity. Then-Fort Worth Mayor Kenneth Barr said he couldn’t remember facing the kind of opposition council members in Houston and Plano have faced.
“Frankly, I don’t remember any specifics of the debate about it,” Barr said this week. “That speaks to the fact that we passed it without a whole lot of fanfare.”
Disclosure: Texas A&M University is a corporate sponsor of The Texas Tribune. A complete list of Tribune donors and sponsors can be viewed here.
This article originally appeared in The Texas Tribune at http://www.texastribune.org/2015/01/24/equal-rights-ordinance-battle-goes-statewide/.