Texas Governor Greg Abbott and his band of transphobic nationalists are at it again. All told there are 11 anti-LGBT pieces of legislation slithering their way through the halls of the state capitol building.
I was amongst those who defeated these cowards in 2017 when they attacked us in Austin but I wasn’t alone.
The top Texas Lawmen expressed opposition to Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick’s anti-Trans bills adding their voices to those of Texas House Speaker Joe Straus, teachers, Business, collegiate and professional sports, travel, media, technology, medical, entertainment, and hospitality industries.
There was a smaller less visible contingent at the legislature voicing their opposition. Transgender children no more than a few years old stood in front of these heartless haters and testified. I prayed that I would never again see that kind of sadness from a child who hadn’t yet had their 12h birthday.
Texas is the third from the worse state in Covid-19 vaccinations. Our hospitalizations are worse than they when Abbott was forced to call for a mask mandate. I fled my home after suffering three days without electricity to finally come home to find the pipes had frozen in the four-degree temperatures. And this is what he has?
Greg Abbott, if you Dan Patrick want a fight you came to the right place. We were innocent of your brand of hate in 2017 but we know who you are now.
Criminalizing affirming healthcare for transgender youth under the age of 18.
These bills criminalize the age-appropriate, evidence-based, private, life-saving care that is thoughtfully crafted in consultation with teams of medical healthcare experts, parents/guardians, and transgender youth.
HB 68 would add affirming, life-saving transition-related health care, performed by medical or mental health professionals, to the statutorial definition of “child abuse,” including related penalties.
Bans on youth participation in sports that aligns with their gender identity.
These bills would require K-12 youth to participate in sports according to the gender on their birth certificate, essentially banning transgender youth from participating in line with their gender identity and barring them from the friendship, education, teamwork, and health benefits of playing a sport.
Categorical, across-the-board bans to exclude already-vulnerable children from important childhood activities are unscientific and cruel, and are a direct repackaging of the 2017 bathroom bills that failed in their attempts to demonize transgender people. These bans put vulnerable kids at risk of further harassment, exclusion, and bullying, and block them from the important health, social, and emotional benefits that youth sports is meant to offer to all children.
HB 1458 (Swanson) – This bill bans trans youth (K-12 and collegiate) from participating in sports, based on the undefined term, “biological sex.” It dangerously leaves the door open for anyone — a coach, fan, or player — to accuse and humiliate any girl of not belonging. The bills could lead to accused children being forced to undergo invasive examinations and other privacy-violating tests.
State preemption of local nondiscrimination ordinances.
These bills undermine local nondiscrimination ordinances that protect LGBTQ Texans from discrimination in employment, housing, and public accommodations. According to the Public Religion Research Institute, 70% of Texans support nondiscrimination protections for the LGBTQ community.
HB 610 (Swanson) – This bill would allow any individual to bring suit against any local law that establishes regulations or requirements for licensed professionals that go beyond state law. Because Texas does not have statewide nondiscrimination protections, all local nondiscrimination ordinances establish requirements beyond state law, and would be a target.
Governor Abbott used similar reasoning behind a recent (now corrected) decision by the Behavioral Health Executive Council of Texas to remove nondiscrimination protections for sexual orientation, gender identity, and disability in the Social Worker’s Code of Conduct.
HB 70 would require legislative oversight of agency rules. Any new rule would be subject to legislative scrutiny and might be suspended immediately. State agencies are composed of experts in their field and have the opportunity to make change in line with their industry. For example, Florida’s state agency that enforces civil rights law recently affirmed that discrimination in employment, housing, and public accommodations based on sexual orientation and gender identity was illegal, in line with the recent Bostock U.S. Supreme Court decision. HB 70 would increase barriers to any agency in Texas which might want to do the same.
Religious exemption bills.
These bills provide exemptions from generally applied laws for those who have “sincerely held religious beliefs” or “moral objections,” allowing individuals to pick and choose which laws to follow. Religious exemption bills often take the form of allowing individuals to refuse service to LGBTQ+ individuals.
HB 1424 (Oliverson) – This bill would allow any medical professional to object to any medical procedure that violates their “ethical, moral, or religious beliefs” even if the procedure in question is live-saving care.
SB 247 (Perry) – This bill would allow anyone licensed under the state bar of Texas to refuse service without losing their license to anyone, including the LGBTQ+ community, if that individual violates a “sincerely held religious belief” of the licensee.
HIV criminalization bills.
HB 369 would deepen the stigma associated with HIV by criminalizing it, in this case adding increased penalties to crimes where a defendant was “afflicted with a communicable disease,” including HIV. Laws criminalizing HIV often keep people from getting tested for the virus and, in turn, accessing treatment. These laws do not account for undetectable viral load and have been shown to disproportionally impact transgender people and people of color.
PRO LGBTQ+ BILLS
Eliminating “Gay Panic” and “Trans Panic” as a legal defense
HB 73 (Hinojosa) – This bill would limit the legal defense known as gay/trans panic. This legal defense, which claims that a person’s sexual orientation or gender expression can trigger violence against another person, was debunked by the American Psychiatric Association in 1973.
Updating the James Byrd Jr. Hate Crimes Act to include crimes based on a victim’s gender identity
The James Byrd Jr. Hate Crimes Act authorizes enhanced penalties for violent crimes motivated by bias against the victim’s race, religion, color, sex, disability, sexual orientation, age, or national origin. The law should be updated to include gender identity and expression. According to a report by the National Coalition of Anti-Violence Programs, anti-LGBTQ violence, particularly against transgender women of color, is on the rise. Hate-related homicides spiked 86% in 2017 and Texas had more deaths than 48 other states.
Updating adolescent relationship Romeo/Juliet laws to include LGBTQ couples
Rather than criminalize sexual behavior between teenagers as statutory rape, Texas law includes an affirmative defense if the sexual contact is consensual and the parties are over the age of fourteen and within three years of the same age. This so-called “Romeo & Juliet defense” is a common-sense acknowledgement that adolescents sometimes engage in sexual conduct that adults may not approve of, but shouldn’t be marked as felons for the rest of their lives.
However, this affirmative defense is only available to opposite-sex couples. A teenager dating someone of the same sex doesn’t get the same treatment, creating the risk that a young person could be sent to prison and forced to register as a sex offender for consensual behavior between sweethearts. It’s time to update the Romeo & Juliet defense to apply to all teens on an equal basis.
Facilitating gender marker changes on official documents
Texas law authorizes people to legally change their name and gender marker on official documents like a driver license or state ID. But the process is not clearly laid out in statute, resulting in a patchwork of different requirements across the state. Transgender Texans who are unable to update their identification documents are excluded from basic activities that are necessary to function in society. There should be a simple, standardized method for updating official documentation so that all
Texans, including transgender Texans, have access to the documents they need to apply for a job, register for school, rent an apartment, board an airplane, or write a check for groceries.
Banning the harmful practice of “conversion therapy”
The American Psychological Association warns that so-called “conversion therapy” is scientifically discredited and dangerous. Experts agree that sexual orientation and gender identity are immutable and that conversion therapy is ineffective at changing them. Because the therapy is premised on negative and outdated prejudices against LGBTQ people, those who undergo it may suffer lasting harms. Conversion therapy is dangerous at any age, but children are particularly vulnerable. Texas has a responsibility to regulate the conduct of licensed therapists to ensure that no child is subjected to this abusive practice.
Ensuring that health benefits plans cover HIV and AIDS
Banning nonconsensual surgeries on intersex minors
Cleaning up state statutes to include LGBTQ families
In the Supreme Court cases of Windsor and Obergefell, the highest court of our nation affirmed that the fundamental right to marry was guaranteed to same-sex couples under the U.S. Constitution. Marriage equality has made it easier for couples in Texas to access health insurance for family members, buy property, manage taxes, provide for their children, and plan for old age. But Texas law retains its unconstitutional ban on same-sex marriage and the Texas Family Code fails to address LGBTQ families at all.
As a result, family courts struggle to apply laws regarding marriage, parenting, adoption, and divorce to LGBTQ Texans in the same manner as for other families. LGBTQ adults cannot count on the stability that comes from having the law uniformly and predictably applied. And the children of LGBTQ parents aren’t assured of the legal right to the continued love and support of both their parents in the event of divorce.
Repealing “no promo homo” policies that require educators to teach that “homosexuality is not an acceptable lifestyle”
Texas law requires the Department of State Health Services to include falsehoods in HIV educational materials for young people: DSHS must state “homosexual conduct is not an acceptable lifestyle and is a criminal offense under Section 21.06, Penal Code.” More than a decade after the Supreme Court struck down the state’s sodomy law as unconstitutional, it’s long past time to remove such outdated, stigmatizing characterizations of same-sex relationships from Texas law and free DSHS to devise evidence-based programs to protect Texas youth.
Removing religious exemptions from Texas adoption and foster care agencies
HB 1149 (J. Johnson)