The Texas Government’s Invasion of LGBT Citizens – A glance at #txlege in the wake of Jade Helm 15
Perhaps there are a few people in the world who haven’t ridiculed the Texas Government for its antics at some point in time, but those people likely have no internet access or TV, and probably no interest in state government. I dare not trace the long history of embarrassing political posturing by Texas lawmakers, but I can summarize in three words, Jade Helm 15.
Presently, the Texas legislature is comprised of a substantial Republican majority. IN the Texas Republican Party Platform, the party holds, in part:
“Homosexuality is a chosen behavior that is contrary to the fundamental unchanging truths that have been ordained by God in the Bible, recognized by our nation’s founders, and shared by the majority of Texans. Homosexuality must not be presented as an acceptable alternative lifestyle, in public policy, nor should family be redefined to include homosexual couples. We believe there should be no granting of special legal entitlements or creation of special status for homosexual behavior, regardless of state of origin. Additionally, we oppose any criminal or civil penalties against those who oppose homosexuality out of faith, conviction, or belief in traditional values.”
This legislative session, the Texas GOP has done its best to limit access to rights and benefits bestowed on other Texans. To facilitate an understanding of the status of each of the below bills, and for the sake of simplicity, I’ll break the below down into the following bill stages used by Texas Legislature Online:
- Stage 1: Filed
- Stage 2: Out of Senate/House Committee
- Stage 3: Voted on by Senate/House
- Stage 4: Out of House/Senate Committee
- Stage 5: Voted on by Senate/House
- Stage 6: Governor Action
- Stage 7: Bill is law
Below is a listing of proposed legislation that target LGB and/or T people in Texas, with very special thanks to the people of Equality Texas for their hard work, both in tracking the bills and in working on the ground to oppose them. Frankly, there is no way I could have sorted through every bill introduced and compiled such an exhaustive list without the benefit of the resources and listings on their website and much of the information below has been consolidated from their pages. Each bill number cited is a link to the history of the legislation. For convenience, I’ve included the present status next to each bill, however, the status may change after the date of this publication. Once you follow the links, you can then click on the “Bill Stages” tab for additional information.
License to Discriminate Legislation – Constitutional
These bills would allow individuals and religious institutions to disregard laws based on religious belief
License to Discriminate Legislation – Statutory
- HB 2553 – Stage 1
Would create a right of refusal for any business to violate local non-discrimination laws if the business owner believes that serving a customer whose marriage the business owner dislikes would violate that business owners religious belief.
Would allow religious institutions that receive tax-payer dollars to use those funds to discriminate against the public and would allow clergy persons employed by the government or private employers to disregard non-discrimination policies if they claim that providing service to all members of the public equally violates their religious practice:
Would prevent churches or other religious institution, or clergy person acting in there official capacity as a religious leader, from celebrating, recognizing or serving a person that the institution or person’s religious belief calls on them to shun.
- HB 3602 – Stage 1.
Would create a new class of law suits that may be brought against governments or employers that require work environments that do not discriminate on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity or expression.
- HB 3864 – Stage 2
Would allow a faith-based agency, or an employee at an agency, to sue a governmental entity that requires the tax-payer funding provided by that entity for child welfare to be distributed without bias based on sexual orientation or gender identity or expression.
Repeal of Local Non-Discrimination Ordinances
Would take away the ability of local governments (cities and counties) to pass or enforce non-discrimination ordinances.
- HB 623 – Stage 1.
Would punish state employees who follow the law by issuing marriage licenses to loving couples.
Would remove the power from locally elected county clerks and places it with the secretary of State, who would be able to disallow the issuance of marriage licenses in counties whose clerks complied with court orders requiring the issuance of licenses.
- HB 2555 – Stage 1.
Would exempt the State of Texas from U.S. Constitutional requirements, defying the nation’s supremacy clause.
- HB 4105 – Stage 2 (failed to be voted on by House as time ran out)
In part, would refuse funding to maintain governmental offices that may be required by court order to recognize equal access to marriage.
No Need to Pee – Bathroom Use Criminalization
- HB 1747 – Stage 1.
Would amend the definition of “disorderly conduct” to make it a crime for transgender Texans who have not been fortunate enough to correct their official gender markers to use public gender- segregated space appropriate to their gender identity or expression.
- HB 1748 – Stage 1.
Would create two new offenses: making it a state jail felony for most business owners if they repeatedly allow a person who has at least one “Y” chromosome to enter a space designated for women, or a person with no “Y” chromosome to enter a space designated for men; and making it a Class “A” misdemeanor for a person with at least one “Y” chromosome to enter a space designated for women or a person without a “Y” chromosome to enter a space designated for men.
- HB 2801 – Stage 1 (no committee action taken).
Would force school districts to assume student’s biological sex and restrict access to gender-segregated spaces based on that assumption.
- HB 2802 – Stage 1.
Would amend the definition of “Class B misdemeanor” to make it a crime for transgender Texans who use the restroom or locker room that does not match their “biological sex” and creates civil liabilities for a business that permits transgender people to use their restrooms of up to $2000.
Retirement Benefits Refused for Same-Gender Spouses
- HB 3890 – Stage 1.
Would attempt to supersede federal law at the state level and exempt Employee Retirement Income Security Act (ERISA)-governed pension plans administered by governmental entities in Texas from the requirement to recognize all legal marriages.
If you’re like most of us, you may be wondering what all that means to the state of LGBT affairs in defeating anti-LGBT legislation. Let’s just say it’s been a bitter-sweet victory thus far. Time is quickly running out for the Texas Legislature to enact more laws against LGBT Texans. The 84th Regular Texas Legislative Session ends on June 1, 2015, so time is running out, and has run out, for many of the above listed bills.
That doesn’t mean LGBT Texans can fully celebrate, but we can breathe a sigh of cautious relief. Under Texas law, the Legislature can be reconvened for a Special Session called by the Governor at any time and for any reason. In some cases, special sessions have been called the same day they occur, which if a special session is called to further attack LGBT Texans, we may have little, if any, notice.