While bills promoting discrimination against lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people have passed legislatures in states such as Indiana, Arkansas and North Carolina this year, civil liberties and LGBT-rights groups are celebrating the failure of similar bills in the Texas Legislature. Four of those groups issued the following statements on today’s close of the 2015 legislative session in the Lone Star State:
Terri Burke, Executive Director, American Civil Liberties Union of Texas
“I hope that lawmakers who sponsored measures targeting lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender Texans recognize that the discrimination playbook they used this legislative session is utterly inconsistent with Texas values. Thousands contacted their representatives to say, ‘we don’t believe in mean-spirited laws that would allow people to use religion to discriminate or laws designed to harm LGBT people.’ Polls show that the majority of Texans, regardless of party or religious affiliation, believe that everyone should be treated equally under the law. I’m encouraged that Texans’ commitment to fair treatment prevailed.”
Chuck Smith, Executive Director, Equality Texas
“A fringe element in the Legislature certainly had its sights set squarely on the LGBT community this session. But we are very happy, after more than 10,000 office visits in the Pink Dome by Equality Texas staff, that all these blatantly discriminatory bills failed to pass. We’re also happy that we were actually able to make progress on positive legislation that would help LGBT Texans and their families. Looking forward, we still have a long way to go toward full equality for our community in Texas. But we have laid thegroundwork to move forward on protecting LGBT Texans and their loved ones from discrimination in the state they call home.”
Kathy Miller, President, Texas Freedom Network
“It’s frustrating that some lawmakers wasted so much time and energy pushing a ‘culture war’ agenda that would do nothing to fund our schools, repair crumbling bridges and roads or keep our economy strong. The passage of these bills would have been a big step backward for Texas at a time when a large and growing majority of Americans oppose discrimination against the LGBT community and support the freedom to marry for gay and lesbian couples. So we’re grateful that broad-based opposition from business, faith leaders and grassroots activists from across the state stopped that from happening.”
Marty Rouse, National Field Director, Human Rights Campaign
“Thanks to business leaders, corporations, child welfare advocates, and thousands of fair-minded Texans who stood up for equality against an onslaught of anti-LGBT legislation, the Lone Star State avoided needless catastrophe. While stopping these assaults on LGBT Texans and their families was certainly a victory, the long battle ahead for full LGBT equality in Texas remains. Working alongside our local partners in the state, we are committed to addressing these challenges head on and advancing fairness and equality for LGBT Texans.”
Texas legislators filed at least 23 bills promoting and in some cases requiring discrimination against LGBT people and their families. The bills included measures that would have allowed the use of religion to discriminate, subverted a potential U.S. Supreme Court ruling striking down the state’s ban on same-sex marriage, swept away local anti-discrimination protections, and turned transgender people into criminals for using public restrooms.
Supporters used public hearings for those bills to promote offensive scare stories and vicious rhetoric attacking LGBT people, including comparing same-sex marriage to bestiality and pedophilia. But lawmakers sent to the governor only one watered-down bill. That bill, SB 2065, essentially restates what the U.S. and state constitutions as well as state law already guarantee — the right of clergy to refuse to perform marriages that conflict with their religious beliefs. Language allowing religiously affiliated institutions, such as hospitals and universities, to discriminate was stripped out in committee.