Texas lawmakers consider two LGBT bills

by Scott Stiffler
EDGE Media Network Contributor
Monday May 11, 2009

As the current legislative session in Austin approaches completion on June 1, Texas-based LGBT organizations continue to lobby lawmakers to support two pieces of legislation.

House Bill 616 would compel schools to track and report incidents of bullying and harassment, including those perpetrated against LGBT students. House Bill 508-the Texas ENDA-would ban discrimination based on the sexual orientation or gender identity of current or prospective employees.

Activists remain cautiously optimistic.

"This session is quite a success for us," Erin Moore, president of Stonewall Democrats of Dallas and vice president of the Texas Stonewall Democratic Caucus, said. "For the first in a long time, we haven't had anti-LGBT bills - so we've been able to spend our time working on behalf of good bills."

As reported in the Dallas Voice on May 1, six of the 17 bills Equality Texas has endorsed have been heard by House committees this year-the most since 2001. Two bills have made it out of committee.

Lawmakers have yet to schedule a hearing to debate Texas ENDA, but Equality Texas has submitted a petition signed by more than 4,000 people to Rep. Burt Solomons [R-North Carrollton], who chairs the Calendar Committee.

"For the first in a long time, we haven’t had anti-LGBT bills - so we’ve been able to spend our time working on behalf of good bills."

"We're continuing to work to educate him," Equality Texas executive director Paul Scott said. "As a Committee Chair, we have not seen the response we'd want to see in terms of bringing ENDA up for a hearing."

The hate crimes bill, however, may have a better chance this session. The Calendar Committee backed it on May 6.
"We're still working with the Committee to see if we can get it out to the floor for consideration," Scott said.

He added other advocacy efforts will continue if efforts to pass both bills fail. These include Equality Texas' District Lobbying Project that trains people to talk with their representatives about LGBT issues.

"Telling your own individual story is often the most powerful tool individuals have," Scott said.

Moore concurred.

"They say that for every one person who that contacts them, there are 100 that don't; so your voice can really carry weight and matter if you take the time to do it," she said. "Personal stories matter. It makes it real for them, so it's no longer a philosophical debate."

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Scott Stiffler is a New York City based writer and comedian who has performed stand-up, improv, and sketch comedy. His show, "Sammy’s at The Palace. . .at Don’t Tell Mama"---a spoof of Liza Minnelli’s 2008 NYC performance at The Palace Theatre, recently had a NYC run. He must eat twice his weight in fish every day, or he becomes radioactive.


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