Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Day 37: (Straight) Texas on the Brink

Today is the 37th day of the 82nd regular session of the Texas Legislature. The House will reconvene at 10 am, the Senate at 11. The Texas Motor Transportation Association will be providing lunch on the South Lawn at noon.

The House State Affairs committee will meet at 2 pm for their "organizational meeting" - chairman Cook will lay out his priorities for the committee and may assign subcommittees. HB 665, which would prohibit employment discrimination, including discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity or expression, has not yet been referred to committee but is expected to wind up in State Affairs. It will be interesting to see the tenor of the committee today and how we can expect them to work together in the future. You can watch the meeting live HERE.

The Legislative Study Group (LSG) released its report "Texas on the Brink" yesterday. The LSG is a left-leaning think tank whose members include some of the best allies of the queer community in the Texas legislature, so I was disappointed when their big report failed to mention the existence of LGBT Texans. The LSG doesn't actually do any of the primary research for the report, but instead compiles statistics from a number of sources on how Texas is doing in categories like employment, public health and education. Here are some suggestions for information they could have considered including:

  • At least 1 out of every 16 Texas school students was physically assaulted at school during the previous year because someone thought they were “gay.” (source Equality Texas)
  • Texas ranks 2nd among the 50 states for the number of same sex couples (source Williams Institute)
  • Texas ranks 6th among the 50 states for the number of hate crimes committed due to real or percieved sexual orientation. (source FBI)
  • The median income of men in same-sex couples in Texas is $32,000, or 9% less than that of married men ($35,000). (source Williams Institute)
The information is out there. The LSG simply didn't think to look for it when compiling their report, which underscores the importance of LGBT people talking to elected officials and policy makers. Well-meaning straight people are wonderful allies to have, but their minds are not going to turn to queer issues unless we direct them to. They will not, and can not, see the world through the eyes of a queer person. We must continuously remind them that we exist, that we have lives that are full and worthwhile and that, as representatives of the people, they have a responsibility to acknowledge our lives in their decision making.

One way that you can get involved, and encourage lawmakers to acknowledge our existence, is to participate in Equality Texas' Lobby Day on March 7th. Lobby Day starts on Monday morning with a complimentary breakfast, followed by a press conference at 9 am on the capitol steps. Participants will then attend a workshop on how to effectively talk to representatives and then, in groups of four to five, talk face to face with the people elected to represent us. Each group will have at least one person who has experience with lobbying, so no one will be on their own during lobby day. Lunch is provided.

Please register on-line for Equality Texas Lobby Day at (Lobby Day is free, but preregistration is requested so that plans can be made to accommodate all participants).

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