Monday, April 18, 2011

Day 98: Anti-Trans Marriage Bill and Asher's Law

Today is the 98th day of the 82nd Regular Session of the Texas Legislature. The Senate will reconvene at 11:00 am, the House at 1:00 pm.

SB 723 by Sen. Tommy Williams (R-The Woodlands), is on the Senate intent calendar today. SB 723 would remove a court ordered "change of sex" from the list of documents that can be presented as proof of identity for obtaining a marriage license and would effectively outlaw opposite-sex marriage for trans Texans (Read LQ's explanation 0f the bill).

The Senate rules require that all bills be considered in the order that they are filed. The rules also allow the Senate to ignore that rule if 2/3 of the Senators agree. The list of bills that Senators would like to have considered to be taken out of order is called the "intent calendar." Any Senator may place their bill on the intent calendar, but they generally will not do so unless they are confident that it will pass the 2/3 vote. Since the Senate Republicans are 1 vote short of a 2/3 majority Williams must believe that he has the support of at least one Senate Democrat for SB 723 or he wouldn't have placed it on the intent calendar. A list of phone numbers for Democratic Senators is here, please take the time to call them and tell them to "oppose SB 723."


HB 1386 (Asher's Law) by Rep. Garnet Coleman (D-Houston) will be heard in the House Public Health Committee on Wednesday. Coleman's bill is similar to the committee substitute for HB 1942 that passed out of the House Public Education Committee last week, but does not contain the redefinition of "bullying" that will make it harder for victims of bullying to be transferred to different classrooms or campuses than their victims and does contain a non-discrimination policy that protects sexual orientation and gender identity and expression. The bill is named after 13 year old Houstonian Asher Brown who committed suicide last fall after enduring years of bullying and harassment at school. (Read LQ's explanation of the bill).

The Public Health Committee is probably the most LGBT friendly committee in the House this session (which isn't saying much). The four Democratic members of the eleven person committee all have perfect voting records on queer issues and four of the six Republican members have at least some record of voting for the queer community.

The biggest challenge will be getting Chairwoman Lois Kolkhorst (R-Brenham) to understand the need for a non-discrimination policy. Republican ideology holds that enumerating attributes that have historically been the cause of bias creates "special classes" of people and is, in itself, a form of discrimination. This is the core of straight, cisgender privilege: the assumption that only LGB people have a "sexual orientation" and only trans people have a "gender identity or expression" and that everyone else is just normal. Coleman will have the challenge of making the moderate Republicans on the committee, particularly Kolkhorst, understand that the enumerated list in his nondiscrimination policy equality protects all students. Otherwise it is unlikely that the chairwoman will bring HB 1386 up for a committee vote, the next hurdle Coleman must overcome for his bill to become law.

Even if HB 1386 makes it out of committee time is running out for it to pass this session. There are 41 days left in the 82nd legislative session. In those 41 days HB 1386 must not only pass out of committee but must be approved by the entire House, voted out of Senate Committee and pass the Senate. Time is running out and Coleman's bill is behind schedule.

No comments:

Post a Comment