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Monday, November 14, 2016

First Pro-LGBT bill of the session filed: HB 192 - Housing Non-Discrimination

And we're off! The first pro-LGBT bill of the session was filed by Rep. Diego Bernal (D-San Antonio)' and it's HB 192. The bill would prohibit discrimination in housing on the basis of gender identity or expression and sexual orientation. HB 192 is identical to Rep. Bernal's HB 2860 filed last session and tracks the housing sections of Sen. Rodriguez's omnibus nondiscrimination bill from last session.

HB 192 doesn't create any new legal mechanisms but adds gender identity and expression and sexual orientation to the existing protections against housing discrimination on the basis of race, color, religion, sex, disability, familial status and national origin. The definitions in the bill are the standard ones that have been used in LGBT non-discirmination bills in Texas for the last decade:

"Gender identity or expression" means having or being perceived as having a gender-related identity, appearance, expression, or behavior, regardless of whether that identity, appearance, expression, or behavior is different from that commonly associated with the person's actual or perceived sex.
"Sexual orientation" means the actual or perceived status of a person with respect to the person's sexuality."
The bill also removes existing language in the protections against housing discrimination based on "disability" that explicitly states that the protections do not apply to sexual orientation to a person who is "a transvestite."

Last session the bill was referred to the House State Affairs Committee where it languished along with the employment and public accommodations non-discrimination bills.

It will be interesting to see how this bill is received given the recent national conversation preferring legislation that covers all three areas (employment, housing and public accommodation) and the growing tendency by some to perceive this kind of directed approach as "throwing people under the bus." It would be a real shame if Rep. Bernal, who was the driving force behind the passage of San Antonio's nondiscrimination ordinance, and who has a deep commitment to the transgender community, was painted with such a brush. I would encourage anyone who has any questions about this bill (or would just like to say thank you) to contact Rep. Bernal before jumping to conclusions. His e-mail is diego.bernal@house.state.tx.us

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