Despite targeted challenges, time (and public opinion) is on the side of equality in Texas
Published: June 29, 2011
Last summer, members of Equality Texas were lambasting the Texas Republican Party for including “divisive and bigoted” tenets in their party’s platform, which included working to remove those living with HIV/AIDS (as well as learning disabilities and behavioral disorders) from definitions of the Americans with Disabilities Act. But this summer, Equality Texas is celebrating passage of both anti-bullying legislation and a new suicide-prevention law. “One would think this would be a no-brainer,” Equality spokesperson Chuck Smith told the Current last week. “Unfortunately the reality of that is that it was much more difficult than it should have been.”
Also unfortunate was the amount of distancing the group had to do to move the bill. Smith said Equality was kept busy countering insinuations by radical conservative groups that the bill would be advancing the “homosexual agenda.” “The good news is that, one, that’s not true. And we were able to help people understand that’s not true,” Smith said.
Perry has kept his distance, too. Even though HB 1942 contains no specific protections for LGBT youth, his press office failed to even include the bill in a press release about legislation he signed off on Friday, June 17.
The law requires school districts to adopt anti-bulling policies that must take into account electronic harassment. The suicide prevention law instructs the state health department to create suicide prevention resources for Texas schools. Both bills were propelled along by the moving testimony of the parents of a Houston-area boy who shot himself in the head after enduring months of bullying at school.
Now comes Stage Two: watching to see that it is implemented fairly. “We will keep looking to see that the law is enforced equally. If it turns out a teacher or school administrator looks the other way, then in our opinion they should be fired,” Smith said. “If legislation needs to be more explicit in dealing with orientation or gender identity, it’s going to take electing some different people.”
Perry’s prayer team
With the close of the special session, Stonewall’s Graney said many LGBT organizations have turned their attention to Perry’s August 6 prayer gathering in Houston, sponsored by the American Family Association, an organization deemed an anti-gay hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center.
In one statement that has particularly roused LGBT groups, AFA public policy analyst Bryan Fischer decried gays serving in the military in his AFA blog, saying, “Homosexuality gave us Adolph Hitler, and homosexuals in the military gave us the Brown Shirts, the Nazi war machine, and six million dead Jews.” Fischer also says gays should be banned from holding any type of public office, and regularly admonishes companies that participate in gay pride festivals or parades. “Teaming up with groups like the American Family Association, which basically attributes the Holocaust to homosexuals, is an insult to us,” Graney said, “especially because [gays and lesbians] were exterminated in the concentration camps as well.”
See you in Houston, Stonewallers? •