Online Extra: Gays Across America: Advocates decry legislation to block protections, bathrooms
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LGBT advocates are decrying efforts by Texas legislators to pass bills that would ban protections against discrimination and block transgender people from using restrooms that match their gender identity, among other proposals.
Texas legislators have filed over two dozen anti-LGBT bills, advocates said in conference call Tuesday.
House Bill 2899 would prohibit cities in the Lone Star State from enacting protections for LGBT people and others. Senate Bill 6 would prohibit trans people from using the bathrooms of their choice.
Kate Oakley, senior legislative counsel at the Human Rights Campaign, said the bills are "part of an ongoing wave" attacking LGBTs across the U.S. Oakley and others referred to North Carolina's House Bill 2, which blocked protections designed to help LGBTs and banned trans people in that state from using bathrooms that match their gender identity. The law sparked boycotts by many corporations and cost the state millions of dollars. The sate recently enacted HB 142, which was touted as a repeal bill but has been criticized for being just as bad as HB 2.
The new bill "simply replaced one discriminatory anti-trans bill with another discriminatory anti-trans bill," Oakley said.
Texas' HB 2899 has "important similarities" to the North Carolina bills, she said, and despite whatever lawmakers may claim about wanting to promote safety for non-LGBTs, "none of these bills are actually about bathrooms," Oakley said. "They're all about prejudice. They're all about anti-trans discrimination."
Such legislation is especially harmful to young people and their "ability to receive the public education that they're entitled to and deserve," she said.
There's an important distinction between the North Carolina bills and the proposals in Texas.
HB 142 "wasn't overturning any existing protections," Oakley said, but in Texas, "There are millions of people who have protections in places of public accommodation that would be overturned by HB 2899."
Legislators are "trying to figure out how much discrimination is the right amount for Texas," she said, but "there can be no compromise when it comes to these issues. ... Any discrimination is too much discrimination."
Chase Strangio, an attorney with the American Civil Liberties Union, which has filed a lawsuit over HB 142, said, "These types of laws and the rhetoric around them makes [people] feel unsafe when they're going out in public."
Bills such as the ones in Texas are designed "to push trans people out of public life," Strangio said.
"No matter how the wording is phrased ... the intent and the impact is the same," he said.
Kathy Miller, president of the Texas Freedom Network, said, "What we have seen with these two dozen bills is the beginning of a refined strategy to chip away at any dreams of equality LGBT Texans had" after the U.S. Supreme Court legalized same-sex marriage in 2015.
"It's urgent right now that people pay attention," Miller said. "ï¿½We want people around the country to turn their eyes to Texas, because we feel like we need help in defeating the legislation."
Rachel Gonzales, a Texas woman who has a trans daughter, said that Texas lawmakers are working to "rip away existing protections for millions of people, including my child."
"She's just a normal little girl living a normal little girl's life," Gonzales said.
Spokespeople for state Representative Ron Simmons (R), who authored HB 2899, and Republican Governor Greg Abbott didn't respond to emailed questions.
National Honor Our LGBT Elders Day
Older LGBTs will be honored May 16 with National Honor Our LGBT Elders Day.
The day of recognition, first organized in 2016 by Baltimore's LGBT Health Resource Center of Chase Brexton Health Care, will pay homage to "the sacrifices and successes of LGBT older adults and thank them for leading the fight to expand LGBT rights," organizers, who stated that there are about 3 million LGBTs over the age of 55 throughout the country, said in a news release.
"Whether they fought quietly or stepped into the spotlight, LGBT elders have made a difference for all LGBT people," stated Nate Sweeney, the LGBT resource center's executive director "We're proud to offer a chance for LGBT communities across the country to thank these individuals for what they've given us."
Sweeney added, "More than ever, it's important that our community hear their stories, learn from their experiences, and carry their example forward as we continue the fight for equality."
For more information about National Honor Our LGBT Elders Day, including resources for planning a celebration, visit elder.lgbt.
Gays Across America is a column addressing LGBTQ issues nationwide. It runs most Tuesdays. Please submit comments or column ideas to Seth Hemmelgarn at (415) 875-9986 or firstname.lastname@example.org .