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Texas lawmakers clash over resolution recognizing LGBTQ business groups

People standing in a balcony look down at the House floor
Sergio Martínez-Beltrán
DR Hanson, a member of the North Texas LGBT Chamber of Commerce, stands in the gallery of the Texas House with other members of LGBTQ chambers from across the state on Tuesday.

After DR Hanson joined the North Texas LGBT Chamber of Commerce last year, members asked if he’d join them for their first ever advocacy day at the Texas Capitol. He didn’t think twice about saying yes.

Hanson and his husband own Common Ground Games, a games store in Texas. He said more than half of their 12 employees identify as LGBTQ. He saw the advocacy day – held Tuesday – as an opportunity to raise awareness for their rights in front of an oppressive legislative body.

“When the Legislature put out 77 bills attacking my family and my community, it’s our responsibility and our privilege to advocate for them,” Hanson told The Texas Newsroom on Tuesday afternoon, referring to bills introduced during the 2021 legislative session.

But his advocacy day at the Capitol on Tuesday quickly soured.

A Senate and House resolution that was supposed to recognize Feb. 14 as Texas LGBTQ Chambers of Commerce Advocacy Day was never read on the floor. In other words, legislators decided not to move it forward.

“It was like a weird, passive aggressive high school thing of, like, the popular girls turning their back on the unpopular girls,” Hanson said. “And it was really hurtful.”

Sen. Sarah Eckhardt, D-Austin, the author of the measure, said she decided against moving it forward when she was “made aware that some senators would object to it.” Eckhardt’s office didn’t provide names of the members who said they would oppose the resolution.

“Although the Texas Senate routinely recognizes business groups without controversy, this very first LGBTQ chambers day in the Texas Senate is not afforded the same welcome,” Eckhardt said.

The resolutions approved by the Senate Tuesday included one recognizing Feb. 14 as Montgomery County Day and another honoring Miss Texas 2022.

The House also declined to recognize the LGBTQ chamber resolution.

Rep. Bryan Slaton, R-Royse City, tweeted early Tuesday that if any motion was made to suspend the rules and recognize the resolution honoring the LGBTQ chambers of commerce, he would oppose it. He called it a “leftist attack on Valentine’s” Day.

In a brief interview with The Texas Newsroom, Slaton explained the reasoning behind his opposition.

“Valentine’s Day and marriage, I have a traditional value,” Slaton said. “And that is a Democrat policy, all the LGBTQ agenda.”

LGBTQ businesses and the economy

LGBTQ-owned businesses and chambers have existed for decades and have made a significant impact on the state’s and country’s economies.

According to the National LGBT Chamber of Commerce, LGBTQ businesses have created over 33,000 jobs and have contributed over $1.7 trillion to the U.S. economy.

They have also been successful at defeating anti-LGBTQ legislation in Texas; after their lobbying efforts, only one of the more than 70 anti-LGBTQ bills became law in 2021.

Don Mamone, an identity coach and diversity consultant, said being at the Capitol Tuesday ignited a fire in them.

“The purpose of today is, business is business, and Texas should be open for all,” they said. “Most of the folks here are small businesses … and if there’s a hindrance to our business, and if our community and our allies are marginalized or in any way treated poorly, we lose staffing, we lose workforce.”

Mamone is also a member of the North Texas LGBT Chamber of Commerce. They said they hoped to have educated and opened the hearts of some lawmakers.

“That’s why we collectively move the needle forward,” Mamone said.

Sergio Martínez-Beltrán is the former Texas Capitol reporter for The Texas Newsroom.
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