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Why Texas LGBTQ House Members Say New Federal Protection For Workers Isn't Enough

Austin Community College/Flickr (CC BY 2.0)
The Austin Pride Parade in 2017 in front of the state Capitol.

From Texas Standard:

Monday's landmark Supreme Court decision protecting LGBTQ workers from being fired because of their sexual orientation could especially embolden one group of Texas lawmakers to push for similar protections in state law.

Rep. Jessica González is a Democratic member of the Texas House. Her district includes parts of Grand Prairie and Cockrell Hill, outside of Dallas. She's also vice chair of the Texas House LGBTQ Caucus – a group that has been pushing to include LGBTQ protections in Texas law since the 2019 legislative session. González told Texas Standard host David Brown on Tuesday that she was thrilled by Monday's 6-3 court ruling. She said the House LGBTQ Caucus intends to continue its work toward a nondiscrimination bill for Texas.

"It's a landmark ruling in a series of landmark rulings that have come down in the past few years," González said. "The ruling set court precedent that the word 'sex,' under the 1964 Civli Right Act, includes sexual orientation and gender identity."

González said the legislation her caucus introduced last session, and will again bring up in 2021, would provide state protection in employment, housing and public accommodations. She said Texas is among 27 states that do not provide these protections to LGBTQ people. Without a new state law, González said Texans could be without protections because federal laws can be applied inconsistently at the state and local level. Texas could also rely on old law. 

Other members of the House intend to file bills aimed at protecting LGBTQ people, González said. They include a measure that would ban conversion therapy, and protections for LGBTQ people seeking health care.

Rep. Mary González, a Democrat from the El Paso area, is planning to file a piece of legislation she calls a “Romeo and Romeo” or “Juliet and Juliet” law. The state's current "Romeo and Juliet" law protects members of a heterosexual teenage couple from being charged as sex offenders if the teens are close in age, even if one is over the age of 17, and are in a consensual relationship. 

The House LGBTQ Caucus includes five members who openly identify as queer. Before the 2019 session, only two lawmakers had identified as LGBTQ.

"Our community needed to feel positive about something," González said, "and knowing that we have these five women in the Texas House that [are] not only going to advocate for issues that are important to our community,  but also when we have to play defense on laws that would come through that would discriminate against LGBTQ folks."

Web story by Shelly Brisbin.

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