What Happened last Wednesday April, 19 2017 at the Texas State capital?
After we lost the first round in the battle over Transgender discrimination to the Texas Senate, the fight moved on to the Texas house of representatives on it's way to becoming a law
First, I want to express my gratitude to the many skilled and persistent warriors that came together to fight for human rights. Its an honor to be associated with the Parents, Allies, gender-non conforming and trans people who put in an extremely long day to speak against discrimination and pushed to kill Texas HB2899.
The senate passed SB6 and now the House had to take up the bill. Facing a much more hostile environment, proponents came to the conclusion that it would not pass as written. So they wrote a new bill modeled on the 'compromise' bill recently adopted by the State of North Carolina. This removed specific bathroom language from their HB2 but was still heavily anti LGBTQ+
Although we had to wait until the wee hours of the next am to speak, we were a constant stream of activity. We took he opportunity to visit with many rep's staff. We stopped by and thanked Representative Turners office for his letter urging the NFL leaders not to be fooled by HB2899.
A request for our opinion on the bill prior to the committee hearing was received by Stephanie Martinez and a group was sent to answer questions in their office.
After an amendment to the so called 'Uber' bill came to light we sent advocates to the house chamber, making our presence, and displeasure known. The bill contained language to prevent discrimination and stipulated that Uber type services would not discriminate on the basis of sex. The amendment added further language to define 'sex' as "The physical state of being male or female". This would eliminate any interpretation to include sexual orientation or gender identity in that clause. Effectively making discrimination against LGBTQ+ legal.
We applied the strength of our numbers to a large stack of documents the HRC needed sorting through. They (the HRC) had collected opinion cards from hundreds of people opposed to LGBTQ+ discrimination and they needed to be sent to the correct Representative. Everyone took a stack, looked up by address the correct rep, marked and sorted them.
Finally the hearing began around 8:30 Wednesday night. There were many bills to get through and the chair said up front HB2899 would be taken last and that all signed up to speak would be heard. Voting on all bills would be postponed to a later meeting.
When HB2899 was finally up, they began with a reading by it's author. It immediately turned into CAHB2899 (committee substitute House Bill) and we learned that it had been narrowed down considerably. The author further stated that they would be presenting a newer version the next day with even narrower language. We feel that this was an attempt to remove the many objections raised by our supporting organizations and the media. The chair informed the bill author that they could only consider the version as presented here and not some future version.
There were many major cities testifying against, Austin, Dallas, El Paso and San Antonio to name a few. The Texas Business Association spoke as well with new data and a representative from the data company to explain their methods. At the senate hearing they were completely disrespected and their data was called flawed, not this time.
There were many, many wonderful testimonies, many powerful, some brought tears to the eyes of the committee and well as the audience.
They were schooled in the poor state of the proponents data sources, informed that Non-Discrimination ordinances were major draws to people moving to Texas cities and that there would be mass flight if the bill were enacted. There were way too many to list here, but I want to point out a few.
Monica Roberts delivered a powerful lesson on the transgender experience. Monica is has been an advocate for Transgender, and Transgender POC rights for many years and is no stranger to political battles.
Claire Bow, former Texas assistant attorney general and transgender woman, took a legal approach and shredded the validity of the bill.
Claire is a leading advocate famous for her work helping the transgender community through the legal nightmare that Texas requires for gender marker change,
Anna Nguyen attacked the absurdity of the ‘Uniform law’ argument that had been used in defense of the bill.
Nicole Lynn Perry took Anna's argument further and called for a statewide anti-discrimination law to protect all LGBTQ+ people.
Ash Hall eloquently pointed out the hypocrisy in calling this protection for women, and called on the legislature to concentrate their protection efforts to the college campuses sexual assault crisis.
Rachel & Frank Gonzales, with sleeping children in hand, delivered a powerful message about protecting the children truly in need, the transgender children who would be targets of mental anguish and subjected to increased bullying under this bill.
And I left them with a question: “What side of history will you be on?”
In the end there were 389 registered testimonies. 2 neutral, 18 for and 369 against (95% against). There were 72 who actually spoke to the committee last night, 6 for, 66 against.
The House committee on State affairs was a far more fair and unbiased panel that the senate version. The chair was extremely diligent in handling everyone by the rules, and applied them evenly. While some of his comments could be seen as helping one side or the other, and both were seen, careful examination shows that he was just applying the rules of the committee. Thank you Mr. Chairman, I applaud your fairness.
In that light many of the ‘Alternate facts’ presented by the proponents were called into question for their validity, something the senate committee was incapable of.
It was a long day and a half with some putting in a 20+ hour day, with many of us finally getting to bed at or after the time we got up the day before.
Did we ‘Win’? We don’t know yet and won’t until the committee gets some well deserved rest and convinces to take a vote. But the mood of the advocates was good and we felt we truly had a chance to make our case in a fair and unbiased forum.