LGBTQ community demands equality at state capitol

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AUSTIN — A diverse coalition of LGBTQ equality, civil rights and religious freedom groups gathered with grassroots advocates at the Capitol Monday to demand state lawmakers focus their efforts on legislation that would acknowledge the rights and human dignity of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender Texans instead of proposals – most notably Senate Bill 6 — that would amount to state-sanctioned discrimination.

The coalition made the plea at All In For Equality Day, the largest gathering during the current session of the Texas Legislature focused on achieving full LGBTQ equality for all Texans. It comes during a legislative session in which lawmakers have filed numerous bills that would directly impact the LGBTQ community.

The gathering was a joint effort of Equality Texas, ACLU of Texas, Texas Freedom Network, Transgender Education Network of Texas and Human Rights Campaign. 

The Morrisons from the Dallas-Ft. Worth area are the proud parents of a transgender daughter, 8-year-old Chelsa Morrison. "I think our kids need to be treated fairly,” said Andrew and Chelsa Morrison. "I think our kids need to be protected from discrimination, and I'm here today to make sure my child is protected under the law. We are not fighting about bathrooms. We are fighting for our children’s lives."

“It is the responsibility of all of us to educate ourselves so these false attacks can be exposed for what they are, a solution where there is no problem to perpetuate discrimination against LGBTQ Texans,” said Chuck Smith, CEO of Equality Texas. “Lt. Governor Patrick appeals to the worst chapters of our history, in which discrimination runs rampant and understanding and compassion are absent. Transgender students, like transgender adults, don’t want to cause any problems. They simply want to use the bathroom when the need arises. The lt. governor’s bill threatens our children and threatens the Texas economy.”

“We were here today, as the leading advocates of sexual assault victims in the state of Texas to tell you that SB6 does nothing to help victims of sexual assault,” said Christopher Kaiser, General Counsel for the Texas Association Against Sexual Assault. “This discriminatory bill is not about protecting women or children and will do nothing to protect women and children. This bill will not protect victims of sexual assault. That is why nearly every sexual assault and domestic violence agency in the United States strongly opposes these discriminatory bathroom bills.”  

A number of the proposals filed by lawmakers this year are religious refusal bills, which would allow businesses and individuals to refuse to obey anti-discrimination laws.

“These bills are a shameful misuse of religion as a weapon to divide, and they amount to a radical redefinition of religious freedom to allow individuals and businesses to discriminate against the LGBTQ community and to impose their religious beliefs on others,” said Kathy Miller, president of the Texas Freedom Network. “We should never allow politicians to turn this country’s cherished principle of religious freedom into the right to pick and choose which laws to obey.”

“While our state should be focused on funding public schools and reforming child protective services, some lawmakers are instead prioritizing mean-spirited policies that target LGBTQ Texans, refugees, immigrants and women,” said Rebecca L. Robertson, legal and policy director of the ACLU of Texas. “To make matters worse, they’re hiding behind religion to do it. Freedom of religion is our birth right as Texans, and guaranteed to everyone by the Constitution. But freedom of religion does not give anyone the right to impose their beliefs on others or to discriminate against people they don’t like. Today at the Capitol, hundreds of Texans are demanding that lawmakers do better.”

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