As we celebrate the 4th of July in Texas we still fight for LGBTQ Rights!

The 4th of July 1776 was an incredible day marking the freedom of America. But 241 years later it seems many of us are still fighting for freedom from discrimination in the most homophobic, anti-immigrant, anti-women’s rights and anti-healthcare state in the United States.

With the current lawsuit filed by Mayor Adler of Austin, Austin City Council, Travis County, El Paso, Dallas, Houston, San Antonio, MALDEF, the ACLU and so many other organizations it seems the fights are just beginning. Of course, this lawsuit is over SB 4 “The Sanctuary City-Show Me Your Papers” law which would illegally force hispanic people to show papers at the smallest of traffic stops but also override city and county ordinances and allow the state to remove Mayors, Sheriffs, Police and members of their staff from office for not following this law and also possible jail time and fines up to $25,000. This is not Independence day but a day of Dictatorship!

In the 85th Legislative Session we also faced Anti-LGBTQ, Anti-Muslim, Anti-Jew or other religions than Christianity, Anti-single parent, Anti-mixed race marriage, pretty much Anti-anything a person wants to say offends their “highly held religious beliefs” which is blatant legal discrimination by Religious Refusal. This became apparent when HB 3859 passed and was signed into law. The Religious Refusal law that allows adoption agencies, child welfare services and foster parents services, even if they receive state funding, to turn away those that they choose.

In the upcoming special session starting July 18th the 1st and only priority to Governor Greg Abbott of Texas is the passing of a “Sunset Bill” that would keep the board that licenses and renews licenses of Doctors open and functioning. Without this bill passing this board would be closed down not allowing new doctors to be licensed in Texas and also disallow current doctors licenses from being renewed. This is just the tip of the iceberg as far as board renewals as it would effect nurses, pharmacists and so many more.

Abbott said no other bills can be considered until this bill is passed. Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick used this bill as a trump card when he would not allow a “Sunset Bill” to be passed in the normal session and force a special session so he could once again bring up his much disputed and protested “Bathroom Bill”. Be sure to watch as this is going to be the “Major Fight” in the special session. Patrick and his Radical Evangelical Religious Right Republicans will once again be pushing this non-issue in Texas. There has not been a single case proven in Texas where a child or woman has been molested by a transgender person. This is typical “Fear Politics” being revved up by Republican right-wing extremists.

On the other hand, you must give Republican Speaker of the House, Joe Straus, high praise. As I have stated in previous articles he has called the “Bathroom Bill” a non-issue, a solution looking for a problem. Straus said there has been no issue with this in San Antonio, the area he represents, nor has he had any constituents contact him on this issue. Straus did not even bring SB 6 “The Bathroom Bill” sent over from the Texas Senate to committee during the 85th session. Obviously a move that infuriated Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick. Straus did try compromise on Sunday evening May 21st by adding an anti-transgender amendment to SB 2708 “multi-hazard emergency operations plans” which originally pertained to the regulation of school districts’ emergency response plans in cases of natural disasters, active shooters and other “dangerous scenarios.”

The House added the following language that would require K-12 schools to provide single-stall restrooms, locker rooms and changing facilities to a student “who does not wish” to use facilities designated by “biological sex.” It’s a measure that would override existing trans-inclusive policies in some school districts that allow transgender children to use the bathroom of their choice.  This dangerous legislation singles out transgendered students who already experience bullying and high suicide rates.

The House passed this bill in a 91 to 50 vote. By focusing on schools, Republicans could presumably prevent some business loss concerns by letting stand local nondiscrimination ordinances, some on the books for decades in the state’s biggest cities, Dallas, Fort Worth, San Antonio, El Paso and Austin, that are meant to allow transgender residents to use bathrooms that match their gender identity.

When this bill was returned to the Senate, Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick who has spent months championing far-reaching restrictions on bathroom use said the amendment’s “ambiguous language” didn’t “appear to do much.” The Texas Senate said a definite NO to the bill. Because of Patrick’s refusal to even consider the amendment on SB 2708 Speaker Straus said the House will not appoint members to negotiate with the Senate on its proposed compromise on a “bathroom bill.”

So this is where we stand on the 4th of July in Texas. We now prepare once agains to “Resist and Persist” in our fight against discrimination against the LGBTQ Community, People of Color, Women’s Rights, Healthcare/Medicaid  and fighting for all citizens that Texas Governor Abbott wants to repress and discriminate against. When “Religious Refusal” gets its fingers ensnared in state legislation it won’t be long before anyone in the state will be able to use “highly held religious beliefs” as a legal argument to discriminate against anybody they choose.

Now, more than ever, everyone in Texas, and other states that allow this type of legal discrimination, must step up and not only volunteer for organizations such as the Human Rights Campaign, Equality Texas and the ACLU. Just as important, we must also begin running for offices at the local level. This is truly where change begins and we must all become involved. Be sure to use your voice and call Gov. Greg Abbott’s office at 512-463-2000 or look up your Texas state senators and representatives phone numbers at “Who Represents Me” by clicking the link. Start calling your representatives daily starting July 5th and demand that no Anti-LGBTQ or “Religious Refusal” laws be passed in the upcoming special session July 18th. Discrimination is becoming law in Texas and is allowing religion as the tool  to make this possible. The separation of church and state is slowly being blended by Republican legislators and governors like Greg Abbott as they try to make this the “New Normal”. This can never be tolerated or allowed to happen!