TFN Statement on HERO Ruling

A state judge today ruled that opponents of the Houston Equal Rights Ordinance did not gather enough valid petition signatures to force a repeal vote on the ordinance, which bars discrimination based on sexual orientation, gender identity and expression, race, religion, gender, military status and other categories. The anti-discrimination protections cover employment, housing and public accommodations.

TFN President Kathy Miller had this to say about today’s ruling:

The political activists who want to repeal this common sense ordinance reject the basic values we all share about equality and nondiscrimination. They have even argued for the right to discriminate against anyone, including LGBT people and religious minorities. That alone shows why it’s so important for the city to finally enforce these basic protections for everyone.

Posted in Houston Equal Rights Ordinance, LGBT issues, TFNEF | Leave a comment

Note to Religious-Righters: Opposing the Freedom to Marry Isn’t the Same as Opposing the Nazis

Lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people are as evil as Nazis? That sure seems to be the message in an email on Thursday from two Texas-based, religious-right groups, Dave Welch’s Texas Pastor Council and Rick Scarborough’s Vision America.

The email insists that “Christians must rally to defend Biblical marriage in Texas.” It then calls on readers to contact lawmakers in support of legislation that “defunds homosexual marriage” in Texas:

HB 4105 is a simple, two-page bill that affirms our existing law and also defunds homosexual marriage. This law will enable our Attorney General Ken Paxton to safeguard Texas against the potential upcoming judicial supremacy by the U.S. Supreme Court. The passage of HB 4105 now will enable Texas to defend against the imminent out-of-state pressure to impose homosexual marriage on Texas beginning the last week in June.

House Bill 4105 by state Rep. Cecil Bell, R-Magnolia, would do no such thing. While the bill would attempt to prohibit the use of state or local funds to license or support the marriage of gay and lesbian couples, it wouldn’t trump a Supreme Court ruling. The U.S. Constitution demands that Texas abide by such a ruling, just as the state had to abide by rulings striking down racial segregation in schools in 1954 and the ban on interracial marriage in 1967. In short, HB 4105 simply reflects a legislative temper tantrum by opponents of freedom and equality.

In any case, after asking pastors to include information about HB 4105 in materials for Sunday services, the email closes with a quote attributed to Dietrich Bonhoeffer:

“Silence in the face of evil is itself evil: God will not hold us guiltless. Not to speak is to speak. Not to act is to act.”

Bonhoeffer was a Protestant minister who actively opposed the Nazis. The Nazis arrested him in 1943, then hanged him in the final weeks of World War II in 1945.

The suggestion that opposing the freedom to marry for gay and lesbian couples is like opposing the Nazis is repulsive. It doesn’t just demean loving, committed couples seeking to marry. It also diminishes the despicable crimes committed by the Nazis.

But in their desperation to stop the advance of freedom and equality for all, religious-righters are turning to increasingly hyperbolic rhetoric. And that rhetoric shows their opposition is based on little more than prejudice and hate.

Posted in 2015 Texas Legislature, LGBT issues, marriage equality, Texas Pastor Council, TFN, Vision America | 6 Comments

Rep. Anchia Stands Up for Adopted Children and Calls Out the Bad Guys

State Rep. Rafael Anchia, D-Dallas, is serving in his sixth session of the Texas Legislature and had never made a personal privilege speech. Until yesterday.

Anchia went on the House floor to speak about a bill he’s filed in several sessions. It’s a reasonable bill that simply removes the requirement that supplemental birth certificates for adopted children must list a man and a woman as parents. But the parents of some adopted children are same-sex couples. So this small change would, for example, allow such adopted children to face one less headache when acquiring a passport or to obtain benefits if a parent dies. Rep. Anchia makes this point very clearly in the video clip below.

The bill is pro-family legislation that is opposed by the purportedly pro-family group Texas Values, which Anchia called out (though not by name) for spreading lies about the bill.

The bill is languishing in committee, prompting Anchia’s speech. Note at the end of the video clip that state Rep. Byron Cook, R-Corsicana, the chair of the committee considering Anchia’s bill, reaffirms his support of the legislation.

Watch the speech:

Posted in 2015 Texas Legislature, civil and equal rights, Texas Values, TFN | 2 Comments

This Week @ the Texas Legislature: Discrimination in Adoption, Foster Care and Child Welfare

Click below for contact information of committee members.

Wednesday, April 15
House Juvenile Justice & Family Issues

On Wednesday, a state House committee will take up HB 3864, by state Rep. Scott Sanford, R-McKinney. Like the recent Indiana law that caused such backlash, this bill would authorize state-sanctioned discrimination purportedly to protect religious freedom.

The primary consideration for a child welfare agency or organization should always be the best interests of the child — not advancing a sectarian belief or political agenda. This bill gets that backward.

Call the members of the Texas House Committee on Juvenile Justice & Family Issues and tell them to oppose HB 3864 because:

  • The bill is clearly intended to discriminate against LGBT children and families. As written the law would allow child welfare agencies (including adoption and foster care) that receive tax-payer dollars to pick and choose which children they will and will not work with.
  • The broad language of this bill would allow private agencies to discriminate against single or divorced people, interfaith couples, as well as people of different faiths than the agencies. All of these could potentially be turned away from providing homes to children – even if they are relatives of the child.
  • Current laws and regulations in Texas already balance the convictions of religiously affiliated child welfare service providers with the needs and beliefs of children they serve. There is no history of problems this bill would remedy.

Texas has a tragic history of partnering with child welfare organizations that use religious doctrine to mask child abuse and proselytizing. The Roloff Homes, a faith-based home for troubled teens run by fundamentalist preacher Lester Roloff, had a string of abuse and physical neglect allegations that ultimately forced them to close their facilities in Texas.

Posted in 2015 Texas Legislature, religious freedom, TFN | 3 Comments

This Week @ the Texas Legislature: Attacking LGBT Equality

Click below for contact information of committee members.

Wednesday, April 15
House State Affairs Committee

On Wednesday, we will see yet another legislative hearing on a bill attacking LGBT Texans. This bill takes aim on a particularly vulnerable population — transgender teens.

HB 2801 by state Rep. Gilbert Peña, R-Pasadena, would subject any school district to a fine of $2,000 if it allows a transgender person to use a restroom, locker room or shower facility appropriate to his or her gender identity.

Here is a helpful story from The Advocate about how wrongheaded — and dangerous — this proposal is.

Call the members of the House State Affairs committee and tell them you oppose HB 2801. Tell them that:

  • Restricting trans students to bathrooms based on “biological sex” puts such youth at risk for increased harassment and stigmatization. Trans students are already at greater risk for harassment and violence.
  • This bill is based on the false fear that trans people, particularly trans women, threaten the safety of women and children. Experts have repeatedly debunked the myth that transgender non-discrimination laws give sexual predators access to women’s restrooms.
Posted in 2015 Texas Legislature, LGBT issues, TFN | 6 Comments

This Week @ the Legislature: Attacking Abortion Access

Click below for contact information of committee members.

Tuesday, April 14
House State Affairs Committee

Wednesday, April 15
House Judiciary & Civil Jurisprudence Committee

Even after passing the most restrictive laws in the country, anti-abortion zealots in the Texas Legislature are back at it, trying to pass laws further squeezing access. They won’t stop until they’ve ended access to safe, legal abortion care for all women in Texas. Three bills with that goal will be heard this week in two separate committees:

Judiciary & Civil Jurisprudence (Tuesday)

HB 723 by state Rep. Phil King, R-Weatherford, would prohibit a court from appointing an attorney for a minor seeking an order authorizing consent for an abortion.

State Affairs (Wednesday)

HB 3446 by state Rep. Jodie Laubenberg, R-Parker, forces abortion providers to post signs with state-mandated language about the prohibition against forcing a woman to undergo an abortion, an abuse hotline number, and other information.

HB 3765 by state Rep. Jodie Laubenberg, R-Parker, adds even more rules dealing with parental consent for minors seeking an abortion.

Call the members of the Judiciary and Civil Jurisprudence and the State Affairs committees and tell them you oppose these bills. Tell them Texas has already gone too far in restricting access to legal abortion care, and that politicians should TRUST women and families to make their own reproductive health decisions.

State Affairs (Wednesday)

Surprisingly, it’s not all bad news related to reproductive rights at the Texas House this week. On Wednesday the House State Affairs committee will take up “Marlise’s Law.” HB 3183 by state Rep. Elliott Naishtat, D-Austin, would strike a provision in Texas’ Health and Safety Code that requires pregnant women to be kept on mechanical support against their advance directives. The bill removes the pregnancy exclusions from the Health and Safety Code, which outlines the rights and procedures for end-of-life decision-making.

Call committee members and tell them you support giving pregnant Texans and their families the same end-of-life decision-making rights as people who are not pregnant. The Legislature trust women and their families to make their own decisions regarding end of life care.

Posted in 2015 Texas Legislature, abortion, Reproductive health, TFN | 7 Comments

This Week @ the Texas Legislature: Attacking Muslim Americans

Click below for contact information of committee members.

Tuesday, April 14
Judiciary & Civil Jurisprudence Committee

For the second time this year, the House Judiciary and Civil Jurisprudence committee will hear bills targeting Muslim Americans with thinly veiled discriminatory legislation:

HB 899 by state Rep. Pat Fallon, R-Frisco, would bar application of foreign laws and foreign forum selection in family law cases in state courts. This appears to be another attempt to promote fear-mongering over the mythical threat of Islamic law (Sharia) in Texas.

HB 3698 by state Rep. Molly White, R-Belton, is a poorly veiled anti-Sharia bill that imposes regulations on nonbinding dispute resolution proceedings conducted by religious organizations.

Call the members of this committee and tell them you oppose these discriminatory bills because:

  • The U.S. and Texas Constitutions already prohibit courts from imposing any religious law as civil law.
  • The American Bar Association has made clear that bills like these duplicate safeguards already enshrined in federal and state law.
  • The Anti-Defamation Defamation League calls bills like these “a form of camouflaged bigotry” that treats “Muslim Americans as foreigners and anti-American crusaders.”
Posted in 2015 Texas Legislature, Sharia law, TFN | 7 Comments

Tax-Credit Vouchers: An Attack on Public Education in Texas

As the Texas Senate prepares to take up a tax-credit voucher scam — as early as Tuesday — check out this video from the Southern Education Foundation. The Foundation’s three-minute video explains how direct vouchers and tax-credit vouchers undermine public education as tax dollars are siphoned off to private and religious schools.

Posted in 2015 Texas Legislature, vouchers | 1 Comment

This Week @ the Texas Legislature: Vouchers on Senate Floor

Call your senator TODAY in opposition to this reckless raid on funding for neighborhood public schools. Click here to find the name and phone number for your senator.

Big moves behind the scenes tell us the Senate could take up a massive private school voucher bill this week. It’s critical that you call your senator TODAY and express your strong opposition to Senate Bill 4.

SB 4 gives tax breaks to wealthy interests that fund voucher “scholarships” at private and religious schools. An independent analysis has shown that the bill’s backers are dramatically underestimating the cost of this tax-credit scam — to the tune of billions of dollars in coming years.

Meanwhile, our neighborhood schools are still struggling with billions of dollars in state funding cuts the Legislature passed in 2011.

Please click here to find the name and phone number for your senator. When you call, tell them:

  • No matter what else supporters call SB 4, it’s nothing more than a backdoor voucher scheme. Texas can’t afford to fund two separate school systems: one public and accountable to taxpayers, the other private and unaccountable to taxpayers.
  • Every tax dollar lost to tuition subsidies is a dollar unavailable for neighborhood public schools still struggling with massive budget cuts passed by the Legislature in 2011.
  • Tax-credit vouchers in states like Georgia and Pennsylvania have been shown to be plagued by corruption and scams that benefit the wealthy.
Posted in 2015 Texas Legislature, education, TFN, vouchers | 9 Comments

The Week in Quotes (April 5 – 11)

Here are some of the week’s most notable quotes culled from news reports from across Texas, and beyond.

continue reading »

Posted in The Week in Quotes | 1 Comment