Clock Runs Out on Marriage Discrimination Bill in Texas House!

We saw a huge win for equality in Texas at midnight last night when the clock ran out on efforts in the Texas House of Representatives to pass a bill, HB 4105, barring state and local officials from issuing or recognizing marriage licenses for gay and lesbian couples regardless of what the U.S. Supreme Court rules on the freedom to marry this summer. We’re still watching very closely for any effort to amend anti-LGBT bills onto other legislation. But let’s take a minute to celebrate an important victory over efforts by religious-right groups to enshrine discrimination against lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people and their families into law.

And that victory is due in part because of people from across the state who called and wrote legislators in opposition to this reckless and discriminatory bill. As the press release below notes, calls and emails flooded legislative offices all week. Businesses also called on lawmakers to stop the attack on LGBT Texans. And bill opponents in the House did a great job making sure the clock ran out before the bill could be brought to a vote. Here’s the press release we sent out at midnight:

GROUPS HAIL FAILURE OF TEXAS HOUSE TO PASS MARRIAGE DISCRIMINATION BILL

Clock Runs Out on HB 4105, But Discrimination Measures Still a Danger Until End of Session

Civil liberties and LGBT rights groups tonight are hailing the failure by the Texas House of Representatives to pass HB 4105, which would bar the state from granting, enforcing or recognizing marriage licenses for same-sex couples even if the U.S. Supreme Court strikes down state bans on such marriages as unconstitutional. A growing number of major Texas-based companies, including Dell in Round Rock and Celanese in Irving, have come out publicly against the bill this week. Emails and calls have also flooded legislative offices in opposition to the bill. Moreover, House opponents successfully managed the bill schedule to keep HB 4105 from coming up for a vote. Following are statements from the Texas Freedom Network, American Civil Liberties Union of Texas, Equality Texas and the Human Rights Campaign.

Kathy Miller, president, Texas Freedom Network
“We hope today’s action means the death of this irresponsible bill and are grateful to all of the legislators who have worked hard to ensure that it never gets out of the House. This was just one bill among many in a broad strategy to lock in discrimination against gay and transgender Texans and subvert a Supreme Court ruling on the freedom to marry. Bad actors will continue to push their discrimination legislation, including as amendments to other bills, until the final gavel. So we’re not letting our guard down now.”

Terri Burke, executive director, American Civil Liberties Union of Texas
“HB 4105 would have accomplished nothing constructive. That this hateful, retrograde legislation has failed is an encouraging reflection that most Texans value equality.”

Chuck Smith, executive director, Equality Texas
“Thanks to the leadership of our allies in the Texas House, the clock ran out on HB 4105 at midnight. Unfortunately for LGBT Texans, there are still 17 days remaining in the legislative session – 17 days during which homophobic and transphobic lawmakers will continue to look for amendment opportunities to inflict discrimination. We must continue to fight their efforts to defy the Supreme Court and to deny equality to LGBT Texans – through the end of the legislative session and beyond.”

Marty Rouse, national field director, Human Rights Campaign
“As a deplorable last-ditch effort to try to stop marriage equality from reaching the state if the Supreme Court rules in favor of equality this summer, this destructive and divisive bill would have sent the wrong message about the future of the Lone Star State and the ability of all Texans to live and thrive there. We urge lawmakers to ensure neither this bill nor the more than twenty other pieces of discriminatory legislation targeting LGBT Texans and their families move any further.”

Posted in 2015 Texas Legislature, LGBT issues, marriage equality, TFN | 6 Comments

Protecting Your Religious Freedom — So Long as You’re Christian?

TxSenateGOP

That’s a tweet today from the Texas Senate Republican Caucus. Apparently, nothing says “protecting your religious freedom” better than saying it while promoting the symbol of the majority religious faith. Courageous, yes?

Posted in religious freedom, TFNEF | 9 Comments

Business Begins Pushback on Texas Discrimination Bills?

We’re hearing that major companies with headquarters or a significant presence in Texas are starting to push back against a number of anti-LGBT discrimination bills nearing votes in the Texas Legislature this week. Most of it’s happening in private meetings, apparently. But earlier this afternoon, Pamela Colloff from Texas Monthly tweeted that oil and gas giant BP reached out to her about “the anti-discrimination debate playing out in the Texas statehouse.” The full BP statement wasn’t available in the tweet, but it says in part that “BP opposes discrimination of any kind.”

We got this news around the same time we learned today that the Texas House could be voting Wednesday on a measure that would allow child welfare service providers that contract with the state to use religion to discriminate. Working with our coalition partners at the ACLU of Texas and Equality Texas, we sent out the following urgent memo to reporters:

LEGISLATION ALLOWING CHILD WELFARE SERVICE PROVIDERS TO USE RELIGION TO DISCRIMINATE FILED AS AMENDMENT TO SUNSET BILL

Family and Protective Services Sunset Bill Scheduled for House Vote on Wednesday

Yet another piece of legislation designed to allow discrimination against gay and transgender Texans could come to a vote on the floor of the Texas House of Representatives as early as Wednesday. State Rep. Sanford’s HB 3864, which would allow child welfare service providers to use religion to discriminate, has been filed as a proposed amendment to the sunset bill for the Department of Family and Protective Services. That sunset bill, HB 2433 by state Rep. Burkett, is on the House calendar for Wednesday, May 13.

If enacted into law, Rep. Sanford’s amendment would allow child welfare providers to discriminate against not just gay and transgender families seeking to provide loving homes for children who need them, but also against people of other faiths, interfaith couples and anyone else to whom a provider objects for religious reasons. This would seriously weaken the state’s child welfare system by further shrinking the pool of qualified parents who can provide a safe, loving home for children.

Moreover, the amendment would expose minors to potential harm, even allowing child welfare service providers to force gay and transgender minors into abusive and discredited reparative “therapy” programs to change their sexual orientation or gender identity. In fact, the state would potentially have no recourse to act to protect such children from that harm.

Let’s be clear: this amendment puts a political agenda and personal beliefs ahead of the interests of children in the state’s welfare system, many of whom have come into that system because of abuse and neglect. Decisions about the placement of those children in safe, loving homes should be based on their needs and on the ability of families to meet those needs, not the religious or moral objections of the agencies with which the state has contracted to provide those services.

The move to amend Sanford’s bill onto HB 2433 comes in the same week that the Senate and House are considering other bills targeting LGBT Texans. HB 4105, which would bar public officials from granting or recognizing marriage licenses for same-sex couples even if the Supreme Court overturns the state’s ban on such unions, is set for a House vote as early as today. SB 2065, which deals with clergy performing marriage ceremonies, passed the Senate on third reading today. It’s companion bill, HB 3567, is set for a House vote as early as today.

Posted in 2015 Texas Legislature, LGBT issues, TFN | 7 Comments

The Week in Quotes (May 3 – 9)

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 | 2 Comments

Sirius Radio Host Bringing Show to Texas for Battle over LGBT Discrimination Bills

SignorileBookMove over Indiana. The religious right’s campaign to enshrine in Texas law discrimination against lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people and their families is putting the Lone Star State in the national spotlight.

In fact, all eyes will be on Texas when the House votes Tuesday on whether to defy a potential U.S. Supreme Court supporting the freedom to marry for gay and lesbian couples. Both the Senate and the House are set to vote on other legislation that would also open the door to discrimination in Texas.

We wanted to alert you to a couple of related events. Michelangelo Signorile is bringing his national Sirius XM radio program to Austin May 18-19 to cover the battle over LGBT equality at the Texas Capitol. The journalist and bestselling author has chronicled the modern movement for LGBT equality since the 1980s. So if you’re a Sirius XM subscriber, make sure to tune in to the show May 18-19.

Signorile will also be speaking and signing copies of his new book, It’s Not Over: Getting Beyond Tolerance, Defeating Homophobia, and Winning True Equality, at BookPeople in Austin on May 18. Click here for more on that event.

Posted in 2015 Texas Legislature, LGBT issues | 3 Comments

Religious-Righters Are Pressuring Texas House to Pass Marriage Discrimination Bill

Want to know a big reason the Texas House is dragging the Lone Star State into the public relations firestorm that engulfed Indiana this spring, when the legislature there moved to enshrine discrimination against LGBT people in state law? It’s what religious-righters want, and they hold the Texas Republican Party in their grip.

In fact, Steven Hotze, head of the Conservative Republicans of Texas, this week vomited out another anti-LGBT screed to religious-right activists. In an online post Monday, Hotze demanded that lawmakers pass House Bill 4105 by state Rep. Cecil Bell, R-Magnolia. Bell’s legislation would bar state and local officials from granting or recognizing licenses for same-sex marriages even if the U.S. Supreme Court strikes down the state ban on those unions. HB 4105 is now set to go to the floor of the Texas House on Tuesday (May 12).

Hotze’s rationale for passing such a bill? From his Monday post:

Wickedness needs to be called wickedness. The practice and promotion of sodomy and sodomatrimony is wicked. The homofascists intend on forcing Christians and everyone else to accept, condone, affirm and even celebrate sodomy as normal. The homosexuals want it taught to children starting in kindergarten so they can sear their consciences and more easily recruit your children and grandchildren to homosexuality. This is what is happening in Massachusetts which was the first state to allow homosexual‘mirage.’ It will lead to the criminalization of Biblical Christianity. It’s evil. It’s wicked.

Hotze and other opponents of equality are trying to make Texas the last bastion of discrimination in this country. It’s important that supporters of equality and the freedom to marry fight back. Click here to send an email telling your legislator to vote against HB 4105 on Tuesday. Texas is constitutionally bound by Supreme Court rulings, and HB 4105 is both an embarrassment and an outrageous attack on the principle of equality under the law for all Texans.

Posted in 2015 Texas Legislature, LGBT issues, marriage equality, Steven Hotze, TFN | 4 Comments

Texas House Schedules Vote on Bill Blocking Freedom to Marry

The Texas Legislature appears on the verge of passing Indiana-style legislation that discriminates against gay and lesbian families, barring same-sex couples from getting married even if the U.S. Supreme Court strikes down the state’s ban on those unions. We just sent out the following press release:

Civil liberties and LGBT rights organizations today joined in warning the Texas House of Representatives against passage next week of legislation intended to subvert a potential U.S. Supreme Court ruling on marriage and lock in discrimination against gay and lesbian families.

HB 4105 by state Rep. Cecil Bell, R-Magnolia, is set for debate and a vote on the floor of the Texas House of Representatives on Tuesday, May 12.

The bill would prohibit local and state officials from granting, enforcing or recognizing marriage licenses for gay and lesbian couples, and it bans public funding from being used to do so. The bill’s supporters have said their goal is to defy a potential Supreme Court ruling striking down the state’s ban on same-sex marriage.

HB 4105 is one of more than 20 proposed bills in the Texas Legislature that would enshrine in state law discrimination against gay and transgender Texans.

Chuck Smith, executive director, Equality Texas

“Extremist lawmakers in Texas are trying to preserve the right to discriminate no matter what the Supreme Court might say about marriage. Passing this bill would make Texas look intolerant and unwelcoming and would harm the state. It must be rejected.

Kathy Miller, president, Texas Freedom Network

“This irresponsible and mean-spirited bill doesn’t just put Texas on a collision course with a potential Supreme Court ruling. Its passage would also bring national condemnation by attempting to lock in discrimination against gay and lesbian couples who simply want to make a lifetime commitment and protect their families the same way everyone else does. It’s clear that some of the folks at the Texas Capitol learned little from the way Indiana’s lawmakers wrecked their state’s national reputation with their own discriminatory legislation this spring.”

Terri Burke, executive director, American Civil Liberties Union of Texas

“This end-run play to subvert a Supreme Court ruling on same-sex marriage, to which the State of Texas would be constitutionally bound, makes Texas a laughingstock and flies in the face of Texas values. A statewide poll released this week found that two-thirds of Texans support laws to protect gay and transgender people from discrimination. Meanwhile, lawmakers like Cecil Bell want to unleash an Indiana-style discrimination firestorm. Reasonable Texas legislators need to step forward and stop this shameful attack on LGBT Texans.”

Nick Hudson, state director, Texas for Marriage

“This legislation is out of step with the majority of Texans who believe marriage is a fundamental freedom that should not be denied to anyone. House Bill 4105 is discriminatory, and this attempt to create a barrier against the direction in which Texas and America is heading is shameful, backwards and mean-spirited. We are disappointed that Representative Bell would rather spend his time enshrining discrimination into Texas law rather than serving his constituents and promoting freedom.”

Marty Rouse, national field director, Human Rights Campaign

“This bill has nothing to do with Texas values and has everything to do with enshrining discrimination into state law. At a moment when people across this state—and across the country—are calling for all people to be treated fairly, the Texas Legislature must not send this state backwards with dangerous and hostile Indiana-style legislation.”

Posted in 2015 Texas Legislature, LGBT issues, marriage equality, TFN | 2 Comments

Big Polling News: Texas Voters Reject Anti-LGBT Discrimination

We’ve been telling you about all the bills filed in the Texas Legislature this year that would enshrine into state law discrimination against lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people. But what do Texas voters think about this? A new poll shows pro-discrimination politicians may have seriously miscalculated. Check out the press release we just sent.

A new poll shows that the more than 20 bills filed in the Legislature that promote discrimination against gay and transgender people don’t reflect the values of a large majority of Texans, the president of the Texas Freedom Network said.

“These poll results should serve as a wake up call for those who think promoting discrimination is a good political strategy in Texas,” Miller said. “Passing these bills wouldn’t just damage our state’s national reputation and bring to Texas the same condemnation from business and the rest of the country that we saw with similar legislation in Indiana. We also know now that these bills contradict the values of a large majority of Texas voters, who think discrimination against people because of who they are and whom they love is just plain wrong.”

Bills filed in the Legislature this year appear to be part of a strategy to subvert a potential U.S. Supreme Court ruling striking down the state’s marriage ban as unconstitutional and lock in discrimination against gay and transgender people, Miller said. The resulting litigation would be costly for taxpayers as well as gay and transgender couples simply trying to exercise their constitutionally protected rights.

The survey of 800 likely voters in Texas was conducted by G Squared Public Strategies on April 6-10, 2015, and has a margin of error of 3.46% at the 95% confidence level. The poll results are available at www.txwins.org/PollingMemo.

Texas Wins, a statewide coalition of Texans who oppose discrimination, released the poll results today. Key poll findings noted in the Texas Wins press release:

  • More than half of the poll’s respondents identified as conservative and three-quarters said religion is extremely or very important to them personally.
  • A strong majority of voters believe that discrimination against the gay and transgender community is a problem.
  • Nearly 63 percent of voters would support a law protecting gay and transgender people from discrimination.
  • A majority of Republicans are concerned about discrimination and support efforts to protect gay and transgender individuals from employment discrimination.
  • Despite their personal commitment to religion, when asked about religious exemption laws generally, more than 52 percent of voters opposed such laws.
  • Voters overwhelmingly believe that religious freedom is protected by the U.S. Constitution, and that protecting religious freedom has fostered healthy diversity in American culture.
  • While they value religious freedom, 79 percent of voters believe that this freedom does not give individuals license to hurt others.
  • A strong majority of voters reject the notion that gay marriage threatens religious freedom.

The pollsters for G Squared include Greg Strimple and Robert Jones. Strimple served as a senior advisor to the John McCain for President campaign. Before joining G Squared, Jones worked for two cycles at the National Republican Congressional Committee, mostly recently as the West Regional Political Director.

Posted in equality, LGBT issues, TFNEF | 3 Comments

How the Religious Right Corrupts Christianity

As we’ve said before, the religious right isn’t really a religious movement. It’s a political movement that uses religion as a weapon to divide Americans and push an agenda. And that agenda often promotes a peculiar version of political Christianity.

So we weren’t surprised this week to see a fundraising letter from a California-based group called The Center for Cultural Leadership that offers another example of how religious-right groups are corrupting Christianity. Key excerpt:

“When the Western intellectual elites offer high-sounding arguments that fetuses are not really humans, that ‘gender’ is ‘fluid,’ that Islam is a peaceful religion, that Jesus was nonjudgmental, that politics should engineer the New (anti-Christian) Society, that ‘hurtful’ religious speech should be suppressed, that law is what law professors decide it is, that porn is harmless, and that interventionist economics protects against market fluctuations, we counter with a distinctly Christian intellectual demolition.”

According to this group, apparently, being Christian requires buying into a litany of arguments about abortion, Islam, LGBT people, etc. But especially revealing is the suggestion — highlighted in bold above — that there is a “distinctly Christian intellectual” argument against “interventionist economics.”

What? Have Friedrich Hayek and Milton Friedman taken their place alongside the Twelve Apostles?

Kevin Kruse, a professor of history at Princeton University, has written about how corporate interests essentially created the religious right in the 1930s and 1940s to oppose President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s New Deal and other government programs. It’s a fascinating piece and well worth the read. Letters like the fundraising appeal noted above illustrate how successful those efforts have been in turning faith into a weapon to promote a political agenda.

Posted in religious right, TFNEF | 11 Comments

Texas GOPer’s Rant Against ‘Homosexual Marriages’

We bet Steven Hotze, president of Conservative Republicans of Texas, nearly burst a blood vessel last week while writing his email rant attacking the freedom to marry for gay and lesbian couples.

The long screed to his email list calls on readers to contact Texas legislators in support of HB 4105 by state Rep. Cecil Bell, R-Magnolia. (It also asks for money — “to protect Biblical marriage,” of course.) HB 4105 would bar the use of state or local funds to license or otherwise recognize the marriage of a same-sex couple. The law also bars state and local employees from granting or recognizing such a license.

Hotze — like Rep. Bell — insists the law is needed in case the Supreme Court strikes down the Texas ban on same-sex marriage as unconstitutional. HB 4105 and other bills that promote and even require discrimination against LGBT Texans and their families would lead to months and maybe years of litigation if the Supreme Court strikes down the marriage ban. That would impose great harm, financial and otherwise, on loving families simply trying to exercise their constitutionally protected rights.

Some excerpts from Hotze’s rant:

This law will enable 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 potential of a U.S. Supreme Court ruling, imposing homosexual marriage on Texas beginning the last week in June….

HB 4105 is a simple, two-page bill that affirms our existing Marriage Amendment in the Texas Constitution and also would defund any future homosexual marriages, which would be ‘mirages,’ because the concept is false. It’s a counterfeit. It’s a lie. This law will enable Attorney General Ken Paxton to safeguard Texas against the potential assertion of federal judicial supremacy over the marriage issue by the U.S. Supreme Court.

The passage of HB 4105 now will enable Texas to defend against a potential U.S. Supreme Court order, imposing homosexual ‘mirage’ on Texas.

“Righteousness exalts a nation, but sin is a disgrace to any people.” (Proverbs 14:34)

Let’s be bold and valiant, strong and courageous.

All that is necessary for evil to triumph is for good men and women to do nothing!

Christians, rise up and defend our State Sovereignty and Biblical marriage!

Through God’s power, I am confident that we shall be victorious.

Hotze and other opponents of equality clearly are trying to make Texas the last bastion of discrimination in this country. But enough is enough. Click here to send a message directly to Gov. Greg Abbott, Attorney General Ken Paxton and House Speaker Joe Straus that tells them: Texas should join the rest of the nation in embracing equality under law for everyone.

Posted in 2015 Texas Legislature, LGBT issues, marriage equality, Steven Hotze, TFN | 5 Comments