From Staff Reports

Despite impassioned pleas from the Texas House of Representatives’ five openly-LGBT members, the House this week passed Senate Bill 1978, a so-called “religious freedom” measure that will “prohibit a governmental entity from taking any adverse action against any person based wholly or partly on the person’s membership in, affiliation with, or contribution, donation or other support provided to a religious organization.”

Gov. Greg Abbott has indicated he will sign the bill into law.

A statement issued this week by the Texas House LGBTQ Caucus said that instead of focusing on that disappointment, Caucus members are looking ahead to finding ways to protect and support the Texas LGBT community.

In 2017, the statement notes, 42 percent of LGBTQ teens in Texas said they had considered suicide. State Rep. Celia Israel, a founding member of the caucus, offered them a message of hope: “Youth across our state might be fearful of the headlines they’re seeing and reading regarding this bill; however, we’re here today to say

‘You are not alone, and there is a team of dedicated leaders that will fight tooth and nail for you and your prosperity.’”

State Rep. Mary González, chair of the LGBTQ Caucus, said, “We sent a clear message to our colleagues: Vulnerable lives are at risk with this piece of legislation.”

And Caucus Vice Chair Jessica González added, “When people look to the state of LGBTQ life in our state, they will see this effort as a disappointing maneuver to continue minimizing the voice and dignity of LGBTQ Texans and other marginalized groups such as Muslims Americans and immigrants.”

Kathy Miller, president of the Texas Freedom Network, applauded the caucus members for having “succeeded in removing this bill’s worst provisions as originally filed, which would have allowed businesses to use their religious beliefs as a justification for discriminating against gay and transgender Texans.”

Samantha Smooth, interim executive director of Equality Texas, described SB 1978 as “a ‘dog whistle’ to encourage discrimination against LGBTQ Texans and advance messages that hurt the LGBTQ community.” It is, she said,”an outrage that the Texas Legislature is continuing to advance rhetoric that harms LGBTQ people, in defiance of public support for equal rights and violation of pledges made in January that there would be no attacks on the LGBTQ community this session.”