HRC’s new Texas state director says the organization is dedicated to change in the Lone Star State
James Russell | Contributing writer
Dallas Voice: Rebecca, you recently joined HRC as the Texas state director. What’s your background? Rebecca Marques: Before I came to Texas, I was a political organizer in North Carolina and Florida. While I was in Florida working one night, I saw something on Twitter about a filibuster in Texas. It was the infamous Wendy Davis filibuster, and I was hooked. Here I was, miles away in another state, following along to a fight in which I had no stake. But it was so moving. That filibuster brought me to Texas. It inspired me, seeing how many Texans were willing to show up and shake the halls of their Capitol.
Those same people who showed up by the thousands to protest this anti-abortion bill also came out to help us defeat the anti-transgender Senate Bill 6 four years later. And they continue to show up against every discriminatory bill in the Texas legislature.
Many people like to write off Texas, but there is so much good that happens here and will happen here. I don’t mind if something is hard if it’s worth it — and Texas is definitely worth it.
Could you describe your role with the organization? As the Texas state director, I get to lead our efforts to advance LGBTQ rights on a local level, at the ballot box, at the state Capitol and in our communities. During the legislative session, HRC works closely with ally organizations to defeat any anti-LGBTQ legislation and promote LGBTQ equality.
We have an amazing on-the-ground team in Texas that truly reflects the diverse state we live in. In addition to staff, HRC has strong volunteer leaders in Dallas/Fort Worth, the greater Houston area, San Antonio and Austin. We’ll leverage all of our support in the state to make sure Texas becomes a welcoming place for everyone.
What do you see as HRC’s role in the upcoming 2020 election? What has the organization done at the grassroots level ahead of the elections? 2020 is going to be the election of a lifetime in Texas. We have a shot at creating a bipartisan, pro-equality majority in the Texas House. If Gina Ortiz Jones [in Congressional District 23] is elected, she will become the first openly-LGBTQ member of Congress elected from Texas.
We have a real chance to make history here, and we’ve already begun working to make it happen. HRC has already endorsed Reps. Lizzie Fletcher and Colin Allred for re-election, along with congressional candidates Gina Ortiz Jones and state Rep. Julie Johnson.
Recently, we endorsed Eliz Markowitz in the special election for Texas House District 28. Markowitz is the only pro-equality candidate in the race and is openly queer. We worked with our partners Equality Texas and Texas Freedom Network to get out the vote for Markowitz. Markowitz came in first [on Nov. 5] and made the runoff, which was a huge feat! We know that it’s so important to build the support for Markowitz now, so we know that seat will flip in 2020. This will be a pivotal race if we are going to create a pro-equality majority.
What’s your relationship with other LGBTQ groups in the state, like Equality Texas and, locally, with Resource Center? Do you engage in any intersectional work? We work closely alongside our state coalition partners Equality Texas, both in our legislative and electoral work. We’ve also been part of the “All in For Equality” coalition with partners Equality Texas, Transgender Education Network of Texas, Texas Freedom Network and the ACLU of Texas since 2017. Together, our organizations work both inside and outside the state Capitol to advance equality.
Planned Parenthood is also one of our most important partnerships. Recently in Houston, Planned Parenthood Gulf Coast launched their trans care services. We work with Planned Parenthood Texas Votes closely to coordinate on election strategy.
How do you foresee HRC’s presence in Texas in 2020 and beyond? HRC has had a presence in Texas for many years. Recently, Texas became a priority state in Project One America, which means our commitment to Texas is strong and long-term. We will work very closely with our coalition and cross-movement partners as we increase our electoral and programmatic work across the state.
On a personal note, what do you do in your free time? Netflix.