U.S. Rep Colin Allred and state Reps. Jessica Gonzalez and Julie Johnson spoke to about 50 people who attended a forum at Resource Center co-sponsored by Equality Texas on Thursday, Sept. 5. Cece Cox moderated the discussion.
Allred is a sponsor of the Equality Act that passed the U.S. House of Representatives.
“The Senate needs to take it up,” Allred said, adding that senators who oppose the bill should go on record that they’re against equality for all people. There shouldn’t be different protections when people travel state to state, he said, and pointed out the Equality Act passed the House with bipartisan support.
Cox pointed out that 87 percent of people think it’s already illegal for employers to discriminate based on sexual orientation.
On a state level, Gonzalez said, “it’s hard to get things done when you’re in the minority.” She said Republicans who opposed any pro-equality legislation are out of touch with their constituents.
On the topic of religious exemption laws, Gonzalez said that legislation was “a weak way to get away with discrimination,” and not a concept tha most religious belief is based upon.
“We’ve seen it used in a race context,” Allred said. “It’s not a new concept.”
Commenting on upcoming U.S. Supreme Court cases that will decide whether sexual orientation or gender identity is covered under Title VII, Johnson said, “If the court rules against us, we’re going to have a really tough time.” Republicans who have pushed discriminatory legislation in Texas “will feel vindicated.”
Gonzalez and Johnson were two of the founders of the LGBT Caucus in the Texas House this past session. Johnson said putting a face to issues of discrimination made a difference.
Gonzalez talked about a transgender intern day she organized. She brought 50 trans youth to the Capitol from around the state to work in the offices of a number of legislators for a day.She described them as “bright young people” who left the Capitol feeling empowered and said legislators who came in contact with the interns were better off for it.
Allred commented on the treatment of the transgender community nationally. He is especially angry about removing trans people from the military.
“The only thing we should be saying to anyone who wants to serve is ‘thank you for your service,’” he said.
And Johnson announced that she was appointed by Speaker Dennis Bonnen to the committee studying gun violence telling her he wanted an LGBT voice on the panel.
— David Taffet