Texas Legislature Attacks LGBTQs in Two Discriminatory Bills

The Texas Legislature on Sunday evening approved two anti-LGBTQ measures: one that would harm prospective LGBTQ parents and children in their care and another that would propagate discrimination against transgender students in the state.

Protestors outside the Texas Capitol in Austin.Photo by Ricardo Garza/Shutterstock.com

HB 3859, passed by the Texas Senate, would permit child welfare organizations—including adoption and foster care agencies—to reject a plethora of qualified Texans seeking to care for children, including LGBTQ, interfaith or married couples in which one person has previously been divorced; single parents; or, essentially, any other prospective parents whom the agencies deem “unfit” because of religious objections. HB 3859 would also potetially endanger children already in care: It would bar Texas from canceling state contracts with agencies that forced children to undergo dangerous, scientifically debunked practices such as anti-gay so-called “conversion therapy.” To make matters worse, the Texas House of Representatives attached a discriminatory amendment to “an otherwise unrelated education bill that could ostracize and harm transgender students,” HRC reported. That measure, which some media are calling “a compromise,” would prohibit transgender students from using bathrooms and other school facilities that match their gender identity. The “compromise” reference comes from the fact that instead of the unilateral ban initially proposed by this amendment, under its “updated” tenets, trans students could use appropriate bathrooms only if other children are not present; otherwise, they’d be forced to use single-stall bathrooms.

LGBTQ equality advocacy organizations, civil rights activists and allies unequivocally decried both moves by the Texas Legislature, pointing out the harm HB 3859 could cause to children in need and prospective parents, alike—and the furthering of discrimination against already-bullied transgender students that the anti-trans measure would likely provoke.

“HB 3859 is a dangerous, discriminatory bill that shows the type of overarching anti-LGBTQ animus that is coloring so much of the Texas legislature this session,” said Marty Rouse, national field director for the Human Rights Campaign and a foster and adoptive parent. “This ‘Slate of Hate’ that the Texas legislature has made a priority harms LGBTQ Texans. It is unconscionable that a bill would prioritize discrimination over the best interest of kids in the child welfare system, but Texas lawmakers have done just that. As HB 3859 heads to Governor Abbott’s desk, we hope he does not buy into a hateful agenda over the best interest of some of his most vulnerable constituents—Texas’ children looking for loving, stable homes.”

Research consistently shows that LGBTQ youth are overrepresented in the foster care system, as many have been rejected by their families of origin because of their LGBTQ status, and are especially vulnerable to discrimination and mistreatment while in foster care. National child welfare organizations such as the Child Welfare League of America, the Donaldson Adoption Institute, North American Council on Adoptable Children and Voice for Adoption have condemned this bill in a letter to lawmakers.

The anti-trans bathroom measure passed by the Texas House of Representatives faces equal (and well-deserved) condemnation by activists, concerned organizations and fair-minded corporations.

“This shameful amendment is yet another example of Texas lawmakers’ anti-LGBTQ agenda,” said JoDee Winterhof, HRC’s senior vice president for policy and political affairs. “Transgender youth deserve the same dignity and respect as their peers, and this craven attempt to use children as a pawn for cheap political points is disturbing and unconscionable.”

“Policies such as this one, which make classifications on the basis of “biological sex,” are designed to alienate transgender students from their peers, HRC continued in a statement. “Research shows that anti-transgender legislation can lead to increased instances of bullying of LGBTQ students and even an uptick in suicide. With this move, the legislature continues to waste taxpayers’ time and money while playing politics with people’s lives by targeting LGBTQ people and, in particular, transgender children.

Hundreds of businesses and several Texas chambers of commerce, celebrities and performers, tourism groups and events and sports organizations including the NBA, the NFL and the NCAA have spoken out against legislation targeting transgender people for discrimination.”

HB 3859 now heads to Texas Gov. Abbott’s desk, while the anti-trans amendment next goes to the state Senate for approval (or hopefully, where it will die).