Texas has a lot of catching up to do when it comes to equality for the LGBT community.
The new State Equality Index report from the Human Rights Campaign (HRC) puts Texas in the lowest category — “High Priority to Achieve Basic Access” — for pro-LGBT legislation and policies. We’re one of 26 states in the LGBT basement.
The report grades each state on an array of laws and policies dealing with subjects like parenting, religion, workplace discrimination, hate crimes, health and safety. As the report shows, LGBT protections are uneven from state to state.
“If an LGBTQ couple drove from Maine to California today, their legal rights and civil rights protections could change more than 20 times at state borders and city lines. The vast majority of Americans today understand that this crazy quilt of protections — and lack thereof — is wrong, impractical and unacceptable,” HRC President Chad Griffin says.
The HRC scorecard for Texas highlights a wrong, impractical and unacceptable approach to LGBT protections.
Most notably, the number of anti-LGBT bills introduced during the 2017 Texas legislative (33) surpassed the number of pro-LGBT bills (16), according to the state’s scorecard. Before 2017, the number of pro-LGBT bills had exceeded the number of anti-LGBT bills during every legislative session dating back to 2005, the scorecard shows.
Of course, the highest-profile anti-LGBT measure proposed during the 2017 Texas legislative session was the anti-transgender “bathroom bill.” Fortunately, opponents successfully blocked the legislation.
What the latest scorecard tells us is that LGBT rights in Texas are under attack by state lawmakers as never before. So now, more than ever, we need businesses of all sizes across the state to promote pro-LGBT legislation and combat anti-LGBT legislation, just as hundreds of businesses did during the fight against the “bathroom bill.”
What’s at stake is the continued robust growth of the Texas economy — and billions of corporate and tourism dollars. Many employers and employees alike want to be in places that are welcoming and inclusive. On the face of it, HRC’s Texas scorecard hardly paints a positive picture for employers and employees. Furthermore, many groups want to hold their meetings and conventions in places that are welcoming and inclusive. On that front, HRC’s Texas scorecard isn’t exactly encouraging to meeting planners.
There’s no denying that Texas cities like Austin have carved out a reputation for being pro-LGBT. However, while residents and workers in Texas hubs like Austin enjoy LGBT protections at the city level, people who live and work in outlying suburbs might not. Therefore, the business community must keep pressing for LGBT protections at the state level.
Here’s the bottom line: Do we want Texas to be in the LGBT doghouse forever? Our answer is a resounding “no.”
John Egan, a freelance writer in Austin, is a member of the board of directors of the Austin LGBT Chamber of Commerce.