Politicians

Texas Democrats File Sweep Of Trans Protection Bills

The Texas Legislature is back in session
The Texas Legislature is back in session Photo by Lars Plougmann/Flickr
The Republican war on trans people in Texas is likely to heat up this year, but Democrats have filed a raft of bills in the 88th Legislative Session that aim to protect trans people.

State Rep. Diego Bernal (D-San Antonio) filed House Bill 256 in November. The bill would include gender identity as a class protected from discrimination “with or without regard to the individual’s designated sex at birth.” It would also allow discriminated individuals to sue businesses that refuse accommodation over gender identity.

Bernal filed House Bill 265 around the same time. This bill specifically targets housing discrimination against LGBT people. It expands protections already on the books for race, religion, and disability to cover sexual orientation and gender identity.

The representative has been trying to pass versions of these protections since he was elected in 2015. Some cities in Texas have their own local protection laws, but Houston has not been one of them until recently. Protections were passed with the HERO Act in 2014, but were later repealed. Opposition to HERO was largely driven by conservative transphobia that claimed it would protect child molesters in women’s restrooms. No link between LGBT protections and assaults in bathrooms has ever been found.

State Rep. Ray Lopez (D-San Antonio) has filed a bill related to trans housing. House Bill 428 would create a task force to investigate the housing needs of senior LGBT people in the state. The task force would be composed of the chair of the LGBT caucus in the House, three members assigned by the governor, another three assigned by the lieutenant governor, and the final three appointed by the House Speaker.

According to Sage, an advocacy group for LGBT seniors, 48 percent of LGB couples have experienced discrimination when seeking senior living facilities, with the rate for trans people being even higher. A third of LGBT people fear they will have to closet themselves once in senior living care for protection. Trans people are also less likely than the general population to enter their elder years with financial stability needed for care.

Another bill filed by State Rep. Julie Johnson (D-Dallas) might help with some of medical issues trans people face. House Bill 831 would expand insurance discrimination protections to include gender identity. Dana Hinton, a Houston trans activist who died in 2020, told Houston Press in 2015 she suffered widespread insurance discrimination during her time in the oil and gas industry. She was often unable to obtain care either because companies were charged outrageous rates for including trans care, or was locked out of procedures like prostate checks because “women don’t have prostates.”

State Rep. Ron Reynolds (D-Missouri City) filed House Bill 851 in December. Like Lopez, he wants to create a task force, this one for studying the broad social impediments trans Texans face. Unlike the Lopez bill, this task force would be composed of members selected by various state departments such as criminal justice, state health services, banking, and the Texas Workforce Commission. Lt. Governor Dan Patrick would get some picks, but they would have to include the parent of a trans child and an attorney who specializes in trans issues, as well as at least one actual trans person.

Reynolds also filed a bill to streamline the process for trans voters to get acceptable identification for casting ballots that affirms their gender.

Unfortunately, the anti-trans atmosphere in the Texas Legislature is likely to squash all these efforts before they ever reach a vote. An equal number of anti-trans bills have been filed by Republicans. These include ones that define gender-affirming care for minors as child abuse and declare drag events as sexually explicit. With transphobic culture wars a prime part of conservative ideology in Texas, it’s hard to see any of the much-needed bills protecting trans people even making it out of committee.
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Jef Rouner (not cis, he/him) is a contributing writer who covers politics, pop culture, social justice, video games, and online behavior. He is often a professional annoyance to the ignorant and hurtful.
Contact: Jef Rouner