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Justice groups fight back against Texas lawmakers’ anti-trans, anti-choice bills

Texas Statehouse

Anti-transgender “bathroom bills” and further restrictions for accessing abortion are on the agenda of the Texas state legislature’s 30-day special session called by Republican Governor Greg Abbott, which began on July 18. Among the proposed legislation are bills requiring transgender people to use restrooms corresponding to their gender at birth rather than their gender identity in public schools, universities, and government buildings. Also, local governments wouldn’t be allowed to provide protections for transgender people that are not covered under state law. Other measures are a ban on private insurance coverage for abortion, burdensome reporting requirements for abortion providers, and further regulations on how localities can contract with organizations like Planned Parenthood.

A broad coalition of local and national organizations for LGBT equality, reproductive justice, immigrant rights, and religious and civil liberties have come together to denounce the “extremist” legislative agenda and are vowing 30 days of action through One Texas Resistance.

“It is disgusting and shameful that Governor Abbott is wasting taxpayer dollars to force through even more regulations on our reproductive freedoms, especially after signing such a harmful bill in SB 8,” said Heather Busby, executive director of NARAL Pro-Choice Texas. Signed into law in June, SB 8 included a ban on the use of fetal tissue for research, a requirement for it to be buried or cremated, and a ban on a common method for second-trimester abortions without exemptions for rape or incest.

“It is even more despicable,” said Busby, “that he is using the special session to systematically deny our human rights and civil liberties, wrenching away local control, attacking transgender people, forcing through school vouchers, and taking away our ability to unionize. Restricting access to vital health care and targeting medical providers is cruel, hateful, and dangerous. Governor Abbott’s priorities for the special session jeopardize Texans’ health and safety and disproportionately impact low-income Texans, people of color and their families, and young people.”

In June, Governor Abbott also signed into law a bill that allows child welfare organizations to deny adoptions and other services to children and parents based on religious beliefs.

Lt. Governor Dan Patrick and other far-right, anti-LGBT politicians have been the crucial forces behind these bills. “Some political leaders in Texas clearly have no qualms about singling out vulnerable communities for state-sanctioned discrimination,” said Mara Keisling, executive director of the National Center for Transgender Equality. “Extremists like Lieutenant Governor Patrick must stop targeting transgender Texans to try and score political points. It’s bad for the economy, and it tells hundreds of thousands of Texans—including plenty of children—that they are less significant in the eyes of their state government just because of who they are. Even the Speaker of the House [Joe Straus, a moderate Republican opposed to the bills] recognizes that these bills are terrible for Texas. As North Carolina’s government found out the hard way, anti-transgender legislation doesn’t just put transgender children in harm’s way: It can devastate a state’s economy, its reputation, and the safety and security of its residents. Texas legislators now face the choice of allowing themselves to get swept up by the wave of intolerance that has already claimed too many of their colleagues, or they can stand up for all Texans and reject any more bills that write discrimination into law.”

Advocates have expressed deep concern about the potential damage and danger to transgender people. “Bathroom bans are cruel attempts to humiliate, invalidate, and out transgender people,” said Laura Durso, vice president of the LGBT research project at the Center for American Progress. “Transgender people face high rates of harassment and violence in restrooms, even in places with nondiscrimination protections; one survey found that 70 percent of transgender D.C. residents experienced harassment, physical violence, or discrimination in restrooms. Lieutenant Governor Patrick is putting transgender Texans at risk by forcing them to out themselves and singling them out for unequal treatment.”

The business community has joined the opposition, with Dallas-based leaders including CEOs from American Airlines, AT&T, and Kimberly-Clark as well as tech executives coming out publicly against the bill. IBM took out full-page ads against the bill in some Texas Sunday papers, two days before the start of the special session.

“Keep in mind that Lieutenant Governor Patrick has openly and closely aligned himself on these issues with organizations the Southern Poverty Law Center has identified as hate groups [Family Research Council and the Conservative Republicans of Texas],” said Dan Quinn, communications director of the Texas Freedom Network, a nonpartisan watchdog organization monitoring the far-right. “These aren’t just typical advocacy groups that are part of the normal debate over which public policies are best for Texas. These groups regularly use vile and degrading language to attack LGBT people as well as women who have an abortion. Dan Patrick’s legislative agenda aids and helps mainstream that kind of hateful rhetoric.”

Advocates worry about the ripple effect should any of these bills become law. “The consequences of these bills will be dire,” said Marsha Jones, executive director of the Afiya Center, a reproductive justice and health advocacy organization for Black women and girls. “They send the message that trans women’s lives are not valid and take the humanity out of their lives. Passage would take us back years in time. It’s frustrating that these conversations are even happening. Stigma is revived where stigma might have been dying down. It makes me afraid of what will happen. This will trickle down to our children. Other states are looking at this and thinking that if Texas can pass these kinds of laws, they can too. President Trump is the bandleader, and the Texas legislators look at what he’s doing and saying and feel inspired. It’s like open season on marginalized people, the ones who this will hurt the most and who have the least access.”

More articles by Category: LGBTQIA, Politics
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