Tuesday, April 21, 2009
Storming the Capitol Building for Same-Sex Partner Benefits
Tuesday, 4/14/2009: A small group of students clustered by the steps of the UT tower to walk to the Capitol Building to support House Bill 861, a bill that would allow UT to create domestic partner benefits for the faculty and staff of UT Systems. This was a walk-out by the students, for our teachers.
We made it to our floor and were herded up onto the staircase to take a picture (Hook 'Em!). We then filled out our forms in favor of the HB 861. The room was hot and crowded and there wasn't quite enough room for everyone. They hadn't planned on us showing up and quickly tried to find overflow rooms to house us. Most of us didn't budge--we wanted be there for the hearing. More than a few politicians came up to us and asked who we were and why we were here. I guess they didn't really know what to do with a bunch of sweaty, ragamuffin, queer kids hanging out in the halls of the Texas Capitol building.
We sat through another bill about insurance. Some of us sat on the ground, some of us eventually found seats. It was a long wait, but we got bumped up on the schedule--we were second.
Our hearing went rather quickly. Rep. Elliot Naishtat introduced the bill. Smithee, the chair, was quite rude and abrupt and charged Naishtat with wanting to "hand over the keys" to the Texas State Treasury to UT Systems before departing and not returning until we were finished. The speakers on our side were great--a lot a faculty that I really do respect. They focused their discourse on "being competitive" with our peer institutions, all of whom offer same-sex partner benefits. This was a good argument to make.
I missed a class that I really needed to go to, and I walked from the SSB to the Capitol and back to the SSB while fighting off a cold, but it was worth it. I may be queer indentified but this bill doesn't do anything for me personally. This about working in solidarity with a group--about being an ally, for real. I was proud of myself for choosing to go. I would make the same decision next time.