Texas is currently in its 83rd legislative session. This year looks like a promising year for the LGBTQ communities since there is so many bills introduces into the current legislative session that could bring more rights for the LGBTQ individuals here in the state of Texas. The area that I have a very high interest in is the bills that are in regards to ending workplace discrimination based off of someone's sexual orientation or gender identity/expression. Here in the state of Texas, someone can still be legally fired based off of their sexual orientation or gender identity/expression. In fact, throughout the United States of America, 29 states still do not have any policies that protect someone from being fired due to their sexual orientation and 34 do not have any policies that protect someone's gender identity/expression. Many people throughout our country are unaware of this issue. In fact, when I have told people that this form of discrimination still exists legally, they are shocked and outraged. It is time that the government step up and ensure that its LGBTQ citizens have job security.
Here in the state of Texas, House Bill (HB) 238 written by Villarreal, the duplicate bill HB 1146 introduced by Johnson, and Senate Bill (SB) 237 written by Van de Putte have been proposed in the current legislative session. Similar bills in past legislative sessions have fail. With 3 bills currently in play during the 83rd session, this brings me great hope that our state representatives are finally starting to really push for ending workplace discrimination. I actually had the pleasure to go to the state capitol myself and interview some of Villarreal's staff on the importance of getting this bill passed. I asked Villarreal's staff why now? Why so many bills all of a sudden? The response I got back was that they felt it was finally time to get this done. A lot of the representatives and their staff feel that this is the right thing to do. In fact, several of Villarreal's staff did not realize someone could still be legally fired based off of their sexual orientation and gender identity/expression. Those who did not know where outraged that this was still legal and felt that it is a basic human right to have job protection. One staff member told me up front that someone's sexual orientation or gender identity/expression does not affect their job performance. No one should be fired for that. After I had my interview with Villarreal's staff, I personally thanked them from the deep depths of my heart. It is such a wonderful feeling that my elected officials are finally trying to get me the rights I have be demanding since I started college.
On a more national level, 54 groups have urged President Obama to sign an executive order to prohibit job discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity/expression. The fact that still over half of this country does not have these policies in place is alarming. Something needs to be done at the federal level now. If the bills in Texas do not get passed, LGBTQ citizens within the state of Texas will have to wait another 2 years before similar policies can be reintroduced into the legislative process. President Obama has been the most LGBTQ friendly President this country has ever seen. With the repeal of DADT and several other major behind the scene works, Obama has slowly be giving the nation's LGBTQ citizens a better standing. Yet the fight is still a long one ahead. Ending workplace discrimination is another battle that still needs to be fought. So I urge President Obama to listen to this 54 groups and realize that a federal order is greatly needed. When so many states still do not have job security for their LGBTQ citizens, something needs to get done in Washington, D.C.
So how can you, an individual, help support job security for LGBTQ individuals? The beginning steps are simply being aware of the issue. Next, tell others about the current bills being introduced into the Texas legislative session. The more people that are informed about the issue, the more known the issue becomes. Another big step is showing your support for the representatives who introduced these bills. You can also become involved with local activist organizations that spend a lot of time focusing on trying to get more LGBTQ policies passed. Then using your right to vote has a huge impact on these policies. If the current bills happen to fail, reelect the representatives who wrote these bills. Show that you demand equality for all citizens and that we will not lose this fight, no matter how long it takes.
For me personally, I cannot express how excited I am to see these bills in place. Ever since I entered college and became aware that I do not have job security based on my sexual orientation, I have demanded this right for the past 4 years. Currently I am enrolled in a social work policy class where I must track the progress of a bill that is in the current legislative session. The bill I decided to pick is HB 238. It was such an honor to go to the state capitol and get to see the staff that helps try to move this bill along. If you are curious about the movement of the 3 bills I introduced, or any other bills that has been introduced, provided below is a link that can help you monitor the progress of bills.
Please help show your support for ending workplace discrimination!