News (USA)

Texas GOP bills denounced by LGBT rights groups stagnant in state legislature

Texas state capitol in Austin.
Texas state capitol in Austin.

AUSTIN, Texas — Proposals that critics say could be used to discriminate against gays have largely gone nowhere in the Texas Legislature, a bastion of conservatives, and some LGBT rights activists believe a big reason is because of the backlash over religious objection laws passed in Arkansas and Indiana.

Two bills passed out of Texas House committees this week, the first measures that limit activity for gays and lesbians to progress to either chamber.

But it’s not a given that more hearings or votes on bills will follow, said Corsicana Republican Rep. Byron Cook, who chairs a committee overseeing bills that would repeal local nondiscrimination ordinances already in place, dictate which bathrooms transgender adults and students must use and target same-sex marriages.

“It’s more improbable to get them passed this late in the session,” Cook said. “We still will need a majority.”

Republican lawmakers took notice in February when a Travis County clerk in Austin issued a lesbian couple the first gay marriage license since a 2005 same-sex marriage ban. They responded a few days later with a sheet cake commemorating the ban’s 10-year-anniversary, angering Democrats.

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While such back-and-forth played out outside the House and Senate, inside those chambers bills backed by the GOP haven’t moved much.

Neither have many Democratic measures that would expand legal protections for gays and lesbians, other than one bill that protects teens under 18 in consensual relationships from criminal charges.

“After robust public opposition to passage of anti-equality bills in Arkansas and Indiana, I think lawmakers in other states including Texas are looking at these bills and wondering whether now is the right time,” said Jeremy Pittman, a deputy field director for the Human Rights Campaign.

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