Texas politicians uncover a work-around

With the anti-transgender SB 6 stuck in the mud in the Texas House, Rep. Ron Simmons of Carollton has taken a cue from the North Carolina "compromise" and introduced HB 2899, which would prohibit cities and counties from passing non-discrimination ordinances which extend rights beyond what is protected by state law. The bill would also nullify all local non-discrimination laws already in place.

Current Texas law includes only race, color, disability, religion, sex, national origin and age as protected classes.

University of Texas students speak out:

While Simmons' bill does not mention bathrooms, it would replace non-discrimination criteria approved by city officials with those approved by state lawmakers. In effect, localities no longer could allow transgender people to use public bathrooms that match their gender identity in government-owned buildings because they would not be considered a protected class under state statute.

The initial bill, which Simmons says he intended to amend before Wednesday's hearing, drew sharp rebukes from big-city officials, LGBT rights organizations and the state's largest business group. They have staunchly opposed attempts by some Republican lawmakers to restrict local elected officials' authority to pass their own measures against discrimination, which often include provisions to protect members of the gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender communities.

We're against it because we have a non-discrimination ordinance, and we certainly don't want it preempted by the state. This is yet another one of these legislative sessions where they're just so adverse to municipalities; it's unfortunate, and I don't understand it.

--Dallas City Councilman Lee Kleinman

We remain focused on stopping discriminatory legislation and keeping Texas open for business and inviting for all.

--Chris Wallace, Texas Association of Business

Dallas, Austin, Ft. Worth and Plano have comprehensive nondiscrimination ordinances covering employment, housing and public accommodation while requiring the same of city contractors. Plano's ordinance has quite a few exemptions but I am including it here for simplicity.

Those cover a population of 3 million people.

Those protections would be gone.

Another six cities offer some form of protection:
Houston: City employment and city contractors
San Antonio: Housing, public accommodations, city employment and city contractors.
El Paso: Public accommodations and city employment
Grand Prairie: (LGB only) City employment and city contractors
Brownsville: City employment
Waco: City employments

Those cover 4.5 million people.

Those protections would be gone.

Combined with comprehensive protections, 7.5 million people are covered or roughly 28% of the state's population. Plus there are many smaller subdivisions that ban LGBT or LGB discrimination in employment, housing and public accommodations. But we are not done.

Texas has two state university systems, Texas A&M and Texas State (which includes Lamar, Sam Houston and Sul Ross Universities). Those have a combined enrollment of approximately 125,000 and they employ over 55,000 people. There are scattered campus exceptions but the systems protect LGBT employees and students from discrimination. On top of that there are numerous public school systems that protect LGBT students from discrimination.

Those protections would also be gone.

--David Cary Hart, The Slowly Boiled Frog

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Comments

PriceRip's picture

          We have to balance our right to discriminate against the need to attract rich liberals to spend their money here. Too much of the former and we lose money as liberals shun our state. Too much of the latter and we get too many liberals about that can catch us discriminating. I am certain we can find an acceptable solution. But, y'all gotta understand being a pinhead is really difficult these days.

          I really wish I had something constructive to interject. This, "which would prohibit cities and counties from passing non-discrimination ordinances which extend rights beyond what is protected by state law." is particularly troubling on so many levels. The arrogance quotient is astounding. These people actually believe they are endowed with superiour intellect and wisdom. At least we have proof: They are not actually Christians, and that, at least, is something.

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"I know you believe you understand what you think I said, but I am not sure you realize that what you heard is not what I meant."
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Centaurea's picture

I'm not familiar with the constitution of the state of Texas, but I'm wondering if it allows them to do what they're trying to do.

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PriceRip's picture

@Centaurea

          if the only controlling document is the state constitution:

          All political power is inherent in the people, and all free governments are founded on their authority, and instituted for their benefit. The faith of the people of Texas stands pledged to the preservation of a republican form of government, and, subject to this limitation only, they have at all times the inalienable right to alter, reform or abolish their government in such manner as they may think expedient.

- - Article 1, Section 2


          Ah, but what do you know, I would be excluded from holding office.

          No religious test shall ever be required as a qualification to any office, or public trust, in this State; nor shall any one be excluded from holding office on account of his religious sentiments, provided he acknowledge the existence of a Supreme Being.

- - Article 1, Section 4


          I didn't want to live there anyway. Oregon's constitution is more to my liking:

          No religious test shall be required as a qualification for any office of trust or profit.

- - Article 1, Section 4


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"I know you believe you understand what you think I said, but I am not sure you realize that what you heard is not what I meant."
Robert J. McCloskey, U.S. State Department spokesman. From a press briefing during the Vietnam war.

Centaurea's picture

@PriceRip I'm pretty sure that Article 1 Section 4, requiring acknowledgment of a Supreme Being, is in violation of the US Constitution, which prohibits religious tests as a requirement for public office anywhere in the US. (Yes, Texas, belief in a "Supreme Being" is a religious belief, and you must understand that quite well. Nice try, though.)

I suspect that this proposed "work-around" would likewise run afoul of the US Constitution, specifically the 14th Amendment. I'd like to see what the Texas ACLU lawyers would do with that.

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"Don't go back to sleep ... Don't go back to sleep ... Don't go back to sleep." ~Rumi

@Centaurea It also runs afoul of the SCOTUS ruling in Evans v Romer.

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Centaurea's picture

@Robyn Not surprising, unfortunately, that they keep thumbing their noses at the US Constitution. Texas (like some other states) still has a "marriage is one man and one woman" provision in its constitution, despite the SCOTUS Obergefell decision. The old ways are dying hard. But they *are* dying.

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"Don't go back to sleep ... Don't go back to sleep ... Don't go back to sleep." ~Rumi