Achieving LGBTQ equality is like driving stick shift for the first time. You sputter forward, then abruptly stall, screech forward, stall again.
Texas is learning to drive the car.
On Thursday, the LGBTQ Caucus in the Texas Legislature racked up its first victory. State Rep. Julie Johnson of Carrolton led the charge to defeat an anti-LGBTQ bill through a parliamentary maneuver.
“Ding dong! The wicked bill is dead,” she tweeted following the news coming out of the House chamber.
The legislation, LGBTQ advocates said, would have provided a license to discriminate against people based on their gender identity or sexual orientation in the name of religious freedom. Individuals and organizations, in other words, could freely discriminate without impunity.
With 17 days left in the current session of the legislature, there’s time to resurrect or sneak through measures that would discriminate against the LGBTQ community.
So far, this is the second legislative session where pro-equality forces stopped some discriminatory bills.
The gargantuan defeat in 2017 of the “bathroom bill,” which banned transgender people from using the restroom of their choice, remains a pivotal proof point. The state’s powerful business community, with leaders like IBM, Amazon, and American Airlines, Republicans like then-Speaker Joe Strauss, and the activist community, won and won big.
More LGBTQ candidates are being elected in Texas – 14 of 35 that ran in Texas last year won, thanks in part to the backing of the Victory Fund. More Republicans publicly and privately are backing off their attacks. Voters want them to focus on priorities like education and taxes (even though GOP leaders just tried to raise them.)
Overall, a solid majority of Texas voters support same-sex marriage, although nationally support is 10 points higher. Larger majorities back non-discrimination protections, like not being able to fire someone simply because they’re LGBTQ.
And the big blue cities of Houston, Dallas, San Antonio, and Austin — the FM radio parts of the state, as Lawrence Wright would say – are leading the way in any number of ways on full equality.
The other side is losing power. Note we said “losing,” not lost. Granted it’s sometimes hard to see, much less believe.
The right wing part of the Texas Republican Party wears its disdain on its sleeve. Its official platform backs “reparative therapy” and opposing “homosexual marriage.” Funders continue to pony up cash to pay a salary of $137,000, plus bonuses, to Jonathan Saenz of the Texas Values organization.
At some point the investment of money, time and patience – with little to show for it legislatively or in the court of public opinion – won’t make as much practical sense in Texas, like it has nationally.
The AM radio parts of Texas, if you didn’t know, can be a straggler to civil rights. But as a state we’re slowly catching up with many other parts of the country on LGBTQ equality.
The quickest way to getting there is electing the people who believe in it and getting rid of those who don’t. Hello, 2020.