Rae Martinez, a 25-year-old transgender man, woke up at 6 a.m. Monday to catch a bus in San Antonio along with 22 others for LGBTQ advocacy day at the state Capitol.
“Coming from all different parts of the state lets our legislators know that we are all over,” Martinez said. “Every legislator should be thinking about our needs as well so that we can all be represented at the Capitol.”
Martinez joined hundreds at “All In For Equality Day” to rally against bills that advocates say would discriminate against the LGBTQ community. It was also a call for lawmakers to focus on bills that would acknowledge the rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender Texans.
Although the main focus was SB 6, which would require Texans to use government buildings’ restrooms and other facilities based on their birth certificate, advocates also protested against proposals perceived as “religious refusal bills,” which they said would allow businesses and individuals to refuse to obey anti-discrimination laws.
Among the speakers were faith leaders from the Texas Freedom Network, a non-partisan religious organization that supports religious freedom and individual liberties.
“These bills are a shameful misuse of religion as a weapon to divide, and they amount to a radical redefinition of religious freedom to allow individuals and businesses to discriminate against the LGBTQ community and to impose their religious beliefs on others,” said Kathy Miller, president of the Texas Freedom Network. “We should never allow politicians to turn this country’s cherished principle of religious freedom into the right to pick and choose which laws to obey.”
Among the bills that the Texas Freedom Network is opposing is SB 893, authored by state Sen. Bryan Hughes, R-Mineola, which would shield businesses or individuals who decline to provide services because of religious objections.
The group also opposes SB 522, authored by state Sen. Brian Birdwell, R-Granbury, which would allow a county clerk to refuse to issue marriage licenses if doing so goes against the clerk’s religious beliefs. SB 92, authored by state Sen. Bob Hall, R-Edgewood, would invalidate and prohibit cities from enacting nondiscrimination ordinances that include protections for the LGBTQ community.
The coalition that organized the event included Equality Texas, ACLU of Texas, Texas Freedom Network, Transgender Education Network of Texas and Human Rights Campaign.
Sara Ramirez, one of the lead actors of the TV show “Grey’s Anatomy,” was a featured speaker at the event.
“Our LGBTQ family is under attack again, and it’s not OK,” Ramirez said. She referred to Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick’s statement on a pro-life bill that argued Texans counted on lawmakers to protect the sanctity and dignity of life.
“SB 6 goes directly against (the definition of dignity),” she said. “It’s pushing a false narrative against the transgender and gender-expansive community. It’s not actually about public safety. It discriminates against transgender people and would inhibit their participation in public life.”
This story was published in the San Antonio Express-News March 20, 2017.