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UIL Punts to Superintendents on Gender Policy

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The governing body for Texas high school sports decided Monday to ask superintendents to determine whether to formalize a policy that uses student-athletes’ birth certificates to determine their gender.    

Such a policy already is informally used by the body, the University Interscholastic League, or UIL, whose 32-member legislative council on Monday passed on an opportunity to vote on the proposed rule. Instead, the council decided to send it to the superintendents of member districts — with a recommendation that they approve it. 

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Critics say the policy effectively bars transgender students from playing sports. 

The move comes amid increased focus nationwide on transgender issues. In Texas, residents of the state’s largest city are preparing to vote Nov. 3 on the Houston Equal Rights Ordinance, which would ban discrimination based on characteristics including gender identity, sexual orientation, sex, race, color, age, pregnancy and religion. 

The UIL’s “Non-Discrimination Policy” already bans member schools from denying students a chance to play on sports teams because of their disability, race, color, gender, religion or national origin. 

The proposed addition to that policy says: “Gender shall be determined based on a student’s birth certificate. In cases where a student’s birth certificate is unavailable, other similar government documents used for the purpose of identification may be submitted.” 

If approved by a majority of superintendents — and the state education commissioner — it would take effect Aug. 1, 2016.  

The proposed policy was among dozens of rule changes the council considered during its annual meeting that spanned Sunday and Monday.  

“Using a student’s birth certificate to determine gender has been procedure,” UIL spokeswoman Kate Hector said, meaning the rule change would serve as a codification of that informal procedure. 

Council members were unavailable to comment on the rule change Monday afternoon because they were traveling back to their home school districts, she said. 

If approved, the rule would go against a national trend of recent years. More than a dozen states have adopted policies that allow transgender student-athletes to participate in sports based on their gender identity. 

The District of Columbia and 15 states, including Florida, have adopted such policies as a way to encourage participation in sports, said Asaf Orr, staff attorney for the Transgender Youth Project at the National Center for Lesbian Rights. He noted that the National Collegiate Athletic Association has adopted a similar policy. 

The birth certificate rule Texas officials are considering “absolutely bars trans kids from playing sports,” Orr said. 

Changing the gender on a birth certificate is not realistic for many kids because it requires having sex reassignment surgery, Orr said. 

Orr said the concern that transgender girls will be far better players than those who were born female has not panned out in states that have adopted policies that allow transgender student-athletes to participate based on gender identity. 

“We are not getting these hulking guys claiming to be girls dominating sports,” Orr said. “If we do see strong transgender athletes, it’s because they’re superstar athletes; It’s not because they’re transgender.” 

[gdlr_icon type=”icon-camera-retro” size=”16px” color=”#999999″]TOP IMAGE: Photo by D. Clow / Tim Archer / Tom Pennington / Todd Wiseman

[gdlr_notification icon=”icon-external-link” type=”color-background” background=”#ffcc20″ color=”#ffffff”]This article originally appeared in The Texas Tribune at http://www.texastribune.org/2015/10/19/uil-codify-gender-identity-policy/[/gdlr_notification]

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Dallas

Dallas Transgender Community on Edge in the Midst of Violent Attacks

Muhlaysia Booker’s death is just one of a string of killings and violent attacks on black transgender women in Dallas.

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Muhlaysia Booker. Photo courtesy: Facebook

This article originally appeared in The Texas Tribune

In late May, hundreds of mourners packed a church in the heart of the Dallas LGBTQ community to remember the life of Muhlaysia Booker. The transgender 22-year-old was shot and killed in May, her body found on a street in Far East Dallas.

Her death came just a month after she was brutally beaten in an incident that was captured on cellphone video that went viral on social media.

Those who knew Booker said she was unapologetic about being transgender — about being herself.

Jazmine Bandz, a black trans woman who was close to Booker, had a message for those who gathered.

“I just ask our community, whether it’s the black community, the human community, the aliens, and whoever else is here,” she said as the crowd laughed. “If you see somebody trans, do not make it hard for them because we already live a life full of pain.”

Booker’s death is just one of a string of killings and violent attacks on black transgender women in Dallas.

Last fall, 29-year-old Brittany White was found shot to death in a car in southeast Dallas. And on June 1, the body of 26-year-old Chynal Lindsey was pulled from White Rock Lake.

They join a list of other transgender women who have been killed in North Texas in years past.

Many of these cases are still open. In 2013, 34-year-old Artegus Madden was found shot in her home in Savannah, a small town east of Denton. In 2015, 22-year-old Shade Schuler was found shot to death.

Transgender people in Dallas say this violence is scary, but they’re trying not to live in fear. Naomi Green, a black transgender woman, helped lead the support effort for Booker following the filmed attack in April.

“Silence is agreeance,” Green said. “I’m always outspoken and speaking the truth. I don’t fear what can come of all of this. I continue to live my life every day.”

Dallas police say they’re looking into possible connections between the recent killings, as well as a non-fatal stabbing of a 26-year-old transgender woman in April.

At a press conference this week, Dallas Police chief U. Renee Hall said the department reached out to the FBI and is asking the community to come forward with any information.

Bandz, who spoke at Booker’s funeral, asked Hall at the conference about the recent violence. “What are we going to do to … stop the violence against people like me?”

Hall answered: “That’s our goal: to provide safety to each and every person in the community.”

Violence against transgender people has been happening across the country in recent months. The Human Rights Campaign is referring to this violence as a national crisis. In April in Ohio, 21-year-old Claire Legato, a black transgender woman, was shot in the head and died from her injuries. In Philadelphia, 40-year-old Michelle “Tamika” Washington, also a black transgender woman, was fatally shot in May.

Nationwide, at least seven transgender people have been killed this year — and all were black trans women, according to the Human Rights Campaign. Over the last several years, over three-quarters of transgender people killed were black trans women.

The average life expectancy for a transgender woman of color is the early 30s.

Kirk Myers is founder of Abounding Prosperity, a Dallas nonprofit that addresses economic and social disparities facing African-Americans, with an emphasis on the black LGBTQ community. He said the statistics are unacceptable, more so considering the role that trans women of color have played in LGBTQ history.

Two trans women of color actually helped start the gay rights movement. Marsha P. Johnson, a black trans woman, and Sylvia Rivera, a Latina trans woman, sparked the Stonewall Inn uprising 50 years ago in New York City.

“A lot of the larger LGBTQ community is enjoying the benefits of the struggles of trans women,” Myers said. “It is unfortunate that today trans women are, in some regards, no further along than they were then… in most regards.”

Transgender people face many hurdles. They often aren’t accepted by their families. The suicide rate is disproportionately high, and they face marginalization and employment discrimination. The Human Rights Campaign estimates that the unemployment rate among transgender people is three times that of the general population. And, more than 1 in 3 report living in poverty.

In addition to already existing homophobia and transphobia, there has been legislation proposed at both the state and federal level targeting transgender people, such as so-called “bathroom bills” and the military ban. Many transgender people also face harassment and abuse from law enforcement.

All of these circumstances push many trans women into sex work to survive.

“You are dealing with the stigma and the transphobia and homophobia,” Naomi Green, who also works at Abounding Prosperity, said. “… and if you don’t have a legal name change, it’s hard to get a job, or you can’t get a job. Honestly even, they refuse to provide services just because you’re trans.”

Leslie McMurray is transgender education and advocacy coordinator at the Resource Center, an LGBTQ organization in Dallas. She’s also trans.

“We have to offer black trans women something better than sex work to get by, ” she said. “Because they deserve more than that, they deserve equal opportunity, equal employment, they should be able to work as administrative assistants, and airline pilots, and physician assistants, and anything that their time and talent will take them to do.”

Careers that transgender women like Brittany White, Muhlaysia Booker and Chynal Lindsey didn’t have the chance to pursue.

Editor’s note: This story was originally published by KERA News.

The Texas Tribune is a nonpartisan, nonprofit media organization that informs Texans — and engages with them – about public policy, politics, government and statewide issues.

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86th TX Lege

Texas House Passes Religious Liberty Bill Amid LGBTQ Caucus’ Objections

What started as a sweeping religious refusals bill has been significantly watered down as it moves through the Texas Legislature. But LGBTQ advocates still fiercely oppose it, saying it perpetuates hateful rhetoric.

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State Rep. Julie Johnson, D-Carrollton, spoke against Senate Bill 1978 on the House floor Monday. Photo credit: Miguel Gutierrez Jr./The Texas Tribune

This article originally appeared in The Texas Tribune

Over the tearful opposition of the Legislature’s first-ever LGBTQ Caucus and several failed attempts at a procedural block, the Texas House passed a religious liberty bill Monday that LGBTQ advocates fear would license discrimination against their communities. 

When the lower chamber first considered the bill just over a week ago, the LGBTQ Caucus torpedoed it with a procedural move. This time, an attempt to do the same failed, as did emotional exhortations from the five women who make up the caucus.

After two hours of debate, Senate Bill 1978 — which prohibits government entities from punishing individuals or organizations for their “membership in, affiliation with, or contribution … to a religious organization” — passed on a nearly party-line preliminary vote, 79-62. If the House grants formal approval and the Senate agrees to a change made on the lower chamber’s floor Monday, the bill will head to the governor.

“This bill is going to pass; let’s face it,” state Rep. Celia Israel, D-Austin, said from the front of the chamber minutes before her colleagues cast their votes. “It’s been cloaked in religious freedom, but the genesis, the nexus of this bill, is in hatred.”

When the bill was first filed, it contained sweeping religious refusals language that had the potential to gut the few existing protections for gay communities, hailing from a national sweep of anti-LGBTQ model legislation. As it’s made its way through the Legislature, the bill has been progressively stripped of its most controversial provisions, leaving a version that largely codifies existing legal protections: freedom of religion and freedom of association.

On Monday, House sponsor Rep. Matt Krause, R-Fort Worth, weakened the measure further, removing a provision that would have empowered the Texas attorney general to bring lawsuits against governmental entities accused of religious discrimination.

Krause said removing the provision was a show of “good faith,” as it had proved a “big sticking point” with opponents of the bill. Given the changes he described as efforts to compromise, Krause said he was surprised at the level of opposition to the measure.

“Look at the language in this bill,” Krause said. “There is nothing discriminatory in the language. … There is nothing discriminatory in the intent.”

But despite the revisions, the bill “perpetuates the rhetoric that leads to discrimination, to hate and ultimately bullying that leads to the consequence of people dying,” said state Rep. Mary González, D-Clint, who chairs the LGBTQ Caucus.

State Rep. Rafael Anchia, D-Dallas, who lobbed an unsuccessful point of order aimed at killing the bill, questioned Krause for some 30 minutes about how the bill might spark discrimination. And each member of the newly formed LGBTQ Caucus spoke against the bill, several of them emotionally, just before the House voted.

One member of the caucus, state Rep. Jessica González, D-Dallas, tried and failed to amend the bill with language that would have protected LGBTQ communities against discrimination from employers and the government. Currently, there is no state law that explicitly prohibits employers from firing workers based on their sexual orientation or gender identity, but some cities have codified those protections at the local level.

Her amendment failed 65-76.

With emotional appeals looking unlikely to change minds, several LGBTQ Caucus members tried to persuade their colleagues to oppose the bill out of practicality — telling them, sometimes subtly and at times directly, that a vote for this bill could hurt their reelection chances in 2020.

“Members, this bill is here, being debated on the floor today, to make LGBTQ Texans feel less than, to make us feel attacked by our government,” said state Rep. Erin Zwiener, a Driftwood Democrat and freshman member of the LGBTQ Caucus. “We are living in history, members. Attitudes toward the LGBTQ community have changed rapidly over the past few decades. Young Texans in particular are overwhelmingly accepting of people of all sexual orientations and gender identities.”

Then she put a finer point on it. “You don’t need this vote,” Zwiener said.

Minutes later, the bill passed, with just one Republican, state Rep. Sarah Davis of Houston, voting against it. House Speaker Dennis Bonnen, who has said he supports the bill, did not cast a vote, as is customary.

The bill was revived in the Texas Senate last week after the LGBTQ Caucus effectively kept it from passing earlier this month.

Proponents have said it is necessary to reaffirm protections based on religion, citing incidents like the San Antonio City Council’s decision earlier this year to prohibit Chick-fil-A from opening in the city’s airport, with one council member citing the franchise’s “anti-LGBTQ behavior.” Some supporters of the bill labeled it the “Save Chick-fil-A Bill.” Krause said no business should be discriminated against based on its donations to religious organizations. Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton, who has long cast himself as a crusader for religious liberty, launched an investigation into the city’s actions.

Proponents and detractors acknowledged that the bill is likely to spark activity in the courts. Krause said that even without a provision empowering the attorney general to sue, individuals and organizations have a private cause of action under the bill — and can always look to groups like the First Liberty Institute, a law firm that crusades for religious liberty.

Opponents, meanwhile, emphasized that challenges to the law would mean major costs to the state.

“I have no doubt that if passed, SB 1978 will be fought in the courts at every level and at great expense to the taxpayers. To vote yes today is to put your signature on that invoice,” said state Rep. Julie Johnson, the Dallas Democrat who successfully sank the bill in its first appearance on the House floor earlier this month. “The underlying message remains the same — and that message poisons this state. It sends the message that Texas is not open and welcoming to all.”

The Texas Tribune is a nonpartisan, nonprofit media organization that informs Texans — and engages with them – about public policy, politics, government and statewide issues.

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86th TX Lege

Texas Senate Passes Religious Liberty Bill That LGBTQ Advocates Fear Licenses Discrimination

The measure moved quickly through the Senate after the LGBTQ Caucus killed a near-identical proposal on a procedural motion last week in the Texas House.

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State Sen. Bryan Hughes, R-Mineola, on the Senate floor on May 15, 2019. Photo credit: Juan Figueroa / The Texas Tribune

This article originally appeared in The Texas Tribune

Over the fierce opposition of Democrats, the Texas Senate on Wednesday advanced a significantly watered-down version of a religious liberty bill whose original form some LGBTQ advocates labeled the most discriminatory piece of legislation filed this session.

The bill requires one more vote from the Senate before it can return to the Texas House, whose LGBTQ Caucus killed a nearly-identical proposal on a procedural motion last week. But the House is likely to advance the measure if given a second pass, at least according to the lower chamber’s leadership.

As filed, Sen. Bryan HughesSenate Bill 1978 contained sweeping religious refusals language that brought LGBTQ rights advocates out against it in force. Proponents, for their part, have labeled the Mineola Republican’s proposal the “Save Chick-fil-A Bill,” in reference to a provision that would empower the Texas attorney general to sue San Antonio for excluding the Christian-owned chicken franchise from its airport.

Senate Democrats used every means they had — long lines of questioning, a slew of proposed amendments and a procedural point of order — to fight the bill, or at least tweak it as it was debated. But ultimately, after three hours of discussion, the measure passed on a 19-12 vote, with Brownsville Democrat Eddie Lucio Jr. voting for it and Amarillo Republican Kel Seliger voting against it.

Still, the messy floor fight many advocates feared would load up the bill with discriminatory amendments did not materialize.

The original version of Hughes’ proposal prevented government retaliation against an individual based on that “person’s belief or action in accordance with the person’s sincerely held religious belief or moral conviction, including beliefs or convictions regarding marriage” — language advocates feared would embolden businesses to discriminate against gay Texans. The revision, which Hughes made on the floor, outlaws government retaliation against someone based on their association with or support of a religious organization. That revised language is largely duplicative of existing protections for freedom of religion and freedom of association.

But advocates — pointing to the bill’s origins, and to its roots as model legislation from anti-gay efforts across the nation — adamantly opposed the bill, lobbying lawmakers to do so as well. Samantha Smoot, interim director of the advocacy group Equality Texas, said this week the measure is “part of an insidious, coordinated strategy to advance anti-LGBTQ messages and discriminatory public policies.”

Democrats, questioning whether Hughes’ bill would protect organizations like the Westboro Baptist Church — called “arguably the most obnoxious and rabid hate group in America” by the civil rights group Southern Poverty Law Center — worked to amend the bill to clarify that it does not protect discriminatory groups hiding behind the cover of religion. Pointing to the law’s definition of “religious organization,” Hughes asserted such language was unnecessary, and said some amendments could “confuse” the bill.

State Sen. José Menéndez, a San Antonio Democrat who has filed a number of bills to outlaw discrimination against LGBTQ communities, questioned why the upper chamber is debating a measure that worries gay communities instead of a measure that protects their rights.

“Session after session, we end up entertaining legislation that sends a message to my LGBT staff members…They feel they’re coming under attack for who they are. So the question I have is: What do you say to them?” Menendez asked. “Do you think Chick-fil-A needs more protection from us than our constituents who have a history of being discriminated against?”

Throughout the lengthy floor debate, Hughes maintained that his bill does not sanction discrimination.

“I would only ask you to look at the language in this amendment we’ll be offering and show us where there’s discrimination,” Hughes said. In the new version of the measure, he said, “folks will be hard pressed to find discrimination.”

The bill will need to move quickly if it is to make it to the governor’s desk. The deadline for the House to pass it is Tuesday; before then, it must receive a committee hearing and approval, and also move through the lower chamber’s calendars committee.

Its chances look good in the lower chamber, though it died there on a procedural motion last week. House Speaker Dennis Bonnen told Spectrum News this week he personally supports the bill, adding, “I think it would pass the House.” A House companion bill has 70 co-authors, nearly half the chamber.

Hughes’ bill, which he amended on the floor, is near-identical to the House proposal that died last week — but with one notable difference.

Hughes’ bill says it does not apply to a 2017 law that made it illegal for the state to contract with companies unless they pledge not to boycott Israel; Gov. Greg Abbott recently signed a bill to narrow that law, excluding state contractors with very few employees, after a federal judge temporarily blocked the law’s enforcement, citing free speech concerns.

As senators slogged through the debate, one recurring theme from Democratic opposition was: Why spend time on a controversial measure when there are so many other priorities to complete? And, some added, if the bill is largely just a codification of existing protections, why bring it forward at all?

“Can you identify the shortcomings of the Constitution in protecting religious freedom?” asked Sen. Carol Alvarado, D-Houston.

“This is covered under the First Amendment, so I’m not sure what your angle is,” she added, after reading from it.

Responding to such questions, Hughes called the measure an important “vehicle for protecting those First Amendment rights.”

That vehicle could come in the form of a lawsuit from the Texas attorney general, who under Hughes’ legislation would be empowered to sue governmental entities accused of discriminating based on religious affiliations. One likely candidate for such a lawsuit is the fast food franchise Chick-fil-A, which was recently blocked from opening a restaurant in the San Antonio Airport after a member of the city council said he could not support a company with “a legacy of anti-LGBTQ behavior.”

Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton, who has billed himself as a crusader for religious liberty, leapt into the ensuing culture war, launching an investigation into the city’s actions in that case and asking the U.S. Department of Transportation to probe the situation as well.

The Texas Tribune is a nonpartisan, nonprofit media organization that informs Texans — and engages with them – about public policy, politics, government and statewide issues.

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