It’s going to be, at the very best, a long and perilous four years. And even though we’re not ready for it to start, many GOP legislators are more than ready to take their place in it. For instance, Texas has already begun filing bills for the next legislative session, and several of them look very dire for LGBT people.
First is Senate Bill 242, a law which would “entitle parents to all written records held by the school district regarding their child’s “general physical, psychological or emotional well-being,” the [Houston Chronicle] reports, with the exception of any information related to child abuse.” For good reasons, advocates of LGBT youth are concerned by this prospect:
“Until kids are not kicked out of their house for being gay or transgender, and until kids are not being beaten by parents for being gay or transgender, we owe it to kids to protect them,” Steven M. Rudman, chairman of Equality Texas, said in a statement. “We believe Sen. Burton’s legislation would essentially destroy protected communications between a student and an educator.”
The fact is that for many LGBT and questioning youth, school is a safer place than their homes (even if school is still pretty risky); teachers, guidance counselors and mental health professionals at their schools may provide safe, affirming adults where their families can’t. If this bill passed and was enforced, it could take that (relatively) safe haven away. At best, students would have to hide their identities at school as assiduously as they do at home, or educators and faculty would have to risk their jobs to support them. This could be devastating and literally deadly to many LGBT youth — as well as youth engaging in premarital relationships or sex, youth trying to deal with depression or mental illness, or any other kids who are grappling with things that their families might punish them for rather than support them with.
Also in Texas we’re looking at Senate Bill 92, a terrifying bill that takes after North Carolina’s in that it would block nondiscrimination ordinances that protect LGBT people in Texas cities — specifically it would “prohibit cities, counties and other political subdivisions from adopting or enforcing “a local law that creates a protected classification or prohibits discrimination on a basis not contained in the laws of this state.” Basically, cities could only have nondiscrimination laws that are also held at the state level — which don’t include sexual orientation or gender identity, so LGBT nondiscrimination ordinances would no longer be enforceable.
Both SB 92 and SB 242 will be voted on in the next Texas legislative assembly, which begins on January 10.
Unfortunately, Texas probably won’t be the last state to try to introduce legislation like this and more in the coming months. And it won’t just be at the state level, either.
There’s a provision tucked inside the National Defense Authorization Act, passed in the House of Representatives in May, that would allow federal government contractors to legally discriminate against LGBT employees. It’s not law or on its way to becoming law right now; it’s stalled and opposed by many legislators, and Obama has threatened to veto it. Soon, however, the legislature will be much more heavily Republican-controlled, and the President in office won’t be willing to veto bills like this. In fact, with Trump in office, passing this anti-LGBT provision may not even be necessary to get its aims accomplished: the original reason that government contractors couldn’t discriminate against LGBT employees was because Obama said so in an executive order, and Trump has already promised to roll back many, if not all, of Obama’s executive orders once he’s on office, something he’s empowered to do. Between the powers of the GOP legislature and a President and cabinet who want to reverse rights that Americans have fought for for generations, the provision of the National Defense Authorization Act will likely only be the beginning.
Although the dangers to our rights and safety go all the way up to the top, it’s more important now than ever to work locally — to keep watch for laws like SB92 and SB242 in our towns, cities and states, and to organize against them swiftly and decisively with local organizations and community leaders, whether that’s call-ins to senators’ offices to threaten their re-election, protests, walkouts, or fundraising efforts to support the groups affected. That’s far from the entire fight, but it’s a great place to start.