Legislators and lobbyists alike are mobilizing in anticipation of the Texas legislative session this fall. Lawmakers will scramble to file bills to be made into laws, and LGBT rights groups will pour resources into mobilizing LGBT and straight-ally voters in an effort to, at long last, pass an inclusive, state-wide non-discrimination policy for the gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgendered workforce.
Texas is still a conservative state. Even so, the power of a group of people to impact their elected representatives should not be underestimated. The voices of average, everyday citizens and taxpaying residents are the key to making change in any arena. You’d be surprised at how few people actually take the time to write a letter, visit with their representative or testify at a hearing on a given topic.
Attempts to establish a Texas-wide version of the Employment Non-Discrimination Act have been made in the legislature for more than a decade. Don’t fret! Activists believe the upcoming session may reflect the nation’s slowly-yet-steadily progressing social climate. A survey by Equality Texas in 2012 showed that more than 60 percent of Texans support LGBT worker’s rights. Even here in Texas, the principle of basic workplace fairness has achieved currency with the majority of residents.
There’s a great poster that Parents, Families and Friends of Lesbians and Gays put out not long ago. It says, in boldface type, “People Don’t Get Fired For Being Straight: Support Equality Opportunity. Move Equality Forward. Vote Yes on ENDA.” Parenthetically, it states that if you’re gay, lesbian, bi-sexual or transgender, you can be fired simply for who you are.
Don’t write off your power as a constituent. You work hard, you pay taxes, you own a home and/or have a family. You deserve to be heard. Simply bringing an issue to the forefront of the political conversation can make a huge difference.
“Each person that walks through their representative’s door carries the voice of 1,000 voters with them.”
Equality Texas (EQTX) Field Organizer
Politically speaking, Equality Texas advocates for respect and dignity across the LGBT spectrum. Here are some tips via EQTX for making meaningful steps towards positive change:
Contrary to popular belief, your legislators do receive every message you send them. EQTX recommends using a three media system. For example, send an email, leave a voicemail, and tag your representative in a social media shout-out. You can also send an “old- fashioned” written letter or make a personal impression by visiting their office in person. As your representative it is their responsibility to make every effort to meet with you.
Attend a Workshop
Equality Texas will hold training sessions as part of their Equality Project in every major county this year. You can visit equalitytexas.org and click “Programs” to find more information. This is a great way to get friends and family involved; bring the neighborhood!
Tell Your Story
You may not persuade your Texas House or Senate representative to vote in favor of LGBT rights, but letting them know you are aware and concerned about the issue can send a powerful message. Make them aware of who you are, what you’ve experienced as an LGBT Texan, and, most importantly, describe how inequality makes you feel.