Bill may undo local LGBTQA protections

Alonso Moreno, Staff Reporter

Sen. Don Huffines, freshman Republican from Dallas, has filed a bill that would forbid cities from passing or enforcing LGBTQA-inclusive nondiscrimination ordinances.

Huffine’s Senate Bill 343 is a proposal that would bar local governments from implementing ordinances that are more stringent than state law on the same subject, unless otherwise authorized by the state.

Currently, Texas law does not prohibit employment discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity for both public and private employees.

Should the bill become a law, it would reverse LGBTQA protections for roughly 7.5 million Texans in the cities of Austin, Brownsville, Dallas, Fort Worth, Houston, Plano, San Antonio, Waco and El Paso.

“This is terrible, not only for the state, but for the city as well,” said Africa Deleon, senior Spanish major. “El Paso has always been different from the rest of the state, we have gone through great lengths to become a model city, so something like this just feels like a major setback that is being forced to our societal tolerance here in El Paso.”

Since 2003, El Paso’s city  charter lists protections against discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity for city employees.

According to the Texas Observer, Huffines’ spokesman Matt Langston stated that the bill is not designed to undo city ordinances prohibiting anti-LGBTQA discrimination. Instead, the bill aims to curtail local laws that hinder free enterprise and businesses or hamper liberty.

“The bad thing is that the bill does not do much to create free enterprise, because you are not listening to those different perspectives and you are not building anything that would help you to market beyond the people that look like you or think like you,” said Angelica Moreno, assistant director of leadership and inclusion programs at UTEP.

Moreno said that the stance of the Rainbow Miner initiative, at the university level, would still try their best to prevent discrimination, as well as continue to promote equality for the LGBTQA community.

Besides stripping cities of their nondiscrimination provisions, the legislation would also strip cities of their authority to do basic things such as zone for appropriate land use, or pass rules that keep buildings safe and restaurants clean, according to Sen. Jose Rodriguez, D-El Paso.

“While I think this bill is largely about one lawmaker’s antipathy toward LGBT protections, it’s also a part of a broader set of proposals supported by state leadership to attack cities’ self-determination,” Rodriguez said. “If you ask most major cities, including El Paso, they’re just not interested in being told how to run their affairs.”

Rodriguez, along with Sen. Juan “Chuy” Hinojosa, D-McAllen, has shown support to the LGBTQA community by filling Senate Joint Resolution. 13 and SB 98.

The former would repeal the existing same-sex marriage ban in the Texas Constitution, and the latter would enable legislation to authorize same-sex marriage and repeal the statuary prohibition against recognizing same-sex marriages.

When asked about the LGBT protections, Rodriguez said that the community has made enormous strides in securing those protections and that Huffines’ bill is an attack on that progress.

“The fact is that it’s already too easy to discriminate against LGBT people and we need to fix that,” Rodriguez said.

Alonso Moreno may be reached at [email protected]