Texas senator wants to unravel LGBT protections

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An anti-gay Republican state senator from Dallas has filed a bill that would prohibit cities from passing or enforcing LGBT-inclusive nondiscrimination ordinances.

Sen. Don Huffines' SB 343, introduced Friday, is a sweeping proposal that bars local governments from passing ordinances that are more stringent than state law on the same subject, unless otherwise authorized by statute.

In other words, since Texas law doesn't prohibit employment discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity, cities couldn't do so, either.

SB 343 would amend the Local Government Code as follows:

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Although in line with some of Republican Gov. Greg Abbott's recent statements, Huffines' proposal seems ridiculously broad and would block cities from implementing a wide array of local laws.

House Republicans reportedly plan a more narrow bill targeting local nondiscrimination ordinances, but it has not yet been introduced. In addition, proposed constitutional amendments creating broad religious exemptions to nondiscrimination ordinances have been introduced in both chambers.

Huffines, a tea partier, defeated state Sen. John Carona in last year's Republican primary. Carona was among the first Republican Texas legislators in history to publicly express support for gay rights.

Shortly after being elected, Huffines slammed the Boy Scouts' decision to allow gay youth.

“I think it was a big mistake what the BSA did,” Huffines said. “They can’t be trusted not to open the door for more infiltration from the gay agenda. Eventually we’ll have gay Scouts and gay Scoutmasters and gay troops. They’ll keep coming until their mission is fulfilled.”

The bill from Huffines is among a handful of anti-gay proposals facing lawmakers this session. In Houston, the city's Equal Rights Ordinance, approved in May, has been stalled as a trial forced by opponents who want a public vote on the LGBT-inclusive measure continues. Huffines' bill would undo HERO as well as similar measures in Austin, Dallas, El Paso, Fort Worth, Plano and San Antonio.

UPDATE | Equality Texas issued a statement criticizing Huffines' proposal, according to Towleroad.

“Local elected officials are in the best position to know the best solutions to local problems.

“Since 1909, the State of Texas has granted cities with a population of greater than 5,000 broad discretion to make local decisions under the 'home-rule charter city' provision of the state constitution .

This bill would be a significant change to over a century of Texas tradition.

“In addition to non-discrimination ordinances, any other local ordinance that deals with a subject covered by state law could be affected, including: plastic bag use, tree ordinances, fracking bans, land use restrictions, sight line and building height restrictions.

“The 31% of Texans who live in cities with some level of protections based, not only on sexual orientation and gender identity or expression, but on as race, sex, color, ethnicity, national origin, age, familial status, marital status, military status, disability, religion, pregnancy, genetic information and student status deserve the ability to keep their locally adopted ordinances.”


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