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Saturday, December 5, 2020

Activities & Organizations

LGBTQ panel discussion urges allies to vote


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LGBTQ allies and activists hope to advance LGBTQ equality in this year’s Texas Legislative Session after the HERO act was denied in 2015. | Ajani Stewart/The Cougar

On Tuesday, LGBTQ activists and allies discussed local and statewide non-discrimination policies at a panel discussion in a crowded Room 110J at the Graduate College of Social Work. 

Sponsored by the GCSW, Texas Rising UH/Texas Freedom Network and the UH LGBTQ Resource Center, panelists discussed what allies can expect at this year’s Texas Legislative Session. Ali Gorczynski, the outreach and field coordinator for Texas Freedom Network in Houston, led the discussion.

Gorczynski said the Texas Legislative Session in January is important for the LGBT community because it’s the first session since the passing of last year’s marriage equality law.

“It is also vital because because the last session included 26 anti-LGBT bills,” Gorczynski said. “People say that discrimination would go away if we were all just nice to each other, but that’s just not the case.”

During the discussion, Gorczynski asked panelists for anecdotes of daily discrimination they’ve seen over time. Award-winning transgender human rights activist Monica Roberts said she has heard reports of nightclubs in Houston charging non-white attendees $20 per entry while white attendees walked in for free. 

“This would not be happening if the HERO act was in place,” Roberts said. 

Roberts said the Houston Equal Rights Ordinance (HERO), the law on the right of people to be treated equally no matter their sex, age, race, nationality, disability or sexual orientation, was repealed because the media tainted its perception. 

“It was skewed to be seen as something dirty,” Roberts said. “It became known as the ‘bathroom law’ and was denied.”

Mike Webb, the legislative and district aid for Sen. Sylvia Garcia, also spoke about HERO’s denial and the impact it had on the LGBT community. In Webb’s opinion, voters perceived the law to be strictly for LGBT individuals as opposed to a law for all Houstonians. 

“The act covered both residents and visitors,” Roberts said. “It didn’t help that anytime the media discussed the HERO act, they would show a rainbow flag or a picture of a bathroom as they talk to frame this as an LGBT bill.”

Webb said that conservatives haven’t given up on hurting the LGBTQ community. He anticipated the next Texas Legislative Session to be more detrimental to their cause than the last, but also has faith in LGBTQ allies. 

“There are those fighting to kill bills but there are those creating them as well,” Webb said. “Our allies are most important at this time because we need all the eyes we can get to read the bills thoroughly to catch the two sentences that will change everything for us.”

Webb also attributed positive change to students in GCSW despite many undergraduates’ inability to vote. 

In honor of National Coming Out Day on Oct. 11, panelists encouraged attendees to attend a viewing of the documentary “The New Black” in Agnes Arnold Hall at 5:30 p.m. that day.

They concluded the discussion by urging students to vote in the upcoming early voting.

CORRECTION: A previous version of this article stated that Roberts said HERO was passed. Roberts instead said that HERO was repealed. The Cougar also reported that Roberts had witnessed over-charging at nightclubs, but she did not; she had heard reports of charging non-white attendees.

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