AUSTIN (KXAN) — Chants of “y’all means all” came from the hundreds of people who gathered Monday afternoon outside the Texas Capitol for a rally to show support for the state’s LGBTQ community and decry the dozens of proposed restrictions now under consideration.
The event, held on the south steps of the statehouse, served as the kickoff for the “All in for Equality Advocacy Day.” Organizers included Equality Texas, the Transgender Education Network of Texas, the Texas Freedom Network, the ACLU of Texas, Lambda Legal and the Human Rights Campaign.
“LGBTQ people have been cyclically, intentionally and cowardly used as political pawns throughout history over and over and over — no more,” Ricardo Martinez, the CEO of Equality Texas, told the crowd Monday. “That stops in Texas.”
The rally kicked off Monday with a lip-synced performance from Cynthia Lee Fontaine, an Austin-based drag entertainer who competed on “RuPaul’s Drag Race.” She later delivered some remarks saying drag is “under attack” in the state. One of the bills she mentioned would classify drag performances as a sexually-oriented business in Texas. That designation would mean venues would have to pay a certain fee per customer to hold events, which LGBTQ advocacy groups have billed as a “drag tax.”
“This will force small businesses to pay $5 per person when they hold a drag event. That’s ridiculous,” Fontaine said. “Unfairly policing and taxing businesses that create safe spaces for the LGBTQIA+ community harms our community further.”
Jonathan Van Ness, one of the stars of Netflix’s “Queer Eye,” concluded the rally on the Capitol steps with a “call-and-repeat” chant that began with them saying “trans rights” followed by the crowd responding with “human rights.” Van Ness, who now lives in Austin, said lawmakers should prioritize other issues.
“We will have to be back on these steps, in those chambers protesting and fighting for our rights. This is the first of many times,” Van Ness said. “This session ends at the end of May. We will be looking forward to seeing all of you again.”
Other speakers included Democratic members of the state legislature, including the first three openly LGBTQ Black lawmakers elected in the state.
Since the Texas legislative session began in January, Equality Texas kept a running tally of the “good bills” that it contends would provide more protections for LGBTQ Texans, as well as the “bad bills” that advocates argue would negatively impact the community. The organization’s count now comes out to 142 “good” bills and 140 “bad” ones.
This event comes a week after LGBTQ supporters gathered outside the Capitol to draw attention to a couple of Senate bills that they said would be especially harmful to transgender Texans. One proposal would prohibit doctors from giving “procedures and treatments for gender transitioning, gender reassignment” for children under the age of 18. The bill claims that such treatment includes puberty-inhibiting drugs, hormone therapy and surgical interventions.
Supporters of this bill argue this bill is meant to protect children. However, parents with transgender kids are concerned about losing access to healthcare options in the state.
Throughout the session so far, Equality Texas is using its social media accounts to call attention to upcoming legislative committee hearings where lawmakers are discussing specific bills and sharing ways for LGBTQ people and their allies can have their voices heard in the process, like how to testify at these meetings.