AUSTIN (KXAN) — The first-ever LGBTQ caucus in the Texas House of Representatives will lay out its legislative agenda and hold its first press conference Tuesday.
Democratic Rep. Mary Gonzalez of El Paso was tapped early on to lead the caucus that includes four other Democrats who identify openly as being members of the LGBTQ community. There are a total of 21 members.
Some of the areas the caucus hopes to focus on this session include housing discrimination, employment discrimination, LGBTQ youth and criminal justice, according to Rep. Mary Gonzalez.
“We still have a lot of work to do, and this is why this caucus exists,” said Rep. Jessica Gonzalez.
The group previously announced that four openly LGBTQ female legislators will comprise the Executive Committee of the caucus. Rep. Jessica Gonzalez will be Vice Chair, Rep. Julie Johnson will be Treasurer and Rep. Erin Zwiener will serve as Secretary of the caucus.
“When I first got elected in 2012, I didn’t know there would be five out members by now,” Rep. Mary Gonzalez told KXAN in a previous interview. She believes the visibility created by the caucus is already changing the culture in the Capitol.
“The last time we were getting together as a legislative body, we were doing damage to one another. Our relationships were being harmed over an imaginary crime in a bathroom,” said Rep. Celia Israel, referring to legislation known as the “Bathroom Bill,” which would have required transgender people to use the bathroom that aligned with the sex on their birth certificate. “And if you fast forward two years to today, we’re looking for Pre-K legislation. We’re looking for clean air and clean water legislation. We’re looking to get things done on big and contentious issues. How do you deal with a historic flood? So, we’ve made tremendous progress.”
But there is more progress to be made. On Jan. 31, the Human Rights Campaign Foundation and the Equality Federation released their State Equality Index which scores states based on laws and policies that affect LGBTQ+ people and their families and protections in place to prevent discrimination. Texas was rated as “high priority to achieve basic equality.”
The caucus is open to all members of the House, “regardless of sexual orientation or gender identity.”
“We’re here for strength and support for one another,” said Israel. “And also to demonstrate to the rest of the state, it’s OK to just be who you are.”