Five women in the Texas House of Representatives formed the first LGBTQ caucus the state Legislature has ever seen.
State Rep. Jessica González, co-chair of the caucus, said their goal as a group is to make sure all Texans feel represented at the Capitol.
“This new caucus sends a powerful message to Texas youth that whoever they are, wherever they are, and whoever they grow up to be, they will be seen and their voices will be heard,” said González, D-Dallas.
In previous years, the Texas House had anywhere from zero to two openly LGBTQ members, González said. This year, there are five.
“This is the most out-LGBTQ members that we’ve ever had,” González said. “For decades, LGBTQ Texans have fought for a seat at the table, and with this caucus, we’re planting a flag permanently in Texas’ halls of power.”
The caucus, which has not had an official meeting yet, is open to LGBTQ-allies and is still inviting members to join, González said.
Rep. Julie Johnson, another member of the caucus, said the group is ready to work with other members of the Texas legislature to make sure all Texans are treated fairly.
“The point of having a caucus is to come together as a group of people to promote and foster legislation that benefits the LGBT community, as well as have a coalition of people ready to oppose any anti-LGBT legislation that may be filed,” said Johnson, D-Dallas.
The formation of the LGBTQ caucus comes after legislators during the 2017 legislative session debated the so-called “bathroom bill,” which would have forced transgender people to use public bathrooms aligning with the sex designated on their birth certificate instead of their gender identity.
“After the bathroom bill last session, there still are a lot of members of the Legislature that do not support LGBT equality,” Johnson said. “We want to be prepared to be able to respond to anything that may come up. The importance of that is collaboration but also to let people in Texas know that it’s an important issue, and we intend to … make sure that all LGBT citizens in Texas are treated equally and fairly.”
Erika Slaymaker, a sociology graduate student, said while anti-LGBTQ legislation is an attack on a marginalized community, it also mobilizes support for LGBTQ citizens.
“People had to come together and fight against the bathroom bills,” Slaymaker said. “That mobilization translated into electing more LGBTQ people, which set the groundwork for this caucus.”
Slaymaker said the caucus is a significant symbol of progress in Texas as well as a measure of accountability to LGBTQ Texans.
“It’s even more of an opportunity to hold them accountable to what our community needs,” Slaymaker said. “It’s an invitation to even further engage with the political system in Texas and to further imagine what a Texas that is safe and open to LGBT people could look like and how we can fight for that together.”