Three members of the Texas Legislature’s LGBTQ caucus said their priorities this session were to increase representation for and reduce discrimination against members of the LGBTQ community on Tuesday.
The Daily Texan Events and Engagement staff hosted the state lawmakers for a panel moderated by Texan legislative reporter Chad Lyle. The caucus, which was formed in January, is made up of five LGBTQ women state representatives. The three members present at the panel said the need for increased representation was the main motivating factor for the caucus’ creation.
“We are part of the population at large, and the government should reflect the people,” state Rep. Erin Zwiener, D-Driftwood said. “That is one of the tenants of American government — of, by and for the people, and that includes every intersection of identity.”
The panel spoke about the need to reduce discrimination of the LGBTQ community and ensure the community’s rights. They discussed topics such as the controversial “bathroom bill,” supporting progressive voices and health insurance. However, they emphasized the LGBTQ community also faces problems with race, gender and economic inequality.
“All issues are LGBT issues,” state Rep. Jessica González, D-Dallas said. “They all affect the LGBT community. They all affect women. We really shouldn’t distinguish them like that.”
Along with these problems, the panelists spoke of their developing friendship from their work on this initiative.
“The three of us are freshman voices that needed to be heard and would not have been heard if we had not said ‘Ok, I’ll do it,’” state Rep. Julie Johnson, D-Carrollton said. “It’s hard work, but we are becoming very close and we support each other. We are making lifetime friendships.”
Olivia Huerta, a local advocate and survivor of domestic violence and sexual assault, attended the event and shared her story with the legislators. She said she thinks the authorities did not take her as seriously when she reported her case of same-sex domestic abuse compared to if it had been a man who abused her. She said she was optimistic the caucus will help advance legislation to extend the statue of limitation for reporting abuse to a year, but there will be challenges.
“The discrimination and implicit biases that people have when there is same-sex crime being reported is going to take a long time to fix,” Huerta said. “There has to be enough people like me who are willing to tell their story and be very specific.”