Austin Hub

Over 100 Texas Organizations, Including 13 Fortune 500 Companies, Sign LGBT Equality Pledge


More than 100 corporations and other organizations — from American Airlines and Apple to the Houston Super Bowl Host Committee — have joined an impressive coalition of businesses pledging to support LGBT equality in Texas.

The coalition, called Texas Competes, launched Tuesday in Austin against the backdrop of 22 anti-LGBT bills in the state Legislature. 

From the Texas Competes website

Texas Competes' mission is to provide a unified voice for the Texas business community on the clear economic and business case for fair treatment of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) workers, families, customers, and tourists. That unified voice takes the form of the Texas Competes pledge.

Many of Texas' most successful businesses have policies and workplace cultures that are inclusive and welcoming to LGBT workers and customers. But the competitiveness of these businesses, and of the Texas economy, is impacted by the brand that the state of Texas projects on the LGBT issue. The Texas Competes pledge creates an opportunity for business leaders to clarify their shared economic interests in fair treatment for gay and transgender people.

More from The Texas Observer:

Texas Competes spokesman James Shackelford said the coalition won’t take positions on specific legislation and that the effort has been in the works for months, long before anti-LGBT religious freedom laws in Indiana and Arkansas sparked historic backlash from the corporate sector.

“But obviously the timing, when it’s launching and when we’re going public with it, is important,” Shackelford told theObserver.

The Texas Association of Business, the state’s powerful chamber of commerce, has come out against two religious freedom amendments that critics say would enshrine a license to discriminate against LGBT people in the constitution. However, dozens of other measures also target LGBT rights, from statutory religious exemption bills to proposals that would ban local nondiscrimination protections and transgender restroom use.

“Texas is an economic powerhouse because it’s a place where talented people, entrepreneurs and companies want to call home. But our competitiveness is in jeopardy if Texas does not become a place that is welcoming to LGBT workers and families,” Texas Competes advisory board member and former Dell CFO Tom Meredith said in a statement. “Businesses that embrace diversity are doing both the right thing and the economically smart thing.”

Interestingly, several business not otherwise known as LGBT-friendly have joined the coalition, while others long considered corporate allies have not. 

For example, Texas-based MetroPCS, which joined the coalition, has a score of 0 on the Human Rights Campaign's Corporate Equality Index. But AT&T, which hasn't joined the coalition, has a score of 100. (AT&T was also a major supporter of anti-gay Republican Gov. Greg Abbott's campaign last year).

Watch a report from KXAN-TV and check out the full list of organizations that have joined Texas Competes, AFTER THE JUMP ... 

Continue reading "Over 100 Texas Organizations, Including 13 Fortune 500 Companies, Sign LGBT Equality Pledge " »

Austin Restaurant Turns Away Genderqueer Student In Women's Clothing: VIDEO


An Austin fast food restaurant is accused of anti-transgender discrimination for turning away a University of Texas student who identifies as genderqueer and was wearing women's clothing.

When Tyler Grant approached the Whataburger restaurant near the UT campus early Saturday, a security guard asked Grant to put on shoes. After Grant complied, the security guard said, "Wait, you're a dude?"

The security guard, an off-duty Texas Department of Public Safety officer, then summoned a manager, and they denied entry to grant. A video posted on Twitter shows part of the encounter. 

225px-Whataburger_logo.svgWhataburger, an uber-popular Texas-based chain, issued a statement saying Grant was turned away because the student's clothing was too revealing: 

"Whataburger is proud to serve all customers regardless of race, gender or orientation. This wasn't an issue of gender but of appropriate attire as this guest was dressed in lingerie. Again, we welcome everyone into our restaurants but our customers' experience is our top priority. We are reviewing these events with our team members and will take appropriate action if needed."

However, Grant maintains the incident was anti-trans discrimination.

"I really believe it was transphobia-driven and I don't think it had anything to do with what I was wearing," Grant told The San Antonio Express-News

In a Facebook post, Grant wrote, "I was wearing two inches of hip/butt pads, 2 pairs of dancers tights, and three pairs of nude panty hose. If it were see through then she would have seen my brightly colored underwear, which also covered up everything essential anyway, but you couldn't even see those."

Grant told The Daily Texan student newspaper that the outfit "was not anymore revealing than yoga pants." 

Austin has a nondiscrimination ordinance prohibiting discrimination based on gender identity in public accommodations.

Grant reportedly is considering legal options.  

Whataburger, which has more than 700 stores in 10 states, is privately held and not listed in the Human Rights Campaign's Corporate Equality Index.

Watch video from the incident here.  

Anti-LGBT Texas Lawmaker's Staff Says Meeting With Gay Constituent Would Be 'Waste Of Time'


An anti-LGBT Texas lawmaker's staff refused to meet with a gay constituent last month, saying it would be "a waste of time."  

Back in February, we told you how GOP state Rep. Molly White (shown above cutting anti-gay hate cakeposted an Islamophobic rant on Facebook during Muslim lobby day at the Texas Capitol. 

White's rant prompted Equality Texas, the statewide LGBT group, to drop off a gay Pride flag at her office, saying: "There are many flags that celebrate the diversity and unity of TX. We decided to help build Rep White's collection."

White.MollyShortly thereafter, White (right) filed two draconian anti-LGBT bills — one that would allow business owners to discriminate based on religious beliefs, and another seeking to exempt Texas from a U.S. Supreme Court ruling in favor of same-sex marriage. 

On March 27, during Equality Texas' Family Advocacy Day, gay constituent Frank Carlson was part of a group that went to White's office to try to meet with her staff, according to The Temple Daily Telegram. But Carlson said the group was told that no one was available to meet with them. 

When the group indicated they were from Equality Texas, White's chief of staff, Hannah Bell, told them to "drop their literature and leave." When Carlson said they had personal stories to share, including one from a PFLAG mother, Bell responded that it would be "a waste of time." According to the Daily Telegram, Bell confirmed the group's account. 

“I conveyed that the representative has stances on some issues and that she isn’t likely to change her mind on them,” Bell said. “We try to be a transparent office and I told them that they needed to meet with individuals that shared their viewpoint.”

Janet Adamski, a political science professor at the University of Mary Hardin-Baylor, told the Daily Telegram it's unusual for a lawmaker's staff to refuse to meet with constituents, regardless of their views. 

Chuck Smith, executive director of Equality Texas, called the action's of White's staff “rude, insensitive and inappropriate.”

“Rep. White was elected to represent all of her constituents, even those whose views she doesn’t share,” Smith told the newspaper. “It may not be her job to agree with all of her constituents, but it is her job to listen to them.”

As it turns out, on the very same day, White found time to attend an anti-gay rally at the Capitol featuring Alabama Chief Justice Roy Moore. 

Equality Texas has another lobby day scheduled Monday, so it will be interesting to see if any groups try to visit White's office. 

Anti-LGBT Texas Activist Likens Gays To Murderers, Compares Same-Sex Marriage To Holocaust: VIDEO


Last month we told you about a video in which Houston anti-LGBT activist Dr. Steve Hotze promoted a rally outside the Texas Capitol featuring Alabama Chief Justice Roy Moore.  

BellOn Wednesday, Hotze took his message inside the state Capitol, where he testified in support of a bill from GOP Rep. Cecil Bell (right) that would prohibit state or local funds for being spent to issue or recognize same-sex marriage licenses. 

Hotze, president of the Conservative Republicans of Texas, was among 15 anti-gay witnesses who testified during the hearing, joining the likes of Texas Values President Jonathan Saenz and Texas Pastor Council Executive Director Dave Welch

The Texas Observer reports: 

Rep. Sylvester Turner (D-Houston), a member of the House Committee on State Affairs, grilled Hotze about whether he wants Texas to ignore “the law of the land” if the high court rules in favor of marriage equality.

“If you passed a law that we’re going to go and round up people of an ethnic group and put them into jail and exterminate them, would you abide by that law?” Hotze responded. “What did they do in Nazi Germany? It was legal to round up Jews and put them in the chambers and kill them. And the defense they said is, that was the law.”

After Turner suggested all people should be treated equally regardless of ethnicity or sexual orientation, Hotze said there’s a difference because being gay is a choice.

“If people are involved in an activity that’s immoral and wrong, you can love them but you don’t respect what they do, and you try to help them find a way out,” Hotze said. “Whether they’re alcoholics, whether they’re murderers, whether they’re adulterers, whether they’re perverts or pornographers or whatever, you want to help them out—or homosexuals, you want to help them out.”

The bill, one of more than 20 anti-LGBT measures in Texas this year, was left pending after a two-hour hearing, and the committee chair told the Observer he's unsure whether he'll call it back up for a vote.

Watch a clip from Hotze's testimony, AFTER THE JUMP ... 

Continue reading "Anti-LGBT Texas Activist Likens Gays To Murderers, Compares Same-Sex Marriage To Holocaust: VIDEO" »

GetEQUAL Rallies Against Anti-LGBT #HateOutBreak In Texas, Florida, North Carolina


GetEQUAL is staging rallies across the country in response to anti-LGBT legislation similar to Indiana's "religious freedom" law.

From the website for the group's #HateOutbreak campaign:  

HateAcross the country, religious extremists are introducing bills in state legislatures that would give carte blanche privileges to legally discriminate against anyone -- simply by invoking one's religion as the reason. 

We've all seen the negative response to Indiana's right to discriminate law but this #HateOutbreak is bigger than the Hoosier state. The surge in legislation aimed at legalizing discrimination, disguised as religious freedom, has many asking what can we do to fight back. 

On Saturday, nearly 100 people gathered at the Texas Capitol to protest a record number of anti-LGBT bills in the state Legislature. Among the speakers was Austin Mayor Steve Adler, who warned that Indiana-style legislation could threaten the city's booming economy. From the Texas Observer

“Apple is here, Google is here, because the people who work for Apple and Google, they want to live here,” Adler said. “It’s real important that we not go down that path, and it is scary to me that our state Legislature right now is considering doing that.”

The Austin rally was one of three planned in Texas over the weekend. Rallies were also planned in Gainesville, Fla., and Winston-Salem, North Carolina, on Monday. 

Watch video of openly gay former Texas state Rep. Glen Maxey speaking at Saturday's rally in Austin, AFTER THE JUMP ... 

Continue reading "GetEQUAL Rallies Against Anti-LGBT #HateOutBreak In Texas, Florida, North Carolina" »

An Epic Debate Over Abstinence, HIV/AIDS Prevention Erupts On The Texas House Floor: WATCH


Republican Texas state Rep. Stuart Spitzer (shown above with Sen. Ted Cruz) says he didn't get laid until he was 29 — with his wife.

And while that's admirable — to each his own, right? — the trouble is now Spitzer thinks everyone else should refrain from sex before marriage, too. Not only that, but Spitzer is willing to sacrifice precious HIV and STD prevention dollars to promote his abstinence-only ideology. 

Unfortunately, abstinence education is unrealistic and doesn't work. Case in point: Texas receives the most federal abstinence dollars of any state, but has the third-most HIV/AIDS cases and the fifth-highest teen pregnancy rate. Coincidentally, some of the higher teen pregnancy rates are in Spitzer's district

Spitzer, a physician, even admitted on the House floor this week that abstinence education "may not be working well." Nevertheless, he managed to convince his colleagues to divert $3 million from HIV and STD prevention into abstinence education. But that was not before Spitzer took a rather epic grilling from some Democrats. One asked Spitzer whether his wife was the first person he asked to have sex, and another flatly refuted his assertion that STDs can only be contracted through sex, suggesting he may be in need of the prevention education he aims to cut. 

Watch the debate in two parts, AFTER THE JUMP...

Continue reading "An Epic Debate Over Abstinence, HIV/AIDS Prevention Erupts On The Texas House Floor: WATCH" »


Towleroad - Blogged