Monday, May 30, 2011

Top 10 Texas House Members on LGBT Issues

The 82nd regular session of the Texas Legislature has come to an end. It was perhaps the best legislative session for queer Texans ever with not one, but two anti-bullying bills passing and the HIV Medication Advisory Committee's future protected by statute. Multiple bills and amendments targeting the community were introduced but were all defeated. Although we didn't get everything we needed, and are still waiting for the Governor's signature on the three bills mentioned above, all in all it was a very good session for LGBT issues.

We here at Legislative Queery have crunched the numbers and ranked the 150 members of the Texas House based on their votes and authored legislation from the 82nd regular session, the rankings do not take into consideration past votes or legislation or public statements by the elected officials, you can read how we arrived at the rankings HERE.

#1Garnet Coleman (D-Houston)
Score: 126 points
Grace: A+

Coleman's district includes about half of Houston's historic "gayborhood" of Montrose, so it's no surprise that he voted in the best interests of the queer community for all nine of the record votes considered in these rankings. What put him over the top was authoring seven pro-LGBT bills or amendments this session including HB 1386, his teen suicide prevention bill and HB 2229 which makes permanent the Texas HIV Medication Advisory Committee, both of which passed out of the Legislature and await the Governor's signature. Coleman also authored legislation that would equalize the current hetro-only defense to prosecution for indecency with a child if the contact is consensual and the partner is within 3 years of age and a bill that would would add gender expression and identity to current list of attributes bias against which can trigger hate crimes prosecution. Additionally he joint authored a bill that would have required School Health Advisory Councils to issue reports on bullying.

#2Elliott Naishtat (D-Austin)
Score: 101 points
Grade: A+

New York native Naishtat's district includes the University of Texas at Austin, which may explain the bill he's introduced for the last several sessions to allow Texas Universities to remain competitive by offering health benefits to the unmarried partners of professors and their children. Naishtat was the author or co-author of five additional pieces of legislation that would benefit the LGBT community including HB 1942, the "super" anti-bullying bill; both the House and Senate versions of legislation that would require School Health Advisory Councils to issue reports on bullying and HB 2229,which makes permanent the Texas HIV Medication Advisory Committee.

#3Carol Alvarado (D-Houston)
Score: 100 points
Grade: A+

Alvarado was the principle author of HB 130, the elegant approach to fighting bullying that would have created a statewide anti-bullying hotline (the bill unfortunately died in the House Human Services Committee). She also has the distinction of joint and co-authoring more LGBT friendly bills than any other member of the House including 4 designed to combat bullying and its effects (HB 24, HB 224, HB 1386 and HB 1942).

#4 (tie)
Dawnna Dukes (D-Austin)
Score: 97 points
Grade: A

Dukes carried both the House and Senate versions of a bill that, in its original form, would have required Local Community Health Advisory Councils to create recommendations on the anti-bullying portions of health class curricula. Unfortunately that portion of the bill was removed before the House voted on it (the bill, SB 736, now awaits the Governor's signature).

#4 (tie)
Jessica Farrar (D-Houston)
Score: 97 points
Grade: A

Farrar is chair of the House Democratic Caucus, but her duties don't stop her from being a passionate advocate of the LGBT community. Farrar is the author of legislation that would have finally removed Texas' unconstitutional law against "homosexual conduct." She also joint authored Coleman's teen suicide prevention bill, playing a pivotal role in its passage. During the Equality Texas Lobby Day back in March, Farrar personally welcomed citizen lobbyists to her office offering them snacks and telling them they were "wasting their time" at her office, since she was already such a committed supporter.

#6
Mark Strama (D-Austin)
Score: 96 points
Grade: A

This session marked Strama's third attempt to pass anti-bullying legislation. Although he was unsuccessful in passing his HB 224, major elements of the bill were included in HB 1942, of which he was a co-author. Although the legislation does not include any specific reference to sexual orientation or gender identity and expression Stama's advocacy on behalf of the victims of bullying is laudable.

#7
Armando Walle (D-Houston)
Score: 95 points
Grade: A

Walle was coauthor of Coleman's teen suicide prevention bill, SB 1386. He also joint authored an excellent piece of legislation by Raphael Anchia (D-Dallas) that, if it had passed, would have allowed adoptive parents in same-sex relationships to receive accurate birth certificates for their children by allowing both parents names to be on the certificate.

#8 (tie)
Eric Johnson (D-Dallas)
Score: 93
Grade: A

Tied for highest ranking freshman on the list (and the highest ranking Dallas-area rep), Johnson has proved himself an able ally. His district includes a small sliver of the historic "gayborhood" of Oaklawn which might explain why Johnson co-authored both Strama's anti-bullying bill (that included sexual orientation) and the eventual compromise "super" anti-bullying bill HB 1942.

#8 (tie)
Ron Reynolds (D-Missouri City)
Score: 93 points
Grade: A

The only member of the top 10 not based in a major metropolis, Reynolds, who's tied for highest ranking freshman on the list, proved himself to be a keen ally in the fight to end bullying. He co-authored both Strama's anti-bullying bill (that included sexual orientation) and the eventual compromise "super" anti-bullying bill HB 1942.

#10 (tie)
Lon Burnam (D-Fort Worth)
Score: 91 points
Grade: A

Burnam is a sleeper ally, known for being willing to fight for what's right (even when it's politically unpopular), Burnam knows that his reputation as the most liberal member of the Texas House means that sometimes his early support for legislation can scare off more moderate members. This is why he waited until late in the process to add his name as a co-author to anti-bullying "super" bill HB 1942. (full disclosure: the author is a former aide to Burnam)

#10 (tie)
Joe Farias (D-San Antonio)
Score: 91 points
Grade: A

Farias has served in the House since 2007 and is on the powerful Local and Consent Calendars Committee. Although not the most vocal member of the House his co-authorship of anti-bullying "super" bill HB 1942 and his quiet habit of consistently voting in the best interest of the LGBT community make him a valuable ally.

#10 (tie)
Borris Miles (D-Houston)
Score: 91 points
Grade: A

Miles is plain spoken and known for fighting hard for what he believes, attributes that have served him well in the 82nd legislature. he was a co-author on HB 1942 the anti-bullying "super" bill and can be counted on to consistently vote in the best interest of the queer community.

#10 (tie)
Senfronia Thompson (D-Houston)
Score: 91 points
Grade: A

The only member of the top ten to not score perfectly on the nine votes included in the rankings, Thompson made up for it by authoring HB 905 which would have allowed people legally recognized as un-married to enter into gestational agreements with surrogate mothers (currently only married people may) and by carrying SB 205 in the House, which would have expanded and clarified the anti-bullying requirements of school's student codes of conduct. Thompson's one errant vote was on anti-bullying "super" bill HB 1942 and likely had more to do with amendments added by Rep. David Simpson than with any objection to the bill.

That's the top ten, well thirteen. We'll publish the rest of the list soon, but in the meantime take a look at how LQ arrived at the scores and tell us what you think. Any ranking system like this naturally involves the biases of the people compiling the list. LQ welcomes comments, suggestions, rants and criticisms regarding the rankings.

UPDATE: The list of the Worst 10 Texas House Members on LGBT Issues is up.

2 comments:

Anonymous said...

Where would Ellen Cohen have ranked on this had she not lost re-election?

Daniel Williams said...

The scores are based on member's votes and legislation from this session so it's hard to say. The 82nd Legislature was unique in the number of record votes held, with two LGBT specific votes (amendments 123 and 143 to HB1) and multiple votes on HIV prevention funding and bullying. Cohen served in the 80th and 81st Legislatures. The 81st had no record votes. In the 80th Cohen voted for Amendment 73 to HB 1, which would have prevented discrimination in public schools on the basis of a long enumerated list of attributes that included sexual orientation and gender identity and expression and amendment 2 to HB 3672 that prohibit student led prayer in school from being used to degenerate people on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity and expression. Based on that record and her very public support of the community I would not have been surprised to see her in top ten, but there's no way to know.

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