Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Top 5 Texas Senators 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 31 Texas Senators 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.

#1Rodney Ellis (D-Houston)
Score: 99 points
Grade: A

Ellis's district includes the historic "gayborhood" of Montrose in Houston as well as most of the district of Rep. Garnet Coleman, LQ's top ranked member of the House. It's largely his sponsorship of Coleman's HB 1386 (teen suicide prevention) and HB 2229 (making permanent the HIV Medication Advisory Committee) that elevated Ellis to the top of this list. His perfect voting record and authorship of the Senate version of HB 2229 (SB 1821) didn't hurt either.

#2Wendy Davis (D-Fort Worth)
Score: 98 points
Grade: A

It seems unfair that Davis is number two and not number one: she filed the only piece of Senate legislation this session to even mention sexual orientation and gender identity and expression (her comprehensive anti-bullying bill SB 242) and was on the forefront of every anti-bullying effort in the Senate this session, co-authoring Whitmire's SB 205 (expanding and clarifying anti-bullying portions of student codes of conduct) and co-sponsoring HB 1942 (the anti-bullying "super" bill). It's only Ellis' sponsorship of Rep. Coleman's House bills that inched Davis out of the number one spot.
Davis previously held the Fort Worth City Council seat currently held by Joel Burns (of "it gets better" fame) and is outspoken and passionate in her support of the LGBT community.

#3Judith Zaffirini (D-Larado)
Score: 96 points
Grade: A

Zaffirini's anti-bullying legislation didn't get much press this session. She filed two excellent bills: SB 42, which would have included cyber-bullying in the statutory definition of bullying; and SB 66, which would have closed a loophole in the Education Code that prevents students who have been transferred in the last year from being sent to alternative school, even for egregious or violent behavior.
Zaffirini is known for her strong work ethic. In 23 years of service in the Texas Senate she has never missed a vote. She applied that dedication to the issue of school bullying this year, supporting every anti-bullying bill that came to the Senate floor.
#4 (tie)
Leticia Van de Putte (D-San Antonio)
Score: 95 points
Grade: A

Van de Putte was a co-author on Davis' comprehensive anti-bullying bill SB 242 and eventually sponsored anti-bullying "super" bill HB 1942 in the House.
A pharmacist, Van de Putte is known for her passionate advocacy for children, both in the House where she served for 10 years and in the Senate where she's served since 1999.


#4 (tie)
John Whitmire (D-Houston)
Score: 95 points
Grade: A

Whitmire spoke last fall at a public hearing on bullying about the need to address the issue without creating laws that turned children into criminals for making stupid or cruel choices. He put his money where is mouth is this session by filing SB 205, which carefully laid out guidelines for the anti-bullying provisions of student codes of conduct school districts are required to adopt. Unfortunately the bill died in the House Public Education Committee, but some of its ideas were incorporated in anti-bullying "super" bill HB 1942, which Whitmire co-authored.
The longest currently serving member of the Texas Senate, Whitmire carries significant influence among his peers which this session he chose to use in defense of the victims of bullying.

That's the top five. We've already published the Top 10 House Members and the Worst 10 House members and will get the rest of the list up soon including the Worst 5 Texas Senators, 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.

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