Students hold anti-hate rally at West Mall

Kayla Meyertons

A group of students stood Tuesday morning on the West Mall in front of a microphone and held signs declaring their stance against hate and discrimination towards the LGBTQ community.

The “Students Against Hate” rally was hosted by members of the LGBTQ community at UT, including the Queer and Trans Student Alliance and Texas Rising, a state-wide organization promoting reproductive, LGBTQ+ and voting rights.

Richelle King, co-president of UT Texas Rising, said bills such as House Bill 2899 — the House version of Senate Bill 6, or the “bathroom bill” — aggressively targets transgender people, specifically transgender women.

“We must stay politically active and depend on one another for protection and liberation,” King, a government and women and gender studies senior, said. “As a bisexual Texan myself, I will not tolerate the bullying done to my lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer and gender expansive siblings, especially my trans sisters.”

The 85th Texas Legislature has a Republican majority and is pushing a number of religious refusal bills, which would allow Texans to refuse service to an individual if doing so conflicts with “sincerely held religious beliefs.”

Government freshman Jensen Soderlund, ambassador for Texas Rising, said the purpose of the rally is to bring awareness to the 25 bills that would allow discrimination against LGBTQ people in Texas.

“Some of (the bills) allow doctors to deny medical treatment to gay people,” Soderlund said. “Some of them let social workers to not put gay children in foster homes. Some of them allow marriage counselors to deny service to same-sex couples. There’s still time to stop the Legislature from passing these bills.”

Linguistics junior Josh Rudd, co-director of the Queer and Trans Student Alliance, said he believes both the state and federal governments are never going to honor members of the LGBTQ community as queer and trans people.

“Right now, the Texas Legislature is pushing 25 bills that aggressively target queer and especially transgender Texans and allow for businesses, schools and housing to discriminate against us,” Rudd said. “It is our duty to create the communities we desire on our own, no matter what the Texas Legislature says.”

Physics freshman Ed Pedraza-Robles said these bills represent a fight between religious freedom and social freedom, and it comes down to a legal process for the voters.

“I believe the Texas Legislature has a lot to work with,” Pedraza-Robles said. “When opinions clash, we should keep in mind that we should always make an attempt to understand other people’s points of view. Texas is a huge state that’s largely conservative, so we especially get that clash of opinions here at UT.”

Psychology freshman Alis Louviere said the fact that members of the LGBTQ community gave personal speeches at the rally was humanizing for the community.

“Prejudice is unnecessary,” Louviere said. “We need to get past those times and respect other people for who they are. Transgender people go through a rough time already. We should definitely respect the people behind the bills as well, they deserve the right to voice their opinions.”