Transgender rights advocates rally against controversial legislation

Wesley Story

Pink and blue flags fluttered in the wind Friday morning as dozens of LGBTQ people of color and allies stood on the steps of the Texas Capitol.

Protesters assembled for a rally, followed by a press conference and action inside the Capitol to denounce bills they say attack the basic rights of queer people and immigrants, including controversial Senate Bills 3 and 4.

Monica Roberts, a transgender rights advocate, said it is important for different communities to stand together when their rights are under attack.

“The bottom line is when you attack the human rights of our immigrant communities, you’re attacking my human rights as well,” Roberts said. “We are the folks who look like Texas, not the folks who are passing the regressive legislation. We will remember that on Election Day next year."

During its regular session, the legislature passed SB 4, the so-called “sanctuary cities” bill, that bans sanctuary cities in Texas and allows police officers to question a person’s immigration status during a detainment.

The Senate voted on July 25, during the special session, to advance SB 3, the new version of the so-called "bathroom bill.” The bill would require transgender people to use bathrooms in public schools, government buildings and public universities coordinating with the sex listed on their birth certificate.

Protesters carried signs reading “#HereToStay” and “#HereToSlay” to make a statement that even if the bills are passed, the communities they impact will remain.

Madeleine Croll, president of the Rio Grande Valley Stonewall Democrats, said she understands it can be scary for transgender people to attend rallies and share their stories, but she still encourages allies and members of the community to show up and take a stand.

“We need to hear those voices,” Croll said. “We need to hear those experiences. If we don’t stand together, we are going to be destroyed separately.”

After the rally, the protesters were divided into three groups to go inside of the Capitol to speak to legislators.

One of the groups went to Speaker Joe Straus’ office to thank him for slowing down Senate Bill 6, the original “bathroom bill,” during the regular session and encourage him to stall the new bill, which will go to the House.

“I want to express my sincerest gratitude to Speaker Straus for the personal fortitude required to take a stand and not just go along with what’s easy,” Croll said.

Straus refused to let the Senate’s version of SB 6 pass through the House during the regular session.

Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick released a YouTube video Thursday in which he states his support for the new bathroom bill.

"It does not discriminate against anyone," Patrick says in the video. "It's simply common sense, common decency and public safety to protect the women of the state of Texas."

After the House tweaked the bill during the regular session, Patrick rejected the new, watered-down version.

“For many of us, and especially for me, this was a compromise,” Straus said at press conference in May about the watered-down bill. “As far as I’m concerned, it was enough. We will go no further. This is the right thing to do in order to protect our economy from billions of dollars in losses and more importantly to protect the safety of some very vulnerable young Texans.”

Since the House was in session, Katrina Parkey, a staffer from the Speaker’s office, came to speak to the group and said she would deliver the message to Straus.