Austin – The last Texas Legislature was all bathrooms, all the time in an all-out assault on the transgender community. This session, several hundred advocates that converged of the Capitol on March 18th, for All In For Equality Advocacy Day met a less hostile group of lawmakers dealing with a broader array of issues. In many legislative offices, staff welcomed a two-page handout prepared by Equality Texas that separated the pro-LGBT bills from the anti-LGBT bills. With more than 4,000 bills filed, keeping track of which ones would help and which ones would hurt the LGBT community can be as confusing for seasoned lawmakers as well as for freshman legislators.

Advocacy Day has become a biennial tradition in Austin after beginning in the 1980s as a march up Congress Street to the Capitol to showcase LGBT visibility. The issues highlighted at the time included repeal of the sodomy law and passage of hate crime legislation. This evolved into lobbying as LGBT marchers who filled the streets in downtown Austin on a Sunday began to stay over to speak to their legislators on Monday. Although Democrats held the majority in both houses through the 1990s, lobbyists struggled to find a majority to pass a hate crime law. They worked more than ten years before the Texas hate crimes act was signed into law. Samantha Smoot, head of Equality Texas, warned that although a number of the most hostile legislators were gone this session, Lieutenant Gov. Dan Patrick remains determined to include anti-LGBT language in legislation coming out of the Senate and is using stealth tactics to do so.

LGBT advocates had an array of bills to discuss with legislators, and they gathered at the First United Methodist Church on Lavaca Street, a block from the Capitol, where organizers held training sessions on advocating for equality for LGBT issues. Human Rights Campaign field organizers led the training sessions, teaching people who had come from around the state effective methods of communicating with legislators and their staff. “Tell your own personal story,” the HRC trainer explained. “Talk about a challenge you’ve experienced.” Before going over to the Capitol, attendees paired off to practice telling their stories and then asking for support either for a specific bill or for supporting equality. yyy (Dallas Voice – David Taffet at Dallasvoice.com/advocating-at-the-capitol)

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