Austin, TX – For the first time in Texas history, the state legislature will have an LGBT Caucus. State Rep. Mary Gonzalez, a four-term representative who identifies as pansexual and is the dean of the delegation, filed paperwork to create the caucus. When the Legislature convened on Tuesday, Jan. 8, four additional LGBT women were sworn into office. Rep. Celia Israel begins her third full term representing District 50. She was first elected in a 2014 special election to fill the vacancy created when Rep. Mark Strama resigned to become the head of Google Fiber in Austin. Three freshmen were also sworn in this week, including Julie Johnson and Jessica Gonzalez, both of whom represent Dallas County districts. The fifth LGBT member of the Legislature is Erin Zwiener, who represents Hays and Blanco counties southwest of Austin. She identifies as bisexual and said although she has what she calls a “heteronormative family” — she’s married to a man — she did speak about being bisexual several times on the campaign trail “when it was relevant.”

Johnson ousted an incumbent Republican Matt Rinaldi, who authored a bathroom bill in the 2017 session. Her district covers northwest Dallas County. Gonzalez beat incumbent Democrat Roberto Alonzo in the Democratic primary and faced no opposition in the November election. She represents parts of Oak Cliff and Grand Prairie. Zwiener, speaking in her office just before being sworn in, said she was surprised her sexual orientation wasn’t an issue in her campaign. She ran for an open seat against a Republican that said during his campaign that marriage was between a man and a woman. Zwiener said that stance actually hurt him in his campaign because the district, which includes several universities, has a young demographic.

The five members of the LGBT Caucus each campaigned with education finance reform as their top issue. Israel is the only one who has filed an LGBT-related bill so far. That one relates to banning the use of reparative therapy on anyone under 18. Other House members have filed legislation about including sexual orientation and gender identity in non-discrimination laws and repealing the sodomy law and the law banning legal recognition of same-sex marriage. So why did Israel file this particular bill? “It’s about helping kids,” she said. (Dallas Voice – David Taffet at https://www.dallasvoice.com/we-have-a-caucus/)

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